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alfheimwanderer
November 25th, 2015, 06:49 PM
How can a wood or earth elemental gives air powers??

Wood has links to both earth and air, as its a bridging element, so there's some synergy there. Luna's proper familiar is a kitsune, which is a spirit of air and fire.

skulkidcachi90
November 25th, 2015, 07:08 PM
which are the elemental affinities of Shinji and Zelkova?

alfheimwanderer
November 25th, 2015, 07:11 PM
which are the elemental affinities of Shinji and Zelkova?

Shinji, as we know, is an Earth/Water type.

Zelkova is Earth/Wood, primarily, with some crossover with Wind.

Skull Leader
November 25th, 2015, 07:44 PM
So that why Shinji would be bad with Pandora since he is connected to neither air or fire. She is the complete opposite of Shinji.

Kuroyuki
November 25th, 2015, 11:40 PM
[x] Yes

[X] Forego the venom, ask for the silk and carapaces - Master was interested in some of both, and having a large supply of spider silk can be valuable, given its special properties...

alfheimwanderer
November 26th, 2015, 11:21 PM
[x] Yes
[x] Forego the venom

It is go time, so here are the final tactical choices for the spider raid

100%

Choice 97: Do you go in fused with Zelkova? Or do you want to hold fusion in reserve in case you need it later?

[ ] Start strong - with us fused with Zelkova and Luna fused with Pandora, that will be quite a nice alpha strike
[ ] Hold it in reserve and use our Ofuda/other abilities instead - while fusion is a very powerful trump card, we're not quite as good at maintaining it as Luna and should save it for when we need it

Choice 97a: If you choose to hold it in reserve, should Luna start fused with Zelkova or Pandora?

[ ] Zelkova - The white dress and twigs/leaves in hair is easier to explain away than fox ears and a tail, if others see. Plus, she used it well during the Kobayashi...
[ ] Pandora - Fire is probably going to be useful at this time, and this allows Zelkova (with his scythe) to act freely to support you if needed.

mr_Trickster
November 27th, 2015, 12:00 AM
If I may ask, how long can we stay fused with Zelkova right now, Alf?

skulkidcachi90
November 27th, 2015, 12:19 AM
Choice 97

[X] Hold it in reserve and use our Ofuda/other abilities instead (Zelkova assisting us in all moment)

Choice 97a

[X] Pandora

saki
November 27th, 2015, 12:34 AM
[ ] Hold it in reserve and use our Ofuda/other abilities instead - while fusion is a very powerful trump card, we're not quite as good at maintaining it as Luna and should save it for when we need it (Save it for Aragog)

[ ] Pandora - Fire is probably going to be useful at this time, and this allows Zelkova (with his scythe) to act freely to support you if needed.
Also we dont need to explain anything to the Stone Cutters and if anyone sees it tail and ears are in the level of practical jokes in howarts.

alfheimwanderer
November 27th, 2015, 12:34 AM
If I may ask, how long can we stay fused with Zelkova right now, Alf?

Longest ever is a couple hours. And that was no combat.

Mattias
November 27th, 2015, 01:13 AM
[x] I say start fused. Go all in from the start and nuke the hideous monsters. Shock and awe. And dead arachnids. Burn down the forest if you have to. It's worth it.

alfheimwanderer
November 27th, 2015, 01:23 AM
[x] I say start fused. Go all in from the start and nuke the hideous monsters. Shock and awe. And dead arachnids. Burn down the forest if you have to. It's worth it.

Like this guy (http://time.com/2991835/man-tries-to-kill-a-spider-and-ends-up-burning-his-house-down/)?

Omida
November 27th, 2015, 03:12 AM
[X] Hold it in reserve and use our Ofuda/other abilities instead - while fusion is a very powerful trump card, we're not quite as good at maintaining it as Luna and should save it for when we need it - Luna is better at it, so better to approach this with caution.

[X] Pandora - Fire is probably going to be useful at this time, and this allows Zelkova (with his scythe) to act freely to support you if needed. - Luna has better synergy with her familiar and this option gives us additional member of the team until Shinji really needs to use fusion.

mr_Trickster
November 27th, 2015, 11:33 AM
Longest ever is a couple hours. And that was no combat.

Thank you for the information, Alf.

As for choices, I have to agree with Omida in this. That, and saving it for later could probably let us time things perfectly in some way or other.

And while it's true that we'd benefit from having Zelkova with us just in case, I am kind of worried about possible income losses if we use fire on them. But between that and security, I'm more for making sure we stay nice and alive.

[x] Hold it in reserve and use our Ofuda/other abilities instead - while fusion is a very powerful trump card, we're not quite as good at maintaining it as Luna and should save it for when we need it

[x] Pandora - Fire is probably going to be useful at this time, and this allows Zelkova (with his scythe) to act freely to support you if needed.

Veldril
November 27th, 2015, 11:34 AM
[x] Hold it in reserve and use our Ofuda/other abilities instead - while fusion is a very powerful trump card, we're not quite as good at maintaining it as Luna and should save it for when we need it.

Well, we have to fight Aragog and I don't think she will show up at the beginning so save our strength to fight her might be better.

[x] Pandora - Fire is probably going to be useful at this time, and this allows Zelkova (with his scythe) to act freely to support you if needed.

Kill them with fire.

mangafreak7793
November 27th, 2015, 01:59 PM
[ ] Zelkova - The white dress and twigs/leaves in hair is easier to explain away than fox ears and a tail, if others see. Plus, she used it well during the Kobayashi...


[ ] Hold it in reserve and use our Ofuda/other abilities instead - while fusion is a very powerful trump card, we're not quite as good at maintaining it as Luna and should save it for when we need it

All That Is Left Unsaid
November 27th, 2015, 03:48 PM
[x] Hold it in reserve and use our Ofuda/other abilities instead - while fusion is a very powerful trump card, we're not quite as good at maintaining it as Luna and should save it for when we need it

Best to maximize chances of dealing with the unexpected. Zelkova can still sense through the ground to warn Shinji of concealed tunnels, while Luna should have everything above ground covered.

[x] Pandora - Fire is probably going to be useful at this time, and this allows Zelkova (with his scythe) to act freely to support you if needed.

Caster
November 27th, 2015, 04:34 PM
Can Pandora fight on her own?

alfheimwanderer
November 27th, 2015, 09:12 PM
To a degree. She does have access to foxfire and lightning abilities, though no humanoid form.

Caster
November 27th, 2015, 09:48 PM
Hmm. Why doesn't Pandora have a humanoid form? Is Zelkova a higher ranking spirit of sorts than Pandora?

Mattias
November 27th, 2015, 10:45 PM
Like this guy (http://time.com/2991835/man-tries-to-kill-a-spider-and-ends-up-burning-his-house-down/)?

Maybe. I don't think he went far enough. Some could still have survived.

alfheimwanderer
November 27th, 2015, 10:45 PM
Hmm. Why doesn't Pandora have a humanoid form? Is Zelkova a higher ranking spirit of sorts than Pandora?

Pandora is a young fox, and kitsune develop their powers more gradually than others, though their cap is also much higher. Zelkova is an aspect of the Great Tree of Shiretoko, so in that sense, yes, he's a higher ranking spirit.

Caster
November 28th, 2015, 12:43 AM
Ah, interesting. I'm guessing it's based on tails, so how many does Pandora have at this current stage? Curious how far along she is.

Veldril
November 28th, 2015, 01:00 AM
Ah, interesting. I'm guessing it's based on tails, so how many does Pandora have at this current stage? Curious how far along she is.

I think she only has one at the moment so she's not a very strong kitsune.

But hey, Casko only has one tail too! The most important things are those fluffy ears and tail! (but she's like one of the weakest Servants) :P

alfheimwanderer
November 28th, 2015, 01:02 AM
I think she only has one at the moment so she's not a very strong kitsune.

Yes, she only has one tail at the moment. Casko is also an aspect of Amaterasu though, which gives her a slightly more powerful heritage - and this is assuming she isn't summoned as a great monster.

I'm on #fatehg, if that makes chatting easier.

Nephirin
November 28th, 2015, 04:18 AM
[x]Hold in Reserve
[x]Pandora

Magus
November 28th, 2015, 05:49 AM
[x] Reserve, [x] Pandora

Save the ability for when it is needed, Luna should have better compatibility with her familiar anyway, and this leaves Zelkova free for Shinji if needed. Let's not put other considerations before survival, though I think fusing right away could tire her out prematurely / remove the element of surprise.

Cremela
November 28th, 2015, 09:17 PM
Ron's run where he was


more than a little nervous.

‘Well, no. That’s a lie.‘

Being completely honest, Ronald Bilius Weasley was terrified.
and how he pushed on anyway was so good.

Cedric was right, allowing Luna to take the lead when she knew what to do and he was clueless, even though she was an underling is the mark of a good leader!

Hope he's learned from the scenario that discretion is the better part of valour and he'll keep a lid on the Gryffindor glory hunting bravery when other people's lives are on the line.

Loved the part where he got pwnd by the troll


“Glacius!” Ron called out, running to put himself between the duo and the troll, as an icy wind howled forth from the tip of his wand, lancing for the creature’s eyes.

The troll reeled back, not having expected the onslaught – particularly not as Fay and Neville joined their leader in casting the Freezing spell, with one of the monster’s hands moving to shield its eyes.

“Take that, you bloody wanker,” the redhead crowed, pouring more and more of his magic into the gale he was creating, sheer exultation surging through him as the troll bowed its head.

‘Yes. Yes. Take that. Take that!’

…that was the last thought Ronald Weasley had as the troll charged, his body crushed into the rocky ground by the momentum of its vicious assault.
Perfection.

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE Goldstein exposition!

Was really good how people ended up doing recon for future teams while still trying to get as far as possible; seems how things would end up IRL, especially with co-operating teens who want someone to beat the impossible system their teacher and an older pupil has set up.

:'( Sokaris

Combined with what she did with the troll and Shinji's scenario Luna has become very scary.

XD potential Peeves!






[x] Hold it in reserve and use our Ofuda/other abilities instead - while fusion is a very powerful trump card, we're not quite as good at maintaining it as Luna and should save it for when we need it

Best to maximize chances of dealing with the unexpected. Zelkova can still sense through the ground to warn Shinji of concealed tunnels, while Luna should have everything above ground covered.

[x] Pandora - Fire is probably going to be useful at this time, and this allows Zelkova (with his scythe) to act freely to support you if needed.
This. If Zelkova's fused with Luna she'd have to unfuse for us to fuse with him. Luna would have also had more practice with Pandora. The Twins know about fusion already, we shouldn't have to worry about concealment from other people if it's just the Stonecutters.

Just hope the spiders haven't got used to PandoraLuna fusion...

Cassius
November 28th, 2015, 09:37 PM
[x] Reserve
[x] Pandora

Malgos
November 29th, 2015, 03:15 AM
Better to wait until the trump is needed, so hold it in reserve. As for the other choice - Pandora.

alfheimwanderer
November 29th, 2015, 03:59 AM
[x] Reserve
[x] Pandora

100%

Chapter 39. The Truth of One’s Whereabouts

As he stood on the balcony outside the Ourea clubroom in somewhat dated dress robes, looking out upon the snow-covered grounds of Hogwarts while listening to the sounds of celebration coming from within, Ronald Bilius Weasley could scarcely believe what had happened today.

Even now, he wasn’t sure what had been more terrifying: the Kobayashi scenarios – where he had faced not only Acromantulae, but the specter of his death over and over again, or facing the assembled members of the Ourea as the twelve looked upon him dispassionately, discussing his fate.

He was sure he’d failed to impress them.

Granted, Lockhart had apparently recommended him for membership, but he didn’t think any of the Ourea would be particularly swayed one way or the other. Especially not Matou or Parkinson, who were far and away the most influential members – Matou might not officially have a vote, but he talked, people listened, and Parkinson kept her own counsel, much as he’d expected from a Snake.

In the end, what mattered was how he’d done, after all, and in spite of the modicum of praise that the Head Boy and the History Professor had given him, he’d failed his challenge, with his strategies amounting to naught in the end.

Whatever the man might have said, nothing was more telling of what his peers thought than the fact that no one chose him to accompany them in future runs.

They chose Dunbar, Goldstein, Lovegood, Longbottom and others – but not him. Diggory not really being chosen either was cold comfort, since the older boy was already part of the Ourea, and didn’t have his fate hanging in the balance.

“Ronald Bilius Weasley,” Matou Shinji had intoned, his cold grey eyes sending a shiver down Ron’s spine as he bid the red-haired boy to step forward. “After discussing your…performance, we have come to a decision.”

Ron had swallowed.

‘This is it, then.’

“Longbottom, the verdict, if you would?” Matou had continued, with Longbottom nodding and standing.

“From a personal note, I expected more of someone who has been doing well in Capture the Flag,” the co-leader of the Ourea had said. “Neither of your teams fared well, and it is questionable how much you really contributed. But no one is expected to best the Kobayashi Maru, and it is undeniable that you had certain…disadvantages.”

Neville had been silent for a moment, with Ron hanging on his every word.

“All of us have had more time with the Book of Spells. We have faced the peril of the Kobayashi before, and I assure you that for the most part, we fared as poorly as you did. We have a better sense of our comrades, having worked with one another for a year.”

Fine words and all, but they had made Ron very nervous, and he just wanted the other boy to get to the point.

“You have much to learn, Mister Weasley, but skill and knowledge can be acquired if you are willing to dedicate yourself. As your Consul, I have some reservations about that, but Parkinson seems to think you’re capable, given how Capture the Flag has spurred your desire to learn, so that you – like the rest of us – can use the Stunning Spell when it isn’t actually taught for another year.”

Ron had blinked then. A Slytherin had spoken on his behalf? And he supposed he…had been studying a bit more because he wanted to beat people like Malfoy and Goldstein. Huh. He’d never really thought about what he was doing as studying, just as preparing for his matches, but…huh.

“What is much more difficult to change – what the Kobayashi tests, is your character,” Neville had noted coolly. “And whatever else your flaws, whatever else you may need to work on – your character is sound. After experiencing a grisly death, you volunteered to go next – even when our former member – Malfoy, refused. You listened to your group. You even died for them – though we are admittedly split on whether that was intentional or if you were overconfident in standing up to the troll.”

So…did that mean…?

Neville had finally smiled, with the severe expressions of the other members of the Ourea easing as they nodded to him.

“We’ve chosen to induct you as a member in good standing, with all the rights and privileges thereof. Congratulations, Ron.”

“Your brothers would be – no, are proud,” Shinji had added, and it had been all Ron could do not to break down, weeping at the realization that at last he had made something of himself. All of his life, he’d been the one who no one had given any respect to in his family. The one who’d worn – and used everyone’s hand me downs. The one who no one had expected anything of.

He didn’t really remember much after that, just that there had been a wave of congratulations, that Lockhart had shaken his hand, and more, with him eventually managing to slip free from the crowd and vanish to the balcony while the group proceeded to induct Goldstein and Li.

Frankly, he needed the fresh air, needed several deep breaths of the cold to steady himself, to reassure himself that he was actually here. Today…he’d experienced things he couldn’t even have imagined scarcely a day ago. Actually fighting an Acromantula. Standing against a troll. Doing things…well, things that were worthy of a hero, not just some supporting character who would never amount to anything.

Feeling the heady sensation of glory.

“It’s all a little overwhelming, isn’t it?” A soft voice broke the boy from his thoughts, with Ron turning to see Su Li standing next to him, the expression on her face as wondering and vaguely lost as he thought his must be. “All of this?”

“…yeah,” Ron admitted, shaking his head. “Until today, I never thought…”

The girl chuckled – and for the first time, the boy thought about what a nice sound it was – delicate and warm and even inviting. He’d last seen her as Malfoy’s date at the Halloween Ball, after all, and had written her off as being like that prat, but in person, she seemed quite different.

“Neither did I,” Su murmured, still looking out over the snow. “Draco mentioned a little bit about the pomp and circumstance of the Ourea, of its importance, but he never talked about the Kobayashi. And now he’s gone.”

“Heh.” Ron grunted, not really sure of what to say, since his big mouth had gotten him into trouble quite a few times before.

“From founding member to first person to leave. Not exactly a glowing recommendation, wouldn’t you say, Weasley?” the girl asked, with Ron shaking his head. “I admit that if I’d known what the Kobayashi would entail ahead of time, I might not have taken it either, but…”

She’d expected better of the boy who had talked up the Ourea, and his place among their number – yet who had so easily cast aside what he had said to be a great honor and just walked away on a whim. His rejection of the Ourea felt almost personal in a sense, given that it was he who she’d learned about the organization from. It was odd, really – she would have expected Matou to be the one to talk about the organization he led, yet the boy from the east was quite tight-lipped if he wanted to be.

“Malfoy’s a prat,” Ronald Weasley said with utter conviction. “A spoiled, privileged prat who never appreciated a single thing in his life.” A moment later he grimaced, realizing that he might have committed a faux pas, since he didn’t know the relationship between the two. “Sorry. You two weren’t…?”

“No.” The girl answered at once. “No,” she repeated more softly, shaking her head. “I was his date for the Halloween Ball, but that was it. Malfoy and I never went out, Weasley.”

“I thought…”

“Chang was the one he wanted, and she’d never give him the time of day,” Su Li murmured, a tad of bitterness creeping into her voice. “He doesn’t exactly measure up to either the Head Boy or Diggory, after all. So Malfoy asked someone who looked like her. Me.”

“Ah.” Even Ronald Weasley could tell that this was a bit of a sore spot for the girl, so he didn’t push. “I guess we’re missing the party, huh?” he settled for saying after a few minutes.

”I guess we are.”

“Kind of a shame, since it’s our party, right? Well, ours and Goldstein’s.”

Su chuckled, shaking her head.

“I was pretty certain that Goldstein would get in. He and Lovegood have been thick as thieves since he took over her Flag team, and it’s an open secret that Lovegood and Matou are probably seeing each other.”

“…oh? But what about Granger?” Ron asked, his eyes narrowing as he recalled Lovegood escorting Matou’s childhood friend Tohsaka during the Winter Holidays. “Wasn’t she Matou’s date to the ball? Even featured in the paper?”

Su only shrugged.

“All I know is that Granger isn’t helping Matou with Potions anymore and that she’s leaving to go to the Wizarding Academy of the Dramatic Arts, come end of term.” She smiled, a somewhat sly smile as she looked towards distant Ravenclaw Tower. “I hear tell she’s one of the stars in the coming play, alongside Malfoy. Something about star-crossed lovers.”

Ronald Weasley nearly choked at the girl’s statement, his mind going blank.

“Wha…? But…” The bewildered boy groped for the proper words, but couldn’t think of any. “Wouldn’t his father…go spare? Just like after the Halloween play?”

Su Li’s chuckle was dry and cold.

“…I think the Professor is rather counting on it.”

Ron blinked, before whistling at the implications of Lockhart having the audacity to piss off the Chief Warlock without any concern for his well-being.

“Well,” he said. “I don’t much like Lockhart, but I’ll say this: he’s got a pair. A pair of big brass ones too.” He shook his head at the thought. “And anyone that doesn’t like Malfoy is alright in my book.”

“I didn’t know you liked books at all, Weasley.”

“Well, every once in a—hey!”

“Anyway, I think I’ve spent enough time outside, Weasley,” Su commented, smiling ever so slightly at the boy’s vaguely insulted expression. “Shall we go inside? I think they’re about to serve the food, and from what I hear, you’re not one to turn down a meal.”

Ron flushed, his face colouring to match his hair at the girl’s comments.

“Who told you about that?” he asked, disgruntled. Which of his mates had been talking about him behind his back…?

“Why you did, just now,” Su quipped with a sweet smile that made Ron feel like his ears had caught fire. “Nevertheless, shall we?”

“Well,” he said, trying to make light of his earlier indignity. “I never turn down a meal, right? And it’d be a damn shame to miss our own party.”

“That it would.”

And with that the two stepped back into the warmth of the Ourea clubroom.

100%

“If this your idea of a joke, Aozaki, it is not particularly funny.”

Matou Zouken glowered down at the envelope he’d been handed, the shadowed crags and valleys of his weathered face betraying every one of his many centuries as he removed its contents and perused them in his sitting room, seeming more and more disgruntled as he read on.

“Oh, I assure you, Matou, this is no joke.” A lesser woman would have looked for any excuse she could to depart the old man’s presence, given the aura of thinly concealed rage that hung about the Archmagus, but Aozaki Touko seemed utterly unaffected – but then there was something to be said for being the sister of a Magician. “Decent house, but not well maintained, is it?”

And if her smirk was any indication, the master puppeteer was rather amused.

“Perhaps not.”

The Matou patriarch’s voice was perfectly flat as he balled up the first sheet of paper – an invoice for the patently ridiculous sum of 1 billion yen for “services rendered.” He scanned the written summary of these services, something about a replacement puppet body, before crumpling that up as well – and freezing as his eyes came to rest on a lovely 8” x 10” picture of his…grandson and an Einzbern homunculus dancing together, with the latter wearing the Dress of Heaven.

There was something about that picture intrigued him, something that he couldn’t quite put his finger on but found familiar somehow. He was of course, aware that he’d worked with an Einzbern once to create the Fuyuki Grail, back when he’d simply been Makiri Zolgen, but being honest, there was a lot about that time he didn’t remember.

It had been…it had been more than half a century since he’d thought about it, and every time, he remembered less about his past. But he supposed that was the price he paid for transforming his body into a conglomerate of blood worms, conferring upon him near-invulnerability so long as his worm familiars continued to exist.

He hadn’t always been like this. Certainly, there were other methods of extending one’s life, and he’d used those to sustain himself over the years, but after the first two Grails Wars ended in failure, he’d seen no other recourse but to change himself so that he might survive until the Greater Grail was completed.

…and around that time, his bloodline had begun to die.

Was it because he and his had been incompatible with this spirits and nature of this land? Was something simply defective about his descendants? Or was it the fact that by seeking immortality himself, and becoming something inhuman, he was no longer…capable of passing on Magic Circuits or the like?

He didn’t dwell on the last possibility often. He’d begun to, but then Matou Kariya had been born – the first of Makiri in many generations to be capable of using magecraft. The Archmagus had been relieved and elated, as it seemed that the lineage had finally adapted, and had made arrangements to set the boy up with a Zenjou girl, whose family possessed the ability to bring out the best in their children’s abilities.

All seemed to be well, with the two young people getting along – but then Matou Zouken had made the mistake of sharing his intentions with the boy, and Kariya had betrayed the family, leaving Fuyuki and tossing aside the thought of becoming heir.

Needless to say, the Archmagus had been utterly furious with the insolent, ungrateful whelp who had been given everything…and had thrown it all away. Perhaps that was why, when Kariya had returned before the Fourth War, desperate for some way to save Zenjou’s daughter from the fate he himself had run from, Zouken had agreed to humor him.

Matou Zouken hadn’t really thought for an instant that an unprepared slip of a man who had no training as a magus could truly win the Grail.

He’d just wanted to punish his prodigal son for betraying the family in the most painful way he could: giving him hope enough that he would fight for what was precious to him, only to see what he wanted snatched away by his body’s infirmities. And on the off chance that Matou Kariya won, well, in that case, Zouken would have the Grail…and the whelp would still die shortly thereafter.

That – and getting his hands on several fragments of the shattered Grail – were

“Perhaps you could explain what this is all about, Aozaki,” Zouken said at last, closing his eyes as he fought off a surge of irritation. It was bad enough that the puppeteer had come by uninvited, presenting him with this…bill. “I don’t recall requesting your services at any point in the last year. And anything involving the boy is not my concern, given that you are his Master.”

“…and the Einzbern?” the puppeteer asked, raising a slim eyebrow.
The Einzben…? But what…

“Explain, Aozaki. Now.” Anyone else who had taken it upon herself to annoy him in this fashion would already be regretting it, but…he could not deny that the puppeteer could sometimes be useful for errands he did not want to be associated. Nor that she was generally competent, and usually had a reason for being a pain in the arse.

“The picture was taken at the Association’s Winter Gala,” the redhead noted coolly, “where my apprentice and his companion were the talk of the event.”

“While I did advise him to ask the daughter of the Einzbern if possible, I am surprised they were willing to send the girl in the first place,” the Archmagus grunted. “I would not have thought the Matou name still carried such weight, even with their curiosity over the…disappearance of the Emiya boy. Unless…” He eyed the puppeteer speculatively, but her expression betrayed nothing, so the man just took a deep breath and shook his head. “Continue.”

And so Touko did.

“…Ilyasviel never returned to Germany,” the red-haired magus noted. “To the Einzbern, she simply vanished. They believe my apprentice responsible for this state of affairs, perhaps as part of a plot you coordinated. Hence the invoice, as their displeasure cost me a puppet familiar while I was in England.”

Or at least the squad of combat-trained homunculi that they’d sent to express that displeasure had, as they’d destroyed Tomas’ physical body as a warning to her, after they had failed to find Matou Shinji himself…

“…I see. How…inconvenient.” That was…sobering. Leaving aside why the Einzbern agreed to send the girl in the first place, that she had disappeared was concerning, as was the fact that they thought the Matou family responsible for her disappearance was. Assuming the girl was alive, and had indeed been spirited away, there were few organizations that were powerful enough to simply erase all trace of her – and so the Archmagus suspected that both Shinji and his puppeteer Master were leaving out some rather important details.

‘Perhaps I will see if Lockhart knows anything about this. Or if not, if he will train my grandson in case the Einzbern come after him…’

During the past few months, he had been exchanging letters with a man he was almost certain was a high ranking member of the Order of Assassins, though the man hadn't revealed too much useful information. Still, Lockhart had been rather forthcoming with the fact that he was training Shinji in the basic combat arts, with veiled hints about his intentions – which was the reason Zouken had sent Shinji a Hidden Blade, as any true Assassin who learned of the boy’s possession of that would no doubt induct him into their Order.

An Order with useful devices, like the entangled cabined he had received this winter, allowing for instant and secure delivery of packages between two individuals.

“Do you have any other questions, Matou?”

The man simply grunted.

“I presume you wish the total transferred to the usual accounts?” the Archmagus inquired. While he did not wish to spend more than he had to, he supposed the puppetmaster deserved that much for giving him what amounted to advance warning of a state of war with the Einzbern.

“And perhaps a small consideration for my trouble?” Aozaki Touko questioned, the light of the room glinting from her glasses. “In cash, preferably. I presume you have a briefcase around?”

“Naturally.”

Grumbling under his breath, the man took care of the cash portion of the transaction, given that he did have a briefcase of banknotes for dealings of this very sort – under the table things that should not go on record.

“Thank you, Aozaki.”

“A pleasure doing business with you.”

And with that she was gone, leaving Zouken alone with his thoughts.

As might be expected, he was...displeased.


'I asked the boy to do one thing: reconcile with the Einzbern, given that their ire could be...inconvenient. Yet his Master comes to me with a warning of that family's displeasure and his presumed involvement in the disappearance of a homunculus? Can he do nothing right?'

What had the boy done now? Granted, he knew what he was alleged to have done but it didn't seem possible that Matou Shinji would do such a thing. The child he remembered would not be capable of defying him so...


...unless there was something else going on the Archmagus was unaware of. Had the boy entered into an agreement with one of the other factions of the Moonlit World without his knowledge? Was that how he had convinced the daughter of the Einzbern to attend the gala? Or how he had caused her to vanish?

Who was his...grandson loyal to now?

Granted, he didn't expect Shinji to tell him everything. After all, secrets and things unsaid were the natural currency of the moonlit world, but when they inconvenienced him…

'I need to find out what the boy knows. What he is up to.'

He might not be useless anymore - but there was a chance he had become something worse - an inconvenience.


So Matou Zouken considered what to do - how to arrange for the boy to come to Fuyuki. He did not want to simply ask via a letter, as there was too high a risk of interception, or to use Lockhart as an intermediary, given that he was not sure of the man's reliability, which left him with something of a quandary. Nor would he really be justified in summoning the boy to Fuyuki, given that he had another Master now.


Amusingly enough it was the boy's worthless father who provided him with an answer. Or at least spate of wretched coughing from the useless Byakuya's room, where the man was sinking closer to death with each passing day. Since the boy had gone off to Hogwarts, his useless excuse for a father had grown weaker and weaker, turning to the bottle more than ever, and the Archmagus was certain that he would soon die.

Provided Byakuya's passing happened by the summer, a funeral would be all the excuse Zouken needed to summon Shinji to Fuyuki as a dutiful son of the Matou family. And if it seemed the man would live on beyond that, it would be a simple enough matter to…hasten Byakuya's demise.

In a way, it would even be a mercy.

'…and then, boy, I will have the answers I seek.'

100%

Thud! Thud! Thud!

Blows fell like heavy rain as Tohsaka Rin viciously struck a wooden mannequin with reinforced fists, a red haze of fury hanging before her eyes as she pictured herself smashing in the smug face of Lord El Melloi II, and the words he’d said to her before kicking her out of his office.

"Fuck! You're the worst Japanese in the world."

After seeing how kind Matou and his friends had been, she had assumed the Tower would be similarly welcoming…but such had not been the case, with her receiving odd looks just because she came from Japan, with even the man who was allegedly her sponsor assuming strange things of her.

"Maybe you might..... You know, you should be familiar with that town. That place right between Ueno and Asakusa...." the man had asked almost nervously, though Rin hadn’t understand why he was bringing up a place that even she knew to be a mecca for otaku worldwide. It was hardly a proper topic for a Lord, after all, or a distinguished magus…

So she’d bluntly told him that she had no interest in Akihabara or even Nihonbashi, the financial and business district south of it, whereupon the man had grown annoyed, his eyes looking upon her with a cold fury.

“Feh. Matou was more interesting than you are, both with his knowledge of games, and his…involvement with the moonlit world and its politics.

He’d gestured to a picture of the young boy standing together with what was clearly a silver-haired Einzbern, along with a number of other figures who El Melloi had proceeded to name, including—.

Rin’s jaw fell open as she recognized the old man in black and silver pictured in the portrait. Surely that wasn’t…that couldn’t be…did Matou know…

“Yes, that is the Second Magician, the Old Man of the Jewels,” the Lord had said coolly, as if sizing her up and finding her wanting. “Your family’s great ancestor. And with him are the Magic Gunner and the Director of Atlas. That is the company Matou keeps, and yet he has an appreciation for games – which are all Japan is good for.”

Tohsaka Rin had grit her teeth, with it taking almost more effort than she could muster to keep from shouting at the man – except that she knew he could have her visa cancelled on a whim if he chose, forcing her to go back to Japan.

…and while she had never felt so belittled or insulted in her life, even by Kirei, she just knew that if she was sent home from the Tower in disgrace for offending one of its Lords, the fake priest would never let her hear the end of it.

So she’d held her tongue as he settled for throwing her out of his office, telling her not to come back until she learned to talk about games like Matou or some other civilized Japanese person.

“After all, you live with him, don’t you?” the man had asked sharply. “Surely you talk about more with him than the delusions of romance that are all too common among girls your age.”

‘How dare he?’

Rin had seethed as she stalked from the British Museum and boarded the tube, returning to the house Matou had bought for her use, where she’d proceeded to her basement workshop and had proceeded to vent her…irritation on a mannequin she’d pinned a rough sketch of El Melloi’s face to, alternating punches and open hand blows with point blank Gandr shots.

Call her the worst Japanese in the world, would he?

