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Draco was sure he had misheard the Headmaster when Dumbledore announced his brother’s name as the final champion in the Triwizard Tournament. What? What did the house elves put in the pumpkin juice? Because for a minute I could swear the old coot said that Harry Snape was the fourth champion. And how the hell can that be when it’s only supposed to have three champions, that’s why it’s called the Triwizard Tournament.  But when he looked around he saw everyone else in the hall staring with open-mouthed, gaping expressions, like a legion of half-wits.

And all of the eyes were on Harry, who looked as if he had just been hit with a Confunded Jinx.

Dear sweet Merlin! But this can’t be happening! Draco thought frantically. But it had.

The hall started to buzz like an angry hornet’s nest, and then Draco saw his father stand up and beckon Harry to him, and give the Headmaster the mother of all glares. Then he said, in a tone that made Draco tremble even from six feet away, “Albus, you had better explain how the hell my son’s name got in the Goblet, or else!”

Draco gulped hard and thanked the Fates, Merlin, God, the Mother Goddess, and whoever else was out there that he was not on the receiving end of Severus’s temper.  He would have rather faced Lucius and his cane, or a dementor.

“Cheating rotten Gryffindor!” snarled a Slytherin from down the end of the table. “Always have to be in the spotlight.”

Draco spun on the other boy. “Shut your pie hole, Rabin! My brother didn’t put his name in there, it was a set-up.”

“How did it happen then, Draco?” asked Crabbe.

“If I knew that, I’d be a genius, Vince. I haven’t got a clue. All I know is that my dad’s ready to explode and somebody better fix this and fast.”

Phil silently agreed with Draco’s assessment, hovering just beyond the circle of judges and teachers and the three original champions, his fangs bared. There was no doubt in his mind that Harry had been the victim of a clever hoodwinking scheme.  The only question was, who would have the nerve, not to mention the cruelty, to put a fourteen-year-old boy’s name in the Cup? Had this been the Faerie Realm, Phil would have pegged an Unseelie spy from the get-go.  But here at Hogwarts?

The violet eyes narrowed and he studied the reactions of the other adult wizards intently, trying to see if they seemed odd. He was already slightly suspicious of Professor Moody, but the Defense professor was not objecting as vociferously as Headmaster Karkaroff to the unexpected surprise addition.

“Ask the boy, Dumbledore, how he managed to hoodwink a powerful magical object?  He probably was put up to this by his father, who was never one to inspire trust or awe in anyone and always longed for greatness.”

“What are you implying, Karkaroff?” Snape spun on the other wizard, his eyes glittering like shards of onyx.

“Perhaps you decided to . . .what is the word . . .live through your son, yes? You always craved recognition, Snape, and maybe this is how you will get it.”

“You are a fool, Igor. You always have been,” Severus spat, vitriol dripping from his tongue.  “As if I would risk my son for the sake of fifteen minutes of fame.”

Karkaroff’s eyes narrowed and he smirked slyly.  “One never knows what you will do . . .traitor.”

Before Snape could reply, Dumbledore stepped between them and said, “Gentlemen, if we could please take this discussion into a more private setting, come along, all of you and we shall go into the small classroom here,” he led the way into the unused classroom off the Great Hall, and McGonagall, Crouch, Moody, Bagman, Madame Maxime and the four champions followed.

No sooner had they disappeared into the room, then Draco also made a hasty exit, using his kin-sa-dor techniques to slip away from the table and around the side where a second exit to the small classroom was located.  He promptly put his ear to the door and muttered a Sharp Ears charm, so he could hear every word that was being said.

Inside the Hall, Smidgen blinked into the room and Phil slipped in as the rest were filing inside and observed from a corner.  He would have liked to eavesdrop on Karkaroff’s thoughts, but he knew if he let down his shields, he would be overwhelmed by everyone’s thoughts at once. Reading the Headmaster of Durmstrang would have to wait.  Besides, taking his cue from Severus, Karkaroff was not to be trusted.  So far I have two suspects, Karkaroff and Moody. The vampire mused.

Madame Maxime was frowning at Harry and then she turned to Dumbledore and said, “Professor Dumbly-dorr, ‘e is too young to compete in zee tournament.  The boy does not know ‘alf the spells the others do. ‘ow can you even consider allowing him to compete?”

“This is highly irregular, Dumbledore,” Bartemius grumbled, looking scandalized. “Nothing like this has ever happened before.”

