SHAMELESS PLUG: Please check out my original fiction on Amazon. Strangers In Boston, by T.S. Mann.
Harry Potter and all associated characters and situations belongs to J.K. Rowling.
and the Resurrection Game
Chapter 23: The Goblet of Fire (Part 2)
Moments later …
Inside a nearby meeting room, the three Triwizard Champions—Diggory, Krum, and Delacour—were just introducing themselves and getting to know one another when the door flew open and Harry and Jim stalked in, both angrily snapping accusations at the other.
"What eez it?" asked Fleur in her exaggerated French accent. "Do zey want us back in zee hall?"
"No, no," Harry said while waving his hand distractedly. "We're here to join you. Apparently, Potter and I are the fourth and fifth Champions in the Tri-wizard Tournament. Presumably because Ludo Bagman doesn't know how to count to three!"
"What?!" exclaimed Cedric. "What are you talking about?"
"Just a moment after you left the room, Diggory," Jim explained, "the Goblet spat out a fourth parchment."
He turned towards Harry and glared at him suspiciously. "And somehow, both our names were on it!"
Harry sneered at his sibling. "Don't you dare try to pin this on me, Potter! I'm certain that this is some sort of Boy-Who-Lived bullshit, and you've just dragged me along in your stupid Gryffindoring!"
But before the argument between the two brothers could continue, Bagman himself entered the room, followed closely by a furious Crouch and the three Headmasters. Maxime and Karkaroff were already shouting at Dumbledore. McGonagall and Snape came in just after, followed a few minutes later by Minister Fudge and his right hand, Dolores Umbridge. Moody came in last, stumping along loudly on his fake leg. While Ludo seemed delighted by the shocking developments, everyone else was visibly angry.
"Extraordinary!" exclaimed the ebullient Bagman. "Simply extraordinary!"
"Not the word I'd care to use right now," Crouch snapped. "But it does appear that our three-person tournament has grown to five!"
The three older champions looked at one another in confusion before Fleur spoke up.
"But … zey cannot compete, Monsieur Crouch. Zey are … leetle boys!"
"I beg your pardon!" Harry said, obviously affronted.
"Oi!" Jim snapped, just as affronted but less eloquently.
"Excusez-moi," the French girl said apologetically, visibly flustered by the circumstances. "I only meant, um, comment dit-on … mineurs?"
"Ah!" Viktor interjected before turning to Harry and Jim with a knowing expression. "She means you are both the age of under!"
Everyone stared at him in confusion before Harry nodded in understanding.
"Oh, right. Underaged. Well, that's a fair cop, so I withdraw my objection."
Meanwhile, Karkaroff and Maxime began flinging accusations at Crouch, Bagman, and even Minister Fudge. Finally, Moody unexpectedly let out a loud whistle to gain everyone's attention.
"Thank you, Alastor," said Dumbledore. "Now then, let me assure you all that we will soon get to the bottom of all this and ensure that the Tournament proceeds without any further difficulties and disruptions. But I should like to begin by speaking to the young men in question, if I may."
And with that, Dumbledore turned to the two added competitors.
"Now then, boys," he began calmly. "I must ask you both …"
"JIM POTTER! DID YOU PUT YOUR NAME IN THE GOBLET OF FIRE?!"
Everyone in the room jumped at the shriek that had come from the doorway. It was Lily Potter, and her eyes were ablaze in a fury. Jim went pale, while beside him, Harry just rolled his eyes at the display.
"Lily, please!" said Dumbledore as he stepped between the advancing Lily and her son. "I understand you're upset, but I will be the one to question Jim and Harry about this. Please calm down and step aside."
Lily glared at Dumbledore for a second before she finally nodded and moved to stand next to Snape and McGonagall, her Killing Curse eyes now fixed on a quailing Jim. Fleur leaned over towards Cedric and whispered.
"Eez she not zee one who murdered one of 'er relatives recently?"
"Uh, maybe?" Cedric whispered back nervously. "It's still kind of an open question, I think."
Unfortunately, their whispers weren't quite soft enough, as Jim fixed them both with a furious expression, while Lily glanced at them quickly before turning away. Harry simply looked amused at the exchange.
Dumbledore took a deep breath and turned back to the twins. "Now then," he said more calmly. "As I was saying, did either of you put …?"
"JIM POTTER! DID YOU PUT YOUR NAME IN THE GOBLET OF FIRE!?"
The whole room jumped again, this time in response to the furious bellow from James Potter, who strode into the chamber and likewise had to be intercepted by Dumbledore before he could reach Jim. Harry rolled his eyes contemptuously.
"Farce," he muttered. "An absolute farce."
Jim almost nodded along but then realized he was about to agree with his estranged brother and stopped himself.
Meanwhile, Moody had successfully subdued the enraged James Potter and maneuvered him over to the wall to stand next to Lily. Snape, who was on Lily's other side, gave him a disdainful glare and slid two steps farther away.
"I am so glad to be away from this lunatic family," Harry said under his breath. Jim looked at him angrily, but before he could respond, Dumbledore returned to them, taking an even deeper breath this time.
"Now, once again, I must ask: Did you …?
"JIM POTTER! DID YOU PUT MY GODSON'S NAME IN THE GOBLET OF FIRE!?"
No one jumped this time, as the interruption seemed almost expected. This time, it was Sirius Black who burst into the room in a fury with Archie Goodwin close behind. Before he could say another word, however, Dumbledore held up his wand and shot off several loud firecrackers to get everyone's attention.
"Lord Black," he said in a firm voice accompanied by just enough visible annoyance to get everyone's attention. "Kindly take a spot against the wall until I have finished speaking to the two boys. Ideally, somewhere as far away from the Potters as possible."
Sirius started to say something back, but in response to the look Dumbledore was giving him, he snapped his mouth shut and allowed Archie to guide him to the far side of the room. Meanwhile, Jim leaned over to Harry.
"Lunatic pot, Black kettle," he whispered smugly.
Harry just sneered even more deeply at the boy before turning back to the approaching Dumbledore. This time, the aged wizard took two long deep breaths and opened his mouth to speak, only to turn quickly towards the open door as if waiting for yet another person to burst in. Then, he waved his hand in that direction, and the door shut and locked itself. Only then did he turn back to Harry and Jim.
"Now, finally, I must ask. Harry? Jim? Did you put your names into the Goblet of Fire?"
"Uh … yes?" Jim answered timidly.
"Of course," Harry answered with complete confidence.
The twin responses immediately set off another round of loud arguments from the adults in the room. The Potters were furious, but while Snape, Moody, and Archie all glared at Harry in varying degrees of consternation, Sirius suddenly burst out into laughter upon learning that Harry had somehow tricked his way into the Tournament after all. For their parts, Fleur and Viktor simply seemed amused, while Cedric was just befuddled. Finally, Dumbledore fired off another round of fireworks.
"Friends, please! Let us all display some decorum while we get down to the bottom of things!" He turned back to the boys. "Now, first things first. I know that Harry is emancipated and thus does not require parental approval. That does not hold true for you, Jim. How were you able to enter your name without a signature from either of your parents?"
Jim blanched at the question. He looked over at his parents, whose thunderous expressions promised harsh punishments in the future.
"I, um, did have a signature. My dad signed it for me."
"JAMES!" Lily shrieked even louder than before while James looked back and forth between his wife, his son, and the rest of the faces now regarding him in judgment.
"I DIDN'T! I NEVER SIGNED ANYTHING ABOUT THE TRIWIZARD TOURNAMENT!"
"Actually … you did. On the day we left for the Hogwarts Express, I deliberately had us running late for the Floo so you'd be distracted. I gave you my entry form and told you it was my Hogsmeade permission slip. You signed it without reading it."
James opened his mouth to yell, but nothing came forth except a high-pitched garbling sound like a teakettle on the verge of whistling. His face turned purple as he angrily shook his finger at Jim while still too angry to speak. Nearby, Snape reached into a pocket to produce a vial which he passed over to Lily.
"Calming Draught. Or maybe a painless, fast-acting poison. I forget which, but I suspect he'd be happy with either option."
Lily fumed at the droll remark before snatching the potion out of Snape's hands and uncorking it. She did take a quick sniff to confirm it was a Calming Draught (it was Snape, after all) before pouring it down James's throat and helping him to a chair.
Dumbledore looked at Jim in disappointment before turning back to Harry.
"As for you, Harry, we have established that you are emancipated and could have simply given me your name to enter, but you never did. And so, I am curious as to why you felt the need to enter your name on your own instead of following the procedures I laid out for underage applicants."
"Well, sir," Harry began with some embarrassment (though less than Jim), "it was suggested to me that people thought it was impossible for me to figure out a way past the Age Line."
He held out his arms and shrugged. "And I took that personally."
"You entered your name just to prove you could beat the Age Line?!" Cedric asked incredulously.
"Yes," Harry replied. "Which, in retrospect, was incredibly arrogant and foolish of me, seeing as how I got picked somehow even though I'm only a Fourth Year. And I certainly don't understand how my name and Potter's could come out on the same entry form."
He turned back to Dumbledore. "May I see the form, sir?"
