A/N: HAHA bet you weren't expecting a chapter so soon. Honestly, neither was I, but quarantine kinda sucks and I was bored so I thought I'd get to writing. This is also because come the summer, I'll be pretty busy as your boy got accepted into the Johns Hopkins teaching department for his master's degree! So, because of pressing deadlines I hope to be able to really get this story moving.
This chapter is just a teaser of sorts, as I plan to pre-write a bunch of chapters so I don't have to stress about uploads. What I do need is someone, who maybe because of quarantine can beta for me in a timely manner though. I'm willing to accept more than one beta too, just send me your Gmail if you are interested and I'll share the google docs with you!
Now though, without further ado, let's start book 3! Be sure to Follow, Favorite and Review! Also if you haven't favorited Book 2 yet, I would appreciate it, I'm trying to get it up to 2K!
Chapter I: A Summer of Change
St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries was always a busy place to find oneself in the center of. The hospital dealt with everything from deliveries and surgeries to the simplest cases of the flu. Daphne Greengrass had spent time in the hospital before, coming for her yearly checkups and routine healthcare, but never in her life had she seen the hospital as packed as it had been in the weeks since Voldemort's return. The carnage had already begun in full, with Harry exposing the Dark Lord's return at the end of the Triwizard Tournament, his Death Eaters had wasted no time trying to bend the wizarding world to its knees.
Yes, Harry being hailed as a wizarding god kept the people from submitting, even if the basis of the resistance was a lie and Harry hadn't been seen for weeks, but it didn't stop the torment of many wizarding families, an example of such being the lady Daphne saw before her. The woman was young, maybe thirty, from her medical records, she knew that the woman wasn't leaving kids behind, but the crying of her husband that echoed through the air as she had gone to collect the body was something she would never forget.
As terrible as it was to admit, Ms. London, as her toe tag read, was only one of the many bodies Voldemort and his men left in their wake, and even in her short tenure at the hospital, she'd seen more limp bodies than she could count. It had started so suddenly, the words of the grizzled Auror that was somewhere in the English Countryside with her boyfriend rang in her head, "You're a liability." She hated to admit it, but the Auror was right, when she was bonded with Harry, perhaps her combat prowess was high enough to help, but on her own, she knew that direct combat wasn't her strength.
She'd spent only a few days toiling with the question of her worth, however, as the Daily Prophet had soon shown her direction. In the wave of terror being left by the Death Eaters, hospitals all around wizarding Europe were in desperate need of medical assistance, and had opened up their residency for anyone capable of passing the medical magic test. Given the fact that Daphne had felt like she'd been reading about medicine magic for thousands of years, the test was a breeze and Daphne had been assigned to Dr. Abigail Thatcher, a woman referred to by the Hospital Staff as the Medical Magician. Forty years as an intensive care surgeon and Thatcher had never lost a patient, and with the way the woman was working Daphne, she certainly wasn't planning on starting now.
The door to the hospital's morgue flew open as Daphne quickly shifted, her eyes catching a glimpse of the woman herself. She was short and stocky, her figure round as a balloon, yet somehow the woman was fast, possibly even putting someone with Astoria's speed to shame. Daphne swallowed as Dr. Thatcher's hazel eyes pierced her like a blade, the wind from her rush towards the door making her curly grey hair float behind her, "Greengrass!" Thatcher called out, "We got a patient being transferred to O.R. 7 rapid bleeding and fading pulse! Scrub in, you'll be assisting on the surgery!"
"But I've never-," Daphne muttered out but Thatcher wasn't hearing it, simply sending her a glare that Daphne was forced to admit may have even been colder than hers.
"Then looks like you're in for one hell of a start! Now move!" Daphne nodded, racing up the stairs as she cashed the heavy doctor through the linoleum halls, the two weaving in and out of patients and other doctors as they rushed towards their arrival point. Thatcher had wasted no time, barreling through the white double doors that led to the sanitization area, but Daphne had felt her joints lock up as she gazed at the blinking red light that rested over the door alerting other doctors that the room was currently in use.
I can do this, Daphne whispered to herself, her mind racing towards all her practice under the donated cadavers, I can do this. She swallowed hard, pushing the doors open as she too entered the sanitization room, her hands under the boiling water as she followed her mentor's sterilization instructions. She walked towards another medical assistance, she believed her name was John, but she wasn't going to waste her time worrying about it as the boy placed her face mask on, covering her mouth. "Ready?" Thatcher called out, turning to Daphne as the slamming of the double doors on the other side rang through the room, the patient being brought in, an oxygen bubble formed over his lips helping him breathe.
