Chapter 33: Politics


Tuesday 7th March 1995.

Harry bobbed in the water, buoyed by the joyful amusement in his soul as he watched dozens of mercalves flitting about the large square. It had taken a few trips and several days, but the repairs were now complete and the village was a far brighter place with the merfolk once more back to normal.

Hermione zipped back and forth, using her wand to send out a surge of water strong enough to propel her forwards, but not so hard that it would harm the children chasing her or put her out of their reach.

The display had been going on for some time now, with the children occasionally catching up and Hermione twisting her wand to send herself into a tight spiral like a figure skater, the water from her wand gently washing the giggling kids away in its turbulence.

Harry couldn't help the smile that grew on his features as he watched and noted just how big a difference there was in the village compared to his first two visits. The first, he had been frantic in his search for Hermione and had barely taken any note of either the village or its inhabitants. On the second, they had been sure the merfolk would be holding a grudge against him and it was only Luna's cheerful presence that had allowed him to forget that until they had been approaching.

The once stern guards who had clocked their approach through the water now leant against their tridents and pikes, laughing at the jovial display rather than carefully watching their every move for further betrayal. Harry sighed as he considered how mistreated the folk must have been by the Ministry for their distrust to be so complete.

"It is nice to see laughter in this place again." Murcus chimed from beside Harry, stirring him from his own thoughts.

Harry smiled at the thought before he spoke. "Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face."

He turned to the mermaid beside him and tried not to let his smile broaden at the surprise evident on her face, the gentle current tossing her wild, dark-green hair about her shoulders.

"It's a quote, by Victor Hugo. Based, I think, on a saying they have on the surface. Laughter is the best medicine."

"You are an odd human," Murcus replied, still eyeing him with her brilliant yellow eyes. "I personally prefer Wilde's version. Laughter is not at all a bad beginning for a friendship, and it is far the best ending for one. Though I will add, you are a Harry who clearly understands what friendship is."

It was Harry's turn to hover in the water gobsmacked. In his youth locked away in his home, he had practically drained the library of content in his yearning to learn and find new experience. Meeting Hermione had only further fueled such desires, so it was not uncommon for random literary quotes to be bandied about the Family or the Manor. But he had never expected to hear them from someone at the bottom of a lake.

"I was not always the Merchieftainess of this village, Harry Potter. In my youth, I knew a man from the surface who was actually quite a lot like you. Curious, powerful, and a little odd. He shared many of your finest literary works with me on quiet days in the small boathouse that leads to the school." Murcus smiled at Harry, her yellow teeth matching the colour of her eyes, but the gesture only calmed him.

Harry's eyes flicked back to Hermione who had been overcome by the horde of children and was now continuing her journey but with a troop of children hanging off her body as they swirled through the more open water together.

"It's important to find someone you can connect with like that."

"She is very important to you," Murcus noted and Harry nodded in reply. "I apologize for our part in her detainment."

"I don't blame any of you. If not here, they'd have found somewhere even more dangerous to hold the hostages. Having gotten to know your people, I can't think of anywhere safer she could have been."

Murcus gave him a solemn nod and silence drifted in the water between them, only broken by the laughter coming from the surging mass of bodies that seemed to be growing in size.

"If I may," Harry asked softly after several quiet minutes, "this man, is he still around?"

Murcus turned to face him once more and grinned openly. "He still visits from time to time, though it's rare for us both to have the time to read. He's usually far too busy being the Chieftain of the school."

Harry's smile dropped and his eyes shot in the direction he could feel that magic coming from. The mermaid he had befriended was also friends with Albus Dumbledore himself. Would she… his thoughts attempted to run wild but he quickly squashed them down, forcing himself to consider before coming to conclusions. Surely he was not always the man Harry had met in the bank. They had attended the school from November to February and not once had the man attempted to violate the conditions of their attendance. Not that he was eager to rush up and have tea with the man regardless.

"You have conflict with the man?"

Harry glanced at the Merchieftainess and tried to quash the feelings that had risen with their discussion. "A little."

Murcus smiled again and Harry was even more confused. "I can understand that. He changed a lot as he grew older. Sometimes I wonder if the man who visits is anything like the one I knew as a foal. But he is working on that. He, like you, is aiding us in our difficulties. While you rebuild, he pleads our case in your Ministry."

"Does he ask anything in return?" Harry felt the words spill forth before he could contain them, but the mermaid simply smiled.

