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“What are you doing?” Faith demanded, kicking the door open and bursting in, her cat Pineapple in her arms. Al’s owl rustled its feathers and grimly went to sleep.

“I’m teaching Jarveys to dance,” Score told her, standing at his mirror.

“Score’s annoyed at his hair,” Al explained, sitting on the edge of his bed.

“Malfoy’s primping!” Faith hollered up the stairs.

“I’m not primping!” Score snapped, throwing the comb down. “I’m making myself presentable. Not that I would expect either of you to understand the concept,” he added sourly.

“I understand it, I’m just not obsessive,” Al said.

“I get it fine, I just don’t care,” Faith said. “You know we need to be down there by quarter-past, yeah? It’s like-” She turned and shouted up the stairs. “Oi! What time is it?”

“Four-oh-seven,” Kitty called back down. Oh dear.

“So yeah, get a move on,” Faith said. “Cook and me are ready already.”

Al picked up his satchel, his owl’s cage and the box of sweets Score’s grandma had sent him that morning and got up. Score checked his tie.

“It’s fine, come on,” Al said. Score grumbled but followed after them. The Slytherins were gathered in the common room, several of them carrying cats or owls in cages, and one of the seventh-year girls carrying an umbrella nearly as tall as she was.

“All present except Townsend and we don’t like him anyway,” Grim reported to Avery, just as Townsend dashed up from the bathrooms, wailing “Oh! Don’ reave me!” with a toothbrush still in his mouth.

“Nobody reave Townsend,” Avery ordered, and led them out of the common room.

It was the the evening of the twenty-fourth of June, the day of of the Third Task of the Triwizard Tournament, and all the students had been told to leave the castle a couple of hours before the Task started and take any uncaged pets with them. Al wasn’t sure exactly what was going to happen, but going by Kitty’s encyclopedia of the Triwizard Tournament saying that the third task was usually a race to the cup, he had a pretty good idea.

He thought Victoire was feeling okay. He’d seen her after breakfast, along with his entire family - apparently relatives were invited to the Third Task and, even excluding the Weasleys who weren’t currently attending Hogwarts, Victoire had a lot of family to invite. (Al had offered to bring Score with him so he could demonstrate to the assembled Weasleys how not evil he was. Score had said “Oh please God no.”)

Al had found Victoire talking to James, quietly, while his dad and Aunt Fleur stood nearby discussing what she should do in the Task. James had been trying to give her a tattered old piece of parchment. Al assumed that had made sense to James.

“Hey! Novice Auror Al Potter!” Dominique had greeted him. “Think Vick’s a bit busy, but she’ll see you in a minute. Or are you here to arrest us?”

“Yes. It’s illegal to wear that much stuff in your face,” Al told her earnestly. Dominique stuck her tongue out at him. Al wasn’t sure if that was to be rude or to show off her most recent piercing, but he knew Dominique liked people drawing attention to her jewelry so he didn’t think she could be mad.

“James, please quit bothering me,” Victoire said.

“But-”

“James, no,” Victoire snapped. “Where did you get something like that anyway?”

“But then you’d win!”

James had come up with some mad plan, then.

“By cheating,” Victoire said bluntly. “And I’d rather lose with honour than win without it. You’re a Gryffindor, James. Act like one.”

James flushed right up to his hair, shoved the tattered parchment back into his robes and stomped back to Fred (since Louis was hovering at Victoire’s side and didn’t seem inclined to move.)

“Hi, Al,” Victoire had said, though the good wishes Al’d meant to give her had come out as a wheeze when Al’s dad had realised he was there and come over to give him a hug.

James had muttered something and glared balefully at Al, but then he’d been weird ever since Al had started convicting criminals before him.

Convicting Rita Skeeter had actually been surprisingly easy - for Al, as least. He’d been called out of school and down to the Ministry to give a witness statement, which turned out to mean explaining what he’d done to his dad’s boss, Mary MacDonald, while her secretary made notes and Al’s dad leant against the wall at the back and went incandescent with rage any time anyone suggested that Al might not have been right to resort to vigilantism. That had been a bit troubling, but Al’d managed to fix it by looking dejected and cute until Mrs MacDonald agreed that he’d just been trying to do his bit for justice and her secretary had given him some money for a chocolate bar.

Three blocks of seating had been set up close to the gates, facing towards the front doors of the castle, one for each of the three schools. The Slytherins found the stand in the Hogwarts section which was decked out in Slytherin colours, climbed right to the top, and settled in for the long haul.

Faith let Pineapple go and sprawled out on one of the benches while he went prowling up and down, looking for attention. Avery got out a book. Kitty, Grim and Lia and a couple of fourth-years started to play a Muggle card game Kitty insisted was called Cheat. The girl who’d had the giant umbrella put it up, looked suspiciously at the sky and put on a sunhat as well. Al thought she was being a little paranoid.

“Potter, there’s a tin of blood-flavoured lollipops here with your name on it,” Score said, opening up the box of sweets from his grandmother and handing it around.

