Proud Parents

A/N this chapter takes Proud Parents past the word count of the original - and we've just reached Halloween. Thanks to all who've taken time to read this version. Really enjoyed writing this chapter, which is why we authors keep doing this.

Chapter 26 - Halloween

Molly was serving Bill tea, while keeping one eye on the family clock. Arthur had promised to get home from work early today, and they were waiting on him before the three of them portkeyed to the Institute. This being Molly thought, she wasn't doing any of this waiting quietly.

"…and Millie is such a lovely girl. I don't know if it's attending the Institute or having Millie at his side but I'm seeing such a welcome change in our Ron. The betrothal contract was something Millie's parents were keen on too. They can see how close those two are, and really like Ron as well.."

Bill was spared listening to any more as the clock hand for his father shifted to 'traveling' before settling on 'home'. He watched as his mum wiped her hands on her apron before getting a cup of tea ready for his father when the clock chiming again commanded all of their their attention. The hand for his father was spinning around like the ball of a roulette wheel before coming to a stop on 'Mortal Peril'

His mother let out a shriek but Bill was already moving. The entire family knew their father always apparated to the same spot, between his beloved shed and the back door. There was no sign of him, and thankfully no sign of any struggle. Casting a few detection spells, Bill got information that meshed with what the clock had already told them. His father had been kidnapped right from his own back door by a portkey - but why?

Molly's wails of anguish finally cut through Bill's thoughts as he hugged his mother. The truth of the situation then hit him like a bludger to the head. "Fuck, not dad - and not today…"

"Bill, what is it? You know what happened to your father?"

"I might, mum, but I hope I'm wrong. I need you to get on the floo to Amelia Bones - don't settle for anyone else. Tell her exactly what happened and say I think it's tonight in the graveyard. She'll know exactly what I mean. I need to leave and get help to rescue dad. I'm so sorry for abandoning you but, as the clock says, dad's in real danger and minutes are ticking away here."

A determined Molly shot toward the floo, she would speak to Amelia and soon deal with any flunky who tried to prevent that.

Before activating his portkey to the Institute, Bill sent off a message patronus to Barchoke. He then had a thought and sent off another before portkeying to Italy.

-oOoOo-

Penny was clinging onto Percy as they sought a few moments respite in their shared quarters.

"I honestly don't know how much longer I can take this, Percy. Every time we go to Dumbledore and complain that we're barely coping with the jobs, we seem to leave his office with even more work on our plates. This feast tonight is a prime example. Not only do we have to make arrangements for the two visiting schools, Dumbledore decides the whole thing is going to be broadcast live on the wireless - then drops accommodating them onto us."

"I know, love. At least Umbridge is organising the tournament…"

"Since she does nothing else, I would say it's about time…"

Penny didn't get to say anymore as they were interrupted by a silver crow patronus flying through the wall, one that delivered a message in Bill's voice.

"Percy, dad's been kidnapped from right outside the Burrow. I'm trying to organise a rescue but that leaves mum home alone. Your family needs you, Percy, this rescue is going to be risky at best. Last thing, don't go near Dumbledore with this - family first."

They sat a moment in silence before Penny asked what they should do. Percy stood and grabbed their coats. "We'll get past the wards, apparate to Hogsmeade and then floo from the Three Broomsticks to the Burrow."

As they made their way out the door, Penny hesitated. "What about Dumbledore?"

Taking her by the arm, Percy got them moving again before answering. "Family first, fuck Dumbledore!"

Using every shortcut and secret passageway the former Head Boy and Girl knew, both were soon out of the castle and racing to get beyond the Hogwarts wards.

-oOoOo-

By pure chance, Harry was in Modern Studies as Bill burst into the class. "Harry, I think it's today - and they've snatched my father…"

Before things could get out of hand, Emma took command. "Students, the rest of this class will now be spent in the library. Susan, could you let the Headmistress know we have an emergency here - and won't be able to take our last class today either."

As the classroom emptied, the rest of the Weasleys and Millie gathered around Bill. Dobby was called, asked to inform Remus and Sirius, and get their armour. Dan gave both a serious look before issuing a demand. "Do not leave without us!" Emma had already run to get her armour and arms - Dan now followed his wife out the door.

Harry conjured a privacy screen in the corner of the room as Dobby popped in with the armour Barchoke had gotten made for them, as well as sets for Dan and Emma too.

"Dog father is on his way, and promised to ground you both for life if you go without him."

As they were getting changed, Ron was making his appeal from the other side of the screen. "Harry, it's my dad. I need to be with you. I know I've let my training slip but I can still help."

