Disclaimer: non-profit, no copyright and trademark infringement intended, bona fide use of characters and plot devices for entertainment. And I don't see any logic in repeating the same things again and again. So here we go.
Author's note: do not complain about any inconsistency with the canon, after all, I am writing fan fiction not rephrasing JKR's work.
The Great Hall of Hogwarts was abuzz with the indistinctive clatter of chatter of all the denizens of the ancient castle, both living and dead, students and teachers, hosts and guests. The day was the drawing of lots for the Tri-wizard Tournament. In a few minutes, Headmaster Dumbledore was to announce the names of those chosen by the Goblet of Fire, an ancient relic used for the rite to determine who were the most competent to participate in the bid to achieve eternal glory. The Tournament has been newly reinstated after years of being abolished due to the rising death toll. Although there was an age requirement, and an age line to ensure no underage witch or wizard could enter the fray, but one Harry Potter felt that the vaunted assurances issued by the Headmaster and the Ministry were all for naught. Like every year since he stepped into the world of magic and wonder, he was sure to find himself into something life threatening.
The first year he had been dazed by the wonder and mystery of magic, his escape from the clutches of the loathsome Dursleys and a monotonous suburban life of slavery. One close call with death, homicide (which went unreported and Harry would add was in self-defence) and spending a year ostracised for something he had no control over and another near death defying experience washed away all the daze and wonder of the new world. Down in the Chamber, Harry realised the bitter truth of his existence that he had known since able to conceive such a thought, that he was always alone. Sure Hermione and Ron had accompanied him in the first year and in second Ron also had come, but during the decisive battle, they were always safe. It was always his life on the line and him who went to face dangers he was too young to face and not trained to face. Harry would acknowledge that he had help, but when all was said and done it was his instincts and resourcefulness that saved the day. After the episode down at the Chamber, Harry had decided that he would be more cautious and better prepared from then on.
Half a summer spent in thought yielded that Harry knew too little about the magical world, lacked the knowledge of basics to get by in the magical world, had no knowledge about the economics, history or culture of the world he thought as his own and for some was he the saviour of. And most importantly he lacked the knowledge about his own life. Half the things in his life made no sense. Questions like, why was he sent to the hateful muggles, he refused to acknowledge them as family, instead of a magical household. Surely someone must be willing to take him in, what with the being the legendary Boy-Who-Lived. His acceptance letter was addressed 'Cupboard under the Stairs', surely someone must have noticed and raised a few questions. That can't be a usual address in the magical world, but again knowing what he knew of modern British wizard folk, it might not be that surprising. And most importantly he had nearly died on half a dozen occasions in two years spent of all places in a school, which is supposed to be a premier institute of magical learning and so called safest place in Britain. Something must not be right with the world, if a child has to deal with all the dangers he had to deal on yearly basis. So a month spent in introspection and thought had led Harry to conclusions which in his own mind sounded bizarre but, in the interest of survival were still heeded to. First was that he could not trust Dumbledore, the man responsible for Harry's placement at the doorstep of the Dursleys'. Dumbledore seemed to know too much and yet took no action to stop the abuse; therefore in his mind Dumbledore did not have his best interest in mind. McGonagall also was there when he was placed with the animals and still when he arrived clearly abused and malnourished took no action, also being the one responsible for the letters of acceptance her not noticing the address on his letter or ignoring it meant she too could not be trusted. He would trust Snape as far as he could throw. Ron had a temper problem and a jealousy streak a mile wide, so he feared that the friendship was doomed to fail one day at the worst or have a bumpy ride in the near future at best. He hoped that he didn't lose his first friend. His best friend Hermione was too bossy and nosey for his tastes, but he knew that she had his best interests at heart. The problem there was that he feared what she might do, just because she felt it was for the best for him.
Therefore, he decided to continue as he was and give no indication of his changed opinions and keep preparing in secret. He would also try to influence his friends to such end that their friendship survives the test of time. Ron could do with putting some effort in his work, Harry knew that the red head had a brilliant mind; he still was undefeated in the House in chess. Hermione he wished could learn to respect other's personal space, she was well-meaning and always wanted what was best for her friends, it was just that sometimes she would get too pushy and would not listen to a divergent view.
An enquiry at Gringotts revealed that the vault he used right now was his trust fund meant to last him till he was of age or alternatively declared an adult by the ministry, at which point he will gain access to the main Potter vault. The details of the Estate would only be available once he claimed headship of the family.
The incident with Marge gave him a perfect excuse to get away from his relatives and allowed him to spend some time in the magical shopping district. Over the weeks spent at the Leakey Cauldron, he learnt some of the most relevant things about the magical society and culture along with its history. He learnt things he should have been taught by his parents or guardians. The time spent at the ice-cream parlour was more educational in some aspects than the two years spent at Britain's premier school. The owner of the shop Florean Fortescue chatted with Harry sharing his experience and offering help and guidance in his academic pursuits wherever possible. Harry had decided that he will study alchemy, a subject somewhat similar to science and included the study of runes and arithmancy to help write equations and formulae. The Hogwarts library and Flourish and Blotts provided a sufficient source of knowledge of the subject.
For more than a year the self-study had helped Harry to better himself at the magical craft and brought him ahead a long way as compared to his classmates and in some subjects those senior to him. While he himself will admit that he did not have the inclination to pursue the theoretical aspects of magic, he was more than confident that he was proficient in the practical application of magic and best in some of the subjects that required wand work. He could cast the Disillusionment charm adequately, although complete invisibility that was the perfect state of the charm still eluded him.
