September flew by in a blur of classes and training. Professor Jackson, Harry was very quick to learn, was something of a sadist. At least, Harry certainly seemed to think so. He seemed to reveal in making Harry struggle through one ridiculous exercise after another. Though Harry had to admit that he was starting to see real developments. A month into his training, and he was already to run longer and further without doubling over in pain. He was able to do twice as many push-ups, sit-ups, and pull-ups, as he had when Professor Jackson had tested him, which wasn't saying much, but it was still a noticeable improvement. After nearly a month of exercising, Professor Jackson had finally decided that Harry had developed enough that he could handle whatever it was Professor Jackson had planned for his magical training. Just in time too, they were rapidly approaching the end of October, and with it the tournament.
Harry was honestly rather thankful that between his classes and his lessons with Professor Jackson he was too busy to dwell on what he'd agreed to do. He didn't want to spend too long thinking about the fact that he'd willingly allowed himself to bee put into a potentially very dangerous tournament against his will, that is, if Professor Dumbledore's theory was right, but Harry didn't think he was wrong. But with how much work his professors were piling on him and his entire year, he was being kept blissfully busy.
Harry's entire class would be taking their O.W.L., or Ordinary Wizarding Levels, the following year, and apparently all of the professors had simultaneously decided that they were woefully behind in all of their subjects. Even Defense Against the Dark Arts, traditionally Harry's best subject, was becoming too much to bear, though for different reasons altogether. Professor Moody had not made his threats at the start of the term idly. For nearly a month, the crazed ex-auror had taken each lesson to put the students under the effects of the Imperius curse, to test the students ability to throw off the curse.
Surprisingly, Harry had proven quickly that he was able to throw off the effects of the curse, but that didn't mean that Harry was given a break. As a matter of fact, Harry spent the majority of his Defense lessons having to throw off the effects of the curse, as he was made into the class guinea pig. At the very least, Harry was now able to throw off the effects of the curse almost instantaneously.
"All right, Harry." Professor Jackson called out, "That's enough, you can stop," Harry stopped his as he finished his thirteenth lap around the track, and took a second to catch his breath as Professor Jackson walked over.
"The delegations from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang arrive tomorrow night." Professor Jackson said without preamble, "There'll be an introductory feast and Professor Dumbledore will announce the start of the tournament, immediately afterwards. When the feast is over Sirius will meet you in the Entrance Hall, and very publicly take you out of the school. Have you been passing the word around?"
"Yes sir," Harry said, as he swiped a water bottle from the ground and take a hearty pull, for the last few weeks at Professor Jackson's suggestion, he'd been subtly telling people that he wouldn't be there for the night the Champions were chosen, and that he'd instead be visiting his parents graves. It was all part of the plan to hopefully draw in a real investigation into how and why Harry was drawn into the tournament, without dragging his name through the mud. That was, if it was really the tournament that Voldemort was using to get after him.
"Good man," Professor Jackson nodded happily, "I'll be by to pick up you and Sirius later in evening and we'll make the trip to Godric's Hallow together. Sound good?"
Harry nodded, an odd knot forming in the pit of his stomach. It wasn't at the prospect of the tournament, though that had been no small part of the anxiousness he'd been feeling the past several weeks. No, he was nervous about seeing his parent's graves. He couldn't quite explain why he felt so nervous or anxious, only that he was.
"Yes sir," Harry said again,
"If, and I do mean if," Professor Jackson stressed, "You get put into the tournament, we'll get started early on your magical training, sound good?"
"Great, sir," Harry said, unable to keep the wide smile off his face. Regardless of the circumstances behind it, he was exceptionally excited to start his training. Learning combative magic from someone as powerful as Professor Jackson had been leaving Harry giddy ever since the topic had come up.
"All right, get out of here," Professor Jackson said, jerking his head towards the exit to the makeshift gymnasium, "I'll see you in class tomorrow,"
"Night, Professor," Harry called, and left the room.
The castle was buzzing with an excitable energy the following day. It didn't matter where you went, it seemed as though the only thing anybody could talk about were the delegations, due to arrive that evening. Even the Professors were having a difficult time concentrating. Professor Flitwick, so distracted by a discussion he'd been having with Hermione about a witch he'd dueled from Beauxbatons, that he didn't even see when the cushion Neville had been trying to summon, accidentally went careening into him, knocking him clear from his perch of books.
Ancient Runes hadn't been any better, they were supposed to have been copying down a series of complex looking sigils that were meant to make their saucer cup float, but Harry and Susan were too busy talking about the new arrivals.