Emerging from the screen while still fastening his armoured vest, Harry walked over and asked them all to take a seat. "Do you remember at the summer when we discussed ways Voldemort could return to a body…"

He was interrupted by Remus and Pomona entering, closely followed by a Dan and Emma who appeared to be strapping on every gun they owned. With their pump action shotguns too, they were loaded for bear. Padfoot sprang into the room, and leaped straight at Harry - tail wagging like mad.

Harry was fending the slobbering monster off while Barchoke entered too, sword at his hip. "Ok, everyone calm down. The clock is ticking here, so serious faces on now." Hermione instantly got one hundred percent compliance so Harry continued from where he left off.

"As I was saying earlier, we think Voldemort is going to try for a new body today. We're pretty sure how he will go about it, and also where. We have already taken steps to interfere with the ritual. It's looking like they've kidnapped Arthur Weasley, who will forcibly have a small amount of his blood stolen as part of the ritual. Bill has already taken steps to inform Amelia but I'd rather we get there before the Ministry. We've got a plan in place to deal with Voldemort, so this is purely a rescue mission - grab Arthur and get the hell out of there…"

At that, Amelia Bones actually walked in the door. "I figured this would be a rescue mission, so I have a squad of aurors on standby. They can be summoned to my badge if we need them."

Turning to Ron and the twins, Harry really had no option but to give it to them straight. "There will be nine of us on this rescue mission, forming two teams of four and five. We've all worked together before and are used to taking orders. We know where we're going, but not sure what we'll find when we get there. I'm sorry but the mission comes first, we can't take chances when the stakes are so high."

Bill wrapped his arms around his three brothers and Millie. "Today was meant to go so differently, my youngest brother getting betrothed was definitely a cause for celebration. We get dad out of this, that will still happen tonight. I need you to get a hold of Ginny though, we'll be back as soon as we can."

Such was the respect they held their Headmistress in, all looked to her for conformation of these institutions. "Get Ginny from class, then take her to Poppy and wait there." Pomona didn't need to say any one returning from this mission would probably be heading for the infirmary anyway.

Harry and Hermione found themselves being hugged by their four friends who were leaving. After the door closed, Pomona turned to those left. "What can I do to help?"

Hermione's answer was as swift as it was heartbreaking. "Look after Joan for us. Get Neville and Luna to take her to the Infirmary with Poppy. Susan and Hannah should really be there too - they've got a stake in this as well."

Harry needed to go into command mode as his emotions were in turmoil at the merest mention of Joan.

"Ok, Hermione, Emma and Dan with me. Our main task will be to engage Voldemort, be that verbally, magically or a bullet in his gut. We're not there to fight a war though, just keep him occupied until they get Arthur free. We already have something in place to deal with him. Amelia, you're leading the other group, bringing everyone home is number one priority. Sirius - no heroics. Francesca would skin me alive, and Joan loves her uncle Padfoot."

"Eh, what's this plan for Voldemort?"

"Not really relevant at the moment, Bill." Harry hoped they could sit down tonight and bring Bill up to speed.

At that, Dobby popped in with a box of portkeys for Harry. Taking them from their little friend, Harry let them know the plan - such as it was.

"These are same portkeys we used on our last visit to Britain, and they're all linked. We all wear one, Amelia your group take two each. Slip one on Arthur and I'll have us back here a minute later. Pomona, could you have the portkey point monitored - and keep the students away."

Amelia liked the idea of keeping the plan basic, they couldn't really do much more with the information they had. "Can you set these portkeys to land us on the road between the shack and the graveyard. We can move forward from there, reacting to whatever situation we find as best we can."

As Harry was doing that, Hermione hugged Dobby. "Stay with Joan until we get back."

"Little Miss Joan is family, Dobby always take care of her." He actually hugged Hermione back, before leaving with tears in his eyes. Hermione's was the last portkey Harry altered, and the group then left for the Institute's portkey point.

-oOoOo-

Molly was transfixed, she wasn't moving a muscle while staring at their clock. It might appear silly but Molly felt as long as she focused on Arthur's clock hand, she could keep him with her. When the clock made a noise, the shock had Molly letting out a scream. It took her a few seconds to realise that Arthur's hand hadn't changed or moved. The clock emitted another chime as Percy's hand moved from travelling to home.

His voice soon rang around the Burrow, her sobs leading Percy and Penny straight to her. While Penny went to comfort Molly, Percy was now the one transfixed as he stared at his mother's clock. Seeing his father's hand stuck at mortal peril had Percy sinking to his knees. Penny was soon comforting both Weasleys.

