Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.
Bagman and Crouch
"Bethany!" Charlie's eyes lit up before tackling me in a strong embrace.
"What are you doing here? I thought you were supposed to be in Australia …" he trailed off as he saw Bill smirk, "You knew about this."
His older brother nodded as he averted his gaze slightly.
"Hey, don't get mad at him," I said, batting his forearm as he made a grab for his brother from over my shoulder, "I made him promise not to say anything because I wanted to surprise you."
"And no offence mate, but your girlfriend is a lot scarier than you and your dragons combined," Bill added as he leapt out of Charlie's reach.
Charlie sighed, before he wrapped his arm around me and kissed my forehead, "I'm just glad that you're here. Are you staying for the match?"
"Well, I did manage to snag a seat with you in the Top Box," I hummed, "And Rowan can't wait to try out the new tent that she bought, though I'm sure that she'd be able to vacate it for a few hours if you're interested …"
"Oh really?" Charlie smirked as I trailed a hand down his t-shirt.
"Eh-hem," another Weasley stepped out of the shadows with a loud crack.
"Percy, hey," I smiled.
"Bethany," he said with his typical airiness as he marched towards us, "How quaint it is to see you on this lovely morning."
I raised an eyebrow, "Um it's afternoon, and what's with the strut?"
"You noticed that too huh?" Charlie nodded, "I thought it was just my imagination."
"Or the excess of cauldron bottoms," agreed Bill.
Percy went pink around his ears, "I am not strutting."
"Oh no of course not," I grinned, "You're just walking …"
"With your nose in the air …" supplied Bill.
"And a waddle in your step …" smirked Charlie.
"Like a duck," I finished.
Percy stiffened with the slightest grunt of disapproval as Charlie, Bill and I burst out laughing.
"Well we should be meeting our father just beyond the clearing …" he coughed.
"You're more than welcome to join us," Bill offered kindly, "If you two aren't too busy reacquainting yourselves that is."
I blushed as he waggled an eyebrow in our direction.
"Well I wouldn't want to intrude," I managed.
"Nonsense, the whole family loves you," Charlie replied reassuringly as he squeezed my hand in his.
"And Dad absolutely dotes on you ever since you got him that Muggle Toast-it," added Bill.
Percy made a humphing sound at the back of his throat as we emerged out of the woods, spotting a flock of redheaded Weasleys crowded around a spluttering campfire.
"Just Apparated Dad," he announced with the pompous air of a peacock grooming its feathers, "Ah, excellent, lunch!"
Mr Weasley looked up from where he was cooking a pan of fat sausages and eggs over the fire with a broad smile.
"My word, is that you Bethany? Why we haven't seen you since our last trip to Egypt!"
"It's great to see you again Mr Weasley," I beamed as Charlie and I made our way towards them.
"Yeah, long time no see," George grinned.
"Looking gorgeous as always," added Fred with a cheeky wink.
"Alright, knock it off you two," Charlie growled as we settled together on a nearby log beside Bill.
"Bethany's a Cursebreaker for Gringotts," Ron supplied to his friends between mouthfuls of sausages.
"You mean like Bill?" asked Hermione Granger.
"That's right," I nodded.
"Oh she's much more than just that," Bill replied cheerfully as he passed us each a plate of food, "Bethany's the new Head Cursebreaker now."
"So she's practically Bill's boss," chimed Fred.
"Well I wouldn't say that …" I blushed, as Charlie gave my hand a small squeeze.
We were halfway through our plates of sausages and eggs when Mr Weasley jumped to his feet, waving and grinning at a man who was striding towards us.
"Aha!" he said. "The man of the moment! Ludo!"
Ludo Bagman was easily the most noticeable wizard by far. He was wearing long Quidditch robes in thick horizontal stripes of black and yellow that would have given somebody like Andre Egwu a bad case of vertigo with an enormous picture of a wasp emblazed on his chest. He had the distinct look of a powerfully built man who'd let himself go: the robes stretching so tightly across his large, port belly that it was hard to believe that he'd ever played Quidditch for England. His nose was askew (probably broken by a stray Bludger back in the day) but his round blue eyes, short blonde hair and overall rosy complexion made him look like an overgrown schoolboy.
