We, In Faith
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Chapter One: Uncertainty
"How much longer already?" James complained obnoxiously.
It was freezing cold on this October evening and these blasted foreigners still had yet to show hide or hair of themselves. He was not often prone to bouts of childlike impatience but being back at his old school after so long and the fervent excitement of the students milling, crowded about him had infected James with an overwhelming sense of euphoria and glad anticipation. Still, despite all of this, he was extremely glad for once to have the chance to act like the right idiot he was.
Lily glanced, amused at her husband. She knew when he had insisted on not taking a cloak that this would happen. Really, whatever convinced some men that standing out in the chill practically naked was so strong and… manly was beyond her. But some testosterone-driven tendencies were inevitable for some people.
Sidling closer, a handsomely aged man with his dark hair pulled back in what he considered a right dashing ponytail rubbed his arms and gnashed his teeth in a vain attempt to bring warmth to his body.
"I'm with you, James," Sirius muttered. "These people should get their sorry arses down here at once."
Beside Lily, Remus Lupin sighed and rolled his eyes. "Sirius, these people should have been down here with their 'sorry arses', as you so charmingly put it, three years ago."
"Yeah, and I wonder whose fault that was," he replied, looking pointedly at James and Lily.
"Hey, Hey!" James complained, raising his hands as if to knock away unwarranted blows, "We were never part of the planning committee."
Sirius snorted. "Guilty by association."
Ever since the Potters had bagged the job of aurors at the Ministry, Sirius had made a point of complaining about every single little failure and fault of the government to his two friends, and the disastrous results from the attempt to resurrect the Triwaizard Tournament from three years ago had been no different. Somehow the Ministry had gathered so many problems surrounding the Tournament, that they just plum out decided to postpone it until it could be correctly and carefully organized again.
The said problems had been terrible embarrassments and had included: a spy harboring info in and out of England to the two other schools involved for copious amounts of money, the dragons planned to be used for the First Task quite suddenly being startled into a stampede that crushed their egg clutches because of government officials inspecting them far too 'personally' (these green agents these days always got terribly excited when something larger and more dangerous than a niffler was staring them down), the mermaid negotiations failing miserably when someone had thought it quite proper to inquire about 'southerly bodily functions', and other (slightly less humiliating) legal mishaps.
The current Tournament committee had taken all of their predecessors' mistakes and carefully planned out the Tasks and security with more caution. The 'security' was two aurors commissioned to keep an eye on things at each major event in the Tournament such as the Welcoming Feast, the Tasks, and so on. Upon hearing about the fairly easy job that was comparative to babysitting, Lily and James had immediately volunteered. Being able to see their old friends, the Professors Lupin and Black, and their son frequently throughout the events had been an extra bonus.
Their son… Lily frowned vaguely. "Just imagine…" she had murmured before she had realized it.
James looked at her, slightly concerned. "Imagine what, Lily?"
"Oh…" she blinked at her husband. "I was just thinking that Harry would have been old enough to be a Champion this year…"
Sirius and Remus glanced at each other nervously. James stared at his wife in surprise and swallowed convulsively. She looked away, flushed.
"Yeah, but, unfortunately, we only have a naughty little fourth-year," Prongs abruptly stated with much exaggerated gusto, attempting to lighten the atmosphere. "It really is a great disappointment to this poor old man who had such high hopes for great glory and honor and what not."
"Well, I'm so terribly sorry that I can't age three years at the snap of a finger, Dad," a sarcastic voice sounded at James's side.
Looking down at a lanky fourteen-year old, he grinned. That was his Ainsley, all right. A regular chip off the old block. "Really, son, you wound me! I'd have never spoken to my parents in such a way!" he exclaimed dramatically.
Everyone in hearing vicinity snorted loudly. James gazed about innocently and most everyone roared with laughter.
In truth, James was extremely relieved to have changed the subject. Ever since the loss of their first child, Lily and James had struggled to overcome the grief and horror of it. Their supposed friend, Peter Pettigrew, had been asked to look after Harry that Halloween night while the Potters were out on important business. Upon receiving full access to the only thing that stood in the way of his master Voldemort, Peter had lead the Dark Lord to Godric's Hollow and betrayed their trust. No one really knew exactly what had happened that night, because by the time James and Lily had arrived back home, the house was burning down fiercely and the dark mark was shining horridly above their heads.
They had attempted to douse the flames, but it had been in vain. When Ministry help finally arrived, it was too late. What little was left of the house they had made a home of was unrecognizable. They were unable to find Harry or Peter. However, after three weeks of searching, Pettigrew was sighted and captured in Prague. They were only able to learn from him that he had indeed been the one to inform Voldemort before he suddenly managed to escape, in the form of a rat. A week later his body was found in a gully, cause of death unknown.
