HARRY POTTER & THE DEATH EATER MENACE
Harry Potter and all associated characters and situations are the property of J.K. Rowling. I make no claim to ownership.
CHAPTER 20: Chaos in Hogsmeade (pt 1)
December 23, 1971 (almost 23 years before)
Chevenoir (The Black Manor House)
The Private Study of Lord Arcturus Black
Arcturus Black took another sip of port while listening to the gentle scratching of a quill against parchment and trying not to think too much about how Sirius's hand shook as the boy wrote. He had revealed the existence of the Anathema Codex to his grandson and Heir a week before and then set about instructing Sirius as to the spells, rituals, and other abominations within the book via the same teaching technique his own father had employed so many decades before: intense immersion. He'd spent every day over the last week reviewing one Codex entry after another with the boy, addressing both each entry's dark nature and the identification sigils that would let any properly instructed son of an Ancient and Noble House recognize a Codex manifestation and respond appropriately. So as not to overly frighten the child, Arcturus began with the spells which were merely included because they were deemed too impossible to safely control before moving on to those which intentionally invoked catastrophe and horror. Regrettably, he had exhausted the "easy" Codex entries and was now forced to move on to the stuff of nightmares.
As part of the training process, Arcturus required Sirius to copy each identification sigil a minimum of 100 times before moving on to the next entry to ensure that the relevant information would be permanently etched into the boy's mind, locked away from even the most attentive Legilimens but still a part of him forever. If the portentousness of the lessons was not enough, the very special quill that Sirius was presently using would be more than enough to make sure the message sank in.
"I'm finished with this one, Grandfather," Sirius said quietly. Arcturus summoned the parchment from his hand, reviewed it for a moment, and then cast it into the nearby fire.
"Good," he said. "Now, we move on to the final entry for this evening's consideration."
At a flick of Arcturus's wand, the pages of the Black copy of the Anathema Codes flipped rapidly. "This entry is somewhat unusual compared to those you have studied so far, Sirius, though of course everything in the Codex is unusual in some way. This particular entry is peculiar because it is not a spell, nor a ritual, nor a potion, nor a procedure for breeding unnatural beasts. It is naught but a single rune."
With another flick of the wand, a ghostly mist floated up from the book before stabilizing into the shape of a strange runic mark. Sirius frowned. Although he was only one term into his Hogwarts education, he was a clever child and was certainly aware of what conventional runes looked like. As he scrunched up his eyes to focus them, he thought the rune looked like a basic pentagram within a circle rotated slightly but with additional lines and arcs overlayed upon the pentagram at odd angles. Then, he looked away and shook his head to clear it. For some reason, the image hurt his eyes if he studied it for too long.
"This rune is of no recorded language known to magical or Muggle history. It is apparently meaningless ... at least to humans. The Codex does not name it – wisely, I suspect – but simply identifies it with a sobriquet: The Rune of Singular Hate. The authors hypothesized that it represents some concept incomprehensible to us that is understood by beings from the deepest parts of the Wild. By Those-Who-Wait-In-Darkness."
Sirius shuddered deeply at the cryptic reference to the strange and mythic beings believed to dwell beyond the confines of the universe itself. Arcturus continued.
"According to the Codex, the Rune has the strange and curious power to insinuate itself into other nearby rune schemes, altering their natures in unwholesome ways. Carve the rune onto a broom, and it will change the properties of that broom's enchantments. Draw it on a parchment near the ward line of a house, and it will alter the functioning of those wards and likely the character of the building they protect. In so doing, the Rune functions in a manner similar to Sowilo, but where that common Futhark rune simply invokes the raw magical power, the Rune of Singular Hate generates an even greater magical force somehow drawn from the uncontrollable frenzied anger triggered among those nearby as a side effect of the Rune's activation. This rage-state is pervasive and contagious, and its power and range grow the longer the effect lasts. The more people affected, the more powerful and sophisticated the spell the Rune can fuel. In many cases, using the Rune can inflict permanent homicidal madness among those affected. Once activated, the rage-state can only be ended by the total destruction of the corrupted ward scheme, usually through the annihilation of whatever item or place was corrupted. Legends say that in ancient times entire cities were once burned to the ground as a result of the madness engendered by a Rune that was left to grow and fester unchecked."
Sirius frowned. "Who would make use of such a thing?"
Arcturus shrugged. "Who would be mad enough to use any of these things, boy! We among the Ancient and Noble Houses suppress such magics for a reason, after all. As for the Rune of Singular Hate, there are reasons for one to use it if he is desperate enough or ruthless enough or simply deranged enough. Rune schemes that incorporate this alien sigil are more powerful, and the resulting enchantments can be more versatile and useful, though by their very nature they are soon to self-destruct."
"There are two significant limitations on the Rune of Singular Hate. First, the magical effect powered by the Rune must have some punitive quality. The crafter of the Runes must identify a target likely to come into contact with the enchanted object or warded location, ideally one who is already subject to intense hatred. The crafter can target someone he personally despises or someone who means nothing to him but who has drawn the enmity of others if his ultimate goal is something other than mere revenge. When the Rune is triggered, the target must be close enough to the corrupted rune matrix to attract its attention, in which case, the Rune's magic will attempt to kill the target and anyone nearby while drawing more and more power from the raging mob unleashed by the Rune's activation. The caster can attempt to shape the manner of his victim's demise to his whims or simply let the magic run wild and allow Fate to dictate the manner of the victim's ending."
Arcturus smiled grimly. "Naturally, if the true goal was to create a raging mob, the crafter can simply target someone socially unpopular with a spell designed to drag out his death as long as possible so that more and more people fall under the Rune's sway."