"He does not."

"Murcus?" Another voice called from behind the pair. The mermaid turned and nodded at the guard. "Ministry officials approach."

Harry's eyes shot to Hermione who had just shaken loose the laughing children, but he could see her face drop even at this distance and she quickly started in his direction. "We should leave."

"You don't have to go. They surely won't stay long. They never do." Murcus said to him before turning back to the guard. "Get the foals inside and summon the guard."

The merman nodded and shot off towards the children trailing behind Hermione looking uncertain. Before they made it halfway, the guards gathered around the square joined the one who had delivered the message and started corralling the children back down and into the houses.

"What's wrong?" Hermione asked as she arrived, pulling up tightly against Harry's side.

"Ministry is coming."

"This is an improvement," Murcus explained. "They've not actually come down to us in almost twelve years."

"They can't see us here. We should go home." Harry sensed the tiny undertone of fear in Hermione's voice. While he was certain they could take whoever was coming in a fight, there was no telling what sort of damage that would do to the mervillage's standing with the Ministry.

Harry nodded and Murcus' smile vanished. "A shame. Visit again soon, please. Your presence has been a delight."

Murcus was quickly joined by half a dozen well-armed guards, one of whom handed her a wreath of kelp Harry now knew to be the symbol of her standing in the village. One she never wore among her people as she prefered to simply be one of the group, but she always wore when outsiders came.

"Of course," Harry replied, offering her a wry smile in return.

Two more guards approached from further out in the water. "It's Diggory and Tombes. With a group of four others." The front guard explained as he joined the growing greeting party.

"Farewell," Harry nodded to the group and turned back to Hermione, noting the small glint in the girl's eyes.

With the usual instantaneous change of location, Harry found himself dropping through the air, his eyes flicking downwards to correct his fall when he saw a shaggy looking figure beneath him, laid out on a couch snoring.

Instead of trying to avoid the figure, Harry grinned and belly-flopped from a foot or so above onto the figure, startling them from their slumber with a great wet slap. Sirius' eyes shot open as the air rushed out of him but his eyes immediately found Harry's and soon they had the same look Hermione's had a moment before.

Harry rolled to the left as they connected and let his body drop wetly onto the floor, quickly rolling aside as a pair of legs kicked over the edge of the couch before shifting form and Padfoot rushed over and began licking his face over and over. Harry couldn't help but laugh at the ticklish feeling combined with the awful smell of dog breath.

"Ew, wet dog!" Hermione groaned from nearby, drawing the dog's attention.

The girl gave a shriek as Padfoot stood and leapt at her, knocking her to the floor as well and giving her the same treatment he had been giving Harry a moment before.

Harry sat up and watched as his godfather attacked his girlfriend's face and smiled at the shrieking laughter she gave as she tried to fend him off. After a few moments, Harry snapped his fingers and Padfoot whined slightly as his licks stopped making contact with his target as he began to rise into the air, now dripping all over the carpet just as badly as the two teens.

"Sirius! What have you been doing? You're dripping water everywhere." Harry's mother's voice sounded from nearby and he glanced towards the nearby portrait to see her looking at his godfather with her usual frustration at his pranking habits.

Padfoot whined again, clearly in his own defence, the doleful doggy eyes flicking to the two teens who were even more soaked than he but were currently avoiding any talking to. The man reformed in the air, his feet still a couple of inches off the ground as he turned to the painting. "You always blame me, Lils."

"Usually with good reason, Padfoot," James added as he walked into the frame. "Put him down, Harry."

Harry smiled as he snapped his fingers again and Sirius lightly touched back down onto the floor, holding his side slightly. "Sorry, I wasn't expecting to arrive like that," he explained, his eyes flicking to a smiling Hermione.

"She's worse than you lot were." Lily moaned as Hermione stood and gave a classic Marauder shit-eating grin, waving her wand a few times to correct the transfigurations and dry herself off, though she did nothing to clean and dry Harry or Sirius.

"I've no idea what you mean." She chimed as she danced from the room to get changed, leaving the four others to chat.

"I take it that things went well in the lake?" James asked, settling into the chair in the frame and pulling Lily onto his lap, drawing a shake of her head in response.

"Pretty good. All the repairs are finished." Harry noted, pulling his own wand and correcting his feet and drying himself off, also leaving Sirius dripping wet. "We had to leave because the Ministry arrived. Looks like they're finally doing something."