Just because she didn’t like games? Or because she wasn’t as involved in politics as…Matou seemed to be, when he was involved with some rather terrifying individuals, considering that his Master was Aozaki Touko, and he was acquainted with a Director and several Magicians?

Thud! Thud! Thud!

Sometime later, she padded out of the basement to the dining room, where she found that Mashu – her housemate and housekeeper, she supposed, though the other girl was also a student at the Tower as part of the astronomy department, had fixed her a plate of Wiener Schnitzel – a thin, breaded veal cutlet that she found to be not unlike katsu – alongside lettuce and onions tossed with a sweetened vinaigrette dressing, potato salad, and a small bowl of miso soup.

In spite of herself, the girl smiled.

She was so used to living alone in Fuyuki that it felt…nice to have food waiting for her when she finished with her experiments, or exercises. It was also nice to find the house clean, or even just to have company sometimes, as the house seemed enormous without anyone else there – though every now and then she’d swear she heard Matou’s voice – or Lovegood’s – coming from upstairs.

‘…it’s been a very long day,’ she thought to herself, looking over at her metallic owl, which just hooted in agreement. ‘Huh. That’s right. Matou said I could use this to send letters.’

She swallowed, not really wanting to ask for advice, as it hurt her pride…but then she could hardly use that as an argument when she was living in a house he’d bought for her.

‘Maybe he could give me some advice about El Melloi…’

100%

And in Mahoutokoro, Fujou Shiroe – once known as Emiya Shirou – clad in a traditional gi and hakama ensemble, looked up after finishing the latest exercise that the kitsune named Kaiduka had set before him with a hint of surprise

As usual, he’d hit the targets he was assigned, though he didn’t realize quite how, as the fox had given him no projectiles.

…instead, he’d been asked to visualize a projectile hitting the target, in the way of Kyudo – Japanese Archery, and to bind imagination to reality. Apparently, some of his family’s specialized techniques – like the arrows of exorcism and binding – required a mastery of the bow, and so he’d been asked to learn, but on seeing that he had gift for the basics, the fox had moved to more advanced techniques.

“Your origin is an interesting one, Fujou,” the kitsune had said before the little test. “Convenient, however, given that your elemental affinity.”

“Oh?”

“Forge,” the fox had explained, looking for all Shirou could tell like a young teenager his age. “If I am correct, in addition to imbuing your element with prana and properties, you would be able to create items through projection.”

“I thought projection was just a stopgap most of the time…and that it was usually too expensive to warrant using?”

“Most of the time, it is, Fujou,” the kitsune had acknowledged, inclining his head. “However, there are always exceptions, such as with yourself.”

So the magus had proceeded to visualize arrows hitting their targets as he pulled back on his bow, releasing the string once for each target – with the sound of something – several somethings slamming into the specially prepared hay targets…and drilling through them to hit the wall.

“Curious…” the kitsune said afterwards, as he walked over to examine the closest of the metallic projectiles embedded in the walls, noting its odd shape – unlike any arrow he’d seen before. The black-haired boy touched it, grimacing as he did, and sniffed as it faded into motes of silver light. “Hmm…your affinity continues to shift, Fujou, due to the item within you. Soon, it will no longer be metal, but something else…something more specific. Should the corruption continue unchecked, it will not be worthwhile for me to teach you any further, as you will be unable to learn your family’s arts.”

Shiroe swallowed as the kitsune turned its unnerving red eyes upon him.

“…I see. How much time do I have?” the boy inquired. He knew what was causing it, but...what was he supposed to do? He couldn’t just leave an artifact of that caliber lying about, could he?

“Perhaps half a year,” Kaiduka responded. “Give or take a month. Less if we continue this current string of exercises, as projection seems to speed the shift. By mid-summer though, you will need to decide whether whatever artifact you are concealing is worth losing your family’s legacy. If it is, then I suppose you will no longer be the head of the Fujou, with that burden falling upon the shoulders of your young cousin.”

“…and what do you suggest I do?” the boy asked, his voice almost a whisper. Should he keep Avalon within him and be changed? Remove it and embrace his past instead? And if he did, what would he do with it?

But Kaiduka Shiosai just shook his head.

“That is a decision that only you can make, Fujou, as it is tied to the heart of who you are…and who you will become.”

100%

Choice 98: What advice do we give Rin about Waver? Or about the Tower in general?

[ ] (Write-in)

Nanao-kun
November 29th, 2015, 04:38 AM
Oh? Zouken, Rin, and Shirou. Three interludes and a lot of interesting information.

Advice for Rin huh...

Veldril
November 29th, 2015, 05:43 AM
I guess in the future we have to decide (or give advice) for Shirou whether he wanted Avalon or not...

For write-in:

Learn about gaming, Rin! It's a fun hobby and might help you not be so terrible with tech!

Magus
November 29th, 2015, 06:18 AM
[x] Of course, Rin must prioritize her studies, but she should not underestimate the value of political connections, and it wouldn't hurt her to at least be knowledgeable about her sponsor's interests. And given the diversity of gaming genres/anime, she might just find something she enjoys if she can overcome her initial tech aversion. Waver may be arrogant and racist, but otherwise he's a decent man, and if she makes the effort to reach out to him, his views may come to change in time, especially if she can broaden his appreciation for Japan and its inhabitants in turn.


As for Zouken's interlude: Poor communication kills

skulkidcachi90
November 29th, 2015, 08:05 AM
[x] Tell Rin than she should ask to Waver how he gained his Passion for a hobby like that, so she can at least understand why Gaming and Anime are so important for him. That would show to Waver than Rin at least have some respect and interest for his passion.

Sometimes understand the passion of others could help you to find new things in your life. Also one of the reasons of why Waver love so much videogames is because that is the last link than he have with Iskandar.

If waver end talking about how Iskandar was the reason of why he become a gamer, Rin can learn more about the 4 grail war, how Iskandar die and who kill him, Then she might say to Shinji what she learn, and he could learn who is the identity of that boy in Fuyuki who call himself "Archer".

Magus
November 29th, 2015, 10:14 AM
[x] Tell Rin than she should ask to Waver how he gained his Passion for a hobby like that, so she can at least understand why Gaming and Anime are so important for him. That would show to Waver than Rin at least have some respect and interest for his passion.

Sometimes understand the passion of others could help you to find new things in your life. Also one of the reasons of why Waver love so much videogames is because that is the last link than he have with Iskandar.

If waver end talking about how Iskandar was the reason of why he become a gamer, Rin can learn more about the 4 grail war, how Iskandar die and who kill him, Then she might say to Shinji what she learn, and he could learn who is the identity of that boy in Fuyuki who call himself "Archer".

[x] Yeah, I can support this, or some combination of this with my own suggestion.

Skull Leader
November 29th, 2015, 04:52 PM
I like the answers people have come up with, but I wanted to add to them.

[X] Rin should be Rin. She is not Shinji, Waver or anyone else in the Clock Tower. Rin should be the magus she wants to be. Everyone in the clock tower are trying to judge her by their own standards and are trying to put her in nice neat catagories. Oh Rin is from Japan so of course she likes anime and video games. Oh Rin is from the east so she must be an inferior, barbaric magus. Oh Rin is a Tohsaka and must behave like her ancestors. The same thing was done to Shinji when he went to Hogwarts. Oh Shinji you are a half blood so you are inferior. Oh Shinji you are a wizard so you must not be able to cast magic without a wand. Letting others define you is not a way to succeed in life. If you want to change people's views on you, you will have to work ten times harder then everyone around you. Find your niche and work at it. For Shinji, it was his ofuda. Rin can find her own niche, it does not have to be her families specialty. If you don't know something then study it. If Rin feels she doesn't know politics, then she should study it. If Rin feels she needs to learn to be more social, then spend more time with the people she trusts. She can always write to Shinji. Hell if she gets really frustrated, Shinji can visit her in person to help her.

As for dealing with Waver, Rin should explain that this is who she is, and that he should accept her for who she is. If he can not then he is not the right sponsor for her. However in turn, Rin needs to try to understand him as well. Why is he passionate about video games and otaku stuff? What makes Waver well Waver? Maybe if he shares his passion with her she will find something she did not know about herself and grow from it. Shinji did this was his friend Harry. He showed Harry his Ofuda and Harry has benefited from it. He did not copy Shinji completely but found his own path with it. Rin can find her own path to become the person she wants to be. Shinji will support her on her journey of discovery, because he been there before. Have Shinji share his feelings and experiences he had his first year, his doubts and his triumphs with the stone cutters.

Magus
November 29th, 2015, 05:02 PM
I like the answers people have come up with, but I wanted to add to them.

[X] Rin should be Rin. She is not Shinji, Waver or anyone else in the Clock Tower. Rin should be the magus she wants to be. Everyone in the clock tower are trying to judge her by their own standards and are trying to put her in nice neat catagories. Oh Rin is from Japan so of course she likes anime and video games. Oh Rin is from the east so she must be an inferior, barbaric magus. Oh Rin is a Tohsaka and must behave like her ancestors. The same thing was done to Shinji when he went to Hogwarts. Oh Shinji you are a half blood so you are inferior. Oh Shinji you are a wizard so you must not be able to cast magic without a wand. Letting others define you is not a way to succeed in life. If you want to change people's views on you, you will have to work ten times harder then everyone around you. Find your niche and work at it. For Shinji, it was his ofuda. Rin can find her own niche, it does not have to be her families specialty. If you don't know something then study it. If Rin feels she doesn't know politics, then she should study it. If Rin feels she needs to learn to be more social, then spend more time with the people she trusts. She can always write to Shinji. Hell if she gets really frustrated, Shinji can visit her in person to help her.

As for dealing with Waver, Rin should explain that this is who she is, and that he should accept her for who she is. If he can not then he is not the right sponsor for her. However in turn, Rin needs to try to understand him as well. Why is he passionate about video games and otaku stuff? What makes Waver well Waver? Maybe if he shares his passion with her she will find something she did not know about herself and grow from it. Shinji did this was his friend Harry. He showed Harry his Ofuda and Harry has benefited from it. He did not copy Shinji completely but found his own path with it. Rin can find her own path to become the person she wants to be. Shinji will support her on her journey of discovery, because he been there before. Have Shinji share his feelings and experiences he had his first year, his doubts and his triumphs with the stone cutters.

[x] A great answer!

skulkidcachi90
November 29th, 2015, 06:25 PM
I like the answers people have come up with, but I wanted to add to them.

[X] Rin should be Rin. She is not Shinji, Waver or anyone else in the Clock Tower. Rin should be the magus she wants to be. Everyone in the clock tower are trying to judge her by their own standards and are trying to put her in nice neat catagories. Oh Rin is from Japan so of course she likes anime and video games. Oh Rin is from the east so she must be an inferior, barbaric magus. Oh Rin is a Tohsaka and must behave like her ancestors. The same thing was done to Shinji when he went to Hogwarts. Oh Shinji you are a half blood so you are inferior. Oh Shinji you are a wizard so you must not be able to cast magic without a wand. Letting others define you is not a way to succeed in life. If you want to change people's views on you, you will have to work ten times harder then everyone around you. Find your niche and work at it. For Shinji, it was his ofuda. Rin can find her own niche, it does not have to be her families specialty. If you don't know something then study it. If Rin feels she doesn't know politics, then she should study it. If Rin feels she needs to learn to be more social, then spend more time with the people she trusts. She can always write to Shinji. Hell if she gets really frustrated, Shinji can visit her in person to help her.

As for dealing with Waver, Rin should explain that this is who she is, and that he should accept her for who she is. If he can not then he is not the right sponsor for her. However in turn, Rin needs to try to understand him as well. Why is he passionate about video games and otaku stuff? What makes Waver well Waver? Maybe if he shares his passion with her she will find something she did not know about herself and grow from it. Shinji did this was his friend Harry. He showed Harry his Ofuda and Harry has benefited from it. He did not copy Shinji completely but found his own path with it. Rin can find her own path to become the person she wants to be. Shinji will support her on her journey of discovery, because he been there before. Have Shinji share his feelings and experiences he had his first year, his doubts and his triumphs with the stone cutters.

[x]This

Kelnish
November 29th, 2015, 06:29 PM
[She should sleep with him]

saki
November 29th, 2015, 07:14 PM
They both like to wear red coats, they can bond over that.

Skull Leader
November 29th, 2015, 07:16 PM
[She should sleep with him]

I believe that is the wrong Tohsaka sister that your dear worm grandfather wants Shinji to sleep with.

alfheimwanderer
November 29th, 2015, 09:53 PM
I believe that is the wrong Tohsaka sister that your dear worm grandfather wants Shinji to sleep with.

He'd be fine with either. Both likely have an innate ability to maximize offspring potential.

saki
November 29th, 2015, 10:39 PM
I believe that is the wrong Tohsaka sister that your dear worm grandfather wants Shinji to sleep with.

I think his talking about rin/El Melloi

alfheimwanderer
November 29th, 2015, 10:46 PM
Waver doesn't like being prepositioned by his students, even if he is #1 most eligible bachelor at the Tower.

RR121
November 30th, 2015, 12:40 AM
Advice?

Sure, I have some good advice.

"Don't fuck it up"

Malgos
November 30th, 2015, 09:04 AM
I like the answers people have come up with, but I wanted to add to them.

[X] Rin should be Rin. She is not Shinji, Waver or anyone else in the Clock Tower. Rin should be the magus she wants to be. Everyone in the clock tower are trying to judge her by their own standards and are trying to put her in nice neat catagories. Oh Rin is from Japan so of course she likes anime and video games. Oh Rin is from the east so she must be an inferior, barbaric magus. Oh Rin is a Tohsaka and must behave like her ancestors. The same thing was done to Shinji when he went to Hogwarts. Oh Shinji you are a half blood so you are inferior. Oh Shinji you are a wizard so you must not be able to cast magic without a wand. Letting others define you is not a way to succeed in life. If you want to change people's views on you, you will have to work ten times harder then everyone around you. Find your niche and work at it. For Shinji, it was his ofuda. Rin can find her own niche, it does not have to be her families specialty. If you don't know something then study it. If Rin feels she doesn't know politics, then she should study it. If Rin feels she needs to learn to be more social, then spend more time with the people she trusts. She can always write to Shinji. Hell if she gets really frustrated, Shinji can visit her in person to help her.

As for dealing with Waver, Rin should explain that this is who she is, and that he should accept her for who she is. If he can not then he is not the right sponsor for her. However in turn, Rin needs to try to understand him as well. Why is he passionate about video games and otaku stuff? What makes Waver well Waver? Maybe if he shares his passion with her she will find something she did not know about herself and grow from it. Shinji did this was his friend Harry. He showed Harry his Ofuda and Harry has benefited from it. He did not copy Shinji completely but found his own path with it. Rin can find her own path to become the person she wants to be. Shinji will support her on her journey of discovery, because he been there before. Have Shinji share his feelings and experiences he had his first year, his doubts and his triumphs with the stone cutters.

I'd like this to be my choice, but I'd also would like to add that Rin may as well give games a try as well. Don't knock it before you try it.

mr_Trickster
November 30th, 2015, 09:36 AM
I'd like this to be my choice, but I'd also would like to add that Rin may as well give games a try as well. Don't knock it before you try it.

I agree with both the Skull Leader's write-in (at least to a good extent) and to Malgos on this. If it was possible, I was actually going to suggest we get her a gameboy as well, so she could at least explore it a bit when she had the time.

The one issue I have with this write-in, however, is that we might be coddling her, but as I am unable to present a better alternative, I'll go with this for now.

Skull Leader
November 30th, 2015, 10:21 AM
My write in I thought I put in it her attempting to understand and maybe try his hobbies because she might learn she likes it. I might not of been clear in my write up.



I agree with both the Skull Leader's write-in (at least to a good extent) and to Malgos on this. If it was possible, I was actually going to suggest we get her a gameboy as well, so she could at least explore it a bit when she had the time.

The one issue I have with this write-in, however, is that we might be coddling her, but as I am unable to present a better alternative, I'll go with this for now.

Yes, I understand your consider that we are coddling her, because she kinda been coddle by Shinji the whole time. Rin, have this house to live in, and oh by the way I got you a maid. And so forth. However, for once in her life she kinda needs it. No one has ever really cared about her and no one has every really helped her before. This isn't the Rin from the Grail War or the one after the Grail War. This is a young girl that socially awkward.

In Cannon, she had this same experience with Waver when she went to the clock tower after the grail war. And the result then was Waver swearing that he wouldn't help learn anything the entire time she was there. It is my hope that we can get Waver to actually teach her if we help Rin bridge the gap between the two.

We cuddle Hermione and well things went bad because of it, but the difference with Rin is that Rin already knows that the world is not sunshine and roses. She grow up in the Moon lit world and knows its dangers or at least she read about the dangers. Shinji threw her for a loop during the break by showing her decent people that were his friends and now she assuming that maybe she can find decent people in the clock tower to be her friends.

But the rarest thing in the Moon lit world is a decent Magus. Waver is one of the few.

All That Is Left Unsaid
November 30th, 2015, 02:44 PM
Essentially, we want to tell Rin to be herself and find her own path. Be the best Rin Tohsaka that Rin Tohsaka can be. However this doesn't preclude her from learning politics, and some of that is learning what colleagues and superiors find interesting. She might enjoy them, she might not, but she won't know if she doesn't try.

Be herself, but keep an open mind.

alfheimwanderer
December 1st, 2015, 07:05 AM
Chapter 40. Half a League Onwards

The Great Hall was abuzz with whispers and muttered speculation as Matou Shinji and Luna Lovegood meandered over to the table set aside for Ravenclaw House and sat down for breakfast together. In the past few months, it had become an exceedingly rare event for anyone at Hogwarts to see either of them this early in the day.

No surprise, really, given that they tended to frequent haunts that most of the school had no idea existed, or if they did, had no access to: the Room of Requirement, the Kitchens, Founders’ Tower. Indeed, they’d come right from a training session where, safe from the prying eyes of others, the two had come against one another with the full force of their abilities, wind against earth, fire and light against all-engulfing darkness, in a titanic clash that left their hair and clothing somewhat…disheveled.

…needless to say, this only fed the overactive the rumor mill as to exactly what the two were up to in the mornings, especially as no one had seen Hermione Granger as of late either – though the news of her impending transfer to the Wizarding Academy of Dramatic Arts had stirred a measure of interest.

Why, some of her peers asked, would someone who had such high marks – who was perhaps the best in her year at Transfiguration, and was one of the most talented Potioneers at Hogwarts – choose to leave all that behind to pursue…theatre? It seemed like…such a waste.

Others noted the fact that she and Matou didn’t seem to spend time together anymore and wondered if what they had imagined to be fairy-tale romance between the Granger and the Boy from the East had proven to be only fantasy in the end, especially since it had become known that Lovegood and Matou trained together, or perhaps more than that.

Rumors had a way of growing with each retelling, after all.

Some of the younger students – those who were not yet in their O.W.L. year and who hadn’t been caught up by the juicy rumors of romance or teenage drama—simply admired the fact that Granger had the courage to leave everything else behind, the courage to follow what was apparently her dream, without a Hogwarts education as a safety net in case she should fall short.

There were several of them who wanted to be singers, after all, to be actors, playwrights, radio show hosts, special effects wizards, or something else entirely – none of which the finest Wizarding School in Britain would prepare them for—instead of working for the Ministry in one fashion or another. Yet except in their heart of hearts, they wouldn’t admit to wanting to leave Hogwarts for somewhere perhaps better suited to pursuing their dreams, because they were afraid they wouldn’t make it – and then what?

Older and wiser students who had taken their O.W.L. exams, some of whom had faced disappointment and failure, being told their grades weren’t good enough to qualify them for a position as an Auror, Healer, or whatever they had aspired to, tended to think Hermione Granger a fool.

Yes, it was a good thing to have dreams, to aspire to become something more than ordinary, but at the end of the day, when reality came knocking, dreams had to take second place to finding a way to get by so one didn’t starve, as one could not feed oneself with fantasies. And however talented Granger might be, whatever she thought she could accomplish, these others thought she would regret her decision soon enough. If not now, then when she finished her time at W.A.D.A. and found herself just another hopeful among many, unqualified for a Ministry job and lacking the connections to help her find suitable employment if her plans fell through.

Some had even taken it upon themselves to try and make the girl see the error of her ways, approaching her and telling her how wrong she was to leave Hogwarts, how her parents surely must be ashamed of her selfishness, how she was throwing away her future – until the Head Boy intervened. After breaking up one of these “well-intentioned” attempts, he’d talked with Miss Granger, learning that she genuinely did want to pursue theatre, had talked things over with her surprisingly supportive parents, and further, had Lockhart’s backing in the matter, much as he’d already suspected.

As impetuous as teenagers could be, Miss Granger hadn’t struck him as someone who would act without thinking. And in a place like the Wizarding World, where too many were forced to give up what they loved for lack of opportunity, if the opportunity presented itself, why shouldn’t she go for it? After all, it was what he had done.

So, instead of urging her to reconsider, Robert Hillard had stated publicly that Hermione Granger had made her choice, and that further attempts to intimidate her or offer unwanted advice would be seen as harassment and duly punished. Even then, a few intrepid Ravenclaws had pressed the issue, whereupon Hillard had docked points from his own house, assigning the miscreants to detention with Professor Snape as a show of how serious he was.

The harassment had ceased after that, as no one had any intention of getting on the Head Boy’s bad side, even if some thought that his judgment was clouded, given that he was a prodigy who had demonstrated the ability to achieve anything he set his mind to, and Granger…wasn’t. She was intelligent, certainly, skilled in spellwork and excellent in all things academic, but she’d never seemed…extraordinary.

Not like Robert Hillard or the other Stone Cutters had. Not like the Boy-Who-Lived or Matou Shinji. Not even like Luna Lovegood.

Still, they had stopped, with other topics rising to fill the void: Draco Malfoy’s departure from the Ourea, the source and nature of Matou Shinji’s vast fortune (with which he’d outright bought the Black House), whether Matou or Potter would become Potions Champion of Hogwarts and what such a thing would entail, and juiciest of all, the relationship between Matou and Lovegood, and why they had come to be in the Great Hall today, when they were so seldom seen otherwise.

And while they would probably never get a good answer to the first two topics, and it would probably be some time before there was anything relevant to discuss concerning the third and fourth, they received an answer to the fifth in minutes, as the morning mail came in, with the duo collecting a staggering number of parcels from the delivery owls before leaving for Founders’ Tower.

100%

“…whoa…this is wicked,” Fred murmured, admiring himself – and his sleek new robes – in a mirror Matou had had a house elf bring to the Tower for that very purpose.

Charcoal grey robes, these, designed with combat in mind, with reinforced wrists and neck, two wand-holsters, a belt of red spider-silk rope, a leather utility belt with mokeskin pouches for equipment…and a hood that reminded him of an eagle for some reason.

Coupled with enchanted boots and trousers fresh from Mahoutokoro, along with the gloves Matou had given him for Christmas, the boy’s appearance was rather…striking. All the more so since he’d never seen garments built for such deadly purpose.

“I must admit, when you mentioned that you would handle getting protective garments, I didn’t think you meant dragonhide,” Hillard said dryly, going through a series of basic movement exercises while decked out in a similar ensemble. “Even after you made us all get measured at Twilfitt and Tattings over the holidays. This stuff is…”

…he trailed off, shaking his head. Somehow, ‘expensive’ didn’t seem to be expansive enough to say what he wanted.

“This stuff, nothing. Have a look at Matou,” George noted, blinking as he watched the Boy from the East.

The Boy from the East hadn’t yet donned his own set of wyvernhide robes, with the enchanted clothing he wore beneath quite visible as he sparred against a robe-clad Luna. Not an off-the-shelf set either – this had been a custom set, tailored specifically for him, as the second portion of what he’d gotten for paying off Aozaki Touko’s four million pound debt to her sister.

Their movements were an eerie mirror of the other, the spell beams from his wand being deflected by the girl’s over and over again, as Matou growled, a haze of darkness seeping from his body into his garments as he accelerated.

“…look at that,” Hillard breathed, eyes widening as the boy’s body blurred – as did his opponent’s.

Spellbeams shot faster, faster, faster still as Matou Shinji struck again and again, but each one was deflected harmlessly to the ceiling or the floor or ceiling, which as Auror-in-training noted, took a great deal of skill.

For about half a minute this continued until both figures came to a halt, with Shinji’s wand not a millimeter from Luna’s nose, and hers at her side, as slate grey eyes stared into thoughtful silver orbs.

“Check,” the boy remarked, a thin smile on his face from the sheer speed and power conferred to him by these garments – so long as he had prana to spend, of course.

“Mate,” the girl replied, as a flash of golden light sent the boy flying into the wall with a crash, his wand flying into a waiting hand. With a smile, she doffed her hood to reveal two pure-white ears like those of an arctic fox adorning her head. “Not as fast or powerful as fusion. But not bad, all things considered.”

“…ugh,” Shinji grumbled as he pulled himself to his feet. “Was it even close?”

The girl shook her head, as the Boy from the East groaned.

“You let down your guard on purpose,” the Matou scion said accusingly. “You wouldn’t have done that during one of our morning spars.”

But Luna only smiled.

“Of course not,” she replied, curtseying to her fallen foe as she tossed him his wand. “You would have noticed that in fusion form.”

“…well. That’s true,” Shinji allowed, shaking his head. “Guess I got a little carried away by the speed and power, and forgot that unlike fusion, it doesn’t come with awareness. Nor with the innate resistance to spells.”

“…so that’s what you look like in Fusion form, Luna,” Harry interjected, frowning as he took in the sight of the girl’s fox-like ears. “Not exactly what I expected.”

He’d heard about Fred and George’s spar with Shinji from the Twins, so he knew a bit about what fusion was capable of – and from Pansy’s account of the Kobayashi, he surmised that Luna’s fusion form involved her in a white dress and with twigs in her hair – not with animal ears, as if she’d gone through an incomplete transfiguration or something.

“Mm,” the girl murmured, conjuring an orb of blue flame in the palm of her hand. “The form is different, depending on who I fuse with, whether Matou’s familiar or mine.”

“…you can join with Matou’s familiar?” Hillard inquired, his eyebrows arching upward in curiosity as he looked between the two younger Ravenclaws, with Shinji seeming almost embarrassed. “Can you join with hers, Matou?”

“No,” Shinji said flatly. “Our elements and affinity are too different.”

A kitsune’s fire and wind elements weren’t exactly compatible with his own water and earth, much less his strong yin-alignment.

“Interesting,” Hillard noted, nodding. “I take it each form also confers different abilities? And that one of them is invisibility? Unless you own an invisibility cloak or know how to disillusion yourself, that is.”
He didn’t remember seeing her in the video Harry had recorded of the Hollow, after all, and of the encounter with the Acromantula.

“Yes.”

“…powerful. Well, far be it from me to accept the evidence of my senses, though I would be careful about showing those ears to anyone but us. Many people in Britain are less…accepting of anything that suggests a non-human heritage.”

“That much I’ve already mentioned,” Matou broke in, glancing at Hillard. “Given that we trust each other with our lives though, I didn’t think it would be a problem here.”

“Certainly not. In any case, you two know your trump abilities best, so I’ll allow you to decide for yourselves when to use them.”

“Thank you, Robert,” Shinji noted, inclining his head. “I appreciate that.”

“Ah well, brother of mine,” George quipped, glancing over at Fred. “It’s good that scary wee ones like Matou and Lovegood are on our side.”

“Indeed, Forge! Wouldn’t want to get them angry, no, not us!”

“…not without familiars of our own, anyway,” George finished pointedly, turning his attention to Shinji.

The Boy from the East smiled faintly. As it so happened, along with the parcels from Twilfitt and Tattings and Mahoutokoro, he’d received a letter from Hijiri, granting him permission to bring two guests to the City Beneath the Earth. The other letter had come from Tohsaka, and he rather thought he'd just tell her to be herself, but be open to the hobbies of others. After all, she could stand to learn from others - just as he had.

“Well…I think that can be arranged,” the Matou scion noted, as he pulled on his grey robes, finding them a perfect fit – as expected, since they were tailored for him. “This summer even.”

The twins cheered, as Harry, puzzled by the exchange, just shrugged. With the new dragonhide robes, he thought they stood at least a decent chance of surviving the expedition to come. After all, they’d faced worse odds before.

“Anything else you have for us, Shinji?” Harry inquired curiously.

“Well, if he doesn’t have anything, I do,” Hillard replied, withdrawing a slim case from his robes, which he opened to reveal six sheathed daggers.

“What are these?” Shinji asked, as the Head Boy handed one to each of the Stone Cutters, with the Boy from the East, noting that while it was neither goblin-forged, nor goblin-silver, being jet black in color, it had a sleek, dangerous quality to it, with runes etched onto the surface of the blade.

“A holiday gift from Lockhart,” the Head Boy explained, shaking his head. “After all, a knife is as useful to an adventurer as a wand to a wizard – or so he tells me.”

Personally, Shinji thought Lockhart had substituted adventurer for assassin, but that was neither here nor there.

“And what do they do?” the boy asked. He recognized some of the runes on them, but as a whole…

“A few things. They can open any door, untie any knot, undo simple enchantments, and…” Hillard trailed off, frowning as he recalled the man’s last words.

“…and?”

“Cut through any magical barrier…” the seventh year said quietly, with Shinji narrowing his eyes as he recalled another blade he knew of which was capable of disrupting prana and prana constructs.

The Hidden Blade - signature weapon of the Order of Assassins.

That these weapons were crafted in a similar way, that Lockhart was giving them these blades…what did it mean? What did the man intend?

“Something wrong, Shinji?” Harry asked, noticing that his friend seemed a little distracted.

“No, just…thinking.”

“Ah.”

100%

Time passed, with the Stone Cutters investing more and more time into their preparations and training as the drew closer, yet there some commitments they could not set aside – roles and responsibilities they had agreed to take on early in the year – or the year before.

For Hillard, one of these duties was serving as Head Boy of Hogwarts, making sure that people were assigned to patrol at all hours, that the castle was safe and that students knew they could always go to a Prefect for help if needed. Another of course, was looking over Professor Weasley’s lesson plans and setting the newest member of faculty at ease.

For Harry Potter, it was Potions Boot Camp and the challenges associated with it, as he had been recognized as one of only two real contenders for the title of Hogwarts Champion – and with that recognition had come a Professor Snape who would accept nothing less than perfection in brewing and combat, filled with a drive to see his protégé succeed bordering on obsession.

For the Twins, there was their impromptu arrangement to keep Matou Shinji at speed, making sure he’d continue to be a viable contender for Potions, giving him compressed variants of same challenges – and a few of their own – while they involved him in brewing what was required for the great Spider Raid.

For Luna, there were her duties as a member of the Ourea, helping the new members get to know more about what was expected of them – especially the new Ravenclaws.

And for Matou Shinji, there was about double what each of the others dealt with normally, given his responsibilities to the Ourea, the Potions training he was receiving, the advanced coursework he was dealing with in Ancient Runes, advanced Charms training, and his work looking over Professor Weasley’s lesson plans.

It was the last of these that he and Hillard were doing now, making a few notes and suggestions here and there as Arthur Weasley looked on.

“I think you should be fine by yourself from here on, Professor,” Hillard was saying as he handed the man the lesson plans for his NEWT classes, with the man glancing over them, his eyebrows lifting as he noted only minimal revisions this time. “It seems like you’ve just about gotten the hang of things.”

“Ah…are you sure about that?” the Charms Professor asked, with the man looking less than entirely confident. “It’s true that nothing has gone wrong this year, but…I still don’t think I measure up to Flitwick.”

