My first original novel, Strangers In Boston, is now available on Amazon under my pen name, T.S. Mann (get it?). It's free to Kindle Prime members and $4.99 to people who want to download the Ebook. Paperback copies are available for $12.99. The audio book version will be available soon. Check it out, and if you like it, please leave a review. Work on the sequel—Strangers In Dallas—proceeds apace. Chapters will be uploaded to my website and available for preview to patrons on the first of each month.
Sam Gabriel, the voice actor who is performing the audiobook of Strangers in Boston, is also reading Prince of Slytherin as a side project! The goal is an eventual (and 100% free) POS audiobook. More details on that later as they become available. The full backlog of raw recording sessions are available for free download.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled fanfic.
and the Resurrection Game
Chapter 14: Headlines and Other Communications
28 August 1994
From the Daily Prophet
Chaos at Quidditch World Cup!
Historic Irish Victory Over Bulgaria
Overshadowed By Unprecedented Violence!
By Andrew Smudgley
By rights, Ireland's 170-160 win over the Bulgarians after a brutal four-hour match should be the story of the day. Tragically, the victory of our plucky Irish cousins was overshadowed by violence unprecedented in World Cup history and unseen on these shores since the fall of You-Know-Who. (Full coverage of the final match itself can be found in the Daily Prophet's sports section.)
Just after midnight, approximately two hours after the conclusion of the final match, the campgrounds surrounding the stadium were attacked by parties that have not been conclusively identified. Indeed, based on the confusing testimonies from eyewitnesses, it is possible that more than one group may have attacked the Cup for unrelated purposes. According to the preliminary reports issued by the Ministry, the attack began with the activation of a powerful jinx that covered the entire campsite and that blocked both Apparition and Portkeys. Or at least Apparition and Portkeys by the victims, as the attackers seemingly could use such magic at will. Ministry officials have offered no comment on claims that the jinx was linked to enchanted guidestones previously installed under the supervision of Ministry employee Bertha Jorkins. (See companion story on page A-9: "Missing Ministry Employee Connected to Cup Attacks?")
The appearance of the attackers seemed to vary by location. Those who attacked the Australian, Luxembourger, Bulgarian, and French sections were reportedly dressed in costumes designed to emulate those worn by members of the Death Eater Insurgency that ended in 1981. However, those who attacked the Irish, Scottish, Welsh, and English sectors were clearly attired in Australian Quidditch jerseys and masks. Oddly, some witnesses claimed that the Australians were actually wearing Death Eater costumes even though the majority of witnesses correctly identified the attackers as wearing Australian nationalist attire. Ministry spokes-wizards could not account for such discrepancies, and the Australian government categorically denies that any Australians were involved in the disturbance, which the Australians blame entirely on British blood-purist agitators. Thus far, no organization or government has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Regardless of its origin, perhaps the most disturbing detail about the incident is that the attackers who targeted the Australian sector were accompanied by partially transformed werewolves! Miraculously, no reports have been issued suggesting that anyone injured by the werewolves has contracted lycanthropy. If you or a loved one suffered a bite or claw attack at during the violence last night, we at the Daily Prophet urge you to seek treatment at St. Mungo's immediately.
Luckily, while several dozen attackers struck all across the Cup campsite, only twenty-three fatalities have been announced so far out of the tens of thousands of attendees, and the only British fatality whose name has been released by the Ministry was retired hit wizard Durwood Gibbon. But while fatalities were comparatively low, well over 400 wizards and witches suffered injuries, many of them serious. The low death toll can be attributed to the superlative work of the Healers at St. Mungo's, work which, according to some rumors, was aided by an unidentified Parselmouth who was on hand to use healing spells augmented by that traditionally Dark talent. Officially, the administration of St. Mungo's denies the rumors about a Parselmouth able to work medical miracles through the application of "Parselmagic," but this reporter has confirmed that Jim Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived and a known Parselmouth, was present at St. Mungo's. Can it be that we can add "miracle healer" to the list of accolades young Jim has earned?
(See companion story "Unidentified Parselmouth Performs Medical Miracles!" on page A-5.)
Dan Granger's Apartment
Per the terms of their trial custody arrangement, Dan and Hermione Granger were to spend two weeks together at the Quidditch World Cup. Or, as Emma Granger called it, "that FIFA-on-a-broomstick thing." In exchange, Emma would have custody of Hermione for the last few days before their daughter boarded the Hogwarts Express, plus the entire Christmas break. And so, Emma was somewhat surprised when she arrived to pick up Hermione only to find that the girl was not at Dan's flat. Dan invited Emma in and led her to the kitchen.
"Hermione's still with the Blacks," he said. "She'll come through the Floo when I call for her. But first, we … we need to talk about some things."
Instantly, Emma became suspicious. "What sort of things?"
"Would you like a drink?" he asked in lieu of answering her question. "You, um, might need it before we're done."
"Dan, what's going on? Why isn't Hermione here?"
He sighed loudly and carried two glasses and an already-opened bottle of Merlot to the kitchen table before sitting down. Slowly, Emma sat down opposite him.
"There … something happened last night at the Quidditch Finals. Something bad. And it upset Hermione a great deal." He paused. "No, that's not right. It traumatized her. Hell, it traumatized me, and I'm a grown man. That's why she's not here. I thought it best if we talked together first, because I was afraid you might become upset. Honestly, I won't blame you if you do. But I'm worried about how it might affect our daughter if you get upset in front of her right now and we both start shouting at one another."
He poured himself a glass of wine before sliding the other glass and the bottle over to Emma.
"So here's what's going to happen. I'll tell you everything that happened to us last night. To us and a lot of other people. And then … I'll tell you some things I learned today from Lord Black's solicitor and also from his Healer. Things about how Healers in Wizarding Britain help people to deal with traumatic events. Or more accurately, how they don't. And also things about exactly what sort of legal rights Muggle parents really have over their school-aged magical children while Hogwarts is in session. And then, you and I will work out what we're going to do. What's going to happen next. Only then will I call Hermione over so we can talk with our daughter as a family. Okay?"
Emma stared intently at the father of her child. Then, she poured herself a glass of wine as well.
"Alright. Start talking."
The night before …
After the harrowing events that took place following the QWC Final, the Grangers, the Blacks, and their associated friends had rendezvoused at Dan's SUV, and they quickly decided to drive straight to Blackstone, Harry's manor house in Wales, to regroup, as no one was in a condition to Apparate and Blackstone was significantly closer than London by car.
The group arrived at Blackstone at 4:00 a.m. and immediately summoned the Tonkses despite the late hour. For the most part, everyone involved had suffered only cuts and bruises, though Andromeda paled upon seeing that Harry showed signs of Cruciatus exposure. After a quick round of healing spells and potions, the children were sent to bed. Meanwhile, Ted repaired the last of Padfoot's injuries and undid Tiberius Nott's curse that had locked him into his Animagus form. Sirius resumed his true form only to be roughly shoved down onto a sofa by his younger brother when he looked wobbly on his feet.
Only then did the adults sit down and talk about what had happened to them all. For his part, despite the Calming Draught he'd accepted gracefully, Dan was horrified at everything that had happened, but most of all over the fact that his little girl had executed someone to save his life. Archie had no explanation of what magic she'd used, as Sectumsempra was not a spell he'd ever heard of before, but he assured the Muggle that Hermione would face no legal jeopardy for her actions. Aside from the fact that no one witnessed the werewolf's death at her hands, in Britain, it was effectively legal to kill werewolves on sight if they presented any sort of threat to others, a legal standard that was interpreted broadly and heavily against the werewolves. There was a reason that werewolves were seldom seen on British shores, notwithstanding the events of the previous night and also the notorious attack on Hogsmeade on Halloween of the previous year.
This, of course, led to a spirited discussion of the werewolf attack on Hogsmeade in November of the previous year, of which Hermione had said nothing to either of her parents. Being told by a sheepish Ted that Hermione had never been in danger from those werewolves because at the time she was trapped with him and Theo No-Name in a cursed and burning building did nothing to alleviate the Muggle's concerns.
"Okay," the man had said haggardly while rubbing his face with his hands. "Setting aside the total breakdown in trust between my daughter and both her parents if she's willing to conceal all the times she's nearly died in the last few years … the fact remains that she killed someone last night. Now you lot assure me that there's no legal concerns, but what about the psychological effects. Do wizards even have counseling for things like that?"
The blank expressions of the three Blacks present indicated a negative response, but Ted looked thoughtful and then began to explain Wizarding views on the treatment of mental health issues. While Dan found those views to be appallingly backwards, Ted did note helpfully that Muggle views on such matters had progressed rapidly over the last fifty years. For example, he noted that the clinical diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder was only formally added to the DSM-III in 1980, a statement which was met with blank stares from the other wizards present.
Soon after, Dan, Sirius, and Archie were finally persuaded to get some sleep. They woke around ten for brunch, followed by a renewed conversation between Dan and Ted about possible counseling for Hermione, a topic which was also of interest to Sirius and Archie, even if they didn't understand half of it. The kids were also present for this part of the conversation, although Harry seemed dubious about "counseling" of any sort.
"Look," he'd snapped, "I didn't die or anything. I didn't even go into a coma this time. So I really don't see what the big deal is."
The aghast expressions of the adults present immediately told the Slytherin that he'd badly misread the room. In any event, the "counseling" discussion was followed by a second conversation, this time with Hestia Jones after Sirius summoned the solicitor to answer Dan's questions about "alternative education" for his daughter.
