Blood and death surrounded them and Harry wasn't sure how he felt about it. He had killed before, but never quite so cold bloodedly, and never in front of witnesses.
What would Sirius think of him?
"You should have saved one for questioning," Sirius said.
In the greenish light of the dark mark floating in the sky, his face took on a strange cast. He looked at Harry and it took Harry a moment to realize what he was seeing.
He'd forgotten that this was a man who'd spent twelve years planning the murder of his ex-friend. This was a man who had fought in the last war, who had undoubtedly seen things that Harry hadn't yet seen.
"We'd better get out of here," Harry said. It felt like he kept having to say it over and over, but it was true.
The last thing he needed was for Scrimgeour to have these murders to hold over his head. Harry doubted that any charges would stick, but the time in court would damage his reputation and being transported to and from court would leave numerous chances for him to be assassinated.
Sirius nodded. "I can hear aurors coming."
Harry could hear them too, although he didn't know how Sirius knew they were aurors. He wondered if Sirius's nose was better than a normal wizard's even in his human form because he was an animagus. If it was, how much better would he be able to smell under the supersensory spell.
Grabbing his robe off the ground; Sirius looked around to see if they'd left any other evidence. There was powder everywhere from Harry's attempt to make the wizard's eyes and mouth's burn. Under a supersensory charm, Harry could only imagine how painful it would be. It likely would have incapacitated them without needing to do anything else.
He grabbed Harry as the footsteps got closer, and a moment later Harry felt like he was being pulled through a straw.
A moment later they were standing on the top step of a house. Harry hadn't seen the outside of Sirius's house before, but Sirius had shown him a slip of paper that had let him in on whatever secret. He was his own Secret Keeper apparently, a precaution of which Harry approved.
Sirius sagged to the ground; he looked shocked.
"Not exactly what I planned when I took you on holiday," he said.
Harry grinned weakly. "It's pretty much exactly what I expected."
He'd been running on adrenaline for more than half an hour; he suddenly felt himself crashing. A sudden wave of exhaustion swept over him and he grimaced.
The door opened, and a wizened creature scowled out at them. It was the ugliest house elf Harry had ever seen.
"Kreacher," Sirius said. "Make some tea."
As they staggered to their feet, Harry asked, "I don't suppose you can teach me that animagus thing...or maybe just how to apparate. That sounds like it would be dead useful."
"Harder to do than you'd think...illegal too, although I doubt that'd bother you much."
Harry snickered. He'd just left a total of seven men dead. He was hardly likely to worry about a charge for underage apparition.
"Animagus transfiguration is pretty complicated," Sirius said. "You've got to hold a mandrake leaf in your mouth for a month before you put it in a potion."
Harry stared at him. "Pranking me, are you? Now?"
"I swear!" Sirius said. "There's a reason most wizards don't bother. Apparition is easier and more useful, and not even all wizards bother to learn that very well."
"Wizards are lazy," Harry said.
"We've got a couple of days before you have to go back. Maybe we can see if I can teach you a couple of things."
"You were there?" Hermione asked.
He'd worried that the twin's father would have told the Ministry about his killing the Death Eater, but the man hadn't. The twins hadn't contacted him over the summer, but as he'd been getting on the train he saw them staring at him.
His main worry was going to be Ron Weasley. He didn't think the boy was any better at keeping secrets than Hagrid, and if he blabbed about Harry committing murder at school, Harry would find himself in trouble faster than he wanted.
Getting the twins to help him might be important. If necessary he'd obliviate Ron, although going back nine days might be difficult. He wasn't an experienced hand like Lockhart.
Maybe intimidation was the best tactic. He'd try to talk to Ron first, and he'd try to get the twins to talk to him, but reminding him of just what Harry could be like might be the best option.
"Was it as bad as they say in the papers?"
It hadn't been as bad as it could have been; only four members of the Wizangamot had died, mostly because several members had sent their house elves back to the tents for a variety of things. The house elves had died, of course; apparently twelve members had been targeted, almost a quarter of the Wizangamot.
Of course, the rest of the Ministry hadn't fared as well. Almost forty members were dead, some of them in key positions. Harry expected that whoever replaced them was likely going to be suspect.
The Death Eaters had lost thirty members; Harry had accounted for seven of those. However, from what Harry had been able to understand, many of those who were lost were not members of the inner circle, but rather wanna-bes.
Wizarding papers were all screaming about the failures in security. Apparently there had been efforts made to secure Ministry officials' tents, but the people who were running security had been Imperiused. They had purposefully misdirected the aurors to places where the Death Eaters hadn't been attacking and they'd sown as much confusion as possible.
The Ministry was trying to spin the Death Eater deaths as a victory, but for once the wizarding public wasn't buying it. This was clearly a disaster for the Ministry and clearly heads were going to roll politically.
"It was worse," Harry said. "There were bodies in the forest, people being attacked. It was a nightmare."
He was desperately glad he hadn't invited them; not only would he have hated them to be at risk, but the thought that they might feel differently about him because of what he'd done was painful to him.
