More Dodgespell! More Karina! More Bill! More letters from Luna! More Naked Veela!!!!!!
Acknowledgements - Real life has taken a toll on my reviewing team. This chapter exists through my efforts and the well-directed criticisms of IP82, Nonjon, ChuckdaTruck and Nukular Winter. The rest of the team including beta are MIA for the moment.
Apologies - I misspelled the country of Australia last chapter. I hope I didn't offend anyone down under. I'll fix it soon.
Chapter 10 - Lions and Tigers, who wait in the Shadows
After a quick apparition from Karina's house, you are heading back up to the room you are currently sharing with Bill carrying a bag with your shrunken groceries in it. You need a change of clothes for the tournament, plus Bill might want to drop by. Karina offered to fix you breakfast, but you said you would get something here at the hotel. You already told her that next weekend you would be traveling. Didn't really want to rub in the fact you are going to be participating in an animagus ritual. She smiled and said it was okay. You weren't really sure what to expect. If she was one of the fangirls, you reckon she would be devastated, but she's a grown woman and the both of you are having some kind of fling. Though on the positive side, she cryptically mentioned that she would have to give you a proper send off. Intrigued by that statement you gave her a quick peck and then apparated away.
You pull out your room key after you exit the elevator. There's a note on the door and the "Do Not Disturb" sign up.
I went ahead and got you your own room. Just go down to the front desk and pick up the key for room 412 when you get back. You can pick your stuff up in the morning, if you know what I mean?
"No Bill, I don't know what you mean. I rarely ever know what you mean! Could you be a bit more vague please?" You mutter under your breath. Maybe you can call in a life debt or something and have him stop calling you 'Cookie'. That whole escape from Serpent Mountain ought to be worth something right? Sounds like Bill wanted a night of decent sleep. Maybe the pressure is getting to him. After all, he is one of probably a handful of people on this planet that knows how old Tom "Riddle me this Batman" is keeping himself alive and at the moment it appears that he is the only one doing an effing thing about it! Well it's morning, so you might as well grab your stuff.
You open the door. Ignoring Bill's mess, you head over to the still set up tent and open your trunk in the area you share with Thundercloud. You grab a handful of clothes for the tournament and a fresh bandana. You enlarge the packages of food you stored in Karina's chill box last night and put them in the tent's chill box. Shopping is so much easier with magic. No ten trips out to Uncle Vernon's car. No, 'Boy! If you break even a single egg, you will be sorry.' You wonder if he liked the boogers you used to toss into his omelets. Too bad heat kills most things. Hey, in your defense you were nine at the time. Now, you could come up with much more creative forms of retribution. For the time, it was bloody brilliant, if you don't mind saying so. Almost got caught once or twice, but the son of James and Lily was no Ghandi. Passive resistance only carried you so far.
Stepping out of the magic tent and back into the hotel room. You look around. On the dresser with the television on it there is an empty bottle of wine and a half-empty tub of whipped cream. What in Merlin's name was Bill doing in here last night? Oh good, the bathroom door is opening. You can get some answers. Not good, it isn't Bill. Good, it's Fleur. Not good, she just screamed at you. Good, she's only in a towel. Even better, the towel is only wrapped around her head! Break out the pensieve, because it's a great day to be alive! Holy basket of house elf eggs, it's a naked veela! Though, you are not entirely sure where house elves come from. You jump back in the tent as Fleur unleashes a string of French vulgarities at you. Wonder which one was French for pervert trying to memorize every single detail? At least she didn't immediately have her wand on her. You are certain because there was absolutely nowhere she could have hidden it from your sight. You resist the urge to do a quick victory lap around the inside of the tent. Damn, they better not obliviate you!
"Harry! What in the hell are you doing here?" Bill says over the still continuing wave of French obscenities as he pokes his head into the tent. Seriously Fleur, slow down and take a breath or something.
"I just got back and needed a change of clothes. Your note said come and get my stuff in the morning. It's morning."
"You should have let us know you were in here. At the end of the note, I said 'If you know what I mean!' Didn't you get it?"
"Here's a newsflash Bill, I didn't know what you mean! I'm not a mind reader. I can barely protect my own much less read yours." Actually, it isn't true. You managed to get into old Snapey's skull once - pretty much by accident, but then again how much of your existence is based off of one accident followed by another?
"You're right. Listen, just give us five minutes." Bill says pausing to listen to what Fleur is screeching about. His French is improving, but it still takes him a minute to understand what she is saying. "No, I will not let you castrate him. Actually Harry, why don't you sit there at the table and I'll come get you when it's safe."
Not wishing to lose any equipment, especially since you have just discovered a productive use for said equipment, you sit and read a book for a solid fifteen minutes before Bill returns.
"She's calm now. You can come out now." He says reassuringly.
"Are you sure?" Hey, it is your bits that are being discussed here. You could always apparate out of here.
You exit and see Fleur sitting on the bed. She is in a terrycloth bathrobe and still has an aura about her that says 'Come hither and ravage me'. You bet she could make Dudley's clothes look sexy. Small wonder Bill is such an obsessive sex fiend.
"Good morning, Harry. We have to stop meeting like this." She says with a smile. She looks - harmless, but you shouldn't trust her.
"Yes, otherwise you will positively ruin me for every other woman on the planet." You answer with a cheeky grin. Not a half bad comeback, she seems to like it. Bill shoots you a glare for a moment before laughing.
"It's okay dear, I think you might be a little young for our Harry here. He has an eye for the older ladies. You did say that you just got back and needed a change of clothing didn't you? You dirty dog?" Bill does that ruffle your hair thing. You've never really liked that. Is there a charm that will make your hair sting, bite or otherwise annoy someone who touches your hair? Maybe a nice electric shock? It warrants further investigation.
"Err, yes." Wonder if Fleur would be upset if you castrated Bill. It's a pretty nice blush you have going there in the mirror Harry isn't it?
Fleur of course sensing your embarrassment proceeds to interrogate you about the current status of your love life. Tenacious wench isn't she? Bill is helpfully providing answers when you politely refuse her queries. Her expression darkens when the topic of Chico comes up. She tells you to be wary of the single mother. You can't believe you are saying this to anyone much less Fleur, but you explain that you and Karina are comfortable with the purely physical relationship you have at the moment. It probably didn't come out that way, but that's the gist of what you were saying.
