The summer through the morning after the Cup.
Harry and Hermione spent a very happy week under the Mediterranean sun. Whatever shyness they still had with each other disappeared as they frolicked in the surf, and, once Hermione discovered some gillyweed, under the surf as well.
The last night of their stay, as they lay on a large blanket, staring at the stars after having made love, Harry asked, "What are you thinking? You look. . . ." He searched for the right word.
"Yeah, that sums it up," Harry agreed.
"I haven't thought much about it this week, but I was thinking about what would happen if we find a way to make Horcruxes for me . . . as well as what will happen if we don't."
Harry said nothing, knowing that Hermione could hardly help but think of the possible death sentence she was under.
After a few moments of silence, Hermione asked, "If you're fairly sure you going to take them up on their offer at some point, would you like an island like this?"
"It might be nice, but I don't know if magic could change all the records of an island this size or not," Harry pointed out."Especially in any well-traveled area. I mean, charts and computer records might make it more difficult than it was in Jason's day."
"There is magic which would make it impossible for outsiders to find, but you're right," Hermione agreed. "And other areas with this nice a climate, in the Caribbean, for example, are just as well-traveled, not to mention they have tropical storms. That would likely be true in the Pacific as well." She paused, and said,"I suppose you, and some of the Brothers, could put up strong enough weather wards for wind. I'm not sure about any storm surges."
Harry finally picked up on the strong hints. "I'll ask."
After a few more minutes, Hermione said, "I guess there are four major possibilities."
"Well, besides making Horcruxes, becoming a vampire, or, well, dying from the curse, I could, well either of us could get killed before then," Hermione pointed out.
"True," Harry was forced to agree.
"Tutmoses had me talk to a vampire in April," Hermione said quietly.
"I know," Harry said. "I didn't want to say anything."
"Contrary to some stories, most vampires prefer tropical climates, although a number migrate to the higher latitudes during winter, to take advantage of the long nights."
"I know," Harry said, holding Hermione tightly. She didn't resist, but cried out her fear, until she fell asleep in Harry's arms.
"I don't like it," Jason growled.
"Neither do I, but it seems to be a reasonable request," Tutmoses pointed out.
"I never thought Agathon would be very interested in Quidditch,"Scorpion retorted.
"Oh, he's not interested in the Quidditch in the slightest, but, assuming he has no other motive, he is interested in the crowd,"Zara said simply. "Most of the tens of thousands are there for an outing, to see bits of the greater magical world and to have fun. These events are the greatest congregations of magical people there are, remember, and well worth seeing even if you have no interest in the sport. Another, much smaller segment, are the Quidditch fanatics. There will be a larger group there to sell to the crowds, and another group of more-or-less professional gamblers. Still, there will be many who will be there to see and been seen. They are Agathon's natural prey, the pretty faces and taut bodies, and he will want to revel in them."
"That's not what he told me, but it is generally what he meant,"Tutmoses said drily. "If he had pretended any interest in the game, I would have said no out of hand."
"Is it just him?" Scorpion asked.
The Brothers looked at each other, and each made nearly the same grimace, which amused them. Finally Jason said, "If he touches Harry, or his friends, I'll hurt him."
"And then I will remove his arms, legs, and tongue," Scorpion stated. "We'll see how he likes a thousand years like that."
"I'll tell him, if he comes within fifty feet of Harry, or hurts him or his in any way, he becomes your plaything for a hundred years," Tutmoses told Scorpion." He looked at Jason. "Then I'll give what ever is left to you."
The other Brothers nodded, satisfied.
Hermione was totally composed the next morning, and over the next seven weeks she applied her self with great diligence to learn the magical theory which would enable her to deal with the Horcrux magic the following year. During the school year, she would meet with various members of the Brotherhood every Sunday to brain-storm.
She was also pleased to learn that Brother Zara and one of the friendlier Druids would be splitting the history position. Both Dumbledore and the Board of Governors had objected, but when the pair had offered to serve with no pay on five year contracts, the Board had overruled the Headmaster and hired them.
Harry spent those same seven weeks fine-tuning his physical and magical combat skills. The couple would then spend two weeks in London, staying with Sirius, which would also allow Hermione to visit with her parents and both teens to do their shopping.
