Deprived by The Crimson Lord
Disclaimer: I am not British, French, Irish, Polish, Bulgarian, Portuguese, Indian, Filipino, Brazilian, South African, Chinese, Chilean, nor Saudi Arabian.
"Good evening, Wizards and Witches, I am Wix, the infamous Wizard Wireless host for all your worldwide dueling news, back with you again live from the First Reiteration of the Triwizard Tournament. Here in Scotland, at the legendary Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I am thrilled to be able to describe to you the upcoming duels in the Round of Eight, and what a set of eight duelists these students are." Wix smiled amiably out at the gathering crowd from his vantage point in the press box. "Fortunately though, my dear listeners you are not forced to suffer my voice alone, for I am once more joined by Tanitha DeWees, of ICW fame."
"Goeie naand again, everyone. Certainly these duels are looking to be even more impressive than what we have already seen. We have wealthy financiers, team owners, coaches, players, athletes, politicians, and even the occasional Law Enforcement Recruiter all filling spots in our audience alongside you wonderful fans of Dueling."
"A keen eye you have Tan', see anyone in particular?" The South African gnawed at her lip for a second while scanning the crowd below.
"Marcie Dupont, the owner of the Swiss Templar Dueling Club, the Organisiziun Templar in their native Romansh. Her rival, the coach of the Liechtenstein Liches, Lukas Kilik, is also here." She pointed them out to Wix, though the audience could not see her motions. Then she continued. "Duelists like Lipasky, Simmons, Horowitz, Mendez, and Sakai. I see Rufus Scrimgeour, of Britain's Auror Department, and Edvard Golushko as well. Following the tragic Portkey mis-enchantment that killed several dozen officials in the Russian Ministry, he is the new Director of Internal Securities-"
"Ladies and Gentleman, without any intent of interrupting our friends astute observations," Wix gave her a wink and Tanitha nodded in acceptance that she had started rambling, "I believe our first duel is soon to start, and a solid duel for our French visitors it is. Darian Malfoy versus John Constantine. Though the favorite is clearly the Irishman, either way a Beauxbatons duelist advances to the final four."
"Very true, Wix, and a good thing. Because the only other Beauxbatons student in the final eight is likely to lose…"
John walked off the stage to polite applause. Darian was certainly a skilled duelist, but the boy hadn't stood a chance. Bare feet padded over to the Beauxbatons bench where only Salomé sat. The rest of the team sat in the audience directly behind the bench and small privacy half-wall. Her wand lay beside her, and her elbows were on her thighs, palms up to the sky, head bowed. She seemed to be praying, so John just sat next to her, picking up her wand, and spinning it idly in one hand. The announcers began to talk about the specifics of his own duel, so he tuned them out to focus on the girl beside him. Her hair was braided poorly, clearly the nerves that had her hands shaking even now hadn't helped. Slowly she exhaled, raised her head, and brought her hands together in a silent clap, rubbing them quickly. She looked to John.
"Any last advice?" Her voice cracked. John smiled, trying to set her at ease.
"Yeah. Fight tooth and nail. You don't expect to win this, I can tell, so just prove to every person in this crowd that you are the girl who didn't give up when things got tough. Show them your pride. Show them your power." Salomé nodded to his words, then stood up, grabbed the wand he offered, and walked towards the stage to the sound of her name being called by the announcers. She did her best to ignore the whispers of the crowd, and bounced lightly from foot to foot as she stood before the five steps that would take her to the top of the dueling lane.
"Duelists, take your positions." One of the judges, a small half-goblin man called, his voice shrill. The tall French girl took one last quick breath, and climbed the stairs. Across the center line, she saw her opponent doing the same.
Flame for hair.
Hell for eyes.
Sebastien Delacour sat with his hands manacled to the table in front of him. His wand had been confiscated, as had his secondary. He, however, had been granted the dignity of retaining his robes. Across from him, rubbing her face with her hands, was his second-in-command, Julie-Anne Cariveau.
"You are certain you have no way of proving your alibi for the morning of the murder." Sebastien shook his head.
"Julie, I told you already, I was home with my wife. Of course she could vouch for me, but that likely won't stop a bloodthirsty jury."
"Bah, as if a jury could be formed of enough people who don't like you. Non, the only thing that this is, is a sham. Some ploy by your enemies to defame you."
"Non, Mr. Delacour, I have only been working with you for a few weeks, but I see the way people treat you. It is with respect, not loathing or reticence. You are liked." It was after this affirmation, that the door softly swung open. A man walked in wearing a ludicrously expensive suit, and an even more expensive robe. His eyes were frosty blue, and his black hair was perfectly straight, cut at the shoulder blades..
"Ms. Cariveau, I believe you have been talking with the suspect for long enough."
"Commandant, I promise I understand your plight, but you are already suspected of being biased. Please do not give me fuel for the Ministry's flames." Cariveau bowed her head, bit back a retort and stood. She pressed past Lord Motierre and disappeared from view. The Minister of Intelligence closed the door quietly and sat in the chair she had vacated. Sebastien, across from him, straightened his back and met the man's eyes. When he spoke, it was with contempt-dusted venom.
"Spymaster." The man chuckled.
"Please, Lord Delacour, call me Aramis. There is no need for vulgarities, as last I checked, I am not Mance Chervaux."
"You openly voted for his innocence in the review of his imperius case." Motierre waved off the accusation.
"Politics, politics. The Department of Intelligence has our second largest facility in lands Chervaux technically owns, I was merely ensuring we do not lose such an asset."
"Because that is supposed to make me feel any better." Aramis sighed, and leaned forward.
"Yes Lord Delacour, I am a blood purist. Yes I find it abhorrent that you married and mated with a creature that is only human in appearance. As a matter of fact, I would go so far as to call it bestiality-"
"Woah, with such a talent for diplomacy, it's a miracle you aren't the Minister."
"-However, Monsieur, just because I detest your personal affairs, does not mean that I can't acknowledge you that you are a far better statesman and enforcer of the laws than the man who Cherveaux would like to replace you."
"You mean Cherveaux, himself? After all, he wants my job."
"Does he?" Sebastien opened his mouth for yet another witty comment, but stopped, seeing the hardness in Motierre's eyes. It was his turn to lean forward.
"You are saying Chervaux no longer wants my job? Who does he want to take it?"
"Rosenbaum." Lord Delacour blinked at the name.