-oOoOo-

Voldemort expected Wormtail to capture their target, but not this soon.

"I'm sorry, Master, he came home early from the Ministry and I had to take him. Bill Weasley was in the house, that's not a wizard I could tangle with - he's a powerful curse-breaker for Gringotts."

This complicated things, as he had planned on performing the ritual under the cover of darkness. The chance of being discovered had to be weighed against the Ministry having hours extra to try and trace their missing Department Head. "Everything is ready, Wormtail, we will start preparations immediately. My time is now, don't fail me."

Drawing his wand, the Dark Lord secured Weasley to his muggle father's monument. As an afterthought, he cast expelliarmus at the bound wizard. He was left shaking his head as a wand shot toward him. Wormtail must have been in such a hurry, he'd slapped the portkey on the stunned wizard without even taking Weasley's wand. He was clearly terrified of the eldest Weasley son.

Wormtail had the massive cauldron moved into place, started the fire and began adding the carefully prepared and already measured ingredients. Voldemort had meticulously done the calculations and having possession of a magical body should help fuel the transfiguration into a body of his own. It would have been better if the body he currently possessed was male, but magic was magic. As all the other elements in the ritual were all male, the transfiguration should proceed exactly as he'd planned.

With the Dark Lord looking over his shoulder the entire time, and also knowing what his part in the ritual required of him, it was a heavily perspiring Peter who shakily added the final ingredient before stirring the required number of times.

"Well done, Wormtail. The rest should be easy now. After it simmers for its ten minutes, we'll proceed." The Dark Lord walked over to the restrained Arthur and spelled him awake.

"Bertha, what's going on here? Where is here?"

"Oh Arthur Weasley, if only I was Bertha Jorkins - you might actually live to see tomorrow. I want you to witness my rebirth, not that you'll be able to tell anyone about it. Wormtail?"

"One more minute, Master, then it's ready."

"Sorry to leave you hanging there, Arthur. Don't worry, I'll soon be back with you." As the Dark Lord walked toward the now steaming cauldron, he began to disrobe.

Peter was doing his best not to be sick, since he had spent weeks having sex with the now nude woman standing before him. A woman that had red eyes and spoke with the Dark Lord's voice. "It's time, don't fail me now."

As Voldemort climbed into the cauldron, Peter was well aware he now held the Dark Lord's life in his hands. Failure was not an option. Drawing his wand he pointed it in Arthur's direction.

He summoned bones from the grave beneath Arthur, before chanting "bone of the father, unknowingly given, you will regenerate your son" Peter then directed the fragments of summoned bone into the cauldron.

Peter wasn't watching the reaction of the potion, it was taking all his resolve to ready himself for the next part of the ritual. Putting his wand away, he drew a very sharp knife from his robes. He couldn't fake this part, it had to be done willingly or magic would know.

"Flesh of the servant, willingly sacrificed, you will revive your master."

Holding his arm out over the caldron, Peter then sliced off his left hand. It dropped into the potion, which bubbled and spurted before becoming a sickly yellow colour.

With a rudimentary tourniquet already in place on his arm, Peter tightened it to slow the blood loss - he still had one more task to do. Wiping the bloody knife on his robes, Peter approached a struggling Arthur.

"I could easily cut an artery here, which would piss off my master as he wants to kill you himself. Stop struggling." To emphasise his point, Peter whacked Arthur on the side of the head with the butt of his knife. He then cut into the now dazed wizard's arm, collecting Arthur's blood on the blade of his knife.

Making his way carefully back to the cauldron, Peter let the blood drip into the cauldron. "Blood of the enemy, forcibly taken, you will resurrect your foe."

Dripping Arthur's blood into the potion was the catalyst that started quite a violent reaction, and the air rang with his Master's screams. Staggering back, Peter found himself sitting on the grass - with only the headstone he was leaning his back against keeping him upright - as the cauldron then split into a dozen pieces with an almighty bang.

As the steam dissipated, Peter's initial thought was his tourniquet idea was shit. He must have lost too much blood, otherwise - apart for the shortish white hair and red eyes - the Dark Lord could possibly pass for Molly Weasley.

It wasn't the shape or sex of the body that was spooking Voldemort though, he was certain after the ritual his magic would once more be fizzing around whatever body he achieved. Rather than a fine champagne however, it felt more like a week old fermenting carrot juice. It was time to test this body, and the magic it possessed.

"Wormtail, my wand."

As Peter struggled to his feet, a voice he immediately recognised rang out around the graveyard.