It was around this time that the Death Eaters disbanded and Voldemort's attacks ceased completely. The entire wizarding world was amazed; how could the loss of a tiny baby's life (certainly he had not survived, what with an attack from He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named himself and then that terrible fire) have caused the downfall of one of the most powerful wizards in history? Many suspected that he was only in hiding, biding his time until he could pounce. However, all of the ex-Death Eaters captured had wildly claimed that it had indeed been the fault of that 'gods-cursed Potter brat'. No one was completely sure, but they were all too weary from the war to not be relieved. They soon found themselves lulling into a calm peace.
As for the Potters, they suffered greatly over Harry. They were both overwhelmed with regret that he never had had a chance for a good, normal childhood. He never had a chance to grow up. But soon the years passed and the sharp pain dulled to a distant ache. Then Ainsley was born. Both knew that even though he would not be able to replace Harry, they would both love him just as much as they had their first.
"…such an idiot, James!" Lily's voice suddenly broke through her husband's musings.
He looked at his her mildly and said sweetly, "But I'm your idiot, Lily-Flower!"
"Is that so, Jamesie?" she answered, smiling.
Ainsley looked between them, slightly green. "I'm gonna be sick."
"Hey, look at it this way, kid," Sirius said, grinning, "at least you haven't walked in on them!"
The dark-cherry haired boy looked at his godfather, horrified.
"I think you've mentally scared him for life, Padfoot," Remus coughed lightly, grinning.
James looked at Sirius indignantly. "Really, Sirius, you know how expensive psychiatry sessions are nowadays!"
Ainsley sniffed in an effort to look scornful, which turned out more like he had the sniffles, and stalked away like an angry cat.
Lily rolled her eyes and removed James's arm, which had snaked around her waist and stated loftily, "The three of you act like utter children at times. I don't see how you sleep at night."
"Oh, it's horrible, Li– "
"Hush!" interrupted Remus suddenly, "Look!" His hand pointed out a large black blob out in sky.
"That must be Beauxbatons…" Lily muttered as she squinted at the sky. "Did anyone hear how they were coming?"
"No, but we should head over there in any case," Remus answered, starting down the steps of Hogwarts castle where the old school friends had been chatting amicably.
James and Sirius looked at each other and gave a collective sigh. Time to act like adults again. The pair followed after Lily and Remus who were steadily making a part through the bay of students. Approaching the head of the crowd, the rest of the school staff came into view- all waiting with eyes avidly watching the approaching figures in the sky.
Sighting his old headmaster, James smiled and waved sunnily. Dumbledore smiled back, blue eyes amused.
"Hallo, Severus! Long time no see." James said cheerfully, slipping up beside a certain potions master.
"Potter, if you had any brains at all you would have recalled the displeasure of having to set up your 'security measures' through myself just this morning. Fortunately, as you have no brains, I believe I shall deign to ignore your ignorance." Snape's voice was filled with utter contempt and he had stared directly forward through his entire harangue.
James grinned. "But, Severus, since I've no brains how can you expect me to understand such big words?"
"James!" Lily glared at him furiously.
He quailed under her looks and kept his mouth shut, gazing with everyone else at the dark figures in the sky. Snape snorted scornfully.
Soon the vague shapes became more distinct as they quickly advanced on the castle. It was three black carriages, two smaller and one larger. They were utterly huge, each the size of a house, and were being pulled swiftly through the air by perhaps two dozen white, winged horses as large as small elephants.
The students oohed and aahed, particularly the girls, as the coaches landed gracefully on the soft turf. Up close you could tell they were extremely valuable from the intricate gold edging and gild. On each door was an emblem of two crossed wands each emitting stars. And the horses were nothing if not beautifully impressive and dignified.
The door of one of the smaller carriages opened and a small, silvery carpeted staircase extended smoothly down to the grass. Around six silken and fur robed young men descended down the steps. Several girls (and a few boys) could be heard sighing appreciatively. One rushed quickly, yet gracefully, toward the larger carriage as the rest headed at a slower pace to the last one. Reaching up the side of the bigger coach, the boy tapped it lightly with his wand. It opened just as the other had and the flight of steps was much the same except looking a bit sturdier and wider. An immense figure could be seen preparing to alight.
A few people gasped, despite McGonagall's severe looks. James himself was quite startled as well. He wasn't sure that he'd ever seen someone so large as Madame Olympe Maxime. Except perhaps the Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts, Rubeus Hagrid. Still, perhaps it was simply because he had seen so much of Hagrid that Madame Maxime seemed quite a bit larger. Her shoes seemed the size of a child's sled and the carriages and horses suddenly seemed incredibly dwarfed by the woman. She had a handsome, olive-skinned face with large, onyx, liquid-looking eyes. Her nose was faintly reminiscent of Snape's over-sized conk. She was adorned elegantly in black satin and lace with a gray furred shawl draped casually about her strong shoulders. The teen that had stood respectfully by the carriage gave a deep bow as she nodded to him.