The two of them are positively ruthless. Finally Fleur asks, " So does she think you are any good?" Pervert Bill is guffawing at this point. You should have apparated away five minutes ago. They're obviously having a good old time at your expense. Might as well give some back and show them you aren't afraid to play.
"I can honestly say, that I make her scream some other guy's name or at least my alias, but as memory serves me, you are a bit louder than she is. Anyway, the reason I stopped by other than for a change of clothes is I'm playing in a Dodgespell tournament on the beach today and figured I would invite the cackling Hyena over there. You're welcome to come too." Fleur's resulting blush and muttering has you watching for her little stick with her Grandmum's hair in it.
Bill had heard of the sport before, but Fleur hadn't and seemed eager to see it after your brief description. She apparently isn't leaving until tomorrow night. Maybe you can convince Karina to come out to the hotel this evening? Perhaps Bill and Fleur could watch Chico for an hour or so and the two of you could experience something a bit more comfortable than the sleeper sofa, the tiny shower or a bunch of cushions tossed on the floor. You do have to admit that the cushioning charm on the kitchen table was interesting enough.
You go down, pickup your room key and wait for Bill and Fleur to join you for breakfast. You made a joke about how could they be hungry after all that whipped cream and beat a hasty retreat into the hallway. At least in all that hubbub, they didn't obliviate you! Bill mentioned that he had already secured the second set of permits - yay Black fortune and was now free for the rest of the weekend.
"In all the commotion of this morning, I forgot to thank you for saving my Bill's life." Fleur says sitting down next to you. Her plate has what can be describe as a 'dainty' breakfast, whereas your plate would like most things about your life make Ron jealous.
"Oh, I am sure he was exaggerating." You wave dismissively at her claims.
She catches your wrist with her delicate looking, but surprisingly strong hand. "I brought my mother's pensieve to help Bill with the expedition and he showed me what you did. You are too modest, Harry. I am glad now, that you did not come to France with me."
Now she is really embarrassing you. Can't she go back to making jokes about your sex life or something? You stammer out a reply, "I did what needed to be done. It's not like I'm Merlin or anything."
"No, you are Harry Potter, but remember even Merlin and Charlemagne were once your age. Consider what Madame Maxine or your Dumbledore had accomplished at this stage of their lives. Both are powerful magic users, qui." She has a point and a beautiful smile that says 'don't bother to deny it or I will continue'. You decide to accept it as the compliment it is intended to be. Though it is tempting to make a statement about 'your Dumbledore'.
"Bill's lucky to have you."
If possible her smile glowed even more brilliantly before turning to her breakfast, "Extremely lucky, almost as lucky as I am to have him."
Bill joined you a moment later with his plate rivaling your's in size and the three of you talked and laughed. It was a great morning, just three friends having breakfast. No Dark Lords, no constantly looking over your shoulder, no being cooped up in a heavily warded house being afraid for your life - just three friends enjoying a meal and companionship. You wonder if that is what is really meant by the whole 'neither can live' part? If Fleur is right and you are some kind of legendary hero, don't you deserve a bit of a break every now and then?
Four hours later you are kneeling in the sand utterly spent. The tournament was made up of sixteen teams. Your team won the first game handily. Your banisher is not as strong as your stunner, but it was close. The highlight of that game was when Paulo's banisher was rebounding off the dueling wards and hit the person you had just hit causing the crowd of over seven hundred to cheer wildly and just like that Paulo's Punishers had moved into the round of eight, earning a nice break while the rest of the first round finished on the two courts.
Much to your chagrin, you were checked over for enchantments before the initial match. The referee made you remove and reapply both your hair coloring charm and the translation charm. Karina raised an eyebrow at you when your black hair was revealed. Fortunately for you, another game was in progress so hardly anyone was paying attention to you and the referee. When she questioned you about it, you responded that it is widely known that 'Blondes have more fun.' Fleur agreed. You could tell that Karina was a bit put off by Fleur's presence. The part-veela was certainly drawing her share of attention. Bill kept her hand comfortably in his in a somewhat protective manner. It was amusing watching Reese trying to sneak a glance at Fleur without getting caught. So far he was one for six. Not a very good average in your opinion. You were beginning to worry that if he kept it up, Sheila was going to seriously injure him and Karina would have to play as a substitute.
The second game was a bit closer. Reese went out first and did a fine job as the harasser. Paulo's female friend Amanda went down next followed by Paulo himself. With the odds three against you and Sheila, the two of you managed to squeak out a victory. Sheila had a real talent for calculating where to throw her curse against the wards. After the game, she said that she sometimes picks up some extra money in the pool halls against the muggles - err norms, before giving you a big predatory grin and recommending that you should play her sometime. It's probably not a good idea. It would be quicker to just give her your money. You get the sense she is flirting with you a bit, most likely to draw Reese's eyes off of Fleur. Seems to be working, as Reese started giving you the AK stare.
Karina walked with you over to the vendors to get a drink. "Is Bill's friend a veela?"
"It runs in her family. Fleur's really good for him."
"I have only ever heard of them, but watching Reese's, Paulo's and most other's reactions I came to that conclusion. Why don't you act like that?"
So that's what this is about, "Oh, the veela charm doesn't really affect me all that much, or Bill either for that matter. We're pretty good friends, I guess. She actually appreciates that I can talk to her without turning into an idiot. I save that for when I am talking to you."
Her sly smile is a nice reward for that compliment. You figure it's got to be worth a few brownie points to be able to resist attractive women in her presence. You could completely waste all of them if you followed it by saying, 'Oh and I've already seen her naked today, so I don't need to gawk like that.' Not being one to brag, but you have seen two completely naked, extremely hot women in the last twelve hours.
As you lined up for your third game, you recognized your opponents from the games yesterday. It was the smooth and professional team, which wiped the court with your team yesterday. You doubted that the five minute rule would save you this time. Inside the dueling wards they were just as good if not better. They seemed very interested in knocking you out as you leaped over a banisher and caught the second one. Amanda played the curse off the wall and caught it before it went back into play. Both of you concentrate your attack on their captain. Your timing is right, as your faster spell reaches him just as he is dodging Amanda's fire. It turns out that it was a really bad idea to eliminate their captain. He was merciless from the harasser perch. You didn't last much longer as a tripping hex sent you stumbling into the path of a banisher. Paulo was the last one out there, but then he too was eliminated.
