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Price of Peace 4 - Uncovering the Truth

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“I think I’d better.” Alice decided. “Since this probably has the match and someone’s got to keep the fans calm.”

“You don’t like flying then, Mum?” Neville asked quietly.

Alice chuckled. “I’m a decent flier, but I prefer having my feet firmly on the ground.”

Neville grinned. “Me too.”

“Frank, on the other hand,” she added with a smirk, “seems to only have to look at a broom and he falls over.”

Chapter Ten

The Quidditch World Cup

“Alice, can you read French?” Hermione asked suddenly.

“I can read it, but I’m not fluent.” Alice told her. “Why?”

“Comes up.” Hermione answered vaguely, catching Draco’s eye. She tapped her head and he closed his eyes, apparently catching on to her warning that his emotions could well be about to get broadcast.

That evening, pushing the encounter with Bagman and Crouch and what might possibly be happening at Hogwarts out of their minds, Harry, Hermione and the Weasleys took their seats in the Top Box …

“You were in the Top Box?” James groaned enviously.

“Yep.” Harry answered casually. “Great view.”

… clutching their souvenirs. All of them had green shamrocks attached to their hats that were screaming the names of the Irish players, but Ron had bought a tiny model of Viktor Krum as well.

“Which ended up snapped under my bed.” Harry added under his breath.

Hermione put a hand over her mouth to hide the smile that slid onto her face.

Harry had insisted on buying the four of them a pair of Omnioculars each, assuring Ron that he wouldn’t be buying him any Christmas presents for the next ten years in compensation (Ginny and Hermione just hadn’t complained).

“Well, of course not.” Ginny rolled her eyes. “That’s just the way Harry is. If he wants to buy us things, then why not let him?”

“I’m glad.” Harry told her. “I like being able to do things like that.”

“Don’t worry about it, mate.” Fred assured him. “Ron’s just touchy.”

Hermione wasn’t paying much attention to anything other than the massive stadium they were sitting in and the excitement in the air – it wasn’t as bad as she’d thought – until Harry spoke.

“Dobby?!”

“No way …” Remus muttered.

Hermione and Ron’s heads whipped around. They’d never met the house-elf who had tried to save Harry’s life and ended up putting him in more danger than he would have been otherwise, but the house-elf seemed confused.

“Did sir just call me Dobby?” She squeaked from between her fingers.

“Not Dobby then.” Lily concluded.

“Sorry.” Harry said. “I just thought you were someone I knew.”

“Well, the chances of it being Dobby were rather low.” James commented.

Harry shrugged. “I didn’t know how many house-elves there were back then.”

“But I knows Dobby too, sir!” The elf squeaked.

“Small world.” Jen remarked.

She was shielding her face, even though the Box wasn’t brightly lit. “My name is Winky, sir, and you … You is surely Harry Potter!”

“Yeah, I am.” Harry grinned.

“About time you had a proper response.” Fred joked. “Better than ‘oh, him’.”

Harry rolled his eyes, remembering the incident. “Shut up.”

“But Dobby talks about you all the time, sir!” Winky said, lowering her hands slightly.

“I bet he does.” Jen commented. “Given the circumstances.”

“How is he?” Harry asked. “How’s freedom suiting him?”

“Ah, sir,” Winky shook her head. “Ah, sir, meaning no disrespect, sir, but I is not sure you did Dobby a favour, sir, when you is setting him free.”

“Why not?” Lily asked in confusion.

“Most house-elves don’t take freedom well.” James explained quietly.

“Why?” Harry asked, clearly taken aback. “What’s wrong with him?”

“Freedom is going to Dobby’s head, sir.” Winky answered sadly. “Ideas above his station, sir. Can’t get another position, sir.”

“Why not?” Harry pressed.

Winky lowered her voice. “He is wanting paying for his work, sir!”

Regulus winced. “Yeah, that’s not good.”

“Well, why shouldn’t he get paid?” Lily asked practically. “If we hired human cleaners or cooks, they’d expect to be paid.”
“I agree with you,” Regulus said, to everyone’s surprise, “but the majority of families would rather take on a house-elf that doesn’t want paying.”

Hermione looked at Ron in confusion and saw that he was nodding in understanding.

“Paying?” Harry repeated blankly. “Well, why shouldn’t he be paid?”

“Ah, there’s the Lily in him.” Jen said cheerfully. “I was beginning to think she got lost.”

Remus chuckled affectionately. “You’ve got a strange sense of humour sometimes.”

“Sometimes?” Sirius questioned in an undertone.

Winky looked horrified and covered her face again. “House-elves is not being paid, sir! No, no, no. I says to Dobby, I says, go and find yourself a nice family and settle down, Dobby. He is getting up to all sorts of high-jinks, sir, what is unbecoming to a house-elf. You goes racketing around like this, Dobby, I says, and next thing I hear you’s up in front of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, like some common goblin!”

James pulled a face. “So you’ve gone from Dobby at one extreme to Winky at the other. Not the best experience with house-elves.”

“Well, it’s about time he had a bit of fun.” Harry maintained.

“House-elves is not supposed to have fun, Harry Potter.” Winky stated firmly. “House-elves does what they is told. I is not liking heights at all, Harry Potter,” she glanced at the edge of the Box and gulped, “but my master is sending me to the Top Box and I comes, sir.”

“That’s horrible!” Lily protested.

“Why’d he send you up here if you don’t like heights?” Harry asked the question that was flashing in Hermione’s head and making her blood boil.

“Probably doesn’t realise she has fears.” James stated grimly.

“Master … master wants me to save him a seat, Harry Potter, he is very busy.” Winky tilted her head to the empty seat next to her.

Hermione narrowed her eyes. That seat wasn’t empty.

“Winky is wishing she is back in master’s tent, Harry Potter, but Winky does as she is told. Winky is a good house-elf.” She cast another frightened look at the edge of the Box and closed her eyes completely.

Which would allow that bastard to steal my wand. Harry stifled a sigh. It was bizarre hearing about everything with hindsight.

“So that’s a house-elf.” Ron muttered. “Weird things, aren’t they?”

“Not usually.” David smiled slightly. “But she is a little strange, yes.”

“Dobby was weirder.” Harry told him.

“True.” James conceded.