Sirius was suitably horrified by the description. "That seems ... overly complicated," he finally said.
"You may think so," Arcturus said. "But it is said that Herpo the Foul unleashed the Rune of Singular Hate in the ancient city of Carthage, and before his work was done, the Romans burned the great city to the ground and salted the earth so that nothing would ever grow there again."
The old man barked out a laugh. "Of course, many things are said about Herpo the Foul, most of them absurdist nonsense. But it is clear from the Codex that a clever and ruthless Dark Lord could use the Rune to lay waste to a large enough area and also drive a sizeable population to madness if he hides the object that carries the curse where it cannot be found easily and then arranges to drag out the death of the selected target as long as possible."
Sirius nodded slowly. "And the second limitation?"
"Activating the Rune results in the swift and agonizing death of the one responsible for such activation."
That caught the boy by surprise. "Wait, why would anyone, even Herpo the Foul, use the Rune of Singular Hate if doing so was suicidal?!"
Arcturus laughed again. "Think it through, Sirius. I said the one who activates the Rune, not the one who crafted it and inserted it into the targeted matrix! If you're not inclined to die for your cause, all you need do is find someone stupid enough to die in your place!" The old man sniffed disdainfully. "It's usually not that hard."
31 October 1993
As Janos (now polyjuiced to resemble a young Sirius Black) and the other men filtered out of the room to prepare for their part of the attack, Scabior looked out the window to study the Tonks Clinic once more. Despite his best efforts, he could not see the cursed runes that the real Black and his allies had attached to the boundaries of the Clinic's wards. He shrugged to himself and pulled off his shirt to expose the rune that Fenrir Greyback had painted on his chest earlier that morning. The werewolf had assured Scabior that his part in today's exercise was essential the operation's success. When he heard the signal (and from what Greyback had said, the signal would be unmistakable), Scabior would read the incantation on the scrap of paper waiting in his pocket that would trigger the cursed runes and start the next phase of the operation. Fenrir also assured Scabior that he was being entrusted with this important role because of the wizards who'd volunteered for Sirius Black's scheme, the werewolf could tell that Scabior was easily the most powerful and most cunning.
"Honestly, Scabior," Greyback had said, "your participation is essential to our plan."
Scabior smiled. Finally, after years of struggling to survive in Knockturn Alley, he would get what he truly deserved.
Meanwhile, with a few soft pops, "Sirius Black" and the men who accompanied him apparated onto the roof of Tomes and Scrolls, a local bookstore across the street from the Hogsmeade Post Office. There, private citizens could rent owls for one-time mail deliveries, but the building had a far more important purpose than that. Since the Ministry of Magic came into being, the Post Office had also served as the primary admin facility for Ministry operations within the village. Among the other small offices inside the building was the Hogsmeade branch of the Department of Magical Transportation.
There were two permanent floo access points in Hogsmeade. One was at the Tonks Clinic which needed 24-hour access to St. Mungo's. The other was in the Three Broomsticks, which the Ministry had selected as the primary floo access portal to the village. As "Sirius" knew full well, both of those dedicated floo portals were about to be put out of commission. Every other floo-capable fireplace in Hogsmeade had its connection regulated out of the DoMT office in the building below, which meant that taking the Post Office down would cut the entire village off from floo travel. It wouldn't keep the Ministry from responding, but it would slow them down quite a bit.
"Sirius" called out to his men and directed them to let loose with their most destructive curses on his mark. Then, he pointed his wand at the Post Office and sneered, his eyes dancing at the thought of the chaos he was about to unleash.
The sound of the explosion resulting from a half-dozen Blasting Curses echoed across the village, as the Hogsmeade Post Office blew sky-high, and every fireplace in town instantly lost its connection to the Floo Network. Every fireplace but two. "Sirius" grinned and held his wand aloft to unleash a second spell.
The Tonks Clinic
11:45 a.m. (Fifteen minutes earlier)
"Hello all!" Ted Tonks exclaimed brightly. "Welcome to the Tonks Clinic. Please, call me Ted."
The Healer opened the door wide and welcomed Theo and his two companions inside. "Now, you must be Hermione and you must be Ron ... unless naming conventions have changed drastically when I wasn't looking. Anyway, Theo has told me all about you!"
"I have?" Theo said in surprise. "I think I just gave their names and the fact that they were both Gryffindors interested in healing."
"Yes, yes. Well what else is there to know that we won't learn over lunch together? Mind you, lunch will be a bit late, I'm afraid. Andromeda is out on a house call, and she took Iris with her, and Dora is pestering some of the aurors who are on security duty today. And I'm quite hopeless in the kitchen, so unless you're fine with just a ham sandwich, we'll have to wait for them."
"That's fine, Ted," Theo said. "I think we're all too jumped up on Honeyduke's chocolate to be very hungry. Perhaps we could sit in the parlor while we wait for Andi and Iris to come back. I know Hermione and Ron have a lot of questions about magical healing."
If the subtext was that he wanted Ron and Hermione to ask their questions and then leave rather than just shadow him the whole day, neither of them seemed to pick up on it. The four of them sat in Ted's cozy parlor in front of the unlit fireplace, and Ted patiently answered Ron and Hermione's (but mainly Ron's) questions about the profession of magical healing. What classes should should he take? How hard are they? How hard is it to get a Healing apprenticeship if your family isn't "politically connected"? Did the Tonkses need any summer help? Hermione had fewer questions, but she did ask at one point of Ted was familiar with a condition called Mordenkainen's Disjunction. Ron shot a dirty look in her direction, while Theo suppressed a smile.