The good news was that you have one more match to play - the consolation game against the other team eliminated in the semi-finals. It would determine the third place and fourth place finishers. The fourth place team essentially would receive their entrance fee back. The third place team doubles their money.
The game starts in a flurry of spells. You make a quick catch and go for a direct shot against one of the females on the other team. It's not hard, the whole team is made up of females. They're pretty good. Angelina, Alicia and Katie would be proud - go girl power, you suppose. Right now you are concentrating on trying to banish them.
They seem to have a lot of teamwork and coordination going for them. Your team is sadly lacking these things. You dive into the path of a banisher and make the catch protecting Shelia.
"Far right. I'll throw off the wards, you go straight at her." She whispers lining up her own shot.
You nod and cast hard at the brunette at the right side of the court. Reminds you of a Latin looking Pansy Parkinson. You shouldn't judge a girl just because she resembles someone you despise but then again, this girl has never met Pansy before. She catches yours with her glove, but Sheila's with her stomach. So long Pansy look alike!
Sheila and Amanda are eliminated next by a very well executed attack. Looks like it's a gender battle now - three blokes versus four ladies. Paulo and Reese work to even up the odds and take out one of the ladies. The next five banishers come your way. You dodge, catch and spin your way out of trouble.
"Come on James!" Karina and Chico's shouts urge you on. Another minute of dodging ends your game as they finally get you. As you drag yourself off the court, you are exhausted. At least with them focusing on you Paulo and Reese are fresh and they are methodically eliminating the opposition. Karina hands you a bottle of water and helps brush some of the sand off of you. The real downside of having a competitive spirit is watching the game go on with out you.
"You looked good out there. I'm impressed." Bill says from his seat as Paulo sends another to the sidelines.
"I'm sure Kwan would find a way to insult me, but I held on as long as I could. Looks like we're going to pull it out though." You really don't like sitting and watching do you?
The game ends with Reese getting the last female out. Third place is pretty good. You exchange a few pleasantries with the all-female team you had just beaten and then watch the finals get started. It's a real good game and you actually manage to cheer on the team that eliminated your team. They win rather impressively.
Paulo comes back from the judges with your winnings. A pair of children are following him. "Miss Karina! Miss Karina!" The two children come over smiling. Karina's expression becomes guarded, much like when she first encountered Paulo.
"Hello children. Have you been on your best behavior for your new governess?" she says giving them a small smile. These must be Renaldo's children. Something ugly is coming. You've got a bad feeling.
"Yes Miss Karina. Miss Audrey is nice, but we miss having you and Chico around." The boy says. The girl is slightly younger. She is quiet, but smiling at Chico.
"Elise! Miguel! What are you doing? Get away from her!" A female voice cuts through the crowd.
The two children jump as if stung as you get your first glimpse of Nina Colastos. She is a couple of inches shorter than Karina. Her face is rounded and her eyes are more gray than blue. If you had to guess, she is probably in her early thirties and attended the Parvati school of over applying makeup. Too bad you didn't know Luna during your fourth year, she would have made a more interesting date than Parvati. Anyway, the end result is the woman in front of you is somewhat attractive in a purchased with money kind of way.
The widow Colastos has her wand out and is walking deliberately towards Karina. "I told you to stay away from my children, you dirty whore. I should curse you where you stand."
"This is a public place. I have just as much right to be here as you do. Your money can not buy everything." Karina says with a rather dismissive tone.
You have to admit that Karina is cool under pressure. She must have experience dealing with Nina. Your wand is in your hand, but Karina hasn't moved at all.
"You never knew your place. You are a common dog! A dog! Maybe, you should be put down like one? Maybe your little bastard too?" She moves her wand in the general direction of Chico.
You step in front of Chico. "Point that elsewhere." A quick glance over at Paulo shows that he is merely observing the action - so much for help from local law enforcement.
"Well, well what do we have here?" Nina says coldly while sizing you up. "Selling yourself to the foreigners already? Seems a little young for your taste, Machado, but I suppose his gold spends just the same." She shrugs at the small crowd growing around her. The two men behind her are holding their wands, must be her bodyguards.
You reply with a quick lie, "I am not really sure what you are talking about, but you are pointing your wand at a five year old boy with over a dozen witnesses."
Some of the pomp around her disappeared as she immediately lowered her wand, "Silly little boy, of course I wasn't pointing my wand at a child. I resent that implication!" Oh great, it's the return of Delores Umbridge!
The nice thing about not being in school is that you can play at this game too. "Obviously my mistake, Madame. There is certainly no way a woman of your obvious age could make that kind of gross error in judgment, let alone say such horrible things in the presence of your own children. Please accept my apologies." You catch a few snickers from the crowd.
If looks could kill, well if that were the truth you'd be dead a long time ago. Technically, there are a few creatures with looks that can kill. You have personal experience. Fortunately, the thing in front of you is not one.
"We'll be leaving now. Good day to you, widow Colastos. Miguel, good luck in school next year and Elise, I hope you are continuing with your piano lessons." Karina says in that same even tone. You bet she would be pretty good at Occulmency. Nina takes a step closer to her and mouths something at Karina, before turning away and motioning for her bodyguards and children to follow.
Karina watches them go and the crowd disperses. She looks first at you and you get the feeling that you just screwed up again. "I did not need your help." Next, she looks at Paulo, who seems indifferent to Karina. "I could have used yours." Then she too, spins on her heels and leads Chico off at a brisk pace.
You start to follow, but Paulo's hand stops you. He has a cold calculating look on his face. "You should be careful of the people you insult, Englishman. Unlike the great city in the distance, our society does not need to cater to the tourists. Don't go making trouble for Karina or yourself."
"Odd, I wasn't the one waving a wand around back there, Mr. Vangelder. Yet here you are warning me."
"Consider it friendly advice, Black. You wouldn't want to see my not-so friendly advice. A young kid like you could get yourself hurt by crossing the wrong people. Karina is a good friend, but she is in a bad situation. Don't make her situation any worse. You'll go back home eventually and she'll be left behind to deal with any mess you might make."
Oh, cringe in fear! Oh, the horror! It's the good cop and bad cop routine from the same person. You almost want to mock him by asking if some jealous bint and her bodyguards are going to do what a Dark Lord, Death Eaters, Dragons, a Basilisk and a little piss ant named Draco have all wanted to do? Fortunately, you hold your tongue and nod indifferently at him. You get the idea that the PdM enforces the laws for the wealthy families. Three bought-and-paid-for cheers for corruption!