Dumbledore started to clap and the rest followed his lead. Madame Maxime smiled graciously and moved forward, extending a bejeweled hand. The headmaster, though quite tall himself, had only to barely bob his head to kiss it. Behind them, the other boys could be seen opening the last carriage in the same manner. Half a dozen girls flitted gracefully down, curtsying as the boys bowed. Each youth offered his arm forward and his partner accepted, clinging daintily.
James was sure that Ainsley was quite revolted by their behavior. He himself felt a bit nauseous by the entire rigmarole and, glancing at Sirius, he could tell he felt similarly. Lily was delighted. Typical woman.
"Welcome to Hogwarts," Dumbledore began, "my dear Madame Maxime."
The Beauxbatons students began lining up behind their headmistress.
"Dumbly–dorr, I 'ope I find you well?" Madame Maxime inquired with deep, rich voice.
"In excellent health, I thank you," he answered.
Waving a hand behind her carelessly, she said, "My pupils."
Each teen bowed or curtsied, studying the headmaster impassively. Creepy lot.
"What do you zink of my carriages?" she said, looking proudly at the beautiful, looming figures behind them. "I 'ad planned only to bring one, but zen we 'ad three extra years to prepare, so I am afraid zat I could not resist…"
"They are quite magnificent," Dumbledore commented, admiring them himself.
"Yes… well, Karkaroff 'as not arrived yet?" asked Madame Maxime.
"I'm afraid not," said Dumbledore. "Would you like to step inside to warm up or would you like to stay and greet him?"
"I think warm up, but ze 'orses…" she replied.
Dumbledore smiled. "Our Care if Magical Creatures teacher will be absolutely delighted to care for them."
Sirius startled and looked alarmed. He looked desperately as James, who merely shrugged. Sirius began to edge away, disappearing into the crowd.
"Sirius? Would you care to…" the headmaster began but trailed off as he could not spot the missing professor.
"Dumbly-dorr?" Madame Maxime queried.
"I'm sure I just saw him… James, do you know where Sirius is?"
James searched his mind frantically for an answer. "Er… I'm not sure. He was right here just a moment ago… He might be in the loo or something…" Clever.
Lily stared at him, aghast. James was never one to pretty up words.
Dumbledore's eyes twinkled faintly. "Well, I'm sure he will be back quite soon."
"But my steeds require – er, how do you say, – forceful 'andling," Madame Maxime said hesitantly. She looked as though she doubted whether anyone at Hogwarts could handle her horses. James privately agreed with her. "Zey are very strong…"
"I assure you that Sirius will be up to the job," said Dumbledore.
"Very well," Madame Maxime bowed slightly as she replied. "Will you please inform zis Zirius zat ze 'orses drink only single-malt whiskey?"
Dumbledore bowed in return. "It shall be attended to."
"Come," Madame Maxime imperiously ordered her students, and they parted the way before them through the Hogwarts crowd. They passed serenely up the stone steps.
James grinned and turned slightly toward Remus. "How long do you think old Padfoot will hide?"
"Probably till the start of dinner," he replied as he rolled his eyes. "You know how he is with that stomach."
"Why, Moony! You should have more faith in your friends," James gasped mockingly. "I say until tomorrow… Care to make it interesting?"
Remus's eyebrows rose. "Five galleons."
Lily ignored them. She wished they would get over this whole school days fever, or whatever it was, and act their ages and not their wand lengths.
"Hey, Lily!" James called. "Wanna get some this action?"
Exasperated, Lily sighed, "No, James, I do not. In fact, I find myself quite loath to stay in the presence of any Marauder." She looked sharply at Remus at the last part, as if she had expected better of him.
But she was already headed back toward the castle, ignoring James's half-hearted pleas.
"James," Remus said, frowning, "do you hear something?"
Prongs stood silent, listening. An odd noise was drifting upward from the ground. It was like a muffled rumbling and thundering sound, moving steadily nearer and becoming louder. Several shouts of 'the ground!' sounded throughout the crowd of students. They looked about nervously, wondering if they should run somewhere.
Peering past Snape, James watched the smooth surface of the turf as it suddenly became not quite so smooth. A great disturbance was taking place in the middle of the Hogwarts grounds. Mounds of earth began to bulge and collapse like water; waves of dirt and soil began to surge and buckle. And then, right in the very middle, a tall, slender mast appeared and the earth began to swirl like a whirlpool. Slowly, majestically, a ship rose out of the earth, covered in soft clay. It looked much like a restored sea wreck, with dusky light spilling forth from portholes like phantom eyes. Finally, with a great crumbling, booming sound, the ship emerged completely and settled upon the ground. The clunk of a plank could be heard.
People were disembarking; they could see several bulky silhouettes pausing in the light from the portholes. As they neared, James noticed that their stoutness was due to cloaks of an odd matted and shaggy fur, not hereditary. But the man leading them was dressed quite differently; his furs were sleek and silver, much like his hair.