"Oh I'm just so excited," Susan said, positively vibrating in excitement, "Auntie and I vacationed with a Witch from Beauxbatons and her family in France when I was eight. They have just the prettiest uniforms," She babbled, "They're powder blue and they have just the cutest hats!" She barely suppressed a sigh of jealousy,
"I'm sure," Harry said, not paying that much attention as finished transcribing something onto his saucer,
"Are you even listening to me?" Susan said exasperatedly,
"Something about baby blue hats, right?" Harry asked, and Susan just smacked him on the shoulder,
"Prat!" She giggled, "Why aren't you more excited about this? It's a once in a lifetime opportunity!"
"I am excited!" Harry said back, "I just won't be here for the Champion selection."
Susan looked at him in incredulity, "You won't-what do you mean you won't be here?"
"Saturday's Halloween." Harry said, "I'm going to go visit my parents,"
Susan's face contorted into a grimace, as she flinched away slightly,
"Sorry, Harry," She said sadly, looking incredibly uncomfortable, "I didn't mean-just forgot-"
"It's fine, Susan," Harry said honestly, "Relax, you didn't upset me. But, I've never been to see their graves before, and I don't exactly have a good track record of Halloweens, so my Godfather and Professor Jackson are taking me to Godric's Hollow."
"Professor Jackson?" Susan asked,
"I asked him, and Professor Dumbledore agreed." Harry explained,
"That's very sweet, Harry," Susan smiled, as the bell signaling the end of class rang, and they gathered their supplies and made to leave the classroom.
"I hope you have a good trip, and-and that maybe you can find some closure," Susan said, her cheeks flushing slightly.
"Thanks Susan," Harry said, meaning it, "I'll see you later,"
Susan bid him farewell, and Harry joined Hermione as they made their way to the Great Hall for lunch.
If the atmosphere around the castle had been excited that morning, as evening drew nearer, the tension around the castle was nearly palpable. Professor McGonagall in particular, seemed to be in a particularly foul mood. As the students paraded out of the castle to greet their visitors, the Deputy Headmistress marched up and down the row of students, magically straightening ties, or ripping out hair ribbons, all the while cursing slightly under her breath.
"They gotta be here soon," Ron observed, checking his watch, "How d'you reckon they'll be arriving? The train?"
"I really doubt it," Hermione said dismissively,
"Could be flying," Harry observed, staring up at the clear evening air. "Skies are certainly good for it."
"Could be," Hermione mused, "But honestly, a portkey would be much more sensible,"
"Since when are wizards sensible," Harry snorted, and Hermione giggled.
Harry's prediction, however, had been far closer than he'd realized. A few minutes later Professor Dumbledore called out,
"Aha! Well, unless I am very much mistaken, I believe that Beauxbatons has arrived," From the back of the throngs of students, he pointed to somewhere in the sky over the leg, turning his head, Harry squinted into the darkening skies. Sure enough, must passing over the far side of the lake, was a large, dark shape. It looked rather similar to a large, flying house, which wasn't too far off from the truth. As the large, shadowy shape got closer to the castle, the lights from within shone on the dark shape and revealed it to be an enormous carriage, one that was pulled by the largest horses Harry had ever seen before. There were a dozen in total, stark white palominos, with broad and feathery wings, and nearly the size of the carriage itself.
"Abraxans? Really?" Professor Jacksons deep voice snorted near Harry, and Harry started. He hadn't even heard the man approach, and Professor Jackson watched as horses landed, shortly followed by the carriage, with his arms crossed and a sour look on his face.
"Abraxans, professor?" Hermione asked,
"A breed of Pegasi," Professor Jackson explained, as a boy in powder blue dress robes bounded down from the side of the carriage and fumbled with something on the side of the carriage door.
"They're pretty enough, but they're also some of the vainest creatures on the planet." Professor Jackson shook his head, "Bunch of prima donnas," He muttered, rubbing at the stubble on his chin.
Hermione didn't get the chance to ask more, as the doors to the carriage were thrown open, and the single largest woman that Harry had ever seen before stepped out onto the castle grounds. She had to be at least two meters tall, if not more. Professor Dumbledore, who had pushed his way to the front of the congregation of students, began clapping, before the rest of the school followed suit and gave the woman a rather uncomfortable round of applause.
The large woman, whose face had been tight as she examined the castle and the assembled students, relaxed as her eyes found Professor Dumbledore, who had approached and grasped one her large hands, barely having to lift his arms to raise the woman's knuckles to his lips in a chaste kiss.