The short answer was that—absent emigration to some other country—there weren't any such alternatives for Muggleborns. Dan's mood only worsened when she reluctantly answered his questions about what rights Muggle parents had when it came to their children's education. The list was short.
At 1:30, Dan Floo'd to his apartment after telling Hermione he'd summon her once he'd explained things to Emma. Two hours later, the call finally came, and the young witch turned to her school friends.
"Wish me luck! I'll see you all on the train. If I'm not on the train, you can assume my parents have decided to whisk me away to Australia or something."
And on that cheery note, she was gone. Soon after, Neville made his own goodbyes and departed for Longbottom Manor. The rest of the group separated, but Sirius asked Harry to stay behind and talk some more with Ted, one-on-one.
"Sirius, I'm fine!" the boy said in an annoyed voice. "Andromeda's potion worked wonders. I don't have any aftereffects at all. See?"
He held up his hand to show that there were no more tremors.
Except that despite his best efforts, there was still a slight tremor, which Sirius immediately noticed. Harry grimaced and resolved to pester Snape to accelerate his training into fourth-level Occlumency and especially how to shut off his pain receptors.
"Harry," Sirius said gently. "I know you're not fine. I know because I've been Crucio'd, and at an age not much older than you. However, I also understand why you don't want to talk to anyone about it. Because when I was your age, I couldn't bear the thought of other people knowing I'd been hurt that way. Of other people seeing me when I thought I'd been weak. But if you won't talk about it with Ted, could you at least tell me one thing? Truthfully answer just one question for me?"
Harry folded his arms. "What?"
"Harry … what in Merlin's name happened to you that you actually think was worse than getting hit with a Cruciatus?!"
Thirty minutes later …
Sirius Black sat staring into space, a tumbler of Firewhiskey in hand. Nearby, Ted and Regulus also sat, each with a Firewhiskey of their own. After a tense (and somewhat harrowing) conversation, Harry had angrily left for his room, leaving three troubled men behind.
"So…" Sirius began before stopping.
Regulus nodded. "So."
Ted just shook his head in amazement. "Harry opened seven mind-streams … in order to teach himself instant wandless magic … while falling to his death … in an effort to flee attacking werewolves."
The Healer took another sip of whiskey. "How normal is this for him?" he asked in wonderment.
"Far too normal, I'm afraid," Regulus replied. "So what do we do about it? You know, in light of the fact that things like this happen with terrible regularity. And also the fact that he's a legal adult, and we don't actually have the power to set any boundaries for him that he doesn't care to respect."
All three sat silently for several moments. For his part, Sirius was thinking about the earlier conversation he'd overheard between Ted and Dan Granger. A conversation involving an unfamiliar Muggle word: counseling.
"Ted, not to change the subject—even though it sounds like I am—but what's your employment situation like right now? The Tonks Clinic will be reopening soon, but didn't you say your injuries will prevent you from casting a lot of healing spells?"
The Muggleborn nodded. "I can cast most of the basic spells, but a lot of the more sophisticated diagnostic and surgical Charms require very precise wand movements. I still can't cast them accurately, and I can't renew my Healer's certification until I can. Andi will be taking over most of the work that requires actual spellcraft. I'll be sticking mainly to consultation and potion-brewing. Why?"
Sirius looked at him speculatively. "I need to talk to Dumbledore. But if he's amenable, how would you feel about taking on some additional job responsibilities of a more … academic nature? Paid for by House Black, of course."
Ted crooked an eyebrow. "Go on."
From the desk of Albus Dumbledore
29 August 1994
To All Hogwarts Students
By now, you will have all received your 1994 Hogwarts letters containing your booklists and other general information pertaining to the coming school year. I have elected to personally send out this addendum to apprise you all of certain new developments which could not have been publicly revealed yet at the time the supply letter was distributed. Those developments have since been finalized. Hence this missive.
(It was suggested that I should wait until the Sorting Feast to make the announcement so as "not to spoil the surprise." I found this suggestion preposterous, not least because by this point, "the surprise" is perhaps the worst-kept secret in Wizarding Britain.
But I digress.)
It is my great pleasure to inform you all that during this coming year, the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry will host the Triwizard Tournament. Or, less theatrically, Hogwarts will host an international academic competition between our own school, the Beauxbatons Academy of Magic, and the Durmstrang Institute, a competition which the ICW has elected to dub the Triwizard Tournament as a nod to the historical and somewhat infamous inter-scholastic competition last held in 1792. Personally, given the circumstances under which the original Triwizard Tournament was discontinued, I found it lurid and even disrespectful to revive the name, but on this matter, I was outvoted. For those of you who don't know what I am talking about, consider it an invitation to pursue self-study in international wizarding history. In any case, regardless of that somewhat bloody history, I assure you that in the new Triwizard Tournament, the safety of all competitors will be paramount.
In the coming year, our school will be host to a variety of academic contests which will pit our students against those of the other schools in friendly yet spirited competition. Tentatively, the plans call for competitions based on a variety of scholastic subjects, a junior dueling tournament, and, of course, some form of interscholastic Quidditch competition. But the centerpiece of the Triwizard Tournament will be the selection of three students, one for each school, to serve as the official school Champions who will compete in a series of three Challenges over the course of the year. The ultimate winner, in addition to bringing glory to their alma mater, will be given an award of 1,000 Galleons, a princely sum for an academic contest, I hope you will all agree!
The three Champions will be selected on the 31st of October. To ensure complete impartiality, the Champions will be selected by a magical artifact known as the Goblet of Fire (which was recently on display at the Quidditch World Cup). The Goblet will also set the three Challenges in which the Champions must compete, though the artifact will be guided in setting the Challenges by a series of design parameters which will be scrupulously reviewed by a panel of experts to ensure the safety of the Champions.
Nevertheless, while every effort will be made to protect the selected Champions from harm, I must remind you that the Challenges will be designed to test the skills of NEWTs level students, and so it is impossible to eliminate completely the risk of injuries. Accordingly, before a student can submit their name for consideration, they must either be a legal adult by the 31st of October or else have a signed permission form from a parent or guardian. Even then, given the Tournament's focus on NEWT-level education, it is unlikely that the Goblet would ever pick a Champion who was below Sixth Year.
The Tournament will formally begin on 29 October with the arrival of the Beauxbaton and Durmstrang delegations. In addition to several faculty members from each of those schools, Hogwarts will play host to Beauxbatons and Durmstrang students representing ten percent of each school's student body. As part of this exchange program, visiting students will participate in several Hogwarts classes while select Hogwarts students will have the opportunity to study under visiting professors teaching in their individual areas of expertise.
We will also be joined on the 29th by the judges for the Triwizard Tournament, which consist of the Headmasters of the three schools, the Directors of the British Departments of International Magical Cooperation and of Magical Games and Sports, and a number of esteemed wizards and witches from across Britain and Europe. The judging panel includes the following:
Representing Hogwarts (in addition to myself)
Bartemius Crouch, Director, British Department of International Magical Cooperation
Ludovic Bagman, Director, Department of Magical Games and Sports
Elphias Doge, Master Herbologist
Griselda Marchbanks, Governor, British Wizarding Examinations Authority
Horace Slughorn, Noted Potioneer and Hogwarts Potions Master emeritus
Igor Karkaroff, Headmaster, Durmstrang Institute
Sandor Farkas, Hungarian Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures
Marika Oxenstierna, Coach (retired), Swedish National Quidditch Team
Dino Papadiamantopoulos, Editor, Transfiguration Today
Illyria Ramadani, Charms Professor emeritus, Durmstrang Institute
Luminita Zedescu, Senior Auror, Magical Romania
Olympe Maxime, Headmistress, Beauxbatons
Julian Montmorency, Current Western European Dueling Champion
Porpentina Goldstein, Instructor, French Auror Academy
Wilhelmina Grubbly-Plank, Professor of CoMC, Beauxbatons
Gabriel Delacour, Special Attaché, French Ministry of Magic
Nicholas Flamel, Alchemist
I hope you will make all these esteemed guests and dignitaries welcome at Hogwarts. I look forward to the Sorting Feast on 1 September, when any additional questions you may have will be answered. Until then
Headmaster, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
In light of the success of last year's pilot program with the Slytherin Third Years, the Board of Governors has elected to make private rooms an option for all students. All students will remain on the same dormitory floor as their year mates, but those who desire more privacy should return the attached request form to Professor McGonagall no later than the morning that the Hogwarts Express departs from London in order to have your private rooms configured before you move in.
Unidentified Parselmouth Performs Medical Miracles!
A private break room at St. Mungo's Hospital
29 August 1994
As Ron reviewed the previous day's newspaper article that he'd found in the break room, he had strangely mixed emotions. The boy had asked, and the Healers had agreed, that his name and status as a Parselmouth be kept out of the newspapers. He honestly didn't know if it was truly possible to keep it a secret much longer, but he still recoiled from the idea of his identity getting out and his family bearing the shame of having a Parselmouth son. And worse, a son who acquired the Dark ability from Voldemort himself! Indeed, except for Ginny, the other Weasleys attributed his Parseltongue simply to "Lockhart's evil book" and didn't fully understand that You-Know-Who had literally been in his mind back in 1993.
Oh, and Merlin bless his Slytherin sister who'd been running interference for him every time another family member wanted to ask him questions!
