Chapter 17: Graveyard and Guardians
AN: I have updated chapter 1, with some extra scenes to improve the pacing.
Trigger warnings for torture, death, transphobia, misgendering and deadnaming.
After an eternity and an instant Holly felt her feet slam into the ground. Her legs gave out under her, as the Cup dropped from her grasp.
Holly lifted her head to see their new location. They were in an abandoned graveyard, surrounded by overgrown tombstones and monuments. "Where are we?" she asked, rising to her knees.
"I'm not sure," Cedric grunted as he got to his feet. Reaching over to pull Holly up, he asked, "Did anyone tell you the Cup was a Portkey?"
Holly shook her head. "Do you think this is part of the task?"
"I dunno. Wands out, d'you reckon?" Nodding, Holly drew forth her wand, absently lighting the area with a Lumos.
Suddenly, the sound of approaching footsteps had the pair turning, wands raised. A short figure moved slowly towards them, carrying what appeared to be a baby. Holly couldn't make out the face behind their hood.
"Hello?" Holly called tentatively, lowering her wand. "Who are you? Can you tell us where we are?"
The figure stopped by a large marble headstone, barely a few feet from them. There was a pause, before Holly's scar exploded with pain. She collapsed to the ground, dropping her wand and clutching her head in agony. Dimly she heard Cedric yell her name, before a high, cold voice said, "Kill the spare."
A second voice incanted "Avada Kedavra!" Bright green light shone through her eyelids, and something heavy struck the ground. Her scar burned more painfully than ever before fading. She forced her eyes open, looking up in desperate terror.
There was no sign of Cedric, or the Triwizard Cup, and the high-pitched voice gave a furious shriek. "How could you let him escape, you imbecile?!"
"I am sorry my master," whimpered the figure. As he lit his wand, Holly realised suddenly that it was Wormtail.
"You!" she gasped, struggling to her hands and knees. Spying her wand, she reached for it, only for it to fly away from her, into Wormtail's grasp.
"Up against the headstone!" he said shakily, jerking his head at the marble headstone, while keeping his wand trained on her. Eying the wand, she slowly rose to her feet.
"Hurry up, you fool! They will find us!" the high voice hissed, and Holly realised it was coming from the bundle in Wormtail's arms.
"Move!" he squealed, jabbing his wand threateningly at her. Reluctantly she moved closer. In the flickering wandlight, she saw the name Tom Riddle inscribed on the tombstone. Her blood ran cold.
She tensed, not sure what she planned to do, but unwilling to obey any longer. Before she could act, a spell struck her, freezing her in place. Wormtail's hands were clammy as he forced her around and slammed her back against the tombstone. He conjured ropes to bind her tightly against the stone, before the Petrification was removed. As she opened her mouth to snarl an insult, he shoved a wad of black cloth into her mouth. Then, he placed his strange bundle down, and vanished behind the tombstone.
Holly looked around desperately, hoping to find some means of escape. The bundle moved fitfully, and her scar ached as she looked at it. Tearing her eyes away, she spotted a huge snake circling the headstone. She regretted getting herself gagged. Perhaps she could have talked the snake into helping her.
Wormtail returned after a short time, huffing as he pushed an enormous cauldron to the foot of the grave. As he lit flames beneath it, the snake slithered away. The liquid within the cauldron boiled quickly and began sparking like flames. Once it grew bright enough, Wormtail spoke. "It is ready, master."
"Now," hissed the bundle. Wormtail opened the bundle, revealing a disgusting creature. Like a human child warped into something scaly and raw and hairless. It was thin and feeble, and bore eyes of malicious, gleaming red. Holly's shriek of horror was muffled only by the cloth in her mouth.
Picking up the thing with a look of revulsion, Wormtail quickly carried it to the cauldron and lowered it into the liquid. Then he raised his wand and spoke in a trembling voice "Bone of the father, unknowingly given, you will renew your son!"
The grave beneath Holly's feet cracked open, and a trickle of dust flew from it into the cauldron, turning the liquid a noxious blue.
Wormtail's voice grew even more fearful and shaky as he drew forth a knife. "Flesh – of the servant – w-willingly given – you will – revive – your master." He held his right hand over the cauldron and swung the knife at his wrist. Holly slammed her eyes closed, cringing at the scream of pain and the splash. Red light burned through her eyelids.
Through moans of pain, Wormtail somehow continued. Holly watched in horror as he approached. "B-blood of the enemy… forcibly taken… you will… resurrect your foe."
Holly bit down on her gag as the knife pierced her arm, wincing and glaring at Wormtail. He ignored her, collecting the blood in a vial and pouring it into the cauldron before collapsing to the ground. The potion turned a blindingly white.
When nothing happened for a long moment, Holly felt a moment of hope, but it was dashed as steam billowed from the cauldron and then a figure rose from inside.
"Robe me," it hissed in the high, cold voice. Sobbing, Wormtail picked up the bundle of robes and pulled them one handed onto the figure. Below Holly, the snake returned, circling the grave once more.
Out of the cauldron stepped Lord Voldemort.
After spending a moment examining his new form, he reached into his robes and drew forth a wand. Flicking it at Wormtail, he sent him crashing against another headstone, where he collapsed in a whimpering heap. Looking back at Holly, Voldemort laughed.
As Wormtail muttered pleas, Voldemort said, "Give me your arm." When Wormtail extended his stump, he snapped, "Your other arm!" As Wormtail continued to whimper piteously, Voldemort reached down and wrenched up his left arm. Pushing up the sleeves, to reveal the bright red brand of the Dark Mark, he spoke softly. "It is back, they will all have noticed it… and now we shall see… now we shall know…"
He pressed a long, white finger to the mark, which turned jet black. Holly hissed as her scar throbbed and Wormtail yelled in pain. Straightening and looking around, Voldemort mused, "How many will be brave enough to return when they feel it? And how many will be foolish enough to stay away?"
Then he turned to face Holly once more. "You stand, Harry Potter, upon the remains of my late father. A muggle and a fool. Still, he served his purpose. He has proved far more useful in death than he ever was in life." He gave a cold laugh. "You see that house upon the hillside, Potter? My father lived there. My mother, a witch who lived here in this village, fell in love with him. But he abandoned her when she told him what she was… he didn't like magic, my father… rather like your muggle relatives, from what I have heard."
Holly froze, eyes wide. Voldemort gave a raspy chuckle. "Yes, I have learned a great deal about you. It has been most fascinating to learn about your family. Indeed, we are quite similar, in a way. My mother died giving birth to me, leaving me to be raised in a Muggle orphanage, where I was hated and feared, for the power that lived inside of me."
Stepping close to her, he whispered, "They were meant to be your family, and they locked you away, treated you like dirt. Don't you wish you could get even, Harry? Get back at them for everything they put you through? I could give that. Swear yourself to me, and you can make them pay." He raised his wand to Holly's face. She flinched away, but no spell touched her. The rag in her mouth disappeared, allowing her to gasp a deep breath.
Voldemort stared at her expectantly. Holly shifted her jaw, sore from being held open so long, before saying defiantly, "My name is Holly."
With a smile that didn't reach his eyes, Voldemort said, "You have even fashioned yourself a new name, as I did. Come, take your place by my side, and you will never be powerless again."
Holly opened her mouth, but no words came out. She couldn't help but remember her time with the Dursleys. Years of neglect and cruelty and being punished for things she didn't understand and couldn't control. She thought of how good it had felt to scare her aunt and uncle into submission with the threat of Sirius.
Then she shook the thoughts away. Even as awful as the Dursleys were to her, she knew it would be wrong to hurt them the way Voldemort wanted. And it wouldn't stop with them. Hermione's parents, who were good and kind, were under just as much threat in a world with Voldemort. As was every Muggleborn and Halfblood, and even Purebloods who stood in his way.