The Headmaster produced the form in question before holding it out for both boys to see. Harry was surprised and intrigued. He'd assumed the form literally had both names written on it but that was not the case. Instead, the form clearly showed the name "Jim Potter" written in what looked like the boy's handwriting. But after a few seconds, the ink suddenly swam around on the page until it read "Harry Black," now in Harry's own signature. A few seconds later, it switched back to Jim's name.
"Weird," Harry said. "Well, anyway, that doesn't look like the parchment I used, and while that looks like my signature, it doesn't look quite like how I wrote it on the form I entered. And in any case, I can't imagine how the way I got past the Age Line would cause both our names to appear on the same form."
"How exactly did you evade the Age Line, Mr. Black?" asked Professor McGongall.
"I folded my entry form into the shape of an origami spider and then animated it with Piertotum Locomotor. Then, I just directed it to climb across the ceiling and drop into the Goblet. There was a tiny gap in the Age Line between the illusion of the night sky generated by the ceiling and the ceiling itself."
"Piertotum Locomotor?!" exclaimed Cedric. "That's a Seventh Year Charm!"
Harry shrugged again. "I didn't find it especially difficult for my needs," he said with what was obviously false modesty. "Anyway, as I said, there's no way what I did could result in both our names coming out on the same form, and I never imagined that I could get selected as a Fourth-Year student."
"Bah," snarled Karkaroff. "The boy lies. Obviously, they are in it together. The Boy-Who-Lived has recently lost his family fortune, while his estranged sibling who has been in his younger brother's shadow his whole life now sees an opportunity to help his former family regain their prominence by tricking their way into the Tournament."
Harry snorted at the idea he'd do any such thing to help the Potters, while Sirius started to angrily retort before Archie elbowed him sharply.
"Besides," Karkaroff continued, "how could anyone resist the fame and riches that winning the Tournament conveys?!"
Finally, Harry had had enough. "Headmaster Karkaroff!" he snapped out. But then, he regained control of himself, and his angry expression melted into one of his more sincere-looking smiles.
"I'm sorry, sir, but I don't think we've been formally introduced. I am Hadrian Remus Black Lord Wilkes, the youngest person to claim a Wizengamot seat in over 350 years. At 14, I'm already one of the richest wizards in Britain. I am a champion duelist and own my own successful company. For more information about my exciting and glamorous lifestyle, please see the feature story about me in the latest issue of Teen Witch Weekly, on sale in bookstores and newsstands now. In short, sir, I'm quite famous enough already. And, for the record, I wouldn't skip breakfast for a piddling thousand Galleons."
Karkaroff's face twisted in fury. "How dare you?!"
"Oh, put a sock in it, Karkaroff," interrupted Moody. "Kid's got a point. There's no way someone with as much money in the bank as Lord Wilkes would go to all this trouble just over a thousand Galleons."
Moody then turned towards Harry with a disdainful expression. "On the other hand, I know the kid. And entering just to show off how he could bypass the Age Line is completely in keeping with his incredibly arrogant character!"
"Agreed," said Snape, whose expression was disdainful as well. "And while we're at it, five points from Slytherin for being rude to a visiting dignitary. But moving on from young Mr. Black's well-known character flaws, perhaps we should also inquire how Mr. Potter managed to get his own name into the Goblet, should we not?"
"Yes, Jim," said Harry, turning to his sibling while wearing an expression of perfect innocence. "How did you manage to put your name into the Goblet of Fire?"
Jim looked wildly around the room and saw that everyone was suddenly interested in the same question. Then, he reluctantly took a few steps closer to the Headmaster and gestured for him to lean down so he could whisper into the old man's ear. Frowning, Dumbledore did so. Then, his eyes widened in shock, and he jerked his head back to look down at the boy in amazement.
"YOU WHAT?!" he nearly shrieked.
"Oh, Merlin," said James in a defeated tone. "Is it that bad?"
"It is … potentially rather serious, James," Dumbledore responded while giving Jim a look that somehow combined disappointment with amazement. "And something for which I will expect proof in short order. But in the meantime, Jim, did the parchment you entered—and which you deceitfully induced your father to sign—resemble this entry form?"
Jim looked at the form again and shook his head no. Dumbledore turned to face the Tournament officials.
"In that case, I can assure you all that if what Jim just told me is true, the method he used to bypass the Age Line could not have caused his or Harry's names to be selected in the manner they were. The method he used, however, does have certain legal consequences, and so I will not be sharing what he told me until after I have discussed things with Jim's parents. For the time being, I ask you to trust me in this matter."
There was some grumbling from the others, but they all agreed to place their faith in Dumbledore's assessment for the time being. Minister Fudge spoke up next.
"Well setting aside how the two lads managed to enter their names, what happens next? Will they have to participate in the Tournament under these irregular circumstances? Barty, you're the expert."
"Regardless of the circumstances, Minister, both of their names came out of the Goblet, and they are both bound by a magical contract."
"Hang on," said Harry. "We both entered our names, but the parchment that came out of the Goblet was one that was entered by someone else. So how could a magical contract have been formed?"
"Hem-hem," came a timid voice.
"You have something to add, Dolores?" asked Fudge.
"Only that I believe I can answer Lord Wilkes' question, Minister. You see, Lord Wilkes, the interwoven network of spells and oaths that are collectively known as magical contract law was first imposed upon every witch and wizard in the nation as part of the Wizengamot Charter. It was later expanded to most of the Wizarding World by the ratification of the ICW Charter in 1678. The Goblet of Fire, however, is thousands of years older than that and does not truly function according to magical contract law at all. Rather, it dates from the age of legendary sorcerer-kings who ruled entire nations, and they used the Goblet to settle their disputes with a trial by combat rather than open warfare. Even after people started using it for Champion selection during the Triwizard Tournament, the Goblet continued to view its role the same. While you are not technically bound by a magical contract in the conventional sense, as far as the Goblet is concerned, your name and Mr. Potter's were put into the Goblet at the behest of, well, King Dumbledore of the Nation of Hogwartia, I suppose. Of course, that raises the question of who else could have entered your names that the Goblet would recognize as having authority equal to the Headmaster. But regardless of who put your names in, the Goblet now assumes that your names were indeed lawfully entered and properly selected. And thus, you are now expected to do your duty to your king and serve as Champion whether you wanted to or not. And if you refused to compete, the Goblet would have the power to punish you appropriately under the theory that you were a traitor to your liege-lord."
"And what sort of penalties are we talking about?" Harry asked suspiciously.
Umbridge cleared her throat somewhat nervously. "Historically … loss of magic, death, or both."
Lily, James, and Sirius all began shouting their displeasure over that announcement, but Dumbledore quickly raised his hands to stop them.
"That was indeed the historical penalty. Naturally, the parameters we submitted to the Goblet earlier this evening do not call for such extreme punishments."
"But you did describe it as a terrible penalty earlier, Headmaster," said Harry. "What exactly is this terrible penalty?"
"Yes, well, that was me being a bit theatrical. The terrible penalty I alluded to is simply that anyone selected by the Goblet who later withdraws from competition for anything other than health issues or a family emergency will suffer a magical mark in the shape of the letter Q for quitter that will appear on his or her forehead and remain until the Tournament's conclusion."
Both boys looked aghast at that announcement, but Dumbledore merely smiled at their dismay.
After Jim and Harry's joint entry form came out of the Goblet, Dumbledore abruptly dismissed the students back to their respective dorms. Ron called after Jim as the Boy-Who-Lived made his way towards the back room where the other Champions awaited.
"It'll be okay, Ron," Jim had said over his shoulder. "I'll talk to you as soon as I can."
Ron stared after Jim in worry as his best mate headed off. Then, George clapped him on the shoulder and ushered him out of the Great Hall. Moments later, they were back in the Gryffindor Common Room, where everyone was loudly speculating on what Jim might have done to get himself and his ex-brother entered in the Tournament as "extra" Champions. Or, in some versions, what Harry might have done to get himself and Jim entered. Absolutely no one was entertaining the possibility that the two might have voluntarily worked together under any circumstances.
"That's all rubbish!" Ron snapped angrily. "I know Jim didn't put his name in the Goblet. He's been worried ever since it got announced that somehow his name was going to come out anyway! Someone else must have done it!"
Several of the Gryffindors laughed at Ron's pronouncement. Meanwhile, Luna Lovegood just looked at Ron almost sadly.
"I'm so sorry, Ron, but I think it's true. The second Jim and Harry's name came out of the Goblet, Jim's Nargles shifted from orange to periwinkle. Though, to be fair, their hind legs also started rubbing together very quickly."
At that, all the conversation stopped, as the whole room turned to stare at the girl in confusion.
"… What?!" Ron asked in consternation.
"Jim's emotions switched from disappointment to excitement, though with an undercurrent of anxiety and trepidation," Hermione explained.
"Isn't that what I said?" Luna asked in confusion.
Before Ron could say anything else, Fred and George each took an arm and dragged him off into a corner where they could talk privately.
"Look, Ron, I'm sorry to upset you," said Fred. "And Merlin knows we're the last two people who have any business being tattletales."
