Deprived by the Crimson Lord
Disclaimer: I'm not British, French, Irish, Polish, nor Bulgarian.
The morning of her first training session, Salomé awoke to being dropped in the Mediterranean. She had spluttered indignantly and tread water until she got her bearings. In the pre-dawn darkness, it took a minute, the cold of the water seeped through her drenched hoodie and sweatpants and into her bones. Then seeing John standing barefoot on the shore, she angrily swam towards him, and dragged herself out of the surf.
"What the fuck, John!?" Her indignation was only increased by his superior smirk.
"First rule. Always stay aware. Don't let anyone get the drop on you."
"I was in my room! Sleeping!"
"And!? You can't just go barging into other people's rooms!" She glanced down and saw what she was wearing. "Did you transfigure my clothes!?"
"Why?" She was angry. She knew that in time the grey clothes would turn back to their normal, fox dotted pajamas, but it still was an insult to her dignity.
"Why not!?" Salomé took a deep breath, trying to ignore his sudden childishness. "Because I am a girl, and you don't barge into girl's rooms and transfigure what they are wearing. Especially without permission!"
"You asked me to train you." That stopped her. For all of two seconds.
"This…this is your idea of training?" She was incredulous. He wasn't.
"This is the beginning. Yep. Now where is your wand?" Wearily, the blonde reached out of instinct to her side, then realized she was no longer inside, that she was grasping at air where normally her wand was at her bedside table.
"It's still inside." John held up her wand.
"Rule two. Don't give your enemy access to your weapon." She frowned at that, but John was pleased to see she didn't argue the distinction. With a smile, the bodyguard flung her wand end over end back into the water. Salomé gaped and looked from him to her wand. Then she tore off into the water, swimming into the dark waves to where her wand was floating forty yards off shore. She grabbed the length of black walnut and swam back to John. His smile was shark-like. "May I see your wand?" She smiled back, breathing heavily.
"Rule two. Don't give your enemy access to your weapon." His smile stayed wide.
"Depulso." The small explosion hit the sand in front of Salomé, the force of it flinging her legs out from under her, and she face-planted into the beach with an undignified squawk of surpise. "Expelliarmus… Accio." She heard the sound of her wand smacking into his palm. Groaning, the blonde got to her feet, sand covering her from hair to toe. John waved her wand. "Rule two. Don't give your enemy access to your weapon." She flipped him off.
"I was going to say you aren't my enemy."
"Yep." She grunted as she stood. "But now I'm not so sure."
"Let's not leave any doubt then." John threw her wand back into the waves. Salomé cursed, then launched herself back out into the Mediterranean. This time, when she emerged from the sea, she saw John had moved back from the water's edge about a hundred feet. He drew a line in the sand with one foot and called out, "If you cross this line, your training is done." She stopped with the waves lapping at her heels. She considered, then she launched an all-out attack.
She was sent swimming after her wand.
After the fourth failure, she realized, with no small hope, that John was erasing and moving the line a few feet forward every failure of hers. She didn't dare acknowledge the kindness, for fear of it being retracted. It was several dozen failures later that she realized it was no mercy. The closer he got, the less time she had to plan and the sooner she was under fire from the barefoot boy. By the time his line was only a body's length from the water, she never left the oceans embrace, just swimming, launching spells as soon as her feet felt the sandy bottom, and then swimming once more back out when her wand was flung.
The sun was just beginning to peak over the distant horizon when the lapping tide crossed the line before she did. John stopped firing spells, and she gratefully dragged herself from the sea's embrace and collapsed in the sand at his feet. The cold water crashed and flowed around her, but she didn't care. Her body was completely sapped of strength. Her breathing was ragged and deep. She blinked saltwater from her puffy eyes and looked up to see herself in the reflective silver of John's glasses. Even in the distorted mirrors, she could see how much of a mess she was.
"You failed. We will see if you succeed tomorrow." Then he was gone, and she lay staring up at the brightening sky. A particularly large wave crashed over her, and she was left sputtering and coughing up water. Deciding she didn't want to be slowly waterboarded by the rising waves, she clawed her way up the beach, pulled herself to her feet with the aid of a sand dune, and staggered back to the chateau, where a hot shower, and eventually breakfast, awaited.
Her second morning had started the same way as her first. Though she had set an alarm to wake her, and several security spells on her door, she still awoke to black waves in the darkness. No luck crossing the line that day either. Nor for the next five days. No matter what she tried, she still woke to the waves, and lost to them in the seemingly simple task of crossing a line in the sand. She began to glare at John throughout the day. Something not unnoticed by Fleur and her family, though they didn't comment on it.
On the eighth day, she awoke to soft sheets, dry clothes, and a day of apparent relaxation. That night, however, she awoke after less than an hour of sleep to something licking her face. Rolling to her feet, she found herself surrounded by a calm crowd of sheep, looking at her with emotionless concern in their empty eyes. The blonde took in her surroundings, and saw John hadn't filled her room with sheep, but brought her to a pasture…somewhere. She scratched her head and rubbed bleary eyes. She would kick his…she would try to kick his ass when she next saw him. Her task, Salomé assumed, was to make her way home. And so she did, slowly. She tried using a point-me spell to show her the way to Chateau Delacour, only to remember the wards around the house.