“Oh. Cheers,” Al said.

“I meant that literally,” Score said, and handed over a tin labelled Mr Albus Potter in neat copperplate handwriting. “Are you Potters secret vampires, incidentally? Any minor history of vampirism?”

Al took the tin and thought about it. Lily liked blood-flavoured lollipops too, and so did James although he never ate them because it wasn’t heroic or something. He didn’t think any of them wanted to actually drink anyone’s blood, though. “I don’t think so. Can you thank your nan for me? It’s very nice of her to keep sending sweets up for us.”

“It is very kind of her to give me such a delicious means of bribing people,” Score agreed.

“Oh.” Though sarcasm aside, that did seem pretty nice. Al’s parents never gave him anything to bribe people with.

The Slytherins had been first down, probably because they had fewer people to organise. The Hufflepuffs were next, coming out of the castle in an antlike column shepherded by the prefects, and filled up their stand, and the Gryffindors and Ravenclaws after them, straggling down from the castle in small groups in total defiance of Professor McGonagall’s orders.

Professor McGonagall was standing a long way away at the front of the staff box, hands on the railing, but when she’d seen him at breakfast, before she’d gone back to talking to James and Lily, Al’s mum had given him a pair of blood-red Wigtown Wanderers Summer ’08 Omnioculars (apparently the dates were important, and Al wasn’t sure if the colour was meant to make a point but he’d changed them to green as soon as she wasn’t looking anyway). Looking through those, Al didn’t think Professor McGonagall looked annoyed. She’d probably told everyone to get out twenty minutes before she needed them out just in case.

Satisfied that the castle was empty, McGonagall blew a whistle. For a second nothing happened. Then the lawns heaved and bulged, turf tearing apart as the foundations moved, and in total silence the entire castle twisted and hunched down over the lake. A cloud of owls poured out of the Owlery, swirled around the tower and scattered across the grounds. The North Tower seemed to squat down and then fell outwards from the castle wall, but just as a gasp ran through the Hogwarts students two solid stone buttresses speared out from the tower and slammed into the ground, keeping the North Tower hanging at a precarious angle over two hundred feet of empty air.

“What’s it doing?” Kitty asked, in a hushed voice. Bubbles started to rise from the lake at the foot of the promontory on which the castle stood.

“Rearranging itself,” Faith said.

“Well, yes, but in more detail?” Kitty asked.

“Er, basically,” Faith said, and made some hand gestures that meant either ‘Hogwarts Castle’, ‘wedding cake’, or ‘The Great Pyramid of Giza’. “Hogwarts is a masterpiece? It’s self-updating and self-repairing, and it can rearrange itself - usually it does it for not any actual reason, but if the headmistress tells it to turn itself into something it’ll do it.” She was looking at the castle as though she wanted to take it apart and see how it worked.

“Don’t dissect the school, Harper,” Score ordered. “You’ll lose us house points.”

The Slytherins dawdled away the two hours. Al and Score studied a couple of second-year set books they’d got from the library, to Faith’s amazement. She’d picked up a copy of the Standard Book of Spells Grade 2 and was amusing herself by casting Bouncing Charms on Knuts and lobbing them down the stairs, but apparently reading textbooks about Potions and Herbology was mental. Kitty was sketching the castle and interesting-looking people she could see through Al’s Omnioculars. Grim and Lia stretched out in the sunlight and  dreamily plotted to take over the world, enslave the Gryffindors and force them to be their living footstools.

At about ten to seven the Hogwarts stands started to fill up with visitors, though not many in the Slytherin section and most of those were sitting down at the bottom. Through the Omnioculars, Al could see a big splash of Weasley-red hair in the Gryffindor section.
“Potter, tell me that’s not who I think it is,” Score said, pointing.

Al turned his Omnioculars to the bottom of the Slytherin stands and the figure climbing towards them.

“Dad!”

Score groaned. Al jumped to his feet and waved.

Al’s dad reached the Slytherins and looked them over, gaze settling on Score. His mouth turned sharply downwards at the corners. Score raised his chin and met his stare defiantly.

“Dad,” Al started, meaning to say something placating.

Grim and Lia exchanged glances, and then jumped up and provided a distraction. Or possibly they were just having a laugh. It was hard to tell.

“Who’re you?”

“…what?” Al’s dad said.

Grim and Lia looked Al’s dad up and down, from the unruly black hair to the Aurors’ dress robes with the gold commander’s braid by way of the lightning-bolt scar, and repeated simultaneously and louder “Who’re you?”

“He’s my dad,” Al said.

“I’m Harry Potter,” Al’s dad said.

“…who?” Lia said.

“Stupid!” Grim said, and smacked her on the head. “He’s Potter’s dad!”

“…yeah,” Al’s dad said. “And I’m sitting with him.”

“No you’re not. You’re standing over there.” Grim pointed out.

“I meant I’m going to sit with him,” Al’s dad corrected irritably.

“Are you really?”