Even Sirius, although he'd been careful not to act very much differently toward Harry had been a little more cautious around him. They'd studied the basics of apparition, although Harry still hadn't managed to accomplish it.
The deaths of the Death Eaters by cutting had been noted; Harry suspected that he needed to find other go to spells for attacking since diffindo was becoming known as his signature spell.
Before they could ask any more questions, the door to the cabin opened and the twins stepped in. They were holding a large basket.
"Hello, hello!" George said. "Mum had us bring a thank you gift for Harry-kins."
Now that he noticed it, a delicious smell was coming from the basket. It smelled like warm cookies, the kind that Dudley always got and Harry never had. He'd managed to swipe the crumbs a few times before tossing the lot out in the trash though.
"Thank you gift?" Hermione asked.
"Harry saved our dad's life," Fred said. "Saw what was happening and got us into the forest before the death squad could get to him. She wants you to know how thankful she is."
As they handed over the basket, Harry pulled out his wand.
"Don't you trust us?" George asked.
Harry shook his head. "Considering that half your pranks are edible, not really. I wouldn't be surprised if you slipped a little something into the care package."
It would almost be a point of pride for them. They'd want him to know that nothing had changed, that even though they had seen him kill a man their relationship wasn't any different.
"Like this," Harry said, pulling out one cookie sitting innocuously among the other cookies.
"You wound us!" Fred said. "That must have slipped in the back by mistake."
"What does it do?" Harry asked.
He might want to slip it to one of his enemies after all.
Lupin wasn't going to be a professor again this year.
Apparently Snape had gone to the Board with wild accusations about his being a werewolf and he'd been sacked.
Harry wondered if Snape was still spying for Dumbledore; if he was it was possible that he'd had to get Lupin sacked because Voldemort's followers didn't want competent wizards coming out of the school. They wanted wizards who would be easy to cow, barely competent and easily herded.
Of course it was possible that it was a personal matter as well. Snape loved to hold grudges and there had never been any love lost between the two professors.
In any case, Harry wasn't particularly looking forward to seeing what incompetent clown the Ministry had sent to teach them now. If the teacher wasn't incompetent he would likely be a Death Eater. Neither held much of an appeal.
Harry had actually learned from Lupin and it irritated him to no end that the one competent Defense teacher they'd had had been dismissed over something as inconsequential as being a werewolf.
After all, werewolves were human twenty seven days out of the month, and the other three they were only dangerous by night. It was a manageable condition, and from what Harry understood there were even potions to allow them to avoid murdering everyone around them.
However, wizards had strange prejudices. While they didn't think anything of things that would bother muggles, like male wizards wandering around in women's clothes or not wearing underwear at all, or enslaving an entire race. There were even wizards who mated with giants and goblins, something which boggled Harry's mind. By comparison, being a werewolf seemed almost mundane.
The sorting had begun. Harry halfway listened; he wasn't particularly interested in the first years. None of them would have enough power to help him, and none of them typically had anything interesting to say either.
"CREEVY, DENNIS," McGonagall called out.
Harry stiffened as a tiny boy stepped forward. He bore a striking resemblance to Colin, but he seemed smaller than Colin ever had.
It surprised him that Colin's muggleborn parents had allowed Dennis to come to Hogwarts after what had happened to their brother. If it had been him he'd have moved to France if that was what it took to keep his child away from the school that had killed his other school.
He felt a sudden wave of sadness wash over him as he watched the boy sitting on the seat. A moment of anxiety washed over him as the hat was placed on the boy's head.
Not Slytherin. Anything but Slytherin; Harry closed his eyes. While he was much more capable of protecting this boy that he had his brother, he knew the boy wouldn't be happy in the House that had gotten his brother killed.
If Colin had ended up in Gryffindor like he should have, he would still be alive, even if some other Slytherin was dead.
He breathed a sigh of relief as the boy was announced as a Gryffindor and headed over for that table.
"Didn't want a mudblood in the house," Malfoy asked, watching him closely. "There might be hope for you yet."
"Have a cookie?" Harry asked.
Malfoy stared at him suspiciously. "Didn't I see the Weasleys going toward your compartment with a basket of cookies?"
Harry shrugged with an innocent look on his face. Malfoy was getting smarter and more observant, apparently.
"No thanks," Malfoy said quickly.
"Your loss," Harry said.
Crabbe would probably go for it. The boy had never seen a cookie he didn't like.
The sorting ended uneventfully. Harry idly wondered how the Hat was able to make sure that the numbers were so equal every year. Couldn't there be a year where every student was a Ravenclaw or a Hufflepuff? Did the hat operate on a quota system?
Quidditch might get weird if three quarters of the students were Gryffindors.
Malfoy leaned toward him. "My father tells me that they're re-instituting the Tri-Wizard Tournament this year."
He spoke quietly enough that none of the students around him seemed to notice what he was saying. Harry suspected that this was both something he shouldn't know and shouldn't be telling. Maybe Malfoy was trying to impress him.
Maybe Malfoy had heard something about what Harry had done and wanted to stay on his good side. Considering that the only people he could have heard it from was the Death Eaters, that worried Harry a little.
