Chapter 27 - Aftermath
Voldemort landed with a thump, thankfully not on the injured leg. Sitting up, the first job had to be stopping the bleeding - before trying to turn that pile of hamburger back into a functioning limb. Yes, there was more magic available from this body but there was a massive difference between being a Dark Lord and a reasonably powerful witch. At least the tissue finally knitted together, and scarring wasn't really an issue for Voldemort. Neither was the pain, it needed to be endured.
Vanishing the spilled blood then testing whether the leg would support this body's weight, it was time to get a move on. Wormtail was either captured or dead, Potter and whoever he had with him today were certainly playing for keeps. They'd been staying in the old Riddle place, while sorely injured and with a strange body, Voldemort really didn't want to risk apparating any further. Limping heavily toward the master bedroom, it was a massive shock coming face to face with the full length mirror there.
Voldemort had gotten used to possessing Bertha's body over the months that chore had been necessary, but this was way, way different. This body was shorter, a lot heavier, and way older. This body looked like some sweet old grandmother, not an image suitable for the most terrifying Dark Lord in the world.
The entire image side of this could easily have been overcome, it was power that made Voldemort so feared people were still afraid to say that name. Quite simply, irrespective of shape, sex or age, this body didn't possess half the power Voldemort was used to. That would have to be the first thing addresses, after actually putting some clothes on and getting swiftly out of here. That was when he felt the slight pull on his magic.
Something had just happened that affected Voldemort, and that information could be crucial to this body's continuing ability to draw breath. Thankfully, this body was also the perfect disguise for discovering that information - namely buying tomorrow's newspaper. There currently wasn't time to dwell on how Potter had known the where, when and why of Voldemort being in that graveyard. The really terrifying thought that Voldemort was struggling to put to the back of his mind was what else Potter could possibly know. He was desperately trying not to lose focus on what he needed to do right now, and not connect the Potter of tonight with the destroyed horcrux at the shack. How could a fourteen year old wizard be responsible for even one of these events, far less both.
Due to the time difference between Britain and Italy, they had a chance to quickly celebrate Ron and Millie becoming betrothed before turning on the wireless for the Triwizard Tournament broadcast. After the day she'd had, Joan was just about sleeping sitting up by this point. Hermione asking if she wanted to stay with her tonight saw Joan go around hugging and kissing her family before heading off to bed with the girl she drowsily called mum. Most of the Institute then settled down to listen to the broadcast from Hogwarts.
The initial introduction to the tournament by Dumbledore was cringeworthy. Emma's serious enquiry of whether we would hear from the heads of the other competing schools was greeted with sarcastic chuckling.
When the commentator then proceeded to take each and every one of Dumbledore's points apart, while the great wizard was eating his dinner, the chuckling this time was of the genuinely amused variety. Her assessment of the visiting schools seemed very well informed. The older students and former Hogwarts professors thought her potential champion choices from each of the four houses was right on the money too.
It got rather embarrassing when she then practically begged live on the radio for an invitation to the Institute. Harry in truth was relived when Dumbledore stood to get the event started. There were some murmurings when Viktor Krum was chosen, no one had any idea who this Fleur was and shouts when Harry's name came out. He shook both Fred and George's hands on hearing that no Hogwarts student had entered.
While Hermione was of course getting all of this, both of them were glad Joan was currently cuddling in bed - rather than listening to the broadcast. When Martin Miggs was drawn, the Weasley twins were now howling with laughter at whoever had pranked the goblet.
Like Hogwarts, all noise stopped when Hermione's name was drawn - all recognised this had now gotten serious. The other three names didn't seem as important as the commentator's remarks. Dumbledore and Hogwarts had very publicly crashed and burned tonight.
The Headmistress was starting straight at him. "We need to have a number of conversations, and soon."
"There needs to be a meeting with quiet a number of people, will we go to the Modern Studies classroom now? Sirius, Francesca would be welcome. Moony, Barchoke, Bill, I'd like you to be there too. Pomona, I think we need Minerva, Filius and Poppy there as well. That should give us a good base for kicking around anything that comes up in the meeting." All recognised this was owner Lord Potter speaking, not student Harry Potter.
Dan and Emma rightly assumed that their classroom wasn't randomly chosen and stood to accompany Harry. As everyone quickly gathered, the classroom door was locked and sealed. Harry then began the tale.
