See chapter one for warnings and disclaimers.
Yes I know it's been forever since I updated. There are so many changes going on in my life. Its like I blink and a whole month as gone by. Good news is that by the end of July things will start to normalize and I will be changing to a day shift position so hopefully I can get into a better routine.
It didn't help that this chapter dragged on and on and repeated itself several times. This book is also one of my least favorites so I'm not really interested in writing it as much. But I have to get through it to get to book five which is going to be exciting. And it'll get better once they get back to Hogwarts.
Anyway, sorry for the long wait, Happy reading!
The Dark Mark
Once dinner was cleaned up everyone returned to their seats, their reluctance to continue reading plain to see on their faces. With a look of determination Kingsley snatched up the book, flipping ahead to search out the titles of the next several chapters.
"This next chapter and the one after deal with the aftermath of the game. We should probably read those tonight and start fresh by reading the return to Hogwarts tomorrow," he suggested quietly. Seeing the nods of consent he moved to hand the book to Molly, the next reader.
Arthur quickly intercepted him. "If you don't mind I'll read again."
"Arthur," Molly sighed while giving him a tremulous smile. "There's no need to baby me. I can read."
"I know you can dear," he assured her, a pained look in his eyes. "I'm being shellfish. It's so hard to sit here listening. I do better when the book is in my own hand. You can read the next chapter."
Eyes softening she patted his arm. "Of course dear, if it makes it easier for you."
Bill and Charlie exchanged looks. They were pretty sure their dad was protecting their mum but the man was looking more worn than usual.
"Does anyone else have any objection?" Arthur asked glancing around the room. He looked relieved at the negative responses.
"Must we debate who reads? What does it matter as long as we get through it?" Snape huffed.
"He's just being considerate," Remus pointed out without reproach. "Certain people do get disgruntled when order is disturbed," he added pointedly. Sirius let out a snort of laughter.
"I think now would be a good time to read," Dumbledore broke in with a displeased look at the marauders. His frown intensified as Arthur read out the chapter title.
"Oh! I've been looking forward to this," Tonks spoke up excitedly. Her fellow aurors were the only ones not giving her strange looks.
"Nymphadora," McGonagall began with a stern expression.
"For Merlin's sake people," the young Auror hissed in exsperation, her reaction more pronounced by the use of her first name. "I just want to know what happened that night."
Kingsley nodded in agreement. "Most of the explanations we received were confusing and contradictory."
"I was pretty confused that night too," Harry offered apologetically. "You won't get a good explanation until the end of the year."
"You mean you aren't going to explain as we go along?" Tonks asked in dismay.
Charlie snorted before Harry could answer. "Haven't you realized yet that he likes to keep us in suspense?"
Harry sent him a narrowed look. "It's not fair if I tell you the ending. It would ruin the whole book for you."
"And how is it fair that you already know everything?" Tonks pouted.
Sirius sent her a glare. "It's not fair that he's had to go through all this crap or that he's having to be exposed by the fact that we're reading his private thoughts," he ended furiously, his mood having taken a nosedive at the chapter title.
"Geez, I just want to know what happens," she mumbled, sinking down in her seat.
Arthur cleared his throat before reading, wincing as his literacy self warned the twins from mentioning the gambling to their mother. She huffed but refrained from saying anything, still absorbed in his earlier declaration.
Fred snorted. "As if we would be stupid enough to do that." His grin quickly fell as he remembered his disappointment when his father hadn't asked about their future plans. Why couldn't his parents, just once, show an interest in him and George?
Arthur must have seen the look on his son's face. "Just what did you do with that much money?" he asked curiously, berating himself for not asking earlier.
"It was going to be the start up of our joke shop," George answered quietly. Like his brother he was a little peeved that they were being asked that now, a year and a half later.
Bill frowned, knowing the twins had never received their money. "I have some money saved and your shop sounds like a good investment," he offered.
The twins turned to gape at him. "Thanks Bill," Fred told him, his voice hoarse with gratitude and shock. "That really means a lot to us."
"But don't worry, your money's safe," George added. "We found an investor, and if all goes well, our shop will be up and running this summer." Their shoulders straightened with pride as most of the room congratulated them.
Even Snape had something to say. "I dread to see what concoctions you might have come up with this year," he drawled having checked their work many times, if only out of necessity.
Dumbledore was twinkling. "I suspect we'll have many items to add to Mr. Filch's banned list in the future." The twins grinned knowing such a fact would only increase their sales.
Arthur gave them a considering look before turning back to the book and reading of their trip back to the tents, where he had agreed to some hot chocolate before bed.
Moody grunted. "Don't see how you expected them to sleep. Mighty noisy it was with all the celebrations and drunkenness going around."
"Noisy?" Sirius barked out a laugh, sufficiently distracted from his dark thoughts. "What about the adrenaline surging through their veins from the match? You can't expect to just shut it off like that."
"No but they had an exceptionally long day and were bound to be exhausted," their resident werewolf reminded him. "They did get up in the middle of the night."
"Makes me curious if Arthur put something in that hot chocolate he'd agreed to give them," Tonks added shyly.
The father of seven flushed. "I wouldn't have been above it but really there was no need. Once they'd calmed down a bit they were falling asleep at the table," he added with a smile at Ginny, who ducked her head in embarrassment.
Luna patted her hand before frowning at Arthur's comment on the hard time the ministry would have getting the Irish to stop celebrating. "Why would they need to stop? Weren't they allowed to celebrate?"
"Not stop, just tone it down a little," Bill answered. "They were getting pretty rambunctious and we had to worry about the muggles."
"Not to mention all the crime that happened as a result of the large amounts of alcohol they were consuming," Kingsley added, rubbing at his knee. He had been one of the unfortunate ministry people attempting to calm the Irish down and had been taken to the ground by an intoxicated leprechaun.
Arthur gave him a knowing look before turning back to the book, smiling as Harry began daydreaming of doing the moves that Krum had pulled during the game.
"How much practice have you been able to get on the Fient?" Charlie asked the teen excitedly.
Harry frowned. "I haven't really had time to practice it. The last year and a half has been…...busy," he finished darkly.
Ron snorted. "Yeah, now he can't even fly."
"Why not," Remus demanded while Sirius gave his godson a searching look. Charlie looked horrified at the thought.
"Umbridge is against anyone doing anything for fun," Hermione interjected quickly Harry gave her a grateful smile. He supposed his ban was another thing he should tell his godfather about before the man found out.
Charlie sighed in disappointment before brightening. "Suppose that's another thing we'll have to work on this summer once the wanker is dead."
"Charles," Molly admonished though he wasn't sure if it was for his language or the fact he was making future plans with Harry.
He did laugh when the teen mentally compared his own captain's diagrams against the real moves. "Wood isn't a seeker so he probably wouldn't understand them."
