Two black shadows appeared so fast at the edge of Rosewater Street, Liverpool, that one might have thought they had just popped out of the ground. Or perhaps out of thin air, which was more likely, because they had an almost magical flair about them. Indeed they looked most unusual: both of them wearing long, black robes with their hands clasped around long sticks that looked almost like wands.
“Oi, Tonks, can’t you choose a different colour for today? He’ll spot you immediately,” the smaller one hissed at the sight of his partner’s bright pink hair, which looked remarkably like the pink of a neon light sign. “Come on, get behind here.” He crawled behind number ten’s wheelie bins, motioning at his companion to follow him.
“Come on, Potter, don’t get your knickers in a twist,” Tonks retorted. “Just take out that nice cloak of yours; we’ll both fit under it.”
Potter pulled out a cloak made of a shimmering material, and when he covered the both of them with it, they seemed to disappear into thin air. Only their voices could still be heard floating through the deserted street, and Mrs Rowley from number ten would tell everyone that she had heard her wheelie bin cough the next day.
“Are you positive he’s coming today, Harry?” Tonks’ voice whispered.
“I checked with Hermione’s dad. He said they are going home today.”
Silence fell again, until a car sped up the street, coming to a stop just in front of the bins.
“Is that him, Potter? Blimey, he looks tall. Are you certain he’s the right one?”
“Shut up, Tonks, or he’ll notice us. Just do it.”
“And you’re certain he’s connected with him? Kingsley will go barmy if he’s just a Muggle.”
“Shut up, he’s getting out. He’s behind this, Tonks. Hermione’s dad says what he does is like magic.”
Before the man getting out of the car could scream for help, he was hit by two red streams of light.
When the man who had been in the car woke up again, he found himself bound to a chair. Well, “bound” perhaps wasn’t the right word for this, as the chair itself seemed to hold him tight. The more he struggled, the tighter the chair seemed to grip his wrists and legs. “Damn,” he cursed.
At the sound of his voice, several people who had been whispering at the far end of the room, all dressed in identical black robes, turned and looked at him.
“Oh, so you’re finally awake,” one of them said, a young man with black, messy hair and a scar across his forehead. “Can you imagine why you’re here?”
The people circled around the man on the chair, looking at him threateningly. Each of them carried a thin piece of wood, about 10 inches long, all different yet remarkably similar. To their captive, they looked like some sort of secret society, except that the Ku Klux Klan had always dressed in white.
“No, I’ve no idea,” the man said after some hesitance. This wasn’t true; he imagined that they wanted his money, or some influence. Why else would they have kidnapped him?
“So, then we should help your memory a bit,” the black-haired man continued, twirling his piece of wood between his fingers. Some sparks shot out of it, and the man gave a startled sound. Was this some kind of weapon? They looked like electrical streams… Nervously, he followed the stick with his eyes like the ball in a tennis game.
“Have you ever heard of a family named Malfoy?” The black-haired man looked piercingly at his captive, who had the feeling that he was trying to read his mind. But that wasn’t possible – there was no such thing as mind reading.
“I don’t know anyone by that name,” he answered nervously, trying to avoid the other man’s stare.
“Is he telling the truth?” a pink-haired woman to his left asked.
“He’s blocking me out, I can’t tell you.” The black-haired man cursed under his breath.
“Harry!” a female voice behind the captive shouted disapprovingly.
“But your name’s Crouch?” Harry continued asking.
“Yes, it is.” Crouch still couldn’t make out the point of this interrogation. He didn’t know anyone called Malfoy and had no idea what they wanted from him. Maybe they wanted to kill this Malfoy?
“How’re you related to Bartemius Crouch Jr.? Cousin?”
“I’ve never heard of a Bartemius Crouch.” The name sounded ancient. Who in their right mind would name someone Bartemius? Though, this society certainly wasn’t in their right minds. Crouch had expected them to blackmail him, make him write a letter to his wife telling her to put a million pounds somewhere… but these guys merely sounded as if they were trying to find a long-lost friend. Mental, this lot.
“What about Rookwood? Lestrange? Crabbe? Goyle?”
At each of the names, Crouch shook his head.
“So you deny that you know any of them?” Harry sounded furious and even more sparks shot out of his stick.
Crouch ducked as well as he could being attached to that weird chair. He nodded vigorously, pleased that they had finally understood. Maybe they would let him go now?
But his hopes weren’t fulfilled. Instead of letting him go, Harry told the pink-haired woman to bring some “Veritaserum,” whatever that was.
“So you want me to believe that it wasn’t you who helped the Death Eaters escape? Giving them money and support and new wands so they couldn’t be traced?” Harry’s voice sounded very threatening and once again he tried to catch Crouch’s eyes.