"It's a contest between three of the schools...they quit having it in 1792 because too many people died after a cockatrice escaped and hurt three of the judges."
Harry felt a sudden knot in the pit of his stomach.
A contest like that would be the perfect way to assassinate someone. Beyond the fact that the contest itself might be lethal enough to kill them without any assistance, sabotage would make it even easier.
It would be the laziest way to murder someone possible. Done right and no one would know it was murder at all.
"Why are they doing it?" Harry asked.
"After the disaster at the World Cup, the Ministry is trying to draw attention away from their incompetence by giving the public something else to focus on."
"Bread and circuses," Harry muttered. He scowled at the food on his plate. "And everyone is o.k. with putting their children in a death match?"
Malfoy rolled his eyes at him, and Harry suddenly remembered the casual indifference of wizards toward injuries. As long as no one died, no one seemed to care how much pain was involved.
"Everybody is scrambling to get it done in a short time...they should have really been planning it since the beginning of the summer; getting as much done as they have in nine days has been a minor miracle. The hardest part was getting the other schools to agree."
The door to the Great Hall slammed open suddenly.
A figure stood in the doorway, illuminated by a flash of lightning from the ceiling. For a moment Harry wasn't even sure if the figure was human. It looked like something out of one of Harry's nightmares, a dream where he'd kept all the injuries he'd accumulated through all of his deaths, including being run over by the train.
Every surface of his skin was covered in hideous scars. He was missing part of his nose, which looked like it had been bitten off. He was missing one leg, and the prosthetic was a primitive wooden leg with a clawed foot.
Worst of all, he had a prosthetic eye that was rotating wildly, staring madly in one direction and then another, moving in all directions seemingly at once. His human eye was dark and beady and scanned everyone in a way that Harry was familiar with.
The man's eye rested on Harry for a long moment and Harry stared back at him. Looking intimidated wasn't going to keep him alive. He'd learned that every day he'd been in Slytherin. Harry kept his hand on his wand under the table, and he had a feeling that the man knew what he was doing, even though there should have been no possible way for him to do so.
It felt as though Harry was being judged for how dangerous he was.
The man eventually stumped forward on his wooden leg. Given the power of wizardly healing, every wound on him had to be a curse wound, indicating either an enormous number of individual incidents or one singe very bad one.
"I am proud to announce your new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, Professor Moody," Dumbledore said after the man stumped his way to the head table and shook his hand.
Usually when there was a new professor announced there was applause, sometimes polite and sometimes enthusiastic depending on the reputation of the teachers involved. Now there was only dead silence.
Harry grimaced. The man had obviously had a great deal of experience; at the very least he'd be able to tell them what not to do.
Slowly, Harry began to clap. Neville and Hermione, looking shocked still followed suit a few moments later. The twins followed, and shortly after that there was a spattering of applause.
Dumbledore glanced at Harry with a look of approval.
Although the other Slytherins were staring at him, Harry thought they should have been the first to clap. Getting the approval of a new professor was smart. Getting the approval of a professor who looked like he would murder you was even smarter.
He blinked as he realized from the gasp of the people around him that Dumbledore was announcing the Triwizard Tournament to everyone.
The man was droning on about the history of the tournament, and about how dangerous it was. While the sour looks from the Slytherins around Harry looked as though they had the proper attitude toward the event, Harry could see that the Gryffindors looked like they'd been given a free shopping spree to a candy store.
It was everything a Gryffindor loved...glory, death and destruction, more glory...an approving audience.
What worried him was that the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs seemed almost as enthusiastic. What was wrong with people?
They'd just seen the living embodiment of what could happen walk into the room and yet they were still anxious to walk into their deaths.
"The tournament will be restricted to students who are of age, that is seventeen or older. Given the dangers of the event, it is unlikely that students of younger ages would survive."
Harry stood up suddenly. "If someone were to put someone else's name in the cup, even though they were underage, would they still have to participate?"
He had a sudden, dead certainty that this was Voldemort's plan. It might even be Scrimgeour's plan. Harry didn't get the impression that Scrimgeour was much of a believer in the prophecy. Killing off the boy who lived would prove the prophecy wrong and might even give people hope that Voldemort wasn't immortal.
"We will take every precaution to make sure that doesn't happen;" Dumbledore said. "And even if it did, the Goblet is designed to choose the best student from each school for the contest. It is unlikely that it would choose anyone under seventeen because they simply wouldn't have the power or skill to be chosen."
Harry should have felt a sense of relief, but he didn't. He was actually older than he looked, and more skilled. He might conceivably be considered for the running even if the contest was fair. Harry wondered if the cup would take his reset ability into consideration. Whoever was behind the plot would doubtlessly find a way to enter him and make the contest not fair.
"But if it did happen, would they have to participate?" Harry asked.
"It would be a magically binding contract," Dumbledore said.
Harry felt as though the world was closing in on him, inevitably and inexorably. He was going to have a talk with Dumbledore about security arrangements, but somehow he knew it wasn't going to be enough.