Grabbing the rest of your stuff, you give a quick wave to the rest of your teammates. Sheila is the only one who returns your wave with a smile. Amanda didn't know you from dirt and Reese seems to prefer dirt to your company. Bill and Fleur are waiting for you and Bill is particularly interested in your exchange with Paulo. He doesn't want the PdM poking their nose into the expedition. Fleur is maintaining her appearance of detached indifference, but you suspect she has been following every single word. People don't expect someone that beautiful to have brains. There's a lot more to her than the vain sounding arrogant teenager who called you a 'little boy' two years ago.
"You should go and speak to Karina, but wait an hour or so for her to calm down. Bill and I are going to head back to the hotel, where he is going to buy me an expensive dinner and take me dancing. We'll see you for breakfast tomorrow." Fleur says idly looking out over the ocean. Hopefully, it's not too expensive given the probable source of money for the dinner. You don't say anything. It would sound petty and both Bill and Fleur have been very good to you. Better them than Dumbledore and his flunkies.
"I'll remember to knock this time." You reply sidestepping a playful punch from Bill start down the beach for a walk. After a kilometer of walking, you pass a sign. It's facing the opposite direction so you walk around it to see what it says. The top says 'Humans Only Past This Point'. The lines beneath it are in two different languages. You recognize one as Goblin. The one beneath it is a pictogram language. Looking at the beachgoers, you suppose that it is either giant or most likely troll. The goblins don't like the daylight, but from the number of firepits it looks like they come down in the evenings. The trolls here seem about the same size as the security trolls Dumbledore stationed at the common room when Sirius attacked the Fat Lady. Thank Merlin they aren't as big as the one from the bathroom! You sit up on a rock and watch two male trolls show off for some troll females. They are picking up rocks and throwing them in the water. Whenever the rock hits the water they yell, "Plunk!" It's apparently a distance contest.
After ten minutes the troll nearest you exclaims, "Glurg Win Plunk!" and thumps his chest. He dances a taunting dance around the other troll, who grows tired of it almost immediately and punches his tormentor. The two trolls wrestle and the one called Glurg manages to pin the other troll. You can't quite here what they say, but Glurg climbs up and all three of the troll females walk off with him. The other troll looks on dejectedly. Looks like you aren't the only one with girl problems.
"What human want? Hack have day off."
"I don't want anything. I was just watching you play Plunk."
"Glurg always wins Plunk. Girl Trolls like Glurg."
Not really believing you are having this conversation you continue, "Don't throw your stone so high. You put too much loft in it." Great, now you are about to explain the concept of loft to a troll.
"High stone make bigger Plunk." The troll answers not quite getting it.
"Yes, but if your stone goes farther then you win right? See watch this. I throw a stone like Hack." You pick up a small stone and throw it in a high arc like the smaller troll was doing it makes a comparatively small Plunk. You then grab a second one and throw it more like regular ball. It goes much farther and still makes a good sized - for a human, Plunk.
Hack looks very excited. You actually wish Creevy would show up with his camera. Luna will definitely get a laugh out of this. For the next fifteen minutes you help Hack the troll with his throwing mechanics. You remember when one of your primary school classmates had his uncle come in. He was a decathlete. You recall how he threw the shotput by putting his body into the throw. It takes a few tries and Hack falls in the sand more than once, but now his throws are going much further. He'll definitely win his next game of Plunk.
"Next time Hack win Plunk. Hack get girl trolls." Shit! Now you're talking like a troll.
"Human help Hack. Hack like human."
"James. My name is James."
"Hack like James. James help Hack. Hack throw big stones. Big stones get girl trolls." There's probably a lesson for you in all this. Big stones get the girls. Maybe it's time you get some big stones of your own figuratively of course.
"Bye Puny James." He smacks you shoulder and knocks you two meters forward. Felt like you just took another banisher. Note to self - horseplay with a troll is not a great idea.
Summoning your own courage, you apparate to Karina's house and knock on the door. She answers it with that same impassive look on her face. "Yes."
"I seem to have a knack for angering you."
"Yes you do." she answers with a curt reply. It's a bit frosty out here.
"Are you worried about her retaliating?"
"I am always worried about her. She obsessed with ruining my life and Chico's life. This is not your problem. You shouldn't involve yourself." The temperature is definitely dropping rapidly. You should have brought a coat.
"You should ward your house."
She looks at you exasperated. "With what? The wardcrafters guild doesn't work for free and with the Colastos family angry with me, I doubt they would do it anyway."
You can't help feeling a bit annoyed yourself. "Trying to be helpful here..."
Karina is quiet for the next ten seconds. "You're right. I shouldn't be taking this out on you. I don't know how to do it myself and don't have the money to get it done by professionals."
"Bill is teaching me. I'll do it. It will be good practice. I've already got a basic intruder ward built. I'll just need to key you two to the ward stones and at least you'll know if someone is on your property. It's nothing fancy, but something is better than nothing."
Her expression softens a bit. "My grandmother said that being foolish, quick to anger and stubborn are three of my least attractive traits. I was angry with Paulo, for not doing anything, so I treated you unfairly. All you did was step between an angry wand and my son. Refusing your offer would be even more foolish on my part. If you really want to do this, I would be even more indebted to you."
"You're not indebted to me. We're friends. We help each other out. I'll just apparate back to the hotel and pick up the ward stones. So am I forgiven?" Besides people who are indebted to you haven't been behaving very nicely towards you lately.
"Yes, James you are. We are having feijoada tonight." You are still not sure exactly why you have done that requires her forgiveness, but you should quit while you're ahead. It's safer that way.
"Sounds great! Would you like to come to the hotel for their breakfast buffet tomorrow? I can bring the Portkey we have for the two of you."
Karina looks uncertain. Chico immediately asks if there is a television there. She scolds him, but he goes for the puppy dog eyes. She reluctantly agrees. You apparate back to the hotel and go to Bill's room and knock on the door. Bill answers. He has a nice dress shirt on and has a tie dangling over his neck. You have a good idea what they were up to in the time since you last saw them. There probably isn't any whipped cream left.
"Just got dumped?"
"No, git! I was going to get those perimeter wards I made and set them up at Karina's. It will at least tell her if someone is there."
