Tired and hungry from pushing himself so hard on his morning run, Harry limped into the Great Hall, hoping he was still early enough to get the best choice of foods. Sitting down next to his friends, Harry was reminded that they had potions in only a few minutes. Snape was not who he wanted to see first thing any morning, let alone today; after the confrontation with Malfoy yesterday, he was sure he was going to be far worse than normal.
Harry was right. Potion's class was even more unbearable than he thought it would be. Unfortunately, Snape turned out to be only part of the problem, as it was the whispers and pointed looks from the rest of the class that really got to him. And while he knew she meant well, Hermione's constant reminders to ignore them all just annoyed him further. By the end of class, Harry had personally lost 15 points for Gryffindor and gained a detention with Filch. The worse part about all of it was that at least some of the points were deserved. He just couldn't keep his mind on the lesson.
There was no real improvement for the rest of the day. The teachers all tried to ignore what happened, but it was all the students wanted to talk about. Harry really hated rumors and being the topic of conversation; but in this case, he really couldn't blame them — even he wanted to know what exactly happened. It wasn't like before his third year, when his accidental magic blew up Aunt Marge. This time had been different; yet annoyingly, it somehow it still felt familiar.
It was almost like the feeling he had while kissing Katie earlier in the summer. It wasn't exactly the same, but the powerful. primal feeling was similar. He wanted to talk to Sirius about it, but that wouldn't be for a few weeks yet. No matter how helpful Ollivander had been over the summer, Harry just couldn't imagine talking to the old man about kissing her.
Toward the end of the day came the message he'd been dreading — a meeting with the Headmaster immediately following his last class. Hermione and Ron walked him to the entrance to the Headmaster's tower and sent a sympathetic look his way before quickly heading back to Gryffindor. Harry was grateful for his friends' presence, but their weak assurances that he'd be fine did little for his mood.
While today's visit was far from the first time he'd been to see the Headmaster, it was completely different from any other time. This wasn't like before, where only a few people knew what rules he'd broken and those could be easily overlooked because of the good he'd done. Harry had completely destroyed the entry way to the school. Though most of it had been repaired by the end of the previous day, everyone that had been in the Great Hall, and probably every student in all six schools, knew he'd done it. This time he really could be expelled.
Taking a seat, Harry waited for Dumbledore to begin. There was an awkward moment when the headmaster sat in silence, as if waiting for Harry to say something; but he really had no idea what to say. Malfoy had attacked first, and true to the Slytherin's cowardly way, he had even attacked his back.
Harry fought the urge to quiver under the headmaster's penetrating gaze. For a horrifying, maddening, moment, Harry felt like the headmaster was peering right through him and into his soul. He'd felt this way before, during his second year when speaking to Dumbledore, and again during the summer when he first asked Ollivander for help. A part of his mind, the younger Harry who felt like he'd been caught lying around by his Aunt Petunia, wanted to shrink away and stare at the floor rather than face his headmaster. Harry wasn't sure what had happened after Malfoy's attack, but he knew he wasn't sorry for it, and that alone gave him the strength to meet Dumbledore's eyes.
"Very well then," Dumbledore said with a bit of a sigh. "I have been in contact with the Board of Governors and the Ministry, as well as representatives from the respective governments of our foreign guests. As you might imagine, this is not how we wanted our guests to be greeted. However, altercations between students do happen from time to time, and I see little point in dwelling on such issues. That is, at least, the basic reasoning I have convinced the others to accept. Officially, this incident will be handled as a typical altercation involving the misuse of magic. Young Mr. Malfoy, responding to an earlier slight, allowed his anger to temporally take hold and attacked when he saw an opportunity. For this transgression, he will be given a week's detention, and Slytherin will be starting this year with negative house points. As there are many witnesses to verify you were attacked from behind without provocation, you will not be facing any disciplinary actions for your use of accidental magic."
Harry could hardly believe his ears. He wasn't in trouble! Sure, there were times when he didn't get in trouble for doing something against the rules, but those were in extremely dire circumstances. Regardless of what Snape and Malfoy said, he almost always received detentions anytime he was caught, and in cases involving Snape, even when he was innocent. And they were just going to leave it at that? He'd destroyed the entire entrance way!
"Now then, I believe it is time for you to begin the homework that you have no doubt left to the last night, as so many young students do, unless there is anything you wish to add?" the old professor asked kindly.
"No, sir," Harry replied. He was sure Dumbledore knew there was something more to it than just regular accidental magic, but there was no way he was going to say anything that might get him in trouble now.
Hermione and Ron were awaiting his arrival and eagerly dragged him off to the side the moment he entered Gryffindor Tower.