She set her jaw. "No."
Voldemort's eyes burned as he stared at her. Suddenly the silence was disturbed by muffled cracks and swishing cloaks. Masked and hooded, dozens of wizards Apparated into the graveyard. Slowly, they approached. Voldemort flicked his wand and the cloth reappeared in Holly's mouth. Then, he turned to survey the approaching Death Eaters.
After a pause, they approached on their knees and kissed Voldemort's robes, though some hesitated longer than others. Once they had supplicated themselves, they backed away, and stood to form a loose circle around the grave.
"Welcome, Death Eaters." Voldemort spoke quietly, yet his voice carried. "Thirteen years since last we met. Yet you answer my call as though it was yesterday… we are still united under the Dark Mark, then! Or are we? I smell guilt. There is a stench of guilt upon the air. I see you all, whole and healthy, with your powers intact and I ask myself… why did this band of wizards never come to the aid of their master, to whom they swore eternal loyalty?
"And I answer myself, they must have believed me broken, they thought I was gone. They slipped back among my enemies, and they pleaded innocence, and ignorance, and bewitchment… And then I ask myself, but how could they have believed I would not rise again? They, who knew the steps I took, long ago, to guard myself against mortal death? They, who had seen proofs of the immensity of my power, in the times when I was mightier than any wizard living.
"And I answer myself, perhaps they believed a still-greater power could exist, one that could vanquish even Lord Voldemort… perhaps they now pay allegiance to another… perhaps the champion of commoners, of Mudbloods and Muggles, Albus Dumbledore? It is a disappointment to me… I confess myself disappointed…"
There was long pause, as shifting and muttering swept around the circle. Then, Voldemort brandished his wand, and Wormtail was dragged forward along the ground with a cry of pain.
"Wormtail here returned to me, not out of loyalty, but out of fear his old friends. In his desperation, he indeed helped me, returning me to my body. But just now, he allowed a witness to escape, carrying word back to Dumbledore. So he deserves this pain."
"Please, master… please…" Wormtail sobbed from the ground.
Voldemort raised his wand. "Crucio!" Wormtail writhed and shrieked upon the ground, blood from his arm splashing across the ground. After what seemed an eternity to Holly, Voldemort raised his wand and the screaming stopped.
"Witness the price of disloyalty and failure," Voldemort said coldly. With a gasp, Wormtail clawed feebly at the ground, trying to pull himself away. "Avada Kedavra!"
There was a flash of green, and Holly stared in disbelief and horror at Wormtail's body. The circle of Death Eaters swayed like trees blown by a strong wind, and the muttering grew louder. Suddenly, a dark purple beam shot towards Voldemort. The Dark Lord's eyes widened, and he slashed his wand up. A shield of shining silver appeared, just barely in time to catch the spell with a bang.
"You dare defy me, Nott!?" Voldemort shrieked, firing back a sickly yellow spell that raised the hairs on Holly's neck as it passed.
The Death Eater conjured a shield of his own, snarling, "I will not bow to the will of a filthy Halfblood like you, Riddle!" With an enraged shout, Voldemort slashed his wand, releasing a thin black jet of magic that pierced the shield and slammed into Nott's body. He fell with a gurgling cry.
Voldemort's head snapped to one of the standing Death Eaters. "What is this?" he asked coldly. When the Death Eater hesitated, he snarled, "Answer me, Lucius!"
Lucius Malfoy's voice came from beneath the hood, speaking in carefully measured tones. "My Lord, there was an article printed in the Daily Prophet this morning, which made the claim that your father… was a Muggle."
Voldemort stared at Lucius for a long moment, before spinning and launching a Killing Curse at the downed Death Eater. As the green flash faded, he hissed ominously, "I am the greatest sorcerer in the world! None can compare to my power! None have dared to delve where I have delved, to learn what I know! I am immortal! And you dare to question my purity? I, who united our forces and raised us above the filth of the corrupted Wizarding World!"
One of the Death Eaters threw himself to the ground. "Forgive us, Master! We knew it could not be true, but we could not help our doubts."
In response, Voldemort placed him under the Cruciatus Curse, allowing him to scream and struggle for a long minute. When he raised his wand, the Death Eater was left twitching and gasping on the ground.
"You ask for forgiveness? I do not forgive. I do not forget. Thirteen long years… I want thirteen years' repayment before I forgive you. I want your undying faith and loyalty!" The remaining Death Eaters kneeled, each offering assurances of their devotion.
Then, Voldemort was turning to face her again. "But we have forgotten our guest. Harry Potter has kindly joined us for my rebirthing party. He is here as my guest of honour, thanks to my most faithful servant, who has been working tirelessly at Hogwarts. When he returns, he will be rewarded for his loyal service."
Voldemort's gaze swept along the circle. "You all thought this mere child was enough to defeat me. His survival was not from any power of his own. He was protected by old magic, through the sacrifice of his mother… a protection I admit I had not foreseen. I could not touch him as long as the traces of that protection remained. But now, his blood courses through my veins. I can touch him now."
A long, white finger touched her face, and she screamed into the gag as Holly felt the worst pain imaginable in her scar. Voldemort laughed, before removing his hand and raising his wand. "Crucio!"
She had been wrong. The pain before had been nothing, compared to the agony she felt now. Every nerve screamed and she just wanted to die.
Then, it was gone, and she hung limp against the ropes, panting for breath. Around her, the Death Eaters laughed.
The laughter cut off as Voldemort spoke. "You see, I think, how foolish it was to suppose that this boy could ever have been stronger than me. But I want there to be no mistake in anybody's mind. Harry Potter escaped me by a lucky chance. And I am now going to prove my power by killing him, here and now, in front of you all, when there is no Dumbledore to help him and no mother to die for him. I will give him his chance. He will be allowed to fight, and you will be left in no doubt which of us is the stronger. Just a little longer, Nagini," he added, and the snake circling Holly moved away.
He flicked his wand, and the ropes holding Holly vanished. She fell to the floor heavily, before clawing the gag from her mouth. Pushing herself to her feet, she glared up at Voldemort.
"Retrieve your wand, Harry Potter," he said, gesturing to Wormtail's body. Holly felt sick as she realised what she needed to do.
Straightening her back, she met the Dark Lord's gaze. "My name is Holly," she said firmly. He gave only a cruel smile and gestured to the body again. With measured steps, she approached and knelt beside it.
Wormtail's face was locked in an expression of pain and terror. Pushing down a wave of revulsion, she searched the pockets of his robes, until she found her wand. She paused, then reached down and closed his eyes, before standing to face Voldemort.
"You have been taught how to duel, Harry Potter?" Voldemort asked with a cruel smile. His red eyes caught hers, and she felt a sudden presence in her mind. Her thoughts turned to the mismanaged Duelling Club from her second year. As the image of Snape casting the Disarming Charm played, she steeled her will, and pressed against the foreign presence. With a mental shove, she forced the Dark Lord from her mind.
As reality returned, she saw Voldemort's eyes widen, then narrow. "We bow to each other, Harry," he said, bending slightly with a mocking smile. "Come, the niceties must be observed… Dumbledore would like you to show manners…. Bow to death, Harry…"
The Death Eaters laughed again. Holly's lip curled and lifted her left hand to raise two fingers at him. "For the third time, my name is Holly, you utter bastard."
Voldemort's face twisted. "I said, bow." He pointed his wand at her, and she felt her spine curve under an invisible force. "Very good." As he lifted his wand away, the pressure vanished, and Holly straightened with a snarl. "And now you face me, like a man… straight backed and proud, the way your father died…"
Holly lashed out with her wand. "Incendio!" A jet of fire surged forward. Voldemort raised his wand lazily, and the flames splashed uselessly against his shield.