Hermione frowned and began skimming through her programme, while Ron tested his Omnioculars. “Weird!” He said, twiddling a knob on the side. “I can make that guy down there pick his nose again … and again … and again.”

Arabella rolled her eyes. “And here we have the maturity levels of the average fourteen-year-old boy.”

Hermione was about to make a disgusted comment, when something in the velvet-covered programme caught her eye. “‘A display from the team mascots will precede the match.’”

“Oh, that’s always interesting.” Arthur agreed. “National teams bring creatures from their native land, you know, to put on a bit of a show.”

“That should be interesting.” Lily commented. “I wonder what they’ll bring.”
“Well Ireland will bring leprechauns probably.” Jen said. “Always a crowd-pleaser. Bulgaria … can’t think of anything off the top of my head.”

Over the next thirty minutes, the box filled around them and Mr. Weasley shook hands with several obviously important people. Percy reminded Hermione of a Muggle jack-in-the-box.

“A what?” Narcissa asked.

“It’s a box with a handle on the side.” Hermione explained. “You crank the handle and the lid pops open and plays a tune while a puppet on a spring jumps out at you. It’s a child’s toy.”

“And that’s considered entertainment?” Regulus asked sceptically.

“Well, apparently it’s rather amusing when you’re four.” Hermione said dryly.

He kept jumping up and down to greet people.

When Cornelius Fudge arrived, he greeted Harry like a favourite nephew …

Harry snorted, but didn’t say anything.

… much to the annoyance of Percy, who had bowed so low that his glasses had shattered.

James pulled a face. “I’d joke, but I feel his pain.”

Fudge seemed to be having some trouble with the Bulgarian Minister.

“Harry Potter! You do know who he is!” He repeated, loudly for the fifteenth time.

“Did he?” James asked.

Hermione nodded. “Yeah, he’s pretty much famous everywhere. Not so much in America, because Voldemort never got over there, but in Europe, definitely.

“He’s not going to suddenly understand.” Ron muttered to Harry. “Show him your scar, why don’t you?”
Harry self-consciously flattened his hair over his scar. “I’d rather not.”

“Would have been quicker.” James pointed out.

Harry pulled a face. “Probably.” He conceded. “But I hate it when people stare at my scar.”

“Harry Potter!”

Hermione stood up suddenly …

What are you going to do?” Lily asked curiously

… her head pounding. Excuse-moi, Monsieur. Parlez-vous français?

“Good evening, sir. Do you speak French?” Hermione translated. “I had to do something or I’d end up hitting Fudge – he was giving me a headache.”

The Bulgarian Minister nodded. “Ah, oui. Je parle anglais aussi, mais votre ministre est un idiot. Vous semblez pour avoir un cerveau. Peut-être que vous pourriez traduire, Mademoiselle?

As all the Blacks – having been forced to take French lessons growing up – fell about laughing (or merely snickered, in Regulus and Narcissa’s cases), Hermione smirked. “Ah, yes. I speak English as well, but your Minister is an idiot.”

Everyone else began laughing.
“You seem to have a brain.” Hermione continued. “Perhaps you could translate, Miss.”

“Certainement.”

“Certainly.” Hermione put in.

Hermione turned to Fudge. “Sir, he doesn’t speak a word of English …

Harry gasped. “Hermione!”

Hermione shrugged, a glint in her eye. “Who am I to ruin the man’s fun?”

… but he’s fluent in French. Would you like me to translate?” She didn’t intend to volunteer, but Fudge was being unnecessarily loud and her head wasn’t thanking him for it …

“No, it wasn’t.” Hermione muttered.

… with the already heightened emotions around them.

Despite the annoyance in the air …

“Of course.” Ginny sneered. “Can’t have a Muggle-born interacting with the Ministers, can we?”

“Is Fudge that prejudiced?” David asked with a frown.

“You heard the book.” Fred scowled. “Dad’s really popular in the Ministry, but his department consists of two wizards in a room the size of a broom cupboard. Fudge won’t begrudge them any more space.”

… Fudge sighed in relief. “Thank you, young lady. I’m no good with languages; no good at all. I really need old Barty for this.”

Hermione turned back to the Bulgarian Minister – Mr. Oblansk – and introduced herself and Harry, then, at Fudge’s request, everyone else in the box. Mr. Oblansk seemed to be entertaining himself by insulting everyone in French …

“I like this guy.” James decided with a grin.

… except for the Weasleys, whom he seemed to like …

“He didn’t like Percy though.” Hermione put in. “He liked the rest of you because you weren’t trying to suck up.”

… and Hermione had to fight not to laugh.

It wasn’t long, however, before an unwelcome – to her, at least – visitor entered the box: Lucius Malfoy and his wife and son.

Draco grimaced. “Here we go.”

Hermione barely heard Lucius introducing his wife and son to Fudge; she was focusing on the emotions around him.

Hermione blushed slightly. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be.” Narcissa told her. “That’s what I’d do in that situation.”

He obviously felt himself better than Fudge …

“Well, irritatingly, he’s got a point.” Sirius admitted with a grimace.

… then again, who wasn’t – and, oddly enough, there was very little affection towards his wife and son.

“Betrothal.” Narcissa stated without a hint of concern. “Affection would have had nothing to do with it.”

Jen sighed, nestling into Remus’s arms. “I couldn’t live like that.”

Mrs. Malfoy – Narcissa, Hermione remembered from her extra reading in the library, one of Sirius’s cousins – felt no affection towards her husband at all, but seemed to dote on her son.

Narcissa smiled, squeezing Draco’s hand.

And Draco … Hermione wasn’t sure whether to be worried or relieved that he appeared to hate his father, although he did still love his mother.

“Relieved.” Draco and Narcissa told her.

She was shaken back to reality when Fudge addressed her.

“I’m sorry, young lady; I didn’t catch your name.

“That’s because you didn’t bother to ask for it.” Hermione muttered, rolling her eyes.

A charming young lady offered to translate for me. This is Minister Oblansk of Bulgaria.”

Hermione didn’t bother telling Fudge her name; she knew he didn’t really want to know. Seeing Lucius sneering at her, she focused her energy on keeping her expression blank instead.

“You did a good job.” Draco told her.

