DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
The tiny hamlet of Much Fernley could not be found on any map of the U.K. It was deep in the countryside of Norfolk in East Anglia and went unnoticed except for the five wizarding families who lived there. Two of those families weren't at home on the night it happened. One family, a witch, wizard and their two children, was still away on a late holiday on the Isle of Skye, and the other, a young wizarding couple, was staying with friends that night in London. The other three families weren't so lucky.
Nott, who revelled in the pain and suffering he and his Death Eaters inflicted, stalked along the dark and quiet country lane that led to the little hamlet. He glanced behind to check that his team of thirty of his best men he'd selected for the raid still followed in his tracks. He stopped and held up his arm to halt the procession when he spotted a light up ahead. He then gestured for his men to move quietly and slowly towards the group of five cottages.
Fifty yards from the hamlet, Nott quietly ordered half his men to move around behind the cottages - he didn't want anyone to escape. He waited for a few minutes so that they could get into position and then ordered the rest of the Death Eaters to move in closer and spread out along the front of the houses. He noticed that two of the cottages on the right-hand side were in darkness but the lights coming from the others showed that they were occupied. He lit his wand and raised it above his head, looking along the line of dark-cloaked figures to make sure they were ready and waiting for his signal to begin the attack.
Nott extinguished his wand, the signal to attack, and flung the first curse at the cottage in the middle of the five. "INCENDIO," he shouted and the front door of the cottage started to burn, the flames reaching up almost to the roof. The other Death Eaters also flung curses, blasting and disintegrating the windows, doors and stone walls of all five cottages.
Craig and Metzela Kilcline sat reading in the cottage on the left-hand side. Craig had only recently retired and was still struggling to adjust to a more leisurely lifestyle. He and his wife were of the old school and had never bothered to learn to Apparate, but if they had it could have saved their lives. The first thing that made them aware that all was not right in the world was the window, which disintegrated and collapsed on the floor only five yards away. Metzela struggled to lift her large bulk from the easy chair she was sitting on while Craig looked out apprehensively through the hole where the window had once been. He pulled his wife close as she joined him, and stared fearfully at the line of black-cloaked figures that laughed insanely as they continued to fling curses at the houses.
Bill and Nesta Wright, the young couple who lived next door to the Kilclines, knew how to Apparate but they didn't do so. They were frantically trying to move the debris that had fallen from the ceiling, away from the bottom of the stairs, trying to get to their two young children who were asleep upstairs. Nesta started screaming and Bill roared in terrified frustration as a curse crashed through the window and blasted away the top part of the stairway, sending it crashing to the ground and leaving the two very frightened little children isolated.
Stan and Betty Jones, the middle-aged couple who lived in the centre of the little hamlet also knew how to Apparate, but they didn't get a chance to escape. They were very quickly overcome by the smoke and flames from Nott's curses and collapsed to the floor. They were the first to die that night.
Nott shouted to his men to close in on the houses and he quickly followed them, entering the Kilclines' cottage by blasting away the door. He and five of his men moved quickly from room to room and finally found the terrified couple hiding behind their bed upstairs.
"Stand up!" shouted Nott. "Where are the people in the two cottages at the end?"
"They aren't here; they're away for the night," Craig answered in a trembling voice while Metzela, tears streaming down her face, clung desperately to his arm. "What do you want here? Why are you doing this?"
Nott laughed and pointed his wand at the man. "CRUCIO."
After he'd extracted his evil enjoyment from the sight of Craig rolling on the floor in agony, he turned to the watching Death Eaters and hissed, "Finish them."
Five beams of green light struck the couple and Nott watched with satisfaction as they lay unmoving, their faces bearing the unmistakable mark of the killing curse. Nott then led his men out of the cottage and into the one next door, where he found five of his men holding the struggling Bill and Nesta tightly. He could hear the terrified cries of the two children trapped upstairs, but ignored them as he approached the young couple.
"You can't get away with this, you bastard!" yelled Bill.
Nott grinned malevolently. "And what makes you think that? Who's going to help you now - the Anima Summas? Don't make me laugh, they'll soon be a mere memory when the Dark Lord gets to them." He gestured for his men to release the couple and then pointed his wand at Bill.
"Please no," cried Nesta. "Please don't hurt my babies. They haven't done anything to you."
Nott laughed as he sent the killing curse that snuffed out the life of Bill Wright, and Nesta soon followed her husband, hit by multiple Flipendus curses from the surrounding Death Eaters. Nott led his men out of the cottage and walked towards the middle one, which by this time had been almost completely consumed by the flames. He shouted for the men guarding the back of the hamlet to join them, and then ordered all his team to destroy Bill and Nesta's cottage, where the pitiful cries of the two children could still be heard. After ten minutes, the cottage was nothing more than a pile of rubble, the roof and upstairs floor having collapsed completely.
Nott cackled manically as he raised his wand and sent the Dark Mark into the night sky.
Much Fernley was not the only scene of death and destruction that night. Across the Atlantic Ocean, a group of fifty Death Eaters led by one of Voldemort's American lieutenants, who was almost as crazy as Nott, attacked a small Muggle community of forty inhabitants. The little town in a remote part of Texas was added to the list of atrocities carried out by the Dark Side when it was almost completely destroyed, only five people surviving the attack. For the first time in many years, the Dark Mark appeared in the sky over American soil.
It was with heavy hearts that the squad from the Magical Congress altered the memories of the five survivors, and the Muggle newspapers the next morning carried the lead story of a devastating gas explosion that had wiped out the little town. The wizarding newspapers, however, told the grim truth.
"This is a terrible business Albus," said Fudge as he shook his head sadly. "Eight people in the U.K. and thirty-five in America - terrible."
Fudge sat in the headmaster's office, staring across at a worried-looking Dumbledore. He'd decided to visit Hogwarts to find out how the Anima Summas' quest was progressing. Despite his assurances that everything was being done to recruit and train more Aurors, and the Anima Summas were still developing their powers in pursuit of the second quest, the magical press and public were getting frightened and wanted to know when the dark times would be brought to an end.
"The four kids are spending as much time as they can on their research Cornelius," said Dumbledore, "but they can't neglect their schoolwork. I'd love to give them leave to spend all their time on the quest, but their studies are an important part of their development, and just as important as their research. Hermione hit the nail right on the head when she said that their quests are being made difficult by the Light for exactly the same reason - they are all very young and have to go through the process of growing up, albeit at an accelerated rate, before they'll be ready to face Voldemort."
"I know Albus, you don't need to convince me. And deep down, the magical community knows it as well, but they're very worried and frightened - not the best mental state in which to listen to logic and reason, but I can't say I blame them. I've done what I can to try to minimise the dangers by banning any large gatherings. I've even cancelled the professional Quidditch leagues for the duration of the conflict, but I won't be able to give adequate protection to the small outlying communities until we get enough Aurors trained up."
"Talking of that, Cornelius, how's he getting on?"
"I must say it was a stroke of genius on Marcus Heatherington-Jones' part to suggest we get our old experienced Aurors out of retirement to conduct the training. And yes, he's doing very well indeed - I have to thank you for persuading him to take on the leadership of our training operation. Marcus tells me that things are a lot better now - we're getting a lot more recruits and their training is right on the button - they'll be far better prepared for what they'll have to face. I'm even thinking of pulling in some of our front line Aurors when the opportunity presents itself of course, to go through the new training program. We need as many well-trained Aurors out there as we can get."
"Do you fancy a spot of lunch before you go back to London, Cornelius? You're very welcome to join us all down in the Great Hall."
"Yes, thank you Albus. I think I'll take you up on that. And I can have a chat with the four youngsters - you know, let them know that the ministry's right behind them in what their doing."
Oliver Wood lay on the damp ground behind a bramble bush, looking out into the small clearing in the middle of the wood. He waited patiently for something to happen. He'd laid down a number of clear indications along the path that wound through the densely packed conifers, and hoped that the Death Eaters on his trail would follow them right to the place where he lay in wait.
As he kept a wary eye on the spot where the path entered the clearing, he thought back to what he was doing just two weeks ago - it seemed a lifetime away now. He'd been elated at being promoted to first-choice Keeper for first division Quidditch team Puddlemoor United, but his elation was quickly dashed when all Quidditch matches were cancelled. He was angry at the reason for the suspension of the leagues, and he'd joined the ministry as an Auror, hoping to help things get back to normal so that he could resume his Quidditch career.