Daphne nodded and Thatcher turned quickly entering the room as she heard the Auror team shout the new information, "Lung collapsed during transport! Injuries believed to be from an onslaught of severing charms. One cut resting dangerously close to the ascending aorta, we've been pumping him with blood replenishers, but we can't seal the damage without collapsing the heart!"
"Got it!" Thatcher called out, dismissing the Aurors watching as the blood leaked furiously over the operating table as she turned to the man, "Don't you go dying on me you bastard. I'm not letting you sully my perfect record." Daphne's eyes trembled slightly at the sight of the gargantuan amounts of bleeding the young man was suffering from before Thatcher regained her attention, "Greengrass, I'm going to repair the tear near the heart, I want you to seal the bleeding starting with the gashes in the neck then move down to the less lethal areas! Understood!"
"Yes, Ma'am!" Daphne called out, though her hands still trembled at her new commands.
Daphne wasn't certain, but it looked like a smirk had almost formed across the elderly medical witch's face as she whispered, "Alright then… time for some magic." The lady snapped as Daphne watched in amazement as the room lit up a bright white before the wand flew to Thatcher's hand, the woman twirling it once before a blue light emerged, surrounding the wand before it touched the man's chest. "Scalpel," She called, the wand acting as a knife as Daphne watched the man's chest peel open.
She had wanted to watch the Medical Magician at work, but she had no time, he had her own job to do and with a flick of her wand, the tip of the wood lit a flame, The wounds are too deep to stitch, I have to cauterize them to stop the bleeding. Though she stopped herself, whispering, "Accio," Instantly a golden honey-like potion flew to her hand as she uncapped the jar, dipping her gloved fingers into the smile before slathering it onto the man's wounds. "Okay," She whispered watching as the potion evaporated into thin air, "The wound is sterile, beginning the cauterizing procedure."
The scent of burning flesh filled Daphne's nostrils bringing tears to her eyes as she held back the gag building her throat. Her concentration only broken by Thatcher lifting her hand out for a clear fluid, the needle of the syringe now exposed and aimed at the man's thigh, "Pulse is slowing, we need to bring it back up to get a clear look at the bleed. Get to sealing those wounds faster or we're going to lose him."
Daphne nodded, moving towards the next open wound once more, pouring the honey-like substance into the open wound, waiting as it evaporated before setting her flaming wand to the wound. "Shit," She heard Thatcher curse, "Auror's probably didn't know but it looks like he's suffering from a myocardial contusion, not sure how much more stress the boy can take."
Daphne swallowed moving towards the next wound preparing to seal it as best as she could before the woman hissed, "His heart's stopped!" Thatcher yelled, "Clear off now!" Daphne jumped back as a small yet focused ball of lightning filled the witch doctor's hand, "Shock!" Daphne watched as the body twitched from the electrical current, still remaining unresponsive as this time Thatcher lifted her hand, the orb of lightning larger than before, "Shock!"
The body jumped, but Daphne took a sigh of relief at the return of the man's heartbeat. Thatcher released her held breath, her wand lighting a flame, "The boy's chest is going to feel like hell, those shocks definitely worsened the bruising, but he'll live." Daphne poured the healing honey into the final wound that cut across his legs, her positioning giving her a perfect view of Thatcher. She watched in amazement as with a flick of her wrist, she had mended most of the man's broken ribs, the aortic wound now cauterized. Daphne had felt like she was a fast learner, but as she gazed upon the way the doctor before her sealed up the chest cavity, she knew she still had a long way to go.
Sweat beat down the elderly lady's brow as she turned to face Daphne, the now fifth-year staring at the woman in shock as she nodded, "Finish sealing that last wound, scrub down, and go home. You're done for the day."
"I still have four more hours on my shift," Daphne called out, "If you're punishing me for something I did wrong then please tell me, but don't cut me from this program. I'll get better, I'll-"
"It's not a punishment," Thatcher called out, "It's a reward. You did good today, this wasn't an easy surgery, but you followed my directions without complication. Go home and rest."
"Thank you, Ma'am, but really, I'm fine, I-,"
"How long has it been since you left the hospital, Ms. Greengrass?" Thatcher called, "And don't lie to me and say last night because Dr. Shaw reported to me that you begged him to allow you to do rounds with him."