"Now, now Harry, that is quite terrible sportsmanship," he chided. "You must wait for the duel to begin. Flouting rules has consequences, after all. Crucio!"
Holly's desperately cast Protego shattered beneath the Unforgivable. Her world devolved into agony. She screamed.
Finally, mercifully, it stopped. Holly stumbled to her feet, raising her wand in a trembling hand. She staggered, almost falling against the watching Death Eaters, but they pushed her back into the circle.
"A little break, a little pause… that hurt didn't it, Harry? You don't want me to do that again, do you?" Voldemort taunted.
"Go fuck yourself, you deformed wanker," Holly snarled back.
Voldemort's voice was cold. "I asked you a question. Answer me! Imperio!"
The feeling of the Imperious Curse washed over Holly, as a voice whispered 'just answer "no"… say "no"… just answer "no"…'
Holly focused her will and rage, slicing through the mind-numbing bliss. The lingering ache of the Cruciatus returned to her. "I said fuck you." Defiantly, she pointed her wand at Voldemort.
Silence filled the graveyard. The Death Eaters were frozen, as still as the surrounding gravestones. Voldemort's voice was as sharp and dangerous as razor wire. "Then die, Harry Potter. Avada-"
"Diffindo!" Holly yelled desperately, as the Dark Lord finished his Killing Curse. She knew she was dead, but she hoped to at least hurt him as she went.
The green and yellow jets collided, and became a beam of golden light, connecting Holly's wand to Voldemort's. She clutched her wand tightly as it vibrated violently. Then, the duelling pair were lifted from the ground, flying over the startled Death Eaters, and were placed down in a clear area. As the Death Eaters approached, the golden light shifted and splintered, creating a dome shape web that locked them out. "Do nothing!" Voldemort yelled, struggling to break the connection. "Do nothing unless I command you!"
The air was split by the sound of phoenix song, full of unearthly beauty. The sound filled Holly with hope, and renewed determination. Between them, the beam changed, forming beads of light along its length. Holly's wand shuddered and grew hot as the beads slid towards her. Focusing her will, she pushed back, forcing the beads away from her. Voldemort looked stunned and fearful, as the beads inexorably approached. With painful slowness, the bead touched his wand.
Instantly, screams echoed out from the wand. There was a momentary flash of a shield, before suddenly, a grey shape of solid smoke appeared from the tip. Slowly it formed into the shape of a person, until the figure of the Death Eater Nott fell to the ground. The shade stood, hissing to Voldemort before turning to Holly.
"Don't let go, Potter," it said, voice echoing distantly.
Voldemort's wand emitted several more flashes, and then another form appeared. The shade of Wormtail stood, looking between the duellist in amazement. He moved aside as more shades emerged. An old man, Holly didn't recognise, as well as a woman, who shouted encouragement.
Then the next shade took Holly's breath away, as her mother appeared. She moved closer to Holly, speaking softly, "Your father's coming… He wants to see you… it will be all right… hold on, Holly…"
The shade of James followed quickly, moving to stand by her. "When the connection is broken, we will linger for only moments… but we will give you time… help is coming Holly, you must hold on for a few moments more…"
Nodding, Holly swallowed back the lump in her throat. The shade of Nott approached, ignoring glares from her parents. "Tell my son what happened here, Potter. Tell him he must forge his own path. He should kneel to nobody." Holly's stomach twisted as she remembered one of her classmates was Theodore Nott, and realised this was his father.
"I will," she gasped. Muffled cries of alarm from outside the dome drew her attention. Looking over, she saw Dumbledore striding between the graves, flanked by Moody, Lupin and Sirius. Her heart leapt.
"Har- Holly," Pettigrew whispered urgently, creeping closer. He cringed as the shades of her parents looked at him, before pushing forward. "Beware of Moody. He is a fake, a Death Eater in disguise." Holly's eyes widened. Her wand vibrated so powerfully, she needed two hands to hold it. "Please, take my body. Clear Sirius' name. Tell him, I'm so sorry. For everything."
Holly could barely nod, through the effort to keep hold of her wand. "Do it now," her father whispered. "Be ready to run… do it now…"
"NOW!" Holly yelled, wrenching her wand away. The song ended, the cage vanished, but the shades lingered, closing in on Voldemort. Holly dashed back to the graves, ducking as spells lit up the night. Looking up, she saw the Death Eaters hurling spells at Dumbledore. The Headmaster blocked everything, not breaking stride towards Voldemort. Above him, Fawkes circled, calling out a song of battle.
Raising her wand to her head, Holly tapped herself, shivering at the cold feeling running down her body. A glance at her hands confirmed the camouflaging spell was working. Holly began moving cautiously around the gravestones, back towards Wormtail's body. As she crept passed, she kept her eye on the battle.
Sirius and Lupin were an incredible team, moving together in tandem. Lupin deflected oncoming attacks, while Sirius launched a flurry of hexes, jinxes and curses. Despite fighting far greater numbers, they were holding their own.
Dumbledore gave a sweep of his wand, and the ground heaved, throwing half the Death Eaters from their feet. Before he could press the advantage, Voldemort joined the fray, shrieking with fury. Holly's eyes were dazzled by the brightness of the spells that flashed between them.
Looking over to Moody, she frowned. Wormtail's warning echoed in her mind, and as she watched, her breath caught. None of Moody's spells were hitting the Death Eaters! She saw him dive behind a large tombstone, which he quickly enlarged. Then, he looked towards Dumbledore, and naked loathing crossed his features. He began to raise his wand at the Headmaster's back.
With a snarl, Holly snapped up her wand. "Expelliarmus!" The red spell blazed across the graveyard. Moody, so focused on Dumbledore, failed to notice it until it struck him. His wand was ripped from his hand and he was sent rolling out from behind his cover. The Death Eaters began to press their advantage, hurling dark curses that he scrambled to avoid. The attacks faltered as Voldemort shrieked, "No! Do not harm him!"
As Holly caught Moody's wand, she saw him spot her with his magic eye, and a look of pure hatred crossed his face. Beyond him, Dumbledore looked shocked, before his expression firmed into steely determination as he raised his wand once more.
Moving quickly, Holly reached grave of Tom Riddle. Grabbing hold of Wormtail's body, she removed her Disillusionment Charm. She looked around for a means of escape, and her heart sank when she saw none. As she opened her mouth to call out to the Headmaster, movement caught her eye. Voldemort's snake slithered closer, hissing ominously. It reared back, ready to strike, when a cry sounded from above.
Holly looked up to see Fawkes diving towards her, claws outstretched. Desperately, she threw up her hand to meet him. He grabbed her, filling her with warmth, just as the snake lunged. Her vision filled with flames, and the graveyard vanished.
Everything was fire. The Earth burned, the sky burned, the air burned, and Holly burned. The flames sang with beauty and power and terror. And then the fire vanished and the song stopped and reality returned in a rush.
As the flames receded, Holly saw a scene of utter pandemonium. She was outside the maze, at the entrance. Yells and screams came from the stands. She saw the Hogwarts' teachers and Madame Maxime trying to reassure the students. Nearby, she saw Fudge, flanked by a pair of serious looking wizards.
Her fiery appearance turned all eyes upon her. With a flutter, Fawkes alighted on her shoulder, banishing the heaviness that had settled upon them. She rose to her feet, ignoring the muttering crowd. Looking over at the Minister for Magic, she spoke loudly. "Voldemort is back!"