Fred shook his head. "If you knew Wood you'd know that he has every position covered. Quidditch mad isn't an exaggeration." He shared a sad look with his twin when Harry's dreams had him taking Krum's place in the spotlight.
"I'm going to hold you to that," Sirius murmured, a delighted smile on his face. "You're going to play at least one season of pro quidditch no matter what," he declared firmly.
Harry gave him a weak grin, deciding he better have that talk with him sooner rather than later. His lifetime ban prevented the man's dreams from ever coming true.
"That's a nice image to look forward to after the war," Kingsley agreed. "A symbol of hope," he added laughing at the face the teen made.
Arthur turned back to the book with a smile though news of his shouting to wake the boys caused everyone's expression to tighten with worry.
Emmeline grimaced as the celebration turned to shouts and screams. "It was such a blow for our standing with other countries. We're pretty looked down upon already but now no one is going to want to visit."
Remus nodded in agreement. "I was surprised their respective ministries allowed the schools to compete in the tournament after this."
"The contracts had already been signed," Snape supplied, a mocking sneer on his face.
"I'm sure they could have found a loophole if they had really been concerned about their students," Bill spoke up. He knew if his family hadn't been involved he would have never come back from Egypt.
He turned back to the group in time to hear Ginny grumbling about not taking the time to get dressed.
Hermione quickly agreed. "I would have preferred not running around the woods in my nightgown."
"Especially given who we ran into," Ron hissed under his breath as his father continued reading.
Sirius growled at hearing of the thongs of people fleeing into the woods. "If all those people had just turned around and actually fought back things would have resolved a lot quicker."
As always Remus was the voice of reason. "Maybe or maybe there would have been a lot more injuries and maybe even some dead. Not everyone has the aptitude for offensive spells and there were a lot of young children in those woods."
"But shouldn't they have done something?" Neville spoke up.
"They did," Kingsley assured him before sweeping a look around the room. "They got themselves out of the line of fire thus leaving us less victims to sort though. Sometimes the best thing you can do is get to safety."
Neville nodded, his eyes widening in horror at the reports of a green lighted spell. "Were they really using the killing curse?"
Tonks shrugged. "No one was killed as a result and I for one never heard the words. I believe they were just shooting green colored light to scare everyone."
"A favorite of theirs, scaring people," Moody grunted. "Favorite pastime, that and torturing people to death."
"Alastor," Emmeline hissed with a concerned look at Neville. The round faced boy was staring back at the man with a pale face.
"Won't be the worst thing he hears in these books," the man muttered under his breath.
Arthur sighed in agreement and sent a wary look at his wife before reading how the masked men were holding people in the sky with their wands, contorting them into horrible shapes.
Ginny, who'd been hustled along by her father and hadn't seen, look repulsed. "Why? Why would they do that?"
"Because they can," Charlie answered darkly.
"It's about the power," Snape explained lowly. "It's not that they enjoy causing pain, for most of them it's about the absolute power that comes from being able to do what you want to someone."
"You would know," Moody snarked while most of the group watched the professor with disgusted and angry expressions.
His face closed and unreadable Snape glared at Arthur until the man continued reading. The father of seven shuddered while reading out Harry's realization that two of the floating figures were child sized.
"Why couldn't they leave the children alone?" Luna asked quietly.
"I hate to defend them but they were probably protecting them," Sirius answered, a conflicted expression on his face. "As despicable as what they did is, its better than just taking the adults and leaving the children in the house for anyone to prey on. Sometimes death eaters aren't the worst there is."
Kingsley nodded gravely. "The ministry was able to erase the memories of their flight through the campsite. It would have been harder to erase signs of a physical assault."
"What makes you think it was out of protection though?" Hermione asked quietly. Several people were pleased to note there wasn't an accusation in her tone. "Maybe they just wanted more people to have fun with."
It was Molly who answered, her voice strained. "Purebloods for the most part adore children. Even when they were attacking families they would leave the children alone. It gave me a great deal of comfort in the last war, thinking my children would survive even should I not."
"These were muggle children though," Harry pointed out.
"I guess it would be hard to torture a muggle kid then go home and look your own child in the eye," Bill mused.
They were all quiet for a moment before Arthur reluctantly turned back to the book. There was outrage amongst the teens as the crowd around the spectacle swelled.
"People were actually approving of what they were doing?" Fred asked in disgust.
"They were very drunk and most of them probably didn't even realize what was going on," Charlie answered. He knew if it hadn't been a family event he probably would have been just as intoxicated but hoped he would have had the sense to avoid the action. But then he never showed much sense when drunk.
Sirius baked out a laugh. "I've seen, been a part of, many a party that has gotten out of hand due to alcohol. The death eaters didn't really need to do anything, just get things started and let the crowd take things away."
"That's how they got away so easily, the bastards," Tonks grumbled. "By the time we got up to them they were gone and a bunch of drunken fools were holding up the family. We're lucky they didn't drop them."
"Don't think things like that," Molly admonished softly, lines of strain evident on her face. "Bad thoughts have a way of coming true."
"Cept this has already happened. I don't think things are going to change," Tonks grumbled under her breath. Remus let out a snort of laughter, quickly clearing his throat when Arthur turned to look at him. The Weasley patriarch frowned slightly before turning back to the book.
Sirius frowned, unhappy when Harry recognized the figures in the air. He knew from experience that it was harder to forget once you'd made a connection. "Why were you just standing there watching? He asked harshly. "Why weren't you getting to safety?" He let out a displeased rush of air when his godson shrugged.
"Given the kid's observation skills I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't pick up all that in the second he stepped out of the tent," Moody grunted in approval.
Sirius's disgruntled look eased somewhat as he considered that. He supposed it was good that the kid was aware of what was happening around him.
Across the room Mcgonagall nodded when the book version of Ron called the actions 'sick'. "An accurate description Mr. Weasley." She frowned fiercely when the reading continued with Arthur sending the younger lot into the woods while he and his adult sons went to help.
"Oh Arthur, you didn't leave them alone!" Molly pleaded.
He looked shamefaced, as did his two oldest in the face of the disapproving looks from the other adults. "They were six strong and old enough to use their wands to defend themselves," he pointed out helplessly. "Fred and George were almost adults and despite their foolishness they would never let anything happen to their brother and sister, that they didn't cause," he added on at his wife's look. "I had to help."
"We were grateful for the help," Kingsley spoke up. "And I'm not denying that they're not capable but I have to wander about the psychological effects. They are still children and it was a very nerve wracking event."
"We were fine," George spoke up as his father's face felll even more. "At least we were," he pointed to his twin and younger sister. "I think we were more worried about Dad, Bill and Charlie having to face off against death eaters."
"What about you three?" Sirius asked looking at Harry and his friends.
