Chapter 28: Headline News
The place could be quite spooky even on nights such as these.
The spacy, large grounds were completly devoid of human life, many of the rusty swings were giving out low, squeaky noises as the wind gently moved them. The old amusement park had once been a magnifiscent sight to behold.
Now however it lay old, rusty, abandoned and forgotten. Well... not exactly forgotten...
Roughly twenty years ago the strangest of incidents had occured here. To this very day the people of the nearby town are still talking about it sometimes. Some even had their families torn apart by the incident.
It were a virtual night of pure terror and no one was quite sure of what actually happened. All anyone knew was, that some massive tragedy had befallen the park. Attractions were falling apart left and right during rides, several stands were destroyed as though by explosions - the entire park mysteriously turned to hell in a single night. When the authorities came to the scene, they found the park completly devastated with no less than a hundred people all dead on the ground. A great ammount of people however dissapeared without a single trace and those rare few, that DID survive have never been right again. Various medical specialists were perplexed. Though neither of them had sustained any physical damage as far as they could tell, the victims - regardless of their various ages - had been reduced to nothing but empty, soulless shells.
To this day, the friends and families of the poor victims continue to gather once a year, on the date of the tragedy, at the memorial built for them by a generous business-man ( whose reason for doing so still remained a mystery to many) on a clearing overlooking the tragic park.
Naturally this tragedy had given birth to quite a few tales, legends, myths and of course ghost-stories as the time went by. And naturally, as the years went by, quite a few boys and young men had ignored the warnings from the authorities NOT to approach the place or pass beyond its gates. And this night would certainly be no exception to the rule, as a trio of new challengers stepped closer to the closed enterance gates of the once lively amusement park.
The three seventeen-year students came to a halt and their obvious leader - a short, skinny, black-haired boy looked at his watch.
"Hm... just a minute left to midnight. Excellent timing, mates. Only 19 minutes from our room to the gates. No way our Head can notice, that we´re out of bed."
"I - I don´t like this idea, Paul..."whimpered a taller, but thinner, messy-haired boy.
"Yeah... you know the legends, right? They say this place is... haunted."said the medium-sized, slightly fat boy with long, straight hair and glasses.
Paul rolled his eyes and looked to his two cohorts.
"Douglas, Lawrence... get a bloody grip on yourselfs!"
The pair of them didn´t seem to take the advice to heart and started doing the exact opposite.
"B - but, don´t you remember the tales? The ghostly moaning of the poor man, who was crushed under the ferry-wheel?"
"Or - or the one about the poor souls, who are trapped here forever?"
"Or the one about the young girl, who got separated from her boyfriend and got killed?"
"Or the one about the dissapeared victims rising from the ground near the old puppet theatre?"
"Or the one about the evil, cackling spirit who was the cause of all this? They say that he´s still looking for more innocent souls to trap here!"
"Or the one, where you two finally shut-up?!"exclaimed Paul, bringing an end to their whimpering.
"I repeat - those are merely stupid myths and ghost-stories made to frighten first-years. But just imagine the looks on everyone´s faces, when they hear that we have not only been here, but also brought back photos and souvernirs to prove it - we´ll become Smeltings´ legends."said Paul, pulling out a flashlight and a photo-camera out of his backpack as he did.
Douglas and Lawrence shared a small, doubtfull look as their leader´s face hardened.
"I´m NOT losing to that fat pig Dursley and his music-mates THIS year. Everyone thinks they´re so special with their band, their writing, their art, their drawings and God-knows-what else!"growled the arch-enemy of Dudley Dursley.
"THIS year it´ll be different. I´ll show him once and for all, who´s the coolest student at Smeltings."he said determinedly as he pulled out two other flashlights, handing them out to his cohorts.
Though the two other boys were no more eager to enter the park as they were a moment ago, they nonetheless nodded.
"Okay then... here we go."he said, lighting his flashlight and pushing the giant, rusty gate open with a loud squeaking noise.
His two trusty cohorts followed, lighting their flashlights as well. Slowly, silently, the trio passed trough the pair of old, mouldy, brocken, wooden ticket stands. As they moved along past the booths, something reall odd has happened.
Their flashlights blinked a number of times as a small gust of wind passed trough them and they heared the front gate squeak again before closing itself with a loud snap.
Douglas and Lawrence gave out a frightened yelp as Paul rolled his eyes and sighed.
"Its just the wind, scaredy-cats."he muttered.
"I - I thought, I heared a low laugh right behind us!"whimpered Lawrence, looking around franticly and flashing with his flashlight, only to find that there was nothing there.
"See? It was just the wind. Now come ON!"said Paul with another eyeroll.
They moved further, crossing a small bridge under which a large stream was flowing. Douglas and Lawrence gasped as they saw the clearing before a large worn-down building. Though severely damaged with an entire side of the wall missing - almost as if blasted apart - the still-open door was showing the relatively undamaged interior inside. Above the front door there was a large wooden sign, along with two masks - a smiling, and a frowning one. Though the paint had long-since faded, it was still easy to read the sign that read "THE PUPPET WORD".
"Perfect."breathed Paul, at once aiming his camera and taking a few pictures with a snap.
Lawrence thought, he had seen the faint outlines of a person nearby as the flash illuminated the area around.
"Let´s move along. See what else we can find."breathed Paul in excitement, already moving along.
Douglas and Lawrence shared a small, worried look. However, propelled by another gust of wind from the back, they swiftly followed their leader.
As they moved along, Paul was taking one picture after another, the light flashing and reflecting slightly off the dirty, and often brocken windows of the small, damaged buildings. Douglas and Lawrence stuck together closely, looking around. Though plants and smaller trees had steadily been growing over everything, there was no hiding the severe damage the park must have sustained in the incident.
"What the hell must have happened here?"breathed Douglas quetly as Paul took a photo of a heavily damaged ride.
"It almost looks as though it was blown apart..."noted Lawrence, his eyes scanning the odd way the rusty carts were positioned.
"Who cares. Let´s check the House of Mirrors over there."said Paul excitedly, pointing to the relatively undamaged building up-front, which was labled just that.
They climbed the small, wooden stairs up to the enterance door, which was flanked by two giant mirrors.
"My Dad told me about these - they´re supposed to distort your reflection... how can anyone find that funny?"he said, shaking his head.