"But the truth is," George picked up. "Jim did put his name into the Goblet of Fire. We, um …"
"We sort of watched him do it," Fred finished.
Ron looked back and forth between the twins in confusion. "What? How?!"
Fred and George looked at each other before George finally answered. "Because we snuck into the Great Hall along with Harry Black under an invisibility cloak to put our own names in. Only Jim came in to add his name while we were still hidden."
"More specifically," said Fred while giving Ron a pointed look, "Jim flew in … if you know what we mean."
Ron's eyes widened as he absorbed that information. Then, he took a deep breath before bellowing out a stream of profanity so loud and vulgar that Prefect George actually felt obligated to take points.
Meanwhile, back in the conference room …
Despite his outburst (and to Harry's mild disappointment), Dumbledore did not immediately expose Jim as an illegal Animagus. He did scold both boys for being so bold and reckless as to enter their names, but his anger was reserved for Jim and mainly for his action in deceiving his own father into signing his entry form. While he did not openly admit it, Harry got the impression that the old man was quietly impressed with the twins' ingenuity in bypassing the Age Line, but less so with Jim's means for getting a signed entry form.
Not that Harry himself thought deceiving James Potter was a great achievement in cunning, but it was still shocking to think that Jim had done something so underhanded.
After a few minutes of additional interrogation, Dumbledore announced that he and the other Tournament officials would adjourn to the Great Hall to examine the Goblet and see if they could figure out exactly what had happened. However, he asked Moody to stay in the room until the Potters and Sirius departed "to prevent any unpleasantness." He also told both boys to remain in the room until he called for them or else sent word that they were free to return to their dorms (in case either of them needed to be on hand as part of any effort to remove them from the competition). Fudge and Umbridge departed after the Minister asked Crouch and Bagman to come to his office first thing in the morning to deliver a report. Neither of the officials looked happy at the prospect of such a meeting.
After that, the Potters and the Blacks clustered in opposite corners of the room with a bored Moody in the middle as if prepared to act as referee. However, once each group had enacted Muffliato spells, they did their best to ignore each other.
"Okay, first question," Sirius began. "Did you just happen to change your mind about entering the Tournament? Or were you outright lying to me when you assured me last week that you had no interest?"
"Sirius …" Archie began warningly.
"I'm not mad that Harry entered his name," Sirius interrupted before turning back to his Heir. "Honestly, I am amazingly impressed that you were able to do so. Merlin knows I'd have tried to at your age. But I have to confess, I'll be a little hurt if you lied to me about it."
Harry winced. "I … wasn't lying. I changed my mind over the weekend and didn't think to let you know. And I only did it …"
He blushed slightly. "Well, to be honest, as a money-making scheme. We discovered that someone was giving 50-1 odds that I would not be able to beat the Age Line. Since I immediately spotted at least one way to do so, I thought it was easy money. The Weasley Twins bet 100 galleons, and I gave Blaise Zabini another 200 to bet on my behalf. So that's 5000 for them and 10,000 for me. Which, amusingly, is ten times the reward for actually winning the Tournament outright."
"Harry," Archie said in an annoyed tone. "You're filthy rich. Why would you go to those lengths for 10,000 galleons?"
"What lengths? For me, it was literally less than thirty minutes of work, most of which involved carefully folding a piece of parchment over fifty times without ripping it apart in frustration."
Harry happened to glance over towards the Potters and smirked. Poor James Potter's face had turned purple with rage. He looked almost like a young, fit Vernon Dursley now. The other two wizards followed his gaze and saw the same thing.
Archie snorted disdainfully. "Potter's about to have an aneurysm, I think. Any ideas how the boy managed to get his name in? Dumbledore was secretive about it."
"Hmm? Oh, yeah. I think the reason James is so angry right now is because he just found out his son followed in his footsteps and is an Animagus. A raven, specifically."
"Ha! The hypocrite! Props to the Brat-Who-Lived for mastering it faster than his old man, I suppose."
"To be fair," Harry said, "he had the benefit of Peter Pettigrew's illegal notes on Wild Animagery. Speaking of which, we haven't discussed that in a while. You're not doing anything dangerous or recklessly foolish with your copy of that book, are you?"
"Are you seriously accusing me of doing something dangerous or recklessly foolish after what you just did?!"
"What I did was a thirty-minute arts and crafts project followed by five minutes on a broom. The Weasley Twins at least had to spend a few days brewing an exotic potion to put their names in."
"Uh-huh," said Archie. "And you're sure it's not Jim's fault somehow that you got dragged along with him?"
"Reasonably so. I mean maybe there's some weird twin thing involved, but I doubt it. I'm sure Dumbledore will figure it out in short order." Then, Harry looked at Sirius pointedly.
"You don't have anything to worry about. I seriously doubt I can win the Triwizard Tournament, but I think I can make a decent showing despite being underage." He looked back at his twin and raised his chin contemptuously.
"If nothing else, I know I won't be coming in last place."
The three Blacks (one in disguise) talked for a few more minutes until Harry encouraged Sirius to head back to Blackstone, as the Countess and Gunther were waiting for them at the Three Broomsticks. From there, they would go home via Floo, since Sirius was still not cleared for Apparation or Portkeys.
"Go on, Sirius. As soon as I know something from Dumbledore, I'll mirror-call you."
Sirius put his hand on the boy's shoulder and squeezed. "Okay. But I'll be waiting for that call, so don't forget. I'm proud of you, Harry. You'll kick arse in this thing. I know it."
Harry smiled at that. Sirius and Archie left, with the Potters following close behind (though not too close). Lily wanted to assist the others as she had helped Dumbledore to set up the wards around the Goblet, while James wanted to stay longer to talk with the Headmaster, presumably about options for the newest illegal Animagus in the family.
"You two gonna be okay in here by yourselves?" Moody asked. "Not gonna start any duels or slap fights or anything like that? I want to speak to Albus myself for a bit."
"I think we can resist the temptation towards violence for a while, Professor," said Harry.
Jim just nodded, and Moody left the room. The two boys sat down on opposite sides of the chamber. Harry noticed that Jim looked uncharacteristically chastened.
"I take it your parents aren't happy with you. How bad was it?"
Jim sighed. "They're going to hold off on my official punishment until they know just how much of a mess this is going to be. At a minimum, I lose all my Hogsmeade privileges for the year, and I'll be grounded all summer."
"That's it?!" Harry asked in astonishment. Jim glared at him.
"In case you've forgotten, my family doesn't have a lot left to take away from me! Mum's a professor though, so I imagine she'll give me detentions and stuff as well. Why do you care? You did the exact same thing I did, but since you're emancipated, you probably won't even be punished at all!"
"Yes, well, I got in through clever use of an upper-level spell. As opposed to tricking my guardian into signing a form after he'd forbidden me to enter. Not to mention becoming an illegal Animagus."
Jim paled. "You know about that?! Did Ginny tell you?!"
Harry just smiled. "I actually got to see it first-hand. You might have forgotten, but I happen to be the owner—or at least, the renter—of an exceptionally fine invisibility cloak. I had already entered the Great Hall and was about to enter my name when you came flapping your way in."
Jim's face darkened at the mention of the Invisibility Cloak, but then, his attention shifted to Harry's remarks about seeing his animal form firsthand.
"So, are you gonna rat me out as an illegal Animagus?" he challenged. Harry sniffed disdainfully.
"I leave all the ratting to your godfather. As for exposing you, despite the Oath of Enmity, I have no immediate plans to do so. Please don't think it's because of any brotherly affection. I just hate the idea of having my mind and emotions manipulated, so I refuse to do anything to ruin your life just because I'm under a spell that encourages it."
He leaned forward almost menacingly. "You should try very hard not to give me a legitimate reason to ruin your life until the Oath is resolved."
Jim glowered but then looked away, biting down the urge to retort. The estranged brothers sat in silence for a moment. Then, Jim smiled and chuckled softly.
"What?" Harry asked.
"Nothing. I just thought—wouldn't it be funny if I ended up getting emancipated out of this too?"
Harry looked at him in confusion. "What?"
"Well, I mean, I've been entered into a tournament that's only supposed to be open to students 17 and up. If I end up forced to compete, won't that be some sort of, I dunno, government recognition that I'm a legal adult?"
Harry stared at the other boy.
"That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard!" he finally said.
"Hey!" Jim exclaimed angrily, but Harry continued.
"Seriously, why on earth would you possibly think that the fact that someone else illegally entered your name into a competition otherwise limited to adults would have any sort of legal effect outside of the Tournament?!"
"It was just an idea!"
"Yes, a dumb one!"
"Is it any dumber than you getting emancipated just because you tricked Dad into giving it to you?"
Harry sneered. "We both know why James Potter was so eager to kick me out of the family, Jim! And after what you pulled with your entry form, you don't have any room to talk! It's not like I just handed James an emancipation form under false pretenses, and he was stupid enough to sign it without reading it! Although obviously, that probably would have worked!"
"Well they should have just let me enter anyway!" Jim said angrily. "It's not fair for me to be excluded just for being too young! I'm as qualified to compete in this Tournament as well as anyone!"