"Heh. I guess I'm not the only one she does that to," he thought.
For his part, Ted was intrigued by the question. Apparently, it was a rare condition among wizards, even more so than conventional dyslexia was among Muggles – he was quick to point out that the condition was not simply "wizarding dyslexia" – and he personally had never treated a case. But he had researched it during his apprenticeship, and he considered it not so much a learning disability as simply a different way of learning, one that made it harder to study and master spells, but it was also thought to grant other benefits such as superior spatial reasoning skills and better memory recall even without developing Occlumency skills. While there was no "cure" as such, the negative aspects of Mordenkainen's Disjunction (such as difficulty at learning wand movements and in reading comprehension) could be ameliorated by Charms that could alter written text to make it more legible or, if necessary, cause the text to read itself aloud. Ron was just about to ask for the names of those Charms when it happened.
The explosion was quite near, close enough to make the windows of the Tonks Clinic shake and rattle. "What the hell was that?!" Ted muttered in surprise.
Across the street, Scabior pulled out the parchment he'd been given. If that wasn't the signal, he couldn't imagine what would be. He grinned once more as he studied the incantation. He didn't really know what the Latin words meant, let alone what it would do, but he was sure he could pronounce the incantation well enough for the Death Eaters' needs. "Finally," he thought. "After today, everyone's gonna know my name."
"PER VITA MEA, PERFLUAT ODIUM!"
As the last word left his lips, there was a flash of light from the ward line of the Tonks Clinic which seemed to put forth a heat-haze that quickly surrounded the building. Then, a massive floating ethereal rune manifested on each side of the house at the cardinal directions. A strange rune, like a pentagram but not, and one that perfectly matched the one inscribed on Scabior's chest in a mixture of ink and blood provided by that creepy man who had accompanied Greyback to their private meeting earlier this morning.
Suddenly, Scabior felt that something was wrong. There was a sharp burning sensation on his chest as the rune there began to glow. And then caught fire! Scabior screamed in pain and surprise and started prying to pat the fires out with his hands. If anything that made it worse, for the green fire that had engulfed his chest also stuck to his hands, causing them to ignite as well. He dropped to the ground and began to roll about in agony. Strangely, the green fire did not ignite anything else in the room, but neither did rolling on the floor do anything to smother the flames.
In the end, Scabior was denied his wish. His body would writhe in agony for another thirty seconds before expiring. By then, the skin on most of his body was completely blackened. Within another two minutes, his corpse would be the color and consistency of spent charcoal, naught but a grainy ashy powder lying on the floor in a vaguely humanoid shape. No one would remember Scabior's name ... because there simply wouldn't be enough of him left to identify his remains.
Meanwhile, in the clinic, Ted swiftly headed towards the door but paused in surprise while on the way.
"What is it?" Hermione asked nervously.
"I don't know," he answered. "Something with the wards." He shook his head and continued to the front door. But as soon as he grasped the door handle, the wizard screamed in shock and pain. He staggered back, his right hand covered in terrible burns. And the door handle that had burned him was now covered in a corona of sickly green flame so hot that the brass handle had already started to melt. Then, to the children's horror, blackened letters suddenly started to appear on the door itself as if burned into the wood by some invisible flame. Letters that spelled out a single word that Theo No-Name had already learned to hate.
Outside the Tonks Clinic, those wizards and witches in the street who were still wondering about the source of the explosion they'd just heard now stared in wonderment and fear at the clinic which was now wreathed in a strange heat-haze and surrounded on all four sides by eerie sigils floating in the air, sigils almost as big as the house itself. Within a few seconds though, those expressions of wonderment and fear soon changed to dazed looks ... followed by increasingly angry glares.
Auror Gawain Robards, who was in town as part of the Ministry security detachment was the first on the scene. He'd been on his way towards the site of the explosion that had rocked the town just seconds earlier when he'd noticed the unusual phenomenon at the Tonks Clinic. There was a small crowd in front of the clinic, but it seemed to be growing. In the distance, he could hear someone with a magically amplified voice shouting out orders of some kind, but he was too distracted for the words to immediately register.
"What's going on here?" he exclaimed aloud.
"It's the Outcast," one of the townspeople said in an odd strangled voice. "He's to blame!"
"Eh? What are you talking about?" Robards was confused. He knew about Theo No-Name, of course. Every auror assigned to Hogsmeade during today's student outing had been briefed on the Outcast's unfortunate situation, which was one of many thing that Chief Potter thought might cause a disturbance of some kind. But the auror couldn't imagine what a Hogwarts Third Year, even the son of a suspected Death Eater, might have to do with either the explosion (which had actually been some distance away, near the Post Office, Robards thought) or the same pyrotechnic display now before him.
"Outcast!" said another nearby villager. "Outcast! Outcast!"
Robards looked around nervously as the angry refrain was picked up by more and more villagers. He held up his wand and shot off some fireworks in an effort to gain everyone's attention before a riot broke out, never realizing that it was already too late for that.
"Alright now! Everyone just settle down and go back to your ... OOF!" The auror's instructions were cut off as an elderly but surprisingly spry witch jumped onto his back and began trying to claw his eyes out with her bare hands.
Robards managed to throw the witch off, but by then, there were dozens of people chanting the word "Outcast" with a terrifying intensity. Not everyone nearby seemed to be affected, but those that were immediately turned on those who were not. He managed to stun three villagers before he was knocked to the ground, his wand sent flying. Then, the maddened villagers dogpiled him, punching and kicking him as they went.