The Chamber of Secrets had provided sanctuary and space where he could continue his self-study without any supervision or more accurately interference. When they called it the Chamber of Secrets, it just did not house a giant serpent, but also a treasure trove of rare artefacts, lost manuscripts, scrolls and tomes of magical knowledge and history. Even after nearly a millennium of being left unattended some of them were still usable. However, the most important of all was the portrait of the infamous founder. The first time he had talked to the portrait had been a shock and changed his perspective on a lot of things. Salazar rarely talked about his own past, using it only to convey some lesson derived from experience or an absent-minded comment added as an afterthought. He still remembers the first time he had met the founder.
Harry had been working on the Christmas Break homework, so as to get it out of the way of his and have more time for self-study. He had gone to explore the Chamber of Secrets on the first weekend back to school. Hermione and Ron were getting on his nerves and the depressing atmosphere brought by the Dementors was not helping his mood either. For someone like Harry who had too few memories that can be categorised as happy and too much of which were of abuse and ill treatment the soul sucking guards of Azkaban made the perfect vulnerability. Professor Lupin might have been convinced that what Harry feared the most was fear itself. Harry knew differently. What he feared was the reminder of his life at that place; unloved, uncared for, and being reminded the insignificance of his existence and the indifference of the world to his plight. Hogwarts until now had been a harbour of sorts where he could pretend that everything was alright and now when he has been stripped of that assurance, Harry had sought help of an adult to help deal with the dementors.
For past two years more than courage, it was a total disregard for his own wellbeing that had guided him. But now he wanted to prove himself more than ever, especially with the killer of his parents and their betrayer on the loose, Harry wanted to make sure that he did not get caught wrong-footed. His parents would not have wanted him to go and get himself killed; rather they had sacrificed their own lives so that he had a future. A future he was loath to have wasted so much part of, something he had been doing for past two years with putting no efforts for his own safety and education. The only exams that mattered were the OWLs and NEWTs, so until his fifth year he could spend three years self-studying and in relative absence of attention. Not that the issue with Black was any help in that regard. He was getting looks ranging from pitying to those saying that 'don't do anything stupid'. It was nerve-racking and annoying. No one was there to look out for him when he was being abused by the Dursleys, bullied at school or facing Voldemort in one form or the other. He didn't need their pity and he wasn't going to throw away the life that his parents sacrificed themselves for, by chasing after a madman.
The continuous scratching of the quill on the parchment was the only sound to be heard as he worked in what was possibly Salazar's study at some point. There was a work-table with upholstered chair, a stool, a couple of cupboards with books and scrolls, and an empty portrait frame.
"This is a surprise. I never thought I'll ever see someone here," Harry heard a cultured voice. Startled he accidently broke his quill and looked around. This one place was his sanctuary, one place where no one but himself or only Voldemort could enter. And since he was not dead that ruled out Voldemort.
"Look towards the portrait," the voice prompted. The newly filled frame housed a man dressed in what might have been once fashionable and expensive clothes. A snake adorned his neck and guessing by its hood and length it was probably a king cobra. Harry gaped at the man as he petted the snake with a fond expression. He had a feeling who was the man, although there was little resemblance between the portrait and the statue outside. This was not the image of Salazar Slytherin he had in mind. The man had handsome features with curling black hairs and cerulean eyes that danced with mischief. There was no malice or arrogance or even the sneer that so many of the founder's house today have plastered over their faces, adorning his face. Harry knew from his experience that reputation was often not the best way to judge people. After all he had been called incurably criminal, saviour, dark lord and such, he wasn't all that. Compulsive rule breaking, killing possessed DADA teachers and abducting incompetent DADA teachers to help face a thousand year old basilisk were exceptions and not the norm.
"You must be Salazar Slytherin," Harry exclaimed, overcoming his initial shock.
"Indeed I am. And you have Godric's grasp of what's obvious, and his ill manners for not introducing yourself," came the sarcastic reply. Again instead of any malice, the voice was teasing.
"I am Harry Potter, a third year, in Gryffindor," Harry replied and stepped forward to properly face the portrait.
"So you are. Lose the glasses. Hmmm. Nearly after a millennium do I get to gaze upon one of my descendants," Salazar spoke softly. It was almost inaudible, but to someone like Harry with keener senses than most, it was easier to pick on.
"I am sorry sir, but I am not your descendant," Harry informed the older man's likeness.
"Then how would you explain your presence here, a place that could only be accessed by someone who has her and my blood flowing through their veins,' Salazar's counter was swift.
"You see, your last living descendant tried to kill me when I was just about a year old. My mother did something which reflected his killing curse and he lost his body. Dumbledore, he the current Headmaster, says that he gave some of his powers to me that night, and I have a scar that hurts in his proximity," Harry replied.
The portrait was silent for a while, obviously contemplating his words.
"That's rubbish," Salazar scoffed. "You are my descendant and that's the end of it. As for the so-called transfer of powers from one wizard to another, if that was possible shouldn't every witch and wizard start killing one another, to acquire unfathomable power? While acquiring magical traits through sacrifice is possible, no transfer of power can take place between humans. The only way that is possible is through mating of powerful parents to get more powerful children. Even that doesn't always hold true. There's definitely something wrong with your scar, it looks too raw, for something that is more than a decade old but that's something we shall discuss later on."