"Ahoy there!" Bagman called in a state of wild excitement, bounding towards us as though he had springs attached to the balls of his feet.
"Arthur, old man," he was already puffing slightly by the time he had reached the campfire, "What a day, eh? What a day! Could we have asked for more perfect weather? A cloudless night coming … and hardly a hiccough in arrangements … not much for me to do!"
Charlie and I exchanged a silent glance as a group of haggard-looking Ministry officials rushed passed, pointing at some sort of magical fire in the near distance that was spitting violet sparks twenty feet into the air.
Percy hurried forward with his hand outstretched: apparently his disapproval of the way Ludo Bagman ran his department did not prevent him from wanting to make a good impression.
"Ah yes," said Mr Weasley, grinning, "This is my son, Percy, he's just started at the Ministry – and this is Fred – no, George, sorry – that's Fred – Bill, Charlie, their friend Bethany, Ron – my daughter, Ginny – and Ron's friends, Hermione Granger and Harry Potter."
Bagman did the smallest of double takes when he heard Harry's name and his eyes performed the familiar upward flick in the direction of his famous lightning-shaped scar.
"Everyone," Mr Weasley continued, "this is Ludo Bagman, you know who he is, it's thanks to him we've got such great tickets …"
Bagman beamed and waved his hand as if to say it had been nothing.
"Fancy a flutter on the match, Arthur?" he asked eagerly, jingling what seemed to be a large sum of gold in the pockets of his robes. "I've already got Roddy Pontner betting me Bulgaria will score first – I offered him nice strong odds considering Ireland's front three are the strongest I've seen in years – and little Agatha Timmes has put half shares in her eel farm on a week-long match."
"Oh … go on then," said Mr Weasley after a brief hesitation. "Let's see … a galleon on Ireland to win?"
"A galleon?" Ludo Bagman looked slightly disappointed but recovered quickly, "very well, very well … any other takers?"
"They're a bit young to be gambling," frowned Mr Weasley, "Molly wouldn't like …"
"We'll bet thirty-seven Galleons, fifteen Sickles, three Knuts," said Fred as he and George quickly pooled in all their money, "that Ireland will win – but Victor Krum gets the Snitch. Oh, and we'll throw in a fake wand."
"You don't want to go showing Mr Bagman rubbish like that …" Percy hissed, but Bagman didn't seem to think the wand was rubbish at all: on the contrary, his boyish face shone with excitement as he took it from Fred and roared with laughter when it gave a loud squawk and turned into a rubber chicken.
"Excellent! I haven't seen one that convincing in years! I'll pay five Galleons for that!"
The rest of us sniggered softly as Percy froze in stunned disapproval.
"Boys," Mr Weasley said under his breath, "I don't want you betting … that's all your savings … your mother …"
"Don't be a spoilsport, Arthur!" boomed Ludo Bagman, rattling his pockets excitedly. "They're old enough to know what they want! You reckon Ireland will win but Krum 'll catch the Snitch? Not a chance, boys, not a chance … I'll give you excellent odds on that one … we'll add five galleons for the funny wand, then, shall we …"
Mr Weasley looked on helplessly as the wizard whipped out a notebook and quill and began jotting down the twins' names.
"Cheers," grinned George, taking the slip of parchment and tucking it away carefully.
Bagman turned most cheerfully back to Mr Weasley. "Couldn't do me a brew, I suppose? I'm keeping an eye out for Barty Crouch. My Bulgarian opposite number's making difficulties and I can't understand a word he's saying. Barty 'll be able to sort it out. He speaks about a hundred and fifty languages …"
"Mr Crouch?" piped Percy, suddenly abandoning his look of poker-stiff disapproval and positively writhing with excitement. "He speaks over two hundred! Mermish and Gobbledegook and Troll …"
I raised an eyebrow.
"Anyone can speak Troll," Fred retorted dismissively, "all you've got to do is point and grunt."
Percy threw Fred an extremely nasty look and stoked the fire vigorously to bring the kettle back to boil as Charlie rolled his eyes.
"See what I mean?" he whispered in my ear, "Percy's absolutely bonkers for the man: been harking on about him all summer …"
"Any news of Bertha Jorkins yet, Ludo?" Mr Weasley asked instead as Bagman settled himself down on the grass beside him.