He moved a bit infront of the mirror, eager to see how it works.
"The hell? Nothing is happening..."he muttered and indeed, his reflection was exactly as it was.
"Wait a minute... howcome the mirror is so clean?"breathed Douglas, coming closer and barely able to believe it.
Paul also looked into the mirror in disbelief, but at once saw that his friend was right - the mirror was spotless... As the two boys tried to puzzle out the riddle behind the clean mirror in an abandoned, destroyed park, another gust of wind blew across the park, but this one was much stronger than ever before. Lawrence gave out a startled yelp and backed up, bumping into them.
"What are you doing?"exclaimed Paul, who was nearly knocked into the mirror.
Both gasped as they saw his face - pure white and terrified.
"D-didn´t you hear it? T-that m-m-moan...?"he stuttered trough his trembling lips.
Douglas gasped, but Paul goaned and turned towards the mirror.
"Didn´t I tell you its just the wind?!"he snapped in annoyance.
However just then a loud, painfull moan was heared. Then another one. And another one - it were as though someone was in mortal agony, but was unable to give out more than the moaning. Lawrence and Douglas dropped their flashlights and embraced one another, shaking in fear as the wind was blowing again. Paul also started to feel his fear rising as the moaning was growing louder and echoing across the park. He lowered the flashlight and looked into the mirror, in order to see what was behind them.
Just as another frightening moan of pain was heared, Paul screamed. Douglas and Lawrence turned to him, and saw what he was pointing at, even as his flashlight was blinking. Both boys screamed as well as they saw it, even in the pale moonlight - BLOOD!
Trickles of blood were slowly flowing down the smooth surface of the clean mirror - as if the mirror was bleeding as it reflected the three scared boys. They each took a frightened step back as another moan was heared, even louder thistime. A misty form was slowly appearing behind them, coming into view though the three could see no one there, as they looked over their shaking shoulders.
The last flashlight fell to the ground as Douglas and Lawrence screamed again, but their scream could not possibly match that of Paul´s, when they saw the misty form take shape and embrace his reflection.
Paul´s eyes were bulging out, his heart hammering like crazy, his lungs desperately pumping the much needed oxygen and his mind was utterly roaring with terror, as he watched his terrified reflection being held as if in a death-grip by the most horrid thing he had EVER seen - a woman, her skin tight and chalk-white, her arms bony and the most hideous smile on her blue lips which were seen between the plaits of her long, black, dead-looking hair.
"NOOOOOOOOOOO!"he roared, backing away and falling trough the old, wooden frame, landing on the ground.
The painfull moan was heared once again, accompanied by a chilling, evil laugh of a woman.
Paul scrambled to his feet and started to run, his two friends not far behind. They ran screaming to the bridge, the woman´s laughter following them like a ghost. They barely even took notice of their sheer need for air, or the increacing tiredness they were feeling from running more than they ever have before. However, as soon as they crossed the bridge, it chaught up with them, making them all fall to their knees and gasp for breath.
"We-we-we have to get out of here..."gasped Douglas, looking frightenedly at his two friends.
"L-let´s get to the gate and run..."nodded Lawrence.
Both were shocked to hear a sob coming from their leader - never had they seen him cry.
"P-Paul... come on... we have to run. We have to... AAAAARGH!"
Paul and Lawrence looked swiftly to Douglas and screamed in turn. Douglas´ anckle had been held by a hand - a bony, human hand which was sticking from the ground.
Both instantly scrambled to his side, grabbing him by the shoulders and pulling him away with all their might, as they heared the womanly voice laugh again. With an allmighty tug they managed to wrestle the tallest boy´s foot from the bony hand, sending all three of them flying backwards to the ground. As they rolled around on their stomachs, they looked up to see a sight, common in horror movies.
Several other hands have burst trough the soil and started to rise, pulling themselves up from the depths of earth.
The boys screamed again in terror as no less than twenty forms were emerging from the ground - men, women, even children - all of them bony, their flesh decomposing, their rotten faces blank and unknowing.
The boys screamed into the night again as they saw a small army of undead rise up and start taking slow paces towards them. Wasting not a second, they scrambled to their feet again and made a break for the gate as the voice laughed hystericly thistime, accompanying them as they litterally smashed trough the wooden booth and started to pull on the closed, rusty gate.
"It-it won´t budge...!"screamed Lawrence, his voice as high as a little girl´s.
The three pulled on the gate with all their might, only to find their combined attempt completly futile. The woman´s voice laughed again.
"It is useless... there is no escape! YOU... ARE... MINE!"
"NOOOOOOOOOOO!"the boys roared in union, as the voice laughed hystericly again.
The undead were closing in on them, their hands blindly reaching forward...
"OVER THE GATE! FAST!"shouted Paul, and the two other boys needed not telling twice.
They reached and clawed their way up the rusty gate, jumping over it, landing painfully on the ground and moaning in pure pain, wondering whether they have brocken anything. However, any single thought of their injuries or fatigue were at once forgotten as the bony hands reached for them trough the gate - the closed, rusty old gate being the only thing that separated them from certain doom.
"You can NEVER escape ME!"called the female voice menacingly and from somewhere backwards another voice laughed - a high, cold, drawn-out laugh that had the power to freeze the very blood in your veins.
With another ear-piercing scream of pure terror, the three boys started to run again, determined to put as much space between them and the undead as humanly possible, as the combined pair of laughes echoed into the night.
As soon as they were distant away enough, the undead stopped trying to reach trough the gate and turned as one. They all turned to another figure that seemed to have appeared out of thin air - a young, reddish-haired, seventeen-year-old girl, who was still chaught in a fit of laughter.
However, as they approached her, they came to a halt, stopping harmlessly as the girl still panted for breath.
"That will be all for today, ladies and gentlemen. Return!"
She waved her wand as she gave out the command and the Inferi instantly obeyed her, returning to their holes and dissapearing under ground.
Daphne Greengrass laughed again as she saw the three figures run on the distant road, still visible in the moonlight dispite the closed gate - they seemed to have ran quite a distance in the short ammount of time, their screams echoing even in the distance.
"Muggles... they´re so fun to play with..."she commented to no one in particural.