Monsieur Oblansk, permettez-moi de présenter Lucius Malfoy, sa femme, Narcissa, et leur fils, Draco.

Hermione didn’t bother to translate that sentence – it spoke for itself.

Mr. Oblansk shook their hands and turned to Hermione. Mademoiselle, pourquoi est-il ici? Il est un Mangemort. Même je sais ceci. Et pourquoi pas il vous aime?

Narcissa raised an eyebrow. “Oh, that’s interesting.”

“Very.” Hermione agreed.

“What did he say?” Lily asked.

“Why is he here?” Hermione recited. “Then a sentence I didn’t quite understand. Followed by ‘even I know this and why doesn’t he like you?’”
“What was the sentence you didn’t understand?” James asked.

“It says in a minute.” Alice told him.

Out of the corner of her eye, Hermione saw Lucius and Draco looking lost, but Narcissa seemed … worried?

“I doubt worried.” Narcissa commented.

Hermione tested the air. Not worry, but an odd kind of triumph.

Narcissa smirked slightly. “That sounds more likely.”

Clearly, she understood, but Hermione had no idea what one of the words meant. Hang on. “Manger” is “to eat” and “Mort” is “death”. So “Mangemort” must mean “Death Eater”.

“Very good.” Narcissa confirmed.

“You’re right.” David agreed. “That’s very interesting.”

Oui, il était, mais maintenant il est un bon ami de Monsieur Fudge.

“That was decent of you.” Draco commented. “Mother told me later.”

Hermione shrugged. “No evidence.” Catching the others’ expressions, she smiled. “Yes, he was, but now he’s a good friend of Mr. Fudge.”

“Ambiguous.” David remarked. “Could mean he reformed, could not. You’d do well in politics.”

Hermione paused, wondering how to answer the second question. She glanced at Narcissa. The emotions around her led Hermione to believe that she could trust her.

“You can.” Narcissa stated. “At least, at the moment you can, and I’m hoping that doesn’t change.”

Should she stain the whole family in Mr. Oblansk’s eyes because of the head? Je ne sais pas pourquoi il ne m’aime pas.

“I don’t know why he doesn’t like me.” Hermione supplied. “Of course, I don’t know how to say ‘I’m Muggle-born’ in French, so that had something to do with it.”

Surprise and gratitude flared in the air and on Narcissa’s face for a second, before her expression was back to one of carefully schooled neutrality.

Just then, Ludo Bagman bounded into the Top Box. Fudge thanked Hermione casually and sat down, but Mr. Oblansk shook her hand once more. Merci beaucoup encore, Mademoiselle. Appréciez le jeu.

“Thank you again, Miss. Enjoy the game.”

Merci. Et vous aussi.

“Thank you. And you as well.”

Hermione bowed her head respectfully and re-joined Harry and the Weasleys, grinning at the look of shock on their faces.

“We had no idea she could do that.” Fred smirked.

“I like to keep my cards close to my chest.” Hermione said with a smile.

“Since when do you speak French?” Ginny asked.

Hermione laughed. “My cousin lives in France.”

“Whereabouts?” Lily asked curiously.

“Nice.” Hermione answered.

Lily smiled. “Oh, it’s lovely down there.”

“Everyone ready?” Bagman asked, his face shining like a large Edam.

Regulus chuckled. “There’s a description.”

“Accurate though.” Harry commented.

“Minister, ready to go?”

“Ready when you are, Ludo.” Fudge said comfortably.

Ludo directed his wand at his throat. “Sonorous.” When he spoke again, his voice carried over the roar of sound filling the stadium. “Ladies and gentlemen … welcome! Welcome to the final of the four hundred and twenty-second Quidditch World Cup!”

The Quidditch fans cheered and Lily sighed. “Look, I get that you’re all very excited but can we try to keep the commenting down to a minimum? Otherwise we’ll still be here when I give birth.”
Harry grimaced. “There’s an image I really didn’t need, Mum.”

The spectators cheered and screamed. Special flags waved, adding the two national anthems to the racket. The giant board opposite the Top Box, currently advertising Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, wiped clean and flashed Bulgaria: Zero; Ireland: Zero across the crowd.

“And now, without further ado,” Bagman announced, “allow me to introduce the Bulgarian National Team Mascots!”

While the right hand side of the stadium roared their approval, Arthur leaned forwards. “I wonder what they’ve brought. Ah!” He whipped his glasses off and wiped them hurriedly. “Veela!”

James, Remus and Sirius exchanged a quick glance and determinedly kept their mouths shut, but Regulus smirked. “That’ll be interesting.”

“What are Veela?” Lily asked.

Jen frowned. “Well, I wouldn’t call them ‘creatures’. They’re women, very, very beautiful women, who possess an incredibly strong allure that causes men to … not really fall in love with them, but they cause men to lose control of their free-will and … it’s difficult to explain.”

Hermione and Ginny exchanged a confused look as a hundred Veela glided onto the pitch; women with pale blonde hair, who were just too beautiful to be human. And then they began to dance.

“It’s the dance that gets people.” David explained. “That’s usually what pushes the allure, with the music.”

“Can you block it?” Lily asked.

“Men who have particularly strong minds can.” David told her. “As well as men who are already in love.”

Ginny shrugged at Hermione. Neither of the two girls could see what was so amazing about the Veela, except they were clearly more attractive than either of them.

Harry frowned. “I don’t think comparing yourselves against Veela is fair. You’re both beautiful.”

Hermione and Ginny both blushed, and Lily beamed proudly. “That’s my boy.”

Hermione was momentarily distracted by a note being pushed into her hand from behind her.

“Who’d give you a note at a time like that?” Lily asked.

“Well …” Jen said slowly. “It would have to be someone who couldn’t talk to her at any other time, which rules out the Weasleys and Harry. It’s unlikely to be a man, because they’d have been hit with the Veela allure, unless they’d blocked their ears, but I doubt it … So someone who was taking advantage of her male companions’ distraction …”

“You think it’s me?” Narcissa concluded. “Possible, I suppose.”

She looked back, but no one seemed to be watching to see if she’d received it.

“Not even me?” Narcissa asked.

Hermione bit back a smirk. “You were talking to Draco. I wasn’t sure what you were saying at the time, but looking back, you might have been trying to stop him doing anything stupid.”

