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Run by Toujours Padfoot
Chapter 16 : Capture the Flag
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 19


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Victus: Cedric Diggory, Tonks Lupin, Peter Pettigrew, Fred Weasley
Mortuus: Vincent Crabbe, Colin Creevey, James Potter, Severus Snape





“Four.”

Sweat trickled down eight pairs of arms, collecting in curled-up fists. Their hair clung to their necks and foreheads, salty as the sea. In a matter of hours, there would only be six of them remaining. They gazed upon the roiling Pensieve, painfully waiting, just wanting it all to be over. One of them slid a small glass phial into their pocket, depleted of its molten gold potion.

“Three.”

Ptolemy raised his eyebrows at Cliodna, who seemed to smile back at him from under her black veil.

“Two.”

Up in the stands, Remus was still trying to absorb the information provided to them all only a minute ago: “You will each have a small flag to carry with you. The goal of this round is to steal a flag from a member of your team and throw it into the fire – you will know what I’m referring to when you get in there. Steal a teammate’s flag and burn it, and the first person on each team to have his or her flag burned will be eliminated. Purposefully damaging your own flag so that it cannot be confiscated by teammates is strictly prohibited. As always, members of opposite teams will appear invisible to each other, and attempts to harm the opposite team will be fruitless.”

“Run.”

Tonks was the last to jump into the Pensieve, as she’d turned her face towards Remus at the last second, finding where he sat next to Lily, and offered him a hopeful grin. He was so distracted, so lost in dread and stress, that he didn’t have time to return the smile before she twisted sideways into the pale gray pool.

Cedric was already out and running with a black cloth pinned between his teeth, combing his way through waist-high shrubs and trees. Their roots bent out at soil-level in half-circle shapes, making them easy to trip over, but Cedric never faltered once as he put as much distance as possible between himself and those popping into the memory behind him. The memory had been donated by a goblin who’d fought during the Goblin Rebellion of 1614, two years after their riots first began. The setting was a jungle of sorts, roughly five times the size of the maze from the Triwizard Tournament.

The revolting goblins had already advanced through the main area, spanning out in what could only be likened to a funeral procession as they were all overtaken and many of them killed after leaving the seclusion of the forest. Tonks, Cedric, James, Peter, Vincent, Colin, Severus, and Fred were confined to the forest. The goblin who’d donated the memory had not lived long enough to crawl into the valley beyond, and therefore the contenders could not pass that boundary line, either.

It’s a graveyard, Fred thought, stepping over a dead goblin who still clutched a blood-encrusted dagger in one long-fingered hand. Three identical black squares of fabric were left tied to a tree – one for him, one for Tonks, and one for an invisible member of Mortuus who was lagging behind. Everyone else had already taken theirs and disappeared into the trees.

Fred picked at the knotted cloth with damp fingers, finally wrestling it free. Upon closer inspection, he saw that a miniature number ‘6’ had been embroidered on one corner of the flag in pale blue stitches. Just as he was about to look away from it, he observed that it changed from ‘6’ to ‘F.W.’

And someone’s supposed to try and take this from me, he remembered, stuffing it into his pocket. Instead of the usual wizarding robes, he’d opted to wear a dragon hide jacket and trousers, as he knew that material would deflect some minor spells and jinxes.

In the middle of a clearing, tall enough to block out half the daylight, was a blazing effigy of a witch and wizard trapped in a terrified embrace, constructed from kindling. Their heads had been ignited first, tendrils of flame forming their hair while smoke gave the illusion of hats; the tree branches that formed the witch’s jaw had collapsed, giving her the appearance of an everlasting scream.

The goal of this round is to steal a flag from a member of your team and throw it into the fire.

He wondered what the goblin spectators in Cliodna’s Clock were thinking while they watched the effigies burn. Would they think the statement justified? Would they derive pleasure from the memory of their ancestors attempting to rise up against the witches and wizards who stifled them? This thought passed quickly, as he felt the need to get under the cover of trees, and to choose a target. Peter, he thought decidedly. Pettigrew was the only member of his team with no personal connection to Fred. Fred could easily dispose of him and not feel guilty for it. A grin ripped at Fred’s lips and he rushed off into the forest, wand in hand.