"My dead Madam Maxine," Dumbledore greeted kindly, "Welcome to Hogwarts,"
"Dumbledore," Madam Maxine's deep baritone rumbled in very broken English, "I hope that I am finding you well?"
"I am in excellent form, thank you," Dumbledore said, with a cordial dip of his head,
"My pupils-" But she never got say anything more. One of the Abraxans had turned its head and looked right in Harry's direction. It let out an enormous keening noise, it's hoofs raising high into the air. The others, startled by the sudden noise, started doing much the same, as they went out of control, stamping their feet and shaking against the carriage, which began shaking so badly that Harry was worried it might fall apart. Professor Jackson swore violently, as he darted forward. Bringing his fingers to his lips, he let loose a loud, high-pitched whistle.
"Hey!" He thundered at the rampaging Abraxans, as he sprinted past a thunderstruck Madam Maxine and a thoroughly amused Professor Dumbledore.
"What is he doing?" Madam Maxine demanded, making to stop the professor as he stromed towards the horses,
"My dead History of Magic professor," Professor Dumbledore said, chuckling slightly, "Has a, ah, certain proclivity for the taming of horses. Trust me, Madam, he knows what he's doing."
"Hey!" Professor Jackson shouted again, grabbing the snout of the nearest horse, and forcing it to look at him, "Look at me!" He said again, shaking the reins, "You calm down, you hear me? You're acting like children!" The horse whinnied, and oddly enough, Professor Jackson seemed to…understand it?
"I don't care if I am the first one you've met, stop acting like a bunch of mares!" Professor Jackson scolded, and another Abraxan let out a pitiful neigh, "Oh don't give me that you spoiled brat," Professor Jackson said, turning his attention the one that spoke, "You're guests here, so shape up and start acting like it, or the only thing you'll be drinking is tap water!"
One of the horses let out another keening snort, and stamped its hooves into the dirt. Professor Jackson rolled his eyes at the petulant behavior, and said something else in another language that Harry didn't understand. Turning, Harry caught Ron's eye, and they shared a look of sheer incredulity. Around them, most of the other students, including those from Beauxbatons were sharing similar expressions. His piece said, Professor Jackson angrily strode away from the thoroughly chastised Abraxans, whose heads were bent down in shame and embarrassment.
"Sorry about that," Professor Jackson said to Madam Maxine as he walked back to the crowd, "They should behave now, at least until the Magical Creatures Professor gets here."
Maxine just nodded her head, looking curiously at the man as he walked back to the congregation of students.
"Ahem, well Madam," Professor Dumbledore said, drawing the large woman's attention back to him, "Why don't you and your charges step into the castle and warm up a bit, Karkaroff has yet to arrive, but I'm sure we'll all be joining you shortly."
"Of course," Maxine said, still staring at Professor Jackson, "The climate here…it is not what we are used to," That seemed to be an understatement, Harry thought to himself as he looked at the shivering collection of students. None of them had dressed appropriately for the colder climate of Northern Scotland, and their silk robes couldn't have protected them much from the chilly winds.
Madam Maxine said something in French to her students, and she led them inside the castle. Luckily, they didn't have to wait for too long for the Durmstrang delegation to arrive, someone shouted, and all heads turned towards the direction of the lake. A strange noise was emanating from the middle of the lake, something akin to the sound of a vacuum cleaner, then, Harry could see something that looked a lot like a mast poke through the tops of the waves. Sure enough, it had been a sail, and an enormous ship rose from the depths of the lake, as though it had been there all along. The students all watched in mounting anticipation as the ship crept closer to the shore, before a large anchor was thrown over the side, followed shortly thereafter by a gangplank.
Through the light coming through the portholes of the ship, Harry could see a number of people disembarking, they all seemed to be largely and thickly built, but as the light from the Entrance Hall hit them, Harry realized that the majority of their bulk was coming from the large, fur-skinned cloaks that they were wearing. The man leading the way was dressed immaculately in resplendent silver robes.
"Dumbledore!" The man greeted when he was close, and his voice held a fruity air about it, that was thick with an accent Harry couldn't place. "How are you my dear friend?" He asked, gripping Dumbledore's hand in a tight grip.
"Wonderful, Professor Karkaroff, thank you." Professor Dumbledore replied in kind.