"We were given warning about this tournament back in the summer, and the very real potential for Dumbledore to force me to compete. At the start of October, we were then certain this was going to happen. Our friends at Gringotts researched the magical binding contract created if you are chosen by the goblet to compete, it was very robust. If you don't compete, you lose your magic…"
Pomona exploded at that, her tirade against Dumbledore was memorable. Calming down slightly, she got straight to the heart of the matter. "If I was ever stupid enough to bring something as ridiculously powerful and dangerous as this goblet into the Institute - and give our students access to it - I would like to think its owner would sack me on the spot."
Harry had an answer for that. "The owner would drag the Headmistress off to see Poppy, because someone surely must have cast spells or slipped you a potion. You don't want to know what I'll do when we find the culprit. Now, when we received intelligence that the first task had the champions facing dragons - nursing mothers no less - and they had ordered four of them, we simply had to act. The first thing we did was take an opportunity to get the Weasley twins to pass the word around their friends in Hogwarts and advise them not to enter, as we all heard that was a spectacular success. The second was to arrange what happened tonight. The thinking behind that is they would be left with two options - cancel the entire thing because it had now become an embarrassment to everyone, or force Voldemort out into the open. If he doesn't turn up for the first task, he - or she - loses their magic."
"You mean this tournament could still be cancelled?"
He hated disappointing Minerva but Harry had no choice. "Sorry, but that can't happen now. The chances of them cancelling the tournament were always pretty slim, Dumbledore wants control of me so much that he's oblivious to the rest of the world around him. Public humiliation won't even put a dent in his obsession. When Umbridge publicly announced three times she wouldn't compete, the goblet took her magic. The Tournament was officially underway at that point, there's no going back now."
It was Francesca who asked why Hermione's name was entered, and actually Sirius who answered her.
"She would never let him face this on his own, and those two are stronger together. You've seen first-hand how good they work as a pair, and it was apparently Umbridge who was behind the attack that day in the Ministry. That's why her name was in the goblet, though it was a toss-up between her and Pettigrew."
"Since Amelia now has Pettigrew in a cell, we made the right choice. Our original plan was for the Triwizard to be that again, with three groups of three. The champions, the enemy and then us. I intended to have a Martin Miggs comic in my back pocket, Hermione and I will handle anything they can throw at us. Remember, these tasks have spectators so they have to follow their own rules. I don't know what tonight has done to those plans though, as we're now effectively down to six champions."
It was Barchoke who took over at that point. "The broadcast tonight was devastating, for Dumbledore and Hogwarts. I expect Gringotts to be inundated by frantic witches and wizards. If I was a parent whose child was attending Hogwarts, I'd be at Gringotts first thing tomorrow and begging to be allowed to contact the Potter Institute directly. It's a certainty the Ministry will be there too, desperately trying to contact Harry and Hermione. I would also expect to be contacted by members of the Hogwarts school board, attempting to woo the Institute's Headmistress or her Deputy - probably both - to return to Hogwarts. Tonight, the Headmaster was made look a fool to the entire country. Their Defence Professor lost her magic while the Transfiguration and Charms Professors escaped from under the compulsion charms Dumbledore placed on them. Since this tournament has the chosen champions' magic at stake, the tasks must go ahead at the host school. I don't see how Hogwarts can remain open though, with Professors from three core subjects missing and a disgraced Headmaster."
Ensuring there could be no room for the slightest misunderstanding, Pomona clearly stated her position. "I signed a contract too and, while it might not cost me my magic, I have absolutely no intention of breaking it. Speaking with Harry that first time in the Hogwarts infirmary, where he all but offered me this job, I readily bought into his ideas. The first evening at his villa convinced me this school would actually get built. We face different challenges every single day, and I've never enjoyed meeting those challenges more in my life. I love my job, my apartment, my garden and this Institute - I'm going nowhere unless Harry sacks me."
Harry was quick to comment that would never happen before Minerva quipped she felt exactly the same as Pomona - apart from the garden bit - though she did love sitting in her balcony and watching the quidditch pick-up games.
Thinking out loud, Francesca wondered if the British Ministry would approach their Italian counterparts - trying to get access to Harry or the Institute that way.
Remus was quick to close that idea down. "The Institute has a great working relationship with many different branches of the Italian Ministry. Pomona or I deal with them practically on a daily bases. There is no relationship between the two Ministries, and never will be until Britain deals with its blood bias problem. The representatives that visited the Wizengamot the day Sirius was called before them were appalled at the blatant bigotry on display."
Dan had been deep in thought, so then let the group know exactly where those thoughts had taken him.