"I can't be your descendant. My father was a pure-blood wizard, while my mother was a muggle-born witch. If the Potters would have been related to you then everyone would have known," Harry was firm in his denial.
"Fine then, answer this. Do you have your mother's eyes? Was your mother named after a flower?"
"How do you know that?" Harry exclaimed, "I mean, yes I do have my mother's eyes and her name was Lily."
"Virtue and innocence. My wife's family had a tradition to name girls after flowers and she had the same eyes just like your mother and you."
"But that was nearly a thousand years ago and lots of families have similar traditions and lots of people have similar eyes to me," Harry continued in denial.
"The fact that you are standing here right now is proof enough. I cast the wards protecting the whole chamber, but it was my wife who added wards in the study, bedroom and storeroom to ensure that none of my other descendants gains entry in these chambers and uses the various resources I stored in here," Salazar was calm in his reasoning, although, the expression at the mention of his wife and other descendants was of remembrance and regret.
"Your wife and other descendants? Wouldn't your wife and you have common descendants?" Harry asked with no small amount of confusion in his voice.
"During those days the social norms and mores practised were different from those of today and the idea of polygamy or at some places polyandry was not frowned upon whereas it is criminalised nowadays. I was a trader by profession and as such travelled extensively, so bedding women at different places was a pursuit that I often indulged myself into. I remember on many occasions making seduction into a game against Godric and compete who beds more women," Salazar's expression was that of one lost in the memory of good times.
"And your wife allowed this?" Harry interrupted, bringing the founder back to present.
"She didn't exactly allow it; she just tolerated it and let me indulge into my dalliances. She was confident in herself enough to believe any women I share my bed with, would not hold a candle to her and she had every right to hold such belief," Salazar replied.
"But still," Harry interrupted again before he knew it.
"Do not judge me with your social value system as the scales. A thousand years before the society was much different than that of today. Our values and mores were different. There still existed a lot of families practising the old ways as Christianity was still catching up in the magical world. If you wish to understand history, never judge past using your value system rather try to know their values and beliefs before passing judgement," Salazar reproached.
"Sorry, I won't. You were saying…"
"My wife and I were childhood friends. In some ways, our relationship was similar to that of Helga and Godric. However, it was greatly different too, in the manner that those two never formalised their relationship for some reason and never had children together. We travelled a lot after finishing our basic education to learn foreign cultures and their ways of using magic. That's how we met other three of the founders. It was on the eve of her thirtieth birthday that I asked her to marry me. She knew all the times I have indulged myself, still she said she desired me and so she shall have it. She wasn't an insecure person and neither had she minded my infidelities. Although she added a caveat in our matrimonial bond, which was that I shall never sire children with another. The only children I would father and the only allowed to bear my name and have my blood in their veins were to be hers. I agreed after all that were contraceptive potions for, to avoid unwanted pregnancies," Salazar elaborated.
"Then what happened?" Harry prompted now fully enraptured by the bizarre conversation with his supposed ancestor. He still refused to believe the possibility.
"My word was broken, after forty years of happy matrimony, all came crashing down like a house of cards," Salazar's voice was filled with pain and regret, "she was a daughter of a nobleman. We had been seeing each other for months. The contraceptive potion had worn off and neither of us noticed it and she got pregnant. I feared my wife's reaction. As sure as I was of the fact that she loved me, I was sure of the fact that she wasn't the type to forgive when wronged. It wasn't her nature to be forgiving; she was characteristically vindictive towards any who wronged her. So I hid the fact that I had begotten a child…" Salazar took a pause.
"She found out, didn't she?" Harry enquired. He couldn't believe he was talking to one of the founders like a grandchild asking for a retelling of life events of their grandparents.
"That she did," the sorrow in his voice was obvious, "it happened here in Hogwarts, Marcellus, we had named him, was a seventh year when he stumbled upon the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets. He entered the Chamber and stumbled upon my wife and our daughter practising magic, my wife had our daughter greet him in parseltongue and the moment he replied, she knew that he was my child just not with her. She talked with him and learned everything she could about his mother and father. Marcellus inadvertently gave too much and my wife concluded that I had known him, but worn a disguise to meet with him."
"Then what happened?" Harry prompted immediately. This was something they didn't talk about in history books. Moreover, there were no authentic records left of that period, at least not in the public sphere.
"Supper that night had been the most hostile meal I ever had the misfortune of having," came the bittersweet reply, "the moment I arrived home and saw Marcellus at the table I knew the ruse was over. That night I learned the true meaning behind the words draco dormiens nunquam titllandus."
"Never tickle a sleeping dragon. That's Hogwarts motto," exclaimed Harry.
"It was the family motto of my wife's family. We got four houses after our names, she picked the motto for the school, it was only fair as it was on her families lands that the school was built on," Salazar supplied. "How I wished that she had killed Marcellus or me to satisfy her vengeance. But that wasn't to be for she wouldn't be satisfied with death as in her mind it would have been too easy of a punishment."
"What did she do?"
"She asked our daughter to curse Marcellus and his line. And cursed she did, with paranoia and mania to run in the family. Once proud and prosperous House of Gaunt was ruined and brought to its knees in a single generation. But, that didn't satisfy my wife. She cursed me to be unable to approach my own daughter and my grandchildren through her. For years I searched for them, but it was magic I couldn't undo."