“You’re a good man and you love what you do,” the Head Boy replied, inclining his head to the Weasley patriarch. “Your lessons are interesting. You work with your students to see what they’re having problems with and modify your plans accordingly – which is why we had so much to do this year, and the students see that you care. You don’t have to fill Professor Flitwick’s shoes. Just fill your own.”

“Huh.” Arthur grunted. “Huh. Well, thank you.” The man paused, a distant expression on his face for a moment. “You both have been a tremendous help with all this, you know.”

“Hm? But we just looked over lesson plans, and what you had was already pretty solid,” Shinji protested, only for Professor Weasley to hold up hand for silence.

“That alone means a lot, you know,” the man replied. “It hasn’t been easy becoming a professor, to actually be looked at with respect, to be looked to for things. A year ago, I was just a low level official in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, working in an office the size of a broom closet and trying to make ends meet. I had a few friends, certainly, but by and large, most people didn’t know or care I even existed. Except Molly and kids. And then I came here.”

Arthur chuckled, a wistful smile playing over his lips as he looked at empty seats in the classroom that was his.

“People expect things of me. They look to me as an example, turn to me for advice. Takes some getting used to, really.”

“Believe me, I know the feeling,” Hillard replied, meeting the Professor’s gaze with his own. Before helping to found the Stone Cutters and fighting off that troll, he’d been just another Prefect himself, a dutiful, diligent youth, but one who no one really looked up to.

That had changed, more and more as the years went by, and now his status as Head Boy was almost secondary to the fact that he had been awarded the Order of Merlin (Second Class).

“…I suppose you would at that, Robert.” Arthur Weasley smiled slightly, before looking over at Shinji, a thoughtful expression on his face. “Oh, and Matou?”

“Yes?”

“Thank you for making arrangements for Fred and George to study abroad this summer – for free, at that,” the man said, dipping his head to the surprised boy. “Yes, I know that was you. Whatever the official correspondence might have said, since the Twins sons mentioned that you had gone out of your way to help them because they’d asked.”

Well, Shinji supposed that was true, except that the Twins had made that a condition of their helping him prepare for the Potions Competition…

“I know they’ve always wanted to see something beyond Britain, like their brothers,” Arthur continued, “but with everything going on these past two years, there’s been no time for a family vacation.” His expression soured as he shook his head. “Doesn’t look like there’s going to be one this summer either, not with us having to move from the Burrow.”

“Move?” Hillard asked, raising an eyebrow. “Fred and George didn’t say anything about that.

“That’s because they don’t know yet,” the Professor noted, shaking his head as he recalled what had happened.

No surprise really, as he didn’t want to admit that the Burrow had fallen afoul of a random inspection from the Ministry, which had discovered his family’s illegal application of Extension Charms, which he’d been forced to use in order to make sure the house had enough space for his children as they were growing up.

Granted, no harm had come to anyone, but it had been a clear violation of the law, nonetheless, as Extension Charms were not permitted for private use, and were approved only for the production of objects which had been individually approved for manufacture by the relevant Ministry Department.

As a member of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, he’d known this – which was why the Chief Warlock was taking action against him, as Lucius Malfoy had been adamant about cracking down on “corruption” and abuse in the Ministry, ensuring that those charged with enforcing the law obeyed it themselves.

What kind of example would it set for others if the watchmen were to break the law without consequences, after all?

However, since he was no longer a member of the Department, Malfoy had offered him a one-time deal: move out of the Burrow and be spared Azkaban, or else…

“How much time do we have?” he’d asked.

“Until Hogwarts lets out for the summer, Arthur,” Lucius had answered, iron in his tone. “If you have not vacated the Burrow before then and surrendered the deed to the estate, the law will be enforced.”

But that… wasn’t much time at all, and with his meager savings…

“Lucius, please…”

“I’m sorry, Arthur,” the Chief Warlock had replied, his voice almost sympathetic. Almost. “But the law is the law. Offering you as much as I have is already a stretch. Keep the Burrow and you and your wife will go to Azkaban, or surrender the deed and remain free. Which will it be?”

“Lucius. I mean, Chief Warlock, with all due respect, where will we go?” The last thing in the world that Arthur Weasley wanted to do was grovel to Lucius Malfoy, but for the sake of his family…he would do whatever he had to. “You must know the Weasley family’s financial situation. The reason we had to use Extension Charms in the first place. I—“

“That is not my concern, Arthur.” And then Lucius Malfoy had smiled – a cold, terrible expression that sent a shiver down the Weasley patriarch’s spine. “I have offered you all I am prepared to, and you are in no position to bargain. Do you accept my terms, or shall I call for the Aurors?”

There had been only one possible answer.

“…I accept,” he’d forced himself to say, no matter that he hated it – hated Lucius for putting him in this position – hated himself for having to do what he had to.

His home.

The home he had raised his children in.

He would surrender it to his mortal enemy – because if he didn’t, it was going to be taken from him, and with it, his freedom. And for that, for that, he would owe the man.

“Good. I will expect the deed to the Burrow by the end of term, Arthur. Don’t forget.”

Given the short timeframe and the state of his savings account, there had been only one option open to him: moving into Hogwarts. As a Professor, he already had living quarters here, so all he had to do was convince two others that this was the best option for him.

Headmaster Flitwick, of course, was one.

Molly was the other.

And while the headmaster had agreed readily enough, as there were plenty of unused rooms in the Castle, enough to allow for family quarters for all of the staff, Molly had not.

She’d raged at him, asking him why he had just given in, why he hadn’t fought for their home – for them? She didn’t seem to understand that if he had, the Chief Warlock would have thrown him in Azkaban, and then where would the family be?

“Arthur…how can you just give up the Burrow to Lucius Malfoy of all people?” Molly had whispered. “It’s our home. The one we built together. The house we made for ourselves when we had nowhere else to go. Where our children grew up. Where Ronald and Ginevra are still…”

“Molly…please.” It had pained him to admit it, but… “I didn’t have a choice.”

“You always have a choice, Arthur!” she’d snapped at him. “What was it you told each one of our sons? That you told our daughter? That no one can force you to do something you don’t want to? So how could you—”

“I did it for you! For us!” he all but shouted, before going silent, shaking his head. “Molly, Lucius would have…he would have sent us both to Azkaban.”

“He…he wouldn’t dare!” the Weasley matriarch had answered. “Why, if Dumbledore were around, he’d...”

“…Dumbledore’s dead, Molly,” Arthur replied in a thoroughly defeated tone, closing his eyes. “The Order is gone. And you and I both know who is pulling Fudge’s strings.”

“What about—what about Fred and George?” Molly had asked. “After all they’ve one for Britain and Malfoy, surely he can do something for—“

“I’m not pulling my sons into this, Molly. I don’t want them to have to deal with Malfoy – to owe him, like we…like I owe him.”

“Owe him?!” Molly had screeched. “How could you possibly owe him—”

“He could have hauled us before the Wizengamot and made examples of us!” Arthur had snapped, a man pushed past his limits. “In fact, he’d probably love nothing more than to do so. When Dumbledore tried to reinstate the Order of the Phoenix, he asked us to join, after all.”

“Then why hasn’t he done it already?” Molly had asked archly. “In your rush to throw yourself on the Chief Warlock’s mercy, did you ever ask yourself that?”

“Maybe I didn’t,” Arthur had admitted, words that caused Molly’s eyes to flash angrily. “But do you really want to spit in the face of a man who could destroy you and your entire family when he’s giving you a way out?”

“Lily wasn’t afraid to.” Molly’s reply had come in a terrible whisper far more cutting than anything she could have shouted. “Neither was James.”

“And look what happened to them! They died. Died meaninglessly, with their son becoming an orphan! Is that really what you want, Molly?” the man has asked, his expression twisted with anguish. “To fight when we have no chance, and lose everything? To leave our children alone because we didn’t know when to give up?”

“Arthur…”

“Lucius is giving us a way out. A way to stay out of Azkaban. A way to watch our children grow up, without them being ashamed that their parents went to prison.”

“How do you know he’ll keep his word?” his wife had asked him. “Lucius Malfoy is a slimy, sleazy…”

“…because we’d owe him. And that makes us useful,” Arthur said grimly. “That’s why I don’t want our sons involved. Sure, they might get us a better deal, but then they’d owe him, and I don’t want that kind of debt hanging over their heads.”

“And all we have to do is give up our home.”

The Weasley patriarch sighed, shaking his head.

“…yes.”

“Fine, but…Hogwarts?”

“Let’s face it, Molly, our children and I spend more time there than at the Burrow anyway. For them, Hogwarts might as well be their home.”

“But…” She’d been about to say that without a kitchen, how would she teach Ginevra to cook, but that was a minor thing in the end, compared to what they still had. “Well…alright.” Her shoulders had slumped, with the woman seeming old and defeated. “If you really think that’s what is best.”

“Sadly? I do.”

That had been only a week ago, and the pain was still fresh. He took some small comfort in the fact that his students enjoyed his lessons, in the fact that he was getting better as a teacher, in the fact that the Twins, Ginny, and even Ron seemed to be growing up well, but…even so, the thought of telling his children was...heartbreaking.

“Are you alright, Professor?” Hillard inquired, a friendly hand steadying the older man.

“I’ve been better admittedly,” the Charms Professor answered, with a ghost of a smile. “I’ve just been going through a lot lately.”

“Mm.”

“Ah, that reminds me,” Shinji said as he finished going over lesson plans for third year and below. “I have something for you.”

“Besides my lessons plans, you mean?” the man asked dryly.

Instead of replying, Shinji just withdrew a pair of VIP Tickets to the Quidditch World Cup from his mokeskin pouch and handed them to the Professor. He’d received these from Lucius Malfoy as a courtesy for his assistance with the politics of determining the TriWizard Tournament’s location, but he didn’t really need them.

And with everything else going on, he thought the Charms Professor was mostly likely to have a use for them, given how strongly a love of Quidditch ran in the Weasley family.

Professor Weasley took the tickets – and the lesson plans – with a nod, glancing over them briefly as he—and then his eyes went back to the tickets.

“These are…!” he breathed. “Tickets to the Quidditch World Cup?” And not just tickets, he realized, but VIP tickets for the Top Box, the very best seats of all, reserved for the Ministers of the two teams in the finals, the commentator, and other privileged guests.

With only 20 seats available, the price of such tickets was staggering, with each one costing more than he would make in an entire year – no, five years! – as a Professor. If he was still part of the Ministry, perhaps he could have obtained such tickets from one of his friends in Magical Games and Sports, but…it wasn’t likely.

And now Matou Shinji was just giving him two? This kind of generosity simply beggared belief…

‘…though this is the boy who bought the Black estate…’

“So they are,” Shinji confirmed, seeming quite indifferent to the cost. “I’m not going to be in Britain this summer, and with how much your family loves Quidditch, I thought you could use them more than I could. Consider it a thank you for your lessons this year, and for being a good teacher.”

“I…” For once in his life, Arthur Weasley was utterly speechless. With tickets, along with those from the Twins, who would likewise be out of Britain, he, his wife, and those of his children still in the country – Ginny, Ron, Percy (and his girlfriend Penelope) – would all be able to attend the Cup in once in a lifetime splendor. “I don’t know what to say.”

“Thank you is usually appropriate,” Shinji quipped, with the man chuckling once.

“Well…thank you, Matou.”

100%

Before they knew it, the appointed day was upon them: March 14, 1994 – otherwise called White Day, almost two years to the day after the ill-fated quest for the Philosopher’s Stone, with the Stone Cutters gathered in Founders’ Tower, suited up in their robes and enchanted garments, doing last minute checks on their equipment.

The Twins were filling a few last vials with potions for the battle ahead, brews to enhance stamina, healing, strength and sharp thinking, antidotes to any number of poisons, explosive potions in case they got backed into a corner and more.

Harry was fiddling with his new glasses, a set he’d ordered from a lens crafter in Hogsmeade, modeled after Muggle sports goggles to provide both eye protection – and more importantly, to stay on his head in the thick of battle.

There would be no telling how bad things got tonight, and he intended to see things though to the end.

Hillard was looking out the window at the snow-covered grounds of Hogwarts, a smile on his face as he considered the conditions in which they were to fight.

The colder the better, given the colder it was, the worse the spiders would have it – with many of them not even awake yet, while they’d be quite comfortable in their enchanted, climate-charmed clothing and dragonhide robes.

Once more he was about to lead a team into a situation they might not return from, knowing that they chose to follow him of their own free will, that they trusted him despite what had happened two years ago. He hoped Sokaris forgave them for failing her then, and that if she was watching, she would wish them luck, wherever she was.

Still, at least they had allies. They were stronger than when they’d gone on their first adventure – and they’d even have Peeves with them, with the Poltergeist loaded down with weapons and explosive ofuda to fire at will.

The look of glee on the spirit of chaos’ face would have warmed Hillard’s prankster heart if this were any other day. But today, he had simply nodded and told the spirit to meet them outside the doors of the Great Hall, just after midnight.

He turned back to the room, smiling slightly as he saw Matou and Lovegood sitting side by side, dressed in their robes, reading through an edition of the Quibbler as they shared a steaming mug of hot white chocolate, with their familiars perched on their heads.

These were his friends.

His comrades.

His brothers in arms.

Those he trusted beyond all others, and those who trusted him.

“Weasleys, is everything is in place?” he asked quietly, moving over to where the twins were finishing the last of their potions.

“Yes, Robert.”

“To the best of our knowledge.”

“The barrier is ready.”

“Anything spiderlike will fry once we put it up.”

“Good work,” he said, clapping a hand on each of their shoulders. “At least we know they won’t escape, whatever else happens.”

The Head Boy walked onwards, coming to stand beside Shinji and Luna, who looked up at him with curious expressions on their faces.

“Have you two decided?” Hillard inquired.

“Yes,” Luna answered. “I’ll begin fused with Pandora.”

“And I’ll hold my trump in reserve, should we need it,” Shinji added. “With the added mobility and power of my equipment, I should be fine.”

“See that you are. I trust you two to know your abilities best.”

And then Robert Hillard made his way over to the Boy-Who-Lived, who looked up at his approach.

“Is it time, Robert?”

“Just about, Harry. Are you ready?” the seventh year asked of his young friend.

“If I said no, would it matter?” Harry joked, a pained smile crossing his lips for just a moment, before it was gone. “It’s harder this time, you know. After what happened…”

“I know, Harry. I know.” The Head Boy sighed, shaking his head. “But no, I guess it wouldn’t. We have to do this before the weather thaws, or it will be impossible, and that takes a little more time than what is merely very difficult.”

“Right. Besides, I was the one who suggested going after them in the first place, right?” the Boy-Who-Lived asked. “At least Voldemort isn’t involved this time.”

“Well, that’s one hell of a bright side, Harry.”

And with that, Hillard broke away.

“In case I don’t get to say this later,” Robert said, his voice pitched to carry to the room as a whole, a soft smile on his face as he looked over the faces of his brothers-in-arms, those who had fought beside him, those who would march with him even into hell itself. “It’s been an honor and a privilege knowing each and every one of you. What we’re about to do some would call impossible, and others would call mad. But we – we are Stone Cutters, for us, the difficult is easy – the impossible just a little harder.”

As their de facto commander, he met their eyes, one after another, nodding as he recognized their contributions, their dedication, and all they had brought.

“For months we have prepared for what is to come. For months we have drilled, relentlessly training for the trials before us. For months we have honed our skills, helping one another, testing one another, helping one another grow. And if a day may come when our courage fails, when every one of our skills, surprises, and powers is not enough, it will not be this day. A day may come when fangs and feet and howls loom over shattered wands and torn robes, when all we have fought for is lost, but that is not this day. For this day we fight! Stone Cutters, are you with me?”

The answering roar stirred his blood and made him very proud.

“Then let us go. Kizzy!”

With a crack, the house-elf appeared, wide-eyed and bowing.

“How can Kizzy be helping young masters?”

“Take us out.”

Another crack sounded, and with that, the Stone Cutters vanished.

100%

Looking out over the battlements of Hogwarts at the snow-covered world below, Gilderoy Lockhart was the only one who witnessed the Stone Cutters appearing outside the door of the Great Hall, six hooded figures in charcoal grey robes – joined by one spirit of chaos – marching with grim purpose towards the Forbidden Forrest, where their destiny awaited.

“Theirs not to make reply, / Theirs not to reason why, / Theirs but to do and die,” he murmured as he watched them go, quoting from a poem over a century old.

Somehow, it seemed appropriate…

…as into the hollow of death, strode the six hunters.

100%

Choice 99: We are embarking on the spider raid. Do we down our vial of Felix Felicis?

[ ] Yes. If there was ever a time we needed liquid luck on our side, now would be it.
[ ] No. We might need it later, for the final Potions challenge.

mr_Trickster
December 1st, 2015, 08:22 AM
Once again we are presented with a choice of benefits now versus long-term plans.

So we're looking at getting the best possible chance to succeed in our little endeavor here or have the best possible chance of getting the potions championship. From what we see, it seems that we are as prepared as prepared can be with regards to this event, and there is little else we could have done to better prepare for this than we already have. Our preparations have given us supplies, armor, enhancements, skills, and even traps to stack every odd in our favor. We also might want to consider that - as mentioned in chapter 34 when we were fighting the Twins, we're only getting the potions championship as a chance to prove ourselves to Sokaris once, and we have far more to lose - and gain, then.

[x] - No. We might need it later, for the final Potions challenge.

Veldril
December 1st, 2015, 08:31 AM
Six against almost a thousand of spiders at a size of a cart horse that can kill you just by a single bite? Also, a boss that is at least twice that size and more powerful?

[x] Yes. If there was ever a time we needed liquid luck on our side, now would be it.

You can't prove anything to anyone if you are dead, period. Unless we have an anti-army Noble Phantasm, we need everything we can get in order to survive.

saki
December 1st, 2015, 10:28 AM
[x] No. We might need it later, for the final Potions challenge.
1) To use it now would be to cheapen the feeling of victory.
2) Shinji may need it for when he is facing alone against Harry. (Im betting all into wining the championship)
3) They are armed to the teeth and full of strategies. Lets see how that goes.
4) In the struggle Shinji may get a new power up.

skulkidcachi90
December 1st, 2015, 10:38 AM
[X] No. We might need it later, for the final Potions challenge.

I the worst case, shinji can get a new power up like Fusion Level 2 or another thing.

mangafreak7793
December 1st, 2015, 01:07 PM
[ ] No. We might need it later, for the final Potions challenge.

alfheimwanderer
December 1st, 2015, 04:35 PM
I the worst case, shinji can get a new power up like Fusion Level 2 or another thing.

Its not a wise thing to just assume you'll get an extra power up, especially without luck on your side, now is it?

Nanao-kun
December 1st, 2015, 05:02 PM
[X] Yes. If there was ever a time we needed liquid luck on our side, now would be it.

Can't take the Potions Challenge if we're dead.

mAc Chaos
December 1st, 2015, 05:09 PM
Its not a wise thing to just assume you'll get an extra power up, especially without luck on your side, now is it?

lol I hate when players in RPs I DM think like that, they inevitably get fucked and then get butthurt over their metagaming.

"cmon lets jump headfirst off this cliff"
"i dont think thats a wise idea"
"MAC WON'T KILL US"
splat

Magus
December 1st, 2015, 05:30 PM
[x] Yes. If there was ever a time we needed liquid luck on our side, now would be it.

Can people not see the flag here? Go in without luck, and someone will end up maimed or dead in spite of all of our preparations. No plan survives contact with the enemy.

Also, there is no "cheapening the feeling of victory". Either everyone lives and we accomplish our objective (victory), or somebody dies, which we can count as defeat. And of course, the death wouldn't go undiscovered. I wouldn't be surprised if we could get expelled for such a reckless raid, or otherwise put on the thinnest ice.

mAc Chaos
December 1st, 2015, 05:40 PM
Well, I think a death might be inevitable either way.

The question is, is the extra suffering worth losing the added edge in the Potions Championship or whatever if we save our resources for later. Assuming we actually still succeed.

skulkidcachi90
December 1st, 2015, 06:05 PM
Its not a wise thing to just assume you'll get an extra power up, especially without luck on your side, now is it?
I was joking, I can not believe than people actually think than power ups work in that way.
Well still think than we have to use the Potion of luck in the last potions challenge, I have the feeling that harry is gonna use that potion too.

Omida
December 1st, 2015, 06:05 PM
[X] Yes. If there was ever a time we needed liquid luck on our side, now would be it. - Extra edge in potions competition would be nice, but 1) we won't have Liquid Luck with us during Championship (it's probably banned anyway) and 2) Sion would be angrier at Shinji dying than because he didn't make it to some silly international tournament.



After all, they’d faced worse odds before.

Oh, Harry, you just had to tempt fate, did you?


Since I didn't get the time previously, I would like to say few things about previous chapter in addition to this one.

1. Ron

I would like to think of year three as Ron's character arc. He finally grows up and realizes his potential. Also, he finally achieves his dream. Dream, that I believe even in canon remained out of his reach. Ron finally made his mark on the world, independly of his family, on his own merit. That he believes he isn't worthy of it yet is nice touch. Also: Ron and Su Li. I can get behind this ship.

2. Zouken

Granda is scheming schemer that is up to no good. Even if he has a suspicion he forgot about something important. Bad Zouken! You shouldn't forget your waifu. Also, Shinji had great luck to be in Hogwarts right now while Einzberns sent their homunculi hit squad.

3. Shirou/Shiroe

Nothing really important to the greater plot, but it's nice to see what came of Shinji's friend. So he still isn't completely screwed by Avalon, eh? Wonder if Shirou will decide to get it our or not.


Now, about this chapter.

Or, to be precise, about Arthur. Lucius finally screwed over him in a way that he cannot really argue is wrong. Also, nice to see that this time Wizarding World isn't all about Expansion Charms being answer to everything but a piece of highly regulated magic. And Arthur's argument with Molly. He is more accepting of reality, more ready for a world without Dumbledore while Molly still cannot really fathom idea. This is a man that loves his family. Your sworn enemy offers you a way out of trouble that wouldn't makes your children miserable? He grits his teeth and takes it. Now, where will Weasleys move to? Shinji could offer Grimmauld as temporal lodgings, though I doubt it's answer. Would staying at Hogwarts even be an option for them?

alfheimwanderer
December 1st, 2015, 06:18 PM
Or, to be precise, about Arthur. Lucius finally screwed over him in a way that he cannot really argue is wrong. Also, nice to see that this time Wizarding World isn't all about Expansion Charms being answer to everything but a piece of highly regulated magic.

The regulation of Extension Charms is actually canon. Britain is pretty strict about what can be manufactured or used, even pre-Voldemort. You may recall that part of Lockhart's beef with the Ministry, is how it places artificial constraints upon magic, economy, and other such. Specifically, he detests the fact that with the tools available to wizardkind, they should be a post-scarcity society, but in their desire to ape Muggle custom (as much as they claim to disdain it), they use restrictive laws to maintain poverty and their version of a social order.


And Arthur's argument with Molly. He is more accepting of reality, more ready for a world without Dumbledore while Molly still cannot really fathom idea. This is a man that loves his family. Your sworn enemy offers you a way out of trouble that wouldn't makes your children miserable? He grits his teeth and takes it. Now, where will Weasleys move to? Shinji could offer Grimmauld as temporal lodgings, though I doubt it's answer. Would staying at Hogwarts even be an option for them?

Flitwick would have to OK it, but he's pretty easygoing, all things considered, and the castle does have space for more people than it currently houses. At max, it can probably accommodate around 3000 people - and they're using a fraction of that space, at best. Now, they wouldn't be able to bring most of their things of course, but its all they really have on short notice.

skulkidcachi90
December 1st, 2015, 06:38 PM
2. Zouken

Granda is scheming schemer that is up to no good. Even if he has a suspicion he forgot about something important. Bad Zouken! You shouldn't forget your waifu. Also, Shinji had great luck to be in Hogwarts right now while Einzberns sent their homunculi hit squad.


Maybe Zouken is gonna remember his waifu if Shinji talk with him about Ilya in person, If that is a posibility is gonna be really funny see how Zouken is gonna react to such pleaseant memory.


3. Shirou/Shiroe

Nothing really important to the greater plot, but it's nice to see what came of Shinji's friend. So he still isn't completely screwed by Avalon, eh? Wonder if Shirou will decide to get it our or not.

Really? the posibility of shirou taking off avalon sound like something really important for the Plot in the future.

Nephirin
December 1st, 2015, 08:22 PM
[x] No.

Gotta save that liquid luck for the potion of all potential in the Championship. Literally a requirement if we want to brew that.

EnigmaticFellow
December 1st, 2015, 08:49 PM
[X] No. We might need it later, for the final Potions challenge.

There's a problem with using the luck potion when in a group. The potion does not really boost luck; it just confers to the drinker the feeling of which actions are correct in order to get the most fortunate outcomes. This could be problematic due to the other members not being able to understand why Shinji would be performing certain actions. From the outsiders perspective, a person who drinks the luck potion would seem utterly ridiculous.

Magus
December 1st, 2015, 08:52 PM
[X] No. We might need it later, for the final Potions challenge.

There's a problem with using the luck potion when in a group. The potion does not really boost luck; it just confers to the drinker the feeling of which actions are correct in order to get the most fortunate outcomes. This could be problematic due to the other members not being able to understand why Shinji would be performing certain actions. From the outsiders perspective, a person who drinks the luck potion would seem utterly ridiculous.

But then doing those actions would prove unlucky in the user's eyes, and so Felix Felicis wouldn't encourage them.

Caster
December 1st, 2015, 10:54 PM
I'll vote no. I don't think it's going to be an instant death deal, just that it's more chancy. It's also a potion, it should be easy to down it if needed.

Veldril
December 1st, 2015, 11:53 PM
I'll vote no. I don't think it's going to be an instant death deal, just that it's more chancy. It's also a potion, it should be easy to down it if needed.

The problem is that the choice implies that if you are not going to drink it, you are not going to drink it the whole fight. So it is either drink it, or not drink it at all even if they are going to die.

Caster
December 1st, 2015, 11:56 PM
That makes little sense though. I'd like to know why that is then Alf.

Veldril
December 2nd, 2015, 12:01 AM
It was just a guess so I might be wrong. But I would say it is due to the mechanic of the game we are playing. Like in VN, we make a choice and then deal with the consequence at the extreme level. If there is a third option, then it would also be presented to us along the line "save the potion until we are truly need" something like that.

Caster
December 2nd, 2015, 12:24 AM
Given we've added options in the past even if they aren't listed I wouldn't stress on it too much. It's how we got the Grey Lady as a consul off the top of my head. I'm just trying to find out if there is some reason. Given it is a potion it can't really be that time consuming to take it.

alfheimwanderer
December 2nd, 2015, 12:27 AM
Well also, if things really get bad, what makes you think drinking it then is going to help? The way Shinji sees it, he should either start with the effective Instinct boost or not at all. Beyond a certain point, it's not going to help, and once you're in combat how do you know if you've reached that point?

Healing potion or antidote, fine. But if you're the type to save up a powerful potion or item until you "absolutely need it", chances are you won't end up using it at all, due to never being sure.

mAc Chaos
December 2nd, 2015, 12:58 AM
[x] Yes.

The benefit of it in the future is very vague, while we can use it right away now. Chances are without it there might be some death that has long term consequences. Meanwhile Lockhart is singing our funeral dirge. He'll probably judge our results too after spending all this time grooming them for leadership.

Caster
December 2nd, 2015, 01:01 AM
I'm that type but I still use them when I need it. It's usually pretty easy to gauge how and when to use an item for best effect. Proper management of resources is pretty important in RPGs in general. Seems kind of odd to label it as all or nothing to me. *shrugs* But I won't press the issue.

alfheimwanderer
December 2nd, 2015, 01:06 AM
I'm that type but I still use them when I need it. It's usually pretty easy to gauge how and when to use an item for best effect. Proper management of resources is pretty important in RPGs in general. Seems kind of odd to label it as all or nothing to me. *shrugs* But I won't press the issue.

In a RPG, you have HP and MP bars, and information about your party and your party members is easy to visualize. You do realize Shinji does not have any of these little enhancements that make it easy for us to gauge when to use an item?

mAc Chaos
December 2nd, 2015, 01:07 AM
Argh, didn't realize the choice actually MENTIONS the potions challenge. I thought everybody was just pulling that out of a hat as something it might be useful for.

alfheimwanderer
December 2nd, 2015, 01:11 AM
Its for the final Challenge, not the Championship. As in what you will have to do vs Harry.

Kelnish
December 2nd, 2015, 01:16 AM
Shots shots shots shots. Drink everything as soon as you can!

Nephirin
December 2nd, 2015, 02:45 AM
Its for the final Challenge, not the Championship. As in what you will have to do vs Harry.

Huh, weren't you saying in IRC awhile back that it was needed to brew the Potion of All Potential? Will we get more felix for the actual Championship?

alfheimwanderer
December 2nd, 2015, 02:53 AM
Will we get more felix for the actual Championship?

Yes

mAc Chaos
December 2nd, 2015, 03:19 AM
Wait, what's the difference between the final Potions challenge and the Championship? Aren't they the same thing.

alfheimwanderer
December 2nd, 2015, 04:36 AM
Wait, what's the difference between the final Potions challenge and the Championship? Aren't they the same thing.

Glad you asked!

Final Potions Challenge: The one to be held at the end of this year, where Shinji faces off against Harry for the title of Hogwarts Potions Champion, with the right to participate in the Wizarding Schools Potions Competition, and a number of interesting privileges.

Championship: The Wizarding Schools Potions Competition, where the Potions Champions from each school compete to determine the best upcoming Potioneer in the world - the true Potions Champion.

mAc Chaos
December 2nd, 2015, 05:14 AM
Ah, so we have to beat the Potions Challenge to even get the right to go to the Championship.

If Shinji loses that and Harry wins, does that mean Shinji can't even travel to the Championship?

Also how much time of the year is left before this final Challenge?

alfheimwanderer
December 2nd, 2015, 05:38 AM
If Shinji loses that and Harry wins, does that mean Shinji can't even travel to the Championship?

If you are his Second, you would be allowed to attend the Championship as an observer - unless Harry is incapacitated and rendered unable to compete before the competition begins, in which case you'd take his place. As an observer, you'd be restricted to the public facilities, not allowed into the part of the isle where most of the interesting stuff is.

Keep in mind that how difficult the challenge will be really depends on the approach Shinji takes. If he tries to brew a potion and match his friend's prowess in that area, he might very well lose. His best bets would either be to beat Harry to the ingredients (if there are stashes, which there might not be), or to engage the Boy-Who-Lived in battle and defeat him, as unconscious people cannot brew.


Also how much time of the year is left before this final Challenge?

Two months after the spider raid.

Cremela
December 2nd, 2015, 08:04 AM
[X] Yes

CHUG CHUG CHUG!!!

saki
December 2nd, 2015, 09:26 AM
Is harry going to use his??
If not Shinji may end up against a superior brewer and good fighter with tremendous luck on his side. He may not even be able to find Harry to fight him in the end.

Skull Leader
December 2nd, 2015, 10:59 AM
As much as it goes against my previous feelings on Harry vs Shinji at the potion championship, Sion is everything to Shinji. More than his life, more than his friends. I think the Shinji choice her is drink it at the final potions challange. He must do it for her. While all this will not matter if he or harry dies against the spiders, Shinji understands he lives in the Moonlit world. He understand a Magus walks a fine line with Death. Shinji and us have taken the spiders serious and have taken almost everything we could to try to win against them with minimum losses. No plan is perfect but we did our best. I leave Stonecutters to their fate, be it good or bad.