"Dumbledore!" he called heartily, climbing up the slope. "How are you, how are you, my dear fellow?"
"Blooming, thank you, Professor Karkaroff," the headmaster replied stepping forward to shake his hand.
Karkaroff had a fruity, unctuous voice; when he stepped into the light pouring from the castle's front doors they saw he was rather tall and rake-like, similar to Dumbledore. However, his white hair was short, and his weak chin was not entirely hidden by his goatee that finished in a curl.
"Dear old Hogwarts," he murmured, looking up at the castle and smiling; his teeth were quite yellow and his smile contrasted sharply with cold, shrewd eyes. "How wonderful to be here, how wonderful… But, anyway, Dumbledore, I hope you don't mind that about your lawn…" He gestured vaguely behind. "But you see… those mermaids… Well, I'm sure you understand."
Dumbledore nodded graciously and replied, "Of course, of course, it is really actually own our part to apologize to you; it was our duty to guarantee the success of those negotiations, and we failed…"
"Ach, nonsense, nonsense! No harm, absolutely no harm in getting in a bit of mud!" He laughed harshly.
Dumbledore chuckled appreciatively and added, "Perhaps we should get in from the cold, Professor Karkaroff? I'm sure the students would be quite grateful to finally fill their aching bellies, and truthfully, so would I!"
Karkaroff laughed his strange, brutal laugh and followed Dumbledore as he headed up to the castle. The shivering Hogwarts students followed with their teachers (and James) trailing behind.
"This is awful."
Jean glanced at Meri through the corner of his eye. The brunette was staring about this 'Great Hall' glumly. By the way he looked around in a slightly lofty manner, she could tell he agreed with her. The benches and tables were made of a rough, uncomfortable wood and the cheap enchantment on the ceiling looked terribly tacky. It was all coarse, harsh angles with nothing but horrid wood and freezing cold stone. Meri shivered beside him and clutched a small fur cape closer.
"And what a draft!" she complained loudly, in French as before.
Their classmates lined down the table nodded sympathetically.
"Meri, perhaps it would be wiser to be more considerate of the… understandable shortcomings of our hosts…" Jean murmured softly to her.
Turning to him, Meri glared fiercely. "Oh, that's perfectly easy for you, Prince Charming, but we simple plebeians unfortunately need far more comforts."
"If you say so, dear Mariette," he smiled softly at her, amused.
She stuck her lip out in a pout. She could never really actually stay angry with Jean for long. He was too sly with the way he used his charm to soothe her irritability. And it was only with her that he used it for that reason, except perhaps a few others. She shook her head. Sometimes Jean was all too crafty for his own good.
"Hmm… there are too many chairs up there…" Jean muttered, staring up at the long table facing the other four tables meant for students. "There should be only two more…"
Meri rolled her eyes. "Does it matter?"
"None whatsoever." He grinned at her, casually running a hand through his dusky hair. "They must be for British Ministry officials…"
"And how, pray tell, did you come to that conclusion?" she asked indifferently.
"Did you not count those teachers outside? And those two aurors? Include Headmistress and Professor Karkaroff, and you have two seats left. Only someone from the Ministry would be allowed to dine here today… so you see."
Skeptical, Meri said, "How could you tell the aurors from the teachers?"
"Their hands were rougher. And their stances were very alert." He answered, watching as dozens of Hogwarts students filed in.
She sighed, wondering why she even bothered. It would only make her feel even more the little idiot for not being as observant and oh so terribly clever as Jean. He was extremely annoying at times. But nothing in the world would ever be able to convince her that he wasn't the most wonderful friend anyone could hope for.
Beside her, Jean cleared his throat, watching several students around their age approach the table at which they were sitting. "Meri, please try and keep your temper for this one night?"
She looked at him suspiciously. Meri was very aware that she had a horribly short fuse and knew that Jean never really minded it. The only reason he would ask such a thing was if he were planning something. And Jean never planned something if it weren't worth it. "If I must."
He nodded and smiled as a few Hogwarts students sat across from them. How extraordinarily plain they were! A girl with horribly frizzy hair that made her look like some sort of hedge, a freckled, gangly boy with red hair that surely must have clashed with anything he attempted to wear, and a girl that seemed to be some sort of relation to the redhead.
The first girl smiled tentatively and held out a hand, "Um, hi. I'm Hermione Granger… oh! You do speak English, don't you?"
Jean leaned forward slightly and clasped her hand bringing it up to his lips with a polite kiss. "It iz a pleasure, Mizz Granger. I am Jean Pole. And yes, we both speak English."
Meri held out her hand demurely and said, "I am Mariette Clehedault. A pleasure, I'm sure, Mizz Granger." Really, Jean and his dramatics! She had only followed suit because she trusted him to not make a fool out the two of them.