"Probably not a bad idea since that woman looked a bit on the angry side. Go in my trunk in the tent and there is a book called 'Practical Warding of the Magical Household'. There are several examples of easy to install warding schemes. It's not the best book out there by far, but it is a practical step-by-step setup of a basic warding system. It even has some decent permanent size increasing runes that can give her more space. Dad and Uncle Gideon did the ones at the Burrow. I remember watching them when I was four or five and that's when I made up my mind that I wanted to be a cursebreaker. You can do most of the prep work during the week, when you're not stoned out of your gourd or flying around looking for more dragons."
"Thanks for mentioning that." You're not really looking forward to all these hallucinations Thundercloud was talking about as a side effect of the animagus potion.
You emerge five minutes later with your carving stones, the portkey and the book Bill mentioned. Though you were tempted to grab 'Violent Runes Unleashed - A Compendium for Those with the Skill and the Willingness to use it'. It looked like a fascinating tome. That one definitely goes on your 'to read' list.
Fleur is looking like a million galleons, but still acting like she needs to make herself more beautiful and Bill is doing his whole 'ruggedly handsome' look with the dragon fang earring. You ask him what he would say if a muggle asked him about it. He smiles and says in that case, "It's the front tooth from a Grizzly Bear."
You tell them to have a wonderful evening and apparate back to the street in front of Karina's house. She tells you that dinner is in thirty minutes. You use a basic detection spell to determine how many charging runes the property can support for continuous use. It requires that you pace the property while chanting the spell. You then finish the incantation standing at the center of the property and you will see a group of colored lights. The number of lights equals the number of charging runes that the property can support. Three little blue lights dance in front of your eyes. That's a pretty low number. You flip to the appendix of the book and look for recommendations for three charging rune schemes. The list is remarkably short. You'll use one rune for the size expansion and the other two for the basic perimeter and shielding wards. You can create a fourth charging rune, which won't charge continuously, for a weak stinging hex or minor confundo but it will only last for about thirty seconds. Still thirty seconds of pain or confusion could buy the two of them a chance to escape. Tomorrow, you'll ask Bill if you should leave that Portkey for them as a means of escape, since she can't apparate, doesn't have a floo connection and her broom isn't exactly built for speed.
Over dinner, you explain the warding scheme. Surprisingly, Karina asks you to forgo the size expansion and commit the third rune to powering the confundus charm. Instead of thirty seconds, it will last ninety seconds and gradually recharge. Originally, she thought about the stinging hex, but seemed a little leery of injuring someone who was coming for a visit. She says that she is comfortable with the amount of space in the house. You don't really believe her, but hey that's what she wants. Flipping around in the book you find a couple of nifty single use wand activated wards including a volley of three arrows from a ward known as 'The Archer's Last Stand'. It was immensely popular in the Middle Ages for castle protection. They spread out in a fan, so there is no real aiming. It looks difficult to carve, but you like a challenge. The downside is it can only be used once, and won't last more than a couple of months unless carved in metal or bone. You picked up some dragonbone and etching material with your resupply kit yesterday at the same time you got a cheap broom for Bill.
The final plans call for a perimeter ward and alert system at the edge of the property. Five meters from the door the confundus charm kicks in. On each side of the front and back doors you would mount 'The Archer's Last Stand'. On the outside of the front door you will carve a shield rune and on the back side a rune to increase the strength of the wood. The shield rune wouldn't stop more than two or three spells, but Karina seems grateful for even that token level of protection.
During her first few weeks after she had been fired, she had been watched. One of the two bodyguards you had just encountered had made it a point to walk through her neighborhood and the four hens and rooster one of her neighbors had given her were mysteriously found dead in her backyard.
After dinner, Karina takes Chico for a ride on your broom while you mount the controlling rune you had already carved with a permanent sticking charm right below the outside of the kitchen windowsill. You spread the alarm wards at the four corners of the property. She has a small vegetable garden in the back. Bill's book recommends that the charging runes be carved on inconspicuous surfaces in the house. You take down a picture of a younger Karina holding a sleeping baby Chico. The baby wakes up and the mother glares at you as she comforts the upset child. Good thing the camera pictures aren't like portraits and able to speak, because you are pretty certain that she is telling you off right now.
You scourgify the surface of the wood where the framed picture had been hung. A piece of coarse sandpaper followed by fine sandpaper finishes preparing the surface. Using a carpenter's pencil, you outline the shape of a charging rune. Satisfied that the shape is correct, you begin working with the tiny carving chisel and hammer. It takes you just over twenty minutes. Bill could have done it in five - further reminding you that you are just a neophyte at this.
After you finish, you cast the spell that activates the rune and watch pleasantly as the rune begins to glow softly. The picture of Karina gives you another dirty look as you rehang it. You smile and blow her a kiss. She gives you the finger. The rune linking charm connects the charging rune to your hidden controller rune. For the next step you link the intruder wards to the controlling rune and key yourself to each of the ward stones. Now you will not set off the wards.
Karina and a smiling Chico land and she hands you back your broom. She compliments you on how much better it flies than hers and Chico is begging you to take him up for a ride now.
You show Karina how to key herself and her wand to the wards that will cause her wand to emit a series of three loud whistles. You have Chico demonstrate by stepping on to the property. He seems particularly pleased when his mother's wand starts whistling. You have him try from several points on the property. If she is within a kilometer of her property and something larger that a dog steps on it, she'll know. Then she keys Chico to the perimeter wards.
The wood over the inside of the door is a perfect spot for the second charging rune. Right next to it you put the controlling rune. On the front of the door you start carving the Tal, Elb, Chez, Viros and the Urwhy runes in a precise pentagon. Chico plays with his toys while Karina holds her wand and gives you light for you to work. It takes thirty minutes to carve each of the shielding runes. Around eleven-thirty at night, five hours after starting you are pleased to watch the thin shield begin to envelope the house and fade from view. A quick glance with your cursebreaker specs confirms that the shield is there and still gaining strength. This particular shielding scheme is most effective against blasting and bludgeoning spells as intruders typically try and break or batter the door down. It isn't very strong, but it is one of the few that also includes anti-apparition wards in the scheme. You found it under the section titled 'Doing More with Less'. You call it a night rather pleased with yourself and thankful that you already had the perimeter wards done. Otherwise it would be lunchtime the next day before you could get this far. The confundus ward can wait for tomorrow and the single use wards during the week. Bill can probably be persuaded to bring them by and mount them while you are off with Thundercloud. He'll probably want to come by and check your work tomorrow anyway.