His attention was brought back into sharp focus when he heard a faint sound coming from just inside the trees on the opposite side of the clearing. He tried to make himself as inconspicuous as possible, hugging the earth and raising his head only slightly to look beneath the bramble. Then he saw them - two dark-cloaked figures emerged from the path and walked cautiously into the middle of the clearing. Oliver remained where he was, not moving a muscle, and waited.
For two minutes, the Death Eaters stood in the clearing looking around intently and listening for any sound that would tell them in which direction their quarry had gone. After another fruitless minute, one of the men called quietly over to his right-hand side and another dark-cloaked figure walked through the line of trees and joined his two companions. Oliver grinned to himself - he thought they'd try something like that to flush him out. The Death Eaters started walking to Oliver's left towards the spot where the path continued through the wood.
After they'd walked past the place where he lay hidden, he silently rose and stepped out into the clearing behind them. He pulled his wand from his cloak and shouted, "Freeze. Don't move a muscle. Throw down your wands - you're nicked!"
The Death Eaters stopped in their tracks and stood still. Then they turned around and suddenly flung themselves onto the ground in three separate directions, pulling out their wands from their black robes. Oliver looked shocked at what was happening and sent off three Expelliarmus charms in quick succession. One of them found its mark and disarmed the Death Eater it hit, but the other two missed, allowing the Death Eaters to throw spells of their own.
The beams of light caught Oliver solidly in the chest and sent him tumbling to the ground, laughing insanely as he felt the acute itching of the Rictusempra charms. One of the black-cloaked figures walked up to Oliver and smiled as he looked down at him. He lifted his wand, pointed it at the helpless young man and said, "FINITE INCANTATEM."
The extreme itching stopped and Oliver rose slowly to his feet, a wry grin on his face. He turned as the impressive figure of Alastor 'Mad Eye' Moody limped slowly into the clearing, his magical eye revolving insanely in its socket. "No, No, No Oliver! Haven't you learned what I taught you? You've just spoiled one of the best set-ups I've ever seen from a trainee Auror. You do everything right, and then suddenly throw all your good work out the window by showing yourself and giving the advantage to the enemy! I know it's not cricket to attack an opponent from behind, but there were three of them and one of you, and if they'd been real Death Eaters you'd now be lying there dead! You just can't afford to give a Death Eater any chance at all. Believe me, he wouldn't give you one."
"Sorry sir," said Oliver looking downcast.
"Sorry, my arse! Don't apologise to me - apologise to yourself! You're the one who'd have paid the penalty."
'Mad Eye' looked at Oliver sternly for a few moments and then his expression softened. "Listen laddie, you're one of the best trainees we've got at the moment. Don't be too despondent, almost all trainees get caught by my wily three former colleagues way before you were. You did really well, and that's what made me so mad - you let yourself down at the last hurdle. But I know you'll learn from this - I don't think you'll make the same mistake again."
"No sir, I certainly won't," said Oliver gratefully.
"Right. You'd better get back to camp," said Mad Eye, his eye suddenly gleaming unnaturally. "There's someone there who's looking forward to meeting you again. She's just been transferred over from camp Morgana today, and I think she needs to see a friendly face to ease her nervousness. I'll see you and the others in the morning; I've got one of those damn planning meetings with Marcus this evening."
Oliver grinned at the famous old veteran and his legendary dislike for anything official that took him from what he saw as his primary hands-on task of turning out only the best calibre Aurors. He walked back to the training camp swapping good-natured banter with the three ex-aurors, deriding them for being suckered into his trap, but being derided for his lapse right at the end of the exercise.
After a while, they walked out of the woods and into a large clearing that housed the Auror training camp. Oliver waved as the three Aurors walked over towards their quarters in the hastily constructed ramshackle building at one end of the clearing, which served as 'Mad Eye' Moody's training headquarters. The first thing he'd done after agreeing to take on the job, was to move the training facility from the more comfortable environs in the Forest of Dean to more realistic surroundings in the remote countryside of Mid Wales. He'd established two camps here about five miles apart, and the wily old dog constantly set one against the other, extolling the virtues and superior prowess of one camp over the other. Camp Merlin was the one in which Oliver was placed and camp Morgana was the other.
Oliver glanced along the row of tents that housed the trainees, looking for a familiar face, but he couldn't see one. He was intrigued by 'Mad Eye's message about an old acquaintance, and wondered who it could be. He shrugged and thought that he'd have to wait until dinner that evening before finding out the identity of the mysterious girl. He walked over to his tent and pulled back the flap, wanting to lie down for a little while after his earlier exertions. He walked into the tent and pulled up dead, staring at the very pretty girl that sat on his bed, looking nervously up at him.
"Hello Oliver," she said.
"Katie!" he exclaimed. "Katie Bell! I haven't seen you for… what, two years? How are you and what are you doing here of all places?"
Katie jumped up from the bed and stood grinning at her former Quidditch captain. "I'm fine Oliver. I've just been transferred here from camp Morgana. I'm a trainee Auror, like you. Uh, I hope you don't mind me waiting here for you, but things are a bit strange here and I was feeling a bit… well you know."
"I do know, Katie. I felt exactly the same when I got here." He stared unashamedly at Katie, marvelling at how much she'd grown up since he saw her last - then she was just a girl, but now she'd turned into a woman - and what a woman! He had an overwhelming urge to ease her obvious feelings of vulnerability, wanted to make her feel comfortable, but he looked at the ground, suddenly stuck for the right words to say.
Then he looked back up into her bright blue eyes, taking the easy option. "How are Angelina and Alicia? What are they doing since they left school?"
"Alicia's working at the ministry in Arthur Weasley's department and Angelina's there too, working in the Magical Games and Sports Department. That's where I was until these attacks started and our workload dropped off quite dramatically. I felt I was just wasting my time there with very little to do, so I decided to try to help out in the field. Harry and his friends are doing their bit for the cause - a lot more than their bit - so I thought I'd try to do something worthwhile too."
"Yes, Harry's certainly got his hands full with this Anima Summa thing. I suppose I envy him in a way, you know, being right there in the middle of everything, but we can't all be Harry can we. I just hope that he and his friends get through this in one piece. But Katie, I hope you don't mind me saying this but aren't you a little… young to be putting your head on the block?"
Katie's eyes flashed dangerously. "Everybody's telling me that Oliver - my parents, my friends, but I thought you'd understand what I'm trying to do."
Oliver tried to backtrack. "Oh I do understand Katie. It's just that this game is so… dangerous."
Katie walked quickly out of the tent, her eyes flashing in annoyance. Before walking back to her own tent, she put her head back inside. "Well I didn't think that this was going to be a bloody picnic Oliver."
Oliver looked out of his tent with a sinking feeling in his stomach. "Katie…. Katie," he shouted after the girl striding with indignant purpose along the row of tents.
'Well,' Oliver thought to himself, 'I certainly put my foot in it there. But at least I managed to do one thing for her - she doesn't look a bit nervous now.'
"Sshhhh," whispered George as he and Fred eased their way from behind the statue of the humpbacked witch and onto the third floor at Hogwarts. They'd just come down the secret tunnel from Hogsmeade with a sack of their latest jokes and pranks and a bundle of order forms, which they hoped to distribute among the students. It was quite late and all the students should now be back inside their common rooms after the evening meal. They walked up several flights of stairs, keeping a wary eye out for any of the professors and ghosts. They didn't want a run-in with Peeves, in particular, as they moved slowly towards the Gryffindor common room.
They were about to tell the Fat Lady the password that Ginny'd Owled to them when Fred felt a familiar prickling on the back of his neck. He quickly pulled George behind a suit of armour and waited. He was grateful that his early warning mechanism was still alive and kicking when Peeves drifted down the corridor and stopped a few yards beyond their hiding place. The ghost turned around, his eyes full of suspicion, as he felt that something was not quite right.
"If I didn't know better, I'd swear that those Weasley twins are slinking about tonight," he breathed to himself. "I can feel them." He looked around but wasn't able to spot the hidden two. Then he shrugged his wispy shoulders, cackled, and drifted back up the corridor.