Tonks could hear shrill screams vaulting out of the trees, followed by bodies dropping from branches like dead birds. Their screams faded to a whistle, persisting in low gurgling noises after a pair of goblins and one wizard smashed to the earth. Their blood streaked across pathways of dirt, maroon puddles inflated with small bubbles from the projected coughs of nearby mouths. Tonks didn’t have time to cringe away from the smell, or to tune out the deafening pitch of chaos. Despite the hazards that the forest presented – especially for someone like her, who could trip over something as insubstantial as words – she found herself euphoric. The stretch of tree after tree after tree was something Cliodna’s Clock did not have nearly enough of. It was too tiny in the afterlife, everyone stuffed into a universe the size of a keyhole.

Here, even though she would not be privy to explore all of it, there was open air. There was freedom pulsing through her legs and feet, which were swiftly carrying her through the crowded wood. A black flag was bound to her left forearm with conjured silver cords to keep it in place, one corner of the fabric bearing the markings ‘N.L’.

Way across the sky, through patches of leaves in the canopies above, a pale imprint of the moon hung facing the sun. Tonks estimated that they had little over an hour left until sunset. The forest would be impossible to navigate in the dark – Lumos would be too dangerous to use. Her mind flipped back the pages to the lines she’d written for Teddy, lines scratched out and rewritten time and time again in search of the perfect phrases to leave him with, the pieces of her she wanted to give to her son. She owed it to Teddy, having left him alone with Andromeda the night she rushed off into battle, to win.

Teddy floated up before her eyes, smiling behind his picture frame, his irises a deeper version of Remus’s – which made him all the more beautiful. She had to remember to keep herself from slipping back into those dark, self-pitying thoughts, had to force herself to move a little bit faster. With any luck, she would be reunited with him soon.

She didn’t stop moving until she found a tree with branches low and sturdy enough to climb. She then yanked at the silver cords around her arm until they snapped, her fingers shaking from a combination of nerves and an empty stomach. Tonks wiped the sweat out of her eyes, refastening her flag to a tree branch with those cords. She conjured more cords with Incarcerous and tested the knots to ensure they were strong enough, and then tapped her wand over the flag and layers of rope, casting a Disillusionment Charm. With her flag hidden, Tonks carefully slid down the base of the tree and crouched there for a moment, glancing both ways, before jogging up an incline where the trees were shaking from something – or someone – disturbing them.

Invisible to Tonks, Vincent Crabbe was thrashing against a clump of Devil’s Snare just eleven feet to her right. He swore under his breath, fighting against the monster of vines that had wrapped six leafy limbs around his ankles and arms. Another velvety feeler slithered up his body, tasting the air around his ears curiously before winding, vice-like, around his throat.

“In – Incendio,” Vincent gasped. He couldn’t feel his fingers; blood puffed them up like sausages, unable to circulate. Sparks spewed from the tip of his wand, frightening the Devil’s Snare into a shrinking coil. Vincent stole the opportunity at once, the soles of his shoes scarcely touching the ground as he darted away. He barely missed an explosion that could have taken his leg off, blasting out of the heart of the Devil’s Snare and obliterating what was left of the plant.

James was right on Vincent’s heels, trying to use Accio to summon Vincent’s flag but failing. It seemed that the flags would not be so easily swindled away from their owners; James would have to use physical force. The explosion blew him off his feet, rocketing him into an abandoned fire pit. He rolled over in the charred brushwood, squeezing his eyes tightly shut. He couldn’t allow Lily to see him in pain, or she would never forgive him for entering the tournament.

When the shriek of the explosion ebbed away, James refocused his eyes on the burning hole in the ground that had previously been flat and sound, staggering to his feet. Magical explosives. The memory was dim, as it had been a great many years since he was in school, but the information came flooding back to him in the form of a practice exam question: Name the device created by goblins during the Rebellion Period that required the verbal pronunciation of spells to activate. Answer: Voice Boxes. The goblins buried them before their riots. When wizards chased after them, their verbal incantations triggered the Voice Boxes to detonate, resulting in mass casualties. Their intention was to make wizards feel the disadvantages of carrying a wand, reflecting the disadvantages goblins had always endured for being forbidden to carry them.

James never dreamed that History of Magic would be useful to him. He’d only paid attention because Lily sat next to him in that class and she could easily see the marks on his essays that Professor Binns handed back, and he’d wanted to impress her.