A high, well-known laugh in the distance had not only told her, that she wasn´t the only one who was of that opinion, but also that the one she had been waiting for weeks, had finally returned. A sunny smile graced her lips and she turned her head towards the building of the old Fun House - the largest building in the amusement-park - where a person could be seen, standing on the roof.
She grinned as she heared him still laughing and gestured for him to come down. The figure nodded, but made a hand gesture, that said quite plainly "In a bit..." before it moved and disappeared from view.
A mischievous grin lit on her face as she looked at the moon and closed her eyes, allowing her thoughts to roam freely.
Never once would her idiot parents allow her to stay up so late at night... Or enjoy the kind of fun she had enjoyed just now...
She could almost hear her mother scolding...
"A Noble-lady is not SUPPOSED to have fun!"
Oh, she heared that lession over and over again, as the years went by...
A wry smile came over Daphne as she could still hear the trio´s terrified screams echoing into the night.
"Guess again, you stupid bitch! I´m having ALL the fun in the world!"
Walking down the stairs of the roof, fully in control of the Chosen One´s body, Lord Voldemort was still chuckling.
He had finally been able to dissapear from Hogwarts undetected - with that old fool Dumbledore out of the castle for the night and the other Professors, who could alert him sound asleep. And just when he appeared on the rooftop, he was treated to Daphne´s little game with those three filthy little Muggles. He had to admit - the girl had one hell of a sence of humor.
He had not pulled something similar since his days in the orphanage and the sight was oddly refreshing. For some reason he felt as young and mischievous as he had not felt for years - just like he had felt, when he played his little pranks on his fellow in-mates.
A part of him was roaring deep aprooval at Daphne for this - he had not seen a single Death Eater of his, in all these years do something, even remotely similar. Most would simply torture them with the Cruciatus Curse, or something to that effect. But Daphne´s playing around... it just seemed so... appealing.
Walking down the stairs, he heared that the moans he had heared echoing across the park had been coming from downstairs. He briefly wondered, what could be causing them.
Opening the wonderfull door, he entered a circural room. Nicely decorated, illuminated with pools of green light, it was large and roomy enough to house all of his faitfull ones at once - he had already heared of the few celebrations his Death Eaters had here.
Now however, the room was deserted and only two people were in it.
One of them was letting out the loud, painfull moans as he was lying on his back in mid-air - no doubt by a Levitation Charm. The person was naked, with his robes on the ground underneath him - well, what was left of them. Voldemort narrowed his red eyes in curiosity as the person started to moan in pure agony. Voldemort watched curiously as the person´s already red and diseased-looking flesh started to lower itself - as though something was eating the very flesh of the person, who was, judging by the painfull moans, able to feel every single bit of it. As the moans reached their peek, a small piece of blackenned, smelly, rotting flesh fell from his right leg, landing on top of the ruined fabric of the robes and dissolving into bits of sinew. At once, the flesh of the person had began to repair itself. In a matter of seconds, it grew back and started to appear quite normal and healthy and Voldemort was now able to recodnize the face of the person - Marcus Flint.
However, the moment the flesh had healed, the curse seemed to have come into effect and at once and Marcus´ eyes bulged, his healthy fresh starting to decompose yet again. His open eyes were the only thing moving, his lips were locked - no doubt by a Freezing Charm, which was preventing him from moving a muscle as he was slowly and very painfully decomposing alive.
"My Lord."came Barty Crouch´s voice from behind him.
"Interesting curse..."breathed Voldemort, honestly unable to say, that he had EVER seen a more fearsome one.
Barty betrayed a smile.
"Daphne´s new creation, my Lord."he said, also betraying a note of pride.
Voldemort´s eyebrows shot up.
"Daphne´s?"he breathed, betraying a note of astonishment.
"Yes, my Lord. You see... you left behind some of the notes from the Dark Repository for us all to learn. Daphne learned them all in a matter of three days. Afterwards... she simply got... inventive."
Voldemort turned his sights to the decomposing body of Marcus Flint, who was moaning in brutal agony.
"Outstanding... but why did she try it on Marcus?"
"She merely used her Top Right, my Lord."answered Barty.
The Top Right was something the Prefect system of Hogwarts had long since inspired him as he created the Death Eater ranks.
Those hand-picked by him alone - his most faithfull - had rights above normal Death Eaters and were answerable ONLY to him. They had the power to lead, organize minor missions and also, they had the right to punish others, who didn´t have the right... so long as they actually wouldn´t kill them - he was the only one who had THAT right.
The Top Right was something, that he could both give and also take away, whenever he liked. It was a masterstroke, that led to a small amount of everlasting competition among his own ranks, as much as it ensured discipline.
During the Second Wizarding War, only three people had that right - Barty, Bellatrix and Dolohov.
One single exception in the entire Death Eater group was Wormtail, who had the status of Protection - meaning, that he was both only answerable to HIM, but also he could never be granted the Top Right (another masterstroke for Wormtail´s benefit - naming him his Left Hand).
But now, a new recent addition, came up - one that had mystified most of the other Death Eaters: Daphne.
And by the looks of it, she had already made his point by using her new right in such a powerfull way.
"Ah...? What did Marcus do to deserve Daphne´s punishment?"he asked curiously, fully aware that the Nobles were having a party tonight.
"Marcus wanted to adress the issue of the Masked Wizard. So, he and little Theo Nott had snuck into the The Slughorn garden along with a small group of our Puppets, dressing up in masks. His plan was to raise a small wave of terror over the Nobles by attacking the guests in the garden and blame it all on the Masked Wizard, which would of course make the hunt for him more intense."
Voldemort snorted. He was of course also fully aware, that Harry Potter would be present at the party, along with his little friends.
"And he thought the Masked Wizard would just sit aside and watch it all happen?"he asked with a note of humor.
Barty however shook his head.
"No. But he was under the impression, that his involvement would certainly point all figers on him. It would have worked, had he not underestimated other factors as well..."
Voldemort quirked an eyebrow at his right hand in question as Marcus gave out a series of extremly painful moans, his flesh going black and several rotten chunks fell from his body to the floor.
"The Vigilante Task Force. He didn´t think they would actually be able to manoovre trough the Dark Magical Mist, he and Theo casted. Or that Theo would get chaught..."
"WHAT?!"exclaimed Voldemort, his red eyes flashing as they turned to the moaning Flint.
