Happy May the 4th everyone! Just gushing here, but how awesome were the Billboard Awards Ceremony! Taylor Swift and Brendon Urie, the Jonas Brothers and Ariana Grande all in one show! I literally almost died. Hope you love this fluffy respite. Love, Miracle.
Ghost and Miracle closed the door to their cottage across the inlet from the great fortress city of the Travellers and were immediately assaulted by a tiny person with pink hair.
"Momma! Dadda!" Madelyn exclaimed, jumping up into Ghost's arms.
"Hello, gorgeous! Have you been a good girl for Aunty Crystal?"
"Yes! Guess whot! Guess whot!"
"I could never hope to guess!" Miracle exclaimed, grabbing Madelyn from Ghost and twirling her around. "You'll just have to tell me!"
"I met a Drogon!" Ghost and Miracle's jaws fell open, and their brains threatened to go into a meltdown.
"You met a what now?" Ghost asked, and Madelyn wiggled in Miracle's arms to face him.
"Sweety, do you mean a Dragon?" Miracle asked.
"Yes! Dr…a… gone." Madelyn pronounced each syllable, stumbling over the letter A.
"A's 're mean," She huffed.
"Maddie, where's Aunty Crystal?"
"With Mister Yoda!" She said eagerly, nodding her little head so fast Ghost worried it might fall off.
"Master Yoda is here?!" Miracle exclaimed, looking to Ghost in panic. However, Ghost was too busy imagining different painful ways to murder his sister to truly comprehend what Madelyn had said.
"Yeppers!" She stopped now, whispering to herself a few times before pronouncing each word very slowly, "He is here with Mist-er Tiweeon." She looked to Ghost and Miracle with an anxious grin.
"Well done!" Miracle proclaimed, and Madelyn disengaged her hands to clap, which resulted in her slipping slightly until Miracle caught her giggling form. She turned to Ghost, who was still fuming slightly.
"Go see what the bosses want. I'll get this little one some dinner," Miracle said.
"Can we swim?" Madelyn asked as Miracle left the room.
Ghost took several deep breathes, before walking into the sitting room. Yoda, Tyrion and Gandalf were seated on the couches in front of the fireplace, Crystal leaning against the window opposite them.
"Master Yoda, Mithrandir, Lord Tyrion. What brings you to our humble abode?"
"Lovely, your home is," Yoda said, nodding slightly.
"We have come to brood on today's events," Tyrion said, staring into his empty wine glass.
"Fantastic. Crys, why was Madelyn saying she saw a Dragon?" Crystal gestured towards the fireplace, and Ghost sucked in a breath when he realised there was, in fact, a tiny white and gold scaled Dragon sleeping amongst the logs.
"That would be my fault. I brought this little guy to win a bet with Magneto, now he's sort of hanging out until I take him back to Daenerys tomorrow," Tyrion said, grabbing a bottle of wine and pouring himself a generous serving of red. Ghost stepped over and confiscated the bottle, one he'd salvaged from a 400-year-old shipwreck on Earth 271.
"How was Westeros Duty?" Crystal asked, and Tyrion flinched. When Tyrion Lannister had joined the Travellers, shortly after its creation, and discovered a group of people with the power to change stories, the first thing he'd done was punch the Doctor, one of the Travellers founders, in the face. He'd lost friends and family on his world, something the Travellers could have easily fixed. As had been explained to Ghost many times over, for every story you fix, hundreds more broken ones are spawned in their place. Leaving one partially darkened world to spawn millions of possible lighter ones was the risk you had to take. Now, Tyrion was one of the Travellers most important leaders, but he still held the guilt that something could have been done for his friends.
"Good enough. I died twice. Thrown off the Wall the first time and roasted by an Undead Dragon the second. Miracle only died once, though her body got turned into a Wight, so who fared worse is up for debate. And we still don't own Harry Potter, the Stargate Franchise, AC/DC, or Marvel Comics!"
"Wish I could have seen it," Crystal remarked wistfully.
"No. You don't," Tyrion whispered.
