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As the next day was Saturday, most students would normally have breakfasted late, and then gone back to bed for another three hours. But when the Slytherin first-years came up to breakfast that particular Saturday, they saw about twenty students milling around in the Entrance Hall, some of them munching toast, all of them examining the Goblet of Fire. The Goblet had been placed on a slim marble pedestal where it looked sort of out of place, and a thin golden circle had been marked out on the floor all around it.

“Do you think the Durmstrang and Beauxbatons people have put theirs in yet?” Al asked Faith, once they’d collected some breakfast from their table and returned to the Entrance Hall. Faith was looking out through the front doors, at the Beauxbatons tree - which was rustling softly, though there was no wind - and the log house that had appeared near it, which the Durmstrang students must have built. Al was unfolding the reply his dad had finally sent him.

“Come on, Potter, how would I know?” Faith said as they settled down at the foot of the stairs and Al read through his letter.

Sorry, Al. I just didn’t want you three to get big-headed or have nightmares.
Cedric’s parents were all right in the end. And knowing you, you’ve already gone
to the library and read everything you could find about
Voldemort, so I don’t have to fill you in there.
Love, Dad.

That was very short. Al wondered if his dad was mad that he’d found out. It would have been hard not to, though, unless he hadn’t talked to anyone at all for the whole year. Al hoped his dad wasn’t mad at him.

“Al? You look worried,” Kitty said.

“It’s nothing,” Al lied cheerfully. “I was just wondering which Slytherins would put-” and then James burst in from the Great Hall, teetered dramatically just on the edge of the Age Line, windmilled his arms desperately, and finally managed to hop back away from it. Everyone in the Entrance Hall looked up.

“Jump, you wuss!” Fred shouted at James. He was standing in the doorway of the Great Hall, eating a piece of toast.

“Don’t do it, James! We love you! You have so much to live for!” Louis yelled, standing just as casually next to Fred.

“I’m going to jump! I’m going to do it!” James hollered, dancing around on the edge of the line and looking around to make sure everyone was watching him. They were. James seemed a bit uncertain what to do next, so Al got up and tried to sidle nonchalantly towards the dungeon stairs.

Unfortunately, Fred ambled over to James, prodded him in the arm, and pointed straight at Al. Al tried to run, but James was faster, he always was, and he’d grabbed Al in a bear hug and was dragging him towards the Goblet before Al could go more than ten steps.

“Get off him,” Faith ordered. James ignored that.

“Hey! Who wants me to chuck Al over the Age Line?” he demanded, swinging Al around to face the Entrance Hall.

“Do it!” someone yelled. Al thought it was Louis, Al stamped on James’ foot and tried to twist out of his grip, but it didn’t help, and James had his arms pinned so Al couldn’t get to his wand-

“Expelliarmus!” Fred shouted, putting himself between Al and the other Slytherins. Al didn’t know who had drawn their wand, but then suddenly Faith was across the hall and punching Fred in the face before he could get out more than “Stupe-” Oh. Al should have seen that coming. Faith snatched Fred’s wand, shoved it into his face, and gasped out “Matikleisto!” Fred staggered, shrieking and clutching at his eyes, and Faith whirled away from him. She couldn’t have a clear shot from there - She started towards them anyway. “Al! Kick him in the shins!”

Al tried, he really did, but James had heard her as well and hopped backwards, pulling Al off-balance, and he missed completely. Al could see Louis moving out of the corner of his eyes, but then someone else Disarmed him, not Faith - she hexed Louis anyway and spun back towards James and Al.

“You’d better let him go right now!” she warned, wand pointed squarely at James’s face as he and Al balanced precariously on the edge of the Age Line.

“Why?” James said. Al could hear him grinning. “What are you so mad about? It’s just a j-” He moved to swing Al over the Age Line. Al stamped on his foot, lurched sideways and knocked them both off-balance. Al, and James’s left foot, both landed squarely six inches inside the Line.

For a few seconds, nothing happened except James’ grip tightened around Al’s ribcage. Then some invisible force picked them both up and flung them into the stone floor outside the circle. Al landed hard on his face, and then James landed on top of him, and then the pain in Al’s head was drowned out by a sharp, stabbing sensation in his chin and a popping noise as he suddenly grew a beard.

Faith kicked James off Al and pulled him to his feet. “Hey, are you-” Then she got a good look at the beard and cracked up. James rolled over, face twisted with fury, and almost everyone in the Entrance Hall burst out guffawing.

