Hogsmeade – Hogwarts Express – June 30th 1995 (Friday Midmorning)
More than one pair of rolled eyes and syrupy smiles followed the pair as Piotr was helping Padma with her baggage enter the train. While they were never caught snogging like other pairs, vanishing in some broom closet or doing similar 'indecent' – as Molly Weasley would certainly call it – things, it was clear to every onlooker how close they had become in the past and more than one girl was envious of Padma to have such a caring and romantic boyfriend.
Nothing did they know about the things going on in his head. Padma – her name meaning white lotus he pondered with a smile – was one of the most beautiful and intelligent girls of Hogwarts. Piotr especially liked her warm character and her good-natured humor. That she was able to stand back without envy and let him spend time with his friends was only the icing on the cake. But both realized that – while they really liked to spend time together and liked the idea of being a pair – they perhaps weren't meant to be something permanent. Piotr would spent the first and last week of the summer break with her family, the six weeks in between reserved for quality time with her parents in India, visiting their rather large family there. He wanted to use the next days to speak with her about the matter, wanted to 'allow her' – not that she really needed it – to 'follow other leads'.
No, he wasn't hell bent on losing her. In contrary he liked her very much and loved to be with her. But this was the very reason why he wanted to make sure that she knew better than to let an opportunity slip thru her fingers should she get to know 'someone special'. She deserved the best, deserved real and deep love and he wouldn't be 'the one' for her. If she allowed it he would spend time with her in the next year but he would let her go if she wanted to.
"You know," Hermione stated as she entered the train after the pair "I expect some letters from you. The first week you're off the hook but after that …"
Piotr grinned at her: "No problem. I assume I'll have more than enough time to tell you about my boring nights at St. Mungo." His expression showed that he wasn't serious about the boring part. In contrary he was more than happy that the internship with one of the spirit healers at St. Mungo really came off. Healer Prewitt, the healer who had spent the last summer with him, had organized these six weeks for him and he was quite thrilled to have an opportunity to implement the theoretic knowledge he had acquired this year.
At least Hermione would be in England too, in reach of owled letters. Padma would have to wait but he had promised her to write a kind of letter-diary about his experiences. It would be a kind of welcome gift after her return and she had been quite excited about his plans as he told her about it.
After Hermione Ron and Ginny entered the train and another point crossed his mind. The day before – with all students in high spirit about the incoming summer break and relieved to have finished this year's exams – he had spoken with Ron. The conversation had gone better than feared, worse than hoped. Piotr wasn't sure about having made clear his point: that he hoped Ron to be a real brother for his sister in the summer break, protecting her from everyone – inside or outside the family. Ron had been calm – more or less – and seemed to understand the implication: the danger Arthur and Percy Weasley posed for Ginny's welfare and especially her mental growth. But he hadn't shown a real grasp of the importance of this, that an unfair or too harsh treatment thru her family could do permanent damage to Ginny. Piotr could only hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
According to Headmaster Dumbledore this would be the motto of the next school year. After their return to the tournament field – Piotr exhausted, Hermione worried, Harry wounded and Cedric unconscious – there had been quite uproar among the spectators. Seldom before had Piotr felt such a relief as in the moment he noticed the breath motions of Cedric – shallow, erratic, but existent they were. Harry had been able to tell them about the curses Peter Pettigrew had hit Cedric with and about Nagini. The exotic giant snake had bitten the boy and it had been the most urgent matter to stabilize him. Snape had been working on an effective antidote since then. Help offered by Piotr he had declined – in an astonishing friendly matter – friendly in regards of Snape's personality. Piotr could only hope that he would be fast enough with the antidote.
That Minister Fudge instantly declined the possibility of Voldemort's return – despite Harry, Piotr and Hermione's statements – shouldn't have been such a surprise. Right the next day there had been an article in the Daily Prophet about a 'handful of madmen, of lost souls, inclined to sabotage the tournament'. That they didn't believe their statements about Peter Pettigrew's presence – something that would go a long way to exonerate Sirius – made the matter only the worse.