“Like what?” Lily frowned.

She shoved the note into her pocket, before glancing at Harry to tell him what had happened, but the note was instantly forgotten as her blood ran cold.

“Why?” Addie asked quickly.

Arthur, Bill, Charlie, Percy, Fred and George had their hands over their ears, but Ron and Harry hadn’t bothered.

“No one warned us.” Harry muttered.

“Too much fun, little bro.” Fred told him casually.

Ron was in a spring-board position and Harry was standing with one leg on the wall of the Box, as though he was about to jump.

“Like that.” Hermione smirked.

Lily gasped. “Harry!”

Harry winced. “Sorry, Mum. Wasn’t thinking.”

“It would have been the Veela, Lily.” Jen told her, looking faintly amused. “And I’m sure Hermione won’t let him actually jump.”

“Harry, what are you doing?” Hermione asked in alarm.

The Veela had stopped dancing and the stadium was filled with angry shouts. Harry shook his head slowly, taking his leg off the wall, but stayed standing. Ron was mindlessly shredding the shamrock on his hat, staring open-mouthed at the Veela.

“You managed to shake the allure quicker than Ron.” Hermione commented.

Arthur tugged the hat out of Ron’s hand with a smile. “You’ll be wanting that once Ireland have their say.”

“Huh?” Ron asked eloquently, still gawping.

Jen rolled her eyes. “Boys.”

Hermione tutted and tugged Harry back into his seat, hitting him over the back of his head for good measure.

Lily smirked. “Thank you, Hermione.”

“Honestly!”

“And now!” Bagman roared. “The Irish National Team Mascots!”

What appeared to be a green and gold comet …

“You were right, Jen.” Sirius grinned. “Leprechauns.”

“Well, what else were they going to bring?” Jen asked rhetorically. “Banshees?”

… came hurtling into the stadium and circled it once, before separating into two smaller comets. As the leprechauns flew up above the stadium to form a giant shamrock, gold showed over the crowd.

Ron shoved a fistful of gold coins into Harry’s hand. “There you go! For the Omnioculars! Now you’ve got to get me a Christmas present!”

James grimaced. “Leprechaun gold vanishes after a few hours.”

“I didn’t notice.” Harry shrugged. “It was fine.”

“Yeah, but when Ron finds out, he’ll be …” James trailed off. “I don’t know.”

The shamrock dissolved and the leprechauns settled on the other side of the pitch to watch the game.

Hermione took a deep breath and managed to block out the majority of the emotions around her. “Let the games begin.”

“Again, boys, try to keep it to a minimum.” Lily requested.

Jen coughed pointedly.

“And girls.” Lily added.

“And now, ladies and gentlemen, kindly welcome – the Bulgarian National Quidditch Team! I give you – Dimitrov!”

A scarlet-clad figure on a broomstick, moving so fast it was blurred, shot out onto the pitch from an entrance far below, to wild applause from the Bulgarian supporters.

“Ivanova!”

A second scarlet-robed figure zoomed out.

“Zograg! Levski! Vulchanov! Volkov! Aaaaaand – Krum!”

“There’s our prodigy.” Regulus muttered.

“That’s him, that’s him!” yelled Ron, following Krum with his Omnioculars; Hermione and Harry quickly focused their own.

Viktor Krum was thin, dark and sallow-skinned, with a large curved nose and thick black eyebrows. He looked like an overgrown bird of prey.

“Mind you, that’s what you look like.” Hermione said to Harry. “I don’t know whether it’s the mark of a good Seeker or a good flier.”

It was hard to believe he was only eighteen.

“I still can’t get over that.” James muttered.

“And now, please greet the – the Irish National Quidditch Team!” yelled Bagman. “Presenting – Connolly! Ryan! Troy! Mullet! Moran! Quigley! Aaaaaaand – Lynch!”

The Quidditch fans cheered.

Seven green blurs swept onto the pitch and Hermione, momentarily slowing them down through her Omnioculars, saw the word Firebolt neatly printed on each of their brooms.

“Wow!” James grinned. “I knew it was good, but …”

“And here, all the way from Egypt, our referee, acclaimed Chairwizard of the International Association of Quidditch, Hassan Mostafa!”

Hermione stifled a giggle. “Hakuna Matata.”

“What a wonderful phrase.” Harry agreed solemnly.

Ginny rolled her eyes. “Careful – you’re confusing everyone again.”

“Muggle thing.” The two chorused with a smirk.

As Hermione spun the dial on her Omnioculars to return to normal speed, a small and skinny wizard, completely bald, but with a very big, thick moustache …

“Sounds attractive.” Arabella muttered.

“Oh yes.” Ginny agreed. “Women were swooning all over the stadium.”

“Yeah.” Hermione agreed. “From laughter.”

… wearing robes of pure gold, strode out onto the pitch. A silver whistle was protruding from under the moustache, and he was carrying a large wooden crate under one arm, his broomstick under the other. Mostafa mounted his broomstick and kicked the crate open – four balls burst into the air: the scarlet Quaffle, the two black Bludgers and (though Hermione didn’t see it) the minuscule, winged, Golden Snitch.

“I saw it.” Harry frowned. “For a split-second.”

“Then you must be an outstanding Seeker.” David commented.

With a sharp blast on his whistle, Mostafa shot into the air after the balls.

“Theeeeeeeeey’re OFF!” screamed Bagman. “And it’s Mullet! Troy! Moran! Dimotrov! Back to Mulley! Troy! Levski! Moran!”

“Couldn’t he be a bit more descriptive?” James frowned.

“Didn’t have the time.” Harry snorted. “You’re underestimating the Chasers.”

Hermione had watched several Quidditch matches, but she had never seen anything like this before. The speed of the payers was incredible – the Chasers were throwing the Quaffle to each other so fast that Bagman only had time to say their names.

James let out a low whistle. “Impressive.”

“TROY SCORES!” roared Bagman, and the stadium shuddered with a roar of applause and cheers. “Ten – zero to Ireland!”

“What?” Harry yelled, looking wildly around through his Omnioculars. “But Levski’s got the Quaffle!”

“You were watching the play-by-play, weren’t you?” Hermione asked knowingly.

“What was the play-by-play?” Regulus asked. “The Omnioculars we have now only have a slow-motion option.”