“I say, it is rather improbable.  How could it have happened anyhow?” asked Ludo Bagman, scratching his head and looking rather like a puzzled terrier who has lost the rat he’d been trailing.

“That is what we are here to discover,” Dumbledore said smoothly. He turned to Harry, who was standing near Severus with a dazed expression on his face. “Harry, did you put your name in the Goblet of Fire?”

“No, sir.  I don’t know how it happened.” Harry answered honestly, meeting Dumbledore’s eyes squarely.

“Did you ask an older student to submit your name?” prodded the Headmaster.

Severus was incensed and would have spoken up, but Minerva grabbed his arm and shook her head pointedly.

No, sir.” Harry replied, more emphatically this time. He could not understand why Dumbledore didn’t believe him.  “I was with my father and brother last night, in Dad’s rooms.  We were studying for class the next day, Defense and Charms . . .”

“A likely story,” sneered Karkaroff.  “The boy’s lying, of course. This was all arranged by you, Dumbledore, so you could have more than one champion compete in the tournament. Admit it!”

Dumbledore remained composed, ignoring the accusing glance of the other Headmaster. “I shall admit to nothing, Igor, for I have nothing to admit.”

“No? How about letting your professors and their offspring be favored above all others. I move that we re-do the drawing and let a second candidate be picked from both Durmstrang and Beauxbatons.”

“’Tis only fair,” Madame Maxime agreed. 

“That is impossible,” broke in Crouch. “Once the Goblet has chosen the champions, it is done, the fire goes out and will not be re-awakened until the next tournament. They will all have to compete, it’s a magically binding contract.”

“But . . .but . . .” the Beauxbatons Headmistress sputtered. 

“No!” Severus cried. “Harry is not of age and I refuse permission for him to compete.”

“Severus,” Dumbledore began gently. “I’m sorry, but this is one time when your wishes as a parent must be set aside. He is bound to the tournament, like the other three.”

“Dammit, Albus, then unbind him!”

“Yes, Dumbledore, for it is cheating to have two champions, and especially one releated to a judge.” Moody spoke up then.

“I cannot do that,” Dumbledore said regretfully.

“You mean, will not.” Karkaroff growled.

“Now that is quite enough, Karkaroff!”Minerva snapped, locking eyes with the tall wizard.  “Dumbledore would never cheat, nor encourage a student to do something so underhanded. If he says it cannot be done, than it cannot be done.”

“Your faith in your Headmaster is touching, Minerva, but I say he deliberately blurred the Age Line so young Snape could slip past and put his name in the Goblet.”

“What proof do you have, Igor?” Severus challenged.  “Absolutely none.”

“I have all the proof I need, Snape!” Karkaroff crowed. “Like father, like son.  He probably learned to lie before he could walk, being the son of a spy.  A lying slithering coward who abandoned the woman he loved to die alone—aghhkk!”

Karkaroff never finished his sentence, for the simple reason that he was now slammed up against the wall, and Snape’s hand was about his throat, slowly throttling him.  The other wizard struggled, his feet kicking spastically, but Snape was dangling him a good foot off the ground and the Potions Master was stronger, much stronger, than he looked.

“Do not ever speak . . .like that . . .about Lily!” Severus rasped, his eyes burning with a terrible fury and an even greater sorrow.

“Severus, let him go,” Dumbledore ordered softly.

Karkaroff was slowly turning purple from lack of air.

“My son is not a liar. I was with him last night,” Snape hissed.  “If anyone is a liar here, it is you, Igor you pathetic coward! Faced with Azkaban, you sang like a canary and tried to save your own skin. You gutless cur, you know not the meaning of loyalty or honor.”

Severus!” Dumbledore called again, tugging on the Potion Master’s sleeve. “You don’t want to damage him permanently.”

“Why not? He’ll be no great loss,” sneered the other, then with a flick of his wrist, released him.  “You’re not worth doing time for, weasel.” Karkaroff collapsed upon the floor, gasping. Snape leaned down and snarled, “Keep your mouth off my son, Karkaroff.  If you dare to slander him in even the slightest bit, I shall let slip several things about you that will haunt you till your dying day. Understood?”

The Durmstrang professor made a whimpering noise of assent. He slowly got to his feet, rubbing his throat.

“Severus, really!” Minerva reproved softly, but there was a glint of amusement in her eyes. “Must you terrify our guest that way?”