So much for not telling anyone, Daphne grumbled in her head before looking up at the blood-soaked doctor, "Four days," Daphne whispered, "I've been taking naps in between rounds in the On-Call rooms though. I promise I'm not tired, I'd never put a patient's life at risk like that. I just-"
Daphne sighed finishing the seal on the man's leg, "I need to get better. I made a promise to be better." She felt Thatcher's eyes gaze down on her as she looked up to meet the old woman's hazel pools, "I made a promise to people that I love that one day I'm going to surpass even a medical witch like you and become someone capable of curing the incurable. That's why- That's why I can't waste a second! No matter what, I have to get better."
The operating room had fallen silent, nothing but the shallow breathing of their patient filling the air as a smile rose to the old woman's eyes, "I knew I sensed greatness in you when I selected you as my pupil. You want to be better than me someday you say?" The witch said with a chuckle, "Well then, I want you to listen to me very closely Daphne Greengrass. You have a natural talent for this line of work, and I am willing to help you mold that talent and make you the prodigal doctor I believe you can be. But if that's what you want, you will listen to me and do everything I tell you to do, no questions asked."
Daphne nodded firmly as the Medical Witch continued, "You eat when I tell you to eat, You read what I tell you to read, You treat exactly as I instruct you to treat, and more importantly than anything else, You rest when I tell you to rest. Are we clear?" Daphne swallowed as she nodded, "Good, now go home and get some actual sleep. You report back here at six in the morning tomorrow. I'll give you an hour to grab something for you to eat at the cafeteria, but if I see you again in this hospital before then, you're cut, understand?"
Daphne nodded, her eyes never leaving Thatcher's face before the elderly witch whispered, "Go, I'll take care of the cleanup. You did well today, Greengrass, you did well."
The Dark Lord, The Dark Lord, The Dark Lord every headline in all of France was littered with the writing of Voldemort's return, and there had been few times in her life that she'd ever seen her father so stressed. The public was breathing down his neck, each of them wondering what they could do to prepare for a possible Death Eater attack. The truth was, her father had done everything he could, from bolstering the Auror Department's funding, to planning out strategic invasion plans with the President of France, the worse truth was, Claire wasn't certain just how much of that mattered.
She'd been scheduled to go on a grand fashion tour this summer, her calendar was filled with red marks of her travel dates, but now the show was over as people huddled into their houses with fear. Only one date remained circled on her calendar, July 12th, the day she was scheduled to do a show in Great Britain and meet up with Michael. The first half of the plan may have been canceled, but she'd have been damned if the second half went the same way. Especially now as she held her signed transfer to Hogwarts request in her hands. It turned out that her father hadn't needed more convincing to do so, with both Dumbledore and Harry being at Hogwarts, it may currently have been the safest place in the wizarding world from the Dark Lord.
Yet at the moment, a new nervous feeling resided in her chest. Michael had written to her that his family had wanted to meet her. He had told her it was perfectly okay for her to say no, in fact, for some reason, it seemed as if Michael was almost encouraging her not to come. But her curiosity won out, part of her had really wanted to see the way Michael lived outside of Hogwarts, and on a more selfish level, she really wanted Michael's parents to like her. Her heart pumped faster in her chest as she approached the international Portkey line, flanked on both sides by Jacques and Tomas. Her attendant's boyfriend pressed her head down gently as he scanned the crowd, "Keep your head down," Tomas whispered, "Avoid eye contact if you can. You never know where an enemy could be."
"I get that things are a bit different now, with him being back and all, but don't you think this is overdoing it a bit?" Claire asked, "The travel stations are littered with Aurors, and we're not even in their country of operation yet."
"Asking an Auror to relax is like asking a fish to stop swimming," Jacques said with a light chuckle, "It's impossible." Tomas pushed her forward a bit, finding herself face to face with the international travel receptionist. With great care, Claire presented her papers alongside both Jacques and Tomas, paying the fee before the two entered a square the size of a telephone booth, the Portkey of an English Flag waiting for them on the center table. "Alright, everybody hold on, here we go."
The three French citizens grabbed the flag, and Claire felt her stomach curl as they vanished with a crack, the three stumbling onto the arrival deck of Platform 9 ¾. Claire lunged forward hoping to regain her balance but found herself unable falling into someone's arms. She felt her face heat up from embarrassment before the boy whispered, "Hey Pretty Bird, long time no see."
She looked up, a smile forming on her face as glanced at her boyfriend's face, the boy's signature top-knot as bright blue as ever. "I don't know what's more surprising, the fact that it looks like you haven't changed a bit, or the fact that you're actually here on time, Slacker Clown."