"Exactly." Seeing the manacled Lord about to speak, Aramis cut him off. "Chervaux has begun to kick up his campaigning, something has lit a fire under his ass, even more so than when we had our conversation with the British Lord Malfoy. I'm certain you have already heard of this."
"A better question." Motierre stood, noticed a piece of lint had appeared on his sleeve, and plucked it off. "However, I am not here to answer all of your inquiries, merely to give you a warning. People are stepping from behind their chess pieces, and from what I hear, you and your family are a target."
Sebastien focused on all the small things he had learned to read over the years to find if someone was lying to him, and for a split second, he was the interrogator again, in his element. "Who are these people?" But a split second was all the hesitation he earned. Aramis shook his head, hair swaying gently.
"Sorry Mr. Delacour, I'm not going to answer that. Remember, I don't like you, much as you don't like me. That being said, I respect you enough to give you a warning. Leave France, take your children, take your...wife, and leave the continent. I'm certain someone with your credentials can find work most anywhere."
"I'm not going to run."
Motierre sighed. "It is your funeral." He opened the door, and stepped through. He was about to close the door when he paused, and addressed someone out of sight. "Are you here for the suspect?"
"Yes, Lord Motierre." Motierre blinked, then broke out in a smile.
"So you know me, I'm afraid I don't-"
"It is my job to know people, excuse me." The stranger spoke quietly, voice just barely reaching Sebastien before the newcomer strode into the room, closing the door in the face of the Director of Intelligence. The last glimpse of Motierre was a pained smile on the brink of frustration and indignance.
Lord Delacour focused on the new arrival, and frowned. The man wore a navy blue suit and vest over a grey shirt, his tucked tie was a cold amber, matching his eyes. "Lord Delacour, I presume. Odd that I should find the Director of Security in one of his own cells…" He trailed off, then waved a hand to cut his musings short. "My name is Tom Riddle. I work for the Department of Mysteries, and the Huntsmen of the Minister of Magic of Great Britain." He placed a briefcase on the table, unlocked it with his wand, and removed several manila folders. Spreading them out before Sebastien. "I hate to be brief, but I'm pretty sure I am short on time. What can you tell me about your security detail, and a series of killings carried out at the Quidditch World Cup?"
Fleur watched her friend try and hide her shattered pride as she descended the stage and spoke briefly with John and Coach Zaghloul. She politely applauded the girl from Durmstrang who returned to the bench beside her coach, and shook her head about some muttered question. Any further analysis was cut off by Salomé walking away from the duelists' benches and towards the double doors from the Great Hall. Making an excuse out of politeness, Fleur left the company of a few of her fellow students and followed after. She didn't notice a pair of eyes trail her out.
Fleur followed directions from a few students who had been loitering outside waiting for the next duel between two Hogwarts students, and found her strawberry-blonde friend in a girls' bathroom. Salomé was gripping the sides of a sink like it was the only thing keeping her from falling. Her grey eyes were dripping tears, face flushed red, and hands nearly the color of the porcelain she was latched on to. Fleur had a brief sense of déjà vu, a memory of her friend on a couch, puffy-eyed and wrapped in blankets. The veela followed the example her father had set that day, and sat down. She idly sent a mild notice-me-not charm at the bathroom entrance, then holstered her wand, and leaned back on her hands, folding her legs to the side.
A minute or so passed before Salomé spoke. "Foutre." Fleur snorted, but didn't interrupt as her friend continued. "It hurts...not just getting thrown around like a child's toy, but running into someone so damn good at everything I work to be good at...so much better than I am…" Fleur nodded. "And...like... I know I'm not the best, but someone three, four years younger than us?" The tall girl brought her hand to her nose, and wiped the tears and snot from her face, before turning the sink on with her other hand and washing the slop down the drain. Fleur scrunched her face in disgust. That mucus-transfiguration spell the Weasley girl had cast had almost made the Delacour girl puke.
Salomé turned off the sink, flicked her hand dry, and sat down a meter or so away from the other girl. "I didn't really think I could win after seeing what she did in previous matches, but I would have liked to give a little more of a challenge, you know?" The girl finished, numbly. Fleur just gave a sad smile, and leaned forward. A relaxed pose into one that better suggested comforting.
"I actually know what you're feeling." Salomé started to shake her head, but Fleur barreled on. "The first time I dueled John he obliterated me before I could even finish bowing, because he was fighting and I was dueling. Then he proceeded to school me in every subject at Beauxbatons from History, though that's not a difficult feat…" She trailed off to allow Salomé's responding snicker to gently echo through the bathroom, ", to Arithmancy to Runes to French. He knows more of our language than I do, and I was born in France!" Another chuckle. Fleur smiled, and kept on.
"However, that hasn't made me give up. I am going to win this Tournament. I will show anyone who doubts that I am a success. I'm not a failure. We only lose when we stop fighting. Just look at our country in the second World War…" Salomé snapped her head up, a smirk on her face.
"Did you just reference History? Truly? Mon dieu, you have changed!" The girls shared a laugh, and the mood lightened. Fleur stood, brushed her robes off, then offered the taller girl her hand, grunting slightly at even half-helping her stand.
"Now, since competition is good for your soul, shall we go back and watch the next duels?"
"Oh, hello. Are you feeling better?" The two girls snapped their eyes to the bathroom entrance, where a girl stood. She wasn't wearing school robes over her clothes, and her sweater and skirt were modest, but of expensive quality. Curious hazel eyes swept over the duo from beneath blonde bangs held parted by a trio of barrettes. Salomé blinked.
"Quoi? Oh, zût alors, uh, yes, I'm doing better thank you. I have seen you around, but I don't think I know your name…"
"Daphne Greengrass. I apologize for the rude greeting, I didn't mean to intrude." She gestured to the doorway, "But I felt the charm and wanted to make sure nothing nefarious was about." Fleur relaxed slightly at the answer, but saw her friend had not. Instead, the taller girl cocked her head.
"Is bullying that bad here that even non-Prefects, as you call them, have to be so vigilant?" Daphne shrugged.
"Probably as bad as any school does, but we have so few students for such a huge building." Fleur nodded.
"Ah, thank you, then. For checking on us, Mademoiselle Greengrass." She smiled, expecting the girl to take the cue and leave, but instead the Hogwarts girl sighed.
"I actually may have had an ulterior motive, as well." Two wands were quickly drawn. Daphne rolled her eyes. "Please, I am not some idiot who would attack you two in the open. Plus, I am certain you could both easily defeat me in a duel." The girls lowered their wands, but did not stow them. Daphne sighed, and visibly sagged as she grimaced through her next words. "I need your help."
