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J.K.Rîwling >> Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (page 16)


“We lost them in the dark,” said Ron. “Dad, why was everyone so uptight about that skull thing?”

“I'll explain everything back at the tent,” said Mr. Weasley tensely.

But when they reached the edge of the wood, their progress was impeded. A large crowd of frightened-looking witches and wizards was congregated there, and when they saw Mr. Weasley coming toward them, many of them surged forward.

“What's going on in there?”

“Who conjured it?”

“Arthur—it's not—Him?”

“Of course it's not Him,” said Mr. Weasley impatiently. “We don't know who it was; it looks like they Disapparated. Now excuse me, please, I want to get to bed.”

He led Harry, Ron, and Hermione through the crowd and back into the campsite. All was quiet now; there was no sign of the masked wizards, though several ruined tents were still smoking.

Charlie's head was poking out of the boys' tent.

“Dad, what's going on?” he called through the dark. “Fred, George, and Ginny got back okay, but the others—”

“I've got them here,” said Mr. Weasley, bending down and entering the tent. Harry, Ron, and Hermione entered after him.

Bill was sitting at the small kitchen table, holding a bedsheet to his arm, which was bleeding profusely. Charlie had a large rip in his shirt, and Percy was sporting a bloody nose. Fred, George, and Ginny looked unhurt, though shaken.

“Did you get them, Dad?” said Bill sharply. “The person who conjured the Mark?”

“No,” said Mr. Weasley. “We found Barry Crouch's elf holding Harry's wand, but we're none the wiser about who actually conured the Mark.”

“What?” said Bill, Charlie, and Percy together. “Harry's wand?” said Fred.

“Mr. Crouch's elf” said Percy, sounding thunderstruck.

With some assistance from Harry, Ron, and Hermione, Mr. Weasley explained what had happened in the woods. When they had finished their story, Percy swelled indignantly.

“Well, Mr. Crouch is quite right to get rid of an elf like that!” he said. “Running away when he'd expressly told her not to... embarrassing him in front of the whole Ministry... how would that have looked, if she'd been brought up in front of the Department for the Regulation and Control—”

“She didn't do anything—she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time!” Hermione snapped at Percy, who looked very taken aback. Hermione had always got on fairly well with Percy—better, indeed, than any of the others.

“Hermione, a wizard in Mr. Crouch's position can't afford a house-elf who's going to run amok with a wand!” said Percy pompously, recovering himself.

“She didn't run amok!” shouted Hermione. “She just picked it up off the ground!”

“Look, can someone just explain what that skull thing was?” said Ron impatiently. “It wasn't hurting anyone... Why's it such a big deal?”

“I told you, it's You-Know-Who's symbol, Ron,” said Hermione, before anyone else could answer. “I read about it in The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts.”

“And it hasn't been seen for thirteen years,” said Mr. Weasley quietly. “Of course people panicked... it was almost like seeing You-Know-Who back again.”

“I don't get it,” said Ron, frowning. “I mean... it's still only a shape in the sky...

“Ron, You-Know-Who and his followers sent the Dark Mark into the air whenever they killed,” said Mr. Weasley. “The terror it inspired... you have no idea, you're too young. Just picture coming home and finding the Dark Mark hovering over your house, and knowing what you're about to find inside...” Mr. Weasley winced. “Everyone's worst fear... the very worst..

There was silence for a moment. Then Bill, removing the sheet from his arm to check on his cut, said, “Well, it didn't help us tonight, whoever conjured it. It scared the Death Eaters away the moment they saw it. They all Disapparated before we'd got near enough to unmask any of them. We caught the Robertses before they hit the ground, though. They're having their memories modified right now.”

“Death Eaters?” said Harry. “What are Death Eaters?”

“It's what You-Know-Who's supporters called themselves,” said Bill. “I think we saw what's left of them tonight—the ones who managed to keep themselves out of Azkaban, anyway.”

“We can't prove it was them, Bill,” said Mr. Weasley. “Though it probably was,” he added hopelessly.

“Yeah, I bet it was!” said Ron suddenly . “Dad, we met Draco Malfoy in the woods, and he as good as told us his dad was one of those nutters in masks! And we all know the Malfoys were right in with You-Know-Who!”