“Let’s find out!” Lia said. “Avery, is he sitting with us?”

“Why not? Potter brought friends to the last two tasks, and it would be sad to make him break his record now.”

Grim and Lia made angry cheated faces.

“Who’re you?” Al’s dad demanded. He was going red. Al really hoped he wasn’t going to explode at them.

“We’re prefects!” Lia said.

“Your son’s life is in our hands!” Grim added cheerfully.

Al’s dad didn’t look like he was very happy about that.

“Hang on,” Lia said. “Isn’t he something like an Auror or something?”

“Yeah, something like that,” Al’s dad agreed sourly.

“We can’t have Aurors sitting here!” Grim said. “Avery, please, reconsider! What if we want to do something evil?”

“What?” said Al’s dad.

“Well we might have to murder somebody,” Lia said.

“We’re Slytherins. Pointless evil is kind of all we do.”

“Dad, they’re not serious,” Al explained. “It’s a joke. I think it’s their only joke.”

“Hey! We have lots of jokes!” Grim said. “Listen to this. Why did the chicken cross the road?”

“See, it’s funny because crossing roads is not normal chicken behaviour!”

“I dunno. Why did the chicken cross the road,” Al’s dad said flatly.

“Because it was under the Imperius curse!” Grim said, and then he and Lia fell about laughing. Al’s dad stared at them in disbelief. This made Grim and Lia laugh harder.

“Avery,” Al’s dad repeated.

“Yes, hello,” Avery said, correcting his book.

“Aren’t you supposed to be their king or something?”

“That is my official title,” Avery agreed.

“So can you make them stop mucking around?”

“No,” Avery said. “That’s a common misunderstanding. I’m a king, not a miracle worker.”

“What?” Grim squawked. “Oh God, you just killed my whole belief system!”

Al’s dad threw himself down on the bench next to Al, shoving Faith’s legs out of the way. Score had moved to Faith’s other side to be further away from Al’s dad.

“Could of sworn Slytherins weren’t this mental when I was at Hogwarts.”

“Actually they’re pretty clever,” Al said (not that he wanted to argue with his dad, but he had to defend his house.) “Avery especially. He had his Transfig NEWT yesterday and the examiner proposed marriage. Apparently that’s normal. Anyway, otherwise he wouldn’t be our king.”

“Yeah, about that,” Al’s dad said. “Is this a Slytherin thing? They see a tall, clever, dark-haired boy and immediately decide he’s their king?”

“We don’t do that,” Al said, very slight emphasis on the we, and frowned. “What are you talking about?”

“Forget it, then,” Al’s dad said.

There was a blast on a trumpet.

“What’s that?”

The  Durmstrang students arrived, marching through the gates in regimented order, singing what was probably a school song, with a standard-bearer at the front and the trumpeters bringing up the rear. As the column swung past the staff box the standard-bearer peeled off, thunked the end of the standard into the ground, and the other students formed up in regiments behind him. Professor Kohut rose to his feet, and there was a sound like a handclap as every single student saluted.

“Bloody hell,” Al’s dad said.

Professor Kohut barked out something in Russian and gestured to his students . Al looked at Score for a translation, but Score was busy staring into space, probably off in his happy place where Al’s dad didn’t exist. The Durmstrang students peeled off and entered their stand.

Then it was the Beauxbatons students’ turn, and everyone looked up expectantly to see what they would do.

As it turned out, this was walk in quietly and take their seats, without any fuss. There was a mutter of disappointment and, through the Omnioculars, Al could almost see Madame Maxime grinding her teeth. Kohut obviously hadn’t mentioned to her that he was planning on having his students grandstand into Hogwarts.

With the students of all three schools assembled, Professor McGonagall got up and advanced to the front of the staff box.

“Welcome to the Third and last Task of the Triwizard Tournement. The points stand at seventy-three for Miss Zelenko of Durmstrang and, tied in second place, Mr Aquestre of Beauxbatons and Miss Weasley of Hogwarts. The Third Task is in the form of a race to the Cup: the Cup is in Hogwarts Castle, but in reaching it the Champions will face magical beasts, tests of all kinds and, worse… Peeves.”

Professor McGonagall waited for the faint chuckles to die away before yielding the floor to Finwick.

“Thank you, Minerva! Since Miss Zelenko is ahead on points she will be the first to enter the castle,with Miss Weasley and Mr Aquestre following her. So, Miss Zelenko, on my first whistle-”

The three champions had taken up their places at the foot of the steps into the Entrance Hall, facing the stands, Oksana in dead centre with her hands clasped firmly behind her back. Score leant forward, elbows on his knees and chin in his hands.

Finwick blew his whistle. Oksana turned sharply on her heel and, to a cheer from the Durmstrang seats that startled birds shrieking from the trees in the Forbidden Forest, hurried into the castle.

