Rescue for a Friend
Ginny awoke from a deep sleep, but she did not want to open her eyelids because she felt that doing so would cause her discomfort. This of course was an understatement as she felt as if there was not a single part of her body which was not sore.
The soreness that permeated her body was the result of the events of no less than twenty-four hours before, in which for the second time in her young life she fell victim to possession by Voldemort’s power. She would be feeling the Stunning spells that both Cho Chang and several Death Eaters had hit her with for sometime to come.
She slowly opened her eyes and allowed herself a few moments to adjust to the darkness which surrounded her. She reminded herself that while it was dark in the bedroom of her tent, it was in actuality daytime outside. The quartet over the last several months had gotten used to being nocturnal, so it was rather easy for her to wake without regard to the actual time.
Inwardly, she cursed herself as she thought how she would have to accept the fact that she may actually be a human “Horcrux detector”. But she also knew that with Ron, Hermione and especially Harry watching out for her, she would not have to worry about falling under a Horcrux’s influence any longer.
She reached over to touch Harry, when she realized that he was not lying at her side. Through their connection she could sense he was in the room and that something was weighing heavily on his mind.
She reached for her wand and cast a very soft Lumos charm. No sense in flash blinding herself and Harry just to figure out where he was. She found him sitting at the foot of the bed, he was hunched over with his elbows on his knees and his face buried in his hands. He seemed to be ignoring the light from her wand and breathing very deeply.
“Harry, what’s wrong?” asked Ginny in a soft voice.
“No, you’re not. When are you going to learn that we can’t hide our feelings from one another? You‘re not still worried about any after effects from the locket are you?” she asked as she positioned herself behind him and wrapped her arms around him in a warm embrace.
Harry shook his head and she knew he was telling the truth. But she refused to allow him to wallow in his dark thoughts, “So speak to me, please. Don’t shut me out.”
“I’m sorry; I don’t mean to make you feel as if I’m shutting you out. It’s just that after everything that happened last night, I can’t help but be reminded of the warning Dumbledore’s portrait gave to me before we began this quest,” replied Harry.
“Which was what? I wasn’t there, remember?” said Ginny.
“He said that we would be tested, not only by our enemies, but also by our friends, by each other and from within ourselves.”
Even without looking at her face, he could sense that she did not understand the dilemma that was eating at his insides.
“Ginny, when we rescued you, I used magic that I never knew existed within me. I can’t figure out where it’s all been coming from and its been happening to me as far back as when I pulled off that four jaunt apparition all those months ago, maybe even before that. But that’s not what’s truly bothering me,” confessed Harry.
She stroked his hair, “Then what is it?”
“It was the looks I got from both Ron and Hermione afterwards. They’re my closest friends, and they both looked at me as if…as if…as if they were afraid of me,” answered a sad sounding Harry.
Ginny felt her heart break for him.
She embraced him a little tighter as she rested her chin on his shoulder, “Oh Harry, I’m sorry, but you have to try and see it from their point of view. Your abilities seem to be growing at a phenomenal rate. But if it makes you feel any better, I’m grateful that you have them. Merlin knows what would have happened if your powers weren’t there for me.”
She sensed a small amount of weight lift from him as he turned and kissed her. She guided him back to the top of the bed, gently laid his head on her lap and began stroking his hair.
It was roughly an hour later when she finally sensed he had fallen back to sleep. In the process she had somehow successfully kept her feelings and thoughts light, in order to help him sleep. But shortly after she felt him drift off, her deeply hidden thoughts surfaced to the forefront of her mind.
Sometime later found Ron and Hermione in each other’s company in the tent’s dining area. The sun had just set and the now nocturnal quartet had gotten used to eating their meals in reverse. So early evening was the normal time for breakfast.
They were in the midst of discussing the group’s plans for destroying the now recovered Horcrux locket when Ginny walked in on their conversation.
Hermione saw Ginny and spoke up first, “Hello Ginny. You’re looking a lot better after a good day’s rest. The color is definitely back on your face. Ron and I were just talking about…”
But Hermione had misdiagnosed the reason behind the color on Ginny’s face. The reason was not because of a good day’s sleep, but because of Ginny’s anger, which her brother instantly recognized. But before he could ask his sister what was wrong, she spoke up first.
“You two!! The Pit, right now!!” screamed Ginny as she pointed at them both, turned and left the room.
Several minutes later found the three of them in the tent’s sparring room. Ginny charmed the candles in the room to their brightest setting and then flung her wand to the floor. She then set herself into a fighting stance at the center of the mat.
Ron and Hermione had seen what Ginny had done and set their wands on a table located a few meters from the mat. They both wore looks of confusion as to why she called an impromptu sparring session. But it was Ron who spoke up first.
“Sis, I can always tell when something is making you mad. Whatever it is, why don’t we talk about it first?”
Ginny stood her ground, “No, after what you two did last night, you definitely deserve what I’m about to give you.”
Hermione took two steps onto the mat, preparing herself for what she assumed was going to be a two-on-one contest, when she felt Ron’s hand lightly grab her own.
“No, let me go first. This is “Weasley Family Business” again,” said Ron as he gave Hermione a quick grin.
Hermione merely shrugged her shoulders and tilted her head in a “well, if you must” gesture. She then took a seat just to the side of the mat.
Ron was setting himself into his own fighting stance as he said, “By the way, you do realize that the only person guilty of doing anything wrong last night was you.”
Ginny’s only reply was to have her face grow even more crimson. Her encounters with Voldemort would always be a sore subject with her and Ron had full knowledge of that when he pushed that psychological button.
Being the strategist that Ron was, he had studied his companion’s fighting styles until he was able to discern every strength and weakness they each had. He could identify the smallest idiosyncrasies that would give away every move that his partners would do only a split second before they did them.
Short of himself, he knew his sister’s fighting style best. Ginny’s lack of height made it necessary to master a series of low attacks. It was her way of bringing an opponent down to her physical level, where she could finish them off.
Being noticeably taller made it necessary for Ron to master defensive techniques to avoid having his legs taken out from under him. He figured a few quick blocks to negate Ginny’s primary attack and he would be able to use his superior size and strength to overpower her and hopefully calm her down.
The fight began and Ginny quickly moved forward. Ron immediately recognized the slight shoulder shift she always used just before performing her signature forward leg sweep. He set his feet and crouched low to defend against the oncoming attack.
But instead of a forward leg sweep, Ginny quickly bent her knees and leapt off her feet roughly half a meter in the air above her now crouched brother. He had just enough time to open his eyes wide in surprise as Ginny placed her full body weight behind her right fist and slammed it across Ron’s jaw as she simultaneously landed on her feet.
Her brother slammed into the mat as unconscious as he was when she had slipped him a Dreamless Sleep potion not less than twelve hours before. Ginny was just about to turn and face Hermione when she felt herself hit in the back by what she could only recognize as a spell.
Ginny stumbled but surprisingly felt no pain as she turned to Hermione and found her best friend holding a wand in her direction.
“Did you just cast a Revealing charm on me? You’re still under the impression that I may not be acting under my own power, that maybe the locket still has a hold on me…aren’t you?”
Hermione put down her wand and made her way onto the mat as she realized the charm proved Ginny was acting of her own accord, “Can you blame me? Look at what you did to your brother! You‘ve knocked him out for the second time in twenty four hours!”
Ginny pointed down at his prone form, “He deserved that! Not only for over anticipating my attack, but for what he said about me and for making his best mate feel as if he were no better than dirt!!”
Hermione shook her head, “I don’t understand. What did he do to Harry?”
“Harry was awake most of the day. He was eating himself up alive because he feels that his two closest friends, who he considers family, see him as though he’s someone to be feared. All because he managed to tap into magical abilities that far surpass anything we have either seen or heard of. He saved our lives Hermione, and you two repay him by looking at him as if he were Voldemort himself!”
Hermione covered her mouth with her hand as tears pooled in her eyes, “Merlin no. We weren’t afraid of him; we were in awe of him! Oh Ginny, I’m so sorry.”
“Maybe you should save the apology for Harry when he wakes up. He’s the one who truly deserves it.”
As soon as the words were out of her mouth Ginny regretted saying them. She snapped at her best friend and it didn’t take a genius to recognize that Hermione was honestly sorry. Ginny walked over and hugged her.
“I’m sorry, you didn’t deserve that. I overreacted as usual. Do you forgive me?” asked Ginny.
Hermione hugged her back and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek, “You know I do. But speaking of waking up, could you help me levitate Ron back into the dining room? He’s going to need ice for his jaw when he comes to, and sore jaw or not he’s not only going to be angry but hungry too.”
“He’s always hungry, Hermione.”
“My point exactly, now please help me,” replied Hermione as she picked up her wand.
In all the years Harry had been a guest of the Weasley family, he had never tired of being awakened by the smell of food being prepared. It was a feeling that always managed to make him feel somewhat happy and at home. But this time was an exception as his dark thoughts pushed to the front of his mind again.
As he put on his glasses, he noticed that he was alone in the bedroom. He reminded himself to thank Ginny for once again being there for him. Her gentle touch and comforting words did more for him than she would ever know.
Harry reached the dining room of the tent and was greeted with a peculiar sight. First, was the table, which was lined with breakfast foods that came second only to the meals served in the Great Hall. Harry had to remind himself that his tent did not come equipped with house elves.
Second, was the sight of his two best friends, Hermione looked as guilt ridden as when she got Harry’s Firebolt confiscated in their third year. It looked as if it were taking all her strength just to look him in the eyes. Ron, on the other hand, was having no trouble in that department. But from the swelling on his jaw and the size of the icepack he was holding to his face, it looked as if he would find difficulty in enjoying the food in front of him.
Harry suddenly found himself feeling very uncomfortable, “What’s wrong with you lot?”
The only answer he received was the sound of Ginny walking in from the kitchen. In her hands was yet another tray of breakfast food. Her cheeks went instantly crimson with embarrassment when she saw him. Even without their connection he had a pretty good idea why Ginny seemed to avoid his eyes and why his friends looked the way they did. He was just afraid to pose the question.
But before he could build up the courage to utter a word, Hermione spoke first, “We’re sorry, Harry. Ginny pointed out, in her own special way, what Ron and I did. We’re sorry if we made you feel as if we were afraid of you. If anything, we were amazed at what you did.”