"We certainly don't want to deal with a Ministry who will try to order Harry and Hermione to Hogwarts, nor hordes of parents or people trying to poach our staff. I don't think it's fair leaving Gringotts to deal with them either - getting more irate the longer their demands are refused. Harry and Hermione will only be leaving the Institute to compete, returning after the tasks are finished. Neither Pomona nor Minerva are interested in changing schools, and we have no room for any other students. Now, how do we get that information out there, without having to meet Ministry Officials, school board members or scores of irate parents?"
They all quickly figured out what Dan was suggesting, but knew who would have to make that decision. Pomona smiled, knowing Harry really would leave it up to the Headmistress he appointed.
"Ok, this isn't Hogwarts, and we certainly have nothing to hide. I'd like to hear opinions first, before making my mind up."
Surprisingly, it was Emma who spoke first. "Dumbledore was a fool. He invited a radio reporter along, did a little speech and expected his word to be taken as law. Whoever that commentator was tonight, she's very good and had researched the tournament as well as the students. I suggest we invite her here from about Wednesday, let her see how the Institute works. I would also suggest to her pre-recording some of the interviews she'll want and then broadcasting live from the BBQ on Saturday evening. We'd also like her to work for this privilege by giving lectures to our classes on how the magical wireless can broadcast a live program from Italy."
As more people comment, it was hard to miss they were all in favour of going ahead with this. Pomona made it official, before asking what was the best way to contact these people.
"I'm going to be in London anyway, Black Orphanage business, so I could pop in and see if they are interested…" that got a few of them chuckling, Sirius really had a knack of understating things.
Hermione of course had been listening in, now sending a suggestion to Harry. "If this is to take place the way we want, there really isn't time to be portkeying back and forth to sort out all the tiny details. Those same details really need to be confirmed in writing before we say yes - and before they start advertising this exclusive event every couple of minutes on their radio station. I'm suggesting giving Sirius a couple of portkeys, allowing two of them to come here and negotiate the terms of this broadcast."
"Are we talking gold here?"
Harry's smile told everyone he was joking. "Trust a goblin to come up with that. No, I was loving Emma's idea of them giving what would basically be a guest lecturer. Our class have just finished our communication unit, it would be great to add magical wireless as well. This will also be a poke in the eye to a few critics about the 'muggleness' of the Institute - and who knows if there are others out there too able to guest lecture on subjects that also fit in with what we're trying to achieve here."
When Pomona agreed, Dobby popped in with two portkeys for Sirius. He also brought Dan and Emma up to date, knowing Harry was constantly in contact with his mate.
"Little Miss Joan sleeping, had hard day. All her family away fighting nasty dark person, Little Miss held Dobby's hand tightly until you come home. Little Miss not leave Miss Hermione tomorrow, no training."
With that, Dobby popped away, leaving Harry shaking his head. "I thought he was devoted to me, he spent a couple of weeks searching Hogwarts for Tom's signature, but I don't stand a chance when it comes to Joan."
Barchoke playfully got his revenge by joking right back. "Harry, I thought you would be used to that by now. Joan has that effect on everyone."
Looking around, Harry could see his goblin friend was right and just had to laugh.
Back in Hogwarts, there wasn't any laughter as Albus was berated by the other two Headmasters. Neither had known that their students would lose their magic if they didn't compete. The French champion was now the one sobbing, her rival from Beauxbatons was probably counting her blessings..
Ludo's complexion was chalk white. His continued survival at the Ministry was mainly due to Ludo's uncanny ability for not being the one left holding the parcel when the music stopped. He was certain there was no danger in him representing the Ministry here tonight - until the beater bat smacked the hippogriff shit at high velocity. Dolores was the official Ministry liaison for the Triwizard Tournament, but she was now a squib. Dumbledore had been leading the charge, as headmaster of the host school. He was now disgraced and an actual champion.
When Ludo looked around the room for someone to take the fall, there was simply no one to pass this particular parcel onto. He could easily see himself being lumbered as the Ministry person stuck with this tournament. That was very, very bad. Even Ludo could see it wasn't a case of if things went wrong, merely a matter of when, how often and how badly.
No one batted an eyelid when Dumbledore said the first task was on the twenty fourth of November, but he couldn't say anything about it. The fact that he knew, and was also a champion, was just another thing to add to the list of complaints the other two headmasters were compiling.
Karkaroff was particularly vicious about there not being any Hogwarts student at risk of losing their magic. "You invite us to your school vith false promises, put our students at grave risk vile yours sit back and laugh at us. Voo told your students not to put their names in? Vos it a member of staff? I noticed two of yours missing from the feast tonight - I thought attendance vos a must?"