The sixth-year student's next strategy was to apparate, but to her surprise she found she couldn't when she bounced off of a preventive ward and crashed into the grass and dirt of the pasture. The sheep ambled over, seeing if she was dead, and one tried to graze on her hoodie. Cursing, she shot to her feet and launched a detection spell at the sky, only for it to not connect with any static wards and drive her into confused silence. That only lasted a few seconds before she fired off every verbal curse she could think of at the thought of the infuriating boy named Constantine. The sheep looked on with concern. One bleated, adding its own two cents to her rant.
Eventually, she stopped, and as so often in times of confusion, she thought of her brother, and the lessons that had helped her with so much. Salomé looked to the stars, and recognized enough to make her way slowly south.
The trip was slow going, and even once she hit a road, she wasn't comfortable enough to hitch a ride on a vehicle traveling the desolate road, so she hid when she heard the sounds of tires on gravel. Her walking took her briefly along a more major thoroughfare, before she was back to walking over grassy fields. Eventually, only a few hours before the sun rose, she saw the glittering Mediterranean, and knew she was close.
"Took you long enough." The Irish accent was as rage-inducing as it was sudden, and she rounded on John, who had been leaning against a tree she had just passed.
"You mothe—" Her anger was cut off as she found herself stunned, immobilized, and disarmed before she finished turning. She was forced to watch in silence as he levitated her to the sea, and only then did she realize it was just about the right time for morning training.
One day, she swore to herself, John Constantine would pay. Then she was dropped into the freezing waters.
Every week thereafter followed a near perfect schedule. The bodyguard had her up much earlier than reasonable, training in the waves, failing to cross a stupid line, then recuperating for the rest of the day. This was repeated every day until a full week had passed. On the eighth day, John would give her a morning off, but in the early night he would leave her somewhere in southern France for her to return home in time for the following mornings training. Then the pattern would begin again. Every now and again he would throw in some other training, but this was always during the afternoon, and was never rigorous enough for her to struggle more than usual with the following session.
John was impressed. Never once, no matter how much he threw at the blonde, did she quit. Even when her fatigue led to her not being able to muster even a simple stunner, she would still doggedly charge him with a wordless growl on her lips, intent to physically tackle him over the line if that was what it took. Her drive to improve herself was borderline unnatural, and she was starting to get too quick at the overnight marches, going so far as to hitch rides with late night truckers to cut down her travel time. John decided he would ramp up the challenge once school started.
"QUIDDITCH!" Gabrielle burst through the door to John's room with strength and energy belying her age. While he had heard her sprinting footsteps approaching, he had not expected her to carry on into his room with such force, and he was caught off guard as she nearly knocked him over with a flying tackle that would have made a rugby player jealous. Managing to keep his feet, John pried her off of him, and placed her back on the ground. Gabrielle flung her hair out of her face and grinned at him. "IT'S THURSDAY!" John smiled.
"Did you just wake up?"
"Wake up? I hardly slept!" She danced in excitement. "The World Cup is today! Bulgaria versus Ireland! Ahhhhhhh!" Then, in the middle of her jig of joy, a giggle escaped her, and her eyes widened. "You're from IRELAND!" She half crouched and held her hands in the imitation of a top-hat. In his opinion, a pretty poor imitation of a leprechaun. She seemed thrilled, however. "You. Are. The. BEST!" Turning on her heel, she was gone as quickly as she had arrived, leaving John Constantine scratching his head. Distantly, he heard her shouting. "MAMA! JOHN IS IRISH! HE'S IRISH! HE'S AWESOME!" John sighed.
"Children, crazy the lot of them."
Sebastien Delacour had chosen his seats wisely. He had not wanted his children and their guests to be forced into the political conversations that seats in the Top Box would have required, so despite being invited there, he declined politely, and chose seats high enough for a perfect view of the whole stadium, but on the opposite side of the commentators' box. He was glad for his choice of seats for another reason. They were running late. Gabrielle had insisted on stopping at so many wizarding carnival games in the campgrounds, and Fleur had taken so long choosing which jersey to wear from her collection, that the Delacours and co. were climbing the many switch-back stairs to the sound of Ludo Bagman, Head of the Department of Magical Sports in Britain, introducing the commentators.
"Originally, I had planned on commentating for you all today!" Bagman laughed. "But after serious conversations with Minister Fudge and many letters from you all, we instead have the honor of hosting two of the greatest keepers known to Quidditch. May I present, Lev Yashin of Russia, and Frank Brimsek of the Colonies…er…of the United States of America!"
"Hurry!" Sebastien called to his children, and dodged, bobbed, and wove through the crowd to their open seats. Salomé followed first, then Fleur, Apolline, Gabrielle, and John last, presumably to make sure no one was left behind. The whole group was just in time. "Ladies and Gentlemen! Wizards and Witches! We have made you wait long enough!" The announcer paused to let the crowd roar. "We know why you are all here!" Again he paused for the one hundred thousand strong crowd to pound the stadium with their feet and to yell their throats hoarse in agreement. "Please welcome, the IRISH!"