"Ah Hogwarts," Karkaroff said, gazing up into the lights streaming through the windows of the castle, it has been too long since I last visited, so good to back, so good." He turned around, "Viktor, come along now, into the warmth, I'm sure you don't mind Dumbledore, my student Viktor has a bit of a head cold." Beckoning forward, one of students marched forward, and Harry didn't need Ron punching him on the arm to recognize Viktor Krum.
They followed the Durmstrang students into the Great Hall, all thoughts of the Tournament seemingly gone from everyone's mind as they focused solely on the famous seeker for Bulgaria's national team. The students from Beauxbatons had already seated themselves at the Ravenclaw table, while the Durmstrang students splintered off and sat down at the Slytherin table, much to Ron's consternation. Aside from a minor interaction with a girl from Beauxbatons that Ron swore up and down had to be a veela, dinner passed without further incident. As Harry was finishing his treacle tart, Hermione nudged him in the ribs.
"Ow," He hissed, "What?" Hermione pointed up at the staff table, the two empty seats by Professor Dumbledore's side had been filled, as Ludo Bagman and Barty Crouch entered the Hall and sat down.
"What are they doing here?" Harry asked in surprise,
"Well they organized the Tournament, didn't they?" Hermione said, "It makes sense that they'd want to be here for when it starts."
A few moments later, just as Harry was finishing the last of his treacle tart, the golden plates disappeared, and Professor Dumbledore stood up, and the Hall fell silent, as a palpable tension descended upon them all.
"Well now," Professor Dumbledore announced, smiling down at all of the eager faces. "With all of us watered and well-fed," One of the girls from Beauxbatons snorted derisively at that, "I would like to say a few words, before we bring in the cup. Just a few minor clarifications, before we truly get started, allow me to introduce Mr. Bartemius Crouch, head of the Department for International Magical Cooperation," Professor Dumbledore gestured to the man, whom Harry noticed was looking rather frail and sickly. There was a scattering of polite applause from around the Hall, as Crouch raised a polite hand in the air,
"And," Continued Professor Dumbledore, gesturing to the man on Crouch's side, "Mr. Ludo Bagman, head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports." There was a considerably louder round of applause for Bagman than there had been for Crouch, and Harry thought it was likely because Bagman was simply a more approachable looking man.
"These gentlemen have been working tirelessly over the last few months," Professor Dumbledore explained, "To bring this Tournament to life, and they will be joining Professor Karkaroff, Madam Maxine, and myself on the panel of judges, that will be overseeing the competition. Now," Professor Dumbledore said, gazing at the expectant faces of the students, "I believe it is time, Mr. Filch," He called out, "Please, bring in the casket,"
The doors to the Hall opened, and every head whipped around to see as Mr. Filch limped into the hall, an enormous burden clutched in his hands. It looked like an incredibly old, and very ornate looking chest of some sort, with an odd assortment of jewels arounds its edges, and strange sigils and markings that Harry didn't recognize.
"Thank you, Mr Filch," Professor Dumbledore said to the caretaker, and then turned his attention back to the Hall, "Mr. Crouch and Mr. Bagman have been working hard at setting up the challenges and approving the instructions for the Champions during the Tournament. Each Champion, will have to overcome three tasks, over the course of the year, and they will be tested in many different ways. From their courage, to their cunning, intuition and their abilities to solve difficult problems while in the face of imminent danger. These Champions will then be scored by the panel of judges, on how well they performed. The person with the most points at the end of the third task, will win the Tri-Wizard Tournament," Professor Dumbledore had to pause for a moment, as excited murmurings broke out in the Hall. After a few moments, the talking died down, and the Headmaster continued.
"The Champions for the Tournament, will be selected by an impartial juror, one who shall take all of their qualities into account, and make the best decision. The juror…" Professor Dumbledore pulled out his wand and tapped it against the lid of the casket three times. The lid opened and Professor Dumbledore reached a hand inside, and withdrew a large, wooden cup.
"Is the Goblet of Fire."
The students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang were quick to exit the Hall and make their way to their respective accommodations for the evening, as soon as Professor Dumbledore had dismissed them. Harry, who was right behind the delegation from Durmstrang, managed to catch sight of the clean-looking black hair, and canine-like smile of his Godfather, waiting patiently in the Entrance Hall. Saying a quick goodbye to Ron and Hermione, Harry bustled over, and gave his Godfather a tight hug.
"Good to see you too kid," Sirius chuckled as he pat Harry on the back, "You ready to go?"