Shrieks sounded in the stand. Fudge flinched so hard he almost tripped. The Minister hurried over to her. "What are you talking about, Harry? What's going on? Merlin! Is that a body?! Who is that?!"
"I said, Voldemort's back." Holly pointed down at Wormtail's corpse. "This is Peter Pettigrew. He helped resurrect Voldemort. And he framed Sirius Black."
Fudge stared at her and began sputtering. "You-Know-Who… returned? Preposterous. And this can't be Pettigrew. Come now, Harry-"
Holly raised her finger and jabbed the Minister in the chest. He stepped back with a squeak. "Listen to me, you snivelling idiot. Pettigrew took my blood and brought Voldemort back. Voldemort killed him and tried to kill me! Dumbledore is fighting him at this very moment. You need to get your head out of your ass and start doing something about it!"
Fudge puffed up in indignation. "How dare you- I am the Minister for Magic! You think you can order me around! I know what you're trying to do. You're trying to undermine me, making up all sorts of nonsense to destabilise the government and discredit me!"
With a snarl, Holly stepped forward, grabbing the Minister by the front of his robes. "You disgusting coward!" she yelled. "You care more about your reputation than stopping a lunatic murderer! Voldemort is back and you're worried about how popular you are!"
"Unhand me!" yelled Fudge. "Aurors!" One of the serious looking men began moving towards Holly and the Minister, drawing his wand.
Suddenly, in a swirl of colour, Dumbledore, Lupin and Padfoot appeared. Taking in the situation with a glance, the Headmaster quickly moved to Holly's side. "Let Cornelius go, please Holly."
Grudgingly, she complied. Fudge brushed himself down, turning to Dumbledore. "Dumbledore, you must control your student!" he blustered. "This silly boy is yelling nonsense about You-Know-Who and Peter Pettigrew."
"Voldemort is back, Cornelius," Dumbledore said firmly. "I witnessed him myself, as did Remus here. He has returned, and his Death Eaters have answered his call."
Fudge paled, eyes darting from Dumbledore to Holly to Lupin. "Y- you're all in on it," he muttered. "You're trying to discredit me and take over the Ministry. I won't have it! Auror!" he snapped, turning to the nearby wizard. "Arrest them!" The Auror stared at him in disbelief.
"You will find that quite impossible, Cornelius," Dumbledore said firmly. He seemed to radiate power in that moment. "You cannot simply order someone's arrest without evidence of wrongdoing."
Fudge's face purpled, and he snapped, "We'll see about that, won't we!" Then he turned and stormed away, towards the gates.
The Auror approached slowly, swallowing. "Is he really back?" he asked Dumbledore seriously. When Dumbledore nodded, he swore softly. Suddenly, he remembered the corpse on the ground, and straightened. "I'll take custody of the body from here," he said formally, though his voice tremored slightly. "We can find known associates of Pettigrew, confirm that this is him."
Lupin stepped forward. "My name is Remus Lupin, and I assure you, that is Peter Pettigrew. We were friends at Hogwarts," he explained. At his feet, Padfoot stared at Wormtail.
Nodding, the Auror asked, "Would you be willing to provide memories, for confirmation?" As Lupin nodded in agreement, Dumbledore placed a hand on Holly's shoulder.
"Remus, I am taking Holly to my office. May I borrow Padfoot? I believe he will be of great comfort to her." Lupin agreed, and Padfoot shook himself, before moving to press firmly against Holly's side. She tangled her fingers in his fur, feeling much steadier.
A sense of numbness fell over Holly as Dumbledore led her into Hogwarts and up to his office. As they stepped into the room, a figure sitting in one of the chairs jumped to its feet, revealing Rita Skeeter. She looked between Holly and Dumbledore, fear etched on her face. "Is it true?" she whispered. "Is You-Know-Who really back?"
"He is," Dumbledore said solemnly. Rita covered her mouth in horror.
"Oh, Merlin! He's going to kill me! You have to help me, Dumbledore, please!" Holly realised with a jolt just how much danger she had put Rita in.
"I'm sorry!" Holly blurted. "I shouldn't have told you all that stuff about Voldemort."
Rita blinked at Holly. "What. Don't be ridiculous Holly, this isn't your fault," she told Holly with a shaky smile. "I knew it was risky when I wrote it. It was bound to make a lot of people unhappy with me. But no one could have predicted You-Know-Who coming back."
Dumbledore ushered Holly forward, into a chair, before smiling kindly at Rita. "I'm sure we can find some way to keep you safe from Voldemort. I assure you that for now, you are safe within Hogwarts. Now, I need to speak with Holly privately. If you would kindly wait in Professor McGonagall's office, I will see that arrangements are made for you."
With a last, nervous look at Dumbledore, Rita nodded, and hurried from the room. The second the door closed behind her, Sirius blurred into human form, kneeling and pulling Holly into a tight embrace. She clung to him as all the fear and pain crash down on her. Burying her face in his chest, she began to sob.
Sirius stroked her hair, muttering soothing words into her ear. When her tears ran dry, she sat back, breathing deeply. "Sorry," she murmured as she wiped her eyes.
"My dear child, you have nothing to be sorry for," Dumbledore said gently. Moving to sit beside her, Sirius threw his arm across her shoulders and pulled her gently to lean against his side.
Dumbledore sat at his desk, looking incredibly worn. "I am sorry to ask this of you Holly, but I need to know what happened after Cedric left the graveyard."
"We can leave that 'til morning, can't we Dumbledore," Sirius snapped, his grip tightening. "Let her have a sleep. Let her rest."
Dumbledore leaned forward and spoke gently to her. "If I thought I could help you by putting you into an enchanted sleep and allowing you to postpone the moment when you would have to think about what has happened tonight, I would do it. But I know better. Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it. You have shown bravery beyond anything could have expected of you. I ask you to demonstrate your courage one more time. I ask you to tell us what happened."
Holly sniffed and looked away as she wiped her eyes again. From the corner of her eye, she noticed one of Dumbledore's cabinets, and an idea wormed into her mind. "Could… could I show you in the Pensieve? I don't… I'd rather not have to talk about it aloud right now."
She glanced up to find Dumbledore's eyes filled with conflicted emotions. After a long moment, he nodded. "As you wish." Standing, he quickly retrieved the Pensieve from its cabinet. Once it was placed carefully on the desk, he approached Holly.
"I will extract the memory for you," he told her, drawing his wand and placing the tip carefully against her temple. "You must focus on the memory you wish to share. Much akin to the casting of a Patronus. As with your Occlumency, keep your mind clear of other thoughts. When you wish to stop, simply release your focus."
Holly nodded, closing her eyes, and focusing on everything that happened after Cedric vanished in the graveyard. As the events of the evening played through her mind, she cringed, but the impact of them felt muted, distant. Idly, she realised it was the effect of extracting the memory. When she reached Fawkes rescuing her, she considered ending it, but decided to continue for completeness' sake. Once Dumbledore returned in her memory, she pulled her mind away.
She slumped in her chair. When her eyes fluttered open, she saw Dumbledore carefully carrying a long, misty white strand on the tip of his wand. Sirius rubbed her back, muttering words of encouragement, as Dumbledore placed the memory into the Pensieve. Glancing up, the Headmaster said, "Sirius, if you would stay with Holly while I view this." At Sirius' nod, Dumbledore bent over, vanishing into the memory.
Silence filled the office. Holly leant against her godfather tiredly, wishing she could simply sleep. Sirius stroked her hair gently, watching her with concern. Looking up at him, seeing his gaunt face, she suddenly wanted to talk about something, despite her earlier statement. "I saw mum and dad," she said softly. Sirius' brow furrowed in confusion. "In the graveyard," she clarified. "Voldemort forced me to duel him, but something happened with our wands, they connected somehow. Then these – they weren't ghosts, but close – of the people he killed came out of his. Mum and dad came out." Sirius hissed in a breath. "They called me Holly," she said with a small smile.