"Not a dicky bird," Bagman replied comfortably as he leaned backwards. "But she'll turn up. Poor old Bertha … Memory like a leaky cauldron and no sense of direction: Lost, you take my word for it. She'll wander back into the office sometime in October, thinking its still July."
Charlie, Bill and I exchanged frowns when he said that.
"You don't think it might be time to send someone to look for her?" Mr Weasley suggested tentatively as Percy handed Bagman his tea.
"Barty Crouch keeps saying that," said Bagman, his round eyes widening innocently, "but we really can't spare anyone at the moment. Oh – talk of the devil! Barty!"
A wizard had just apparated at the fireside, and he could not have made more of a contrast with Ludo Bagman, sprawled on the grass in his old Wasp robes. Barty Crouch was a stiff, upright, no-nonsense sort of elderly man, dressed in an impeccably crisp suit with highly polished shoes and a party in his short grey hair, which was almost unnaturally straight. Mr Crouch had complied with the rule about Muggle dressing so thoroughly that he could have passed as a bank manager, and, with his serious demeanour and narrow toothbrush moustache, I could see why Percy (a great believer in rigidly following rules) idolised the man.
"Pull up a bit of grass, Barty," said Ludo brightly, patting the ground beside him.
"No, thank you, Ludo," replied Crouch with a bite of impatience, "I've been looking for you everywhere. The Bulgarians are insisting we add another twelve seats to the Top Box."
"Oh is that what they're after?" said Bagman, "I thought the chap was asking to borrow a pair of tweezers. Bit of a strong accent …"
"Mr Crouch!" said Percy breathlessly as he sunk into some sort of weird, hunched-backed bow, "Would you like a cup of tea?"
"Oh," Mr Crouch blinked, looking over at Percy in mild surprise, "Yes – thank you, Weatherby."
Fred and George choked into their own cups as Percy, very pink around the ears busied himself with the kettle.
"Weatherby?" I mouthed as Charlie chuckled.
"Oh, and I've been wanting a word with you too Arthur," Mr Crouch added, his sharp eyes falling on Mr Weasley. "Ali Bashir's on the warpath. He wants a word with you about your embargo on flying carpets."
Mr Weasley heaved a deep sigh. "I sent him an owl about that last week. If I've told him once I've told him a hundred times: carpets are defined as a Muggle Artefact by the Registry of Proscribed Charmable Objects, but will he listen?"
"I doubt it," Mr Crouch replied as he accepted a cup from Percy. "He's desperate to export here."
"Well, they'll never replace brooms in Britain, will they?" chortled Bagman.
"Ali thinks there's a niche in the market for a family vehicle," Crouch explained, "I remember my grandfather had an Axminster that could seat twelve – but that was before carpets were banned of course."
He spoke as though he wanted to leave nobody in any doubt that all his ancestors had abided strictly to the law.
"So, been keeping busy, Barty?" asked Bagman breezily.
"Fairly," Mr Crouch replied drily, "Organising Portkeys across five continents is no mean feat, Ludo."
"I expect you'll both be glad when this is over?" asked Mr Weasley politely.
Ludo Bagman looked shocked.
"Glad? Don't know when I've had more fun … still, it's not as though we haven't go anything to look forward to, eh Barty? Eh? Plenty left to organise, eh?"
Mr Crouch scowled, "We agreed not to make the announcement until all the details …"
"Oh, details!" snorted Bagman, waving his hands energetically, "They've sighed, haven't they? They've agreed, haven't they? I bet you anything these kids will know soon enough anyway. I mean it's happening at Hogwarts …"
"Ludo, we need to meet the Bulgarians you know," snapped Mr Crouch sharply, cutting Bagman's remarks short. "Thank you for the tea Weatherby."
He pushed his untouched tea back towards Percy and waited for Ludo to rise: Bagman struggled to his feet again, swigging down the last of his tea, the gold jangling merrily in his pockets.
"See you all later!" he beamed, "You'll be up in the Top Box with me – I'm commentating!" he waved, Barty Crouch nodded curtly and both of them disapparated.
"What's happening at Hogwarts Dad?" Fred asked at once.