Silence fell abruptly as she crossed the threshold of the castle: Oksana assumed this was to prevent cheating rather than to avoid distractions, since she would not have been surprised if Professor Kohut had had someone sneaking about outside the castle trying to shout advice through the walls. Of the two choices - the Great Hall and the corridor of classrooms opposite it had been replaced by stark stone walls, and the dark passage into the dungeons and the staircase to the first floor were the only exits left - she chose the stairs leading up.

The only advice they had been given on locating the Cup was that the greater the difficulty, the closer they were, and in that case, Oksana was forced to decide as she hurried deeper into the castle that she was not very close to the Cup. The corridors were silent, of course, but also dim, and many of the windows had been sealed over with rock with only an arch of worked stone to show where they had once been. The calm was unsettling - at Durmstrang castle, this sort of still, smothering silence usually meant that the prividenie was passing close by.

In the quiet the sound of Finwick’s second whistle shrilled out loud and clear. Enchanted to be heard in the castle? Well, that was irrelevant to the fact that the other two champions were in the castle, and assuming they had taken separate paths, one of them was on Oksana’s heels.

Oksana turned a corner and came face to face with her first challenge.

Halfway down the next corridor, blocking the way forward, a ghost waited - a gaunt man, in tattered and bloodstained robes, hung with chains and wearing a sword at his side. He hung motionless a few inches above the floor, head down, one hand hanging at his side and the other resting on the hilt of the sword. He was not one of the Hogwarts ghosts, or at least not one that Oksana had seen before. And that was assuming he was a ghost - if so, he could do her no harm.

If, however, he was some type of ghost-like creature or an elaborate magical creation, that sword looked as though it could do quite a good job of bisecting her.

Oksana had drawn her wand before entering the castle, so now as she advanced on the phantom (who remained, aptly enough, as still as the dead) she held her wand out before her. The distance between them closed rapidly, but the ghostly figure never moved and finally Oksana took a deep breath, reminded herself that she was a Durmstrang student and not unnerved by ghosts, and marched straight through it. The icy sensation that swept through her nearly made her squawk, but the ghost never even reached for its sword.

A simple test of courage, then? That was a relief. Oksana looked back at the translucent figure, which hadn’t even turned towards her, and decided that it must be just a very authentic illusion. She wondered if it would dissipate now, or remain to bother one of the other champions.

The blue house’s ghost, the tall woman with the long flowing hair, drifted into the corridor through one of the walls and out through the other, casting an acidic look at the bloodstained ghost’s sword as she did. The bloodstained ghost turned, stretched out a hand in mute appeal to her departing back, and followed her through the wall.

Ah.

Well, if whichever of the other champions had followed her wasn’t going to spend as long dithering over a ghost as Oksana had, she had best get a move on.

Further down, another corridor joined hers, going left and turning sharply out of sight about twenty feet down. Oksana stood for a few seconds deliberating on which way to go before there was a thud from the left passage that made the floor shake. Oksana raised her wand and advanced cautiously.

Something massive and greyish-purple, with a humped back that forced it to crouch down to get through the corridor, took a few careful steps forward, saw Oksana and reared up. Its back collided with the ceiling, and the floor shook again.

Oksana suspected that this was not an illusion to test her resolve.






After getting into the castle, Victoire had wished Anthoine good luck (in French, obviously) and gone down into the dungeons, while Anthoine had gone up the steps into the castle itself. The dungeons had been almost completely flooded, and lake water lapped gently at the steps down from the entrance hall - being underwater should make things problematic, shouldn’t it?

Victoire knew a little about exploring underwater from caving trips with her dad and Dominique. There were some fairly basic rules to follow if you wanted not to die. Firstly, only do it if you can Apparate.

That was sort of a no.

Secondly, as a failsafe, always use a guideline. She didn't have a guideline. Thirdly, as a backup failsafe, bring a spare wand, spare Gillyweed, and two secondary light sources. She had none of those. Fourthly, acquire or train a rescue dolphin. No point even asking about that one.

Victoire cast the gill spell she'd had prepared since talking to her mum about her experience in the Triwizard Tournament and getting the horrible feeling that somehow, somewhere, they would make her go in the lake, and took a few steps down down into the icy water. A riptide dragged her off her feet and under the water and swept her down the corridor, whirling her over and over. Victoire let out a cry that came out as bubbles and curled up reflexively, arms over her head, as the current dashed her against the stone and carried her deeper into the dungeons.

The riptide spat her out finally, against a wall, and Victoire uncurled slowly. Without the torches to light them the corridors were pitch black. She drew her wand and bubbled out "Lumos!" Underwater, the spell cast a blue rather than a golden light, illuminating bare stone walls, bare stone floor, bare stone ceiling and, every so often, an iron frame for a torch.

Victoire stuck her wand between her teeth and struck out down the corridor. The dungeon passages were narrow, so that half the time she was less swimming and more pulling herself along by the walls, and the water seemed even colder deeper down. Shoals of small fish had been sucked into the dungeons along with the lake water, and occasionally flickered on the outskirts of Victoire’s light before fleeing into the darkness.  Victoire’s robe was sodden and heavy and slowing her down, so she pulled it off and left it drifting jellyfish-like behind her.

