literature

Holly Potter and the Champions: 1 Frank

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The house on the hill had sat silent for many years since the death of its last occupants. Fifty years ago, it was the home of the Riddle family, a rich and not altogether well-liked family. They had never bothered to get involved in the local village’s affairs, a state of things both sides were content to keep. The son, Tom Riddle, was even less liked than his father, who had at least the decency to not insult the villagers.

It was whispered in the pub that Riddle Jr. had once eloped with a strange girl from the Gaunt hut. This had been some time ago, the boy returning with whispers of being bewitched, a claim the Riddles strongly refuted.

In the end this was as nothing compared to the mystery which occurred some years later. One morning, the cook had entered the dining room to find all three members of the Riddle family dead on the floor. The police were quickly called, but their investigation pulled few leads, as the doctor could find nothing wrong with their health, apart from them being dead. The cook told the other villagers that their faces were contorted into grimaces of fear, sparking another flurry of discussion, but this was dismissed by the authorities.

One person who could have been the killer was their gardener, Frank Bryce. Like hunting dogs let off the leash, the villagers leaped at the man.

“Always said ‘e ‘ad a funny look, so I did,” said the local gossip.

“Never liked ‘em much, did ‘e?” said the shop owner.

“There’s jus’ somethin’ about him,” said the barman.

Despite the villagers’ assurance of his guilt, and extensive questioning from the police, Frank was released without charges. This only prompted further suspicion from the village, which proceeded to shun him, more so when he returned to his hut in the Riddles’ garden.

For his part, Frank cared little for their whispers, preferring instead to tend the Riddles’ garden. He told the police that the real killer was probably a boy he had seen the night before, but no one had ever seen him before or since, and the police were thus unable to question him.

In the meantime, someone had bought the house and its grounds, though the man from the City never visited, opting for sunnier Florida over the dreary place. This suited Frank fine, as his old joints made tending to the garden untenable. In fact, he had all but abandoned the rest of the garden to the weeds, retreating to his small vegetable plots by his hut.

It was getting late, at close to eleven o’clock, and Frank was boiling the kettle to make himself a hot water bottle. The arthritis in his knees was particularly bad this night, enough to wake him from sleep. However, tonight would be different from usual.

Frank looked up to see light coming from an upper storey window.

“Bloody kids,” he sighed to himself.

It had started years ago, teenagers from the village going up to the old Riddle house to provoke “crazy old Frank”. He would chase them from the grounds, waving his stick comically over his head and wishing death on them. Sometimes a few might try to enter the house itself, though most never even got close enough before he saw them.

This time, however, it appeared they had lit a fire in one of the bedrooms. Heaving himself from his stool, Frank moved the kettle off the fire before taking his stick and making his way to the door. He grabbed his torch on the way out, shutting the door quietly behind him.

The path from his hut to the house was overgrown, but this did not slow Frank, who reached the back door in minutes. Slowly and delicately, he entered the pantry, taking care not to slam the door behind him. After much creeping, he arrived at the foot of the stairs. Frank ascended the stairs, gently so as not to disturb the youths. A sliver of light emerged from the room, leading him to the landing and a left turn to the master bedroom.

He stopped before the door, which was slightly ajar, listening to the voices within.

A high, cold voice spoke. “Show me again…yes, it is getting clearer now.”

“It is, my lord,” a second voice said, this one sounding tremulous and fearful.

“Wormtail, do not forget to milk Nagini again tonight, for I shall the need the strength,” the first voice commanded.

“Yes, my lord.”

“And Wormtail, I must congratulate you.”

“My lord?”

“It must have taken a great leap for your small mind to think it a good idea to kidnap Bertha Jorkins.”

“I simply did not want her to tell the Ministry what she saw,” said the second, fearful, voice. Frank could see its owner, a small, overweight balding man whose face had a rat-like quality to it, stooped in front of one of the armchairs through the crack of light. “And she did tell us useful information, as my lord has said.”

The person in the armchair remained out of Frank’s view. “Yes, quite. What is on your mind, Wormtail? Lord Voldemort knows his servants have thoughts.”

Frank was sure these could not be their real names. They had to be speaking code. One thing was sure: it was not children that had broken into the house.

“Well-I….I only wondered why my lord does not wish to use another, surely-Wormtail could easily find another without the risk of getting Holly Potter.”

“Fool! Have you heard nothing that I have said?” The voice held a note of anger, one that clearly frightened Wormtail, for he flinched visibly. “Potter is essential if the plan is to work. Once my agent is in place it will only be a matter of time before the girl is here.”

Frank didn’t like the sound of that. Whoever this Holly Potter was, she was in danger.

“We cannot act until after the Quidditch World Cup in any case, for time being there are too many Aurors and Ministry officials about,” said Lord Voldemort. “The Muggles will be suspicious enough as it is.”

Frank was sure this was code, quite what “Quidditch”, “Aurors” and “Muggles” meant he wasn’t sure, but he knew “Ministry” was another way of saying the government. His mind raced, perhaps these were terrorists trying to overthrow the government. He could understand their reasons, even today he could never quite believe what the papers said had happened at Orgreave. But the time to show one’s displeasure for the Tories was at the ballot box.

His train of thought was stopped by the sound of something large and heavy, sliding across the wooden boards. Whatever it was, it brushed against his shoe, prompting Frank to look down and gasp at the size of the enormous snake as it slithered into the room.

“Ah, Nagini,” Lord Voldemort seemed to croon as its head rested on the armchair’s arm.

Frank blinked at the sound of hissing and spitting that followed.

“Nagini tells me that the Muggle gardener is listening outside the door. Wormtail, why don’t you show our guest a proper welcome?”

Frank was rooted to the spot, he tried to move away from the door and back down the stairs, but his legs refused to obey him. It was too late, for Wormtail had opened the door, spilling firelight onto Frank’s white face.

“Well Muggle, what is it you look for?” Lord Voldemort’s voice drifted to him, almost toying.

He struggled to find his voice. “I-I m-might not know much, but I know I’ve heard enough to interest the police. You’ve done murder and you’re planning more!”

“Why Wormtail, isn’t the Muggle clever? I’m almost tempted to recruit him.”

“He is my lord.”

“My lord?” Frank’s courage was returning. “Well, I don’t think much of you my lord, I fought in the war you know? Why don’t you face me like a man?”

Lord Voldemort seemed to chuckle, a dry wheezing sound that ended with a cough.

“Why not? Wormtail, turn me so that I may indulge the fool. You should know Muggle that I am no man, I am so much more.”

Wormtail complied, turning the chair so that the thing sitting in it could see Frank.

He let out a scream.

“Avada Kedavra!"

There was a flash of green light and the sound of something vast, rushing forwards at unthinkable speed, and Frank Bryce’s lifeless body crumpled to the floor with a thud.

Far away, Holly Potter awoke with a start.

The summer holidays seem never-ending and Holly Potter can't wait for the start of the school term. It is her fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and there are spells to learn and (sadly) Potions and Divination lessons to attend. To cap it all off, hormones are making a mockery of sense and sensibility, and Holly could find herself in a quandary as her friends uncover frightening new aspects to their lives. At least the visitors from other schools seem an interesting bunch. But Holly needs to be on her guard at all times- her worst enemy is preparing a horrifying fate for her...


Revision of an earlier fic of the same name. This follows on from my revision of "and the Animagus"

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