Al watched Score out of the corners of his eyes in lessons and listened when he talked to other students: he had had a ‘spirited debate’ about the latest Comet and Cleansweep brooms with a Ravenclaw boy Al thought was called Phineas Whitby, and though they had both seemed pretty angry at the time they had agreed to finish the conversation in the next Herbology lesson.
In Potions, he had shown Genesis Borden the right way to powder lionfish spine, while Genesis made exaggerated gagging noises and Al tried to prevent Faith from accidentally ruining their Scintillating Solution. After that, though, another Gryffindor had said to Genesis, quite angrily, “Don’t you know who that is?” while Score had been washing up beakers in the sink. Al didn’t think Score had heard them, but when he’d smiled at Genesis before leaving Genesis hadn’t smiled back, and Score’d seemed to realise what had happened.
In Defence Against the Dark Arts, while Professor Brand talked about other wizards being the greatest danger they could face and the Death Eaters, Score had sat silently, white-faced and hands clenched under the desk - but then so had the rest of them, because Professor Brand kept taking points off them every time they breathed loudly. (Faith had spent a quarter of an hour after that lesson in a bathroom, screaming swearwords at the top of her voice and kicking the walls while Kitty sat outside humming with her eyes shut and her hands over her ears, and made them all late for Herbology.)
In their first flying lesson, he had been the best out of all of them, though that hadn’t actually been hard, since Faith hadn’t got her broom off the ground (“It knows I hate it! How does it know?”), and Kitty and Al had both fallen off.
When Peeves had ambushed them after Astronomy the next Wednesday and started lobbing water balloons at them, Score had hit the poltergeist with a Tickling Charm and spearheaded their heroic retreat, and when Al had come back from the library on Thursday, he had caught him explaining the long and embarrassing history of the Chudley Cannons to Faith and Kitty, using silly voices and energetic gestures. Both girls had been laughing hysterically.
On the other hand, all Al’s efforts at making friends so far had failed miserably. Score wouldn’t look him in the eyes, always sat as far away as possible in lessons and the common room and at dinner, and would only give short, vague answers when Al tried to talk to him, when Al knew perfectly well that Score could talk to the other Slytherins just fine.
Al’s research so far therefore showed that Score was a friendly, clever and funny boy who just seemed to loathe Al with every fibre of his being, and sharing that category with Professor Brand didn’t make Al feel any better about it. And if Al hadn’t had more sense, he would have thought Rosie felt the same way; he saw her a dozen times between Charms Club and Friday afternoon - in the corridors, in Herbology, at meals - but she always ignored him, and despite wanting to go over and talk to her, Al forced himself not to. Rosie was too stubborn, and Al knew bothering her would only make her worse. He’d known that if he had a chance at talking her around, it would be at tea at Hagrid’s on Friday, so right then, the best he’d been able to do was wait. This had been extremely boring, so Al was extremely relieved when three o’clock rolled round on Friday afternoon and he was waiting for Rosie on the steps outside the front door. He waited for about a minute, fiddling with the brand-new Slytherin scarf his dad had sent him and scanning the entrance hall for her, before he thought to look down towards Hagrid’s hut and saw a small red-haired figure crossing the long lawns towards it.
He ran after her, almost falling over on the slope and shouting for her to wait for him, but she pretended not to hear and went into Hagrid’s cabin. Al raced after her, yanking the door open and clattering inside-
“Nice scarf,” Rosie greeted him. She was sitting at the table, head down, arms folded.
“Al!” Hagrid exclaimed, turning away from the fire with the kettle in his hands. “Thought yer weren’ comin’!”
Al smiled at him distractedly. “Rosie? Weren’t we supposed to meet at the front door at three?”
“Oh, we were?” Rosie asked, tracing the wood grain with a fingertip. “I thought we were meeting here at three. Sorry, I guess I forgot.” Rosie never forgot anything, and she was a terrible liar.
“That’s all right,” Al lied anyway. He didn’t want to make her mad before he’d even sat down. He’d planned it out carefully – don’t be accusing, don’t act like she’s done something wrong, try to talk her around without her realizing you’re doing it. “How was your first week?”
“It was fine,” Rosie said. She was still staring at the table.