Chico is already in bed and you're in desperate need of a shower. With Karina preferred, but either way you're taking one. The good news is she slips in with you after a couple of minutes. 'Sorry Hack, it looks like you're the only socially inept troll, who isn't going to get lucky tonight.'
In the morning you discover that Karina is a bit frisky. It is an extremely pleasant discovery, but nonetheless will delay your departure for breakfast. Of course, you are reasonably certain that Bill and Fleur aren't leaving their room until you knock on their door. So after some morning 'activities', Karina goes to wake up Chico and you go wait outside like you are just arriving. She doesn't want Chico to see you in her bed and recalling his recent comment about your fatherly prospects, you wholeheartedly agree. The three of you take the Portkey and you listen to Chico's howl of glee. You bet the tyke will even like apparition and floo travel. Where's the justice in that?
After collecting Bill and Fleur, the five of you have a rather enjoyable breakfast. Chico insists on sitting between his mother and Fleur. Several times he just looks at the Frenchwoman and goes, "You're pretty. I like you." For a five year old he has some pretty smooth moves - a damn shot better than you at that age or maybe even now. Hell, which of you was the one playing with a troll yesterday? His mother scolds him playfully and both you and Bill are trying very hard not to convulse in laughter. Fleur is a bit flustered at first, but soon gets into the swing of things. She cautions Bill that she has other options now, but can't say it with a straight face. Mothers of adolescent girls all over the region should be warned in advance about this little Don Juan in training.
Bill inspects your work at Karina's house with a critical eye. Two of your shield runes are slightly dovetailed and the imprecise carving will result in a fractional loss in strength, your perimeter wards are not correctly positioned for maximum coverage and your second controller rune was placed too close to the door.
"It seemed logical to put it there!" You argue your case.
"Exactly. That's the first place I'd look for one. You need to be a bit more devious when placing your runes. That's the crafty part of the title 'wardcrafter'. Overall it's a passable setup. It's pretty good for your first solo. If I were grading you, I'd give it an Acceptable leaning towards Exceeds Expectations. Concentrate on your carving more. Also, link the charging rune for the perimeter wards to the controlling rune for your shield. If someone completely takes out your perimeter wards, the extra power will funnel into the shield and it will last longer. That's something you won't find in most books."
"What do I have to do to get an Outstanding?" You ask.
"Golden rule, wards are never Outstanding until they stop someone." You were hoping to make it through a day without a new and different golden rule - so much for that dream. You look over at Fleur, who shrugs helplessly. Apparently, she's accepted the game as well.
The rest of the morning is spent carving the six runes that make up the confundus runic scheme. Bill shows you where he would place the various components and you go to work, while everyone else goes to the beach. You're getting better at the charging and controlling runes and they don't take nearly as long. Of course using Bill's preferred locations puts you in some very uncomfortable positions. It was one of the Golden Rules from last week, "Precise placement of a ward is more important than the comfort of the person placing the ward." Gah! Write a book or make a desktop calendar or something!
After completing the ward, but not activating it, you apparate up to the beach, but you can't find them. Unable to find your group, you pop back to the house and pull out your shrunken journal.
Thank you, for the minor heart attack I just had reading your last entry! Encounters with dragons are NOT the kind of thing one just mentions in casual conversations. You really need to work on your writing skills! I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume that this tomb you were in was slightly more terrifying than you led me to believe. I'm not asking for a pensieve memory or anything, but writing "There were a whole bunch of snakes in the corridor. It was pretty scary. Then when we got out, there was a dragon fighting with two wyverns." leaves a bit to be desired. More details please!
I on the other hand have had no such encounters of my own, though there was a very shifty looking squirrel in our camp the other day. Nothing happened, but I had my wand just in case things got ugly.
The Greak Snorkack hunt of '96 is winding down with only one more week to go before we head back to civilization. My summer assignments are all done, so now I am on to my independent studies. I picked up a few dueling books and a practice wand with no core in it in the last town we stopped in. Speaking of my wand, I don't know if I ever told you the story of it. Looney tells it better, but here it is anyway.
The wood is from an 800 year old Douglas Fir tree, that was destroyed in the eruption of Mount St. Helens in America. Mummy and Daddy were vacationing there hoping to attend a Sasquatch tribal meeting, when the volcano erupted. They decided to take a trip there to see the devastation first hand. Daddy told me that Mum was drawn to this one massive tree so they harvested the wood from it.
To make a long story short, (I'll tell you the long story sometime and most of it is actually true) Mum and Dad found themselves at a Sasquatch meeting and my wand core is a braid of hair from seven Sasquatch chieftans. Pretty nifty as well as being Arithmatically significatnt huh? When they got back from the trip Mum discovered that she was pregnant with yours truly and they took the wood and the braid to Ollivander and he made a custom wand out of it. Every May 18th, the wand shakes uncontrollably for a few minutes, but other than that it is a very powerful wand. So that's my cool wand story. You mentioned something about your wand in the interview you gave that Skeeter woman for Daddy's paper. How about telling me the whole story?
Well that's all for now. I need to go brew some medicinal potions for my nerves in preparation for your next entry.
Your favorite nightlight,
You decide to start your reply.
Deranged squirrels? I'm scared for you. I am sorry that my skills with the written word are not up to your standards. I will try to improve and include things like how close I was to crapping in my shorts, if it will make you understand the situation better. Especially about the time I realized that my broom was slower than the dragon. Yes, my life flashed before my eyes and I found out that it needs to be longer.
Fortunately, the past couple of days have been nowhere near as dangerous, but still pretty exciting. I played in a dodgespell tournament. I had never heard of it before a couple of days ago. Have you? The team I was on finished third. If the DA exists in the coming year, they should use it to practice, even if I don't come back.
In other news, I just finished my first warding scheme. It was on one of my dodgespell teammate's house. My work was critiqued by my mentor and deemed acceptable. I really wish I had taken Runes instead of Divination. I guess I am now officially an apprentice wardcrafter. You're in Runes. How much do they actually teach you? They actually don't teach it here except in post-secondary classes or through a guild of all things, so most people don't have any skill in Runes.
If you are in need of a good laugh, I helped a jungle troll named Hack with his love life yesterday. No, I am not making this up! Apparently, girl trolls are impressed with boy trolls who can throw a stone farthest into the water. I gave him some pointers on how to throw better and I suspect his dating life will be getting better soon. It almost makes me think that other species have better ideas on dating. Probably would have made my getting a date for the Yule Ball easier.