James was up and mugging instantly, hobbling back and forth clutching an imaginary cane and hunched over like an old man. Al was sure he should pretend to be amused as well, but he didn’t want to go as far as James was, so he just grinned - a bit sheepish, a bit stifled laughter, which wasn’t a very difficult combination to pull off. Faith clapped both hands over her mouth and finally managed to stop laughing.

“James! James, where are you?” Fred shouted. He was still sitting on the floor, hands over his eyes.

“Faith, what did you-” Al started wearily, but was interrupted when his oldest cousin stomped down the steps, grabbed both Al and James by the ears and demanded “Were you two fighting again? Fred, what’s wrong with-”

“Victoire!” Fred shouted. “Victoire, that-” he called Faith something that made Victoire take five points from Gryffindor. “-hexed me in the eyes! Do something!”

Victoire sighed, left Al and James and went to take the hex off Fred’s eyes. “You three should consider yourself lucky Avery didn’t show up. I think he has spells to detect Slytherins in trouble-” Since last time Al had seen Avery he’d been asleep on a pile of Transfiguration textbooks in the common room, the spells probably weren’t working very well. “Louis, I can see you lurking back there. You’d better not have had anything to do with this,” Victoire added.

“I didn’t cast a single spell,” Louis said, with absolute honesty.

“Only because Score Disarmed you, you lying toerag,” Faith snarled, snatching her wand back from Kitty. Al looked at Score, shocked. He wouldn’t have tried to help Al, would he? It was more likely he’d been helping Faith out. Score stared back at him, looking as indifferent as ever.

“Score,” James repeated with a sort of overdone thoughtfulness, stroking his beard. “Scorpius Malfoy?” He tried to advance menacingly on Score, which was completely ruined by the Santa beard. Score didn’t look very impressed. “The Death Eater’s kid?”

“Don’t-” Score spat automatically, and Al could have completed it insult my father, but Score bit the words back and managed to regain his usual blank expression. Total silence reigned in the Entrance Hall. Al could have heard a pin drop.

“That’s Fred taken care of,” said Victoire, who was impervious to tension, and pointed her wand at Al. “Finite Incantatem!”

This completely failed to accomplish anything.

“Oh,” Victoire said. “Go to the Hospital Wing.”

“Do we have to?” James asked, still stroking his beard as if it was a fluffy kitten. Victoire rolled her eyes, physically turned him around and shoved him towards the stairs.

“Louis, Fred, go and make sure James goes to the Hospital Wing. Al…” She looked at the Slytherins. Faith was glaring at her. Score was just standing there like a statue and looking a bit crazy. Kitty looked shocked and confused, but then that was normal.

“Al, who in your house is trustworthy?”

“I’ll do it,” Faith snapped, stomping over to them. “Come on, Potter.” She grabbed him by the upper arm and hauled him off up the stairs. Victoire hustled James, Fred and Louis after them and headed over to put her name in the Goblet.

“Do you do this often?” Faith demanded. “Attack random people in the Entrance Hall?” Al was confused for a second before he realised she was talking to James.

James laughed. “No, just Al. Louis, how do you think I look with a beard?”

“I think you look great,” Louis said immediately.

“You look like crap,” Fred told him. “You look like that dead guy your dad’s always yammer-”

“You shut up, moron,” Faith said. “Why Al?”

“It’s nothing important,” Al said hastily, because he didn’t really want Faith to start up a deathmatch in the corridor. “He’s my brother, he always does that, it’s like a tradition. Don’t worry about - ow!” Faith stopped dead at the bottom of a flight of stairs and whipped around to face James, dragging Al with her. Well, that hadn’t worked.

“What!” She made an exasperated gesture at James that probably represented all sorts of swear words.

“What?” James asked, grinning and twirling his beard. “He’s my younger brother. It’s practically a legal - bloody hell!”

Faith had drawn her wand again, though Al was hanging onto her arm to keep her from raising it.

“Can we please just go to the Hospital Wing without trying to kill anyone on the way? I think that’d be easier-”

“Obviously you don’t have any younger brothers,” James said loftily.

“I have four!”

James looked very taken aback by this. “You know,” he drawled in a very bad imitation of unconcern, “I don’t actually want to go to the Hospital Wing. I like my beard. It makes me look distinguished.”

“You couldn’t touch distinguished with a big stick, Potter, you disgusting git,” Faith snapped, at exactly the same moment as Fred said “No, you look like a prat.”

“Louis thinks it looks cool,” James said sulkily, and sloped off in the direction of Gryffindor Tower with Fred and Louis. Faith obviously didn’t want them getting away that easily, even if they did outnumber her three to one; she started to follow them. Al didn’t really want her to do that, so he fell down on the floor shrieking.