Where are you? James thought darkly, flicking the fringe out of his eyes. I know you can see me, wherever you are. He'd thought he might be able to spread his concentration equally among his teammates, and not become fixated on Snape, but he knew now that he couldn’t forget him because he couldn’t forgive him. He couldn’t forgive Snape for being the one selected to watch over Harry, to be a part of his life – no matter how negative his role might have been – when James was barred from seeing his son altogether. For this reason, and countless others that felt trivial in comparison, he could not forgive Severus Snape. He felt his skin itch with irritation, knowing that Snape must be nearby. Why hadn’t he made a move yet? Playing with his food before he ate it, most likely…

Severus gazed down on James through half-lidded eyes, his upper lip curling with derision. It would be all too easy to lacerate Potter from head to toe, to swipe his flag and destroy it. The only thing that kept him from doing so was the stabbing reminder that he owed Potter. He believed he had done enough on earth to clear his name with Lily, for helping to keep her son alive until he was old enough to defeat Voldemort. Still, the fact remained that Lily and James could have looked after their son themselves had they been alive, and the only reason why any of them were marked at all, the only reason why Voldemort had hunted Harry for nearly all of the boy’s life, was because of one small mistake Severus had made when he was young.

He’d overhead a prophecy and repeated it, thinking only of positive scenarios in which he would be rewarded for his value, for his irreplaceable wit and loyalty. He had never once entertained thoughts of those actions coming back to bite him.

His love for Lily redeemed him, but he harbored no such love for James, and therefore had nothing to offer in exchange for forgiveness. Because of his lifelong enemy whom he’d never be rid of, even in death, Severus could not be the first one to attack. He despised Potter for putting him in this susceptible position of debt.

He would not be the first to attack, but that did not mean he wouldn’t fight. He could not deny that he wanted James to try it, to attempt to cast Severus out of the tournament. He couldn’t wait to rub James’s inadequacy in his own face when he realized that while Severus’s life had not been a happy one, it had been long enough to learn a few more tricks than Potter could ever fathom. There was no question of who was the cleverer wizard.

Using Muffliato to subdue his footsteps, Severus traipsed uphill, to a summit where the trees thinned. The greenery became younger, their trunks slight and spindly, the leaf and needle-strewn forest floor soon replaced with soft grass. A shuddering of leaves alerted him to neighbors and after seconds of sweeping the sparse landscape, his eyes fell upon a black shoe poking out from behind a tree, followed by a pale nose and chin. The unknowing guest had no idea that he was being watched.

Severus shrank into the folds of a flutterby bush, a plant with such natural, frequent movement that no additional stirrings would raise an alarm.

Colin Creevey, the energetic little Gryffindor with half a brain, was roaming around with his wand held out in full view. Severus exhaled through his nostrils, resisting the impulse to roll his eyes. Hadn’t Creevey learned anything? It was asinine to expose his only weapon like that, free for anyone to swipe from him with a simple Expelliarmus.

Stupefy, Severus silently commanded, still cloaked in the springy flutterby foliage. The leaves constantly bloomed and receded in on themselves to form tight little buds, giving the impression of a butterfly taking flight. Severus’s wan face glowed red from the radiance of his spell, the beautiful color of which he never felt he could get used to. Curses had a sort of grace about them, flowing from thought to wand to victim in a sudden burst of power that never failed to leave Severus in awe. The scarlet streak connected with Colin’s chest; he crumbled soundlessly to the ground, his movements quieted by a clump of ferns. Bracing himself against all of the eyes who might be watching him, disapproving of his attack on a former student, Severus emerged from his hiding place and knelt at Colin’s side.

The imaginary disapproval he felt from the citizens of Cliodna’s Clock could only work in his favor, however. It would prove his theory correct: No one would be going after Colin. Potter wouldn’t hurt an innocent boy who’d idolized his son, and Vincent was so loud and lumbering that Colin would be able to hear him from a mile off. Colin was safe, and therefore the safest place to hide Severus’s flag was in Colin’s possession. He deftly retrieved Colin’s flag, which the boy had stuffed deep inside one sock, and switched it with his own.

Once Severus was safely secluded in the denser regions of the forest, but still close enough to see Colin’s sprawled body still lying in an unconscious heap, he pointed his wand again. Rennervate. Colin would awaken with no idea who had cursed him or what had happened. After considering this, Severus modified the boy’s memory so that he would believe he’d merely tripped and hit his head on a rock.