"So, what's the plan for tomorrow then?" Ghost asked, desperately trying to steer the conversation into less depressing grounds.
"The Council is a tremendous form of debate. That is its purpose after all. But the Accords have always been a contested topic."
"Bound by the Multiversity Accords, we are not. Power we have to change and create stories, not reality," the Jedi Master said, eyes closed as he raised his three-fingered hands over the fire.
"Enlightenment of the degree the Ascended have reached comes with a cost. They hold the power to destroy entire universes at will, the Accords are a necessary evil to stop that from happening," Mithrandir stated, head resting on his hand, propped up at the elbow by the arm of the chair.
"But sometimes the Accords cause more harm than Good," Tyrion pointed out.
"True that is. Caused the Accords did, the return of the Great Destroyer." Everyone flinched as Yoda mentioned the name. The Great Destroyer was a being whose true name none of the Travellers knew, a terrifying creature imbued with a single purpose: the destruction of worlds. Anybody who isn't terrified of it should be.
"What do we do about Clara then?" Ghost asked, slumping down in the chair and sighed.
"I think I have a plan," Crystal said, staring out the window.
"Let's hear it then."
Act III, Chapter 5: Waves
Ginny jolted as the train, that did not look or feel remotely like a regular train, came to a hard stop. The only reason she didn't lose her footing and fall flat on her face, was because Hermione did it after their first stop, and Ginny was now holding onto the yellow poll that stretched from floor to ceiling in the middle of the large compartment like her life depended on it.
"This station is The Rocks. Please alight here for access to Sydney. The next station is the Australian National University."
Ginny could honestly say that if she ever met the owner of that Morgana damned voice, she would AK her on the spot. Every time the silver bullet from hell jumped into what Hermione called "Subspace," which from Ginny's perspective just looked like a tunnel of violet and blue light, the lady would announce their next destination, all the while warning them to, "Brace for Subspace Window Turbulence." Then, when they decelerated, which felt like being sucker punched in the chest, she would again announce their new location, and the cycle would repeat. Again. And again. And again. So far they had been to Rockhampton, Australia Zoo – Magical Division, Moreton Stadium, Surfers Paradise, Byron Bay and now The Rocks. Those names would be burned into the back of her brain for eternity, she was sure of it. And every single time she thought the contents of her stomach would come back up to visit her, the train would jolt forward again. But the worst thing. The worst thing was that Harry was riding the train like a pro. He barely swayed as they jumped between platforms. It was annoying, it was frustrating, and it was slightly infuriating.
You know you love me.
Oh, shut up.
This is a piece of cake compared to the Knight Bus. That thing is a nightmare.
"Come on folks, this is us," Claire announced, jumping off the train without even a stumble. The Mer had invited Harry, Ginny, Hermione, Luna, Peter and Gwen on a trip to The Rocks, the magical district of Sydney, the largest city in the Federation, with a couple of her friends. With Will, who was supposed to be overseeing the Alcheringa Delegation, still missing, and Headmaster Andrews on the verge of death via Taniwha poison, which according to Hagrid was incredibly painful, the Academy was in the middle of a power vacuum. So, sneaking out was effortless. Well, almost effortless.
Hagrid followed Claire onto the platform with an expression more fitting for a kid in a candy shop than a half-giant in a train station. Why exactly Hagrid had been chosen of all the teachers to chaperone the Hogwarts Delegation Ginny wasn't sure. But he was a million times better than Snape, and much less strict than McGonagall, so she tried not to think about it. The Care of Magical Creatures Professor had encountered them at the train station on his return trip from the Magical Division of the Australia Zoo, where he had had, "the abs'lute privilege it was," to talk to a Druid called the Crocodile Hunter (who Ginny thought must have been a rather intimidating figure) about both the spike in Dragon numbers in the Outback and the Basilisk infestation in a place called Cape York. If asked, Ginny could have told anyone a great deal about Basilisk's in the tropics and Dragon population growth, as Hagrid had replayed his entire conversation with the famed Steve Irwin to the cohort when he insisted on coming to the Rocks with them so he could go to a pub called the Floating Billywig. Hagrid's enthusiasm was fuelled even further by Claire and her friend Emilie, both of whom were Mer and apparently knew a great deal about Crocodiles, which Ginny now knew were large reptilian creatures with tough hides, large teeth, and tails longer than she was tall that lived in northern Australia and had a tendency to eat people.