"You'll find out soon enough," replied Mr Weasley with an enigmatic smile.
"It's classified information until the Ministry decides to release it," Percy added stiffly with his typical air of pretension, "Mr Crouch was quite right not to disclose it …"
"Oh shut up, Weatherby," snapped Fred.
Bill, Charlie and I were excused to go look for the rest of our friends as the afternoon wore on. A sense of excitement rose like a palpable cloud over the campsite. By dusk, the still summer air seemed to be quivering with anticipation, and as the darkness spread like a curtain over the thousands of waiting wizards, the last vestiges of pretence disappeared: the Ministry seemed to have bowed to the inevitable and stopped fighting the signs of blatant magic now erupting everywhere.
"Wotcher, Bethany!" Tonks grinned, tripping over a peg as she finished setting up our tent with the help of Penny and Rowan who were still trying to decipher the instructions.
"We were wondering where you'd gotten to, though I see you managed to wrangle in our favourite dragon-crazy Weasley and Co hey?"
Charlie flushed slightly, "Just because I've been in Romania, doesn't mean you can torment me, Tonks."
"No, that's my job," Bill agreed, giving his brother's hair an affectionate ruffle.
"Ugh, Bill, get off!" griped Charlie as he tried to bat him away.
Penny giggled, "It's so good to see you all again," she enveloped us into a tight embrace.
"Oi, did you hear?" Tonks interrupted, "Bethany's the new Head-Cursebreaker at Gringotts! Rowan, Penny and I were just talking about it before …"
"What? Really?" Tulip appeared behind us, "How did you manage that without her killing you?"
"Just so we're clear, this 'her' we're talking about is Merula, right?" Rowan piped before I could respond.
"No, we're talking about Merlin. Of course, it's Merula bloody Snyde," snapped Tulip.
"Just because you don't like her doesn't mean Merula's a bad person," Bill countered defensively, only for Tulip's eyes to darken.
"And here we go again," sighed Tonks as Tulip swelled like a bullfrog, "If you need me, I'll be out resupplying the fireworks that I accidentally set off in the tent."
"Wait a minute, you set off what in my tent?" asked Rowan.
"Look, Merula's been through a lot; that doesn't make her a bad person …"
"Huh, funny," Tulip drawled sarcastically, "I seem to recall you saying the same thing about Rakepick …"
"Too far Tulip," I murmured.
"Fine," she relented, holding up her hands, "Just to be clear …"
"Oh I think that you've made your point," Tonks said, reappearing with a crate full of newly purchased fireworks tucked underneath her arm.
"You were literally gone for less than five seconds," stuttered Rowan in semi-disbelief, "How did you manage to collect that many fireworks?"
"An auror's got her ways," Tonks shrugged.
"And it helps to know a smuggler or two," smirked Jae, apparating with a cart full of different said merchandise, "So what are you all arguing about this time? How awesome my swagger is?"
There were luminous rosettes – green for Ireland, red for Bulgaria – which squealed the names of each player, pointed green hats with dancing shamrocks, Bulgarian scarves adorned with lions that actually roared, flags from both countries which played their national anthems as they waved; there were tiny models of Firebolts that could fly and collectable figurines of famous players, which strolled across the cart preening themselves.
"Wow, check out this scarf Andre!" Penny exclaimed as Andre approached us from a nearby tent along with Barnaby and Diego.
"Mine's still better," he retorted, gesturing proudly to his own purple Pride of Portree's scarf before flashing us a friendly smile. "Nice to see you again Curse-breaker. And do my eyes deceive me or is that Charles dragon-taming Weasley in the flesh no less?"
"As we live and breathe," I nodded.
"Hey Egwu," Charlie grinned as he clapped him on the back, "How's Quidditch?"
"Better than your sense of fashion, that's for sure," Andre shuddered as he pinched Charlie's t-shirt.
"You get more beautiful every time I see you Chicka," Diego hummed.
I rolled my eyes, "Keep your robes on Casanova," I replied, as Charlie placed a protective hand on the small of my back, "And how many times have I told you not to call me that?"
"It's not my fault that you're so beautiful …"
"Careful," warned Penny.
"Yeah, I wouldn't try chatting her up if I were you, mate," Andre agreed, "Charlie here might set a dragon on you."
