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Ohhhh snap! What's up everyone? I hope you're all doing well! Anyway... I hope ye enjoy!
DISCLAIMER: Mads does not own any of the characters or the Harry Potter series. She just really loves the magic.
"Save it. We've already heard it all."
The Weasleys, Harlow, Harry, and Hermione were climbing the massive set of stairs to their seats in the top box to watch the World Cup. Fred, George, and Harlow were trailing just behind the group. The twins had just told her they had gambled their savings away towards a bet they had made with Ludo Bagman. Harlow had heard Lysander talk about Mr. Bagman and she didn't quite like him from what she had heard.
"You know he's notorious for paying back with Leprechaun gold, don't you?" she said with an incredulous look at her friends.
"If we don't get our money, then we'll make sure he knows we mean business," Fred shrugged, but Harlow could see a hint of worry in his hazel eyes. George's mouth twitched nervously.
They were seated at the very top box of the stadium. Harlow was not afraid of heights but she felt slightly dizzy and nauseated when she peered over the edge at the field below. She shrank back into her seat and kept her eyes forward. There were hundreds of flashes from witches and wizards using their omnioculars and a steady rumble of indistinguishable chatter. Harlow had never seen this many magical folk gathered in one place before. They had run into quite a few friends from school, as well as a few undesirable students such as Draco Malfoy and his mother and father, who happened to be sitting in the same box as them. Apparently, they were guests of the Minister of Magic himself. Harlow itched to hurdle over the seats and strangle him with her bare hands due to the constant jabs he took at Harry and the rest of the Weasleys. She remained seated, gripping the sides of her chair with both hands.
Finally, it was time for the match to begin. Bagman magically enhanced his voice so it boomed over the cheers and screams of the crowded stadium, announcing first the mascots of each team. The Bulgarians had brought veela, unnaturally beautiful women with white-blonde hair and skin that appeared to glow moon bright. They danced on the field and Harlow noticed Fred, George, and Arthur stuffing their fingers in their ears. Whatever was happening had made Harry stand and place a foot on the railing that divided their seats from the sheer drop to the pitch, as if he were considering diving off of it. Ron had begun to absentmindedly tear the shamrocks on his hat to shreds. Hermione rolled her eyes and yanked Harry back into his seat. Harry's eyes came back into focus and the veela went to stand at the very edge of the pitch.
Next were the Leprechauns brought by the Irish team. They sailed over the pitch, creating a large dancing shamrock in the air and began tossing pieces of gold onto the crowd like pelting rain. While people scrambled to collect the riches, Harlow knew full well that Leprechauns were mischievous devils that enjoyed tricking humans. There was a good chance that the gold was fake.
But the match itself was a spectacular sight. When the teams were announced, and each player came zooming into the pitch, it was unlike anything Harlow had ever seen. The game moved so fast, Harlow regretted not buying her own pair of omnioculars. Bagman only had time to shout the names of the players as they whizzed by, ducked and dodged each other, pelting after one another like angry hornets. Harlow was becoming increasingly dizzy just watching them but she was unable to tear her eyes away. She was practically teetering on the edge of her seat.
There was a collective gasp from the crowd as the Bulgarian Seeker, Viktor Krum, took a nose dive straight down towards the grassy field, his arm outstretched. Aidan Lynch, Captain and Seeker for the Irish, barreled after him. Had Krum seen the Snitch? Harlow couldn't see any sign of the glittering gold ball.
"They're going to crash!" Hermione shrieked. She was right. The ground was feet from them and, right before the impact, Krum pulled up on his broom. Harlow's hands shot up to shield her eyes as Lynch collided painfully with the ground with a sickening thud that resounded through the whole pitch.
"Ohh, please tell me he's okay," she groaned, leaning into Fred's shoulder.
Free laughed, patting her head. "He'll be alright. Look, the mediwizards are fixing him up now."
Harlow peaked through her fingers at the pitch below. Lynch was surrounded by a group of wizards that were doing their best to bring the Seeker back up to snuff and soon he was flying back up into the air on his Firebolt, the front of his robes covered in blood, and the match resumed. The whistle blew and the Chasers zoomed back into play.
Ireland pulled ahead in fifteen minutes, the scoreboard reading one hundred and thirty points to ten. It was not looking good for Bulgaria unless Krum managed to catch the Snitch right now and lead with an extra one hundred and fifty points. And Bulgaria knew it. The team was starting to play dirty. One of the Irish Chasers, Mullet, flew furiously towards the goal posts where the Bulgarian Keeper, Zograf, zipped our to meet her. Harlow blinked, missing whatever had happened, the Irish crowd roaring in outrage. Whatever happened had been considered a foul.