He turned to Ron; his best mate pulled the icepack from his face and gave Harry a mixture of a smile and a grimace. His eyes and the nodding of his head told Harry that he totally agreed with everything that Hermione had just said.
Harry took a seat in front of them, “Thanks, you have no idea what it means to know you aren’t afraid of me.”
Ginny sat next to him as she set the last tray down, pulled out her wand, aimed it at Ron’s face and performed a Healing charm on her brother.
Ron slowly flexed his stiff jaw, “Finally…so how come Hermione’s Healing charm didn’t work when she tried it earlier?”
“Because I used a charm on my fists before our sparring session that would counteract any Healing charms other than my own,” replied Ginny as she smiled at her brother.
“Then all I can say is, Thank Merlin you decided to handle the “Weasley Family Business” without me,” said Hermione as she reached for a plate.
“So why the huge breakfast today, Ginny?” asked Harry as everyone filled their plates.
“I thought it would be a good idea that we all have enough in our systems if we’re going to destroy that Horcrux today.”
Harry, Ron and Hermione dropped their plates simultaneously.
“Did I say something wrong?” asked Ginny.
“No, it’s just that with everything that happened yesterday, it kind of slipped our minds that you might be ready to give it a try,” answered Hermione.
“Besides, with the way those things are booby trapped, I mentioned it might be best to have all the items together before we destroy them,” added Harry.
Ron interjected, “No, Ginny’s right. I was thinking about it this morning, we need to destroy them as we collect them. It would be a dangerous idea to keep all those objects in one place.”
Harry took a deep breath and sat back in his chair. After all that happened in the last twenty-four hours, he was a little hesitant to place Ginny in harm’s way again. But before he could speak his mind, he found himself hit in the face by a spoonful of scrambled eggs.
“Don’t even think about it Potter! Now let’s eat so we can rid the Wizarding world of that filthy object,” said Ginny as she pointed at everyone at the table with the now empty spoon in her hand.
Needless to say, Ron and Hermione went right to eating without as much as a word. Harry, on the other hand, smiled as he wondered to himself how he managed to live as long as he had without the totally mental Ginny Weasley in his life.
Several hours later found the well fed quartet in the forest roughly fifty meters from their tent. They all agreed that without full knowledge of what kind of traps the locket might contain. It would be safer to try and destroy it away from their temporary home.
Since the beginning of their quest, the quartet had been taking advantage of the vast information that the libraries in both Number Twelve Grimmauld Place and the castle in Japan had supplied them. Originally they had wanted to physically destroy the Horcruxes, but after some study and speculation, it was decided that this course of action would only be used as a last resort. None of them wanted to end up looking like Albus Dumbledore had last school year, sporting a shriveled hand or something worse.
So the quartet thought it best to face the problem of destroying the Horcruxes from the standpoint of a Curse breaker who would use reverse charms and spells to bring down particular wards and the like.
They set the locket on the ground and sat surrounding it from the northern, southern, eastern and western positions.
At first their efforts were for naught as none of the quartet’s spells seemed to be having any affect. Harry could feel his arm tiring as he aimed his wand directly at the locket. Several times he was tempted to call a stop to what they were doing, just to give his aching arm a rest. But each time he was about to do so, the memory of a person who had died to protect him would cross his mind and cause him to double his efforts.
He glanced at his three companions and realized that they looked as tired as he felt. Ron was staring at the locket with the same gaze he reserved for times when he played chess. Hermione’s face showed a fierce determination that said she would rather faint from exhaustion before quitting. Ginny however, had her eyes closed and there was sweat on her forehead. He felt fear for her, but he could feel her strength glowing like a beacon through their bond. He used that strength to once again increase his efforts.
It was just as he did this, when he realized that the locket was no longer on the ground, but was now suspended in midair, being bombarded by trails of light coming from all four of the quartet’s wands.
The locket gave off a powerful red glow that caused everyone to shut their eyes from it. But even with their eyes closed, they kept their concentration, as well as, their wands on the task at hand.
A few moments later, Harry felt himself weakening. His mind felt muddled and he found it increasingly difficult to continue casting spells. But when he attempted to lower his wand he found he could not do so. It was with a sudden fear that he realized that the quartet’s wands were no longer firing spells at the locket, but that the locket was now draining the magic from their bodies through their wands!
The locket’s trap had been sprung, and there was nothing the four of them could do to stop it. Harry felt as if his very soul was being drained away. He struggled to remain awake, but nothing seemed to help as he could feel the darkness closing in around him.
He made one last effort to reach out to Ginny, but to no avail, as he could feel nothing but cold darkness swallowing her up as well. He wanted to open his eyes to find Ron and Hermione, but his eyelids would just not respond to him. Suddenly he realized that he could see again. The locket was moving closer…no…more like he was moving towards the locket instead. He glanced over his shoulder and was shocked by the sight of himself standing with his wand pointed straight ahead, his eyes still closed.
The locket was draining their souls directly into itself. He could see the locket drawing closer and closer…
…when he felt himself suddenly snapped back into his own body. He slammed into the ground and heard a small explosion just before he blacked out.
When Harry came to, it was to the sound of Ron’s voice, as his best mate had him by the shoulders and was shaking him quite vigorously.
“Harry, Harry are you alright?”
Harry slowly sat up, “Yeah, I think so. How long was I out for?”
Ron scratched his head, “I really don’t know. I think all of us passed out for a while.”
Harry glanced at the ground before him. The locket was once again on the ground, but it looked as if it were at the center of an explosion. It was now fully opened and was tarnished, as if it had been set on fire. He glanced around for Ginny and found her helping Hermione to her feet as he managed to stand up as well.
He looked at all his companions, “Did we cause all this?”
“It would seem so,” answered Hermione.
Ginny looked at the ground and asked, “Was it just me or did it feel as if our souls had left our bodies and were being absorbed by the locket?”
Harry nodded in agreement, “Not only that, but just as I was about to make contact with it, I felt myself pulled back into my own body, as if a pair of strong hands had taken a hold of me.”
Harry looked into the faces of his three companions and found them staring back at him in silence. It was all he needed to know.
They had all experienced the same thing.
Ron wiped a hand down his face, “This is starting to get weird.”
“Weird or not, that filthy thing is destroyed. Let’s get started on the next one,” said Ginny as they made their way back to the tent.
“Three Horcruxes down, three to go,” remarked a tired sounding Ron.
Normally, the quartet treated any time in the tent’s small library the same as they would have treated time spent in the library at Hogwarts. It seemed Irma Pince was able to instill in them the ability to treat places of study with a certain amount of respect, by speaking in hushed tones.
Unfortunately for Madam Pince, who would have turned three different shades of red had she been in the room, this was not a normal night, as the quartet was in the middle of a loud discussion as to where their quest should continue on to.
“The Silver Cup should be next on the list,” stated Hermione as she wrote an impromptu Horcrux list on the chalkboard behind her.
The board had a list of six names that Dumbledore’s journal had mentioned as known or possible items that Voldemort may have used to create his Horcruxes. The Diary, Ring and Locket were the first items listed. Each had a red line crossed through them to represent the fact that each of these items had been neutralized.
The next item listed was the Silver Cup, which, through a Pensieve, Harry had witnessed a young Tom Riddle admiring. The memory of the times Harry had spent with Dumbledore during his sixth year brought both happiness and sadness to his heart. The next item written on the board after the cup was Voldemort’s pet snake Nagini, which both Harry and Dumbledore agreed was the last Horcrux.
The fifth item, which was placed out of order on the list, was the item Harry knew would be the source of conjecture in future discussions. This was the case for one reason, and one reason alone.
Neither Dumbledore nor Harry had any idea exactly what the last item was.
At best the two of them were able to theorize that Voldemort had been using various items from the four houses at Hogwarts. By the end of his sixth year, Harry figured that it was an item from either the house of Ravenclaw or from his own house, Gryffindor.
But fortunately for the quartet, this unknown item was not the one they were talking about at the moment.
“I think it goes without saying that we’re all in agreement that the Cup is the next item we need to find. I’m just asking the question that’s on all of our minds, where the bloody hell is the damn thing?” asked Ron.
Harry answered, “Well you’ve read Dumbledore’s journal as much as anyone else here has, and all he said was that he had a strong feeling that the cup was taken to someplace in Northern Europe.
“Northern Europe covers a lot of territory,” said Ginny.
Hermione’s eyes lit up as she magically erased the board and then conjured a map of Northern Europe, “That’s true, but we can eliminate a huge portion of that territory if we assume Voldemort would secure the Cup in a Wizarding section of Northern Europe.”
“As much as Voldemort hates muggles, it’s a solid theory,” added Harry.
“So where do we begin our search?” asked Ginny as she stood and walked over to the map.
Ron silently cast a charm which allowed his wand to act similar to that of a muggle laser pointer. He aimed his wand at Hermione’s map and began speaking.
“If the defenses around the Cup are anything similar to those Harry faced when he recovered the fake locket, we can eliminate any of the populated Wizard towns and start on the unpopulated magical areas.”
Hermione and Ginny nodded as Harry said, “Now we have a starting point, we’re going to need quite a bit of supplies. We really should consider making a trip to Diag…”
But Harry never had a chance to finish his sentence as an ear piercing siren interrupted him.
Harry rose from his seat, “Perimeter alarm! Someone give us a lay…”
Once again Harry did not get an opportunity to finish his sentence as Hermione was already bringing up a magical layout of the tent’s surrounding area. Even with the possible seriousness of the situation, Harry could not help but smile at how in sync the four of them had become.
Ginny pointed at the red dot in Hermione’s layout, “Looks like only one person coming in from the south.”
Harry pulled his wand from his holster, “Can’t be a coincidence, we’re magically hidden and in too remote an area to be stumbled upon. That wizard has to be looking for us.”
Ginny pulled out her wand as well, “Let’s not take any chances. Standard procedure everyone.”
They all shared a quick nod and in the blink of an eye, the four of them disapparated.
If there was one thing Mad-Eye Moody hated about his metallic prosthetic leg it was its inability to work properly over uneven ground. On flat terrain it almost looked as if he had two good legs. Moody cursed inwardly before reminding himself why he was taking this walk through this five kilometer magical boundary in the first place.