But Sion is everything

[X] No do not drink it, wait for the last challenge.

Mattias
December 2nd, 2015, 11:13 AM
[X]Use the Felix. I don't want to cheat in a contest against our friend. That's just a dick move.

Caster
December 2nd, 2015, 11:42 AM
Harry got a vial as well.

alfheimwanderer
December 2nd, 2015, 04:16 PM
​The vote is tied, 8-8.

Malgos
December 2nd, 2015, 04:35 PM
Drink it. This is Quirrell's challenge all over again, being reckless and greedy might cost something for real this time. Also I'd like to think that Harry, given his emotional scars from last time, would also drink his potion to raise the chances of everyone making it. Although I don't really care if he does or not. In the end protecting Shinji's comrades is more important to me.

All That Is Left Unsaid
December 2nd, 2015, 05:51 PM
Drink it now.

Aodyssey
December 2nd, 2015, 05:57 PM
Punching in for [x] Drink.

Cassius
December 2nd, 2015, 06:06 PM
[x] No. We might need it later, for the final Potions challenge.

Kuroyuki
December 2nd, 2015, 06:25 PM
[ ] No. We might need it later, for the final Potions challenge.

Something something ulterior motive for creating the Potion of ALL Potential at the Potion Competition

skulkidcachi90
December 2nd, 2015, 07:19 PM
[ ] No. We might need it later, for the final Potions challenge.

alfheimwanderer
December 2nd, 2015, 07:27 PM
[ ] No. We might need it later, for the final Potions challenge.

You already voted.

skulkidcachi90
December 2nd, 2015, 07:46 PM
You already voted.
Sorry For a moment I believe than we were voting again.

Cassius
December 2nd, 2015, 09:00 PM
Huh, weren't you saying in IRC awhile back that it was needed to brew the Potion of All Potential? Will we get more felix for the actual Championship?Yes

Changing vote:
[x] yes

KageX
December 2nd, 2015, 09:02 PM
[X] Yes. If there was ever a time we needed liquid luck on our side, now would be it.

Nephirin
December 3rd, 2015, 02:47 AM
Yes


Glad you asked!

Final Potions Challenge: The one to be held at the end of this year, where Shinji faces off against Harry for the title of Hogwarts Potions Champion, with the right to participate in the Wizarding Schools Potions Competition, and a number of interesting privileges.

Championship: The Wizarding Schools Potions Competition, where the Potions Champions from each school compete to determine the best upcoming Potioneer in the world - the true Potions Champion.

Oh, okay, my misunderstanding. I thought we were hanging onto it for the Championship. In that case I'm changing my vote to
[x]Drink up now.

alfheimwanderer
December 3rd, 2015, 05:19 AM
[x] Yes. If there was ever a time we needed liquid luck on our side, now would be it.

100%

Writing is in progress for Chapter 41: Master of Death

saki
December 3rd, 2015, 08:26 AM
This better give shit loads of money.

I feel that now the pace yyour write your stories is increasing. Were you waiting for us to make all the votes relevant to the Spiders raid?

Veldril
December 3rd, 2015, 11:08 AM
I ain't gonna lie, the next chapters about the raid is really hyped up for me. Now, let's just hope for the best!

By the way, any recommended BGM for the chapters? I think I will listen to F/HA's Outbreak and War while reading the next chapter :P

mAc Chaos
December 3rd, 2015, 12:50 PM
> Master of Death

Sounds triumphant, a callback to the title.

alfheimwanderer
December 4th, 2015, 06:16 AM
Chapter 41. Master of Death

Screams of pain echoed through the night as orbs of blue flame swooped down again and again, searing through the narrow waists of the Acromantulae it hit and cleaving the spiders in twain, separating the segment of their bodies which held their brains, fangs, and most of their legs…from that which held their hearts.

An odd quirk of spider anatomy was that their cephalothoraxes – their heads and chests – were connected to their abdomens by only a thin cylinder of tissue. This, of course, gave them extreme flexibility, allowing them to bring their spinnerets to bear – or to launch their attack of needlelike hairs without turning around, and for the most part, was a great advantage.

With their innate resistance to spells, after all, they were a terror to even well-trained wand wizards, as few, if any, were capable of exploiting their weakness.

…sadly for the Acromantula colony in the Forbidden Forest, Luna Lovegood in fusion form was one of those rare few, seeming the very angel of death herself as she floated above the earthworks erected by the Stone Cutters, raining death upon the evil-shaped forms swarming towards her comrades below.

Wind blades, orbs of fire, chain lightning – all these and more she used, thinning the endless stream of foes.

Below her, the hollow was a ruin, the ground melted in places, scorched, caved in and cratered from some titanic blast, littered with pieces of hundreds of Acromantulae, walking carcasses that had been cut up, seared, half-melted by the fiery onslaught.

They screamed, but their comrades could not spare a moment, as they skittered over the corpses of the fallen towards the mirror-smooth walls of the Stone Cutters’ redoubt, seeking vengeance against the hated humans who had brought them death, hurling themselves forward.

…only to be slaughtered themselves.

Some – the lucky ones – were engulfed in fireballs that tore apart their bodies before they had time to even realize what had happened.

Others suffered longer, as spikes of stone shot out of the ground and ripped through their heads, piercing their brains and vital organs, pinning them in place as they thrashed and screamed and died.

Yet others met their end at the hands of a madly cackling poltergeist with jet-black knives, its blades hissing as they pierced the meagre protection of the arachnids’ carapaces and ripped apart the long tubes just beneath the surface of their abdomen that served as their hearts, dark blue blood splattering on the ground as their limbs weakened and gave way.

The few – the very few – who managed to reached the walls and begin their ascent, slamming their legs into the surface of the newly transfigured stone found their legs cut out from under them, as their limbless bodies fell shrieking back into the encroaching mass below, only to be trampled underfoot by an endless tide of fangs and claws.

How many had they killed? Matou Shinji didn’t know. He didn’t want to know, as he hurled yet another Acromantula from the walls with his two wands, a sharpened stake of stone rising to meet it as it fell, running it through with a sound lost in the din.

He just knew that however many it had been, there were still more, as he downed a vial of Wiggenweld Potion, sighing as he felt a second wind take hold. As he knew that if he was down there, among the spiders, he would have been long dead.

For though his wyvernhide armor would turn fang and claw and needle hair, though it was impervious to venom, resisted fire, cutting wind, and spells, it would not protect him from the sheer physical force of a blow.

And while fusion could, making him nigh invulnerable for as long as he was joined with his familiar, the Matou scion knew he was no master of the technique.

The longest he’d managed at a time was a few hours without combat, and if his protections should falter for even a single moment while he was down in that charnel house…

A fell shudder ran down his spine at the thought.

Some things weren’t worth thinking about.

He broke from his reverie in time to blast yet another spider from the walls, though for every one he took down, another took its place.

Eventually, even the best of them would tire. And if that happened…

“Hanging in there, Matou?”

The distraction of Hillard’s voice was welcome, though the older teen’s fatigue was evident from his stance.

“Still alive,” Shinji replied tersely. “The two vials of Girding Potion I took beforehand helped. Strengthening Solution as well.”

Foul-smelling and foul-tasting as Girding Potion may have been, the golden liquid had granted him extra endurance for a number of weeks, much as the turquoise liquid of strengthening solution boosted his magical ability in terms of the amount of prana he could use and his prana regeneration rate – something he found quite welcome at this time.

“And whatever else you took to come up with your mad plan of moving the redoubt forward like this,” Hillard noted grimly, shaking his head. “I had thought to enter and exit the barrier of runes so we could rest, not to engage the entire host at once! Still, there is something to be said about forcing them to come at us instead of having to hunt them down in their burrows. I hadn’t been much looking forward to that.”

“To be honest, neither was I,” Shinji said dryly, as he handed a number of earth-elemental ofuda to Peeves, who had come up to the Tower for replacements for the depleted mines about its base.

“Anything else you can give to ol’ Peevesey?” The spirit of discord grinned, his insubstantial body glowing faintly blue in the darkness of the witching hour. There was no moon tonight, only the cold light of the stars, and many hours before the dawn. “Any more implements of destruction and death?”

The Boy from the East chuckled and handed Peeves a few orbs of compressed explosive ofuda.

“Of course Peeves. Give ‘em hell.”

“Better yet, I’ll send ‘em to it!” the poltergeist crowed with something that resembled a salute, as he floated from the several meter tall walls and down to the killing field below, where the frenzied spiders rushed at him, eager to have something they could rip and tear and shred…only for him to go insubstantial, leaving nothing behind but a glowing orb that—

BOOM!

—exploded in their faces, stunning them all as he cut them to the quick, their bodies collapsing as he stabbed them over and over and over, allowing him to break free and go on his merry way, laying earth-elemental mines haphazardly as he went.

Up above, Hillard watched Peeves curiously.

“You know, it might be just me, but I think he’s enjoying this far too much,” the Head Boy remarked, given the maniacal glee with which the poltergeist cut down his foes, indulging the burning hunger for chaos and destruction that was its very nature.

“It’s keeping me alive. I’m not complaining,” Shinji shot back, with Hillard conceding the point.

“Between him and Lovegood, few enough make it to our redoubt’s walls, and the smell of death and fire…it must terrify them.”

“Doubt it,” Harry interjected, as Sectumsempra – one of the most powerful spells in his arsenal – cut a rearing spider in two, after it had been swarmed by a dozen miniature dragons and set aflame. “Probably just makes them angry. Angry enough to keep coming at us, whatever the cost. Well…as long as Lovegood can hold out above, anyway.”

The Boy-Who-Lived glanced at Shinji, as he himself had no idea how long Lovegood could last in fusion form, given the devastation she was wreaking on their enemy’s ranks. Given that he’d never seen Shinji use it himself, he hadn’t imagined it wasn’t something that could be maintained for hours, but since the beginning, the fox-eared girl hadn’t let up for a moment.

“She’ll hold,” Shinji answered without a trace of doubt. “You doing alright yourself, Harry? You’ve been using that cutting spell a lot, though your aim is even better than usual.”

“…my arm is getting a bit tired,” Harry admitted, rubbing his right arm as he felt the soreness spread. “As for my aim…well, thank Felix.”

“Felix?” Shinji echoed, raising a slim eyebrow, his face illuminated now and then by the flashes of explosions from below and the runic barrier above. “You took yours tonight too, eh?”

“Naturally. We’re outnumbered more than a hundred to one, and I’m not about to let any one of us die tonight if there’s anything I can do to stop it. Not when this…” he gestured at the wide sweep of earth below, with enormous spiders crawling over every inch. “Coming here at all was my idea. Just like first year.”

He turned back to the wall, two ofuda shooting from his sleeves into the maw of yet another spider and blowing it away with a muffled whump-BOOM, with Shinji critically noting the shattered head of the Acromantula – and that in all likelihood, the venom would be unsalvageable.

“Look, there’s more where that came from,” Harry huffed, avoiding Shinji’s gaze as he took note of the vast numbers issuing forth from subterranean burrows, so many that the ground was a roiling, gleaming mass of black, an unbroken wall of spiders.

“…I do believe you’re right about that,” Shinji conceded, though he glanced not at the horde coming towards them, but at the walls, which were still mirror smooth, despite the abuse they’d suffered.

‘How are you holding up, Zelkova?’ he asked of his familiar, given that the kodama, not he, had been the one to raise the works on which they stood – and who was healing the stone and maintaining the runic field, trapping the spiders in this prison of death – and preventing any from taking advantage of the footholds their brethren tore into the walls.

‘…so much death. So much fire. Such…destruction…’

The familiar’s reply…was not encouraging.

‘…are you alright, Zelkova?’ the boy hazarded, feeling a little concerned.

If his familiar faltered, if he proved unable to endure that had been asked of him, then these works would eventually crumble and the field would fall, with the Acromantulae making good their escape.

Shinji hadn’t worried been worried, given that Zelkova had always been a presence he found utterly dependable, no matter what the situation. Whether it was teaching him how to harness his elemental affinity, helping him learn to initiate fusion, or working with him in the various challenges posed to him by Snape, the kodama had never faltered even in the face of adversity.

Yet tonight, the kodama did not seem – did not feel – like himself.

What the Boy from the East was feeling across the link he shared with the spirit was odd, a sense of overwhelming anxiety, fear, despair greater than he’d ever felt before.

‘Zelkova?’ he repeated, more urgently now, his lips curving into a frown. ‘Talk to me. What’s wrong?’

But there was no answer, the silence of the link a stark counterpoint to the screams and shrieks and roars from the ground below, where hundreds of lives had already been extinguished – and there were hundreds more to kill.

The smell of copper and burnt flesh wafted upwards, carried upwards from arachnid corpses burned, slashed, impaled on spikes, ripped, crushed, and killed in dozens of increasingly brutal methods, but enemy’s advance did not cease, as wave upon wave came forward, climbing over the fallen, pincers hissing their fury.

Fire burned, orbs and blades tearing vast, gaping holes in their formations.

Explosions took yet more, along with spikes of earth that drilled through unsuspecting Acromantulae from below, leaving them to flail helplessly.

Miniature dragons swooped down, harrying them from above, herding them together so Luna – or Peeves – could exact a deadly price.

Yet they kept coming, with numbers enough to get past even those.

‘…it’s coming, Master,’ Zelkova replied at last, as a fierce blood-curdling cry swept over the field – and the spiders rushed forward, all restraint gone, holding no thought of escape, a black wave whose only goal was to kill.

100%

In the days leading up to the raid, the Stone Cutters had wracked their brains for ideas on how to make the initial approach, but had come up dry. Yes, they could get the runic field up, keyed to hurt only Acromantulae, but then what? They couldn’t just wait for the spiders to starve to death, for a number of reasons.

First, how much prana was needed to activate – and sustain – a field of this sort, especially if it did end up frying a number of magically resistant spiders. Second, if that were not an issue, the Acromantula colony had a known ally in Rubeus Hagrid, who would likely find a way to disable the field and investigate who had set it if they waited too long. Lockhart had agreed to run interference for one night, but...that was only for one night.

Third, even if they had unlimited prana and Hagrid never came to visit the colony, none of the Stone Cutters really wanted the spiders to turn to cannibalism to survive, mostly because that would mean a massive reduction in the amount of venom, silk, and other goods they could expect to recover.

…and given how much time, effort, and money (in Matou’s case) they had poured into this operation, none of them were willing to give up the prospect of a rather hefty return on investment.

Especially if the endeavor involved risking life and limb to begin with.

But try as they might, none of them had any brilliant ideas that were compatible with the scope of the operation.

Their reconnaissance parties had revealed well over a hundred spiders – close to two hundred – slumbering in the hollow, with considerably more hibernating in a network of tunnels that ran deep beneath the clearing.

In the simulations they’d ran, the group had managed to take out perhaps a score of those on the surface before the rest stirred to wakefulness, surrounding them, separating them…and overwhelming them, especially when those underground surged above to their brethren’s defense.

Those in fusion form managed to cut their way free, but saving their comrades had been an exercise in futility, given the vast numbers arrayed against them.

And no one would call an operation where four out of six died a success.

So a conventional ground assault had been ruled out, with the Twins being placed in charge of devising an alternative battle strategy.

They’d quickly realized that the only way that would give them even a chance of success was to neutralize the hostiles on the surface quickly, before they stirred to full awareness – and especially before those below could come to their aid.

But how?

While Peeves might be able to lay earth-elemental mines underneath each of the Acromantulae as they slept, there was no guarantee they wouldn’t wake before the spirit was done – and well, there was no guarantee Peeves would be any good at stealth either. One had to make allowances for the poltergeist’s personality, after all.

They’d considered having Matou simply command the earth to rise and impale the spiders while in his fusion form, but the Boy from the East had vetoed that idea, given that quite frankly, he’d never done something of that magnitude before, and a risky operation where everything depended on an untested variable was not the best time to try.

Even if it worked, he probably wouldn’t be able to hold Fusion for too long after that, which would limit his combat potential when the very large spiders showed up.

Having Lovegood whip up a conflagration that would burn them all to ash was also a possibility – but that posed issues as well, given that no one wanted to deal with a fire gone out of control, and that such an option would result in the total destruction of the potential wealth their foes’ corpses could offer.

They’d been alone in Founders’ Tower, trying to come up with some solution when Peeves had appeared, asking the Twins if they’d created any more tricksy implements of destruction and mayhem for him to carry, and something clicked.
Their specialty was transfiguration.

They didn’t have to defeat their enemy with a weapon they had – they simply had to imagine what could, and give it form.
A form…like a dragon.

Draconifors was, of course, their favorite spell, given that it let them create swarms of miniature drakes to harry opponents, swarm them, distract them while they prepared something else…but combined with something like remote untransfiguration, the spell had the potential to allow them to move large quantities of material into hazardous areas – like the Acromantula hollow - without putting themselves at risk.

They’d pulled in Matou for quick discussion of how his untransfiguration magic worked, and if he could infuse it in an ofuda so it could be used at a distance.

…and when that he could, they had smiled – at least, if an expression so utterly predatory could be described in such words.

Over the last two months, they’d set up a staging area in the woods, using the Reductor Curse to turn fallen branches – and the odd bits of broken furniture that Matou supplied from no one knew where – into sawdust. This dust was made impervious to moisture via the Impervius spell and then transfigured into miniature drakes via Draconifors, each of which were disillusioned and tagged with an ofuda that would undo the transformation after a given amount of time, before being sent off as…battlefield preparation.

So as the spiders had slumbered, deposits of sawdust began to form around the hollow. Just a little at a time, of course, without any sign of someone being present to deliver them, without any sight nor sound of something even remotely threatening to them.

Dust on the ground. Dust scattered over them, dust in their burrows, dust all around, building up and up…and up.

And then the night of the attack, the final flight had been launched, dozens upon dozens taking wing, led by a glowing blue figure which aroused some curiosity, but nothing in the way of threat as they positioned themselves around the clearing.

…until a powerful bounded field had flashed into existence, courtesy of Zelkova, and two explosions tore apart the silent night.

The first was a crack, releasing a wave of pure darkness, a pulse of power through the clearing, returning the drakes to the dust they’d been crafted from, particles of wood scattering through the air and forming a fine cloud, almost as if it was snowing.

In a way, it had almost seemed peaceful…until that cloud of sawdust was touched off by a second blast, a whump-BOOM of heat and light setting off a conflagration as the world shook.

The bounded field had gone black after that, with Luna coming up to Matou’s side and infusing the boundary with her yang prana, to be sure it would hold.

Save for Zelkova and Luna, those outside didn’t see – didn’t feel – the urgency, as they had anticipated something that would simply shock and awe the Acromantulae inside the field, burning and distracting them so they could not fight.

For the Twins could not have known – could not have anticipated just how powerful the effects of their improvised thermobaric weapon truly were. How could they? They had no frame of reference for such things, as they’d only ever seen combat through spells – and what they had just unleashed was something more potent than even the strongest Confringo.

The second blast detonated the cloud of airborne fuel, creating a massive blast wave that obliterated the spiders closest to it and kicked up the deposits of bone-dry sawdust the twins had taken such pains to create, igniting these as well, as blast wave after blast wave rocked the clearing…

…with the vacuum that followed collapsing the entrances to the underground burrows and causing the lungs of any spider so unfortunate as to survive the series of blast to rupture.

Violently.

And that was on top of the severe burns, the popping – and melting – of their eyes and guts…and hearts, and the way melted stone had seared through their bodies.

When the field finally had gone down, the hollow was a twisted ruin, the ground half melted, with embers smoldering as oxygen surged into the clearing, and every single spider in the clearing was dead.

Crushed, melted, hair burned off entirely, carapaces cracked wide open, with green-blue streaks around them where their blood had boiled away.

“…Merlin…” Fred had breathed, seeing what he had wrought with his own hands.

“What have we done?” George had asked, shaken by the sight of such utter destruction, as the air was filled with the sound of laughter from above, as Peeves materialized from the air, finding the sight of such destruction to be the most wonderful thing in the world.

Something which he and the twins had brought into being.

Never before had anyone encouraged him to indulge his nature as a spirit of chaos. Never before had anyone allowed him to wreak the sort of havoc he wished. Never before had he been allowed to be a part of something so…beautiful.

In the millennium that he’d existed, each of the caretakers had hated him in turn, as he presented a threat to their notions of order and cleanliness, fighting a bitter war against him they were destined to lose.

After all, he had all the time in the world, being amortal. He would exist as long as Hogwarts remained a school, empowered by the repressed desires and maliciousness of its students.

The caretakers had never stood a chance.

The teachers, come and go as they might, had had little patience for his antics, but there was little they could do to stop him. He was the incarnation of the wish for them to be humbled, after all, and every time a student bore a grudge against a professor, every time one felt he or she had been wronged, every time was one frustrated or humiliated, he grew stronger.

The Headmasters had grudgingly tolerated him as something that came with the castle, and he in turn had tolerated them.

Well, more than tolerated in the case of Albus Dumbledore, but then, as a spirit, he could sense the power of the man’s wand. Though he had never heard of the Deathly Hallows, he had known that provoking someone who wielded an artifact touched by Death itself was…unwise.

His fellow spirits…well, except for the Bloody Baron, Peeves could not care less about what they thought of him, though he admitted to himself that it had been nice to be feted as a hero after obliterating a troll. Most of the time, though, they either envied him for being able to touch and interact with the mortal world, or saw him as a nuisance whose behavior reflected badly on the ghosts of Hogwarts

The only ones who truly accepted him, who embraced him as an equal, not a tool, not a nuisance or embarrassment – were the Stone Cutters.

They made him a hero. They allowed him to wreak destruction the likes of which no one at Hogwarts had ever seen. They brought him in on their mad, mad schemes…and didn’t begrudge the occasional prank he played on them.

Well, too much, at any rate.

In the past, he’d had to limit his amusements to pranks. But they offered something more, something far more…fun.

“Peeves!”

“Mm?” the poltergeist had inquired solicitously, pausing in his merriment to look down at the Head Boy – the one who had called to him.

“Something for you, for when more spiders come,” the oldest of the youths had said, tossing him a jet-black blade, which the poltergeist deftly caught in one hand.

“Here, take mine too,” Matou had added, tossing him another of the lovely, lovely blades.

Robert reacted quickly, ordering the advance—

“Twins, pull back to the defensive line and get that runic barrier up now! Lovegood, mark the tunnels and prepare to suppress the enemy.”

—only for Shinji to countermand them.

“No. Twins, with me,” Shinji had ordered. “I’m going to raise a redoubt inside the barrier, so we can force the spiders to come to us. You can place the final anchor rune there.”

Hillard had opened his mouth to protest, but closed it, raising an eyebrow.

“…you can do that?”

Shinji had just nodded.

“Twins, will that work?”

“Well, theoretically—“

“—we see no reason it shouldn’t…”

“Huh. Alright, change of plan,” Hillard conceded. No plan survived contact with the enemy, after all. “Matou, get that redoubt raised. Peeves, get those ofuda mines in place. Harry, you and I will change whatever Matou raises into stone. Lovegood, suppression.”

‘Alright Zelkova, it’s up to you…’

‘As you say…’

They moved into position, with the twins drawing the final design they needed to prime and activate the runic barrier, as the ground where they stood rose into the air, extending about 4 meters above the ground.

There the rise of the area around them had stopped, save for the edges, which surged upward, forming a parapet to prevent any of them from falling, and the runic anchor itself, which rose with Fred and George higher into the another two meters as the barrier flashed into existence all around the hollow.

“It’s up.”

‘Zelkova, make your way to the anchor point. You can keep watch there.’

‘As you say…’ the spirit had seemed a bit worn, but Shinji had dismissed it, since the kodama was ever calm.

Luna Lovegood went airborne, light surrounding her form as orbs of blue flame surged towards the ground, drilling through the collapsed openings of the tunnels and shooting down below, as the night was filled with the sound of screams.

Before them, the ground ruptured, hundreds of spiders emerging from the earth below. Those that had tried to flee were ignored, with the arachnids flinging themselves upon the runic boundary and burning to a crisp.

The rest, though…the rest saw the shining figure of Luna Lovegood as an enemy, and the dark tower below her as the source of their pain, charging forward as the battle was joined.

100%

‘…it’s coming, Master.’

‘It? What does Zelkova mean?’ Shinji wondered, as the battle continued, with the redoubt standing like a mountain against an endless tide of darkness, as if they fought not individual spiders but some fell beast with a thousand fangs, a being of man’s darkest fears hissed and snarled and screamed.

Where one spider fell, another two took their place, as fast as – no – faster than they could kill, even as fireballs and blades of wind raked the oncoming swarm, filling the air with the acrid scent of burning blood and death.

How many had they killed?

None of the Stone Cutters knew for sure, just that their foes kept on coming, launching themselves forward without end…and that they themselves were tiring.

Harry’s wand arm was hurting now, as he’d been casting without rest for what seemed like hours – and might have been. Even with potions boosting his endurance and his prana, it did not eliminate the weakness of his all-too-human physiology.

“We’re out of explosive potions!” Fred called down from above. “Matou, we need more mines below!”

Shinji reached into his pouch to withdraw more of his earth elemental ofuda, only to find it nearly empty.

‘Oh hell…’

Gritting his teeth, he handed them to one of the Twins’ drakes, which swooped down into the melee to drop off its deadly cargo, with spikes of earth obliterating yet another rank of them as the Stone Cutters cheered.

‘It’s here.’

And then he had no time to think, as the world shook once more, and the redoubt tilted.

“What…?” Robert asked, startled.

And then it tilted even more, and his face grew pale. “Oh no…”

He knew what it had to be. Somehow or other, the spiders must have managed to get underneath their bastion, while still sending enough aboveground that the Stone Cutters had no reason to suspect anything had changed.

“Fred. George. Use your drakes and get clear, now!” he thundered, with the Twins looking down in shock. “They’re going to bring down the tower.”

“But if we get clear—“

“—what’s going to happen to the barrier?”

“Never mind that, worry about yourselves!” Hillard ordered. He was not going to lose anyone. Not now. Not again. “Matou!”

But Shinji was beyond hearing, as his sense of self faded. His shock, his anger, his worry – all of it purged, all of it gone, as he found himself approaching the hidden door within his mind – the door behind which lay every weakness, every fear, every vulnerability he had in life.

‘Zelkova. Are you…?’

‘I’m…right here,’ the voice answered faintly, as Shinji opened the door, and the world changed.

There was no Matou Shinji. There was no world.

All was one.

“Get clear!” he called out, his eyes flashing gold as he leapt from the redoubt, diving towards the heart of the swarm below, as a vicious-looking scythe appeared in his hand as he landed with a crash, his blade reaping a bloody harvest right, and left, before him, behind him.

He was surrounded, but that just made it easier for him for him to kill the enemy as he could attack in all directions, as a wave of spikes surged outwards from his position, tossing spiders into the air, impaling them, slamming them aside to clear a space on the ground for his fellows.

Above him, the others had grabbed onto the miniature drakes and were being carried clear – with volleys of needle-like hair being launched at them – needles that were deflected by robe and pants and boots, but found purchase on the transfigured objects, which were even now reeling from the additional weight.

“Spongify!” someone called out. “Spongify!”

A purple jet hit the ground, and two figures hit the ground, arms going up to protect their heads as they bounced once-twice-thrice, coming to a halt in a kneeling position as behind them, the redoubt tottered, wavered…and smashed into the ground with a thunderous crash, the runic field around the forest flickering out as its anchor shattered into pieces.

Two more figures came down, one in a combat ready crouch, the other landing at a bad angle as he just missed the spongy ground.

“Ugh,” Hillard grunted, as agony lanced through his legs. He couldn’t pay attention to that now. After all - more and more spiders were surging up from underground in all directions, on this battlefield which smelled of death. “Well, shit.”

The Acromantulae charged – and screamed as eight orbs of blue flame streaked down from above, blasting them away, with Luna Lovegood descending from the sky, fending off spiders on one side while Matou did the same on the other.

“Is everyone…?”

But Hillard’s query died unasked in his mouth as he saw the Twins’ expressions: hopelessly bleak.

They knew the simulations as well as he did – what the result would be if they were caught on the ground and there was no place to run – no chance for them to run. Even with Lovegood and Matou in fusion form protecting them, even with Peeves running around and slaughtering spiders willy-nilly, even with the others hurling spells as quickly they could, the enemy simply threw more and more at them.

Eventually, they would be overwhelmed – especially without the benefit of a defensive position.

Still…they would fight.

Sharp, fiery brilliance lanced from Luna’s form towards the ring of spiders, who hissed fearfully at it, stumbling backward into their brethren, backing up, backing up, backing up—into a jagged forest of stone spikes that lanced up through the ground to pierce them through, creating a temporary haven for the other members of the Stone Cutters.

“Luna, how’s your prana?” Matou Shinji asked, his voice taking on an odd timbre, as he bounded to the top of the spikes in a single swift movement.

“Adequate,” the blonde replied, as she floated into the air, with eight orbs of brilliant blue fire floating around her form. “Do you have a plan, Matou?”

“The wind you used against the doppelgangers, can you do it again?” the boy asked, as he brutally cut down a spider who dared to venture closer.

“Mm. It won’t get them all,” she said, her voice ethereal. “And you’ll need to shield them.”

“And as many as you can will be enough.” the Matou scion replied, launching the last of his ofuda into the air, where they were carried by the wind about the clearing – detonating all at once and turning night into day. Then, and only then, did a bounded field go up around the circle of spikes.

Luna Lovegood floated into the air, something shimmering about her form, growing brighter and brighter and brighter, until at a pulse, something surged forth.

Not just roiling waves of wind this time – but wind and flame together, a combination that raced outwards into the mob.

The closest spiders were simply obliterated, with nothing left behind but a fine blue-black mist. Those further out were melted and torn into pieces. Further yet, some were cut deeply and set aflame, bleeding out.

And some were mostly uninjured, but panicked at sheer amount of death the glowing form had wreaked.

How was this possible?

This…they had never encountered anything like this.

Oh, the Twins’ improvised attack had been worse, but that had killed everything it touched, with none left alive to spread news of its terror.

Unlike now, as what spiders remained aboveground turned to flee – but as they skittered for the edge of the hollow, found themselves cut down by a storm of arrows, aiming into a mob so tightly packed they could hardly miss, driving them back towards the Stone Cutters.

‘What…?’

Hillard, looking through the cracks, was dumbfounded.

Arrows? But that meant…

‘Centaurs? What are they…?’

Exhausted by that final surge of power, Luna Lovegood’s body slumped, the magic of fusion falling away from her as Matou dematerialized his scythe and sprang into the air to catch her gently, the bounded field fading as his concentration slipped.

With her in his arms, he landed inside the ring of spikes, gazing towards the onrushing mob, gauging his chances against them all.

“Take care of her,” he said to Hillard, as he sat an exhausted – unconscious – Luna against the wall of spikes.

The Head Boy had only grunted, as Shinji vaulted back across the mob and charged, his body blurring as he blinked in and out of solidity, cleaved through spiders left and right as centaurs thundered out of the forest and filled the air with arrows so numerous they blotted out the sky, herding the spiders together.

…had they…had they done the impossible?

Had they…won?

And then the ground beneath the ring of spikes gave way with a roar of utter fury, and Hillard was tossed aside, his body slamming into the ring wall with a sickening crunch, the wand flying from his hand at the force of impact.