“There,” he whispered to himself, striding confidently in the direction of where he’d last seen James Potter lurking about. “Let him come and find me now.”


*

Tonks scratched at her arms, both eyes tearing viciously through the trees. It was getting darker, harder to see. She could feel the heat of sunset burning up her scalp, but it wouldn’t be long before the vivid orange sky gave way to violet. Her teammates had either scurried off into opposite directions or they’d retreated into the trees, not wanting to be the only ones out when darkness approached. She’d been bitten by wood lice, scratched by bowtruckles, and stung repeatedly in the neck by a Red Vampyr Mosp. When she’d tried to Stun the Vampyr Mosp, a sort of land mine had exploded, propelling Tonks into a sleeping Chimaera’s den.

Right, she thought to herself. Enough complaining. Remus is watching. He’s expecting you to do well.

She stopped walking for a moment, envisioning Remus sitting up in the stands, watching and waiting. What would he want her to do? He could see glimpses of all the others, and would know exactly where she should go. For the first time since she’d signed up for the Devil’s Duel, Tonks halfway wished that Remus had entered, too. He could have been a load of help.

Focus, she could almost hear him say. What are you going to do next?

Wait for the others to do each other in? Hide out until it's over?

Don’t be optimistic, he would probably answer. You need a plan. A good one.

“Right-o,” she breathed, swinging her arms at her sides. “An objective.” She remembered what Remus had told her a week earlier, about how Peter seemed to be unconsciously searching her out in Round One. That was what he’d asked Scrimgeour, wasn’t it? If he was Tonks in disguise? He’d been quite keen on getting rid of Scrimgeour, as he thought Scrimgeour was Tonks, so that meant… “Peter.”

She was surprised by the burning sting of acid in her voice as she said it. But swiftly – within seconds – she was wondering why she’d taken so long to stumble upon this realization. Peter. Of course she would attack Peter. He’d proven to be a capable foe, but she was more than capable herself. She had hatred on her side, whereas he only had fear. After James died and Sirius was sent to Azkaban for it, Remus was left completely alone, haunted by the fact that three of his closest friends had been murdered, indirectly or personally, by their other friend, Sirius Black. Remus spent years agonizing over it, wishing he could have done something to prevent poor Peter’s demise. And then, years and years later, Peter returned in one fell swoop and turned against James yet again, laughing at James beyond the grave by helping Voldemort in his quest for Harry’s blood.

“And he’s here, in Cliodna’s Clock, where he’ll never have to be punished.”

You have talents that no one else has, Remus echoed. Use them.

Tonks took a deep breath, scrunching her face into a grimace. She hadn’t applied her Metamorphmagus abilities since arriving in the afterlife; so while her teammates were most likely aware that she could transform her appearance at will, they probably would not be expecting it.

She felt her body contort, hot with the surge of racing blood. After everything was finished, she set off in search of Remus’s old friend Peter.


*

Cedric was tiny in comparison to the beast sliding around before him, its eighteen eyes boring down on his pallid face while nine forked tongues hissed their displeasure. Each scale was approximately the size of Cedric’s hand – a body like a dragon with nine long serpent heads. The creature had been digging around in a swampy lagoon, hunting with many slender snouts for mutated amphibians larger than dogs. The polluted pool was surrounded almost entirely by a wall of boulders. A waterfall used to trickle down in front of a small cave, providing camouflage for the hydra’s lair, but it had since dried up, leaving only a slimy green residue behind.

The swamp’s water was stagnant, reeking with an odor almost as foul as the hydra’s breath, which curled around its nine heads in a rust-colored smog with hot shocks of toxic gas. Cedric had spied the rocky terrain and decided to investigate, and upon seeing a largely-enclosed space that would be excellent for hiding in, he thought it prudent to have a look around and see if Tonks, Peter, or Fred could possibly be lingering.

The center serpent’s head reared back, hissing with poisonous spit. Its wine-red eyes glittered, the striking jewel-tone scales rippling over strips of thick muscle. It lifted one clawed foot and stepped closer to Cedric, making the ground quake.

“Confundo!” Cedric boomed, aiming his wand at the center serpent’s left eye.

The snake he Confunded shook its head dazedly, lulled into a stupor, but the eight other heads raised their hackles in defense. Cedric leapt away from it, inching towards a crevice that led back into the forest. The hydra followed on four huge feet, eight mouths emitting loud, siren-like screeches.

