On the quiet, suburban street of Pitsbury Lane, there was hardly a house there without its windows open. It was an unbearably hot summer –a record high, the radio said— and residents had taken to airing out their houses in the cool and dusky night air.
Down the lane, across a house with a rather ugly hedge fronting its yard, Hermione Granger's second-floor bedroom window sat wide open, joining the chorus of Pitsbury Lane windows that night. The window glass was pushed upward, and curtains drawn temptingly aside, all barriers cleared so there was nothing to stall the arrival of incoming breezes. For though calendar dates indicated that summer was nearing a close, the summer heat still lingered, torturously and without any hint of leaving soon. The six o'clock news blamed global warming, The Quibbler faulted crumple-horned snorlacks.
While her window implored, the seventeen-year-old slept, body shifting occasionally, sometimes turning, trying to shake off the heat that settled onto her skin once her bedroom fan turned to cool the rest of the room. The fan worked its whirring head while all else slept, rotating its way from Hermione's organized desk to her dustless bookshelf on the other end of the room. Books, textbooks, and reference books took up that entire wall, arranged in a complicated system that Hermione's father said only Hermione understood (which made sense, since Hermione was the one who organized it). Numerology and Gramatica sat neighbor to A Hundred Years of Solitude, and Wilhelm Wigworthy next to James Joyce, and Mr. Granger, with his orderly, structured arrangements of teeth, could not understand it at all.
At the moment, however, the fan blew at her desk, happily beleaguering the pages of the calendar tacked above it, sending pages flying upwards, flipping August aside to expose September a week early before the pages settled back down. But for a second or two the room caught a glimpse of the box for September 1, circled purposefully with red marker, and inscribed with neatly scripted letters written in a thinner red pen:
Kings Cross, 11 AM
A mile away from Kings Cross Station, in the drawing room of 12 Grimmauld Place, Mundungus Fletcher coughed as he experienced the unpleasant sensation of dust rising up his nostrils.
Through watered eyes Mundungus shook the dust off the ancient calendar he'd plucked off the drawing room wall with considerably less force, having learnt his lesson. However, even squinting, Mundungus caught the gold filigree lettering the calendar pages. This interested him. Very much. Taking his pipe from his mouth, he rubbed his thumb and forefingers on the parchment, nodding satisfactorily when the parchment fibers proved strong.
"Good, very good," he muttered to himself. Common reusable calendars usually lasted ten years or so because of the cheap parchment used; this calendar, however, came from the 18th century and was still nice and strong. Add on its gold-trimmings and you could get a price worth--
"Mundungus Fletcher, is there a calendar or not?"
Minerva McGonagall's voice carried over to him, sharp and impatient. "If there isn't one then we can just carry on—"
"I got one, Minerva, I got one. 'old yer 'hippogriffs, woman," Mundungus told her in a tone that suggested he was familiar with hers. Sticking his pipe back in his mouth, Mundungus lumbered back to the members of the Order of the Phoenix, puffing out clouds of green-grey smoke as he did.
McGonagall, lips still pursed when Mundungus finally set the calendar onto the table in which the members were centered, only nodded. She then snapped the calendar up almost immediately, and flipped through the pages, stopping on the week of September first. She regarded the calendar grimly. "Exactly seven days. One week. We have to make up our minds about--" she gestured towards the large, roughhewn cup on the table, "—that, tonight. We have spent these past two weeks in waste because we haven't been able to decide whether we want to use the Goblet of Fire or not."
"I say yes!" Elphias Doge coughed out immediately, pounding his fist onto the table with as much force as his rheumatism allowed before coughing again.
"I agree," Hestia Jones seconded from the other end of the table, her cheeks pinker than usual because of the torporific heat even Grimmauld Place had not been able to keep out. "We've revised the plan over fifty times in this year alone, and not much has been left out of consideration."
Nods came from the others. But Bill Weasley frowned. "That's true. But I still think we should go through everything one last time. It's a good plan, I know, but completely problematic." He paused. "I mean, this is one thing, but what if they don't fight at all? What good will them being there have? Would it even be right to expect them to fight?"
"Yeh, it seems a bit ritual sacrifice-y around the end, if you ask me," George Weasley shrugged, looking dubiously at the Goblet.
In shabby green robes stained with grass stains and dirt from the last full moon, Remus Lupin nodded thoughtfully. "Well said. I was thinking the same." He leaned against the table with one hand. "We shouldn't jump to any decisions. We can't. There are far too many ethical issues involved in this."
"Ethics which will be worth messing with," Mad-Eye Moody interjected gruffly from his end of the table. "Voldemort's forces have only increased in strength in the past year, and we need to be as ready as we can. This is the only way we can be ready!"
Neck lost in his high-necked black robes, Severus Snape was one to nod in agreement. "Agreed," he commented in his usual deadened tone. "No Auror will know the halls as well as those students will, and the Ministry is slow in sending Aurors. Fudge always wants paperwork first, action second. The Aurors will come very late on."
"But these are children we're talking about!" Molly Weasley exclaimed, the mother in her showing in her voice and her glare. "Not Aurors!"
"Yes, but children always seem to carry a tremendous amount of strength in them all the same, don't they?" Lupin replied softly. He turned to Mrs. Weasley. "Nobody will be made to fight, Molly. That's the last thing we want, but it's something we have to consider. They'll be leaders for their peers first, fighters last."