Moody grinned as he thought to himself that if he taught his four trainees well enough, they would be intercepting him right about…
The sound of three cracks reverberated in his ears as Ron, Hermione and Ginny apparated around him. If they were surprised by his presence on their doorstep, they never let on as each of them had their wands drawn and a look of sternness on their faces.
Moody could hear them screaming, as he obeyed their commands.
“Get on the ground right now…Drop your staff…Keep your hands where we can see them!!!”
Moody spoke as soon as everything quieted down, “So is this the way you greet your old instructor?”
“If you are our old instructor, Moody has been duplicated before,” said Hermione as she steadied her aim on his torso.
“So how were you able to find us? The four of us have never given you our location.” asked Ginny.
Moody could feel small stones digging into his real knee, “I may have taught you everything you know, but I haven’t taught you everything I know! Now are you going to let me stand again sometime this year!?!”
Ron stepped closer to Moody, “Just prove to us you are who you say you are, and we will.”
Slowly and deliberately, Moody began moving his hands in the quartet’s silent language of “Table Talk”.
As soon as he was stopped speaking, Hermione and Ginny’s faces went crimson in embarrassment. Ron, on the other hand, simply chuckled before he spoke.
“Now that kind of language was uncalled for sir. You could have just as easily said hello.”
“Hello Weasley, now help me up!” answered Moody.
Ron holstered his wand and helped his former instructor to his feet. Moody then leaned against his staff as he said, “Where’s Potter? I’m insulted he didn’t come out to intercept me himself.”
Moody’s question was answered just as he finished speaking, as he felt the tip of a wand against the base of his skull. Moody stood still and spun his magical eye and was greeted with the sight of Harry revealing himself from under his Invisibility Cloak.
“Hello sir, what brings you to our home?” asked Harry with a bit of a smirk on his face.
“Greetings Potter, maybe we should go inside so I can talk to you four. Any chance you could offer an old man a bite to eat?”
“I think I can whip up something,” replied Ginny, her voice sounding just like her mum’s.
As Moody followed the quartet back to their tent, he found himself yet again impressed with his former trainees. Even with his magical eye scanning the area around him, he was unable to detect Harry behind him. Yes, these four never failed in exceeding his expectations.
Moo dy calmly drank his tea as he watched the individual looks of surprise his four hosts gave as they read the front page article in the day’s Daily Prophet he had delivered to them.
At the top of the front page in large bold letters was the sentence:
MYSTERIOUS G.S.F. BLOWS HORN ON CORRUPTION IN THE MINISTRY OF MAGIC!!!
Under the headline was a moving picture of people being led away by several Aurors, including Nymphadora Tonks and Kingsley Shacklebolt.
Hermione’s eyes widened as she pointed to one of the people being led away in handcuffs, “Is that who I think it is?”
Moody had taken a large bite of a tea biscuit and spoke with his mouth full, “Yes, it’s Dolores Umbridge herself, read on.”
Hermione looked below the picture and began reading the article:
Dolores Umbridge, high ranking Ministry official and former Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, along with several other Ministry officials have been arrested for suspicion of passing secret information to the Death Eaters. As of this time it is not known how long this has been taking place or if the suspects have been operating on their own or under the power of the Imperius Curse, but thanks to an anonymous source, it is known that the information given to the Aurors was passed on by a group of underground wizards who call themselves the G.S.F.
The G.S.F. has, for an unknown amount of time, been working outside of the jurisdiction of the Ministry and may also be responsible for quite a few Death Eater arrests over the last several months. When reached for comment regarding the G.S.F., the Minister of Magic wholeheartedly dismissed the existence of the group. Stating that it has been his Aurors and magical hit teams that have been making the arrests.
For more information regarding the arrested officials, see page three.
“Good to see the old toad has finally gotten what’s coming to her!” exclaimed Ron.
“How did the Prophet get wind of the G.S.F.? I thought the Ministry had been keeping a pretty tight lid on our existence?” asked Ginny.
Moody smiled, “Had would definitely be the correct term. After coming across that message in that warehouse full of Body Bound Death Eaters, Tonks and Shacklebolt thought it was finally time for the existence of the G.S.F. to become public knowledge. Tonks informed me that Rufus almost gave himself a heart attack when the Prophet called him!”
Harry took a seat across from Moody, “Is this the real reason why you came all the way here to see us in person?”
Moody shook his head, “No, I needed to see you all face to face because the Ministry has started intercepting Owls again. I have a favor to ask.”
Harry merely raised his eyebrows, as if to say “go ahead and ask”.
Moody leaned forward, “A few days ago, I was contacted by the mother of a classmate of yours, a Miss Padma Patil.”
At the sound of Padma’s name the quartet looked at one another.
Moody continued, “Mrs. Patil is concerned for her daughter because she hasn’t been able to contact her for some time now.”
Hermione interrupted Moody, “And where exactly is Padma, that her mum can’t talk to her?”
“The Durmstrang Institute.”
The tension in the room could have been cut with a knife.
“Now why in Merlin’s name would she go there?” asked Ron.
“Against the better judgment of her parents, she decided to enroll at Durmstrangs. According to her mum, Padma was very adamant about finishing her education. She even refused to listen to anything her sister had to say.”
“I’m surprised Parvati didn’t accompany her twin sister,” said Hermione.
“No, Parvati was the smart one. She followed the example of the large population of Gryffindor students in not transferring to another academy.” said Moody.
“So why doesn’t Padma’s family just go up to the school and visit her themselves?” asked Ginny.
“Padma and her family got into a pretty heated row about her leaving; they weren’t on speaking terms when she left. Mrs. Patil has sent numerous requests for a visit but per Padma’s request, she will not allow members of her family to visit her.” answered Moody.
“This doesn’t sound like anything but an internal family matter, why involve us?” asked Harry like the responsible team leader Moody trained him to be.
“Because you won’t raise suspicions by visiting. So I need you to check on Padma and see how she is doing and, most importantly, I need you to investigate the possibility of Death Eater activity at the school,” answered Moody.
Ron shifted forward in his seat, “As for Death Eater activity at Durmstrangs, we can answer that right now. We just recently faced two of those staff carrying prats the night we picked up Mundungus.”
“Yes, I do remember Tonks informing me of that.”
Harry adjusted the glasses on his face, “So why not get Shacklebolt to send in the Aurors if he thinks there may be Death Eaters in that school?”
“While the Ministry does have jurisdiction in that part of Europe, without solid proof, it cannot simply invade the school,” answered Moody.
“And those two Durmstrangs we turned into the Ministry weren’t proof enough!?!” asked a frustrated sounding Ginny.
“Unfortunately no, there’s no way to prove whether those two had joined the Death Eaters before or after they graduated.”
Harry released a frustrated sounding sigh.
Moody turned from Ginny and faced Harry once again, “So what say you Potter?”
Harry rubbed his chin for a few seconds before turning to Ginny. Without being told to do so, she pulled a Silver Sickle from her pocket, tapped it once with her wand and flipped it to Moody.
“Use that Portkey that Ginny just gave you to return to Diagon Alley. We have to take this all into consideration and discuss this among ourselves. We’ll contact you regarding our decision,” answered Harry as he and Moody stood and shook hands.
Ginny walked over and placed a hand on Harry’s shoulder, “And sir, I wouldn’t recommend you searching for us again. It’s dangerous for both you and us.”
Moody gave an understanding nod and in a flash was gone.
Harry turned to his three companions, “So what do you think?”
Hermione was the first to speak, “Not to point out the obvious, but the school is located in one of the areas we need to search.”
“I could imagine what Parvati is going through being separated from her twin, I’m in,” said Ginny.
“I never did like those Durmstrangs, but if there’s a chance the Death Eaters have infiltrated, then we as trained wizards, have an obligation to give a hand in cleaning up that school,” stated Ron.
Harry nodded, “I agree. Besides, as a former D.A. member, I still feel a bit responsible for Padma’s well being too. It may be a small detour in the Horcrux hunt, but if we can’t take the time to help out a friend, what good are we to the Wizarding world?”
“So what’s the plan, Harry?” asked Ron.
“First things first. We start by relocating this tent. While I do trust Mad-eye, we can’t have anyone outside of the four of us knowing our location at any time. Next we get some rest and make a late trip to Diagon Alley tomorrow night to visit Fred and George’s shop. We’re running low on supplies and I have a feeling we may need as many of your brothers’ inventions as we can carry. Lastly, we send an owl with a vague anonymous letter for Moody via the Patil family, telling him we’re on our way.”
As Ron and Hermione left to start preparations, Ginny walked in front of Harry and wrapped her arms around his waist, “Are you O.K.? I can sense something bothering you.”
Harry wrapped his arms around her as well, “I just have this feeling that even though this isn’t part of our quest that somehow we’re on the right path.”
Ginny pulled him down and kissed his lips, “I hope you’re right, my husband. Because I have a bad feeling that the last three Horcruxes are going to be the most difficult to recover.”
Nightti me business hours on Diagon Alley were normally a beautiful sight to witness. The magically illuminated windows in each store front were a feast for the eyes and made the need for outside lampposts an almost unnecessary utility.
But since the return of Voldemort, evenings on Diagon Alley were a mere shadow of their former grandeur. Quite a few of the store’s owners were now in the habit of closing down their shops early, in fear that their business might suffer the same fate as that of Ollivander’s, whose owner had disappeared just over a year before.
Fred and George Weasley, on the other hand, were not your normal business owners. So finding their joke shop open late was not an uncommon thing. Between the everyday walk-in customers and the contracts they had going with the Ministry of Magic, they needed the extra hours just to complete the mountains of paperwork their business was generating.
But while owning a successful joke shop made them outstanding pranksters, it did not make them fools. They knew the attention they were drawing on themselves with their anti-Voldemort slogans. So they were sure to have many security measures in place to protect themselves. Inwardly, Fred and George pitied the poor soul who came into their shop looking to make trouble.
George had just locked up the store front for the night and was making his way to the rear office when he heard his brother’s voice.
“George, could you bring me another quill? The one I’m using is starting to spell my name backwards!”
George may his way into the office and handed a new quill to his brother. He took a seat next to him as he spoke.