"With what?" Fleur's words were guarded, and she noticed Salomé take a single step to the side, creating more space between the two girls in case the words were a ruse, and there was malicious intent. Daphne nodded to the taller of the two.
"I saw you training with the Irish boy one morning down at the lake...and I have seen you duel. Not to mention he responded to the attack at the Quidditch game…" Fleur felt her blood go cold, "between our school team and yours." Fleur took a quiet breath of relief. She had thought John had somehow been seen at the World Cup. "Not to mention the lot of you hang out... frequently. I figure he has shown you a few things." Salomé shrugged.
"So? You seem to want him to give you advice, why not just ask him yourself?" Almost before she was finished asking the question, Daphne was shaking her head.
"There are very few men I trust, and that certainly doesn't include a boy I hardly know. And I'm sure he wouldn't have time, after all, he is your bodyguard. Isn't he?" A beat of silence.
"Why on earth do you think-"
"Please don't insult me like that. He is in all of your classes, he follows you around outside of classes…"
"Then please point him out to me."
"I'm starting to think you are stupid. Of course he isn't going to walk into a girl's bathroom with you, especially not during the middle of a dueling competition with hundreds of eyes on him." She pointed at Salomé. "If he isn't with you, then she is. He's not your boyfriend, because you don't hold hands, kiss, or even go on dates." Fleur sighed, and threw her hands up in frustration.
"How on earth do you know all of this? Are you some kind of... voyeur?"
"My roommate is the gossip queen of the school. I listen." The Slytherin held her hands up placatingly. Fleur had learned enough of court and societal tricks to recognize the psychological gesture for what it was. Practiced. This girl had been trained too. "I'm not telling you this to blackmail you. I'm fifteen, soon my father will be getting offers for my hand if he hasn't already. The price goes down if I am… spoiled."
"That's barbaric." Salomé growled. Daphne shrugged.
"Certainly, but only a few here would try and do such a thing. I would rather know a few tricks to prepare for the worst. Hence why I am talking to you." The two french girls shared a glance. Fleur holstered her wand, and a few seconds later Salomé did as well.
"I suppose we can offer some help. We women have to stick together after all." Daphne smiled openly, before her face slid towards a more emotionless visage. Nothing compared to John's the girls noted, but more than decent.
"Thank you. Now, shall we head back to the dueling before we are missed?"
No sooner had the three left the bathroom, then they were greeted by a chirpy voice. "Daphne. Fleur. Salomé!" Luna trilled as she skipped down the hallway. She crashed into a surprised Salomé, and wrapped the much taller girl with a huge hug. Grey-eyes widened.
"Uh, hey Luna...what's the hug for?"
"Ginny was mean earlier, and it never feels good to get hit by the bat-bogey hex."
"You've been hit by that monstrosity?" Fleur scowled. Luna just smiled gently, turning her head so a single silvery eye met bright blue.
"I borrowed her doll when we were younger, and she didn't like it." Salomé wasn't sure what to do, so she awkwardly patted the shorter girl on the head.
"Um, Luna, don't you have a duel?" Luna nodded.
"I did. Against Hermione. I lost."
"Luna, there you are!" All but Luna looked up to see two more arrivals. Fleur recognized both from her Defense classes. Hannah Abbott, and Neville Longbottom. Luna blinked, then pushed back away from her friend, and sent them a beaming smile. Then she turned to look over her shoulder at her other two approaching friends.
"Hey Hannah, I found three more people for our secret plan." The stage whisper easily carried to all ears. This comment had several reactions.
Fleur cocked her head, confused.
Daphne narrowed her eyes in suspicion.
Salomé sighed, certain that she wasn't going to understand a thing of this plan, but ready to listen to it for her quirky friend's sake.
Neville began turning crimson.
Hannah blinked, then flushed pink and started stomping towards Luna. "Luna, dear, let's not talk about jokes as if they are serious-"
"Excuse me, ladies, Heir Longbottom, I am sorry to interrupt." A cultured male voice slid through the hall. Luna smiled wide, seemingly unaware of Hannah steaming her way.
"Oh, Draco! Another blond! Would you like to join the rest of us in making a har-"
"LUNA!" Hanna flung herself into the back of the short girl, and literally wrapped her hand around the chatty Ravenclaw's mouth. For a second, she was oblivious to the world, but quickly she realized that everyone was staring and the Hufflepuff flushed even darker. "Oh my god, I'm so so sorry, she just doesn't know when to stop joking...and...and I'm so so sorry." She began dragging her friend back down the corridor. "Please...just...forget everything...you heard. Everything..." Neville, cheeks approaching a Gryffindor red, sputtered something unintelligible, and then backpedaled away with Hannah and Luna.
The four remaining students stood silently watching the struggling Luna try and gasp words around the hand clamping down over her mouth. A near minute later, the trio disappeared around a corner, and Draco cleared his throat.
"As I was saying, with the Yule Ball in a few weeks…" Daphne shook her head.
"Thank you for the kind offer, Malfoy, but-"
"Actually, I was asking Ms. Bardot…" Daphne blinked. Fleur's eyes widened. Salomé stammered.
"Me?" Her voice squeaked, so she cleared her throat and tried again. "Me? But, why?" Draco smiled.
"You're interesting. Not many girls play Quidditch. Not many are selfless enough to risk their life for others. That's a rare quality these days. And you're not... unattractive." He cocked his head, smirking as he observed the blushing girl.
"Oh...well...I…" Salomé ruthlessly bit back her stutter as she felt her face heating up to a boiling point. When had she gotten riled up over a boy before? Certainly Malfoy wasn't bad looking but...she realized he was still waiting for an answer, and she forced herself to answer. "Thanks for the offer, but could I have a day or two to think about it…" Malfoy nodded slightly.
"Of course, Ms. Bardot." He turned to the other girls. "Ms. Greengrass. Ms. Delacour." Then he turned on his heel and left. All was quiet for a few long seconds. Salomé noticed the Greengrass girl looking her up and down appraisingly.
"What?" Daphne opened her mouth to answer, but then a loud voice echoed down the corridor.
"SALOMÉ! FLEUR!" Lucretia Botrel skidded past the hallway, but scrambled back after noticing the girls she was seeking. Despite her haste, the quidditch player was hardly out of breath when she slid up and grabbed their hands, yanking them away from the conversation they were a part of. "Mon dieu, vous deux allez être la mort de moi!" Her words blurred into themselves as she began tugging them back the way she had come. "I swear I will die if I am late because of you two! Where have you been!?"