“Mine was fine too,” Al said, deciding not to mention how a professor had set Doxies on him or how one of his housemates seemed to hate his guts. “I went to Charms Club on Wednesday. That was fun. Everyone was really friendly, too. Are you going to go?”
“I might,” Rosie said, so vaguely Score Malfoy himself would have been impressed. Hagrid looked from Al to Rosie and back again as he put two huge mugs of tea down between them.
“Now, now,” he said, looking uncharacteristically serious. “I got somethin’ ter discuss with the two of yer. Rosie, Harry don’ mind it, so I reckon you an’ me haven’ got much business mindin’ either.” He folded his arms and settled back in his chair looking like that should solve everything. Oh no, Al thought.
“I don’t care that he’s in Slytherin!” Rosie snapped, instantly on the defensive. “I just want to be friends with my housemates!”
“I’m not blamin’ yeh,” Hagrid continued, hands raised placatingly, while Al waved at him behind Rosie’s back and mouthed ‘shut up shut up shut up!’ “But yeh’re puttin’ Al in a righ’ state, an’-”
“Al’s just being selfish!”
“Rosie, please just-” Al started to say, but Rosie just kept talking. She was bright red under her freckles and her voice had gone very shrill.
“Just because he’s never had any friends he thinks it’s fine for him to stop me from having any!”
“Rosie,” Hagrid said sternly, “yeh’re bein’ childish. Yeh shouldn’t leave your family jus’ because-"
“He shouldn’t expect me to alienate my housemates just because he wanted to be in Slytherin!” Rosie shouted. “I told the Hat not to put me there! I managed that! Everyone in my house managed that!” She flung a sharp, disgusted glare at Albus. That was – what was Rosie actually doing? Was she angry at him for being in Slytherin or just fretting about what her housemates would think or-
“Rosie, please just listen to me, you’re-” What could he possibly say that she couldn’t take as criticism?
As it turned out, though, Al didn’t have to worry about it, because Rosie whipped around and stormed out. Al leapt up and was about to run after her, but froze with his hand on the doorknob. That wouldn’t help.
Hagrid sighed. “Ah, don’ worry, Al. She’ll come ‘round.” And she’d have come around a lot faster if Hagrid hadn’t been stupid and had let Al get a word in edgeways, Al thought, and instantly felt guilty.
“I guess so,” he agreed, padded over and hugged Hagrid. She would have to talk to him over the Christmas holidays, because their parents would be around. Al just really didn’t want to have to wait that long, though. He was wondering again if it would be easier to just give up on Rosie.
The delegations from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang will be arriving at 6 o’clock on Friday 27th of October. Lessons will end half an hour early. Students will return their bags to their dormitories and assemble in front of the castle to greet our guests before the Welcoming Feast.
Al had been pleased when the sign appeared in the Entrance Hall, because it should have meant he had a ready-made topic of conversation with anyone in the castle. It was certainly working for James: every time Al saw him, he was surrounded by a crowd of people from all houses and discoursing loftily on the perils of the Triwizard Tournament – ravening beasts slavering at the mouth, lunging at the Champions to devour their living flesh! death lurking behind every corner! fiendish traps that would destroy the courage, nay the very souls, of lesser men! Unfortunately, he didn't have any lessons with the Gryffindors or Ravenclaws that day, so it wasn’t until Charms Club that evening that Al finally got an opportunity to talk about it. Or, rather, that someone talked about it to him.
“So, Potter, who are you betting on for Hogwarts Champion? You ought to have the best idea of what’s required,” Violetta said as she corrected his swish-and-flick. Al had thought it was fine before, but apparently not.
“Oh, you mean because of Aunt Fleur? She never talked to us much about the Triwizard Tournament,” Al said. “I think it’s just general courage, determination and intelligence.” He hesitated, but then added, “You might be better off talking to my cousin Victoire - she’s a seventh-year in gryffindor. She probably knows more about it than I do.” He was basically telling her to go and find someone else to talk to, but Victoire was friendly and should be helpful, and Al figured pointing her towards someone more useful would earn him points anyway.
Violetta looked at him a bit strangely and said “I didn’t mean Fleur Delacour.”
“Viktor Krum?” Al hazarded. “He’s more of a friend of my Aunt Hermione’s. You should probably ask Rosie Granger-Weasley about him.” Or read any book about Quidditch.