The Quidditch World Cup was being held in Britain at the end of August. Harry was of course very interested in the event, although the event itself left Hermione rather indifferent -- she did have some interest in meeting mages from around the world. While they could have gone just for the match, they would be at the site for two weeks, so they could meet the magical world, or at least a fair representation of it.
Harry was determined to have his friends nearby. While he and Hermione had received invitations to numerous private boxes, Harry had convinced Jason to buy him a nice box. Harry was disappointed to learn that the Weasleys would be in the Ministers' Box, but this allowed him to invite more students outside of Gryffindor.
While Jason could only arrange three tent sites, that hardly mattered. One tent held the Brothers and Druids who were attending, in part to keep an eye on Harry, who would be exposed in such a setting. To Harry's surprise, they would all be wearing fairly rather standard wizarding robes, as they tried to blend in. To neither Harry nor Hermione's surprise, nearly all of them were either outright Quidditch fans, or were drawn to any sort of competition.
Even though it was identical on the outside, the middle tent was much smaller on the inside. Harry and Hermione had the master suite, and there were five smaller bed-and-bath units. Jason and Sirius each occupied one, as did Luna and her father. The fifth guest was a cousin of Sirius, a Metamorphmagus who claimed her only name was Tonks. She was a probationary auror, and would have been present at the scene in any case. A little string pulling had gotten her the assignment to patrol this patch of the camp ground, plus keeping a more official eye on Harry.
While the Brothers and Druids could supply more than enough magical muscle in case of trouble, Tonks could add the added sanctions of arrest, in case the trouble did not warrant the others fully neutralizing the troublemakers.
The final tent was nearly a mansion inside. Jason had explained that it allowed magical internal expansion -- you could rent pre-fab add-on bed-and-bath units and easily add them on as needed. Dean and Neville shared one (Seamus was staying with his family in their tent in the area reserved for the Irish), as did the Patil twins and Lavender Brown. The other students in rooms were: Susan Bones and Hannah Abbott; Angelina Johnson and Alicia Spinnet; Vicky Frobisher and Katie Bell; Ernie Macmillan and Justin Finch-Fletchley; Tracey Davis and Daphne Greengrass; Anthony Goldstein and Terry Boot -- although the students would arrive over a three day period. The Patils, Mrs. Abbott, and the Davises were also there to act as chaperones.
None of the students kept early hours, other than Harry and Hermione. They were up early every morning to train. The rest of the day, they and the other students watched the camp grounds go from just over a third full to finally over-flowing. The group met mages from all over the world, and for lunch they ate widely at the various concessions which were set up outside the view of the few local Muggles.
It was Luna who first noticed that most of the North Americans they met seemed to be able to pick out the Druids who were always in Harry's vicinity. It was only then that she noted a common appearance in part of the Druids' auras, a trait she and Hermione concluded came from their common magical training. While the vast number of the Druids' people led lives separate from those of the average magical North American, it turned out that the Druids always had at least two positions at every American school of magic which was not affiliated with their faith, and a majority of the positions at the schools which were affiliated to them.
Once the trio had reached that point, Harry quickly learned to sense the Druids' common magic. Hermione was a bit distressed that she was unable to. In a discussion some of the students at the Salem Witches' Institute, however, Hermione learned that there was a simple charm which could make her more sensitive to certain elements magical signatures. She learned the charm, but did not apply it -- there seemed to be a limit of six which a person could carry, and she thought she might need that ability in the future.
Under the outside arches of the temporary stadium, numerous entrepreneurs had set up shops, which would be there until the evening before the game. There were numerous food shops, some providing food brought in via Muggle Britain, others bringing in various types of preserved foods via special Portkeys. After all, a crowd the size of this one needed a great deal of food. (There was also a group of Ministry elves, called the 'Honey Crew,' which went around collecting garbage and emptying sewage, but nearly everyone managed to avoid noticing them.)
There were numerous souvenir stands, of course, but there were also numerous curio stalls, clothing stands, potion sellers, etc. Sirius, in fact, had been rather embarrassed when Tonks had caught him buying pornographic penseive vials from one stall. Of greater interest to Hermione, the Ravenclaws, and a few others were the various book sellers and traders. Harry was more interested in some of the curio shops.