You know, I'm starting to see why everyone is constantly going on about Australia being full of dangerous animals. Harry admitted.
Wait, you knew about all these Crocodiles and Basilisks and wild Dragons before we came here!
I didn't know about Basilisks and Dragons, but whenever muggles mention Australia, they're always talking about how it's full of spiders and snakes that can kill you with one bite. And of course, the Crocodiles. Oh, and Emus. Apparently, they're enormous, have big sharp beaks and stalk people.
Why did nobody think telling me this was a good idea?
Harry and Ginny were the last people off the train, and Ginny took a deep breath of relief at being back in the open air. Claire had not been lying about how hot it was in Australia, or about the effects of the sun. Half the Hogwarts Delegation visited the Hospital Wing in Alcheringa that first night for bright red blotchy burns on their skin. Claire and the other Alcheringa students had apparently been waiting for the procession of sun-roasted kids, as they had set up beanbags and a score-board in the courtyard outside the hospital. Every time a Hogwarts kid would come up, they would mark a new entry under the word, "Pomegranates," on the board, which made all the Druids and Mer laugh, and left all the Wizards very confused. Thankfully, the sun-screen Harry had acquired meant he, Ginny and Luna could sleep without peeling skin. Hermione apparently didn't burn, she just instantly tanned into the same olive coloured shade that Claire and most of the white-skinned Alcheringa students supported. Ginny was incredibly jealous of her friend on that account.
The Rocks air-conditioning was undoubtedly better than Alcheringa's, as a soft cool breeze caressed her cheeks as they followed Hagrid's bulky form through the crowd. He had seemingly moved on to Leviathan now.
"So 'at's why you folks are always staying away from the deeper parts of the Pacific. I always wondered why you sticked to the reefs and islands."
"Yeah, those things can sniff out a Mer fifty kilometres away, staying where they can't get us is better for everyone. It's been better since we tricked them into stirring up the Kraken Nest up near Guam. Got into a mighty bit of trouble with MACUSA for that, but then the whole revolution happened, and the Americans were a bit busy to complain about us. It was soooo worth it," Emilie replied.
"Wait a second, you guys did that on purpose?!" Gwen exclaimed.
"Well they were eating us, what did you expect?" Claire asked.
Gwen laughed and put an arm around Claire's shoulder.
"Oh no. I'm laughing my head off. Flash Thompson, the egotistical jerk who thought he was gonna be Champion for Ilvermorny, his Dad is in the Kaiju Baiting industry. You know the illegal one? Yeah, well apparently Daddy Thompson thought I would be the perfect catch for his son, cause he's an idiot and he needs someone vaguely intelligent to continue the esteemed Pureblood Thompson line. Imagine his face when I told him I like girls, so he could take his betrothal contract and fuck off? That my new friends is not an exclamation of shock. Oh no. It's an exclamation of pure and utter sweet revenge." Everyone just looked at her confused.
"There are only three things in nature that can kill a Kaiju. Leviathan, Kraken and Dragons. Sea Dragons patrol Hawaiian waters, so Daddy Thompson has to go beyond Federation territories, up closer to Japan, if he wants any bites. The only problem, with the Leviathan closing in on Kraken territory beneath the waves, Krakens are starting to move north, and they're picking off the Kaiju one by one. That pushes them closer to Federation territory…"
"… and into the waiting jaws of the FPA. That's the Federal Protection Authority by the way. They're responsible for law enforcement, dark magic monitoring and creature handling, anything dangerous really," Claire finished.