“No, I meant your dad,” Violetta said. “Didn’t you know he was a Champion?”
That was ridiculous. Al’s dad hadn’t been a Triwizard Champion. “No, he wasn’t. I asked him about his Tournament and he said he couldn’t apply because there was an age limit.” Why would Violetta try to convince him his dad had been a Champion? Was this a joke?
“How very …specific,” Violetta said. “You mean you seriously didn’t know?” Al didn’t think this was a very funny joke.
“Hey, Potter!” Dan bounced up to them, grinning ear to ear. “As a former Champion’s son, what are your thoughts on the upcoming Tournament?”
Al didn’t think having more than one person in on it made it any funnier, either.
“It seems he didn’t know his father was in the Tournament,” Violetta explained quickly.
“What? Potter, how did you miss that?” Dan asked.
“Ha ha, very funny. I’m going to go talk to Kitty. See you later,” Al said, and made a quick retreat. He’d thought that would be the end of it, but at dinner, while he was eating a Yorkshire pudding, Grimalkin leant over the table and asked, “So, Potter, as the son of a former Champion, what do you think the tasks will be?”
“Personally, I’m hoping for ‘construct a giant Christmas tree out of Hufflepuffs’,” Lia said dreamily.
“Excuse me, I have to go to the library,” Al said, and left at high speed. He managed to grab a book on the Triwizard Tournament off the Returns trolley behind Madam Pince’s desk before she could hobble out of the stacks brandishing her cane at him, and once he was safely in the corridor he flipped it open to the index.
Potter, Harry: secondary Hogwarts champion, 1994: p 1746-51.
Oh. So his dad had lied to him, then.
Al started the walk back down to the Slytherin common room, trying to find the right page as he did. His must have had a good reason, Al thought, he just had to find out what it was right away. Once he had -
“Voldemort put his name in the Goblet?” Al said in a high-pitched voice, half-way down the stairs in the Entrance Hall. A pair of Ravenclaws going into the Great Hall looked at him very oddly. That must be why Al’s dad had never mentioned it. He hardly ever talked about the war. Still, you’d think he would have mentioned some things, like -
Voldemort had kidnapped him from the third task?! How had he done that? Did they not have security back then, or something? Al told the door “This is serious! I’m covered in melted frogs!”, entered the common room, and flung himself down on a sofa to read his book.
Wait. Someone had died? Someone called Cedric Diggory? Al flicked back a few pages to find out who that was - oh, the other Hogwarts Champion. He’d been murdered by Voldemort.
Al grabbed a piece of parchment and his quill out of his bag and scrawled WHAT across it in big letters, then decided that wasn’t right and tore that piece off.
Dad, why didn’t you tell me you were in the Triwizard Tournament and that Voldemort kidnapped you and killed someone? Were Cedric Diggory’s family all right? Why was security at the Triwizard Tournament so terrible?
Love Al xxx
Also why does this book keep calling you the Boy Who Lived? Because Cedric Diggory didn’t?
Al hurried to the Owlery to post it, and then to the library to get a book on the Second Wizarding War, to see what else his dad hadn’t told him. His dad had always said that he just happened to be one of the people around when Voldemort came back, and that he just happened to be the one who’d finally killed him. Blind luck, mostly. But if Voldemort had specifically wanted to kidnap him from the third task -
The book explained most of it. Al had known that his dad’s parents had been killed by Voldemort, but he hadn’t known that Voldemort had tried to kill his dad as well. His dad had always said offhandedly that his mum had made sure he was safe. It was just that Al had assumed he meant that she’d sent him to Peru.
The only person to survive the Killing Curse - Al had asked his dad once how he’d got his lightning-bolt scar. His dad had said “Nasty run-in with a Dark Wizard before you were born, Al,” ruffled his hair, and told him not to worry about it. All this ‘Chosen One’ stuff and talk about prophecies -
Al turned a few more pages, feeling sick as he read about his mum and dad fighting Death Eaters in the Ministry of Magic itself, forget having poor security precautions, these people had no security - wait. One of the Death Eaters had been called Malfoy.