"Talking. What's the matter?"
"The next match, it's John versus the crazy Durmstrang girl. I swear if I miss-" She needn't have worried. Salomé and Fleur all but ripped her arms from their sockets as they took off for the dueling stage.
"Ladies and Gentlewizards, our opinions have been given, bets have been hedged, and we are about to witness the duel you have been waiting for…" Many people listened, enraptured, as the skilled commentators subtly worked the crowd up for the next duel. A few, however, had tuned out the two voices, lost in their own thoughts.
Viktor Krum sat on the edge of his seat, worried.
Hermione Granger narrowed her eyes, taking in every fragment of information that could help her win against whoever took this match.
Luna grinned sheepishly as she watched, ears still ringing from the talking to she had gotten from Hannah.
Albus Dumbledore smiled as he awaited a very interesting match.
In a dark corner, a man freshly returned from France smirked. Everything was going according to plan.
One of the judges mounted the stage, and tested the stability of the structure with several spells before returning his seat. After him, a second examined the various wards designed to protect the crowd. The third, a beloved teacher at Hogwarts, examined the two wands. One coral. One yew.
Then the two mounted the stage. Neither shook hands, just nodded slightly, then walked to their respective ends.
The crowd held its breath as Professor Flitwick raised his wand and let red sparks fly.
Hidden green eyes locked on cold brown.
The sparks turned yellow.
Ginevra settled into a relaxed low pose, left hand raised behind her with the palm down and fingers splayed. Her right hand held the wand out, but kept the point lowered.
John stayed in his own pose, feet shoulder-width apart, hands folded behind his back. His wand, however, was already drawn.
The sparks turned green.
John's first spell was incandescent, orange, and whispered through the air, followed by a humming viridian hex. Ginny stepped towards the first, and with a flick of her wrist a tiny palm-sized shield appeared at the tip of her yew wand, absorbing the spell. She ducked the second. As she straightened, still walking, she swung her wand across her body and a dazzling silver cord of energy lashed at John. He raised his wand, and the wooden dueling lane peeled up from the floor and blocked the attack, cracking and splintering under the force.
The bodyguard then brought his wand down to earth, and the stage rolled like a snapped sheet, rippling towards the red-haired witch. She deftly flipped over the attack, dodging as well a trio of magenta bolts that followed. This could be fun. The thought rose unbidden to her mind, and she quashed that vengeful, irate part of herself that always sought a chance to surface. Instead, she kept her composure, conjured a cloud of butterflies, transfigured them to steel, and banished the shuriken-esque projectiles at the boy with silver sunglasses.
Behind his immaculate mask, John snorted in appreciation. This witch is skilled, he noted. Then, smiling, he decided to up the ante. "Arresto momentum." The flat metal butterflies stopped a few paces away, and with intricate swishes of his wand, John painted a sigil in mid-air, then pushed through it. "Oradan cazibe. Arachnael."
Ginny was certain she had never heard of those spells. However, in the deep dark of her occluded mind, a memory supplied itself. In the heartbeat it took for the shards to accelerate back in her direction, a strange silk spreading and growing from them to form a net edged with gleaming silver, she knew she had no choice if she wanted to win. So, against the promises she had made to herself, she cracked open the door to that obtenebrate horror that lingered in those shadowed recesses of her mind. She only gave it a sliver of light, but it was enough. A voice came through the darkness to the front of her mind. "Hello Ginevra."
The crowd gasped as the web reached the youngest Weasley, and behind his glasses, John's eyes widened. Silently, Ginevra appeared in front of the weighted net, and the butterflies clattered against the wall behind her and stuck there, as if so many insects had fallen to earth. The audience murmured confused, but the bodyguard knew. She had just Apparated. Inside Hogwarts.
Her wand shot up and an armada of spells poured forth as she closed the distance to her adversary. John moved as quickly, sidestepping, spinning, and shielding himself from the brutal assault. Finding a brief lull as she began a more intricate flourish, he charged her, accelerating to a full sprint in a breath. John sent two blasts of energy at her feet, forcing her to flicker past them as she had done with the butterflies, and then he was sliding at her legs in a vicious tackle that would have earned him a red card on any football pitch in the world.
Ginevra leapt in the air, letting him pass beneath her, and she lashed out with a flame whip, catching him across one shoulder, extracting a hiss from the normally stoic boy. She landed in a crouch, and rolled to one side. Her preemptive dodge saved her from the quartet of blasting curses he sent her way.
John shot to his feet, ignoring the pain in his charred flesh and, taking two steps towards her, lashed out in a viperous side kick. She ducked under it, raising one hand to push his leg even higher, and lashed out with her own foot at his supporting ankle. His reaction was equally rapid, reaching his free hand to the ground and handspringing away from the attack. Mid-flip, his wand rose and blasted an automatic-salvo of piercing hexes at the suddenly lethally-skilled witch. He didn't like how much she was testing him. If this pace kept up, he wouldn't have much choice but to stop holding back.
Ginevra spun out of the way of all but two of the red bolts, and ground her teeth in pain as she felt blood trickle down her side and arm where they had hit true. Leaping after John, she stabbed her wand at him and cast a wordless shotgun spread of exploding hexes that he flipped again to avoid, this time towards her in an attempt to catch the younger girl off guard. As the stage exploded in wooden shrapnel from the thunderous detonations, she summoned the shards back at him, and John felt the heat of pain lace up his back from hip to collar bone.
The grey-clad mage found himself tipping towards her from the unexpected impact, so he rolled towards her, ignoring the burning agony across his back and shoulder as the movement drove the wooden barbs deeper, and launched a stab of his own with his wand. She caught the fist with her right hand, his wand between her second and third fingers and only centimeters from her nose. Feeling the wand heat up, Ginny ducked her head left, and pushed his hand right, his cutting curse clipping her ear and a lock of hair. She brought her right knee up to strike horizontally into his ribs, but John stepped into the strike, intimately close to her now as her thigh smacked harmlessly into his hip. Her wand rose in her left hand and she shot a piercing curse of her own at his right leg.