At the annual closure celebration Headmaster Dumbledore had openly and clearly supported the statements of his students, announced his trust and expressed his hopes that all students and teachers would stand together in the next year and fight the arising darkness. But Piotr had seen doubt on many faces; doubt fueled by fear, the same fear he had noticed in Fudge's face.
Piotr wasn't sure about this, wasn't sure that reason and trust would succeed above prejudices and hate. But at least his friends would be there again. Even Fleur would be at Hogwarts again next year. Dumbledore had offered her a partial teacher's position. She would teach History of magic for the years below OWL level and offer some voluntary courses for everyone about themes like dancing, music and art.
Only Viktor would be away then. Viktor's use of Cruciatus spells against Cedric had been excused – he had been under an Imperio spell. He would finish school this summer and go on with his professional Quidditch career. But he had promised to owl them, him, Fleur and especially Hermione. Even with her out of reach – girlfriend way – he obviously liked the idea of having the brightest witch of England as a pen pal.
One good point about the whole 'we downplay the events at all costs' was the fact that nobody had shown any interest in Piotr's use of the Animagus spell. Yes, he had registered as an Animagus more than one year ago, but the spell belonging to the Transfiguration class he wasn't allowed to use it for the next three months. Thank Merlin everyone was more than willing to overlook this 'small misbehavior' and Piotr was quite willing to drop the point too.
Smiling at his girlfriend – Padma in her usual position sitting at his side, her bare feet on the seat cushion, her head leant against his shoulder, her nose in a book – he remembered the moment he told her about his use of the Indian command 'Aad'. A few weeks ago she had willingly helped him to gather the most useful words but using them really and benefitting from the work had been a nice surprise for her too.
Next year … what would it bring? Would it be better, easier? Piotr didn't dare to hope so. With Voldemort back it was only a question of time before he was able to muster his old cadre again and spread fear in the wizarding world. They had to be prepared. And they would be.
Heavy steps echoed thru the sparsely lit hall. An astute observer would detect the particular kind of walking, something the guest wasn't able to fully suppress after months of pretending to be someone else. Even with both of his leg now fully functional he slightly favored his left, the other one being dragged behind like some dead object.
Only two persons were waiting in the large hall, the last other person – Lucius Malfoy – shooed away minutes ago. Only Peter Pettigrew was allowed to see this visitor of his Lord, only the rat knew who the valuable conspirator was who had been able to put Harry's name into the Goblet of Fire. The plan hadn't gone well in entirety but he had played his part well enough.
Somewhat labored he went down on one knee and bowed to his Lord, rising again on his sign. To Bartho Crouch's relief his Lord seemed to be in a mood well enough but he stayed silent, knew better than to speak too early.
The voice was not fully human and sent showers even down Crouch's spine: "You have done well, Master Crouch. Regretfully the boy escaped but your part in the game went flawlessly. You're still able to play Moody's part in Hogwarts, I assume?"
Crouch wasn't sure. Had he heard a hint of disappointment? Should he have tried to fetch the boy after his return? "From the telling of the boy I assumed that your return went successfully, my Lord. Even with Minister Fudge's denial already too many knew about the ritual. I weighed the pros and cons and came to the conclusion that I could be of better help staying there, pretending to be trustworthy for Dumbledore still."
Crouch was unable to completely suppress the sigh of relief as his Lord nodded slightly. "We'll find another way to deal with the boy. For now lay low and wait for new orders. You'll play a part in my plans next year."
With a last bow Crouch turned to leave the hall as his Lord spoke a last time: "Next time I want to hear all you know about this other boy: Piotr." The pure hatred in his voice was undeniable. Crouch nodded and as he passed the door a dark gleam was visible in his eyes: "Kamenew!"
This is the end of the second part of my Piotr-Cycle. I plan to write some shorter stories first about more traditional pairings first but I won't omit this cycle totally. I just like my Piotr-character too much to simply stop here and so there will be at least another part next year.