“Well, it slowed everything down.” Harry told him. “And then told you the name of the play or the strategy.”

“Harry, if you’re not going to watch it at normal speed, you’re going to miss things!” shouted Hermione …

“She’s right.” James nodded seriously.

Harry hid a smile. “Thanks, Dad.”

… dancing up and down while Troy did a lap of honour of the pitch. The leprechauns watching from the side-lines had all risen into the air again and formed the great glittering shamrock. Across the pitch, the Veela were watching them sulkily as play resumed.

Hermione didn’t know much about Quidditch, but she knew enough to see that the Irish Chasers were superb. They worked as a seamless team, appearing to read each other’s minds by the way they positioned themselves …

Jen groaned, catching sight of James’s face. “I’d better warn the others. The Captain’s plotting again.”

… and within ten minutes, Ireland had scored twice more …

Jen’s annoyance vanished and she straightened up. “Woah, that’s good!”

… bringing their lead to thirty–zero, and causing a thunderous tide of roars and applause from the green-clad supporters.

The match became still faster, but more brutal.

“Isn’t that always the way?” Sirius commented.

Volkov and Vulchanov, the Bulgarian Beaters, were whacking the Bludgers as fiercely as possible at the Irish Chasers, and were starting to prevent them from using some of their best moves; twice they were forced to scatter, and then, finally, Ivanova managed to break through their ranks, dodge the keeper, Ryan, and score Bulgaria’s first goal. Thankfully, Harry and Ron stuffed their fingers in their ears this time …

“Smart move.” Mandy sniggered.

… until the Veela stopped dancing and play resumed, with Bulgaria once again in possession of the Quaffle.

“Dimitrov! Levski! Dimitrov! Ivanova – oh, I say!” roared Bagman.

One hundred thousand wizards and witches …

“Blimey that’s a lot!” Lily cried. “There’s only room for a thousand at Hogwarts!”

… gasped as the two Seekers, Krum and Lynch, plummeted through the centre of the Chasers, so fast that it looked as though they had just jumped from aeroplanes without parachutes.

Harry raised an eyebrow. “Interesting analogy.”

“Accurate though.” Hermione defended. “Actually, Draco, that reminds me. In third year, that whole ‘attaching a parachute’ thing … do you even know what a parachute is?”

“It’s something that stops Muggles falling.” Draco answered. “Though why they need that …”

Hermione chuckled. “It’s too hard to explain.”

Hermione couldn’t see the Snitch …

“Neither could I.” Harry agreed.

… even through the Omnioculars, but she could see something else. “They’re going to crash!”

She was half-right – at the very last second, Viktor Krum pulled out of the dive and spiralled off.

“He was feinting.” Regulus realised.

Lynch, however, hit the ground with a dull thud that could be heard throughout the stadium.

James winced. “Ouch.”

A huge groan rose from the Irish seats.

“Fool!” moaned Mr Weasley. “Krum was only feinting.”

“It’s time out!” yelled Bagman’s voice. “As trained medi-wizards hurry onto the pitch to examine Aidan Lynch!”

“He’ll be OK, he only got ploughed!” Charlie said reassuringly to Ginny, who was hanging over the side of the box, looking horror-struck. “Which is what Krum was after, after all, of course …”

“Give himself time to search for the Snitch.” Regulus muttered.

“A Wronski Feint.” Harry muttered, looking through his Omnioculars.

James raised an eyebrow. “That’s the more dangerous – that’s why you mentioned it in the last book.”

Harry nodded. “I didn’t think I’d already done it.”

Hermione had seen Harry fool other Seekers like that at Hogwarts …

Not exactly like that.” Hermione corrected herself.

… especially when the other Seeker decided to tail him rather than look for the Snitch himself. But she had never seen anything like that.

“Stop repeating yourself.” Ginny teased.

Lynch got to his feet at last, to loud cheers from the green-clad supporters, mounted his Firebolt and kicked back off into the air. His revival seemed to give Ireland new heart. When Mostafa blew his whistle again, the Chasers moved into action with a skill unrivalled by anything Hermione had seen so far.

After fifteen more fast and furious minutes, Ireland had pulled ahead by ten more goals.

Jen gaped at the book. While there were four members of the Gryffindor Quidditch team in the room, she was the only Chaser and, judging by the expression on James’s face, she was going to bear the brunt of his strategy rants when they next had a break.

They were now leading by one hundred and thirty points to ten …

“Just a little one-sided then.” Remus quipped.

… and the game was starting to get dirtier.

“Starting?” Draco repeated. “Were you watching the same game I was?”

“Probably.” Hermione smirked. “I was too busy watching you and Ron rooting for the same team.”

As Mullet shot towards the goalposts yet again, clutching the Quaffle tightly under her arm, the Bulgarian Keeper, Zograf, flew out to meet her. Whatever happened was over so quickly, Hermione didn’t see it, but a scream of rage from the Irish crowd, and Mostafa’s long, shrill whistle blast, told her it had been a foul.

“It was.” Harry scowled. “A bad one.”

“And Mostafa takes the Bulgarian Keeper to task for cobbing – excessive use of elbows!” Bagman informed the roaring spectators. “And – yes, it’s a penalty to Ireland!”

The leprechauns, who had risen angrily into the air like a swarm of glittering hornets when Mullet had been fouled, now darted together to form the words ‘HA-HA-HA!’

“They’re playing a dangerous game.” Jen grimaced. “You don’t want to anger Veela, if you can help it.”

The Veela on the other side of the pitch leapt to their feet, tossed their hair angrily and started to dance again.

“Block your ears, boys.” Arabella chuckled.

“Do I want to know what you’re thinking?” Mandy enquired, seeing the smirk on her face.

Arabella turned to Remus. “Do you think you blocked your ears? We could probably do with a laugh.”

As Remus blushed and everyone else chuckled, Addie smirked. “Sorry to ruin your fun, but the Veela wouldn’t affect him, not with the soul bond.”

As one, the Weasley boys and Harry stuffed their fingers in their ears, but Hermione didn’t bother …

“Well, of course she didn’t.” Sirius rolled his eyes. “The allure only works on men.”
“Does it target gender or sexuality?” Hermione asked absently. On seeing their expressions, she shrugged. “I’m just wondering if gay men would be just as affected.”