John stepped forward with the leg to avoid the attack, bringing his right foot in between her legs, sweeping her left leg from under her and slamming her to the ground. She gasped as the air was expelled from her lungs, and her vision swam from the impact of her head on the stage. Vaguely seeing the blurry John move, and feeling him wrench his wand free from her comparatively pathetic grasp, she Apparated again. Landing unsteadily behind him, she drunkenly spun to face the bodyguard, and her wand rose again. John spun his wand behind his back, a fast-breathed pair of shields blocking her first two spells, and then he turned on his heel, wand spinning in front of him to block the next two. The boy's wand movement blurred into a quick sigil, then he spoke.
"Terra protego. Duro." He conjured an earthen shield, then sent it after the redhead like a rugby player with malicious intent. She tried a quintuplet of battering hexes, but to her shock, they failed to disperse the charging soil. Ginny made to Apparate again, but suddenly found herself rebounding off a brand new ward and crashing to the floor. Realizing she had mistaken his wand movements as part of the wall spell, as opposed to the raising of a ward, she cursed. It had been a clever trick. Ginevra made to get up, but the wall hit her. Hard.
John watched as the earthen conjuration collapsed over the witch, and waited patiently for the dirt to settle with her struggles. He knew that the soil was rapidly hardening, and that soon it would-
"Minn l-art, titla 'u tifraħ." Ginevra spoke in a lost dialect of Arabic that predated her by millennia, and she exploded from her earthen prison, flying through the air at John. She hadn't meant to lose herself more to the demon within, but that stone and earthen prison had brought back memories of serpents and secret chambers, and she had let the door inch ever slightly more open. "Tbati, tifel. Tbati. Tbati." The blue spells carried the cold weight of archaic power as they slammed into John's silent protego. The first cracked the shield, the second shattered it, and the third crashed into the boy like charging cavalry.
The bodyguard heard ribs crack and splinter as the spell struck him in the sternum and he was sent flying back forty feet, crashing and tumbling across the platform and grunting in pain as he rolled over his various injuries. Pulling himself to a knee, he kept one eye on the girl who stalked his way, and the other on his wounds. They hurt, more than anything he had endured since training at the Akadimía. He pushed the agony into the back of his mind, and stood. So she wanted a fight?
As he began to gather the necessary magic to overwhelm his brilliant opponent, John, with tremendous effort, reigned in his Achillean desire for vengeance. He was not here to win a tournament. He was not here to get involved in potentially lethal duels. He was definitely not at Hogwarts to reveal his full capabilities to anyone. So he inhaled his frustration and forced his clenched muscles to relax. John stuck his wand hand out, and let go of his weapon.
Across the length of the dueling stage, life moved in slow-motion. He saw her eyes flash a yellowed-amber, the snarl crawl across her face, and then her wand twisted a deadly spell, the honey-colored magic flickering into being. Yet, right when it was about to leave the tip of the yew wand, she recoiled and it dissipated, a white beam of light passing through the space where her wand had been. Turning angrily, she began moving her weapon to target the interfering goblin who had stood up from among the judges.
Filius Flitwick had been watching with equal parts fascination, fear, and wonder at the brutally beautiful fight that had unfurled before him. In his centuries of life, he had never seen its rival even in the most elite of dueling circuits. And as wonderful as it was seeing the perfect casting of spells that even he had no knowledge of, his heart sank as he realized that this fight between children of immense capability was just that. Not a duel, but a fight. And so he had been gripping the armrests of his chair until his knuckles were white as bleached bones, wand in hand, waiting for the moment when he should...no, when he would have to step in.
He had thanked every God he had ever heard of when Mr. Constantine dropped his wand. But his goblin-ears had twitched in surprise when young Ms. Weasley had begun casting that spell. He and his wand were both up before he finished processing the thought, and a disarming beam was lancing out towards her before he had even fully recognized the spell.
Filius Flitwick had always been feared among the dueling circuits for his speed, and the nearly unmatched ability to draw his wand and fire off an accurate spell. Some wizards claimed to have studied his recorded duels and found his fastest draw-strike took a mere tenth of a second. Such speed was frightening.
Terrifying, however, was the redheaded girl's reaction time. She actually dodged the spell. Had she felt him cast even while focused elsewhere? Filius didn't know the answer to that. But he did know that hateful eyes had locked on him, and her lips began to move.
Ginevra felt that dark door creaking open, and she began muttering words to a spell that, her mind mutely informed her, had likely been misconstrued as God striking down Sodom. This...creature...this thing...whoever, whatever, it was… It would suffer for interfering. She could hear the dark whispers slipping into her ears. The voice was gentle, but unimaginably powerful in the depths of her psyche. It was telling her to fully open the door...to give in. She wanted to. So she began to relinquish the last vestiges of her control...
"Again?" This voice was gruff and not ten feet from her. More importantly, it was real. She reacted instantly to Viktor's simple reminder of the promise she had made him. Her promise not to give in. She slammed the mental door shut, practically collapsing in on herself as she slumped to the ground, wand in loose fingers, all but forgotten.
There was not a sound as Viktor pulled himself onto the stage, and sat cross-legged beside her shaking body. John too, walked over, idly accioing his wand to his hand, and ignored his searing, bleeding wounds to squat down as well. Low murmurs began circulating through the crowd.
In the shadows of the room, a man frowned, amber eyes flashing in annoyance. He grabbed a coin from his pocket and cast a subtle transfiguration on it while still watching the stage. The girl had done well, very well in fact, but he couldn't risk her future by letting reporters dictate what had happened. He replaced the coin in his pocket.
Tom Riddle decided he would have to consider doing something about Viktor Krum. It wasn't good for Ginevra to have other people to support her...others besides his diary.
In the commentators booth Wix, Tan, and several countries' translators sat watching the scene and quietly discussing what they thought had happened, the microphone rune temporarily muted. Tanitha felt a coin in her pocket heat up; she extracted it, and subtly glanced at the message. Then she gulped, gathered her courage, and activated the microphone.
"Ladies and gentlemen, it seems that the extremely impressive display given today by Ginevra Weasley was too much for her body to take, and magical exhaustion has set in." Wix stared at her, but at her pleading look decided to run along with what she was saying. It made about as much sense as anything. He made sure to make a mental note to ask her about her choice later.
"Er...yes, and as you can see, the judges are joining the duelists in checking on her condition, so their final official verdict has yet to be released…" He trailed off, not sure for once what to say, but he was saved by someone in the audience standing up. Clapping rang out through the room, and people turned to face the instigator. Nikia Lipasky, the Herzegovinian Hellion, stood alone. He raised his chin, and spoke one word, accent rolling the 'r' slightly.