"Obviously not!" Harry said bitingly. "Seeing as how you weren't actually chosen as the Hogwarts Champion and only got in through some Boy-Who-Lived weirdness! That honor went to Cedric Diggory, a NEWT-level student on the Auror track who's at the top of his class and who was the odds-on favorite from the start! And rightly so because this tournament is designed for NEWT-level students. Not only are you unqualified despite being the Git-Who-Lived, the Tournament might be quite dangerous for someone as young as you!"
Jim scoffed. "As young as me?! You're barely eight minutes older than I am!"
"Yes, well, I think our lives have shown just how much more mature and competent those extra eight minutes have made me!"
"And besides," Jim continued. "The tasks won't be dangerous! Dumbledore and Crouch and Bagman all said so! I'll be fine!"
With that, Jim sat back in his chair while fuming sullenly. Harry said nothing. In fact, he continued to say nothing for several more seconds until Jim finally looked back over at him and noticed the strange look on his face.
"What?" Jim asked.
"The tasks … won't be … dangerous," Harry repeated softly while staring off into space. Then, his face twisted into a mask of rage.
"IDIOT!" he bellowed as he shot up out of his chair. Jim jumped up right after.
"STOP CALLING ME AN IDIOT!" Jim bellowed right back while Harry strode towards the door.
"NOT YOU! ME!" Harry shouted as he yanked the door open. "I! AM! AN! IDIOT!"
With that, Harry ran out the door and down the hall. Jim stared after him in surprise before following quickly.
Seconds later, Harry burst through the door that led back into the Great Hall, with Jim just a second behind.
"Headmaster!" Harry called out breathlessly. "Whoever put in an entry form for me and Jim! Could they have also tampered with the challenge parameters and the penalty for withdrawing?"
Dumbledore had been standing in front of the Goblet of Fire looking up at a truly massive rune scheme that was floating in the air above the magical cup. He slowly turned to look at the two boys. His eyes held no twinkle and instead looked terribly somber.
Then, Harry looked around and noticed the rest of the room. Snape's face was utterly impassive, a sign he was occluding heavily. Next to him, McGonagall's face was not so guarded, and she seemed stricken. Both Moody and Crouch were visibly angry, while Bagman was wringing his hands in terrible distress. James and Lily turned to look towards Harry and Jim before Lily burst into tears and buried her face in James's chest. James hugged her tightly with a look of devastation on his own face.
"Oh," Harry said almost in resignation. "I see you've already had the same thought."
Twenty contentious minutes later …
Harry Black sat calmly while bearing an aloof expression that concealed how hard he was occluding. He'd been ready to assume the worst once he had his little epiphany in the conference room, but the truth as related by Dumbledore was far more terrible than even his most cynical imaginings. Both Lily and James had needed Calming Draughts, and after that, they both tearfully consoled Jim (who'd promptly had a panic attack, of course).
"Honestly," Harry thought with mild contempt, "Are all Gryffindors emotional basket cases? Or is it just them?"
After answering Harry's immediate questions about what had been done to the Goblet, Dumbledore then sent for the three older Champions. Fleur, Cedric, and Viktor now sat in chairs next to Harry. Snape and Professor Sprout stood behind their respective students, while Maxime and Karkaroff did the same for the two foreign students. While none of those three students knew what had happened yet, from the mood of the room, they all knew it was something unpleasant.
Meanwhile, a shaken and pale Jim sat on the opposite side of the room with his parents. Harry was oddly torn; a part of him wished that Sirius were here to sit with him, while another part was glad his godfather was far away. He would contact him immediately after this meeting … but only after first making sure he had a medical professional on hand. Harry did not expect Sirius to take the news well.
Finally, Dumbledore spoke.
"Mr. Diggory, Miss Delacour, Mr. Krum. Thank you for coming so quickly. I am sorry to have pulled you away from what I assume were boisterous parties in the Hufflepuff Common Room and aboard the vessels of the two visiting schools." He hesitated and looked deeply regretful. "Indeed, I am sorry about … a great many things which I must now share with you. But I wish you to know that we will do whatever we possibly can to ensure your safety as the Tournament moves forward."
The unease of the students only grew at that.
"As you recall from our meeting earlier, it was revealed that Mr. Black and Mr. Potter here managed to enter their names in the Goblet of Fire despite being underage. However, it was a different entry form from the one either of them entered which the Goblet issued as a selected Champion. Or rather … Champions, in their case."
"Does that mean they'll both have to compete, sir?" said Cedric with a look of concern towards both Harry and Jim. Dumbledore winced.
"I … am afraid, Mr. Diggory, that the situation is much more serious than we initially thought. You see, whoever entered the names of these two Fourth Years … did more. It appears that whoever was responsible also took steps to prevent most of the Tournament parameters which we entered from taking hold. Accordingly, the Challenges for the Triwizard Tournament will be designed and implemented according to the parameters … of the last Tournament."
Viktor frowned as if unsure whether he'd properly understood, while Fleur's eyes widened in shock. Cedric was confused.
"What? The 1792 Tournament?" he asked. "How will that make things different for us?"
"The 1792 Tournament," Harry said quietly, "was the one where everybody died."
Cedric's head snapped around towards Harry before turning back to the Headmaster.
"Wait, what?! You can't mean …!" he stammered in mounting panic. Crouch spoke up over him.
"In 1792, the parameters for the First Challenge, as designed by the contest judges, were supposed to have required the Champions to demonstrate proper handling of a Class XXX creature using only a wand. To this day, no one knows whether it was malice or just grotesque negligence, but the parameters that were actually fed into the Goblet of Fire called for a Challenge which instead involved a Class XXXXX creature. In keeping with those parameters, the Goblet generated a Challenge that called for competitors to tie a bell around the neck of an adult Cockatrice."
"WHAT?!" Cedric nearly shrieked. Across the room, Lily sobbed loudly while Jim and his father both looked sick.
"The Champions for Beauxbatons and Durmstrang each died within thirty seconds of entering the arena," Crouch continued. "The Hogwarts student, a Ravenclaw, decided discretion was the better part of valor and that life without magic was better than the death a Cockatrice would give him. Or perhaps he made the calculation that simply entering the arena might satisfy the Goblet's 'participation' requirements and he could escape punishment. Either way, he immediately Disillusioned himself and then set himself to making an opening in the wards around the arena so he could escape. He lasted nearly four minutes before the Cockatrice found him by scent and killed him. Unfortunately, in that time, he'd damaged the wards enough for the beast to break through, and its poisonous breath mortally wounded the Headmasters of all three schools, along with dozens of dignitaries and guests."
"And you expect us to face such a beast?!" Fleur asked angrily.
"Well … maybe?" Ludo said with a nervous gulp. "I mean, all we know is that you'll have to face some kind of XXXXX wizard-killer, but it's not specifically a Cockatrice. It might, you know, be … something else? Like a Lethifold or some Acromantula?"
"Or a Basilisk or maybe Dementors?" Harry thought to himself bitterly. But then, he just shook his head. "No, no Dementors. With Amigo, I could breeze through a Dementor challenge, and there's no way the Universe would be that kind to me."
"Rest assured, students," Dumbledore reassured the Champions, "we will do everything we can to ensure that you will not have to face any such terrors. Tomorrow morning, we will summon cursebreakers from Gringotts and the Ministry to examine the Goblet of Fire and determine whether it can be safely reset to negate tonight's selections."
"But what about … about …?!" Viktor tried to bark out a question but quickly became frustrated when the English words eluded him. He turned towards Karkaroff and spoke to him in Bulgarian. The Durmstrang Headmaster nodded and turned to Dumbledore.
"My student wishes to know whether there is a risk that such an examination might trigger a …" Karkaroff paused himself as if trying to be certain of his words. "A runic failure cascade? Though I must confess I have no idea what that means."
Dumbledore looked pained. "I assure you, Mr. Krum, we will do everything we can to avoid a cascade."
"But if you cannot …?!" Krum asked more urgently.
"Then there's a good chance you will all die," Moody interrupted brutally.
"The kids deserve to know the truth, Albus!" Moody responded angrily before continuing his answer. "A runic failure cascade means that an effort by a cursebreaker to undo the Goblet's selection has gone wrong and resulted in the Goblet resetting itself completely. Which might have no effect on any of you. Or it might kill all five of you instantly. And also the three Headmasters. And the other twenty-one judges. Oh, and Cornelius Fudge. Did I leave anyone out?"
"The heads of state for both the Entente Magique and the Balkan Alliance," Crouch added in a thick voice. "And very likely the entire Executive Council for the ICW."
Harry considered that news thoughtfully before addressing Dumbledore.
"Headmaster, did the Champions in 1792 know in advance that they would be fighting a XXXXX creature?"
Surprised at the question, Dumbledore looked at the other Tournament officials before answering. "No. As I recall, they found out on the morning of the First Challenge."
"Okay. Next question: Do we know if the Second or Third Tasks were also altered to be more dangerous?"
"We don't know one way or another," said Bagman with some confusion. "Everyone died in the First Challenge, so the Goblet never actually generated the later tasks."