"Exactly," Gwen continued, her smile growing larger with every sentence, "So, not only do the Thompsons have to risk coming into closer contact with Japanese Ships to avoid the Federation, but the Kaiju are more skittish, less likely to be baited. The Thompsons are losing heaps of revenue because of it. They tried to get the new Secretary of Magic to sue the Federation, but Federation President Matson…"
"Pulled the finger at him. We know, it was broadcast live across the Kingdoms. I want to fucking marry that guy," Emilie sighed. Ginny couldn't believe a national leader would actually be that rude, but the circumstances did warrant it. She thought she would at least be a bit politer about it.
"He's seriously dishy, no doubt about that," Claire admitted. Ginny decided she needed to see a picture of this President Matson.
Should I be jealous?
Shut up you prat!
Hagrid and Claire led the group out of the gunmetal grey building and out onto the street. The Rocks it seemed, were housed entirely within a large stone dome. Shop stalls like those in Diagon Alley lined the roadside, and muggle automobiles were parked on the cobblestone roads. A few blocks away was a large intersection with a majestic fountain, floating above the fountain was a large glowing news board like the one in the train station, only this one was ten times larger. Lit torches and street lamps ran along the sidewalks, but most of the light came in through a skylight at the apex of the dome. Ginny assumed the dome was larger on the inside than the outside, as there was no way they could hide a community this large from Muggles if this were its actual size.
"The Rocks is a cool place to visit. It's not particularly old, but it does have a lot of shops, and it caters to tourists better than the Alcheringa CBD does. There's a department store, Adeneurs Wizardwear Superstore, that has a lot of cooler clothing if you guys want to get any. Sunscreen you can get at the Apothecary on Hallows Street, oh and of course Gringotts is just there." Indeed, the slanted white marble building of Gringotts stood on the corner of the intersection, identical to the one in Diagon Alley. Suddenly, the doors banged open and a figure with a long black beard wearing a white singlet that said, 'Keep Calm and love a Dwarf,' and khaki cargo pants, stormed out of the building muttering about Goblins, ICW treaties and how he missed having Elves to murder.
The Dwarf strode up the street, a deep scowl on his face. He nodded to Claire, eyed Hagrid warily, and walked into the train station, where Ginny saw him board a train for Uluru. Wherever that was.
"He seemed very jolly," Luna exclaimed.
"Not really. His names Gárlin, he's a good friend of my brother. Not the sort of person you invite to a Christmas party though. But he loves his job, and that means dealing with the Goblins, who everyone knows are universally hated by the Dwarves. Of course, the Goblins hate the Dwarves even more, so who's fault is who's you'll just have to guess," Claire explained, before pointing out the Floating Billywig to Hagrid while Emile and Jimmy – another of Claire's friends – led the foreigners into Adeneurs.
If Harry thought Adeneurs would be a short visit, he was very, very wrong. The shop, though looking only three stories from outside, was actually fifteen stories high on the inside. It was like Harrods. Harry and Peter would have been content to sit in the rooftop café with what the Australian's called a 'Sausage Sizzle,' while the girls shopped. But they all wanted their opinions, which ruined that dream. So, they were dragged from change room to change room around the store and forced to watch with the other boys as the girls put on outfit show after outfit show. Harry thought Ginny looked particularly lovely in a set of denim short shorts.
After shrinking their packages, (Hermione was understandably thrilled when she learned there was no underage magic law in the Federation – something about protecting yourself from Mimi Spirits) Claire led the group out into Muggle Sydney through a passageway in the side of the rock dome in which the magical community resided.
The passage opened out into an old overgrown alleyway in the Sydney district of The Rocks, which it turned out was a historical and tourist district. Hermione had started an impromptu lecture on why a historical area made the most sense to hide a magical community, but Gwen silenced her when they came into view of the Sydney Opera House.
"Now that is impressive," Ginny whispered, "Odd. But impressive."
They spent the rest of the afternoon ogling the sites of Sydney, eventually ending up on Bondi Beach eating Fish and Chips. For Harry, it was the first time he had ever been to the beach. He decided very quickly that he liked the feeling of the sand between his toes. Ginny and Hermione took him down into the waves and gave him an impromptu lesson on swimming. Claire declined to join them, as she thought, "growing a tail live on Bondi Rescue, while good for ratings, was probably not the best way of maintaining the Statute of Secrecy." They stayed at Bondi until Sunset. Then, just as the group were planning to head back, Emile pulled a dozen tickets to an AC/DC concert on that night out of her pocket with a Cheshire grin and the statement, "Fun ain't over yet guys."
