Albus Dumbledore felt the ache in his bones that signalled his advanced age, yet the Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry knew that he was in no mood to quit just yet. There were many things to come, and he would be needed to helm the offensive when they came. For now, though, as he surveyed the chattering great hall, he knew that the time for such thoughts was later, when all was done. Clearing his throat, he pressed his wand to his throat and whispered. "Sonorous." The spell heightened the sound of his voice. "Ladies and Gentlemen, students, teachers, and all guests. Thank you all for coming tonight, the food has been most delicious." On the Gryffindor benches Hermione Granger harrumphed, Albus smiled, that would be an interesting conversation. "Tonight, we are here for the choosing of the champions. Mr Filch will now bring the Goblet of Fire front and centre." The old caretaker limped forward and placed the goblet on a table constructed just for that purpose. "Three names shall be chosen for the three schools competing. When a name is chosen, the goblet's flames will turn blue. The champions are to get up from their seat and walk into the waiting area, passed the teacher's table." He gestured with his free hand. "Now, let us begin the process." His wand is aimed at the goblet, flames sprouted. A hush settled over the hall.
The flames turned blue and a piece of paper came flying out landing softly in his hand. "The champion for Beauxbatons is Fleur Delacour." A cheer came from the Ravenclaw table, and the girl stood up and walked to the waiting area. Albus did not miss the smile that Hagrid sent Madame Maxine, and he sighed internally, that would not end well.
The hall had fallen silent once more, Albus felt himself take a deep breath. He had run every check imaginable on the goblet, as had Barty. They were determined to prevent Voldemort from placing Harry in the tournament. Cornelius might want to bury his head in the sand, but Barty was a forward thinker, and Albus was more than happy to play on his ambitions of being Minister once more, if it meant protecting Harry. The flame turns blue and a name shot out. "The champion for Durmstrang," Albus said, pausing to add to the sense of drama. "Is Viktor Krum." A loud roar echoed from the Slytherin table, as Viktor Krum stood up and walked to the waiting area. Albus nodded his approval. Before the hall could fall silent, the blue flame appeared again, and another paper shot out. "The champion for Hogwarts is Cedric Diggory." Another loud cheer came from the Hufflepuff table, Cedric was a good boy, a smart boy and he would do Hogwarts proud. Albus smiled at him as he walked passed, then turning back to the hall at large said. "Good, all three champions have been chosen…" He trailed off as the goblet awoke for a fourth time and his stomach sank. This would not be good. He looked at Barty who himself looked shaken. The blue flame appeared and a fourth name landed in his hand. "Harry Potter…." He whispered, not quite believing this, how had this happened? Louder he said the name again. "Harry Potter." The hall is deadly silent, then Harry stood up, looking shaken and confused, Albus could only look at him blank faced as the boy walked into the waiting area. As the hall erupted into whispered conversations, Albus looked at the Gryffindor table, and saw that Ronald Weasley looked murderous. "Very well. The evening feast is at an end, prefects, please take your charges back to your dormitories. Madame Maxine, Professor Karkaroff, Alastor, Minerva, Barty and Severus with me." With a swish of his cloak, Albus turned from the table and walked to the waiting area. He could hear the others arguing, but did not care, right now he needed to sort out Harry.
They entered the waiting area, Harry looked stunned. Albus stopped before him and asked. "Did you put your name in the Goblet of Fire?"
"No Professor." Harry replied, his voice trembling in fear.
"Did you get any of the older students to put your name in the Goblet?" Albus questioned.
"No." Harry replied.
"Well of course he is lying. The famous Harry Potter, he could not stand not being in the limelight." Igor said, his voice scathing.
Alastor opened then. "I highly doubt that. The charms and spells put in place to prevent the Goblet from being conned, were highly complicated, they could not be over ridden by a student, regardless of age or ability."
Albus silently agreed with Alastor, but kept his opinion to himself. Olympe spoke then. "You cannot be expecting him to compete Albus, surely? He is but a child."
Albus wished with all his might that he could agree with Olympe, but he had a feeling he knew what Barty would say. Albus turned to the man in question and asked. "Barty, you are familiar with the rules, can Harry be taken out of the competition?"
Barty shook his head ruefully. "Unfortunately not. The rules are clear, now that Mister Potter's name has come out of the goblet he must compete."
"This is a scam. Your talk of building friendly relationships was a lie. You want two champions, to make up for the defeat you suffered in the forties. Well, in that case, I want two champions also, or I shall withdraw." Igor threatened.