"Before or after Bethany hexes the crap out of him?" Tonks wondered out loud.
"Either or," Tulip shrugged.
"I like dragons," Barnaby commented randomly, "They're very scaly."
I giggled as Charlie blinked before I tiptoed to kiss the Weasley's cheek.
"Bad luck, mate," Andre smirked as he clapped Diego's shoulder.
"You want a Butterbeer to wash down that rejection?" asked Jae conversationally.
Diego paused for a second before he nodded, "Yeah, why not."
Jae handed him a bottle for two Galleons.
Charlie and Bill both bought green rosettes. I got one of the miniature flying Firebolts for Charlie and a green rosette for myself. Tonks couldn't decide whether to turn her hair red or green so she did both, resembling a Christmas tree on steroids. Rowan bought a set of flags and began reciting each national anthem by heart. Barnaby bought a dancing shamrock hat ("That way I'll look more like a Bowtruckle," he said) and Diego sportingly agreed to buy a red rosette and matching scarf because he liked a lion to himself as Andre scoured each trolley for something to do with Pride of the Portrees.
In the end, he managed to find a model of himself in Quidditch robes and bought it immediately. He urged Penny to follow suit but much to Andre's dismay she bought a mini figurine of Victor Krum, the Bulgarian Seeker instead.
"Why's he always scowling?" Tonks asked as the miniature Krum walked backwards and forwards on Penny's shoulder.
"Probably because he doesn't have an awesome outfit like mine," replied Andre.
Jae left to sell the rest of his merchandise and Penny went to go find her sister while Tulip and Tonks took turns pulling pranks on unsuspecting passer-byes.
We saw brief glimpses of our other friends too: Badeea Ali was painting magical caricatures of people while discussing her peculiar dreams with Talbott Winger ("You have strange dreams Badeea," he murmured); Amos Diggory boasting about his son Cedric now in his sixth year at Hogwarts, and Liz Tuttle was trying to advocate for creature rights ("When you think about it, Chimeras are really quite gentle," she insisted.)
It was only when Tonks accidentally soaked a furious Veela in green ink did Charlie, Bill and I decided it was time to go find the rest of the Weasleys before the match.
It wasn't long until we caught up with them wandering through the flock of salesmen. Ron was sporting a green shamrock hat and matching rosette despite also buying a model of Victor Krum who scowled up at the green rosette above him. Ginny had also bought a green rosette and Mr Weasley was carrying an Irish flag.
"Wow, look at these!" exclaimed Harry, hurrying over to a cart piled high with brass contraptions.
"Omnioculars," the sales wizard said eagerly, "you can replay action … slow everything down … and they flash up a play-by-play breakdown if you need it. Bargain – ten Galleons each."
"Wish I hadn't bought this now," Ron groaned, gesturing at his dancing shamrock hat and gazing longingly at the Omnioculars.
"Three pairs," said Harry firmly to the wizard.
"No – don't bother," muttered Ron going red.
"You won't be getting anything for Christmas," Harry told him, thrusting the Omnioculars into his and Hermione's hands. "For about ten years, mind."
"Fair enough," grinned Ron.
"Ooh, thanks, Harry," beamed Hermione, "And I'll get some programmes, look …"
"I'll buy three as well," I said, handing thirty galleons from my money pouch to the salesman in exchange for three shiny Omnioculars.
"You didn't need to do that," mumbled Bill as I passed one each to him and Charlie.
"You already bought me a miniature Firebolt," Charlie protested.
"Oh just take it already," I replied.
"Fine, then I'm buying the programmes," he insisted.
We eventually made our way back to the Weasley's tents. Everybody but Fred and George had bought something (they'd given Bagman all their gold) so I gave them my pair of Omnioculars instead.
"You two share. I can share with Charlie."
The twins barely had time to react before a deep, booming gong resounded somewhere beyond the woods, and at once green and red lanterns blazed to life in the trees, lighting a path towards the pitch.
"It's time!" beamed Mr Weasley, looking as excited as any of us, "Come on, let's go!"
The Quidditch World Cup's up next! I tried to keep it as close to the book as possible while adding a few pieces of my own.
Remember to favourite, follow and review! (Reviews are like Butterbeer ...)