But while Ron was relieved that no one knew him to be the mysterious Parselmouth who'd saved dozens of people, including his own brother Charlie, the day before, he was surprisingly ambivalent about his best friend, Jim Potter, the only known Parselmouth in Britain, getting all the credit for it. Under the circumstances, feeling jealous of Jim was a ridiculous response, and Ron tried to shove the emotion aside. After all, he was the one who'd insisted on anonymity, and Jim had certainly done nothing to claim credit for Ron's work with the Healers. In fact, Ron had been surprised when he and Jim had finally gotten to talk during one of Ron's rest breaks early Sunday morning, and Jim had seemed slightly jealous himself of the praise Ron had gotten from the Healers who knew of his power and encouraged him to use it to save lives.
"Emotions suck sometimes," Ron thought to himself. "I wonder if I could get someone to teach me that Oculo-thingy that lets you control them better. I bet Harry could find me a teacher."
But then, he sighed dejectedly. Jim had undertaken a brief study of Octomancy (or whatever the discipline was called) in Shamballa back during the summer of 1993 and gotten nowhere with it, which was why the Boy-Who-Lived had taken the even more extreme approach of becoming an Animagus. So if Jim couldn't learn Octobermancy, Ron thought there was no way he could possibly achieve it.
"Heck, I can't even remember how to pronounce it! Stupid magical dyslexia!"
His ruminations ceased when the door opened, and Healer Dagworth-Granger entered.
"Well, Ron? Are you ready? You're sure you're up for this?"
"I think so, Healer Dagworth-Granger. Though I'd like to go over the counterspell one more time."
"Of course. And please, call me Leonard. Healer Dagworth-Granger's a bit of a mouthful, I reckon."
Ron nodded, and Leonard took a few minutes to go over the spell with the boy. Finite Rictusempra. It was an obscure counterspell, as the Tickling Hex was a simple Second Year spell that could normally be negated easily with a common Finite Incantatem. But for what Ron was about to do, it was deemed advisable to use a countercurse that had a lot of s's.
After that, Leonard led the boy down a corridor in the Long-Term Spell-Damage Ward towards the waiting patient. Along the way, he talked amiably with the boy about his learning disability—which British wizards still referred to as Mordenkainen's Disjunction—and about possible ways to work around it. He promised to teach Ron a spell that would temporarily alter the typefaces used in his textbooks, as sometimes changing fonts would suddenly make illegible words plain to someone dyslexia. The Healer also raised the possibility of giving Ron a medical excuse for using a dicta-quill, something Ron had never even considered despite the fact that his condition also played havoc with his handwriting.
Moments later, they stepped into the private room that had been set up for hit wizard Lester Abbott, who was lying on a hospital bed under heavy restraints. His eyes were squeezed shut, and tears flowed down his cheeks as he laughed hysterically, just as he'd been doing for every waking moment since he'd been cursed five months earlier. While Ron had been briefed on the hit wizard's condition, he still shuddered in horror at the thought of being cursed with permanent uncontrollable laughter. But then, he steeled himself and summoned his Gryffindor courage before stepping forward to point his wand at the giggling, gibbering man.
"FINITE RICTUSSSSEMPRA!" Ron hissed.
There was a flash of light, and Abbott's braying laughter slowed and grew softer before coming to a stop. But then, the man's face crumpled in anguish, and he began to weep hysterically instead. Horrified, Ron stepped back, afraid he'd done something wrong. Dagworth-Granger stepped past him and efficiently cast several diagnostic spells before putting Abbott to sleep with a Somnium spell. He turned and noticed Ron's distress before putting his hands on Ron's shoulders. On his face was an expression of amazed joy.
"Ron, it's okay! Mr. Abbott's reaction was a perfectly normal response, and I'm a fool for not warning you ahead of time. He'll likely need weeks of mental health treatment to fully recover from the trauma of his experience, but Ron … you did it! The curse itself is gone! You … you broke the Toymaker's Endless Laughter Curse!"
Ron's eyes widened, and he broke out into a broad grin. At the moment, he was so happy to have saved someone from a dark curse that he didn't care who got the credit.
His good cheer would last until a few hours later, when he took a rest break and decided to finish reading the Daily Prophet in the waiting area. He almost overlooked the small article on page A-9 ("Missing Ministry Employee Connected to Cup Attacks?") until he noticed the picture that accompanied it, one which depicted Bertha Jorkins, now missing and presumed dead, whose face provoked within him a sudden and terrifying sensation of déjà vu.
Bartemius Crouch Nearly Assassinated!
Was Rogue House Elf Involved?
29 August 1994
As Percy waited patiently for Bartemius Crouch to join him so that the younger wizard could deliver his report, he took in the older wizard's study. Above the Floo from which he'd just emerged hung the Crouch family crest: a two-headed bird of some kind—either an eagle or perhaps a phoenix—clutching a wand in one claw and a sword in the other. The bird was cast in silver (or a good imitation thereof) on an azure background, and inscribed over its head was the Crouch family motto:
Per filios nostros, nos immortalis.
Through our children, we are immortal.
It was a tragically ironic motto considering the impending fall of the Ancient and Noble House of Crouch, whose children had all died a decade earlier and left a 70-year-old widower as the last of his line. Near the crest, moving photographs of both Mr. Crouch's late wives and four of his five deceased children hung on the wall. There was an empty nail sticking out of the oak paneling that hinted at where the fifth child's picture had once hung. After Percy's somewhat emotional conversation with Crouch on the topic of family, he had asked his mother and father what they knew of the man's wives and children. Naturally, between the two of them, Arthur and Molly Weasley knew all the gossip.
Bartemius Crouch Sr. had married Elaine Crouch née Doge in 1946. It was by all accounts a tempestuous and unhappy marriage. Crouch was allergic to certain ingredients in Amortentia, and if one party to a marriage could not or would not partake of the love potion, the other was legally forbidden to. Neither of them had cared for one another at school, and a loveless marriage did not improve things. Nevertheless, Elaine and Bartemius Crouch somehow managed to overcome their differences long enough to sire four children: Magnus, Olympia, Juno, and Trajan. All four went into Ravenclaw, but, as Molly delicately put it, none of them distinguished themselves. Molly and Arthur were both sorted the same year as Olympia. Molly did not remember Olympia Crouch fondly but declined to say more about it.
Elaine Crouch died in February of 1960 during a terrorist attack attributed to Alexander McAvity's Muggleborn rights movement. The widower Crouch married Melinda Burke the following year, which Molly thought was an indecently short time to wait before remarrying. But Arthur sensibly noted that, by that point, Crouch was a single father with four young children, so he was perhaps justified in seeking a new mother for them. For her part, Molly shuddered at the thought of stepping into the role of stepmother to four young children who'd lost their own mother unexpectedly and violently barely a year before. Crouch's only child by Melinda was born in 1962, and Arthur mentioned that it had caused a whiff of scandal that the child was named Bartemius Crouch Junior. While it wasn't illegal or anything to name one's child after oneself, it was considered to be bad luck among most numenographers.
Magnus, the eldest, went on to become a hit wizard, as his grades weren't quite good enough for the Auror Academy. He was also the first of his generation to die, killed in the line of duty during a Death Eater attack in the summer of 1977. As it turned out, while the Death Eater Insurrection would claim all the Crouch children in one way or another, Magnus was the only sibling to not die at the hands of their youngest brother. Evidence at Barty Jr.'s trial indicated that, as a boy, he'd been regularly mistreated and bullied by his older half-brothers and half-sisters, presumably due to their resentment both of their new stepmother and Barty Jr.'s own natural brilliance outshining them all. Arthur recalled that Barty Jr. had scored twelve Outstandings on his OWLs, just like Percy himself had, and he'd actually turned down the Head Boy position because he'd planned on sitting eight NEWTs and simply didn't have the time. During Barty Jr.'s youth, the elder Crouch had risen to become DMLE Director at the height of the Death Eater Insurgency and so was rather "hands off" when it came to childrearing, while Melinda Crouch was either unable to reign in her stepchildren or unwilling to do so out of a futile desire to overcome their resentment of her.
According to the testimony of Igor Karkaroff, the youngest Crouch took the Dark Mark soon after graduating Hogwarts. He participated in the 1979 Death Eater attack that wiped out Olympia Crouch Fawley's extended family during the Fawley Christmas Party—an entire Noble House exterminated in one night—and he personally murdered Juno Crouch and her fiancé, Lancelot Marchbanks (the Marchbanks Heir), just days before their wedding. Poor Trajan was still single when Barty Jr. cornered him and tortured him for twenty minutes with the Cruciatus before finally killing him. According to Arthur, Alastor Moody had speculated that Barty Jr.'s real purpose in attacking the Longbottoms might have been to take out Augusta, Frank, and Neville, the last living people other than Barty Sr. who could claim to be members of House Crouch.
And yet despite all the evidence, Bartemius Crouch Jr. denied everything to the last, even under Veritaserum. Arthur said the boy was still tearfully proclaiming his innocence and begging his father to believe him even as he was being dragged off to Azkaban. Supposedly, the Death Eater Crouch had been a protégé of Augustus Rookwood, and so his Occlumency was good enough to fool Veritaserum. Indeed, it was likely so good that Barty Jr. might well have genuinely believed in his own innocence in the murder of all four of his siblings.
As Percy grimly contemplated the near-extinction of the Ancient and Noble House of Crouch, the door opened, and the Lord of the House entered the room.
"Good evening, Percy," Crouch said wearily. "Sorry to have kept you waiting. Blimpy, my only remaining house elf, has spent most of his lifetime as a gardener, and he's … still adjusting to performing Winky's former duties."