NOW Voldemort understood, why Daphne cast her new curse at him and ensured, that he wouldn´t be able to even scream as he would decompose and heal in a circle - and he agreed whole-heartedly.
"Apparently he had been chaught by Malfoy junior, just as Marcus was taking the time to torture his little cousin. It is all settled though, my Lord. He had arrived just as me and Daphne returned from our little mission and Daphne instantly summoned Wormtail. Thanks to him and our little friends at the Ministry, she had been able to quickly sort the mess out. Though she had to leave Theo behind bars, she had made it appear as though he had been under the Imperius Curse, by modifying his memory just in time, before the Auror lot could get to interrogate him."said Barty calmly.
Voldemort could feel himself calm down significantly. Instantly he felt a great ammount of pride at Daphne for her swift action, also thinking that this warranted a handsome reward.
Marcus´ moans had reached their peak and his rotten, smelly, blackened flesh had started to regenerate once again, bringing Voldemort out of his musings.
"Barty...? You said, that Marcus returned just as YOU and Daphne did? What little mission of yourse were you referring to?"he asked, instantly looking his right-hand into the eyes, his Legilimency power on at maximum.
"Daphne had asked me to allow her, to relay her little project to you in private. But I can honestly say, my Lord... that it is an amazing project indeed. She has a small plan that should help our cause - we certainly cannot allow Fudge to lose the Minister´s chair yet."
Voldemort narrowed his eyes slightly - he didn´t like it, when something was going on without his notice.
"Yes... hm, who knows of this... project?"he asked carefully, masking his small annoyance.
"Only Daphne and me. She needed my assistance with it, which is why she had told me of her secret investigations. She trusted me to keep it a secret and told me, that she wants to be the first to inform you of it."
There was no lie in what he had said - his powers had informed him of it. He thought about it for a moment... and he once more felt his annoyances melt away, the more he thought about it.
"All right. I shall go an meet Daphne outside. I know where she is."
"Oopsie... I take it, that you had seen her having fun with our... ah, guests."
The very mention of it made Voldemort´s lips form an amused smile.
"Yes. Playfull girl."he noted cheerfully.
Barty nodded knowingly.
"As the Sensory wards have alerted us that they were coming, she had asked me to lower the Muggle Repelling ward and ordered others not to get in her way. She needed to vent some stress, since Marcus had gotten her quite angry."
Voldemort nodded in understanding before turning to Marcus, whose eyes darted to him.
"Well, Marcus. I trust, that you have already learned, not to act so foolishly again. I have no need to punish you further. Daphne´s punishment should make you remember to be more vigilant in the future."he said almost pleasantly, as though he were a Professor standing over a first-year in detention.
He turned away just as the curse came into effect again and Marcus started to moan all over again.
"Well now... I see I have a small conversation outside..."said Voldemort in an off-handed tone, dispite the fact that the person behind him was moaning in increacing pain again.
"I think I will drop by the kitchen. Those puny party-snacks had certainly left me with an appetite."noted Barty, dispite the fact that the smell of rotten flesh in the room would have left most people unable to eat anything for at least a few good hours.
Voldemort quirked an eyebrow at the statement as Barty bowed him and left trough one of the doors nearby.
Shaking his head, he left out the different - the biggest - door.
Stepping out of the building of the Fun House, he looked around and expecting to see Daphne but she was nowhere around. At once he grinned, shaking his head and drawing out his wand.
"Playfull girl indeed."he muttered happily, as he looked around the deserted park.
"I am sorry to have kept you waiting, Daphne."he called, looking around with a small smile.
Out of nowhere, a curse flew trough the air and straight at him. Voldemort quickly blocked it, just as several other had flown from different directions. Using a special little creation of his, Voldemort blasted the curses away from himself, the curses damaging some of the objects around. He looked around for her, but all he could hear was her distant giggle.
"I will always wait for YOU, my Lord."he heared her call, but he couldn´t precicely tell where was if coming from.
He grinned to himself - she obviously had talent for hiding and stricking unexpectadly. Plus the way she had said "my Lord" just now...
He swiftly shook his head clear just as another curse flew. Swiftly blocking it, a small smile had spread on his lips. Suddenly the very ground beneath him shook and vines had appeared out of it, wrapping around him tightly and raising him off the ground.
Daphne quirked an eyebrow from her hiding place. She allowed a small moment of silence to endure before she sing-songed "Got you...", while her Charm still did not give away her position.
Suddenly, she felt the ground under HER feet tremble and she swiftly jumped aside as the ground caved-in under her feet. She quickly cast a Disillusionment Charm on herself before she could appear in her master´s field of vision. She held in a gasp, when she saw that he was nowhere to be seen. Silently she moved behind the brocken ferris-wheel, intent on getting an advantage in this little game. With a small yelp, she felt something large and powerfull wrap tightly around her and raise her off the ground.
Most people - let alone girls - would positively freak out, if they had been hoisted into the air and moved along by a giant snake, but Daphne´s face broke into a wide, mischievous smile dispite the fact that she was held up-side down as she was delivered to her master.
Voldemort´s smile had stretched itself on the face of Neville Longbottom as far as it could possibly go, his red eyes twinkling.
"On the contrary, my dear Daphne - I´ve got YOU."he said with a note of mischief.
Daphne fixed him a sunny, upside-down smile, admitting defeat in this little game.
"In more ways than ONE, my Lord."she breathed lovingly, moving her head slightly forward as if in an invitation - one that her beloved master could easily read.
With a grin, he moved in and siezed her lips with his, using his hand to hold her head closer from the back as they shared a passionate, needy, upside-down kiss.
An hour later, the pair of them were enjoying a leisurely stroll in the moonlight as Daphne filled him in on the details of her secret project.
Voldemort couldn´t help but be awed at the bold experiment and the fact, that SHE of all people had been on a Muggle High Society Party to get the information she needed. She was surprising him more and more...
But when she relayed certain amusing pieces of information to him, he couldn´t help but dissolve into genuine laughter.
"He didn´t... "he breathed, still chortling in laughter.
Daphne smiled mischievously - he had really grown to like that laugh... in fact, more than simply like...
"I assure you, my Lord - thanks to me... he DID. Quite the dancer too, by the looks of it. That young muggle woman was certainly NOT complaining."she said, allowing him access to the memory of Barty´s strained grimace as he tried not to give himself away, while dancing.