With an explosion of sound from both fireworks and fans, a green septuplet exploded into the stadium. The Irish players wove amongst each other, green smoke pouring off their brooms. Their captain carried a full pint of beer, and after gulping half of it, he flung the wooden flagon into a sea of green clad raving fans. The heavy container smacked into a red-haired Irishwoman, and she went down like a stone. The man by her side picked the flagon up, raised it in triumph, and finished the beer to roaring applause. As the crowd's manic response quieted to an almost non-deafening note, the announcers continued.
"At keeper, we have the lanky lad from Lancaster, Barry Ryan!"
"Ze only Irishman zat can live in England and still be beloved."
"Well put my Soviet friend. As beaters we have the beast of the southeast, and the beauty of Galway, Patrick Quigley and Angus Connolly!" The mustached menace and his handsome teammate shot by the commentators' box at the calling of their names. Lev Yashin smirked at his companion.
"Could it be said zat those two were instrumental in the thrashing of your team last week?" Frank Brimsek coughed awkwardly at his fellow commentator, and after a second continued.
"Anyway, the Irish lead the attack with Mullet, Troy, and Moran!" Frank gave a few seconds for the applause to dim again, then finished. "And, aiming to compete with the best in the world, seeking the snitch, we have Aidan Lynch!" The small army of Leprechauns interlocked their arms and began river dancing, tiny heels clicking at a feverish pace that incensed the Irish supporters even more. However, a magical silence fell over the stadium as the Bulgarian cheerleaders ran onto the field. They lined up in two rows, facing each other, then as the tension was reaching palpable levels, they spun on their heels, flipping their hair and facing the crowd. They broke into a dance right in time with a thunderous throaty roar from the Bulgarians, as the scarlet seven blew onto the pitch.
"Lev, I'm sure you can pronounce these name better than me, why don't you take it away." The Russian legend nodded, and leaned towards the rune-dotted vocal amplifier.
"Never did I imagine that I would hear an American admit inferiority…ah, here we are. Back by the hoops, Lev Zograf!"
"Named after his grandfather, not after you I am sorry to say."
"Do not be, no one is perfect."
Fleur tuned out the commentators' banter as she focused on John in her peripheral vision. Despite the massive combined power of the cheerleaders' Veela allure, he seemed unfazed. He looked at her, and she flushed, focusing back on the game. Unbeknownst to her, Salomé noticed her blush at John's glance and frowned, mind whirring.
"At beater, ze bone-breaker of Burgas and ze reaver of Razgrad, Pyotr Vulchanov and Ivan Volkov!" The two Bulgarian men flung their bats almost fifty feet to each other and then back.
"Careful they don't do that in a game, wouldn't want a repeat of Russia's tragedy earlier this tournament." Lev grimaced, but continued. He would get the American back for that.
"Hoping to break apart the iron defense of Ireland, Bulgaria brings Vasily Dimitrov, Clara Ivanova, and Alexei Levski!"
"Couldn't have said the names better myself."
"Thank you. And of course, ze only player who truly needs no introduction…"
"VICTOR KRUM!" The entire stadium bellowed, united for those few seconds in true appreciation for the greatest seeker of a generation. Then, the Irish supporters seemed to come to their senses and began hurling half-hearted insults at Krum. The Bulgarian seeker spun and flipped on his broom, showing the dexterity that put him head and shoulder above the rest. Frank saw the white clad referee give a slow flying circuit of the field, and bring the two captains, Krum and Quigley, down to the ball box to rehash the rules.
"There goes the man who will monitor the game, Hassan Mostafa. Best of wishes to him. If this game is anything like Ireland's previous matches, it will be fast and brutal. Now Lev, as one of the most brilliant keepers in the history of the sport, what makes the Irish defense so impenetrable?"
"Well, Frank, I would have to commend the beaters, Quigley and Connolly, and ze technique zey introduced at ze beginning of zis tournament." The Russian said, hands gesturing towards the two.
"You're speaking of the play that is being called the 'Mediwizard Missile'?"
"Precicely. By keeping their eyes on ze play itself, and shifting attention off of ze opponent's seeker and beaters, zey can send a quick bludger directly at any poor throws. If one of ze other teams tries to catch ze bad pass, ze bludger will send zem straight to the Mediwizard."
"Doesn't that let the other team's seeker and beaters have too much space to work with?"
"Not necessarily. Take note of their schedule. No team zey have faced have had a top tier seeker, except for their last game against America. And even in zat game, where ze American caught the snitch, the American chasers only had five attacking runs all game. Any keeper worth his salt can save five runs. Especially with ze speed zat Mullet and Moran bring back to defense."
"That is true. Their speed gives any beater a challenge, not to mention Troy's supernatural ability to shrug off bludgers. If the beaters target the speedsters, Troy will crash into their formation and force a bad pass or shot. If they target Troy, then Mullet and Moran will break up the formation by weaving through it, and either batting down passes or straight up stripping the quaffle, as we saw with Peru in the quarter-finals."