"I'm so sorry to hear about what happened to Winky, sir," Percy said sincerely. "I know she must have been with you for quite a long time."
Crouch waved off the sympathy as he took his seat behind the desk. "She's at Hogwarts now. Perhaps I'll see her again in the coming year."
Percy nodded. He anticipated that both of them would be spending a good bit of time at Hogwarts with the Tournament.
"I've been wondering, sir. Have you given any thought to how Winky ended up with Jim Potter's wand?"
The older man frowned. "I find it inconceivable that Winky played any role in what happened to the Potter boy's wand or in what purposes it was used for, if that's what you're asking."
"Oh, of course not, Mr. Crouch. But did you ever have the chance to talk to Winky after you brought her home?"
"Briefly, but she was too distraught to tell me anything useful. Indeed, I suspect she may have been Confunded or worse. But I have the beginnings of a theory."
Crouch looked at his aide cautiously, as if wary of the troubling idea he was about to share.
"I believe you and I were not meant to survive the destruction of my tent."
Percy's eyes shot up in surprise as Crouch continued.
"Or more accurately, I think I was not meant to survive it. You just had the misfortune to be working late and then falling asleep at your desk. I think Winky did something to disrupt the collapse of the tent's spatial expansion Charms. The Dark Mark was cast above the tent, after all. My assassination in conjunction with the Dark Mark would have solidified the public view that Death Eaters were behind the attack. But Winky saved us. And then, for her troubles, she was cursed by my would-be assassin and then left stunned and with the intended murder weapon on her person."
"But why? Why try to implicate a house elf? And why stun her instead of killing her outright?"
Crouch shrugged. "And that is where my deductions fail me. I suspect that some elements of the attack did not go to plan, most notably, me not dying as intended. Perhaps the attacker had to improvise. Not for the first time, I wish Rufus Scrimgeour were still alive. He and I may not have been the best of friends, but I'll wager he could have figured out what was really going on."
"Mr. Crouch," Percy asked cautiously. "Do you really think it was the Australians behind all this?"
The man shook his head. "There's been too much misdirection. Too much smoke and mirrors. Last year, a group of foreigners, all apparently Metamorphmagi, staged a prison break from Azkaban and displayed a highly advanced understanding of warding to do so. Then, a few months later, people in Death Eater garb attacked Hogsmeade under the command of a member of Fenrir Greyback's pack except Polyjuiced to look like Sirius Black! Then, James Potter's own Seneschal is revealed as a Death Eater right before he breaks Augustus Rookwood out of jail and nearly cripples the Auror Corps in the process. And then, bloody McAvity shows back up, followed immediately by obviously fake Death Eaters who can nevertheless summon the Dark Mark! Smoke and mirrors!"
Crouch sighed in exasperation. "Did you know, Percy, that it was my intention to retire from politics next year? Retire, give the Crouch proxy over to House Longbottom, and devote my remaining years to gardening. Specifically, the cultivation of rare orchids. The Quidditch World Cup and the Triwizard Tournament were to be the capstones of my career. And now the Cup has been marred by unprecedented violence, and the Tournament will be held at Hogwarts with the Dark Lord McAvity in attendance!"
"It's not as bad as all that, I'm sure, Mr. Crouch. If the DMLE moves quickly with its investigation, McAvity will be arrested and prosecuted if guilty or else he'll be released to return to Australia. Either way, the matter will hopefully be resolved before the other schools arrive."
Crouch smiled wanly. "I suppose you're right. Besides, Dumbledore, for all his … eccentricities, runs a fairly tight ship at Hogwarts. And anyway, it's just an academic competition. What's the worst that could happen?"
30 August 1994Poolside at Longbottom Manor
"The problem is one of stability," said Sue Li while reapplying Muggle sunscreen. "Brooms are built to be aerodynamic, but only in the air. Once you add Protego Mutandis to the mix and then try to propel the broom through water, it destabilizes. Lean a bit too much one way or the other, and suddenly, you go into an uncontrolled corkscrew pattern."
Joining Harry and Neville around the Longbottom pool were Theo, Sue, Anthony, Amy, and Ginny. Sue wore a one-piece bathing suit that the Pureblood boys found endlessly fascinating, as apparently none of them had ever seen female thighs before. Ginny and Amy both wore bathing costumes that would have been considered quite risqué … in the 1890's. They were both simultaneously scandalized and jealous over Sue's attire.
"So what's the solution?" Harry asked before taking a sip of lemonade.
"We're not entirely sure there is one if we're limited to a single broom," Anthony replied. "We're running up against the symbolic properties of a broom operating in an environment it wasn't meant for. Remember what Professor Babbling said on our first day of Ancient Runes. A broom can fly because of the occult significance of the runes carved into it, one of which is Ehwaz, which in this context means a horse that can be ridden. But you don't ride horses underwater, so the symbolism breaks down."
Harry's brow furrowed. "What about two brooms flying in tandem? Linked together somehow?"
Sue shrugged. "I suppose that would solve the stability issues. But can brooms even do that?"
"Oh yeah," Ginny spoke up from the small raft floating in the pool. "Easily. Actually, most modern brooms are made to do that."
"That makes sense," Neville said. "Remember back in first year when we were going to ship Hagrid's dragon to Romania by broom?"
Harry smirked. "Yes, I do seem to recall rescuing you all from that plan."
Neville snorted. "Anyway, it turns out that if you sync up a pair of brooms, they can be flown in tandem with one flyer controlling the directions for both. That's how they were going to fly a baby dragon in a cage all the way to Romania while suspended between two brooms."
"Exactly," Ginny added. "I had to do that with Drusilla Crabbe's broom back during our first flying lesson when she went out of control. All you have to do is grab the other person's broom handle and concentrate hard enough to overcome the will of the other flyer—assuming they even try to resist. The other person's broom will sync up with yours, and you can control them both. It's a safety feature that allows, for instance, parents to sync up with their kids' brooms and made sure no one wanders off while flying in a group. It's also why there's such a serious penalty for intentionally grabbing another player's broom handle during a Quidditch match."
Harry looked thoughtful for a bit. Then, he picked up the notebook and pen that Anthony Goldstein had brought for taking notes on their experiments. Quickly, he sketched out the crude shape of two brooms with a chair in between them.
"How about this? Can we have a chair for the pilot to sit in with a broom on each side synced together and under his control? Would that work?"
The two Ravenclaws studied his drawing.
"It very well might," said Anthony. "We'd need a sympathetic link between the chair and the two brooms. Something to control them both along the lines of a joystick in a jet's cockpit."
"… Cockpit? Joystick?" Theo mouthed towards Neville, who didn't recognize the unfamiliar yet seemingly rude words either. Meanwhile, Sue Li's eyes widened. She snatched up the notebook and added a curved triangular shape that surrounded the brooms and the chair.
"That will work. But more than that! If we use the chair and the two brooms as a frame and then build a structure around it …! Anthony, we could build the external shape however we wanted! We can eliminate drag! We could make a hull strong enough to reinforce the Protego Mutandis and reduce the energy requirements while also enabling it to go deeper without collapsing. And we could inscribe whatever runes we wanted to in order to add additional magical properties!"
Anthony rolled his eyes. "Merlin's balls, woman! Are you still thinking about trying to find Lost Atlantis?!"
"No! Shut up!" Sue snapped, suddenly embarrassed.
"Waitaminute!" Neville interrupted with a laugh. "Atlantis?!"
Sue Li fumed before responding. "No, not Atlantis! If there ever was a real Atlantis, there's nothing left to find at the bottom of the ocean after thousands of years. But over 70% of the Earth's surface is covered by water. We have no idea how many ley line convergences there are under the oceans. There could be inexhaustible magical power down there just waiting for us to discover it!"
"And there could be ley line convergences on the Moon," Anthony added. "Why don't we take time off from our other projects to work on getting up there while we're at it."
Harry grinned as he studied the drawing. "Why not both? We're wizards and witches. Who says we can't multitask!"
The others laughed.
"Anyway," Anthony continued, "the biggest problem I see is figuring out how to link two different brooms into a single mechanism that you can sit in and pilot. And by 'problem,' I just mean that I don't know what Charms would be required. But we'll be at Hogwarts in a few days, and I'll ask Professor Flitwick about it."
"Flitwick?" Theo asked. "Not Babbling?"
"Well, aside from being my Head of House and therefore more approachable, Flitwick is the guy to go to about obscure Charms. Once we know what Charms we'll need to incorporate, then we can talk to Babbling about how to inscribe them properly."
Harry nodded but then grew thoughtful. "Off topic, but that reminds me. I've got a question about Filius Flitwick, and I thought if anyone knew the answer, it would be my two Ravenclaw friends. But just between us, is Flitwick part-Goblin?"
Anthony and Sue looked at one another. "Would it matter if he was?" Sue said cautiously.
"Not in the sense you probably mean," Harry replied. "It just … I've got that meeting at Gringotts coming up. And if Flitwick is part-Goblin but also, as you said, approachable, I was thinking I might contact him for advice on working with Goblins without getting cheated or, worse, beheaded or something."
"Okay, then," Anthony said. "I'll tell you what we know. First of all, I've seen no indication that he has any current connection with the Goblins or Gringotts. Or at least, no more than any other wizard. As for his ancestry, well, there are two theories about it in Ravenclaw House. One is that he is one-quarter Goblin on his father's side, and his Goblin ancestor is someone important at Gringotts. So much so that by the end of his First Year, he went from weird little outcast who everyone picked on as a 'tiny halfbreed' to the most popular Ravenclaw in his year who everyone wanted to be friends with. Of course it helped that, whatever his parentage, Flitwick's a genius even by Ravenclaw standards. First in his class every year he was in school and easily the shortest Head Boy in Hogwarts history. Plus, he brought home his first dueling trophy the summer after his First Year. But yeah, the most popular rumor is that Flitwick isn't just part-Goblin, he's descended from Goblin royalty."
