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"Beth!"

A blue, blurred shape hurtled towards her, and before she could hold up her arms to defend herself the shape had hurtled into her and knocked her to the ground.

"Oh – sorry, Beth -"

The blue shape, which Beth could now see was in fact Olivia, was pulling Beth to her feet and apologizing without really meaning it. She was far too concerned with the news she was bursting to tell.

"Geez, Livy, nothing like trying to kill your bestie," Beth grumbled, rubbing her newly-bruised arm. "What's up?"

"I 'ave been selected!" Olivia exclaimed excitedly.

Beth waited for her to elaborate.

"Well," she said slowly. "For what?"

"Ze Triwizard Tournament!" Olivia squealed, jumping up and down.

"The whatty what?"

"Ze Triwizard Tournament! Ze most famous Tournament in ze history of ze wizarding world! I 'ave been selected – me! Olivia!" She hugged herself dreamily. "And you want ze best news? You will come with me!"

Beth was thoroughly confused. "Come with you where?"

"To Eengland, of course! To 'Ogwarts! Pack your bags, we leave tomorrow evening." Olivia sprinted off to ambush a group of other 7th formers, all of whom looked as excited as her.

Beth stood still, watching her. Then she sat down in the grass, and thought.

It had been almost a month and a half since she had arrived at Beauxbatons Academy. Within that time she had focused harder on her studies than she had ever focused in her life. This was owed to the increasing length and brutality of her lessons with the complete dragon, Maxime, and the fact she still had no friends.

At her last school, a bilingual school in the South of France (the further south, the further away from England and the letters of magic, was her parent's logic), she had had a group of very loyal friends, who not only spoke English, but who shared her strange sense of humour, and this had meant she had passed away the years sending notes and hiding at the back of classrooms, giggling and chatting and completely ignoring her teacher. Now, however, with nothing to distract her from her studies, she had caught up with the last four years and was working hard as ever on keeping her role as a straight-A student.

The fact that the girl who had never before done magic was top of her year irritated her classmates so much that she had quickly gained the title of 'Most Hated Fifth Year.'

Beth spent as little time as possible in her dormitory, as stunning as it was. At first, she had proudly covered her wall with huge posters of Johnny Depp, Karate Champions and – her secret passion – motorbikes, but the other girls had protested so much that Beth simply removed them and stuck them up in the hut instead, where they were far more welcome.

Any spare time had been spent revising, or down in the hut on the lake with Olivia. She trained hard at karate, and enjoyed teaching Olivia everything she knew, while Olivia in turn taught her how to play Quidditch, the most famous wizard's sport.

Quidditch was not taught at Beauxbatons, instead the horrid skill of 'Figure Flying' was enforced. Much like the Muggle sport Figure Skating, 'Figure Flying' involved wearing tight, pink leotards and twirling in the air whilst holding strange positions and a fake smile.

When they were too tired to train, they simply dropped into a bean bag and read the dusty spell books, practicing the spells and increasing their magic even further.

What with the karate, figure flying and Quidditch training, plus the awful diet that Beth still wasn't used to, her skirt felt considerably loose. Far from feeling relieved, this infuriated Beth.

Her greatest fear was being transformed into a skinny, graceful 'lady' like the other girls – but thankfully, she was safe. Her strict regime had not changed Beth's bi-weekly accidents, crashing into valuable ornaments and setting things on fire.

Madame Maxime had taken to wrapping all objects in sight with bubble wrap before setting Beth loose in her office. And now, after settling into her routine, Beth was being offered a way out. Well, why not? It would be amazing to see Hogwarts, after all she had heard about it. It was a mixed school. It was in England. And it was a mixed school. It sounded perfect.

She just had to get around her parents. That shouldn't be too hard. If they said 'No', she would only have to say 'But WHY?' and they would be putty in her hands. After all, they knew what she was capable of - after her years of begging to come to Beauxbatons, she thought another 'But WHY?' would send them over the edge.

She got up, wiped the grass off her bottom, and started the walk up to the Palace to pack.