"Right," said Harry firmly. "In that case, speaking for myself, I wish to continue in the Tournament under the parameters that are currently in place."
That announcement led to an uproar from nearly everyone assembled, but Harry ignored them to focus on Dumbledore.
"Headmaster, with all due respect, I would rather have my life in my own hands against a XXXXX creature than sit around trusting in some cursebreakers to monkey around with a millennia-old magical artifact, all the while knowing that if they make a mistake, I could just keel over dead along with dozens of other innocent people and quite a few important world leaders."
"Harry!" Jim yelled. "This is a Cockatrice they're talking about!"
"Which is on the same level as a Basilisk, a Dementor, a Werewolf, and an Acromantula." He turned towards Fleur, Viktor, and Cedric. "If any of you three knew you had to put a bell around a Cockatrice and had a few weeks to prepare for it, what strategy would you use?"
The three older students regarded him in confusion before Viktor spoke up first.
"Reinforced Vestamentarum Shield and Bubblehead Charm to protect against poison breath!" he said with authority. "Doppleganger Defense to distract … Death Rooster?"
"Cockatrice," Fleur said while patting Viktor on the knee. "Zee Greeks called it zee Ichneumon."
"Ah!" Viktor exclaimed, suddenly excited to finally know exactly what monster they were talking about. Meanwhile, Fleur turned back to Harry to answer his question.
"In addition to zose options, I would also Transfigure nearby objects into large mirrors to hide behind. Le Cocatris cannot bear the sight of eets own appearance and is repelled by mirrors. Zen, I would try to cast multiple Bubblehead Charms on zee creature itself. In a tightly enclosed space, it can be overcome by its own breath and rendered … endormi?"
"Asleep, she means," Viktor translated approvingly. "Da! Much cleverment!"
Meanwhile, poor Cedric looked back and forth between his fellow competitors. "I … would probably do something like that … also."
Harry gave Diggory a warm smile despite the lameness of his response. Then, he turned back to the Headmaster.
"Unlike the 1792 competitors, we actually know we'll be facing a XXXXX creature and will be able to prepare with that in mind. Obviously, we don't know exactly what kind of XXXXX creature it will be, but hopefully, we'll have time to prepare for contingencies. And from what Mr. Crouch said, it's possible that the First Task in 1792 was only deadly because of a screwup, and the other two Tasks might not be dangerous. Or at least, not insanely dangerous."
He turned to Ludo. "Mr. Bagman, can you tell us when the First Challenge will be?"
"Huh? Oh, right!" said Bagman, suddenly excited to be involved again. "The First Task will be on Saturday, November the twenty-eighth. I can tell you that you will only be allowed to use your wands. And, as you've already guessed, this challenge is all about daring, so we won't be able to tell you anything else beyond what you've already figured out. Also, you cannot ask for or receive any help from any of your professors."
"What about fellow students?" Harry asked. "And for that matter, can we help one another in Tournament preparations?"
Dumbledore considered the matter but deferred to Crouch.
"You are free to consult with any of your fellow students," he said. "And let me double-check before you do anything definitive, but I believe it is permissible for Champions to help one another prepare. But you each must devise your own strategies for each Task. The Goblet itself will impose an automatic penalty on you if it decides—by whatever criteria it uses—that your strategy is too similar to what one of your fellow Champions did earlier in the same Task. And I must warn you: Under the 1792 rules, if you score a zero or less on any Challenge, including by a Goblet-imposed penalty, the Goblet will likely treat it as a failure to participate, which will invoke the Goblet's penalty for such refusal."
Crouch swallowed. "Loss of magic."
A silence fell across the room.
"Mr. Black—Harry," said Dumbledore. "I implore you to reconsider. Let us at least try…"
"Harry Black is wise and brave!" Viktor interrupted forcefully. "Viktor is Bogatyr. Will not risk lives of innocents just to save own … outside part!"
Everyone stared at the Bulgarian and tried to puzzle out his word choice. Harry coughed loudly into his hand.
"Skin!" he stage-whispered.
Viktor blushed slightly but nodded. "Yes! Skin!"
"I agree," said Fleur. "I will not endanger zee judges, one of whom eez my own Headmistress, by asking to be removed from zee Tournament. I shall compete under zee 1792 rules!"
Harry leaned over. "Don't you also have a family member who's one of the judges at risk?"
Fleur crinkled her nose almost disdainfully. "Yes, well … I suppose I want to save 'im as well."
"I'm in too!" Jim said while jumping up out of his chair in a manner Harry found ridiculously dramatic and Gryffindorish.
"Dammit, Jim!" James yelled angrily as he tried to pull his son back down into his chair, but Jim was too fast for him.
"Dad, I know I screwed up by entering my own name. But it turns out I was right! I did get entered anyway, regardless of whether I'd even put my name in the Goblet or not! And I may not know Ancient Runes or Arithmancy or NEWT-level Charms or Potions! But I can do stuff like this!"
As Jim continued to argue with his parents, Harry felt his teeth grind. Luckily, Moody spoke up to interrupt the domestic drama.
"You know, while I admire the bravery that everyone's spouting off, now that I think about it, it really is kind of a moot point. Albus, am I right in assuming that before you can call in any cursebreakers to muck around with the Cursed Spittoon of Doom over there, you're gonna need Ministry approval?"
The question caught Dumbledore by surprise, and he suddenly looked like he was sucking one of his famous sherbet lemons.
Cedric looked around dazedly. "Is that a problem?"
"That depends, I suppose," said Harry, "on whether Cornelius Fudge is the sort of man who'd risk his own life in a dangerous scheme to get a bunch of school children out of a deadly situation that we all basically volunteered for."
"It does," said Moody. "And he's not."
Cedric deflated at that. "Oh, well, in that case, I guess it doesn't matter. But for the record, I was about to say I'm willing to compete as well."
"Better late than never, Diggory," said Harry amiably.
"How are you so calm about this?!" Cedric asked Harry in consternation.
Harry regarded the Hufflepuff before leaning over and whispering with a wry smile.
"Just between us, I'm in the grip of a hysterical panic. But I'm a Slytherin, so I've learned not to show it."
The meeting in the Great Hall lasted for another thirty minutes. At the end, there was another five minutes of yelling from Jim's parents. Mainly Lily, as James seemed very subdued, to an extent that made Jim uncomfortable. In fact, the description for James' expression, Jim thought, was beaten down. And then, the boy suddenly realized the reason. The elder Potter was blaming himself because, once again, his family was endangered because he'd signed something without reading it. Jim opened his mouth to reassure his father that Jim's entry in the Goblet of Fire wasn't his fault, as both Dumbledore and Moody agreed that some unknown enemy had ensured that Jim and Harry's names would come out whether either of them had entered or not. But that didn't change the fact that Jim had blatantly manipulated his father in order to get his (ultimately superfluous) signature. As Jim took in James's devastated expression, he finally understood why Ron had been so horrified and disgusted when Jim told him how he'd gotten a signed permission slip.
Before Jim could apologize or say anything to reduce his father's distress, however, McGonagall came over to collect the boy and escort him back to Gryffindor Tower.
His Head of House said nothing as they walked, but then, to Jim's surprise, she suddenly took a right and led him down a side corridor. After about twenty feet, McGonagall looked around, pulled out her wand, and cast a Homenum Revelio and a few other detection spells. Satisfied with the results, she looked down at Jim and fixed him with a firm expression.
"Now then, Mr. Potter," she said in a commanding voice. "The Headmaster has advised me of your … status. Kindly reveal it to me now."
Jim opened his mouth, but McGongall's expression clearly would brook no objections. He signed dejectedly and took a step back before transforming into a raven. The bird hopped around for a few seconds and then returned to Jim's human shape. He was slightly relieved when McGonagall smiled.
"A most impressive specimen, Mr. Potter," she said. "All the more so for your youth. Naturally, now that it is apparent how closely you hew to your father's legacy, I shall expect a much better effort in your Transfiguration lessons than you have shown me thus far."
Jim winced at that. Transfiguration was his best class after DADA, but he was not as good at it as Harry, and neither of them was a prodigy like James Potter had been in his youth. Jim stammered a promise to do better.
"I shall hold you to that, Mr. Potter. Sadly, while I would normally grant a large award of House points for becoming an Animagus, the fact that you have done so illegally precludes me from doing so. Instead, I shall reward you by refraining from taking points on account of how you went about entering the Triwizard Tournament."
Jim chuckled. "I'm happy to accept that as a reward, Professor."
McGongall nodded and led Jim back in the direction of the Tower.
"Have you named your form yet?" she asked. "As with the Patronus Charm, there is an informal custom among Animagi that we have a nickname associated with our animal forms. Looking back, I was always baffled as to how your father obtained the peculiar nickname of Prongs when he was a boy not much older than you. Of course, the answer was obvious when the truth of his own Animagus form was revealed last spring."
Despite himself, Jim made a face. The circumstances under which James Potter had been forced to reveal himself as an illegal Animagus were a bit of a sore spot in the Potter family.
"I haven't really thought about it," Jim said. "May I ask what your cat-form's name is?"