With the last of his strength, he turned to see a spider larger than any that he had seen before – a large white Acromantula the size of an elephant – with a second going for Luna.

The twins and Harry were casting as quickly and furiously as they could, but their spells were doing nothing to these last creatures, with these two far more magically resistant than the others had been.

‘Matou…where’s…’

But Matou Shinji was pinned down, fighting a score of lesser beasts, and would not reach them in time, not before the spider struck.

Had they come so far to fall now…?

With its legs slamming the wall apart, the spider moved to loom over Hillard, its pincers dripping with corrosive venom.

“YOU WILL PERISH.”

The words were spat like an epithet, as it raised a leg to smash the boy flat – before a hooded figure exploded out of the night, preceded by a storm of blades.

Daggers like the ones they’d been given.

Each and every blade found purchase within a spider’s flesh, striking with an absurd amount of force, as the monstrous duo reared up, unprepared for such a sudden assault, and found themselves smashed backwards into the ground by the sheer power of the attack.

Blades slammed into – through – their legs, pinning them down so they couldn’t flee.

Blades ripping into their unprotected cephalothoraxes, stabbing through their guts into their brains.

Blades tearing into their abdomens, followed by a black-cloaked form who landed deftly on a spider and plunged a wrist-mounted blade its abdomen, as blood spurted everywhere.

“Noooo…the weak will per…,” one moaned, before it was silenced forever by a Reductor curse turning its insides to powder, its body shuddering as the spell’s effect spread. “Ara…a…gog.”

“Mosag, no!” the other spider cried out, unable to see, but fully able to smell the death of its mate as the assassin pulled his blade free and slowly made its way towards the other. “No. That’s not possible. You…who are you…?”

But the figure did not answer, simply repeating what he had done to the first spider, as the elephant-sized Acromantula – the one with whom the colony had begun – shuddered and went still.

“Indeed, the weak will perish, Aragog,” the figure uttered in a voice Hillard recognized, as the assassin slipped his hood back to reveal the solemn features of Gilderoy Lockhart. “And so this ends this twisted, tragic tale, does it not, Mister Hillard?” The man smiled ever so slightly. “As I said, Britain has no need of martyrs.”

Robert Hillard’s mouth worked open and closed for a number of seconds as his mind went blank.

Gilderoy Lockhart was certainly the greatest adventurer of Wizarding Britain, but what he had done just now was beyond the capability of any normal wizard Hillard knew of.

“How…?”

“…did you do that?”

The question came from the twins, and in response, Lockhart only chuckled.

“Practice, Weasleys. A great deal of it, I assure you. Though I have to say, I was rather impressed you managed to hold out this long,” the Assassin noted coolly, surveying the battlefield. “Perhaps I did not need to play on the Centaurs’ pride after all.”

“That…was you?” Hillard asked, his voice a whisper.

But centaurs…hated wizards. How had…?

“Naturally. I thought you could use the help, after all, and while they do not tend to intervene in wizard affairs, they will not endure the shame of sitting idle while young ones – foals – fight their battles for them.”

“Their battles?”

Lockhart only laughed.

“Of course, Mister Hillard, if the Acromantulae have not hunted humans – where else might they get their pound of flesh?”

“Oh…” Hillard said. “So they’ve been preying on…”

“Indeed,” Lockhart grunted, his face grim and determined as he saw the last of the spiders finished by a combination of the centaurs and the fused form of Matou Shinji, who had dispelled his scythe and regained his crown of branches as he bowed to them.

They paused at the sight of him, startled by the boy’s appearance and actions.

No wizard would bow to a centaur, after all. And with those horns and a blade fit for ushering souls to the worlds beyond…

“Cernunnos?” one whispered, swallowing, before the leader of the herd silenced him, cantering up and silencing the one who had spoken with a gesture.

“We have paid our debt,” the gruff voice of Magorian uttered, bowing in turn. “The wizard foals are now safe, as you have protected ours. May the Moon watch over you, hunter.“

“And forests keep you safe, child of Mars,” Matou Shinji replied as he straightened, his golden eyes looking at the centaur, whose eyes widened, and bowed more deeply.

With that, the herd departed, thundering off into the distance.

The Boy from the East watched them go, before returning to the ring of spikes and bidding them lower with a gesture, showing only mild surprise at the presence of Gilderoy Lockhart – as his attention was fixed on the two giant spiders the man had slain, and the presence of his unharmed comrades.

“I heard what you said, Professor,” the boy said solemnly. “Thank you.”

“No need, Matou.” The man said nothing else for a moment as he shook his head. “After all, I was never here.”

“…ah.”

“This event will be part of your legend. The legend of the Stone Cutters and their valour should it come to light. I have deeds enough without taking yours.”

“But…”

“However, there is a price.”

“Yes?”

“A debt, Matou Shinji,” the man said quietly. “A favor I may or may not ever demand in repayment. I think that is a fair enough price for your lives.”

The Stone Cutters said nothing, for what could they really say?

“For now however, it is time we deal with Rubeus Hagrid once and for all. The half-giant has visited enough misery upon this castle under Dumbledore’s purview. With his master gone, it is time for the tool to go as well.”

100%

Choice 100: After everything is said and done, Harry seems most troubled. He confides in you his unease about Hagrid - and the half-giant's reaction to the fact that the Harry and friends slew Aragog - and more than that - slaughtered the entire colony, when they would not have hurt anyone. After all, they had never hurt him.

So why had the Heir of Slytherin decided to sentence an innocent, harmless creature to death?

"I thought yeh would end up like yer parents," the half-giant said bitterly, grief, betrayal and fury writ across his face as he looked between the corpse of the Acromantula he had once raised - and the boy he had brought out of captivity. "But yeh turned out just like him."

"Him?"

"You-Know-Who," Hagrid grunted, his body shivering in the Great Hall. "Yeh must feel proud, slaughterin' the innocent, bein' a right mighty Slytherin, choosing who lives and who dies."

"Hagrid, I..."

"I don't know yeh. I don't want to know yeh, monster. Why did you even call me here, to taunt me? To show me what became of my old friend?"

"No. To wring a confession out of you," the voice of Lockhart spoke from the air, as a full squad of Aurors shrugged off their invisibility cloaks, pointing their wands at the half-giant. "Stand down, Hagrid."

"Heh. Just like him," Hagrid repeated, his entire body slumping at this betrayal from the boy who he rescued, who he had first brought to the wizarding world. "I shouldna brought you here. I shoulda left yeh with them."

After that, Rubeus Hagrid was placed under arrest and taken away, with the headline of the Daily Prophet featuring the half-giant who had used Hogwarts as his own personal menagerie, placing every student at risk - and the brave role played by the Harry Potter and the Stone Cutters in exposing his crimes and protecting the students of Hogwarts.

Harry doesn't really know how to feel about that. Lucius Malfoy has asked him if he has a preference for what he would like done with the criminal, but its hard for him to think about.

(choose one)

[ ] No preference. Let the system take its course - justice will be served
[ ] Ask for clemency on Hagrid's behalf - perhaps somehow, it would be possible for the half-giant to avoid Azkaban
[ ] Ask for the harshest punishment possible - after all, anyone who would create a colony of Acromantulae at Hogwarts despite the danger it poses to the students deserves nothing less.

Omida
December 4th, 2015, 06:51 AM
Great chapter.

Of course Harry would use his portion of Felix. And Lockhart is more and more eligible for Hassan. His is story of a name from the past. He hides behind legends of heroes, unsung, watching from shadows.

Also Peeves. Just Peeves. Cackling maniacally while murdering all around him. Alfheimwanderer did a great job at conveying exactly how alien he is in comparison to humans or even ghost. I would be afraid at what had we unleashed but he seems to like Stone Cutters.

Poor Harry, Hagrid just flat out compared him to man who murdered his family and one of his best friends (as far as he knows about Sion).

EDIT:
[X] No preference. Let the system take its course - justice will be served - While I lean more towards asking for lenience, skulkidkachi has apoint. Arthur Weasley was forced to confront his mistakes. Yes, Arthur was offered a deal but he was completely aware he was breaking law and he was, at the time, Ministry official so Lucius already shown great deal of good will (even if he benefits from it in some way). Hagrid is actually worse. He already was in trouble for that dragon during first year. I doubt Lucius' leniency in this matter would be cheap. Especially as the incident is probably already public. So the best bet would be to play 'everybody must answer for their crimes' card, even if there are people who know just how laughable it can be (Lucius, Arthur, Shinji himself, Lockhart and probably few others).

skulkidcachi90
December 4th, 2015, 09:15 AM
Man that was a great chapter.

[X] No preference. Let the system take its course - justice will be served

If arthur have to pay for his mistakes Hagrid should pay too.

Cremela
December 4th, 2015, 10:14 AM
[X] Ask for clemency on Hagrid's behalf - perhaps somehow, it would be possible for the half-giant to avoid Azkaban

I've been thinking about poor Hagrid being maligned by Lockheart and the others every time it's been mentioned...

saki
December 4th, 2015, 11:22 AM
[ ] No preference. Let the system take its course - justice will be served.

What happened to Shinji fame with the ghosts of Howarts? We never hear anything about that again.

mAc Chaos
December 4th, 2015, 11:49 AM
peeves sure went chaotic evil out of nowhere

was he the true villain all along

also so many possible death spots there lol

Veldril
December 4th, 2015, 11:57 AM
Man, I am glad we decided to take the Felix for this fight. From the chapter, I have a feeling that if we didn't drink the Felix, someone would die during the fight. I guess Shinji's new plan came out because of the Felix?

The chapter is really good, so congrat to Alf for writing it wonderfully. Listening to Outbreak and War (F/HA BGMs during the Last Interlude) while reading this chapter even make the chapter a lot more exciting (since fighting against the horde of spiders was similar to slaughtering the horde of infinite shadows).

For the choice:

[x] No preference. Let the system take its course - justice will be served.

Another difficult choice for me. On one hand, I kinda feel bad for Hagrid since he didn't know what his pet can do to others beside him. And he didn't really intend to cause harm to students. Harry is also indebted with him. On the other hand, Acromantulae would eventually kill someone. And not knowing or ignorance on what they can do is not an excuse. I would suggest that let the justice take it course but try to prevent other from slandering him beyond what he really did.

Another thing is that I kinda feel that asking for clemency would put us indebted with Malfoy and I don't think we really want that, do we?

gesalt
December 4th, 2015, 12:16 PM
[X] Ask for the harshest punishment possible

As far as everyone knows these are the same acromantula from when he was a student and there was never really any punishment for that given that he got a full-time job at Hogwarts out of it. I suspect people from that period are going to want his head knowing that their children were in the same danger they were in.

Skull Leader
December 4th, 2015, 12:22 PM
I am going to state this as clear as I can.

Everytime you all vote for options that say that the law is the law and justice must be served, you are telling Alf to hit us and Shinji with almost the same penalities of the law in the future. Shinji is breaking the law with his vanishing cabinets. Shinji can be thrown out of his house or worst over this. It will come out, nothing says hidden forever. How are we going to hide the secret route when we are likely to use it a lot next year. People are gonna notice something is up. We would not be applying for proper travel papers.

We are gonna have the same harsh jail sentences used against us. So be warned.


Also the law does put weight on intent, that why we have juries. A cold blooded murder is judge different from a manslaughter case. Did Hagrid mean for the spiders to become the problem they were? That should apply here. On the other hand, he is a past offender, what with the chamber of secrets and the wizard world is not the most logical place.

Omida
December 4th, 2015, 12:43 PM
Perhaps, but this time I can't really see Lucius agreeing to make a deal with us to lessen Hagrid's punishment, at least not enough for it to be worth it. Arthur get away with it because Lucius didn't loose anything and at the same time gained leverage against Weasley Sr. Because otherwise Arthur is practically crystal clear.

Hagrid? No one 'in-universe' knows he isn't responsible for the death of Moaning Myrtle. So one 'crime' in the forties to his name. Then, in nineteen ninety two Ministry discovers that he illegally obtained and breed a dragon. Dumbledore barely kept him out of trouble. And now Ministry discovers entire colony of murder-spiders near Hogwarts that can basically be accounted as Hagrid's doing. He really doesn't have much of the future.

Sure, we can try playing on 1) It wasn't his intent. 2) Play on wizarding prejudices and show that as a half-giant he isn't the brightest bulb and he got away with much of his escapades thanks to Dumbledore's pull. But we would be making deal with Lucius Malfoy. And if this case is already public knowledge (very possible) Lucius' price may be too much for us.

Also, I am not sure if anything Shinji did breaks any laws. Sure, Room of Requirements as our money source is secret because Shinji really prefers people to not just scavenge all of it. He was actually very careful about legitimacy of his actions.


But yes, demanding harshest possible action is really bad idea. It's Shinji's decision because Harry is too distraught to deal with it, so he trust his friend to make the right call. I doubt saying something to effect 'feed him to dementors' would improve our relationship with Harry, but asking for a fair, unbiased trial, as the law demands, would fly well with proper wording.

Skull Leader
December 4th, 2015, 01:29 PM
There is no such thing as a fair trial in the Wizard world. However, I understand your point. I am just warning you that this choice can and will be used against us (in a court of law).

Malgos
December 4th, 2015, 01:54 PM
Ask for a lighter sentence.

Cremela
December 4th, 2015, 02:04 PM
Hmmm good points. While I think almost any system of organisation ought to be against innocent school children being murdered by giant spiders, going along with the laws and rules of the British Wizarding World seem to be counterproductive to what Shinji wants to do in the long run. I think whichever option we choose here is going to have negative repercussions in the future...

mr_Trickster
December 4th, 2015, 02:32 PM
Indeed any of the choices we make here will have a negative impact on us in the future depending on how our choices affect - or have affected - the world. Something that we might want to remember, however, is that we area already indebted to Lockhart twice over (the price for our training in parkour and now one we have incurred in this chapter). To possibly acquire another debt through Lucius Malfoy could put us in an extremely unfavorable position should these debts stop to overlap and / or conflict. While it is true that it could be dangerous for us to be hypocritical with the law considering the fact that we have several illegal paths between nations set up right now, this will only become a liability should we be caught, and though I am aware that it could be bad for us in the long run, it is far less of a certainty than the guaranteed whatever it is that we will have to Lucius.

Besides, it will be Harry that will be expressing our thought publicly so we're not only endangering ourselves, we are endangering him. By choosing to have the system take due course will not only distance Harry from any personal attachments on the matter (or at least make the public see it that way as we ask for neither pardon nor harsher punishment), it would keep the scope risk of the matter just to us, allowing us an out - or at least in theory - should things come crashing down on us (as it will inevitably will as we're now in the process of choosing sides in what will possibly be a worldwide conflict).

[x] - No preference. Let the system take its course - justice will be served

Kuroyuki
December 4th, 2015, 02:44 PM
[X] No preference. Let the system take its course - justice will be served

"Justice is blind" for better or for worse. And I would rather have faith in that than owing Lucius one.

Skull Leader
December 4th, 2015, 02:48 PM
This is not a happy vote no matter how we pick it but as long as we all know what we are getting ourselves into then

[X] No preference. Let the system take its course - justice will be served

For better or for worst.

Veldril
December 4th, 2015, 03:05 PM
To be honest, I kinda doubt that anyone (maybe except Hillard and other Stone Cutter) could catch Shinji even he is ousted with illegal goods. And if he plays his card right, he could go hide at the Clock Tower too.

And I don't think Shinji care that much about British Wizard world. If he can't stay there, he would just go to Mahoutokoro instead.

Skull Leader
December 4th, 2015, 03:46 PM
To be honest, I kinda doubt that anyone (maybe except Hillard and other Stone Cutter) could catch Shinji even he is ousted with illegal goods. And if he plays his card right, he could go hide at the Clock Tower too.

And I don't think Shinji care that much about British Wizard world. If he can't stay there, he would just go to Mahoutokoro instead.

Ah, if Hillard works for the MoM like he wants to as a Auror, then he is required to follow all laws and report violations. That is the whole reason why Mr. Weasley is in trouble, he worked for the MoM and violated the law. Malfoy is making sure that no one can sidestep the law with oaths and they are cleaning house for better or for worst. We will be caught. And even if Shinji does not care and can get away, his friends will suffer.

And its a small step from having fair laws and unfair laws. Look at Germany before Hitler took power and the slow change afterwards. If you have an oath to uphold the law and the minster, and Voldemort takes over the MoM what is the difference between the Death Eater and the Auror. Both will be forced to do what Voldemort wants.

Checkmate. Magical UK loses. And if it gets bad enough that Atlas has to step in...well the entire world losses.

Caster
December 4th, 2015, 04:01 PM
I think that we might want to look outside the box here. This is clearly a big deal. Alf, details on their legal system would be preferred to help tell what is and isn't important for starters.

mAc Chaos
December 4th, 2015, 04:31 PM
I'm pretty sure this choice is less about Shinji and more about Harry's future development. What will asking for the harshest possible punishment mean for Harry. What will asking for leniency mean. Etc.

Also Alf's hammered home pretty obviously that the system is corrupt.

Cremela
December 4th, 2015, 04:55 PM
Does Shinji want to be responsible for Hagrid being stuck living in with the living, soul-sucking embodiment of Depression?

skulkidcachi90
December 4th, 2015, 07:39 PM
what is going to happen with Grawp?

Kelnish
December 4th, 2015, 07:44 PM
Ask for exile! Exile is fun, it means he can be eaten by 666 beasts maybe!

Omida
December 4th, 2015, 07:45 PM
what is going to happen with Grawp?

Probably die in war that seems to be boiling up in the east Europe (Where Grayback gathers werewolves and giants into army to endangers people of the West). It's not like anyone, even Hagrid, is aware that he is anything but another giant (if somewhat smallish) trying to squash their heads.


Ask for exile! Exile is fun, it means he can be eaten by 666 beasts maybe!


In this fusion it's not implausible to think that NRVSQR managed to nom on few more exotic beings, For all we know he has a giant, werewolf and veela somewhere there. Veela!666....

alfheimwanderer
December 4th, 2015, 08:08 PM
In this fusion it's not implausible to think that NRVSQR managed to nom on few more exotic beings, For all we know he has a giant, werewolf and veela somewhere there. Veela!666....

He does have at least one drake, a unicorn, and monstrous crabs (with weak points Shiki hit for MASSIVE DAMAGE). I wouldn't be surprised if he has other things as well.

Cassius
December 4th, 2015, 08:28 PM
[x] Ask for clemency on Hagrid's behalf - perhaps somehow, it would be possible for the half-giant to avoid Azkaban

Cremela
December 4th, 2015, 08:39 PM
a unucorn,
I'm presuming that's a typo and not some strange creature whose primary habitat is tumblr

alfheimwanderer
December 4th, 2015, 08:46 PM
I'm presuming that's a typo and not some strange creature whose primary habitat is tumblr

Yes. That was a typo

Magus
December 4th, 2015, 09:48 PM
Harshest penalty is obviously Dementor's Kiss. Harry's already had someone destroyed that way (Pettigrew). I don't think it's healthy for him to do it again.

Obviously, our relationship with Hagrid is irreparably destroyed whether we trust judgment to the system or seek a lighter sentence. The system is obviously rigged against Hagrid, though creating an Acromantula colony is a serious crime. Granted, the chances of them hurting any wizards was low as long as they stayed within the forest - though clearly they were harming the centaurs (wouldn't their relations with Hagrid be worse in that case?). But other than saying that he didn't mean to harm anyone, what do we have to argue for a lighter sentence, especially if we must deal with Malfoy to get it? That's opening another can of worms right there. And I can't really see Shinji going too far out of his way to help Hagrid - he didn't have that sort of connection to him in the first place. Hagrid would probably tell Harry to save his pity at this point.

Yet the act of mercy might set Harry's personality on a healthier trajectory, and Harry is indebted to Hagrid after all. It's also Harry that Lucius is asking, not Shinji.

Ughh… it's hard. But I think I'll err on the side of compassion, lest Harry become too cold-blooded in the future [x] Ask for clemency.

mr_Trickster
December 4th, 2015, 10:30 PM
Out of curiosity actually, Alf: would Harry be calling a favor by asking for clemency or just stating an opinion?

alfheimwanderer
December 4th, 2015, 10:42 PM
Any preference for clemency or harshness would be implicitly taken as a favor, though clemency more than harshness.

Mattias
December 4th, 2015, 10:57 PM
[x] Leniency. While Hagrid is still blamed/scapegoated for the original Chamber attacks (despite there being no proof), he was already punished for that by being expelled and having his wand snapped. This is just trying him for the same thing all over again. The favour would be not making Malfoy look like a fool by presenting a horribly flawed argument against someone. Really, really flawed. Like more holes than Dumbledore's canon plan for the series.

All That Is Left Unsaid
December 4th, 2015, 11:28 PM
Wow, heavy choice. Beyond the immediate issues of owing Lucius a favor, there are broader implications both for the Stone Cutters reputations, and for other aspects of the political climate. No preference would essentially be trusting the current government, making the Stone Cutters look better to them and probably the wizards of Britain, but could incite greater feelings of animosity between wizards and nonhumans.

Conversely, seeking leniency might make the populace uneasy (even though the Stone Cutters were the ones that solved the problem before it became one), and bother the ministry. However, while it might not ease interspecies tensions, at least it shouldn't exacerbate them.

I'll say

[x] Ask for clemency on Hagrid's behalf - perhaps somehow, it would be possible for the half-giant to avoid Azkaban

He's going to be punished regardless, but I wouldn't think he warrants something as awful as Azkaban.

There is also the issue that the spiders had been preying on the centaurs. While the wizards might not care about them, it is still a possible issue. Alf, would there be any possibility of bringing in the centaurs to consult, as they actually did suffer from Hagrid's actions? If nothing else, proving that he was wrong about the danger the spiders represented might make him more inclined to accept his fate and ease Harry's conscience.

Caster
December 5th, 2015, 12:18 AM
Actually, I'd be kind of curious to know what the centaurs think of Hagrid's option. They're the ones who suffered due to his actions, if anyone should be judging him it's the centaurs. Wizards really have no clue about it.

alfheimwanderer
December 5th, 2015, 12:58 AM
They were unaware that Hagrid was the one who brought Aragog and his mate to the Forest and established the colony. If they'd known, they would have likely attacked him themselves - especially since they consider him a human/wizard

mr_Trickster
December 5th, 2015, 01:28 AM
Switching to [x] - Compassion, then.

Skull Leader
December 5th, 2015, 01:32 AM
I am really liking the idea of having the Centaurs judge him. I'm not sure if they could judge him without instantly killing him but they more than anyone needs justice. It would be cruel to do to Hagrid as for someone that loves creatures, having the Centaurs show him the true cost of his mistakes would destroy him. Show Hagrid how truely harmless they were.

Not sure if letting the Centaurs judging him is a choice we can vote on. If it is, I would change my vote to it.

alfheimwanderer
December 5th, 2015, 02:03 AM
It is not. Magical Britain classifies them as beasts, so their opinions don't mean much, nor would they be allowed to judge a wizard - even a disgraced half-giant like Hagrid has more status than a centaur to most wizards.

Omida
December 5th, 2015, 02:04 AM
This is indeed hard vote, probably because it's about Hagrid and Harry. While it could be about Harry's future development, I would like to think that SC and existence of Ourea made enough difference for him to not become 'law above all'.

Nephirin
December 5th, 2015, 03:29 AM
[x]Clemency

saki
December 5th, 2015, 02:00 PM
This is hard because following the law may get us minus points with Lockhart but asking for anything will give a debt to Malfoy.

alfheimwanderer
December 5th, 2015, 03:46 PM
Current tally

[6] Justice
[8] Clemency
[1] Punishment

Caster
December 5th, 2015, 09:52 PM
I don't suppose you could give us some idea of what kind of results may happen for Hagrid based on these? To give us an idea of the degree of influence this vote will have on his fate at least. I imagine knowing the degree of the debt and other factors is an issue, but I would like to know how good/bad it turns out for him at least.

mr_Trickster
December 5th, 2015, 10:08 PM
That feels like a warning for some reason.

Caster
December 5th, 2015, 10:19 PM
It definitely does. Why I'd like to get an idea of what we may be in for in the least spoilery way possible. It may be worth the cost, but it's hard to tell.

mr_Trickster
December 5th, 2015, 10:39 PM
Hopefully, yes. Worst case, I'm ready to switch back to justice served as it definitely feels like the safest choice.

alfheimwanderer
December 5th, 2015, 11:04 PM
Justice is most likely going to be Azkaban. Clemency is exile. Punishment is a more final solution, as at least one person has escaped before, and Hagrid is a repeat offender...

There is no option that allows Hagrid to remain at Hogwarts or in Magical Britain. Just making sure you're aware of that.

Caster
December 5th, 2015, 11:55 PM
I'm aware of that. Hmm. This is truly tricky to parse then. I don't know that I especially want to see someone subjected to torture for the rest of their life, but I don't know that clemency is good either. I don't suppose there is a rehab option? Doesn't need to keep him working at Hogwarts or in Britain, but some way to redeem himself seems better than such absolute punishments.

All That Is Left Unsaid
December 6th, 2015, 12:24 AM
That's part of why I'd like to have the centaurs at least brought up to him, as he otherwise doesn't seem to acknowledge that he did anything wrong. I don't want to guilt him into a breakdown, just make him see that the spiders were dangerous, and ideally make him receptive to doing something constructive with his life as a means of redemption.

If clemency wins, then perhaps he could be persuaded to go to Mahoutokoro, or find another group of centaurs to work for as a sort of community service.

mAc Chaos
December 6th, 2015, 01:36 AM
> Clemency
> Exile
> Hagrid released
> Allies with giants
> Swears revenge on Boy Who Lived
> Leads assault on Wizard World
> Everyone blames Harry
> Harry realizes his mercy only got more people killed on his watch
> He realizes Voldemort was right all along

Kelnish
December 6th, 2015, 01:39 AM
> Clemency
> Exile
> Hagrid released
> Allies with giants
> Swears revenge on Boy Who Lived
> Leads assault on Wizard World
> Everyone blames Harry
> Harry realizes his mercy only got more people killed on his watch
> He realizes Voldemort was right all along
>Rises above the petty politics of voldemort
>Becomes great dark wizard
>Clock Tower becomes aware of him.
>He and the rest of magical britain eliminated/experiments by end of week

Caster
December 6th, 2015, 01:41 AM
Something kind of like that is mildly a concern for me as well. But it seems like there should be some fourth option between soul destruction, eternal imprisonment, and exile. I don't feel like any of those really help Hagrid or Harry. Hagrid shouldn't be let off the hook necessarily, but I don't think any of those punishments really address what should happen.

That being said, I'm in favor of voting for a fourth option if we can figure one out. Something along the lines of rehabilitation. He should try and make amends, and at least understand the harm he caused. The other options don't really deal with that, and I don't think it's good for anyone to have those be the options. Exile doesn't help Hagrid grow, and the other two just are too extreme.

Kelnish
December 6th, 2015, 01:44 AM
Something kind of like that is mildly a concern for me as well. But it seems like there should be some fourth option between soul destruction, eternal imprisonment, and exile. I don't feel like any of those really help Hagrid or Harry. Hagrid shouldn't be let off the hook necessarily, but I don't think any of those punishments really address what should happen.

That being said, I'm in favor of voting for a fourth option if we can figure one out. Something along the lines of rehabilitation. He should try and make amends, and at least understand the harm he caused. The other options don't really deal with that, and I don't think it's good for anyone to have those be the options. Exile doesn't help Hagrid grow, and the other two just are too extreme.
I feel like you're projecting a modern sense of justice vice the incredibly anachronistic justice system that Wizarding Britain has been demonstrated to have. And we're dealing with options as viewed by the children Shinji Matou and Harry Potter regardless of how unchildlike Alf tends to portray them. The man did something bad so he must go to timeout, right? The question is where his timeout will be.

mr_Trickster
December 6th, 2015, 02:25 AM
The long-term effects of letting him go into exile could be very, very bad, thinking about it. Looking at the excerpt that Alf gave us already established that we've made an everlasting enemy of the half-giant and I do not think getting him Clemency is going to help that in any way. He knows the Hogwarts grounds and is acquainted with the members of the Order. The fact that we've killed the beasts that he had come to consider family do not help in the slightest.

Switching back to [x] - Let Justice be Served

Kelnish
December 6th, 2015, 02:28 AM
Seriously though go for exile guys, exile just seems more fun than death or imprisonment. Best case scenario we get to see an exciting death for him potentially further fleshing out the cross-over setting. Worst case scenario a half-giant with a grudge gives us a dead end! Win/Win!

mr_Trickster
December 6th, 2015, 02:32 AM
But, but...

How do dead ends work here, actually? I mean I know we want to do everything in our power to avoid that, but Kelnish bringing it up made me curious.

On that note, what's the deal with Hillard and Penelope? I always got the feeling those two had something going on, but nothing seemed to have come of it.

Ratman
December 6th, 2015, 02:50 AM
[X] Ask for clemency on Hagrid's behalf - perhaps somehow, it would be possible for the half-giant to avoid Azkaban

It both makes sense in-character, and it would be shame to see this plot thread develop no further.

More importantly though, Harry's sanity and potential guilt is the biggest factor in this, because what can Hagrid do that someone else couldn't? And a debt to Malfoy is only a problem until the masks come off.

Confronting him with the Centaurs is a great idea though, I support it.

mAc Chaos
December 6th, 2015, 02:54 AM
Don't get scared by my example, I can think of nightmare scenarios for the other two options too. Pretty much any option we pick here can fuck us over if it goes bad.

So just pick what sounds in character.

Ratman
December 6th, 2015, 03:04 AM
Another thing would be that if us asking for it gets out, which it probably will, then it's going to make us look pretty weird in the public opinion.

mr_Trickster
December 6th, 2015, 03:13 AM
Our side would look quite conflicted, I'd imagine. Moving to stop and persecute the person responsible all the while asking for his life and/or freedom in what may be considered the same breath. Would be seen as just yet merciful?

Kelnish
December 6th, 2015, 03:32 AM
Actually can Harry cut his head off and then place it in the middle of the Ministry of Magic on a pike? That would be the ideal solution, reall?

All That Is Left Unsaid
December 6th, 2015, 03:36 AM
With Lockhart on PR, he (and possibly Rita) could go a long way to ensuring that the public does indeed see it as being just yet merciful.

Skull Leader
December 6th, 2015, 03:43 AM
Just a thought but how will the public react people if the Heros who saved all of their children start declaring that they want the person responsible to be let off and exiled. We will take a major hit plus own Malfoy a favor. And A favor we do not want. Add in also that Hagrid will work against us in exile. And the favor might not mean anything if the masks come off, why would Voldemort and Co need to take off the masks?

There is no Dumbledore, we do not control the press. Malfoy is in control of the MoM. The public would not believe Voldemort is back if when it happens.


All three options suck but exile is the worst option for us. We don't gain anything from it, other than maybe Harry being ok with it.


Please, I begging you people do not pick this option.


Edit: Our PR is likely to counter the Wizard World PR a little but this is their children. They will be out for blood, on this. They were out for blood with Sirius right after his so called "betrayal" and that incident did not directly affected the general public., other than allowing Harry to "save" them all. Hagrid threaten their kids. Birth rates in the magical world makes children valuable to the Purebloods. No PR in the world will stop them from getting revenge, without one major, major favor. No one will thank us for picking this option, not the public, not lockhard and not Hagrid.