"Having an over-excitable mom helps with punctuality," Michael's face became twisted, his brows know knit together as he looked on at her two travel partners, "Um, hi," Michael whispered waving gently, "Who are you?"
"Dating for six months and you didn't even tell him about me," Jacques said, his voice lined with fake offense, "I'm hurt."
She sent Michael an apologetic smile, "Sorry, I wish I could have come alone, but with everything going on, my father wanted me to travel in a group." She sighed as she turned, "The black-haired one is Tomas Dupont," She began, "He's one of the best Aurors in all of France. The blonde idiot," Claire hissed, "Is my older brother and personal attendant, he's also Tomas' boyfriend. Michael, Jacques… Jacques, Michael."
She watched as Michael nervously reached out his hand, with Jacques taking it, shaking it without resistance. Tomas, on the other hand, stood as still as a statue, looking almost as if he was inspecting the boy. "So, you're the one that Claire has chosen to reveal her secrets to. I can't say I agree with her choice, but she normally is a good judge of character. Still, you don't look like much, I-"
"Tomas!" Claire shouted, "Stop it!" The Auror's mouth sealed shut at Claire's command, the girl turning to face her boyfriend, "Sorry, Tomas really isn't a bad guy, he's just blunt and opinionated, don't pay him any mind."
But Michael just looked through her, continuing to stare at the dark-haired Auror, scoffing before he began, "If you're trying to get under my skin, you're going to have to do a lot better. That was pathetic."
Tomas too scoffed at Michael's remark before Claire cut through the staredown regaining Michael's attention as she whispered, "They're just going to be outside your house while I'm there. They'll have a disillusionment charm up and everything, it'll be like nobody's there." Michael nodded, his eyes returning back to her face as she smiled, "So, um, where are your parents?"
"They're waiting for us outside," Michael said with a nervous grin, "Well, my mom is at least. My dad's busy working in the shop, but he'll be ready when we get there. My mom's going to apparate us there. She watched as her boyfriend silently conjured a pen and paper, the raising of Tomas' eyebrows at the skill forcing her to bite her tongue to avoid laughter.
She watched as Michael pushed the folded paper towards Tomas, "This is my address, you're welcome to go make yourself comfortable." Michael turned and Claire smiled with pride as he grabbed her hand guiding her out of the station into the crisp and warm summer air. Sitting there in a bench just across the street from the station was a middle-aged woman, her posture and form making Claire believe that for a moment, the woman was some kind of royalty before she caught her and Michael's eyes, the lady's brown eyes matching Michael's down to the very hue.
She stood, smiling towards them as Michael looked on both ends of the street before crossing. The woman's curly yet pristine black hair glimmered in the sun as she met their approach, a smiling forming on her gently tanned face. They stopped as they reached their meeting point, a nervous smile on Michael's face as he dropped her hand, turning to face his mom, "Mom, this is Claire Belmont," She smiled up at the woman, "Claire this is my mother, Rachel Corner."
"Hello, Mrs. Corner," Claire said politely, extending her hand softly, "It's nice to meet you."
"It's nice to meet you too," Mrs. Corner said her face brimming with delight, "Corner always seems to be writing to you in his room and now that I see you I can understand why." Claire grinned as she turned to Michael, his face red with embarrassment before his mom continued, "I mean, I never would have guessed that the first-year Michael actually starts to care about dating that he'd end up with such a lovely looking young lady." By the look on Michael's face, Claire was beginning to think that he'd rather throw himself on the train tracks than be where he currently was, but thankfully he caught a break, his mother smiling at him, "Oh but here I am talking up a storm when I'm sure you've had a long day, you're probably starving." Claire nodded, she hadn't wanted to say anything but she was certainly feeling hungry, "Come on now, grab my hand, I won't bite."
Michael rolled his eyes as Claire smiled, each grabbing one of the lady's hands before the three walked behind a tree… then, with a crack… they vanished. Apparating after taking a Portkey was far from ideal, and Claire had been feeling a bit nauseous as she landed, thankfully, she was spared the dizziness by Michael who'd wrapped his hand around hers, once more breaking her fall. Though as she looked down at the ground, she noticed she hadn't landed on a patch of soft grass but rather a graveled lot, the whole area suffering a severe lack of color.