"If there's trouble to be found we'll find it," Hermione answered dryly after noticing that her dark haired friend seemed preoccupied. "You'll read all about it," she added quickly at Remus's raised eyebrow.
"Luna," Harry said suddenly as he looked towards the younger girl. "You were okay weren't you? You didn't get caught up in that mess?"
She gave him a brilliant smile. "Daddy and I left right after the game to print the Quibbler," She assured him.
The twins sudden catcalls broke the tension that had filled the room. Sirius smiled as Harry turned a deep red.
"I just wanted to make sure she was okay," the teen mumbled.
'It's a good thing," Sirius assured him in a low voice. "I don't think she'd had many people to look after her."
Harry nodded. "I know how that feels. I guess I want her to feel as safe as I do now that I have you. It doesn't mean I want...er…..she's a lovely girl but….."
Sirius manfully bit back a chuckle. "You two make very good friends. Don't let a couple of would be pranksters scare you away."
They turned back to the book in time to hear how every lantern in the area had been extinguished creating chaos in the darkness.
"I really hope you didn't worry about underage magic," Remus spoke up. "I would rather you light your wands than wonder around in the dark and get hurt."
Arthur nodded in agreement as he continued reading. He stopped abruptly when he came to Ron's exclamation of pain.
"I just tripped," the red head mumbled, embarrassed at the the attention focused on him.
"That's what separated us I think," George spoke up. "We didn't realize you'd stopped and by the time we noticed you weren't behind us it was too late."
"Should have held your hand like we held Ginny's," Fred added in a serious voice. He growled when Draco began speaking to them out of the darkness.
Sirius shook his head at the stupidity of the boy's remarks. "Really? There's a riot going on with people getting hurt and he thinks it's a good time to start with the insults?"
"He shouldn't have been out there in the first place," Snape growled. Sirius was surprised to see that he seemed to be worried.
"It's not like he had anything to be scared of," Charlie scoffed. "His father was probably one of the death eaters."
"Actually Lucius was working with the ministry officials to help dispel the crowd," Kingsley admitted. "He probably sent his son into the woods like everyone else."
"What about Mrs. Death Eater then?" Fred asked snidely.
"Narcissa would have returned home immediately after the match," Snape offered.
Bill had a thoughtful look on his face. "What's the possibility Lucius made himself available for a reason? He had to have known we would have looked to him first."
Snape immediately shook head. "If he'd known what was coming he would have made Draco return with his mother."
"Unless it was spur of the moment," Charlie pointed out belligerently.
His former potions professor scoffed. "They had their robes and masks. We didn't tend to carry them around in our pockets."
"They could have been conjured," Arthur pointed out quietly, shutting down the discussion by turning back to the book. There were grimaces among the adults when it told how Draco had positioned himself to watch the activities through the trees.
"Death eater in training," Ron growled. "Git was probably enjoying it."
"Or maybe he was worried about his father, not just from drunken fools but from ministry officials who might mistake his motives," Snape snarked. Privately he was wondering what effect that night had had on his godson while cursing Lucius for not creating an illegal portkey.
Ron snorted in disbelief. He knew Malfoy had been excited about what had been happening, the slimy snake. Before he could make a retort his uncensored words to the Slytherin were brought up. He was thankful that Harry, or whoever wrote this, had left out the actual phrase. Gulping he eyed his mother warily.
"I better not ever hear something like that out of your mouth," she warned automatically. He let out a whoosh of air before scowling at his laughing brothers. In the book Draco had turned his attention to Hermione.
"Is he warning her or threatening her?" Tonks asked, tilting her head in consideration.
"Threatening," Harry and Ron chimed together, their voices hard. Hermione, her brow furrowed in concentration, remained quiet.
"I'm sure he'd like to see your knickers, he stares at you enough," George pointed out.
Fred growled at the reminder. "If he ever tries anything you come get us immediately," he instructed Hermione.
Ron puffed up before she could reply. "Oi, we're her best friends. If anyone's going to defend her it'll be us," he said indicating himself and Harry.
"But we can be a whole lot more inventive," Fred retorted his eyes glittering.
"I'll have all of you know that I'm perfectly capable of looking after myself, thanks," Hermione announced though she looked pleased with all the attention.
Fred shrugged, unconcerned with her words. "Doesn't mean we aren't going to get our own revenge."
Arthur cleared his throat, indicating they had taken enough time and he was turning back to the book. What commenced was a verbal sparring between Draco and Harry where the youngest Malfoy played coy about his father's whereabouts.
"See, he admitted that his father was in on it," Ron yelled out triumphantly.
"Maybe or maybe he's being a boastful young boy saving face," Remus offered. He rolled his eyes at the look Sirius threw him.
Emmeline nodded in agreement. "I really don't think that if it were true he would be so quick to say it."
Snape snorted to himself. Lucius would have likely thrashed his son had he heard him. He'd worked hard to hide his death eater image and didn't need his son joking about it.
Hermione's eyes widened as Arthur read out Draco's parting words to her. They did in fact sound like he was warning her, even urging her to safety. She noticed Harry giving her a look, clearly unhappy that his rival might have been feeling protective. Well it's not like she would ever consider looking in the blond's direction, though she did enjoy the challenge he presented academically.
Neville had been listening to the story with rapt attention. He sighed in relief when they got away from the Slytherin only to frown in confusion when they ran into some French teens asking for Madame Maxime.
"Why were they asking for their Headmistress? It was summer, why not their parents?"
"Beauxbatons has a longer school session than Hogwarts," McGonagall answer him. "I believe they start back in August."
Emmeline nodded. "A lot of parents would have pulled their children out for the event but the school must have had some kind of school sponsored trip for some of their students, maybe for their quidditch players." She made a face at the disdain in the girl's voice when she realized they were from Hogwarts.
"Why would she say it like that?" Ginny asked, her eyes flashing in anger.
"Hogwarts reputation has declined since the first war," Remus answered. He shrugged apologetically at the headmaster's censorious look. "We don't offer half the extra classes other schools do and they look down on us for that."
"What other classes?" Harry asked at the same time Hermione questioned why they weren't available.
"I believe that's a discussion meant for another time, when we're not entralled in such an entertaining book," Dumbledore stated firmly.
"So in other words you made the decision and don't want to justify it," Luna spoke up, shocking everyone.
"Perhaps it would be wise not to speak of things you do not understand my dear," Dumbledore admonished her gently.
Sirius took note of the hard glint in the blue eyes and cut Luna off before she could make another outrageous comment. "Perhaps we could debate Hogwarts vs Beauxbatons another day. Arthur…."
"What? Oh….oh yes," the flustered Weasley hastily found his place in the book. His voice was shaking as he read how Harry searched his pockets for is wand only to come up empty.
"You should always know where your wand is," Moody barked amid the shocked looks.