They shared a long laugh together as they sat down on a bench he had conjured with a lazy wave of his wand.
"Ah, good old Barty. He is indeed worthy of being my right-hand."he said, his red eyes tracking the damaged amusement park.
"This place was the very first time he went into action, you know."he said, surprising her.
He nodded to her and smiled as he relived those days for a while - those golden days, when he had the country in a grip of terror, when Dumbledore´s idiotic Order was putting up only the feeblest of resistances and of course, when that meddlesome masked brat named Harry Potter didn´t even EXIST yet.
"Back then, the Nobles didn´t have near enough say with the Minister for Magic as they have now. The old hag Bagnold was really pressing and was making certain things difficult for me... at the time, I threatened her with a mass Muggle killing unless she kindly stood aside. Though she had delayed a troublesome piece of legislation, I saw that she had no plans in seeing sence. Barty was in the same age as you are now, when he came to me. I at once saw, what a Death Eater he could make. And he didn´t dissapoint me even in his very first task - I´ve sent him, Bellatrix, Nott, Rodolphus, Dolohov, Rosier and Wilkes here with a few Dementors. I´ve given him the position of the mission leader as a test, to see how good he was and before I knew it, we´ve made the Headline News."
Daphne looked around the destroyed park and then fixed him a look of awe.
"Well... your secret project will very likely make Headline News as well."
Daphne couldn´t help but blush at the look of pride, he was giving her. Even more so, as he placed his palm on her cheek.
"In one single day, you´ve proven to me... just what an amazing witch you really are. You were able to start putting your secret plan into motion and even capable of saving what Marcus so foolishly messed up."
"I did it for YOU, my Lord."she breathed earnestly, intent on making her emotion show clearly in her mind, so that he could be sure beyond any doubt and she could tell by the look on his face, that he had felt as much.
Voldemort smiled slightly before going in for another kiss, but thistime... he felt himself relax to her touch as she responded with passion.
He had made up his mind about something - something he had been wondering about for the past weeks, though he felt almost childish and ashamed to admit it. But with Daphne... it somehow... it somehow felt right...
As soon as they separated, he reached into his robes and pulled out a small ball, pressing it into her palm.
"Only Barty and Wormtail have these. They are the means of undetectable communication with me, while I am at Hogwarts."
Daphne gasped happily, knowing full-well what it means.
Voldemort grimaced a bit - making Neville Longbottom´s face look quite strange - and Daphne could tell, that he was stuggling with himself a bit.
"My Lord...?"she enquired surprisingly gently.
"Tom..."he said quickly, almost as if he were afraid that he would lose the courage to do it.
Daphne raised a curious eyebrow as he continued to struggle with himself.
"I... I haven´t used that name for years... I-I never liked it... But you see... my... my Mother... she, she told me that names matter and that... but I still do not want to..."
Daphne was barely able to believe what she was seeing - for a moment... she could see the orphaned boy, who had hid himself infront of the world under all that brilliance and power, who had never once felt comfortable in showing his real face to anyone.
Thistime it was HER, who reached out and placed a palm to his cheek, going in for a reassuring kiss.
"Its okay. Its okay. You don´t have to..."she whispered as they separated.
"But I want to."he answered quickly, surprising her again.
"To you and ONLY you... and only when we are alone... I... I want you to call me by... by my birth-name. It... it doesn´t feel right for you to... you are more than just anyone..."he said, trying to tell her his new-found wish, dispite the fact that a part of him was afraid to admit something of the sort.
He could tell, that thanks to her Legilimency she had understood, what his now-vunerable mind was saying.
"You will never have to hide yourself before me... my L... no... Tom."she whispered with such sincirety, that he felt something that was left in him from his earliest orphanage days stirr.
After who-knows how many years... he had finally felt... safe... safe enough to remove the mask, he had been hiding behind all this time for one single person.
He allowed her to pull him into her arms and with a small gasp he was blasted back to the days, when he craved just such a touch... the sence of safety, as he felt her fingers stroke his hair (even if it wasn´t exactly HIS) was incredible...
For a long moment, they remained like that... enjoying the peacefull silence under the moonlight.
"You know, Daphne... "he breathed, drawing her curiosity even as they still remained as they were.
"I would like to know everything... everything about YOU too."he said sincirely - something so alien to him, but right now... so easy, as though he was capable of it all along.
Daphne smiled a bit.
Though she knew, they had a limited ammount of time - he has to be back at Hogwarts before sunrise, as not to arouse suspition - she thought, that she should also share her life-story too.
"Awww... bummer, bummer, bummer!"exclaimed Alice miserably, much to the amusement of her siblings-in-law.
Arthur, James and Molly also chuckled, along with Fidus and Apricie, who had dropped by and positively begged Molly to allow them to help with the breakfast which she did, but only under the condition, that they will eat along with them as family - something that earned her a sunny smile from Hermione.
The king-size family breakfast was in full-swing, dispite the early morning hour - the Sunday Prophet didn´t even arrive yet.
Molly had been slightly surprised, that her children were up so early on a Sunday morning. They were - with the exception of Bill and Percy - notoriously heavy sleepers. Moreso, their yesterday party had lasted until midnight.
Molly however didn´t have to guess twice to know the reason for it - the looks, most of them were shooting at the two only unoccupied chairs at the giant table, had told her all she needed to know.
Alice, not able to hold it any longer, had just voiced her deep wish of hearing, what happened at the Noble party.
"NO, Alice! Let your brother and sister-in-law have their rest."said Lily sternly, watching her daughter fold her arms sulkily.
"Who knows when did they get back. Poor dears... they must be exhausted."said Molly fondly, nodding her head.
"Oh, I´m sure that Ginny is, Mum Weasley. But not my brother - he´s a Potter afterall."said Alice, pumping her chest proudly.
Fred, George, Charlie and Ron fixed her a sheepish smile, as their significant others shared a smug smile and the parents shared a laugh. All knew, that in contrast Weasley kids, the Potter kids were notoriously early risers. Only rarely did they oversleep... also, everyone in the family now knew of Harry´s sunday ritual.
"Well, don´t count on it thistime, Alice. The Slughorns can really throw one hell of a party."said James with a grin.