I have to warn you, my letter writing might be a little sporadic for the next week. I am going to be training really hard. Thundercloud is bringing some potions that I am supposed to take next week to help me try and become an animagus. That reminds me is it animage or animagus? If you have more than one is it animagi? The downside is that this potion messes with your mind a bit, or so I am told. So please, take anything I write in the coming week with a grain of salt - or better still a 10 kilo bag of salt.
Your wand's story is much more interesting than my wands story. The important thing about it is that El Dorko Lordo's wand and mine both have phoenix feather cores from the our dear Headmaster's phoenix. When we fought, it created a rarely mentioned brother wand effect.
Well that's all for now. Stay away from the shifty looking squirrels.
You pause to wonder why it took you ten minutes to write the sentence about Karina. For some reason, every time you start thinking about how you were going to write it, it wouldn't come out right. You still don't like how it turned out. Closing the journal and shrinking it again, you place it in you zipper bag along with Bill's warding book. You try apparating back to the beach and this time you find them. Bill and Karina follow you back and he inspects your confundus ward and declares it "Acceptable". He is pretty effing hard to please isn't he? You activate the ward and key it to Karina, so she can control it. Bill also checks your secondary link from the charging ward for the perimeter wards and the shield controller and deems it "Satisfactory". Maybe Hermy Funbags wouldn't be cut out for this. She requires too much positive reinforcement. You're rather pleased with your results, but picture her having a breakdown after being told that her work was simply Acceptable.
The rest of the day is a relaxing enjoyable affair. You say your goodbyes to Fleur although they still have four hours before she has to get to the International Portkey terminal in Sao Paulo - she claims that she needs to 'pack'. Bill offers to help her and says he will meet up with you and the Machados this evening. You get both cheeks kissed, followed by a hug and a quick whisper of 'Take care of yourself and watch over my William. Never forget that you are already a great wizard.'
Four and a half hours later Bill, returns and all four of you go back to the hotel and Bill is kind enough to show Chico the expedition tent and let him watch cartoons in his room, while you and Karina explore your hotel room.
After some rather intense exploration of the queen sized bed and the shower, you pick up Bill and Chico and head down for a late dinner in the hotel restaurant. Chico liked breakfast better. You feel a little choked up saying your goodbye to Karina. She says that she will miss you for the next two weeks. You watch them portkey away and turn back to Bill, who is looking at you.
"Harry, be careful. Don't get too attached to her. Have some fun, but for Merlin's sake be careful. She doesn't seem like she is having those kind of thoughts right now, but if you keep going back to her one of you might start to get serious about the other. Sex isn't a good thing to build a relationship on and before you say it, my relationship with Fleur goes a lot deeper than just sex. She's my best friend and my lover. She's not wearing my ring yet, but that's because she wants me to help her pick it out of her family vault and I haven't been able to get to France. At your age, I couldn't think past my own dick. Now, that's not to say that you are like me, but it was a long time after my first time before I was ready for anything meaningful. Don't say anything, just think about what I said. You've got a couple of weeks to sort it out. I don't want you to end up like Charlie."
"What happened to Charlie?"
"He proposed to his first girlfriend in his seventh year. I almost think that's why he gave up on quidditch and went to Romania to be a Dragon Handler. He still has a tough time when he is back for Order meetings."
"Charlies ex is in the Order?" Your mind does a quick inventory of all the Charlie aged females in the Order, there's only a couple possibilities with one prime suspect. "He proposed to Tonks didn't he?"
"Yep and neither of them were ready for it. She wanted her own career and not just to be a quidditch groupie. He said they could make it work and she said that he was deluding himself. I advised him to take it slower, but he went ahead and proposed anyway. After she rejected him, he wanted out of England in a bad way and lost his interest in quidditch. I think he only came back once of twice in all the years before the Triwizard tournament, but once a month he'd come down and see me in Egypt. There are some deep wounds there."
"Thanks Bill. I'm not you and I'm not Charlie either, but it's a lot to think about." The two of you head back to the hotel I relative silence. He tells you to get a good night's sleep and be ready for the second sight in the morning. You admit to being a bit nervous about the potions you'll be taking. It takes you a good two hours to fall asleep.
In the morning, the rest of the expedition is waiting for you in the lobby. You head to the back alley so Bill can activate his portkey to the second expedition site. Kwan stops him. "Who is cook, really?"
"Why do you ask?" Bill asks cautiously, his wand already in hand.
"You kept calling him Harry. My sources tell me Harry Potter is missing from England. People offering lots of money for any information about Harry Potter. He has a little friend named Weasley. If I ask you to take off bandana, would I find a scar there?"
"It's a distinct possibility." You answer. There's a bit of tension in this alley.
"Sanchez, you owe me ten galleons. I told you it was him." Kwan's curt laughter cuts through the air of tension. Everyone relaxes a bit.
Harry is also technically your employer as it is his money funding this expedition." Bill says cautiously. "For all intents and purposes, he is Phoenix Expeditions. Your contracts are binding to him as well as me. His identity is also considered part of your Non Disclosure Agreement. I take it none of you made any speculative slips of the tongue? Does anyone have a problem with this?"
"It complicates things. There's a mighty big bounty on your head, there Mr. Potter." Collins says. "How many know you are here?"
"Me, Bill and one other. Another person has an idea that I am in South America, but not where. Everyone else is turning England upside down looking for me. The think I am hiding among the normals."
"I gotta invoke the complications clause of the contract. I'm going to want more at least twenty five percent more money, if word reaches the wrong ears that you are here, we'll have to fight our way out of this backassward country."
Bill looks at Collins. "The extra money isn't a problem if you agree to help train him."
"Anyone else?" Bill looks at the remaining trio.
"I will take your raise also." Thundercloud answers. "In return, I will offer an oath of protection when we go to my people next week. I do not need the money so much as my children and grandchildren do. My eldest child grossly mismanaged the family fortunes, which required that I leave my comfortable retirement. I am only here because of them."
Sanchez also takes the raise on the basis of 'increased danger'. Kwan looks at you. "You risked your life for me. I do not require any more money to risk my life for you. My honor demands no less. I will train you. You are still stupid cook. Dark Wizards not stupid like dragons and snakes. I will show you how to fight them." With that agreed on everyone, grasps the Portkey to your next destination.