"Uh-huh," said Harry with a dubious expression. "And what's the other theory?"
Sue laughed. "That he's a brilliant Halfblood or possibly even a Muggleborn who suffers from congenital achondroplastic dwarfism."
No one except Anthony recognized the term so she expanded.
"It's a Muggle medical condition that results in a person's limbs not growing properly so that they are unusually short their whole lives. Little people, they're sometimes called. The condition is basically unheard of among actual wizards, though apparently Squibs can develop it. I think I read somewhere that there's a small group of Squib little people in Aberdeen or somewhere who work as entertainers. But anyway, since no one had ever heard of a dwarf who actually had magic—and, in fact, a lot of magic in Flitwick's case—some Pureblood classmates overheard a reference to him being a dwarf and thought it meant he was part magical creature. The way I heard it, when the stories got back to Flitwick, he decided to run with it and managed to create the rumors about his royal Goblin ancestry through the tactic of loudly and vehemently denying that he had any such ancestry at strategic moments."
Harry grinned. "Strategically denying a false rumor in such a way that people only become more inclined to believe it. I'm gonna have to remember that trick."
Wizengamot Welcomes Two New Families:
Noble House of Abbott and Ancient and Noble
House of Warrington
31 August 1994
Outside the Wizengamot Chamber
As Corban Yaxley made his way towards Cassilda Selwyn in the aftermath of the Wizengamot session, he noticed a smirk on her face so faint that only family members who knew her well might possibly recognize it as amusement. She knew what he wanted to talk about and already found it funny. Corban clamped down on his Occlumency to bring his emotions under control … unsuccessfully.
"Warrington? Seriously, Warrington?" he hissed angrily.
"You question Grandfather's decision?" Cassilda asked in reply after putting up a privacy ward with a wordless flick of her wand. "Or mine?"
"I … yes, Cousin, frankly, I do! Because Antonius Warrington is an absolute arse-head! And you know it!"
"True," the Selwyn Seneschal replied airily. "But you have not been without missteps yourself, Cousin Corban."
Yaxley choked down his first three responses in favor of something more diplomatic.
"Cousin, my missteps consist of minor hiccups in the World Cup operation. All of them were the result of the actions of people not under my control or acting outside my orders, and none of them interfered in any way with the operation's success. Warrington, on the other hand, played no meaningful role in things except the minor and non-essential task of fixing an exhibition Quidditch game in order to ratchet up tensions between the British and the Australians. Alexander McAvity's mere presence did more to achieve that than anything Warrington did."
"Valid points, Corban," the witch said with a smile. "Of course, we cannot forget the embarrassment you caused House Selwyn when you spoke out of turn before our Lord."
Yaxley glanced around quickly to see if anyone reacted to that despite the privacy shield.
"Well, I certainly can't forget suffering the Cruciatus Curse for speaking out of turn, Cousin. But I fail to see how that faux pas places me in an inferior position to Warrington given the fact that we haven't told him anything about the Dark Lord's existence for fear he might do something stupid to cock things up!"
Before Yaxley could go into a full-blown tirade, Cassilda reached up and put a finger on his lips to silence him.
"Enough, Corban. I know your ambitions, and I promise you: If you remain loyal to our House and diligent in our cause, all that you desire will one day be yours. But that day will come when Grandfather decides and not before. And in the meantime, he has decided that House Warrington will be elevated to Ancient and Noble status and not House Yaxley. I suggest you come to terms with it. It would be a shame for all your hard work to be undone by intra-house jealousy."
Yaxley grimaced. "Very well. But at least tell me why."
She smiled and patted him on the cheek condescendingly. "There are two things I will reveal to you in answer to your question, Corban. First, remember that most gifts we grant come with strings attached. And I can assure you, Cousin, that the strings that now bind Cousin Antonius are not the sort of strings you want anywhere near you. More than that, I cannot say. But believe me when I tell you that Grandfather and I both value you too much to grant you the boon we have given to dear, sweet Cousin Antonius."
The Death Eater studied Cassilda Selwyn intently and then slowly nodded his head. He understood now. The Family needed the Warringtons to be an Ancient and Noble family, but despite the prestigiousness of the title, it was somehow a poisoned chalice from which he had been spared.
"And the other thing?" he finally asked.
"Merely that there was one reason above all others why we chose to grant this boon to Cousin Antonius rather than you, Corban."
Cassilda leaned towards him and smirked cruelly. "At the end of the day, Antonius Selwyn is prettier than you are."
And with that, the Selwyn Seneschal turned and walked away, leaving a confused and mildly insulted Corban Yaxley in her wake.
Amos Diggory of DRCMC Denies Reports
Of Barghests Used During Attack!
Are Followers of Grindelwald Involved?
The Diggory Household
"Honestly!" Amos Diggory exclaimed as he perused the Daily Prophet. "A Barghest at the World Cup?! Stuff and nonsense! Amelia really should get her Aurors under control if they're going around spreading wild rumors like this. If there had been a Barghest running around at the Cup, one would think that someone who knows something about dangerous creatures would have reported it to my department, don't you agree?"
"I suppose so," Cedric mumbled while dragging his fork through his uneaten mashed potatoes.
"So, what do you think it really was?" he quickly added before his father chastised him. Amos always became cross when Cedric didn't enunciate properly. Perhaps because it reminded them both of how hard the elder Diggorys had worked with Cedric to get rid of his stammer before he started Hogwarts and embarrassed the family with it.
Amos frowned for a moment but then shrugged and returned to the article. "No idea. But Corban Yaxley says he thinks that Dawlish just got Confunded by one of those Australian Mudbloods and is too ashamed to admit it. So he's sticking with his story of getting jumped by an invisible monster. Sounds likely to me."
"Father, please don't … use that word, okay?" the boy said firmly.
Amos looked at him in surprise. "What? Mudblood?" Cedric gave him a disapproving look and, for once, was not the first one to look away. Amos sighed.
"Yes, yes. You're quite right, Cedric," he finally said. "It's not a proper word for a family of our social and political standing. I shall do my best to avoid it in the future."
Privately, Cedric thought the vulgar slur was inappropriate for anyone of any social or political standing, but he decided to remain silent and accept whatever small victory he could.
"Another slice of pie, dear?" inquired Mrs. Diggory as she returned from the kitchen.
"No thank you, darling," her husband answered without looking up from the paper.
She sat down next to her husband before turning to Cedric. "Oh, by the way, Cedric, I thought you might want to know. Molly Weasley sent a Floo message this afternoon. She says poor Charlie is expected to leave St. Mungo's tomorrow with a full recovery. Isn't that wonderful?"
A mixture of emotions washed over the Hufflepuff's face. "Yes, it is! A full recovery, you say?"
"Well, for the most part," his mother answered with a somewhat sad expression. "I gather those scars left from the curse will never fade completely. He'll be up and about soon, but he'll always carry a reminder of what happened."
At that, Cedric suddenly looked stricken. "That's … that's a shame. Anyway, I think I'll go up to my room and make double-sure I packed everything. I'm not very hungry anyway."
With that, the boy left the table and headed upstairs, while Amos impassively watched him depart.
Moments later, Cedric was up in his room staring vacantly at his trunk, which he knew had been fully packed earlier that afternoon. He sat down on the bed and put his head into his hands while he willed his heart rate to slow down to something approaching normal.
"Cedric?" came a soft voice from the doorway. Cedric looked up. It was his father.
"We should have told them what happened," Cedric said flatly. "We should have been honest about everything."
Amos Diggory stepped into his son's room and closed the door behind him.
"Honesty is a Hufflepuff virtue, Cedric. I know. I was one too. But loyalty is also a House virtue for us. You heard what your mother said. Charlie Weasley is going to recover fully. I know that what happened was terrible and was almost a tragedy. But in the end, everything turned out okay. There's no sense embarrassing the family, damaging my political status, and undermining your own prospects out of a misplaced sense of guilt."
Cedric started to speak, but Amos cut him off. "And besides, Cedric, you know what it would do to your poor mother if this unfortunate business were revealed. Why, Molly Weasley has been her best friend since they were at school together. It would break her heart."
Cedric tried again to argue against his father, but the image of his mother crying once she knew the truth of what happened was too much. He looked down at the floor and then slowly nodded.
"Good, good," said Amos as he sat down on the bed. "Cedric, I know how … upsetting all that was. But you have to focus past it. This is an important year for you. I mean—The Triwizard Tournament at Hogwarts! Think of what doors it could open for you! For a start, you'll be guaranteed as Head Boy next year. And with that comes your pick of Ministry jobs!"
"What if I don't want …" Cedric caught himself before finishing. "What if I don't want to be in the Triwizard Tournament, Father? I mean, people have died in this tournament before!"
Amos scoffed. "That was centuries ago, Cedric! I'm sure Albus Dumbledore will make certain that the competitors are perfectly safe. And whatever risk there is, my boy, I know you're more than up to the challenge. You've been top of your Year since you started Hogwarts. Quidditch captain. Ten OWLs, eight of them Outstanding. And now on the Auror track! You have nothing to fear from the Triwizard Tournament. And once you win that, there'll be no stopping you! You'll be the youngest Minister for Magic in history!"