The silly, frizzy Granger blushed and shook her head wildly, "Oh, really, you can just call me Hermione…"
"Ron Weasley." The tall redhead said shortly, yet politely. How clever. Meri noticed the boy staring a bit too long at her. She resisted the urge to roll her eyes; what a terrible curse extreme beauty such as hers was!
The other girl elbowed him subtly as she said, "I'm Ginny Weasley."
"It iz lovely to meet you, Ginny." Jean said as he kissed her hand. "Younger zister?" He added, looking at Ron.
"Er, yeah, she is…" Ron said suspiciously, glaring at him.
Jean smiled back pleasantly. "Ah, do not worry. I mean no 'arm; it is only customary to greet young ladies in zuch a way in France…"
He looked relieved. "Well, if you say so."
Some people were far too gullible to be allowed.
"Zo, are any you zeventeen yet?" Jean inquired casually, his eyes the color of fresh cut grass glinted shrewdly. Meri leaned forward, her waves of hair like maple syrup brushing the table. Now they were getting to the point.
Hermione nodded and answered, "Yes, both Ron and I are. I'm not exactly sure if I'll be entering the Tournament though…"
"I am!" Ron jumped in enthusiastically. "I can't wait; I'm so going to be the Champion and win that prize money." He began staring off dreamily.
Meri doubted whether a greedy moron like this boy would ever be able to succeed in the eyes of the Goblet of Fire, let alone any of the Tasks. Jean's amused smile seemed to be saying the same.
"Ron, I wouldn't get your hopes up yet; we don't even who the judge will be," said Ginny.
Strange, hadn't their headmaster informed them? But then again, Dumbledore was quite notorious for being overtly fair and just. How typical it would be of him to leave his students ignorant about such an important step in winning great honor for their school. Meri decided the British were goody-two-shoe idiots.
Jean's face showed no trace of surprise as he said, "I do not zink zat you need to worry about ze judge; it must 'ave remained entirely impartial after all zese years or zey would not allow it to perform such an important task." It. Jean said 'it' not 'he' or 'she'. Was he mad? They wanted them to be completely ignorant; they were enemies! Just leaving that one little clue could lead any sensible person to the truth.
"True," said Hermione, "I guess we'll get the best person to represent our school no matter what."
"I'll be happy as long as it isn't a Hufflepuff, a Ravenclaw, or a Slytherin," Ron stated, crinkling his nose in distaste. "Or even worse– Malfoy."
He spat out the last word like a filthy curse. Jean's brows rose in surprise, genuine or otherwise, Meri couldn't tell.
"Iz zis Malfoy really zat 'orrible?" he inquired.
"Yes, he's the most arrogant, ugly, stuck-up, annoying, and jerky prat in the world!" Ron chanted angrily.
Hermione and Ginny rolled their eyes.
"Feel free to tune him out," Ginny said. "He's just jealous of Malfoy."
Ears turning bright red, Ron glared at his sister. "Me? Jealous? Are you mad!"
"Where iz zis Malfoy?" Jean asked Hermione. She pointed out a blonde across the hall.
Meri noticed that the Durmstrang students had decided to be seated with the Slytherins where Malfoy also was. They looked positively delighted to be in the dingy castle, fingering and examining the cheap golden plates and goblets and gazing open-mouthed at the ceiling.
However, the boy that Hermione pointed out was looking at the other guests with something like malicious amusement. He was also speaking candidly with several other Hogwarts students and gazing calculatingly at the visitors.
Jean nudged her slightly as the three sitting in front of them got caught up in their own discussion. Switching back to French he murmured to her. "Watch him. He's doing exactly what we are. I've heard of this Malfoy from the Poles, and from what the redhead said, he must be at least fairly competent."
Meri nodded slightly. So far from what they had seen, he was looking like the best choice to be the Hogwarts Champion. Jean and she had both agreed that a candidate from Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw would be unlikely because of past Triwizard records showing that the vast majority of Hogwarts Champions had come from Gryffindor and Slytherin for whatever reason. They would have to keep an eye on this Malfoy for the rest of the evening, but should probably still keep an eye out for anyone else the Goblet would be likely select.
Then the student body began to finally settle and the staff entered. Headmistress Maxime entered and instantly, Jean, Meri, and every other Beauxbatons student leaped respectfully to their feet. A few of the Hogwarts students laughed. Meri glared at the nearest offender and he crumbled under her fierce glare, looking alarmed. Honestly, the barbarians!
Headmistress was soon seated and her students lowered themselves back down onto the hard benches. Meri quickly turned to Jean and whispered rapidly to him in angry French. The three across the table looked at her nervously. Jean shook his head and raised a hand to cut her off as Dumbledore remained standing.