"Yeah, you'd be pretty amazed at what the students can do," Fred Weasley put in, his voice quiet in a way it seldom was.
"A'right, a'right, but what if nobody fights when they're supposed 't?" Dedalus Diggle frowned, scratching his head from under his violet top hat. "Won't there just be more little kiddies to worry about then?"
At the head of the table, Albus Dumbledore cleared his throat, speaking for the first time since they entered the drawing room. "No, Dedalus… there will be those that fight. The ones the Goblet will choose… will be ones that will fight for Hogwarts."
"For its protection or ruin?" Charlie Weasley countered from Bill's side.
Dumbledore shook his head. "That I do not know. Using the Goblet," he addressed the whole table, "is a risk. But I believe, as Alastor and Severus have pointed out, that it is a risk we should consider taking. We are in a time where risks are often all that are left for us. Remember also that the Goblet of Fire will choose those that it deems worthy, not for any cause or event-- but for Hogwarts."
"I-I vote to use the Goblet of Fire," Emmaline Vance said awkwardly, breaking the silence that followed. "Albus is right, this is a risk we just have to take."
Arthur Weasley sighed. "I say yes too."
"Only if the children will be kept as far from fighting as they can."
"They will, Molly, they will. I vote yes, by the way."
Nymphadora "Tonks" Tonks popped her gum. "Got my vote."
"I still don't like it, but I guess it's all we have," Bill sighed.
"I don't think any of us really do," his brother commented, clapping a reassuring hand on Bill's shoulder. "Count us in," he told Dumbledore.
"I'm wi' Bill 'ere," Rubeus Hagrid said heavily, "but count my vote innere too."
"…So we choose to use the Goblet of Fire?" McGonagall asked the table, meeting nods of agreement and low "Ayes."
McGonagall looked down at the Goblet between all of them. "Then it's final. We are to use the Goblet."
Tonks popped her gum again in the apprehensive silence. "So… now what?"
McGonagall took a dull, faded Hogwarts Prefect badge from her robe pocket and showed it to her. "This."
"Congratulations, Charlie, you're a prefect!" the twins chorused.
"Shut it, you two."
"Both of you, quiet." McGonagall rolled her eyes, once again Headmistress to her students, before pointing her wand at the badge. "Finite incantum."
Suddenly the badge's purpose came clear as it began expanding, flattening radically as it did so as if the entire thing was being spread out by an invisible rolling pin, before it curled up to form a thick and ancient-looking scroll.
"I suppose you're not to be prefect after all, Charlie," Fred said in a pitying tone.
"S'right, mate," George consoled.
"Huh. Figures a Transfiguration teacher would transfigure the scroll," Bill commented daringly, setting the Weasley brothers on a roll, only grinning when McGonagall gave him a look.
"For your sake, Mr. Weasley, and for winning the House Cup in your last year, I shall ignore that statement," McGonagall replied dryly.
Amid the fray of Weasley brothers, Tonks leaned way forward. "Is that really it?" Tonks peered at the massive scroll. "It is?" she confirmed a moment later, awe in her voice. "Galloping gargoyles. I was expecting it to be taller than a gnome! It's not as big as I thought it would be."
"Compression spells," Kingsley Shacklebolt said sagely. "The scroll is probably much thicker than that."
"Thicker than a garden gnome?" George Weasley queried.
"May I put it in?" McGonagall asked, mildly exasperated.
"Go right ahead and throw the scroll into the Goblet, Minerva," Elphias Doge okayed in a wheezy voice, settling down into a chair. His arthritis wasn't treating him well either. Damn weather. "It'll be interesting to see which names come out."
"Hey, hold on," Charlie frowned, "I thought we weren't supposed to find out who the contestants were until you brought the Goblet to Hogwarts."
"Not in this case, Charlie," his father answered. "We have to contact the real people, remember? We need to get that accomplished before school begins for Ron and Ginny and them."
"So the kids at Hogwarts will just be watching a second showing of the Goblet?" Tonks asked, scrunching up her nose.
"Not quite as fun, I realize, but yes," Dumbledore smiled, "that's the plan."
"Well, let's get ta seein' those names," Mundungus said loudly, puffing madly at his pipe, the acrid smell of burned socks filling the room.
Lips thinning at the smell of the smoke, McGonagall brought her wand up, and with a quick incantation, brought the Goblet of Fire roaring to life, aqua and white flames flaring up from the center, brightening the darkened room with a pale, blue-tinted light. She shared a glance with everyone at the table before dropping the scroll into the Goblet, which roared deafeningly before lapsing into a muted crackling sound. McGonagall sighed, and turned to the grandfather clock behind them. Midnight.
"The Goblet is searching for the individuals now."
"…Now what?" Fred Weasley asked.
"Now, Mr. Weasley, we wait."
On the nightstand beside Hermione's bed, the red bars of her digital clock shifted position: 12:00, the numbers now read. The fan abruptly clicked to a stop; the calendar pages settled to a still.
And on Number Four, Privet Drive, Harry Potter awoke from a searing pain from his scar.
A/N: Well. I guess I'm back. --This is the same Everything I Know, by the way. Just in case you couldn't tell because it doesn't look like it at all except for the wildly flaming presence of the Goblet. But it is. Not sure what you guys think, but I'm hoping it wasn't too terrible. I also have a lot to say, but not here. My livejournal (see Author Info) is where everything I have to say to you is, and where every question is answered. But I can say this for now: love to all of you. And don't thank me for this. You're the ones that brought this back.