"The Ministry has never been particularly rapid at anything but covering its own arse. Who were the Merfolk going to complain to?" Lily grumbled.

"Mister Diggory was one of those coming down. I thought he was fairly high up in the Department for Regulation and Control?"

"He is. Surprising that they'd send him." James nodded.

"Maybe…" Harry drifted off as he considered what Murcus had told him. "Murcus seems to think that…"

"What is it?"

"Murcus is friends with Dumbledore. She thinks he has been ruffling feathers at the Ministry in their favour. Maybe he forced them to visit."

"They never mentioned that before," Lily growled and James held her tighter in place.

"They didn't really this time. We were discussing other things and it just came up. She does say he's different now though."

"Is that a good thing or a bad thing?" Sirius grumbled. "He never did a damn thing to clear my name. Even though he had to know I'd never betray any of you."

"You're home now. It doesn't matter." James explained as if it resolved the matter.

"Hermione's right, dad. We can't stay here forever."

"Why not? Lily and I have been perfectly happy here. Even Sirius loves it here."

"Sirius loves it wherever Harry is." Lily corrected and his godfather grinned and winked at the boy. "So long as the portkeys aren't one hundred percent effective, you have to stay here though."

"I know. But magicals can live for a long time. I think I'd go mad if I had to spend my entire life locked up in here, scared to leave because of one man."

"Harry…"

"Look, I'm not saying I want to go anywhere right now. I'm saying we need to sort out this Dumbledore stuff so that we have the choice to do so."

Silence overtook the room for several moments as the others considered his words. "It's not right, you know." Sirius finally broke the stillness. "I was meant to corrupt you into a right little terror. Instead, you're more like your mum than the rest of us. Being all logical and intelligent."

The Family chuckled as Harry noticed movement by the door, a bushy head of hair glancing around the doorframe but remaining out of view of the others for the moment. He sighed and turned back to the painting. "These last few days have proven her words though. I didn't mind it when I had no idea what I was missing out on. But now... I miss my friends. I miss the lessons, even though most of the time we were self-studying in them anyway. I know what's out there now. I can't let one man scare me away from living my life."

"Maybe it's time then." Remus chimed as he walked straight into the room with only a momentary glance at the figure outside and plonked down on a nearby chair. "We've avoided him for months and so far he's followed the rules we put in place."

"I don't know if I can sit in the same room as him and not want to rip his throat out just yet," Sirius growled.

Remus glanced at his friend and his forehead crinkled in surprise before he gave a sniff and recoiled. "Bloody hell, Padfoot." He pulled his wand out and flicked it at the other man several times, drying him off and leaving him smelling less like a wet dog and more like a bouquet of daisies, Sirius' least favourite flower, as they made his animagus form sneeze.

"Oh, very funny, Moony."

"Where is your wand, Sirius?" Harry asked the sulking man as he landed heavily on the couch, which still sounded wet.

"It's in my room. I was having a nice rest so I didn't need it."

Several chuckles sounded from Remus and James as Sirius worked himself into the wet cushions and laid back.

Lily tried to return them to the topic. "I still don't want Harry meeting him. I don't trust him."

"No one said anything about trusting him, Lils," Remus replied. "There is a gulf between trust and listening, though."

"Better you than me." Sirius snarled as he closed his eyes.

"No one should meet with him alone," James stated, staring at the still form of his once best friend. "And if Harry isn't going, that means someone else needs to go with Remus."

"Bite me, Prongs," Sirius grumbled and the others shook their heads.

"It's moot for now anyway." Harry interrupted, hoping to keep them from snapping at one another pointlessly. "It'll be hours before we head to the bank again, and so long as the portkeys aren't secure, we're not going anywhere regardless."

"I'd be a lot happier if they'd work within the wards," Lily grumbled.

"So would I mum. But we've proven the changes to their sensitivity make them now consider anything covered by the wards as home."

"I know that. I don't like the idea of you being outside unprotected. Especially not when people are intentionally knocking you out while you sleep."

"There is nowhere outside these wards I feel safer than that bank. The goblins are trustworthy so long as we pay them."

"And if someone else pays them more?" James enquired. "The Potters were never the richest family out there, son."

"Then Hermione and I will rain hell upon them for betraying us. And they know it." Harry replied, deadpan and ignoring the light chuckle from the hall. "I think at this point the money is a courtesy. They like how much chaos we cause as much as they like the money. Plus this is a personal insult to them. That someone would use something they consider underhanded tactics to bypass their magic… They want to fix the portkey even more than we do."