"How bad was it mate?" Ron asked the moment they were out of hearing range of the others. "Detention, right? It's not like they'd expel you when we all know it's that git's fault."
"Relax, mate. I'm not in any trouble. Malfoy has a week's worth of detentions though."
"You're not? I mean, that's great and all. But…"
"Well of course he isn't in trouble," Hermione said, though they could easily hear the relief in her voice. "They can't be seen as acting unfairly in front of all the other schools — and especially not after the accusations from Malfoy earlier in the morning. I'm just glad that is all over with, though you really do need to watch yourself, Harry. I'm sure Malfoy is going to try and get you in trouble again."
"Are you sure it was wise not to tell him the truth, Albus?" Professor McGonagall asked from the seat one of her favorite pupils had left only minutes before.
"If Mr. Potter were to find out the truth of his power, he would no doubt try to control it. That sort of mastery is incredibly difficult at any age, let alone as young as he is now. It could very well overwhelm him. During the past few years, he has only accessed his true strength without being fully aware. As long as he continues to accept it as either luck or coincidence, he will not put himself, or everyone else for that matter, in danger."
"You're right, of course. It's just so much to ask of one so young without even knowing why."
"That it is, my dear," the aged Headmaster admitted with a bit of a sigh. "But there is little to be done for him; with humanity showing just how selfish it truly is, such strength will be needed now more than ever before."
"Director Bones," MLE Officer Brooks said as she walked into her superior's sterile office. "You wanted to know about communications between the Minister, International Confederation Hit-wizard Boradus, and Wizengamot member Lucius Malfoy. One is taking place as we speak."
"Any chance this could be another decoy?"
"We don't believe so; it was too elaborate of a setup. If it wasn't for the fact that we were watching the source so closely, we'd never have put it together."
Director Bones sat upright in her office chair at the new information. It was disturbing to say the least. She had hoped she was wrong, that she was becoming paranoid since the appointment to her new position only two months previously, and that all the unanswered questions really wasn't a conspiracy. It was still possibly. This communication could, technically, just be some inane political conversation. She did not believe it though. If there was one thing she had learned over the course of her long career, it was that there was no such thing as a coincidence when it came to politics.
"Thank you. I'd like to see the full report the moment it's completed."
Fudge smirked as his mole informed him the conversation had been intercepted successfully. It would take time for them to put the pieces together, he knew, but Director Bones was an intelligent and resourceful woman in charge of a competent and dedicated department. The Minister did not like the woman — Amelia Bones was far too noble and could never understand the necessity of backroom deals — but he did respect her abilities. Amelia was a good Auror, and destroying her career would be a costly necessity — they would surely miss such a competent and respected leader when the war began. But such loses were unfortunately the necessities of reality.
Sure, the idea of clean and honorable politics sounded great on parchment, and once, many years ago, he had actually believed he could change the corrupt system from within — but that type of naiveté had no place in the real world. Especially not now, with so much was happening so quickly. It was only a matter of time now before the Muggles saw the true power of the magic, and one miss-step in such a sensitive plan would bring ruin to the Ministry. In the end, he — Cornelius Fudge, the greatest Minister Britain has ever known — would be the man to lead the confederation to salvation, no matter who he had to ally himself with in order to do so. For now, he needed to be patient and keep things quiet.
Under-secretary Umbridge sat with her lips pressed tightly together as she thought back to her latest conversation with the Minister. Director Bones was still sniffing at their tails it seemed, searching for any scrap to nail them with. How dare she! Umbridge thought angrily.
Amelia Bones was a popular woman, but she was a figurehead who had relied on her family's name and connections to get to where she was today. Who was she to question the actions of the Minister? Minister Fudge had earned his position, working his way up the ministry to one of the highest positions of power in the world, and some simple fake wanted to hang such a great man just to make more of name for herself!
That such a simpleton even suspected something was happening was distressing, of course. It was a mistake in an otherwise perfect plan, but not crippling, at least not at this stage. Minister Fudge had been around a long time, and he was sure to have planned for such situations. They would keep a careful watch on things, proceed with extra care, but keep going as before. Soon they would act and save their people from themselves.
"Master," said a small man with a rat-like face as he bent low to the ground. "Our spies at Hogwarts have reported in, and Lucius has also contacted us about the Ministry. Fudge was just as greedy as you predicted, Master, but he accepted the terms in the end. Everything is going according to your plan."
"Of course," replied an eerily high-pitched voice, seemingly from no-where and everywhere around him. "The opposition is little more than fools who care only about themselves, their power, their money, and their vanity. They have no true vision of the future and would have us be lapdogs for those inferior Muggles. Soon though, I will show them the true use of power. We are the British, the home of the movement started by Salazar so many years ago. Tell the others, it is time. With the world focused on events here, I and my lieutenants will go abroad. We must meet and inspire them to join our movement. The world will follow me, and they will begin to do so now, not in ten or twenty more years. Soon we will cleanse the Earth of those physically and mentally deficient Muggles."