The Three Broomsticks
As the rest of his semi-estranged family departed the Three Broomsticks along with Pettigrew, Harry let out a long slow breath of relief. He'd realized during the earlier luncheon that Pettigrew was an Occlumens, but it was unknown if he had any Legilimency skills. Harry thought it unlikely but better safe than sorry. Accordingly, he'd spent the past hour carefully modulating his emotions so that (a) none of the Potters knew how much he disliked Pettigrew and (b) Pettigrew himself knew exactly how much Harry liked him, but (c) Pettigrew would not know the true reason for Harry's disdain. Aside from making the luncheon unduly stressful for the boy, it had also given him a mild headache, but with his status as Seneschal to House Potter and "best friend" to the Chief Auror, Peter Pettigrew was perhaps one of the most influential and dangerous Death Eaters in the country. If the man even suspected that Harry knew his true allegiance, the results could be fatal.
"Well, Potter," said Mad-Eye Moody after tipping back and draining the last of his (not-butter) beer, "not that I haven't enjoyed this free meal on the Minister's coin, but when you asked me to be your chaperone, you said you wanted me to stick around afterwards for some reason you couldn't discuss in an owl post."
Harry looked around. "How good are your privacy charms?"
Moody crooked his one good eyebrow and then pulled out his wand. A short incantation later, he answered the question. "Impeccable. So what's going on?"
Swiftly, Harry outlined the situation between Amy Wilkes and Tiberius Nott before asking if Moody would mind using his magic eye to spy on the meeting that was about to take place upstairs. The ex-auror frowned disapprovingly.
"Potter, I know I've probably given you the impression that I'm a bit of a rule-breaker when I need to be, but there are laws against using magic to spy on confidential meetings, even meetings of accused former Death Eaters. I can't just ..."
Before he could say anything more, the door to inn opened, and a group of wizards entered: Tiberius Nott, the Goyle family, and Amaryllis Wilkes. Nott noticed Harry and Moody and simply sneered contemptuously at them, while young Amy nodded in Harry's direction and did her best to show no emotion. The group headed up the stairs to the meeting room that Madam Rosmerta had reserved for them without any further consideration of Harry, Moody or anyone else. Moody growled softly.
"Well, maybe just this once," he muttered, and his magical eye swivelled around in its socket to look straight up. "Mind you, I may be able to see them, but it's at a bad angle for observation unless I wanted to peer up Madam Goyle's skirts. Also, I won't be able to hear anything. Are you expecting Nott to try to hurt the girl?"
"No," Harry said before amending his answer. "At least, not today. I think the hurting part won't start until after the marriage ceremony."
Moody's distaste was obvious. "And when's the 'happy occasion'?"
"Sometime next June, I think."
"Uh-huh. So far, they're just talking and eating. And for what it's worth, Nott's table manners are atrocious." Moody's eye refocused on Harry for a second and then whirled around in its socket to study the Common Room. "We're a bit obvious here, Potter. Let's take a walk. I can probably keep a better eye on your little friend with some distance instead of right under her. Plus, it'll give us a chance to talk shop. You still coming in for a lesson this afternoon?"
"Assuming nothing changes," Harry said as he and the ex-auror stood.
"Mm-hmm. Any progress on your wandless exercises?"
"Nope," the boy answered with some annoyance.
Moody laughed. "Well talk about some strategies that might help during your lesson."
"Well," Moody said diplomatically, "theoretically, if you were an Occlumens at level three or higher, you could open up a secondary thought-stream that would spend all its time constantly remembering all your prior summoning attempts. That might speed up the process a bit. Mind you, there are some pitfalls you'll need to be wary of with that approach. Or that you would be need to wary of, if you ever became an Occlumens. Hypothetically, I mean."
"Well, honestly, Mr. Moody," Harry drawled as if bored, "how likely is it for a thirteen-year-old to learn Occlumency at all, let alone reach that level? Pretty improbable, isn't it?"
They both chuckled as they exited the bar and made their way down the street. The whole time, Moody's magic eye remained fixed on the meeting room where Nott and Amy appeared to be in polite discussion over their main course. All around the two, students from Hogwarts milled about the streets of Hogsmeade, enjoying the sunny day. Quality Quidditch Supply still had a mob of students practically drooling over the Firebolt prototype. Zonko's had its usual hyperactive crowd. As they moved further down the street, Harry glanced in the window of Madam Puddifoot's Tea Shop and was surprised to see Emily Rossum (who was supposed to be at the Auror Academy) and Marcus Flint(!), the latter of whom seemed profoundly uncomfortable to be seen in the notoriously frilly establishment. Harry resisted the temptation to pop in to say hi ... and see if he could somehow make Flint blush even harder. Instead, he inquired about Amy once more, and Moody reassured him that everything still seemed fine.
"All in all," Harry thought, "this has turned out to be a surprisingly nice day."
Naturally, that thought was immediately followed by the sound of the first explosion of the afternoon - followed swiftly by the first appearance of the Dark Mark in the skies above Britain in more than a decade.
After leaving the Three Broomsticks, Jim and his parents made their way down the streets of Hogsmeade, with Peter Pettigrew close behind. Jim looked unusually pensive, and Lily noticed and asked him what was wrong. The boy looked back and forth between the three grown-ups he cared about the most.
"There's ... something I had wanted to talk to you about. But ... I didn't want to get into it in front of Mr. Moody or the Minister."
James looked at the boy curiously. "What is it, son?"
Jim looked around. For once, he was out and about without a throng of admirers. The news reporters had apparently gotten their fill of him for once, and while it was a bit of a wonder in Hogsmeade for the Boy-Who-Lived to finally visit, the town was also overwhelmed by the rest of the visiting students.