"Exactly." The two commentators stopped to check if the referee had finished formally explaining the 700 rules yet, and seeing that he wasn't, continued. "It will be interesting to see if zey continue zat strategy against ze Bulgarians, or if zey try anything new."
"If I had to wager, I would place my bets on the Bulgarians. All of the most recent games have been quick affairs, and only in the long run does the defense of the Irish start proving deadly."
"I cannot believe I am saying zis, but I agree. Unless Krum can find ze golden snitch in zis golden lit stadium within ze time it takes ze Irish to secure ze vital 160 point lead, ze Irish team's legendary teamwork will outclass his own performance."
"And the Referee has finished his monologue. The players gather in starting formation." Silence slowly fell across the hundred thousand wizards and witches. Even the Leprechauns and Veela ceased their squabbling to watch. Hassan descended to the grass, and unlocked the chest, unleashing the bludgers and the snitch. The later of these was lost almost immediately to the eyes of the crowd. All held their breath as Hassan reached for the quaffle. Then, he flung it into the air, and Moran exploded into action, snatching the ball from the air at the beginning of its decent, zipped past Dimitrov and lanced a shot at the goal from way outside of the shooting arc. Caught by surprise by the lightning quick attack, Zograf almost missed the save, but by leaning far over his broom he managed to deflect the shot with his fingertips.
"Stunning attack by the Irish!"
"Zat was barely saved, Zograf had best remember where he is."
Fleur cheered at the save, and suddenly the Delacour family and co were enthralled by the game. Gabrielle was bouncing up and down, screaming her head off, while her parents were more silent, but by Sebastien's white-knuckled grip on the railing, he was all but calm. Salomé seemed very excited too, if her wide eyes were anything to go by, but she contained her exuberance behind a thin mask of calm. John smiled, excited by the joy he felt pouring off his charges. He was enjoying himself too, but he kept his gaze sweeping the crowd and stadium, one eye out for threats. He noticed Fleur was focused on Krum and Lynch, where Salomé seemed more intent on the chasers. He filed that away for later.
The Irish beaters had done their job, and Ivanova had missed a bad pass to avoid an aimed bludger, allowing Troy to get a hold of the quaffle and led the attack. He shrugged off a vicious jostle from Levski and dropped the ball to Mullet, who was flying below him. She took off like a rocket for the enemy hoops, throwing up a pass to Moran when she was double teamed. She in turn spun on her broom and threw a laser of a pass to the slow Troy.
"A brilliant Porskoff Ploy, then a reverse Porskoff!" The Russian noted.
"Troy shrugs off yet another bludger and winds up for a cannon of a shot!"
"HE SCORES!" The Irish fans erupted and the Leprechauns began another jig. Once the floodgates had been cracked, Mullet followed Troy with two more goals. "Krum seems to be rallying his troops. They can't let the Irish play them like a fiddle for long."
"Zey seemed to listen, Zograf makes his second save of ze match, and throws it to Dimitrov who quickly passes it across ze pitch to Levski. Levski laterals to Ivanova. She dodges a bludger from Connolly, feints left, flicks to ze right, and lobs the quaffle back to ze left…SHE SCORES!"
"We were speaking of the snitch earlier and…wait has Krum spotted the snitch!"
"He is diving down, faster and faster. I must give props to Lynch, who has caught up and neck and neck with ze Bulgarian. Krum reaches. Lynch stretches, and panics! Krum pulls up in a heartbeat. It was a fake! KRUM PULLS OF A BEAUTIFUL WRONSKI FEINT!"
"Lynch seems to have swallowed his weight in turf."
"At ze very least. I don't care where you are from, zat has got to hurt!"
"The mediwizards are sprinting over to him. I hope they brought sickles for his eyes, he looks a hairsbreadth from meeting the ferryman."
"Wait, what is this!?"
"KRUM IS ON DEFENSE! Without Lynch to contend with, he has joined the chasers and is trying to dam the Irish attack!" The crowd roared their approval at the bold move, but the Irish, it seemed, had planned for this possibility.
"Connolly has stopped helping Quigley with ze Mediwizard Missiles and is focusing on Krum!" The Russian commentator was right. The handsome Irish beater had left all pretense of civility, and was bashing bludgers at the Bulgarian Seeker every chance he got. Sebastien watched this, and John heard him silently whisper, "Switch."
To his surprise, the boy called Constantine saw Connolly focus again on defending the passes of his team, and Quigley take over in harrying the legendary seeker. John turned to regard his boss. Sebastien met his glance and smiled. "I have watched a few games in my time. The Irish beater's coach is famous for going to every possible game he can around the world. Just three years ago Jozef Wronski was shut down utterly by a cycling beater strategy from the Gimbi Giant-Slayers. Unfortunately, the Ethiopians didn't have strong enough chasers to combat the Grodzisk Goblins without both their beaters, so the Poles won anyway, but it was a big enough deal at the time that I guessed the Irish coach had taught his boys the trick." John nodded, a newfound respect for his employer. He wasn't impressed by the memory of one Quidditch game, but by the ability to click the proper pieces together and make the deduction that Mr. Delacour had.