"Why not? You are Salazar Slytherin, one of the greatest wizards of that era. Surely you could have broken the spell."
"I could have. There's very little that one cannot do with magic. However, there is always a cost involved. For using a wand to perform magic one's magical energy is used. For potions and alchemy, the ingredients are used to do the magic. My wife was an expert of magic involving sacrifice, blood and soul. Her expertise of such arcane arts remains unparalleled. After all, she did create the unstoppable killing curse, a curse of the exact shade of green as her own eyes."
"She created the Killing Curse," Harry felt bit uneasy and more uncomfortable than before with the thought of this yet to be named the wife of the Salazar to be his ancestor.
'That she did, but it was Rowena that reduced the curse to arithmancy and words so that anyone could use it. And apparently, your mother found a successful way to stop it nearly after a thousand years. Then again what less would you expect from her and my progeny? So if someone ever mentions that your eyes have the same colour as that of the killing curse, you can tell them it's the killing curse that has the same colour as your eyes," Salazar chuckled dryly.
"What was the cost to undo her magic then?" Harry brought back the conversation back on course. He wasn't comfortable talking about the curse that had featured in so many of his nightmares. Although, it felt good to hear someone acknowledge his mother's success at doing what was for a millennium was thought to be the impossible. Everyone always remarked about her sacrifice and how great a person she was. She was referred to more as an afterthought than an actual person whenever his parents were mentioned.
"The cost to undo her magic was the life of Marcellus and that of every one of his line. It was something she knew I would never do. I remembered the woman I grew up with as a child and the one I fell in love with, but I couldn't remember the sweet child I had with her and the one I raised with her. All memories of my daughter were like a swiftly fading dream. I knew I had a daughter, but I couldn't remember or recollect anything about her, not even her name. Even the knowledge supplied by others would slip away and befuddle my mind. I cannot fathom the cost to cast such magic…" tolling of the bell stopped Salazar mid-sentence.
"By gods, it has gotten late. You should leave and get some sleep, I can ramble all night," Salazar told Harry.
"Yeah, I should be leaving," Harry started shutting his books and picked his invisibility cloak.
"Don't be a stranger and do visit often. Now that I know you exist is shall visit this frame more often," Salazar requested softly.
Harry was at the door when he turned around and asked, "by the way you didn't tell me the name of your wife. What flower was she called?"
"Why don't you take a guess?" Salazar prompted.
"I don't know, Atropa I guess," Harry quipped.
Howling laughter was the reply he got, "oh! Boy, you have no idea how close you guessed. Belladonna, her name was Belladonna. She was the embodiment of beauty and death." The name was called with softness and fondness akin to calling of a lover's name.
Harry left without looking back letting the founder dwell on his thoughts.
After that the founder had become a regular part of Harry's life. When he had talked about the present situation of the school in general the founder had expressed sadness and disappointment, especially regarding the fact that the institution of house system, established to promote competition and cooperation among peers had been sabotaged and perverted into a way to breed conflict and favouritism. Salazar had not been pleased with Harry's lot in life and had expressed his displeasure quite colourfully in parseltongue, a habit Harry had picked from his ancestor. Salazar had asked Harry to learn mind arts, so as to practise magic related to soul. However, Harry was little queasy about learning anything to do with sacrifices, blood and soul. Salazar had insisted that he uses his natural propensity towards the arts and utilises them to make him stronger. Therefore, Harry had started practising occlumency. While he wanted to protect his mind form intrusion and manipulation, he had not been able to test his proficiency against an attack. Harry had put off learning leglimency for now and wanted to make sure that he had full control over his own mind before he started on the offensive aspect of mind arts, something Salazar wholeheartedly approved of.
"The champion for Durmstrang is Victor Krum," Dumbledore's booming voice brought Harry to present. The announcement was met with thunderous applause, and calls of 'Krum, Krum' from the Durmstrang's contingent, which was to be expected given that he was an international quidditch player.
"Knew you had it in you, bravo," Karkaroff's gruff voice could be heard over all the commotion. Dumbledore waved the selected champion towards the ante-chamber and out of the Great Hall. Once the applause quietened a bit, the Goblet of Fire spewed out another piece of parchment, it flowery design leaving no doubt of the school whose champion was to be selected next.
"The champion for Beauxbatons is, Fleur Delacour." This time, the applause was not as loud as earlier. Although, most boys were cheering quite enthusiastically, but that was counteracted by the abstention of the female half from cheering who were glaring daggers at the French beauty. Fleur stood proudly, barely acknowledging the applause with a tilt of her head and went to her headmistress. She too left the Great Hall via the same door as Krum.
The Goblet soon shot forth the name of the final champion.
"The champion for Hogwarts is, Cedric Diggory." This was met by the loudest cheer, particularly from the Hufflepuff table, where many could be seen congratulating the champion, shaking his hand or patting his back. The house had a reputation of being filled with left-overs and this was their chance to be in the spot light and bring glory to their school. Cedric Diggory embodied all the traits that Helga favoured in the best of ways. He was one of the best seekers in the school and the only one who caught the snitch before Harry, though the presence of dementors to which Harry was particularly vulnerable left his victory somewhat hollow. Harry too politely clapped for the Hogwarts champion.