Magus
December 6th, 2015, 06:20 AM
It could go horribly wrong however we do it, and Clemency certainly is more costly to us in the short-term. Maybe some good comes in the end from Clemency.

I don't mind if people pick Justice though, and that seems to be the "safer" option. The only option I'm adamantly against is Punishment, which obviously means the Dementor's kiss.

Actually, now that I see that Clemency is exile, we should probably choose [x] Justice, lest Hagrid repeat his crimes with dangerous creatures elsewhere. That would only compound whatever reputation penalties we get from choosing clemency. Justice avoids this, while preventing Harry from getting too used to destroying people with the Dementor's Kiss (which is certainly an excessive punishment in this case, given that Hagrid did not intend to hurt anyone).

So again, to be clear:

[x] Justice

Ratman
December 6th, 2015, 06:39 AM
Yeah, the problem is we all know Hagrid is actually just retarded, and not nearly a bad person enough to actually deserve death. If you do that just to avoid trouble, you're basically actually being a bad guy, and taking this into an overly edgy direction.

We haven't done much in direction of preventing Harry from going nuclear aside of talking to him and making him not feel alone, either. While that's helpful, it's really just the first step and can backfire on its own.

Malgos
December 6th, 2015, 03:26 PM
We haven't done much in direction of preventing Harry from going nuclear aside of talking to him and making him not feel alone, either.

Nuclear you say?

Shinji, I'm already a demon. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrkzIN2eP0U) - Punished "Venom" Harry.
In regards to the discussion... I'm for forgiving. He may hate the Stone Cutters, but the primary reason they killed those spiders is because they were a menace. So asking for forgiveness, since he seemed to be ignorant of their feeding habits seems fitting. Apparently he's not the brightest bulb and he didn't do it out of malice. If he despises everyone so be it, although it would be great if they could show him the error of his ways so he could try to more thoughtful of his actions rather than straight up condemning him. Also it's the just choice, because letting justice be served means there's bias involved anyways.

Also it would be like letting Huey off the hook.

Caster
December 6th, 2015, 06:51 PM
If Clemency happens I'm in favor of trying to get him to talk to the centaurs somehow.

mangafreak7793
December 6th, 2015, 07:41 PM
If Clemency happens I'm in favor of trying to get him to talk to the centaurs somehow.
this

skulkidcachi90
December 6th, 2015, 09:23 PM
If shinji end losing Grimmauld Place for this, I am gonna laugh so hard.
The worst thing than shinji can do is something than make him have to give a favor to lucius.

mr_Trickster
December 6th, 2015, 10:01 PM
What is the current tally, anyway?

alfheimwanderer
December 6th, 2015, 10:09 PM
It looks like

[8] Justice
[8] Clemency
[1] Punishment

EnigmaticFellow
December 6th, 2015, 10:16 PM
[X] Justice

Caster
December 6th, 2015, 10:21 PM
So I'll vote conditional clemency. Namely that some sort of punishment outside of imprisonment is good, but exile alone is getting off lightly. The point is to show Hagrid the harm he caused so maybe he can try to do better. If we just let him run off he won't grow at all. I also think it sets a bad precedent. He did wrong, but it wasn't from his intent, he just was apparently very clueless.

gesalt
December 6th, 2015, 10:57 PM
I change my vote from punishment to justice

alfheimwanderer
December 7th, 2015, 01:28 AM
[x] Justice will always prevail AKA Harry stays out of this.

100%

Chapter 42. Fragments of Dreams

“Dad, dad! What is that?” a young boy whispered excitedly to his father as they appeared at Platform 9¾ for the first time, his eyes widening in wonder as he saw the gleaming red locomotive that would take him to Hogwarts – and more people than he’d thought existed in the entire world. “I’ve never seen anything like it!”

“It’s a train, Rubeus. The Hogwarts Express, ter be precise,” his father replied from his perch on the boy’s shoulder – for the boy was of unusual size. Always had been, really. By the time he was six, Rubeus had already outgrown his father Amissio – who’d never been large even by wizard standards – and had amused them both carrying the older man around the house…or by setting him on top of dressers or the icebox when he was in a particularly foul mood. Still, for all his strength and carelessness, he had a good heart. “Been takin’ students to Hogwarts for more than a hundred years!”

“A hundred years…” eleven-year old Rubeus Hagrid breathed, though his expression soured as he noticed many of the others on the platform turning to look at him, some of the other children – so small, they – with curiosity, and their parents with barely-veiled disgust, as they pulled their children away, as if he was some wild, dangerous beast who would attack a person who dared to look at him the wrong way.

And perhaps he was a bit wild, having grown up in the Forest of Dean, where aside from his father – and a mother he barely remembered, since she’d left them when he was three – he’d had only the creatures of the forest for company. Going to Diagon Alley to buy his wand and school supplies had been his first hint that there was a world beyond the woods of oak and beech and chestnut he’d known all his life – and his first exposure to what others thought of…thought of people like him.

Freaks.

Their stares and whispers had made him want to sink into the earth and disappear forever, with joy and wonder he’d felt at seeing Diagon Alley for the first time evaporating away as they judged him and found him wanting.

“Dad,” he’d croaked, wanting to hide behind the older man – but knowing he physically couldn’t, given that his father was far smaller than he. “Why are they looking at us like that?” But then he’d noticed that none of them were looking at the older man – but at him. “No, no us. At…me?”

“Because they’re fools who don’t know how to appreciate what they have, son,” his father had replied, smiling softly at the boy. “Or anything different from the world they know.”

“But…”

“Never be ashamed, Rubeus,” the man had said firmly. “Not of what you are, or who you are. Aye, there’s some who’ll hold it against you, but they’re not worth botherin’ with. Now, let’s get you yer wand.”

Young Rubeus’ worry had faded as he walked into Ollivanders and found a length of oak being thrust into his hands.

“Give it a swish, lad,” a voice had said – one belonging to an eccentric man with pale silver eyes. “This one should be a good fit for you.”

And indeed it had been, with red sparks shooting into the air, delighting the young boy as the wand - a study but flexible instrument of English oak, like the trees he’d felt so at home among, chose him for a partner.

“Mm, interesting. What’s your name, boy?”

“Rubeus, sir. Rubeus Hagrid.”

“Rubeus…you don’t say,” the man had echoed softly. “A curious name.”

After all, Rubeus – Latin for “Red” – was one of the sixteen figures of geomancy: an overturned glass, meaning good in all that is evil, and evil in all that is good. A name for one who broke with convention, who would find himself driven by passion, violence, and vice.

“It’s just a name, Garrick,” Amissio had replied tersely. “Don’t read into it more than there is to see.”

“Beech and Unicorn hair, seven inches,” the wandmaker had said as his eyes took note of the other man. “One of my father’s creations, as I recall. One of the smallest.”

“Oh, you know it’s not the size of the wand that matters, Garrick,” Rubeus’ father had quipped. “It’s how you use it.”

Garrick Ollivander had looked between the small wizard who had once been his classmate at Hogwarts and his nearly eight foot son. Even if he had not been a Ravenclaw during his school years, it would have been a simple thing to deduce the boy’s parentage. And for Amissio Hagrid – a small man – to have charmed a giantess, well…

“…I suppose you of all people would probably be an authority on the matter,” the wandmaker had conceded dryly.

And if the wandmaker was surprised by the coupling, it was only in the particulars, as beech wands only performed well for those who not only rich in understanding and experience, but open minded and tolerant of unusual ideas.

“You’ve a good wand, Rubeus Hagrid,” Garrick Ollivander had said, turning his attention back to the boy. “English Oak and Dragon Heartstring, 16 inches. A wand which needs a strong and courageous partner, with an affinity for the magic of beasts and plants. Perhaps you will become the next Newt Scamander, boy.”

That had been a week ago, and young Rubeus had smiled then, at the thought someone besides his father believed he would make something of himself.

But now, as he stood at Platform 9¾, the stares were once more getting to him.

“Put me down, son,” Amissio bid, with Rubeus reaching up and lifting the man by the back of his coat before setting him gently on the ground, where he looked up at his son, meeting the young half-giant’s eyes. “What’s wrong?”

“Dad…I’m scared. What if I’m not good enough?” He’d grown up in a forest, after all, without a chance to practice magic of any sort or really make friends with anyone. “Yeh said not ta be ashamed, but…”

“Everyone starts from the beginning at Hogwarts, Rubeus, whether you’re a Magbob or from one of the old families. Just be yerself, son. I know it’s hard. Yeh’ve been singled out, an’ that’s always hard. But yeh’ll have a great time at Hogwarts,” the man said to his son. “I did, after all, and I was always the runt. Not like you.”

“Only one who ever thought I was small was mum,” Rubeus rumbled, shaking his head. “Back when mum was with us.”

“…yeah,” Amissio replied after a moment, turning away so his son wouldn’t see the pain blossoming on his face – and in his chest – at the mention of the woman he’d loved – the giantess who’d left him behind forever. “Whatever you do, Rubeus, you’re my son, and I’m proud of you. Besides, I know you’ll be a thumpin’ good wizard, once you’ve been trained up.”

“With you as my dad, what could I be?” the boy asked as he looked down at his father – the man who had raised him, who had given up so much for him, who had been so very patient with him. Rubeus knew he hadn’t been the easiest person to take care of, but his father had never complained at all.

“Just remember what Ollivander said,” Amissio said as he looked over towards the Hogwarts Express. “And have courage.”

“I will…dad.”

“Give me a hug, Rubeus, and then off to the train with yeh.”

Like so many other children before their first day of school, Rubeus Hagrid hugged his father tearfully goodbye on Platform 9¾, before heading off, his head held high as he boarded the Hogwarts Express.

Before the half-giant was torn from dreams from the past by a frantic knocking at his chamber door.

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Rubeus Hagrid lurched upright in bed at the sound from outside, his eyes wet as the last traces of the dream vanished from his eyes. He hadn’t known when he’d boarded the train all those years ago that it would be the last time he saw his father.

True, he’d swapped letters with his man, writing home in excitement about life at Hogwarts. There had been so much he’d wanted to share with the one who raised him: getting sorted into Gryffindor, the house of the courageous (which his father had found fitting, though Amissio himself had been a Hufflepuff), trying – and failing – to fly on a broom (as no ordinary broomstick would hold his weight), and of course, learning about the wonders of magic.

In his youth, Rubeus had been enchanted by the wonders of the magical world, with his favorite classes being Herbology under Professor Beery, and Care of Magical Creatures under Professor Kettleburn, though Transfiguration under Professor Dumbledore had been interesting as well.

And his letters had shown that.

But slowly, as the workload built up, he’d had no time to write, and the letters from home stopped coming. And when he’d come home for the winter, riding the Hogwarts Express alone, with some chocolate he’d bought from a third year who’d gone to Hogsmeade for his father, he’d been met at King’s Cross by a representative from St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries.

“Rubeus Hagrid?”

“Aye…who’s askin’?”

The Healer had told him that his father been hospitalized with Cerebrumous Spattergroit and was currently in critical condition.

“No…there’s a mistake,” young Hagrid had said. “Ter’s got ta be mistake. My dad can’t be…”

“I’m afraid there’s no mistake, Mister Hagrid. I’m sorry, but you have to return to Hogwarts for the holidays,” the Healer had told him, breaking the news as kindly as he could.

“I can’t go home?” the boy had asked. “Or even see my father?”

But the Healer had shaken his head.

“I wish I could say yes,” the man had replied, not sympathetically. “But your house in the Forest of Dean is currently being decontaminated and your father is in no condition to receive visitors. He’s highly contagious right now.”

“I…” The boy had gotten on his knees before the healer, startling the man, who had never seen any proper wizard react like this. Then again, he had never encountered someone quite like Rubeus Hagrid…and if his information was right, the eight-foot tall boy before him was only a first year at Hogwarts. “Please. Is there any way at all I can see him?”

“Mister Hagrid, I…”

“Please, sir,” the half-giant had begged, his dark eyes filled with anguish as he held onto the man’s legs. “I beg you. Dad’s never gotten sick like this before. He’s…he’s all I have.”

“…I…alright Mister Hagrid, you win,” the Healer had relented at last. He had a family too, after all, and if one of them were deathly ill… “I’ll take you to see St. Mungo’s and show him to you then. But when I say it’s time to go, its time. We can’t risk you getting infected as well. The last outbreak we had…”

“Thank you, sir. Thank you. You won’t regret this,” Rubeus had blubbered, hugging the Healer so slightly he almost broke the man’s ribs.

“Ow….”

“Sorry,” the boy had said hoarsely. “Don’t know me own strength.”

True to his word, the Healer – a certain Helbert Spleen – had brought the boy to the Magical Bugs and Diseases wing of St. Mungo’s to see his father – but only through the window of an isolation room, since the man was a very serious issue.

“Dad…!” Rubeus had uttered in shock, at the sight of Amissio Hagrid laying on a bed in the pure white room, wearing only a white hospital gown. The man’s body was thin…too thin…with no liveness in him whatsoever, with angry purple pustules and blotches covering almost every inch of exposed him. “What…what happened to him?”

“Cerebrumous Spattergroit,” Mister Spleen had said, shaking his head solemnly. “A particularly virulent strain of it, too.”

“Splatter…groit?” the boy had repeated, looking at his father’s body.

“It’s a wizarding disease caused by an infectious fungus,” the Healer had explained. “The pustules – the purple splotches you can see – are just one of the symptoms. Right now, your father can’t talk at all, since his throat is almost completely swollen, can barely move, and…”

“…and…?”

“…he doesn’t know who he is right now,” the Healer had said with some reluctance. “Or who anyone is. If he’d been brought in sooner, maybe things would be different, but…” Mister Spleen had just shrugged. “Things are what they are, I’m afraid.”

In addition to being rather like the Muggle disease smallpox, Cerebrumous Spattergroit had the rather severe effect of causing lesions in the brain as it progressed, leading to severe confusion and memory loss, and in some cases, the eventual breakdown of muscle movement and coordination altogether.

“Will he…will he be ok?” Hagrid had asked, turning away from the painful – too painful scene of his father laying there, helpless.

“We’re doing everything we can, son,” had been the Healer’s reply. “I can’t make any guarantees. I can’t. I…we’re doing everything we can.”

He’d been taken back to Hogwarts after that, and in the solitude of his dormitory, Rubeus Hagrid had broken down in tears. In his letters he’d talked on and on about Hogwarts, about how nice life was at the castle. He’d never really thought to ask how his dad was getting on alone. What he was getting up to. Even though his father was so much smaller than him, Rubeus had always seen him as an example of what a man should be – someone who was strong and brave and loving, someone who had chosen to raise his son alone rather than force him to endure taunts and jeers.

Who had taught Rubeus Hagrid to believe in himself – to believe that he was a person with a good heart, and that while many might not understand or accept him, they weren’t worth his while anyway.

In the spring, he’d been over the moon when he learned that his father had been discharged from St. Mungo’s, but when he came home, eager to see his dad, to give him a hug for the first time in almost a year…the man didn’t know who he was.

“Who are you?” Amissio Hagrid had asked his son, his eyes holding no sign of recognition as he looked over the half-giant who stood at the entrance to their home.

“Dad, it’s me…I’m back from Hogwarts.”

“Hogwarts?” his father had repeated, his expression confused as he waved the boy away. “Are you sure you don’t have the wrong house? My son isn’t old enough to go to Hogwarts.”

“Dad. It’s me. Rubeus. D…don’t you recognize me?”

The half-giant felt like someone had stabbed him in the chest as his father looked at him and saw only a stranger.

“Rubeus? You can’t be Rubeus. He’s just a little boy,” the man said quietly, tilting his head. “I think you must be a little confused. Look, it is getting late. If you want, you’re welcome to stay for dinner, and I can help you find your dad tomorrow. There’s only so many of us around these woods, after all.”

This…was more painful than anything he could have imagined. All of his life, his dad had been the one person he could always count on to acknowledge him, to accept him and love him unconditionally – and now the man didn’t even know who he was.

Still, the amnesiac Amissio had treated Rubeus as a friend, given him a room to stay in, shared meals with the boy, and went walking with him each day, trying his best to help Rubeus find his father – never quite realizing that he was the boy’s father all along. Yet he never seemed to mind when they failed, giving the boy a home to live in.

Rubeus had counted his blessings, as it had been a chance for him to learn about the man who no longer remembered him – to learn that Amissio Hagrid was a very good man – one who saw the very best in everyone around him, whether wizard, beast, or something else.

Around the end of the summer though, Amissio had fallen sick again with what was thought to be another bout of Spattergroit, and had been admitted to St. Mungo’s once again. Young Rubeus had been unable to stay with him as the school year was beginning, though the boy found his grades slipping as he worried about his father.

Until after about a month into the year, Amissio Hagrid had passed beyond worry’s – or any Healer’s – help, having contracted Dragon Pox during his time at St. Mungo’s that, coupled with the aggravated symptoms of his original illness, led to the man’s untimely demise.

There had been no funeral – the Hagrid family had no money for one, after all – with the body being cremated due to concerns about infection, so Rubeus had never had the chance to say goodbye. The only reason he even knew his father had died and not just disappeared was that he had been called to the Headmaster’s office one evening, where a visiting Healer Spleen had had given him the news.

Amissio Hagrid had passed away.

For Rubeus Hagrid, the world might as well have ended in that moment. His father…his dad…had been everything to him. Without his father telling him things would be alright, what did the world really have for him?

He had rejected it, refused to believe it, stormed out of the office screaming that it wasn’t possible – that his father couldn’t be killed by something so small, so…weak.

But slowly, the news had begun to sink in, with the half-giant alternating between periods of extreme grief…and utter rage, especially when any of his peers dared to make comments about his family’s poverty, to make fun of his distraction, or to say that it was better off that a man who had such poor taste was finally dead.

Those unfortunate enough to make such comments had ended up in the hospital wing, with the other students at Hogwarts growing fearful and quickly learning to avoid him, lest the violent second-year set upon them.

For a time, Hagrid had been happy about this.

After all, it was a painful thing to be around so many people, and the half-giant wasn’t feeling very sociable, but towards the end of the year he began to feel…lonely, because no one was willing to talk to him.

Everyone was frightened. Intimidated. Scared.

And so in his third year, he’d scraped together what money he could to acquire an Acromantula egg from a traveler he’d met in Knockturn Alley. He’d named the spider Aragog. Following his father’s example, he vowed not to react in fear, but to see the best in anyone – or anything. And because he had no one else to talk to, the spider had become his best friend and companion – almost a brother to him…

…until a Slytherin Prefect named Tom Marvolo Riddle framed him for the death of Myrtle Warren, claiming that Rubeus Hagrid had opened the Chamber of Secrets and unleashed a mighty beast for revenge on all those who had taunted him. After all, a disturbed loner – a half-giant, to boot! – who had a record of getting into fights and savaging his enemies was quite believable as a perpetrator, while the school’s model student certainly was not.

The fact that Hagrid had attacked Riddle to prevent the older boy from capturing – or killing – Aragog – had not helped his case, and so Rubeus Hagrid had been expelled from the school, with the Ministry snapping his wand shortly thereafter.

He’d never formally been tried for the killing for a number of reasons. First, because Myrtle Warren had been a Muggleborn, so she didn’t really matter to those in power. Second, because people were still afraid of him at the time, and had believed that expelling him from the school and breaking his wand – effectively exiling him from the world of magic – would be enough. And third, because Albus Dumbledore had vouched for him, and the Transfiguration Professor’s name had held a certain cachet in Britain, as he was the only person that Grindelwald had ever feared.

The great man had convinced Headmaster Dippet to let him stay at Hogwarts as Gamekeeper Ogg’s assistant, and had even allowed him to keep learning magic in secret – despite the official prohibition. Over the years, Dumbledore had been something of a surrogate father to him, which was why he in turn had been so loyal to the man – for Dumbledore had stood up for him when the rest of the world stood against him, believed him instead of that lying snake, and had given him a place to belong when he had nowhere else to go.

But with Albus Dumbledore now dead and Lucius Malfoy holding the reins of power…

‘It’s a mad world…’

Hagrid shook his head sadly as he clambered out of bed and padded over the door, blinking away the tiredness in his eyes as he undid the latch – and came face to face with a visibly distraught Harry Potter. The Boy-Who-Lived looked very pale, almost ill, with his eyes frenzied and unfocused, and he was wearing something very unusual – robes of what looked like grey dragonhide.

“Harry, what’s wrong?” the half-giant growled, concerned for his young…friend, he supposed. It had been nearly two years since the last time they’d talked, but Rubeus had always felt something of a kinship for the boy.

The two of them were orphans, after all – people who different, denied their rightful place in the world by vicious bullies who thought they were freaks, who bullies who thought they had the right to do as they pleased to those who couldn’t fight back.

Well, he’d showed Vernon Dursley what that was like, hadn’t he? Showing him that against magic, there was nothing he could do. And to really rub in the lesson, he hadn’t aimed his wand at Vernon, but the man’s pig-like son, giving him a tail.

…yes, he’d told Harry that he’d meant to transfigure the boy into a pig, but given that he wasn’t supposed to use magic, he’d settled for a tail, since that could just be cut out, as a nice permanent reminder to that family of bullies not to pick on those he loved.
“My friends…” Harry replied, nervous, worried, anxious all at once. “The Twins. They…trouble. In the forest.”

“What?!” Hagrid stiffened as the boy’s words sunk in. “I warned ‘em,” the half-giant growled. “I warned ‘em over and over again. The Forbidden Forest is forbidden for a reason!”

“I know,” the Boy-Who-Lived responded, pain plainly written across his features. “Hagrid, please, we need your help.”

Hagrid sighed, but nodded.

“Alright, Harry,” the caretaker said gruffly. “But once we get done with this, you and I will need to talk. It’s not safe to be around this late. Not ev’n for you and yer friends.”

Stopping only to pull on his moleskin overcoat, he left the room, heading towards the nearest set of stairs, with Harry trailing behind him.

“The Forest is a dangerous place, Harry, and you’ve not been trained to deal with them,” the half-giant explained as they walked, frustrated. “And neither’ve your friends, for that matter. For three years I kept them out the forest, and then now when I can’t, they go looking for trouble.”

“What kind of dangers, Hagrid?” Harry asked, his voice unusually subdued.

“All kinds, Harry. Wolves, trolls, gytrashes, bloodsuckin’ bugbears, an’ more,” Hagrid listed, shaking his head as they stepped into the Great Hall. “An’ centaurs are the worst. Right proud they are, an’ unfriendly to any wizard they see. Ruddy stargazers.”

They continued in silence for a few moments more, their footsteps carrying them across the Hall at a pace Harry found difficult to keep up, until they came at last to the door.

“…and Aragog?” the boy asked quietly.

“Bah, Aragog’s no danger to anyone. Promised me that when I raised—“ And then the half-giant froze as Harry’s question sunk in, his eyes widening in shock. “Harry…” he said slowly, almost nervously, “how do yeh know about Aragog?”

In response, the Boy-Who-Lived bade Hagrid to open the door, which he did - only to recoil in horror as he saw the unmoving corpse of the monstrous Aragog simply laying there.

“Aragog!” Hagrid uttered, moving to the spider’s side, checking for any sign of life, any sign that maybe his first impression had been mistaken. But the more he looked, the more he saw that pained him – deep, bloody gashes in the spider’s side, holes ripped through its body. Aragog’s legs ripped almost clean off, torn apart by something vicious and powerful. What…what could have done this to his oldest friend? “Harry, what happened?” he breathed, the plight of the Twins forgotten in his shock. “How did Aragog…?”

But his voice trailed off as he saw the cold look on the face of the boy called the Heir of Slytherin, one which reminded him of another boy from just over fifty years ago.
“…no,” the half-giant whispered, stepping back as a dark realization filled his mind. “Yeh…don’t tell me that yeh…”

“Yes Hagrid,” Harry said gravely, his eyes hard and flashing. “I killed him. Him and the rest of his offspring.”

“Why…?”

“Hagrid, look at him,” the Boy-Who-Lived stated, iron in his voice. “He and his kind are vicious, dangerous killers. It was only a matter of time before they killed someone else. And we did what was necessary.”

“Someone…else?” Hagrid asked incredulously. “Bollocks! He…Aragog wasn’t no ‘arm to anyone. And his sons and daughters never hurt me when I went to feed ‘em.” Noting an utter lack of surprise on Harry’s face, the half-giant’s eye widened. “But yeh knew that. Yeh knew I knew Aragog. That I took care of him.”

“That you found him a mate?” Harry inquired.

The caretaker’s hard expression was all the answer he needed.

“Why…?” Hagrid asked again, stricken with grief…and betrayal. Three years ago, he’d saved Harry from the Dursleys, and this…this was how the Boy-Who-Lived repaid him?

He didn’t expect an answer this time – not something that would make sense, anyway.

…he certainly didn’t expect what Harry said next.

“…I’m sure Myrtle’s parents still ask that every day,” the Heir of Slytherin uttered – echoing the sentiment of another powerful, charismatic young wizard. An orphan who had become the greatest terror Britain had ever known.

“That’s, no!” Hagrid roared, stepping towards Harry – but stilled as the boy drew his wand, pointing it at the half-giant’s heart. “Aragog never – !”

“He’ll never hurt anyone again,” the Boy-Who-Lived declared. “Two years ago, after Sokaris died, I made a promise to myself that I would save everyone. That I would make sure no innocent would die if I could stop it. Am I supposed to spare Aragog and his ilk after he already killed centaurs? Am I supposed to believe that an Acromantula would restrain itself from seeking prey, especially after he already killed someone fifty years ago?”

“THAT’S A DAMNED LIE!” Hagrid thundered, seeing red as he stepped forward—

Whump-BOOM!

—and was blinded by a flashbang ofuda that detonated immediately before his eyes, with him staggering back in pain until he was backed against the Hogwarts castle wall.

"I thought yeh would end up like yer parents," the half-giant said bitterly, grief, betrayal and fury writ across his face as he looked between the corpse of the Acromantula he had once raised – and the boy he had brought out of captivity. The boy who lied. The boy who killed. "But yeh turned out just like him."

"Him, Hagrid?" the Heir of Slytherin inquired, his wand still pointed at Hagrid’s heart.

"You know who. You-Know-Who," Hagrid grunted, his body tensing. "Yeh must feel proud, slaughterin' the innocent, bein' a right mighty Slytherin, choosin’ who lives and who dies."

"Hagrid, please…"

"Don’t talk to me, monster!” the half-giant shouted. “I don't know yeh. I don’t think I ever knew yeh, and I don't want to know yeh, either. Why did you even call me here, to taunt me? To show me what became of my oldest friend, who I raised from an egg? To see how I would react to knowing you’re a ruddy murderer?! "

"No,” came another voice, this one belonging to Gilderoy Lockhart, as he and a full squad of Aurors appeared from the night, shrugging off their invisibility cloaks, with their wands joining Harry’s in pointing at the half-giant. “To get you to confess, as you have done. Stand down, Rubeus Hagrid, unless you wish to die this night."

“You…!” It took everything the half-giant had not to just rush at them – and even then, he didn’t know why he stopped. He had nothing holding him back, after all. No future. No friends. No family. Nothing. In the end, he settled for a few final words the Boy-Who-Lived – the boy who had obviously begun to walk in You-Know-Who’s footsteps. “Yer just like him,” Hagrid repeated venomously, his eyes filled with loathing. "I shouldna brought you here, Harry. I shoulda left yeh with them. World would be better off without yeh."

Shortly thereafter, Rubeus Hagrid was placed under arrest and taken away.

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“Matou?” came a subdued voice – almost a whisper, with Shinji rising from his chair and looking up from his bedside vigil towards the door of the Hospital Wing to see a troubled-looking Harry Potter holding a copy of the Daily Prophet in his hands. “Can we talk?”

“What do you need, Harry?” Shinji said tiredly, shaking his head to clear it of the cobwebs in his mind. He hadn’t slept much these last few days, as he’d been sick with worry. It had been three days since the raid on the spider hollow, and Luna Lovegood had not yet opened her eyes.

And not because of any physical injury, either.

No. This was something else – something which magi and others dealt with far more often than wizard-kind, given the kinds of spells each used.

Prana depletion.

And given that prana was the energy not just of magic, but of life…that was a very dangerous thing indeed.

“Lovegood hasn’t woken up yet, huh?” Harry asked, with Matou shaking his head. “I hope she’ll be alright.”

“You and me both, Harry,” Shinji replied, rubbing the bags from his eyes. “What can I do for you? And I can’t help but notice you chose to visit while Madam Pomfrey was out.”

“Mm. Which reminds me,” Harry noted. “Muffliato.”

Shinji frowned as a low buzzing, just at the threshold of his hearing, sounded – and lingered on and on.

“Privacy spell, I take it?” he inquired.

“It has its uses,” Harry admitted. “Snape taught it to me.”

“So he did,” Shinji noted, wondering what else the Potions Master had taught his friend – but knowing Harry wasn’t about to share. After all, they were also rivals for the position of Potions Champion of Hogwarts, if each for their own reasons.

Without another word, the Boy-Who-Lived handed his friend the Daily Prophet, a special edition that was all about Rubeus Hagrid, featuring a basic biography of the half-giant, as well as coverage on the Chamber of Secrets incident of fifty years ago – and how he’d avoided prosecution because of Albus Dumbledore – a man whose corruption was becoming more and more clear as the years went on, the dragon that Hagrid had attempted to raise two years ago – and which had been sent back to a reserve since, as well as the Acromantula colony the half-giant had established…and which the Stone Cutters had destroyed.

The Prophet hailed them as heroes who had, against all odds, exposed the half-giant’s crimes and protected the students of Hogwarts – all of whom had been at risk from the actions of the man who had once been Hogwarts’ gamekeeper.

“Lucius Malfoy asked me if I had any preference for what was to be done with…Hagrid,” the Boy-Who-Lived said quietly, when Shinji had finished. “Right now, I…I don’t know. I never thought Hagrid would hurt someone, but Aragog? He…he and his spawn…nearly killed us, Matou. If it wasn’t for…” Harry trailed off. “I don’t know what to believe right now, and I don’t really know if there is something I want. Part of me thinks that we should give Hagrid another chance, that he means well. Part of me wants to throw him in Azkaban, where he can’t hurt anyone ever again. And part of me…”

Shinji sighed and folded the newspaper.

“Harry.”

“Yes?”

“Right now, I think you’re emotionally compromised,” the boy from the east said calmly. “You’re confused, you’re tired, you don’t know what to think. You want to know my advice, Harry?”

“What is it?”

“Stay out of this,” Shinji cautioned, shaking his head.

“But…”

“I know you want what’s best for Hagrid, but you’re not even sure what’s best for him right now. And even if you wanted him to be given a second chance…” Shinji held up the Prophet. “They wouldn’t let you. Not with everything that’s happened. Just let the system run its course. He’ll get a trial like anyone else would, and I’m sure in the end, justice will be served.”

“I…you’re probably right, Matou,” Harry conceded, closing his eyes. “Sorry for bothering you with this. I know you’ve had a lot to deal with yourself, since Lovegood…”

There was a long moment of silence as the Boy-Who-Lived didn’t know what to say.

“…she looked after me when I collapsed after fighting a demon bear – one I almost ended up dying to because of my own stupidity,” the Matou scion admitted. “That she’s here, because I asked her to…”

“—if you hadn’t, Matou, we’d all be dead. Or well, the Twins would be. So would Robert. And me. I guess you two would have lived.”