"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, spirits, and – most especially – guests," he said, beaming at them. "I have the wonderful pleasure of welcoming you all to Hogwarts. I hope and trust that your stay here will be both comfortable and enjoyable."
Meri could not help but give a derisive laugh as the old man said this. Several Gryffindors around her bristled while her classmates glanced up at her, amused.
"The tournament will be officially opened at the end of the feast, but I know invite you to all drink, eat, and make yourselves at home!" said Dumbledore, sitting down. Karkaroff leaned over to speak with him.
Hermione was glaring at Meri as her friends nervously stared at her. Jean gave her a cool look and turned to the Gryffindors with an apologetic smile.
"You'll 'ave to forgive my friend– she iz very proud but really means no 'arm…"
The girl looked slightly mollified but turned to Meri almost expectantly. Jean gave her a meaningful look.
"Meri, please apologize…" he murmured in French.
She glared at them all. How dare they think that she would humble herself to such ingrates! And Jean, she would have thought that he at least would not lower himself to such a level. She sprung up with a haughty glare and whispered fiercely to Jean, "If you think that I am going to apologize for such a thing to neanderthals, you've another thing coming!" She stalked away to sit by several Beauxbatons girls.
Jean sighed softly. He should have known better than to expect Mariette Clehedault to forget her pride.
At the staff table James was just getting into a fierce conversation with Ludo Bagman over Quidditch. Barty Crouch, who had arrived with Ludo, was giving them a look as if he had suddenly smelled something extremely smelly. Crouch always was a bit of a stick in the mud.
Lily, beside James, was letting her eyes roam over the students. She was making a strange face and James was worried she was still thinking about Harry. He opened his mouth to reassure her, but Dumbledore suddenly rose to his feet.
"The moment has arrived," he announced, smiling as a pleasant, expectant tension built up in the sea of upturned faces. "The Triwizard Tournament is shortly to begin. I would like to say a few words in the way of explanation before we bring out the casket –" That would be the casket holding the Goblet of Fire. Lily and James had been informed to the utmost detail about the competition so that they could be properly aware of all the measures that should be undertaken to best fulfill their jobs as Tournament security. "– just to clarify the procedure that we will be following this year. First, though, let me introduce, for those that do not know them, Mr. Bartemius Crouch, Head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation" – there were snatches of polite applause – "and Mr. Ludo Bagman, Head of Department of Magical Games and Sports."
There was much louder applause for Ludo than Crouch, most likely because of his fame as a Beater, or simply because he didn't look like a constipated fish.
"We also have the delight of two aurors entering our halls, Mr. James Potter and Mrs. Lily Potter," Dumbledore continued. Lily and James rose to their feet as eager applause spilled forth for them. James grinned cockily as his wife shook her head at him. No doubt most of the people here had heard about the heroic exploits of the Potters. Or, more likely, the story of their baby from sixteen years ago. Ainsley and several other Gryffindor boys were giving them catcalls.
"Mr. Bagman and Mr. Crouch have worked tirelessly over the last few years – " here a ludicrous snort sounded at James's left. Looking over, he saw Sirius looking at Dumbledore with faint indignation. James caught his eye and Sirius smiled sheepishly. Padfoot silently mouthed 'got hungry'. Damn. He owed Moony five galleons now.
"– will be joining Madame Maxime, Professor Karkaroff, and myself on the panel that will be judging the champions' endeavors." Dumbledore was still speaking. "Mr. and Mrs. Potter will be making sure that the Tournament security is at its best."
"Mr. Filch, the casket, if you please." The attentions of the waiting students sharpened and they trained their eyes on Dumbledore with bated breath. The headmaster smiled.
Filch, who had been skulking unnoticed in a far corner of the Great Hall, approached Dumbledore bearing a great wooden chest encrusted with jewels. It looked ancient. A murmur of excited curiosity whispered throughout the students; a fourth year Gryffindor boy with a mousy look actually stood on his chair to see it properly. James vaguely remembered him as being one of Ainsley's friends.
"Mr. Crouch and Mr. Bagman have already thoroughly examined the instructions for the tasks the champions shall undergo and have made the necessary preparations," went on Dumbledore as Filch placed the casket carefully in front of him. "There will be three tasks, spanning throughout the school year, and they will test the champions in many different ways… their daring – their magical prowess – and, of course, their ability to cope with and endure danger."
At the last word, the entire hall was filled with complete, utter silence as if no one dared to breathe. James was tempted to turn over a chair or something with a loud bang just get a rise out of them.
"As you have already been told, only three champions can compete in the tournament," Dumbledore continued calmly, "one from each of the participating schools. They will each be marked on how well they perform the Tournament Tasks and the champion with the highest total after task three will win the Triwizard Cup. The champions will be chosen by an unbiased selector: the Goblet of Fire."
Dumbledore now took out his wand and tapped the chest lightly three times. The lid groaned open slowly. Dumbledore reached inside it and carefully pulled out a large, crudely hewn wooden cup. It would have been utterly plain and common if it were not for the pale, bluish flames that filled it to the brim.