"Now that the champions have been…" Dumbledore trailed off as the Goblet of Fire began to spew out flames again. The whole hall watched in silence as the flames shot another parchment out. Dumbledore plucked it out of the air on a reflex and unfolded it to read the name. Harry watched in trepidation as the colour drained from Dumbledore's face. He feared his nightmare from the summer might not have been a simple dream after all.
"Harry Potter," Dumbledore whispered his name, barely concealed disbelief in his voice, unsure of the words leaving his mouth. Yet the name was heard by all. Shock and confusion were felt by all those in attendance. Harry felt himself go numb.
"Harry Potter," this time Dumbledore's voice was surer and with a hint of anger in his tone. The angry mutterings of the students began to fill the Great Hall as all eyes sought Harry. The Slytherin had their trademark sneers or expressionless faces, the Ravenclaws had an expression of curiosity, and the Hufflepuffs were understandably hostile. However, what shocked Harry the most was the looks of betrayal and disappointment from his own housemates. Ron looked angry and betrayed, while Hermione had a look of disappointment on her face. Harry numbly walked towards the ante-chamber where the other champions were gathered. He could feel the stares, their silent judgement without any chance to offer any explanation. It was like the second year all over again. The student body had deemed him guilty of cheating the Goblet and entering the tournament. There was no presumption of innocence and no teacher or for that matter anyone who stood in his defence. It wasn't like he expected anything else. Snape was glaring at him with open hostility, but that was reciprocated in spades by Harry. McGonagall wore the most surprising expression; it fluctuated between pity and disappointment.
"Harry, what is it? Do they want us back?" Cedric asked politely. Harry simply shook his head and went to stand on the side. He had to think about how he got into this mess and how to get out of it, and if not then make the best of the situation. He could hear Krum and Fleur ask something but he simply shook his head. He heard the commotion and sound of people arguing. The heads of the schools and the ministry persons were arguing; with Snape, McGonagall and Moody bringing up the rear.
"I didn't know that we could have two champions, otherwise, I would have brought a bigger contingent," Karkaroff snidely commented.
"This is simply not done; it gives Hogwarts two bites at the apple," Madame Maxime complained.
"Bravo. This is brilliant. Ladies and gentlemen may I introduce you to the fourth champion, Harry Potter," Bagman announced jovially, oblivious to the hostile looks he received at his declaration.
"Harry," Dumbledore took hold of him roughly and peered into his eyes, "did you enter your name in the Goblet? Or alternatively, did you asked an older student to do it for you?"
Harry felt a rush of foreign emotions and recognised them for what it was. Dumbledore was using legilimency on him, so he used his skill at occlumency to protect himself. All Dumbledore saw was an all-encompassing darkness. It was the memory of the cupboard. Salazar had suggested something more complex but Harry felt surer using simpler means to protect his mind. Then he shoved Dumbledore mentally, which caused him to stumble and wrestled himself free of the old man's grasp. Dumbledore's face morphed into surprise.
"Mr Potter," McGonagall exclaimed with her voice rife with disapproval.
"I will not be manhandled; neither will I allow someone to take liberty with my mind. If nobody will protect my interests then I will do so myself,' Harry interrupted her before she could go on. "As for the answer to your questions, I answer both of them in negative. I have no interest to involve myself with the stupidity of the tournament," he informed the headmaster while glaring at him.
"Good. The boy wonder has some spine," Moody gave gruff approval.
"The boy's lying," Madame Maxime loudly protested.
"I never knew that Hogwarts was capable of such blatant cheating. Standards have fallen under Dumbledore. Disrespectful and such lack of character would be severely punished at Durmstrang," Karkaroff added his thoughts on the matter, like a shark he had smelled blood and like a shark he attacked the venerated wizard.
"I don't need a former death eater to attest to my character. And a coward at that, who sold out his own comrades to save his skin and avoid the consequences of his own actions," Harry's swift reply was met with shocked gasps. He had let others walk all over him, but in last one year had decided not to be a push-over. He would not allow anyone to push him around like he used to, and now was as good a time as any to take a firm stand and let lets-bully-Harry party people know that it wasn't going to be as easy as it used to be. If he could fight possessed teachers, thousand-year-old basilisks and a hundred dementors, then he might as well fight for his own interests.
Karkaroff tried to lunge towards Harry, but the DADA professor's wand at his back dissuaded him. Moody gave Harry an approving nod. At least someone was enjoying this.
"The boy is lying and now on being caught in his lie is being disrespectful towards the dignitaries," Madame Maxime huffed.
"If Harry says that he did not entre himself in the tournament, then I believe that he didn't," Dumbledore stated calmly.
"Potter has a tendency to disregard rules; however, I don't believe that he is competent enough to submit his name bypassing protections put in place by the Headmaster himself," Snape scornfully drawled, at which McGonagall bristled but remained silent.
"Then you confess that there was the fault in your protections," Karkaroff apparently was still trying to lay blame on the hosts.
"That is always a possibility, contrary to what many would like to believe, I am only human," Dumbledore conceded in a humble tone.
"Dumbledore you know that your measure was not faulty," McGonagall started to defend her superior.
"So Hogwarts did cheat," Karkaroff was on a roll.
"Shut up you blithering baboon. There was no fault in the Dumbledore's protections and if the boy says that he didn't entre then we have no reason to doubt his word," Moody entered the conversation, silencing the Durmstrang headmaster who was now glaring at the former Auror.
"Then how would you explain his name coming out of the Goblet," Madame Maxime enquired.