Tonks had closed her eyes in horror. "It'll be impossible to find in the woods."
"I didn't have it in the woods in the first place," Harry admitted, his face flaming.
"You left the tent without your wand?" Sirius asked in shock. He bopped his godson lightly on the back of the head. "It's the first thing you should have reached for."
"I pulled him out of a deep sleep," Arthur reminded him.
Remus was on the Weasley patriarch's side. "He's only had his wand for three years and it had been taken away every summer. He's not used to having it," he reminded his friend.
"You'd think after all the life threatening events he'd been through he would realize how important the thing was," the dog animagus continued though his voice had lost its hard edge. He made a mental note to talk to his godson at the first opportunity.
"To be fair he didn't use his wand to kill the snake, that was a sword," Fred tried to joke. He got a black look from the head Black in return.
"Thank you for reminding me this isn't the first time he's been careless with his wand," Sirius barked. Harry groaned and sent his own glare at the twins.
"Maybe it's a good thing he didn't have the wand in the woods," Tonks tried a different tact. She was feeling sorry for the red faced boy. "It would have been easy for it to fall out with all the pushing and shoving that was going on when they first entered."
Moody grunted in disapproval. "Ollivander should be selling wand holsters with the wands."
"He should be offering them," McGonagall agreed. "But many families wouldn't be able to afford them, not with everything else they're required to buy." She sighed before waving Arthur to continue.
Bill grimaced when Harry mentally voiced how vulnerable he felt without his wand. "Especially given that there are Death Eaters out there."
Snape sneered. "Doesn't look good for boy wonder that he didn't even notice it was missing until it was critically needed."
"Oh give it up," Charlie growled back. "He made a mistake, but he's a kid. No one's perfect, including you."
"Plus it was the biggest sporting event of the decade," Fred added. "We were all distracted."
Sirius appreciated them standing up for his godson but would have preferred the kid to have his wand on him. When Arthur got to the part where they spotted the house elf Winky struggling with an unseen force his eyes narrowed noticing the trio exchanging looks.
"What?" He demanded, wanting an explanation. He raised an eyebrow when they remained silent. "I'm not in the mood for games Harry."
"Winky worked for Mr. Crouch," Harry hedged, not wanting to reveal everything to the rest of the room. The longer Neville was clueless to Crouch Jr's involvement the better. "Winky was pulling back someone under an invisibility cloak," he added in an undertone.
"Lovely," Sirius sighed immediately understanding. "You just can't stay away from Death Eaters can you?" He rubbed a hand down the teens back taking the sting out of the words.
Harry gave him a wry grin in return. "It's not like I go looking for them," he defended himself.
"You know," Tonks mused. "It's almost like your scar acts like a beacon, drawing them to you." She was watching carefully and smirked in triumph when Dumbledore's eyes flashed at her words. It was a theory of Sirius's that he had shared with them during their last break. Something about that scar was off, what they didn't know, but it would explain the teen's trouble magnet status.
The rest of the room however remained in the dark leading Molly to give her a stern look and the youngest Weasley to voice her confusion outright.
"I thought house elves had magic of their own? Why is she struggling so much just to get away from the fighting?"
"House elves take pride in their loyalty to their masters, Bill explained. "If Crouch told her not to leave she must have been terrified to even attempt to disobey him."
"It must have been very exact wording if she had to struggle so much just to save herself," Kingsley spoke softly as he eyed Harry. Something else had been going on but he didn't have enough information as of yet to make an educated guess.
"Do you ever think that maybe if she hadn't been so strictly controlled by Mr. Crouch she might have had some initiative of her own to prevent all of what happened?" Harry murmured to his friends.
Hermione modded thoughtfully. "She would have had more than enough magic to stop him unless Mr. Crouch had given her orders to prevent that. Which is odd. Wouldn't he have anticipated his son might get away?"
On the other side of her Rob shrugged . "Maybe she cared too much for Junior to stop him," he pointed out in a low voice. "We could ask her, if it didn't send her into a pile of tears every time."
The three turned back to the book in time to hear Hermione's rant on Winky's unfair treatment.
"Most house elves are happy," Luna spoke up. "It's sad that you've only met the two that aren't."
Remus nodded in agreement. "They love to serve, it's in their genetic makeup. It's as much a part of them as the wolf is of me."
"Even Dobby still wants to serve," Harry spoke up. "He might want to get paid for it but he still wants to work." He winced when Arthur read out Hermione's harsh response to Ron when he defended the system.
The bushy haired girl frowned, thinking of her recent conversation with Remus and Tonks. She could see what they were saying. She accused and judged people just because their ideas didn't match up with hers. And just because it didn't add up didn't mean that they were wrong, though most of the time they were, she added with a mental eye roll. Still she mumbled an apology to her friend that was waved off as the reading continued.
Bill shook his head at Harry's concern that Hermione might be in more danger then either of them due to her muggleborn status. "She wasn't unless you ran into someone like Malfoy Sr who knew who she was."
"She'd be recognizable to anyone out there," Moody corrected gruffly. "Muggleborns set themselves apart. The way they dress, carry themselves, expressions and words all point to a muggle upbringing."
"And everyone knows by now that Harry's best friends are a Weasley and a muggleborn. It would be quite easy to target her," Kingsley added. He frowned at Harry's alarmed look.
"Getting rid of us now won't change anything," Hermione told the teen sternly, having anticipated what he was about to say. Harry shrugged sheepishly.
"Yeah mate, you can't get rid of us that easily," Ron spoke up.
Arthur gave them a proud smile as he continued reading, describing some of the groups the trio passed in their travels. One particular group of young men surrounding three veela caused Harry and Hermione to lose their somber expressions as they began laughing loudly. In comparison Ron sank into his seat, his ears rapidly turning red. Their behavior caused many of the adults around them to relax, Sirius even wearing a smile.
Laughter broke out around the room as the group of boys began boosting of extraordinary feats, though one claim of being a dragon killer had Charlie growling.
The information that the young man was really a dishwasher at the Leaky Cauldron had Harry's eyes widening. He'd missed that bit of information the first time around. He hadn't realized that the Leaky employed others. All he'd ever seen was old Tom. He wondered how hard it was to get a job and if he could trade room and board for wages. If things didn't work out with his godfather he would run away before being forced back to the Dursleys.
"Don't even think about it," Sirius murmured softly with an exasperated sigh. Harry sent him a shocked look wondering how he'd know what he was thinking. "Nothing is going to happen to our plans. If you really want a job we'll get you one away from Diagon alley," the man continued without explaining.
They turned back to the reading to hear Tonks object to one of the young men claiming to have killed a large number of vampires. "Yeah right, rogue vampires are notoriously hard to kill, so hard that it usually takes one of their own kind."
