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Price of Peace 4 - Uncovering the Truth

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“Here.” Sirius summoned the book to his hands and turned to the next chapter.

Chapter Seven

Tents and Water-Taps

“That …” Jen frowned. “That is a very bizarre chapter title.”

Portkeys were definitely not Hermione’s favourite mode of transport …

James grimaced. “I’m with you on that one.”

“Potter Portkey Genes.” Sirius explained to the future students. “I’ve yet to know a Potter who could stay on their feet after a Portkey trip. In fact, the first time Lily took a Portkey, she stayed on her feet – James had done it at least twenty times and he ended up falling over.”

“Does the same apply to Floo trips?” Hermione asked with an innocent smile. “Because Harry always falls out of them as well.”

David chuckled. “Yes, it does. It’s the flip-side of being born fliers. We’re not quite as well-coordinated on the ground.”

… she decided as she disentangled herself from Ginny and Fred. It was just past five o’clock in the morning and she’d just hiked over a moor, held on to an old boot for five minutes and been forcefully thrown halfway across the country to land on her backside.

Everyone laughed. “Hermione, I love your descriptions!” Harry sniggered.

“Like you’re any better, Mr. Happy Balloon.” Hermione shot back.

Harry looked confused. “What?”

Hermione thought back. “Oh, sorry, Harry. Forgot you weren’t here for the first two books. Let’s just say you’ve got some interesting descriptions as well.”

On top of all this, the feeling that something awful was going to happen hadn’t gone away; if anything, it had grown. She’d mentioned something to Ginny that morning and the only response she’d had was, “Well, you are Harry’s best friend.”

“I had a point.” Ginny pointed out.

Of course, Ginny had a valid point, but Hermione wasn’t going to admit that. Not to her face.

Ginny rolled her eyes. “Thanks.”

Sirius pulled a face at the book. “Does he have to be in it?”

“Who?” Addie asked.

Sirius hid the book so she couldn’t read over his shoulder. “Does he?”

Hermione frowned. “Erm … Going by reactions in the last book, I’m going to guess you mean Amos Diggory? I wouldn’t worry. He basically turns up after an event and then makes a complete prat of himself.”
“Oh, no change there then.” Sirius said cheerfully.

Meeting Amos and Cedric Diggory at the portkey only reinforced her feelings. Well, to be fair to Cedric – who was quite a nice guy (not to mention good-looking) …

“Hermione!” Fred and Harry protested.

Hermione turned pink. “Well, he is! I didn’t say I fancied him or anything – it’s just an observation!”

… it was just his father. It was blindingly obvious that Harry must have awful memories to fall off a broom around Dementors and to flaunt it like that …

Lily scowled. “What did he say?”
Harry rolled his eyes. “Just kept going on about how Cedric beat me at Quidditch. Cedric tried to point out that I fell off my broom and he just said something about proving who the better flier was.”

Hermione was shaken from her thoughts when Cedric, who had stayed on his feet, reached a hand down and helped her to her feet.

“See?” Hermione asked, her blush receding. “He’s a nice guy.”

“Thanks.” She muttered. “Do you ever get used to those?”

Cedric laughed. “Eventually.”

“Unless you’re James.” Sirius put in happily.

Fred and George lifted Ginny to her feet and Harry and Ron stood up as well, the latter shooting glares at Cedric.

“Why?” James asked. “He didn’t blame Cedric for what his father said, did he?”

“No, Hufflepuff beat us at Quidditch.” Hermione sighed. “So, obviously, it makes Cedric the devil incarnate.”

Hermione rolled her eyes. She loved Ron to pieces, but he was awfully immature sometimes, especially when it came to Quidditch. It wasn’t like Cedric had stopped Gryffindor winning the Cup or anything.

“An excellent point.” Jen conceded.

Brushing her clothes down, Hermione squinted through the half-light and mist. Two wizards were standing in front of them, dressed very inexpertly as Muggles.

“Oh, this is always fun.” Lily smirked.

One, who was holding a large gold pocket watch, was wearing a tweed suit with knee-length galoshes and the other, who had a long piece of parchment and a quill, was wearing a kilt and a poncho.

Lily burst out laughing.

“What?” Regulus asked with a frown. “They’re Muggle clothes, right?”
“They’re not supposed to be worn in those combinations.” Addie explained with a smile. “It’s like …” She trailed off, trying to think of a good comparison with the magical world.