Sirius returned it. "I told you they would love and accept you, no matter what."
Holly blushed, nodding. "I know, but it was nice to hear." She hesitated for a moment, before continuing. "There was something else. Wormtail's shade came out too." Sirius stiffened. "Voldemort killed him for letting Cedric get away. He… he warned me that Moody was a Death Eater in disguise, and then he asked me to take his body back to clear your name. He said he was sorry for everything." Sirius stared at her, various emotions warring across his face. Finally, he raised a hand to cover his face. He took a deep breath and sighed.
"I… can't say that I'm sad he's dead," Sirius said, "but I'm grateful for what he did."
Suddenly, a silver flash emanated from the Pensieve, and Dumbledore reappeared. He looked more tired than Holly had ever seen him. With a sigh, he said, "Thank you for that, Holly. Would you mind if I kept this for a while longer?"
Holly nodded, feeling her eyelids growing heavier. "Sure, as long as you need," she said, words growing slurred.
"Come," Dumbledore said, waving for her to stand, "we will take you to the hospital wing. I do not want you returning to the dormitory tonight. A Sleeping Potion, and some peace… Sirius, would you like to stay with her?"
Sirius nodded, blurring into his Animagus form. Holly leaned on him gratefully as they went down to the hospital wing. As the doors opened, she saw Cedric seated in one of the beds, his parents hovering nearby. Mrs Weasley, Bill, Ron and Hermione stood to one side, talking to a tired looking Madam Pomfrey. The sound of the door drew their attention. "Holly! Oh, Holly!" Mrs Weasley cried, hurrying over.
Dumbledore raised a hand to forestall questions, insisting that Holly needed quiet and rest. Madam Pomfrey stared dubiously at Padfoot but allowed him to stay at the Headmaster's request.
"I must take care of an urgent matter," Dumbledore told Holly. "I would like you to remain here tomorrow, until I have spoken to the school." With that, he hurried from the room.
Holly quickly changed into the provided pyjamas and climbed into bed. Padfoot curled up at the end, leaving her feet feeling rather warm. Madam Pomfrey brought her a potion for dreamless sleep. Before she took it, Holly mentioned, "I have a cut on my arm. Don't you need to heal it?"
Madam Pomfrey tsked, pushing the goblet into her hands. "Yes, I saw the blood. I can heal it once you are asleep. Now drink."
Holly obeyed and sank into blissful oblivion.
Slowly, awareness returned.
Holly blinked at the blurred ceiling before reaching out to the bedside table. After a moment of blind fumbling, she found her glasses, and carefully put them on. Sitting up, she looked around the hospital wing. The Weasleys and Hermione were absent – gone for breakfast she supposed. Padfoot lay asleep on his back, legs in the air, tongue lolling from his mouth. She suppressed a giggle.
Cedric sat in the opposite bed, flipping through a copy of the Daily Prophet with a bored look. Several beds down from her, a grizzly figure lay sleeping. She felt a surge of shock as she realised it was Madeye Moody, missing his eye and leg. Wildly she realised this was the disguised Death Eater from the graveyard, and quickly grabbed her wand from the bedside table.
The quick motion drew Cedric's attention. He quickly jumped from his bed, pausing to pull something from his bag. Hurrying to her side, he cautiously asked, "Are you alright?"
Holly kept her eyes and wand fixed on Moody's sleeping form. "What's going on? Why is he here? Why isn't anyone guarding him?"
Cedric looked between her and Moody in confusion. "Dumbledore brought him in last night, while you were asleep. He told Madam Pomfrey that he'd been kept in a trunk all year."
Slowly, Holly lowered her wand. "So he's the real Moody?"
Cedric gave a nod and a shrug, before shuffling his feet. "I wanted to tell you that I'm so sorry." She looked at Cedric with furrowed brows. His face was twisted with remorse. "I never should have insisted you take the Cup with me. It's my fault you were in that graveyard in the first place. And then I left you there alone. You deserve this more than me." He placed a small bag on her lap. It settled with the clink of shifting coins.
Holly looked between the bag and Cedric, baffled. "What are you talking about? None of what happened was your fault. You didn't know the Cup was a Portkey. And I certainly don't blame you for dodging the Killing Curse." She grabbed the bag and pushed it back towards him. "I don't want or need this. I'm just glad you're alive. They only wanted me, and if you'd stayed, they would have killed you."
"I'm glad you got out. You would have been killed if you stayed, and I-" She broke off, swallowing and looking away. Cedric gripped her hand tightly. She took a deep breath. "No matter what else happened, I'm glad you're still alive."
She squeaked in surprise as Cedric suddenly leant forward and pulled her into a hug. After a moment, she relaxed into the embrace and hugged him back. When the pair separated, Cedric sat heavily on a nearby chair.
There was a long beat of silence before Holly cleared her throat. "Um, so what happened after you, uh, got back to Hogwarts?"
"It was rather disorienting," Cedric told her. "I landed on the Cup and felt the Portkey activate again. Then I was being hauled to my feet, and everyone was cheering and congratulating me." He grimaced. "Once I got Professor Dumbledore's attention and told him what had happened, he took over. He did something to the Cup, somehow figuring out where it had come from, and made a new Portkey. Then he, Professor Moody, Professor Lupin – and his dog," he added with confusion, "all touched it and vanished."
Holly nodded, feeling immensely grateful for Dumbledore's quick thinking. Cedric shifted in his chair, before sitting up straighter. "Oh, something else happened while you were asleep. Remember how Viktor attacked us in the maze?"
"Yeah, of course," Holly said with a shudder. Cedric gave an apologetic smile.
"Well, it turns out he was Imperiused. After Dumbledore vanished, Professor Flitwick brought Viktor out of the maze and I told everyone what happened. The Minister sent someone running to get the Aurors, and they arrested him and took him back to the castle. When they woke him up, he told them he'd been Imperiused."
"They took him at his word?" Holly asked, stunned.
Cedric shook his head. "They weren't sure whether or not to believe it, so Snape offered some Veritaserum, which showed that he was telling the truth. I guess whoever was pretending to be Professor Moody did it."
Holly sank back onto her pillow, feeling a pang of regret for some of her recent, less than generous thoughts towards Viktor.
As she opened her mouth to ask after Fleur, a sudden burst of motion across the room startled her. Holly flinched, training her wand on the movement. In the other bed, Moody sat upright, remaining eye darting around the room.
"Where the bloody hell is Dumbledore!" Moody yelled. "Get Dumbledore here now!"
Padfoot jolted awake, rolling over and looking around wildly. He caught sight of Moody and gave a small huff that sounded amused. Madam Pomfrey hurried from her room, looking incredibly put out. "That's quite enough of that Alastor," she snapped. "You need to rest and stop disturbing my other patients!"
Moody levered himself upright, glaring with his remaining eye. "I'll rest after I've spoken with Dumbledore!"
Throwing up her hands, Madam Pomfrey waved her wand, releasing a silvery shape that raced from the room. Then she turned a gimlet eye on Cedric, sending him back to his bed, before she began fussing over Holly.
Several minutes later the doors opened, and Dumbledore stepped through. He inclined his head to Madam Pomfrey, smiling at Holly and Cedric, before moving to Moody's bedside. "How are you, Alastor?" he asked.
"How the fuck do you think I am, you stupid bloody bastard?" Moody snarled. Madam Pomfrey tutted loudly and shot him a fierce look, which he ignored. Dumbledore remained unfazed. "I was ambushed in my own home by three dead men, tortured, interrogated and locked in a trunk for months! And to top it off, my fucking eye and leg are gone!"