"Just be cautious, that's all we ask," Lily added softly.

"I try my best. If not for me…" Harry trailed off.

The Family went silent and Harry heard the slight intake of breath from the hall and he knew that Hermione was biting her lip in that way that drove him nuts.

"I'm going to go get changed. We can talk more later." Harry stood, stretching the muscles that had stiffened due to lack of use in their morning of swimming rather than walking.

Without further comment, he left the room and Hermione took his hand as he exited, leading him to his room and a sound snogging.

ϟ

Wednesday 8th March 1995.

Crouch landed heavily in the chair across the desk as Cornelius adjusted the papers on its surface. The man looked even more ragged today than ever, not even when dealing with the mess of the war had the man looked this dishevelled. Cornelius thanked his lucky stars that he had inherited a time of peace.

"They refused," Crouch growled, tossing a folder onto the desk and ruining Fudge's careful stacking.

"Refused?" He asked as his assistant closed the door that Crouch had left wide open in his loud entrance.

"Tombes says they claim to have repaired the damage. They even showed him some of the structures. No idea how they did it, but apparently they're good as new."

"Isn't this a good thing then?"

Crouch eyed him carefully before he shook his head. "No. It means they're asking for something else as recompense now. Had we just fixed the damage it would be over."

"Something else? They made demands?"

"Not to us directly, but Dumbledore has been in the building several times this week, most of it spent in the Derc. Probably pushing for additional rights at this point."

Cornelius paled at the idea. He didn't have anything against other races, not to the degree his often polarizing Undersecretary did, but giving the merfolk additional rights may not sit well with some of his better-off constituents.

"Do we have anything else we can offer?"

"I've got nothing right now. And the French are still making a fuss even after the concessions. I haven't even had time to review Ludo's changes to the Third Task yet."

Fudge rubbed his face in his hands as the reports continued to bring in bad news. This Tournament was supposed to show the quality of his time as head of the Ministry. To show the world he was a good leader and hopefully drum up some extra support. Instead, it had turned into a nightmare with a media circus to boot.

"At least the Bulgarians aren't making any more fuss." He offered, hoping to soothe the other man and get him back to work keeping the heat off of Cornelius' shoulders.

"Small mercy. It looks like Dumbledore is going to get his way. I've had several of the foreign Ministries we were in talks with rescind their tacit approval to borrow some of their creatures. At the rate we're going, the hedges are going to be the only threat left in the maze. Some spectacle that will be."

"Surely there is some way we can put a stop to this. Or spin it in our favour?"

Crouch eyed him directly. "I've got nothing. You?"

Fudge sank into his chair. Perhaps he could trouble Dolores with figuring out something while he weathered this storm. "This is not good Barty. You promised me a Tournament we could be proud of. Something that would make everyone forget about losing the World Cup to Italy. This isn't what I had in mind when you said they'd have too much to think about to worry about the Cup."

Crouch glared at him, looking about ready to curse him for his words and Cornelius recoiled slightly in his chair. "I'll talk with the Unspeakables. Maybe they can give us some alternatives for the final task."

The gruff man stood and without another word, stormed out of the office, once more leaving the door swinging behind him. Cornelius noticed his assistant eyeing him through the opening, along with several of those gathered outside his office awaiting their own meetings with the Minister.

He nodded to Rebecca who gestured the next person in as he took a sip from his tea and tried to ignore the looming disaster that he felt was on the horizon.

ϟ

Monday 13th March 1995.

"Your tea is lovely as ever, Hagrid." Albus complimented the large man as he set his large cup back on the hulking table. "And I'm glad you baked up some more of these rock cakes. Fawkes loves them."

Hagrid beamed at him and he chose not to mention that the bird used them as gizzard stones. It was always a nice break to come and visit the giant man. His enthusiasm was inspiring.

"Your welcome, of course, Professor." Hagrid replied as he sat opposite him, "What is it you wanted to talk about?"

"I'm afraid that circumstances have aligned in such a way that your expertise will no longer be required for the final task." Hagrid's face sank slightly and Albus felt bad for the man. "Several of the countries the Ministry had petitioned for creatures for the maze have rescinded their offers after the debacle the second event became."

"Sounds like all the more reason to let me offer what I can." Hagrid offered, smiling once again.