"Someone must have confounded the Goblet in believing there are four schools and submitted Potter's name under the fourth, ensuring his selection," Moody theorised.
"To give Hogwarts another chance," Madame Maxime accused.
"If Hogwarts needed another chance then someone more competent that Potter would have been the obvious choice, like one of my seventh years who isn't a dunderhead," Snape made his presence known. Harry glared at the hated potion's master, who had to insult him even while taking his side.
"Then who would enter the boy's name."
"Anyone who would want Potter either ridiculed or dead, or both. A lot of people would want to bring down the Boy-Who-Lived. They wouldn't even have to get their hands dirty,' Moody supplied emotionlessly. The pronouncement met with a sharp intake of breath by everyone. Harry swallowed hard, what Moody had said made a lot of sense. Every year since he had joined the wizard world his life had been in peril, why the fourth year should be any different. Also, it meant that there was a servant of Voldemort in the school.
"You seem to have given this a lot of thought. Seeing how quickly you figured out the how and why of all this," Karkaroff felt the need to make his presence known.
"Aye, it was my job to know how dark wizards think. Something you are intimately familiar with," Moody replied nastily as he fingered his wand.
"Alastor, please, Mr Crouch you know the rules of the tournament, what do you recommend," Dumbledore asked the ministry wizard.
"Mr Potter was selected by the Goblet, he has to compete. The selection forms a binding magical contract and he has no choice but to honour it," Mr Couch replied in a grave tone.
"You must be joking. Surely you don't mean that this leetle boy will have to compete against us," the French champion haughtily sniffed towards Harry. Harry felt himself responding, but before he could say anything he was interrupted by the monotonous voice of Crouch.
"I am not joking Miss. Mr Potter has no choice, but to contest."
"Wouldn't my participation be in violation of the age requirements?" Harry asked. He wanted to get out of the mess altogether, but if that was not possible then he will milk the situation for all its worth, after all, he was Salazar's great-grandchild, with a thousand years' worth of great added.
"The Goblet is an ancient relic. The age requirement had been added recently. The selection once made is irrevocable," Crouch seemed glad that someone was paying attention to what he was saying.
"Still, a mere technicality as to the requirement of being of age can mean that I was in violation of the contract and be penalised," Harry pressed. He was hoping that he didn't have to spell out what he was aiming for.
"That can be easily remedied. You will be recognised as a person of age for the duration of the tournament and will be an adult in the eyes of the law until such time that your participation in the tournament is required," Crouch provided the solution with a look of irritation. It wasn't all that Harry wanted, but it was the most he should have expected. Nearly a year of legal freedom was enough to do certain things he wanted to be done.
Harry replied with a nod.
"Now that's settled, Barty why don't you give the instructions," Bagman jumped like a child on the sugar high.
"Of course, the Champions, please gather around," Crouch began giving instructions.
After all was said and done, Harry was the first to move towards the exit.
"You do realise that you will be at a great disadvantage," Cedric commented Harry as he fell into step with him.
'" know. And unlike you I have no wish to participate in this tournament," Harry replied. Cedric was a nice enough person. He was the type of person that nobody had anything bad to say about.
"Why? You should be grateful to be given a chance to earn fame and glory. A lot of people will give anything to be in your position. Then again may be your tiny brain doesn't quite grasp what fame and glory mean," Fleur interjected. She couldn't understand the fourth champion's reluctance to participate. She had prepared for the tournament, since the moment she learned about it. It was her chance to be recognised as something more than just a pretty face and here was a boy who had been handed the chance without any effort.
Harry turned to face the French beauty. He was sure, she wasn't completely human, her porcelain white skin unmarred, silvery blonde hair that seemed to sway in some invisible wind, and azure eyes that held unearthly beauty, were too perfect to be a mere human. He had seen boys gaze at her and be left dazed in her wake.
"Fame and Glory," those words left his mouth lace with venom, "tell me princess, who was the winner of the first tournament?"
Fleur's expression told him she didn't know.
"Or perhaps the last," Harry pressed on.
Her silence was telling.
"Where is the eternal fame and glory? As for my desire for fame and glory, name the only person to survive the killing curse," Harry asked.
"Harry Potter," was the swift answer.
"I shall tell you from experience, fame and glory are not worth the trouble. Therefore, next time open your mouth when you have something intelligent to say. You were only adding to the blonde stereotype," with that Harry sped away.
Fleur stopped mid-step, her eyes narrowed. She hadn't been this insulted ever in her life. Boys fell over themselves to earn her favour. Yet here was a fourteen-year-old boy who hasn't even so much so have gazed at her. For one use to being showered by attention, it was disconcerting to be not spared even a second glance. He had taken one look at her and has ignored her presence. Furthermore, the parting comment was an insult towards her intelligence. Fleur prided herself as to be the top student in her class, to be seen as nothing but a pretty face was what she detested. She had entered the tournament to prove herself to others, yet the little child had insulted her motivations. Perhaps, he wasn't mature enough to understand. She left following her headmistress, all the while insulting Harry in more colourful fashion than the last.
Harry walked in the direction of the Gryffindor. He wondered what the next confrontation would be like. He knew from the expression of his housemates that it will be a confrontation. The moment he stepped into the corridor he spotted Fred and George. They stepped towards him with a troubled expression.
