Chapter 258: Feeling Blue

I would like to thank my beta, Awdyr, for his help in this chapter.

7 November 1994, Beauxbatons, France

Today was the day Fleur Delacour would make a name for herself. She had trained for months for this, worked for hours every day with her father's trainers, learning everything she could about how to survive. It hadn't been fun, to say the least, when her father just left her for a few weeks to the tender mercies of one of his retired war friends.

It was tough, especially at first. Fleur was always talented at the delicate forms of magic, which often required time and concentration to pull off. Compared to that, combat magic – Actual combat, not duelling – was all about speed and surprise. After all, it had been drilled into her head for months that it only took one spell, no matter what it was, to take out most opponents. It was why any soldier worth his salt mastered small spells that could be cast quickly and silently. Very few wizards could use large-scale spells without any prior preparations.

And it was surprising just how much terrain and the use of the environment mattered in a fight. Someone who knew the environment before a fight had a massive advantage, and using your surroundings in a fight was a very common tactic, especially with fighters favouring transfiguration.

She had worked so hard, and her headmistress must have seen this. After all, Madame Maxime picked her to take part in the first task of the tournament. She did have doubts she'd chosen; after all, the moment Madame Maxime announced the prize for the winner of the task everyone had jumped in, asking to join without any apprehension.

The headmistress had done a great job at making the task appealing without anyone even knowing what it was. Fleur couldn't blame the woman for resorting to something like this. Nicholas Flamel's diary would have been a national treasure at the very least, considering the man's contribution to Magical France and Beauxbatons. That's not even mentioning the fact that it was sealed and unopened. This meant that it could contain any knowledge, perhaps even the place where he hid a cache of the Elixir of Life, maybe even where the stone itself was, or even better how to make one of their own.

Fleur wouldn't deny being captivated by the idea of owning such treasure, but the idea of becoming independent from her father was the far better prize. She was in her last year in Beauxbatons, and doing well in the tournament would give her better future prospects, perhaps even an invitation to join a guild… And with her future secured, she could finally escape her father's influence. She could go to another country, far away from France…

Unfortunately, until that became a reality, she would still be beholden to her father. She had already achieved one of the man's goals when she was selected as the champion for the first task, meaning that she was officially going to be selected for the delegation.

Sadly, Aurelie wasn't selected, but Fleur asked Madame Maxime if she could join the delegation after the task. Until then, she would do her best to prepare.

In her team were her classmates Eloise Fontaine, François Moreau, and Céline Bernard. There was also a boy in the year below her called Philippe Dubois.

Eloise and Francois were childhood friends and quite popular in their crowds. They were one of the few remaining families in France that could brag about having noble blood and ran in similar crowds. There were some rumours that Eloise had even been able to unlock her family crest, but so far, she hadn't cast any spell Fleur hadn't recognized, and Fleur had seen no marks on her body that could be an expression of a crest, and so, ignored the rumours.

Céline, on the other hand, was a muggleborn witch who had fought her way to being one of the best students in their year through pure effort. She was likely chosen for her determination alone. Fleur didn't know much about Dubois. She hadn't really interacted with any students below her year, already busy fighting off students trying to express their affection for her. It was far worse before she had enchanted her bracelet, yet while the harassment had lessened, it was still there.

Fleur walked proudly with the rest of the Beauxbatons champions as she entered a large room. She noticed that most of the other schools' champions were already there, waiting for them to arrive. The Romans were there, wearing their centurion armour. They were five boys around her age, who had their hair cut short. They were looking at them with an impassive expression on their faces.

She found nothing really of note about the Spanish champions; they just looked like regular students, three males and two females, and were wearing their traditional robes. The Greek delegation was wearing their togas, but Fleur was wary of them. Stories of the elemental magics that they teach their students made them one of the most fearsome opponents that she would have to face in this competition.

The Nebelheim champions came afterwards. Their headmaster was wearing an eyepatch and a spear. Each of the students was wearing a different outfit, each representing a different Norse god. They were really leaning on Norse Mythology…

Of course, that was when the Durmstrang students came. Their headmaster was a rather loathsome person, looking more like a criminal than a proud educator, which he was. He had tried to take advantage of the civil war in Britain and ended up captured by their ministry. He had barely been able to escape due to his country seeing value in him, as well as the fact that he easily cooperated with the ministry and uncovered more than a few Death Eaters hiding in plain sight.

She didn't think it would have been enough to allow him to be in charge of a school, then again, Durmstrang was an unusual institution. Although Fleur was surprised at seeing Viktor Krum as a champion. She didn't really see the point in him coming beyond making Durmstrang the more popular school for the public. She had no idea why someone with a lucrative career like Krum, who was also famous on an international level, would risk it all for a school competition. He would gain very little but could lose a lot of his credibility if he does not do as well in the tournament as he does in his Quidditch matches.

