“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?”
“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
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
“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
“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,
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
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
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
“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...
“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.