The first few rooms she looked into had their doors standing open, and were empty. The next was locked. She opened it with Alohomora, but had to brace her back against the opposite wall and kick it to get the door open, with a swirl of water that sent up eddies of dust. Victoire held her wand out before her and peeked around the door. A spare classroom, with lines of desks and chairs and a tower of spare cauldrons looming out of the darkness. She slid through the doorway, wand out, looking around for other doors or anything that might be worth investigation, but didn't see anything and turned to go.

Something had curled around her ankle. Victoire tugged at it instinctively, and then something curled much more tightly around her waist and throat and pulled her down. Victoire tried to shout a spell but it came out as a wheeze as more tendrils wound around her legs and shoulders. She pressed her wand against her throat and thought Diffindo! The cord around her throat split. Victoire kicked off hard from the wall, slashing at the other tendrils around her legs, and collided with one of the desks, knocking it over.

Victoire pushed herself up off the desk and looked back, shaking with adrenaline and touching her fingers to her throat. She’d cut herself as well, by accident, and there was blood seeping out to stain the water.

Seaweed, growing up the wall behind the door. A magical type of seaweed, or just enchanted? Come to think of it, Victoire didn't care. She carefully slid around the door, out of range of the weed, and back out into the corridor.

As she swam deeper into the dungeons, Victoire was starting to suspect that they were just a little less labyrinthine than usual. Perhaps blocking off the Slytherin common room had taken a lot of corridors with it too?

In almost no time at all she had reached the end of the dungeons and, worse, she’d done it without any more trouble. Could there have been a hidden door somewhere she had missed? She put her wand between her teeth and felt around, probing at the stone for secret passages or twistable candlesticks, and the water she kicked up disturbed something huddled at the foot of the wall. The merman uncoiled in a blur, howling and brandishing a spear.

Protego!” Victoire shouted instinctively as it burst into her field of vision, before she’d even recognised what it was. She should have remembered that the Shield Charm only worked on spells. The spear cracked across the top of Victoire’s head. Her vision flashed white and her wand fell from her hand.

The merman swung the spear at her head again. Victoire caught it on her forearm, brandished her hand in front of his face and shouted “Stupefy!” though it only came out as bubbles. The merman yelped and flinched back instinctively. Victoire pulled a knee up, kicked him hard in the chest and dived for her wand.

How was she supposed to get past him? Get past him to where?

Victoire snatched her wand up, twisted, and aimed it at the ceiling.

Reducto!”

The ceiling broke and through the gap Victoire saw not more water, as she had expected, but… branches? She kicked off hard from the floor and shot upwards, bursting out of the water as far as her waist and hauled herself up into the air, hand on one side of the hole and the elbow of her wand arm on the other. The merman’s spear thwacked against the edge of the hole just as she pulled her legs up out of range, but after that there was quiet.

Victoire ended the gill spell she’d been using and climbed to her feet. Her palm was bleeding where she’d sliced it open on the sharp edges. She fixed that quickly, and looked around.

She was in a classroom which seemed to have been first turned into a forest and then turned on its side. The wall which seemed to have been the floor was carpeted with moss and grass, and branches grew up what had been the walls and across the only window not sealed over, filling the room with green light. Having never taken Divination, it took Victoire a few seconds to realise that this was Professor Firenze’s classroom, on the first floor, and supposed to look like a garden centre gone mad. She hoped he wouldn’t be too annoyed about the hole she’d just put in his floor …wall ... whatever.

Should she go back down and try to get past the merman? Merboy, really, possibly younger than Victoire was. If the merrows were going to send someone in to harass the champions, why not send someone older? Hell, why were they sending one in at all? She’d heard their chieftain didn’t like Hogwarts or humans all that much. And, for that matter, why hit someone with a spear when you could stick them with the pointy end? That didn’t make much sense.

She remembered the shoals of fish. Found himself in here by accident, then, in which case she could probably go without following up on that.

She left the classroom and found herself standing in a third-floor corridor she recognised from the tapestries of Ibleg the Inflammable. Looking down from the windows proved that she was, in fact, on the third floor.

Interesting.

Victoire headed off to find some trouble to get into.






Oksana, meanwhile, had decided that she had no intention of being killed by some overgrown cousin of the beast she’d defeated in the first task, and that therefore her sole (minor) concern was finding a way to avoid being killed by it.

Stupefy!”

The red light bounced off the creature’s hide. It barely seemed to notice. Oksana briefly wondered why everything that might need to be Stunned was immune to Stunning before it charged, its humped back and the tips of its golden horns rasping against the ceiling.

Savrasernoma,” Oksana said, spun, and dashed up the wall. The Graphorn flung itself against the wall, trying to crush her, and she just managed to leap onto the ceiling before it hit the wall. Still, even upside-down its bulk blocked most of the corridor.