"And Lynch rejoins the game, brought back from the edge of Oblivion by our talented mediwizard team." The Irish cheered at the return of their seeker, and the Bulgarian fans gave polite applause.
The game carried on with a feverish pace, a brilliance from the Irish players who were outflying the Bulgarians at every turn. Soon, it was 130-10, and the Irish defense seemed undefeatable. Ryan had only needed to exert himself six times, and only once in a true display of athletic ability to make a reactionary broom-handle save against a sudden scrabbled shot from Levski.
"Mullet has ze quaffle, she fakes a pass and sends Ivanova sliding."
"She breaks free of the coverage with her unnatural speed. Fakes out Zograf…THAT'S A FOUL!"
"Desperate to prevent yet another mark on his record, Zograf grabs ze back of her broom, and it is all Mullet can do not to fall to ze ground."
"It doesn't seem like the Bulgarians approve of the call." The American was right. The crowd was a living entity, a crimson mass straining at the edges of their seats to rail against the decision. For their part, the Veela cheerleaders wouldn't let their team be penalized for such a 'slight' infraction. Their rage turned physical as their allure burst out and brought silence to an expanding wave of fans and players.
"It seems as if Hassan Mostafa himself has fallen under ze Bulgarian's spell."
"Thankfully we have these booth walls to protect us but…oh no, some are starting to transform."
"At ze very least, zat will be a penalty for 'Improper Use of Magic on a Referee'." With assistance, the referee seemed to come to his senses and the Veela cheerleaders were forced out of the stadium by the Bulgarian coaches and staff before any more problems could arise. Apparently miffed by his embarrassment in front of one-hundred thousand people, Hassan awarded the Irish two penalties instead of one, and Mullet was tossed the quaffle at half field.
"She begins slowly, speeding up now. Flying towards the left hoop, quaffle in hand, her arm cocks back…she doesn't let fly…it's a lob, a hook shot, arcing high…IT'S IN THE HIGH HOOP!"
"A slow but lethal shot from ze chaser. Well taken. She lines up for ze second penalty. She opts for speed this time. Doesn't even feint, takes a straight shot for the right hoop."
"Zograf appears caught by surprise but makes the save. Finally making the beginnings of a case to keep his starting job."
"Zat is his twelfth save of ze game. However, one would not know zat from just checking the score."
Oddly, it was after this save that both sides in the stadium seemed to start cheering together. It wasn't because Zograf had made a save. It wasn't because Mullet had scored a good penalty. It was because Krum had leaned close to his broom and taken off on a wide turn high into the air. He had seen the snitch.
Krum shot through the air at terrific speed, and to the enthralled crowd, he and the trailing Lynch seemed to be moving as slow as molasses. He turned quickly, leaning into a sharp turn, and then a grey blur filled his view. His instincts told him to flinch. He didn't have time to process the thought, he just did.
"Quigley with the vicious bludger!"
"Krum flinches out of ze way!"
"Not cleanly, his nose is plastered across his face!" It was true. For all of his near-precognitive reaction, the bludger had still caught the legendary seeker across his nose, and crushed it.
"Lynch is chasing ze snitch!" Taking advantage of his rival's moment of stunned inaction, the Irishman claimed vital distance in his chase. The Irish fans roared in support as their seeker shot through the air, weaving past desperate bludgers from Vulchanov and Volkov, and extended his body for the snitch.
The crowd held its breath.
The Irishman reached.
"MOTHER OF MORGANNA! IT'S KRUM!" The Bulgarians exploded in a calamitous wave of noise as their own seeker shot over Lynch, spinning on his broom and snatching the snitch from the outstretched fingers of his opponent.
"150 points for ze Bulgarians! They've won…wait…oh how devastating…"
"Unfortunately, it was too late. Mullet, Troy, and Moran had finally reached the vital 160 point lead." The two commentators looked at each other, blinked, and wide grins broke out.
"THE IRISH WIN THE CUP!"
John knew, were it not for the heavy layers of silencing runes and wards erected over and around the stadium, muggles as far as Leicestershire would have heard the atomic detonation of cheering from the Irish. The little leprechaun army danced at a feverish pace, further energizing the already hyper fans into untold levels of jubilation. As the Shamrock Seven gave their victory lap, John looked to the Delacour family. They all seemed happy, smiles and elated cheers sent at the circling players. Fleur, the only one wearing Bulgarian colors, seemed cheerful too. There had been good play from both seekers, and that was what she cared about. He looked then to the stadium as a whole. He was interrupted from his scanning by a little voice, and a tugging grip.
"Can I get Mr. Lynch to sign my jersey?" Gabrielle looked up at him with eyes full of hope. John chuckled, and hoisted her to his shoulders, pointing to the Top Box where the Irish team was gathering to receive the trophy.
"Look, his beaters are holding him up. The crash in the beginning and that final chase took the strength out of him. I don't think he will be giving signatures any time soon." The little Delacour pouted. John smirked.
"How about we make a deal. You don't pout over this, and I'll see if I can get you Victor Krum's signature by the end of the year?" Gabrielle looked at him skeptically.
"Fleur likes Krum! I like Lynch…and Cybèle Peltier!"