"Hope the landing wasn't too bad," Mrs. Corner said brushing off her spring green dress, "I haven't apparated in a while." The matriarch of the Corner household lifted her hands, guiding Claire's eyes to the house that stood off in the near distance. It was small, the whole building being a simple single-story, double pen build. The house was designed in a cabin-like style oakwood lumber acting as the primary building blocks, roots growing out of the poorly shingled roof. To the right of the house, however, was a building nearly as large as the house itself, with cars lined up all along the tremendously long driveway, steam floating out of all the large room's windows. Mrs. Corner must have seen where her eyes were at, as she shook her head, "Oh don't mind that dear, my husband is just working far too late again. I told him you were coming but he must have forgotten, he always loses track of time when he's in that garage."
Silently, she watched as Mrs. Corner approached the garage before turning to her right, her eyes resting on Michael, the boy not even being able to look at her. "So this is where you live, huh?" Claire whispered, doing her best to keep her voice as enthusiastic as possible, but Michael didn't seem like he was buying her act at all.
"Yeah," Michael said numbly, finally turning to face Claire, "This is home." She watched as the boy looked up at the house, "You know, you're the first person I've ever brought to see it. I wish I could have shown you something better, but, this is all I've got."
"Michael it's okay," Claire whispered, "I already knew you weren't rolling in money when we started dating. You're a good person Michael, that's what's important to me." She smiled, glad to have managed to pull even the meekest grin from her boyfriend before her eyes turned back to the garage, "So, what exactly does your father do in there all day?"
"It's his garage," Michael started, "It's his own little business. We couldn't really afford a secondary location when he started it, so my mom agreed to just charm the garage a bit to give him more space. She was willing to do the same with the entire house, but… my dad is really stubborn when it comes to him being able to provide for the family." Michael shook his head, "Anyway, that's not important. Basically, my dad works on fixing motor vehicles. Most of the time it's cars, but we had a boat in here last week which was cool, I haven't got to work on one in a while so it was cool to get to tinker with everything again."
"You work with your father over the summer?" Claire asked with amazement, "How do you even know how to fix these things? They look so complicated."
"They are, but that's the fun of it," Michael said, "It's like a giant puzzle. I want to own my own repair business one day myself, but-," Michael stopped himself and Claire was certain she could hear a whisper of anger in his voice just before he stopped, his eyes now focusing on his mother who stood at the porch welcoming them in. "It's a long story," Michael said with a gentle smile, "Come on, let's just get something to eat."
She nodded, grabbing Michael's hand, squeezing it gently as he guided them into the house. Though Claire's eyes never left the small garage, If this is what you want to do one day, I'll get you a workshop fit for Hephestus himself. Claire wiped that thought from her mind, following her boyfriend as he guided her through the simple living room, decorated moderately with a radio, tiny television set, and an incredibly well-stocked bookshelf before she'd found herself in the kitchen. The scent of the Shepherd's Pie that rested in the center of the table permeated the wood that lined the inside of the house as Claire's eyes fell upon the man that could only be Michael's father.
The man was tall, a full lumberjack beard growing from his chin, his bald head reflecting the kitchen lights as he stood approaching Claire. Oil stains seemed to be deeply embedded into his old worn-out jeans, and his red black and red flannel was dripping with his sweat, "Sorry for my appearance, we had a last-minute customer arrive at the shop, had to get right to work, ended up being a harder problem to fix than I thought. You'll have to forgive me. My name is Henry, Henry Corner."
"It's okay," Claire said warmly extending out her hand, the callouses present in the man's hand rubbing against her palm, "My name is Claire Belmont, it's a pleasure to meet you."
"Manners?" Mr. Corner called out, "Wasn't expecting that. I figure that since my son lacks them any lady he'd ever get interested in him would lack them as well. Excuse my presumption."
"And so it begins," She heard Michael whisper distantly beneath his breath as the four found their places at the table. She smiled gently as Rachel placed a slice of the Shepherd's Pie gently on her place, moving then to her husband, herself, and finishing with Michael. Claire waited for Mr. Corner to take the first bite before she too dug into her food, her stomach feeling remarkably empty.
A couple of bites had been had by those around the table before finally, Mr. Corner broke the silence, "So Claire, how is it exactly that you came across my son?"
"We actually had a class together," Claire said warmly, "Of course, I didn't really know him at all then, but with him being Harry's best friend, we quickly became acquainted."
"In class you say?" Mr. Corner said taking another bite of his meal, "That's a surprise, I was unsure if Michael even went to class judging by his past report cards, glad to hear he's at least showing up."