“Another day, another galleon, so how much paperwork are we looking at tonight my dear brother?”
“Surprisingly enough, I’m finishing up the last order form as we speak. That new clerk we hired is working out pretty well for us, wouldn’t you say, George?”
“Who knew that our dad would have such a keen eye for paperwork,” said George.
“I just like the fact that he can work out of the Burrow. His old job at the Ministry kept him out of the house a bit too much. Now he and Mum can spend more time together,” replied Fred.
George chuckled, “So just how randy do you think Dad’s been getting, now that the house is empty and he’s home alone with Mum all the time?”
Fred answered with a look of false disgust on his face, “The thought of Dad getting randy isn’t something I want to see in a Pensieve any time soon.”
The twins began laughing as the sound of someone pounding at the rear door caught their attention.
“Were you expecting a late customer?” asked George.
“Nope,” replied Fred as he pulled out his wand.
“Neither am I,” answered George as he followed his brother’s example and pulled his wand out as well.
The twins took positions on the left and right of the door and spoke in unison, “Yes, can we help you?”
A muffled voice replied, “I was wondering if I could order a baker’s dozen of your Chocolate Canary Creams?”
Fred answered, “We don’t make Chocolate Canary Creams!”
The muffled voice then replied, “Then I’ll take two dozen!”
Smiles passed between the twins as they once again spoke in unison, “Harry!”
George unlocked the door and the quartet rushed in. Ginny and Hermione smothered the twins in hugs. Harry received two hearty handshakes and Ron roughhoused with his brothers.
The twins levitated a few extra chairs into the office and everyone sat down.
“What brings you four to our doorstep?” asked Fred.
“We were running low on supplies and decided to stop by to get some. We know that we normally have them Owled, but we got news that the Ministry has stepped up the intercepting of Owls again and we didn’t want you two getting into any trouble on our account,” replied Harry.
“Been using our little inventions a lot, have you?” asked George.
“Yeah, and we’re going to need as much as you can spare,” answered Ron.
“Our apologies then, because we can no longer help you,” said Fred rather sternly.
“What!?!” replied the quartet almost in unison.
“If it’s a question of money, you know I can pay for them,” said Harry as he reached into his backpack.
Fred waved him off, “Come now Harry, you know your money isn’t good with us.”
George continued, “But when we gave you that first package all those months ago, we had no idea that we would be supplying the G.S.F.”
“Now what would give you the idea that we’re the G.S.F.?” asked Ginny in her best “innocent girl” voice.
Fred opened his desk drawer and showed them all a magical picture of Aurors investigating a crime scene. In it were quite a few incapacitated Death Eaters being levitated away. The quartet instantly recognized the warehouse where Harry rescued Ginny.
George then placed a Liquid Light Licorice wand on the desk, “Tonks stopped by today to question us regarding this particular item. Wanted to know if we knew who designed it. After she sent her partner from the room, she confessed to knowing it was you four who were responsible for that devastation at that warehouse and that she was conducting an investigation only as a matter of formality to satisfy her superiors.”
“So we decided to confess that it was us that had been supplying you. She officially concluded her investigation of the wand as a dead end and unofficially told us to be more careful next time. Now we don’t sell this particular wand on the market. We designed it specifically for you four. So out with it, are you the G.S.F.?” finished Fred.
Harry nervously ran his fingers through his hair, “Sorry guys, we’re usually a lot more careful in clearing up our evidence.”
At the sound of Harry’s confession the twins looked at one another and then back to Harry.
“You mean you two approve of our actions? Wait a second, look at who I’m talking to, of course you approve of our actions,” said Ginny.
Fred stood up, “Are you kidding? You lot are famous!!”
“All we heard today were wizards and witches discussing the G.S.F. and that story in the Prophet,” said George.
“So does that mean you’ll sell us some more supplies?” asked Hermione.
“No, as I said before, your money isn’t good with us. But there is something we want in exchange for supplies,” said Fred.
“And that is?” asked a stern sounding Ginny, she could always tell when her brothers were up to something.
George clapped his hands together, “We want the copyrights to the G.S.F. name!”
Fred clapped his hands together as well, “Merchandizing!! Of course we’ll do it all after the war’s over, but just think about it. Shirts, hats, cauldrons, wands, backpacks, even special supply boxes containing products the G.S.F. has used in combat! The list of G.S.F. items can be endless! The sky’s the limit!”
At this point, Harry had his head in his hands and was shaking uncontrollably with laughter. After a few more moments to compose himself, he stood up and stuck out his hand.
“Leave it to you to turn a profit at our expense. You have yourself a deal,” said a still smiling Harry.
George returned his handshake and smiled as he pointed to three large backpacks hanging on the wall, “We just happen to have three bags of supplies all ready to go for you.”
Ginny walked over and punched her two brothers on the arm, “Prats! You had me worried there for a second.”
Fred massaged his now sore arm, “Had to close the deal first, sis. Any chance you’ll tell us where you’re going next?”
Ginny looked to Harry for permission in answering Fred’s question. But he decided to answer the question himself, “Seeing as it isn’t official G.S.F. business, I guess we can trust you two to keep it secret. We’re going to Europe to pay a visit to Padma Patil.”
George seemed concerned and confused, “What’s Padma doing in Europe?”
Ron stood and pointed at his brothers, “Attending an official meeting of the sisterhood of none of your damn business!”
Even the twins couldn’t help but laugh at that.
Harry had to place a hand against his now hurting stomach, “What Ron actually meant to say was that she transferred to Durmstrangs and her family asked us to check on her.”
“Sounds cool, any chance the two of us can come along? We can really use a few days away from the shop,” asked Fred.
Hermione shook her head, “I don’t know, boys. This really isn’t a pleasure trip.”
“Oh come on. It’s not like we can’t handle ourselves. You said so yourselves, it’s not official G.S.F. business,” said Fred.
“Besides, Padma’s a member of the D.A., same as all of us. You can’t just expect us to sit here and do nothing!” said George.
That last comment struck a cord in Harry. He turned to the others and noticed that they looked exactly like he felt at that moment.
“What do you think?” asked Harry.
Ron shrugged his shoulders, “To be honest, we really should go in looking as “un-G.S.F.” like as we can.”
Hermione continued, “And if we decide to stay, to take care of that other business we discussed, they could bring back that information both the Patil family and our other concerned party are waiting for.”
“I guess you guys can come, but please follow our lead,” decided Harry.
“Cool, but who’s this other concerned party?” asked George.
Ginny’s face went stern again, “Were you two gits not listening? The concerned party is the sisterhood of none of your damn business!”
Fred laughed again, “O.K. littler sister, we get it. We’ll keep the questions to a minimum.”
“Send a letter to Dad and let him know we’re taking a few days off. Tell him to contact Verity so they can run the shop in our absence,” ordered George.
Fred pulled out his quill and a piece of parchment, “While I’m doing that could you four run upstairs and help George pack our gear? It sounds like we’re in for one interesting trip!”
There were three major issues the group of six encountered just after their morning Portkey jaunt. First was the bitter cold, which thanks to Hermione’s research of the area’s weather, they were all prepared for. Second was the lack of sunlight. It was a known fact that the school was so far north that the sun was out for only a short period each day, but knowing about that fact did not make the sight any less impressive or ominous. Third, and most important, was the location of their landing, as the institute was no place to be seen.
“Where’s the bloody school!?! Did we Portkey to the wrong place?” yelled Ron over the winter wind, which was blowing in everyone’s ears.
“Maybe Harry said “Diagonally” again,” joked Fred.
Ginny ignored her brother’s attempt at humor, “There’s no way we’re in the wrong place. I conjured the Portkey correctly.”
“Then the only explanantion I can think of is that the school must have a magical barrier that’s similar to Hogwarts,” said Hermione.
“No, not similar, Granger! But much better than the one at Hogwarts!!” exclaimed George.
Everyone turned to the sound of George’s voice. He was pointing towards the horizon. They all barely made out a building in the distance.
“I thought I was impressed by the magical barriers we’ve run across before. This one’s totally amazing,” claimed Harry.
“The amount of magical energy to maintain it must be astounding,” said Hermione.
“Just how far do you think we are from here?” asked Ginny.
“Looks to be at least ten kilometers,” guessed Fred.
Harry tapped the lenses of his glasses with the Ominocular charm he had developed during training and used the zoom feature, “Between where I’m standing and the school grounds is exactly twelve point seven kilometers.”
It’s going to be one hell of a walk between us and the school grounds,” said George.
“Then lace up your shoes people because that school isn’t going to walk to us,” ordered Harry, as he began walking.
Almost two hours later found the group at the edge of the vast forest roughly half a kilometer from the rear entrance of Durmstrangs. Harry and Ginny were observing the school with Harry’s glasses to get a mental picture of the grounds. The others were sitting down, quietly talking out their plans.
“Remember we’re not here to cause trouble.We’re just pretending to be weighing the decision to enroll in order to finish our educations,” said Hermione.
“I’m still not comfortable with leaving our gear back at the Portkey site,” complained Fred.
“Neither am I, but we can’t go in looking like an invading army. Be happy you have your wand,” answered Ron.
So who do you think took over running Durmstrangs, since Karkaroff is dead?” asked George.
“I have to assume its Karkaroff’s assitant who has the position now. You should remember him from the Tri-Wizard Tournament,” answered Hermione.
“You mean that little bearded flunkie that asked Parvati to dance at the Yule ball?” asked Ron.
“Yes that would be him,” said Hermione.
“That’s not all I heard he asked her to do,” whispered George to his brother.
“At least it will be easier to talk with him than it would have been to talk with Karkaroff,” said Fred.
“Why do you say that?” asked Hermione.
Fred smiled, “Did you ever talk to Karkaroff? With teeth that disgusting it makes you wonder why anyone would join the Death Eaters when it’s obvious they don’t have a decent dental plan.”
“Ewww!!!” said Hermione, as everyone else laughed.
The sun was casting just enough light to mimic that of dawn, even though both Harry and Ginny knew it was closer to midday. Ginny had just completed a sweep of the grounds, when she passed the glasses back to Harry.
“Looks like classes are in session. All I see are teachers and older students roaming the grounds.”