"Well little one, it is much easier to get the signature of an Irish or French seeker when you live in France than it is to get the Bulgarian's. Not to mention he is the best in the world." Though it was obvious Gabrielle was going to give in to that sound logic, she still had her pride to take into account, and the youngest Delacour wasn't going down without the last word.
"Fiiine. But I still think Peltier is better than Krum!"
Salomé had learned quickly from John Constantine...because of John Constantine…that she had to be always alert. So when, in the middle of post-Quidditch revelry, she heard screaming, she didn't think, she just acted. Her wand was in her hand faster than thought, and she was striding out of the Delacour tent to find John escorting Sebastien and the girls towards it. A translucent glittering grey shield surrounded them, and the panicking crowd parted for them. John cancelled the spell when all were within the magical tent, and snapped to attention at the sound of Sebastien's voice.
"John, stay here, protect my family. I have to see if I can help." John nodded, but Gabrielle cried out.
"Papa, please don't leave." Lord Delacour brushed a loose strand of hair behind her ear.
"I have to, ma biqutte, I am the Chairman of the Department of Arcane Defenses. I have a duty to our people. There are French citizens here, and you will be safe with your Mama, Fleur, John, and Salomé." There were tears rolling down the youngest Delacour's face, but she bit her lip to hide her trembling, and she gave her father one last tight hug.
"Oui papa, stop the bad guys." He smiled at her permission, gave Fleur an equally strong hug and looked at the bodyguard he had hired. John met his glance, and nodded slightly. Sebastien nodded back, then gazed into his wife's eyes. Both smiled, and they shared a deep kiss. Then Lord Delacour drew his wand, and waded into the storm of chaos.
Sebastien shouted orders to the panicked crowd, and did his best to usher them back to the stadium, where the greatest concentration of Aurors would be. In the near distance, dark figures were magically juggling several floating people. As he got closer, he realized the victims were muggles, and the black-clad torturers wore familiar bone-white masks.
"Everte Statum. Arresto Momentum." The first spell sent one of the Death-Eaters flipping head over heels into two of his companions, and the second let the muggle land safely. Inadvertently, the two he knocked down like bowling pins were the other two torturers, and they dropped their own victims. "Accio tent." One of the massive tents covering the grassy field outside the stadium barreled his way, cloth catching the other two now-falling muggles, and scooping the first into the sliding safety net that passed him and crashed harmlessly into another tent. They were safe.
Sebastien barely had time to cheer the success of the crazy plan before spells were soaring at him. The Chairman blocked three with rapid shields the size of dinner plates, and then side-stepped the last. He quickly shot up pink sparks, alerting any other members of the French Dague Groupe to his position. He doubted any of the British Aurors recognized the sign, but a signal was a signal. He could only hope any people that arrived were allies. Ducking a green spell, he countered with a quartet of piercing hexes, then strode forward into combat.
Fleur saw the panicking mob. She saw the people running to and fro, seeking safety in their confusion and fear. Most importantly, she saw Jezebel. Jezebel who wasn't going to the Quidditch World Cup because she only ever watched the sport to support Salomé and her dorm at Beauxbatons. Jezebel who claimed she was going to be at home doing her summer assignments. Jezebel who would only ever sneak out if her two friends made her. Yet, surprisingly, impossibly, from their tent three rows from the outer most edge of the campgrounds, Fleur saw her friend running across the open fields towards the tall trees, a small crowd of dark-cloaked people following her and a boy she didn't know. Even from this distance, she could recognize Jezebel's awkward gait. The shorter girl wasn't known for her athleticism. Surprisingly, Apolline noticed too.
"Is that Jezebel?" She asked, and seeing her daughters mute nod, she turned to John. "John, please go and bring Jezebel and her companion back to us." John looked at her for several long seconds, and it almost seemed as if an entire unspoken conversation occurred in those few moments. Apolline smiled.
"I was trained by my mother and her best friend in the dueling circuit. I can hold this tent. Not to mention I will be aided by the wards both you and the Department of Arcane Defenses added." Seeing his continued inaction, she added, "And don't think I haven't noticed what you and Salomé have been up to each morning. I dare say any who would dare attack this tent will end up faring far worse than we will." Fleur shot her friend a glance that left no question that there would be a detailed interrogation soon, but John didn't notice. Instead, he nodded to Apolline, and strode back out into the sea of burning tents and stampeding people, and towards the tree-line.
John stalked towards where the dark figures had gone, wand in hand, and his feet making no noise in the cool grass. He glanced up at the sky, and felt the anti-apparation wards in the sky. He smirked, and pulled two pebbles from the soft earth, whispering portus, and focusing on the destination in mind. Then he passed into the dark confines of the woods, and he followed the laughter of the dark clad men. After less than a minute, he had caught up, and saw that they had encircled Jezebel and a tanned boy about her age. Oddly, it seemed the men were more focused on the boy than the girl he had been sent to retrieve.
"Mr. Zabini, I would have thought you knew better than to drag others into…family affairs." One of the cloaked figures said, and John could hear his contempt. The bodyguard didn't really want to hear some masked man monologue, so he banished the pebbles at the two encircled youth, and then said the magic word.