"Yeah," Harry said, shouldering his bag. Professor Dumbledore had taken the liberty of having the school's House-Elves prepare Harry's things for an overnight trip, and had it stashed under the table in the Great Hall for Harry during dinner. Sirius gave him a shaky grin, which could have been a grimace, and wrapped an arm around Harry's shoulders as he led Harry from the Entrance Hall, and into the cool October air.
"Been ages since I was back here last," Sirius said, looking around casually,
"You spent a year here last year," Harry said cheekily, elbowing the man in the stomach. Sirius let out a small yelp, drawing the attention of a couple of students from Durmstrang, who muttered something that Harry couldn't understand before ignoring them.
"Well yeah," Sirius said, "But it's not like I really got the chance to enjoy myself now did I? Spent half the year in that bleeding shack, or wandering around the village. Have to say, not much has changed though," He turned around, so that he was walking backwards down the path as he gazed up at the castle.
"Nearly forty years on this earth, and it still takes my breath away every time I get a chance to look at it." He said, a slightly glazed look washing over his features as the lights from the castle windows painted his face in a faint yellow glow.
"Yeah," Harry agreed, looking over his shoulder at the castle, and taking a brief moment to bask in the splendor of the architectural marvel, "It's…indescribable."
Sirius turned and his heel so that he was once more walking the correct way down the path, "Still," He said as he threw an arm over Harry's shoulder, "Not like where we're going is a hovel, is it?"
"No," Harry said, unable to keep the broad smile off his face. "It's home." Sirius' face lit up in a smile, as they strode past the Beauxbatons carriage. Madam Maxine, who had been just about to climb in, paused on the step and watched them curiously for a moment as they passed, before ultimately deciding she didn't care, and climbing into the carriage.
"So…" Sirius said casually as he cast a quick glance over his shoulder, and Harry had a feeling he knew what the man wanted to talk about. "You're serious about this whole…live bait thing, then? You've thought about it? I mean really thought about it? I know we've talked about this but I just wanted to make sure-"
"Yes, Sirius, I've thought about, and I'm not backing out of it," Harry said sternly, "I…I know that it's dangerous, but if Dumbledore really thinks that Voldemort is back…and if what I've been seeing these…visions…if they're real, then he's coming for me regardless. Even if we stopped him this way, that doesn't necessarily mean that he won't think of another way to get to me."
Sirius just nodded, and looked ahead, and they fell into a silence for a few minutes as they drew closer to the gates to the school.
"Don't know how they'd react to this," Harry heard Sirius mutter,
"Pardon?" Harry asked, and Sirius flinched. It was a habit from Azkaban that he hadn't quite been able to lose, he sometimes forgot that he was speaking when he was thinking something,
"It's nothing," Sirius said dismissively,
"Didn't sound like nothing," Harry pressed, "Sounded an awful lot like you were talking about my parents,"
Sirius' face contorted for a moment, and he cursed under his breath before sighing.
"I was just thinking…I don't know how they, your parents, would react to this-to you…offering yourself up as bait." Sirius said, "Don't know if they'd be proud, or kick my arse for letting you do it."
"Well I'll never get the chance to know, now will I?" Harry snapped, and Sirius recoiled as though he'd been slapped,
"Harry," He croaked, as he came to a stop a few meters from the border to the school, and Harry stopped and turned to face him,
"I don't blame them, if that's what you're thinking," Harry said, "It's just…I'll never get the chance, and it's not exactly worth dwelling on now is it? I know we're visiting their graves tomorrow, so that might be the wrong thing to say, but…I just can't do it Sirius. I can't think of what could have been, about the life I should have had, the one you should have had. Because it doesn't matter. Because it won't happen and it won't exist, I need to focus on the here and now, and what's happening here and now. And what's happening here and now, is that man who killed my parents and tried to kill me, is trying again. I have a way to maybe strike back or get to him before he gets to me, and I'm going to take it. It doesn't matter what my mum and dad would have wanted for me, because I was robbed of ever knowing them, so I'm not going to sit here and play pretend. I'm going to do what I have to fight back, because there aren't any alternatives, and if I don't fight for myself, then who will?"
"I will!" Sirius said, "Jackson will! The Weasley's will! Harry…" Sirius placed his hands on Harry's shoulders, "I'm just saying, you can't take on the world alone."
"I know, Sirius," Harry said softly, "And I don't think I need to. But he won't stop coming for me. Three times now, I've had to fend him off, three times Sirius. And every time, it's been someone else that's protected me. My mom, her love and magic, Professor Jackson's friends…One of these days, I won't have someone in my corner. I won't have someone there to save me, and if I can do something to fight back then I will."