“…I guess. But still…”

“This is what Lockhart means by the difficult choices a leader has to make, huh? The needs of the many and needs of the few?” Harry mused as he looked over to the sleeping girl, with her white fox laying on her pillow.

“She told me…” Shinji paused, shaking his head. “She said her magical energy was adequate. But with what happened, she must have been running low.”

“If she’d been honest, what would you have done?” Harry asked quietly.

Shinji just looked away.

“…that’s what I thought,” the Boy-Who-Lived murmured. “And I guess she knew that too.”

“…I guess.”

The air between them was silent for almost a minute before Harry spoke again.

“You love her, don’t you?”

Shinji looked down at Luna’s sleeping form, and reached out to stroke her cheek.

“I do, actually,” he admitted, a vulnerable expression flitting across his face for a moment before it vanished. “I guess that’s why I’m so worried right now.”

“…as much as you loved Sokaris?” Harry questioned, as the boy from the east winced. “Actually, don’t answer that. That was…sorry.”

“I’m looking forward to facing you for the final potions challenge,” Shinji said after a while, changing the topic. “Especially since you’ve been trained by Snape himself.”

“…that doesn’t worry you, Matou?” Harry inquired, noticing the change, but letting his friend get away with it. It was his fault for bringing up a sore topic, after all.

“I was thinking I could use a good challenge,” the Matou scion rejoined, smirking for the first time. “If you want to become champion, you’ll have to work for it, Snape’s protégé or no.”

Harry sighed.

It was clear to him that Shinji had no intention of backing down, and that the boy from the east had his own reasons for competing. That they probably began – and ended – with Sokaris was not really something he could judge, given that Harry knew how devastated he’d be if he were to lose Daphne.

“I wouldn’t expect anything else from my best friend,” the Boy-Who-Lived replied softly. Without another word, he took back his copy of the Daily Prophet and dismissed the Muffliato spell, before leaving his fellow Stone Cutters in peace.

In the silence that followed, Shinji returned to his chair by Luna’s side, reaching out to hold her hand, and twine his fingers with hers. He knew that in the last few days, Zelkova had been busy converting the magical energy of Hogwarts into a trickle of prana for Luna and her kitsune. Enough, at least, to sustain them her and allow their bodies to heal from their exertions.

And yet the outcome was far from certain.

While those descended from the fey – or youkai – tended to have greater resilience than normal humans, it was because of the extra prana their bodies could store – and use. The same thing made magi – especially those with crests – a tad more resilient to death, as long as they weren’t killed outright.

The sword’s other edge of course, was that their bodies needed more prana – and could burn it far faster than normal humans, and if they fully ran out…

And so Matou Shinji kept a quiet vigil by Luna Lovegood’s bedside, hoping she’d wake up.

If she didn’t…if she died because of what he’d asked of her, he’d…he’d…

…and then he felt something.

A twitch – no, fingers tightening on his, as quietly, Luna Lovegood opened her lovely silver eyes.

“I…” she began, finding her voice scratchy. “I had the oddest dream.”

Shinji quickly stood, helping her sit and handing her a cup of water, which she drank gratefully, in small sips.

“What did you see?” he asked curiously, thinking that the sight of her awake and whole was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.

“You told me…,” she whispered, leaning toward him, her silver eyes looking into his grey. “In the dream. You told me…you loved me.”

His heart seemed to stop for a moment at the emotion in her words, as he leaned forward and kissed her with a passion that surprised even him.

“It was right,” he said, once they pulled apart – and then he knew he’d been wrong – that the expression of wonder and joy on her face – the way her eyes lit up, the way she smiled – was the most beautiful thing in the world. “I do.”

100%

Choice 101: It is time for the final Potions Challenge. And this time, it is a dark and stormy night, with the ground very much like mud. Each of us have been dropped in at a different insertion point. Our objective is collect potions ingredients and create the most advanced potion we can, with the one who creates the best potion being chosen as champion.

So what is our strategy against our good friend Harry?

[ ] Force him into an engagement on the field, where we hold the edge - after all, if we are the only one left to brew, then we will be the winner
[ ] Attempt to match him in brewing
[ ] Take all of the ingredients in the any caches you find, leave none behind - after all, he needs ingredients, doesn't he?
[ ] (write-in)

Choice 102a: If you win, who will your second be?

[ ] Harry
[ ] Fred
[ ] George
[ ] Daphne

Choice 102b: In the event you lose and are chosen as a second, would you accept? Note that you will only have access to the public facilities on the island and will not be allowed to compete unless something happens to the Champion.

[ ] Yes
[ ] No

skulkidcachi90
December 7th, 2015, 02:08 AM
So we unlocked the worst Route (the Luna route), fuck everything.

Choice 101
So what is our strategy against our good friend Harry?

[X] Force him into an engagement on the field, where we hold the edge - after all, if we are the only one left to brew, then we will be the winner

Choice 102a: If you win, who will your second be?

[x] Fred

Choice 102b: In the event you lose and are chosen as a second, would you accept? Note that you will only have access to the public facilities on the island and will not be allowed to compete unless something happens to the Champion.


[x] No

Caster
December 7th, 2015, 02:19 AM
The Potions challenge, what is the goal? Is it brew the best potion possible or brew a certain potion? I think it might be best to monopolize ingredients, given that I'm betting Harry is counting on a direct confrontation. Beating Harry in brewing is impossible, and both sides know that. So I'm betting Harry is expecting us to fight him. Playing into that is unwise. But I would want to organize the ingredient stealing in the best way possible.

Which of the Twins is better at potions if you had to say? If not repeating elemental affinity and just general stuff like that is good. I'm sure they have specific talents after all, would want to do one of them.

I vote no on being a second. Not sure it has as much value.

Nephirin
December 7th, 2015, 02:20 AM
[ ] Force him into an engagement on the field, where we hold the edge - after all, if we are the only one left to brew, then we will be the winner
[ ] Harry
[ ] Yes

Man, forced Luna development yet again. :P

So now that the vote's locked in, what would have happened had the Clemency vote gone through?

mAc Chaos
December 7th, 2015, 02:48 AM
It's not really forced, when we decided not to use our own fusion that means we were choosing to let Luna shoulder the burden. When I was reading the battle chapter I was thinking "good thing we didn't do that or Shinji would've been exhausted early and they'd all die," but this is a consequence of it. Almost had a repeat of last year.

Not sure what the long term consequences of Hagrid will be. Maybe Harry will get upset with Shinji for telling him to stay out of it and blame him, or maybe this is the last we'll hear about it.

saki
December 7th, 2015, 03:17 AM
[ ] Force him into an engagement on the field, where we hold the edge - after all, if we are the only one left to brew, then we will be the winner (Tough im a little hesitant since Harry probably is aware that this is Shinji best bet on wining and could have developed some countermeasures. But i dont want to overthink it to much)
[ ] Harry

If we say no can we go to the tri wizard competition?

Omida
December 7th, 2015, 03:29 AM
Great chapter, with absolutely heartbreaking peek at Hagrid's school years and events from the end of previous chapter from Hagrid's perspective. And scene at hospital wing was touching too. Not only as it solidifies Shinji's relationship with Luna, but also his friendship with Harry. I mean, Shinji expressed our decision as concern for Harry, and well, he was right, Harry really was in no state to make any decision regarding Hagrid.

[X] Attempt to match him in brewing - Taking all ingredients is bad. It means that not only Shinji has to brew the potion, but to also defend himself from literally everyone else. It's incredibly arrogant option, in my opinion. Taking Harry out on the other hand is risky and shady. While we fight, someone else might finish and besides Shinji expressed desire in finding someone who could challenge him. I would like to think that he wouldn't be a dick in his methods.

[X] Harry - Because Twins already have booked vacation with Shinji and we fulfilled Pansy's fantasy. Harry had shown that he is great, probably the only one on our level, so the is he best contingency for us.

[X] No - If Shinji fails, I think he would try his hand at Tri-Wizard Tournament, so that he could show Sokaris something to his name.

saki
December 7th, 2015, 03:34 AM
[X] Attempt to match him in brewing - Taking all ingredients is bad. It means that not only Shinji has to brew the potion, but to also defend himself from literally everyone else. It's incredibly arrogant option, in my opinion. Taking Harry out on the other hand is risky and shady. While we fight, someone else might finish and besides Shinji expressed desire in finding someone who could challenge him. I would like to think that he wouldn't be a dick in his methods.


Isnt this a mano-a-mano between Harry and Shinji??
I was running on that assumption. Anyway, i think we have word of god that Harry out class shinji in potion making so you are trying to beat him at his strongest.

Nephirin
December 7th, 2015, 03:36 AM
It's not really forced, when we decided not to use our own fusion that means we were choosing to let Luna shoulder the burden. When I was reading the battle chapter I was thinking "good thing we didn't do that or Shinji would've been exhausted early and they'd all die," but this is a consequence of it. Almost had a repeat of last year.

Not sure what the long term consequences of Hagrid will be. Maybe Harry will get upset with Shinji for telling him to stay out of it and blame him, or maybe this is the last we'll hear about it.

No, Luna suffering from prana exhaustion makes sense. I was referring to the forced romantic development of Shinji declaring his love for her and kissing her.

mAc Chaos
December 7th, 2015, 03:44 AM
Well, her vulnerable state was partly his fault, and he just came out of a life and death situation where she sacrificed herself for them, so it has echoes of Sokaris, as well as when Shinji himself was recovering. The perfect catalyst for a relationship development.

Skull Leader
December 7th, 2015, 03:57 AM
I have a thought I wanted to put out for others to think about.

Let say that Harry wins and we become his second. Then if the cannon events for some strange reason happen again and Harry's name comes out of the GoF, wouldn't Harry have to switch competitions? Causing Shinji, as the second, to compete in the potions championship.

Granted Harry's name coming out is a very long shot as if I remember right, Barty was killed by Lockhart last summer but its something to think about.

alfheimwanderer
December 7th, 2015, 05:00 AM
The Potions challenge, what is the goal? Is it brew the best potion possible or brew a certain potion?

The best potion possible.


If we say no can we go to the tri wizard competition?

You will certainly be a good candidate for it, yes.


Isnt this a mano-a-mano between Harry and Shinji??

Yes. It's 1v1. There is no one else on the field for that challenge, just the two of them, so other people is not an issue. What may be an issue is that Harry has his invisibility cloak, so he's good at hiding. And yes, he's a better brewer than you are.

Omida
December 7th, 2015, 05:43 AM
Yes. It's 1v1. There is no one else on the field for that challenge, just the two of them, so other people is not an issue. What may be an issue is that Harry has his invisibility cloak, so he's good at hiding. And yes, he's a better brewer than you are.

In that case I will change my first vote to

[X] Take all of the ingredients in the any caches you find, leave none behind - after all, he needs ingredients, doesn't he?


This way, Shinji will force Harry to come to him, and while invisible, Harry is still tangible and Shinji already had shown that he can be pretty good with defenses. That way, Harry, if he wants to outbrew us, will have to find Shinji, defeat whatever defenses he sets up, probably defeat Shinji, steal ingredients needed and then return to his position and start brewing. The greatest danger of course, is that he may decide to destroy Shinji's potion to force him to start from scratch, giving himself more time. And with Snape teaching him, Harry probably know some shortcuts and impressive potions.

Magus
December 7th, 2015, 06:25 AM
[x] Force him into an engagement on the field, where we hold the edge - after all, if we are the only one left to brew, then we will be the winner

[x] Harry

[x] No

skulkidcachi90
December 7th, 2015, 07:31 AM
Well, her vulnerable state was partly his fault, and he just came out of a life and death situation where she sacrificed herself for them, so it has echoes of Sokaris, as well as when Shinji himself was recovering. The perfect catalyst for a relationship development.

I think than he refer than all the romance with Luna, feel really forced, not this situation alone.
But hey we already screw our relationship with hermione, we can do that with Luna too.

mr_Trickster
December 7th, 2015, 10:03 AM
The fact that we're in a storm with the earth being like mud is quite likely a clue in this. It could do anything from weakening our offensive and defensive capabilities to dampening our ability to sense (Alf, would it be possible to ask for confirmation or some information on this?). Which might be a factor if we're going for hunting Harry down and/or denying him resources by taking all of the good materials before he can get to them. I'd also imagine that we'd be likely to pull him into combat by denying him good ingredients which may or may not be how we want that to end - quite likely with him as the aggressor as opposed to us should we choose to force a confrontation. While the invisibility cloak bonus might be denied to him because of the constant stream of rain, this is moot if he comes up from behind us and we are unable to sense him.

In either case, the weather is against us right now, unless we decide we want to start using water again, but I fear that we'd either lose control and get ourselves killed, or lose control and get Harry killed; neither of these options sound good to me.

Mattias
December 7th, 2015, 10:48 AM
So we unlocked the worst Route (the Luna route), fuck everything.

Nah, worst route was obviously hidden yandere Hermione.

[X] meet Harry on the field. We probably can't put brew him, and trying to get everything before he can get any seems very unlikely.
[X] Harry. If we win, he's the runner up so who better to have backing us up but our bro, who's just as good.
[X] hmmm. Yes. On one hand there's a good chance Harry could be compromised and then we get our in. On the other, tri-wizard could be just as good and without Harry we're pretty much a shoe in, barring or the other Cutters. But we would have to maybe take second place to gred and forge. Let's go with the sure thing.

Veldril
December 7th, 2015, 11:00 AM
Hmm, a mud means earth + water right? So wouldn't that match with our elemental affinities? Granted, we aren't as good with water but we still can use some of its ability, can't we?

Zelkova is also earth + water + some wind, isn't he?

Caster
December 7th, 2015, 12:04 PM
I believe he is wood, not wind. Being a tree and all.

And no no help on deciding between the twins Alf? I would like to focus on one of them. It seems like a good way to help widen our collection of allies. At this stage though it's tricky to tell which one is better.

mr_Trickster
December 7th, 2015, 01:04 PM
Hmm, a mud means earth + water right? So wouldn't that match with our elemental affinities? Granted, we aren't as good with water but we still can use some of its ability, can't we?

Zelkova is also earth + water + some wind, isn't he?

From memory, Zelkova grants some access to wind if the person he is fused with has affinity for it (much like Luna does) because of all of the 'bridging' thing and all, but I see your point with our affinity for both water and earth. I'm not sure if we get those bonuses if they're together, though. If it does give us powerups instead of dampening our power, it's a definite vote for hunting him down and offing him (in a manner of speaking) as that is indeed our best shot at winning this thing. I'd like to think that an invisibility cloak isn't all that effective against us considering we've already shown that we can get around those things when we fought the Twins.

Unless the fact that Harry has the invisibility cloak can get around our abilities, of course.

Veldril
December 7th, 2015, 01:32 PM
Oh yeah, Zelkova is Earth + Wood + Some wind (that's why he can fuse with Luna and use the Wind like Marble Phantasm), but not water. So our Familiar is gimped by a bit.

Well, we do have wand that has a strong affinity with water so we might still be able to pull it off with mud thing. But I don't think it would affect much with the sensing ability, which actually counter invisible cloak if I remember correctly.

saki
December 7th, 2015, 02:28 PM
Yes. It's 1v1. There is no one else on the field for that challenge, just the two of them, so other people is not an issue. What may be an issue is that Harry has his invisibility cloak, so he's good at hiding. And yes, he's a better brewer than you are.

Can Zelkova find Harry in his invisibility state?

alfheimwanderer
December 7th, 2015, 03:28 PM
Hmm, a mud means earth + water right? So wouldn't that match with our elemental affinities? Granted, we aren't as good with water but we still can use some of its ability, can't we?

Shinji does have some facility with water, yes. While he can't do the same manipulation as he can with earth and some of the things like condensing water from vapor or such result in something more...corrosive than anyone would like, he can certainly exploit existing water sources and turn them into something like ice.

As for a wind effect, you don't get that. In fusion, your water potential fuels Zelkova's wood abilities, since in the elemental system water enhances wood.

In regards to sensing, you'd still be able to sense things like caches. Of course, if there are no caches, just individual plants that have been placed there - as in the Potions Competition proper - this might be an issue.


Can Zelkova find Harry in his invisibility state?

We can't see him through the cloak. But we could sense him walking on the ground and such, just as Zelkova vision could grant us a view of his "aura", for lack of a better word. Keep in mind visibility is still terrible overall though. And if in fusion form, well, he has minerals in his body, doesn't he?

Malgos
December 7th, 2015, 03:35 PM
Take all the caches.

Harry, since he wanted to go to Japan again and sort of asked Shinji to make him his second for that.

... I'll go with yes to becoming second should Shinji lose.

All That Is Left Unsaid
December 7th, 2015, 07:33 PM
[x] (write-in) Assuming it is possible to determine this, take only the more exotic ingredients from the caches. Leave the few that would either not allow Harry any options to make potions with, or only let him brew the most basic of potions. This might string Harry along enough that he merely attempts to brew with what is available, rather than chancing a confrontation in combat. Assume, however, that Harry's skill with potions might let him see through this, so still be prepared.

If this is not feasible, then just put me down for

[x] Take all of the ingredients in the any caches you find, leave none behind - after all, he needs ingredients, doesn't he?

Otherwise I'll say:

[x] Harry
[x] Yes

Caster
December 7th, 2015, 07:51 PM
I'm not opposed to Harry, but why is he being voted for as much? Success or failure seems unlikely to be a factor. Though I suppose friendship could be a thing. Alf, would Harry want to be our second? I'm curious on his feelings towards that. You would think one of the options might be kind of iffy towards it at least.

And that's actually what I was thinking. Keep Harry from brewing the best potions keeps him from being able to do as much. It also lets us force him on the assault. I imagine Shinji can defend better than Harry can attack, if we try to attack him I get the feeling we will fail.

Veldril
December 7th, 2015, 08:30 PM
[x] Force him into an engagement on the field, where we hold the edge - after all, if we are the only one left to brew, then we will be the winner

We get the best chance here, as noted by the twins during the duel chapter. Also, we might not get all the cache or some ingredients might not even be in the cache, which can be a problem. It's going to be difficult for Shinji for either choice but this one seems to has higher success rate for me.

[x] Harry

Well, he's going to be a second best if we win so the position should go to him. Also, he might not be able to compete directly in the tournament but he can still give us tips about brewing at the island that can help us.

[x] Yes

Cassius
December 7th, 2015, 08:39 PM
Choice 101: It is time for the final Potions Challenge. And this time, it is a dark and stormy night, with the ground very much like mud. Each of us have been dropped in at a different insertion point. Our objective is collect potions ingredients and create the most advanced potion we can, with the one who creates the best potion being chosen as champion.

So what is our strategy against our good friend Harry?

[x] Force him into an engagement on the field, where we hold the edge - after all, if we are the only one left to brew, then we will be the winner

Choice 102a: If you win, who will your second be?

[x] Fred or George

Choice 102b: In the event you lose and are chosen as a second, would you accept? Note that you will only have access to the public facilities on the island and will not be allowed to compete unless something happens to the Champion.

[x] No

alfheimwanderer
December 7th, 2015, 11:03 PM
On a completely separate note, its interesting trying to picture how Hogwarts is going to send its delegation to Durmstrang and how they plan to make their entrance. Durmstrang has their ship, of course, and Beauxbatons has its carriage, but Hogwarts...?

mr_Trickster
December 7th, 2015, 11:55 PM
As it's already been mentioned by others before (both in-story and in the forums), our best shot at winning this is by capitalizing on the advantage we have in-combat. Attempting to challenge him in brewing is more or less an auto-loss, and while we might be able to bait him into coming to us, there's no guarantee that we'll still be able to force a fight out of him that way or encounter him at all if Harry decides that he has a better shot at winning if he just brews a potion with what he has rather than risk getting offed by us in a confrontation.

Besides, as Maxim 27 states: "Don't be afraid to be the first to resort to violence."

As for the other choices: Harry is the other person most qualified for this position, and it makes sense that he be the one to occupy the position of second so that Hogwarts has the best possible shot of winning the tournament.

I'm unsure of whether to accept or decline the position of second as of now so I'll leave that blank.

[x] - Combat
[x] - Harry

Kuroyuki
December 8th, 2015, 12:00 AM
[X] Force him into an engagement on the field, where we hold the edge - after all, if we are the only one left to brew, then we will be the winner

[X] Harry

[X] Yes

EnigmaticFellow
December 8th, 2015, 12:11 AM
[X] Force him into an engagement on the field, where we hold the edge - after all, if we are the only one left to brew, then we will be the winner
[X] Harry
[X] Yes

Caster
December 8th, 2015, 01:32 AM
I just get the feeling it's a bit too direct. It's what Harry expects. I can see where the vote is going but I really think that trying to not do just what Harry has planned for is wise.

saki
December 8th, 2015, 02:16 AM
On a completely separate note, its interesting trying to picture how Hogwarts is going to send its delegation to Durmstrang and how they plan to make their entrance. Durmstrang has their ship, of course, and Beauxbatons has its carriage, but Hogwarts...?

And we lost our deadly spider mounts to make an entrace.

Skull Leader
December 8th, 2015, 03:21 AM
We can totally animate the spiders corpses and ride that. But I kid.

Maybe they come by the Hogwarts train. Its the best symbol the school has. They can make an portal in a hill on both ends and have train tracks magically form by transfiguration. It would look like the train went into a tunnel and came out of an tunnel at Durmstrang. This shouldn't break the Statue of Secrecy. Also with some magical modifications the train can act as living quarters for the students. Its the coolest idea I could come up with.


On another note, we still have to beat everyone else on potions if we take out Harry. We will look stupid if the two of them fight each other and the winner loses to someone like Pansy or Daphne because they spent all of their effort in the fight.

Speaking of Daphne, one of the most cunning things I can think of that Harry can do against Shinji, is to have Daphne win (or give her materials to harry) while the two fight and have her be declared the Champion. They she can declare Harry as her second. Then she can find a way to not being able to be in the Real potion championship allowing for Harry to compete. Harry can then show the world his stuff. It's a very Slytherin move if one assumes that Daphne loves Harry enough to give her place up.

Caster
December 8th, 2015, 03:43 AM
This is between Harry and Shinji, no one else is in the running.

mAc Chaos
December 8th, 2015, 10:36 AM
I just get the feeling it's a bit too direct. It's what Harry expects. I can see where the vote is going but I really think that trying to not do just what Harry has planned for is wise.

Well, yeah, he'll expect us to press our adventage, but it's our advantage for a reason. If we give up our trump card then aren't we fighting him on his own turf at that point?

Caster
December 8th, 2015, 10:47 AM
There is a third option, which is why I'm advocating for it. If it was just fight or brew it wouldn't matter. Though I suppose it would help too if we knew, compared to past times Shinji had done this, we could get a rough idea of the impact the condition will have on that third option. But I get the feeling Harry is going to do all he can to avoid fighting Shinji. He's going to know what Shinji will do for the most part, and short of leveling the forest I'm willing to bet that Harry can avoid us. Shinji was also really good at gathering ingredients. Preventing Harry from brewing the best option will hinder him as well.

Cremela
December 8th, 2015, 11:05 AM
Alf, does Shinji know if the ingredients are in caches or actually growing plants? Or both?

skulkidcachi90
December 8th, 2015, 11:15 AM
If Harry get comun ingredients and still make a great potion, even if shinji make a potion with the same quality he is gonna lose because harry is gonna show more ability

Mattias
December 8th, 2015, 12:01 PM
On a completely separate note, its interesting trying to picture how Hogwarts is going to send its delegation to Durmstrang and how they plan to make their entrance. Durmstrang has their ship, of course, and Beauxbatons has its carriage, but Hogwarts...?

I always assumed it would have something to do with Threstrals, since they use them so often to ferry students already. Like the Beaubatons entrance, only way more impressive/morbid (depending on whether you could see them).

saki
December 8th, 2015, 12:29 PM
Im changing my vote to gathering ingredients.

All That Is Left Unsaid
December 8th, 2015, 02:43 PM
I believe it has been mentioned at various points that both Harry and Shinji are more suited to defensive roles. As such, the idea of forcing Harry on the offensive keeps him from playing to his strengths. While there is truth in the saying "the best defense is a good offense," it doesn't necessarily apply if Harry has the chance to fortify a specific location in advance, and Shinji has taught Harry to use ofuda.

Caster
December 8th, 2015, 05:41 PM
Not sure I agree with that entirely, but if so I'm not sure how it applies if we attack him directly. Though thinking on it I would almost rather try and see Shinji mess up Harry's potion. Somehow I bet that would go badly though.

Alf, how good was Harry as a scout?

alfheimwanderer
December 8th, 2015, 05:46 PM
Alf, does Shinji know if the ingredients are in caches or actually growing plants? Or both?

This information is not provided to him ahead of time. This is an area of the forest they haven't used before, so he doesn't know what's in caches and what is growing.

The two are being dropped off in different sections of the challenge field. Visibility is terrible, and on being dropped in, Shinji has no idea as to the distribution of potion ingredients across the whole area. Can Shinji discover everything eventually? Possibly.

As you have said, Harry, of course, will be attempting to avoid Shinji, as he knows Shinji has something of an advantage - especially if we go fusion form. On the other hand, he also knows fusion isn't something Shinji can keep up for a very long time, and this challenge lasts from dusk till dawn.

Harry is quite good as a scout, if lacking Zelkova's advantages to help him find caches. For things not in caches, he might even be a little better. But weather conditions render ingredients seeking more difficult.

All That Is Left Unsaid
December 8th, 2015, 06:53 PM
Not sure I agree with that entirely, but if so I'm not sure how it applies if we attack him directly. Though thinking on it I would almost rather try and see Shinji mess up Harry's potion. Somehow I bet that would go badly though.

What I meant was that I recall various remarks of Shinji and Harry being most notable in their defensive abilities. Going off of this, my thought process was that going after Harry in direct combat would be playing into Harry's strength, and Shinji's if not weakness, then at least not a strength. Thus, if Shinji were to go after the caches, Harry would need to come to him rather than the other way around. As Alf mentioned, Shinji has excellent early warnings in Zelkova, and I'm guessing there is a base camp for brewing, which could be given various magical defenses if Harry has to force a confrontation.

Actually, there's an idea similar to what you suggested. If there are base camps, then perhaps Shinji could find and sabotage Harry's while he is out looking for caches.

alfheimwanderer
December 8th, 2015, 07:02 PM
Much like the Potions competition itself, there are no base camps. You carry your ingredients and supplies with you or establish a camp.

Caster
December 8th, 2015, 07:35 PM
I am more cemented on gathering ingredients first then. Combat should be saved for when we are sure we can finish it. I get the feeling that we would be better served saving our strength for the offense when we can force an encounter. If we try and take Harry out first I'm betting it will be much more problematic. I'm sure Shinji can beat Harry in scouting, but I don't think Shinji can fight Harry while Harry is scouting. It's not like Harry will stay and fight, it will be an extended game of cat and mouse.

skulkidcachi90
December 8th, 2015, 08:13 PM
Change my vote to

[X] Take all the ingredients and to force harry to confront us for them.

Skull Leader
December 8th, 2015, 08:36 PM
[X] Take all of the ingredients in the any caches you find, leave none behind - after all, he needs ingredients, doesn't he?
[X] Harry
[X] Yes

Deny the opposition ingredients forcing an conflict, sounds like the way to go to me.

alfheimwanderer
December 8th, 2015, 08:49 PM
Deny the opposition ingredients forcing an conflict, sounds like the way to go to me.

Not necessarily a bad idea. The catch is, of course, can you be sure you got what Harry needed, or that he's running off the same recipes you are?

EnigmaticFellow
December 8th, 2015, 08:58 PM
There is a third option, which is why I'm advocating for it. If it was just fight or brew it wouldn't matter. Though I suppose it would help too if we knew, compared to past times Shinji had done this, we could get a rough idea of the impact the condition will have on that third option. But I get the feeling Harry is going to do all he can to avoid fighting Shinji. He's going to know what Shinji will do for the most part, and short of leveling the forest I'm willing to bet that Harry can avoid us. Shinji was also really good at gathering ingredients. Preventing Harry from brewing the best option will hinder him as well.

The problem with this choice is that it opens Shinji up to being ambushed. Zelkova would be putting his efforts into finding these ingredients instead of looking out for Harry. If Harry lacks any decent ingredient to brew with, he may be tempted to strike down Shinji while he's vulnerable in order to improve his odds.

Skull Leader
December 8th, 2015, 08:58 PM
Not an all, Alf but every choice here is an gamble. I would say to fall back on our luck here but we used that potion. Hopefully Harry will not be taking the copy his girlfriend's received.

Caster
December 8th, 2015, 09:52 PM
The problem with this choice is that it opens Shinji up to being ambushed. Zelkova would be putting his efforts into finding these ingredients instead of looking out for Harry. If Harry lacks any decent ingredient to brew with, he may be tempted to strike down Shinji while he's vulnerable in order to improve his odds.

It's possible that Harry will go on the offensive, but if Harry goes on the offensive that seems unlikely to depend on what Shinji does. I also would be willing to bet that Zelkova can, to some extent, keep his eyes and ears out for Harry in addition to looking for caches of ingredients, the two don't strike me as mutually exclusive at all. Both of them require Zelkova to be aware. What Shinji does with that info seems to be what is being discussed. And assuming a relative parity there it makes more sense to focus on ingredients. Shinji going on the offensive is the direct action, the one you know Harry will plan for. It might succeed but I wouldn't count on it.

mr_Trickster
December 8th, 2015, 10:00 PM
I'd like to think Harry's sense of honor wouldn't allow him to do that, but I'd be wrong (Referring to taking Daphne's Felix).

I'm still maintaining my vote of hunting Harry down as - as Alf has mentioned - there's no guarantee that we're running with the same Recipe's (And knowing Snape, he's taught harry better recipes than the standard ones that we likely are aware of). And since we might not know what ingredients he's using, there's no guarantee that he'll be drawn into a conflict with us. That puts us in a very bad position, and we're better off hunting him down (where our own set of abilities up to and including fusion) will allow us to circumvent t he invisibility cloak and then off him (figuratively speaking).

Veldril
December 9th, 2015, 08:39 AM
Harry did used his Felix during the Spider Raid so he shouldn't have one now. (Or does he have two vials of Felix?)

I think the key issue is that; are we willing to bet on Harry will need the ingredient we manage to snatch up before him or not? Like Alf said, he might even use different set of ingredients that we don't know at all because he was also trained with the "Book of Potion" (I think many people forget about this) and the book tends to use different ingredient than the standard one (like when it taught Hermione about Potion).

I think the choice is too unreliable. We might not find ingredients fast enough. We might find ingredient that Harry doesn't need at all but we think it's important. Harry might not even need a single ingredient from the cache at all and use all the one that are planted in the forest (and Zelkova has difficulty track those down). I'm more on pressing our advantage in direct combat with these risks present for the third choice. We can even strike him when Harry has to be in a stationary position to brew a potion.

Caster
December 9th, 2015, 06:43 PM
And an extended game of cat and mouse is better? What will happen is a long chase sequence where Harry won't stand his ground and wastes our time. He has no reason to get into direct conflict, and will avoid it at every chance he gets. If we spend our energy trying to hunt him down then nothing really will happen. I don't think Shinji is good enough to pull that off.

If, and this is a big if, Shinji has to try and get Harry, at least don't be stupid about it and do it directly. Traps, sabotage, things like that at least have a better chance than the current offensive option. We will not succeed if we try and chase him down.

Veldril
December 9th, 2015, 10:50 PM
Well, let's break it down on how Shinji could go wrong then.