Harry returned the glasses to his face and was giving the grounds a last look over as well, “Yeah, the older students must be prefects. We should be able to walk in and get to the headmaster’s office without a lot of attention being drawn to us.”
“Aren’t we trying not to be sneaky?” asked Ginny
But Harry never answered her as she looked up to find him still staring at the grounds, but holding up his right index finger in a “hold on a second” gesture. Through their bond Ginny felt a sense of surprise, recognition and confusion.
Harry could feel Ginny’s curiosity. But at the moment he was too shocked to answer any questions she might have asked. He mentally ordered his charmed glasses to its maximum zoom. He absolutely wanted to make sure about whom he thought he saw.
Sure enough, he was!
Walking out of the rear entrance of the Durmstrang Institute was none other than Remus Lupin! He was alone and carrying what looked to be a medium size wooden crate. As soon as he was clear of the grounds, Remus disappeared in what Harry recognized as a Portkey flash. He had to remind himself that if Remus was able to use a Portkey within the magical barrier, then only someone with the knowledge of the charms to create the barrier could provide him a properly working Portkey. Harry came to a conclusion that he prayed was wrong.
Remus Lupin was working with the Durmstrangs!
Harry turned and sat on the ground next to Ginny. There was a serious look of thought on his face as he turned to speak to her.
“I just saw Remus Lupin walking out of Durmstrangs.”
“What? Why would he be there?” asked the now equally shocked Ginny.
“I have no idea. But for now let’s stick to the plan at hand and do what we came here to do.” said Harry as he helped Ginny to her feet.
“Do you want me to tell Ron and Hermione about Lupin?” asked Ginny.
Harry thought for a second, “Sure, but don’t tell the twins. Something’s telling me that Lupin’s appearance is definitely G.S.F. business.”
“Table Talk it is then,” answered Ginny as they both began walking back to the others.
The group was no more than one hundred meters on school grounds before a student holding a typical Durmstrang staff and wearing a badge similar to one a Hogwarts perfect would wear stopped them to ask them who they were and what they were doing.
After a few moments to overcome a bit of a language barrier, the prefect led the group to the upper most floor of the main building and down a long hallway.
Harry and the others followed in silence. The only thing that anyone could hear was the sound of the prefect’s staff as it tapped on the tiled floor. Ginny could sense Harry mentally wincing with each tap, his recent jaw injury still fresh on his mind. But you would not have known it by looking at him as he looked very calm.
At the end of the hallway was a large wooden door marked with one word in a foreign language that Harry guessed was “Headmaster”. He made a mental note to get together with the others to research the creation of a translation charm for future use.
The prefect disappeared through the door, leaving the group staring at one another. Harry was about to Table Talk to his companions when the prefect reemerged from the door and requested that they all check their wands before entering the office.
He might as well have asked them to give up their right arms.
But before anyone could protest, Harry led the way by giving up his wand first. The others put up no more than a few mumbles of protest as they followed his lead. After collecting all the wands the prefect ushered them all inside.
Hermione’s assumption was spot on, as they were greeted by the person the group only knew as Karkaroff’s assistant. After locking away the group’s wands in a small cabinet, he greeted everyone with a smile that made Harry’s stomach turn.
“Harry Potter, the defending Tri-Wizard Champion! What a pleasure to see you again. Please, everyone sit down. What brings you to Durmstrangs?”
“The lot of us have been seriously considering attending another Wizarding school to complete our educations because we don’t wish to wait until Hogwarts reopens,” said Harry.
“So you have decided to enroll here? We would be honored to have Harry Potter and his friends as students. None of you are muggle-born, are you? Durmstrangs has a strict policy against enrolling…how do you say in English…mud bloods?”
Ron saw Hermione’s face instantly go red with anger. He reached over and touched her hand with his own. There were tears brimming in her eyes, but she held her composure. Ron decided to attract all eyes from her by speaking.
“Don’t get too far ahead of yourself, sir. We haven’t decided on what school we all want to attend. We were planning on visiting Beauxbatons as well as several schools in the United States.”
“But why? Durmstrangs has a great campus and a teaching staff that is better than any other school…even Hogwarts.”
Ginny interrupted, “Speaking of your teaching staff, we’ve heard that your Defense Against the Dark Arts classes were second to none. But we’ve also heard a disturbing rumor that you had hired a former Hogwarts instructor to teach it.”
He smiled almost as if doing so caused him pain, “As for the first rumor, we have without a doubt the finest Defense Against the Dark Arts classes anyone has to offer. But as far as the second rumor, it is totally untrue. Remus Lupin never has, nor will ever be, a member of this school’s staff!”
George looked as if he were about to say something, when Ginny threw him a look that would have petrified a Basilisk. George froze where he sat.
“Thank you for clearing that up, sir. Is there a chance we could get a tour of the campus?” asked Harry.
“Why certainly, I believe the prefect that brought you here is available to show you around.”
“That’s very nice of you to suggest, but we were wondering if Padma Patil is available to give us the tour?” asked Harry.
“For Harry Potter, anything! Why don’t the six of you head down to the courtyard and I’ll see that Miss Patil meets you as soon as we can get her. We will return your wands at the end of the tour.”
As they made their way out of the building, Ginny glanced over at Harry. His hands were moving.
“I don’t remember you mentioning Lupin’s name when you asked about former Hogwarts instructors.”
“Caught that part, did you?”
Harry smiled, “Have I ever told you how brilliant you are?”
“Yes, but I never get tired of hearing it.”
“Good, because I never get tired of saying it.
Th e look that came across Padma’s face upon seing her friends could only be described as a mixture of surprise, relief and fear. Hermione found herself wondering if the fear Padma showed was for herself or for her friends who came to visit her.
“What are you people doing here? It’s so good to see you. When they pulled me out of class to provide some possible students a tour, I would have never guessed it would be my old D.A. mates,” said Padma rather quickly.
Ginny picked up on Padma’s nervousness as well. Between her quick pace conversation and her eyes shifting side to side, Ginny didn’t need her Legilimency skills to understand that Padma wanted to talk freely, and where they were located at the moment was not the ideal place for it.
“Padma, we’ve already seen some of this building, why don’t you show us the outer grounds first?” said Ginny.
Padma did as was asked of her and began leading the group towards the outer area of the campus. As they walked, she pointed out areas of interest and explained various factoids of Durmstrang history. But as soon as they cleared the courtyard and were out of earshot, she dropped all pretense and spoke the way she had been wanting to since she had seen them.
She gave Hermione a big hug, “Now tell me the real reason why you’re here. If you six are anything like the loyal Gryffindor my sister is, there’s no way you’d transfer to another school, especially this one.”
“You’re right, your parents asked us to come here to check up on you. They said they hadn’t heard from you in quite a while.” answered Hermione.
Padma looked shocked, “How could that be? I’ve been writing them at least once a week to ask them to visit me. I thought they hadn’t written back because we had a huge row regarding my coming here.”
Harry stepped forward looking concerned, “According to your parents, the school informed them that they were forbidden to visit you per your request.”
“I should’ve known something was wrong. The handful of Hogwarts transfers haven’t had any mail or visitors either,” said Padma.
Ron put his hand on Padma’s shoulder, “We’re here for another reason as well. Have you seen any activity that you might classify as dark magic?”
Padma searched around, looking for prying eyes, “If you mean D.E. activity, I’ve seen nothing definite like dark marks or arms that are tattoo’d. But the Hogwarts transfers like me seem to be treated as outsiders. There’s something strange going on at this school and it seems as if things are being hidden from us.”
Padma continued, “Merlin, what was I thinking when I came here? I should’ve listened to Parvarti and stayed at home. You’d think a Ravenclaw would have more sense!”
“You couldn’t have had too much sense. You actually accepted a date from me,” joked Ron in a feeble attempt to make Padma feel better.
“Besides, I’m sure your sister misses you and wants you to come home. At least I know that’s how I’d feel if this prat were to leave my side,” said George as he grabbed Fred’s shoulder.
A genuine smile came across Padma’s face as George finished his statement. But just before she could thank him for what he said, a change came across his face as his smile disappeared to be replaced by one of seriousness. With a simple head nod to indicate someone was behind her, Padma went back instantly to being a tour guide.
She guided her group forward hoping that the two prefects who walked their way would not be following them, that maybe they had their own agenda. But this was not to be as they began walking on either side of the tour group.
“It seems the headmaster doesn’t like so many Hogwarts students in one place,” said Ron.
“Just stay alert, Ron. I think we’re on to something,” said Hermione.
The sun was just past its highest point it in the sky. There was an almost gray look to the grounds, which gave everything around it a rather dreary look. It was no mystery to any of the group why Durmstrang students always seemed so angry.
It was just then that a set of incredibly bright lights in the distance caught everyone’s attention.
“Is that what I think it is?” asked Ron.
“It sure is, that ladies and gentlemen is the Durmstrang Institute’s Quidditch stadium,” answered Padma as she began moving faster in an attempt to catch up to the running group.
Padma eventually caught up and led them into the stadium. Up through a small tunnel and through the entrance leading to the bottom observation ring. The stadium was empty but Harry could tell that it had a seating capacity that was at least triple that of Hogwarts. He looked at his companions who all seemed mesmerized by the sheer size of it all.
“Remember everyone, no matter how big the observation rings, how fancy the scoreboard, or how many people can fit in here, the pitch is always the same size,” said Harry, reassuringly.
They all looked up to find a match going on. With the stadium empty, this seemed nothing more than a simple practice match.
But as the practice went on, it became apparent that this was no ordinary game of Quiddtich. The teams were knocking each other silly. Punches, kicks, and other infractions were occurring without as much as a whistle from the referee, who was hovering on his broom at center pitch.
“I can’t believe the referee is letting those fouls go!” screamed Ron.
“This is Quidditch?” asked Fred sarcastically.
“Calling this game Quiddtich would be like pouring a bucket full of rocks over your head and calling it a shower!” answered George.
Hermione pointed at the referee, “Is that who I think it is?”
“Yes, when he isn’t competing, he holds a position at the school as both the Quidditch and Flying instructor,” answered Padma.
Almost as if he heard the girls talking about him, the referee stopped play and flew directly towards Hermione.
In a heavy Bulgarian accent the referee began speaking, “Hermione, is that you? I cannot believe it. Hello!”