Claire turned to Michael the boy seemingly trying to look anywhere but at her or his father before Claire spoke once more, "Actually, Mr. Corner, your son is a really talented wizard. Do you know that he's capable of performing silent magic? That's something that not even some seventh years are capable of."
"You can?" Mrs. Corner remarked in surprise, "Since when? And why didn't you tell me?"
"Since last year, I learned it over the summer with Harry, Neville, and Sirius," Michael muttered out, "I'm not really perfect at it anyway. It's not a big deal."
"This being able to perform wordless magic, whatever that means," Mr. Corner muttered out, "Is that helpful in any kind of career? You claim to have been in classes with my son so you must know that he's grades are atrocious. I mean, what kind of jobs can silently doing magic get-,"
"I already told you that I'm not interested in getting a magical job," Michael whispered out, "I want to be a mechanic like you."
"And I already told you that's nonsense, manual labor isn't meant for a boy of your caliber," Mr. Corner growled out, his eyes flashing back towards Claire, "Young lady, what is it that your family does?"
"Well, my mother is a wizarding lawyer, child cases mostly," Claire whispered out, "I'm actually a model for some teen magazines in the wizarding world and my father, he's the French Minister for Magic."
Michael's father's eyes looked about ready to roll out of his head as he turned towards Michael, "You have some nerve you know? Talking about wanting to be a mechanic with such a classy lady at your side. Clearly, she has a reputation in your world, you want to slander than by not even working in a wizarding environment."
"Well, it's not like Michael and I are married, and even if we did get married one day," Claire's face had felt warm as she let the words roll out, "I wouldn't mind if he wanted to be a mechanic. I mean so long as he's passionate about it, I don't really understand the problem."
"Please, don't encourage him to continue down this path," Mr. Corner said his voice firm, "Last I checked the boy had an IQ of 150-"
"147," Michael retorted, and Claire watched as the man's face soured.
"You know what your problem is?" Mr. Corner called out his eyes drilling into Michael.
"An ability to remember numbers?" Michael replied, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
"You just don't know how lucky you have it," Mr. Corner said, "Never having to work hard at anything to be able to understand something. So many things you could do with that brain of yours and all you waste it on is pulling stupid pranks and getting into trouble. I don't know why I even waste money sending you to that stupid school anymore, but I guess it's better than you ending up in juvenile hall."
"Great, glad we had this chat," Michael said rising to his feet, "Now that we cleared that all up, may I be excused?" Claire watched as Michael hadn't even waited for his parents to reply, turning his back and exiting the kitchen.
"Michael, wait!" His mother called out to him, but Michael didn't stop and Claire felt a growing mountain of frustration pounding in her chest.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" She hissed out her eyes staring daggers into the man, "You don't know the first thing about your son do you? Yeah, maybe he is a little lazy, but he's smart, and even more than that, he's a good person." Claire felt her throat growing hot as she continued, "He fought when other adults ran during the Quidditch World Cup, his name was all over the papers, he stayed behind to make sure that as little people died as possible. He figured out how to get Harry to breathe underwater during the second task, he took the time out of his day to help me out even when I was a complete bitch to him. But now I understand why he was able to take it so well, because clearly he gets nothing but shit from you."
Claire turned, leaving the two Corners behind as she chased after Michael, finding the boy sitting on a tire swing that hung from a tree just outside the house, his owl perched on his shoulder nipping his ear comfortingly. Claire felt the whole world freeze as he turned to face her, his face looking cold and lifeless, "Sorry for leaving you like that, it wasn't very gentlemanly," He whispered.
"Are they- are they always like that?" Claire whispered as she approached her boyfriend.
"My mom, she's a saint you know," Michael said, "I put her through hell for years and she loves me anyway. My dad though, I don't know, it's just how he is. Normally I can handle it better- I should have handled it better- I just-"
"It's okay," Claire whispered, walking towards Michael the boy standing from his swing, "I'm sorry for insisting on coming. I could tell by your letters you didn't want me to, but- I know it sounds stupid but I just wanted your parents to like me."
"I'm sure my dad loves you," Michael said with a weak chuckle, "He might be such a fan of yours that he tries to match you with other guys worth your time."
"Probably not," Claire said with a faint smile, "I kinda just got done laying into him." Her face darkened, "I don't think he exactly gets just how lucky he's got it having somebody like you as a son." She watched as Michael's face lit up a bit, the boy's palm curling out from his previously tight fist, though his palm clearly wasn't empty, as a blue orb seemed to be strapped to a black hand-wrap which was fastened around the back of his hand.