“Death Eaters?” Crouch spluttered, confused. “What are they? They don’t really eat dead people, do they?” With these weirdos, nothing was impossible. Had he landed himself in a cannibals’ den? Panicking, he tried to get up, but the chair only held him tighter.
“We’re good at acting today, aren’t we, Mr Crouch?” His interrogator didn’t sound the slightest bit amused. “Well, we’ll soon see what the truth is.” He grabbed a small bottle filled with a clear liquid. As the pink-haired woman had brought it to him, Crouch supposed it must be Verisirum, or whatever they called this stuff. It looked like water, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t dangerous. The fools sounded almost as if they expected the stuff to work as a truth serum.
Since he was bound to the chair, Crouch had hardly any chance to fight when the pink-haired woman forced his jaws apart and Harry dripped some drops of the liquid down his throat. It was surprisingly tasteless.
“Tell us something about the Death Eaters, Mr Crouch,” Harry asked again.
“What are Death Eaters?” Crouch asked back. “I don’t know who or what they are.”
“So you haven’t planned the attack on the Hogwarts Express?”
“No, I haven’t.”
“Bugger!” Harry made a sharp move with his stick and one of his mates gasped as if he had been hit with something.
“What’s your job, Crouch?” the pink-haired woman asked.
“I’m a professional football player.”
“Are you a wizard?”
“A wizard?” Crouch’s eyes went big. So they were wizards, this clique? And these sticks were wands? No, they were making fun of him. Magic did not exist, this was ridiculous.
“So you can’t do magic?”
“No.” They definitely were freaks, some sort of a sect whose members believed in wizardry. The Celtic cults were obviously getting more popular again; his wife had told him about some Wiccan thing just the other day.
“Don’t you see he’s innocent?” the same woman who had spoken from behind him earlier addressed the others. “He’s a Muggle; he doesn't know anything at all.”
And just when Crouch wanted to open his mouth in order to ask what a Muggle was and to tell them that he had had a proper education and knew quite a lot, everything in his head went blank.
While everyone else from the British National Football Team is busy preparing for the new season after the embarrassing performance at the World Cup, Peter Crouch seems to prefer doing other things. Having arrived with the British team in London yesterday, he set off – officially to his home in Liverpool, but most certainly into the London pub scene. His distraught wife had already informed the police of his kidnapping when Crouch was found in a dubious London quarter yesterday. He claims to have no memory at all from the last two days and is currently being attended to by schooled psychologists.
However, it will always remain a riddle as to how his car and luggage arrived in Liverpool while Crouch was obviously busy addling his brains with drugs and alcohol. The police suspect him of having taken heroine and are currently searching his possessions.
After the impeded attack on the Hogwarts Express last week, the Ministry is still searching for the backers of the assault. A suspect who was caught in Liverpool on Thursday night was released in London yesterday. After being interrogated by the Ministry’s most skilled staff, it turned out that he was, in fact, a Muggle.
The Ministry has confirmed that the Muggle, a football player named Peter Crouch, was attacked on request of Auror Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived and a committed fighter against the Dark Arts. If inside information can be trusted, Potter became suspicious at the Muggle’s name – a Death Eater named Crouch was one of the men who helped You-Know-Who return to power. “He thought a Death Eater might use his name out of admiration,” one of his colleagues explained to this reporter. No one inside the Ministry seems to know, however, how Potter first heard about Crouch.
If rumours are to be trusted, he watched Crouch play football (a Muggle game) during the football World Cup with the Grangers, parents of his old friend Hermione Weasley, and the only Muggles known to have fought actively against You-Know-Who. Why he stayed at the Grangers’ remains a riddle. “I am positive Harry and Hermione are having an affair,” says Cho Chang, a beautiful Ministry employee who knows them well from Hogwarts. “They’ve always shared a passion for each other.” Both Hermione Weasley and Potter’s wife Ginevra refused to give a statement.
During the next weeks, Harry Potter will have enough time to think about his famous mistake. He has been suspended from work for five days and will afterwards be restricted to paperwork for a month. His partner in crime, Auror Nymphadora Tonks, received an official warning and has been forbidden to work together with Potter. “Shacklebolt was furious,” says a Ministry employee who refused to give his name. “We have lost a lot of time in our search for the right criminals now.”
Let’s hope that Harry Potter doesn’t make any more mistakes, or Shacklebolt will be forced to sack his most famous Auror in spite of his victory over You-Know-Who.
A/N: Many, many thanks to my amazing betas harry_ginnyphile and Evelyn for all their help and suggestions. You've done a great job! Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter. That distinction belongs to the amazing JKR.