-oOoOo-

They arrived on the road, with the sun beginning to set behind them. "On any other mission, we'd wait until the sun goes down before making our move. That's not an option here, so we're going to have to work with disillusionment charms." Amelia was hardly finished speaking when Harry hit her with a charm. She felt the familiar chill and experienced the egg being cracked on her head tingle. What was really different however was that Amelia could see the outline of Sirius, the next person Harry cast on.

As he continued casting, covering each member of the group, Harry quietly offered an explanation. "It's a parseltongue spell, that allows you to see others under the same spell. It will very soon be too dangerous to speak, so we'll need to see each other to communicate with hand signals. Tom's father's grave is on the right side of this path, so your group take that. We'll take the left and see how things play out when we get there."

With that, they set off. None of them knew how Voldemort's timeline would play out, they just had to hope they could get there before Arthur was murdered. There wasn't a snowball's chance in Hell of Voldemort letting Arthur live after he got a new body.

Harry and Hermione took the lead, as Dan and Emma covered them with their shotguns. On the other side, they could just about see a disillusioned Padfoot leading the group, Remus and Barchoke closely following with Amelia and Bill bringing up the rear. They both thought this was a smart move by Amelia. No one knew what they would find, so there was also no way to predict how Bill would react to it.

As they approached the graveyard, Padfoot led Amelia's group away from the path and toward a break in the low wall that enclosed it. This saved having a bottle neck at the gate, as only four people now needed to slip through it unnoticed.

They could actually smell the potion before the massive cauldron was spotted, it was so rancid Harry and Hermione were silently debating whether bubble head charms were required. Moving slowly, and working from gravestone to gravestone, they manoeuvred into a position where the cauldron was between them and where they could see Peter cutting a bound Arthur with a knife. Glancing over, they saw Amelia practically sitting on someone to restrain them. Since Padfoot, Remus and Barchoke were sneaking toward the monument Arthur was tied to, it was a safe assumption she was stopping Bill charging right in there like an idiot.

Screams emitting from the cauldron was music to their ears, until the cauldron exploding almost deafened them. They were about thirty feet away, and only Hermione beside him confirming what they were looking at saved Harry from questioning his sanity. They were edging closer until Voldemort shouted for his wand - the waiting was over.

Harry cancelled the charm on himself, while enchanting his voice to reverberate around the graveyard. He wanted their eyes only on him.

"Hey Tom, long time no see. Oh, is it Tamsin now? Sorry, I'm rubbish with these gender things, but you should be free to be whoever you want." Harry didn't mention that kidnapping someone to use their blood in your desire for a different body was way over the top of acceptability, he didn't want them looking anywhere near Arthur.

Hermione though was watching that situation closely, and feeding him that information through their bond. 'Padfoot has reached Arthur, Remus and Barchoke are only about fifteen feet away. Amelia and Bill are moving to a covering position so any spells they fire won't come near us.'

After getting over his shock, Voldemort looked at Potter and tried to spot where his backup was hiding. Surely he wasn't here alone? "What are you doing here, Potter?"

"Simple, I just wanted a front row seat to watch Peter fuck this up for you. Did you really think he could willingly give his flesh in the ritual? He's like you, Tamsin, only cares for himself. Peter only cut off his hand because he knew you'd torture and kill him if he didn't. Magic would never count that as willing."

'They've reached Arthur. Barchoke is cutting the bindings. Shit, Remus has disillusioned Arthur - I can't see him.'

'Neither can Voldemort or Peter, Remus will signal when they're ready.'

A shocked Voldemort was demanding answers. "How could you possibly know that, Potter?"

"Easy, you're nowhere near as smart as you think you are. Did you even bother to check if that was your father's bones in his grave? Of course you didn't, I'm one step ahead of you at every turn…"

Hearing that, Voldemort's temper snapped and he dived for his wand. Not used to this new body, that dive could hardly be classed as athletic. It was like the starter gun going off however for the rescuers, or in this case a pair of shotguns.

Only the headstone saved Voldemort's life, though a trailing right leg was caught by a blast from one of the shotguns. With both guns still blasting away, and spell fire now coming from three different locations, Voldemort grasped the wand from on top of Bertha's recently discarded robes and apparated away.

Peter wasn't so lucky, he'd still been standing when Voldemort made his move. The Death Eater was hit with three different spells before he face planted in the grass. Amelia casting a stasis charm on him saved Peter's life - for now.

Hermione was kissing Harry in relief, between him casually cancelling his parseltongue charms on everyone. Sirius at least had the good grace to wait until they had finished kissing before giving his godson a clip around the ear.

"What was all that shit about rescue mission, and not starting a war. You even had the absolute cheek to tell me not to be impulsive. What the fuck was that?"