"Withdraw will you eh Igor?" Alastor replied, his tone threatening. "Run away more like. You know that you would not be here if it was not for Albus and for Barty. Do not threaten the people responsible for your survival."
Albus saw the murderous look in Igor's face, and remembered that Gellert had taught the boy once. He raised a hand to silence all. "I am afraid that is not possible Igor. You have brought your champion, Harry's case is most unfortunate, but as Barty has just highlighted, he must compete now. We have settled this; I suggest that the champions retire to their dorms now." Minerva shot him a disapproving look, but he would handle that later. "Minerva take Harry and Cedric back to their dorms. Igor and Olympe, I suggest you do the same with your champions."
Barty pushed in then. "The first task will occur on the fourteenth of November. Be prepared for that." The champions nodded and then walked out of the room. Albus knew he would need to speak with Harry soon enough, but first, there were other things he needed to handle.
"Alastor, can you head to your classroom and ensure all is well there." Albus said trying to keep his voice as calm as possible. His old friend nodded and hobbled off. Once the man is gone, Albus turned to Barty and said. "Barty, you are welcome to stay here for the night if you wish."
Barty shook his head. "Unfortunately, there are some things I need to take care of back at home. I shall be back at Hogwarts for the first task though. And I am terribly sorry about this Albus."
Albus nodded his head in response. "Very well." He watched as Barty walked out of the waiting area, then the moment he was certain that they were alone, he turned to Severus and asked. "I would have your opinion on this Severus."
Severus looked tired, and Albus knew that with what had just happened the potions master would not be getting much sleep. His voice was appropriately strained. "I am not sure. We ran every check we could possibly think of on the Goblet, we put every sort of spell on it, to ensure that none would dare think to do something like this, and yet it still happened. I am not sure how it happened, but I do think that sometime between it getting to the Ministry and leaving it was tampered with."
Albus nodded in agreement. "You know what you must do."
Severus sighed. "I do." With that the man bowed his head and then straightened and walked off, leaving Albus in the waiting area.
Albus stood there for a long moment, and ran through everything that had happened in the past few weeks. The goblet had arrived from the ministry on time, it had passed the scan test, and it had sat deep within the castle until Albus himself had gone to get it. It had passed another scan test, and…Albus placed a hand on his hand in realisation. Of course, that would be one way to do it. He had always underestimated the boy when he had been here, but then, the boy was supposed to be deep within Azkaban. Albus sighed, there was no point thinking about that now, it had already happened, ensuring Harry survived the tournament was the most important thing. He walked from the waiting area, at a brisk pace, the castle was deserted apart from a few ghosts. He kept a brisk pace until he reached his office, he gave the password. "Sherbet Lemon." And then walked up the steps when the gargoyle moved aside. As he got into his room, he called out. "Fawkes." The phoenix appeared at his side. "Tell Sirius that what we feared has happened and that he should prepare accordingly." The phoenix blinks twice to show that he got the message and then he disappeared in a cloud of dust and smoke. Albus coughed slightly, then walked to his desk. Sat on a chair which had once been his father's he begins writing two letters, one to an old friend of his, and another to Cornelius. The letter to Cornelius is finished relatively quickly, whilst the other letter takes some time to compile, eventually satisfied with it, he looked over it.
I hope the plumes to which you have devoted such time are safe, and that you shall soon be returning to our shores. It has been too long dear friend. We must ensure that things are not as they were when last you were here.
But that is not the reason for my letter.
You were there when the Goblet was made, I ask you, is it possible for it to be interfered with to think the rules have been changed? Even if the spells of binding are placed by one of the order?
Satisfied with the letter, Albus folded it and addressed it to his friend, doing the same for the letter to Cornelius. He then stood, and walked out of his office to the owlery, where his favourite owl rested. Fixing the letter for his friend to the owl he sent her off. He then placed a blanking spell on the letter for Cornelius, then attached it to a nondescript owl, sending that owl off. He watched as the two owls disappeared, sighed, then turned and walked back to his office. There would be a long day ahead, for them all. Knowing as he did that they would not be asleep, he summoned Frederick and George Weasley to his office and sat them down. "Harry will be in difficulty soon. I wish for you to keep an eye on him."
The twins nodded in silent agreement, before he sent them on their way. Saddened that they will be made to choose between Harry and their brother in the short term, he cursed Tom for doing this, for there could be only one person who would endeavour for this to happen. Albus recognised the fact that soon, he would need to inform Sirius and Harry about the prophecy and the consequences of it. It is not a conversation he looked forward to having. But it is one he should have had many years ago now, perhaps things would have changed if he had done so. Perhaps Aberforth was right.