Harry gaped at her for a second. “What … Why … How did you come up with that?”

“They are.” Fred answered.

“How can you tell?” Hermione asked.

“Roger Davies.” Fred smirked. “Crooked as a lightning bolt …” he ducked Hermione’s slap “… and very susceptible to the Veela charm.”

… and was soon tugging on Harry’s arm, staring at the pitch. He turned to look at her, and she pulled his fingers impatiently out of his ears.

“Hermione!” Lily protested. “I don’t want my son to make a fool of himself.”
“He doesn’t need Veela to do that.” Draco smirked.

“Shut up, Malfoy.” Harry shot back, taking the barb in the light-hearted way it had been intended.

“Look at the referee!” she said, giggling.

“Oh dear.” Jen giggled. “What now?”

Hassan Mostafa had landed right in front of the dancing Veela, and was acting very oddly indeed. He was flexing his muscles and smoothing his moustache excitedly.

“Now, we can’t have that!” said Ludo Bagman, though he sounded highly amused. “Somebody slap the referee!”

“And do it quickly,” Regulus added, “before the game descends into a free-for-all.”

A medi-wizard came tearing across the pitch, his fingers stuffed in his own ears, and kicked Mostafa hard on the shins.

“It looked hilarious.” Ginny laughed.

“Maybe a medi-witch would have been better suited.” Lily chuckled.

Mostafa seemed to come to himself, looking extremely embarrassed, and started shouting at the Veela, who has stopped dancing and were looking mutinous.

“Uh oh.” Sirius sang. “This should be fun.”

“And unless I’m very much mistaken, Mostafa is actually attempting to send off the Bulgarian Team Mascots!” said Bagman’s voice.

“Can they even do that?” James asked.

Lily gasped, grabbing Harry’s arm. “Make a note, Harry. This may be the first and only time we find something about Quidditch your father doesn’t know.”

“Now there’s something we haven’t seen before … oh, this could turn nasty …”

“It will.” Sirius predicted. “Let’s just hope the players get involved or it could get even worse.”

It did: the Bulgarian Beaters, Volkov and Vulchanov, had landed either side of Mostafa, and began arguing furiously with him, gesticulating towards the leprechauns, who had now gleefully formed the words ‘HEE-HEE-HEE’.

“While I’ll agree the leprechauns are being a little insufferable,” Narcissa drawled, “they’re hardly interfering with the game.”

Mostafa was not impressed by the Bulgarians’ arguments, however; he was jabbing his finger into the air, clearly telling them to get flying again, and when they refused, he gave two short blasts on his whistle.

James winced. “They won’t like that.”

Two penalties for Ireland!” shouted Bagman, and the Bulgarian crowd howled with anger. “And Volkov and Vulchanov had better get back on those brooms … yes … there they go … and Troy takes the Quaffle …”

Play now reached a level of ferocity beyond anything they had yet seen. The Beaters on both sides were acting without mercy: Volkov and Vulchanov in particular seemed not to care whether their clubs made contact with Bludger or human …

Addie gave Sirius a meaningful look.

“What?” Sirius asked innocently. “I always make sure I hit the Bludger.”

“Unless we’re playing Slytherin,” she pointed out coolly, “in which case there tend to be a lot of ‘accidents’.”

“Now, be fair, Addie,” James said with a smile, watching his best friend deflate, “that hasn’t happened since fifth year …”

“… when, ironically enough, I was the Seeker.” Regulus added dryly. “Imagine that.”

… as they swung them violently through the air. Dimitrov shot straight at Moran, who had the Quaffle, nearly knocking her off her broom.

“Skinning.” James called. “That’s a foul.”

“Skinning?” Lily repeated.

“Deliberately flying to collide.” James elaborated.

“Foul!” roared the Irish supporters as one, all standing up in a wave of green.

“Foul!” echoed Ludo Bagman’s magically magnified voice. “Dimitrov skins Moran – deliberately flying to collide there – and it’s got to be another penalty – yes, there’s the whistle!”

The leprechauns had risen into the air again and, this time, they formed a giant hand, which was making a very rude sign indeed across the pitch towards the Veela.

Jen grimaced. “That’ll do it.”

At this, the Veela lost control. They launched themselves across the pitch, and began throwing what seemed to be handfuls of fire at the leprechauns. Hermione pulled a face – they didn’t look remotely beautiful now.

Lily raised an eyebrow.

“It’s part of their magic.” Jen explained. “Anger pushes them into a transformation.”

On the contrary, their faces were elongating into sharp, cruel-beaked bird heads, and long, scaly wings were bursting from their shoulders …

“Lovely.” Lily commented dryly.

Hermione was reminded of the sirens in Greek mythology – she made a mental note to look them up and see if they really did exist.

“They do.” Jen informed her. “But only in Greece.”

“Thanks.” Hermione smiled. “That completely slipped my mind.”

“And that, boys,” yelled Mr Weasley over the tumult of the crowd below, “is why you should never go for looks alone!”

“Good advice.” Lily stated.

Harry squirmed under her gaze. “Yes, Mum.”

“Besides, when you find the right girl, it won’t matter.” James told him. “Lily happens to be the most beautiful girl in Hogwarts, but that’s not the reason I fell in love with her. And all those little things are what makes her beautiful to me.”

If Lily had been one to swoon, she would have done. As it was, she smiled, blushing prettily, and reached over to kiss his cheek.

“He’s right.” Sirius said quietly to Harry. “Addie and her sister are identical. But she always outshone Leona to me.”
Addie smiled, managing to keep all but a faint dusting of pink from her cheeks. “Careful, darling, or you’ll give everyone cavities. I thought we agreed that we’d stop doing that after the candy-floss incident.”

“What was the candy-floss incident?” Addie and Harry asked together, the latter with a grin, the former with a groan.

“A few weeks after we started dating, James and Remus decided we were just too nauseating.” Addie told them with a smile. “So every time Sirius kissed me for a week, candy floss would start sprouting from his ears.”

Harry laughed, but, to be fair, so did most people.

Ministry wizards were flooding onto the field to separate the Veela and the leprechauns, but with little success …

“They’ll be talking about this one for years.” Regulus commented. “But not for the right reasons.”