“Aresto Momentum.”

The hydra slowed down slightly, but was still close enough to sink its many fangs into his body if it so desired. Panicking not just because of the hydra’s terrifying presence but because its wails would undoubtedly draw the attention of his teammates, he shouted, “Silencio!” He then shot the Conjunctivitis Curse at random, trying to strike one of its eyes. Bolts of white lightning issued from his wand, slicing at the hydra’s scaly body but not hitting any of Cedric’s intended marks.

He swallowed, trying again, and this time aiming for one of its necks. “Diffindo.”

A serpent head was severed from its long neck, which still writhed in the air. The head fell into the swamp with a splash, prompting silent screeches from its other heads, barring the Confunded eighth one. Elated with his success, Cedric pointed at another head and repeated the spell. His left hand grappled along the rock wall, slipping through muck and filthy, torpid water as he stepped backwards towards the craggy opening. Just as he was about to cast the spell for a third time, he noticed two new heads sprouting out of the first neck he’d slayed, ripping out of the lesion with slimy tentacles. A second later, the other head he’d sliced off was reborn with two new heads, as well.

Eleven snakes gazed at Cedric, twenty-two eyes narrowing vindictively.

I could use this, Cedric thought in a spark of intuition, stepping through the lagoon’s narrow opening at last. Luring the hydra out of its swamp might not be a terrible idea, not if he could somehow escape and leave a fellow teammate to deal with the monster unprepared. Cedric figured that he could even find a tree to climb, and sever head after head after head, watching them all multiply until the hydra’s menace was at its peak.

“Accio flag!” a voice cried. Cedric and the hydra both turned their attentions to a portly little man named Peter Pettigrew, who was wearing a mixture of a smile and a snarl, his eyes wide and malevolent.

Despite the fact that Peter’s spell obviously didn’t have any effect on Cedric’s flag, Cedric mirrored his opponent by shouting, “Accio Pettigrew’s flag!”

The hydra, still mute, flared up at the sight of two threatening wizards, and thundered towards Cedric. Just as one of its heads was close enough to enshroud Cedric in a haze of sour breath that tasted like decaying flesh, there was a faint clicking noise, followed by a blast of dirt and rocks acting as shrapnel. The hydra was blown backward, a bloody, wriggling mass.

Peter, who had fallen down from the force of the explosion, scrambled to his feet and made a run for it. Cedric could do nothing but watch in horror as the serpent sprouted more heads, their sharp, curving teeth cutting on grubby air. The ground rocked again, shifting from the explosion. An enormous stone wedged in the lagoon’s entryway behind the hydra shook, perilously close to coming loose. Something about the surrounding scene caught on Cedric’s tongue.

Stone.

A serpent’s mouth was already swallowing the point of Cedric’s wand, sucking with powerful jaws, when he bellowed, “Duro!” Immediately, the hydra froze in place, its many eyes unblinking. Its scales began to crack, to audibly coat with hard granite. The creature was magical, unyielding, and so it attempted to thrash against the curse, breaking its way through casings of stone that continually entrapped it. While the hydra tried to prevent itself from turning to stone as Duro demanded, Cedric pointed at the loosened boulder. Accio, he inwardly roared.

The stone came rushing at him – he ducked just in time to miss it. He could feel it grazing the tips of his hair as it soared over him and into a tree, splintering its trunk in half. The entire rock wall that formed a fortress around the swampy lagoon began to rumble and shiver, giving way into an avalanche that buried the crumbling hydra. Cedric took off at full speed, zipping through the forest with laughter tingling the back of his throat. He hadn’t felt this much excitement in years…

Fred Weasley, who was wading across a creek, paused for a moment. He could have sworn he’d just heard something in the ground, some sort of vibration, like a stampede of rocks pouring out of the sky.

“We’re finally starting the fun then, are we?” he mused. “Brilliant. It’s about bloody time.” A small black cloth floated out of his sleeve and downriver, which he hastily snatched back up. He needed somewhere safer to put it… A mischievous smile lit his face as he tapped his wand on the waterlogged flag. It transfigured into a small onyx ring, engraved with his initials in sky blue script.