The normally stern professor looked off into the distance with a fond expression as if recalling some happy memory from her youth.
"Jenny," she finally said. "Short for Jennyanydots. It was from a Muggle poem about cats. My late husband suggested it and thought that that particular character suited my personality."
Then, she frowned slightly. "I'm told that, many years later, some other Muggles set it to music in some popular song-and-dance production which I have never seen and do not plan to."
She gave Jim a stern expression. "And I hope I can count upon you to not bandy that personal detail with others. Animagi, in my opinion, represent a somewhat elite fraternity, and the secrets of our animal selves are not to be shared lightly save with those we trust the most."
Jim nodded seriously. By now, they had reached the entrance to the Gryffindor dormitory, and McGonagall gave the password to the Fat Lady. Just as Jim was about to cross the threshold into the Gryffindor Common Room, he turned back to his Head of House and whispered.
"Poe," Jim said. "My raven's name is Poe."
Once inside the Common Room, Jim was taken aback by the sound of most of his fellow Gryffindors loudly cheering his arrival. Someone had even found time to make a banner that said "GO POTTER! THE GRYFFINDOR CHAMPION!" and hang it over the fireplace.
"Good show, Potter!" exclaimed Cormac McLaggen (who still had not apologized for physically attacking him back during Jim's Second Year when McLaggen had thought he was the Heir of Slytherin). "But how the blazes did you get your name to come out of the Giblet of Fire?"
"Oh, I can't really say, McLaggen," Jim said weakly, while ignoring Cormac's mangling of the Goblet's name. "Can't reveal all my tricks now, can I?"
McLaggen laughed and clapped him on the back. But Jim noticed that not everyone seemed excited about his "success" in getting into the Tournament. In particular, Hermione seemed very disapproving, while George was practically sneering at him. One face was conspicuous by the owner's absence, though.
"Anybody know where Ron is?" Jim asked somewhat nervously. It was Neville who answered.
"He should be up in your room waiting for you, I think." The other boy grimaced slightly. "He's … not happy. There was a lot of cursing when he found out you'd entered the Tournament. In fact, a few words I didn't even know! Just thought you should know before you walk in on him."
Jim nodded and made his way through the throng of supporters towards the stairs. Moments later, he was standing in front of the door to his own room, where he steeled himself before opening the door. Ron was inside, sitting on his bed with Steve (Jim's king snake companion) resting on his lap. Ron didn't look up at first as Jim entered. He just sat with his back to the headboard while he gently stroked Steve's scales.
"So," he finally said without looking up, "congratulations."
"Listen," said Jim, "I didn't put my name in the Goblet."
At that, Ron finally raised his head and looked him squarely in the eye. The look he gave made it clear that he didn't believe Jim.
"I mean, okay, I did put my name in the Goblet," Jim hastily corrected. "But someone else must have also put my name in. Mine and Harry's. And that's what came out."
"Well, okay, I guess it's alright then if it wasn't specifically the form you put in yourself. No harm, no foul or whatever it is they say. By the way, if you put your own form in—and I'm guessing it was the same form you tricked your own dad into signing—what the hell was it I burned back in September after you specifically encouraged me to?"
Jim winced at Ron's sarcasm. "Um, it was … a copy I made with the Gemino Charm. I just didn't want you to be mad at me anymore. I missed you. So … I …"
"Lied to me and tricked me into burning a copy? What, because you were lonely? Or because you couldn't stand the fact that one of your fans wasn't looking at you like you'd hung the moon anymore?"
"No! It wasn't like that! I just … I needed the money! My Mum's been accused of murder, and there's no way we can afford a solicitor!"
"BULLSHIT!" Ron exclaimed angrily. He set the king snake aside as he jumped off the bed. "Your mum got accused of murder yesterday! You gave me that fake parchment last month! And you insisted I burn it! Ha! I bet you had a good laugh about that, didn't you!"
"Ron, please, just listen …" In the face of his friend's anger, Jim was growing distraught himself.
"No," Ron continued relentlessly, "you didn't do it because you needed money for a solicitor! You just did it for money, period! Because even though you've spent the better part of three years reassuring me that you didn't look down on me and my family for being poor, it turns out you can't bear the thought of being poor yourself! You wanted money and all that fame that you can't seem to live without!"
"No, Ron! It wasn't like that!'
Ron just shook his head and shouldered past Jim.
"You should probably go to bed, Jim. I expect you'll need to be up early tomorrow for a photo-call or something!"
Ron yanked the door open, but before he could exit, Jim finally cried out in desperation.
"THIS ISN'T JUST A GAME ANYMORE! WHOEVER PUT MY NAME IN THE GOBLET SCREWED UP THE CHALLENGES TO MAKE THEM DANGEROUS! I COULD GET KILLED!"
Ron paused for a second in the doorway and then glared back over his shoulder.
"Yeah, of course. Because you went looking for danger. Again! And you found it. Again! Just another day in the life of the Bloody Boy-Who-Lived! If it's not money or fame you're after, it must be throwing yourself into danger so everyone will know what a big, damned hero you are! Good luck with that!"
And with that, Ron exited, slamming the door shut behind him.
Jim stared at the door with a look of anguish on his face. Then, he sat down on the bed, put his hands over his face, and began to weep. In response, Steve crawled into his lap and hissed up at him.
"It'll be all right, Jimbo. He'll come around. Jussst give him time. Big Red will be back before you know it."
Jim just shook his head and sobbed. "No. He wassss my bessst mate. And I jussst … ruined it. And all jussst for a thoussssand galleonsss and a chancccce to get my name in the papersss again. He'll probably never ssspeak to me again."
The bedroom of a tasteful flat in Diagon Alley
Humming idly to himself, John Dawlish stood in front of his bathroom mirror in his underwear as he cast the Tooth-Cleaning Charm into his mouth. He swished for a few seconds and then spat out the magical residue that left a fresh, minty aftertaste behind. After wiping his mouth with a towel, he stepped out of the bathroom and started rummaging around in a drawer for pajamas.
All the while doing his best to ignore the glare his partner Leonard was giving him from the bed.
"We're not going to sleep until we talk," Leonard snapped.
"Talk about what, love?" the Auror asked breezily while still not looking over at the other wizard as he pulled on his night clothes.
"About whatever it is that you're going to Hogwarts for that you don't want to tell me about. Because you're doing that thing again! The one where you completely refuse to make eye contact with me because you're doing something dangerous for the Auror Corps that you don't want me to know about. It's bad enough when you're about to go on undercover assignments. What in Merlin's name are you doing at Hogwarts that you're so afraid to tell me about?!"
John deflated a bit as he made his way over to the bed, pulled back the covers, and sat down.
"It's nothing … dangerous. It's just something you won't like."
"Oh yeah? Well, I bet I'll like it even less if you refuse to tell me and I find out from someone else later. So spill it!"
"Okay, okay. Alastor Moody somehow got approval from Bones to provide training on Imperius resistance as part of the DADA classes, and I got tapped to oversee it."
"Imperius … resistance?" Leonard repeated in confusion. Then, his eyes widened in shock. "Oh for Merlin's sake, John! Don't tell me you're going to be using the Imperius Curse on children!"
John shrugged. "Orders from up top, love. With Robards and Shacklebolt gone, there's only three Aurors legally permitted to use the curse for training purposes, and I'm the highest-ranking of them."
Leonard shook his head. "John, you know what that does to you! Using the Imperius repeatedly can have serious effects on your mind and soul! The last time you did Imperius training …!"
"That was two years ago!" John interrupted heatedly. In fact, the two had first met at St. Mungo's while Dawlish was recovering from that unpleasantness. It was the only good thing that had come out of that dark period.
"And anyway, that was an intensive training program against Aurors who were trying to resist me. It won't be so bad using it on kids."
"Won't it? Speaking as your Healer as well as your lover, the effects of using the Imperius aren't based on how hard someone resists but on how frequently you use it. Even if it's just children, using it on scores of people in a short time will likely be worse on you than using it on a half-dozen trained Aurors over a few days. Not to mention, the very fact that it is children may well heighten the reaction. They won't be able to truly defend themselves at all, so you'll be under an even stronger urge to …"
"I'm not going to hurt or abuse any of them!" John said angrily. "I've learned how to be stronger than that! Trust me! Plus, Moody and Crouch will both be on hand to keep an eye on things. Oh, and according to Moody, there's a Healer on staff now who can provide counseling if I start to feel … you know. Some bloke named Ted Tonks. You know him?"
Leonard fumed. "Yeah, I know him. He's a bloody pediatrician! A skilled Healer before his injuries, but he's not a qualified Mind Healer!"
"Lenny!" John reached up and cupped his partner's chin. Then, he leaned in and kissed the other wizard gently on the lips. "It's going to be alright. I promise you."
Leonard tenderly put his hand around the back of John's neck and pulled him in for a deeper kiss.
"I'll hold you to that, Auror Dawlish," he said with a smile.
John chuckled. "Besides, look on the bright side. While I'm doing this, I'm off active duty. So, for a change, you won't have to worry about me doing any dangerous field work."