"Michael, what is that?" Claire asked, pointing towards the blue orb.
"Oh yeah," He said with a gentle smile looking down at the orb, "I was going to show you this later, it's a project I've been working on, you know, to help with the fight against Voldemort." Claire shivered at the name but couldn't deny her curiosity as Michael whispered, "Want me to show you how it works?"
She nodded and quickly she had found herself following Michael deep into the woods that lined the back of Michael's house. For a moment she was worried about what Tomas and Jacques were going to think, but brushed that thought aside figuring the men were already following her. It seems that Michael must have thought the same thing, signaling for them to come out as soon as they entered the desolate and abandoned-looking circle in the forest. The two men removed their disillusionment charms looking at Michael curiously as she started, "Look, I'm not doing anything nefarious, I'm just here to show Claire the results of a project I've been working on."
"What kind of project?" Tomas asked suspiciously.
"One to help win the war against Voldemort," Michael called back, "Good enough answer for you?" Tomas nodded though continued to eye Michael suspiciously as he presented his hand-strap to Claire. "Okay, so basically, I was thinking about something Harry said to me before I got on the train. He told us that we all needed to get stronger just in case we come face to face with Voldemort. Of course, I agreed, but I also know that Voldemort is a once in a generation wizard. Harry may be able to get to that level naturally one day, but for most wizards, our power ceilings simply aren't that high."
"Which is why I started considering ways of unnaturally getting my magical power higher, and more specifically, how could I use my mechanical skills to do it." Claire nodded following the boy's thought as he spoke, "So when I started thinking about external things that made wizards strong, the first thing I thought about was their wands. I wrote to Hermione asking if she had any books on wands, and of course, because she's Hermione, she did."
Claire chuckled softly remembering the curly head brainiac as Michal continued, "What I found out from the History of Wand Lore, a book written by Ollivander's Great Grandfather himself actually, was that during the early creation of wands, they used to be equipped with focusing crystals. The wands made were super powerful, amplifying the user's magic tremendously. The downside was, the wand itself couldn't handle the magical output, breaking in just a few spell casts."
"So I started thinking," Michael whispered, "What if we kept the focusing crystal and skipped out on the wand."
"Impossible," Tomas spoke, "We use wands for a reason, most wizards are unable to channel magic without their wand. Some who try already injure themselves greatly, amplifying such magic with a crystal and having it backfire could lead to the loss of an entire arm, maybe worse."
"I considered that too," Michael whispered, "But given that we could all come face to face with Voldemort one day, I'd say a lost arm is better than a lost life. Also," Michael whispered, turning to Tomas, "I'm not most wizards, I'm a genius after all."
Tomas scoffed once more as Michael called out to him, "You're an Auror right?" Tomas nodded, "Do you think you could handle my blow."
"With ease," Tomas nodded proudly.
"That's what I was hoping you'd say," Michael said with a smirk, "Go ahead and cast the strongest shielding charm you can, it's time for an experiment." Tomas did what he was asked and Claire watched as Michael lifted his wand, "Reducto!" Michael bellowed, and just like she and Tomas expected the shield cracked but hadn't broken.
"Now for the same spell with just the crystal," Michael whispered, Claire watched as Michael lifted his hand, the chosen crystal Claire now releasing to be a sapphire. Of course, he chose the blue one, She thought to herself with amusement before Michael bellowed out, "Reducto!"
This time a jet of blue magic sprang from Michael's palm and Claire's jaw dropped to the ground, the bolt of magic shattering through Tomas' shield, sending the young Auror flying into a tree. Even Michael's face had been full of shock as he rushed towards the Auror, "Shit I wasn't expecting it to be that strong, I was only using about half strength."
That was only half strength? Claire's mind whispered in amazement, Michael, that's incredible. How did you figure this out so quickly? A groan rose from the trunk of the tree in which Michael had shot the Auror into, the man stumbling to his feet as he locked eyes with Michael, "That packed one hell of a punch, how'd you manage to design something like this?"
"You ever read Iron Man?" Michael called out.
"The muggle comic?" Tomas whispered.
"Yeah," Michael said with a shrug, "Though I could try to bring that into the real world." Michael's face suddenly flinched as he gripped his arm tightly. Claire hurried to his side checking for any injuries but finding nothing, "The only problem is the drawbacks are intense, that was just half strength and my arm is still numb. I've got maybe two full-powered shots in here before it wipes out my magical core."