“Hello Victor! It’s been a long time,” replied Hermione as Victor Krum leapt off his broom, gave her a bone crushing hug and picked her up from the ground.
Harry didn’t need to look at Ron to know what he looked like right at the moment, but he looked anyway. Ron’s face was very red, his hands were balled into fists and it looked as if his jaw was clenched so tightly that he might actually shatter his own teeth!
Harry bent over and whispered into Ron’s ear, “Relax mate, they’re just friends. He’s just saying hello.”
Ron never took his eyes off of Krum as he whispered , “Ruddy pumpkinhead.”
Krum finally released Hermione and walked up to Harry with a smile on his face, “Potter, its good to see you too! How are you?”
Harry shook Krum’s hand, “I’m good, that’s an interesting Quidditch match you had going here.”
“Just toughness drills. Nothing an expert player like you couldn’t handle,” said Krum.
Harry found himself almost blushing, “Thanks for the compliment. It means a lot coming from someone who’s played for the World Cup.”
“You know the only thing I regret about the year of the Tri-Wizard Tournament was that Hogwarts cancelled Quidditch. I would have loved to have seen Durmstrang’s top team play against yours,” said Krum.
“It would have been my honor to have faced you, Seeker to Seeker,” replied Harry.
“Why don’t we have a match now?” asked Krum, as the two teams that had been practicing formed up behind him.
“I don’t have a broom,” said Harry.
Normally, Harry would have loved to play Quidditch against Krum. But the looks he was getting from the players behind Krum told him that regardless of the outcome of the match, someone was going to get hurt.
“We have lots of brooms for you to choose from,” countered Krum.
“And my team isn’t here,” said Harry in attempt to get Krum off the subject.
Krum would not let the subject die, “I’m sure any of the students behind me would love to play with the great Harry Potter.”
“I honestly would love to, but I’m really not up for it,” replied Harry.
At that point, Krum’s face went from jovial to a look of complete disgust and anger. It reminded Harry of the Victor Krum he had first encountered during his fourth year at Hogwarts.
Krum released a loud humorless laugh, “I should have known you would not rise to the challenge. I guess all the rumors that I have heard over the years regarding your character and your Quidditch skills were just that…rumors.”
Harry could tell the Krum was just trying to bait him. A few years ago, it might have worked. But Harry was a completely changed person from the one he was that long ago. He had been changed through personal tragedy and sacrifice, through training that would have broken people with weaker characters. So no words, regardless of how much ridicule they might contain, would ever get him to act rashly.
This of course, did not apply to his companions as Ron stepped forward and said, “Don’t let this ruddy pumpkinhead talk like that about you. Let’s take him and his little band of Neanderthals. I’ll be your Keeper, mate!”
Fred and George stepped up next, “You insult one Gryffindor, and you insult us all. Win or lose, we’ll be your Beaters, Harry!”
Ginny stepped to Harry’s side. She said no words, she didn’t have to. The look she gave Krum said more than enough. She would not have anyone speaking ill of the wizard she loved. Her eyes wore the hard blazing look that Harry had come to love. He could feel her determination burning brightly through their bond. Harry knew without asking that he had his number one Chaser.
Hermione reached out and took hold of Harry’s hand, “Victor, what you just said was uncalled for. You owe Harry your life. He could have let Cedric Diggory kill you, but Harry stopped him. He’s more human than you’ll ever be. I’ll be your second Chaser, Harry.”
Krum’s laugh actually sounded full of humor, “Hermione, you want to play Quidditch? I remember trying to teach you to fly one hundred meters in a straight line. It was like trying to get water to run uphill. Maybe you should find yourself a book and go someplace and study.”
The twins had to hold Ron back with all their strength when Krum made that comment.
Harry turned to Hermione, he could feel her tightening her grip on his hand. Her eyes never left Krum’s as Harry spoke, “Hermione, this match isn’t for you. I don’t want you to get hurt.”
She turned her eyes from Krum and looked at Harry without flinching, “Without you, I would never have discovered my love for flying. Much less how to do it properly at all. Please Harry, let me show them what I can do.”
“Well Krum, I have six players and I’d rather face you a player short before I’d let myself play with one of those goons behind you.”
“I’ll be your seventh player.”
George looked to his right, “I didn’t know you played, Padma.”
Padma smiled, “Back when I was attending Hogwarts, I would’ve told you I didn’t know how to play. But attending Durmstrangs has changed that because it’s part of the physical education requirement for all students.”
Krum picked up his broom and began walking, “This should be fun. Follow me and I’ll help you get all the things you’ll need. I wouldn’t want to hear any excuses about bad equipment from your pathetic team when they lose.”
Harry started laughing.
“What is so funny, Potter?” asked Krum rather angrily.
Harry smiled, “Ron’s right, you really are a ruddy pumpkinhead.”
Kru m led Harry and his impromptu Quidditch squad to a small shack located just off the pitch behind the northern goal posts. He unlocked the door and a split second of shame in Hogwarts flying program passed through Harry’s mind.
The shack had quite possibly the best collection of brooms and Quidditch supplies anyone could ask for. On one wall there were Nimbus series brooms starting from Harry’s original broom, the Nimbus Two-Thousand. On the other wall were several Firebolts. As far as Harry could tell, the cheapest brooms he could see were Comet Three-Hundreds! As for Quidditch gear, there was gear made from different types of leathers including dragon, snake, and animals Harry couldn’t identify. On the back wall were at least ten chests that he recognized as those that contained game balls.
“You may choose what you wish to borrow from the sections that are not locked,” ordered Krum as he picked up his personal gear and left the shack.
As Harry was putting on his equipment it suddenly occurred to him why Dumbledore had tears in his eyes the day Harry had told him of how he had rejected the Ministry’s offer and called himself a “Dumbledore man” through and through. Harry fought down the lump forming in his throat as he looked up to find six faces staring back at him.
“I just wanted to say thank you for the loyalty you all showed me just now.”
Harry could read nothing but respect in all their eyes.
The twins, who were already suited up and holding matching bats spoke first, “What’s the game plan, captain?”
Harry secured his gloves as he spoke, “All of you realize that without a referee that this is going to be the dirtest game you’ve ever played in. Throw out everything you’ve ever learned from “Quidditch through the Ages” because that team out there is going to do everything they can do to win. Watch out for each other. Now let’s go out there and show that ruddy pumpkinhead what we're made of.”
Harry could not have been more correct if he had Professor Trelawney’s much talked about “inner eye”. The game play was incredibly fast paced and rough. The Durmstrang Chasers were throwing elbows, fists and knees every time they drew close to an opposing player. But the girls held their own as Ginny and Hermione used their self defense skills to even the odds. Even Padma gave back as good as she got. Harry guessed that since she had learned the game under these conditions, it was only natural for her to play at this level.
The twins seemed to be relishing every moment as they were performing feats with the Bludgers that none of their teamates had ever witnessed before. At one point, the Durmstrang Chasers intercepted the Quaffle, leaving only the twins and Ron between themselves and the goals. Fred lined up so that he was above George by several meters as the Durmstrang Beaters deflected both Bludgers at the twins in an attempt to take them out of the way of the attacking Chasers.
It was a mistake that would cost them dearly.
As soon as the twins saw the Bludgers coming, they made their move. Fred began spinning on his broom at a tremendous rate as the pair of metal balls sped towards George. At the last possible second, George made his broom sidestep and redirected the Bludgers upwards at his spinning brother. Without missing a rotation, Fred blasted both balls.
Harry had never seen Bludgers move so fast, and neither had the Durmstrang Chasers as they scrambled to fly out of the way. One Chaser caught a Bludger directly in his side. He slammed into another Chaser as he was thrown from his broom, they both fell twenty-five meters to the ground and crashed into the turf.
The Chaser holding the Quaffle wasn’t so lucky.
As he was coming out of his evasive turn, the second Bludger slammed into his broom’s brush section, totally obliterating it. Without the tail section of his broom, the Chaser lost control and went spinning full speed into an empty section of seats in the obeservation ring.
The Durmstrangs both on and off the field were stunned. Hermione took advantage of their inactivity to score a quick goal.
With the match being one of no rules, Krum screamed for players from the reserves, who were watching from the bench, to replace the players who had been injured by the twins’ Bludgers. One player grabbed his broom and flew up to join the action.
He was slammed by another Bludger before he could get five meters in the air.
A second player was about to call his broom to his hand when another Bludger came out of nowhere, smashing into the ground where his broom laid. The player saw what was left of his broom, waved his hand in a “This isn’t for me” gesture and walked back to the bench. After that series of events, the rest of the players on the Drumstrang bench refused to move a muscle, in fear they might be the next victims of those dangerous twins.
Harry couldn’t spare too much time to watch the action as he searched for the Snitch. Krum was giving Harry a flying lesson as he was performing a myriad of stunts that would have intimidated anyone. Harry tried his best to ignore Krum as he kept reminding himself that fancy stunts would not help when it came down to catching the Snitch.
With the score one-hundred twenty to eighty in favor of Durmstrangs, and Harry’s team now having a three to zero Chaser advantage, Harry’s Chasers went into overdrive.
Ginny was driving the Keeper mental as she scored three straight goals. She seemed to be growing stronger as she grunted louder and louder with each throw.
A Durmstrang Beater tried to help out by attempting to catch a clearing pass from his Keeper. But the pass never got there as Padma intercepted it and threw it to Hermione, who had amazed players on both sides of the field with her ability to fly and make incredible passes at the same time.
All three Chasers entered the Keeper’s zone as Hermione made a brilliant behind the back pass to Padma, who touch passed it to Ginny. She screamed as she took her shot, causing the Keeper to smash into one of the goals because he was concentrating too hard to stop the Quaffle and not on where he was flying. The sad part was that her shot was a fake as she never released the Quaffle. Ginny simply flew to a goal, stuck her hand through it and dropped the Quaffle for the tying score.
Harry pumped his fist as he watched the girls tie the game. But as he did this, a chill ran up his spine as he suddenly sensed that Krum was no longer performing stunts around him. He caught a flash of Krum crossing center pitch, going away from him and towards the Durmstrang goals. A sparkle of light caught Harry’s eye as he recognized the glint of the Golden Snitch!