"And Mostafa takes the Bulgarian Keeper to gawk for cobbing - excessive use of elbows!" Bagman's magically enhanced voice boomed over the crowd. "And - yes, it's a penalty for Ireland!"
The Leprechauns rose into the air like a glittering green cloud to form the words, "HA HA HA!" The veela jumped angrily to their feet and began to dance. The men in the top box shoved their fingers in their ears once again.
"Look at the referee!" Hermione giggled.
Harlow peered over the edge of the box and caught a glimpse of Mostafa, the referee, flexing his muscles and smoothing his mustache in front of the Bulgarian mascots. People within the crowd roared with laughter.
"Now we can't have that! Somebody slap the referee!" said Bagman.
A mediwizard tore across the field and kicked Mostafa in the shins. Embarrassed, he began shouting at the veela - which the Bulgarians did not like. The Beaters landed on either side of him and they began arguing. Harlow rolled her eyes. Was this really the time?
"Two penalties for Ireland! And Volkov and Vulchanov had better get back on those brooms… yes… there they go… and Troy takes the Quaffle," shouted Bagman.
The match continued and the ferocity increased. Now more than ever did the players look like furious wasps. Bludgers were aimed to injure, and one managed to hit Krum square in the face, breaking his nose. Blood poured down his robes but continued to play. The Seeker had the most intense look across his face that Harlow had ever seen. But it wasn't until Harry shouted that she turned her attention to the Irish.
"Look at Lynch!"
The Irish Seeker has taken a sudden dive. For the briefest of seconds, Harlow saw a faint glint of something gold speeding towards the ground in front of Lynch's outstretched hand. Screams steadily grew as more and more spectators noticed what was happening. Harlow jumped to her feet, her hands clapped over her mouth. Krum was a blur of red that pelted after Lynch, blood flying through the air behind him. They were level with each other, the ground becoming dangerously close.
"They're going to crash!" shrieked Hermione again.
"They're not!" Ron shouted.
"Lynch is!" yelled Harry.
For the second time, Lynch crashed to the ground in a crumpled heap. Harlow jumped with a shriek as he was trampled by a horde of angry veela. Fred and George were cheering loudly next to her.
"The Snitch, where's the Snitch?" she heard Charlie cry out from the row.
"He's got it - Krum's got it - it's all over!" shouted Harry.
The twins high-fived. They had won their bet after all.
"IRELAND WINS!" yelled Bagman. "KRUM GETS THE SNITCH BUT IRELAND WINS!"
Harlow's head felt light and was filled with the loud drone of hundreds of thousands of cheering voices. The match had been wild and fierce and much better than she had imagined. She cheered alongside the twins, and she knew she would be hoarse and sore in the morning.
Afterwards, the lot of them, Harlow, Harry, Hermione, and the rest of the Weasleys, headed back to their tents. Arthur urged Fred and George to keep their gambling a secret. Fred assured him they had big plans for the money they had earned. None of them felt much like sleeping. They talked and argued animatedly about the match over mugs of hot chocolate. It wasn't until Ginny had fallen asleep and spilled her mug at the table did they all change into their pajamas and head to bed. Harlow climbed back into her bottom bunk in the girls' tent, the aftermath of the roaring crowd still buzzing in her ears.
"Girls! Ginny, Hermione, Harlow! Get up - this is urgent, get up!"
Harlow was shaken awake by Arthur. It was dark, but she could hear the panic in his voice. She sat up and blinked blearily into the darkness. "What's wrong?"
She noticed now that the noises outside had changed. The celebrations were replaced by frightened screaming and the thundering of feet racing away from something. Arthur reached out his hand to stop her grabbing her clothes. "There's no time! Just grab your jacket and get outside. Quickly!"
Harlow, Hermione, and Ginny scrambled for their jackets and tumbled out of their tent. Harry and the rest of the Weasley boys were already outside waiting for them. Everywhere around them was chaos. A few fires from the earlier celebrations were still burning and through the dim light and rising smoke, she could see crowds of people sprinting through the tents towards the forest, away from whatever was through the haze that was creating sudden, odd flashes of lights and noises like gunfire. Drunken laughter and jeers drifted to them and she could make out dark shapes marching towards them. A strong burst of green light revealed them.
A group of wizards donning black hoods, their faces obscured by silver masks, came into view. Floating in the air high above them were four struggling figures that she quickly recognized as the Roberts family, the Muggles that allowed them into their campsite. They were twisting in unnatural, grotesque shapes. Harlow stared, wide-eyed and horror struck. What were they doing?
She could see more people joining the march and some of them raised their wands and set the tents ablaze. She tore her eyes away, taking Fred and George's sleeves. They gripped her arms tightly.
