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Price of Peace 4 - Uncovering the Truth

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When Sirius and Addie exited the room they looked suspiciously smug, but no one questioned them because Addie had returned with bowls of popcorn and a tray full of tall glasses of iced lemonade.

“So who’s going to read next?” Alice asked, licking salty butter from her fingers.

“I will.” Ginny offered, taking the book.

Chapter Eleven

Uprising

The mood in the room took an immediate turn for the worse.

“Uprising of what?” David asked slowly.

The future students exchanged a glance, but didn’t answer.

Don’t tell your mother you’ve been gambling,” Mr Weasley implored Fred and George, as they all made their way slowly down the purple-carpeted stairs.

Fred snorted. “As if we would.”

“Don’t worry, Dad,” said Fred gleefully, “we’ve got big plans for this money, we don’t want it confiscated.”

Mr Weasley looked for a moment as though he was going to ask what these big plans were, but seemed to decide, upon reflection, that he didn’t want to know.

“Wise move.” Ginny smirked.

They were soon caught up in the crowds now flooding out of the stadium and back to the campsites. Raucous singing was borne towards them on the night air as they retraced their steps along the lantern-lit path, and leprechauns kept shooting over their heads, cackling and waving their lanterns.

“I bet the Irish had fun that night.” James grinned. “Wouldn’t want to be the Ministry officials trying to keep the peace.”

When they finally reached the tents, nobody felt like sleeping at all …

“Who would?” Sirius asked.

… and, given the level of noise around them, Mr Weasley agreed that they could all have one last cup of cocoa together before turning in. They were all soon arguing enjoyably about the match; the main topic of conversation, despite Ireland’s win, was Viktor Krum and the game-winning Snitch, which was passed around several times before returning safely to Harry’s backpack.

“Keep that safe.” James advised. “It’ll be worth a fortune one day.”

Jen raised an eyebrow. “But James, you’re already worth a fortune.”

“True.” James conceded.

“There’s no one like Krum!” Ron was saying a few hours later. “He’s like a bird the way he rides the wind. He’s not an athlete, he’s an artist!”

“Given what we heard, I’ll believe that.” Regulus commented.

“Think you’re in love, Ron?” Ginny smirked.

“Viktor, I love you!” Fred and George sang. “Viktor, I do!”

Harry joined in with a grin. “When we’re apart, my heart beats only for yoooou!”

Fred and Harry had joined in the song with matching smirks and everyone chuckled.

A loud bang echoed outside, causing them all to jump, and Ginny winced. “I wouldn’t fancy having to tell the Irish to stop celebrating.”

At that moment, a voice floated through the flap. “What are you all still doing here? Can you not hear anything?”

“What were they supposed to be hearing?” Lily asked with a frown, inching closer to Harry.

Hermione’s head snapped up, fatigue vanishing in an instant. Mandy’s head was poking through the flap, looking worried. The sounds in the campsite had changed; cheers and singing had changed to screams and shouts. Her empathy kicked in seconds later, picking up panic and terror.

David cursed under his breath.

Lily turned white and grabbed Harry’s hand.

Arthur paled. “Bill, Charlie, Percy; wands now. You others, grab a jacket and get outside. Quickly.”

Everyone complied and they huddled outside the tent, shivering. Hermione could see a few people fleeing into the woods, by the light of the few fires that were still burning, fleeing something that was moving across the field towards them, something that was emitting odd flashes of light and sounds like gunfire.

“Death Eaters?” Jen asked in a hushed voice.

“Can’t be.” Regulus frowned. “Surely they wouldn’t be that stupid.”

An eerie green light illuminated the thing …

No one was sure who screamed, but James, Remus and Sirius pulled the girls closer to them anyway.

“It wasn’t the Killing Curse.” Hermione assured them quickly. “Just a green light.”

… and it was revealed to be a crowd of wizards that tightly packed and moving together, marching across the field, levitating what seemed to be a family of four above their heads.

“Muggles.” James concluded with a grimace.

“Children?” Remus asked sharply.

Hermione nodded, looking pale. “Two of them.”

For a second, Hermione thought they were faceless, but then she realised that they were all wearing white masks.

“Death Eaters.” Jen confirmed. “Clearly they would be that stupid.”

Addie shuddered and Sirius pulled her closer, planting a kiss on her hairline.