Every afternoon and evening, there were live concerts in the stadium itself (popular or folk music from around the world in the afternoons, chamber music in the evenings). At the same time, there were quite a number of impromptu musical perfomances around the campgrounds every night, which basically only died off around midnight, by strict order of the Ministry (which provoked a great deal of grumbling, and vows that this would be the last time the Cup would be held in an over-crowded place like Britain).
For all the younger mages, British and other, this was a very different look at the magical world. While there were wizarding villages, and even a few towns, around the world, there were really no wizarding cities -- the largest town, the capital of magical North America -- only had a permanent population of perhaps 20,000, swelling to 30,000 during the times when the busiest legislative sessions coincided with a Quidditch or Quodpot championship game.
Those on the outskirts of the growing crowd had to maintain appearances for the Muggle caretaker and his family, and any other Muggles who might stray past before the final, most powerful (and temporary) wards went up. But the further anyone went into the crowd, the less anyone was paying attention to 'passing' for Muggle.
"It's almost as if you can breath the magic," Luna said contentedly on the seventh night. She and Harry were sitting outside their tent with Tonks and Jason, which Hermione was busy sorting through the sixty-three volumes she had acquired that day, and the two dozen Harry had purchased for himself and the three dozen he had bought for her.
When Harry nodded, which made Tonks give them both a puzzled look, Jason spoke up. "In a sense, you two are both magical sponges. It's not totally uncommon, maybe one out of a hundred to a hundred and twenty of us have the ability. Your senses become a tad sharper, your mind a trifle more alert in the presence of a great deal of magic. Your own magic become just a bit more powerful --all these effects are temporary, of course."
He smiled at Luna. "You're even more affected, because you have empathetic gifts." He suddenly grinned more broadly. "Anyone with any prophetic gifts are banned, to make certain that they don't start making game predictions ahead of times. So far, three new seers have had their first prophecies -- fortunately not about the game." He looked at Harry. "And nothing we need concern ourselves over."
Harry merely nodded, and Tonks excused herself. She had a late-night party to go to.
"So," Jason asked teasingly, "are you or Hermione going to tell our Druid friends you can now pick them out of a crowd?"
"They don't know?" Harry asked, surprised.
"I don't know," Jason confessed. "Since that charm you learned yesterday seems to have permeated the general magical culture of North America, one would think the Druids would know. But, to tell the truth, we didn't know about it."
"Do we want to know how you found out?" Harry asked slyly.
"Actually, you probably would, but I won't tell you," Jason teased back.
"You do know, don't you, that your group has its own set of magical signatures?" Luna asked.
"Really?" Jason was obviously surprised.
Luna nodded. "I can pick out your group more easily than I can the Druids." She frowned. "Actually, there was another man I spotted last evening with the same magic, but he stayed well-away from us. Is he one of you, or merely like you, if you know who I mean?"
Jason grimaced. "Agathon is one of us, alas. I must say, he does not approve of our working with Harry, and had been warned to stay well-away from Europe. However, he asked permission to attend. He is not only a magical sponge, but he's also a hedonist, asensualist, and an Epicurean in the modern sense, if you know what I mean."
Luna thought about that for a moment, and then said, "I believe so." She glanced around, and then whispered, "So, he's another immortal? I had wondered."
Jason was startled, but he immediately saw Harry was as well. Jason locked eyes with Luna, but quickly looked away.
"That was rude," Luna mildly scolded.
Jason shook his head, trying to clear the headache looking briefly into Luna's mind had caused.
"How did you. . . ." Harry started.
"As I know most things," Luna said simply. "Intuition for insights, and then applied logic. Once a series of results are obvious, it is merely a matter of testing them and seeing what remains possible."
"Like those snorkicks. . . ."
"The Crumple-Horned Snorkack," Luna corrected gently. "At the moment, I have no proof for their non-existence. Until I do, their existence is at least equally likely." She looked back at Jason."Are you Jason?"
"He was my maternal grandfather," Jason answered. Seeing Luna's next question, he continued, "Medea did not kill one of her daughters, the only magical one. My mother."
"So, will you do whatever it is that you have to do to become immortal with Hermione?" Luna asked Harry.