Albus just wanted out of here, and cut the meeting as short as he possibly could. Finding four aurors waiting on him, as the Minister wanted a word - and wasn't about to come anywhere near Hogwarts - had Albus wondering if he would ever catch a break.
Albus thought Cornelius had just come into the Ministry for this meeting. He had no idea the Minister had been having a long and productive discussion with his Head of the D.M.L.E. while the radio had played the tournament broadcast in the background. Albus was led directly into the Minister's office, a clearly raging holder of that office was impatiently waiting on him. The door had just closed behind Albus when Cornelius opened up on the old wizard.
"I warned you to leave it alone, but you know best. Dolores has just been discharged from St Mungo's, kicked out would be nearer the truth. She's a squib now, and no longer welcome in St Mungo's, the Ministry or Hogwarts. Your obsession with Potter did that - how many more lives are you going to ruin pursuing this madness?"
A seemingly unconcerned Albus had a ready answer. "When Potter returns to Hogwarts, this will all be forgotten about. It was clever of him to sneak his betrothed's name into the goblet, I certainly wouldn't have allowed Granger back into the castle otherwise."
Fudge gawked at Dumbledore in total disbelief at what he was hearing. It was time for this old fool to learn some home truths. "Neither Potter nor Granger will be coming near Hogwarts, except on the day of the tasks. They'll portkey to Hogwarts just before those tasks and leave directly after, speaking to no one from the Ministry or Hogwarts."
"That's hardly in the spirit of the tournament…"
Cornelius lost it at this point, and was now screaming at the top of his voice. "Neither is forcing a fourteen year old wizard who certainly never entered his own name to compete in the tournament - or lose his magic. The Ministry is currently deep in its worst dilemma since the last war, and all you can do is spout the same old Potter shit you've been peddling since the summer."
Seeing Albus about to retort, Cornelius didn't want to hear it. "Sit, shut up and listen - just for once. The Bulgarian Minister of Magic has already been on the floo - appalled at the danger one of his country's most prominent citizens has been placed in. The Bulgarian Quidditch Association are threatening to sue our Ministry for five million gallons if anything happens to Krum that affects him playing. The French Ministry were even worse. Their champion just happens to be the eldest daughter of their Deputy Minister - and part Veela too. It's only a matter of time before the Veela conclave make their displeasure known as well. The Italian Ministry are incensed that two of their citizens, both underage, are being forced to take part in this tournament - or lose their magic. They're threatening to invoke sanctions on magical Britain, are absolutely taking this matter to the ICU, and holding you personally responsible for the entire incident. It happened in Hogwarts, you are the headmaster - how the fuck could you let this happen?"
Shaking his head, Cornelius revealed his final piece of shocking information of the night. "Just to put the fucking cherry on top of a disastrous day, Voldemort kidnapped Arthur Weasley and used him in a dark ritual to give the Dark Lord back a body."
Pleased to see this shook Dumbledore, he continued with the shocks. "Arthur's eldest was home, he had Molly contact Amelia while he portkeyed to Potter - who arranged a rescue mission and wounded Voldemort."
"How sure are you this information is correct…"
Cornelius shut Albus down at once. "This information is golden, Amelia took part in the rescue. She actually trusted these people more than her own aurors, and also has a badly injured Pettigrew in Ministry custody. Amelia also confirmed Percy Weasley and Penelope Clearwater were being portkeyed to the Institute, where Poppy Pomfrey would be checking them for compulsion charms. Only you know what Poppy will find."
Albus's demeanour told Cornelius all he needed to know, he had no anger left though. "A word of warning, the Hogwarts School Board are trying to contact Headmistress Sprout with an offer to take over at Hogwarts. Personally, I don't think there's a hope in hell of that happening. The Ministry has experts analysing every article and picture of Potter's Institute we can get our hands on. That analysis has to be cautioned by the fact we have no idea of the building methods used so therefore it's difficult to give an accurate estimate of cost. The numbers though are mightily impressive. Our lowest estimate is that Potter spent one and a half million building the Institute, with at least the same again to equip and furnish it. Pictures of Poppy Pomfrey standing in that wonderful infirmary are being drooled over in St Mungo's. The Institute also has roughly the same number of staff as Hogwarts, that they are of a higher quality isn't even up for debate. Only a fool would walk away from that, and Sprout is certainly no fool."
Albus didn't even attempt to argue those points.