Cedric didn't look up. "Is it really that you want me to be the youngest Minister in history, Father? Or is it more about how you just want to be the next Minister after Cornelius Fudge?"
Amos's eyes flashed angrily for a second, but then, he smiled with paternal affection. Or an approximation thereof.
"Why not both? I won't deny that I think I could do a better job than Cornelius. Or that you winning the Tournament might help me to win a few votes at the Septennial. But even then, surely you see how me becoming Minister will be good for the whole family. And haven't I always taught you that the most important Hufflepuff virtue is family?"
The boy finally looked up into his father's eyes as if searching them for something. "Right," he finally said in a thick voice. "Family."
The older man smiled and patted his son on the back. "Good! Now then, let's just forget about that unpleasantness at the Cup and look ahead to the future. And to the long and successful life that's ahead of you."
"… To the future."
Amos rose and opened the door before turning back to Cedric. "You know I'll always be proud of you no matter what, right, son?"
"Of course, Father," Cedric lied. "I've never doubted it."
The elder Diggory grinned and left the room, closing the door behind him. Cedric exhaled deeply and lay back on the bed before rubbing his hands over his face. He couldn't wait to be back at Hogwarts. The pressure there to be perfect was always intense, but it was somehow far more bearable than what he felt at home.
1 September 1994
4 Privet Drive, Surrey
"Come on, Jim!" James yelled up the stairs. "We need to get you through the Floo to the Burrow so I can get to work on time!"
If James Potter seemed unusually frazzled, it was because this was literally the first time that he had been solely responsible for getting the boy ready for school. In years past, either Lily had been on hand to help (along with a trio of house elves) or they'd sent Jim ahead to the Weasleys beforehand. But with the drama at the Cup, they had decided to keep Jim at home until the day the Express left only for Lily to be called in to Hogwarts unexpectedly. The Goblet of Fire was to be delivered to Hogwarts today, and Albus, out of a healthy sense of paranoia, had asked Lily to come in and assist with the protective wards he would be casting around it.
Perhaps worse, this was the first time in years that James had been in a job that didn't allow him to skive off work at his own discretion. Unfortunately, James had embarrassed Director Yaxley in front of the Minister and the Chief Auror during the Quidditch World Cup fiasco, and the ex-Death Eater had petulantly gotten his revenge by instituting stricter office hours for the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office. Excessive time spent out of the office while not on official business (including tardiness) would result in docked pay, and at the moment, the Potters really couldn't afford that just because Jim had neglected to finish packing the night before. As it was, James would have to skip breakfast just to make it in on time.
Seconds later, a breathless Jim entered the room carrying Steve the Kingsnake's terrarium with a black cloth covering it. The boy also had a broom-carrying case slung over his shoulder. With a gasp, he set the two items on top of his trunk, which was already next to the fireplace.
James checked his watch again with a grimace and then reached for a pinch of Floo powder when Jim cried out.
"Wait!" The boy spent a few precious seconds patting his pockets before finally producing a crinkled piece of parchment. "I still need you to sign my Hogsmeade permission form."
"I thought your mother already signed it," James said irritably while reaching for his wand.
"I meant to give it to her, but I kept forgetting," Jim said sheepishly while holding out the parchment for his father.
"Honestly, Jim! You need to be more responsible about these things! SIGNARE!"
A flash of light from James's wand struck the parchment, instantly inscribing James's signature without even the need to unfold it.
"There. Now get a move on!"
Seconds later, Jim stepped out of the fireplace in the Burrow with his terrarium in hand. His trunk and other things followed soon after via James's levitation spell.
Only then did Jim's face break out into a broad grin as he pulled out the parchment once more to double-check that his father's signature was in place.
It was not a Hogsmeade permission slip.
From the Daily Quibbler
Minister Cornelius Fudge Accused
of Baking Goblins Into Pies!
Will Culinary Excess Lead To Revolt?
1 September 1994
With supreme effort, Harry Black fought down the urge to yawn. While normally an early riser, he'd had to get up extra early this morning. The Hogwarts Express was scheduled to depart at eleven o'clock on the dot, but this meeting with the Goblins was important to Eye-Spy's immediate future, and they would only meet with him on the first of the month. And so, Harry rose before dawn to make sure everything was packed for Hogwarts and ready to be sent off with Theo and Amy. Then, he put on his best robes and Side-Apparated along with his solicitors, Artemus Podmore and Hestia Jones, to the steps of Gringotts. Before entering, Hestia advised him strongly against yawning. Or, worse, looking at his watch.
Once the meeting began, Harry felt himself quite discomfited by the assembly before him despite his usual poise. With the drama surrounding the World Cup, interest in Eye-Spy recordings of the various matches was incredibly high. So high, in fact, that a group of Fourth Year students, no matter how gifted, couldn't possibly meet the demand once school resumed. And so, Harry had asked his solicitors to reach out to Gringotts, the one business entity that could assist in expanding the company. In fact, given the nature of the British wizarding economics, it was the only entity legally permitted to do so.
Artie and Hestia had spent several days on the preliminary negotiations and the development of a business plan and a contract. For a surprisingly small cut of the profits, the Goblins would oversee background checks on wizards, witches, and squibs who would handle the practical business functions of Eye-Spy Inc., including generating copies of the matches suitable for viewing, collecting orders, and shipping out both recordings and magic mirrors to play them on. The bank would also rent Harry a vacant property large enough to be converted into a factory and see that it was properly warded.
What Harry did not anticipate was that the final presentation, hopefully followed by mutual signing of the contracts, would require his physical presence and would have to be made before the Gringotts Board of Directors, with King Ragnok the Bloody himself presiding over things. The boy was even more troubled to realize that, of the seven Goblins sitting at the far end of the long table, Ragnok the Bloody had the least intimidating name. The other six, who all wore ill-fitting and badly wrinkled business suits—Harry was sure one of them had a bloodstain on his necktie—bore such names as Skull-Crusher, Throat-Slicer, Eye-Gouger, Rib-Splitter, Foe-Hammer, and Krunch (spelled with a K according to the Goblin's nameplate).
Harry privately thought Mr. Krunch was the most intimidating despite the handicap of apparent blindness. Certainly Krunch was the oldest, as he appeared quite decrepit and slightly mad. All of the Goblins had terrible, bestial faces with sharp jutting teeth, long pointy noses, and jet-black eyes. Mr. Krunch's eyes, however, were covered with what appeared to be a thick bandage fashioned out of a dingy-looking leather strap. Long scar running across his face and under the bandage hinted at what had led to the loss of both eyes. What Harry found especially intimidating was the fact that Mr. Krunch somehow seemed to stare intently at the boy through the duration of the meeting despite his blindness.
The boy sat quietly and sought to ignore Mr. Krunch's burning non-gaze while Artemus presented their business plan. The young Slytherin had a strong impression that the Goblins' intimidation tactics were largely for show, but Artie advised him to treat everything with the utmost seriousness. No matter how legitimate the Board's current hostility towards the three of them in particular was, all Goblins hated wizards in general due to wizarding laws that forbade Goblins (among other creatures) from using or even touching wands.
That unpleasant business only came up once during Harry's meeting. At one point, Hestia clarified that at least some of Eye-Spy's employees would have to be capable of wanded magic, though nothing beyond the OWL level. At the mention of wands, all seven of the Goblins growled audibly. After an hour of negotiations, however, the wizards and the Goblins hammered out a deal, which was then memorialized in contracts signed with blood quills. Then, after a few final perfunctory snarls and insults about "wand-waving fools," the meeting was ended.
"On behalf of Lord Wilkes, I thank you for your assistance in these matters," Artie said respectfully.
Ragnok the Bloody sneered in response. "We care nothing for your gratitude, wizard! Only for the gold to be made from your venture!"
With that, the two solicitors bowed towards the Goblins and then ushered Harry out of the meeting room. Just after the door had closed behind him, however, Harry stiffened, as he suddenly felt the now-familiar sensation of a kaleidoscope turning in his head. It was the precursor to his Legilimency giving him some insight through an incredible deductive leap. Only this time, the kaleidoscope kept turning but the insight never came. Surprised by this new sensation, Harry turned back and stared at the door to the boardroom as if willing himself to see through it to whatever lay beyond that he must have missed.
"Harry?" Hestia spoke up. "It's 10:30. We need to hurry if you're going to make the Hogwarts Express on time."
The boy glanced up at her and, just like that, the strange feeling was gone. He cast one last look at the door but felt nothing more. Harry shrugged and followed the two solicitors out of the bank.
Dark Lord McAvity Claims Sanctuary at Hogwarts!
Has Dumbledore Finally Gone Mad?
The Hogwarts Express
"Mad?" Daphne snorted at the Daily Prophet headline. "Of course he's gone mad! He's allowing a Dark Lord to lounge about in a school full of children! He might kill us all!"
Tracey gave an annoyed sigh. "Honestly, Daphne, calm down. McAvity isn't going to kill anyone. Even if he were that sort of wizard, he's under house arrest at Hogwarts, and if he gets caught trying anything, he'll probably go straight to Azkaban."
The two friends sat next to one another in their compartment on the Hogwarts Express while awaiting its departure. Initially, Tracey had hopes that they'd have the compartment to themselves, but to her quiet dismay, they were soon joined by a gaggle of Slytherin girls (including Daphne's sister Astoria and Pansy bloody Parkinson!), all of whom were active in the Cultural Preservation Society and all of whom were full of hysterical rumors about the Dark Lord McAvity and his dire intentions for the school's Purebloods.