"It's certainly got its risks, and I'm not sure any Auror Department would certify their Auror's to carry those around with them. Not to mention the cost of purchasing those crystals" Tomas whispered, "But it certainly packs one hell of a punch. It would be good to get a good assessment of its full capacity."
"You're right about the cost. I have Sirius to thank for getting me the crystal. Not a lot of places to test it out here though, especially for an underaged wizard," Michael replied, the sweat forming rapidly on his body as his knees began to tremble.
"Maybe not here," Tomas said, "But if your papers are in order, I know a place you could test out that prototype of yours in Paris."
"I thought you didn't think much of me, now you want to help?" Michael queried.
"You've intrigued me Michael Corner, perhaps you aren't as hopeless as I first assumed."
Astoria laid on the ground panting in the large training room that resided in the basement of the Oblansk Manor, her body feeling numb as she turned to her side finding Damyan completely asleep, the exhaustion overtaking him. She didn't blame him, the two had been working nonstop, and Astoria knew that with Damyan being the minister's son, he had to be able to protect himself should the worst come to pass.
Astoria groaned, rolling to her stomach as she placed her trembling hands on the ground, her muscles screaming as she tried to push herself back up to her feet. "I would suggest you stay down," Minister Oblansk whispered to her, the man finally getting a day off from the craziness happening in the Bulgarian Ministry, "If you get back up, I will be forced to knock you down."
"Bring it on," Astoria growled her legs trembling as she rocked on her feet, "I'm not done yet." A gust of wind from the Minister's wand slammed into her chest, knocking her back onto the padded ground, her fingers curling against the mats as she began to curl herself up, the pain in her abdomen dropping her back down.
"You are tenacious," Minister Oblansk said with a hearty chuckle, "But you must rest, pushing your body like this is unhealthy, especially for a girl with your particular condition." Astoria paid the man no mind, rolling back to her stomach desperately trying to stand. "Why do you insist on getting up?" Minister Oblansk said, "Why are you trying to rush your progress?"
"Because I was called a liability," Astoria whispered, "I'll prove him wrong." A chuckle left the Minister's mouth as Astoria saw the man's outstretched hand helping her to her feet, the girl glancing at the older man, his grey ducktail beard glistening with sweat, his warm blue eyes staring down at her. "I made a promise to myself, sir," Astoria whispered, "I made a vow that for him, for Harry, that I would come back a better witch than I was before. That I wouldn't be a burden for him to carry."
"That's why," She whispered, her eyes hard as she stared at the Bulgarian Minister, "I refuse to stay down."
"Your drive to fight is certainly something to be admired," The man said before Astoria felt his wand tap the back of her neck, an unconscious haze beginning to flood over her, "However, you must rest if you want to reach your full potential." Astoria felt her body trembled before finally, she succumbed to her exhaustion, collapsing the ground, asleep.
The two black-cloaked Death Eaters watched on from the shrouded cliffside as two figures marched towards a town that even their own lord knew to stay away from. He stood at the edge of the cliff, his eyes never leaving his target as the woman beside him snarled eagerly.
"Let's go, Barty!" Bellatrix yelled, "It's just the two of them, we can go in there, grab the boy, and return back to our master."
"Yes," Barty whispered, "It's true that Potter is one of them, but the other is Mad-Eye, perhaps you remember him, he's the one that managed to subdue both of us and bring us to Azkaban. I doubt he'd be so merciful if we were to attempt to ambush him again. Plus, it's not like Potter isn't skilled with his wand either." The wind blew past the two death eater's faces as Barty licked his lips, "In my estimation, if we were to engage in combat with them right now… we'd all die."
Bellatrix stepped back as Barty sighed, "Though I'm not sure if we even need to kill them. The way their heading, they seem to be walking towards her town, and from what I've heard, nobody who enters her kingdom has ever been allowed to leave." Barty cocked his head watching with sharp eyes, "The way this is going, this war could be over before it even begins."
A/N: Oh man, I hope this chapter was intriguing to you guys if nothing else. It looks like the gang took Moody's words seriously and are working their asses off, Daphne and Michael in particular, haha. I also hope you enjoyed the scene of Claire meeting Michael's parents even if it was brutal. Finally, the question arises, just who exactly is this friend Moody was talking about in Book 2 and where exactly are he and Harry going? Only one way to find out.
If you enjoyed this chapter, please be sure to Follow, Favorite, and Review! Until Next Time, Peace!