"You had to use compulsion charms on a pair of eighteen year olds to fill two of the major teaching positions in Hogwarts. You're standing there three Professors short for tomorrow, and in deep shit with the ICW. Italy were already desperately trying to get you tried by the ICW over the Ginny Weasley incident - and now this disaster will add a lot more substance to their case. It's not just in Britain Potter's Institute is causing a stir, all over Europe people are taking notice of what he's doing - and you deliberately force its fourteen year old owner to take part in a deadly tournament. You can bet that France and Bulgaria will support Italy now - probably adding a few charges of their own to the case against you. I'm still willing to bet though that all you're worried about is how Potter escaped your clumsy attempt at controlling him - again. My Ministry can't protect you, Albus, and neither can I - I'm barely holding on to my own job. If Potter wanted Bones to be Minister, it would surely happen and I'd be powerless to stop it."
A totally demoralised Dumbledore flooed from the Ministry directly to the Headmaster's office at Hogwarts, wondering how long he would be able to hang onto it. With Voldemort once more having a body of his own, it was more important than ever that Harry worked with him. The chances of that though appeared a lot slimmer than holding onto his position as Headmaster - currently slim to none.
Instead of training, Dobby was serving five breakfasts in their quarters. Hermione tried to convince Dobby to join them, but he wouldn't budge - until Joan asked. If the situation hadn't been so serious, four of them wouldn't have been able to eat their delicious breakfast for sniggering at how quickly the adamant elf had capitulated.
Hermione kicked off the discussion. "Sweetie, Harry and I will have to go and visit Hogwarts to compete in some tasks. We won't be staying there, and come straight home as soon as we're finished."
There was no hesitation from Joan. "Can I go too?"
"These tasks might be dangerous. Harry and I will be fine but we wouldn't want you to be scared watching."
Again Joan swiftly replied. "I was scared yesterday, and I couldn't see what was happening. Are people allowed to watch? Emma and Dan would scare everyone away with their guns."
This had both Grangers smiling, and saw Dan trying to crack a joke. "There will be a few of us there, we could easily keep an eye on her. She can snuggle into Emma at any scary bits."
"It would probably be me snuggling into Joan." Emma's joke drew some smiles but Harry noticed the nose twitch, meaning Joan wanted to ask something but didn't know if she should.
"You should know by this time you can ask us anything, What's bothering you?"
Turning to Harry with her serious face on, Joan then asked for something she really wanted. "Can I get a new pair of shoes, with hard toes. Some of the people at Hogwarts might need their ankles kicked, and I want it to hurt them when I do."
"I think we could arrange through uncle Barchoke to get you some lovely boots made, with hard toes. Boots are better for winter in the Scottish Highlands." Harry could hear Hermione laughing in his head, while both Dan and Emma had their mouths covered. Dobby's expression clearly indicated that was the least Miss Joan deserved.
"One thing sweetie, I don't want you going around the Institute kicking people's ankles."
With genuine surprise, Joan answered the girl she thought of as her mum. "Why would I do that? You and Harry don't let any bad people come here."
Sitting up that bit straighter, Harry thought that was the best testimony the Institute had ever received.
Amelia didn't think she would have any trouble finding Ludo alone, no one wanted to be in his presence in case they were tarnished by association.
"Has Fudge sent for you yet?"
A shake of the head had Amelia continuing. "You know it's coming, and then all the shit will be dumped in your lap. I'm here to give you a way out…"
"You have some mug lined up to take my place?"
Amelia quickly dispelled Ludo of that notion. "Never going to happen, I'm here to tell you how to make a success out of this pile of shit. First, ensure none of the students from the three schools gets injured - anything that can be fixed in five minutes by a healer is acceptable. Two, forget the competition part and turn it into an entertaining event. Three, and perhaps the most important - don't listen to a thing Dumbledore has to say. He's a champion now, so can have no further input into the running of the tournament. I'll be checking you regularly for compulsion charms, the old man dishes them out like those lemon drops he's so fond of."
"How do I manage all that? Do you think Fudge would let me?"
Nodding to his desk drawer, Amelia got ready to give Ludo an amended version of Harry's plan that the group had discussed at their meeting back in the Institute. "You start by getting some parchment out and writing down what I'm about to say. Turning up at Fudge's office with a plan to rescue this disaster puts you streets ahead of anyone else in the ministry. If Fudge doesn't like it, say sorry you did your best but will understand if he wants to hand this to someone better suited to the task."