Oksana feinted to the right and then, as the Graphorn threw itself towards her, dashed left. She almost made it. As she saw the wall of blue-grey hide coming she ducked down and reflexively covered her head with her arms, and the Graphorn’s side slammed her torso against the wall and pinned her there like a bug. Her arms were trapped against her own head, with her wand digging into her left ear, and her ribcage felt as if it was cracking under the pressure.  She kicked her heel into its back, got her left arm free and punched it in the side, but it just ground against her like it was trying to get rid of an itch. Some of her ribs crunched. Oksana let out a scream, dwindling into a groan, and went limp.

The Graphorn shifted and relaxed. Oksana slowly and carefully freed her wand arm and drew in a shallow breath. “Ftero!” The spell was barely a wheeze, but it worked, and with a rush of adrenaline she snatched the knife that burst from the tip of her wand and drove it into the Graphorn’s side up to the hilt. The animal screamed and leapt away. Oksana staggered forward, bent double and gasping, until she was clear of it, and then pointed her wand at her midsection and rasped out a healing charm. Her ribs knitted back together.

She would have liked to have stopped and taken several deep breaths, but then she shot a look back over her shoulder and saw that the Graphorn was trying to come after her, only having trouble turning around in the narrow passage. She hurried up, and then abruptly the ceiling lurched beneath her feet and her vision went dark. No, not totally dark, she could see faint stars, and… clouds? She couldn’t see anything but sky, but she could feel something, whatever it was, under her feet. She spun around and found herself staring down a hundred feet to the floor of the Great Hall.

So, had she been running away from the Graphorn on the floor like a normal person… well, that was an unpleasant thought.

Oksana felt for the lip of the corridor and scrambled back in on hands and knees. The Graphorn was struggling to turn around - it didn’t seem able to turn its neck much, and its horns scraping against the ceiling stopped it from raising its head. It saw her, froze, and then roared and threw itself forwards. One horn cracked. The Graphorn charged towards her, and when it was close enough for Oksana to see the whites around its beady red irises, she stepped smartly back and let herself fall backwards and upwards onto the wall.

The Graphorn shot out of the corridor. For a moment, its legs still working frantically, it didn’t seem to realise what had happened, and then it fell, twisting and turning in midair and smashing into the red house’s table. A fine cloud of wood dust filled the air.

Oksana watched as the Graphorn climbed to its feet and shook itself like a dog. What on earth did it take to kill one? It stared up at her, forefeet propped up on what had until a minute ago been a bench. Safely a hundred feet above, Oksana considered waving, before remembering that Durmstrang students did not behave like children. Leave the bastard to bother one of the other champions, then.

It seemed that several other corridors had also recently been remodelled to end in a deadly fall, because she could see other openings dotted around the Great Hall. She crossed the hall and picked another corridor on the basis that when she stepped into it, a pipe burst out of the wall and sprayed ice-cold water at her knees.

It would have been her face, but fortunately she was still walking on  the ceiling. Quite a useful spell, really, for something she had learnt at ten to win games of tag.






Anthoine heard the high, deranged laugh ring through the corridors, and his blood ran cold. That couldn’t possibly be what he thought it was. It was probably their silly poltergeist.

The sound seemed to have come from the upper landing. He raised his wand and started cautiously up the stairs. Halfway up, in the total silence, he almost thought he had imagined it before another giggle echoed through the still halls.

Anthoine steeled himself and marched up the remaining steps. He must be mistaken. It was an absurd ide -

Then he saw the scarecrow figure shambling towards him, thin strangling hands outstretched. Its face was corpse-white, save for the red grin that stretched from ear to ear and bared decaying brown teeth, and the dark pits of its eyes, exaggerated by the rings of black paint around them. Its red yarn hair was matted and straggling, and its nose was gone, rotted away.

Anthoine swallowed. He groped behind him until he found the newel post, steadied himself, and pointed his wand squarely at the thing’s face.

Stupefy!”

The spell bounced off.

An invincible undead clown! The exact thing he least wanted to fight!

Conjunctivitus!”

The clown reached up to its eyes as if it meant to rub them, but instead it plunged its bony fingers deep into the sockets and gouged. Anthoine gagged and staggered backwards.  The clown drew its fingers out, blood dripping in slow rust-coloured trickles through the white greasepaint, and reached out towards him.

Incendio!” Anthoine flung the spell over his shoulder as he spun, and nearly fell trying to run down the stairs too fast. At the bottom, he wheeled round to see if this spell had had any effect.

For a second, the clown had been shambling in the centre of an inferno, and then the fire died away. The clown’s yarn hair smouldered and went out.

The clown started down the stairs towards him, hands outstretched.

Anthoine couldn’t run away. He had to try to find the Cup. The honour of the French depended on it. Perhaps he could lure it off, double back and get around it?

Trébuchez!” Anthoine realised a second after casting the spell that he’d probably just helped it get down faster, but by then it was too late. The Trip Jinx sent the clown tumbling oversized-shoes-over-head down the stairs, and it landed flat on its face at the bottom. Anthoine let out a bark of hysterical laughter, and the clown exploded into a puff of smoke.