More wizards were joining them …

“How many got away?” Lily asked shrilly.

“Lily, I doubt they were all real Death Eaters.” David told her. “Probably the ones that got away and a lot of wizards who had too much to drink.”

… tents were getting blasted out of the way.

The floating people were suddenly illuminated by the light of a burning tent and Hermione realised with an unpleasant lurch that it was Mr. Roberts and what must have been his wife and children.

“That’s sick.” Ron muttered, as the smallest child began spinning like a top.

Even Regulus looked ill at this.

“That poor child.” Lily whimpered, tightening her hold on Harry’s hand.

“That is really, really sick.”

“We’re going to help the Ministry.” Arthur told them, gesturing to his three older sons. “You lot into the woods and stick together!

“Listen to him.” Sirius whispered, stroking Addie’s hair to comfort her.

“Be careful.” Mandy added, hurrying after them.

Arabella frowned. “You be careful.”

“We’ll come and get you when we’ve sorted this out!”

Ministry wizards were sprinting towards the crowd, which was slowly getting closer.

“Come on.” Fred grabbed Ginny’s hand and began pulling her towards the woods. Hermione, Harry, Ron and George followed, glancing behind them as they did. The Ministry wizards seemed unable to reach the masked wizards in the centre.

“How do things get that bad?” David asked, shaking his head.

The coloured lanterns that had lit the path earlier in the evening had been extinguished. Figures were blundering through the trees; children were crying; shouts and cries were reverberating around them. Hermione felt Harry grab her hand, her head almost bursting with the swirling sea of emotion, as they were buffeted around by terrified campers.

“Thanks for that.” Hermione smiled weakly. “I don’t think I’d have stayed on my feet.”

Then they heard Ron cry out in pain.

Fred stiffened, but swiftly reminded himself that Ron hadn’t been hurt when they got back to the tent.

Lily whimpered and James tightened his arm around her shoulders.

“What happened?” Hermione asked, her stomach feeling as though it had disappeared. “Ron, where are you? Oh, this is stupid! Lumos!” Illuminating her wand, she directed its beam across the path.

Ron was sprawled on the ground. “Tripped over a tree root.” He explained irritably, climbing to his feet.

“Well, with feet that size, hard not to.” A voice drawled.

“Sorry.” Draco muttered.

Hermione smiled. “Don’t be.”

They all spun around to see Draco Malfoy, leaning casually against a tree. He was watching the carnage out on the field, a smirk on his face.

“How can you …?” Lily began, but Ginny read over her.

Despite this, Hermione could sense nothing but fear and disgust coming from him. Putting this aside to think about later, she grabbed Harry’s hand before it could reach for his wand.

“Smart move.” Addie murmured. “Not the time to get into a duel.”

“Oh, fuck off!” Ron snapped.

Fred raised an eyebrow. “I suddenly have much more respect for my little brother.”

“Language, Weasley.” Draco smirked. “Hadn’t you better be hurrying along, now? You wouldn’t like her spotted, would you?” He nodded at Hermione.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Sirius challenged.

“Simply that my father knows Hermione is Muggle-born.” Draco answered calmly.

Narcissa’s eyes flashed. “Lucius was in that crowd?”
Draco shrugged. “Does that surprise you?”

Narcissa frowned. “No, but I would like to believe he didn’t engage in those sorts of activities around you.”

At the same moment, a blast like a bomb sounded from the field and the air momentarily lit up green.

“Not the Killing Curse.” Hermione repeated.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Hermione asked defiantly, inwardly marvelling at how steady her voice was. She could sense concern in the air…but was that Draco’s himself or were Ron and Harry’s emotions over-riding his?

“Bit of both probably.” Draco conceded.

“Granger, they’re after Muggles.” Draco elaborated. “Do you want to be showing off your knickers in mid-air?

“A warning disguised as a threat.” Regulus concluded. “Nicely done.”

Because if you do, hang around … they’re moving this way and it would give us all a laugh.”

Again, Ginny kept reading quickly.

Disgust again. Harry and Ron’s? No, Hermione thought. It was self-disgust. Could it be that Draco only acting like this because of his father?

“We have a winner.” Draco smirked.

“Hermione’s a witch!” Harry snarled, moving in front of her protectively.

“Good boy.” James murmured.