Sirius stared at Harry for a moment, and let out a deep sigh,
"You might look like your father, but dammit if you aren't Lily Evans boy through and through. Just as damn stubborn as she was." He grumbled, and Harry couldn't quite stop the pleased smile that spread across his face,
"C'mon," Sirius said, "Let's go home."
It was a strange morning for Harry. It was strange enough waking up in October somewhere that wasn't Hogwarts, but there was a strange tension around the house all morning. Whether it was because of the conversation between Harry and Sirius the night before, or whether it was the sober tone of the day itself, it was difficult for Harry to say. Regardless of the reason, Harry and Sirius didn't say much to each other over the day, they simply went about their day as quietly as possible.
It was nearing six o'clock, and Professor Jackson was due soon enough. Harry had changed out of his more casual clothing, and had donned a more muted set of finer dress clothing. He was just finishing tying up the laces of his dress shoes as Sirius descended down the stairs. He too was dressed modestly, in dark dress clothing under a dark traveling jacket. Sirius glanced up at the clock over the oven,
"Jackson ought to be here soon," Sirius said, and Harry just nodded his head. Sirius let out a weary sigh, and plopped down in the chair beside Harry at the dining room table. "How are you doing?" Sirius asked, and Harry knew that he wasn't referring to the Tournament, though Harry would admit to feeling a some amount of anxiety over the fact that the feast had likely begun.
"I'm…I'm not sure," Harry admitted, "I've thought about this a lot, you know? Seeing their graves, seeing where-where it happened…" He trailed off,
"I get it," Sirius nodded his head knowingly, "I visited them, you know, after I broke out. First place I went…it was…it was a haunting experience." Sirius stood up, and approached Harry, placing his hands on Harry's shoulders, "But know this Harry, they'd be incredibly proud of you. Of the man you're becoming. I'm incredibly proud of you too."
Harry wasn't quite sure how to respond to that, but he was thankful for the words all the same, so he gave Sirius what he hoped was a thankful smile, but what have turned out to be more of a pained grimace.
The clock struck six, and at that precise moment, there was a knock on the door. Standing up, Sirius strode from the kitchen to answer the door, grabbing his coat, Harry followed after his Godfather. Opening the door, Professor Jackson smiled tiredly down at Harry and Sirius, like them, he was dressed in conservative, dark clothing, befitting the somber evening.
"Harry, Sirius," Professor Jackson greeted,
"Right on time," Sirius said by way of greeting,
"Well you know what they say about wizards and being on time," Professor Jackson said shrewdly. It was clearly a reference to something, but neither Harry nor Sirius understood what he meant. Professor Jackson blinked at them, before cursing and muttering something unintelligible under his breath.
"Whatever, you'll get it eventually," He said with a wave of his hand,
"The feast started then?" Sirius asked, changing the subject,
"Just now," Professor Jackson confirmed, "Got a couple of hours probably before the selection starts. You two all set?"
Sirius nodded his head,
"Yes sir," Harry said,
"How're you doing, Harry?" Professor Jackson asked in concern.
"I'm all right, sir," Harry said back, and he meant it. He was doing all right thus far, though perhaps that was simply because he was feeling a little too numb at the moment to be feeling much of anything. He supposed that maybe told him he was far more nervous than he realized, but he wasn't about to admit that to anyone.
Professor Jackson gave him a look that told Harry that the older man didn't quite believe him, but he didn't pursue the matter any more, for which Harry was thankful.
"All right then," Professor Jackson said, checking his watch, "Let's get going, you've apparateed before, right Harry?"
"Took him side-along after the World Cup," Sirius confirmed,
"Good," Professor Jackson nodded, "Meet you there then," He said, before disappearing in a loud 'CRACK.'
"Always moving, that one is," Sirius muttered and Harry snorted,
"Don't think he could sit still if he tried," Harry agreed.
"Right, you ready?" Sirius asked, holding out an arm. Taking a steady breath, Harry nodded his head, and gripped tightly onto Sirius' arm. There was another loud 'CRACK' and Harry was suddenly overcome with the familiar sensation of being squeezed painfully through a rather tight tube. Blessedly quickly, his feet found solid purchase on the cool ground, on the outskirts of a small village. Harry stumbled forward, his stomach tossing and turning uncomfortably, and his world spinning slightly. Sirius reached an arm out and steadied him before he could fall to the ground.