Wait. Bwuh?

Oh. A Boggart.

Anthoine ran shaking hands through his hair and prayed nobody had been watching that. He should have realised earlier, castles not being the natural habitat of undead clowns.

He moved on, around where the Boggart had been and up the stairs.

The next obstacle he came across was a wall of fire, issuing from a crack across the corridor floor and shooting up in a thin sheet to lick against the ceiling. He could feel the heat rolling off it from ten feet away.

Aguamenti!”

Anthoine played the jet of water across the fire, but wherever he pointed it, the fire only died down for as long as he kept the water on it, while all around it raged just as strongly. He tried a Wind Charm, thinking he might be able to blow it out, but instead it roared up even stronger than before, and he had to leap back to avoid his robes catching light.

He pressed his lips together and thought, then pointed his wand at the wall.

Démolo!”

The bolt of green light shot through the fire (punching a hole in it, for a split second) and slammed into the ceiling just the other side. Dust showered down. Anthoine did it again, and then again, perforating the ceiling around the fire until with a crack, the mortar gave way and it all came crashing down. Anthoine covered his eyes until the dust had settled, then peeked between his fingers.

The stone had fallen down across the fire and blocked most of it, with only a few thin needles of fire shooting up. Anthoine hopped across it and moved on.






Victoire was unlucky enough to have the first run-in with Peeves. She had been heading up a staircase, one of the few in Hogwarts that had a runner, when suddenly something whipped the carpet out from under her feet and sent her tumbling down the stairs. She landed in a undignified heap at the bottom, wound up in the carpet.

She heard a familiar high-pitched laugh.

“Peeves!” Victoire roared. “Get lost!” She drove her knee into the carpet and shoved out with her elbows.

The little git cackled and started, in a singsong voice, “Snug as a bug in a-”

Bugger that. Victoire blew a hole in the carpet, stuck her wand through it and yelled “Glaceo!” before he could finish gloating.

When she finally crawled out, dust in her hair, thinking about how Cleopatra was actually a bit of an idiot, Peeves was still frozen solid in the wall of ice that now blocked off the corridor behind her. Victoire tapped the ice experimentally.

Peeves’s eyes turned towards her and, with great effort, he made a rude gesture.

Victoire responded in kind and sped off. 






Oksana saw something flicker in the corner of her eye and whirled around, wand raised and ready to blast the… perfectly normal stone wall. Perhaps she was losing her mind.

Was that whispering behind her? No, just a draught. She passed a few classrooms, all empty, and a window which, if it wasn’t lying, showed that she was heading towards the northern part of the castle.

The lack of trouble was starting to make her paranoid, as though somebody was watching her, as though she could already feel . Oksana turned to look behind her and saw nothing, but for a moment staring down the long empty corridor she felt a rush of vertigo that made her knees waver. And that was definitely whispering, tinny, like a badly-tuned radio.

She’d wandered into another illusion spell, Oksana realised, and her stomach twisted, remembering the drop into the Great Hall.  There was more whispering, and faint laughter.

“I can’t understand you!” Oksana shouted. “Speak up!” He voice sounded very small and weak. She decided that was an effect of the illusion.

She stretched out both arms - the corridor was narrow enough that she could touch the fingertips of one hand to one wall and the tip of her wand to the other - closed her eyes, and, testing the floor in front of her carefully before treading on it, marched forward.

She got quite a way down the passageway like that, ignoring the faint chittering-skittering sounds and the distant voices that seemed to be calling her name and the way the stone walls seemed to be moving and plucking at her fingertips. The floor felt like it was shifting under her feet like the deck of a ship. A raucous cackle rang out over her head, and made Oksana jump before she remembered that it wasn’t real.

Then something smashed into her shoulder, dropping her to her knees with a scream. She opened her eyes - the floor was seething with cockroaches, and the walls were twisted into screaming skeletal faces - and looked up.

The Hogwarts poltergeist was floating over her, holding another stone bust and cackling. Oksana raised her wand, with difficulty, the other hand on her shoulder. The poltergeist dropped the bust.

Izgony-” Oksana started, but didn’t get a chance to finish. The bust hit her squarely on the top of her head. She blacked out.






Anthoine turned a corner and saw the Triwizard Cup, haloed with light, on a plinth a hundred feet ahead of him.

For a second he stood there, stunned, and then broke into a run, horribly afraid that another champion would leap out in front of him and grab it. It was at the exact moment that his hand closed around the handle, the floor gave way.

Skoino!”

A thin cord shot from the tip of his wand and wrapped around one of the ceiling beams, just as the floor gave way and suddenly there was nothing under him but two hundred feet of air and the Hogwarts lawns rushing up to meet him. Anthoine clung on, and then there was a jerk that almost shook him off the rope and he found himself dangling in midair, clinging on to the Triwizard trophy. He looked down. There was a hundred feet between him and the ground.