Dumbledore nodded sagely. "Yes, I can see how that would be quite vexing. However, now that you are awake, I hope we can share what we each know, to gain a clearer grasp of what we face."
Moody glared at him before falling back against his pillow with dark muttering.
"Now, you said you were captured by three men? I assume two were Voldemort and Peter Pettigrew. Could you enlighten me to the third?"
"Barty Crouch Junior," Moody growled. "And he was the scum who pretended to be me."
Dumbledore stroked his beard thoughtfully. "Yes, that would make sense."
Moody almost snarled, "If you don't tell me what you've figured out right now, I'll shove that beard so far down your throat you'll be shitting hair for weeks."
"That's quite enough of that," Madam Pomfrey said loudly, glaring at Moody. She turned to Dumbledore. "Headmaster, please, there are students present."
Dumbledore nodded. "Yes, you're quite right Poppy. Alastor, please mind your language." Moody scowled but nodded. "Now, I believe I have deduced the majority of the events that lead us to this moment.
"The true identity of your doppelganger leads me to suspect Bartemius Senior helped his son escape Azkaban. Most likely shortly before the public declaration of the death of his wife. I expect she took his place in Azkaban, and Bartemius kept his son hidden for all these years.
"Of course, no one is perfect. He would have made mistakes and had many near misses. I suspect that his former employee, Bertha Jorkins, must have witnessed something incriminating, and to protect his secret, he memory charmed her. That would explain her transfer to work under Ludo, and her suddenly terrible memory.
"Then, her disappearance while holidaying in Albania lead me to believe that was where she fell into Voldemort's clutches. I'm sure he would be able to break the memory charm on her, learning of a loyal Death Eater outside Azkaban, as well as of the Triwizard Tournament. From there, it is simple to follow the logic behind his plan, the culmination of which we saw tonight, with the kidnapping of young Holly here, and the return of Voldemort."
Holly shared a wide-eyed look with Cedric, as Dumbledore took mere scraps of evidence and weaved them into a complete story.
Moody turned his remaining eye onto Holly. "And just who the hell is she?"
Blinking in surprise, Holly realised that Moody must have been attacked before anyone told him about her transition or name change. Grabbing his wand from the side table and slipping out from under the blankets, she approached carefully. "I guess we haven't actually been introduced. I'm Holly Potter."
Glancing between her and Dumbledore, Moody slowly asked, "Is this some sort of disguise-?"
"This is who I am," Holly interrupted firmly. "If you won't respect that, you won't get your wand back."
Moody stared at her for a long moment, before bursting into laughter. Beside her Dumbledore gave a small sigh. Padfoot gave a laugh-like bark. "Oh, I like this lass, Albus. She's got fire," Moody said, giving her a scarred and lopsided grin. "Now, how the hell did you end up with my wand?"
"I disarmed the imposter," she replied primly. As Moody chuckled appreciatively, she delicately handed him his wand. "I did have a warning that he was a fake, and got him in the back," she admitted. Moody's grin became rather feral.
"That's nothing to be ashamed of," Moody told her firmly. "That's called being smart."
"What?" she asked, before she could stop herself.
"If you're in a fight against someone with more experience and power than you, you should absolutely use any advantage you can get," he said firmly. "There's no such thing as fighting dirty – there's living or dying."
"That is quite enough," Madam Pomfrey snapped. "There will be no more talk of dying. Now my patients need rest, Headmaster," she glared at Dumbledore, making it clear that it was not a suggestion. In the face of an enraged Mediwitch, even Dumbledore retreated. A gesture to Padfoot had the Animagus hurrying over to nuzzle Holly affectionately, before racing after him.
With the Hospital Wing firmly under her control once more, Madam Pomfrey ushered Holly back to her bed. Holly sighed, wondering how long it would be before she could leave.
Madam Pomfrey released Cedric that evening but kept Holly behind for an extra day. Her friends informed her that Dumbledore had spoken to the school, warning them not to ask Holly questions about her experience. She felt rather grateful, not wanting to relive the event any more than necessary. Her recollection still felt muted and dull, and she realised the memory was still in Dumbledore's Pensieve. She idly wondered if she could simply leave it there.
The people she saw on her way back to Gryffindor Tower steered clear, staring and whispering to each other. She felt too tired and wrung out to care what they were saying. She preferred spending her time with Ron, Hermione and Hagrid, talking about simple, safe things. Whenever she saw Cedric in the hallways, he smiled and waved; once he stopped to pull her a firm hug that left her blushing.
During dinner, a few days before the Hogwarts Express was set to take them home, her eyes drifted across the Slytherin table. Her gaze landed on a weedy looking boy with brown hair. She noticed the seats on either side of him were conspicuously empty. Her promise to the ghost of Nott echoed in her ears as the boy stood and made his way from the Hall.
"I've got to go do something," she told her friends, before hurrying after him. As she left the Hall, she spotted him descending to the dungeons. She raced to catch up.
Turning a corner, she stumbled to a stop. Nott stood facing her, glaring as he held her at wandpoint. Carefully she held out her empty hands.
There was a long pause, before Nott snapped, "What the hell do you want, Potter?"
Licking her lips nervously, she said, "I need to talk to you." Nott gave her an expectant look and she grimaced. "Privately."
Nott glared at her, eyes full of suspicion. Holly repressed the urge to huff impatiently. After a long moment, he grimaced. "Fine," he said. He jerked his head back at a door halfway down the corridor. "In there." As Holly stared at him expectantly, he twitched his wand. "You first."
Unable to contain her sigh this time, Holly carefully moved around the Slytherin and entered the room – it looked like it had once been a potions lab. She made sure to keep her movements slow and her hands visible to him throughout.
Once the door was closed, Nott slowly lowered his wand, but kept in in hand. "Well?" he asked.
Swallowing the lump that suddenly formed in her throat, Holly forced herself to speak. "I promised to pass on a message from your father." Nott went very still.
"He- he wanted me to tell you what happened in the graveyard. Where I was taken." Falteringly, she described the return of Voldemort, how he had greeted the Death Eaters who came, how Nott's father had refused to yield and died for it. She shared the message his shade had given her.
"ENOUGH!" Nott roared, raising his wand at her again. "How dare you use my father's name like this," he snarled. Despite the rage twisting his face, Holly saw unshed tears in his eyes. "As if my father would betray the Dark Lord. As if he would ever ask you to tell me something like that."
Holly gazed at him sadly, ignoring the trembling wandpoint. "I'm sorry, Nott, but that's what happened." She hesitated a moment, before pushing herself to continue. "If you don't believe me, Dumbledore has a copy of my memory. Ask him to see it, tell him you have my permission."
Rage and grief and disbelief warred across Nott's face as he stared at her. "Why?" he asked, barely a whisper.
"Because I made a promise."
Nott's wand wavered and his lip began to tremble. "Get out," he snarled at her. Once more moving carefully, Holly circled past him. The door slammed shut behind her. She faintly heard him begin to sob as she walked away.
The final day of term arrived, and Holly made sure she was completely packed. Once she was satisfied, she made her way to the Hospital Wing. Madam Pomfrey was arguing with a healthier looking Moody, who seemed determined to leave, sans leg and eye. Finally, she threw up her hands and stalked over to Holly, muttering under her breath about insane Aurors with too much pride for their own good.
"Aren't you glad I'm such a compliant patient in comparison," Holly said with a teasing smile.