“But what were Voldemort's supporters—” Harry began. Everybody flinched—like most of the wizarding world, the Weasleys always avoided saying Voldemort's name. “Sorry,” said Harry quickly. “What were You-Know-Who's supporters up to, levitating Muggles? I mean, what was the point?”

“The point?” said Mr. Weasley with a hollow laugh. “Harry, that's their idea of fun. Half the Muggle killings back when You-Know-Who was in power were done for fun. I suppose they had a few drinks tonight and couldn't resist reminding us all that lots of them are still at large. A nice little reunion for them,” he finished disgustedly.

“But if they were the Death Eaters, why did they Disapparate when they saw the Dark Mark?” said Ron. “They'd have been pleased to see it, wouldn't they?”

“Use your brains, Ron,” said Bill. “If they really were Death Eaters, they worked very hard to keep out of Azkaban when You-Know-Who lost power, and told all sorts of lies about him forcing them to kill and torture people. I bet they'd be even more frightened than the rest of us to see him come back. They denied they'd ever been involved with him when he lost his powers, and went back to their daily lives... I don't reckon he'd be over-pleased with them, do you?”

“So... whoever conjured the Dark Mark...” said Hermione slowly, “were they doing it to show support for the Death Eaters, or to scare them away?”

“Your guess is as good as ours, Hermione,” said Mr. Weasley. “But I'll tell you this... it was only the Death Eaters who ever knew how to conjure it. I'd be very surprised if the person who did it hadn't been a Death Eater once, even if they're not now.. Listen, it's very late, and if your mother hears what's happened she'll be worried sick. We'll get a few more hours sleep and then try and get an early Portkey out of here.”

Harry got back into his bunk with his head buzzing. He knew he ought to feel exhausted: It was nearly three in the morning, but he felt wide-awake—wide-awake, and worried.

Three days ago—it felt like much longer, but it had only been three days—he had awoken with his scar burning. And tonight, for the first time in thirteen years, Lord Voldemort's mark had appeared in the sky. What did these things mean?

He thought of the letter he had written to Sirius before leaving Privet Drive. Would Sirius have gotten it yet? When would he reply? Harry lay looking up at the canvas, but no flying fantasies came to him now to ease him to sleep, and it was a long time after Charlie's snores filled the tent that Harry finally dozed off.

CHAPTER TEN

MAYHEM AT THE MINISTRY

Mr. Weasley woke them after only a few hours sleep. He used magic to pack up the tents, and they left the campsite as quickly as possible, passing Mr. Roberts at the door of his cottage. Mr. Roberts had a strange, dazed look about him, and he waved them off with a vague “Merry Christmas.”

“He'll be all right,” said Mr. Weasley quietly as they marched off onto the moor. “Sometimes, when a person's memory's modified, it makes him a bit disorientated for a while... and that was a big thing they had to make him forget.”

They heard urgent voices as they approached the spot where the Portkeys lay, and when they reached it, they found a great number of witches and wizards gathered around Basil, the keeper of the Portkeys, all clamoring to get away from the campsite as quickly as possible. Mr. Weasley had a hurried discussion with Basil; they joined the queue, and were able to take an old rubber tire back to Stoatshead Hill before the sun had really risen. They walked back through Ottery St. Catchpole and up the damp lane toward the Burrow in the dawn light, talking very little because they were so exhausted, and thinking longingly of their breakfast. As they rounded the corner and the Burrow came into view, a cry echoed along the lane.

“Oh thank goodness, thank goodness!”

Mrs. Weasley, who had evidently been waiting for them in the front yard, came running toward them, still wearing her bedroom slippers, her face pale and strained, a rolled-up copy of the Daily Prophet clutched in her hand.

“Arthur—I've been so worried—so worried-”

She flung her arms around Mr. Weasley's neck, and the Daily Prophet fell out of her limp hand onto the ground. Looking down, Harry saw the headline: SCENES OF TERROR AT THE QUIDDITCH WORLD CUP, complete with a twinkling black-and-white photograph of the Dark Mark over the treetops.

“You're all right,” Mrs. Weasley muttered distractedly, releasing Mr. Weasley and staring around at them all with red eyes, “you're alive... Oh boys..

And to everybody's surprise, she seized Fred and George and pulled them both into such a tight hug that their heads banged together.