Harry thought AC/DC's music was thunderous and jarring, and Hermione and Peter agreed fervently with him. Gwen and Ginny however, absolutely loved it. Gwen knew practically every word of every song (Peter confided in them that Gwen had a secret love of Rock and Roll Music that her parents didn't approve of) and belted them out as loud as she possibly could. Ginny didn't know any of the songs but had a blast trying to guess the words or just jiving along to the beat. No matter how much he personally didn't like it, he enjoyed the entire concert regardless, as just watching Ginny's face beam in the strobe lighting and listening to the broken and disjointed thoughts she accidentally sent across their connection made his night, and Ginny wouldn't stop talking about it for a week afterwards.
Harry was sure she was cheating. There was no other explanation. How was she just so damn good! Harry dived after Clarissa Mayfair as the duo soared towards the red dirt floor of the Alcheringa Academy Quidditch Arena. And what an arena it was. It was easily twice the size of the Hogwarts pitch, with a gilded metal roof Hermione thought was Dwarf made. The stands were filled to the brim, and, much to Luna's pleasure, padded. But after over four hours of gameplay, Alcheringa and Hogwarts were both neck and neck, and every time Harry saw the Snitch, Clarissa was on him, and it took all his considerable skill to keep her from snatching the tiny golden ball from right under his nose. She was easily the best Seeker he had ever played against, but some of the moves she pulled off… it was like she could predict where the Snitch would be or how it would move. It was barely noticeable, but Harry was watching very carefully. The Alcheringa Seeker moved just before the Snitch did, not just after it like she should have been. It became so clear after the first five times she had intercepted him that Harry had started watching her almost as much as he watched the Snitch. The result was he and the girl with the hair like flickering golden flames had spent most of the match locked in aerial chase after aerial chase, performing more and more dangerous maneuvers to shake their opponent.
The Snitch is near the Hogwarts posts! Go, Harry!
Ok. So maybe he was cheating a bit as well, but she definitely started it. Harry took a subtle glance behind him, and locked eyes with Clarissa. She grinned evilly at him, following him closer and closer to the turf. He had to do something to lose her before he could go after the Snitch, and he had to do it fast, or it would vanish before he could reach it.
Can you Wronski Feint?
No. She's watching for it. I already tried it this match, and she's clearly done her research. I have to try something else.
Something original maybe?
Could work, but what?
… remember that Motorcycle Derby we watched in the Home that one time?
… That might actually work!
Harry pulled up inches from the ground and steered away from the posts at top speed.
Better make it look good, or she'll never buy it. She's a fricken phoenix!
Harry reached his arm out and twisted upwards towards the middle of the field, causing Angelina to duck around him with the Quaffle. A bludger soared past his head, only to be intercepted by Fred. Or was it George? Clarissa started pulling up alongside him… and Harry kicked back on his broom, letting his feet fly clear while keeping an iron-clad grip with his hands. He threw himself backwards, allowing gravity to pull his weight back to the ground, and using the brooms forwards momentum to increase his acceleration even further as his body pulled it in a complete 180-degree turn. The look of shock on Clarissa's face was so worth it. Harry fell remounted his broom in the middle of the decent, twisting and flinging himself faster than he had ever flown before in the direction of the Hogwarts posts.
That was wicked! It's still there! Go, go, go!
Harry could see the Snitch now, and by the sound of the slipstream behind him, Clarissa had seen it too. He rocketed forward, arm outstretched as he aimed for the post.