… meanwhile, the pitch battle below was nothing to the one above. Hermione turned this way and that, trying to keep up, as the Quaffle changed hands with the speed of a bullet …

“Levski – Dimitrov – Moran – Troy – Mullet – Ivanova – Moran again – Moran – MORAN SCORES!”

But the cheers of the Irish supporters were barely heard over the shrieks of the Veela, the blasts now issuing from the Ministry members’ wands, and the furious roars of the Bulgarians. The game recommenced immediately; now Levski had the Quaffle, now Dimitrov …

The Irish Beater Quigley swung heavily at a passing Bludger and hit it as hard as possible towards Krum, who did not duck quick enough. It hit him hard in the face.

Everyone groaned, some from sympathy.

“Curse of the game.” James grimaced.

There was a deafening groan from the crowd; Krum’s nose looked broken, there was blood everywhere, but Hassan Mostafa didn’t blow the whistle.

“Why not?” Lily asked. “He’s injured.”

He had become distracted, and Hermione couldn’t blame him; one of the Veela had thrown a handful of fire and set his broomstick alight.

“That’d do it.” James smirked. “He’ll be alright, Lily. It’s just a broken nose.”

Hermione wanted someone to realise Krum was injured …

“Worried?” Fred asked, with a hint of a smirk.

Hermione didn’t grace that with a response.

… even though she was supporting Ireland, she had seen Harry play too many times to be truly comfortable with the injuries that came with Quidditch. To her surprise, Ron apparently felt the same.

“Nah, he was just the most interesting player on the pitch.” Harry told her.

“Time out! Ah, come on, he can’t play like that, look at him …”

“Look at Lynch!” Harry yelled.

He was right – the Irish Seeker had suddenly gone into a dive …

“Another feint?” James asked, leaning forwards.

… and – although Hermione couldn’t tell – from the way Harry was jumping up and down, she was quite sure this was no Wronski Feint, or whatever it was called, this was the real thing.

Regulus gave Harry an appraising look. “Have you ever thought of playing professionally?”

Harry blushed slightly, but shook his head. “I love Quidditch, but making it a career would put too much pressure on me – it’d take the fun out of the game. Besides, I’d rather stay close to home, rather than travel everywhere. I’ve spent too much time away from my family.”

Lily smiled proudly. “That’s my boy.” There was a hint of sadness in her tone, though – a fifteen-year-old should not be able to speak with such wisdom.

“He’s seen the Snitch!” Harry shouted. “He’s seen it! Look at him go!”

Half the crowd seemed to have realised what was happening, the Irish supporters rose in a great wave of green, screaming their Seeker on … but Krum was on his tail. Hermione had no idea how he could see where he was going – there were flecks of blood flying through the air behind him …

“A good Seeker can work through that.” James stated.

… but he was drawing level with Lynch now, as the pair of them hurtled towards the ground again …

“They’re going to crash!” shrieked Hermione.

“They’re not!” roared Ron.

“Lynch is!” yelled Harry.

And once again, he was right – for the second time, Lynch hit the ground with tremendous force, and was immediately stampeded by a horde of angry Veela.

“That probably hurt more than the crash.” Jen winced. “Poor guy. He’s really had a bad game, hasn’t he?”

“Are we sure he didn’t play for the Cannons?” Harry asked innocently.

“The Snitch, where’s the Snitch?” bellowed Charlie, along the row.

“He’s got it – Krum’s got it – it’s all over!” shouted Harry.

“So Bulgaria won.” James stated sadly.

“Don’t be so sure.” Regulus frowned. “They mentioned more Irish goals than Bulgarian – there’s still a chance.”

Krum, his red robes shining with blood from his nose, was rising gently into the air, his fist held high, a glint of gold in his hand.

The scoreboard was flashing BULGARIA: ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY, IRELAND: ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY …

“I don’t believe it.” James whispered. “The twins were right.”

“Wish we’d made a bet now.” Regulus grumbled.

“What did you spend your winnings on?” Lily asked.

Fred scowled. “Nothing. Mr. Bagman had his own gambling debts and paid us in leprechaun gold.”

There was a sharp gasp.

“He didn’t!” David frowned.
“He did.” Fred confirmed. “Then refused to pay us because we were too young to be gambling in the first place.”

“No wonder you don’t like him.” Sirius muttered, put-out that his hero was dirty.

… across the crowd, who didn’t seem to have realised what had happened.

“I bet that was interesting.” Jen snickered.

Then, slowly, as though a great jumbo jet was revving up …

“A what was what?” Draco asked blankly.

“Muggle thing.” Hermione told him. “Explain later.”

… the rumbling from the Ireland supporters grew louder and louder, and erupted into screams of delight.

“IRELAND WIN!” shouted Bagman, who, like the Irish, seemed to have been taken aback by the sudden end of the match. “KRUM GETS THE SNITCH – BUT IRELAND WIN – good Lord, I don’t think any of us were expecting that!”
I know two people who were. Hermione looked down the row to where Fred and George seemed to be dancing some kind of jig on the seats.

Fred heaved a heavy sigh. “Back before the bubble burst.”

“What did he catch the Snitch for?” Ron bellowed, even as he jumped up and down, applauding with his hands over his head. “He ended it when Ireland was a hundred and sixty points ahead, the idiot!”

“Knew they weren’t going to catch up.” James answered heavily. “Wanted to end it on his terms.”

“He knew they were never going to catch up,” Harry shouted back over all the noise, also applauding loudly, “the Irish chasers were too good … he wanted to end it on his terms, that’s all …”

James and Harry exchanged a grin.

“He was very brave, wasn’t he?” Hermione said, leaning forward to watch Krum land …

“Do I detect a small crush?” Lily asked slyly.

Hermione chuckled. “No. Not at all. Harry’s my best friend – I can’t get sucked in by celebrity – it would make me a hypocrite.”

… and the swarm of mediwizards blasting a path through the battling leprechauns and Veela to get to him. “He looks a terrible mess …”

Beside her, Harry aimed his Omnioculars at the pitch. It was hard to see what was happening down there, thanks to the leprechauns zooming all over the place but Krum was still recognisable, surrounded by medi-wizards. He looked surlier than ever, and refused to let them mop him up.