“What?” Faith demanded in a high-pitched voice. “Al, are you all right?”

“A wasp! A wasp bit me! Aaah! Oh God, the pain,” Al wailed.

“Wasps don’t bite people! Wasps don’t even have teeth!”

“Oh.” Al thought for a few seconds. “It was a rare Tibetan Biting Wasp?”

Faith didn’t seem to be convinced.

“Potter, that is the most rubbish lie ever in the entire world. Someday, when there is a museum for lies, that's gonna be in there under a plaque saying ‘Worst Lie Ever’. Get off the floor.”

Al got meekly to his feet. James and his cousins had gone out of sight around a corner anyway, so the distraction had worked, and he didn’t think Faith would be as annoyed if he’d at least tried to make it a funny distraction. “Can we just go to the Hospital Wing? I don’t like having a beard. It’s not any fun.”

Faith glanced down the corridor after James.

“And they’re gone now anyway, and you won’t be able to find them,” Al pointed out. “The Gryffindor common room is really close to here. They’re probably already inside.” This was a complete lie, but Faith probably didn’t know where the Gryffindor common room was. Faith looked torn for a second, but then put her wand away and said “Fine. You can go get your stupid beard taken off.”

She stomped in the direction of the Hospital Wing. Al trailed after her, thinking. It definitely wasn’t going to help his plan any if Faith kept running around hitting people, and she might have just decided to wait and ambush James some time when he didn’t have Fred and Louis around as bodyguards.

“You shouldn’t really have attacked them like that. Didn’t your parents teach you about appropriate times to use violence?”

“’Course they did. They said…” Faith’s voice took on a sing-song lilt as if she was reciting. “-if it was necessary for self-defence or the defence of my friends I should resort to violence immediately and with enthusiasm. Besides, he started it. It’s fine if they start it.”

“Oh. Right,” Al said. “My parents always said I should try diplomatic discussion first.” Well, unless a Dark Lord was trying to kill him. He didn’t have to stay around trying to convince them of the error of their ways then. That would be a bit stupid, Al thought.

“Mine did mention that, yeah,” Faith said unconcernedly, “but then they explained that it was bollocks and never worked and I should probably stick with the violence.” Off Al’s look, she added, “Hey, it’s not like I thump people for saying hi. I’m not a caveman. It’d be cool if I was, though, I could have an axe and fight dinosaurs. Dinosaurs were around at the same time as cavemen, right? Hello! Emergency beard removal?” she added, pushing open the doors to the Hospital Wing.

Madame Zeller darted out of her office, pointed her wand at Al, said “Depellobarba!” and the beard fell off. Madame Zeller vanished back into her office.

“Well, that was anticlimactic,” Faith said, and they headed back down to the Slytherin common room. Avery was still asleep when they got back. Grimalkin had set up a perimeter and was threatening to hex everyone who went inside (which was currently Lia, looking forlorn and begging to be allowed to doodle on Avery’s face). Score was sitting at the end of a sofa looking vague, as usual, and Kitty was curled up at the other end of Score’s sofa reading a comic book.

“Hey, that’s mine!” Faith said, flopping onto the sofa between Al and Score. “Do you like it? I’ve got loads more somewhere.” She bounced back up and dragged Kitty off up the stairs to the girls’ dormitories, babbling loudly as she went about how Al’s brother was a colossal gitface who ought to be set on fire and then shish-kebabbed and fed to pigs and - A door slammed upstairs and cut her voice off. Score looked slightly ill. Al hoped Faith would be over that by the feast that evening.

Of course, she wasn’t, as Al found out when she sat down at their table and glared daggers at James through the entirety of Professor McGonagall’s welcoming speech. For his part, James didn’t notice. He was showing off the beard he still hadn’t removed to the other Gryffindors and laughing. Then, when the food finally appeared, Faith spent ten minutes constructing a James Potter stick figure out of chips and stabbing it repeatedly with her fork. (Not the first ten minutes, though. The first ten minutes she spent furiously demolishing a massive pile of food.)

“Harper, do you have a mental defect of some kind?” Score asked her irritably, once the energetic disembowelling had flicked chip innards all over his plate, and face, and robes.

“Shut up, Malfoy,” Faith said, picked up the stick figure and bit its stick head off.

“What’s upsetting you?” Kitty asked, slipping her hand into the crook of Faith’s elbow and leaning her head on Faith’s shoulder. Faith immediately launched into another long indignant tirade against James Potter and his total lack of sibling loyalty and all the terrible and very violent and graphic things he deserved to happen to him.

“You agree with me, don’t you, Malfoy?” Faith demanded.