Dumbledore re–closed the chest and placed the goblet atop, clearly visible to everyone in the Hall.
"Anyone wishing to submit themselves as a champion must write his or her name and school clearly on a piece of parchment and drop it into the goblet," said Dumbledore. "Aspiring champions have twenty–four hours in which to put forth their entry. Tomorrow, Halloween night, the goblet will give back the names of the three it has deemed worthy to represent their schools. The goblet will be placed in the entrance hall tonight, where it will be freely available to all those wishing to contend.
"To ensure that underage students do not yield to temptation," continued Dumbledore, "I will be drawing an Age Line around the Goblet of Fire once it has been put in the entrance hall. Nobody will be able to cross this line if they are under or over the age of seventeen.
"In conclusion, I wish to impress upon anyone wishing to compete that this tournament is not to be entered into frivolously. Once the Goblet of Fire has selected a champion, they are obliged to see the tournament through to the end. The placing of your name in the goblet enacts a magical binding contract. There can be no changes of heart once you have become champion. Please be very sure, accordingly, that you are fully prepared to play before you drop your name in the goblet. Now, I believe it is time for bed. Good night to all of you."
Feeling Remus's eyes on him, James hurriedly got up from the table and made to leave. Unfortunately, a hand reached out and stopped him. James looked down at his wife's scowling face.
"James, you owe Remus," she warned. "If you really insist on making petty bets then at least have the integrity to honor them."
"Bet? What bet?" Sirius looked slightly pained, disappointed he had missed out on the fun.
James looked nervously at Remus, Sirius, and Lily. "Er, well, that is…"
"They were betting on how it would take you to come out of hiding, Sirius," Lily pronounced.
"Yes, and I won," said Remus smugly, "so pay up Prongs!"
Grumbling, he reluctantly pulled out five galleons and handed them over, giving all of them a dirty look. The group stepped down from the dais where the staff table was placed and inched along through a crowd of groggy but excited students. All of them were gossiping on who they thought would be the best candidate for champion was, and the more daring were plotting a way across the Age Line. Lily gave Ainsley a righteous glare when he passed by, speculating to a friend on where to get ingredients for an Aging Potion. James merely grinned and gave him two thumbs–up.
"So, Sirius, how did you handle those h– " James was interrupted abruptly as he crashed right into a student. The boy stumbled to the ground, cursing in French.
"Oh crap!" James cried as he quickly tried to help him up. The boy slapped his hands away and rose to his feet, dusting off emerald robes and glaring at James. "I'm really so– "
He faltered. James found himself staring at the boy. It was like he suddenly had been flung roughly back in time; the boy looked exactly like himself. The same high cheekbones, the nose that ended a bit too soon, the finely formed lips, the hair the same shade of charcoal black (only the boy's was much, much neater and combed to an elegant wave over his forehead), the glasses were sharper, rectangular, but still… And his eyes… they were Lily's! He had been staring into those green, green eyes for the vast majority of his life and it was extremely disconcerting to see them on another. James sucked in a breath, feeling his eyes widen.
Before he could think James had leaped forward and grabbed the boy by the shoulders. "Harry! Good lord, Harry! I can't– I can't believe this! Harry!"
The boy stared at him, astonished. "You are mad! Who is zis 'Arry?"
"It must be! It must! Harry!" James was beyond reasonable thinking as his mind reeled with questions and thoughts that were gone as quickly as they had come, too fast to voice anything.
A girl appeared from nowhere, clutching onto the boy James was so sure was Harry. "Let go! Let go at once, you madman!"
"James! What are you doing!" Lily said, alarmed and just as astonished by the boy's looks.
"Perhaps we should move this conversation elsewhere; there are students waiting, you see…" Dumbledore emerged suddenly to James's right, looking at him pointedly.
He was right; many nearby students and a few teachers were staring at the little scene that was blocking the way to the entrance hall. James flushed and jerked his hands away from the boy as if he had been burned. The teen stepped backwards and scowled fiercely at him. The girl beside him had an identical expression.
"What iz zis? What 'as 'appened!" commanding cries sounded from above as Madame Maxime pushed her way easily through the crowd.
"Ah, just a small misunderstanding, I'm sure, Madame Maxime," Dumbledore reassured her. "Perhaps we should move aside to allow room for everyone… This little antechamber will do well, I'm sure." He pointed to a nearby door leading off from the Great Hall.
The boy began to speak to his headmistress in rapid French, joined occasionally by the girl. The immense woman frowned and turned to Dumbledore. "I want an explanation, Dumbly–dorr! At once!"
"Of course, just hold for a moment and come this way," he said and moved toward the door.