Severus snorted.

Phil wanted to cheer as he watched the wizard he had come to think of as his little brother take that sly skulking weasel down a peg.  Karkaroff had no right making such accusations and had needed to be taught a sharp lesson. Good one, Sev! Now maybe he’ll mind his manners.  But if not . . .I can always pay him a little midnight visit and let my teeth talk to his throat.

“We still don’t know how Harry’s name got into the Goblet,” Minerva mused.  “The Age Line was not breached.”

“It’s simple, Minerva,” Moody said. “Someone put the boy’s name into the Goblet knowing he would have to compete if it was called. How very convenient, don’t you think?”

“Too convenient,” Madame Maxime said coldly. 

“I shall be lodging complaints with the Ministry of Magic and the International Confederation of Wizards and perhaps even the Aurors for assault upon my person—“ here Karkaroff paused to throw Snape a hateful glare.

“Will you now?” Severus said silkily.  “And will you also tell the Aurors how you insulted me and provoked me?”

Karkaroff’s hand went to his wand. “Anytime you wish to duel, Snape . . .”

“I don’t duel cowards and children,” the professor said disdainfully.

“How dare you!” spluttered the other wizard.

“Enough, gentlemen!” Dumbledore cried, coming between them. “Come to order and behave like adults or must I separate you like quarreling five-year-olds?”

Both wizards subsided.

“You were saying, Alastor?”

“If anyone should be complaining, it’s young Snape, but I haven’t heard him saying anything—” the old Auror began, only to be interrupted by Viktor Krum.

“Why should he complain? He gets to compete and win a two thousand Galleon prize.”

“Yes, it is a prize most would die for!” cried Fleur.

“Perhaps, young lady, that is what someone meant . . .for Snape to die,” Moody pointed out sternly.

Minerva looked sick and Bagman shook his head. “Oh, come now, Moody, old man, not another conspiracy theory . . .”

It does make sense, too much sense, Phil thought darkly.  Even so . . .there is still something about the man that makes my skin crawl, and there have not been many people I have met that can make me uneasy, especially after a thousand years.

:Indeed. There is something . . .not right about both of them,: Smidgen warned.

Karkaroff had regained his voice by this time and was laughing hoarsely.  “Ah, Moody wouldn’t be Moody if he did not see conspiracies, plots, and assassinations around every corner.  I hear that you even check your shadow for jinxes.  I’m surprised that Dumbledore would consider hiring a paranoid past-his-prime wizard as  Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Then again, there were hardly many candidates lining up for the job.”

Moody fixed Karkaroff with his magical eye.  “If I were you, Karkaroff, I’d hold my tongue.  You never know when someone might be tempted to hex it off.” He turned back to Dumbledore and the others. “As I was saying, it took a powerful wizard to hoodwink a magical artifact like that. I have a theory that whoever put Snape’s name in the Goblet probably used a different school name, thus guaranteeing that his name would be drawn, since his was the only name submitted by that school. Crafty and clever and definitely not someone who wishes the boy well.”

Severus was nodding in agreement. “That sounds like a plausible theory.”

But in order to do that, the wizard must be very powerful, to subvert the Cup of Wonders, Philip thought.  Very powerful and very deluded.  The obvious answer would be Voldemort, save that he is half-dead and too weak. So it must be one of his followers. I would guess Lucius Malfoy, except he is safely locked away. And the other one would not dare leave his master in such a state. So that leaves me with a mystery to solve. The violet-eyed vampire licked his lips.  He always enjoyed a challenge.

“Pah! Moody is grasping at straws . . .either that or going senile,” Karkaroff scoffed.

Moody’s eye whirled.  “I’m thinking maybe Snape had the right idea, and you need a muzzle, Igor. Or to be strangled again. I don’t care which, so long as you quit flapping your jaw.”

Karkaroff paled and stiffened. But he made no comment.

“Well, whether by accident or by design, regardless, Harry Snape is the fourth champion of this tournament.” Barty Crouch said.  “Now that has been established . . . .”

“Wait a minute!” Krum objected hotly.  “This was never supposed to happen. He has no business being with us.  He looks barely old enough to wipe his nose, much less cast spells.”

Harry, who had remained quiet all this time, turned and shot the taller boy a glare worthy of his Name.  “Who asked you, Krum? You think you’re all that because you’re some big-shot Seeker.”

“At least I don’t cheat to enter things.”