“Ouch! Mum—you're strangling us—”

“I shouted at you before you left!” Mrs. Weasley said, starting to sob. “It's all I've been thinking about! What if You-Know-Who had got you, and the last thing I ever said to you was that you didn't get enough OW. L. s? Oh Fred... George..”

“Come on, now, Molly, we're all perfectly okay,” said Mr. Weasley soothingly, prising her off the twins and leading her back toward the house. “Bill,” he added in an undertone, “pick up that paper, I want to see what it says...”

When they were all crammed into the tiny kitchen, and Hermione had made Mrs. Weasley a cup of very strong tea, into which Mr. Weasley insisted on pouring a shot of Ogdens Old Firewhiskey, Bill handed his father the newspaper. Mr. Weasley scanned the front page while Percy looked over his shoulder.

“I knew it,” said Mr. Weasley heavily. “Ministry blunders... culprits not apprehended... lax security... Dark wizards running unchecked... national disgrace... Who wrote this? Ah... of course... Rita Skeeter.”

“That woman's got it in for the Ministry of Magic!” said Percy furiously. “Last week she was saying we're wasting our time quibbling about cauldron thickness, when we should be stamping out vampires! As if it wasn't specifically stated in paragraph twelve of the Guidelines for the Treatment of Non-Wizard Part-Humans—”

“Do us a favor, Perce,” said Bill, yawning, “and shut up.”

“I'm mentioned,” said Mr. Weasley, his eyes widening behind his glasses as he reached the bottom of the Daily Prophet article.

“Where?” spluttered Mrs. Weasley, choking on her tea and whiskey. “If I'd seen that, I'd have known you were alive!”

“Not by name,” said Mr. Weasley. “Listen to this: 'If the terrified wizards and witches who waited breathlessly for news at the edge of the wood expected reassurance from the Ministry ofMagic, they were sadly disappointed. A Ministry official emerged some time after the appearance of the Dark Mark alleging that nobody had been hurt, but reflising to give any more information. Whether this statement will be enough to quash the rumors that several bodies were removed from the woods an hour later, remains to be seen. ' Oh really,” said Mr. Weasley in exasperation, handing the paper to Percy. “Nobody was hurt. What was I supposed to say? Rumors that several bodies were removed from the woods... well, there certainly will be rumors now she's printed that.”

He heaved a deep sigh. “Molly, I'm going to have to go into the office; this is going to take some smoothing over.”

“I'll come with you, Father,” said Percy importantly. “Mr. Crouch will need all hands on deck. And I can give him my cauldron report in person.”

He bustled out of the kitchen. Mrs. Weasley looked most upset. “Arthur, you're supposed to be on holiday! This hasn't got anything to do with your office; surely they can handle this without you?”

“I've got to go, Molly,” said Mr. Weasley. “I've made things worse. I'll just change into my robes and I'll be off...”

“Mrs. Weasley,” said Harry suddenly, unable to contain himself, “Hedwig hasn't arrived with a letter for me, has she?”

“Hedwig, dear?” said Mrs. Weasley distractedly. “No... no, there hasn't been any post at all.”

Ron and Hermione looked curiously at Harry. With a meaningful look at both of them he said, “All right if I go and dump my stuff in your room, Ron?”

“Yeah... think I will too,” said Ron at once. “Hermione?”

“Yes,” she said quickly, and the three of them marched out of the kitchen and up the stairs.

“What's up, Harry?” said Ron, the moment they had closed the door of the attic room behind them.

“There's something I haven't told you,” Harry said. “On Saturday morning, I woke up with my scar hurting again.”

Ron's and Hermione's reactions were almost exactly as Harry had imagined them back in his bedroom on Privet Drive. Hermione gasped and started making suggestions at once, mentioning a number of reference books, and everybody from Albus Dumbledore to Madam Pomfrey, the Hogwarts nurse. Ron simply looked dumbstruck.

“But—he wasn't there, was he? You-Know-Who? I mean—last time your scar kept hurting, he was at Hogwarts, wasn't he?”

“I'm sure he wasn't on Privet Drive,” said Harry. “But I was dreaming about him... him and Peter—you know, Wormtail. I can't remember all of it now, but they were plotting to kill... someone.”

He had teetered for a moment on the verge of saying “me,” but couldn't bring himself to make Hermione look any more horrified than she already did.

Title: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Author: J.K.Rîwling
Viewed 138873 times

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