"Phew, that was close," said George. "I'm glad your senses are still on full alert."
They crept back to the portrait of the Fat Lady and said the password - chocolate frogs - and the portrait slid back, but not before the Fat Lady gave them a very odd look. They stepped into their old common room to see it full of students, and they spotted Ginny sitting with her three friends at the far side of the room.
Fred strode across the room with the sack of jokes slung over his shoulder. "Ho, ho, ho," he said in a jovial voice. "Roll up to see the latest marvels invented by Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, brought to you by yours truly and George, masters of the improbable, inventors of the impossible."
The twins walked over to the large table in the middle of the common room and emptied their sack of goodies onto it. All the students crowded around and started to hurl question after question about what each of the objects on the table did. Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny joined the excited throng and tried to get to the table to see what was there, but in the end they just gave up and sat back down, waiting for the crowd to thin out a bit. But it didn't, at least not for quite a while, and when the four eventually got a look in, there was just one object left on the table, together with a stack of completed order forms and two grinning, red headed entrepreneurs.
"That was amazing," said George as he checked the order form just given him by Colin Creevey. "We've sold everything except this." He pointed to the object on the table - it looked just like a small pebble, grey in colour.
"We had twenty of these when we came in," said a delighted Fred.
"What is it?" asked Harry.
"It's a Whammo," said George. "You put it on the floor where you know your intended target, preferably a Slytherin, will pass by and the magical emanations from that person will make the Whammo explode with a loud bang and a flash of bright yellow light. It's not harmful in any way but the light sticks to the target and makes him glow bright yellow. That lasts for about half an hour. Neat, eh?"
"So it doesn't work with Muggles then?" asked Ron.
"No. Just witches and wizards," said Fred. "We'd better get going now. We've got a lot of work to do getting all these orders ready, and we've promised to deliver them here in two days."
"Uh, Ginny," said George. "Keep your ear to the ground and let us know if any of the other houses are interested in getting supplies. If they are, you'd better get the password to their common room."
Ginny nodded, but Hermione looked at the two quizzically. "How long do you think you'll be able to keep this going? The professors are no mugs, and when they see all those pranks being pulled they'll know that the students are being supplied by somebody getting into the school."
"Yes, we've thought of that, Hermione," said Fred. "We'll just have to be ultra careful. We're hoping that we'll make enough money out of this, before we're caught, to keep us going until the Hogsmeade ban is lifted."
"Well I hope it works out for you," said Harry.
"Thanks Harry," said George. "We'll see you in two days time."
Fred and George cautiously went back out of the portrait hole and crept stealthily back to the statue of the humpbacked witch and back into the tunnel.
The next morning, Crabbe and Goyle lumbered into the Great Hall to eat their breakfast. They were the first Slytherins to arrive but the Gryffindor table was almost full, the expectant students sniggering as they waited for the two goons to sit at their customary seats. As they settled into their chairs, two loud explosions were heard, accompanied by a bright flash of yellow light.
Crabbe and Goyle jumped out of their seats and ran to other end of their table, covered from head to toe in a hideous yellow light. All the Gryffindors fell about laughing, but Snape was not so amused as he witnessed the events. Dumbledore, Sirius and Remus tried their best to stifle their grins, but failed miserably.
By the end of the day, twenty more pranks had been pulled on the Slytherins, ten of them by Whammos, and all the activity didn't go unnoticed by the professors. Before dinner Dumbledore, at the insistence of Snape, held a staff meeting to discuss the new developments.
"The students are getting these pranks from somewhere Headmaster," said Snape, "and it's not the Slytherins - they're the ones at the butt end of it all. It's got to be the Gryffindors; there's always a bunch of them hanging about looking when one of those exploding things goes off."
"There's no proof of that Severus," said McGonagall. "But as you say, the pranks have to be getting into the school somehow."
"Well there's no use in asking any of the students who it is," said Dumbledore. "They're not likely to want their supply cut off. I think that a little detective work is in order Sirius. You and Ceri should perhaps try to find out who's behind all this. You can help too Remus - you can use your map to track who's coming in and out of the school."
The three nodded, and Dumbledore continued, a twinkle in his eye, "I've got a fair idea what's going on, and when you catch the perpetrators I want you to bring them straight to me."
"Yes Professor," said Sirius. "You think there's more than one of them?"
"I believe so," he replied but wouldn't elucidate his suspicions any further.
Sirius, Remus and Ceri walked down the corridor to the Great Hall together, talking about their tactics for catching the prank smugglers. Sirius and Remus looked at each other and grinned. They both said the names together, "Fred and George!"
"What!" exclaimed Ceri. "How can you be sure it's them?"
"Do you remember the night at The Burrow when Harry introduced us to them as Mooney and Padfoot?" asked Sirius.
"Yeessss," said Ceri with narrowed eyes.
"Well do you also remember that they grabbed us and took us up to their bedroom for advice on their prank ideas?" asked Remus.
"Yeessss," said Ceri, still with narrowed eyes.
"Well one of the pranks they talked about was that exploding yellow light prank," said Sirius.
"Ohhhh," she said finally. "I hope Dumbledore goes easy on them - I like those two guys. They're fun."
"I'm sure he will Ceri," said Remus. "Did you see the twinkle in his eye?"
'Mad Eye' Moody limped back and fore along the line of Auror trainees lined up outside the camp headquarters building, stopping from time to time to look a trainee directly in the eye, his own magical eye dancing around insanely in its socket. He grinned wryly to himself and stepped slowly back to the middle of the line and turned, preparing to give the same briefing that he'd given the trainees at camp Morgana a little earlier.
"Good," he said. "If you can stand my gaze without flinching then you'll have nothing to fear when a Death Eater looks you in the eye. Soon, you'll have learned everything we can teach you here and you'll all be assigned to a field team. But you have a few things to go through here before that happens. In three days we'll be holding the war games with camp Morgana - I must say I've thought long and hard about holding them, because quite frankly, you haven't got a hope against them. This morning, however, you'll be split up into pairs and you'll Apparate to a spot in the middle of nowhere. Your task will be to find your way back here. If all goes well and you're as fit as you obviously think you are, it should take you about three hours. Sounds simple, doesn't it?"
He looked at the group with a sly smile on his weather-beaten features, seeing a mixture of responses from his trainees. Some looked cocky and pleased while others seemed apprehensive. Oliver kept a deadpan expression on his face - he knew that 'Mad Eye' had something more up his sleeve, and he didn't have long to wait to find out what it was.
"You'll be given a contour map and nothing else - not even your wands. Oh, and I forgot to mention it, but one of the trainers will Apparate each pair to your particular part of the wilderness, and you won't be told where it is on the map."
He grinned as loud groans of disbelief erupted from the group. "Right. Time to go. As I call your names, step forward. Oh, and if any of you don't appear before nightfall, I'll send out a search party. First pair - Oliver Wood and Katie Bell."
Oliver walked forward and joined Katie who stepped out at the far end of the line. They were approached by one of 'Mad Eye's trainers and quickly Apparated away. They had no time to quiz the ex-Auror about their whereabouts - he quickly stuffed a map into Katie's hand and disappeared immediately.
Oliver looked at Katie apprehensively. Since meeting a few days ago they hadn't spoken more that a few words to each other. There were two reasons for this; first, they hadn't had much time. The gruelling and intense training schedules set by 'Mad Eye' took up almost all their time, and when they did get a bit of free time, they used it to get some much-needed sleep. The second reason was that Katie was still miffed with Oliver. She hated being treated as just a little girl who should be coddled at all times. She'd decided to become an Auror only after a lot of soul-searching. She knew it was dangerous and didn't need anyone reminding her about it and expecting her to look shocked and then resign and run back home all of a sudden.
"I'm sorry Katie," said Oliver. "I shouldn't have been so patronising when we met the other day. Forgive me?"
Katie glanced up at Oliver from hooded eyes. "Maybe. I'll tell you after we finish this exercise."
Oliver groaned silently. He was elated when they'd been paired together, but now felt that he'd be walking on eggshells, not wanting to say anything to upset her any more than he had already. He resolved to be as professional as he could be for the duration of the exercise, and not let any thoughts of the pretty girl he was with cloud his judgement.
"Right, lets do a plan of action," said Katie. "First we need to find out exactly where we are on this map."