The Ministry. The Wizarding people. The life of his nation. They would respond to a strong heart, a strong leader. Voldemort would be that leader, and in his wake will lay the broken shards of their oppressors — Muggles.
As the week progressed, a few things became obvious to Harry. The professors were assigning tons of homework — far more than normal for the first week of school — and not just the fourth years; all the students were being loaded with homework. The assignments were generally easy, but they were still long and tedious.
The most popular theory on this was that the professors had been inducted into a sadistic cult during the summer that required them to torture students in cruel and unusual ways. Hermione had a much more reasonable explanation, believing they just wanted to give the foreigners a chance to settle in without too many interruptions. For the most part, Harry actually thought that was a good idea; there was one problem with it, though. Aside from a few minutes here and there, he and Katie had spent very little time together since their tour of the school. And to Harry's disappointment, they'd had absolutely no private time since the World Cup.
Flashes of the future were becoming a problem again. Harry had thought he'd gotten over that by accepting the memories early in the summer, but being back in Hogwarts with all the familiar sights and faces were bringing them back. They weren't nearly as bad as before, but he still had to make up a few excuses to cover himself as he got lost in the memories while talking with one of the others, or even just walking in the hallways. The worse one, or best, Harry hadn't decided yet, occurred when they were talking in their dorm one night.
Dean had needed to use the loo; but after heading to the bathroom, he found he was inexplicitly compelled to head to another one. This wasn't unheard of as the privacy spells the guys used could be overpowered or placed near the entrance instead of the back sections of the bathroom — if it became a problem they'd have to have a talk with the others, but as long as it only happened occasionally, everyone accepted that it was just part of life at Hogwarts. As the castle was built so long ago, it had undergone several renovations; the latest, only a couple hundred years ago, added three sets of bathrooms and showers to boys dorms of Gryffindor Tower. One was on the first floor of the tower for the first and second years to share; the next was on the fourth floor for the third, fourth, and fifth years; and the last was for the upper classmen on the sixth floor.
Since Dean was in a bad way at the time, he chose to go up two floors rather than down four. While there was technically no school rule against it, the sixth and seventh year bathroom was unofficially off-limits to the younger students, and he should have gone down to the first and second year's bathroom instead. Luckily no one else was there, and he had nearly finished his business when another person came in. Not wanting to be caught and subject himself to the upper year's mercy, Dean hid and kept silent, hoping the upperclassman would finish and he could leave without incident. But instead of going to the bathroom, the guy left for a moment and this time brought a girl back in with him.
The problem with many standard privacy spells was that they only stopped people outside of them from hearing and seeing what was happening. Harry and each of his dorm-mates had learned the hard way that anyone already nearby when the spell was cast was not affected. Though, to their embarrassment, it was a lesson that was easily forgotten when tired or … distracted. Since Dean was already nearby and therefore not affected by the spell, he went on to tell them what he saw happen between the two. At first Harry's mind automatically went to his make out sessions with Katie, but as Dean continued to explain — in intricate detail — exactly what happened, a new memory popped into Harry's mind: his hand gripping soft, curly hair and a feeling beyond anything he ever felt coursing through him. It was only there for a moment before he lost it, but that alone almost caused him to embarrass himself. As it was, the slight groan he produced was enough for his friends to spend the rest of the night ripping on him.
Harry's nights with Ollivander and the others were turning out to be surprisingly helpful. Like with his summer lessons, Ollivander had a task all ready for him to do before he got there, but he spent at least fifteen minutes being introduced to a couple new adults and talking to a couple of the ones he'd met last time — Miss Reanna and Trenton Pyrrus. It was a little difficult to ask questions to the different adults because he really didn't want to make himself look like an idiot, but he had learned to talk better over the summer, and most seemed to go out of their way to talk even when he didn't have questions.
As there were now students from several foreign schools staying at the castle for the tournament, Harry made sure to learn what he could about them; it was surprisingly easy considering that it was all big news in the Wizarding world. One thing he did not want to talk about was the incident with Malfoy earlier in the week. Unfortunately, even the foreign newspapers mentioned it, so he ended up giving them a brief explanation — though mostly sticking to Dumbledore's story rather than his confusing version.
One of the more interesting things Harry learned about the foreigners was about their magic. There were rumors going around school that the Durmstrang students were evil and only learned black magic, and that the students from Gaia were so weak they could barely be called wizards. As with most rumors Harry heard — many of which were about him — neither were true.