The more he wrote, the better Ludo began to feel. He had almost three feet of parchment written, and was actually thinking he could get a promotion out of this. Amelia Bones was a genius, and he'd owe her for her help, but the alternative didn't bare thinking about.
Severus knew the summons was coming. The minute he finished his breakfast, a house elf appeared with a note from the Headmaster to meet in his office. Kissing his wife's cheek before leaving, Severus thought he'd never been happier - and no way was he going to let Albus Dumbledore spoil it by unloading a mountain of work onto his shoulders.
It was a jovial Albus who welcomed Severus to his office. It was clearly a front because there was absolutely no reasons for Dumbledore to be happy about anything.
Sitting, Severus waited for the pitch he knew was coming.
"Severus, my boy. After last night's unfortunate events, I now have vacancies for a Deputy and a Defence Professor - the positions I originally intended for you to have. Your first duties…"
"Excuse me, Headmaster, I'm afraid I can't accept your offer."
"Why ever not, my boy?"
"Personal circumstances see me unable to undertake any more duties or tasks at the moment."
Dumbledore was never going to accept that as an excuse, with all signs of joviality now vanishing quicker than a sandwich in your hand on a beach full of seagulls. "Am I allowed to enquire what these personal circumstances are, or is this covered by a vow to your wife as well?"
"No vow, we just don't want it to become public knowledge at the moment. Narcissa is pregnant with our first child. I'm sure you'll understand me wanting to spend as much time with my wife as possible, ensuring she doesn't overtax herself."
Going for the sympathy vote, Dumbledore changed tact. "Severus, I really need you at my side. Without you as Deputy, I don't know if Hogwarts will make it through these troubling times."
Severus easily ignored this move, he simply didn't have a sympathetic bone in his body for Albus to manipulate. "I'm sorry to hear that, but the writing is already on the wall anyway. As Potter's school takes more and more students from the castle, it will not be financially viable to run Hogwarts in the near future. Narcissa and I will of course honour our contracts until the summer. If things change before that, please let us know."
Albus was not used to people saying no to him so let a little anger show. "The Minister told me that Voldemort regained a body last night, have you factored that into your plans?"
"Yes, Igor and I discussed it yesterday - before the fiasco with the goblet. Our marks certainly darkened, but if he's back then nowhere near as powerful as he was before. Igor offered Narcissa and I positions at Drumstrang for next year. My wife expecting a child means we're now going to take him up on that offer."
Albus felt as if his world was crumbling right under his feet. "So you're going to abandon Britain too?"
"There is nothing left for us in this country. A father's duty is to look after his family, this is no longer a place to raise a child." Seeing Dumbledore wasn't going to say anymore, Severus stood and made his way to the door. Stopping before leaving, he had something that needed said.
"Dolores was found hanged last night. Whether by her own hand or someone helping her along is debatable - your obsession with Potter did that. Should a spell or potion come anywhere near my wife, you'd better kill me at the same time. Otherwise, I'll pull this castle down around your ears and bury you alive in the rubble."
As Severus walked out the door, he took all of Albus's hope with him. His only plan was to make Severus his Deputy, and then have him sort most of Hogwarts problems out. There really wasn't anyone else currently in Hogwarts capable of doing what was needed, there was no favours left for him to call in, Albus was all out of options and ideas.
Cornelius wasn't sure what amazed him more, that Ludo even had a plan or that said plan appeared well thought out. "You're basically saying the Triwizard Tournament is dead?"
"It was dead the moment more than three names came out the goblet. Since no students from Hogwarts entered, we've got nothing to lose by helping ensure the students of the foreign schools survive. By making Krum and Delacour a team, along with Potter and Granger another, then giving them full disclosure of what the task is they should be able to manage the dragons Umbridge ordered for the first task. If the audience get a spectacle out of it, they won't care about the tournament part."
"Do you expect Dumbledore and Voldemort to work as a team?"
"For some reason Umbridge ordered four dragons, so I was reckoning on them having one each. I'm purely focusing on the students here. Dumbledore will do what he wants, and Amelia promised to deal with Voldemort if he turns up. The second task was supposed to be hostages at the bottom of the Black Lake, hardly a spectator extravaganza. With Krum and Potter involved, I think getting them on brooms would be a much better option. The final task can stand as is, but we need to talk about judges."
"Why? With Dumbledore a champion and Dolores not there, I thought you would represent the Ministry as a judge."
"I would much rather commentate on the tasks and thought, perhaps Arthur Weasley could represent the Ministry as a judge. There are also two students from the Potter Institute being forced to compete. Asking that school if they would like to put forward a judge balances things up."