"Then we need to identify where the training camp is on the map," said Oliver.
"Then we work out in which direction we have to go to get home," said Katie.
Oliver looked around at the rough terrain in which they found themselves, looking for the nearest high point to observe a wider area of the countryside. He pointed to a rocky hill only fifty yards away. "Let's climb up there and see if we can spot some landmarks."
They walked quickly over to the small hill and climbed to the top, which was only about fifty feet above them. They sat on a flat rock and spread the map between them, then looked for any obvious landmarks in the surrounding countryside. Katie pointed over to her left. "There's a stream running down from that low mountain. And just beyond the stream there's an area of forest and a conical-shaped mountain rising beyond it."
"And to the right, the stream joins a river that flows into a narrow ravine just beyond the place where they join."
They both started looking at the map, and Katie soon pointed to a narrow winding line of a stream joining a bolder line that signified a river. "That's it," said Oliver. "You can see the rounded contour lines of that mountain and the shaded area of the forest just below it."
"Right, so that puts us…. just here," said Katie pointing to the left side of the map. "Now how do we find out where the camp site is?"
Oliver thought for a few minutes, and then exclaimed, "Of course! 'Mad Eye' more or less told us. He said it would take about three hours to get back. Now in this terrain we wont be able to cover a mile in less than twenty minutes, so that puts the camp about nine or ten miles away. And we know that the camp is in a large clearing in the middle of a forest. So lets measure nine miles on the scale of this map and work around in a circle from our present position on the map.
After five minutes, they'd identified three possible sites. "Which one could it be?" asked Katie.
"I think it's this one," said Oliver pointing to a large shaded area on the map, directly East of their position. "It's the only one that shows a footpath going through it, and there's a large clear area in the middle. It must be the one."
"Right," said Katie. "So which way do we go? How do we find East without our wands?"
"Well…", Oliver started but was interrupted by Katie's shout.
"Wait, I know. It's about nine o'clock in the morning, so the sun hasn't risen too far from the Easter horizon. Oh…"
Oliver laughed. "Nice try Katie, but that method only works when the sun shines. The cloud cover's so thick you can't even see the bright patch of the sun behind it."
"All right then," said Katie quickly. "Let's go back down and look at those trees. Moss grows on the South side of the trunks, no wait, or is it the North side? I can never remember."
"Slow down Katie," said Oliver grinning at the thoughtful and intense expression on her lovely face, "it really doesn't matter."
"What do you mean it doesn't matter!" exclaimed Katie. "How the hell are we going to get back if we can't find the right direction to go in?"
Oliver put his hand on her shoulder and looked patiently into her eyes. "We already know which way to go." He looked back down at the map and pointed to their current position. "Look, it's right here on the map. We're here… and that conical mountain is… here, directly below our position - that's south. So East is over to our left and all we have to do is work out the best route on the map and then check our position every so often by the landmarks we pass."
"Oh," said Katie, kicking herself mentally. 'I've done it again, haven't I?' she thought to herself. I did the same at the ministry, and at camp Morgana. Ohhh!'
Katie jumped to her feet, feeling more annoyed with herself that with the calm and assured Oliver. "Well come on then!" she said with rather more force than she'd intended. "We'd better get started hadn't we?"
"Hang on a minute, Katie. Let's work out the best way to go first. Look at this… and this," said Oliver pointing at the map. "We want to avoid those areas, they could be dangerous."
Katie quickly sat back down and looked challengingly at Oliver. "Well if you're so clever, what do you think is the best way to go?"
Oliver sighed quietly and started to tell her what he thought would be the best route across the wild terrain. After a few minutes, Katie calmed down and started to contribute to the exercise, pointing out some of the pitfalls and what looked to be the more level ground on the map.
Five minutes later, their route worked out, they walked back down the hill and moved off along the low rocky valley. Katie was deep in thought as they walked, again kicking herself for trying to take the initiative without really thinking things through. It had been the same at the ministry. She'd constantly tried to make a good impression, giving her opinion on the best way to do things but most of the time, her boss would reject her ideas and sit patiently with her while he explained why. Now Oliver seemed to be doing the same! Angelina had told her to slow down a bit, gain a bit of experience before trying to conquer the world, but she found it difficult to take a back seat. She'd lived in constant fear of just being seen as mere decoration at the ministry - the office bimbo only good for making the tea.
She hadn't improved when she went to camp Morgana and 'Mad Eye' Moody had spotted her problem immediately. He'd taken her to one side and tried to get her to slow down, tried to get her to think before she leaped into things. That's why he'd transferred her to camp Merlin. He told her that his best trainee, Oliver Wood, would be a good influence on her and she should observe closely the way he did things and thought things through before he acted.
Katie felt more at ease as they walked through the bleak countryside. She contributed as much as Oliver during the frequent checks they made to ensure that they were still on course. As she relaxed she showed more and more of the bright personality that Oliver knew and admired from their Hogwarts days.
They followed their route through secluded little valleys, around the flanks of heather-clad mountains, around dangerous ravines and through pretty wooded areas. As they walked, they talked about their old schooldays and Quidditch, and in particular about the match with Salem last year. Katie started to warm to Oliver, remembering how confident and assured he was when he was Gryffindor captain, and pleased that he'd lost none of that, in fact if anything, he was even more assured now,
Oliver found himself glancing at her a lot, trying to decide whether she was most beautiful in profile or full face on. His continued distraction proved to be his downfall, quite literally.
They were walking across a difficult area of ground, and finding it hard to make anything but the slowest progress over the high tussock grass that hid water-filled trenches. Oliver was walking slightly behind Katie and became distracted as he looked at the cute way her nose turned up at the end, when his foot slipped into one of the trenches. He toppled sideways, arms flailing wildly, and fell to the ground. Unfortunately, his head jerked down into one of the trenches and hit a rock that was sticking up from the ooze at the bottom.
Katie gasped as she saw that Oliver made no attempt to get to his feet. She flung herself down at his side and lifted his head gently, feeling the warm blood running over her hand. She quickly ripped a piece of cloth from her shirt and held it against the cut, trying to stem the flow, all the while calling him, trying to get him to wake up. She looked around desperately, trying to think what she could do. She knew that there was no chance of help arriving any time soon, and that it could be many hours before a search party was sent to find them. She felt for a pulse and was relieved to feel a steady and strong beat coming from the vein in his neck.
She cradled Oliver in her arms and rested his head on her shoulder and chest, willing him to open his eyes, hoping that he'd just been stunned. "Thank god," she breathed when she at last saw his eyelashes flutter and start to open.
Oliver slowly regained consciousness and felt the throb of a splitting headache. He screwed up his eyes in pain as he raised his hand to feel the bump on the side of his head, but made contact with something warm and soft instead. He slowly opened his eyes and looked up into Katie's sparkling eyes, her face full of relief and only a few inches from his own face. He saw that his hand was holding Katie's as she kept the piece of cloth hard against the cut.
"Are you an angel?" he croaked, trying to smile but not quite making it. "What the hell happened?"
"You fell and hit your head," said Katie quietly, raising the improvised bandage and looking at the cut and large bump. "I think I've managed to stop the bleeding though."
"How long have I been out?"
"Only a few minutes, thank goodness," she replied. "We'll rest here for a bit until you feel up to walking."
Oliver managed a grin and settled back comfortably against her warm body. He looked wickedly up at Katie. "I'm not complaining."
Katie felt a tinge of pink creep up her face as she looked deep into his eyes, but then looked away with embarrassment. "I think you're back to normal now Oliver. Come on, I'll help you get up."
She stood and reached down to grasp his hand and heaved to help him to his feet. As soon as he took a step forward, Oliver collapsed back onto the ground, clutching his left ankle as he felt the pain shoot up his leg.
"What's wrong?" asked Katie anxiously.
"It's my ankle," he said through clenched teeth.
Katie knelt on the ground and gently pushed down his sock, feeling around his ankle for any sign of a break. "I don't think anything's broken, but by the size of that swelling I'd say you've twisted it pretty badly."
She stood back up and looked ahead. "The forest's only about a mile away, and the camp is about two miles inside. That's three miles - do you think you can make it if I support you on your left side?"
"I'll make it Katie, but I've filled out a bit since school - do you think you'll be able take my weight for the next three miles?"