Suddenly, Tracey was acutely aware of her status as the only non-Pureblood in the compartment.
"Pfft!" said Drusilla Crabbe who, as usual, looked as though there were a foul odor just under her nose. "He should already be in Azkaban, given his crimes! The whole thing makes a mockery of our judicial system."
Tracey said nothing, but she did crack her knuckles loud enough for Daphne to hear and glance over in her direction with concern. Both girls were well aware of the fact that Drusilla's father bore the Dark Mark and had escaped Azkaban himself due to an Imperius defense. Indeed, Daphne's father had warned both his daughters and also Tracey to never be in the room alone with any of the Crabbe children in case they'd been instructed to take revenge on House Greengrass for not supporting You-Know-Who.
"By the way," Astoria asked somewhat timidly. "Dumb question I know, but … what were McAvity's crimes. Was he a terrorist or something?"
There was a susurration from the Slytherin girls as they looked around the compartment and muttered softly. It seemed none of the girls could answer Astoria's question despite McAvity's notoriety.
"Well, I don't know the specifics," Pansy said with a sneer, "but I'm sure the filthy Mudblood deserved to be Kissed for them."
(Unbeknownst to Pansy, using that word in the present company immediately caused ten Galleons to be deducted from her father's vaults.)
"I know what his crimes were," Tracey finally said in a cold voice. Daphne looked at her in surprise.
The blond Slytherin ignored her friend. Instead, she just glared at Pansy with her chin raised.
"After Lockhart first mentioned McAvity back in Second Year, I was curious, so I went and looked him up in the Prophet back issues. He was accused of masterminding everything his followers supposedly did after he fled the country. But as far as actual charges? There was only one … academic fraud!"
The compartment went silent as the girls pondered Tracey's comment.
"Wait … what?" Astoria asked incredulously.
"McAvity had three articles published in the British Journal of Charms Research under a fake name because the Journal at that time had a policy of not accepting submissions from Muggleborns. After all three articles were published and one of them was even nominated for a prestigious international award, McAvity revealed the truth, hoping it would shame the Journal into reversing its policy. Instead, the editors decided to press charges of fraud, and the DMLE Director at the time—who I believe was your grandfather, Pansy—announced he would pursue the maximum penalty of fifteen years in Azkaban. Although I suppose he'd have asked for the Dementor's Kiss if it had been an option. Instead, McAvity was able to get out of the country before he could be arrested."
"… Well," Drusilla said after a long pause. "Surely the fact that he fled just proves he was guilty of something … right?"
Tracey looked around the compartment for a few seconds before nodding. "You're right, Drusilla. Obviously, he was guilty of something."
The Halfblood stood and moved to open the door before turning back to the other girls. Astoria stared at her wide-eyed while Daphne was already wincing.
"After all," Tracey said coldly, "McAvity could have always stayed in Britain instead and simply claimed he'd been Imperius'd into submitting those articles under a fake name, right?"
And with that, Tracey Davis slammed the door shut behind her and stormed off while the two girls she'd grown up with as sisters called after her to no avail.
Elsewhere, Jim Potter had just climbed onto the Express with Ron Weasley following after. To Jim's surprise, he was immediately met by Hannah Abbott, who was grinning excitedly.
"Hi, Jim!" she exclaimed before leaning in closer and whispering. "I just wanted you to know—my Uncle Lester still has a few weeks of recovery with the Mind Healers, but they say he's expected to make a full recovery! He'll be out of St. Mungo's by the end of the month!"
"Gee, Hannah … that's … wonderful?" said Jim with a degree of confusion. He was pretty sure this was the longest conversation he'd ever had with the bubbly Hufflepuff.
Hannah looked around conspiratorially to make sure no one else was listening.
"Listen, Jim. I know you want to keep this quiet. None of the healers ever mentioned your name. And I swear I won't tell anyone else, but … Thank you so much!
With that, the girl suddenly leaned in quickly and gave the Boy-Who-Lived a peck on the cheek before turning and darting back down the train.
Jim stared after her in abject confusion, while Ron just stood beside him with his mouth hanging open.
"Do you have any idea what that was about?" Jim asked his best mate, who for some reason gave him a look of sudden consternation.
"Let's just get a compartment," Ron grumbled before stepping past his confused friend and heading off in the opposite direction from Hannah.
The "Harry's Braintrust" Compartment
Harry made the Express just in time and quickly found the compartment that housed his closest friends (and adopted family in three cases): Theo, Neville, Hermione, Blaise, Luna, Amy, and Ginny. While Harry had many other friends and allies, these eight represented the ones he trusted with virtually everything. Or at least, he would be trusting them all once he could get Luna and Ginny somewhere he could swear them to proper oaths. Idly, he wondered if Ginny had any interest in learning Occlumency.
And speaking of Ginny, the second Harry stepped into the compartment, she gave him a pointed look. He responded with a curt nod followed by a slight tilt of his head to the left, which was Slytherin for "Yes, I have the illegal book you gave me, and I'll give it back to you soon." She nodded back and returned to the copy of Quidditch Weekly she was perusing. Of the others present, only Blaise and Theo were Slytherin enough to have caught the exchange, but neither of them gave any sign of interest.
For her part, Luna seemed engrossed by a book she was reading entitled The Art of Origami, which explained the dozen or so birds and other animals on the seat next to her that she'd been fashioning out of paper. As Harry sat down, she suddenly looked up and addressed him.
"I haven't seen you since June, Harry," said Luna. "Congratulations on what must have been an exciting summer."
"Exciting is not how I'd have described it, though I suppose it could have gone worse. And how was your summer? I followed some of your exploits in the Quibbler, but it was hard to keep up with them while I was busy having people try to kill me all the time."
Hermione tensed at that remark, and both Theo and Neville glared at Harry for making it after the trauma they'd all been through at the World Cup. Harry ignored them.
"Yes, I can imagine how distracting that would be," Luna continued, seemingly unperturbed. "Anyway, Daddy and I spent the summer in Brazil studying the Balamob."
"The … what?" Harry asked.
"Balamob," Neville replied. "South American jaguar-people. I met some of them the summer after First Year. They were quite nice up until they tried to sacrifice me to their sun god."
Luna nodded. "They mentioned that. The chieftain said that he'd never seen a human child run so fast."
Neville grimaced at the memory, but Hermione spoke up first.
"Before we get into thrilling tales of people almost dying, Harry, how did things go at Gringotts?"
Harry sat down with a loud sigh. "The business side of things went fine. They'll give us everything we asked for. There should be no problems getting the QWC recordings out in time."
"But …?" Blaise prompted.
"But nothing. The meeting went fine. It's just … meeting the Goblin King and the Gringotts Board of Directors was … weird."
"Were you expecting it to be otherwise?" Amy asked.
Harry shrugged. "I don't know. I mean, I was expecting it to be weird. Because, you know, everything about the wizarding world is weird in some way. But … the Goblins were weird in a different way than I was expecting. Which, perversely, makes them even weirder than I was expecting!"
Forty-five minutes earlier
"On behalf of Lord Wilkes, I thank you for your assistance in these matters," Artie said respectfully.
Ragnok the Bloody sneered in response. "We care nothing for your gratitude, wizard! Only for the gold to be made from your venture!"
With that, the two solicitors bowed towards the Goblins and then ushered Harry out the door.
As the door closed behind the three humans, several of the Goblins began to move and speak, but instantly, King Ragnok raised his hand, and they all went silent and still. He stared intently at the closed door as if he could somehow see through to the other side. Finally, after several seconds, he relaxed, lowered his hand, and nodded at the other board members.
In response to the unspoken command, each of the Goblins reached into the inner pocket of his coat and pulled out a wand. And very strange wands, at that. Not wooden wands as any wizard would expect, but rather wands made of precious metals—gold, silver, copper, brass, and platinum. And embedded into the center of each metal wand was a gemstone of some kind. Most of them were the expensive kind. For example, Ragnok's platinum wand had a 5-carat diamond built into it.
Instantly, the seven Goblins began to wave their metal wands in the air while muttering obscure phrases in their native language. In response, each Goblin's ragged and ill-fitting suit repaired itself to immaculate perfection and perfect fit, and Mr. Skull-Crusher's artistically rendered bloodstain faded away. But even more remarkable was the effect on the Goblins' physical appearances. Black eyes transformed into normal irises. Savage angular faces softened into more human-like visages complete with skin tones consistent with those of humans. Hair in various colors sprouted atop their heads, in most cases already pomaded into a dignified style. Several Goblins instantly grew thick handlebar moustaches that all curled up neatly on each end, and one produced a brass monocle from a pocket and placed it over an eye. Ragnok himself now sported an impeccable Van Dyke goatee.
In short, they looked like seven dapper (if anachronistically dressed) achondroplastic dwarfs.
Next to Ragnok, Mr. Krunch removed his eye-covering to reveal white eyes underneath. But his blindness did not seem to interfere with his wand-work. With a tap of his copper-and-emerald wand, the bandage transfigured itself into a pair of black spectacles, which he donned with ease. Finally (and practically in unison), each Goblin gave his wand a single flick, thereby causing a red carnation to sprout from the tip. Each Goblin in turn plucked his carnation and delicately placed it inside his lapel buttonhole as a boutonnière. Having made themselves presentable, the board members all turned to look at their leader, who produced a Cuban cigar which he lit with his wand. After taking a few puffs, he finally spoke.