Cornelius got what Ludo wasn't saying, that Arthur was very fond of Lord Potter - and probably now owed him a life debt. Having two judges for each team should keep the contest quite even. "What about Dumbledore? This tournament would become a total sham if he were to actually win this."
"Arthur hates Dumbledore with a passion, so will anyone the Institute sends. You weren't at that meeting last night but Igor and Olympe were ready to skin Albus alive for risking their students' lives. He'll be lucky to get awarded a point from any of them."
Nodding, Cornelius was trying to foresee any problems that could probably bite them on the arse later. "What do we do about the trophy and prize money?"
"If Krum and Delacour win, it shows the wonderful spirit of cooperation the tournament was supposed to inspire. It would be up to the schools how they shared the trophy - perhaps have a duplicate made? If Lord Potter and his betrothed win, the British wizarding public would eat that right up. As to the prize money, I thought doubling it so the winning champions still receive a thousand galleons might help us sell this idea - and see some tempers cool."
If a thousand galleons could get some of these people off his back, Cornelius would happily pay it himself. "So, where do we go from here?"
"If you ok this, I would ask Amelia to approach the Institute with this plan. Then I'll head to Hogwarts, hopefully arranging a meeting with Igor, Olympe and their champions. My intention would be to push as much of the blame onto Dumbledore as possible, leaving the impression that the Ministry was being duped by his games too."
After hearing that, Cornelius was more than happy to give the plan full Ministerial approval - it certainly couldn't make things any worse.
Lyndi Lang thought her Hogwarts broadcast was huge, probably because it was, but it only took her seconds to realise this could be colossal. She and the big boss, Andy Powell, were standing in the portkey receiving area of The Potter Institute while a house elf popped away to fetch the Headmistress. She arrived, led them out to a fabulous outdoor area incorporating a stunning swimming pool with overlooking balconies, before walking through a large garden and into her office - an office that had Andy turning green with envy.
"When Lord Potter offered me this job, a stipulation was that my office wasn't behind any stone guardian and would be accessible to all. Every student knows they can walk through my garden and knock at my door. To be honest, I'm usually working in my garden and we chat there. I'm really just letting you know we do things a little differently here."
That was ably demonstrated by a device on her desk ringing. Pomona answered the phone. "Hello, oh hello Amelia - what can I do for you? … Harry will just be finishing lunch, then he has the healing elective with Poppy … If it's urgent I'm sure she wouldn't mind ten minutes or so … I'll get him to phone you in the next five minutes."
Putting the phone down, she called for Dobby.
"Dobby, Amelia phoned for Harry, she really needs to speak to him regarding the tournament. Ask Hermione to let Poppy know he has my permission to make an urgent phone call."
"Were you just talking to Amelia Bones?" Lyndi was wondering if they were being played here, to push the price of the broadcast up.
"Yes, all our accommodation, staff and student, have telephones installed. Amelia had one fitted in her home, she and Susan chat most nights Amelia is available - and not stuck at the Ministry. It's second nature to students with a Muggle background, but everyone else is catching up fast. We have no floo here, the only way in or out is by portkey. You could of course walk out, but once past the wards you wouldn't be able to see the Institute, far less return. The only owl here is the familiar of Lord Potter, and Hedwig doesn't deliver Mail anymore. We have postboxes that are emptied every night, and delivered by an elf to Gringotts. Any mail for us is collected and delivered by elf every morning."
Andy had heard enough, their listeners would love having all this described to them. "Headmistress Sprout, name your price."
With timing par excellence, Dan and Emma arrived. After the introductions, they explained the 'price' the Institute wanted. Again, Lyndi was looking for the catch. "That's it?"
"Oh, we had a few ideas for the broadcast." Emma indicated to Pomona who turned the wall mounted tv on. It was an Italian news channel, which she changed to one broadcasting in English.
As the two radio people stared at the screen in disbelief, Emma easily made her points. "All students at the Institute are learning the Italian language, the staff are doing their bit too. What I wanted you to notice though is that the presenter in the studio introduces some pre-recorded items, mixed in with live segments and interviews. I was thinking something like that could work for your broadcast from the Institute. What do you think, Lyndi?"
"I think my head is going to burst open, and we haven't even started yet."
This had Pomona laughing. "Welcome to our world. At the start of June, this was all just scrubland. That plaque on the wall is the school badge, with INSπRE our motto. Both were designed by students, and we try every day to live up to our motto by inspiring our charges. I guarantee whoever is giving this lecture will be asked questions they've never been asked before - in some cases never even thought about. Whoever you send, they better bring their A game."