It felt like a block of ice dropping into the pit of Al’s stomach. He checked the name and date - Lucius Malfoy (1954 - 1999). That couldn’t be Score’s dad, because he’d been at the station. His grandfather? There was more in an appendix - Al flicked desperately through the pages until he found Malfoy. Lucius Malfoy he already knew about. Draco Malfoy, just above him - 1980- still living, ‘a Hogwarts student in Harry Potter’s year group during his service to You-Know-Who’ - this must be Score’s dad. Al’s heart was hammering and his mouth was dry. Score’s dad had let Death Eaters into Hogwarts in Al’s dad’s sixth year, leading directly to the death of Professor Dumbledore, Al’s namesake, and collaborated with the Death Eaters in seventh year, when Al knew his own dad had been on the run, and he’d been at Malfoy Manor – Malfoy Manor? Score’s house? – when his dad and Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione had been captured and taken there and they’d hurt Aunt Hermione and - Al hadn’t known that. She was fine now, though, right?
Al jumped up and paced, scanning the rest of the entry, and stopped dead as his dad’s name jumped out at him.
Harry Potter testified in Draco Malfoy’s defence at his trial, stating “I know he’s stupid, and a total git, but he’s not a murderer- I mean, at least he’s not as bad as his father was - you can send Lucius Malfoy back to Azkaban, I wouldn’t mind.” Based on this heartfelt testimony, Draco Malfoy was released on probation.
Al fell back onto the sofa, relief flooding through him. It was like actually talking to his dad, or getting a letter from him - he rubbed his face tiredly, wondering why he’d panicked so much over that. His dad wouldn’t have testified in Score’s dad’s favour if he’d done anything really evil or had anything to do with hurting Aunt Hermione. So did that mean Score couldn’t be a Death Eater?
Actually, he really couldn’t be one because Voldemort had been dead for nearly twenty years. But… Al tapped his fingers on the page. What if Score really hated Muggleborns? But he talked to Kitty and Genesis Borden in Gryffindor and he acted as if he liked them. Unless it was all some sort of elaborate charade to -
Al realized that this was Hufflepuff Prefect Logic and was making his head hurt, so he decided that Score was going to be innocent until he had solid evidence to prove him guilty. Except if Score really was a devious criminal mastermind enacting a masquerade of fiendish cunning then he might never have any evidence! Unless -
At this point Al’s brain stepped in and reminded him that a) Score was eleven and eleven-year-olds weren’t manipulative geniuses and b) he’d obviously been reading too many Auror reports. (Aurors liked to use phrases like ‘devious criminal mastermind’ and ‘fiendish cunning’ and lots of exclamation marks in their reports. Al’s dad said they did it to make paperwork more interesting and gave out prizes every year for the most exciting ones. Al was pretty sure that this was where James had learnt most of his vocabulary.) Score was going to be assumed innocent unless Al found some evidence he wasn’t that was up to the standards required by the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Al underlined that statement and put it somewhere really obvious in his head. Scorpius Malfoy = not a Death Eater in training. There.
Still, it couldn’t hurt to just…watch him. A little bit. Make sure he wasn’t doing anything very evil when people weren’t looking.
He went back to the history of the Second Wizarding War. It was just as he was reading about his dad and Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione breaking into the Ministry at the start of what should have been their seventh year that he remembered a comment James had made last Christmas, when their dad was talking about increased security at the Ministry - threats from goblin radical groups or something - James had said, “Dad knows all the ways to break into the Ministry, don’t you?” and their dad had smacked him with the gravy ladle. Al had assumed he just meant because their dad was in charge of security. Why would Dad have told James and not him? Had James found out from a book, or one of the other Gryffindors? James would try to find out about anything that would get him more attention. Al was going to have to ask him about that.
So, the next morning at breakfast, he did.
James had been sitting between their cousins Fred and Louis, scarfing down toast and babbling happily at them, but when Al appeared he spat out crumbs and swivelled around to stare at him.
“Al!” he announced.
“Yeah. Hi,” Al said. “Listen, did Dad-” James carried on regardless.
“Why are you here? You are not wanted here. Go and never darken my doorway again!” He glanced up and down the table to make sure enough people were watching, while Fred completely ignored him.
“You haven’t got a doorway. We’re in the Great Hall,” Al pointed out.