Lily nodded - the Potter family always had a good relationship with the Slughorns and even she, when she was still Lily Evans...
"I still remember the very first party I attended there... in my third-year at Hogwarts."she said musingly, thinking back to those days.
"I must´ve been lovely."breathed Audrey happily, secretly wishing that she could one day attend such a High Class party.
Lily however quickly frowned and shot a glare at her husband.
"It was. That´s until a certain someone decided to prank half of the Slug Club."
Most of the table chuckled. Alice, Fred, George and Ron all turned star-eyed at their most favourite Marauder, who was grinning as he started to recount the party, inspiring much laughter at his and Sirius´ youthfull misadventures.
"Yup... made the Headlines with that one..."said James proudly, as he finished the tale with their master-prank, that fell on - surprisingly - Severus Snape´s head.
Fred and George exchanged a look of sheer amazement.
"... LEGEND!"exclaimed both as one.
Molly was shaking her head with a small smile, while Percy was looking shocked, that a Noble child could EVER act that way and even Apricie couldn´t help but give out a sigh.
"Master James is always being a naughty boy."she muttered, shaking her head.
The table chuckled, only imagining what a mischievous child James Potter must´ve been. Alice was grinning proudly and even Fidus couldn´t help but chuckle, drawing his mate´s glare.
"AND Fidus is always being supporting it!"
Many could easily guess, that the old house-elf must have played his share of roles in James´ antics, while he was still his personal house-elf. A theory, that was confirmed, when Fidus shook his head in mild-stubbornness.
"It is Fidus´ duty to take care of his young master. That is also meaning to be supporting."he said, as though that settled the matter, but it was very clear that Apricie certainly didn´t like it.
"Well... you must´ve had it interesting with James, eh Fidus?"asked Arthur kindly, with a smile at both him and James.
"Most interesting, yes."nodded Fidus, while exchanging a small wink with his former young master.
"Yes, yes, yes - brilliant teamwork, you two. But... the way I heared it, Fidus... even this teamwork was short-lived when Mum Dorea came into the picture."said Lily, looking at the pair slyly.
Fidus and James had instantly gulped as the table roared in laughter, while Lily exchanged a mischievous wink of her own with a giggling Apricie.
"YES!"exclaimed Alice unexpectadly, startling most of the table just as four owls entered trough the kitchen window.
Everyone gasped as the owls delivered the expected copies of the Sunday Prophet - everyone remembered Harry´s comment about oversleeping to Bill yesterday and even Molly and Lily were eager to read the paper thistime.
Hermione bit her lip - though she didn´t say anything about the Polyjuice Potion Harry had brought along to the party, not even to her Ron... she couldn´t help but wonder, if it actually WAS of any use... and if so, WHAT use...?
Bill had quickly waved his wand and made copies of the newspaper, so that every pair at the table would have one, making even one copy for Fidus and Apricie. With a small sigh he moved closer to Fleur and passed the paper to her. He could see, that his wife was no less eager about reading it, than anyone else at the table. Several gasps had already told him, that his only brother-in-law must´ve made the headlines.
"WAHOO!"roared Alice, along with Fred, George, Ron and even Tammy.
On the front page was a picture of a marvelous garden above which a jet or roaring Golden Fire flew in a small circle before forming a great ball and exploding into thin air.
September 29, 1997
The Masked Vigilante strikes again!
It seems that our great Minister for Magic had been most right about this vigilante who runs around the country in a mask and continues to spread a wave of terror. Last night, he even dared to stike at the High Society Party held by the most honorable Slughorn family in their mansion.
His reasons for doing would definitely mystify most, though the Minister had offered his expert views on his possible motives.
"That miserable masked son of a... is clearly a complete raving lunatic. The numerous times he had been sighted, clearly point to his flare for doubtfull heroics. True, the number of eye-witnesses during the Halloween Inferi Attack had voiced their views and opinions, but I wish to put everyone on their guard. Let me be clear - the Masked Wizard is a dangerous lunatic! In his sick mind he clearly wishes to be a hero of sorts - perhaps something similar to Neville Longbottom, the Chosen One and vanquisher of the Dark Lord. However, since You-know-who is dead now, he is instigating several incidents just so he could try and be the hero of the Wizarding World. Though he no doubt is a powerfull wizard, it seems that his sheer power seemed to have unhinged him. I have turned to our Top Healers to compose an official psychological profile of the Masked Wizard based on the findings of The Vigilante Task Force."
(The Psychological Profile of the Masked Wizard can be found in pages 4 and 5)
However, not all of the Nobles seem to share our Minister´s views of what had happened.
During the long and eventfull night (details of the wonderous occurances at the High Society Party can be found on pages 2 and 3), a small group of wizards in masks have attacked the Slughorn garden and used Dark Magic on several of the guests that roamed about the garden. Two fifteen-year-old children had also been in danger, but they have been saved by The Vigilante Task Force.
The captain of the Task Force, Draco Malfoy had been able to capture everyone except the said Masked Vigilante, who had dissapeared in his Golden Flames. The masked people chaught were discovered to have been under the Imperius Curse, along with one very known name among them - Theodore Nott, 17, pure-blood, who is known as one of the Junior Death Eaters.
"Clearly, this masked... thing had placed all of them under the Imperius Curse, so that they would attack the party and he could make himself into a hero. Luckily, WE are not so easily fooled."said Octavius McLaggen, 38, pure-blood - one of the great Noble families.
The issue was largely debated for most of the night and it had also warranted a small meeting of the Top Noble families, along with its new members - a new Noble family had been admitted to the Top, making the Noble Top Six the Noble Top Seven (details to this story can be found on pages 2 and 3). The new Heads of the Zabini and Potter families...
The kitchen practicly exploded in a loud "WHAAAAT?!", that came from almost everyone at the table. The table exchanged an awed look.
"The Heads of the Zabini and Potter families?!"breathed Fleur quietly, as mystified as anyone.
"The...the Top Noble SEVEN?!"whispered Lily, sharing a look with Molly and Arthur.
... had also offered their views on the matter, along with every other Head of the Top Seven.
Almost as one, everyone turned the newspaper to the other page, where a photograph of a group of Nobles was. There, among Lucius Malfoy, Cadabrus Flint, a rather sour-looking Athena Kellen, Rex Rowle, and a happily smiling Eldrich Macmillan stood Blaise, smiling brightly standing right next to...