Kingsley nodded in agreement, his lips quirking up when the next young man made a bid to be minister. "You know he'd probably be better than Fudge." He made a face when Harry identified him as Stan from the Knight bus. "Never mind. He'd probably mistake Voldemort for Dumbledore and hand us all over," he quipped much to everyone's amusement.
There was an outpouring of laughter when Ron joined the fray, the twins falling off their seats in their mirth.
"Well at least you were true to yourself with your boast," Remus tried to consol the embarrassed teen.
"Quidditch mad to the end," Charlie yelled, earning a look from his mother.
"Listen up Ron," Bill spoke up, noticing his youngest brother's distress. "Just about every other male confronted with three veela would have acted the same. It's nothing to be ashamed of."
"Harry didn't," Ron muttered.
"Harry never acts the way he's supposed to," Neville pointed out dryly.
"Oi," the dark haired teen protested laughing.
"Very true," Ron agreed perking up.
"I hardly think it was very safe for three veela to be wondering around the wood unescorted," Molly spoke up once the laughter had calmed down. "Those poor boys were so entranced they've forgotten all about the riot. They could have been trampled."
"There was nothing malicious about their behavior," Emmeline protested. "They probably got separated from their group." She huffed when no one else seemed to care.
Moody grunted in approval when the trio came to a clearing and settled into wait. "Better to take up defensive positions rather than wandering the unknown."
Harry shrugged as he remembered what had happened. "We probably would have been safer if we'd just kept walking."
"You're lucky you didn't get lost in there as it is," Emmeline protested. "The forest goes on for quite a while. Arthur would have spent the rest of the night looking for you."
The Weasley patriarch nodded in agreement. "I really should have put tracking charms on them before sending them off," he muttered looking down at the book. He frowned before relaying that Ludo Bagman had entered the clearing.
"Of course he's in the woods instead of helping the other ministry officials," McGonagall grumbled, thoroughly disillusioned with the man.
Ginny looked surprised at her Head of House's tone. "Couldn't he have been chasing one of the Death Eaters through the woods? He does sound like he's pretty rattled."
Tonks snorted. "More like he's hiding out so he's not accused of being a Death Eater for the second time."
"It was just a rumor," Remus playfully admonished her before sending a confused look at the trio. "Why did you seem so surprised at his question? I would expect any adult would ask what you were doing alone."
"It was more the way he asked it," Hermione clarified. "It was obvious he didn't have a clue about what was happening. It was very curious."
Charlie looked astonished at the news. "What was he doing that he missed the giant riot going on?"
"Don't know but I have to admit I'm surprised and impressed that he took the threat seriously and actually seems willing to help," Bill answered.
Tonks shook her head. "We have no guarantee that he's actually going to the campsite to help," she pointed out dryly.
The curse breaker shrugged with a wry grin. "I'm choosing to be optimistic. To quote my younger brother, he was a great beater."
Emmeline rolled her eyes. "Being a great quidditch player doesn't make him a good person."
Snape smiled sharply. "As evidenced by the whole of the Potter line."
Sirius rolled his eyes at him. "Real mature," he muttered, listening as Ron began playing with his Krum figurine. He elbowed his godson. "Soon you'll have our own quidditch model."
Harry gave him an incredulous look. "How is that a good thing? I'd rather people not have figures of me in their bedrooms, thanks."
"What makes you think they don't now?" Fred asked before belly laughing at the horrified look on the teen's face.
"Stop teasing him," Arthur admonished mildly before turning back to the book. The trio had started worrying about the others.
"We were fine," George said dismissively. "We didn't have the trouble-attracting magnet with us."
"They might have been talking about us you know," Charlie spoke to his brother in a lofty voice that had the twins sticking their tongues out at him.
Bill rolled his eyes before addressing the three teens. "We were fine as well. We are more than capable wizards."
"You might be but I wonder sometimes about Charlie and Percy," Ron shot back much to the twins enjoyment. Charlie let out a yell of indignation.
Chuckling Arthur turned back to the book where the trio began speculating on the foolishness of the Death Eaters attacking in such a public and well staffed area.
"Do you know why Professor?" Harry asked, looking directly at Snape. "It was kind of sudden and reckless, which doesn't really fit purebloods."
He pursed his lips but answered after a minute. "I imagine it was two fold. There had been signs that the Dark Lord would be returning and it was in the Death Eaters best interests to assess the situation. Who was loyal and who wasn't, the Ministries' response and the peoples' perception of a possible return. A lot of information could be gathered from that one little event."
"And the second reason?" Hermione questioned.
His glare intensified as he answered. "It is not in the Dark Lord's best interest for Britain's wizarding world to be strengthening its allies. They were able to scare away any potenional help before it was needed."
"Well I'd say it certainly worked," Remus remarked as the mood in the room took a nosedive. The tension thickened as the three heard sounds of someone moving towards them.
"Well that's not ominous," Bill muttered, unintentionally holding his breath.
"Why are you just sitting there?" Tonks asked in disbelief. "You should be hightailing it."
"But without knowing the situation, moving could have sent them directly into its path," Kingsley pointed out calmly.
"Either stay or move but you definitely shouldn't invite it over," Bill said in exasperation as Harry called out to where he felt the person had come to stand.
"Those senses again," Moody muttered. "What I wouldn't give for the new recruits to have even half what that kid does."
Sirius had a hand over his eyes. "I wouldn't mind him having a little more caution," he muttered. He gritted his teeth at hearing Harry call once more in the book before moving to investigate.
McGonagall raised a questioning brow when the teen described the answering voice. "What do you mean Mr. Potter? How exactly did the voice sound?"
He shrugged. "It was confident, not scared like everyone else. I dunno, happy."
"Ecstatic," Hermione agreed. "Plus it was a man's voice and other than Bagman everyone we'd encountered had been women or children," she explained, frowning as Arthur read out the incantation that had been spoken.
"What spell was that?" Neville questioned.
"The most feared spell in all of the wizarding world," Dumbledore answered somberly.
"Wouldn't the killing curse be the most feared?" George asked curiously.
"Hearing the killing curse usually meant you were dead and didn't have to worry anymore. But the dark mark in the sky meant that your family, friends, loved ones were dead. There was no worse feeling in the world," Arthur answered. He gripped his wife's hand before turning back to the book and reading out the reactions to the mark in the sky.
"I think that symbol marked the start of the second war," Ron wisely said, shocking a number of people.
"It certainly foretold of bad things to come," Remus agreed. He pursed his lips as the Dark Mark was described in detail.
"What I could do with that symbolism," Charlie joked, trying for a moment of levity.
Ignoring him Neville sat forward. "But who conjured it?" He stuttered. "It's not You-Know-Who is it? He's not there with you is he?"
"Worse," Harry told him, his expression tight. "His most loyal servant," he added causing the professors and Moody to frown in remembrance. Neville continued to look confused but waved Mr. Weasley on at Harry's expression.