“Probably isn’t what you had in mind, eh, Cliodna?” Fred said with a laugh, looking up towards the sky and the bubbling surface of the Pensieve. “It’s not really damaging it, so this can’t count against me.” He slipped the ring onto his finger and continued across the creek. Once he was on the bank, he performed a Hot-Air Charm to dry his socks and shoes only, since the rest of him was clothed in water-resistant dragon hide.

A nearby bush rustled. Fred glanced up, hoping it was only a bird hopping about, but saw the traces of someone’s elbow before the intruder vanished. They bustled along a curving trail that traveled downhill into the thickest patch of the wood. Fred’s smile faded; he rose to his full height, noiselessly dispatching after the person. It couldn’t have been a goblin – they were all surely dead by now, and the rest of the wizard army had already sprinted into the valley. That left three options.

He gripped his wand firmly, hiding the bulk of it up his sleeve so that only the tip protruded between his index finger and thumb. The tip was still white-hot, glowing a purplish hue from his last incantation that took its time to die. The other contender was just around the bend, oblivious of him. Fred sped up a little, his wand sliding out farther. He imagined all of the places one could stow a flag on their body, hoping that another person’s flag would soon be his for the taking.

The other person’s footsteps stopped. They’d reached another path that forked left and north, and seemed to be debating between the two. Fred didn’t dare speak as he crept up behind them. He would require the split-second advantage of reciting a nonverbal spell.

A shock of red hair, a familiar nose and chin. The mysterious contender was identical to Fred Weasley in every single way, from his light brown eyes to his freckles to the hand that gripped a half-concealed wand. The only difference was that this other person was wearing plain black clothing.

They abruptly pivoted, jogging down the left-hand path and out of sight.

Fred’s blood was pooling in his shoes, his heart beating a livid bruise against his Adam’s apple. He couldn’t hear or smell or taste or think. He couldn’t breathe. His eyes had become so fogged over that he almost couldn’t see.

“George,” he whispered with a voice that cracked, and he quickly followed suit.


*


Vincent Crabbe was muttering bitterly to himself. Lay low and shut up, Salazar had ordered. Well, where had that gotten him? He’d been ambushed by an army of Devil’s Snare. Vincent had seen several people passing by as they hiked through the forest, but the Devil’s Snare ignored them, not giving them so much as a swat. He was beginning to come to the conclusion that the plants had a personal prejudice, which flummoxed him because he’d downed a whole vial of Felix Felicis before the start of the tournament.

“Laying low isn’t doing anything for me,” Vincent grumbled. What did Salazar know, anyway? He didn’t know anything. He’d never been in the races. He had no idea what it was like, or what people should do. All he knew was what he witnessed from an outsider’s perspective. Slytherin’s advice was rubbish.

Resolving to take matters into his own hands, Vincent withdrew his wand from his pocket and sped up his pace, following the crunch of someone’s boots as they snapped over twigs. A tall man with jet-black hair was examining what looked to be an enormous cobra cut in half. He held it in the middle, where it was the least bloody, and peered into the dead snake’s mouth. Vincent didn’t understand what James Potter was doing, but James was estimating the possibilities of using the snake’s fangs as a weapon. Assaulting Snape with snake venom would be almost poetic in a way, bringing him back to the moment of his death. James was so absorbed in his thoughts that he didn’t take notice of Vincent, and couldn’t stop him in time.

Vincent seized on James’s distraction, grabbing the black cloth tied around James’s wrist and pulling on it until it came free. James whirled around, wand out, but Vincent had already hopped over a fallen log and around a cluster of yew trees, beginning the descent downhill.

Downhill… James threw the beheaded serpent in a rage. The clearing was downhill. The bonfire was downhill. James scanned the sky, which was slowly filling up with stars. A column of angry black smoke twirled up over the tree line, thinning into the heavens like stretched cotton.

He tore off after the boy, his vision clouding with bright crimson pops like embers. He was faster than Vincent, catching up to him after just two minutes of chasing him. He pointed his wand, ready to fire, but it was too late. Vincent had already Disapparated.

And he’d splinched himself, leaving behind the hand that was holding onto James’s flag.

In the second James took to gape at the hand, its fingers still wiggling, still curling protectively over the cloth, Severus Snape jumped out of an overhanging tree and scooped up the flag, a wicked smile disfiguring his lips.

“Crucio!” James hollered.

Severus effortlessly deflected the spell with a Shield Charm and smirked, spinning on the spot with a crack.