“Now that’s just being stubborn.” Lily rolled her eyes. “What is it about men and injuries?”

“Not just men.” Remus told her, glancing at Jen. “I think it’s Quidditch players in general.”

Jen rolled her eyes. “Name one injury I’ve refused treatment for.”
“This one.” Remus answered promptly, poking her side gently, where he knew a nasty scar resided. “I once heard McGonagall say that the Gryffindor team should play in different colours because you can’t see blood on red robes and we’re the most likely to keep playing.”

His team-mates were around him, shaking their heads and looking dejected; a short way away, the Irish players were dancing gleefully in a shower of gold descending from their mascots. Flags were waving all over the stadium, the Irish national anthem blared from all sides …

“What is the Irish national anthem?” Mandy asked.

“No idea.” Hermione admitted. “I just assumed that’s what it was.”

… the Veela were shrinking back into their usual, beautiful selves now, though looking dispirited and forlorn.

“IRELAND WINS!” Bagman announced again, still sounding shocked. “KRUM GETS THE SNITCH, BUT IRELAND WINS!”

“I think he thought if he said it enough it might change.” Fred commented darkly.

“Vell, ve fought very bravely.” Mr. Oblansk sighed, as the cheers quietened slightly.

Fudge gasped. “You do speak English!” He turned to Hermione. “Did you know that?”

Hermione coughed. “No, sir.”

“Did he buy it?” Sirius asked.

“Oh yeah.” Hermione assured him. “Idiot that he is, he just went along with it.”

To her immense relief, during the game, since she had shut her empathy off, it hadn’t been as painful as she’d thought it would be.

The Top Box was suddenly illuminated as the Cup was brought in, flanked by six security wizards.

As his team made their way up, Mr. Oblansk turned to Harry who was standing next to Hermione. “Mr. Potter, do you play Quidditch?”

Harry smirked. “I’d almost forgotten this bit.”
Hermione chuckled. “So had I.”

“What bit?” James asked.

Harry seemed surprised at the question, but nodded. “Yes, sir. I play Seeker for my house team at Hogwarts.”

“He was the youngest player in a century.” Hermione added proudly.

“You proud of me, Mione?” Harry teased.

“Someone has to be.” Hermione answered primly. “You’re just so modest.” She pinched his cheek and he swatted her hand away.

“Let’s have a really loud hand for our gallant losers – BULGARIA!” Bagman announced.

“That is very impressive.” Mr. Oblansk commented, applauding with them as his team shook hands with Fudge.

Hermione couldn’t help but flinch at the sight of Viktor Krum. His nose was bloody and two black eyes bloomed spectacularly above it.

“He looked rather like a clown.” Fred observed.

“Be nice.” Ginny chided.

Mr. Oblansk called him over. “Viktor, I vould like you to meet Hermione Granger and Harry Potter.”

“You’re actually getting to meet him!” James whispered.

“I’m surprised you didn’t say anything.” Hermione commented, looking at Draco.

“I was in shock.” Draco admitted. “I think Mum silenced Father though.”

Narcissa grimaced. “Bet I heard about that later.”

Viktor’s eyes widened as he shook their hands. “Harry Potter, you are indeed a legend.”

“He thinks you’re a legend.” James whispered, a grin forming on his face. “Star Quidditch player … my son …”

Lily rolled her eyes. “Oh here we go.”

Harry looked slightly star-struck. “Thank you. That Wronski Feint, by the way …”

“Don’t even think about it!” Lily snapped.

“Erm, Lily.” James said carefully. “That dive Harry did yesterday … that was a Wronski Feint.”

“Don’t even think about it.” Hermione told him.

Harry chuckled. “Yes, Mum.”

“I already get a heart attack every time you play, without that added in.”

“You are a Seeker as vell?” Viktor asked. “Are you any good?”

Harry shrugged modestly. “Well …”

“He’s amazing.” Hermione answered. “The only time he’s lost a game is when he’s been unconscious. Even with a jinxed broom and a cursed bludger.”

“Someone had to do it.” Hermione shrugged at Harry’s faux-annoyed look. “You’re too humble.”

Viktor looked impressed and pressed the Snitch into Harry’s hand.

“He gave you the game Snitch!” James gasped, tears springing to his eyes. “That’s my boy …”

Lily smiled at him. “You know, Harry, I think James is more proud of this than he is you beating Voldemort.”

James shook himself out his funk. “Don’t be silly, Lily. Of course beating Voldemort’s more important. But this is a very close second.”

“In that case, ve may vell be playing each other in a few years.”

As the Bulgarian team filed out, Harry turned to Hermione. “Do you realise what just happened?!”

“The unbelievable.” James answered.

Lily swatted his arm. “Stop now.”

Hermione nodded. “You just got the game Snitch! Let me see?”

Harry held it out. “How cool is this?”

“So cool!” Ron answered from behind him. “I am so jealous!”

Harry laughed. “Well, I’m glad you can tell me that. Apparently, when you keep stuff like that bottled up, it can cause problems.”

“Just a bit.” Remus agreed.

Hermione winced slightly …

Harry raised an eyebrow and she nodded.

… Ron may have been joking, but there was definitely envy bubbling away beneath the surface. She just hoped it stayed there.

“It’d better.” James frowned. “You don’t need that coming between best friends.”

“That’s the end of the chapter.” Alice announced.

Addie, who had been watching her younger counterpart for a while, stood up. “It’s too soon for lunch, but I’m going to get a snack. Anyone want anything?”

There was a flurry of requests and she made her way to the kitchen, pushing a thought into Addie’s head as she passed.

Slowly, and with a little reluctance, Addie nudged Sirius and nodded to the door that had just appeared. He followed her almost warily into the other room and she pushed the door shut with a sigh.

“Ads, if you’re going to push me away again, please don’t.” Sirius whispered.

Addie leaned against the wall wearily. “Don’t you have a girlfriend?”

“No.” Sirius rolled his eyes. “We broke up weeks ago, Ads – I’ve given up trying to replace you – it’s not possible.”

Addie smiled slightly. “You know we’re all going to end up forgetting all this.”

“I don’t care.” Sirius told her. “I’ll take what I can get. I love you.”

Finally she heard the truth of his words and let her guard drop, pushing herself away from the wall and into his arms. “I love you too.”