"Indeed it would be, but in this case, I am refusing to allow the use of dangerous creatures in the task."

Hagrid looked at him confused and Albus sighed before downing a bit more of his tea. It was one of his favourite parts of visiting Hagrid, as the enormous cups the man used meant a nice large serving of the delicious liquid he was rather proficient at brewing.

"After the way the second task went, I am vetoing anything I consider too great a risk for the Champions or the audience. We've been fortunate so far, Hagrid. But this Tournament was once banned for a very good reason. I prefer not to tempt fate on the final stretch."

Hagrid nodded softly along to his explanation and sighed himself, the large lungs of the man blowing about several of the small doilies stacked by the large teapot in the middle of the table. "Right you are, sir. I just let me enthusiasm run away with me."

"Enthusiasm is a wonderful trait to have, my friend. Wilhelmina has suggested that we split the years between you next year. If you think you'd be able to handle the upper-year classes on your own, that is?"

"Of course, Professor, sir. I'd be thrilled." Hagrid's joy was palpable and he very nearly knocked over the massive table as he practically jumped in his seat.

"That is a relief. She has indicated she doesn't much care for dealing with the rowdier creatures at her age, and suggested you might handle those classes better anyway. Though I must impress upon you that your performance will still be monitored. The Ministry would like any reason to rescind your provisional wand rights given your former undeserved expulsion. It has been wonderful not having to fill new positions every year, and I'd hate to have to start again now." Albus mused softly.

"Course." Hagrid nodded furiously and Albus smiled at the man's excitement.

Albus couldn't help but notice the resemblance to another of his favoured former students. "And do remind me to arrange a time for you and Newt to meet up. I am certain the pair of you would have a great deal to discuss."

The half-giant's dark eyes bulged humorously at the offer of a meeting with a true giant of his favoured field and Albus nodded slightly before returning his attention to his tea once more, savouring the tasty beverage.

ϟ

Thursday 23rd March 1995.

Lurlor passed the probe over the softly breathing form and ignored the sound of the door opening behind her. Almost a month she had been at this now and it was truly beginning to irk her that she had not achieved her goal.

#So this is them?#

Lurlor rolled her eyes and tried to ignore the unfortunately familiar voice as she continued checking the reading. The boy had not yet achieved the required state.

#What? You in a mood again?# The voice asked again and Lurlor growled in her chest.

#Go away, Gugkoff. I'm busy.# Her low voice rumbled through the quiet room, but did not seem to penetrate the thick skull that came into view.

#I can see that. Busy pandering to these bloody humans.#

Gugkoff glared at the boy before her with a nasty smile. He raised one hand and dragged his first claw across the soft skin of the boy's cheek. Lurlor fixed her eyes on him and she made sure he noticed her hand twitch towards the knife on the table. He withdrew his hand and raised the palm in her direction.

#I am not pandering, I am doing my job. As you should be.#

#Not many humans are looking to make a deposit at this hour, Lurlor. You know that.#

She growled again and turned back to her probe, trying to ignore the nuisance. He turned away from the boy and moved over to the girl, a soft light snoring coming from her as she lay in place beside the boy. Lurlor hated to admit that she found it somewhat cute.

#Ridiculous.#

The snoring gave a start and Lurlor looked up to see Gugkoff had prodded the girl in the stomach. She openly growled at him again and the goblin turned to face her, looking somewhat surprised at her reaction.

#Alright. Claws off it is.#

The interloper stepped away and the girl settled once more, but Lurlor noticed that her disturbance had practically reset the boy's progress as well. At times she hated how in sync the pair seemed to be. The slightest disturbance of one often woke the other.

#What do you want?# Lurlor grunted in Gugkoff's direction. She was becoming very tired of his random visits.

Gugkoff turned to face her, a look of surprise on his face. #What I've always wanted. I'm a goblin of good standing. We would make a good pairing.#

Lurlor rolled her eyes and turned away from the ignorant twit. She had denied his advances numerous times over the past decade. Apparently, the moron was still not taking no for an answer. A good trait in the bank upstairs, less so when dealing with someone with little patience. She attempted to go back to ignoring the sod and focused on her work, which the prick had now delayed once more.

Several minutes passed in near silence as the boy settled once more before she felt a figure behind her and her urge to stab at it soared.

#You don't deny it.# The voice hissed past her ear and Lurlor lunged backwards, knocking the annoying bastard to the ground.