“Have it your own way, Potter.” Draco grinned. “If you think they can’t spot a Mudblood…” the self-disgust escalated briefly “…stay where you are.”

“Why not just not talk like that?” Harry asked.

Draco rolled his eyes. “Aside from the fact that you’d think I was up to something?”
“Oh yeah.” Harry muttered sheepishly.

“It’s easier to get you three to respond when you’re angry.” Draco told him simply. “I knew Hermione would be more likely to get you moving if she was trying to avoid a confrontation.”

“You watch your mouth!” Ron shouted.

Hermione grabbed his arm. “Never mind, Ron.”

“And I was right.” Draco added.

Another bang sounded from the other side of the trees, causing several people to scream.

Draco chucked. “Scare easily, don’t they? I suppose your daddy told you all to hide? What’s he up to – trying to rescue the Muggles?”

“Where’re your parents?” Harry snapped, his temper flaring; Hermione put a calming hand on his shoulder. “Out there wearing masks, are they?”

“Sorry.” Harry said to Narcissa.

She smiled at him. “Quite alright, Harry. I highly doubt I’m in that crowd.”
“No, you were at the tent.” Draco confirmed. “You told me to run for it though.”

Draco smirked. “Well, if they were, I wouldn’t be likely to tell you, would I?” He turned his gaze back to Hermione, seeming to read the expression of concern and curiosity on her face.

“I did.” Draco pulled a face. “Confused the hell out of me.”

Hermione chuckled. “That’s my plan in a nutshell.”

He was still smirking maliciously, but the emotion swarming around him was … Hermione couldn’t place it.

“Was what?” Lily asked.

Hermione shrugged. “Pass. A complicated mixture of fear, anger, helplessness, guilt and envy.”

Draco thought about that for a second. “Yeah, that about sums it up.”

“Come on.” She said uneasily. “Let’s go and find the others.”

“Keep your head down, Granger.” Draco called with a slight sneer in his voice.

“Come on!” Hermione repeated, tugging Ron’s arm.

“Good.” Lily murmured. “Keep going.”

The trio jogged away, up the path.

“I’ll bet you anything that his dad is one of that lot.” Ron accused.

“He was.” Draco muttered.

“Well, with any luck, the Ministry will catch him.” Hermione soothed. “But he is.”

Draco smiled slightly. “I was hoping you’d catch on.”

“You can’t say that.” Harry reminded her. “Malfoy never actually said …”

Hermione gasped. “Wait, since when are you the one saying we shouldn’t accuse without proof?”

“I’ll tell you when we get home.” Hermione told him, glancing behind her.

“That’s right – they don’t know yet.” Lily remembered.

“There’s something wrong.” She slowed down and looked around. “I don’t believe this. Where have the others got to?”

“That’s not good.” Jen whispered. “Not a good time to get lost.”

“Is there ever a good time to get lost?” Sirius asked.

Fred, George and Ginny were nowhere to be seen, but the path was swarming with other people. A group of teenagers were huddled together, but one hurried over to the trio and spoke quickly.

Ou est Madame Maxime? Nous l’avons perdu.

“What?” Harry asked. “I still don’t get it.”

Hermione sighed. “Where is Madame Maxime? We have lost her.”

“Who’s Madame Maxime?” Lily frowned.

“She’s the Headmistress of Beauxbatons Academy of Magic in France.” Hermione answered.

James shook his head. “How many books have you read?”
Hermione shrugged with a smile, not bothering to tell him she hadn’t read it in a book.

“Er…what?” Ron asked. “Hermione?”

Hermione sighed . “Je suis désolée. Nous ne pouvons pas vous aider.

“I’m sorry. We can’t help you.” Hermione paused. “I’m surprised I got it right, given how shaken I was.”

“I wonder why Beauxbatons were there with their headmistress.” Lily frowned.

“Well, given the Cup was in England, the school may have held a summer trip.” David said. “I know Hogwarts did that once when the Cup was in France.”

“Oh…” The girl nodded to her and walked away and they distinctly heard her mutter, “’Ogwarts.”

“Beauxbatons.” Hermione muttered.

“Sorry?” Harry asked.

“They must go to Beauxbatons.” Hermione elaborated. “You know … Beauxbatons Academy of Magic. I read about it in An Appraisal of Magical Education in Europe.