Bill, Charlie, and Percy emerged from the boys' tent, fully dressed and rolling up their sleeves. Arthur turned urgently to them. "We're going to help the Ministry!" He shouted over the noise. "You lot - get into the woods and stick together. I'll come and fetch you when we've sorted this out!"
"C'mon," Free grabbed Ginny's hand and lead her to the woods, with Harlow, George, Harry, Hermione, and Ron following close behind.
The six of them followed the panicking crowd to the forest. The colorful lamps that had lined the path to the stadium had been extinguished. Harlow slipped her wand out of her pocket and muttered "Lumos!" and a shaft of light illuminated her wand and their path ahead. Fred and George's faces were stark white, both of their brows creased with worry. Ginny was too terrified to speak. She was holding onto Fred's arm with all her might so she didn't lose him. Harlow stole a glance behind her. Who were those people and why had they done that to those Muggles? She supposed the Ministry was going to have a hell of a time trying to cover this up...
It was then that she noticed Harry, Ron, and Hermione were no longer with them.
"Wait!" she cried, and Fred and George stopped so abruptly that Ginny nearly bowled her brother over.
"What? What is it?" George asked, taking his wand out in alarm.
"Harry, Ron, and Hermione are gone," she said, scanning the dark forest around them. There was no sign of the three of them anywhere. Where on earth could they have run off to?
"They'll be okay, Harley," Fred said calmly, taking her by the hand. "We have to go. They'll meet up with us."
Harlow was reluctant to leave them behind. What if those wizards got them? There wouldn't be much they could do at that point. Part of her wanted to tug free of Fred's grasp and run back to search for them, but her feet began moving with the twins on their own accord. Fred pulled her with until they reached the stadium where the rest of the witches and wizards had gathered. Children cried into their mother's shoulders, tired and confused. Others were shaking in fright. Some were simply silent, staring back into the trees with solemn looks. The rest were whispering to each other.
"Didn't that look like…?"
"No, it couldn't be… d'you think?"
"They certainly looked like it to me."
"Death Eaters, for sure."
Death Eaters? Icy dread dripped into the pit of Harlow's stomach. Death Eaters rampaging and harming Muggles at the World Cup? Would they be so bold as to do such a thing where there were plenty of Ministry wizards present? The more she thought about it, the more it made sense. But… if there were Death Eaters, then did that mean…?
Harlow shook her head. She would not allow herself to become even more paranoid than she already was. It had been fourteen years. Surely if he had returned, the whole of the wizarding world would have known by now. But even that thought wasn't very reassuring. She pushed it completely to the back of her mind.
They found a spot along the wall inside the stadium. Ginny sank down onto the floor, visibly shaken. Harlow sat next to her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. "What happened to the other three?" she asked croakily.
"They'll be okay," Fred repeated, taking a seat next to Harlow. George sat himself on Ginny's other side.
"Who were those people?" their sister swallowed hard, trying to add strength to her voice.
"We don't know," the twins chorused.
"What were they doing with those Muggles?" Ginny's eyes were the size of saucers.
"We don't know that either…"
They sat in silence for what felt like forever. The drone of voices continued, and Harlow felt as if she were in a daze. Every noise sounded like it was being thrown through an endless tunnel. She was vaguely aware of Fred's hand on her head, stroking her hair in an attempt to calm her. Harry, Ron, and Hermione had still not returned. Harlow finally tore away from the wall and climbed to her feet. She couldn't stay here any longer.
"Where are you going?" Fred demanded, startled.
"Your brother and his friends haven't come back," she said, taking her wand back out of her pocket. She rounded on him. "Aren't you worried about him? We should go look for him!"
"Of course I'm worried about him!" Fred looked hurt. "But Dad told us to stick together and I don't think we should leave here."
"Oh, now you do as you're told?" she shot back. She shook her head. "I'm going to look for them."
She pushed her way through the crowd, throwing open the doors that lead outside. Footsteps chased after her.
"Harlow, wait!" Fred slid to a stop next to her, taking her arm. "I don't think this is a good ide-"
But he was cut off by a great flash of light somewhere within the trees. They watched as thousands of emerald stars exploded in the sky over their heads. They joined together to form a colossal skull, a large serpent slithering out of its mouth. Harlow's heart sank and several people screamed, pointing frantically up at the symbol above them. It was the same as her dream. She sank to her knees, her eyes transfixed on the serpent that appeared to be watching her.
Fred hauled her back onto to her feet, turning her deliberately away from it and shielding her with his body. "We need to get back to the stadium, Harley," he told her gently, steering her back in the direction of the open doors. "We'll be safe there."
She didn't argue. She followed without question. What did this mean?