"Right, gentlemen," said King Ragnok (whose real name was Mr. Periwinkle, Chairman and CEO of Gringotts Interdimensional). "So, what do we think of Hadrian Remus Black Lord Wilkes?"
The venerable Goblin glanced towards the end of the table. "Doolally!"
At that, Throat-Slicer (whose real name was Mr. Doolally, Vice-President for Accounts) jumped slightly. At 83, Mr. Doolally was the youngest member of the Board and was still a bit nervous during meetings. He quickly summoned a file with his wand and flipped through it.
"Lord Wilkes is already the inheritor of enormous financial assets. He is easily the youngest millionaire in Wizarding Britain and is also the Black Heir. Between his own resources, those of his godfather, and those of his allied families, the amount of capital at his disposal is roughly equivalent to that of House Selwyn and dwarfs any of the other Wizengamot families. Should the Eye-Spy venture meet our expectations, and should wizards respond to the advent of modern mass communications in a manner comparable to that of Muggles, Harry Black will likely become the wealthiest wizard in the world within ten years."
Doolally coughed diplomatically. "Well, that is, assuming external factors don't intervene."
"What sort of external factors are we worried about?" asked Foe-Hammer (whose real name was Mr. Butterdish, Vice-President for Security and Conflict Resolution).
"Well, us for a start, since the agenda of this meeting is in part to decide on a plan of action vis a vis Lord Wilkes. He has some degree of backing from the Department of Mysteries, but at the same time, he's poised to make an enemy out of House Selwyn and is already the enemy of several Houses that were aligned with the Death Eater Insurrection. And if Eye-Spy Inc. is perceived to be a threat to any powerful faction within the Ministry or the Wizengamot, there will likely be efforts to ban his magitech and bankrupt him. Or worse."
Doolally grimaced. "And, of course, there is the very real concern that he might have or acquire access to the Wilkes Vault and with it the Lestrange Formula."
Mr. Periwinkle shook his head. "I believe I shall err for now on the side of hoping that the young lord is not the sort of person who would ever make use of that formula. Still, better safe than sorry. Go ahead and draft a Flamel contract for Lord Wilkes. Just in case."
Doolally nodded and made a note for his file, while Periwinkle moved on.
"And since the topic of the Unspeakables has been raised, let's hear what they have to say about the matter?"
At that, Mr. Skull-Crusher (whose real name was Mr. Camembert, Vice-President for Occult Espionage) leaned forward.
"Our contacts inside the DOM report that very little has been said about Lord Wilkes, mainly because his file is now classified as U7. We do know that Saul Croaker and Number 17 paid a visit to Hogwarts and met with Harry Black and one of his confidants, a Miss Hermione Granger, followed by an emergency Oversight meeting later that afternoon. From the context, it is likely that either Black or Granger made use of the Time Turner, which would have automatically flagged them as Agents of Fate pursuant to DOM guidelines."
"Hmm," said Mr. Periwinkle while taking another puff on his cigar. "Prophecies of note? Other than the obvious ones?"
"Several," Camembert answered grimly before explaining for his peers who did not share his departmental interest in such things. "In addition to being implicated in the 1780 Dark God prophecy and the 1980 One With The Power prophecy, both to the 9th degree of certainty, we have recently learned from Sibyl Trelawney uttered another True Prophecy just last March. We don't know its contents yet, but rather coincidentally, it was uttered in the presence of the aforementioned Miss Granger on the day before two Unspeakables met with her and with Black."
Mr. Camembert then flipped open a different file folder and withdrew a list.
"Furthermore, research suggests that he is potentially implicated in several other prophecies known to us to at least the 6th degree of certainty. Most notably, the 1437 Flying Fortress prophecy, the 1893 Thirteen Against the World prophecy, and, most disturbingly, the Dreamer In the Tower prophecy. The date of utterance for that last one is unknown, but it was found in the records of the Dark Lord Ekrizdis. All five of the aforementioned prophecies range from CK to ZK in potential severity."
A pall fell over the room as the implications of that sank in.
"So," Mr. Periwinkle said glumly. "Harry Black will likely play a pivotal role in outcomes that might range from the collapse of the current system of government in Wizarding Britain to the end of all existence. Or anything in between."
"Basically … yes," answered Mr. Camembert.
Mr. Periwinkle tapped the ash from his cigar as he considered those portents. "So what do we actually know about the boy? What does Flitwick say?"
Eye-Gouger (whose real name was Mr. Bumbershoot, Director of Human-Inhuman Resources) answered readily.
"Agent Flitwick has provided considerable information about the boy's known capabilities, but in the end, he's a Slytherin and a gifted one. And because some of his more provocative adventures have involved either the Boy-Who-Lived or the Unspeakables, Flitwick thinks that there's still a lot more going on with Black than is publicly known. He has considered offering himself as a dueling instructor for the boy in hopes of gaining his confidence, but that window may have already closed. Flitwick is quite certain he's already receiving instruction from an unknown tutor or tutors of championship caliber quality. Perhaps Severus Snape or Lucius Malfoy. Perhaps others."
"Does Flitwick know anything about the Prince of Slytherin?" asked Mr. Camembert.
"No," replied Mr. Bumbershoot. "Agent Flitwick has never been cleared for any information about the Prince of Slytherin. At the time of his initial assignment, there was concern that investigating the Prince of Slytherin when we knew nothing about what the term actually meant might give away his status as an undercover operative."
"Get him in as soon as is possible for a briefing," interrupted Mr. Periwinkle. "Proceed with your report."
"Yes, sir. To continue, Agent Flitwick says that Harry Black is consistently near the top of his class and is a prodigy in some areas. He also surrounds himself with the others in his year who are academically gifted and is working to incorporate them into a 'think tank' structure. Black is a skilled Occlumens and has an unknown degree of Legilimency but definitely at least Level 3. He carries the potential for shapeshifting, but it is unknown if he is actively developing it. Flitwick claims that, if he does, it will be Metamorphmagery, even though he has sympathetic links to Animagery through both his father and his godfather. However, his brother Jim is pursuing Animagery and, by all accounts, doing a poor job of keeping it a secret. From his observations of the two boys and in light of the Oath of Enmity between them, Flitwick thinks that Black would choose Metamorphmagery over Animagery just to avoid emulating his brother and father, even if there weren't already tremendous advantages to being a Metamorphmagus who is skilled in the psychic arts."
"Anything else?" asked Mr. Periwinkle.
"Only that there are rumors that Black had already mastered a wandless spell before the age of 14!"
Next to Periwinkle, the blind Goblin Krunch (whose real name was Mr. Paradiddle, Vice-President for Matters of the Soul) barked out a laugh.
"Something to add, Mr. Paradiddle?" asked the CEO cautiously.
"Merely that Flitwick is wrong. Lord Wilkes has not mastered a wandless spell, though the results are quite similar, so his mistake is understandable. Rather, the young wizard has done something far more extraordinary."
"And what might that be?" Mr. Periwinkle asked, as his eyes narrowed.
"He has, through an act of supreme will-and, I suspect, entirely by accident-carved the words Accio Wand into the very material of his soul!"
The other Goblins looked at one another in surprise.
"Soul magic?!" exclaimed Mr. Bumbershoot. "Before the age of fourteen?!"
"Accidental soul magic before the age of fourteen," said Mr. Paradiddle with a laugh. "Which is, ironically, even more impressive than if he'd made a study of the art. And yet, in my opinion, that is merely the second most interesting fact to be known about the state of his soul."
Mr. Periwinkle sighed loudly. "Alright then, Mr. Paradiddle. What's the most interesting thing about Harry Black's soul?"
"At the moment … he's carrying two of them!
Next: Hogwarts at last! Also, FYI, I will do my absolute best to maintain a regular posting schedule. However, I have just started a post-graduate degree program. In a new state some 1500 miles away from my prior home. Be patient with me.
AN1: Check out the Sinister Man's web presence on the POS wiki, the POS TV Tropes page, and my Discord server (through which you can see advance previews of this story as it is begin written). Also, the Sinister Man would be profoundly grateful if you checked out my P*****n page and supported my original fiction. Patronage is not necessary to get the free POS previews via Discord.
AN2: What the Sinister Man is reading: Quite a lot actually over the last several months.
Parallel Journey by InkVirus. During a climactic final battle with Voldemort, Harry is sent to an alternate universe, one in which Grindelwald defeated Dumbledore and conquered most of Europe. To get home, Harry needs the help of the person in this world he trusts least – Tom Riddle. Heavy espionage themes.
Pawns, Rooks, and Queens by StickyKeys1 (on AO3). In an unusual and interesting writing choice, each chapter of this fic alternates perspectives with every chapter, with one chapter focusing on a young Tom Riddle's slide into darkness, and the next focusing on Harry, the Boy Who Lived, and his twin sister, who is a Slytherin that will do anything to protect him. Oh, and Harry's an Obscurial.
Forgotten, but not goneby jelenaRusso (on AO3). Hermione Granger is the Girl Who Lived. And also a "Mudblood" who was raised in a brutal orphanage. And a Slytherin. Understandably, she's not happy about it.
AN3: Special thanks to my Discord editors: _Paryanoia, BaronVonRuthless91, Betrayed Khaos Champion PJO SI, BlueWater5, cheesecakeowl, CitoyenneClark, darkphoenix31, Dude, justanotherrandomhuman, kean, Krisni, mychakk, Nemo's Flower Song, ohana, Rubric of Ahriman, Sakkiko, stroopwafel, tge typo man, and Wodan. Thanks, guys.
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