“It’s like wearing slippers with work robes.” Lily supplied.

“Or a day-cloak over dress robes.” Mandy added.

“Isn’t a cloak a cloak?” Harry asked.

Hermione chuckled. “No, Harry. The cloaks we wear for school, for example, you wouldn’t wear over dress robes to a formal ball.”

“Oh, right.” Harry nodded. “I get it.”

“Morning, Basil.” Mr Weasley greeted, handing over the portkey.

“Morning, Arthur.” The kilted wizard threw it into a box. “Not on duty, eh? It’s alright for some; we’ve been here all night. You’d better get out of the way – we’ve got a big party coming in at five-fifteen from the Black Forest.”

“Merlin, it really was early, wasn’t it?” Arabella grimaced.

“Who cares?” James asked. “It’s the World Cup!”

Hermione, who was trying not to laugh at their clothes, chanced a glance at Harry, who caught her eye before turning away quickly.

“Hang on, I’ll find your campsite. Weasley … Weasley …” He ran his finger down the list. “About a quarter-of-a-mile’s walk over there; first field you come to. Site manager’s called Mr. Roberts. Diggory; second field. Ask for Mr. Payne.”

“Guess we know which one he prefers.” Jen smirked.

“Can you blame him?” Sirius muttered.

“Thanks, Basil.” Arthur beckoned to the others and they followed him across the moor. Hermione squinted to see that hundreds and hundreds of tents were beginning to loom out of the fog, rising up a gentle hill towards a dark wood on the horizon.

“Camping!” Lily said suddenly.

“Er, yeah.” James responded. “That’s what you do in tents.”

Lily rolled her eyes. “No, the chapter title – tents and water-taps. That’s what it refers to.”

“Well, Arthur, this is where we leave you.” Amos Diggory said cheerfully.

Cedric bid goodbye to them, before following his father into the mist. Harry, Hermione and Ginny waved, but Fred, George and Ron, still sore after Gryffindor’s last defeat, simply nodded coolly.

Fred looked down at his feet, regretting how he had treated his class-mate.

Together, they approached the stone cottage, where a man stood surveying the tents. He was very obviously the only real Muggle for several miles.

Narcissa grimaced. “In that case, he’s bound to get suspicious. Why didn’t someone put a Compulsion Charm on him to make him go on holiday or something?”

 “Morning!” Mr Weasley said brightly.

“Morning.” The Muggle replied shortly.

“Wasn’t one for small talk, was he?” Fred commented.

Mr Weasley glanced apprehensively at the others. “Would you be Mr. Roberts?”

“Aye.” Mr. Roberts nodded. “And who would you be?”

“Weasley; two tents, booked a couple of days ago?” Mr Weasley told him.

“Aye.” Mr. Roberts repeated, checking the list tacked up by the door. “You’ve got a space up by the wood there. Just the one night?”

“That’s it.” Mr Weasley confirmed.

“You’ll be paying now then?”

“Ah…certainly.” Mr Weasley retreated a little way and gestured for Harry to follow him. From their whispered conversation, Hermione guessed that Harry was helping him figure out Muggle money.

“It’s not that difficult.” Hermione sighed. “The amount is written on it.”

 “You foreign?” Mr. Roberts asked abruptly when they returned with the correct money.

“Foreign?” Mr Weasley repeated, looking puzzled.

Mr. Roberts observed the group with narrowed eyes. “You’re not the first one who’s had trouble with money.

“Uh oh.” David murmured. “He’s too observant.”

I had two try and pay me with great gold coins the size of hubcaps ten minutes ago.”

Lily groaned, pinching the bridge of her nose. “Why? Why would anyone do that?”

“Why would anyone do that?” Ginny hissed to Hermione.

“They’re probably pureblood bigots who are too up themselves to realise that Muggles have their own currency.” Hermione muttered out of the corner of her mouth.

“Nice one.” James smirked. “And very well worded.”

“This guy’s too observant.”

“Or most wizards are just too ignorant.” Lily sighed.

“Never been this crowded.” Mr. Roberts commented suddenly, rummaging around in a tin for some change. “Hundreds of pre-bookings. People usually just turn up.”

“That’s not good.” Regulus frowned. “You’re right, Cissy. Someone should have removed him from the equation early on.”

“Is that right?” Mr Weasley asked, trying to sound casual.