"We have fourth year Friday afternoon, then they finish with Italian. If we can get Greta on board, we could combine the class. They could do some interviews in Italian." Dan loved his wife's idea, but added to it.
"We could record some of those interviews, edit them into a mock broadcast and play it Friday night at dinner. Give the visiting parents a nice surprise too."
Looking at the totally gobsmacked expressions on Lyndi and Andy's faces had Pomona chuckling again. "I think we've pretty much agreed this is going to happen, and we've got classes in ten minutes. I'll take you to Professor Li Fonti, our History of Magic teacher, who'll give you a tour of the Institute. We can meet back here after that, hash out any remaining details and then I hope you'll stay for dinner. We can announce to the students this is happening, and you can then start broadcasting that news as well."
Everyone left the Headmistress's office with a smile on their face, all having gotten what they wanted.
Ludo couldn't believe how well this was going. Just mentioning dragons had both schools instantly agreeing to the team option. Saying that the second task hadn't been finalised yet, but would include flying instead of swimming under the Black Lake was also an instant hit with both champions present. A joint win, with each champion still getting a thousand galleons, sealed the deal. Ludo had played it like he planned, Dumbledore had duped their ministry too, and they were now doing their utmost to make the best of a horrible situation.
"Vot of these champions from the other school? Have they agreed? I understand they are underage?"
"That's being handled by someone else, but they don't really have a choice."
"Vot can you tell us about them?"
"Lord Potter was fourteen at summer, and I've never actually met him. Seen him play quidditch a couple of times, real potential there. His betrothed, Hermione Granger, turned fifteen a couple of months ago. All I know is that she's incredibly smart." Ludo watched as Krum and Delacour were confident these two would pose no challenge. He didn't mention that both had apparently faced down the Dark Lord last night, or that Granger had killed three wizards in the Wizengamot chamber. These champions underestimated those two at their peril.
Ludo had hoped to run a book on the tournament, that wouldn't happened now. No witch or wizard in Britain would ever bet against Potter, and Ludo certainly wouldn't be stupid enough to accept bets on that team winning the tournament. He had one last thing that could be a deal-breaker here though, but really hoped not. They were all in this mess together after all.
"Hogwarts has a very serious problem, losing three Professors last night…"
"Three, 'ow can zat be? Ze Professor who refused, yes. 'Oo are ze uzzer two?"
Igor was a step ahead of his counterpart. "Vell that explains the two missing young Professors at dinner."
Ludo pushed on, again ladling as much blame onto Albus as he could - though this time it was all true. "Dumbledore had them under compulsion charms to work at Hogwarts. Perhaps he was too busy writing that radio speech of his, he forgot to renew them. They won't return, and Hogwarts can't operate without Professors for three core subjects."
Both Headmaster and Headmistress understood the problem at once. If Hogwarts closed, their champions would lose their magic.
"Vot of this Institute, vill they help as vell?" Igor knew he had to assist with Hogwarts problem, he just wanted to make a point first.
Ludo had been prepared by Amelia to answer this as well. "It's not really feasible to travel between here and Italy every day. The Institute is also a brand new school, facing different problems of their own every day." Again, this was something both Igor and Olympe could sympathise with, so both reluctantly agreed to assist with keeping Hogwarts open until the tournament ended.
Ludo was ecstatic - he'd pulled it off. Yes this was only the initial phase but he honestly didn't think there would be an initial anything - just everyone sitting around waiting on stupid Ludo Bagman finally getting booted out the Ministry in disgrace. He wouldn't be the scapegoat for the Triwizard Tournament, Ludo would show them all.
Instead of a patsy to take the blame for the tournament, Ludo was heading back to the Ministry to inform Fudge not only did both schools accept his proposals - they were going to provide substitute Professors to cover Defence and Charms at Hogwarts. Let Albus himself cover Transfiguration, he was supposed to be good at it.
Ludo would be leaving Fudge to pass this news on to Dumbledore. Everything Amelia had advised him on had so far been golden, he certainly wasn't going to chance breaking his current winning streak by ignoring her warning about going anywhere near Dumbledore. Next time Ludo would speak to the old wizard would be the day he commented on Dumbledore facing a dragon. That gave him three weeks to work on an angle where he could take bets on the outcome of that matchup - Dumbledore tries to steal egg from nesting Dragon actually had rather a nice ring to it.