"That, my wonderful godfather was your brilliant plan coming to fruition. Theresa Best - sheer genius. We didn't know what we would face here, remember there are Death Eaters who escaped Azkaban still out there. She didn't have a wand, she didn't have any clothes on either. With all the horcruxes destroyed, we had a free shot at taking him down - shit, that's going to get confusing."

It was a giggling Emma who quipped "how do you think the Dark Lord / Lady feels?"

Nervous laughter was good for a little tension release but they had people worried about them back in Italy. "How's Arthur?"

"Doesn't know where he is, or what just happened. Best I can see, he's suffering from concussion. Be right as rain when Poppy gets to him." Happy with the news from Remus, Harry turned his attention to Bill.

"Go to the Burrow and get your mother, she was coming to the Institute today anyway."

It was a nervous Bill who replied "I sent a patronus message to Percy, he might be there too."

"Take extra portkeys with you, Poppy can check both of them for compulsion charms while they visit." Harry disconnected those portkeys from their set.

Bill aparated away after that as Amelia activated her badge. "If my aurors aren't here in two minutes, I'll be kicking arses and taking names. Well done everyone, we're all alive and Arthur got rescued. That meets every single objective our mission had, outstanding result."

She handed over the spare portkeys before Harry activated the emergency function, Amelia didn't want her aurors to panic if they arrived and she was in Italy. "Listen to the wireless tonight, it should be interesting."

With that parting comment from Amelia, they all left for Italy while her aurors arrived just twenty seconds later. They immediately set about getting Pettigrew to a secure location where he could get medical attention. They wanted him fit enough to stand trial, before being legally put to death.

-oOoOo-

Traipsing around in a dark forest for over a month was actually quite a special experience for the four Death Eaters. What made it special was they could sometimes practically feel their Master's past presence in places, in others almost taste the residue of his magic.

All were convinced their Master had been here, and probably not more than six months ago. While there was a tinge of disappointment at missing him, here was their first positive proof they'd found that the Dark Lord still lived.

More and more the thought of sending the Dark Lord a sign that he still had faithful followers appealed to them. With that in mind, they got ready for tonight's mission. The plan was a simple one. Experience had taught them simple was best, less to go wrong. They would watch the guests arriving before opening up with spell fire. The idea was to drive everyone deep into the house, before casting fiendfyre. The three wizards would be casting that spell, while Bella cast their Master's mark into the sky above the building.

They were in position, only seconds away from having a party of their own when all of them felt their dark mark change. A quick lift of his sleeve confirmed to Augustus that his mark was certainly darker. With this change, he wondered if it was still a good idea to go ahead with this attack. Deliberately drawing attention to themselves might not be the right move now, they really needed to take some time and work this out. One glance at Bella instantly made his mind up.

She was primed for this attack, and probably took the darkening of her mark as a sign they were doing the right thing. Trying to convince Bella this was the wrong thing might actually be the last thing he ever did, Augustus kept his mouth shut. Rodolphus gave the signal and curses rained down amongst the revellers.

Bella might have called them shit wizards, but their sense of self-preservation was pretty well honed. In less than a minute, there were no targets left outside for them to aim at. Shouting the order, all three of them cast fiendfyre into the building while a cackling Bella shot morsmordre into the darkening sky.

Job done, they apparated away - well before any law enforcement could arrive.

-oOoOo-

Bill apparated to the Burrow, hearing the wailing from inside he rushed through the door.

His mother, Percy and Penny were all on their knees beside the family clock, all three were now looking at him.

"Your father's hand changed from mortal peril to travelling, I thought he was coming home. Where is he?"

"Dad's had a bang to the head and a cut on his arm. Harry's taking him to the Institute. He sent me here to collect you - the three of you." Bill was a trained curse breaker, he immediately spotted Percy and Penny trying to fight the compulsion charms. He easily slipped the bracelets on their wrists and activated their portkeys before they really knew what was happening. The Burrow just played host to its second kidnapping of the day.

-oOoOo-

It was Professor Flitwick who was waiting on their arrival. A quick glance showed only one walking wounded but he shepherded them all to the infirmary anyway. "There's a lot of people who will be rather pleased to see you all fit and well, they're gathered in the infirmary." Filius ensured Barchoke knew that included him too. "Joan wouldn't speak to me for a month if I let you leave without her seeing you." Both grinned at the truth behind those words.