"Hey." With a zzziiip sound, the two kids were ported away, leaving the crowd of kidnappers stunned, and turning to John's greeting. He didn't give them a chance to do anything else, they still could pose a threat to his charges.
The first spell was violet, and ripped through three masked men, leaving gaping bleeding gashes. The second spell was a baby blue. It would have been beautiful, had the man it hit not begun to swell. His right arm was the first to burst, gore and pus splattering his associates. His left leg followed in a heartbeat, bringing him crashing to the floor screaming. His head was next to pop, a rapid trill of squelching pops before he grew silent. The third spell Constantine cast conjured a bronze smoky chain from the tip of his grey wand. With a flick of his wrist, John sent it spinning, wrapping around another death eater. By the time the chain began to glow white hot, having long since burned through bubbling flesh and seared a smoky shadow across the would-be-torturer's heart, nine more spells had been cast. Only two came from black clad men.
One had been the purple pallor of a spine ripper, the other a terrifying green. John spun away from the first, and summoned a tree stump in the way of the second. When the oaken shield exploded into fragments, the barefoot boy twisted his chosen focus, and the splinters flew through the air, an angry storm of sharp shards. The brown cloud of death tore two more black hooded figures apart, blood and gore painting the trees red. An intricate flourish, and Constantine brought down a salvo of lightning on two more Death-Eaters, not pausing in his deadly dance. Before one of the cloaked men had time to finish the words of his next curse, John gave his wand a simple flick, and vines sprung from the ground, wrapping themselves around one of the now screaming men. Within seconds, he was a green mummy, only for the plants to retract, leaving behind a desiccated and dry husk that toppled to the ground, shattering into pieces on contact like a rotted branch succumbing to gravity.
By this point, the remaining Death eaters had begun to flee, but they wouldn't even make it to the edge of the anti-apparition wards. A black spear of energy lanced through the side of a masked man's head, and he fell with dust pouring out of his ears and nose. The last three began begging for mercy as tree branches grabbed them by their arms and legs and began pulling. John didn't even spare a glance at them as he turned away and walked out of the dark woods back towards the burning tents. The screams behind him eventually stopped. He was too far away to hear the sound of their dismembered bodies falling from the trees.
Draco sat next to his father at the long table in the dining room at Malfoy Manor, his father's cane was leaning against the table between them, now more important to his father than ever before. Arrayed around the table were the most elite Death Eaters Voldemort had, with their master sitting calmly at the head of the table and his seneschal, his chief of staff, Antonin Dolohov, seated at the opposite end. The spot was reserved for him, as it allowed the man to leave the meetings to deal with problems as they presented themselves without interrupting any conversations. Dolohov had slaved long and hard enough to earn the Dark Lord's favor, and all knew favor came with rewards.
Draco noted with some satisfaction that he was one of the more put together Death Eaters present. Where most were bleary eyed and still blinking back their sleep, Draco had thought to cast a low-powered cheering charm on himself and taken a single drop of pepper-up potion. He was also awake enough to perceive the nervous tension in the room, as all of the Inner Circle watched their Lord calmly eat his breakfast. Voldemort, for his part, seemed to be ignoring the fear and worry, and cut a slice of ham from his plate, dipped it in some burgundy sauce from a small saucer, and chewed thoughtfully. When he swallowed, the room gulped nervously. At last, the Dark Lord picked his linen napkin from his lap and dabbed the trace of food from the corner of his mouth, and met the assembled eyes.
"We are each aware of our duties, are we not?" Silence filled the room. When Voldemort spoke again, it receded from him to hide where wall met wall. "We each know the price of failure, do we not?" Again, silence flooded like the tide back into the body of the room. And once more, several seconds later, Voldemort again sent the silence fleeing. "The senior Malfoy paid for the failure of a mission I agreed to let him undertake. In so far as he completes the fitting punishment, he shall be forgiven." The Dark lord met the eyes of each of his Inner Circle, and spoke again before the silence could return fully.
"We all know the loyalty of Amycus Carrow, and how she reported her own sister to me for plotting to betray us." Voldemort gestured to the chandelier, suspended by chains, twelve feet above the table. "And we know that Alecto is still paying for her treachery." The assorted men looked down from where their Lord had drawn their gaze, faces pale.
"Now, I find not only our plans in France damaged and in disarray, but also my men sent to strike fear in the attendees of the World Cup." He stood up, wiping his carving knife off on his napkin, and then placing the linen beside his plate. He began to walk around the room, slowly tapping the knife on the backs of each chair. One at a time. Tap. Tap.
"Imagine my surprise, when I, leaving the Championship Game myself, find my way impeded by a panicked mob." Tap. Tap. "It wasn't poorly planned. It wasn't poorly executed. It wasn't even of great irritation to me, I was happy to watch." Tap.
Voldemort stopped behind the chair of Rodolphus Lestrange. The Death Eater felt true fear as something heavy slid over his feet beneath the table. Draco saw the man trying to hide his fear, but he was shaking in front of the Dark Lord, not daring to look over his shoulder at their leader. Voldemort's voice was quiet, but cut through the room like a vile word. "Yet, the plan…failed."