"When I'm near Dementors ... I ... I hear things," he said quietly. The three adults looked at each other in confusion and worry.
"What sort of ... things, sport?" Peter asked cautiously.
Jim took a deep breath and then waved away a tiny beetle that had almost flown into his mouth. "I think it's ... that night."
"Which night?" James asked, although he feared he knew. Without even asking, Peter pulled out his wand and set up a privacy ward.
"That night. Halloween 1981. I hear the sound of a woman screaming. And then a man with a real scary high-pitched voice laughing. And then ... I remember a flash of green." He looked up at his mother and father nervously. "I've never asked you what happened the night You-Know-Who showed up at our house. But ... is that it? Am I remembering his attack?"
All three of the adults looked suitably horrified by that possibility. Finally, James let out a sigh.
"I don't know, Jim. You might well be. Dementors do force you to relieve your worst memories, though I've never heard of one forcing you to relive something from infancy. Your mother and I will tell you what we can but ..."
"Honestly, Jim," Lily continued. "Neither of us remember much. Whatever curse You-Know-Who used on us both was some kind of incredibly powerful stunner. It took the healers hours to come up with a counter-curse that would wake us up, and when we did wake up, our memories of the night were jumbled up badly."
James nodded his agreement. "I remember the wards tripping when he crossed them. And I remember telling Lily to run for the nursery. It was on the second floor, but there was a window in that room and we kept a broom in there, just in case. I ... think I remember seeing his face and him pointing his wand at me, but everything else is just a blur."
Lily nodded sadly. "And I remember running up the stairs to the nursery, but I only had a few seconds before he followed me. I know I heard spellfire and the sound of James getting knocked out. I think I may have heard him laughing as well. Before I could do anything, the door burst open and ... that's the last thing I recall, I'm afraid. I'm sure I screamed as well. Anyone would under those circumstances."
Peter patted the boy on the shoulder. "Jim, it's ... amazing that you should be able to remember all that. And also ... horrible that it should come to you from being around those foul Dementors. I know this must be traumatic for you, but just remember – that's all in the past. Try not to think about You-Know-Who. He can't hurt you here."
As the explosion echoed through the town, Lily gasped and pointed. Rising up over Hogsmeade from the far side of town was the unmistakable sight of the Dark Mark.
"My god!" Lily exclaimed in horror. James looked around wildly as he drew his wand. From somewhere nearby, they all heard Mad-Eye Moody's voice call out an amplified warning.
"Lily start getting students back to the school," James said. "That means you too, Jim."
Jim shook his head. "I want to stay, Dad! I can help!"
James looked deeply into his son's eyes as if to gauge his intent. "Peter?" he said without breaking eye contact with Jim.
"On it," Pettigrew said as he tightly gripped the boy's shoulders.
"What?!" Jim exclaimed. "No...!" But before he could react, Peter side-apparated the boy away to safety. James turned to Lily.
"They're off to Peter's office. From there, Peter will send Jim back to Albus's office via floo."
Lily nodded. Then, in a sudden move, she stepped forward and kissed James on the lips before pulling back with her hand still on his cheek. "I'm going to find Harry. Go to work. And remember – be brave, not stupid!"
He smirked. "Yes, ma'am!" Then, he darted off in the direction of the explosion, while Lily ran back towards the Three Broomsticks, herding students back towards Hogwarts as she went. She made it back to Madam Rosmerta's in time to see Harry's departure ... and scream at the sight of his pursuers.
The Gates of Hogwarts
Malachi Sturgeon had spent the better part of three hours standing by the doors to the Great Hall checking the names of Hogwarts students as they left for Hogsmeade and returned. Well, mostly standing. After two hours, when no one was looking, he transfigured a nearby rock into a chair to sit in. Idly, he thought back on his own school days spent here under a different name and wondered if Old Filch had also been required to waste the better part of a day at this same post, keeping up with departures and returns without even the comfort of a transfigured chair. He had a momentary stab of sympathy for his squib predecessor that lasted until he inevitably remembered some of the man's crueler detentions and felt such feelings wash away.
It was warm for this time of year, and the doors of the castle were wide open with several students coming out to look around on their way to lunch. Among them was young Lavender Brown who had strangely taken a shine to the Hogwarts Caretaker. In truth, Remus Lupin had grown bored of his snarling "Argus Filch" impression, and so the demeanor of Malachi Sturgeon had relaxed a bit. In fact, it had apparently relaxed enough for some of the female students to notice that he was surprisingly muscular beneath his shabby clothing and that his beard made him seem more rugged and dashing than he had ever intended (which is to say that he had never intended to seem rugged or dashing at all).
Also outside on the front steps of the school was a Second Year Gryffindor named Luna Lovegood who seemed to be nibbling nervously on a dinner roll she'd brought out from the Great Hall. The girl had been sitting there ever since her friend Amy Wilkes had left about thirty minutes prior in the company of her house-mate Gregory Goyle. Remus turned to Lavender.
"Not going to Hogsmeade?" he asked, still with a bit of gruffness, though the girl did not seem to mind. Lavender shook her head.
"I was warned not to by a seer," she replied with visible disappointment. "And I'd been so looking forward to it."
Remus frowned. In his youth, he'd been one of Minerva McGonagall's favorite students, and he long ago picked up on and adopted his mentor's disdain for the art of Divination. But before he could respond, the Lovegood girl spoke up.
"A seer?" she asked somewhat dubiously. "Do you mean Hermione?"