The Mediwitch looked unimpressed, though her lips twitched slightly. "I assume you're here for your potions then, Miss Potter." A swish of her wand summoned a familiar box, filled with Masculinity Muffling Mixtures and Feminising Philters, enough to last the summer. Holly beamed at it.
"I have also been asked to give you this," Madam Pomfrey said, holding out a vial full of silvery gas-liquid. Her memory of the graveyard, Holly realised with a grimace. The Mediwitch noticed and gave her a firm look.
"I know that will be an uncomfortable memory for you, Miss Potter," she said gently, "but it is important that you face it. Hiding from such things will do you no good. I won't insist you reclaim it now, I know it would distract you from enjoying the Feast tonight. But I would ask you to promise me that you will restore that memory before you return to Hogwarts."
Face twisting as though she had bitten into a lemon, Holly nodded. "Fine. I promise."
Seemingly satisfied, Madam Pomfrey handed it to her, and ushered her out of the Hospital Wing. "Enjoy your holiday, Miss Potter."
That evening, at the Leaving Feast, Holly felt the stares of her fellow students. As she sat at the Gryffindor Table, she caught Cedric's eye. He beamed at her, leaving her stomach fluttering and her face feeling hot. Looking away, she noticed Moody had claimed his place at the table. His wooden leg was restored, but his missing eye was covered by a patch.
Throughout the meal, a tension hung in the air, many students shooting Dumbledore curious and expectant looks. Finally, the remaining deserts disappeared, and Dumbledore stood. The already quiet Hall fell silent.
"The end of another year," said Dumbledore. "I would like to thank our international guests for joining us. The Triwizard Tournament's aim was to further and promote magical understanding. In the light of Lord Voldemort's return," a panicked whisper swept the room, but Dumbledore simply spoke over them, "such ties are more important than ever before.
"The Ministry of Magic does not wish me to acknowledge this fact. It is possible that some of your parents will be horrified that I have done so – either because they will not believe that Lord Voldemort has returned, or because they think I should not tell you so, young as you are. It is my belief, however that the truth is generally preferable to lies, and that we should honour the bravery of those who have faced him.
"Two of our very own students, Cedric Diggory and Holly Potter were taken to Lord Voldemort. Cedric escaped, and gave warning, to help us rescue Holly, with true loyalty and dedication to his friend. For this, I honour him." He raised his cup in a toast to Cedric, the majority of the Hall following suit. Cedric ducked his head.
Dumbledore continued, "Holly herself fought Lord Voldemort and survived." Feeling many shocked stares, Holly kept her eyes fixed on Dumbledore. "She risked her life to return the body of Peter Pettigrew, to clear her godfather's name. She showed, in every respect, the sort of bravery that few have ever shown in facing Lord Voldemort, and for this, I honour her." He turned, once again raising his cup, and the Hall followed suit. "To Holly Potter." Through the standing bodies, Holly noticed many Slytherins remain firmly seated, with defiant expression.
"Every guest in this Hall will be welcomed back here, at any time, should they wish to come. I say to you all, once again – in the light of Lord Voldemort's return, we are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.
"Lord Voldemort's gift for spreading discord and enmity is very great. We can fight it only by showing an equally strong bond of friendship and trust. Difference of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.
"It is my belief – and never have I so hoped that I am mistaken – that we are all facing dark and difficult times. Some of you in this Hall, have already suffered directly at the hands of Lord Voldemort. Many of your families have been torn asunder.
"Should there will come a time when you have to make a choice between what is right, and what is easy, remember these bonds – of unity, of friendship, of family, of love. Remember what is truly important."
On the train ride home, Holly felt her heart begin to race, her breath to grow short. She was going back to the Dursleys. Mrs Weasley had apparently asked to take Holly immediately, but Dumbledore remained insistent on the value of the blood protection. She knew he had promised some form of protection while she was there, but her mind continued to swirl with terrible imaginings of Uncle Vernon's rage. Her vision grew fuzzy at the edges.
She jumped as someone touched her. Looking up, she saw Hermione, gently holding her hand with a concerned expression. "Are you worried about going back to your relatives," Hermione asked gently. Holly, unable to speak, nodded. "If it's too much for you, we can talk to my parents. They will be willing to help if we explain it to them."
Taking a shaky breath, Holly shook her head. "I- I need to do this. Dumbledore's right. With Voldemort back, I need the protection."
Ron reached over to rub her back soothingly. Holly found herself relaxing into the gentle touch. "We'll stay in touch. If you need anything, we'll be there for you."
Suddenly the door of the compartment slid open, and Malfoy stepped in, flanked by his ever-present guards. "How sweet," he sneered. "I'm sure little princess Potter will need plenty of comfort knowing the Dark Lord will be coming for her soon."
Holly felt her rising anger boil away her fear. "Fuck off," she snarled at him. Her hand gripped her wand in her bag.
"You've picked the losing side, Potter! I warned you! I told you, you ought to choose your company more carefully, remember? When we met on the train, first day at Hogwarts? I told you not to hang around with riff-raff like this! Too late now, Potter! They'll be the first to go, no the Dark Lord's back! Mudblood and Muggle-lovers first! Well – second – after freaks like yo-"
He was cut off by a loud blast of magic, as Holly, Ron and Hermione blasted the Slytherins with multiple hexes. Fred and George, who had joined in, stepped on their unconscious bodies on their way in. After dragging the unwanted guests into the hallway, the twins produced a pack of cards and started a game of Exploding Snap. The exciting game and friendly banter kept Holly's dark thoughts from spiralling out of control.
When Holly asked how the twins' planned joke shop was coming along, they exchanged dark looks. "It's pretty much dead in the water," George said glumly.
"We can't afford to get it off the ground," Fred added.
"What?!" Ron squawked. "What happened to all the money you won off Bagman?"
Bagman, the twin revealed, had paid them with leprechaun gold, and was completely unable to repay his many debts. In an attempt to settle with his goblin creditors, he had bet on Holly winning the Tournament. Unfortunately for him, the goblins refused to accept her tie with Cedric as a win. The goblins had grabbed him after the Third Task and he hadn't been seen since.
"Well, I can't say I feel any sympathy for the git," Holly said. "Though I'm sorry you can't get your money back, Fred, George." Then, struck by an idea, she grinned. "Actually, I think I have a solution."
With the twins help, she grabbed down her trunk, throwing it open and rifling through. "Aha!" she said victoriously, before pushing the bag of Triwizard winnings into their hands. "That should take care of your money problems."
The twins looked flabbergasted. "We can't take your money," George said, trying to hand it back.
"Yes you can. I'm investing in your business. The ideas you two come up with are brilliant. You can make people laugh, and I think with everything that's going on, we're going to need a lot more laughs soon. And you can consider it a prank as well," she said, eyes dancing mischievously.
"How's that?" Fred asked, baffled.
"Half of that was Cedric's," she told them, "but he refused to take it. So I'm investing it on his behalf. He gets an equal share, whether he wants it or not."
The twins stared at her before bursting into laughter. After thanking her profusely, they left to store the money safely away. They had their heads together already, whispering ideas and plots.
Holly flopped back into her seat, feeling strangely lighter. Hermione looked torn between pride and horror. Ron simply goggled. "Blimey, that was a lot of money, Holly," he said, awestruck. Holly shrugged.
"I really didn't want it. It would just be a reminder of the Tournament that I don't want." Glancing at him, she saw he was still struggling with the idea. "If you want, I'll give you a thousand galleons as well."
Ron's ears went pink. "I don't need you to give me money, Holly."
"I know," she said, shrugging. "I would like to, though. It wouldn't come close to repaying everything you and your family have done for me, but it would be a start."
Ron didn't seem to know what to say to that and fell into a contemplative silence.