John settled back down and rested his head against his pillow.
"I mean honestly—how dangerous can Hogwarts be?"
The sitting room at Blackstone
Unaware of the changes made to the Triwizard Tournament, Sirius Black returned to Harry's manor house to entertain his houseguest, the ever-charming Serena Zabini. The two were sitting together in the parlor enjoying a nightcap while making small talk about the current state of French magical politics when the Floo erupted in green flames. And within the flames, Sirius could see the face of his cousin, Andromeda Tonks, who was supposed to be ensconced at Malfoy Manor looking after the injured Lucius Malfoy.
"Good evening, Sirius," she said brightly. "Might I come through?"
"Certainly," said Sirius as he opened the Floo for travel with a flick of his wand. Andromeda quickly entered carrying a small leather satchel.
"Countess, this is my cousin, Andromeda Tonks, a private Healer of some note. Andi, this is Madame Serena Zabini, la Comtesse de Provence Magique."
The two witches greeted each other cordially.
"So, what brings you here so late, Andi? Troubles with Lucius?"
"No, actually," the Healer replied. "I just received a message—via Patronus, no less—from Harry which requested that I come here at once and ask you to contact him by mirror as soon as possible."
Sirius frowned. "Why would he do that? He knows I always keep my mirror handy. Why didn't he just contact me directly?"
"I've no idea, Sirius," Andi replied. "I'm just delivering the message."
In fact, Andi suspected that she knew exactly why Harry had reached out to her first. Presumably, it was the same reason his Patronus had instructed her to bring her medical bag.
Perturbed, Sirius reached into a pocket and pulled out the small mirror he carried everywhere and said Harry's name. Seconds later, the mirror's surface flickered, and Harry's face appeared. The boy seemed relaxed and completely at ease.
"Sirius!" Harry said confidently. "I hope I didn't wake you."
"Not at all!" the older wizard replied. "I'm here with the Countess who is, as always, delightful company."
"I'm glad to hear it. Please give her my regards."
"Of course. Now, do you want to tell me why you sent word through Andromeda instead of mirroring me directly?"
"Well," Harry said sheepishly, "I have some news about this stupid Tournament. I don't think it's something to be overly concerned about, but I wanted to tell you before the Prophet started sensationalizing it in the morning. And I asked Andi to come over because, well, I was afraid you might take the news poorly."
Sirius scoffed. "Honestly, Harry, I'm not a bloody invalid. Now what's happened that you're afraid will cause me to have some sort of breakdown?"
"Well, Dumbledore and the other Tournament officials have looked over the Goblet of Fire. It seems clear that my name and Jim's both came out of the Goblet because some third party mucked about with it. So, we will both definitely have to compete. Thankfully, we will be competing separately instead of, Merlin forbid, as a team, because there was no way in hell that was going to while I am confident that I'll be ready for the First Challenge, I wanted to let you know that … it will be a bit more challenging than everyone thought."
Sirius's eyes narrowed. "In what sense?"
Harry smiled even wider as if to reassure his godfather of how utterly unconcerned he was about things. "Well, we don't know any details about what the Challenge will be. But it will most likely be something to do with a XXXXX creature."
"WHAT?!" Sirius bellowed before suddenly breaking into a coughing fit.
"Drink!" Andromeda commanded while slapping a potion already uncapped into Sirius's free hand. Sirius glared at his cousin, but Andromeda was both an experienced healer and a former Black, so his glare was no match for hers. Sullenly, Sirius slammed back the Calming Draught and made a face at the taste before turning back to the mirror.
"Harry, you're 14! You have no business fighting XXXXX creatures!"
"Oh, I don't know, Sirius," Harry responded breezily. "I've got a pretty good Patronus, so I'm ready for Dementors, Lethifolds, and werewolves. Not that they can even use werewolves since the Challenge will be during the day and it won't even be the full moon that day—I've already checked. And my Incendio is good enough to burn Acromantulas or anything else I'm likely to see."
"Manticores? Sphinxes? Basilisks?" Sirius asked pointedly.
"I'm pretty sure Manticores and Sphinxes will also burn nicely if I put enough effort into it. And are you seriously suggesting I should be worried about a Basilisk?"
"Okay, okay," Sirius grumbled as the tranquilizing potion kicked in. "Honestly, I don't know what's more worrying, right now: the fact that you have to go up against a class XXXXX or the fact that you're so bloody blasé about it!"
"What can I say? Slytherins consider poise a virtue. Just relax, Sirius. I've got this. I have a whole month to figure out what kind of creature they're going to use and come up with a counter to it. I'll be fine."
Sirius looked frustrated for a moment but finally grew resigned. "Okay, Harry. But I expect you to mirror-call me every day until we know what you're fighting and how you're fighting it!"
"I will. I promise. But now, I'm exhausted and just want to go to bed."
The two made their goodbyes, and Harry signed off. Sirius looked at the mirror pensively before setting it aside. Nearby, the Countess Zabini took another sip of her drink while trying not to show how closely she was studying her host.
Harry set the mirror down on his desk and exhaled loudly while closing his eyes. That had gone better than expected. Indeed, it was the only thing all day that had. Not that he would be going to bed anytime soon, despite what he'd told his godfather. He'd already circulated a message to his inner circle that they would be meeting in the Prince's Lair shortly. Idly, the boy wondered where he could get hold of a Pepper-Up Potion at this late hour. Then, he jumped in surprise at the sound of a very unexpected voice.
"You handled that very well," said James Potter with pride in his voice.
Harry stared in shock at the intrusion.
"What in the hell are you doing here?!"
"Language!" chided James. "And I'm here because this is a good time for us to talk. A time when you obviously need my advice."
"I … obviously … WHAT?!"
"Come on," James said amiably. "Think about what happened earlier tonight! You'd already entered your name basically on a dare. Then, when your name came out, you proudly admitted what you'd done. You also very politely told Igor Karkaroff, an ex-Death Eater, to go fuck himself. And when you learned that you would have to compete in a deadly tournament or else risk the lives of innocent people, you were the first one to volunteer to stay in the game rather than look for a way out. You didn't even hesitate. Now that's Gryffindor courage right there!"
"No!" Harry snarled.
"Sure it is!" James replied with an infectious grin. "I mean, granted, it was kind of a slimy Slytherin thing to do to mind-whammy Sirius into not being worried about things, but even that was for the Greater Good. You care about Sirius enough to overcome your own deep-seated ambivalence about Legilimizing people for their own benefit. Totally a Gryffindor thing!"
"NO! SHUT UP!"
"Now I know it's hard because of that stupid Oath of Enmity that Sirius swore. Which is so typically him, isn't it? He loses his temper and lashes out without knowing all the facts. Basically, it's Snivellus and Remus in the Shrieking Shack all over again."
"DAMMIT! JUST GO AWAY!
"But don't worry! In a few months, that oath will be over and done with. Then, we can finally get to know each other! You know, like father and son!"
"ABSOLUTELY NOT! STOP IT!
"I mean, be honest, Harry. We both know you've got a hero complex even if you like pretending you're an aloof cynic. That's your Gryffindor side peeking out. Your 'saving people thing.' And it's getting stronger with every person on whose behalf you risk your life. So who better to teach you how to embrace that inner Gryffindor than your old man?"
"I! SAID! NO!" Harry bellowed in a fury as his frustrations over the last few days finally burst through his Occlumency self-control. And as he yelled his rejection of James Potter, he also lashed out physically by punching the man right in the face.
Then, Harry screamed in pain instead of anger and jerked his bleeding hand back from the shattered mirror he'd just punched with all his might. James Potter was gone as if he'd never been there (which, in truth, he hadn't). All that remained was Harry's own reflection multiplied in the spiderweb of cracks he'd just put in the mirror that hung over his writing desk. Harry sat back down in his chair and fought to get his breathing under control.
"Okay," he said softly while gingerly taking his wand in his injured hand and casting a Reparo at the mirror. "Something else to add to my neverending to-do list: Talk to Snape about why my brain might be generating unintentional candidates for my Advocatus Diaboli. And especially why it might generate an Advocatus I hate!"
Then, he switched his wand to his uninjured hand and tried unsuccessfully to cast the Episkey Charm. After three tries, he gave it up as a bad job. Harry slumped in his chair.
"And another thing to add, I reckon: Learn to cast Healing Charms with my off hand."
The Prince of Slytherin took one last look at his exhausted reflection in the repaired mirror before pulling himself up to his feet. He still had a meeting at midnight, after all.
No rest for the wicked.
Meanwhile. back in Jim's Room …
The morose Boy-Who-Lived sat on his bed, commiserating with his pet snake who continued trying to console him after Ron's furious departure. But then, just as he was about to call it a night, Ron unexpectedly stormed back into the room and violently slammed the door behind him. Then, he fixed the startled Jim with a furious expression and pointed his finger accusingly.
"You put your name in the Goblet of Fire!" the boy practically snarled. "But someone else put your name in too, and that's what came out?!"
Jim nodded dumbly.
"And whoever it was also made the challenges more dangerous?!" Ron asked just as forcefully and angrily.