"Yeah, it was Hermione who warned me." Lavender noticed Luna's expression. "You don't believe she's a seer? No offense, Luna, but I thought you had a reputation for believing ... well, almost anything."
Luna turned back towards Hogsmeade. "Not so. I'm actually fairly particular about what strange impossible things I choose to believe in."
"Well, personally, I've seen enough from Hermione to trust her Third Eye," Lavender answered haughtily. "You just need to be more open-minded about such ..."
Luna interrupted the other girl with a sudden cry as she stood up quickly, dropping the dinner roll on the ground as she did. She gaped at Hogsmeade with a look of horror on her face.
"I take it back," she said in a shaky voice. "Hermione was wise to tell you not to go to Hogsmeade. I just wish she'd warned everyone else."
She turned to Remus with a frightened expression. "Mr. Sturgeon, you must send word to the Headmaster at once. The students who've gone to Hogsmeade must return immediately!"
"Why?" he asked guardedly.
"Can't you hear it?!" she exclaimed as she turned back towards the village. "Hogsmeade is screaming!"
Lavender and Remus looked at each confusion for a moment before their attention was seized by the sound of a great explosion from somewhere in the town ... followed soon after by the manifestation of a Dark Mark in the sky over it.
Remus gasped in shock, and in a flash, a wand was in his hand. "EXPECTO PATRONUM." His silvery wolf Patronus appeared to receive the message he wished to convey. "Go to Albus Dumbledore. Tell him that Hogsmeade is under attack and the Dark Mark has been seen!"
As he spoke, Lavender whispered to Luna in surprise – "You mean he's not really a squib?!" But the other girl's attention was still on Hogsmeade where so many of her friends still were.
His message sent, Lupin turned to Lavender. "Make sure that no students leave for Hogsmeade!" Then, he turned and ran down the pathway leading to the village with remarkable speed. Not an inhuman speed, necessarily, but enough to challenge the Muggle record for a 100 meter dash. The second he crossed the school's ward line, he disappeared in a pop of apparition.
Harry and Moody
"What the hell?!" Harry exclaimed in surprise as Moody's eye swiveled towards the direction of the blast. Harry looked that way too and gasped in shock as a thick cloud of mist appeared over the far side of town and then coalesced into a hideous skull from whose mouth a translucent snake seemed to slither out. While he'd never seen one in person, Harry was enough of a student of the last Wizarding War to recognize the Dark Mark.
"Merlin's bones," Moody exclaimed under his breath before he raised his wand to his throat.
"SONOROUS! ATTENTION! THIS IS ALASTOR MOODY! HOGSMEADE IS UNDER ATTACK! ALL HOGWARTS STUDENTS WILL RETURN TO THE SCHOOL IMMEDIATELY! ALL AURORS CONVERGE ON THE HOGSMEADE POST OFFICE AT ONCE!"
He canceled the spell and turned to the shocked boy. "Death Eaters," he said ruefully in confirmation of Harry's fears. "Or at the very least, thugs dressed up to look like Death Eaters. I'm going that way now. You are not! Get back to Hogwarts now!"
"What about Amy?!" Harry asked urgently. Moody thought for a second.
"Go to Madam Rosmerta. Tell her that I said to alert Lord Nott's party that all students are to go back to the school at once. She will get Amy for you. Now move!"
With that, Moody turned and hobbled away as fast as he could. Harry hesitated for a moment before turning back towards the Three Broomsticks. By this point, there was pandemonium in the streets of Hogsmeade as students were fleeing back towards the school and locals were taking shelter in their homes. He also heard apparition pops from all around. But then, just as he could see the inn in the distance, he noticed six cloaked figures running inside, their wands already drawn. And as he drew closer, he was horrified to hear someone in the inn yell out "BOMBARDA!" followed by another explosion. He crept closer and peered through a window before putting a hand over his mouth to stop himself from gasping aloud.
Inside, Madam Rosmerta and the remaining customers, both locals and Hogwarts students, were huddled together as the hostages of what appeared to be six partially-transformed werewolves under the leadership of the man who Harry recognized from the Prophet as Fenrir Greyback. The Blasting Curse had been meant for the inn's floo, which was now in a shambles. No help would be coming from that direction, nor would anyone be escaping through it.
Greyback growled out an order to his pack. "You three! Guard this room. Kill anyone who tries to enter or any hostages who try to fight back. Stavros and Jonny, you're with me." With that, the fearsome werewolf and two of his men bounded up the stairs.
Upstairs at the Three Broomsticks
To Amy's surprise, lunch with Tiberius Nott had not been utterly dreadful. The food was actually pretty good, and the adults were doing a good job of talking around the elephant in the room – the fact that her guardians were about to sell her off at the age of twelve to a man easily old enough to be her father. She was still utterly horrified by the idea of marrying Nott Sr., but for the moment at least, everyone was trying to cover up the awfulness with a veneer of civility. Unfortunately, the mood ended rather abruptly when the voice of someone named Alastor Moody announced that the town was under attack by ... Death Eaters?! Amy looked back and forth between the adults in the room who were as confused as her to hear about Death Eaters attacking the village. Apparently, they hadn't gotten the memo.
Seconds later, the room shook violently from sort of explosion below, causing Madam Goyle to let out a scream of terror. Nott rose quickly from his chair and closed his eyes.