“Well, go and never darken my table again,” James snapped. “You have brought shame upon me, Al. Shame. I have been mired in despair.”
“No, you weren’t. You were eating toast,” Al said. James folded his arms and brooded. “Did you know what Dad did in the Second Wizarding War?”
“Of course I did!” James announced. “That is, he tried to keep the truth from me, but I realised immediately that he was hiding something-” Considering that it had taken James until ;ast year to figure out that Dad had never actually defeated a giant jam monster by eating it, Al found that hard to believe. “-so when I came here I went immediately to the library and researched our family’s secrets! So that is how I know.” He was lying, Al was certain of it. But he hadn’t said Dad had told him, and if he had then James would have said so as soon as he realised Al hadn’t known.
“That makes sense,” Al lied, and retreated back to the relative safety of his own table, where Lia and Grimalkin were squirting random Slytherins with orange juice.
“Did he actually believe you?” Al heard Fred ask scornfully as he left.
“Al’s not very smart,” Louis pointed out. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he did.”
The delegations from the other schools were scheduled to arrive at 6 o’clock on Friday, so at five minutes to, everyone in Hogwarts was gathered on the front lawn. It was twilight, and drizzling gently, and a perfect half-moon hung over the Forbidden Forest. Al was trying to watch Score in case he did anything very Death Eater-y and Faith in case she wandered off after a moth or something. Right then Faith was humming and poking Score in the kidneys, apparently to see how long he could pretend not to notice, but about half a minute into that she got bored and asked “When are they going to get here? How are they coming?”
“It’s always something really impressive,” Kitty answered, flicking through an encyclopaedia of the Triwizard Tournament. “And the schools have to bring their own accommodation with them. It says in 2012, when the Tournament was held at Beauxbatons, the Durmstrang people mailed Beauxbatons a Persian carpet, and when they unrolled it the students all jumped out. I think that’s cool even if they did nick it from Cleopatra.”
“How’d they bring their accommodation then?” Faith asked, looking around over the sea of heads. “Did they transfigure the carpet into a boat and live on the boat?”
“…no, it was a tent. Why a boat?”
“You know, just because no-one would’ve expected hey what’s Professor McGonagall doing?”
Al turned to look. Professor McGonagall was kneeling down, pushing something deep into the soil.
“She’s planting something - I don’t know what, though.”
Professor McGonagall got up, with difficulty and Professor Longbottom’s hand under her elbow, and retreated back to the rest of the teachers. A stalk appeared, pushing up through the soil like a needle and unfurling spindly branches, and then the ground shook and ruptured as the trunk swelled to the size of a small room. The branches thickened and vanished under the unfolding leaves and, with a loud snapping sound, a piece of bark near the base cracked and fell off, revealing a tall thin door with a knocker in the shape of two crossed wands.
Hagrid hurried forward to open the door and Madame Maxime stepped out. Al had seen her before in a picture on Hagrid’s dresser, but there she had been wearing a simple blouse and standing next to a horse; now she was dressed in billowing black satin and dripping with opals, and her hair was far more grey than it had been then.
Also, she looked much bigger in real life
“Minerrva,” Madame Maxime greeted Professor McGonagall. Her voice was very deep, and rumbled the same way that Hagrid’s did. “I ‘ope you are well?”
“Quite well, thank you,” Professor McGonagall replied. “Will you stay to greet the delegation from Durmstrang, or warm up inside?” Twelve Beauxbatons students had followed Madame Maxime out of the tree and were standing shivering behind her, bundled up in scarves and shawls until they looked like mummies.
“We will warm up inside, I zink,” Madame Maxime said. “Étudiants?” The students followed her, all in a line like ducklings. Al took a few steps to the right, and saw that inside the tree there was a hallway stretching for around forty feet, with doors on either side.
The Hogwarts students parted to make way for the Beauxbatons delegation as they went up the steps and into the Entrance Hall.
“Professor McGonagall’s not doing anything else,” Faith told them all unnecessarily.
“Do you think the other schools discuss how they’re arriving?” Al asked. “I mean, Durmstrang probably wouldn’t like to turn up in a way too much like how the Beauxbatons people did.”