“I never cheated—!” Harry began hotly.

“Master Karkaroff says you did,” Krum said bluntly, leveling his wand at Harry.

Only to feel the tip of another wand poke him in the back.  “Your Master Karkaroff doesn’t know crap about a dungheap.”Draco snarled, his gray eyes stormy.  “Aim your wand at my brother again, Mr. Celebrity, and you’ll be doing interviews from the Hospital Wing.”

Krum twisted halfway around and cried, “You dare threaten me!”

Draco, who though not as tall as the other wizard, was fully as self-possessed, sneered, “It’s not a threat, beaverhead, it’s a promise.  Hurt my brother and I will hex your arse right back to Durmstrang.”

“Ha! I vould like to see you try!”

“Control your student, Igor,” Severus ordered frostily. “Draco, Harry, put up your wands.  Now.”

Both of his sons obeyed, jumping at the sharp tone.

Draco tossed Severus a sulky look.  “No fair, Dad. How come you get to beat up somebody and we don’t?”

“Draco Michael, what are you doing here?” Severus demanded.  “This is a private conversation.” He narrowed his eyes. “You know how I feel about eavesdropping, young man.”

“I just wanted to make sure Harry was okay,” replied Draco defensively.  “And he wasn’t, because the Orc from the North was starting with him.” He indicated Krum with a jerk of his head.

Krum still had his wand out, until Karkaroff said, “Viktor. Put it down. We don’t wish to cause an incident.”

“Like you haven’t already?” Harry muttered, but subsided at Severus’s warning glare.

Krum lowered his wand. “Next time, little boy, you won’t have Daddy around to protect you.”

Severus grabbed Harry before he could retaliate. But that left Draco free to slam Krum a good one in his over-large nose and mouth.

The next thing Krum knew, he was on the ground, bleeding, and Draco was standing over him, fists clenched.  “Button it, orc.  Or I’ll make you wish you had.”

Viktor stared in horrified fascination at his bloody hand. “Huh? I am . . .bleeding!” he cried and then there was a thud as he passed out cold.

“Some champion you got there, Karkaroff,” Moody snorted.  “Faints at the sight of blood.”

Karkaroff shot the ex-Auror a nasty look before going to tend to his student.

Severus released Harry and collared Draco, saying swiftly, “Draco Michael Malfoy! Go to my quarters and wait for me. We are going to have a long discussion about minding your own business.”

“Harry is my business, Dad. He’s my brother.”

“March, young man!” Severus ordered, out of patience, and he half-dragged Draco to the door and shoved him out, though not before giving him one well-placed swat on the seat.

“For Merlin’s sake, Dad!” Draco cried, then he left, waiting until Snape had shut the door before rubbing his bottom.  Sighing, he made his way down to the dungeons, wondering if his hasty actions had cost him the Quidditch game tomorrow.

Bloody hell! Now I’m in for it.  But what was I supposed to do, let Orc-breath hex my brother?

Back inside the room, Krum had been patched up by his teacher and Dumbledore, and order had been restored once more.  Among the wizards, that is. A certain vampire was longing to take a bite out of both Karkaroff and his student and Smidgen hissed indignantly to him, :I wonder how they would react if their furry cloaks came alive and attacked them, the great boobies?:    

Philip did not answer, he was too busy trying to muffle his laughter in his sleeve.  For several long moments he remained so, only his violet eyes betraying his mirth. Lady Catkin, you are too much!

:I do not like the tall wizard, he reeks of old blood and darkness. And his apprentice . . .is full of himself. Phfaugh!: Smidgen shook herself and sniffed disdainfully, as only a cat could.  :Draco was right to give him a love tap.:

Phil nodded in agreement, the focused upon Snape, who was coming back into the room, his face set behind his professor’s mask.

Philip? Can you hear me? Severus thought.

I can. What is wrong?

I sent Draco back to my quarters, could you or Smidgen follow as an escort? Just in case?

Yes. The ancient vampire turned to the fae cat.  Would you mind, Smidgen?

:No. It would be best if I left, that way I’m not tempted to do something nasty.: Smidgen acquiesced and then she blinked away.

Harry and Cedric were standing across the room next to Professor McGonagall, who had her hand upon both of their shoulders, while Bartemius Crouch explained the rest of tournament rules and requirements. 