"Bravo." At his word, the Durmstrang dueling team shot to their feet and began applauding as well, awoken from their shock. Then the crowd followed suit, and the arena exploded in cheers and applause. Even the stoic Piotr Furan, who was said to have not displayed emotion since the day doctors pulled him from the womb, stood and clapped. Clapping, Fleur and Salomé shared a glance. The display by John had been terrifying, but in their quiet discussion, neither noted two Slytherins looking their way.
On the stage, John slowly moved from the painful crouch to a slightly less excruciating knee, waving off someone from St. Mungo's offering assistance. Beside him, Viktor was speaking quietly in Bulgarian to the Weasley girl. He wasn't sure if she even spoke the language, but the words seemed to be helping her. When the medi-wizards grew a little too insistent, he rested a hand briefly on the shoulder of the taller boy, shared a quiet nod, then got up to allow the doctors their due.
"What!? But I lost!" Coach Zaghloul shook his head at Salomé and then took a breath.
"I have explained this already, the announcers are going to say it for the crowd and the publications, but the coaches get to explain it to their duelists first...let me try again. Who just won that duel?" The strawberry blonde frowned at his question.
"John dropped his wand and forfeited, so the Weasley girl won."
"Oui, c'est vrai, but she also accelerated the violent play, performed several spells in that match that are more common on a battlefield, and she almost assaulted a judge. It is a kindness that she is not being sent back to Durmstrang, and is just being disqualified from the dueling competition."
"So John won?"
"Non, he forfeited."
"So no one won?"
"Correct…so the judges had to go back and they found a similar case back in 1882, when the new Kingdom of Serbia hosted a dueling tournament…" He trailed off. "The point is there was a similar event, and the would-be winner of a duel cheated, but so did his competitor. They went to the person who had lost most recently to the victorious cheater, and brought him back inot the tournament."
"So you're saying, based on an example 110 years ago, I am back in."
"That is essentially it."
"And I will have to face...what was her name, Granger?"
"Foutre." Professor Zaghloul didn't bother to scold her language.
"They've pushed back the final duel to after the second task, so several Confederation judges can make it to verify everything...so get ready, because I will be upping your training! We will win this!" Salomé groaned as her coach pumped his fist in excitement.
To any observer, Sebastien looked like he was asleep in the chair, his eyes closed, head bowed, and chest rising and falling softly with each breath. But within the confidence of his own mind, he was sliding through the palatial halls of his memories. This wasn't just any occlumency exercise. The Chairman of Arcane Defences was examining the crime scene he had seen in Marseille, going over every inane detail. Then he compared it with previous crime scenes he had seen. After, he factored in the modus operandi of the many criminals he was aware of, with a focus on any he knew had a penchant for mimicry or disguises.
There was le mensonge, a half-French half-German child of the invasion in the Second World War, a man who loved trickery and deceit and had briefly run a chess-themed killing spree in Paris. However, he had been caught and imprisoned three years ago. Sebastien had nothing to do with his capture, so he set aside that thread.
La boucane was a Quebec-born serial killer who enjoyed playing games of smoke and mirrors with authorities, but she had struck just a few months ago in Montreal, and he didn't think she had the skill to pull off an attack of this style so far from her homeland.
There was a faceless assassin who the ICW was hunting, someone known for hunting both magicals and muggles...one who was still at large and could have a bone to pick with him. Sebastien knew he was the only investigator to have come close to finding the killer, and had actually saved someone who had heard the voice of the killer after charging into a burning apartment building in Alsace. He had pulled a little homeless boy from a hide-away between walls after hearing the terrified screams of the squatter. The boy was now in witness security after hearing the killer take a phone call. The man had spoken briefly, but after pulling the boy's memory for a pensieve (and wiping the poor child's mind), Sebastien had heard the voice himself. "C'est Fell….Ma daki? Khamsa ayam mufhuma."
Eight words...seven with the contraction. Three languages. This is Fell. The French had been slightly accented. Alsacian. What do you think? Hebrew. An expert had said it was a Sephardic dialect of the ancient language. Five days, understood. This time Khaleedji Arabic. A different expert swore on his grandmother's grave that the speaker was from Kuwait.
His musings were cut off when the door swung open, and a familiar giant stalked in. Lord Maximilien Delaguède took two huge steps to the table, door slamming behind him. He placed his palms flat on the table, and bent down so his face was a fraction of a meter from the surprised Sebastien. When he spoke, blue eyes locked on hazel, his voice was uncharacteristically low. "Lord Delacour, did you see Cariveau this morning?"
"Putain de pute. Okay, listen. There are two british aurors on their way to meet you. One of them is some girl, the man, though, is Lord Black. He is a maverick and will believe you. You can trust him."
"Trust him? What on earth-"
"No time, Sebastien." Lord Delacour blinked. Maximilien never called him by his first name. "One of my trusted Lieutenants met his son for Lunch, the boy is a squib working with the Provincial police in Burgundy. A woman matching her description just went on a killing spree before teleporting away."
"That's not possible, Julie-Anne was here with me."
"Why am I helping you?"
"Because now I know you are innocent. Cariveau called in sick yesterday and said she wouldn't be back today. But she went to work when you were called in, and stayed all night. Someone didn't know about that, and was trying to frame her like you." Sebastien raised an eyebrow at the Hammer's deduction.
"You seem awfully enthusiastic in playing the investigator."
"Non, but something is rotten in the state of France." The giant misquoted. "And it reeks like one of Grindlewald's too-clever plots." He didn't need to say more, and he turned to stomp out. Sebastien knew the tall man loathed the former dark lord. Before the door could slam shut again, a hand grabbed it, and two new people walked in.
One was tall with long dark hair. A bright garish ring on a chain around his neck identified him as the aforementioned Lord Black. His companion surveyed the room, before walking up to the two-way wall and staring right at it. Her hair was red, and hung in tresses to her mid-back. She was dressed in a tailored suit under a robe that barely concealed her form. She was nothing compared to Apolline, but Sebastien had to acknowledge she was fairly attractive.
"Lord Chairman Delacour?" The man asked.
"Er...je m'appelle Sirius Black, et je suis un chasseur pour...er...do you mind if we speak in English? My French is miserable." Sebastien smiled, and nodded in acceptance. Mr. Black was actually not half-bad at the language. "Wonderful, as I said, I am Sirius Black."
"Amelia Bones." The woman offered, still staring at the wall. Sirius nodded, then continued.