"We wanted to congratulate you on your selection and then ask how you managed it," Fred began; Harry was always able to distinguish between the two, a fact that vexed the twins to no end.
"Then warn you about the inquisition that awaits you," George added.
"But, judging from your expression we guess you didn't do it."
"Although, we weren't totally convinced either way until now, that is."
"Did you really think that I would want to enter in this stupid tournament?" Harry asked.
"With you, there's always a possibility."
"After all, you indulge in rule breaking as much as we do."
"The only difference is you are trying to save the school."
"And we to wreak havoc."
"So what's this about an inquisition? And please one of you answers," Harry was always amused by their antics.
"Not an inquisition Harry, the inquisition. Most of the upper years think you are guilty of cheating and bring dishonour to the house. The worse is your year, every boy excluding Neville have taken up arms against you. Ron's their leader," George informed.
Harry wasn't certain what to think. He was glad that Neville was not involved; he liked the shy boy who in some aspects used to be so similar to him. Ron was both expected and disheartening. He had hoped that Ron will get over his jealousy and inferiority complex, but it was not to be. He will deal with things as they came. If people wanted a fight who was he to deny them.
"What about you two?" Harry asked.
"We are with you, whether or not you entered into this thing, wouldn't have mattered to us. However, Fred can't openly take you side. Angelina is the leading senior. Katie too supports you but,' George trailed off.
"Her friendship to Angelina means more to her," Harry finished plainly. He didn't begrudge them for their choices. They all were closer to Angelina than they were to him; therefore their support for her was to be expected.
"It's just that most of them think you get everything on a silver platter and are just jealous," Fred informed.
"And you two?" Harry asked.
"We remember the summer we brought you home," George answered in a voice uncharacteristically sombre.
"Also all the times that you were in the hospital wing," Fred added.
"Most do not realise, but the price you paid for the fame is too steep and you are still paying it," George finished. Harry turned to look at them, disbelief evident from his face. Salazar had often told him that there will be others who might understand what he feels like, not know but certainly understand his circumstances and offer friendship.
"Don't look at us like that. We like to goof around, but we aren't dumb Harry," George added defensively.
With an acknowledging nod, Harry whispered the password and stepped into the common room. The moment his presence was known, all eyes turned to him.
"All rise. Great Potter has finally graced us with his presence," Ron's voice carried a hint of scorn. Harry realised that expecting something and witnessing it was different. He had feared his friendship with Ron might be doomed, since the day he had finally acknowledged his Slytherin ancestry and realised that Ron might learn of it and thus let his prejudices get the better of him; he had hoped it wouldn't come to that. But to finally see it shatter as he felt the scorn in Ron's voice he felt sadder than he thought he would.
"You have some explaining to do Potter," he had never seen Angelina so hostile.
"You have brought dishonour to this house, you traitor," someone from the back shouted.
"Have I now," Harry spoke softly, yet his voice carried. Many flinched as he had slipped in parseltongue at the last word, "pray tell the dishonour you so speak of. What explanation do I owe you people? People, who abandoned me during the Chamber fiasco, people who so readily accuse me of wrongdoing even after the year before last."
"You cheated to enter the tournament and thus have dishonoured the house," some seventh year shouted, not bothering to address Harry's accusations.
"And what of it? What would you do? What can you do?" Harry taunted. He was willing to take the risk of alienating most of his housemates; after all, these were the same people who had abandoned him during the second year, when he became a pariah in the school. He needed to be sure of people who would stand by him than people who were part of the heard.
"We can censure you. Or better yet expel you from the house," Angelina said nastily. Gasps rang throughout the room, censure was one thing, but to expel a member of the house was rarely done. Each house had its own mechanism for social control. The Slytherins had the position of the triumvirate who formed the ruling body of the house; the three people with most clout formed the group and arbitrated all in-house disputes and discipline or decided a course of action. The Ravenclaws had prefects to arbitrate who simply removed the house library privileges or the room privileges from the defaulting party. The Hufflepuffs let their housemistress deal with any defaulters. The Gryffindors had the house assembly where the popular vote by the second years and up determined the course of action.
"Angelina you can't mean that," Katie implored her friend to reconsider her suggestion.
"Why not? Potter always gets his way. I am sick of being in his shadow, let him learn some humility," Ron interjected.
"Very well then, so I call the housing assembly to order," The role of the chairperson fell to the seventh year prefect, "who will state the grievances that the members of this house have against the alleged defaulter?"
"I will," Ron and Angelina staked their claims together. After a brief staring contest between the two, Ron backed down.
"The accused is guilty of dishonourable conduct unbecoming a member of this noble house. He had on multiple occasions have broken rules and have lost the house points, thereby jeopardising the hard earned points of others,' Angelina calmly stated. There were muttering amongst the people and Angelina's expression turned smug.
"Does anyone wishes to add to the stated charges?" the prefect asked. When no one stood up, she turned to Harry, "do you wish to say something in your defence?" The procedure was not well laid down and the conduct of a house assembly depended on the discretion of the senior prefect chairing it, it was just a way of ensuring conformity from the defaulter using popular choice as intimidation. Most would plead with their peers and the assembly decide in their favour.
Harry shook his head, there wasn't much to say. Furthermore, an expulsion from the house during the duration of the tournament would mean that he can spend more time down in the Chamber practising magic than be bothered about by the presence of others. He had often contemplated leaving the dorm to sleep in the Chamber, however, have decided against it so as to not answer any questions about his whereabouts.