"An Anti-Apparition Jinx is in effect," he said angrily as he drew his wand. Amy's face darkened at the realization that the cowardly old man had just tried to flee leaving his "fianceé" behind. From outside, they could hear the sounds of feet running up the stairs. Nott quickly fired off a Colloportus to bar the door, but he needn't have bothered. The door practically flew off its hinges from the strength of the blow Fenrir Greyback gave it. This time, Amy did scream as she backed away the nightmarish figure standing in the doorway. Although Greyback wasn't fully transformed, his partial transformation was frightening enough with his jet black eyes, protruding fangs, and clawed fingers.
"We're just here for the girl, Nott!" he snarled. "Give her up and you won't be harmed!"
The werewolf's statement caught Nott by surprise, so much so that he hesitated before aiming his wand at the intruders and wasn't fast enough. An Expelliarmus from one of the other werewolves caught the former Death Eater and knocked him into the far wall. Greg took the opportunity to flip over the table so that they would have some cover, and soon the three Goyles and their attackers were trading spells in the enclosed room. Amy had to duck down to avoid getting caught by spellfire, and to her horror, one of Greyback's men took a Stunner to the face without even slowing down as he rolled his way around the table towards her.
Then, Amy screamed again as the window next to her exploded inwards from the force of a garbage bin from the alley below that had been hurled through it. Terror turned to hope though when she recognized the voice that cried out from down below.
"AMY!" yelled Harry Potter. "JUMP!"
The Slytherin girl didn't hesitate. She took three running steps and hurled herself through the second-story window just before the werewolf could grab her. "ARRESTO MOMENTUM!" she heard Harry cry out as soon as she was clear of the broken window. Instantly, the spell took hold of her and let her fall gently to the ground. Then, Harry cast again. "SERPENSORTIAOPPUGNO!" There was a flash of light, and then the werewolf who had stuck his head through the window to snarl at the two of them was suddenly distracted by the angry king cobra that had just materialized on top of him. He fell back into room from which the sound of spellfire could still be heard. As Amy got up off the ground, Harry grabbed her wrist.
"Come on!" he ordered. Meanwhile, he waved his wand towards the window again. "FUMOS MAXIMA!" A thick mist poured from his wand, and as Harry and Amy fled the alleyway, the heavy fog soon reduced visibility in first the alley and then the nearby street to almost nothing. Harry, who could see perfectly well through the fog, led Amy across the street. Behind them, they could hear the sounds of shouting and then a crash as the werewolves followed them out the window and down the alleyway. In response, Harry gestured with his wand and whispered another incantation, one Amy didn't recognize. Suddenly, barely visible though the fog, there was another Harry and Amy running off in a different direction but much closer to the werewolves. Meanwhile, Harry led Amy into the sidestreet where they took cover behind some old boxes.
"Just stay quiet," he whispered. "When they've gone, we'll sneak back to the school."
The two waited in silence for several seconds, only to start in surprise and fear when a nearby voice called out to them.
"Nice try, boy," growled Fenrir from the front of the alleyway. "A clever use of an illusion spell, but then you ruined it by whispering to your little friend." He snorted contemptuously. "Werewolf ears are far more sensitive than those of mere humans. Yet another way we're better than you." The other two werewolves behind him laughed at his remarks.
"Good to know," said Harry as stood up with his wand pointed towards the three werewolves. "SONOROUS!" he yelled with the accent on the first syllable instead of the second as Moody had used earlier. And that was enough to change the spell from the Sound-Enhancing Charm to the Glass-Shattering Curse. Instantly, all three werewolves staggered back in agony and clutched their hands over their ears in response to the deafening whine coming from Harry's wand. Across the street, Harry saw several windows shatter, including the front window of Quality Quidditch Supply. He adjusted his aim slightly and cried out again. "ACCIO FIREBOLT!" The werewolves were only beginning to recover from the sonic attack when one of them was knocked to the ground as Firebolt prototype from the window whacked him in the head on its way to Harry's grasp.
"This has been fun," Harry said as he and Amy mounted the broom. "But we really should be going."
The Tonks Clinic
Ted staggered back in agony as smoke rose from the burns on his hand. He lost his balance and fell, but Ron and Theo were there to catch him and pull him away from the smouldering door which was now covered with burning marks that said "OUTCAST" over and over again. Hermione looked at the door in horror.
"We need to get out of here right now," she declared. "Get Ted away from the door!" The two boys complied, while the girl readied her wand. "ALOHOMORA!" Magical energy washed against the front door of the clinic to no avail. She took a few steps back and tried something else. "BOMBARDA!"
Theo and Ron barely had time to express their shock that she'd resorted to an explosive Charm in such an enclosed space. It didn't matter. That spell also had no effect except apparently to give encouragement to whatever force was vandalizing the door – instead of simply repeating the word "OUTCAST" the strange effect had moved on to complete sentences:
"DIE, OUTCAST, DIE!"
Undaunted, Hermione turned and tried again, this time firing the Blasting Hex against the nearby bay windows. "BOMBARDA!" This time, the glass shattered outward explosively, but before anyone even move towards the new opening, the broken glass froze in mid-air. Then, with a strange growling sound, the broken window reassembled itself. The three children hardly had time to realize what had happened when they were distracted by a fresh horror, as the nearby floo erupted into a blazing bonfire so intense that the flames extended outside the stone hearth and began to climb up the wall above instantly incinerating the family pictures on the mantle. A blazing green bonfire of a shade that Theo had seen before and remembered in his nightmares.
"Merlin save us," he said in horror. "That's FIENDFYRE!"
And the cursed fire lived up to its name, as the flames erupting from the fireplace turned into a wall of solid fire that then manifested a great and terrible face with eyes and a leering mouth. And then, the fire spoke.
"We're coming for you, Theo No-Name!"