“I don’t have any siblings,” Score pointed out, glancing across the table at Al.

“Yeah, but,” Faith said impatiently, “yesterday we were talking about family loyalty and you said it was important, so hurry up and agree with me!”

Score agreed with her because there didn’t seem to be much of an alternative. Faith appeared slightly mollified. Al pretended to be interested in his food and watched Score, who looked as blank as ever. He’d looked at Al before he’d answered Faith, and then he’d come over all vague even though he’d obviously talked to her like a normal person yesterday. Did Score actually hate Al so much he didn’t even want to talk to other people when he was in earshot?

Kitty was trying to coax Faith away from the topic of how she wanted James Potter and his friends to be horribly murdered, but Faith either hadn’t noticed or didn’t care.

“Professor Brand looks very smug up there on the staff table,” Al pointed out to her. Faith looked automatically and wrinkled her nose in distaste.

“Let’s plot to kill him,” Al suggested hopefully. This got Faith’s attention, and they spent a very relaxing ten minutes planning Professor Brand’s horrible death (Al decided that was morally all right so long as they didn’t actually do it) until Grim ruined it by pointing out helpfully that firstly Brand would notice his chair being on fire before he sat in it, and secondly he didn't think either of them were being very cunning.

“Stop ruining everything, Grim,” Faith ordered.

The Feast was really dragging on, Al thought. Maybe because it was the second they’d had in two days. Al and Faith spent a while debating who would win in a fight, Avery or Al’s dad, and Faith finally decided on Avery because while Al’s dad had more skill, more talent and more experience, Avery was a Slytherin and would cheat. (Al was totally sure his dad would win, but he thought Lia would murder him if he said so, so he didn’t mention it.) Faith started constructing a model of Hogwarts out of mashed potato, got bored with that, and tore it down while making troll noises. Al looked up and down the Slytherin table, wondering which of them had put their names in. Most of the Durmstrang students looked close to throwing up, and none of them were eating. Al wondered if the Beauxbatons students were as worried, but they were sitting at the Ravenclaw table so he couldn’t tell.

Long after everyone had stopped eating, their golden plates were wiped clean. The noise level rose immediately, but dwindled away as Professor McGonagall climbed to her feet.

“The Goblet is almost ready to make its decision,” she said. “I would estimate that it requires only a minute more.” Al glanced at Madame Maxime and Professor Kohut on her left and right. Madame Maxime looked tense and expectant, while Professor Kohut looked confident and relaxed, but Al thought he was just faking.

“Champions, when your names are announced, please come up to the front of the Hall and stand facing your fellow students. There, when the selection has finished, you will receive your instructions with regards to the first task.” With a wave of her wand, she extinguished all the candles in the Great Hall, plunging them into darkness. The icy blue firelight of the Goblet was the only illumination, flickering over Professor McGonagall’s face and gleaming off the cutlery of the High Table. Professor Kohut and Madame Maxime were leaning forward, watching the Goblet intently. Al waited, feeling sick. He so wanted someone in his own house to be chosen, but there were barely any of them, so it probably wouldn’t happen…he wondered what he could do to profit from the Tournament regardless of who was chosen.

The fire turned blood-red and a charred scrap of parchment flew up, borne on one long tongue of flame. Professor McGonagall caught it and read out “The champion for Beauxbatons is Anthoine Aquestre.” A deeper patch of shadow detached itself from the Ravenclaws and hurried up towards the staff table. There was no cheering from the Beauxbatons students, Al noted, twisting his fingers together and trying to take deep calming breaths.

Anthoine Aquestre took his place in front of the staff table and waited. Madame Maxime was beaming as the flames turned red again and another fragment of parchment shot up.

“The champion for Durmstrang,” Professor McGonagall read out, and further down the Slytherin table Al heard the benches creaking as the Durmstrang students sat up, “will be Oksana Zelenko.”

One of the Durmstrang students said something in Russian that Al assumed meant “No!” Someone else burst into tears as Oksana went up to the front of the Great Hall. Al couldn’t concentrate on that. His heart was pounding, and his stomach felt like it was full of Doxies.

The Goblet’s fire flared red again and the last scrap of parchment fluttered out of the top. Professor McGonagall caught it and turned it over.

“The Champion for Hogwarts will be Victoire Weasley.”

Lia slammed her fist down on the table, but if she said anything Al couldn’t hear her because everyone in Gryffindor House was on their feet, stamping and cheering until the cutlery rattled.

Very slowly, Al smiled. Victoire wasn’t a Slytherin, but she was family. He was certain he could use that.

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