"There's only one way to find out. Come on, let's get you up on your feet."
Progress was painfully slow for the next mile as they struggled to get themselves out of the boggy ground. After forty minutes they both collapsed at the edge of the forest and took a ten-minute breather before continuing. Katie looked at the map and at the surrounding landscape. "The path through the forest starts about two hundred yards on the left of where we are now," she said. "Once we get there we should find it a lot easier."
Ten minutes later they sighed with relief as they stepped onto the forest path. They made faster progress along the fairly flat surface of the path, and Katie found it easier to support Oliver's weight. His ankle was now swollen quite badly and he couldn't bear to place it on the ground. Another hour saw them within sight of the campsite clearing and Katie looked at her watch. "We've only been four hours," she said. "That's amazing. If you hadn't hurt your ankle we'd have done it inside three!"
They emerged into the clearing shortly after and two of the ex-Aurors rushed over towards them, with 'Mad Eye' limping quickly behind, as they both sank to the ground. Katie was exhausted and Oliver was now in a lot of pain. "What happened?" shouted 'Mad Eye'.
"Oliver twisted his ankle about three miles back," gasped Katie.
"You two, get him in to see the nurse - I'll look after Katie."
"I'll pop in and see you later Oliver," she shouted as the two trainers carried him towards the headquarters building.
"Right lassie," said 'Mad Eye'. "Tell me what happened - in detail please."
'Mad Eye' listened with growing respect as Katie told him how they'd worked out their route home and their later ordeal. "So you had to very nigh carry him for the last three miles? That's amazing - more so since you're only the fourth pair to arrive so far. There are still over forty others that haven't made it back yet. I'm impressed."
He looked at the tired Katie with a gleam in his eye. "Did you do what I told you? Did you watch what Oliver did and how he thinks things through?"
"Yes. Well not at first, but I could soon see the sense in what you told me. He's good isn't he? There're a lot of other trainees who could learn from him."
"Aye, I know," he said, slowly shaking his head. "I've tried to get him to stay on here and join my training team, but he won't hear of it. He wants to get out into the field where he thinks he can make a bigger impact. Well I think you'd better get some rest Katie. Tomorrow I'll tell you all about the war games and what your objectives will be, and the day after they'll begin. That should be plenty of time for the nurse to get Oliver back on his feet again."
Katie struggled back to her feet. "I'll see how Oliver is first sir, and then I'll get some rest."
'Mad Eye' grinned as he watched the girl slowly walk over to the nurse's office in the headquarters building. He knew that he'd done the right thing in pairing her with Oliver, and he also knew that it was right in more ways than one - he could feel it in his old bones.
Harry, Hermione, Ron and Ginny stood at the bottom of the stairs in the Entrance Hall at Hogwarts, looking up at the portrait of the Anima Summas. They'd just come back from Hagrid's hut where they'd held Hermione's birthday party. Dumbledore had waited until her birthday before officially unveiling the painting, and Cornelius Fudge and some of his senior staff had attended the ceremony along with the whole student body and staff of the school and, of course, Rita Skeeter. The pair had still not quite got over their embarrassment at the whole affair, including the lengthy photo-shoot session that Rita had insisted on.
"Come on then you lot," said Hermione. "Back to the library to do some more reading."
Ron groaned loudly. "What a way to end a perfect day. Are you sure there's something useful in those books Hermione? We've spent days and days reading them but all I can find is a load of boring old philosophy on the Hermetic Tradition!"
"There's bound to be something Ron," she replied. "And anyway, it's not boring at all - the sections on Alchemy are very interesting."
"What did your parents send you for your birthday Hermione?" asked Ginny.
Hermione grinned. "They sent me three books about the Dead Sea Scrolls."
"Riveting!" muttered Ron.
Hermione glanced disdainfully at him. "I just hope I'll get the time to read them soon, I'm dying to find out who The Liar is."
Ron was still complaining two hours later. All the other students had left and they were the only ones remaining in the library, apart from Madam Pince. They'd looked through about half the books Hermione had bought, and they now sat reading four more. Suddenly, Hermione shot bolt upright. "I think I've found something," she said excitedly. "Listen to this. It's from the Kore Kosmou, a first century tract belonging to the Hermetic writings. It's about the Egyptian goddess Isis, talking to her son Horus about Hermes…
'I must tell you what Hermes said when he deposited the books. Thus did he speak: 'Ye holy books, which have been written by my perishable hands, they have been anointed with the drug of imperishability by Him who is master over all, remain ye undecaying through all ages, and be ye unseen and undiscovered by all who shall go to and fro on the plains of this land, until the time when the heavens, grown old, shall beget those of soul and body worthy of you.'
What do you think?" she asked.
"Care to translate that into proper English?" asked Ron.
"Ron! Isis is telling Horus that Hermes wrote sacred books of wisdom and hid them somewhere, waiting to be discovered by those who are fully worthy - that is, the Anima Summas!"
"That could be it!" exclaimed Harry. "We might have to find the books and read the wisdom of Hermes - Margot said that we have to uncover the second store of ancient knowledge, and this could well be it."
"But is there anything more on it Hermione?" asked Ginny. "It doesn't say anything about where they could be hidden."
"Well there's a footnote written by the author referring to 'The Westcar Papyrus', an ancient Egyptian tract now locked away in the Berlin Museum. He says that it talks about an ancient chamber where the wisdom of the ages are stored."
"How the hell are we going to look at it if it's locked away in Germany?" asked Ron.
"The author says that there are translations available Ron," she replied. "I'll Owl my parents and ask them to find a copy for us."
"Thanks Hermione," said Harry. "Do you think we have to go to Egypt? I mean Isis was the main female goddess of ancient Egypt wasn't she?"
"I don't know Harry," replied Hermione. "The cult of Isis spread throughout the ancient world, and she's still worshipped in a lot of countries even today. And don't forget that we went to the Temple of Isis at the foot of Mount Olympus, so it could be anywhere. We'll just have to keep reading and hope there's something in that old tract when we get it from my parents."
The other three settled back down to read their books as Hermione quickly wrote a note and walked out of the library to send an owl to her parents.
Fifteen black-robed figures walked slowly through the barren desert. The sun beat down with cruel intensity and as far as the eye could see, there was no shade to bring relief to the sweat-soaked men. Nothing stirred in that godforsaken place, save for the odd scorpion and snake, desperately trying to find their next meal that would ensure their survival for yet another day. The group came to a halt as the one in the lead stopped, raised his wand above his head and said the strange words that activated the spell.
After a few minutes, Voldemort could see that there was no reaction from the tip of his wand. He hissed with frustration and disappointment and called for Lucius Malfoy to approach him. "Lucius, let's see the map again."
Lucius unfurled the large map of the area and pointed to a spot about a third of the way up from the bottom and half way from the side. "We're right here my Lord. Shall I cross it off?"
Voldemort looked at the map and nodded to Lucius, who placed yet another cross on the grid that he'd drawn on the map before the search has started. Each square in the grid covered an area of approximately half a square mile - the area in which Voldemort would be able to detect if the artefacts were within range of the spell he'd been given by the Guardian of the Gate. The group were systematically moving from place to place, starting at the bottom of the map where the terrain was flatter and progress would be faster than the hillier parts of the desert further to the north.
"We've been searching for nearly a week in this hell hole," said Voldemort, "and there's been no sign of anything. How much longer must I suffer in this heat until I find the Disc and spells!" He stamped his foot petulantly on the sandy desert floor and turned his bad-tempered attention towards Wormtail. "Wormtail! There's about another hour of light left today. I want you to take the others and set up the tents over there." He pointed to a spot about one mile to their left. "And get our dinner started. If it's not ready by the time I arrive, or if it's not to my liking, I'll have you for dinner. Now go!"
Wormtail and ten of the Death Eaters scurried off across the desert to carry out the Dark Lord's orders. It had not been the best of times for Wormtail lately. The terrible heat and lack of results from the search had put Voldemort in an evil mood, almost from the start, and Wormtail always seemed to have to take the brunt of his anger.
Voldemort led the other three Death Eaters over to the next stop on their search pattern. Lucius, Crabbe and Travis silently hoped that the spell would start to work soon, always fearing that Voldemort would switch the focus of his frustration from Wormtail to one of them.