The face inhaled, as if drawing a deep breath. Instinctively, the children leaped out of the way as a gout of fire blasted across the room. Hermione was on one side where she'd managed to pull a semi-conscious Ted away from the spreading hellfire. Ron and Theo were on the other, with the fire on one side and the seemingly impenetrable door, window and wall (which was now covered in burning words that condemned Theo as an Outcast) on the other. And then, as if things couldn't get any worse, the curtains on either side of the window burst into green flames as well.
"We're coming for you, and we're going to burn you alive!"
The alleyway across from the Three Broomsticks
Swiftly, Harry and Amy took off, dodging spellfire as they went, but Harry was just able to make out the sound of Greyback summoning brooms for himself and his fellow werewolves. Harry cursed softly and flew down the alley and circled around the building before gaining altitude. Unfortunately, their starting position required them to circle around Hogsmeade before heading back to the school. Even more unfortunately, Harry was dismayed to notice that the broom was not accelerating as he'd expected. Following the shopkeeper's instructions, he reached forward and touched his thumb to a small indentation in the wood had been scored with a faint rune, and instantly, diagnostic information about the Firebolt flowed into his mind. He swore softly and then jerked the broom to dodge a Stunner from the werewolves who were now airborne and in pursuit.
"What is it!?" Amy yelled to be heard over the sound of rushing air.
"The brooms still in Seeker-mode! Most of the custom acceleration Charms are disabled because having two riders throws off the balance! If it were in Standard-mode, we'd be going a lot faster. And if it was in Seeker-mode with just me, I'd already be home by now!"
"Can you switch modes?"
"Not without landing!" he replied. "Maneuverability Charms are fine, so we'll just have to dodge til we get back to Hogwarts. Like now!" Harry jerked the broom sharply in response to the sound of spellcasting behind them, and two red flashes shot by, missing them by just a few feet.
"Well, on the bright side," Harry thought, "they're after Amy and want to take her alive, so no Killing Curses ... I hope."
Harry flew fast as the broom would allow, but while he was still moving faster than the three werewolves on their stolen Nimbuses, their positioning and attacks stopped him from just flying straight back to the castle. He decided his best bet was take an arcing path that would carry him over the Forbidden Forest onto the castle grounds. He only hoped he could outrun the Dementors. He dodged a few more spells and then held his wand behind him to cast another Smoke-Screen Charm as Amy held on for dear life.
Seconds later, they were approaching the Forbidden Forest. While there were about a hundred or so Dementors floating over the woods, the Forbidden Forest itself was huge and so the Dementors seemed to be spread out enough for Harry to plot a course between them. As he made his move towards the forest's air-space, however, Harry was shocked to see one Dementor in particular moving on what looked like an intercept course ... with a few dozen more apparently triggered by its actions and closing in on Harry's trajectory. At the last possible second, he yelled out "HANG ON!" and jerked the broom handle up as hard as he could. Instantly, the broom's velocity was redirected vertically. Amy didn't scream, but if she'd had her arms around Harry any tighter, he'd have probably broken some ribs.
As the broom shot higher and higher, Harry pointed his wand straight ahead and cast Fumos Maxima once more. Soon, the ascending broom was trailing a thick cloud of mist that he hoped would prevent the werewolves from getting a clear shot before he could get high enough to arc over the forest and onto the schools' grounds. He was successful, though unfortunately, not in the way he'd wanted. Frustrated at his inability to clearly see his quarry, Greyback and Stavros veered off until they were out of the magical fog before turning back to look at the students and their stolen Firebolt, still pursued by a determined Jonny.
"I think I've had enough of this shit," Fenrir snarled as he pointed his wand up in the Firebolt's general direction and bellowed the incantation for a modified Bombarda. The spell shot up past and to the right of Harry and Amy before detonating in a shockwave just as their broom was even with it. The wave of force hit Harry like a wrecking ball and stunned him for an instant before he regained his senses. Immediately, the boy dilated his perceptions – Thump-thump – to take stock of his circumstances.
They weren't good. Now Amy was screaming, hysterically in fact. She was also about ten feet away from to his left, and the pursuing werewolf had altered course to catch her. His stolen Firebolt was about ten feet to his right but flying away from him in a lazy spiral. His holly and phoenix wand was only five feet in front of him but might as well have been back in his room for all the good that did. And the ground?
That was less than 2000 feet away and closing fast.
NEXT: Chaos in Hogsmeade! (Pt 2). Things get hotter for Theo, Hermione and Ron, while Harry has roughly six seconds to work a miracle. All this plus we finally get to see Wu Xi Do in action.
1. I'm trying an experiment to see if I can get back onto a more regular posting schedule. No promises - as always, life may well get in the way. The next chapter is mostly written (which is part of why this update was later than intended). It will be posted to The Sinister Man's website on Thursday, July 12th. It'll be password protected, but the password is available for free at my Discord page (where there's a lively discussion on POS among other things). Then it will go through a few days of beta review by the Discord crew before being published on Sunday July 15th. In the meantime, I'll keep working on future updates with the goal of staying at least one update ahead.
2. Speaking of which, thanks to the gang at the Sinister Man's Discord page for serving as beta readers for this chapter: Ozzie, Gabe, fauxen, Ashish Anil, and liquorice-wolfbeast.
3. Links to my website, my P*****n page (for non-fanfiction writing), my Discord page, and the POS Wiki can be found on my author page. POS also now has a TV Tropes page and a Youtube page (for a fan-made audio version of POS).
4. "Per vita mea, perfluat odium" is (hopefully) Latin for "Through my life, let hatred flow." Big shout-out to LordBritish for the translation assistance.