Five nights later you are sitting at the table trying to clear your head. You barely remember the passing days. This potion is some serious shit. Bill confiscates your wand every day and won't give it back until you answer a series of questions correctly. The end result is that you are only allowed to have your wand about four hours out of the day. Half of that time you spend setting up the meals and trying to shake the cobwebs out of your head. More than once they had to bind you. The hallucinations aren't always harmless pink bunnies asking McGonagall for a dance. For every Crumple Horned Snorkack you have seen, and you've now seen a few and maybe even turned into one, there have been some very disturbing hallucinations. Too bad you don't have your connection to Mr. Riddle, you might have been able to unhinge him a bit. You had a vision where you were melting and you managed to cast a freezing charm on your hand before Collins stopped you from going further. It took an hour to get the feeling back in that hand.
You've danced with your Mum over the freshly slaughtered bodies of the family Weasley. Dumbledores lemon drop eyes have been gouged out with a spork. Ginny and Hermy Funbags both turned you down in favor of each other before you strangled them. Sanchez turned out to be Tonks trying out a new 'ugly' look. Possibly the most terrifying vision was Karina telling you that Chico actually is your son and that because she forgot to use the contraceptive charm, you're going to be a father again. In one particularly vivid vision this little black skinned boy with only on leg and a red hat hopped around the camp pranking everyone until Bill bribed him to leave with a handful canary creams from his siblings' stockpiles.
Amazingly enough you found out the next morning that it actually happened. The little guy was a Saci and you actually had polka dots all over your skin for the next two days. Needless to say Bill hasn't let you anywhere near the second site in your state. You've only managed to do one real archer ward in bone and two test ones carved in stone. You triggered one, and it worked nicely. Luna's letters continue to be amusing even on the rereads. Her cryptic answer to your question was "If you manage to become an animage (or is it animagus?), you probably are allowed to call it whatever you want." Is this a conspiracy of some kind? Just for that, you hope you become Harry - The shifty, green-eyed squirrel of doom! Bill has also kept the journal away until you were of mostly sound mind. In hindsight it was a good idea.
Kwan has been teaching you how to spellchain. It is how he wiped the floor with those inferi and held off the corridor full of reptiles. Spellchaining is best used when you are grossly outnumbered. You repetitively cast spells, whose wand motions flow into the next spell. It won't do much in a duel with Moldy Voldy - El Dorko Lordo was starting to get old, but it does get you used to casting spells quickly. The few sessions you've spent with Collins went well. He showed you a few heavy duty spells. You can now do the firewhip and a couple of real nifty cutters. They are Collins specialty. Kwan seems to favor bludgeoning and banishing his opponents.
You had a distinct moment of clarity the first time you sat down with the two hitwizards after they had learned your true identity.
"So, you guys are really going to show me how to duel?"
"Duel? Kwan, do you duel?"
"No, I think I saw one once. Two men bowing to each other before they start casting spells at each other or something stupid like that."
"Stupid cook doesn't understand. We don't duel. We fight! We kill! The only rule in a fight is if you are alive at the end of a fight, then you win. Your Dark Lord is standing in the middle of clearing right there. You are hiding behind a tree. Would you curse him in the back from your hiding spot? Of course you curse him! You keep cursing him until he doesn't move anymore. Now do you want to learn how to duel or to fight?"
They make you use the pensieve and show the fights from Quirrell all the way to the Department of Mysteries. You are given a scathing critique of your fighting skills. At least you are 'Stupid, Lucky Cook' now.
Friday evening comes and Bill is fussing all over you as you prepare to depart for the International Portkey. He stops when you warn him that he is turning into his Mum. Kwan volunteers to come with you to the United States for additional protection. From Sao Paulo, the three of you take a Portkey to somewhere in Honduras and then to Las Vegas. From Vegas, Thundercloud gets a regional Portkey to the Magical Community in the Black Hills of someplace called South Dakota. You wouldn't have minded a day or two in Las Vegas to take in the sites, but Kwan points out that "sightseeing allows other sightseers to see stupid, lucky cook and sooner or later stupid cook's luck runs out." You get it.
Once you arrive on the last leg of your whirlwind journey, you stop to look at the surroundings. It's beautiful country, much warmer than you expected, but it is summertime. You could picture people fighting for this land. Being borderline delirious, not too much sinks in as Thundercloud introduces 'James Black' to his family of four children, seven grandchildren and three great grandchildren. You barely get through the introductions, before Thundercloud tells you that it is time to go.
Still trying to clear the fuzz out of your mind Thundercloud hustles you into a room and tells you to strip and hands you what can best be described as a loincloth. He begins to draw runes on your torso with clay pots filled with a foul smelling pigment. After a half an hour, you are led down into a sweltering hot chamber with six others participants and about a dozen others all in a crowded room. The two females are allowed a bit more clothing - damn! All of them are looking at you and Thundercloud curiously. You're getting dizzy from the heat and the lack of food and water. For the last thirty-six hours, you've been forbidden from eating anything and only precious little to drink. Brings back memories of the good old cupboard. He at least gives you an explanation.
"Hunger and thirst are primal urges. The ritual is more likely to succeed if you are in touch with primal urges. Considering one of my granddaughters is participating, I'd rather you be focused on them rather than lust."
Sneaking a glance at the one you recognize as Thundercloud's granddaughter, you see that she is a moderately attractive woman in her late teens or early twenties, much more endowed than even Hermy Funbags. As Bill would joke, "A little young for you." Considering a couple of the males are openly looking at her and the other woman like sides of beef, you don't feel so guilty. She has a pretty smile and very kissable looking lips.
The lightheadedness is really starting to bother you now. How about something to drink, a snack, or both? Some of the others are swaying now, or is it you? The smoke is causing your eyes to water and your nostrils feel like they are on fire. A cup carved out of bone is held to your lips. 'Ah! Finally something liquid.' You gag on the potion. Like just about every other potion, it tastes disgusting. You can almost feel the magic in the air from the chanting witches and wizards. Your voice and the others join in. You have no idea what you are saying.
The last thought that crosses your mind as you collapse is, 'Well, here goes nothing."
Authors notes - Yes it is late, but it is the longest chapter in the story so far, with quite a bit occurring. I was pleased by the response to Dodgespell. After covering only 9 days in the previous 9 chapters, it was time to push the calendar forward. The date of the Animagus ceremony is Friday July 26th, 1996. So, there is roughly a month to go to get us back to the events of chapter 1. Let me know what you think.