When they arrived, there was a surprise waiting for Holly on the platform. Beside Mrs Weasley and Hermione's parents, Lupin stood smiling gently. "Professor Lupin, what are you doing here?" she asked, after receiving a rib-crushing hug from Mrs Weasley.
"I'm here to help finalise the arrangements with your family," he replied. His voice was deliberately light. Then he smiled wryly. "And I haven't been your Professor for a long while now, Holly. You can call me Remus." At Holly's hesitant look, he chuckled. "Or Moony, if you prefer."
"Okay, Pr- I mean, Remus," Holly stammered out. He gave her a warm smile.
Holly said her goodbyes to her friends, with many hugs and promises to write. Then, Remus levitated her trunk onto a trolley and lead her through the barrier to King's Cross. They saw Uncle Vernon waiting with a scowl, eyes scanning the crowd. Holly couldn't keep herself from giggling as his gaze passed over her without recognition. As the pair approached him, he sneered at Remus' worn looking clothes.
"You're looking in the wrong place for handouts," he snarled, puffing up as if indignant at the very idea of charity. "Get out of here, you useless layabout."
Remus gave him a cold look. "I am here to escort Holly back to your house and set up protections for her. As I'm sure Professor Dumbledore explained in his letter to you."
At the Headmaster's name, Uncle Vernon's face paled dramatically. He stared at Remus in horror. "You're one of them," he gasped.
Holly grinned. "Yep. In fact he's a very close friend of my godfather," she said brightly. Uncle Vernon whimpered, backing up until he struck the platform barrier. Then he looked at Holly and his eyes bulged. "What the devil are you wearing, Boy?" he hissed.
As he turned back to glare at her, Holly realised why he had struggled to recognise her. Her long hair was braided in an intricate style down her back – she mentally thanked Parvati for the spell. Her face, already softened from several months of the Feminising Philter, bore a thin layer of makeup, enhancing the effect. She loved the eyeliner making her eyes seem larger. She wore a light blouse and shorts, which hugged her rapidly developing figure. Her feet were clad in simple flats.
It was gratifying to be given such obvious proof of her transition's effectiveness.
Holly noticed a few passers-by glancing at Uncle Vernon with mixed curiousity and concern. Knowing Remus was here to protect her, she felt suddenly confident. Raising an eyebrow at Uncle Vernon, she said, "You're making quite a scene, Vernon. I wonder what people must be thinking of you."
His face spasmed with rage at her disrespect, before he looked around, noticing the confused looks. Turning, he stormed off through the station. Holly and Remus followed him to the Dursleys' car. Uncle Vernon looked furious at Remus joining them in the car, but his protests died under a single cold look.
Throughout the trip, Remus made casual conversation with Holly. He kept the topics light, asking after her friends and her grades. She reciprocated, asking how his job was going, and how Sirius was. She noticed Uncle Vernon gripping the steering wheel in a painfully tight grip. He stared resolutely ahead, teeth audibly grinding.
When they arrived at 4 Privet Drive, Uncle Vernon practically bolted from the car. Remus helped her carry her trunk up to her room, before leading her back to the sitting room, where they found Uncle Vernon whispering to Aunt Petunia. Her face was pinched, as if she had sucked on a particularly foul lemon.
"Holly, could I trouble you for a cup of tea?" Remus asked. His voice was gentle, but his eyes were hard as he looked at the Dursleys. Glancing between her red-faced Uncle, her pale Aunt and the cold look on Remus' face, Holly nodded. She retreated to the kitchen.
As she waited for the kettle to boil, she took a steadying breath. The Dursleys would behave, she knew, as long as Remus was here. She hoped whatever protections were placed would be enough to maintain it. Grabbing the whistling kettle, she busied herself making tea, the way she remembered Remus enjoyed from their meetings the previous year.
Returning to the sitting room, she found her relatives sitting on the couch facing Remus, with sickly expressions. Uncle Vernon even looked slightly green. She handed Remus his cup, receiving a smile of thanks before retreating to an armchair in the corner to watch and listen.
Remus took a long sip before addressing the Dursleys. "As long as Holly remains here, she will be under guard. We will be watching to ensure she is safe, and not being mistreated in any way."
Aunt Petunia's face twisted with disgust and horror. "I will not have you people traipsing in and out of our house! God only knows what the neighbours would say about us. You have no right to come here and invade our privacy!"
"You lost your right to privacy when you abused Holly," Remus said, voice hard and cold as ice. Aunt Petunia flinched back. "We will be here, and we will be watching. For security purposes, whoever is on guard will be invisible, so you won't have to worry about your precious reputation," he said contemptuously.
Turning to Holly, he drew out a small silver item. "This is for you Holly. It is a two-way mirror, connected to another held by Sirius. Simply call his name into it, and you will be able to speak with each other." Holly eagerly accepted the mirror, smiling at her reflection. She still found liking her appearance an odd, but nice experience. "We expect you to call regularly. If we haven't heard from you in at least two days, you will receive a check-up visit. Without the invisibility," he noted to the Dursleys, who cringed at the thought.
"Now," he drained his cup before continuing, "I will be applying some enchantments to Holly's bedroom, which will prevent you from entering it." Gesturing for Holly to follow, he left the room. After a quick glance at her thunderstruck relatives, she hurried after him.
In Holly's room, he paced around the edges, waving his wand and muttering incantations under his breath. After a few minutes, Holly piped up from the bed. "Won't this get in trouble for underage magic?" Remus paused, giving her a curious look. Holly shrugged. "Before second year, a house elf used magic here and the Ministry blamed me."
"Ah yes," he said, nodding in understanding. "The Trace is actually rather unreliable." Holly grinned as he dropped into his teaching voice. "It detects not only the spells an underage witch or wizard casts, but all magic that is performed around them."
Holly's brow wrinkled in confusion. "But wouldn't it be going off all the time for someone like Ron? His family are always using magic."
Remus nodded. "Yes, but the Ministry simply assumes any magic performed in a magical dwelling is performed by adult wizards."
Holly's eyes widened at the implications. "So someone like Draco Malfoy can practice as much as he wants over the holidays, but if Hermione or I tried, we'd get in trouble? How is that fair?!"
"It's not," Remus said with a tired smile. "That is rather a trend with the Ministry, you see." Holly grimaced, nodding in agreement. "For today, however, Professor Dumbledore informed the Ministry that an adult wizard," he bowed slightly, "will be here performing magic. So you're in the clear."
After considering this for a moment, Holly grinned. "Does that mean I can use magic right now?"
Remus paused, and shot her a quelling look. "Technically, the will assume I am casting the magic. I wouldn't risk it, however. All it would take it for two spells to be considered cast much too quickly to attract the Ministry's attention."
With a disappointed sigh, Holly began unpacking by hand. She filed away the knowledge that she could get away with magic if she was at a wizarding home. 'That might come in handy,' she thought.
Once they finished their respective tasks, Remus led her downstairs once more. Aunt Petunia was in the kitchen, shakily beginning preparations for dinner. Uncle Vernon sat at the table, glaring at it. They jumped as Remus entered the room.
"I have finished the protections on Holly's room. I suggest you avoid it, unless you want a very disorienting experience." He shot Holly a warm smile. "Have a nice holiday, Holly." Then, with a smile that promised terrible things for the Dursleys, he said, "We'll be seeing you, Vernon, Petunia." With a flourish of his wand that made Aunt Petunia squawk in fright, he tapped the top of his head, and faded out of view.
With a smirk at her horrified relatives, Holly said, "I think I'll go chat with Sirius. We haven't talked in a bit and I'd hate for him to miss me." Giggling, she sashayed out of the room.
AN: Holy shit this took a while, sorry y'all.