********************


They arrived two days later. The carriage that took the girls to Hogwarts was twice the size of Madame Maxime's carriage Beth had accidentally invaded, and split into compartments.

Other than Beth and Olivia, twelve other seventh-years had been selected, and a couple of them were bringing a friend from a lower year, or a little sister. Beth sat with Olivia, but wasn't surprised when she was quickly forgotten.

The other girls welcomed Olivia, respecting her for being accepted into the Tournament, but that didn't mean they held any respect for Beth.

When they came into sight of Hogwarts Castle, Beth was awestruck. The castle was surrounded by an aura of mist that cascaded down the stone walls and cast the towers into an eery darkness, and it was really a ... castle. Beauxbatons Palace seemed awfully tame compared with Hogwarts.

As they got nearer, Beth reached into her suitcase and pulled out a huge hoody of her dad's, and put it on over her uniform. It hung just above her skirt, and the sleeves fell inches longer than her arms, and it was so snug that she was sure she could survive the English cold.

Boy, had she missed England with it's snow and mist and damp air. To anyone sane, that would sound like a nightmare. Beth, however, loved it.

They landed with a thud. The other girls immediately hid their excitement, and rose gracefully. Beth stood up so quickly her head crashed into the luggage rack above her head and stars twinkled for a second in front of her eyes.

She rubbed her head quickly, then opened the compartment door and followed the girls outside into the frosty grounds of Hogwarts. Madame Maxime lead the way towards the Entrance of the Castle, where an old, bearded man stood in front of hundreds of eager, ogling students.

While the others grumbled and shivered, and complained loudly in French about the cold, Beth hugged herself in delight and looked up at the castle excitedly.

She was pulled out of her excitement by a strong blow to her stomach, and she looked down to see Madame Maxime's hand pushing her backwards. The line had stopped, but Beth hadn't noticed and had almost walked straight into the bearded man.

"Oops," she said apologetically, stepping back behind the headmistress. The man just smiled, his eyes twinkling.

Maxime greeted the man, and as the girls' moans got louder, they were lead inside the castle. The bearded man, whose name turned out to be 'Professor Dumbledore', walked beside Maxime, dwarfed by her.

"Mademoiselle Wilkinson, take off zat ridiculous sweater," Maxime said as they walked. "And 'ow many times 'ave I told you not to 'unch over when you walk?"

"Aw, but Miss," Beth protested. "It's all snuggly in here. And I'd rather be unladylike than have lips as blue as Livy's."

"Take it off, Wilkinson!" Maxime said again, her eyes flashing dangerously.

Beth sighed and took it off. She tied it around her shoulders instead, but this didn't stop the cold from getting to her and she looked up at the ceiling to try and distract herself. Unfortunately, she didn't see the suit of armour in her way and walked straight into it.

"Mademoiselle Wilkinson!" Maxime cried in despair, grabbed Beth's arm and pulling her roughly to her feet. Beth blushed a deep shade of red, and tried to pick up the armour. Dumbledore turned around and took in the commotion, then pulled out his wand and pointed it at the suit of armour. It rose and stood back in it's place, and Beth sighed with relief.

"Sorry, Mister Dumbledore, Sir," she said, still blushing. Then she added as an afterthought, "But I'm sure if I had been wearing my hoody, it might have muffled the noise."

Maxime gave her a livid glare and she subtly sidled behind Olivia for protection. Then the procession continued down the hall.

Finally, they reached a huge set of wooden doors. Dumbledore raised his hand and they began to open, as if by magic, while Beth's mouth hung open. Then began the procession down the hall, down the middle of four long tables where the students sat.

Beth looked down at her feet and tried not to fall over, hating the feeling of being under the spotlight. Then Maxime lead them to the end of the hall where they stood, shivering, until Dumbledore told them quietly they were welcome to sit. Beth dawdled, considering each table.

One of the tables she dismissed immediately. The students sitting at it looked cold and unwelcoming, and although Olivia had surprisingly chosen so sit at that table, she decided to wing it by herself rather than face the green-tied students.

The table of students wearing red and gold ties looked welcoming. Beth was tempted to sit there until she caught sight of a red haired boy, who was gazing open-mouthed at Fleur, the seventh-year she knew to be part-Veela. Typical, she thought angrily. No way am I sitting near that ogler.