Draco could see Rodolphus sweating, beads of perspiration flowing down the bridge of his nose and dripping on the man's lap. The Dark Lord continued. "Four of my faithful captured, and fourteen dead." He placed the carving knife on the table beside his follower's plate. "Antonin, tell Mr. Lestrange the names of those who were killed."
"Of course, my Lord." Dolohov fished a small red notebook from his inside jacket pocket, flipped quickly to the right page, and glanced at the names. All for show, he had them memorized already. "Ten fresh recruits for whom this was their first outing. The other four are more problematic. Jugson, Gibbon, and Travers were experienced, and will be missed. However, it is Avery, member of this very Circle, who is the greatest loss."
Draco watched Rodolphus' face lose any blood it still held, as if hearing the names made his failure all the more real. Draco watched him gather the breath to protest, but his Lord cut the man off with words that sounded bland to an inexperienced ear, yet held all the menace in the world.
"Lestrange, take this carving knife." The man did so, hand shaking. Voldemort's gaze drifted. "Draco, transfigure this knife into a chisel." Though shocked by the request, the dual courage of the pepper-up potion and the cheering spell still affecting his system made the youngest Malfoy raise his wand without hesitation, and transfigure the knife. The approval he saw in his master's amber eyes made him flush with pleasure and pride. Then Voldemort's focus snapped back to Rodolphus, and Draco was left wanting for more, desperate for approval.
The Dark Lord held out a hand, and his Shadow seemed to materialize with an object familiar to everyone in the room. As Voldemort held the Beater's bat aloft, his Shadow faded back into obscurity. "Lestrange, hold the chisel above your right wrist." The man began to cry, silent in his fear, but tear drops cascaded down his cheeks. He obeyed. Voldemort wandlessly and wordlessly petrified all but his head. "Antonin, how many men did we lose?"
"Fourteen, my Lord."
"Fourteen." The bat came down with sudden force, and struck the top of the chisel with enough force to split the skin of Rodolphus's wrist, and bruised the bone beneath. "One." Again the bat fell. "Two." After three strikes, the tendons severed and the bones cracked. After eight, the bones split. After fourteen, Lestrange's hand was hanging on by mere flesh and nearly powdered bone. The main was howling in pain, his eyes dual waterfalls of pain and suffering. Voldemort leaned in to his circle member, unfroze the man's right arm, and stage-whispered, loud enough for everyone to hear.
"I know you didn't lead the raid by yourself. Raise your arm, and point to the one who helped you…the one who has silently let you take the blame alone." Rodolphus screamed a shrill cry of utter misery, and slowly raised his mauled arm in a pathetic gesture of gesticulation. He held the move for less than a second before his arm fell to the table and he screamed again. His brother opened his mouth to deny the accusation, but a flash of green interrupted him. Draco saw Nagini burst from under the table and knock Rabastan over, fangs ripping his flesh from bone in a bloody dance of death. Though blood splashed far enough to land on him, he didn't wipe it off. None of the Death Eaters dared to.
Rodolphus screamed the entire time his brother was being devoured, and soon his howls were muffled by the snot and mucus that blubbered from his face. Voldemort plucked the chisel from the living Lestrange's frozen fingers, and aimlessly flipped it end over end. "Antonin, select five candidates worthy of filling the Circle's open positions, I will personally select two of them."
"Yes, my Lord."
"Bellatrix, take down the chandelier and wrap it up. We will be having our next meeting at Yaxley's Manor."
"As you wish, my Lord." Voldemort nodded, and then cocked his head.
"Antonin, how many people did you say we lost due to Lestrange's failure? Fourteen?"
"I'm afraid I forgot to account for the death of Rabastan Lestrange. How careless of me. That would be fifteen, my Lord." Voldemort nodded, then slammed the chisel through Rodolphus' wrist with such force it severed the limb and cracked the ebony table.
N/B: \Lev Yashin and Frank Brimsek are legendary goalkeepers in real life, and are (in my opinion) the best that Russia and the US ever fielded. However, they did not play Quidditch, but Soccer and Hockey respectively.
\Biquette is French for 'lamb' or 'darling', as far as my research goes. If I'm wrong, I'm sure I'll be corrected!
\As noted in the header, I was inspired to write this after reading Deprived by the Crimson Lord. In his story, the Bodyguard's hatred is a physical entity. In my story, the Bodyguard doesn't have such a tangible manifestation, so his hatred and anger is bottled up. This chapter shows what happens when he taps into that.
\Quick edit the day after posting: Salomé was focused on the chasers, not seekers! (Thanks Jslee102 and Gensplejs for pointing that out)
Thanks for taking the time to read this. This chapter had my first attempt at a Quidditch game, so tell me what y'all think. I'd also be thrilled to hear what you think of Voldemort and how he handles his court. Creepy? Lame?
This, as said last chapter, is the last guaranteed chapter before USMC boot camp begins. I'll try to get another one out ASAP, but y'all might not get an update for three-ish months. Sorry in advance, but I hope this massive [B/N: Absolute UNIT] of a chapter helps.
Stay spooky my friends,