Er. At least he’d won?





The Beauxbatons stands erupted into cheering, as their champion hung onto the Cup and looked around bemusedly, as though he was wondering how to get down.

Al’s dad made an irritated noise. The Durmstrang students and the other Hogwarts houses were practically seething, and Al thought he could hear booing almost drowned out by the applause from the Beauxbatons students. The other Slytherins, however, didn’t seem to care.

“Aren’t we supposed to always win these things? I could have sworn there was a rule,” Lia drawled, leaning back against Grim and shading her eyes against the setting sun.

Al was mostly concerned for Victoire. The castle was rearranging itself back to normal (which the Beauxbatons champion still dangling from the North Tower didn’t seem to enjoy.) Oksana was the first out, blinking dazedly at the sunset light and with one hand pressed against her head, but Victoire didn’t follow her until a few minutes later, after the Beauxbatons champion had managed to get down from his tower. Al thought she looked disappointed, and tired, but as the Beauxbatons champion hurried up with the Cup in one arm she smiled brilliantly and pulled him into a hug.

Professor McGonagall had advanced to the front of the staff box and raised a hand for attention. The Beauxbatons champion and Oksana shook hands, looking like the best of friends, and the three of them headed down to get their marks.

The Beauxbatons champion got full marks for getting the Cup, so that brought him to a hundred and twenty-two. Oksana was next.

Al supposed that even if she had been closer to the Cup than Victoire when she’d been knocked out, it was still pretty bad that she’d been knocked out. Six points from Professor McGonagall and seven from Madame Maxime, and even for the sake of cheating, Kohut didn’t seem able to bring himself to award Oksana full marks. Eight. Then five from Finwick and five from Uncle Percy. Al could see Score totting that up and glanced at him for the total.

“Thirty-one marks, total one hundred and four,” Score said. “Could I borrow your Omnioculars, Potter?”

“No,” Al’s dad said. Al shot him a reproving look and handed them over. Score inspected Oksana, who was talking animatedly to Anthoine as though she didn’t have a care in the world, and his mouth drew down at the corners.

Victoire was last. Seven points from McGonagall, eight from Madame Maxime (who seemed inclined to be generous in victory), three from Professor Kohut (who was evidently a bad loser). Finwick gave her eight points. Uncle Percy was last, and he paused for a long time, eyes closed behind his horn-rimmed spectacles, before he gave his verdict. Six.

Victoire looked up sharply, mouth open.

“What?” Al’s dad exploded. “Six points?”

“Thirty-two marks, total one hundred and four,” Score said. “She’s tied with Oksana.” He handed the Omnioculars back to Al.

“Six bloody points,” said Al’s dad, who seemed a bit hung up on that. “She’s his niece!” 

“Rookwood,” Grim said, in a tone of scientific interest, “what would it be called if a judge gave a champion automatic bonus points for being related to him?”

“Cheating?” Lia guessed.

“Exactly,” Grim said. “So of course he couldn’t do that, because cheating is our thing, and if everyone started doing it, then we would have no point.”

“Yeah, and everyone’d really miss you,” Al’s dad said sourly.

I’d miss us,” Al said, deploying a guilt trip, which made his dad scowl and look down. 

“Why didn’t he give her one more point? We could have beaten Durmstrang, at least.”

“Uncle Percy’s a diplomat, Dad,” Al said, using his Omnioculars to focus in on Victoire’s face. “If he’d given her extra points just to beat Durmstrang all the Russian people would have been annoyed and everyone else would have thought he was being petty. She’s not second this way, but she’s not third either.”  Victoire wasn’t smiling now, not now that Anthoine wasn’t looking. Al scanned the crowds rushing out of the stands to greet the Champions, looking for the red-blue-yellow-green-striped hair Teddy was using today, and spotted him elbowing determinedly towards her, ahead of the rest of the Weasley clan. Good.

Al put his Omnioculars down and turned back to his dad, who was looking at him a bit peculiarly, like he hadn’t ever seen Al before. Oh, dear.

“I suppose it’s a bit disappointing?” Al added.

“Everyone did very well, though,” Kitty said. “And I suppose the important thing is to do your best and make friends with people from other schools, anyway. Maybe we’ll win next time?”

“No, Cook, the important thing is to kill your opponents and win by default,” Grim corrected her.

Al thought about that next time. In five years they’d be starting sixth year, old enough to compete. Al wasn’t very good at duelling, so he wouldn’t do well, but Faith… or, better yet, Score… the trouble would be making sure Score got chosen. Maybe he could ask Faith to start practising Confundus Charms, as soon as his dad was safely out of earshot, unless that would be cheating and morally wrong.

The year hadn’t been so bad. Nobody was going to be holding any We-Love-Slytherin festivals any time soon, but he had a good foundation to work with, and he’d picked up a ally and a girl who would hit anyone who looked at him funny. Things were progressing nicely.




THE END. There, it's finally done. Woo!

Thanks for reading, everyone.

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