James Apparated along after him, furious, and landed in a pool of hot blood. Vincent was twitching on the ground nearby, bleeding profusely with his eyes rolling into the back of his head. His legs were in the grip of Venomous Tentacula. Its forever-long arms encircled him like ropes of red, planting thorny kisses all over his flesh. James hated the way that the boy was screaming, and wanted to help him, but Snape was so close to the fire already…

Their whole team was at the bonfire. Colin Creevey had decided to loop around it repeatedly just in case anyone came after him – this way he would be that much closer to burning his attacker’s flag, as well. Despite the horrifying effigy towering above him, the wizard’s arms and head already burned up, he found the source of light to be much more comforting and safe than the treacherous black forest’s masked hazards.

Severus was close…he was running… “Depulso!” James shouted.

A blinding white halo of light, spinning so fast in circles that James could feel the wind emanating from it, launched out of James’s heart, out of his wand, and shot across the distance that separated him from Severus. Severus turned at the last moment, black eyes widening, and ducked aside in a kneejerk reaction. The curse hit Colin in the stomach, so loud and powerful that he gasped, and he fell backward into the bonfire.

As the boy burned, so did the flag he carried.

Severus’s.


*


With Mortuus gone from the forest, Victus felt the pressure to bring their duel to a close, as well. Still masquerading as Fred with her Metamorphmagus abilities, Tonks finally found Peter hiding in a hidden cavern of sorts that surrounded a swamp. Lacewing flies buzzed about her ears; she batted them away, straining her eyes to see clearly through the dark, and that’s where she found him. He was hunched into a ball, and had painted himself with a Bedazzling Hex to blend perfectly into a mountain of rubble. Through a storm cloud of dirt that she could scarcely see through, Tonks’s eyes alighted on his reflective ones. True to form, he was a rat. He’d disguised himself to look like a small rock, but he was still a rat, and those reflective rat eyes gave him away.

I shouldn’t take his flag from him, she worried at once, beginning to question herself. If she eliminated him from the races now, that meant it would just be Fred, Cedric, and herself for Round Three. Who would she attack then? Who would she attack in Round Four? She couldn’t stomach the idea of Peter making it to Round Five and winning, staying alive in place of someone with real value.

But there he was, right in front of her, with nowhere to run. It was far too tempting. Memories of Remus spun around in her mind, of Remus’s face and the way it hardened every time Pettigrew’s name was mentioned.

The rest is for Teddy, but this here is for my husband.

She transformed Peter back into the man he would never truly be, and she ripped his flag away from him. He didn’t put up a fight.

The bonfire was easy to locate – she was about half a mile from victory, but the light of it was so strong that it could be seen through the darkness in all directions, the arrow of a compass pointing to a southern sun. Tonks felt her lungs relax, her muscles sore from being tense for so long. She morphed back into her own likeness to throw off Peter should he come running, as Peter would now be looking for Fred Weasley. Peter would never guess that it was actually Tonks who took his flag from him.

Tonks tripped over a tree root, hurling headlong into a headless corpse. She winced, grasping her knee with both hands. It had bumped into the sharp blade of the dead witch’s sword. The blood, combined with sweat and dirt and all of the other repulsive smells in the godforsaken forest, made her nauseous. She rolled onto her side and stood up, heaving, to discover herself face to face with Cedric Diggory. His eyes were round and gleaming, astounded by his own luck.

“Petrificus Totalus.”

The spell was followed by an explosion, and the last thing Tonks saw before the night grew dim around her was Cedric jumping over her fallen form, charging towards the bonfire. Peter’s flag had disappeared from her hand.

I’ve done it, Cedric exclaimed to himself, triumphant. He’d made the decision early-on to eliminate Tonks Lupin if he ever got the chance, since she was an Auror and his biggest threat. I’ve done it! I’ve got her flag and now all’s I’ve got to do is burn it.

He dashed to the bonfire and threw it in, breathing heavily. A smile warped his face – not just because he’d been successful in his endeavors, but because he felt like he might actually win the tournament. The Triwizard Cup had not been his, but those twenty-four hours certainly could be.

As Peter Pettigrew watched Cedric standing there, lording over the burning flag, he laughed and laughed and laughed, the echoes of it ringing all around the forest.

 





A/N: So, just to clarify in case there was any confusion, Severus Snape and Peter Pettigrew were eliminated in this round. Thank you for reading, and as always, reviews are very much appreciated!


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