When the reading continued Remus shook his head fondly at Harry's confusion over he screams produced by the Dark Mark. "You might not be scared of anything but for most us that image brings up a lot of horrible memories."
Harry frowned at him. "It's not that I wasn't scared of it, I just didn't know what it was at the time."
"Me neither but thankfully we had Hermione with us," Ron added, giving the girl a grin as Arthur continued reading.
Sirius had to resist smacking some sense into his godson when the kid called out into the darkness again. "That goes on the list of things you're not allowed to do," he hissed.
"Honestly Harry," Charlie moaned, running a hand through his hair.
Even Luna seemed caught off guard. "Sometimes you can be really vexing Harry."
The twins were giving him pitying looks. "You see our young friend," Fred started. "When an unknown someone,"
"A dangerous someone with a wand," George added.
"Uses a spell that causes a lot of people to scream…."
"And has a resemblance to Slytherin and one Slytherin in particular….."
"You don't invite him over for tea," they finished together. Harry stuck his tongue out at them as he shielded himself with a pillow from the rest of the room.
"Thank you Miss Granger, for having sense when Mr. Potter plainly doesn't," McGonagall commented after hearing the girl trying to get her friend moving.
"Well of course I knew what the mark was and what it meant," she responded with a slight blush.
"Only because you know everything," Ginny pointed out.
Hermione quickly shook her head. "No, because after first year I wanted to know everything I could about the first war so I would be prepared. I would have thought Harry would want to do the same." She sighed when Harry just shrugged.
"Perhaps it was too painful for him to read by himself," Luna suggested quietly.
"Well then you thing the professors, knowing he didn't have anyone else he could go to, would have explained a few choice tidbits," Tonks grumbed, sending a glare at the three professors in the room.
Arthur quickly jumped back to the book, distracting her with the arrival of twenty wizards into the clearing.
"Well of course people would respond. Wanted to catch the person responsible didn't they?" Moody pointed out with a roll of his good eye.
"And make sure there was no one dead," Emmeline added under her breath. Her eyes widened as she realized all twenty wizards had their wands pointed at the trio and were in fact casting. She closed them in relief at hearing that Harry was able to pull his friends out of the line of fire.
"There are those instincts again, paired with lightning quick action," Kingsley murmured, impressed.
"I was thankful for them," Hermione agreed. "I barely registered their arrival and suddenly I was on the ground."
"I think we can all be grateful," Remus agreed aiming a grateful look at Harry.
Tonks meanwhile was looking at the man next to her in outrage. "The lot of you fired without even looking to see who it was? You were in woods full of children, children you had sent there for safety."
"The Dark Mark was very distracting," Arthur mumbled, shifting under the combined weight of his wife's and Sirius' glares.
"There's a good chance they wouldn't have survived being hit with twenty stunners," the dog animagus snarled.
Moody gruned in contempt. "I'm surprised they didn't hit themselves, circled up and firing blindly."
"Not to mention they had no idea who else they might be hitting," Remus repeated. "There were a lot of innocents in those woods."
"They were untrained wizards, ministry workers, not aurors," Kingsley spoke up. "No offense Arthur."
"As it was my son we were shooting at I quite agree," the man quickly responded.
"It's lucky you recognized him and called a stop," McGonagall said briskly, the pinching of her lips giving away her feelings on the near miss of her students.
Arthur shrugged weakly. "It was the hair, it's hard to mistake our color."
"Next time you'll look before shooting," Molly snapped tartly. Her children held their breath but that seemed to be all she was saying on the matter.
Grateful Arthur turned back to the book, chuckling slightly at Harry's description of his expression. "I think that's putting it mildly," he murmured.
The brief moment of amusement was cut off as Mr. Crouch made his presence known. Sirius gave a low growl. "Watch out Arthur, I wouldn't put it past him to throw the three in Azkaban for this."
"I hope he remembers that he's talking to children, not Death Eaters," Emmeline tutted.
"Considering his own son was a death eater I don't think it matters," Kingsley muttered darkly. He shook his head when the man began accusing the teens of conjuring the Dark Mark. "I'd like to say he's gone mad but I'm inclined to think he's always been that way," he added drawing a few laughs from the younger set.
"Maybe someone should have realized that before he was put in a position of power," Bill stated, frowning at the way Crouch was jabbing his wand at Ron.
"Arthur do something," Molly demanded, looking anxiously at her youngest son. Her husband's response was to speed up his reading, only relaxing when he finally spoke up in the book.
"Good, get to the bottom of things,". Moody snapped. "Wasting times only letting the bastard get away." He growled when Crouch refused to be distracted, taking Hermione's explanation as a confession.
"Oh please," Emmeline huffed. "Any magical spell is going to be done through an incantation. That doesn't mean she knows how to conjure the Dark Mark."
"Though to be fair she probably does but that's because she's our Hermione and she knows everything," Fred spoke up. He covered his blush with a cocky grin and an exaggerated wink.
Arthur took the opportunity to turn back to the book, preventing anyone from asking the girl if she could indeed perform the spell. In the book one of the witches was commenting that the castor would have already disapparated.
Moody snorted. "You had better hope he has. Otherwise you lot would all be dead by now, accusing children instead of watching your backs." He scoffed at the idea that they had hit him with their stunners.
"That would be too good to be true," Bill agreed. He frowned when the group sent Diggory off to check the area. "Instead of telling him to be careful, why not go with him and watch his back," he muttered. He wanted to call the group cowards but his own father had been there.
"Dad wouldn't have left Ron and the others, not a second time," Charlie murmured in his ear.
Bill shrugged in agreement, his interest caught at the announcement that Diggory had found someone.
"They actually caught him?" Neville asked in disbelief. "But if they did why didn't the Prophet say anything?"
"It's complicated Nev," Harry assured him.
"Besides, have you ever known the Prophet to get something right?" Ron snorted. He frowned when Crouch continued to accuse Hermione despite the new announcement. "Arsehole," he muttered.
Neville gaped at hearing that it ended up being the house elf, Winky. "I know house elves can do incredible acts of magic but I've never heard of them using actual spells."
"That's because they aren't allowed wands," Charlie pointed out.
Neville continued to look confused. "But they don't need wands or incantations."
"Don't go jumping to conclusions," Fred advised. "There's no evidence she's the one that put the mark in the sky. Maybe she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time." He shrugged at the looks of disbelief sent his way.
"Well whatever happened, at least it had the effect of shutting up Mr. Crouch," George pointed out with a satisfied grin.
Ginny looked up at the words. "But why would it?"
"He knew exactly what the appearance of Winky meant," Sirius muttered. He shrugged away the confused looks.
"But is he more worried about his reputation or what his son might get up to?" Remus asked him softly.