"We are Hunstsmen with the British Ministry of Magic, and we wanted to ask you some questions."
"Go right ahead." Sirius nodded acceptance, grabbed the chair opposite of the detainee, and sat down. Off to the side, Amelia called over her shoulder.
"We are being watched."
"Obviously we are going to be watched…" The black-haired man muttered just loud enough for Sebastien to hear, then he gave him a long-suffering smile and rolled his eyes as if to say, Women, am I right?" The frenchman just leaned back in his chair. So that was how they were going to play it, trying to appeal to a snotty high-browed french dignitary.
"You had some questions?"
"Yes, yes of course." He didn't have a briefcase to dramatically open, nor a sheaf of documents to splay out. Instead, he steepled his fingers, wrists on the table, and smiled.
"If you don't mind, I'd like to start this rather formally, get all the pomp out of the way before we talk like real people." He scanned the French Lord's eyes to see if there was any disagreement, and found none. "Great, so first, for the record, could I have your full name."
"Sebastien Orland Delacour."
"Where and when were you born?"
"Château Delacour, the Sixth of June, 1944."
"Do you have any living relatives?"
"Yes." A pause. "Oh, you mean for me to name them as well?"
"That would be preferable."
"Very well. My wife is Apolline Madeleine Delacour. I have two daughters, Fleur Isabelle Delacour, and Gabrielle Giselle Delacour."
"And your wife is your alibi to the crimes you stand accused of."
Sebastien didn't bat an eye at the sudden serious question. "Yes, though I am currently only suspected."
"Suspected but manacled?"
"I am just as surprised as you are."
"I see. Can you tell us why a flicker-portkey at the Quidditch World Cup led from a massacre to your tent?"
"I couldn't say."
"Couldn't, shouldn't, or won't?"
"I am rather certain I said 'couldn't.' The word, though English is my second language, I believe means can not?"
"Good, then I did not misspeak. I can not answer your question. I don't know."
"That's a lie." Amelia spoke, still facing the wall. Sebastien slowly turned his head to look at her.
"Did the wall tell you that?"
"Non, your voice changed. It was slight, but there. And you deflected more than your previous questions."
"Pretty thin ground to stand on for an accusation against a Lord of the French Ministry. I believe your British laws are rather specific and strict in such matters."
"As a Lady of that same government, I believe I know my laws quite well." Sebastien inclined his head.
"I spoke brashly, you have my apologies, Lady Bones."
"No you didn't." This time she turned around, took three small steps to the table, and stood beside her compatriot, arms crossed. "You weren't brash. You are still deflecting. You know something more about the Quidditch Cup than just your part in fighting a few masked men." Sebastien gave a snort of laughter.
"You're quite clever."
"I am." There was a charged silence in the room. After almost a minute, Sirius opened his mouth to try and defuse the tension, but Sabastien saw this, and spoke first.
"I like you two. You work well together as a team, and are quite clever. A colleague also tells me I can trust you." Sebastien leaned forward. "I think I'll take a chance here." He watched as the two British investigators leaned in as well, eager.
Sebastien had not just been sitting in the room all this time doing nothing but thinking of how he had been implicated in the crimes he stood accused of. He agreed with Maximilien, there was some plot afoot, and he believed he had figured out the next step. He made an obvious glance at the two-way wall, and then spoke the few words he knew he had time for.
"John Constantine. He is more than he seems. Trust him. There is an enemy in England. Keep my daughter safe." Then he leaned back, breaking the small circle they had formed. Sirius blinked.
"What?" Then the door burst open, and french wizards stormed in. At their front walked Horatio Martin, the Vice-Minister of Magical France.
"Auror Bones, Auror Black, I must ask you to leave." His eyes left the two, and the man Sebastien considered a friend held nothing but suspicion and anger in his eyes. Sirius leaned his head back until he could see the man talking.
"I have only just started questioning the suspect."
"We are under attack." Sirius blinked, becoming actually serious.
"From what?" He fired back.
"How many are there?" Amelia added. The Vice-Minister opened his mouth to answer, but Sebastien gave a sigh worthy of a stage production, and gave a humorless grin.
"Let me guess, it is being led by someone I know, someone that normally would be able to testify for me in court?"
"Oui, your wife."
"Of course it is."
The person wearing the face of Apolline Delacour spun out of the way of a red hex, and sent a black curse back at the irritating french auror blocking the door to the prison levels. Around them, corpses littered the hallways that the attacker had marched down. Some still breathed but fifteen or so were dead, organs and limbs splattering stone and wood, and corpses twisted in mutilation.
The killer hissed an actual curse when she was almost clipped by a piercing hex, but she manage to slip a nasty Tunisian spell past the skilled defender, and the would-be-hero folded in half backwards, screams piercing the air. She was two steps from the door, when some primal instincts tingled, and Apolline ducked. A humming orange ball of light cracked the ward-reinforced door, and she was flung bodily backward down the hall from the pressure of the explosion. The screams of the folded man stopped as he was killed from the shock-wave.
The killer landed awkwardly, but rolled to her feet, luckily avoiding a huge cutting curse that gouged the ancient stone floor. What the fuck? Then, Apolline saw the newest challenger. He was huge, over two-meters tall, and built like a mountain...one in a white tailored suit. His words fit his frame more than his formal attire.
"So you are the bitch playing with costumes." The massive blond man fired another hex, which she dodged again, before his gruff voice called a spell she knew would be a problem. "Freccia multem." A flight of silver arrows blasted from his wand, and she had to levitate several corpses in the way to block. He was too strong for her, she could tell by the obscene power of his spells, and she had to dodge again another growled cutting curse that lashed at the walls. Apolline used every trick and spell in her repertoire just to survive until her back pressed to the door behind her. Then, when his next spell blasted towards her, she spent every iota of strength she had and cast a shield charm, and a cushioning charm. Her body crashed through the door and into the next hallway. She rolled to her feat, cursing in pain, and then fury as she saw some of her blood on the stones. She found the wound on her neck, it hadn't hit the artery, but it was bleeding a lot more than she liked. She tried to heal it, but no matter what quick healing spell she tried, it still bled slightly. Fuck. She had failed.
Her success was contingent on leaving no evidence, and with the bleeding, she couldn't risk missing a spot.
Apolline evanesced the blood she could see, and then grabbed her emergency portkey.