"No," Harry said. "For some reason, the ceremony doesn't work for women. Hermione will be studying it to see if she can see why. In any case, if I do it, I need to be around twenty-five. They are willing to let Hermione try it earlier than they normally would if they think it might work."
Luna thought for a moment, and then asked, "Is this to do with Voldemort splitting his soul into that diary that possessed Ginny?"
"Yes," Harry said before Jason could stop him.
"That bit of soul . . . it was split off in some sort of ceremony involving death, if what little I've learned about Tom Riddle is accurate," Luna mused. "Yes," Luna said, looking at them, "I can see that's true. Perhaps you should take into consideration that a woman's magic does not traditionally express itself by conquest, and the taking of life is in some ways the ultimate conquest. We give life, not take it. Perhaps you should consider the implications of creating life, especially as the curse she is under is from Hera -- a goddess of marriage and childbirth."
"But Hermione can't have children," Harry pointed out sadly.
"True, and that would have been easiest thread to follow. Still, there should be other options." Luna stood. "Good night."
"Damn," Jason said, confused.
The students had all enjoyed the game, although some, especially the Quidditch players, had enjoyed more than some of the others, like Hermione. She was really only interested in watching Quidditch when Harry was playing.
The game had not been quite as lop-sided as many punters had predicted. Still, nearly everyone had predicted that if the game went too long, Ireland would beat Bulgaria, which is what had happened. Young Quidditch sensation Viktor Krum had caught the snitch only when the game was already out of reach -- and when it was clear that his team would not catch up.
The teens had been warned to stay close to the tents, as the Irish were drinking and celebrating, while the Bulgarians were drowning their sorrows. At first, the screams were indistinguishable from the other loud noises. It was Luna who had abruptly stood up and pointed.
When the others stood, they saw that some of the tents on the parameter were going up in flames. Harry ducked into his tent and shouted for Jason, while Hermione aroused the guard tent.
The Brothers and Druids sent the students in their tents, despite their protests. Only Harry was held back by Jason. With his back to his tent, Harry was safe from that direction, and Jason and Sirius were flanking him. The Brothers and Druids quickly split up, a third remaining to guard Harry, the other two thirds preparing to fan out with Tonks to see what they could do to help.
"Look!" Sirius exclaimed, pointing up.
"Shite," Tonks muttered.
"What is it?" Harry asked as the Druids and Brothers not guarding the tent sprinted off with Tonks in tow.
"The Dark Mark," Sirius answered. "Voldemort's Mark. He's telling the world he's back.
The Death Eaters were gone long before any of the Aurors had made it over to their location, let alone any of the Brothers or Druids. Two dozen tents had been heavily damaged, and over fifty more had suffered some damage. Sixty wizards and witches had been hurt, some badly, although all would recover.
Unmentioned in the reports were the deaths of the Muggle family which operated the camping area.
Everyone at the site was packing by the very early dawn the next morning, even though most of the visitors would have to unpack --it would take a week to arrange enough Portkeys for them to leave. The Brotherhood and Druids could arrange their own transport, of course, and would take care of Portkeying Harry's guests, although Luna's father would be returning that afternoon to cover the evacuation. Luna would be coming with Harry and Hermione.
So, when a stone-faced Cobra and a grim-faced Scorpion appeared alittle after 6:30 that morning, the tents were already packed."What's happened?" Jason muttered, so as not to attract attention.
Cobra brought Jason, Harry, and Sirius aside. "The news will hit the Wizarding Wireless at seven o'clock, but we need to get you out of here now," Scorpion told Harry.
"What has happened?" Jason again demanded.
"Last night was a diversion," Cobra answered. "At midnight, as the Auror corps was cleaning things up here, looking for suspects, and tracking down suspected Death Eaters, Voldemort freed his followers who were in Azkaban. According to the one survivor, well at least until she died an hour ago, Voldemort led the assault himself -- he is back in humanoid form. From the changes she described, he either had or now has one more Horcrux, just as we feared. The prisoners who refused to join him were killed or Kissed, and the Dementors left with Voldemort as well."
"We have allowed the initiative to drop from our grasp," Jason said in disgust.
"We have," Cobra agreed. "If we can not find a good lead, then he will retain that initiative for now as well."