Harry willed his broom to move as he tried to pump as much speed as he could. But in his heart he knew he would not make up the distance on Krum. The twins fired both Bludgers at Krum, only to watch in disappointment as he expertly dodged both without ever losing speed or sight of the Snitch.
Harry crossed center pitch as he watched Krum closing in on the golden orb. It was flying from the right goal across to the goal on the far left following the sideline the entire time. It was almost at field level as Krum made a quick flight adjustment and started coming up behind it.
Krum’s focus was completely on the Snitch when he was tackled in midair by three quick flying blurs! Hermione, Ginny and Padma took it upon themselves to ram Krum to the turf. Harry was now free to grab the Snitch, he bore down in an attempt to gain more speed.
Harry was speeding up the sideline, directly at the Snitch, when two objects caught his attention out of the corner of his eye. He expected the objects to be Bludgers when he realized they were too big to be the metal spheres. They were in fact the Durmstrang Beaters who after witnessing what happened to Krum decided to do the same to Harry.
Harry could tell, from their angle and speed, that they would tackle him just before he would get to the Snitch. He could see them closing in side by side, the Snitch only a short distance from his grasp.
When all at once he realized the Snitch was in his hands and the hits he was expecting never came. He made a quick stop turn and discovered the reason behind his never being touched.
On the ground lay the two Beaters, both of whom looked like they wouldn’t be getting up for a while, and laying on top of them was the large form of Ron, who must have come up behind Harry to throw himself on top of Harry’s would be tacklers. Ron threw Harry a quick thumbs up as Harry pointed back to his best friend in a show of respect and thanks.
Harry’s team screamed in victory as Harry flew full speed into the sky and, much to Krum’s anger, performed an almost perfect imitation of Krum’s signature two handed handstand on his speeding broom. Almost perfect in that Harry did his with one hand on the broom and the other showing off the captured Snitch!
Krum and his team didn’t bother to stick around to shake hands. They merely picked up their injured teammates and left the field. Ron watched the last of the Durmstrangs leave the field as he yelled.
“Hey don’t go just yet! You forgot your hearts!”
Harry met his teammates at center pitch.There was only one of the seven not smiling as they came together. Padma was looking at the ground and trying to avoid everyone’s eyes.
“Padma, what’s wrong?” asked George.
Slowly Padma lifted her head. There were tears on her cheeks and sadness to her face that touched the hearts of everyone around her.
“Being with all of you has reminded me of how empty I feel without my family. No education is worth all this. Please, please…just take me home.”
After finishing the match and returning all of their equipment, Harry and his companions decided to escort Padma back to her dorm to pick up her belongings. With Padma being of age there was no legal way they could keep her at the school. The group was still talking excitedly about the match.
“That had to be the most unorganized game of Quidditch I’ve ever played in…I loved every second of it!” screamed Ron.
“I just wished Creevy had been there with his camera, no one will ever believe us,” said Padma.
“Did you see the looks on their faces when we took out all of their Chasers?” asked Fred.
“I thought for sure the guys on the bench were going to wet themselves from fear!”answered George.
“Speaking of which, where did you two ever learn to beat Bludgers like that?” asked Harry.
Ginny smiled, “Who do you think I learned my Spin-shot from?”
George waved his hand indifferently, “We’ve had moves like that for years.”
“It’s just that McGonagall would never allow us to use them. She said they were too dangerous to use in competition,” added Fred.
George smiled, “I guess she was right.”
“So Padma, what’s the first thing you’re going to do when you get home?” asked Hermione.
“Apologize to my family like there’s no tomorrow, and hope that they will forg…”
Padma’s voice died away as a look of fear crossed her face. Harry looked up to find themselves surrounded by five wizards that he recognized from the Quidditch match. All five had their wands drawn. Padma was about to reach for her wand, but George stopped her by gently placing his hand on hers.
Ron raised his hands, “If this is about the match, it’s just a game guys.”
“This isn’t about a silly Quidditch match!” said the largest of the five wizards.
“Then what is it then?” asked Harry as he raised his hands as well.
“This is about the huge bounty that the Dark Lord has on your head, Harry Potter. Death Eaters have been scouring the earth looking for you. Imagine our luck when you walked right into our school. Looks like we get our graduation gifts early.”
Harry glanced at Hermione and Ginny, they both appeared very frightened as they raised their hands in surrender. Harry could once again hear Sensei Takahara’s voice advising him.
“Be more than willing to feed your opponent’s overconfidence. Play the part of the victim as long as is necessary. But when the time comes, make your opponent pay the price for his stupidity.”
The five wizards closed in to incapacitate the group. Each received due payment for their lack of judgement as the G.S.F. all moved at the same time.
Harry nailed the two wizards in front of him with two quick and powerful punches across their faces.
Ron caught his wizard by the left wrist with his right hand and pulled him forward. He then spun, driving his left elbow into the back of his opponent’s skull.
Hermione blocked away the wand in her face and placed a powerful front kick under the chin of her would be captor. There was an audible crunch that told her that the wizard would be enjoying his future meals through a straw.
Ginny followed her brother’s example by catching the leader’s wrist in the same manner he had, but instead of spinning she drove a downward side kick into the side of her opponent’s left knee. The leader screamed in pain as he fell to the floor. He looked up to find Ginny towering over him as she spoke.
“Happy Graduation day!”
Afterwhich she jumped and performed the same downward leaping punch she had performed on Ron several days before.
Harry turned to see if Padma and the twins were not hurt. Only to find the twins standing silently. Their eyes were opened in shock and they were both slack jawed as they pointed to the wizards lying unconscious at their feet.
“What’s with you lot?” asked Ron as he began collecting the wizard’s wands.
Finally, Fred was able to speak, “We’ll cut you in on ten percent of the merchandizing if you just teach us to do that!”
“Fifty percent!” said Ginny.
“Twenty!” countered George.
“Fourty!” said Ginny.
“Thirty!” said Fred.
“Deal!” yelled Ginny as she tossed a wand to Fred.
Harry called the twins and Padma to his side as he knelt down and rolled up the sleeve of one of the wizards. On his forearm was the tattoo that Harry had learned to hate with every fiber of his being.
“What is this?” asked Harry.
George scratched his head, “I don’t understand your question.”
Harry raised his voice in an almost angry tone and pointed at the tattoo, “What is this on his arm? I need to hear you say the words!”
Fred knew what Harry was getting at, “The Dark Mark tattoo, it’s given to wizards who’ve join the Death Eaters.”
“Good, you three need to remember that. Now let’s see about getting some brooms, so we can get out of here.” said Ron.
“What about our wands? I feel dirty just touching this thing,” said Fred with a look of disgust on his face.
“Brooms first, wands second. We need to get you three out of here. You’ve just become witnesses to the information that we were asked to find,” said Harry as he pointed at the twins and Padma.
As they all started making their way back to the pitch, Ginny stepped up to Harry and said, “So let’s see, we have to make our way back to the broom shack, most likely fighting off the rest of those Death Eater Quidditch players. Then make our way back to the Headmaster’s office to get our wands. Most likely having to fight off every staff carrying prefect in the building. Is there any good news in what I’ve just said?”
Harry continued to walk, keeping his eyes scanning for any sign of a possible ambush, “Yes, the tattoos we looked at were not moving, so chances are the Death Eaters never got a chance to contact Voldemort.”
Ginny smiled, “Never let it be said that life with you won’t be a challenge!”
If the twins were amazed at the G.S.F.’s abilities without wands, they were practically begging to give away another ten percent of their merchandizing when they saw their skills with wands.
The remainder of the Quidditch players posed no real challenge as the G.S.F.’s teamwork put everyone standing in their way in a spell induced coma. A quick Bombarda charm later got the G.S.F. in the broom shack.
Ron stopped everyone before they could reach for a broom, “Whatever broom you lot take, don’t touch this one…it’s all mine.”
He pointed at a broom mounted on the wall in a special glass case. It was painted in red to match the team colors of the country it represented. The name Bulgaria and the country’s flag were also engraved on it. No one, not even Hermione, protested as Ron grabbed Victor Krum’s Quidditch World Cup Firebolt.
A few seconds later, everyone gathered outside with brooms in hand as Harry started speaking, “Padma, the twins are going to escort you home. I need you three to contact either Tonks or Moody and report to them that there are Death Eaters in this school. Do not report to anyone outside of those two. If you have no choice, just remember to keep our names out of it. As far as they’re concerned you two just happened to be visiting Padma when everything went down. You’re the ones who got her out of here.”
Ginny handed Fred her wand that she she had taken from one of the Death Eaters, “Don’t worry about your wands, we’ll get them back to you as soon as we can.”
Quick goodbyes were exchanged as the twins pulled Harry to the side, “Are you sure you don’t want us to wait for you?”
“No, get back to the Portkey and get yourselves out of here. We can conjure another Portkey without any trouble. Besides, we need to have a few words with the headmaster about our choice of attending his fine Institute,” answered Harry with a mischievous grin on his face.
The twins reached out and shook Harry’s hands, “We just wanted to say thank you for possibly the most fun we’ve had in quite a while.”
Afterwhich, Padma and the twins mounted their brooms and flew off. The quartet made sure they were out of sight before making their way back to the headmaster’s building.
Before they got ten meters, Ginny grabbed Harry’s arm and stopped him from walking.
“What’s wrong?” asked Harry.
Ginny’s Fred and George-like grin came to her face as she began speaking, “Oh nothing, I just came up with an idea that should get us into the headmaster’s office with little resistance."
Repo rts were coming in from all over the Institute. Prefects as well as members of the Quidditch teams were being found unconscious in various parts of the school. The headmaster knew that as soon as he saw Potter and his friends that it meant nothing but trouble for him. He, as a member of the Death Eaters, knew of the bounty on Potter. But something told him that if Potter was harmed in any way it would spell doom for him. So he had given specific orders to the Prefects to allow Potter and his party to pass. Leave it to someone’s greed to get the better of them.
The Headmaster could feel the sweat running down his face. It was baffling him that these undereducated wizards were wandless but were still able to overpower some of the strongest wizards the school had available to him. He opened the cabinet near his desk just to remind himself that he had indeed confiscated their wands earlier in the day.