"His reputation," Sirius mumbled back. "If he was worried about anyone else he wouldn't have let that monster out in the first place."
Remus gave him a chiding look. "You can't tell me if Harry killed someone and got sent to Azkaban, you wouldn't break him out?" Sirius frowned but remained quiet while Arthur continued reading.
"If Winky was there then the other had to be too," Moody broke in. He growled at the blank looks he got in return. "The elf didn't do it and he got me two days later."
"I can see Crough hoping the stunners got him," Tonks mused slowly. "But wouldn't Diggory have found him?"
"Not if he was wearing an invisibility cloak," Remus answered, thinking of Jame's cloak.
"Why wouldn't Crouch say anything?" Bill demanded. "When he didn't find him he had to know…." he glanced at Neville, "whoever it was had gotten away."
"He was probably hoping he could catch him himself and keep everything in the dark," Kingsley answered.
Harry snorted bitterly. "That worked out brilliantly for him."
"Anyone else confused?" Charlie asked into the ensuing silence. He raised an eyebrow at his parents when Fred, George, Ginny and Neville all raised their hands.
"If you'd been around more instead of playing with your dragons you'd know what was going on," Bill pointed out.
"We were here and we don't know anything," the twins protested.
"You seem surprised by that when I know for a fact that is your usual state," Snape drawled.
"Well then why don't you do the professor thing and tell us," George snapped back.
"You're acting like he actually knows how to teach," Sirius couldn't help interjecting. The man certainly hadn't taught his godson anything other than how to be bullied.
"Listen carefully boys and you'll the get the gist of it," Arthur cut in before a fight could break out. The chapter was almost done and he didn't want any lengthy pauses. He winced as he read out the fact that Winky had a wand in her possession.
"That's going to get her in a load of trouble with the ministry," Bill remarked.
"I think whoever gave her the wand would be worse off," Tonks argued. She failed to notice Harry squirming on the other end of the couch. "She wouldn't have done anything without being told to do so."
"Harry," Sirius asked under his breath, the word half demand, half question.
The teen sighed. "That's my wand she has," he admitted in an undertone. Sirius closed his eyes for a moment before trading a look with the werewolf next to him.
"Are you really surprised by that?" Remus asked, his lips quirked up.
"No, I just wish it didn't always have to be him."
"I'm right here you know," Harry pouted, sending both men a short glare.
Sirius raised an eyebrow. "You're so good at losing things you can lose the attitude too," he warned.
On the next couch Arthur had continued reading over them, bringing up Hermione's complaints with the wand laws for house elves.
"I still don't think that's very fair," Hermione's ventured, sending a questioning look at the older generation.
"It's not," Remus answered. It was something that he feared, that werewolves would eventually be classified as non humans and his wand would be snapped. "Wanda are a human invention though and most creatures don't require them for their brand of magic."
"Goblins don't need them but that doesn't stop them from being resentful of the law," Bill pointed out. "It's another way of saying humans are superior." When no one had a solution or counter argument he shared a commiserating smile with Hermione's before waving his father on.
Tools snorted when Bagman showed up, oblivious to what was going on and making a fool of himself. "That's kind of random and hilarious."
Emmeline rolled her eyes in disgust. "More like distracting and annoying. He makes me ashamed of our government."
Looks were exchanged around the room when Bagman went on to ask Crouch why he hadn't been at the game.
"That's a telling bit of information," Moody pointed out for the benefit of the younger generation.
"It could be perfectly innocent," McGonagall said looking doubtful. "He was having to do his work and Bagman's."
"Are you really defending him knowing what's to come?" Sirius asked incredulously.
She gave him a severe frown. "He may have made a mistake but he paid the ultimate price."
"So did a lot of other people including my godson," he growled, his eyes flashing.
Charlie looked between the two warily. "I don't what he did other than throwing Sirius in Azkaban, which is pretty bad, but I'd like to find out."
Arthur took the hint to keep reading. The next set of paragraphs involved a summary as Bagman caught up on events.
"That was an annoyingly repetitive and unnecessary interlude," Emmeline mumbled.
"It was used I think, to showcase Bagman's ignorance of events," Remus explained.
"Makes you wonder where he apparated to earlier if it wasn't to the scene of the riot," Kingsley mused. He resided an eyebrow when the book turned back to the action and waking the elf was suggested.
"At least they're going to let her tell her side of the story," Neville realized in relief.
"As if," Hermione's scoffed. "With her master standing over her she was t00 scared to say anything."
Tanks and Kingsley exchanged looks. "They really should have waited for an auror. We would have taken her back to the Ministry and interrogated her in a secure environment," the older man explained.
"Which does not involve immediately terrorizing her by announcing your membership to the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures," Tonks scoffed.
Ignoring them Emmeline frowned at the summary of the elf's awakening. Harry had done a good job of seeing her confusion and desperation. She didn't know which was more heartbreaking, the elf's terror or the fact that her best friend's son could relate so well.
She was pulled out of her thoughts with a gasp as Diggory pulled out the wand Winky had been a found with and Harry claimed it as his own.
"What the…..Merlin Harry, can you not be involved just once?" Charlie exclaimed in exasperation.
"It is fundamentally impossible for him," Snape drawled.
Tonks jumped in before Sirius could react. "Wait, if you lost your wand at the beginning of the wood, it's a big stretch of the imagination to think that the same elf stunned under the dark mark found it. I mean I know what happened, sort of, but I can't figure out how they ended up with your wand."
Harry shrugged sheepishly. "That's one of the things I didn't understand until the end of the year." At his answer she tossed her hands up with a growl of frustration.
"I'm curious to see what everyone thought of Harry's claim," Bill stated, prompting his father to read out the responses, including Mr. Diggory's sudden accusations.
"That was pretty heartless," Charlie murmured angrily.
"Do you think Diggory had a premonition of what was going to happen at the end of the year?" Bill wondered almost silently.
Charlie quickly shook his head. "Knowing the Diggorys he would have dropped Harry where he stood. He would have used the killing curse and gone to Azkaban rather than lose his son."
Around them the conversation continued based on Arthur's defense of Harry.
"Just because he's Harry Potter doesn't mean he won't turn evil," Luna pointed out serenely.
Harry looked taken aback. "Er….. thanks I think."
"Not that I think you will," she assured him. "But people shouldn't make assumptions just because you have a title."
Hermione nodded. "Just like people thinking you should be good at Defense against the Dark Arts because you defeated Voldemort."
"But I am good at DADA," he pointed out in confusion.
"Because you're a good spell caster," his bushy haired friend explained patiently. "You're just as good at charms but you don't think you are because you think Defense is what you're supposed to excel at."
"Perceptions can be hard to overcome," Arthur added before turning to the book. Diggory had turned his accusation onto the elf.