“There are three tasks, as you know, but we shall not reveal them to you until the proper time. The first task shall take place on November 24th, and you may not have help from your teachers or parents of any kind to complete them. The champions will face the first challenge armed only with their wits and their wands. You will receive information about the second task when the first is completed. And due to the time constraints of the tournament, you are all excused from the end-of-the-year tests.”

Cedric cheered and so did Harry, so far that was the only thing about this whole mess that Harry liked.

“And I believe that is all,” Crouch said.

Cedric turned and looked curiously at Harry. “Well, looks like we’ll be playing again with each other, huh? Quidditch and the tournament.”

“Yes.” Harry wished it were anyone but Cedric. He liked the fellow and hated to think of him as a rival.

“So . . .how did you do it?”

“I didn’t.”

Cedric gave him a skeptical glance. “Okay, whatever.” He clearly thought Harry was lying.

“Unfortunately for you two, gentlemen,” Dumbledore broke into their conversation. “You still have classes to attend. If there is any information about the tournament or additional things you need to know, we shall summon you from class. You are dismissed.” He turned to Crouch. “Barty, won’t you join me for a drink in my quarters?”

“I’m afraid not, Albus. I have to get back to the Ministry, important work to do, but I will return in a week. In the meantime, my assistant Percy . . .ah . . .Weatherby . . .Weaselby . . .I never can remember his name . . .will be handling things for me. He wishes to work for the Ministry and this is a kind of internship if you will . . .”

Oh great! Percy in charge again! He’ll make my life hell, the prat! Harry groaned to himself. He was about to follow Cedric out the door, when his father beckoned to him.  “Yes, Dad?”

Snape leaned in close to him and said softly, “Meet me in my quarters after class, Harry.  We’ll discuss this and what precautions you need to take then.”

“All right.  What about Draco? He was only defending me, are you going to—”

“I will discuss Draco’s attitude with Draco, Harry, so do not concern yourself,” Severus cut him off. “For now, go to class and concentrate on your studies. There will be time later to worry about the tournament.”

“I didn’t put my name in there, Dad.”

“I know that, phoenix. Your honesty is beyond reproach. Now go, before you’re late.” He ruffled his son’s hair, gave his shoulder a friendly pat, and then Harry turned and left.

At least Dad and Draco believe me, Harry thought in relief. I wonder if anyone else except Ron, Hermione, and Katie will?

Severus sighed as he watched his son depart, then he sent to Philip, Phil, please tell Smidgen to tell Draco he may go to class and we will discuss his behavior later?

I shall, Sev. Only don’t be too hard on the boy. He was only doing what you would have. Or what I would have liked to, were I still fourteen.

I know, but nevertheless . . .I have to give him some consequences, the Potions Master sighed. Is there no way the Cup can be reversed to release my son?

Not that I know of. The Cup was used in lieu of a magical vow, so to speak, and any signature placed in it is binding. I am sorry, Severus. But we must play the hand the Fates have dealt. I will be behind him, protecting him as best I can, you know that.

But will it be enough?

By my life and my Name, Severus, it will have to be. Philip declared sharply. You may be forbidden to aid him in this tournament, but I am not. The tasks must be completed by him, but I am neither teacher nor wizard, and therefore not bound by the terms of the tournament. I will be able to offer advice and protect him from any bullies who seek to get rid of him.

Thank you, Philip. That . . .eases my mind considerably. Karkaroff is not to be trusted. I know him from way back, he is a former Death Eater, who sold out his fellows to the Aurors, he cut a deal with them as an informant as an alternative to Azkaban.

Ah. I had thought it might have been like that. He bears watching then. I shall see to it. Phil promised.

“Severus? Aren’t you coming?” called Minerva, looking at him oddly. “Don’t you have classes to teach?”

“Yes. I will be along,” Severus replied, then he turned and followed his colleague out of the room, his heart heavy within him over this latest turn of events. Why was it that nothing was ever easy for him or his family?

Behind him, the master vampire shook his head sadly, then slipped away up the staircase to sit in on Harry and Draco’s Defense class, for there was still something nagging him about Moody. He might have come to Harry’s defense, but was that only to hide his own agenda?

Hope you all liked and sorry I made you wait, but I was working on a critical part of Two hawks Hunting. Check it out to see what I mean, if you haven't already.

Next: Harry and Draco learn Unforgivable Curses and discuss Harry's role in the tournament with Phil, Severus, and Smidgen.

A very warm thank you to all who are sticking with me on this one!

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