Wormtail, who was supervising the erection of the tents, cringed as he heard Voldemort's shout of anguish in the distance as yet another area of the grid was crossed off the map.
Everything was quiet as two red haired figures emerged from behind the hump-backed witch and looked cautiously along the corridor. They each carried a large sack filled with the jokes and pranks ordered by all four houses two days previously. They quietly crept down the corridor towards the stairs that led down to the next floor. They had decided to go to the Slytherin common room first, then up to Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and finally to Gryffindor, where they hoped to grab a welcome cup of tea before going back to their shop in Hogsmeade.
"They're here," whispered Remus as he looked at the Marauders Map. He, Sirius and Ceri sat on the corridor floor, just around the corner from the statue of the hump-backed witch. Ceri started to rise to her feet but looked questioningly at the two men as they caught her arms and pulled her back down to the floor.
Sirius looked sheepishly at her. "We'll get them when they finish their rounds Ceri," he whispered.
"I… well both of us can't help feeling bad about this," said Remus. "We both did our fair share of this sort of thing when we were at Hogwarts, so we thought we'd let them finish their deliveries - let them have a last few hours of excitement before we turn them over to Dumbledore."
Ceri chuckled as she looked at the two men. "All right, you won't get any arguments from me. I just hope that Dumbledore goes easy on them tonight."
Two hours later, Remus again alerted his two friends as he looked at the map. "They're just coming out from Gryffindor Tower. They should be back at the statue in a couple of minutes."
They got to their feet and walked silently down the corridor and hid behind the statue, waiting for Fred and George to appear. Two minutes later, the wide grins on the twins' faces fell as they saw who lay in wait for them.
"Oh bugger!" breathed George. "I was hoping for another week or two before you caught us."
"Traitors!" said Fred. "Come on Padfoot, Mooney, can't you turn a blind eye?"
Sirius and Remus felt terrible and looked at the floor in embarrassment, and it was left to Ceri to officially apprehend the pair. "Sorry you two, you've been rumbled. Come on - Dumbledore wants to see you."
"Don't worry," said Sirius trying to suppress a grin, "I don't think he'll shout at you. His bite's much worse than his bark."
The twins groaned but followed their captors as they all walked slowly up to the headmaster's office. Dumbledore had a stern look on his face when he saw Fred and George enter his office. They stood in front of his desk looking at the floor as they waited for him to erupt, hoping that he wouldn't turn them into anything too nasty.
"Well - Fred and George Weasley," he said. "I thought you'd finished school last year. Couldn't you bear to leave the place?"
"Sorry Professor," they both said sheepishly. Dumbledore just stared at them, but said nothing.
"Look Professor," said Fred. "We bought Zonkos in Hogsmeade and we were staring ruin in the face when you banned student visits for another year."
"And we couldn't see everybody deprived of their jokes and pranks for another year," said George.
"So we thought we'd provide a service to keep up the morale of the school," added Fred, looking hopefully towards the headmaster.
"Oh, so it's concern for the students that spawned your little escapade, it had nothing to do with making money?" asked Dumbledore.
"Well there's nothing wrong with combining the two is there Professor?" said Fred.
Dumbledore, much to the relief of the watching Sirius, Remus and Ceri, lost his stern expression and grinned, his eyes twinkling. "I can't condone your illicit nocturnal visits to the school, but I'll make a suggestion if I may."
Fred and George looked at each other expectantly, relieved that they wouldn't have to spend any time crawling about on a damp floor in some dark place.
"I don't want to have to tie up my security people looking out for you at all times of the night," said Dumbledore, "so I'd much prefer you coming to the school through the front door rather than the back. I will allow you access to the school on weekends. You can use the small room at the bottom of the stairs in the Entrance Hall where you'll be allowed to sell your wares. But only on Saturdays and Sundays - and your nightly visits must stop."
"Thank you Professor Dumbledore," said George, hardly able to contain his excitement.
"We can't thank you enough," added Fred.
"But there's a price!" exclaimed Dumbledore. "I want twenty percent of your profits to go to school funds."
"Five percent," said George.
"Fifteen percent," said Dumbledore.
"Ten percent," said Fred.
"Done!" exclaimed Dumbledore. "And there's something else I want. What do you call those exploding things that cover a magical person in horrible yellow light?"
"Whammos," replied Fred, looking quizzically at the headmaster. "You're not thinking of pulling pranks on any of the professors are you sir?"
Dumbledore laughed. "No Fred. My days of pulling pranks have long gone. I'm far more interested in the possibility of using them in the fight against the Dark Side."
Both Fred and George looked blankly at the headmaster before he explained his idea. "Think about it. Fudge hasn't got enough Aurors to protect all the out-lying magical communities in the country, so some well-placed Whammos around those communities could give enough warning for the people to escape. And the Death Eaters will be lit up like Christmas trees, making it easier for the Aurors to track them down. And not only that, Whammos could be used to defend our Aurors out in the field. They can set them as warning devices to alert them of an attack by approaching Death Eaters."
"We hadn't thought of them like that," said George thoughtfully.
"I'd like you to bring me fifty of them first thing in the morning. Can you do that?"
"Yes of course," said Fred, glancing at George to confirm they had enough stock.
"Good. I want to send them to 'Mad Eye' Moody so that he can put them on trial during his training exercises. And if they work as well as I think they will, you could soon be receiving a sizeable order from the ministry. This could be very profitable for you both, especially if the American Congress thinks they'll be useful for their operations. I know that 'Mad Eye' has his contacts over there and he'll no doubt send them a few Whammos for evaluation purposes."
Fred and George couldn't believe their luck as they walked out the front door of the school and back to their shop in Hogsmeade. They talked incessantly; making plans for their new venture.
"After we give Dumbledore those Whammos, we'll only have about fifty left," said George.
"And if 'Mad Eye' Moody likes them - and I'm sure he will - we'll have to pull all the stops out to keep up with the orders we'll get," said Fred
"We'll never be able to cope if the Americans want them as well. We'll have to employ a few witches and wizards to keep up with production," said George, scratching his chin.
"We'll have to get in touch with some of our school friends. I know that Lee Jordan hasn't got a job yet, and Angelina said that she and Alicia weren't too happy working at the ministry since all this fuss started." Fred looked at George expectantly.
"Do you think another three people will be enough?" asked George.
"We'd better wait for a few days and see what happens," replied Fred. "And in the meantime we can make as many Whammos as we can, and then work out how we'll set up the room in the school for next weekend."
"Do you think the headmaster will allow us to put a sign over the door?" asked George.
Fred looked up at the dark sky seeing a sign in his mind's eye. "'Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes'," he said dreamily. "The School Joke Shop".
"This will be the area of operation," said Alastor Moody as he stood in front of the trainees at Camp Merlin, pointing to a large map hanging magically in the air. "Your task will be to defend these five points… here, here, here, here and here. Camp Morgana have been given the task of capturing all five places as I told you yesterday - that's from nine o'clock this morning to ten o'clock tonight. The winner will be the camp that holds the majority of those places at the end of the exercise. Is that clear?"
He looked around the trainees and saw them all nodding. "And don't forget, the only spells that are allowed are Rictusempra and Petrificus Totalus. You'll be split up into five groups and each group has to defend its ground against all attacks. The list of teams has been posted on the front of the headquarters building, and each one will have a commanding officer - he or she will determine the best defensive tactics and deploy the team in the appropriate manner."
'Mad Eye' looked at his watch. "You have one hour to get to your defensive positions and set up your strategy. Right, go!"
The trainees ran quickly up to the headquarters and milled around looking to see which team they were in. Oliver was surprised to see that he was listed as one of the commanders, and was glad to see that Katie was in his team. He quickly rounded up his other eight team-members and led them over to the map to check the place they'd be defending and the make-up of the surrounding terrain. After a few minutes study, he went to lead them out of the forest and to the small hill about three miles away that would be their headquarters for the rest of the day.
'Mad Eye' gestured him over as he jogged towards the forest path. "Oliver, I want you to try out these little devices for me." He handed Oliver five small stone-like objects. "They're called Whammos - pranks invented by your friends the Weasley twins. Let me know what you think of them."