Luna looked impressed with Hermione's defense of the elf. "You might have a Ravenclaw mind but you have a Gryffindor heart," she stated looking as if a big mystery had been cleared up. "I had wondered."
"But all things considered, probably not the best choice," Tonks said pointedly.
Remus nodded though he frowned at Diggory's response. "He could have at least given them a little consideration. They did witness the event after all."
Sirius snorted. "They've been regulated to kid status and therefore didn't matter." Arthur silently agreed with him as he continued reading.
Kingley began drumming his fingers on the armrest as Diggory performed Prior Incantum on the wand. "That does not prove anything as it cannot determine who used the wand, only that it had been used," he pointed out angrily.
"I don't think that's going to matter to this lynch mob," Bill muttered.
Nobody was surprised when a miniature version of the Dark Mark came out of the wand, though the twins did mark the spell for later use.
"It really looks bad for her," Ginny pointed out.
"What's going to happen to Winky?" Neville asked worriedly. "Do you send house elves to Azkaban?"
"Ultimately her fate would rest with the Department for the Regulation of Magical Creatures," Kingsley answered slowly. "In this care we would have taken her into custody and tried to learn as much as we could about her involvement with Voldemort. If we had gotten the chance we might have been able to stop him from rising."
"But what's Mr. Diggory going to do with her?" The round faced boy persisted.
Ginny answered when the adults looked uncomfortable. "He's going to kill her."
He looked aghast at the news. "But they can't prove she did anything."
"It doesn't matter," Hermione spoke tartly. "She has no rights."
Arthur broke in before either of them could get on their soapbox. "It seems Mr. Crouch has taken exception to his elf being questioned and has taken control," He explained, reading the passage.
"Well his son did learn the spell from someone," Tonks pointed out. "And what's to say that Winky didn't learn it from Jr back during the first war?"
Charlie was looking thoughtful. "You know he mentions all the proof he's given over the years that he hates the Dark Arts but when you think about it, it could be a really good cover."
Arthur gave him a disapproving look. "He sent his own son to Azkaban."
The dragon handler shrugged. "Maybe he didn't like his son."
Snape gave him what passed for an amused look. "I highly doubt the Dark Lord would have tolerated the number of laws passed restricting the Dark Arts from one of his followers."
Arthur refrained from pointing out that Crouch had authorized the use of Unforgivables during the war, knowing it would only spark another argument. Instead he turned back to the book, reciting the blustering lecture Crouch had given the other man.
"Diggory was doing his job, if a bit high handedly," Tonks pointed out headedly. "Crouch had no reason to put him down like that."
"Must you find fault with everyone?" Snape snapped, his previous amusement gone. "You weren't happy with Diggory for questioning the elf and now Crouch. Can no one do right in your eyes?"
"Well you certainly can't," Charlie snapped back.
"Enough," Dumbledore spoke up before things could escalate. "It's getting late and I believe we're nearing the end of the chapter." He motioned Arthur to continue.
The father of seven was relieved to read of his own intervention between the two combatants, questioning the elf again and devising a reasonable explanation for the events that occurred.
"Very diplomatic Arthur," McGonagall congratulated him.
He was blushing as he continued. Diggory had settled on a new tact of questioning, seeing Winky as a witness instead of a defendant. However his demand to know what she'd seen failed to yield results.
"She found a loophole," Remus realized. "She couldn't see him if he was under the invisibility cloak."
"But it's obvious from her mannerisms that she knows something," Charlie pointed out, sitting forward in anticipation. He groaned when Crouch shut down the questioning and used his authority in the ministry to get the elf released to him.
"That wasn't very ethical of him, he who prides himself on following the rules," Fred scoffed. "And now he's talking about punishing her. I thought it had been established that she hadn't done anything."
"No, only that she hadn't conjured the Dark Mark. She still disobeyed and embarrassed her master," Bill explained, a frown darkening his face.
Luna had tears in her eyes when Winky was given clothes. "Elves think of humanss as their family. Most have lived with the same family for generations. Giving them clothes means removing them from the family. He's taking away her home, her family, everything she's ever known over one mistake."
"It might have been more humane to kill her," Neville mumbled. He gingerly patted the younger girl on the back. The trio shared a look, thinking about the state they'd found Winky in later in the year.
"I'm really surprised he didn't kill her, just to preserve his secrets," Sirius stated darkly.
Remus nodded in agreement before frowning as Hermione confronted the stuffy ministry man over his treatment of the elf. "I understand your feelings but that's not the best time," he chided. "Backing him into a corner will only make things worse."
She blushed as she nodded in agreement. "I just didn't understand why, it seemed so unreasonable. Knowing what I know now I can see why he reacted the way he did."
"Let that be a lesson," he continued though his voice had softened. "There are usually two sides to a story."
"Still," Bill cut in, giving the embarrassed girl a smile. "He's acting as if his reputation is more important than a living creature. That's not right."
"It's not," his father agreed. "But we can only dictate our own action, not that of others," he advised before turning back to the book. He was relieved to reach the point where he had suggested going back to camp.
Hermione sank in her seat as her triade on the way back to the tent was read out but thankfully no one said anything. Their attention had been caught by Arthur's worried tone as he urged the kids to hurry.
"Might have been a good idea to snag one of the others to walk back with you," Kingsley suggested.
Arthur nodded. "It would have made me feel better." He grimaced as they came upon a large group of frightened people. "Should have never talked to them," he muttered but quickly pressed on.
Charlie shrugged noticing the grateful look Sirius was giving him for worrying about the trio. "I was just about to go searching when I saw Dad."
"Oi, we were worried too," Fred protested loudly. "We started searching for them as soon as we noticed them missing."
"Looked all over the wood," George added. "Then hightailed it back to the tent to find help."
"You were probably more worried about your own backside than about me," Ron scoffed.
"That's not fair Ron," Bill spoke up. They were worried, about tackled us when we showed up, demanding we go get you three," he said causing the younger redhead to shift uncomfortably.
Bill continued to eye him sternly before grimacing when the book revealed the cut he'd received. "It was nothing," he spoke quickly before his mum could work herself up. "If I hadn't been so worried about those three I would have already taken care of it."
"Was it one of the Death Eaters?" Neville asked anxiously.
The curse breaker snorted. "Hardly. Just a bunch of drunken fools failing around."
What followed was a brief description of what had occurred followed by the argument between Hermione and Percy.
The twins laughed in remembrance. "The look on his face when she corrected him was brilliant."
The bushy haired girl frowned at the two before tuning them out. In the book Arthur was explaining the importance of the Dark Mark and whether it had been a help or a hindrance to the Death Eaters in the campsite.
"More like a warning," Harry muttered, drawing curious look. He grimaced as Arthur sent to bed where he spent the rest of the night worrying about events to come.
Arthur closed the book with a sigh. "That was more draining than I had anticipated."