Harry dipped his head, and the Quaffle soared centimetres above his hair. He ignored the announcer declaring the throw a foul by the Alcheringa Chaser but didn't process it. If he stopped now, Hogwarts lost. Period. The Snitch, as if sensing the peril it was in, began fluttering around one of the posts, climbing closer and closer to the hoops. The wings were just out of reach… Clarissa was cursing behind him… a whining sound was coming from above him…
Harry jerked himself down, just in time to avoid a Bludger careening right for his face. The metal ball flew through the space he occupied a second before, smashing into Clarissa's shoulder on the follow through. Harry tried to course correct, to angle back towards the Snitch, but it was too late. Clarissa, ignoring the bone peeking out of her shoulder blade, latched onto the Snitch. A siren sounded, and Harry felt rather than saw, like a pressure in his skull, Clarissa's free hand slip from her broom handle. He reached out and grabbed her arm as she slipped clean from her broom, and held her up as her head lolled to the side in unconsciousness.
"Clarissa Mayfair has caught the Snitch for Alcheringa! But a Bludger shot by teammate Jackson Pearce meant for Seeker Harry Potter seems to have struck her instead. Potter is lowering her to the ground, but the result is clear. Alcheringa wins 500 – 340! That puts Alcheringa firmly in the lead on 132 points, Hogwarts sits in second place on 84, and Ilvermorny in third place with 79 points. The Second Task will take place in two weeks! Be sure to join us at the yet to be disclosed secret location!"
Harry didn't process anything the announcer said, as he was too busy lowering Clarissa to the ground. One of the Alcheringa Chasers caught her broom, while Eloise – the Hogwarts Keeper – flew down and placed herself in position to catch the girl if Harry dropped her.
Hold on, Claire is on her way with a medical team.
They reached the dirt and Harry lay her down on the ground. Claire was the first person to reach them, before even the medi-witches. She stared at the wound and made a face, ignoring the fact that Harry was still gripping her hand. Harry finally got a good look at the injury himself. It didn't look nearly as bad as he'd initially thought it was. The bone was already starting to slide back into her shoulder…
Okay. That is just plain weird.
Harry had to agree with Ginny on that one. Bones did not just restore themselves like that on their own.
"Shit," Claire muttered. She slapped Harry's hand away from Clarissa's, bent down, picked the girl up in her arms, and vanished in a cloud of golden dust.
I don't think she was supposed to do that.
"What does that girl think she's doing!? Where did she go!? Did she tell you?!" One of the nurses snapped at Harry and Eloise as she arrived with a stretcher, the rest of the Alcheringa and Hogwarts teams landing around them. Both of them shook their heads.
"Well I hope she's had enough common sense to go to a hospital…" the witch grumbled before stalking off. Harry just stared at the spot where Claire and Clarissa had vanished. Fred and George incorrectly diagnosed his confusion.
"Don't you worry mate. We'll beat Ilvermorny, no doubt about that. And you'll win the next Challenge as well!" Fred and George looped arms around Angelina and Alicia's shoulders and walked them, the Firebolts Harry had bought them as per his bet earlier in the year clutched in their hands.
Ginny, Hermione and Luna finally pushed their way through the crowd to him.
"Where'd they go?" Hermione exclaimed.
"Entangled away," Ginny said, sounding as confused as Harry felt.
Why would she take her away without seeing the nurses?
I think she was trying to stop them from seeing her healing. No ordinary person heals that fast.
I don't know. Could be a power from the Soul Bond maybe?
I don't think so. That doesn't sound much like a Soul Bond does it? Sounds more like the Dragon Force.
Yeah but she doesn't have that. Does she?
Maybe they share it?
Who knows? I mean, what do we really know about the Dragon Force anyway? All we do know is it's uber powerful. Kicked Snape's ass.
"Hello! Potters! Are you even listening?" At the sound of Hermione calling them 'Potters' Harry and Ginny realised they had been completely ignoring their friend. Blushing to their roots at the reminder of their… newly married… status, they mumbled their apologies.
"Honestly. I was asking how you could possibly know that Ginny. Harry hadn't even spoken yet, and you certainly didn't see it," Hermione said, clearly exasperated.
"They were talking about it as we walked down silly," Luna said off handily, flitting her eyes between Harry and Ginny and swaying her head as if singing along to a song only she could hear. Which was of course, precisely what she was doing, Harry realised.