After listening to 'Mad Eye's explanation of how they worked, he put them into his robe pocket and ran to catch up with his team. Half an hour later, they stood on the top of the small hill and studied their surroundings. They were at the highest point in their immediate area. To their front was an expanse of open grassy ground, ending at a small copse of trees about fifty yards away that led into the forest. Behind them was a narrow high-sided valley that opened, only thirty yards or so away from their position, onto some rough boulder-strewn ground. To the left and right was more rough ground, but with very few boulders, their view stretching uninterrupted for about a hundred yards in both directions.
Oliver called his team around him. "I think that our weakest position is to the rear," he said and noted the others all nodding in agreement. He pulled the five objects from his robes. "Moody gave me these - it seems he wants us to try them out. They're made by Fred and George Weasley," he said turning towards Katie. "They should come in handy to warn us when the Morgana team gets near. Now where do you think they'd best be deployed?"
Katie grinned and nodded to herself, well aware that Oliver was not taking a dictatorial attitude towards the team, but wanted them all to get involved in their defensive tactics. "We should put one of them over by that narrow valley," she said. "We want to get as much warning as possible if they decide to attack from there."
"Thanks Katie," said Oliver, "I agree. We can place one just before the valley opens onto the rough ground. Where do you think we should place the next one?"
"Over by that copse of trees to the front," said one of the others. "They're quite likely to gather there before launching an attack."
"Thanks Will," said Oliver. "Next?"
"We should put one on either side of us," said one of the others, "but I'm not sure where. There's a lot of open ground on each side."
"You're right, Sadie. We should put them far enough away to give us a clear warning, but I'm not sure what their effective range is. We'll just have to rely on luck, I suppose. Next?"
"We should put the last one towards our front," said a timid-looking young wizard. "If they don't attack from that copse of trees we'll get no warning from that direction. So maybe we should place one about half way between, in more or less a direct line of sight. What do you think?"
"I think that makes a lot of sense Bryn," said Oliver, handing two of the stones to Bryn, one to Sadie, and one to Will. "You three go and place them in the positions we agreed and where you think they'll be the most effective and Katie and I will place the one by the valley exit. You others stay here and keep a close look out in case they decide to attack early."
Oliver and Katie walked down the hill and over to the entrance to the narrow valley. "Haven't you got any idea of the effective range of these things?" asked Katie.
"Moody didn't say," Oliver answered. "But there's not a lot of room between these steep banks, so if we place it right in the middle it should be ok."
They walked back up the hill after placing the Whammo in the middle of the valley exit and settled down to wait. "They may decide to have a go at us early," said Oliver, "but they may decide to let us stew and wait for a bit. I think it'll be best if we each take an hour's stint at keeping a look out. You five," he said, pointing to five of his team, "take a rest for an hour while the four of us keep watch in each direction. Then we can change shifts. Everybody ok with that?"
By three o'clock that afternoon nothing had happened, even though they could hear the sound of charms being thrown at two of the other defensive positions that were closest to them. At the next shift change, Oliver called the group together. "They're trying to psyche us out," he said. "They think that by making us wait we'll be too nervous to put up any sort of resistance. We've got to resist that. Katie, you were in Morgana camp, who do you think we're up against."
Katie thought for a few moments, then said, "I'm sure it's Jamie Devoy and his team. 'Mad Eye' saw him as the best trainee at Morgana, and it makes sense that he'd put him up against you, Oliver. He's a quiet lad, really, but very intense and quite smart."
"Hmmmm," said Oliver deep in thought. "If I was attacking this position, I wouldn't want to risk exposing my team. It's too exposed on all fronts so I'd wait until it gets dark - that's about seven o'clock tonight. I'm pretty sure we won't get attacked until then, but we'd still better keep a good look out. Ok, shift change."
As five of his team members took up position around the perimeter of the hill, Oliver and the others settled down in the middle, drinking from their water flasks and munching on some jam-filled Welsh cakes that 'Mad Eye' had bought from the post office at the nearest little village about fifteen miles away. Oliver sat with his back against an outcrop of grey limestone, closed his eyes, and tried to empty his mind of the responsibilities of command for the next hour. He'd started to doze off when he was shaken back to reality as he felt someone settle down beside him. He turned his head to the side, opened his eyes and looked into the beautiful sparkling blue eyes of Katie Bell.
"Do you want some company Oliver?" she asked.
"I'd never refuse your company Katie," he replied. Since their ordeal on the pathfinder exercise, Katie had seemed a lot friendlier towards him. Her crusty front had seemed to crumble, and he'd seen the real Katie Bell - the one he knew at Hogwarts - but more so.
"How do you think I'm doing?" he asked, smiling at her.
"You're doing fine Oliver," she replied. "I… I want to thank you. I've learned a lot since we've been together. I just want you to know that I'm really grateful, and I'm sorry for the way I acted earlier. I think I've cooled down a bit now."
"That's ok Katie, don't think twice about it. You must have had a lot of grief from your parents when you decided to join up."
"Yes I did. Look Oliver, I haven't told anybody about this before, but my parents… well they're not my real parents. They adopted me when I was a baby. Don't get me wrong, I love them both dearly… oh I don't know why I'm telling you this."
Oliver covered her hand with his, looking deeply into her eyes. "It's ok Katie, if you want to talk about it I'm a good listener."
"Well I don't know a lot about it, but my parents… my adoptive ones, that is…. only told me that my real mother was very young when I was born - too young to look after me properly. She was still in school - Hogwarts - and her parents persuaded her to put me up for adoption."
"Do you know who she is?" asked Oliver gently.
"No. I only heard about this two years ago, and they told me that my real mother was killed when 'You Know Who' was at his strongest, before Harry sorted him out."
"I'm so sorry Katie; that must have been hard for you to take. Do you know who you're father is?"
"No," said Katie, a little tear escaping from the corner of her eye. "They wouldn't tell me. The only thing they would tell me was that he was at Hogwarts as well, and he didn't even know my mother was pregnant. When they found out, my real grandparents took my mother away from the school, and it seems that she didn't get a chance to tell my father. Whoever he is, he doesn't even know I exist."
Oliver looked on with compassion as Katie tried to suppress an anguished sob. He squeezed her hand, trying to comfort her. "And do you want to find out who he is?"
"Yes," she said quietly, looking back up into Oliver's concerned eyes. "But I don't know how I'll ever find him. My parents were so adamant that I shouldn't find out his identity - and I don't know why."
"Look Katie…" Oliver was interrupted by the next shift change, and Katie never did find out what he was going to say to her then; they were never left alone on their subsequent rest hours.
When it started to get dark, Oliver deployed his full force around the perimeter of the hill, knowing that an attack would come soon. They could all still hear the sounds of charms being thrown in the distance. They waited patiently as the last rays of light disappeared below the horizon, and only the few red-tinged wispy clouds provided any scant reflected illumination on the surrounding countryside. They listened to the distant hoots of owls and the scurrying of little creatures as they woke to their nocturnal existence.
Very soon, the pitch dark, the dark unique to country life, covered the surrounding area. Every sound they heard was now a source of agitated concern to them. They waited… and waited.
Oliver looked at his watch and saw that it was now nine o'clock. He knew that their opponents had to make their move soon, or they wouldn't have enough time to capture their position. He was right. Suddenly, a loud explosion erupted from the direction of the narrow valley and the sky was filled with the hideous yellow light, which soon subsided to leave three bright yellow figures walking stealthily towards the hill only twenty yards away. The three team-members defending that part of the hill were easily able to pick them off, sending body-bind charms to immobilise them and take them out of the attack.
Soon, two other explosions followed to their left and forward positions with the same results, three more of the enemy being immobilised. Oliver quickly calculated that there were three more camp Morgana trainees still out there, probably to their right flank. He and six of his team covered that side, leaving three others to keep watch on the positions they had already dealt with, in case there were more of the enemy lurking in those directions.
They waited for the yellow explosions, which never came. They first became aware that they were under attack from their right flank when they heard the scraping of a careless foot on loose rock, some ten yards down the hill. Oliver motioned for three of his team to move to the left and he moved with the other two to the right, straining to see into the inky blackness of the night. Then, with a loud shout, three black-cloaked figures charged up the hill and onto the summit, right in the middle of their right flank. It was an easy matter for Oliver and the others to place the three enemy trainees in a full body bind. Their part of the exercise was successfully completed.