The throng of people about them began to complain loudly at the delay. Madame Maxime nodded shortly and entered swiftly through door with her two pupils following. Both stared at James over their shoulders. Lily was telling Sirius and Remus to go on without them but James could hardly make sense of the words.
Ever since Harry had died, or whatever, James had always been the one to reassure, to comfort. Helping Lily to deal had always been a sort of therapy for James, but it was really no comparison to being able to just let it out and wait for it to fade. As a result, all of his own misery had built up over the years. And the earlier comments and suddenly seeing that boy seemed like a sort of trigger. Oh, those eyes…
Truth be told, James had never truly given up hope that Harry was gone. He had always wondered and a million, infinite speculations on ways that he could have survived formed and crumbled under the crushing weight of society's conviction that Harry was already long gone. Many, many times he thought about asking Lily if she still believed, but the thought of her refusal was more than enough to silence him each time.
"James?" Lily said, pulling his hand into her own. He looked at her as she stared up at him with concern. He shook his head and led the way to the door, Dumbledore lingering behind.
On entering the small chamber, the three already inside glared at him suspiciously. Dumbledore closed the door behind him and moved to the center of the room.
"I'm sure that this matter can be explained of course," the headmaster said looking at Lily and James.
"It 'ad better be!" Madame Maxime said severely. "Your Ministry official just assailed my student!"
"James?" Dumbledore asked, looking at him with faint lines of worry across his brow.
Lily squeezed his hand and said, "Madame, we're very sorry, but you see Harry was the name of the our baby we lost sixteen years ago– "
"We know zat!" the boy exclaimed impatiently. "Everyone 'as 'eard of ze child savior!"
Lily pinked slightly. "Well, yes… But you see…" She suddenly dropped James's hand and reached into a pocket robe, pulling out a slightly rumpled photo. She handed it to the youth. James could see the picture in his mind's eye. It was from their school days, the entire Marauder gang – Sirius, Remus, James… and even Pettigrew. Still young in the photograph, James would look extremely similar to the boy in front of them.
"That's a picture from years ago, when James was still in school and around your age," Lily started, watching the boy avidly as mild surprise registered across his face when he saw the younger James Potter. "I think that James was highly startled when he saw you because you just look – well…"
Madame Maxime took the picture and frowned distinctly as she saw it. Her student looked up at them, shaking his head and scowling.
"But zat iz impossible!" he said angrily. "I am Jean Pole, not 'Arry Potter!"
"Please," James blurted out, "please, who were your parents?"
A cold look passed over the boy's face and suddenly the girl beside him looked strangely frightened. "My faazer was François¹ Pole."
"Your mother…?" Lily almost whispered.
He seemed to struggle with something for a moment. "I do not know 'oo she was."
"But then–" James began.
"What does it matter anyway?" the girl suddenly cried, indignant. "It would 'ave been impossible for your baby to survive ze attack from You-Know-'Oo and zat fire!"
Lily and James flinched.
Stepping in, Dumbledore said, "We do not know for sure that Harry died that night. No one could find traces of a body and Peter Pettigrew never admitted to Harry being killed… There have been many accounts from involved persons that he survived…"
"From ze Death Eaters, you mean!" Madame Maxime stated, incredulous.
"They were under Veritaserum," James protested. "I saw them take it myself!"
"Zey were dark wizards, zey could 'ave found a way around it!" exclaimed the girl.
"That is possible," Dumbledore stated calmly, looking over his half–moon spectacles, "but not very probable."
Turning to the boy, James looked at him with pleading eyes. "There are tests…" He stiffened and glared. "Are you sure that this Pole –"
"Enough!" he practically shouted. "I've 'ad enough of zis – zis tomfoolery!" He stormed out, bristling. The French girl quickly followed after him.
"Professor Dumbly–dorr, I 'ope that I leave you in good faith to guarantee zat anozzer incident like zis does not occur," Madame Maxime said coolly, leaving the small room.
The three remaining stared at each other silently, not knowing what to say.
¹ François - Pronounced 'FranSWAH' not 'FranCOYS'.
A/N: Written over a period of three days, this was sort of exhausting but at the same time enjoyable. I'm pretty sure I won't have the time or patience to update this extremely soon, but it'll get done sooner or later. Hopefully I can spend a lot more time on it when school ends next week. I'll try to get it done at least before this month ends but don't hold your breath on it.
I hope I did well on the accents, it was a bit hard to keep with all of it. I tried to make it as clear as possible when people were speaking in English or French, but it might still be confusing so please tell me if it is. Not a lot of focus on Durmstrang, but there should be quite a bit more of them later on. Ainsley will play a much larger part in the next chapter. Just so you know, the tasks will be a lot more different from the canon. And don't plan on there being much romance.
I know that Dumbledore's explanation about the Tournament was a bit tedious (you've already read it, after all) but there are changes that I made that were important, so I had to put it in.
Cookie to anyone that can tell me where Meri's last name came from. n.n