"Uh-huh," Jim answered timidly.
Ron took a deep shuddery breath and then rubbed his hands over his face. He just stood there for several seconds, as if deep in thought, before finally putting his hands down and focusing on Jim.
"Okay," he said in quiet resignation. "So I reckon someone's trying to murder you. What are we going to do about it?"
Jim jumped up off the bed in surprise. "You mean you're going to help me?!"
"Well, of course I'm going to help you, you big stupid git!" Ron snapped as if annoyed at being asked such a dumb question.
"But … even after I …?"
"After you what, Jim?" Ron snapped as he folded his arms and looked sternly at the other boy. "You lied to me. Just like you did your own parents. You blew off my concerns and my feelings. You actually made a fake entry form and got me to destroy it so that I would feel happy you actually listened to me about something for once."
As Ron spoke, his voice grew louder and angrier. "You betrayed my trust! Y-you took a big steaming crap on everything Gryffindor House is supposed to stand for and on everything I grew up believing about the Boy-Who-Lived! YOU LET ME DOWN!"
Jim quailed before Ron's accusations. After the last outburst, silence hung in the air, broken only by Ron's heavy breathing and sniffling from Jim.
"If you feel that way," said Jim quietly while he wiped his eyes, "why did you come back?"
For several seconds, Ron simply glared at Jim in annoyance and consternation. Then, he rolled his eyes almost theatrically.
"Merlin's balls, Jim!" he finally said. "After everything you and I have been through over the last three years, no matter how angry I might get at you—and I am furious with you right now!—do you really think I'm the sort of friend who'd abandon you while someone was trying to kill you? No matter how much you might deserve it for being, as I said, A BIG, STUPID GIT?!"
Jim stared at his best mate for several seconds, while his lower lip trembled. Then, with a loud sob, he rushed forward and pulled Ron into a bearhug. And after a moment of surprise and discomfort, Ron tentatively put his own arms around Jim and gave the emotional boy a consoling pat on the back.
"Pffft!" hissed Steve. "I sssaid he'd be back sssoon!"
An undisclosed location …
"I'm sorry, what did you just say?!" spat an astonished and angry Peter Pettigrew.
"I don't think my words were unclear, Mr. Norvegicus," said Narcissa Black (aka Miss Direction aka the Nott Regent), her hand resting on the noticeable bump in her stomach. "Nor was there any ambiguity in Mr. January's report. The Goblet of Fire named both Jim Potter and Harry Black as Champions! And on the same entry form, no less!"
"How could that have happened?" asked Augustus Rookwood sharply. "And how will that affect the ritual?"
Pettigrew's eye twitched as everyone in the room focused their attention on him. Everyone.
"Everything went perfectly during the performance of the ritual. There must have been a defect in the ritual the Selwyns provided. Some mistranslation from the Apophic Egyptian!"
Nearby, Cassilda Selwyn chuckled softly as she swirled a fluted glass containing a thick red liquid.
"How tedious, Mr. Norvegicus, to attempt to shift the blame to others for your own failures. The Selwyns do not make mistakes when it comes to the rituals of Lost Kemet. They are our birthright and both the root and heart of our power. And besides, had there been any flaw in the ritual, it simply would not have worked at all. This outcome—the naming of two Champions and especially on a single parchment—could only result from some error in your implementation!"
A feral snarl escaped from Peter's clenched teeth, but before he could respond, a different voice spoke up to hush all the others. A disturbingly sibilant and high-pitched voice. An infantile voice, in fact.
"Sssilence," said Voldemort. The Dark Lord was slightly larger now but not much. He still bore the form of a grotesque toddler as he sat in the lap of the Inferius who had once been Yetta Gershi. Poor Yetta herself was somewhat worse for wear. Most of her hair and teeth had fallen out, and at some point, she'd lost one of her eyes, leaving an open socket that dripped pus down the side of her face.
"Potter and Black are twinsss, dessspite their essstrangement," the blasphemous child hissed. "Perhapsss their joint entry wasss due to that and not any missstake on the part of dear Mr. Norvegicusss."
Peter exhaled in relief. "Yes, my lord. Undoubtedly, that was the cause."
"Misss Direction, sssend word to Mr. January. For now, he isss to obssserve both of our Championsss while we evaluate what effectsss this will have on the final ccceremony. Indeed, perhapsss we can find a ussse for both Jim Potter and Harry Black, the usssurper of the Houssse of Wilkesss."
"At once, my lord," said Narcissa.
"Misss Vessspertine, consssult your family'sss lore. Find out the implicationsss of thessse developmentsss."
"As you command, my lord," said Cassilda. Then, the hideous baby-thing twisted its head towards Peter.
"Alasss, Mr. Norvegicusss, whether or not you are to blame for thisss … unfortunate development, do you agree that … all hasss not gone according to plan?"
Peter swallowed painfully. "N-no, my lord. I concede that it has not."
"Indeed. And while you are truly a faithful and beloved ssservant, you underssstand that, for my Greatessst Ssservant, no allowance for failure can be permitted until the ritual of rebirth isss completed? Not even the mossst innocccent missstake, yesss?"
From across the room, there was a soft ki-ki-ki from Nagini. Among the humans in the room, Peter assumed (hoped?) that Augustus Rookwood at least felt some degree of compassion for his predicament, though Mr. Nemo's flawless Occlumency would not permit him to show it. The others in the room, he suspected, would enjoy what was about to come.
"I understand, my lord," said Peter as he dropped to his knees and then prostrated himself before the infant Voldemort. "I accept my deserved punishment."
"Sssuch devotion," whispered Voldemort. "Truly, it movesss me. CRUCIO!"
NEXT: The fallout from the Goblet's selection continues in unexpected ways.
AN1: Check out the Sinister Man's web presence on the POS wiki, the POS TV Tropes page, and my Discord server (through which you can see advance previews of this story as it is being written). Also, the Sinister Man would be profoundly grateful if you checked out my P*****n page and supported my original fiction. Patronage is not necessary to get the free POS previews via Discord.
AN2: The meme of "'HARRY POTTER DID YOU PUT YOUR NAME IN THE GOBLET OF FIRE!' said Dumbledore calmly." is well-known and I couldn't resist playing around with it.
AN3: Speaking of memes, Harry's response of "And I took that personally" accompanied by a shrug was a reference to a famous Michael Jordan meme.
AN4: What the Sinister Man is reading: Note: I had a few complaints about recommending stories that end up being abandoned, which is valid. Going forward, I will try to only recommend stories that are still active and already have at least ten chapters. I am also, by request, going to start including older stories that are completed and remain favorites of mine.
The Heir to the House of Prince (Part 3, The Last Necromancer) by elph13. The third part of HttHoP started up and I somehow missed it until it was 14 chapters in! The first two books are complete. It's a "Harry turns out to be Snape's son" story, but exceptionally well-done and surprisingly logical in how the premise is set up. Very good world-building, too, though detractors describe it as "Sirius bashing" which might be a deal breaker for some.
Pray for the Wicked by Kapiushion. This may be a somewhat controversial pick, but I'm a big fan. However, in the beginning, Harry (a Slytherin and not the BWL) is somewhat unlikeable and bitter over the traumas of his life. So traumatic, in fact, that some reviewers (unjustifiably, IMO) characterize it as "torture porn," so be warned. Neville is the BWL. What sells the story for me is why Neville is the BWL instead of Harry.
The Dark Lord Never Died by Starfox5. A completed fic from 2016. Everything happens the same up until the day after Halloween 1981, when, upon learning of Voldemort's apparent death, Lucius and the other Death Eaters hit upon a scheme of simply pretending that Voldemort is still alive as a way of discrediting Dumbledore and his tales of "The Boy Who Lived." This works so well that by 1999, Lucius is the ruler of Magical Britain, backed by an elite squad of Muggleborns who all worship him for supposedly rescuing them from their "abusive families" as infants, while Dumbledore, Harry, and the Weasleys (among others) all live in exile in France. And then, the Dark Lord finally returns … Aside from being a good fic, this was my inspiration for what became the Slytherin Solution and the Magical Janissaries (about whom more will be said later).
And the Unethical Binding Contract by SimplyMe51. Since we just selected our candidates for the Triwizard Tournament, here's a nice little one-shot in which the TWT comes to Hogwarts in Harry's First year instead of his Fourth, and wee Harry is picked as a Champion before he's learned how to so much as levitate a feather. It's interesting to see how the Fourth Year plot changes when no one believes for one second that Harry put his own name in the Goblet.
AN5: Special thanks to my Discord editors: AjithSen, BillyBob. BlueWater5, darkphoenix31, DontBanMeImScared. EssayOfThoughts | Aich, Farsight , haegl wynn (she/they), heyob, Jiiti, KAW9, kean, mychakk, Nemo's Flower Song, Paryanoia, ProgKingHughesker, Rubric of Ahriman, Sakkiko, sehrrhes, skyari, velvetsanity, and village idiot. Thanks guys!
AN6: Vital Statistics: Reviews: 18,941. Followers: 20,795. Favorites: 19,109. Communities: 255 Discord followers: 5,575! Go Team POS!