Of course, the Durmstrang and Nebelheim champions started glaring at each other the moment they saw the other team. One of them was even growling for some reason. Fleur didn't think their rivalries ran this deeply…

Finally, the Hogwarts Champions arrived, and Fleur was curious about who was chosen. Well, specifically if Harry Potter would also be a champion. She didn't even know if she wanted him to be a champion or not. The description her father gave her of the boy's ability, as well as meeting him the one time, made it more logical that she shouldn't want him there, and yet, she wanted to see him use magic… She wanted proof of her father's words, that the boy truly was as good as she hoped he was.

She would not be disappointed, as Harry Potter stepped out, following his headmistress. It was a comical scene. He looked so young compared to his fellow champions. There was this rather attractive boy, a dark-skinned girl, a rather bulky boy, and a tall boy who kept staring at her.

Ignoring the uncomfortable sensation, she chose to focus on the object of her interest. He looked focused… She had noticed that he was slightly distracted the previous week and thought that something had happened that would have stopped him from competing.

Fleur's father had asked her to get closer to the boy. So far, she hadn't really done anything, choosing to focus on being selected for the delegation, since that would give her more time to achieve this. Nevertheless, all she had done was observe him, trying to figure out his habits, his likes and dislikes… So far, he hadn't done anything to truly stand out.

Fleur caught a few of her fellow champions giggling at him. He just looked so out of place. He was, by far, the youngest person in the room. They didn't understand that there was a reason why the Hogwarts delegation let him compete.

With the arrival of the last champions, Madame Maxime stood up, "Good evening and welcome, Champions of the first task. We have kept the details a surprise to see how you manage under pressure."

She paused a few seconds, and Fleur tensed up, hoping that the task wouldn't be too dangerous. Thankfully, the imposing woman continued, "The first challenge will be a test of both your ingenuity and resilience. At its core, the task is very simple. It is a race."

Fleur found herself taking a deep breath in relief. She expected something ridiculous like those old Tri-Wizard tournament tasks that would ask her to fight a dragon or something…

Unfortunately, the giant woman continued, "You are to navigate the enchanted forest that embraces our beloved Beauxbatons to the finish line, but, unfortunately, you will not know where the finish line is. You might accidentally find it, or do it through investigating a few clues around the forest. You will have to find the best path forward yourself. But be wary, for the forest is laced with enchantments—traps to ensnare the unwary creatures that might hinder or aid you. It will be up to you to discover which it is and deal with it accordingly."

Fleur groaned at this; she had never been able to explore the enchanted forest surrounding the school. Apparently, it was a magical ecosystem in itself that the ministry had not wanted to mess with. There were stories, of course, of fairies and werewolves, of giant spiders and even dragons. It was probably all meaningless, but Beauxbatons students would not have an advantage in this one. And the idea of just moving around, trying to find clues or just looking for the finish line randomly meant that this would be a tedious affair.

"However, there is another way to find the finish line. Each champion will be given a medallion representing their school, each in a distinct hue. When a medallion of each school is united, these medallions will briefly reveal the path forward, but you may only invoke their guidance thrice before their magic is expended. The champions are allowed to fight each other, but any form of permanent harm will not only disqualify them, but will be considered a criminal action, and could end with incarceration depending on the damage caused," she warned.

And there it was, the motivation to fight each other. Fleur had wondered when the shoe would drop. A race or a glorified scavenger hunt was just too boring for the public to appreciate. They needed a little violence and conflict, and that was exactly what those medallions offered. The Veela could already see more than a few champions light up at the idea, and who would probably be actively looking for people to take their medallions.

"Armed only with your wands, you must fend for your necessities as nature offers no reprieve. Speed is essential, for your completion time will be critical in accruing points for not only yourselves but also your school. The task will continue until all champions have either reached the finish line, been disqualified, or have forfeited, so there will be no time limit. The score of each school will be calculated by adding up the scores of each of its champions, with the highest-scoring institution winning the task. Bonne Chance."

Huh, so it was an individual task, where the scores were calculated based on their position in the race, but the school's score was calculated by adding in the score of each of its champions. Fleur wasn't worried about staying in the forest; she had already gone through some survival training. Her father probably knew something about the task since he was the one who suggested it. She was as prepared as she could be, and she only hoped that the odds would be in her favour.

AN: I thought it was time to move things along a bit. The first task should be in the next chapter. Please let me know about the format of the task. Also, if you have any suggestions please feel free to share them.