There would be no pandemonium in any infirmary run by Poppy Pomfrey, she immediately stopped such shenanigans as treating the injured always came before anything else. Harry was telling the Weasleys that Bill was perfectly fine, and had gone to fetch their mother. Hermione meanwhile assured Susan that Amelia didn't have a scratch on her. "She'd summoned a group of aurors, and was threatening to kick their arses if they didn't show up within the next minute."

Susan was clinging to Hannah, while laughing and crying at the same time. Hermione knew all about clinging, Joan was currently wrapped around her, and didn't appear to have any intention of ever letting go.

The arrival of Molly was met with a stern glare from Poppy. "He's going to be fine, Molly. Some sleep and he'll be up and around by morning. You have children here who have been traumatised by waiting to see if their father could be rescued, they should be your priority at the moment."

Giving a now sleeping Arthur a gentle kiss on the cheek, Molly proceeded to hug all the redheads - and a few who weren't.

Harry meanwhile was hugging Emma and Dan. "You two were magnificent tonight. I'm convinced it was your firepower that made Voldemort flee. Hermione feels exactly the same, she's just suffering from a limpet problem at the moment. Joan will probably sleep with Hermione tonight, it'll be good for both of them."

"And what about you?"

"I'm never alone, Emma. Yes we're in separate rooms but Hermione and I have slept together every night since we put on these rings. If one of us wakes, the other instantly knows and mentally checks everything is ok. That is such a comfort to both of us."

Emma drew him into her arms again. "It's such a comfort for us too, knowing Hermione is so cared for." Harry was going to respond that it was a two-way street, until Hermione stopped him.

'Let mum have her moment, love, it's been a tough evening for all of us.'

Bill had to practically push Percy and Penny in the direction of Madam Pomfrey. "Poppy, pretty sure we've got two Dumbledore specials here." Poppy's wand confirmed Bill's hunch within seconds. Both were led to beds and Poppy went to work.

A pair of silencing charms were soon followed by restraints that held both to their beds. Molly was about to object when Poppy cut her off.

"I have a patient lying there who needs rest. One of his sons, or his wife, screaming at the top of their lungs is sure to disturb that rest. The very nature of a compulsion charm means these two are going to loudly object when I begin to remove it."

Poppy treated Penny first, and the silencing charm was tested more after the compulsion was removed than before. Poppy didn't need to be a lip-reader to know Penny was cursing up a storm, with Dumbledore as its target.

There was no surprise Percy's behaviour matched his girlfriend's almost exactly. When the restraints and charms were removed, both found themselves faced with Harry Potter. "Guys, you're welcome to stay in our guest accommodation tonight. Your mum and dad and the Bulstrodes were already down to stay. Our Headmistress is very strict, but I don't think she'll throw you out."

Harry felt a hand on his shoulder, knowing full well Pomona had been standing behind him all the time. "That strict Headmistress is thinking about issuing some detentions for students leaving school without permission."

"Headmistress, I know whatever punishment you give will be educational."

This actually started Pomona chuckling. "Top positive point in the questionnaires, two months running. To be fair, the only slight negative we've gotten so far is no quidditch."

"No organised quidditch matches, you mean. There are pickup games practically every weekend. I think we're about ready to invite another school along for a friendly match. We could even get Hogwarts to send a team, since they've no quidditch this year."

Penny was looking about her and spoke without thinking. "You'll never get them to leave…"

It was Harry who was now chuckling. "What's that phrase - you ain't seen nothing yet. Ginny, could you give Percy and Penny the 'what to do and what's not allowed tour', they'll be in visitor room four."

Both twins were stuffing their fist in their mouth, trying not to laugh at how red Percy and Penny had turned. A straight faced Ginny winked at Harry before leading them away.

Bill made his way to the couple standing in the corner, trying to be invisible. "We haven't been introduced but I'm Bill Weasley. I'm assuming you're Millie's parents, and her I do know - lovely girl who's far too good for my youngest brother."

This broke the ice as they had all seen Ron and Millie approaching. "Gee thanks, brother, and don't think I didn't notice you not backing me earlier today. I could have helped…"

Bill cut him off. "No, you couldn't. In all honesty, I shouldn't have been there either. When I saw Pettigrew cut dad with a knife - I lost it. You may think that's understandable but I almost blew the entire mission. Thankfully Amelia spanked me like a four year old, held me down until I got myself under control. Remus, Sirius and Barchoke were the ones who rescued dad, while Harry made sure Voldemort's attention was on him."

Before the shock of that set in, Bill said why he had come over here. "With dad incapacitated, I can sign the betrothal document on behalf of house Weasley. After the day we've had, all of us could use a reason to celebrate. These two getting betrothed is certainly that."