"All those who find Mr Potter innocent please raise your left hand," only a few hands were raised; Neville, the Creevy twins, George, and Katie were only he recognised. Angelina watched her teammates with betrayal in her eyes. The prefect herself joined the minority as she raised her hand.
"All those who find Mr Potter guilty," most of the seniors raised their hand. Fred and all the girls from his year were the ones who abstained. He was shocked that Hermione didn't vote for his innocence, he tried to find her eyes but she refused to meet his gaze.
"The verdict is guilty," the prefect announced, "Does anyone have suggestions as to the mode of punishment?"
"Expulsion from the house," Ron was quick to take the initiative, beating Angelina to lead the charge against Harry.
"And the terms of expulsion," the chairing prefect asked.
"The duration of the tournament or until such time Potter apologises for his dishonourable conduct," Angelina retook the centre stage. Harry couldn't have phrased it any better than she did. He would have saluted her if he could.
"No punishment," Katie added with conviction, earning glares from Angelina and Ron. The mode of punishment was decided by voting on the suggested punishments, a friend of the defaulting party could suggest a token punishment or none at all and that too had to be voted upon.
"Any more suggestions?" the prefect called for the vote. This time, the vote was closer than earlier.
"As per the decision of this House Assembly, Harry Potter you have been found guilty of dishonourable conduct unbecoming a member of this noble house and on multiple counts of rule breaking resulting into loss of house points and thereby jeopardising the hard earned points of others. By the powers vested in me as the chairperson, in accordance with the wishes of and conditions set by this house assembly I hereby expel you from this noble house for the duration of the Tri-Wizard Tournament or till such time you apologise for your dishonourable conduct. Under the terms of your expulsion; you are forbidden to wear the house colours and the house crest and you are forbidden to sleep in the Gryffindor tower. You may join the house table as a guest during meals, visit the tower accompanying at least one friend before curfew and attend your classes alongside the members of the house; however, you are not to represent the house in any manner whatsoever. So mote it be,' With that she tapped her wand to his crest and his robes turned black like they were before the sorting.
"For what it is worth, I would like to say I am ashamed of the behaviour shown by most of the house. I am sorry Potter that I had to chair the assembly which expelled you. I had no reason to believe that you were at fault and after the year before last year, I had hoped that we could have stood by one of our own, rather than ostracised them. This isn't the behaviour of prideful lions rather a pack of jackals," The prefect addressed those present. Many hung their heads in shame, however, most wore defiant faces.
"I would like to offer my assistance for the preparation of the tournament. I am a skilled duellist and have a good grasp of transfiguration, maybe I could be of help," she offered politely. Harry looked surprised at her offer.
"What? I wanted to enter the tournament, but if I can't then I would like to help the one who would win," she offered by way of explanation.
"Thank you. I might take you up on your offer," Harry paused to recall her name, but couldn't.
"Amanda. Amanda Moore. It must be something else to never have to introduce yourself, eh...' Amanda commented with a bemused look.
"It does make introductions one-sided, Miss Moore," Harry replies evenly.
"Call me Amanda, no need to go all Victorian era on me."
"Here, take here your trunk Potter," Ron slammed his trunk by his feet.
"I should be leaving. I will call on your help," Harry made to leave.
"Sure. Do you know where you will sleep or maybe I could speak to the head boy to let you board with him," Amanda offered?
"No, I shall be fine. Hogwarts is a big castle. But thanks all the same."
As Harry left through the portrait hole; George, Fred, Neville and Katie made to follow him. They caught up to him just outside the portrait.
"Harry, I am sorry for Angelina's behaviour. She wanted to enter the tournament, when she couldn't she was heartbroken but with your participation, she just snapped," Katie offered an apology.
"It's all right Katie. I'll get by. Thanks for the vote of confidence, though," Harry replied.
"Err… it was nothing. That's what friends are for," Katie blushed.
"Where will you sleep?" Neville asked.
"Somewhere in the castle where no one else has been," Harry answered mysteriously.
"Careful Harry, we have explored the castle more than you," Fred replied.
"After all, we were the ones, who bequeathed the marauders' legacy to you," George continued.
"So we know the castle better than them."
"Keep deluding yourselves. I must be going. And once again thanks for your support," Harry said.
They all wished each other goodnight as Harry left. He took the shortcut, connecting the Chamber of Secrets to Godric's Chambers. Harry hadn't been able to locate the chamber; according to Salazar it had the same protections as that of Chamber of Secrets. Therefore, only an heir of Godric Gryffindor could gain entry.
A/N: there will be a number of original characters and canon characters behaving differently. However, I will try not to let any inconsistency to creep in the sequence of events and development of the characters. However, I might make liberal use of Flashbacks, since I prefer a non-linear approach, but still provide the requisite explanation.
I edited some of the mistakes that I had made earlier, and by gods they were many. Nevertheless, if people have any corrections or suggestions, please feel free to make them.
The opening isn't as good as it should be, but I don't know how else to do it. It's a major information dump; maybe I should have done that in author's note.
Salazar is so chatty with Harry because as a portrait he doesn't get many living people who would pay him as much attention as Harry seemed to pay.
I believe any collection of individuals needs to develop some form of mechanism for social control and made stuff up. Also given that the Houses have been around for nearly a thousand years, I thought that they will have some thing in place to reflect the qualities that the Houses value.