“Aye.” Mr. Roberts looked thoughtful. “People from all over.” He was still holding the change he owed Arthur. “Loads of foreigners. And not just foreigners. Weirdoes, you know. There’s a bloke walking around in a kilt and a poncho.”

“Shouldn’t he?” Mr Weasley asked anxiously.

“No.” Lily answered, still looking very put-upon. “How the Statute of Secrecy hasn’t been broken yet …”

Mr. Roberts frowned, staring out at the tents. “It’s like some sort of … I dunno … some sort of rally. They all seem to know each other. Like a big party.”

Hermione heard a collective sharp intake of breath beside her and held herself back from nodding in agreement. She hadn’t thought about how odd it would appear to Muggles.

“No one does.” Arabella frowned. “That’s not good.”

Before Mr Weasley could reply, a wizard in plus-fours apparated next to them and pointed his wand at Mr. Roberts’s face. “Obliviate!”

“There’s the answer, Mum.” Harry shrugged.

“Memory charms should not be used to remedy wizards’ ignorance and stupidity!” David protested.

The man’s eyes slid out of focus and a dreamy look came upon his face. “A map of the campsite for you.” He said. “And your change.”

“Thank you.” Mr Weasley nodded to him, and his children, Harry and Hermione hurried after him, as the other wizard accompanied them to the gate.

“The poor man looks exhausted!” Ginny whispered to Hermione, who nodded in agreement.

“He really did.” Hermione sighed.

“Been having a lot of trouble with him.” He was saying to Mr Weasley. “Needs a Memory Charm ten times a day to keep him happy.

“That’s not right.” David frowned. “Too many Memory Charms can cause permanent damage on a person’s mental health.”

And Ludo Bagman’s not helping. Trotting around talking about Bludgers and Quaffles at the top of his voice …

David followed Lily’s example and sighed into his hands. “What happened to the Ministry?”

… not a worry about anti-Muggle security.” He heaved a sigh. “Blimey, I’ll be glad when this is over.

“He’ll be the only one.” Mandy chuckled, glancing at James’s outraged expression.

See you later, Arthur.”

When he had disapparated with a crack, Ginny quickened her pace to catch up with her father, a look of surprise on her face. “I thought Bagman was Head of Magical Games and Sports? He should know better than to talk about Bludgers near Muggles, right?”

“He should.” Fred answered. “But he doesn’t.”

“He should.” Mr Weasley agreed with a smile, opening the gate and leading them through. “But Ludo’s always been a bit … well … lax about security. You couldn’t wish for a more enthusiastic Head of the Sports Department though.

“I bet you couldn’t.” Addie agreed.

He played Quidditch for England himself, you know.

Sirius perked up. “Wow! He gets better!”

And he was the best Beater the Wimbourne Wasps ever had.”

“And apparently they don’t.” James smirked.

“One player doesn’t make the team.” Regulus argued. “They’re nowhere near as bad as the Cannons.”

“True.” James conceded.

Hermione closed the gate behind them and walked straight into Harry. “Hey!”

“Sorry.” Harry moved out of the way, not taking his eyes off the scene in front of them. “Hermione, does something seem … odd about these tents to you?”

“Oh, here we go.” Harry smirked.

Hermione shielded her eyes from the rising sun so she could see the rows of tents on either side of them. Most of them looked like regular Muggle tents and she was about to ask what Harry meant, when she caught sight of a weather vane sticking out the top of one of them.

“What’s weird about that?” Regulus asked.

“Muggle tents don’t have weather-vanes.” Harry answered.

A few pitches down, there was a chimney and a bell-pull. Dotted among them, here and there, were tents that were so magical that Hermione wasn’t surprised that Mr. Roberts was getting suspicious. One tent looked like a miniature palace complete with several peacocks tethered outside.

“Lucius.” Sirius concluded, rolling his eyes.

“How’d you know?” Draco asked.

“Your father has a rather strange fascination with peacocks.” Sirius answered.

Draco pulled a face. “Well, I won’t argue with that.”

Ron rolled his eyes and muttered something that sounded a bit like “Malfoys”.

“Always the same.” Mr Weasley chuckled. “We can’t resist showing off when we get together.”

“That, or half these people think that Muggle tents really do look like this.” Harry murmured.

“I think that’s more likely.” Lily agreed with a smile.

Hermione sniggered and nodded in agreement, just as they reached their spot; a small empty space with a sign hammered into the ground that read Wheezly.

Sirius sniggered. “It’s spelt W-H-E-E-Z-L-Y.” He explained.