As the people who had taken part in the rescue started leaving to get changed for the feast, or in Sirius's case - going to bring Francesca here, all agreed it was a great idea to have something to celebrate tonight. Harry, Hermione, Joan and Pomona all made sure Barchoke understood he was expected to be there too.

-oOoOo-

Albus was starting to regret inviting the wizarding wireless along to broadcast this live. The program had opened with Albus giving an interview where he waxed lyrical about how all the students from the three schools were integrating well and really looking forward to the tournament.

The broadcast then had to fill time while the students enjoyed their Halloween feast, it was here the trouble began for Albus. With the impressive Goblet of Fire in a prime position, all eyes in the great hall should have been constantly drawn to it. Instead, apathy appeared to be the dominant emotion displayed amongst the Hogwarts students.

The presenter had picked up on this immediately, and what was currently being transmitted to Britain - and other countries - was a far more accurate image than the one Albus had attempted to sell. Albus was keeping one ear on what was being said by the presenter off to the side, while portraying the calm and in complete control headmaster. What he heard next shocked Albus, not only was the presenter competent but she'd clearly researched the students - and the possible champions amongst them.

Speculating that the dour expressions amongst the Durmstrang students could be due to the inevitability of Viktor Krum being chosen to represent their school was all good in Albus's opinion. Saying the tension in the French group was caused by two rivals hoping for the chance to represent Beauxbatons was a nice touch too.

Moving on to the possible Hogwarts champion, the presenter had focused on one candidate from each of the four houses. As she went through each of her candidates achievements and credentials to be Hogwarts champion, in each case she had to report her choice currently just didn't appear interested in the proceedings at all.

As Albus expected, she was soon slipping a mention of Harry Potter and his wonderful Institute into the broadcast. It was now common knowledge that a third set of excited parents would be making their way to Italy this Friday, and the presenter spent the next fifteen minutes basically begging to be allowed access to the Institute to cover the event. Even Albus was forced to admit, the pictures and parental testimonies of approval were simply stunning.

Tuning the presenter out for a moment, Albus concentrate on who was sitting at the top table. That Fudge had refused his invitation was a blow, publicly and personally. It was like the Minister of Magic disapproved of what was about to happen tonight - or more likely didn't want to be associated with dragging Potter back to Britain - the coward.

To rub salt into Albus's wounds, Fudge had sent along the biggest idiot in the Ministry to represent him - Ludo Bagman. He even had the audacity to turn up wearing one of his old quidditch shirts, which might have fitted him twenty years ago when he was still a professional player.

He had another problem though, Weasley and Clearwater hadn't turned up for dinner. Albus was trying to remember the last time he applied compulsion charms on his youngest professors, promising himself he would seek both of them out after the ceremony. His glance rested briefly on Severus, almost immediately followed by Albus's usual sigh of disappointment. He still thought Severus was the most competent member of his staff, but his new wife had poisoned the potion master's mind against Albus Dumbledore.

Once this tournament was over with, Albus could then spare some time and effort to rectify that situation too. As the commentator once more switched her theme to the failings of Hogwarts, Albus decided to move things along. Standing with his arms outstretched from his sides, palms facing the hall, he soon gathered everyone's attention.

"In a few moments, the Goblet of Fire will choose the first of our champions. They will go on to compete agains the other chosen champions over three tasks, with the winner bestowing great honour on their school. It is time for the Triwizard Tournament to officially begin."

The flames in the goblet suddenly surged about five feet in the air. As those flames subsided, they left behind a piece of parchment that gently fluttered into Dumbledore's outstretched hand.

"The champion for Durmstrang is Viktor Krum."

The applause was so muted and polite, Albus clearly heard the commentator say 'no surprise there' as Viktor left for the room he'd indicated where the champion should wait.

Another bout of flames led to the now expected piece of parchment floating into Dumbledore's hand.

"The champion for Beauxbatons is Fleur Delacour."

This time the muted applause allowed the entire hall to hear Fleur's rival sobbing as the beautiful girl walked past the headmaster to join her fellow champion in the waiting room.

More flames, another piece of parchment but all watching could see something was wrong this time. Albus was trying to figure out why this name came out now. The magic on the cup compelled him to read the name though, so he did.

"Harry Potter."

Now there was a reaction, just not the one Albus expected. Every scream, shout or jeer was in support of Potter as the hall exploded with emotion.

"Harry would never enter…"

"He's not a Hogwarts student…"

"Harry's never been near the castle, who put his name in the cup?"

Out the corner of his eye, Albus spotted that idiot Bagman trying to calm things down. "Ok, there's clearly a mistake been made here. Hands up all those Hogwarts students who placed their name in the cup."