"Thanks," Harry muttered, as he took a moment to let the world stop spinning,
"It gets better," Professor Jackson's voice said from somewhere off to Harry's left, "The first couple of times are disorienting as all hell, but after that it gets considerably better. Trust me, you'll get used to it."
"I don't know if I want to get used to it," Harry grumbled, as the world finally stopped spinning, and the vice-like grip on his stomach lessened.
Sirius snorted, "What else are you gonna do kid, I've seen how you handle floo travel, you're no sight better at that I'll tell you now."
"I'll fly," Harry said indignantly, "Or I'll walk. Why is magical travel so damn uncomfortable anyways,"
"Magic always has a price," Professor Jackson said vaguely, "But especially magic. Instantaneous transportation at the expense of some minor discomfort. You'll get used to it eventually. Sirius, mind leading the way?"
Sirius nodded his head and, after briefly giving Harry a comforting squeeze on the elbow, squeezed past him. They had landed in a small clearing in the middle of a wood on the outskirts of a small village. Harry could just make out lights peeking through the trees, and he thought he could hear the sound of voices, and of children laughing. Following Sirius down a rather well-worn path through the trees, they came out onto a sidewalk in the middle of the village square.
It had been so long since Harry had been part of the Muggle world, that he had forgotten that Halloween was a holiday for the Muggle world as well. Children were laughing, and running in every which direction, some dressed as vampires, or werewolves, musketeers and the odd footballer. Exasperated parents followed their children as they raced from house to house and Harry was hit with a sudden pang. His life could have looked remarkably like this, once upon a time. His mother had been Muggle-born after all, would she have taken him trick-or-treating? Would his mother have dressed him up like a muggle wizard? Would Harry have had a younger sibling to take along with him?
Stomach clenched painfully and he suddenly felt nauseous in a way that had absolutely nothing to do with the apparition. Sirius seemed to sense Harry's discomfort and slowed down enough to wrap his arm around Harry's shoulder. The small gesture was comforting, but the tightness in Harry's chest didn't go away. The meandered around the small village for a few minutes, before they came across a small empty low, near the outskirts of the village. It was cordoned off by construction tape, but just as they crossed from the sidewalk onto the street, a strange tingling sensation danced across Harry's skin.
Simultaneously, the abandoned lot glimmered for a minute, and suddenly there was a worn and and crumbling building in the space where previously there had been only grass. The building was less of a house, and more of a cottage. Small, quaint, with two stories, a thatched roof, and enough space for a small yard. As they walked closer, Harry was overwhelmed with a sense that he had been there before. That he recognized and knew this place, but he couldn't remember it. He would have barely been a year old, so he supposed it wasn't a surprise.
The yard to the cottage was blocked by a small fence. There was a small plaque, engraved into the side of the fence, and Harry's feet unconsciously took him a few steps forward until he was close enough to read what it said.
"Here lies the site of the downfall of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. On October the 31st, 1981, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named broke into the home of Lily and James Potter. James Potter gallantly fended off He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named but died attempting to buy time for his wife and son to escape. Lily Potter, in a desperate attempt to protect her son did her best to fight off He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, was murdered. But, as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named turned his wand on the infant Harry Potter, something incredible happened, and the curse meant to kill the child, rebounded and killed the Dark Lord. This site commemorates the sacrifices of Lily and James Potter, and celebrates the Boy-Who-Lived, and the downfall of the greatest dark wizard of our time."
The tight knot in Harry's chest constricted painfully as his eyes rose from the plaque to stare at the cottage. This was where his parents had been murdered, where they had tried to fight off Voldemort, and had given their lives to protect him. They died, had sacrificed themselves in the vain hope that Harry would live. His eyes stung, but he refused to let the tears fall, not here, and not now. Sirius's arm squeezed his shoulders comfortingly, and he felt as Professor Jackson placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder and give him a reassuring squeeze as well.
Harry lost track of how long they stood there, just staring up at the dilapidated cottage, but eventually, Sirius gave Harry one more squeeze and gently guided Harry away from the cottage. They stepped back onto the street, and the familiar tingle of magic washed over Harry as they passed through the enchantments that protected the sight from Muggle eyes. There was a group of witches and wizards walking in their direction down the street, and they stopped short of the magical barrier as Harry and Sirius approached. Two of the magicals, a pair of older witches, put their heads together and pointed at Harry, muttering something under their breath and Harry did his best to ignore them as Sirius guided them back down the street and away from the cottage.