“Couldn’t have a better spot.” Mr Weasley said happily. “The pitch is just on the other side of that wood there; we’re as close as we could be.”

James brightened up. “Brilliant!”

He dropped his backpack on the ground. “Right, no magic allowed, strictly speaking; not when we’re out in these numbers on Muggle land.

Remus laughed. “Who wants to bet Arthur’s the only one to stick to that rule?”

“No, a lot of people did.” Draco informed him. “Father was not happy.”

“Really?” Narcissa asked. “What did he say?”

“I wouldn’t repeat it.” Draco grimaced. “On and on and on about pandering to Muggles and did the Ministry really expect us to live like that and …” He trailed off.

“That explains so much.” Hermione commented darkly.

We’ll be putting these tents up by hand! Shouldn’t be too hard … Muggles do it all the time. Here, Harry, where do you think we should start?”

“Merlin knows why he asked me.” Harry sniggered.

Harry stared at the tent pieces in front of them. “Hermione?”

“When in doubt, turn to Hermione.” Draco smirked. “Sounds like a good rule.”

“It’s served me well.” Harry agreed solemnly.

Hermione started. “Don’t you know?” She picked up a few of the pegs. “Let’s see …”

“Like the Dursleys ever took me anywhere.” Harry muttered.

Hermione rolled her eyes. “I was talking about Jess, Harry. Remember her?”

“Didn’t Jess used to take you on holiday?” Hermione asked, as she pictured a tent mentally and tried to place everything.

Harry shrugged, holding a piece of canvas for her to slip a tent pole through. “Sometimes, but we never went camping. And only when I was old enough to realise that telling the Dursleys that I had fun with Jess meant that I’d never go back.” He paused thoughtfully. “I reckon that’s why Mrs. Figg was such a nightmare to deal with.”

“I’ve been meaning to talk to you about her.” Hermione remembered, wincing as Arthur hit his thumb with the mallet.

Lily winced as well. “That’s not a fully-wizard mistake though. Dad’s done that about twenty times.”

“Do you think she knows you’re a wizard?”

Harry glanced at her. “Why do you ask?”

“Her first name’s Arabella, right?” Hermione asked. “Isn’t your Mum’s friend Arabella Figg?”

“Well-reasoned.” Arabella smiled.

Harry frowned. “You’re right. Can’t be the same person though … maybe a grandmother? I’ll ask Arabella next time I write to her.”

“You were writing to us then?” Arabella asked happily.

Harry nodded. “Yeah, of course.”

“Good idea.” Hermione slid another pole in. “Is Jess still having weird dreams?”

“Yep.” Harry answered. “And if you thought the last warning was bad, this one’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack. I’ll tell you when we get back.” He straightened up. “Got it!”

Hermione stood back and joined him. The two shabby two-man tents certainly didn’t look like they belonged to wizards. But once Charlie, Bill and Percy arrived, they would be a party of ten.

Sirius chuckled. “They’re magical tents, Kitten.”
Hermione sighed. “I know.”

She looked quizzically at Harry, who looked just as bewildered, as Mr Weasley dropped to his hands and knees and crawled inside.

“We’ll be a bit cramped.” He called out. “But I think we’ll all squeeze in. Come and have a look.”

Harry and Hermione exchanged a dubious glance, before he lifted up the tent flap to allow her to enter before him.

Lily gave Harry a proud smile.

As she stood up, her jaw dropped. She had walked into what looked like a fully-furnished, three-bedroom flat, complete with bathroom and kitchen, but which seemed to have a distinct smell of cats. She had heard of enlargement charms, but never dreamed they’d look like this.

“What are Muggle tents like inside then?” Regulus asked.

Hermione shrugged. “They’re just the inside of canvas. They can be quite big, but there isn’t furniture in them or anything. People use sleeping bags. It’s really quite uncomfortable.”

Lily winced. “Tell me about it. Unlike Petunia, I enjoy camping – probably because she doesn’t come with us anymore – but I hate sleeping in tents.”

A sharp intake of breath from behind her told her that Harry had reacted in the same way.

“Well, it’s not for long.” Mr Weasley said cheerfully, mopping his bald patch with a handkerchief. “I borrowed this from Perkins at the office. Doesn’t camp much anymore, poor fellow; he’s got lumbago.”

Sirius interrupted himself. “What on earth …?”

“Back pain.” Addie answered.