For the lose condition, if one of the condition is satisfied then Shinji will lose.

If we try to attack him directly:

- Shinji will lose if he could not find Harry in time before he finished brewing his potion.
- Shiji will lose if he could not knock Harry out before he finished his brewing, even if he managed to find Harry.

The most problematic part is the first condition that we might not find him at all. The second part is not very likely to happen because Shinji is far better fighter than Harry, especially with Zelkova fusion.

If we try to take all the ingredients:
- Shinji will lose if he could not find ingredients caches before Harry find them.
- Shinji will lose if he could not take ingredients that Harry will need before he gets them.
- Shinji will lose if he misinterpret what Harry will need for his potions and stop snatching for more ingredients because he thought Harry cannot brew anymore.
- Shinji will lose if Harry does not use ingredients from cache at all but only ingredients from the forest (which Zelkova cannot find easily)

Now assigning percentage to what the probability of those conditions can happen (or add more to the list for both choices so we can look at the situation more thoroughly). Like I said before, there are too many risks involving the third choice. If one of the conditions from four happen, Shinji would lose. If the probability of those events are greater than 25% (which they are for me, around 30% to 40%), then I think it is too risky for him to go for that choice. On the other hand, directly attack (as far as I can see) only has two risks, with the first one has a chance of happening around 50-60% (for me) and the second one with a chance less than 10%. I'm more willing to flip the coin twice than four times and hope no tail will come up.

You might disagree with me, but this is the thought process I came up when I think about this decision. I might miss something that can alter my decision, though.

alfheimwanderer
December 10th, 2015, 02:03 AM
[x] Confrontation
[x] Harry
[x] Yes

100%

Chapter 43. Brother Against Brother

As rain fell in torrents, with the darkness of the night broken up now and then by jagged forks of lightning racing across the sky, Matou Shinji crept slowly through the muddy forest grounds, his golden eyes scanning his environs for any trace of his quarry. No easy task, given that the one he was hunted was trained in evasion – and that the enemy’s wyvernhide garments concealed the Boy-Who-Lived’s prana signature.

‘How…inconvenient, that the things I procured would be turned against me,’ the Matou scion thought dryly. ‘Are you having any more luck, Zelkova?’

The kodama’s answer was not entirely reassuring.

‘There are several patterns of movement consistent with footsteps some distance from here, Master,’ came over his mental link. ‘But I cannot be sure if it is your enemy or another animal, as this forest is home to wolves and other animals – though few would be out in a storm. As for ingredient caches, I do not sense any in the immediate area.’

Matou Shinji frowned. He had been afraid this might be the case, given that before he and Harry had been dropped off in a remote section of the Forbidden Forest –a section he hadn’t previously explored and hadn’t had a chance to have Zelkova scout out – Professor Snape had mentioned that this would be the most grueling Challenge yet.

There would be no base camps where one could brew in relative safety, or leave supplies or equipment. No reliable shelter one could use to brew. No allies to depend on to watch his back or find ingredients for him. No direction for where to go or when to brew.

And of course, during the 12 hour period – dusk till dawn – in which the challenge went on, there were effectively no rules as to what they could do to one another.

Incapacitation. Sabotage. And what have you – everything was permitted.

Their only instructions had been to collect potions ingredients and create the best potions they could, as that was all they would be judged on. Come dawn, they would be Portkeyed out of the Forest, and whoever presented him with the most advanced, highest quality potion, would be chosen as Hogwarts Potions Champion.

As for the miserable weather, Severus Snape had just called it fortuitous, stating with a sneer that if either Matou or Potter felt they could not endure a little rain, they might as well quit now, given that far worse would await them at the Wizarding Schools Potions Championship.

After that, they’d been dropped into the Forest, with neither having any idea where the other was, what ingredients were available, or anything to tell them how much time had passed, all of which added to the pressure of the situation.

Matou Shinji supposed that this final test was objectively fair and appropriate, given that a Champion would have to be prepared for the unexpected, but it didn’t keep him from cursing under his breath at how unfavorable the situation was for him.

In spite of his earlier bravado, Shinji knew he could not hope to outbrew Harry, not when the other boy had the advantage of learning recipes and techniques not only from Snape but the Book of Potions itself – a tome which was a veritable treasure trove of lore, given that it contained the spirit of master potioneer Zygmunt Budge, the inventor of the potion called “liquid luck.”

However much he had developed as a Potioneer, with the benefit of lessons from Hermione and the Twins, matching Harry’s talents was no doubt still beyond him, so it would be foolish to try.

‘Which doesn’t leave me with many options to try and win, does it?’ he mused, moving as silently as he could.

Two options, to be precise.

The first of these – taking all the ingredients he came across and leaving nothing behind, in the hope of denying Harry the ingredients the other boy needed – Shinji had dismissed almost immediately.

He didn’t know what ingredients the Boy-Who-Lived needed, given that he couldn’t even be sure what potion the other boy wanted to brew or what recipes Harry was working from. And even if he did, that didn’t mean Shinji would be able to reach them before Harry could, especially with Zelkova not sensing any caches in the immediate vicinity.

Which left only one viable option: Forcing Harry into a confrontation, as there, Matou Shinji knew he held an edge. After all, incapacitation had not been disallowed and if he managed to disable his rival, then his potion would be the best by default.

‘Which sounded great when I settled on it, but in this weather, and with the properties of our wyvernhide equipment…’

…it was harder than it seemed.

Finding someone in this downpour – especially someone who didn’t want to be found, would be a chore in and of itself, even with his cunning, his mastery of earth, and the tricks the Twins had taught him.

And after finding Harry, he still needed to face and defeat the other boy, all of which was more difficult when it sounded when the ground below him was a muddy mire, there were other hazards to be aware of, and he needed ingredients himself.

Still, as the rain poured down, something dark and hungry stirred within him, a power he’d put aside for far too long whispering of what it could do with all this water all around him.

As he hunted, Matou Shinji’s lips curved into a predatory smile.

100%

In the months since the extermination of the Acromantula colony and the arrest of Rubeus Hagrid, life had gone on at Hogwarts, as the spring term went along, with professors piling more and more work on their students in an attempt to prepare them for their end of term exams – and for some, like the Weasley Twins and Robert Hillard, their O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s, which were far worse, by comparison.

In its wake, Stone Cutters’ reputation had been elevated to near mythic standards in the eyes of the student population at Hogwarts, given the near impossibility of eliminating an entire colony of Acromantulae with so very few people. Reception of their actions among the faculty was much more of a mixed bag, with Headmaster Flitwick inclined to accept fait accompli and warn them not to do anything so dangerous on school grounds again, while Minerva McGonagall and Severus Snape had been most displeased that they had not done the reasonable thing and informed both the staff and the authorities.

Lockhart, had of course, pointed out why they had not done so, given concerns about the staff dismissing the possibility of such a colony existing – or asking Rubeus Hagrid about them, who would then have proceeded to lie and relocate the dangerous beasts, though the Deputy Headmistress had been less than pleased by his explanation.

“Students should not be allowed to take the law into their own hands, Gilderoy, much less undermine our authority in this way,” she had said during an emergency meeting in the Headmaster’s office that had involved herself, the Headmaster, the History Professor, and Severus Snape. “Especially not a group led by the Boy-Who-Lived and the Head Boy. What kind of example does that set for the others?”

“The right one, I would think,” Lockhart had replied, regarding the Deputy Headmistress with cold eyes. “It is their duty as citizens to do what is right, Minerva, not merely what is lawful.”

“It is not their place to decide…” Professor McGonagall had begun, only for Lockhart to cut the Deputy Headmistress off with a laugh.

“…not their place, Minerva?” the Assassin had inquired. “Is that what you said to Albus when he stepped outside the law to establish the Order of the Phoenix? Don’t be a hypocrite.”

“That’s…” Minerva McGonagall had stiffened, her lips curving into a frown as she stared at the younger man. “That’s a different matter entirely, Gilderoy. These are students we are talking about.”

“Really, Minerva?” Lockhart had asked sardonically. “You want to act against a group who is known for faced both a troll and a dark wizard in their first year, knowing what it might cost them – because they didn’t want to see their peers hurt? Students who the rest of the school accepts as extraordinary, not just for what they’ve done at Hogwarts, but for the fact that one of them is Harry Potter, who defeated Lord Voldemort himself.”

His last sentence had been almost a hiss, with his fellow teachers flinching at the way he uttered the Dark Lord’s name without so much as a trace of unease.

“What would you suggest, Gilderoy?” Professor Flitwick had asked the History Professor. “You clearly have something in mind, and it wouldn’t do to encourage other students to act unwisely, especially those who don’t have the Stone Cutters’ extraordinary capabilities.”

“I do, in fact,” the Assassin had noted, with the others regarding him curiously. “Headmaster, you should announce that this entire affair was conducted with your full knowledge and approval, and that you called on the Stone Cutters because you felt they could be trusted to act with competence and discretion – as they have shown here.”

“That’s absurd. You want the Headmaster to lie—“

“I wasn’t finished, Minerva,” the man had said icily, earning himself a glare from the Deputy Headmistress, who had never really liked him, not even in his student days, and couldn’t fathom why Albus Dumbledore had hired him. “As such, given that this is a Hogwarts-sanctioned operation, and happened on school grounds, the school would entitled to some of the proceeds, would it not? Especially given that Hagrid likely used school supplies and funds to raise the Acromantula colony.”

“…you do raise an interesting point,” Professor Snape had interjected. “As distasteful as I find it personally, by placing our seal of approval on these…glory hounds, return for a price, we would likely be able to discourage other would-be adventurers from acting independently.”

“I’m curious, Gilderoy.” Flitwick had raised his eyebrows. “You’re the adventurer among us. Since we’re discussing a division of the proceeds, about how much could the spider remains fetch on the open market?”

“The venom alone would be 100 Galleons a pint,” Snape had drawled, his eyes going unfocused as he contemplated the numbers. “And if there truly were hundreds…”

…then that was a lot of money.

“…Merlin,” Flitwick had squeaked. “And that’s just the venom?”

“To be fair, the venom is the part that needs the least processing, extraction aside,” Lockhart had explained. “There should be approximately a million Galleons worth of that, once we get around to harvesting it. As for the rest, things such as spider blood, fangs, carapaces and silk are less in demand in Britain, though there’s a considerable bit more of it. Sold to the right parties, that is possibly another million or two, perhaps more, though I don’t suggest selling the fangs.”

“Oh?” Flitwick had been curious as to what Lockhart intended. “Explain, if you would.”

“Certainly, Headmaster,” Lockhart had said, nodding deferentially to the part-goblin. “As all of us know, the Tri-Wizard Tournament is occurring next year for the first time in centuries, and is to be hosted at Durmstrang. And at such an event, where national honor is at stake, would it not be to our favor to present our hosts – and the fair witches and wizards of Beauxbatons – with gifts? Say…ceremonial daggers made from Acromantula fangs commemorating the Tournament’s revival…and demoralizing our opposition when they learn what our champion candidates are capable of?”

Another silence fell over the room, though this time, it was a far more thoughtful one.

“…that is an interesting point you raise, Gilderoy,” Flitwick had allowed. “And not one without merit, either.”

“My thought is this – since the Stone Cutters did risk life and limb to complete this operation, it is only right for them to receive a goodly portion of the returns. Shall we say, about sixty percent of the proceeds from the venom, and the rights to do with the silk and carapaces as they wish? The rest will go to us, as I imagine you can find parties interested in the blood, Severus? If not, I certainly can.”

“I can, yes,” Snape had said gruffly.

And with that, the senior members of the faculty had agreed, with Lockhart going off to share the news of how the goods would be split with the school, and the other accommodations they would be given, such as their Orders of Merlin being bumped to First Class, and other things of the sort.

“Decide among yourselves who gets what,” the man had told them. “This is the best deal I can get you, given that with what truly happened, the school would have been within its rights to claim title to all of what you collected.”

“…and what exactly do you get out of this, Professor?” a suspicious Robert Hillard had inquired.

Lockhart had just shrugged.

“Nothing, Mister Hillard, aside from making sure you and yours get what you so richly deserve,” the History Professor had replied. “And preventing my colleagues from doing anything too rash in their zeal for justice. Everyone has a price, after all.”

“…I see.”

“No, you don’t,” the Assassin had noted, “but you will, in time.”

In the end, Shinji had allowed the other Stone Cutters to claim the proceeds from the venom, while he – and Luna – had settled for rights to the carapaces and silk…so long as he could use the Hogwarts owls to ship his goods to his Master at Mahoutokoro, given that shipping costs for such a volume of goods would otherwise be prohibitively expensive.

Lockhart had promised to ask the Headmaster, who had given permission, as save for very rare occasions, most of Hogwarts’ owls went unused, so as long as Shinji left enough to cover the usual demand, it would be fine.

Most of the others saw it as an act of generosity, as it left them with a little over half a million British pounds each, but for him it was simply pragmatic, as his Master needed silk and carapace for her projects, and given the silk industry in the East, he was reasonably sure Mahoutokoro was better equipped to deal with the processing required to make the silk usable.

In other news, to no one’s surprise, the half-giant had been sentenced to a life sentence in Azkaban for his numerous crimes, which included, but were not limited to, trafficking in Class A Non-Tradeable Materials, several counts of aggravated assault on an officer of the law, criminal negligence, violation of the Ban on Experimental Breeding, Violating a Ministry Order (by continuing to use magic after being expelled from Hogwarts), and the murder of Myrtle Warren.

The Capture the Flag season had come to an end, with Anthony Goldstein leading Team Snorkack to victory over the league and claiming both the Honeydukes Cup and the limited edition Albus Dumbledore Chocolate Frog Card that came with it.

And Molly Weasley had been hired as the castle’s caretaker and had thrown herself into her new job with a passion born of frustration – much to the despair of many a troublemaker. After all, while it had been bad enough facing detention from a nasty man like Argus Filch, or a good-hearted if scary sort like Rubeus Hagrid (who tended to have students out in the Forest), it was worse to be lectured by a matronly woman who was quite adept at the art of guilt-tripping and possessed a keen sense for rooting out mischief and mayhem (no doubt a consequence of raising so many children, including Fred and George). Her sons, of course, were never caught out after curfew, but of course, they had certain…advantages such as the Marauder’s Map, letting them see her coming from corridors away, invisibility potions, so they could not be seen, and of course, house elves that would apparate them around the castle at need, facilitating easy getaways.

100%

Lightning flashed down from above, followed closely on its heels by rolling thunder, as Harry Potter shivered under his Cloak of Invisibility. Not because he was cold, mind you, but because he was nervous. The last few…hours had been some of the worst in his life as he made his way through the Forbidden Forest, looking for potion ingredients, while simultaneously keeping a wary eye out for any sign of Matou Shinji.

He knew that his friend – and rival – desired the position of Champion as much as he did, which worried him, as he’d seen what Shinji was capable of doing to anything that stood in his way. And given that only one of them would emerge from this challenge with what he wanted…well, the Boy-Who-Lived was less than entirely confident about his chances of victory.

Yes, between the two of them, he was indisputably the better brewer, given that he was Snape’s protégé, but all the brewing knowledge in the world wouldn’t help him in a fight. And while some of the spells the Professor had taught him might…well, Shinji was wearing dragonhide robes as well, meaning that there was very little that would could even faze him.

‘Little except ofuda, and Matou knows how to use that far better than I do.’

In a way, it was fortunate that it was raining so heavily, as the torrential downpour washed away his footsteps, but on the other hand, dealing with the limited visibility it brought was something of a nightmare – and he didn’t dare to use even Lumos to help light his way, as that would just heighten the odds of him being discovered and neutralized.

For while his Cloak made him invisible and his ensemble of dragonhide gear protected him from most wand spells, neither would protect him if Shinji began lobbing powerful explosive ofuda his way.

…or raised spikes of earth to surround him, caused the ground to open up under him, or any other unpleasantness. Worse, if it so happened that Shinji discovered him while the other boy was in fusion form, there would be nothing Harry could do to stop him.

‘Not that he can maintain fusion for long…’

From what Harry had managed to piece together during the spider raid, Matou had distinct limits on how long he could stay in his enhanced form, as he would have otherwise started the battle with his full powers.

Which probably meant that for the first few hours, Shinji would forego the use of his trump card, saving it for later.

Probably.

Unfortunately, probably wasn’t good enough, not when so much was depending on it, and there were too many unknowns to be certain what the best course of action was.

Certainly, he could stay on the move until the very last moment, and only then stop to brew, but would Matou be expecting that? He could brew something now and spend the rest of the time on the move, but if the boy from the east was on the prowl, that could be extraordinarily dangerous.

Whenever he chose to stop and focus on crafting a potion, he’d be exposing himself to danger, since while he could conceal himself from sight, he couldn’t exactly hide a bubbling cauldron or an open flame – if he could even get a fire going in the pouring rain.

Incendio, the Fire-Making Charm, was less than entirely reliable during a tempest, after all, and while he supposed he could conjure up handheld flames, that was something of a last resort, as it meant he’d be preparing his ingredients much more slowly than usual.

And given that he’d already need to be careful with that, since maintaining the proper ratio of water and ingredients were important, and the last thing he needed was for rainwater to overfill the cauldron with disastrous results.

‘I think…I preferred when the forest was on fire.’

At least that time, there had been established base camps to get to, with cauldrons and supplies already present. This time, he and Matou had to carry their supplies – and any ingredients they collected – with them, without anywhere to drop them off.

It was perhaps an irony that the collapsible cauldron and ingredient prep set Matou had given him in first year was turning out to be a godsend, as it was lightweight and useful for storing other things.

‘What to do…’

The Draught of Living Death was right out, given that it would require at least an hour to brew a mostly finished potion, even with all of Professor Snape’s shortcuts, and he had no idea where he’d get a Sloth brain. A Love Potion Antidote would be the simplest thing he could make, as it required only Wiggentree twigs, Castor oil and extract of Gurdyroot, but it wouldn’t be very impressive.

‘…wait, is that a Wiggentree?’

His eyes widened. That was good fortune indeed, given that he would be protected from Dark Creatures so long as he was touching the tree.

Slowly, he approached it, drawing his knife as he hoped to slice off a few twigs – only for something to jump at him – a hand-sized, flat-faced stickman of barks and twigs, with sharpened fingers aiming for his eyes—

‘Bowtruckle.‘

—only to be met by a beam of red light as it thudded lifelessly to the muddy ground below.

‘I’ll harvest and keep going. If Matou was anywhere nearby, this could get bad.’

100%

‘Master…prana signature detected,’ the voice of Zelkova reported dutifully over his mental link with Shinji. ‘800 meters due west of this position.’

With his face half hidden by the cowl of his robe, Matou Shinji found his lips curving up into a smile. Finally, after what had seemed like hours, he had a solid lead where his opponent might be. Oh, his kodama had identified several entities moving through the forest earlier, but without something to confirm that one of those was Harry, all Shinji had been able to do was move in the general direction movement had been sensed.

Now though…

‘Very good, Zelkova. Can you narrow down his location, or pinpoint where he might be going from there?’

‘Perhaps. We need to get closer, Master.’

Shinji just grunted and channeled prana into his boots to help him close the distance between him and his quarry, hoping the rain would drown out the sound of him advancing.

100%

Believing that someone might have seen the flash of red light, Harry had moved on from the Wiggentree after his encounter with the Bowtruckle. It was unfortunate, but he couldn’t afford to be wrong. If he ran into Matou and couldn’t neutralize him, that would bode ill for his chances of success.

He had to keep moving until he found somewhere that he could use for shelter, where his flame and cauldron could be hidden from sight while he prepared his ingredients.

A brilliant stroke of lightning lit up world around him with a brilliant white light as it struck a tree somewhere in the forest. Seeing it, something stirred in Harry’s mind – something he hadn’t considered before.

‘A hollowed out tree…that would be ideal, if I could find one.’

100%

‘Master – look, a stunned Bowtruckle by this Wiggentree.’

Shinji frowned as he knelt down, touching the earth and letting a few of his ofuda flutter down to it. He let his prana seep into the ground, feeling for any disturbances or anomalies in the flow, any subtle variations in the distribution of earth, that—aha!

Someone about his size, had passed here not long ago, heading northwest, though without any betraying prana signature.

‘Well, that would probably be Harry…Zelkova, can you track him from here?’

‘I believe so, Master, but I am unsure if you can catch up to him unless he stops.’

Sooner or later though, Harry would have to, and when he did…

‘Checkmate.’

100%

‘Something’s coming.’

Harry didn’t know how he knew this to be so, just that he felt a premonition of doom, as if something was swooping towards him and narrowly missing. He couldn’t see anyone out in the gloom, but that didn’t really mean much, given that visibility was terrible.

‘And if I’m right, this could be bad…I have to break contact.’

Thinking quickly, he released a number explosive ofuda, ordering them to shoot backwards towards the direction he felt something at him from as he broke into a run, veering away from his original direction in the hope that he could put some distance between him and whoever was chasing him, as explosions rang out in the distance.

100%

Shinji had just cast a non-verbal Homenum Revelio, pinpointing Harry’s position, when a swarm of explosive ofuda came at him.

Whump-BOOM! Whump-BOOM! Whump-BOOM!

The boy from the east brought his arms up to guard his face as he found himself pushed back by the force of the explosions, muffled as they were by the roar of thunder.

By the time the explosions stopped, the marker denoting Harry’s position had disappeared.

‘…he broke contact. And now he knows I’m after him…’

The Matou scion frowned.

‘Zelkova, can you tell me which way he went? I don’t think I’ll be able to run him to ground unless I use fusion, and I’d rather save that if possible.’

‘Ah, a trap then, Master?’

‘Yes,’ Shinji replied, handing his familiar a few explosive ofuda. ‘If you can find him for me, detonate a few of these ahead of him. I want him confused and running. I’m heading to the fallback position.’

‘Scenario Abel is in effect then, Master?’ Zelkova questioned, with a hint of exasperation audible through the link.

‘Indeed. Scenario Abel.’

100%

Harry felt his heart pounding in his chest as he ran and ran and ran, his mind trying to process how on earth Matou had tracked him through the forest. He knew it was probably a coincidence. The other probably just happened to be close enough to see his crimson spellbeam – or hear it – when he’d been forced to defend himself, but…something about that explanation didn’t ring true.

He had to put more distance between himself and his friend, or the other would find him again, somehow.

And then twin explosions of light and fury erupted before him, knocking him to the ground and his blood froze in his veins.

‘What?’

Had Matou gotten ahead of him? How? How was that possible?

Scrabbling to his feet, the Boy-Who-Lived released a sphere of flash-bangs all around him to cover his escape and changed course once again as a powerful flash of brilliant light erupted behind him.

100%

Matou Shinji smirked as he retreated back to the pre-arranged position, knowing his familiar would keep Harry on the run for a time – long enough so that he could set up the essentials of his plan. It wasn’t at all guaranteed, but if there was one thing that he had learned from Lockhart, it was that if someone believed that they were trapped, that they had no other options available but the ones you placed before them, then that person was already halfway defeated.

“The most fundamental part of combat is movement,” the Assassin had said in one of their lessons. “How you move – how your enemy moves, both physically and in terms of thought. Control those, and the battle is won.”

“And how would one go about doing that?” a curious Matou Shinji had asked, as he rubbed a soothing salve on some of his bruises. “Especially if your opponent outclasses you in an area.”

“Much like Mister Potter is better than you at Potions?” the History Professor had quipped, with Shinji wincing as the man saw through him so easily. “You know the answer as well as I. Don’t face him in a battle of potioneers. Press the advantages you have to make your opponent desperate, and then use his desperation against him.”

“Oh?”

“People often defeat themselves far more readily than we can defeat them,” the man had told him. “You remember the axiom I taught you in History class?”

“Nothing is true, sir?”

“Indeed,” Lockhart had affirmed with a serious look on his face. “Everything is permitted.”

Matou Shinji had taken those lessons to heart, and as he reached the spot he and Zelkova had picked out earlier, under the cover of a tree, where he began laying out a base camp of sorts, putting down a line of earth-elemental ofuda as mines to protect him from his enemies as he quickly prepared the ingredients he needed.

A length of fruit juice tinged ice, formed readily enough from the rain and a few crushed elderberries.

Wildflowers, of which plenty had been in abundance.

And of course, a red spider he’d found in a cache.

Then, on the muddy ground, he’d wordlessly conjured up a bright blue flame – flames that were waterproof, needed no fuel, and radiated heat only to objects held directly above it – and expanded his cauldron over it as he mixed the ingredients together.

These bluebell flames, as he’d learned from the twins, were something they’d used in pranks before – most notably on him in his first year – and he was rather glad to know it in this situation, given how rain could be rather troublesome otherwise.

And as the cauldron began to bubble, Matou Shinji stepped away, slipping into the night and leaving the area apparently undefended.

100%

Harry found himself slowing as his legs burned from exertion. He’d changed directions any number of times, only to find ofuda waiting for him, forcing him to spend more and more of his own talismans, and finally, finally, it seemed like Matou had lost him, given that the explosions seemed to be getting further and further away.

‘Good. Whatever he was doing earlier to find me, it must have worn off. Maybe he lost his fusion form?’

At least, Harry hoped so. If not, then the chase would begin again, and he hadn’t begun to brew anything quite yet.

He leaned against a tree, taking a moment to get his breathing under control. The situation still wasn’t great, but at least things seemed better than they were minutes ago.

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

Eventually, when it was back to a semblance of normality, the boy continued onwards, walking about a hundred meters onward…until he froze at the sight of blue glow in the distance.

‘What? But Matou is…is this his base camp?’

He zoomed in on the scene, but couldn’t get a good visual, so he crept closer and closer, until he could make out a cauldron bubbling merrily away above a bed of blue flames at the base of a tree, with ofuda ringing the area.

Harry felt like laughing as the pieces came together. So Matou had gone looking for him, but had left his base camp undefended? Why?

‘Probably because this a complex potion that needs some time to simmer…’

Which meant that if he destroyed it, his rival would no doubt be set back considerably. Why, Shinji might not even have a potion at the end of this, which would be a shame indeed – but would guarantee Harry’s victory if he managed to brew something as simple as a cure for boils.

Suppressing a smirk, Harry sent an ofuda to blow up the cauldron and ruin the mixture, bracing himself for the eruption as—

BOOM!

—the world went white.

When Harry became aware of the world again, all he knew was that it hurt – hurt all over. What…had happened? All he could hear was ringing, with his body going rigid and stiff as the rain came down on his face.

It felt…cold, as if…

‘Ice…? What…?’

He couldn’t move. Could barely breathe, as more and more of his body went rigid. There was an ofuda on him – no, on his invisibility cloak, with ice sealing him to the ground, growing thicker and thicker as the rain fell down.

‘No…what?’

But it was getting hard to think. Even breathing became difficult as black spots appeared in his vision. He was…he was…

And then the world faded away as everything went dark.

100%

Matou Shinji smiled as Snape’s portkey activated its emergency functions, causing Harry to vanish from within the dome of ice, whisking him away to the Hospital Wing and leaving him the last Potioneer standing.

Everything had gone according to plan. Harry had been herded to and fro, with Zelkova driving him along at a frenzied pace until Shinji’s potion was about ready to be detonated.

…for what he’d made was an Exploding Potion – something he knew how to make quite well by now, thanks to Hermione and Sokaris. And when the Boy-Who-Lived had sent out an ofuda to destroy the volatile mixture, well…

The explosion had been much greater than Harry had anticipated, the sheer force of it slamming the Heir of Slytherin into the ground and stunning him, allowing Shinji – who had pinpointed his location the moment he stepped into the clearing, to trap him with one of his water-based ofuda, with layers of ice forming over the unbreakable Cloak of Invisibility while Harry was unable to move.

‘And all that remains now,’ he thought to himself, retrieving another collapsible cauldron from his kit, ‘is to brew another potion.’

100%

When dawn came, Matou Shinji found himself vanishing from the forest and reappearing before a tired-looking Severus Snape, whose eyes seemed curious, if somewhat…resigned.

“Have you brewed a potion, Mister Matou?” the Potions Master inquired.

Wordlessly, the boy from the east handed over an acid-green vial, with Professor Snape frowning as he examined it.

“…Exploding Potion, Mister Matou?” the man asked dryly. “A rather simple concoction, all things considered. Nothing more complicated for this final challenge of the year?”

“With due respect sir, I didn’t need anything more complicated,” Shinji replied. “Not with my only competition in the Hospital Wing.”

Snape raised an eyebrow at the boy’s statement, but nodded.

“I suppose if you have managed to disable my protégé, and brew a better potion than he managed, then I have no choice but to confirm you as Potions Champion of Hogwarts,” the man allowed grudgingly. “And who is to be your second?”

“Why, Harry, of course.”

“Very well, Mister Matou. Do make the travel arrangements. I will inform Mister Potter when he recovers from his defeat.”

100%

Choice 103: Final Choice - who do we want to see a guest POV from in the next chapter - "Romeo and Juliet"? (Aside from Hermione)

[ ] (write-in)

Nephirin
December 10th, 2015, 02:35 AM
Hmm.

[x]Harry

mAc Chaos
December 10th, 2015, 02:54 AM
[x] KOTOMINE

gesalt
December 10th, 2015, 03:28 AM
[x] KOTOMINE
.

mangafreak7793
December 10th, 2015, 04:13 AM
The twins

mAc Chaos
December 10th, 2015, 04:17 AM
i dont understand, who is kotomines twin

oh gilgamesh good call

Cremela
December 10th, 2015, 04:44 AM
Doh, didn't vote in time! Really enjoyed this chapter: Shinji's use of the exploding potion for a potions challenge was masterful! Trying to hide in a tree from someone with a kodama familiar is probably not a good idea even with a cloak that can hide you from Death itself. Wonder about the relationship between Bowtruckles and Kodama....

As for guest POV... Shirou? Kotomine? Lucius Malfoy? Gilgamesh? Zouken? *sweats*

Omida
December 10th, 2015, 04:51 AM
Liked chapter very much. Especially how Shinji was positively predatory. Lockhart's lessons were put to good use it seems.


[X] McGonagal - I am honestly curious about what is happening in mind of one of Dumbledore's most staunch supporters.

Veldril
December 10th, 2015, 07:06 AM
Alf, do we have a chance to do something or buy something good for Zelkova in a future? I feel like this year, Shinji really abused his familiar to the point of slave labor :P Doing something for our familiar out of gratitude would be nice!

And yeah, our choices to go for familiar last year, focusing on awareness and some other choices really paid off.

For the choice, who else are going to attend the play aside from the faculty members and students?

mr_Trickster
December 10th, 2015, 07:40 AM
I have to admit that McGonagall is a very interesting-looking option considering we haven't seen much of her perspective either. We may have something to learn, after all such as the view of the order (in the event she's still tied in with Moody and the others) or even just her perspective on all of the things we're doing. We may want to check how we're doing on everyone's Dark Lord Incoming meter, after all.

Other notable options are Lucius - who was selected for last year's penultimate chapter as well. Snape as we have something to get with what's happened on his end for the past year as we've more or less avoided the Master of Death in just about all forms despite this book being titled after him. Lockhart who might give us some additional information on the Order of Assassins and maybe some of his work with Zouken. Rita - another interesting one as we don't have anything form her view and we might want to know what the general public is (and isn't) getting as she seems to have quite a bit of dirt on everyone.

I'll abstain for now as I'd like to see what you guys think.

Magus
December 10th, 2015, 08:36 AM
More insight into the other Master of Death and his plans, Gilderoy Lockhart?