"Harry James Potter!"breathed Alice in small wonder as the photograph of her baby-brother flashed her a smug, teasing smile.
The Noble Top Six becomes Noble Top Seven
As it transpired, following the Death Eater attack on the Head of the Zabini family - Blaise Zabini, 17, pure-blood - the Minister had informed us of the young Noble´s right for a compensation.
The dashing young man had at once proven himself to posses a truly Golden Heart, since he had not asked a single favor for himself, but rather wished to look out for those, who are not as fortunate as he himself feels to be.
During the dinner at the Noble Party, the young Noble had stated his compensation demands and clearly shown not only knowledge on the going-ons in the High Society but also shown, that among his new position as one of the Top Nobles, he is looking out for the future of the Noble Society as well.
As it transpired, the Top Six Heads already had the idea of accepting a new, or rather old family back into the Top rank, but the young Zabini´s demand had made it very easy to decide.
"I am extremly happy to once more see the Potter family among the Top Nobles."said Eldrich Macmillan, 37, pure-blood, happily as we had asked him.
The Potter family had been members of the Top Six for a long time until more than twenty years ago, when the family could not hold the position anymore. This was rectified yesterday, when the Nobles had admitted into the Top Noble ranks the new Head of the Potter Family - Harry Potter, 17, half-blood.
The young man´s half-blood status had been viewed critically by not only the Minister for Magic, but also several other members of the Noble families, such as Miss Orphea Kellen and her new fiance, Corvin McLaggen. However, the large ammount of Nobles´ aproovals to this had certainly left no need for further discussions.
"We have accepted the Potter family, because we know, that it now holds an outstanding Head."said Lucius Malfoy, 43, pure-blood, who is standing very firmly behind both the young Mr Potter as well as Mr Zabini.
The kitchen was quiet for a while, as everyone was trying to digest this piece of news.
"Y...you all realize what this means...?"breathed Fred happily, sharing an awed look with his twin brother.
"They are now the Top Nobles!"said Ron, grinning in triumph.
Fred and George shared a joyfull hi-five with eachother, as well as their younger brother, Charlie and Tammy hugged eachother happily, while Arthur gave his most sunny smile to his wife, whose eyes were watering.
"Our little Ginny..."she breathed in a strained voice.
"Yup."nodded Fred proudly.
"Our Gin-Gin..."nodded George just as much.
"... is now a Lady of Top Noble family."breathed Bill, a small smile playing on his lips.
Not everyone at the table were giving out their gestures of happiness.
Percy sat on his chair, as though frozen - a nasty feeling of envy growling inside, dispite his best efforts to vanquish it.
Lily had a small, almost playfull smile playing on her lips as she looked at the faces of James and Alice, who wore even more frozen looks on their faces, than Percy had.
"Harry... the head of the family..."whispered James in a blank-sort of voice.
Alice shuddered and snuggled closer to her husband´s side.
"Thank MERLIN we are now married, Freddie. The Head of the Potter family... hoo boy... he´s going to be a MONSTER...!"
"ALICE!"exclaimed Lily reproachably and James seemed to have shaken off his shock before looking sternly at his daughter.
"Alice Lily Weasley! How many times have we told you, NOT to call your brother a monster?!"he asked, folding his arms - though knowing she didn´t mean it the way she said it, it had been a habit that they have all picked up over the years.
Grinning apologetically, Alice had shaken her head, her raven-black hair dancing around her.
"You know how I meant it. But you also know, that Harry will not be afraid to press his advantage, Dad."
James fixed her a mischievous grin.
"My dear, sweet lovely little girl, what on Earth makes you think that your Lion Daddy will be stepping down anytime soon? Harry may be the Head of the family in the Noble ranks, but... whoever said, that he has to be one around the house?"
Arthur, Molly, Lily and Fidus couldn´t help but snort in laughter.
"James... you are... sure about it?"asked Molly with a grin, knowing her son-in-law by now.
James gave a wide smile - he didn´t in fact, mind much... on the other hand - whoever said, that Harry should have it easy?
"Of course. You see... he can´t hold his Head position if the other members of the family do not agree, right? I mean... I have you Alice, your sweet Mum, our trusty Fidus and Apricie, Ginny as well... aaaand... I have my two young partners-in-crime. With all of us - Harry doesn´t stand a chance."he said, flashing a grin on Fred and George.
The twins salluted brightly.
"...you say..."nodded George.
"BOSS PRONGS."they finished together.
As if on cue, there were footsteps heared on the stairs accompanied by a rubbery, bouncy noises. The entire family had turned their heads to the stairs and a second later they saw Hazumi hop down joyfully, followed by Naja slithering down the stairs and right behind her...
"GINNY!"exclaimed the entire family happily, at once greeting her.
The new Noble Lady barely even had a chance to bid everyone a good morning, before she was grabbed in numerous hugs, even from the Potter family House-elves.
"You´re looking fairly energized. When did you and Harry get back?"asked Hermione, looking her up and down as she sat down at one of the empty chairs.
Ginny couldn´t wipe the grin off her face.
"At two in the morning."
This drew many curious looks on her and Ginny was extremly happy, that her sweet snakie was the sole person in the house capable of performing Legilimency - true, they DID arrive at two in the morning, but she had been extremly eager to show Harry, what an effect seeing him in action as the Masked Wizard has on her.
"Aren´t you tired? You should be in bed."said Molly at once.
Ginny however smiled and shook her head.
"No need, Mum. Harry gave me some of his special Sleeping Draught - it makes you sleep for the minimal time, while you feel like you´ve gotten a long night´s sleep."
Many were again astounded by Harry´s creation. Lily smiled happily, knowing about it.
"It appeared in the last year´s copy of Practical Potioneer."
Ginny beamed at her.
"I know. Caractacus told me about Harry´s contributions there just yesterday. Along with his own too, I might add."
"Where is Harry anyway? Is he still sleeping?"asked Arthur.
Ginny shook her head, an affectionate smile gracing her lips.
"He´s still upstairs, finishing the preparations for our little experiment."
The statement made several smiles appear, while Alice slapped her forehead in mild-exaspiration.
"Heeere we go again."she muttered.