Amelia cast a quiet spell, and watched as red numbers appeared in the air. She sighed, it was likely going to be another all-nighter. Running a hand through her hair, she turned back to the seated Sirius, scratching ink across a parchment in their office. "Alright, run it by me again."
He nodded wearily. "We arrive at the French Ministry, and everything is going just fine. We then fight through the usual red-tape to be able to speak with Lord Delacour, who is being held in suspicion of muggle-hunting. We begin to talk to him, and he finishes with a rather cryptic set of statements. But before we can ask him about them, our conversation is brought to a halt.
"He accurately guesses the leader of the attackers, but seems unworried about it being his wife, the same person who would be his alibi for his own case. Also, though the fight was repelled by that giant man who left the interrogation room before us, we were not allowed to assist in any aspect of their investigations.
"Finally right when we are about to leave, his royal excellence Tom Riddle shows up and is allowed to help them investigate. Because of course he is." Amelia rolled his eyes at his frustrations, but didn't reprimand him. She rolled her wand between her fingers, and clicked her tongue. He looked up from his scribbled notes. He recognized the look in her eyes. "Something you are thinking, 'Lia?"
"Yeah, but I would need to know more about the attack on the French ministry…" She heard the snap of a quill and her eyes refocused, taking in the new, and growing, splotch of black across his notes.
"I'm fucking sick of him!"
"Unspeakable Tom Mar-fucking-volo Riddle, always the man of the day. First he walks in and rips our investigation from us, then he shows up to save your life when I should have been there for you, then at the Triwizard Quidditch Match, he is again there to fix things, then Jane Court is talking to him before us, even though we have worked with her for years, and now the damn frogs are working with him instead of us and….agggghhhhh!" His rant ended in a roar, and he slammed his fists on the table, sending papers flying, and spilling the ink pot everywhere.
"Don't fucking 'bUt SiRiUs' me!?" He hissed, voice dripping with malice and mockery. She stared at him in shock. After a few seconds of heavy breathing, he seemed to calm, and slowly stood up. "Sorry 'Lia...I just need a moment." Then he walked from the room.
Amelia made to follow him, but she heard his tired and defeated, "Of fucking course it's you." A door slammed not far away, and after a pause, Tom Riddle walked in, head cocked in confusion, bright eyes taking her in first, then the room. He waved a hand and the mess of papers reorganized, and ink pooled back into its glass, the jar righting itself when no sign of the spill remained. He held up a few papers.
"I managed to get a report from the French Ministry and a list of the casualties from what they are tactfully calling the 'Paris Incident'. I assumed you would like to see them."
"Take a look at it, and tell me what you think. You've always had good intuition." She blushed lightly at the praise, but tried to hide it with a wave, waving off her sudden warmth as much as the compliment.
"I'll see what I can make of it…" She trailed off, still thinking of Sirius' odd behavior. Like always, Riddle seemed to read the situation perfectly.
"Is everything okay? Mr. Black seems frustrated."
"He's been more...angry, more passionate lately. I don't know what his problem is…" She trailed off, gazed down, like a schoolgirl talking to someone she was sweet on. She began to ruthlessly quash the emotion, trying to stay professional and confused on why she kept losing her mind—
Riddle lifted her chin with one finger, and her blue eyes met burning amber. Her resolve crumbled like consciousness to chloroform as every breath took him in. Smoke, rain, citrus, cinnamon…her mind tumbled through pure desire. His voice, honeyed sin. "It's... basic." A dismissive nod. "Showmanship. He, correctly, feels inadequate. He fears I'm going to take you from him."
Amelia found herself hanging on to every word, eyes rolling in an unending cycle from the fire in his eyes, to the smirk about his lips, and back to his bright eyes. He continued, and she found herself leaning towards him. His words were liquid desire. "But I'm not taking you from him." Then he leaned in, and she found herself stiffening, breath coming faster as his lips muttered a final whisper in her ear. "Unless…you want me to."
Then he was walking away, head high as if the world was his kingdom. And why shouldn't it be? She found herself thinking as she suddenly needed the wall for support, eyes hazed and the world rolling around her. She tried to quell the traitorous thought. Tried.
\Romansh is one of the four national languages of Switzerland, along with German, Italian, and French.
\Zût alors has many possible English translations. Oh shoot! or Dang it! are among them.
\It amuses me that I accidentally wrote myself into an easy joke. So of course I would reference the secret blonde harem.
\"Vous deux allez être la mort de moi!" means "You two will be the death of me."
\Ordan Cazibe, is approximately the Turkish for 'create gravity'. Arachnael however is nothing. I made it up. Suck it linguists.
\"Minn l-art, titla 'u tifraħ" is sorta a lost language. Maltese is spoken by less than half a million people in the world, and is a variant of arabic. The best translation is 'to explode (or break) free from the ground', however, the phrase back-translates on google translate with the word 'conflaminate'. Conflaminate logically, should mean 'with fire' based on Latin roots, but the word doesn't exist in any online dictionary.
However, in the Skeat's Etymological Dictionary (1911), I found the root Latin, flamen: A priest who starts the sacrificial fire. So the phrase is not only Maltese, but the subsect of the Arabic Maltese influenced by Romans in the first century AD.
\Tbati, tifel. Means, suffer, child.
\Sodom and its sibling cities Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim were struck down by God in the Bible, Quran and Hadith for their sins and perversions.
\This was rumored before, but confirmed in this chapter. In Chapter Three: The Murder of Innocence, Voldemort references a spy in South Africa related to the ICW Marshals. We now know who that was. (However, if the spy is no longer with the Marshal, where is the Marshal?)
\In 1882 Serbia became a Kingdom. It became not a Kingdom in 1918.
\Putain de Pute is foul language.
At last, the John vs Ginevra fight. Hope y'all enjoyed it! Also, a few cracks start to form in Voldemort's web of manipulations, so of course he starts to manipulate some more. I have a major plan for Dumbledore vs Voldemort that is crazier than anything in any HP fanfiction you have ever read, I promise. I had a reviewer or two comment on how terrifying my Riddle is, and how they worry how the good guys can win.
First: Who said the good guys will win? Mwahaha! :)
Second: Seriously though, how often do you find a story where you are actually unsure if the good guys can win. That's the point of a terrifying villain. If the good guys are to going to win, it certainly will be at a cost. Even Rowling wasn't above killing off characters, and my world is grittier than hers.
There will be a couple surprises with the next chapter, but you can expect the Yule Ball, some more of the Law Enforcement intrigue, and maybe even the next Task!