They thought about that for a bit, looking around to see if anyone would suddenly appear waving a sign reading ‘HELLO, WE ARE THE DURMSTRANG DELEGATION.’ Professor Longbottom was looking out at the lake. Professor Hunt, next to him, was looking straight down at the ground. Professor Brand was scanning the grounds, slowly and carefully. Professor McGonagall was just waiting, with her hands clasped on the handle of her walking stick.
The front doors swung open again and a Beauxbatons boy barrelled down the steps, through the crowd, and skidded to a halt in front of Professor McGonagall. He was wrapped up in a dozen shawls and wearing two fuzzy hats, as if the rest of his schoolmates had piled their extra clothes onto him before he set out on his expedition.
“Professeur! We zink we ‘ave finded ze Durmstrang pupils!”
The professors followed him back into the castle, where he pointed dramatically into the Great Hall. Professor McGonagall went to the doors and stared in.
“Professor Kohut,” she said, in a voice like a glacier. Professor Longbottom returned to the front doors and started waving everyone back in, in groups; the first-years were allowed back in first, so they were able to gather behind Professor McGonagall and look past her.
Twelve teenagers in blood-red robes were sitting around the near end of the Ravenclaw table, with a professor standing over them. Most of the teenagers looked embarrassed. Their headmaster just looked smug.
“They’re insulting us,” Al said quietly to Kitty.
Professor McGonagall put on a polite smile and moved forward to shake the Durmstrang headmaster’s hand. “Professor Kohut. It is, as ever, a pleasure to see you. I hope I find you well?”
“Hale and hearty,” Kohut replied, beaming genially at her. “It is, as alvays, a pleasure to be in your beautiful castle. I hope that you are also quite vell?"
“How did they get in?” Kitty asked softly, as Professor McGonagall and Kohut kept up the small talk.
“Portkey to Hogsmeade?” Al guessed. “If they snuck along the wall from Hogsmeade, climbed over it somewhere we couldn’t see them, crept up behind the castle, climbed through a window- a small well-trained force could do it easily if they used Disillusionment Charms, especially if the usual defences were relaxed to let them get in.”
“...right,” Kitty said. “So what’s a Portkey?”
Professor McGonagall and Kohut finished off their politeness deathmatch and marched up to the staff table with Madame Maxime, and the Hogwarts students went to their tables.
“You do not mind if ve join your table?” a Durmstrang boy asked them. The rest of the Durmstrang students were clustered nervously behind him. "Ze pupils at the blue table said ve vere to sit here.”
“There is more space here,” Avery agreed. “Feel free.”
The Durmstrang students pulled the benches out and sat down just as Professor McGonagall started to speak.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I take great pleasure in welcoming you all to Hogwarts,” she told them, despite all the evidence to the contrary. “And I trust that my students will make your stay here both comfortable and enjoyable.” The unspoken statement there seemed to be ‘Or they will be in detention forever’. “At the end of the feast, the Goblet of Fire will be placed in the entrance hall, thereby officially opening the Triwizard Tournament. Until then, I invite you all to enjoy the feast and make yourselves at home.” She sat down and immediately engaged Kohut in conversation. Al thought she might be pretending she wasn’t annoyed a bit too hard. The Durmstrang students didn’t seem to want to talk to them, though Al didn’t know whether that was because they didn’t speak very good English or because they were embarrassed about their entrance.
“Are you going to enter the Tournament?” Al asked Avery. He was hoping he would, because then Avery would probably get selected and then he would obviously win the Tournament, which would be helpful.
“No,” Avery said, buttering another slice of bread.
Al didn’t try to hide his disappointment; Avery wasn’t automatically going to assume he had sinister ulterior motives, or anything. “Why not?”
“I think you should,” Faith said. “Then we would win amazingly and we could laugh at all the other houses for being rubbish. And then they would all kill themselves in despair, and Slytherin would rule the school!”
“Harper, that’s a highly unlikely sequence of events,” Avery said. “Potter, I’m not entering the Tournament because I have exams this year and I would like to pass them. I’m fairly sure St. Mungo’s doesn’t accept ‘fights dragons’ as a qualification.”
“You’re going to be a Healer?” Al asked, startled. “That’s brilliant! You’d be fantastic at it!” A Slytherin winning the cup for Hogwarts would have helped most in the short-term, but considering long term effects (the Auror’s guidebook was very clear on always considering long-term things) a Slytherin being king of the Healers worked well too. Besides, Al being able to change a prefect’s mind didn’t seem very likely.