Sirius seemed to know by instinct where they were going, whether because he simply knew intuitively where they were going or because he had come here often enough to have memorized the path. It was only a five minute walk before they were out of the village, and standing on the outskirts of a small graveyard. They walked down a well-worn path, and they spent a few minutes walking deep into the bowels of the cemetery. In spite of the fact that Harry knew that Sirius knew where they were going, Harry found himself staring down at the headstones, looking at the different names of the souls who were buried. His eyes were drawn to a small, and innocuous headstone a few meters into the graveyard, it belonged to someone named "Ignotus Peverell" and Harry's attention was focused more on the strange, triangular symbol. But he barely had enough time to get a good look at the weird symbol before Sirius turned down the path and they were walking away from the headstone.
After another minute of walking, they stopped in front of a a large tombstone, and Harry's throat clenched painfully and his eyes stung as he read the names of his parents on either side of the tombstone. Under their names, was a small message,
"The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." Harry read out loud, his voice hoarse,
"It means that even in death, you can live." Professor Jackson said softly at Harry's side, "That death is but the beginning. When we conquer death, we find true peace."
Harry just nodded, the lump in his throat was keeping him from speaking. He felt odd, it was strange standing there. Seeing their tombstone, seeing the sight of where they had taken their last breaths. It was a lot like seeing the graves of a total stranger. He hadn't known the two individual buried in the ground, not really. He'd been robbed of that chance, robbed of the chance to remember his parents faces when they weren't screaming for mercy, or pleading for Harry's life. They were strangers to him, but at the same time they weren't. He knew who these people were, knew what their lives had been like, and who they had been as children, and in their adult life. Not for the first time, he was thankful for Madam Bones putting together that book for him. While Harry might not have gotten to know his parents, he still felt like he knew who they were, and maybe they weren't the total strangers that they felt like in that moment.
Unbidden and unwelcome, warm tears boiled at the corners of his eyes, and streaked down his cheeks, staining the ground. Sirius and Professor Jackson tightened their holds on him, but they didn't say anything, they simply stood by, silent sentinels that offered Harry a calming and protective presence, allowing him to have his time to grieve in peace.
After some time, the tears finally stopped flowing, and Harry sniffled, bringing his hand up to dry his cheeks. In the end, as much as it hurt to stand there, knowing that he could have had a very different life, a happy life, it was oddly…comforting to have come here. It was as though he was finally confirming that his parents had indeed been real people. Prior to this visit, he had only known them through pictures and stories, stories of other people and minor things that had been left behind. As comforting as those stories had been, they still hadn't really helped Harry solidify in his mind that his parents had indeed been real people. People with thoughts, feelings, dreams, and aspirations. Even though Harry was standing over their graves, with their bodies decaying beneath his feet, it finally felt as though Harry really had had parents. That they were actual people and not these…manifestations of what other people had told him they were.
But as comforting as those thoughts were, and as good as it felt to finally have a chance to…meet his parents. Harry was overcome with a very different emotion. Anger. Anger at the murderer who had taken them from Harry. Anger at the man who had not had the good graces to stay dead. Anger at the man for trying to kill him again. Standing here, over the grave of his parents, knowing what they had sacrificed to protect him, Harry was overcome with the strongest desire he'd ever known. He would fight back, he would do anything and everything in his power to make sure that no one else, no other kid, would know what it was to feel what he was feeling in that moment because of Voldemort.
Harry was torn from his thoughts, as something bright and blue materialized out of thin air just beside them. The three of them turned as one and looked curiously at the sudden intrusion. Harry's eyebrows shot to his hairline as he looked at the strange construct in front of him. It looked like a patronus, it certainly had the same appearance that his stag had when he conjured it, but unlike Harry's patronus, this one was a large and beautiful phoneix, one that looked oddly familiar to Harry. Then, compounding his confusion, the bird opened its beak wide, and Professor Dumbledore's voice filled the cool autumn air.
"It's happened. Harry's name came out of the goblet. Come back immediately."
AN: So this concludes this arc! I hope that you enjoyed the way this arc played out, because I enjoyed writing it! Not sure when the next arc will get written up, but the next arc will be all about the tournament so that will be A LOT of fun. As always shoutout to Double0Sxvxn for being an awesome Beta and dealing with my bullshit and as always if you enjoyed this but haven't checked out my other work, give them a try you never know you might find something else you like. I'm also on discord now, where I and a bunch of other writers hang out, chat and brainstorm ideas, you just have to copy the link that's in my profile bio if you want to come and hang out with us. Stay safe, stay healthy and have an awesome week.
All My Love and see you next week,