“You really have read everything, haven’t you?” Regulus asked, though he sounded more impressed than scathing.

“Of course you did.” Harry teased, to cover his embarrassment.

“Saw through it then?” Harry asked.

Hermione smirked. “You blushed.”

“They can’t have gone far.” Ron said, reverting to their original problem and pulling his wand out.

“Good move.” Jen murmured.

“Hey!” Harry said suddenly. “I don’t believe it; I’ve lost my wand!”

Lily made a sound crossed between a whimper and a scream.

“How do you lose your wand?!” James demanded. “You should keep it with you at all times!”

“I do!” Harry protested. “I put it in my pocket that morning and didn’t take it out!”

“You’re kidding!” Ron and Hermione lifted their wands to spread the light, but there was no sign of it on the ground.

“It must have fallen out.” Jen whispered. “Try summoning it.”
“We didn’t know the Summoning Charm.” Hermione admitted.

“Of course not.” Jen groaned. “It’s a fourth year spell.”

“Would have made everything easier.” Harry muttered darkly.

“Maybe it’s back at the tent.” Ron frowned.

“Maybe it fell out of your pocket when we were running.” Hermione suggested, feeling worried.

“I don’t like this.” Lily murmured. “I really don’t like this.”

“Yeah, maybe …” Harry trailed off. Hermione glanced at Ron and they instinctively closed in around him.

“Good.” David looked just as worried as anyone.

There was a rustling noise to their left and they jumped, Hermione and Ron aiming their wands at the sound.

Winky the house-elf was fighting her way out of a clump of bushes. “There is bad wizards about! People high – high in the air! Winky is getting out of the way!” She ran across the path, but it was as though an invisible force was holding her back.

Mandy frowned. “That doesn’t sound right.”

As she disappeared into the bushes on the other side, Ron turned to the others. “What’s up with her? Why can’t she run properly?”

“Bet she didn’t ask permission to hide.” Harry answered promptly.

“No …” Jen said slowly. “No, that would just cause her to punish herself afterwards. It wouldn’t stop her from being able to hide. Unless he said, “I forbid you to hide”, in which case her magic wouldn’t let her.”

“You know, house-elves get a very raw deal.” Hermione mused.

“Here we go.” Fred sighed.

“It’s slavery, that’s what it is! That Mr. Crouch made her go to the top of the stadium and she was terrified, and he’s got her bewitched so she can’t even run when they start trampling tents! Why doesn’t anyone do anything about it?”

“Well, the elves are happy, aren’t they?” Ron asked casually.

“Not always.” Jen disagreed.

“You heard old Winky back at the match … “House-elves is not supposed to have fun” … that’s what she likes; being bossed around.”

“They like having work to do.” James corrected. “But that doesn’t mean they enjoy being abused – that’s not right.”

Hermione glared at him. “It’s people like you who prop up the system, just because you’re too lazy to …”

Another loud bang from the edge of the woods cut her off.

“Move.” Lily whispered. “Please. Debate later.”

“Let’s just keep moving.” Ron suggested.

Hermione saw him glance worriedly at her. Was there some truth in what Draco said?

“A little.” Fred scowled. “But only because Lucius Malfoy would recognise you as a Muggle-born.”

Harry took her hand and squeezed it comfortingly …

“Thanks.” Hermione whispered. “I needed that.”

… still searching his pockets for his wand with his other hand.

They followed the path deeper into the wood, past a group of goblins cackling over a sack of gold, past a gaggle of Veela and their admirers.

Hermione couldn’t help giggling. “That was funny.”

Harry nodded, grinning. “Stan Shunpike insisting he was about to become the youngest ever Minister for Magic.”

“Ron claiming he’d invented a broomstick that reached Jupiter.” Hermione laughed.

“I guess Ron’s particularly susceptible to Veela then?” Jen guessed with a smile.

“You might say that.” Hermione agreed, remembering his disastrous attempt to ask Fleur Delacour to the ball.

It was once both of these groups were out of earshot that the trio found themselves alone, in the heart of the wood, the sounds of the campsite too far away to hear.

Lily shivered. “I don’t know whether that’s a good thing or not.”

Harry glanced around. “I reckon we can stay here. We’ll be able to hear anyone coming a mile off.”

“That’s true.” David agreed slowly. “But no one else will hear if you get into trouble.”