#I don't waste my time denying impossible things.#

#You bitch. You'd rather stay down here and nurse your little humans?#

#I'd rather die you miserable piece of dragon dung.# She turned her back to the prone goblin and refocused on her work. It had been weeks since the humans had brought the issue to their attention and she had yet to figure out how to fix the issue. These interruptions were hampering her work considerably.

#What the hell is so important about them anyway? They're just humans!#

Gugkoff brushed himself off and approached the table once again. #They're paying us.#

The other goblin coughed out a harsh laugh and Lurlor noticed the change in the boy's status once again, anger beginning to surge through her at the interference with her work.

#Humans. They think that solves everything. Look at them. Pathetic weak little creatures. Take away their wands…# Gugkoff closed on the boy again, brandishing his claws.

Lurlor rolled her eyes and with a quick flash of her hand, Gugkoff was pinned to the side table near the boy's head by her family dagger. The goblin gave a howl of pain and all three humans in the room woke up with a start. The boy immediately spotted the interloper and moved to cover the girl while the assistant that had been snoring in the corner shot out of his seat, wand waving in all directions before he noticed the howling goblin.

#Do not interfere with my work, you pathetic little worm. I'll have you punished severely for this.# Lurlor growled as she approached the struggling figure.

#You'd side with humans against your own kind?# Gugkoff gurgled and he tried to pull his hand free of the jagged blade of the dagger.

#No, you fucking idiot. I side with the Gragnar. Not only are we being paid for this service, but they are personal acquaintances of Ragnok. When was the last time you held court with the head of our kind in this country, you fucking scum.# She advanced on his struggling form.

#So that's why you refuse me? Not close enough to the top for you?#

#No. I refuse you because you are a weak, uncultured, pathetic excuse for a goblin. Were you not good with numbers, you'd have been reassigned to the pits years ago. You see, what flies on the surface often dies quickly underground. The magic I work on now is centuries old. Forged by some of the finest goblins in our history. I make true change for the Nation. You pander to wizards who think you exactly the worthless piece of dung you are.#

A soft chuckle from the girl drew her eye for a moment and Lurlor recalled that the pair on the table both understood their language. She tried not to let that recollection show as she turned back to the feeble struggling worm on her hook.

#The perversion of that magic is an insult to our kind. I seek to redress that balance so that we may remain proud of our work. You fetch gold for people who would see you broken and dead in the street, laughing as they pass. Which of us truly betrays our own kind? Now get out and never return, or I'll sever any reason you might have to find a mate and mount it to your fucking desk.#

Lurlor yanked the blade from Gugkoff's hand and the goblin howled in pain as she twisted it on the way out, further damaging the idiot's hand. He glared at her for a moment but quickly seemed to finally make an intelligent decision and rushed from the room.

She turned to face the humans and noticed wide smiles on the younger pair on the table. Without warning, she tossed the dagger again and it shot into the seat of the chair her wizard assistant had been sleeping on. She stared at him for a moment before speaking.

"You are not being paid to sleep. Do so again, and you'll face my wrath."

The boy finally failed to contain his laughter when he glanced over his shoulder at the wizard's face and both the figures on the table began to chuckle. Lurlor rolled her eyes and headed for the nearby potion's cabinet. There was no way either of them was in a fit state to get back to sleep unaided right now. She would be sending a formal complaint about Gugkoff to her seniors. He had basically made tonight a wash for her research.

She quickly handed the teens a pair of bottles, hoping the potion might get them back to sleep in time for her to make at least one attempt tonight.

"Drink. We've work to do, and you two need to be asleep for it to be achieved."

The boy tossed his back without a word but the girl smiled at her. #Cheers.#

Lurlor remained stoic, but the wizard looked confused that the girl spoke in the guttural Rhovak.

#Sleep, please.# Lurlor replied as the pair laid back down and entwined their hands, both quickly falling under the effect of the potion. Lurlor eyed the wizard who finally moved to return his wand to his pocket and started to walk around the circular room, apparently in an attempt to remain awake, his eyes flicking to the dagger in the chair on each circuit.

Lurlor allowed his movements to drift to the back of her mind as she picked up her probe and hovered it over the figures once more slumbering on the table. She had to wait for the potion to clear and hope that normal sleep remained once it did. Otherwise, her complaint would be a lot worse if that worm had cost her an entire evening of work.