He was just about to close the cabinet as the large wooden office door exploded into a thousand pieces. He had just enough time to see several speeding objects bowl over the two guards he had posted outside his door.
The Headmaster dove to the floor and looked up to find eight Bludgers floating in the office. Walking through the doorway was Harry and his three friends, each carrying brooms.
Hermione repaired the door with a flick of her wand, then performed a Silencing charm on it. Ginny had removed all of their wands from the opened cabinet.
“Give me your wand or shall I order these spellbound Bludgers to beat it out of you?” ordered Ginny.
He handed over his wand without a word. He could tell by the look in her eyes that she was not making an empty threat.
The quartet then snapped the stolen wands as soon as they got back their own. Harry pointed his wand at the Headmaster.
“In case you’re wondering, the rest of your wizards are in the same Bludger beaten state that those two guards outside your door are. Your top of the line Quidditch supplies really come in handy.”
“You have your wands, what else do you want with me?” asked the Headmaster as he nervously looked at the quartet.
“Just some questions, what was Remus Lupin doing here earlier today?” asked Harry.
“I told you that Lupin does not work here!”
“If that‘s true, then what was he doing here?” asked Harry a bit more forcefully.
Harry smiled as two of the Bludgers smashed the desk in front of him. The Headmaster froze, afraid that the next thing they would smash would be him.
“After the capture of Fenrir Greyback, I was informed that Lupin had been named acting leader of the werewolf clan. I recently received a package from the Dark Lord himself, a letter accompanied the package ordering me to deliver it to no one but the leader of the werewolves himself,” said the Headmaster rather rapidly.
“What was in the package?” asked Hermione.
“I did not look. The letter forbid me from doing so!”
With a flick of her wand, Hermione caused another Bludger to slam into the wall just a centimeter from the Headmaster’s skull.
“Don’t lie to her. She hates being lied to,” said Ron.
Ron caused another Bludger to hover just in front of the Headmaster’s nose as he spoke again, “Now tell us what was in that package. You’re too much of a sneaky git to not have taken a peek.”
The Headmaster could feel the spin of the Bludger as it drew closer to his nose, “I only took a quick look, but it looked like a cup, possibly made of silver.”
A cold streak ran down Harry’s back.
Harry waved his wand causing all eight Bludgers to accelerate over the Headmaster’s head and smash through the wall. Leaving a gaping hold large enough for all of them to fly through. He then turned to Obliviate the memories of the Headmaster only to find Ginny had already beaten him to the punch.
Ron slapped Harry’s shoulder, “Hey mate, what’s with you and putting holes in everyone’s walls?”
Harry smiled, “I was thinking that after the war is over of becoming an interior decorator or a demolition expert. I really haven’t made up my mind yet. Either way, I’m going to need all the practice I get.”
The quartet flew at high altitutde. With only the moonlight to guide them, there was no sense in someone getting hurt because they were flying too fast.
“We’re about five kilometers from the Portkey site. We should start our descent,” said Hermione.
“I just hope the twins got Padma home safe,” said Harry.
“I’m sure they did. You didn’t happen to see the way George was looking at her. I think he’s smitten with her,” said Ginny
Ginny looked over to Harry, he was looking over his shoulder and his face looked serious.
“Harry, what’s wro…”
Ginny got her answer when three blue colored spells narrowly missed the quartet. Harry and Hermione went in one direction, while Ginny and Ron went in another.
“Who the bloody hell is that!?!” screamed Ron as he and his sister picked up speed.
Ginny risked a look over her shoulder, “It’s Victor Krum and he’s gaining on us!”
Krum fired two more spells which, as Ginny noticed, did not come near her but at her brother. She maneuvered as close to him as she could.
“Ginny, what the hell are you doooooiiiinnnngggg!?!” yelled Ron as she pulled him off his broom and on placed him on top of hers. She then leapt over to Krum’s Firebolt.
She managed to dodge Krum’s next set of spells as she screamed, “Krum’s after the person on his broom, get to the others and tell them to meet at the Portkey….GO!!!”
Ron did as she asked as she put her broom into a steep dive just as another spell barely missed her. She decided to take her chances among the trees as she could sense Krum just a few seconds behind.
The moonlight just wasn’t enough to allow her to see properly, so she fired several Periculum spells to light her way. As her eyes focused she found herself instantly having to dodge trees. She suppressed a laugh as she could hear Krum just behind her yelling in Bulgarian in what she somehow knew were curse words.
Ginny pushed her speed over a set of embankments and several large bushes; she could feel the spray as fresh frost tickled her face. She fired several spells over her shoulder which missed but allowed her to judge the distance she was ahead.
Her heart skipped a beat when she realized that Krum was practically on top of her. Suddenly she felt pain as a spell skinned her left cheek. Instinctively she pulled her broom to the right and performed a sharp turn that caused Krum to fly right by her.
She knew it would only be a matter of seconds before Krum would change direction and be on top of her again. So she fired four more Periculum spells in different directions and made her way in what she hoped was the correct direction to her companions.
She had hoped her scattered Periculum spells would confuse Krum, but her hopes were dashed as she saw him speeding towards her again. Her heart rate increased as she feared that she may have taken on more than she could handle. She began praying that she was headed in the right direction.
A wave of confidence washed over her as Ginny felt Harry’s presence within her again. She realized that the confidence she felt was not her own, but his. There was no fear for her safety, just an overwhelming confidence that told her that he knew she would be fine.
His confidence was like a lighthouse in the darkness as she came within a hair’s breath of another set of trees and made a quick course correction which she knew put her towards her goal.
The connection Harry and she shared did not allow them to speak to one another mentally but certain feelings were definitely stronger than others. Harry’s thoughts were conveying one thing.
“Just bring him to me and I’ll do the rest.”
It was with a sharp realization that Ginny understood what Krum’s greatest strength and weakness were. His strength was that he was the greatest Seeker in the world. His weakness was that he knew that he was the greatest Seeker in the world. But this was no game of Quidditch, and Ginny was about to show him why.
She made a zig zag pattern among the foliage as she knew the clearing was just ahead. Krum took the bait as he continued to match her every move. It worked against him as her smaller frame allowed her to just miss objects, while his large frame continually brushed against those same obstacles.
Krum could see her just ahead as she made it to the outer area of the clearing. She picked up speed as she brought the broom to almost ground level. He again matched her as he closed the distance between them.
Ginny was only a second ahead of him as she zipped over a small rise. Krum pulled back on his broom as he expertly followed the terrain. But when he cleared the rise expecting to see her, he was greeted by an unfortunate surprise. Ginny had flown at ground level between two obstacles. These obstacles were named Harry and Ron, and they were both aiming their wands.
“NOW!!!” yelled Harry as both he and Ron cut loose with their wands.
Krum was caught in crossfire, and there was nothing he could do about it as he sped through the ambush. He was hit by several spells, thrown from his broom and came to an abrupt halt in the hard ground.
Hermione quickly moved to his side and checked his pulse, “He’s not dead. But when he wakes up, and that won’t be for a while, he won’t be happy.”
Harry and Ron ran over to check on Ginny. She had a few scrapes and cuts but she was also wearing a smile that told them she was fine.
Harry gave her a quick kiss and ran over to check on Krum. Ron touched his sister’s face and smiled.
“You didn’t have to do that, you know?”
She put her head to his chest as she hugged him, “Yes I did. I still owe you for overreacting and hitting your face. Besides, I’m a better flyer, but you’ve got better aim.”
Ron broke the embrace and picked up the broom he had stolen from Krum, “Speaking of owing someone, excuse me for a second.”
Ron walked over to the unconscious form of Krum and lifted the broom above his head, “You wanted your broom so much that you were willing to kill my sister for it! Well Vicki, here’s your damn broom!”
“Ron, NO!!” screamed Hermione.
Ron swung the broom down and for a instant it looked as if he were about to smash the man’s face in. But at the last second he adjusted his swing and smashed the broom into kindling on a nearby stone. He looked to Hermione, gave her a quick wink of his eye and smiled.
“You’re impossible,” said Hermione.
Harry walked over and and rolled up Krum’s sleeves. Both forearms were free of tattoos. He then raised Krum’s eyelids to find them both milky white as they had been in the hedge maze all those years ago.
“He’s no Death Eater. But you ‘d think that he’d learn to strengthen his mind against bewitching after all this time,” commented Harry.
Hermione picked up Krum’s wand and jammed it into the ground grip first. She then pulled her wand and performed a spell that caused Krum’s wand to perform an incredibly bright Lumos charm.
“Those prats over at the school should be able to find him now, when they all finally wake up of course.”
Harry nodded, “Good, let’s get out of here. I have a feeling that very soon Hogwarts isn‘t going to be the only wizarding school that’s closed”
The quartet was sitting in their tent in a newly relocated area. They were enjoying some food and a warm fire as they discussed the major issue of the day in their version of the Gryffindor common room.
“You don’t think Lupin is working with the Death Eaters, do you?” asked Ginny.
“No, the Headmaster was pretty specific regarding the directions in that letter. It said to deliver the package to the leader of the werewolves, it didn’t mention Lupin specifically,” answered Hermione.
“Remus has been undercover with the werewolves for sometime. If he didn’t do as Voldemort wanted, he would end up dead. So it’s a good bet the Cup is with the werewolves now,” stated Harry.
“But why werewolves? Their not exactly known for being the most trustworthy lot,” said Ron.
Hermione laughed as Ron turned to her and asked, “What’s so funny?”
“Voldemort is why I’m laughing. He’s a genius, a madman or the biggest prankster on the planet.”
The others seemed very interested in what Hermione was about to say next.
Hermione grinned, “The Cup is made of silver. Silver is dangerous to werewolves. Who better to guard something you don’t want touched than someone who can’t touch the item their guarding?”
“So the werewolves have the Cup. Next question, where are the werewolves?” asked Ron.
Harry stared at the fireplace and the fire burning within. He looked very lost in thought.
Ginny looked at him, “Harry, I know that look. What are you thinking?”
Harry sat quietly for a few moments before speaking, “I’m thinking that to get the Cup we’re going to have to do something. Something that none of us are going to be comfortable with. Something that goes against our better judgement…”
“We’re going to have to kidnap a friend”