Hermione had just nodded in agreement, when Ludo Bagman emerged from behind a tree right ahead of them.

“What’s Bagman doing there?” Sirius asked.

“Probably worrying about paying off the goblins.” Fred snorted. “He gave them leprechaun gold as well.”
Regulus groaned. “What an idiot.”

The jubilant man they’d met earlier had disappeared; he was pale and strained, emanating worry.

“Not surprised if he was that stupid.” Regulus commented dryly.

Hermione had just begun to feel sorry for him, when he spoke. “Who’s that? What are you doing in here, all alone?”

“Has he really not noticed?” Sirius asked disbelievingly. Any and all respect he had for the man had washed away.

Any sympathy she could have felt was washed away by suspicion and she exchanged a glance with the two boys, before Ron cleared his throat. “Well, there's a sort of riot going on.”

“What?” Bagman stared at them.

“At the campsite.” Harry elaborated. “Some people have got hold of a family of Muggles.”

Bagman swore loudly.

“Oi!” Lily snapped. “Watch your language in front of my son!”

“Damn them!” He disapparated without another word, looking quite distracted.

Hermione frowned at the spot he’d vacated. “Not exactly on top of things, Mr. Bagman, is he?”

“He was a great Beater though.” Ron responded cheerfully.

“Leave it to Ron.” Ginny gave a small smile. The events of that night were still at the forefront of her mind.

He led them into a small clearing and sat down at the base of a tree. “The Wimbourne Wasps won the league three times in a row while he was with them.”

Sirius brightened up. “That means we win twice more.”

“And then that’s it.” James finished cheerfully.

He fished the model of Krum from his pocket and the three of them watched it march up and down, scowling up at them.

“He was doing the pacing for us.” Hermione remarked, trying to smile and failing.

“I hope the others are okay.” Hermione whispered.

“They’ll be fine.” Ron assured her, but his voice was shaking.

“Imagine if your dad catches Lucius Malfoy.” Harry said, trying to lighten the mood.

“Wish he had.” Draco muttered.

“He’s always said he’d like to get something on him.”

“That’d wipe the smirk off Draco’s face alright.” Ron agreed …

Draco snickered. “No, it’d put the smirk on my face.”

… scooping the toy up and putting it back in his pocket.

Hermione frowned and changed the subject. “Those poor Muggles, though. What if they can’t get them down?”

“They will.” James assured Lily, who had turned white at this. “Few modified memories – they’ll forget it even happened.”

“They’ll be fine.” Ron repeated, confidently this time.

“Mad, though, to do something like that tonight, when the whole Ministry’s here.” Hermione commented.

“Good point.” Alice frowned. “What were they thinking?”

“How were they expecting to get away with it?

“Drinking.” David sighed. “Adrenaline. Quite a few probably won money as well.”

“Anger at wizards living like Muggles.” Draco put in. “That had a lot to do with Father.”

Were they just drunk or …?” A noise behind her caused her to break off abruptly.

Lily tightened her grip on Harry’s hand and he shifted it slightly to stop her from cutting off the blood-flow.

Harry and Ron looked around as well, the latter scrambling to his feet; it sounded as though someone was staggering towards their clearing.

When the footsteps came to a sudden halt, Hermione and Ron pulled their wands out again.

“You shouldn’t have put them away.” Sirius said, sharper than he’d intended. He’d managed to grasp both Harry and Hermione’s hands in one of his, reassuring himself that they were both okay.

“Hello?” Harry asked …

James sighed. “Harry …”

… peering around the tree. “Who’s there?”

And then a voice sounded, a voice that none of them recognised. It wasn’t a cry of pain or a panicked shout, but a calm incantation.

MOSMORDRE!

Regulus cursed loudly and violently, but Ginny kept reading before anyone could scold or ask him.

Something vast and glittering green flew up into the dark sky to form a huge green skull with a serpent protruding from its mouth.

Lily gasped. “Sweet Merlin – that’s the Dark Mark!”

“What the …?” Ron staggered back and Harry gasped, but Hermione was paralysed with fear and shock. It appeared that she alone knew what the sign was and what it meant. The Dark Mark …

Addie shuddered again, remembering the sickly green light that illuminated her home.

The sign of Lord Voldemort.

As everyone stared in shocked silence at the book, Ginny cleared her throat. “That’s the end.”