Avery glanced at him, obviously startled by the sudden enthusiasm.
“Hell yeah!” Faith said, dropping her fork with a clang. “You should be the king of St. Mungo’s! Or director or whatever it’s called. And then everyone would be all-” She made a strange gesture Al thought was supposed to show awe, shock, and bowing down before the majesty of Avery’s lime green robes all at once.
“You know, that’s exactly what we keep telling him,” Grimalkin said. “But with less mime.”
“I like our first-years this year,” Lia said contentedly. “I think they might be the best group we’ve had in a while.” Al smiled.
When the feast was over and the golden plates had been wiped clean, Professor McGonagall stood again up again as a heavy wooden chest encrusted with jewels was brought in and placed in front of her. Everyone in the Great Hall was staring at the chest, but Professor McGonagall didn’t seem in a hurry to open it.
“Firstly, I would like to welcome Mr Weasley-”
Al’s mouth dropped open.
“-the head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation-”
"That’s my uncle Percy!” Al hissed excitedly to Kitty, pointing at him. Uncle Percy was sitting very primly, with his hands clasped on the table in front of him.
“-and Mr Finwick, the head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports.” Al didn’t recognize Mr Finwick at all, but if he had anything to do with Quidditch his mum probably knew him. Al thought about writing to her for information, in case it would be useful, but then he remembered that he wasn’t very good at talking to his mum.
“They will be joining Madame Maxime, Professor Kohut and I on the panel of judges,” Professor McGonagall continued.
“Great! What’s in the box?” Lia said loudly.
“The format of the Triwizard Tournament is simple,” Professor McGonagall continued. “The champions will have to face three tasks spaced throughout the school year; tasks which are designed to test not only their magical prowess but their courage, their intellect, and their ability to cope with danger.”
The Great Hall was almost entirely silent. Nobody moved or spoke. Everyone’s eyes were fixed on Professor McGonagall, except for Avery’s. He had taken out a book to read.
“The Triwizard Tournament is essentially very similar to the Quidditch House Cup, in terms of scoring. The Champions are awarded points at the end of each task, and by the end of the third and final task, whichever Champion has the most points wins the Triwizard Cup. It hardly need be said that these tasks will be very dangerous, and therefore it has been decided that only sixth- and seventh-years will be permitted to put their names forward for consideration.”
“What? Arse!” said Lia. Most of the students in the hall seemed to have the same opinion.
“You shouldn’t have wanted to put your name forward anyway,” Avery said, without looking up. “You have your OWLs this year. They’re far more important.”
Lia put her head down on her arms and sulked.
“Ha ha, Mum yelled at you,” Grimalkin said absently. He was watching Professor McGonagall, who was still speaking.
“The Champions will, as ever, be chosen by an impartial judge: the Goblet of Fire.” She tapped her wand three times on the lid of the chest, and it creaked open, spilling out flickering blue light. This light brightened slowly as something rose out of the chest. It was a battered wooden cup that looked as if it had been hacked out with a kitchen knife, but it was full to the brim with wavering blue-white flames. A murmur ran around the hall.
“The Goblet of Fire will be placed in the Entrance Hall tonight. It will be protected by an Age Line, which will prevent anyone below sixth- or seventh-year from reaching the Goblet.” Professor McGonagall outlined the rest of the rules for submission, and then added, in a very grave tone, “A Champion, once selected by the Goblet of Fire, is obliged to see the Tournament through to the very end. There can be no turning back. For this reason, before you drop your name into the Goblet, please consider whether you are truly prepared to compete. That is all. Goodnight.” She sat down and nodded to Madame Maxime and Professor Kohut in turn. “If our guests would lead us out?”
The Beauxbatons students pushed back their benches, stood up and started gathering up their scarves and wraps for the long trek down the front steps. They were in luck, Al thought, looking up at the ceiling, as the drizzling from earlier had stopped. Professor Kohut hurried to meet his students and trooped out with them, though Al had no idea where they could be going.
“This could be a problem,” Lia said pensively, tapping her fingers on the table. “I just don’t know who I want to be horribly killed first.”
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