Albus wasn't sure what made him angrier, Ludo grandstanding because he knew this was being broadcast live, or the fact that not one single student had their hand up - a fact which the commentator was also gleefully broadcasting live over the radio.

Before he could make his mind up on where to direct his temper, another piece of parchment was floating towards him. This one he really didn't want to read.

"Martin Miggs."

The silence another piece of parchment coming out of the goblet had generated was swiftly broken by gales of laughter. The commentator was laughing too, mentioning something about a mad muggle. A few students had reached into their bags and were now proudly waving comic books above their heads.

That all stopped as the goblet spat out another piece of parchment.

"Hermione Granger."

This was serious now, the silence in the hall meant they all heard the commentator say 'this is rapidly descending into farce.'

When yet another piece of parchment came from the goblet, Albus actually agreed. This had now definitely become a farce, and the magic of the goblet was forcing him to stand there and read whatever names it emits. The latest was easily the worst yet. Albus even recognised the signature, and couldn't help but wonder how someone had managed to get hold of that.

"Tom M Riddle."

There were a few gasps amongst the crowd, with the phrase 'Dark Lord' sweeping the hall. With this being broadcast live, the phrase was soon picked up by the commentator - promising to update her listeners as soon as she had more information on the latest 'champion'.

Yet another piece of parchment was spat out the goblet. At the staff table, Cissi grabbed Severus's hand and whispered in his ear. "I release you from the vow you made to me. Should your name come out of that cup, do what you must to survive this. Our child will need both their parents to thrive in whatever this madness leaves of our world."

Severus had been finding himself thoroughly entertained by the tournament so far, he almost broke into a smile when Potter's name came out of the goblet. Having the Dark Lord's name pop out too though changed everything. Should the name 'Severus Snape' have followed, the vow he had made to his wife could have killed him. Thankfully his wife was a very smart witch and swiftly ended that threat. They would be discussing the baby part later, and never letting Dumbledore know his vow was now cancelled.

Albus was in a nightmare, one he had absolutely no influence over and could only read what was in front of him.

"Dolores Umbridge."

The cheering that erupted from the students was by far the loudest of the evening. That Dolores had made herself so despised and hated in such a short space of time was quite the achievement.

She stood and, instead of following the other two champions out the hall, began ranting at the top of her voice. "I'm Deputy Head, not a student. I won't be taking part in this tournament. I worked directly with the Minister of Magic, I won't lower myself to this, I simply won't…"

At her third refusal to take part in the tournament, flames shot so high from the goblet that quite a few of the floating candles were engulfed. From these flames a concentrated beam of light, so bright that it forced everyone to shield their eyes, shot out and hit Umbridge on the chest. She screamed for about ten seconds before the beam stopped. Dolores slumped back into her chair unconscious, while the flames settled once more into the goblet.

The Goblet of Fire had claimed its first victim, Dolores Umbridge was now no longer a witch. The goblet flared once more, before going out. Knowing this was definitely the last piece of parchment, Albus was listening to the commentator rant about how something as powerful as the Goblet of Fire should never have been allowed anywhere near students, especially since it appeared so easy for anyone's name to be put in it.

With a complete sense of foreboding, he of course recognised the signature of the name magic forced him to read.

"Albus Dumbledore."

The cheers his name generated amongst the Hogwarts students were in no way complimentary, and very loud. As the parchment slipped from his fingers and glided toward the floor, Albus thought that tiny piece of parchment was taking his reputation down with it. He'd wanted the country to know Potter was in the tournament, relying on public pressure to help get the lad to Hogwarts. Instead, the country got to hear what a shambles the entire tournament just became. After what happened with Dolores, he was left with no choice but make his way to the room of champions - where the investigations into what had just taken place would begin.

The commentator was having to shout into her microphone, such was the volume of cheers blasting from the students. "We have a school where not a single student entered a competition Hogwarts is hosting, and the Ministry of Magic is sponsoring. One could easily imagine the students don't trust either organisation to do a good job. Based on tonight's evidence, they would certainly be right. As well as a pair of legitimate champions, we have no champion from Hogwarts, two Potter Institute students - one of them the school's owner - a comic book character, a dead Dark Lord and the two most senior members of Hogwarts in a Triwizard Tournament. When I attended school, tri was a prefix that meant three. With a potential for eight champions, this shambles is going to take some sorting out. That also begs the question, who can we trust to sort this out - Albus Dumbledore clearly isn't up to the task."

Since this was being broadcast live, that would be most listeners abiding memory of tonight.