He had picked up the kettle while he talked. “We’ll need water …”

“There’s a tap marked on this map the Muggle gave us.” Ron’s voice broke in, causing Hermione to start slightly. He was standing behind her, completely at ease with his surroundings.

“Before you say anything,” Hermione sighed, “yes, I’m aware Ron grew up with magic. It was just an observation.”

“It’s on the other side of the field.”

“Why don’t you, Harry and Hermione go and get us some water then?” Mr Weasley suggested, handing him the kettle and passing two saucepans to Hermione. “And the rest of us will get some wood for a fire.”

“But we’ve got an oven!” Ron protested. “Why can’t we just …?”

“Ron, anti-Muggle security!” Mr Weasley interrupted. “When real Muggles camp, they cook on fires outdoors; I’ve seen them at it!”

“That is true.” Hermione conceded. “Although a lot of Muggles take disposable barbeques with them.” She caught sight of confused expressions and didn’t wait for the questions. “It’s sort of like a small box with a grill over it. You put charcoal inside the box and light it and then cook the food on the grill.”

Hermione rolled her eyes. “Come on, Ron. You too, Harry.” She handed him one of the saucepans. “Let’s go and see if Ginny wants to come with us.”

They ducked into the girls’ tent, which was decorated in the same way though, thankfully, without the smell of cats.

“Lucky.” Harry muttered.

“What’s wrong with cats?” Arabella asked.

“Nothing.” Harry answered. “But you know that smell when the litter tray hasn’t been emptied yet …?”

Arabella pulled a face. “Never mind.”

Ginny was stowing her backpack away. “Bottom bunk alright, Hermione?”

“I actually prefer the bottom bunk.” Hermione commented. “I never got why the top bunk was such a treat.”
“You get to climb it!” James answered with a grin. “All those times your parents tell you not to climb on furniture get ignored!”

Lily rolled her eyes. “Boys.”

“Fine.” Hermione answered. “We’re going to go and get some water; you coming?”

Ginny shrugged. “Yeah, alright then.”

They set off across the campsite. By now, the sun had risen and the mist had lifted, and they could see the tents that stretched in every direction. Edging slowly through the rows, Hermione stifled a laugh at the bewildered expression on Harry’s face. It was evident that he’d never realised that there must be wizards and witches in other countries.

Harry blushed. “I just hadn’t thought about it, that’s all.”

“Oh, Harry.” Lily chuckled.

She would have given anything to stop and talk to them, but she knew that, at this time in the morning, they weren’t likely to be very hospitable.

“No, I shouldn’t think they would be.” Remus agreed. “Having tried to wake these two up every morning.”

“It’s not that difficult.” Sirius protested.

Addie rolled her eyes. “It is, Padfoot, and you know it.”

Families were beginning to emerge from tents on either side of them, mostly ones with small children. A tiny boy, no older than three, was crouched next to a tent prodding a slug, which was slowly swelling to the size of salami, with a wand.

Sirius sniggered. “Harry got hold of James’s wand once.”

“What did I do?” Harry asked eagerly.

“Well, by the time I got there, James was hanging upside down and Lily had turned completely pink.” Sirius answered with a smirk.

As they reached him, his mother came hurrying out and snatched the wand back. “How many times, Kevin! You don’t … touch … Daddy’s … wand … Yeuch!” She had trodden on the slug, which burst. Her scolding, mingled with the little boy’s screams, floated after them on the still air.

“Why was he screaming?” Lily asked.

“She didn’t hurt him.” Hermione assured her. “He was upset about the slug.”

A little further on, they came across two witches, barely older than Kevin, riding toy broomsticks just high enough for their toes to skim the grass.

“And if the Muggles had seen them?” David asked, shaking his head. “Honestly.”

A Ministry wizard had seen them and hurried past them muttering, “In broad daylight! Parents having a lie-in, I suppose.”

“Poor bloke.” Jen murmured. “He must be exhausted.”

“If it’s any consolation, you’re doing a great job!” Ginny called after him.

“You made his day, I should think.” David chuckled.

He shot the group a grateful smile over his shoulder and continued on his mission.

“Suck-up.” Ron muttered.

Ginny rolled her eyes. “I was just trying to be nice.”

Ginny stuck her tongue out at him, but any retort was cut off by a shout.

“Harry!”

Lily brightened. “Oh, who is it?”

“No idea.” Sirius answered. “That’s the end of the chapter.”