How could she know? We agreed not to tell anyone.
I stopped trying to figure Luna out a long time ago.
"Talking? What do you mean? How could they be talking?" Hermione asked, rounding on Luna.
"They're doing it again now," Luna said cheerily.
Hermione snapped back to the duo, studying their facial expressions carefully.
"Luna. They aren't saying anything."
That's what you think.
Harry had to bite his lip to hold back his laughter. Ginny he could feel was trying just as hard, though she made it look easy. Growing up with Fred and George probably gave her an edge.
"Yes, they are. The Fairies are flying between them very fast, carrying secret messages! It's very nice. Like the tingling of wind chimes."
Hermione looked from Harry and Ginny to Luna, then back to Harry and Ginny.
"Is she telling the truth?"
Realising their charade was well and truly blown, Harry and Ginny nodded sheepishly.
Hermione turned back to Ginny, "never let me underestimate you ever again, Mystery."
"That's alright Brains. Blame the Wrackspurts. I do!"
Hermione looked thoughtful for a moment, before grinning and slinging an arm around the petite blonde.
"Say, Luna, how would you like to use your music to help Gwen, Peter and I prove Kelmscott's Law is false?"
Luna looked dreamily at Hermione, "That sounds like fun. Orders of Merlin here we come!"
Clarissa and Claire were at dinner that night in the Academy Mess Hall, acting as if nothing had happened, and for all anyone except Harry and his friends knew, nothing had happened. The Hall was located on the ground floor of what the Druids and Mer called the "Boarding House," the large white building the Hogwarts and Ilvermorny Delegations stayed in. Apparently, Alcheringa had equal populations of boarding students and day students, unlike Hogwarts and Ilvermorny, which only boarded. The building itself was large and spacious, designed like a large Greek temple, with the floors and column supports for the roof both made from marble. The tables, on the other hand, were plain wooden affairs that seated eight, and had tiny labels on them that said, "IKEA." Unlike at Hogwarts, the students were free to sit wherever they liked. Even with all three delegations present, the hall felt very empty. The Alcheringa Students were on their version of Summer Holidays, and as such, the Academy was virtually deserted. The Second Task, which took place in the second week of February, would be opening the new school year. To quote Sirius, "No pressure."
But as much as Harry wanted to spend his entire time contemplating the mystery that was Clarissa Mayfair, aka Clarissa O'Neill – one half of the only other Soul-bonded pair alive and a member of the Council of Fire – he had to focus on the Second Task. Which was why he and Ginny were sitting with Fred, George, Angelina, Alicia and Katie tonight, leaving Hermione, Peter and Gwen to fill Luna in on their Arithmancy Project.
"So, guys," Harry said, finishing another piece of Angus Beef Sirloin – Will O'Neill had converted him to the delicious cut of meat – "I was wondering if I could get some help from you. It's about the Second Task."
All the sixth years suddenly looked very interested.
"Sure thing Harry…"
"…you know we'll help…"
"…we can," the twins exclaimed, each taking a bite of a Yorkshire pudding while the other spoke.
"The thing is, I've figured out the clue." Ginny smacked him across the back of the head. "We've figured out the clue. Looks like the judges are going to take a hostage dear to me and place them at the bottom of the Ocean somewhere."
It took Katie all of a second to figure out what he implied.
"Oh my gosh! That's messed up!"
"Yeah. Odds are, the hostage is going to be me," Ginny said, sipping an Apple Cider as a silent and pointless protest against her mother, who never would have allowed such a thing.
"I'm not so sure I'm comfortable with that Gin-Gin," Fred said, all joking cast aside.
"Me neither. But we don't get a say," Harry told them. Neither looked happy.
"The only good thing about it is," Harry dropped his voice now, "thanks to the Soul Bond, I can sense where Ginny is at all times. All I have to do is follow it and get back to the surface." Fred and George were noticeably relieved by this, the girls, however, latched onto the mention of the Soul Bond.
"Come on you two, you've got to tell us something. What's it like? Being married and all," Alicia asked.