"Nevermind that now... Sis... you have to tell us - what really happened on the Party? The Masked Wizard appeared there and..."started Ron happily and the others were once more eager to hear all the details.
With a happy smile, Ginny wasted not a moment to relay almost everything that happened during yesterday´s party, almost every memory bringing a smile to her lips. The family laughed at several moments, as well as Ginny´s perfect imitations of Athena Kellen´s and Cornelius Fudge´s looks as Blaise had stated his demands. They were all angry at Torie´s parents, but very overjoyed at the fact, that Blaise had repaired Draco´s engagement.
As soon as she retold the garden battle and the Masked Wizard´s appearance and dissapearance, the kitchen practicly exploded in a cheer.
Arthur couldn´t help but laugh as he saw the young ones (except Percy, Audrey, Bill, Fleur and Ginny) whoop in joy.
"I KNEW IT!"roared Alice in triumph.
"... THE SUPERHERO!"roared the twins along with Ron and Alice, as the others cheered as well.
James shook his head in mild-awe and turned to his wife.
"Talk about making the Headline News, Lil."he whispered into her ear.
Lily gave out a small giggle, while grinning happily.
"The Slytherin Squad strikes again."she breathed, more to herself than anyone, her green eyes falling on the large newspaper.
James quickly cleared his throat and turned to his daughter-in-law.
"Well Ginny... I have to congratulate you on becoming a Top Noble lady."he said, grinning proudly.
Ginny smiled even more as she saw his smile turn mischievous - it seems, that her sweet husband was right, yet again...
"Don´t even think about it, Lion Daddy - this fight is one, that you are going to lose."she said slyly.
James shook his head and offered his most charming smile.
"Come on, Gin..."
Just then, the staircase rang with footsteps again. Naja raised her head, her scales glowing brightly while Hazumi started to bounce up and down joyfully. James quickly looked to Alice, Fred and George.
"You all know what to do, right?"he asked quickly, wiggling his eyebrows.
"OF COURSE."replied the twins and Alice nodded earnestly.
"This ought to be good."whispered Ginny to her mother-in-law, who nodded with a wide grin.
She also shared a look with her parents, Bill who was fighting down a smile, and Fleur who was trying not to giggle.
A moment later Harry stepped down the stairs, wearing a simple black short pants and a muggle T-shirt which had a picture of one of his most favourite funny cartoons on it.
At once Fred and George jumped to their feet and ran towards him before he even stepped down the stairs. Bowing up and down, as though he were some sort of a statue of worship they chanted.
"...morning to you..."
"YOUR NOBLE SNAKINESS"they finished together.
The Burrow´s kitchen once more exploded in laughter, even as James exclaimed "Traitors!". Harry´s eyes twinkled as he spread his arms wide in a very Noble-like gesture.
"That will do... my loyal subjects."he said in a deep voice, once more launching the kitchen into laughter.
Ginny couldn´t help but notice, that this little play didn´t leave even Percy without a laugh, though he was trying to hide them behind his hand as his wife giggled.
James quickly turned to his daughter, as Harry stepped slowly into the kitchen, but was at once halted by Apricie, who gave him one of her most joyfull hugs.
Alice however stood up and shook her head.
"Sorry, Dad. But I´m a Weasley now. And by the way... wasn´t it you, who told me NOT to fight with my adorable little brother?"she asked slyly before she went to Harry and hugged him.
The gesture promted many smiles from the family, while James slowly turned his head to his darling wife, fixing her his charming smile.
"Love... you wouldn´t leave me alone in this... would you?"he asked pleasantly.
Lily fixed him a smile as she stood up.
"Sorry Jamie. But you can´t really expect me to act against our sweet, lovable, noble son, now can you?"she asked, before she mimicked that of Alice´s gesture.
"F-Fiduuuuus..."called James, his voice growing a bit high in desperation.
Fidus fixed him a happy smile as he too started to walk towards his present young master.
"Fidus is sorry, Master James. But Fidus is supporting of his young master."
The Weasleys were barely holding their laughter as James turned a desperate look at Ginny.
"I´ve told you, Lion Daddy. This is a fight, you can´t win."she said simply as she also stood up to join her husband´s side.
After giving his wife a loving peck on the cheek, Harry walked towards the table and fixed his father his fullest attention. Molly and Arthur shared a small grin as they all looked at James.
He swiftly gave his son his most charming, toothy smile - trying to appear as innocent as he possibly could. Harry´s neutral look turned into a sweet smile, but his eyes twinkled and James gulped. The look in his eyes was one, he could remember from his childhood - the same look his sweet old Mum often shot him upon discovering some of his misdeeds - the look of a hungry predator that just spotted a particurally juicy prey.
"MONSTER! HEEEELP!"he exclaimed in terror, dissapearing under the table and sending the kitchen into a wave of laughter once more.
A second later, his hand appeared from under the table holding a small white flag.
"I GIVE UP! I GIVE UP! I SURRENDER!"yelled James hurriedly from under the table, while waving the flag and admitting defeat.
Lily and Ginny giggled happily, especially as they chaught the mischievous wink Harry had shot at them over his shoulder.
"Granny Dorea´s portrait was right - works everytime."he said, to general humor.
A/N: Well... this chapter had been more tricky than I thought at first. To start off, I wanted to show Voldy and Daphne´s relationship grow a bit - plus that I wasn´t kidding that Daph is even worse and more fearsome than Bellatrix. Plus, I also wanted to show that Voldy, no matter how much he wants to deny it, will always have some of that orhpaned kid´s feelings deep, very deep down inside - though as you could see, that won´t stop him from being the Dark Lord. But there is something new in his life, and that will end up making him a stronger foe.
I couldn´t help but place Dudley´s school rival there too and I hope I did a nice job with the horror amusement park :)
As for the Headlines, let´s just say that after Fudge´s slander during the Unbridge debacle, people are not very likely to blindly believe what´s written in the Daily Prophet. Don´t worry though... he and Kellen are still not down for the count, yet. As for the Nobles... well, you´ll see later on. :D
Also... I couldn´t help but place the Harry vs James... um... power-struggle as it were :D
New possibilities for the future chapters had occured to me, and the plot is evolving in my head, so you can be sure, that its going to turn even more interesting. And... a small secret - Daphne is going to play a much greater role in this, than I originally planned.
Till next time.