While they waited for ten o'clock and the official end of the war games, Oliver talked to Jamie Devoy, the camp Morgana commander. "How did you avoid our two detection devices?" he asked.
"What detection devices? We came from the left side of a copse of trees and approached down the right-hand side of the clearing, then came towards the centre as we reached the bottom of the hill. What are those devices anyway? Was it those yellow explosions we saw earlier?"
"Moody'll no doubt tell you about them later," replied Oliver. "He gave them to me to test out. Pretty successful too, don't you think?"
"Yeh, I suppose," said the downcast Jamie. "Look, I concede defeat. You can get these body binds off us now."
"Oh no Jamie," said Oliver, shaking his head. "If there's one thing that 'Mad Eye' taught me, it was not to let my guard down. You lot can stay as you are until ten o'clock. Sorry."
Half an hour later, 'Mad Eye' and his ex-Aurors walked up to the top of the hill. "Well done Oliver," he said. "How did those devices work? Quite well from the look of things - you're the only one to successfully defend your position; all the others were taken over an hour ago. Camp Morgana wins the war games."
"Three of them worked, but two others didn't," he replied. "What's the effective range of those stones?"
"I don't know for certain, about five yards in all directions I think. Why do you ask?"
"Well I think they'll be great out in the field, but they'll be far better if their range can be extended by another ten yards in each direction, and if I know Fred and George, they'll easily be able to make the change."
"Thanks Oliver, I'll get a report to Dumbledore and the Ministry. And I'll send some of these little Whammos to my friend in America. I'm sure they'll go for them there if the twins can make the change. Right everyone, well done. Get back to your camps and get some sleep. First thing in the morning, I'll be giving you your postings to the units out on the front line."
Next morning, the camp Merlin graduates lined up in front of the headquarters building, eagerly awaiting the appearance of 'Mad Eye' Moody. He soon came out from the front door, holding a piece of paper in his hand. He walked to the middle of the line and faced his charges.
"You are the first people to graduate from our new training camps," he said, his voice sounding a bit emotional. "You've all done well, and I'm proud of you. I've had your postings from the ministry, and here they are." He looked down at the paper in his hand and read out the names of the graduates and the field teams to which they'd been assigned.
"Finally," he said, "Oliver Wood and Katie Bell are assigned to D division, based in the South of England as replacements for two of our brave colleagues who were lost in action three days ago. You will be placed under Phil Brace's team - a fine team leader, and one of the best of the old school of Aurors."
Oliver and Katie, who were standing to attention next to each other in the line, glanced out of the corner of their eye at each other and smiled, both glad that they'd been kept together. They didn't know that 'Mad Eye' had arranged for that to happen.
'Mad Eye' pulled himself up straight and looked along the line of his first batch of graduates. Then he looked straight ahead, and shouted, "Graduates of camp Merlin - good luck. Class… Dismissed."
Remus watched the Gryffindors and Slytherins take their seats in his DADA class, hoping that what he had planned for the lesson would go down well with the students. He waited until they'd settled down and then stood up from his seat and paced along the front of the class.
"Today we're going to learn about an unforgivable curse that you probably haven't heard of before. It's a very old curse that has its roots back in medieval times. It's rarely come across these days, but I want you to be aware of it just in case you come up against it. It works by sending the curse to an inanimate object close to the victim, a stone or piece of wood for example. Depending on the variant of the curse, the object is transformed into an animal of some sort - say a dragon, a lion or a crocodile. But unlike a boggart, these animals have teeth and they can kill. The curse is only ended when the kill is made, or the proper defence is set up to counteract it."
He looked around the room and saw that he had the students' full attention. "I won't tell you how to throw the curse - I'll do that and you'll each take turns in defending against it. Yes Hermione?"
He grinned at Hermione, knowing even before the class started that he'd be seeing her arm shoot into the air. "Professor Lupin, are you sure this is legal? The curse sounds awfully dangerous."
"Don't worry Hermione. It's perfectly legal - like I said last year, I've been given special dispensation to use unforgivable curses, and the animals I'll conjure up won't be very dangerous. I'll use a variant of the curse that makes them move only very slowly, so if you can't defend against it you can always outpace it."
The students laughed nervously, none of them wanting to be the first to try it out.
"Right, the defence works like this. You point your wand directly into the animal's mouth, aiming for its tongue. You'll make its tongue poke out of its mouth, and when the animal sees it, he'll think it's his victim and bite down hard, cutting it clean in half. Then the animal will disappear in a puff of smoke, the curse is ended and the original object will reappear. Clear?" No one moved a muscle.
"Well I assume you understood all that. Now let's see - Vincent Crabbe, come out to the front of the class and stand beside that book on the floor."
Crabbe looked at Draco and Goyle, hoping that he hadn't heard right. No one ever picked on him to demonstrate anything, and he wasn't very happy about it.
"Come on Crabbe, quickly now - I haven't got all day."
Crabbe slowly rose from his seat, walked slowly to the front of the class and stood beside the book, although he made sure he didn't stand too close.
"Now when I transform the book point your wand at it's tongue and say Extendo Ligula. Ready?"
Remus pointed his wand at the book and said quietly, "TRANSFORMO TARDESCO CROCODILUS".
The book quickly expanded into a fairly small crocodile that turned its head slowly and looked balefully at the wide-eyed Crabbe. It opened its jaws wide and slowly started to lumber towards the terrified Slytherin.
"Crabbe," shouted Remus. "Say the defence spell."
Crabbe looked fearfully at Remus and pointed his wand at the crocodile's mouth. "Ext…Ex… oh bugger it!"
Crabbe dropped his wand, made a bolt for the door and yanked it open. He shot down the corridor at a high rate of knots, the laughter of the rest of the students fading into oblivion as he rushed down the stairs. Remus shook his head and said the spell that transformed the crocodile back into a book.
"Come on Hermione," he said. "Show us how it's done."
Hermione walked to the front of the class and stood beside the book, her wand at the ready. When the crocodile again appeared, she waited for it to open its mouth and pointed her wand. "EXTENDO LIGULA," she shouted. The crocodile stuck out its tongue and closed its mouth. It jerked as half its tongue fell to the floor, disappeared in a puff of smoke and was replaced by the book once more.
"Excellent Hermione," said Remus. "You made that look very easy. Care to try the tickling charm again? You did well last time we tried it, and I'd be interested to see how you'll do now."
Hermione nodded. Remus pointed his wand at her arm and shouted, "RICTUSEMPRA."
Hermione concentrated very hard, exactly like Harry had shown her a few weeks ago, and mentally sent a shield over her arm. She felt an intense itching to start, but it slowly faded to a little irritation that she found easy to resist. She looked at Remus and smiled, excited that she'd done almost as well as Harry last year.
Remus nodded in satisfaction, seeing Hermione's powers start to grow to the level of Harry's and made a mental note to tell Dumbledore about the development.
After the DADA lesson, Harry and Ron made their way up to the Divinations classroom and took their seats at the back. They were both hoping for an uneventful lesson but groaned when Professor Trelawney placed her rune stones onto her desk.
"Before we start today's lesson, I want to check what the runes tell me about our famous two friends at the back. Come down to the front please Harry and Ron."
The two boys walked slowly to the front and stood in front of Trelawney's desk. She handed Harry the runes and asked him to cast them onto the floor, which he did. The other students gathered around as the professor knelt down to decipher the message. After a few minutes study, she looked at Harry. "You have to go on another long journey with your friends, much further than the last one. The runes are showing some urgency and… oh my, there is great danger, terrible danger. You have to keep your guard up at all times. Oh my… I see… no, it can't be!"
"What is it you see Professor?" urged Harry.
"It's not connected with your imminent journey, and I can't tell how far in the future it is. But there is… there is death. Oh my dear boy, you all have to be very careful."
Parvati and Lavender gasped and put their hands to their mouths. Harry and Ron looked at each other with grim expressions. They knew that Trelawney had been proved right in her last prediction, but they fervently hoped she wasn't right this time.
Author's Note -Please take a few moments to leave a review - I really do need to know what you think of this chapter. Many thanks to those who've reviewed so far. There are a few images of the country in the vicinity of Camp Merlin on my picture board - feel free to take a look.
Coming soon - Chapter 6 - The Ibis and the Baboon.