"It's… weird," Ginny supplied.
I hate talking about it.
I know, but it's only Angelina, Alicia and Katie, they won't tell a soul.
Fred and George will.
"We might be legally married, but we're taking it slow," Harry said.
"We're close, no doubt about that. Best Friends certainly. Boyfriend and Girlfriend? We haven't really decided. We've kissed a couple of times, nothing more. Slow and steady, we'll get to all that when we're ready," Ginny explained softly, blushing the entire time.
"You two are so sweet. And that song Harry! That was just beautiful," Katie gushed. Thankfully, Angelina was seemingly still focussed on Harry's initial dilemma.
"You need to be able to breathe underwater for an hour," she realised.
"The Bubblehead Charm," the twins said excitedly, "we use it all the time when we're testing our products. Filters out any toxins in the air. Including water."
"That would definitely work," Angelina said, "assuming you can swim. You can swim, can't you?"
Harry looked to the floor. Ginny, sensing his self-loathing, grabbed his hand and squeezed.
"The Dursleys refused to teach him, but Hermione's a good swimmer and Luna and I are pretty decent. We've been using one of the pools to practice every non-Quidditch morning," Ginny told them. Harry was by no means an excellent swimmer. But he could do Freestyle and Breaststroke well enough to get him from point A to point B. He didn't tire while doing it, which had Hermione very confused, but after Luna attributed it to the Glowing Migglybites that quote, "made his abs glisten," she had dropped the issue very quickly, much to Harry's comfort. It had been quite the eye-opening actually. Spending so much time without a shirt on (covered in sunscreen) had forced him to realise that he was in quite good shape thanks to both Quidditch and Padfoot and Moony's Magical BootcampTM. Ginny, who had enjoyed sitting in the sun attempting to tan herself before the sun became powerful enough to fry her pale skin even through SPF 100+, was highly appreciative of the view. She was not so grateful when Luna kept pointing out that whenever she stared at him, with his knowledge or without, the Fairy chimes in the air increased in pitch.
"Hermione found me some spells that should help with propulsion, ascent and descent, so I should be fine," Harry told them.
"Bubblehead Charm. Got it. Thank you," Ginny said.
George made to say something, probably another joke, but stopped short when a sonic boom shook the entire hall. A rocket of golden energy flew down from the sky, before skidding to a halt in the middle of the room, leaving a smoking trail scorched into the marble floor. Will O'Neill stood, surrounded in golden energy, panning his gaze around the room. He went straight passed Harry's table, before locking onto Clarissa, who was sitting with her friends a few rows back. His face split into a grin and the golden energy faded away, revealing a figure just shy of six feet, wearing a basilisk skin cloak that looked like it had seen better days. The most shocking thing though, was that his left arm was missing from the elbow. An old scar ran from his hairline, above his right ear, down to his chin, ending below his mouth. His facial hair was significantly thinner as well, though his frame was the same muscular form it usually held. His posture was slightly different too. He wasn't standing to his full height, and by standing with his feet slightly further apart, he appeared an inch or so shorter.
That must be what he really looks like…
"Honey, I'm home," Will announced, in a voice slightly higher than the one Harry was used to. In a fraction of a second, Clarissa was up from her seat, and the two raced towards each other. They jumped into each other's arms and began to snog each other senseless.
The Hogwarts and Ilvermorny students sat in complete shock, but the Alcheringa kids laughed, and wolf whistled as if that happened all the time. Then he realised, it probably did. They already knew that Will was really nineteen instead of the late 20's he pretended to be, most of them had gone to school with him!
Look at Hermione!
Harry glanced at his friend. Her jaw was literally sitting on the table. Ginny elbowed Fred, who was sitting next to her, before standing up on her seat and clapping. Fred followed suit, then Harry, then George, then the Chaser trio, then the rest of the Hall.
When the Soul Bonded pair parted, big goofy grins on their faces, they took a bow. Then a phoenix trilled in the distance, before flying into the hall, landing on Will's shoulder, and vanishing, with the O'Neill's in tow, in a flash of fire.