Then she saw the girl with the dirty-blonde hair, sitting at the blue-tied table. There was a curious gap either side of her, but the students around her had chosen to squash together rather than sit near her. The girl reminded Beth shockingly of herself, and she walked straight towards the girl, while the rest of the hall watched the other Beauxbatons girls choose their seats. Obviously, no one had noticed Beth.

The other girls were so graceful and striking to look at, it wouldn't have mattered it she had been sitting in a vat of honey, clinging to a broken rope while flying pixies threw rubber dummies at her head. No one would have looked twice at her anyway.

"Um ... 'scuse me," Beth said shyly, tapping the blonde girl on the shoulder. "Can I sit here?"

The girl looked so shocked that Beth wanted to sit near her, she could only nod vaguely. Beth swung her leg over the bench and gratefully went to sit down. Unfortunately for her, the table leg was in the way and her knee smashed into it, sending shock waves of pain up her leg.

"Oh, CRAP!" Beth shouted, jumping up and clutching her knee, her eyes watering in pain. "Ow, ow, ow, hell's bells, ow!"

In her anguish, she noticed the hall had gone strangely silent, and tried to ignore the pain as she looked up. The whole school was staring at her, bewildered, watching her hop in pain. She put on a huge grin, straightened her glasses, and started to sit down.

"Sorry about that," she said, going red. "I'll just...sit down now..."

The girl next to her had recovered, and now beamed at Beth. "I'm Luna," she said, holding out her hand. "Luna Lovegood. What's your name?"

"Beth Wilkinson," Beth said, shaking hands. The hall had released into normal chatter, and a warm buzz of conversation filled the room. She relaxed.

Professor Dumbledore was getting to his feet. Maxime sat beside him in a huge chair, and a sharp-looking man with a goatee sat on his other side, and they were looking around the room with very different expressions on their faces.

Madame Maxime looked as though she had accidentally walked into a scruffy, run-down pub instead of the fancy ballroom she had expected. The other man looked as though he was perfectly at home. Beth guessed he was the headmaster of the other school ... Durmstrang, or whatever it was.

Dumbledore clapped his hands, and the hall fell silent. Then he started to speak.

"Welcome, Beauxbatons students, Welcome Durmstrang students. I hope you find yourselves completely at home at Hogwarts..."

Beth switched off. She couldn't help it. She had never had a great attention span, and the temptation to take in her surroundings was too overwhelming to resist. She stared up at the ceiling, which seemed to reach out into the heavens, then around at the – it seemed impossible to believe it, and yet nothing surprised her anymore in the world of magic – ghosts.

She took in the floating candles, the different emblems hanging over each table, and the stone walls so different from Beauxbatons. Then she felt a strange feeling, like a prickling on the back of her neck, as though eyes were boring into her and tried to slowly and inconspicuously turn around.

It was boy sitting at the next table. His hair was a shocking red, and shaggy like a dog's, and Beth noticed his casual good looks and smiling eyes. Another boy sat next to him, listening to the Headmaster speak, resting his chin on his folded arms. Beth could tell even from this distance that they were identical twins.

When the boy saw her looking at him, he blushed and looked back up at Dumbledore, as though he had been listening the whole time. Beth looked around, trying to see who he had been staring at.

Ah, of course. Fleur Delacour sat directly behind Beth at the next table, listening intently to the Headmaster. Beth had been stupid to even consider that the boy had been looking at her. She reluctantly tried to listen to the rest of the Headmaster's speech.

"...However, this year the rules will be slightly different," Dumbledore was saying gravely. "For your protection, no student under 17 years of age will be allowed to enter -"

At this, there was an uproar. Students who weren't protesting loudly were muttering in annoyance to each other, while the students obviously over 17 looked smug. Dumbledore pulled out his wand, and there was a small explosion that restored order, and the students satisfied their fury with looks of outrage.

"This is for your protection, and your protection only," he said firmly. "But now, I'm sure our guests are hungry from their long journey. Dig in!"

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