"They are surprisingly well-believed rumors, Mr. Potter," Ollivander had explained after Harry had mentioned it to the small group while taking a break from learning more about shields with Reanna's help. "Many modern academic's guess — hypothesize they say, to make it sound official — that the nationality and lineage of a witch or wizard's parents determines their magical strength, an argument they use to further their purity beliefs. This is, of course, utter nonsense. They see that instead of using directly offensive spells, the Brazilian wizards and witches work with magic indirectly — creating a sword to fight with, for example — and proclaim that as proof that because they breed without care for preserving their bloodlines in that country, their magic is too weak and diluted to use the more powerful spells. The truth of the matter is that in ancient times, South America produced some of the most destructive magic this world has ever known. For ages they were witnesses to horrors you could not begin to imagine, and because of that, they turned away from using magic as a direct weapon. Any Brazilian wizard who was talented in fighting with magic would be a great shame to his family; as such, it would be kept secret and never spoken of or acknowledged, even within their own homes. So, as the centuries have passed, they've added greatly to their knowledge of healing and natural magics and lost that which could be used for fighting."
"Here is another example you may be more familiar with," Mr. Pyrrus added. "As there have been a few notorious dark wizards that speak Parseltongue in the confederation over the past millennium, it is now seen as evil. While never common, the ability to speak to serpents certainly did not disappear completely; rather, those that still carry the trait keep it silent, secret, so they and their families are not ostracized and shamed over it."
Now that Harry could completely understand. If he'd known all this before his second year, he would have most likely kept silent, too.
Saturday morning Harry took a short run and grabbed a bite to eat before his first Ancient Runes tutoring session. He didn't really know Professor Vector very well, and the two classes he had that week hadn't showed him much of what to expect. Plus, the only extra tutoring he'd ever received was from Professor Lupin last year for learning the Patronus Charm. Hanna, having already finished breakfast before Harry even arrived at the Great Hall, took a seat nearby and waited for him to finish. After eating a few eggs, the Great Hall was starting to fill up, so the pair left and made their way to the Runes classroom under the watchful eyes of their fellow students.
Hanna was wearing casual weekend clothing instead of the school robes, and the difference really showed. She had obviously developed quite a bit and finally let her pigtails down, allowing her long blonde hair to fall in waves. Harry felt a bit guilty at stealing looks at her chest as they walked, but he really couldn't help it — ever since his kiss with Katie, he'd taken a much larger interest in the fairer sex.
While he didn't know Hanna all that well, he was still shocked by how little she spoke. After his first class in Ancient Runes, Harry had thought it was Professor Vector putting her on the spot in front of another student that caused her to be shy. That wasn't the case now though, and still she was pretty silent, which was odd as he remembered her as being one of the chatty girls in their first few years of school. Absently, Harry wondered what had happened to her to cause the switch.
During the summer, Ollivander had asked him to keep notes on everyone he knew and to get to know someone better each week. After his first Ancient Runes class, Harry planned on concentrating on Susan and Hanna for the first couple weeks, but aside from Ancient Runes and Herbology — the only two classes they shared — there really wasn't much of a chance to get to know them, or anyone outside of Gryffindor for that matter. He'd been hoping to add another parchment for Hanna today, but it didn't seem to be happening.
His musing ended when Professor Vector came into the room. She was prepared for the tutoring already and handed Harry an outline of the parts he missed on his test. As he started reading through the handout, Harry came to understand the downside of learning everything over the summer like he had. It wasn't just a few details that he was missing, but rather what looked like an entire section dealing with the properties of latent magic in an item and how that affects the overall rune scheme.
By the time the session finished, Harry was mentally brain dead. After more than three hours, he had only touched the surface of the different ways magic could interfere or completely change the outcome of the same rune scheme. Harry hadn't even begun to memorize all the actual properties of the common metals and gems yet, let alone enchanted items. Still, while studying with Katie was a lot more fun and relaxing, he was happy with Professor Vector's methods; and as far as extra study sessions went, it was nowhere near as demanding as having to practice against Dementors like Professor Lupin had him do last year.
While the first full week of school was review, the second week smacked them all on the arse and really showed how difficult this year would be. McGonagall had said that this year they'd be delving much further into the intricacies of magic, and she was right. She certainly did not want to waste any time, and their lectures became more in-depth than before. Even with Ollivander's help during the summer, Harry still felt lost at first and found himself desperately paying attention to every detail during the lecture in the hopes that something would start to make sense.
Transfiguration was not the only subject that this happened with, as Charms and Defense Against the Dark Arts both took on a more serious approach. And while Binns was as boring as ever, even he began to cram more information into their lecture, causing Harry switch from sleeping through the class to actually paying attention and even taking notes. Annoyingly, he found that these new lectures were a vast improvement from the previous years, though one that came at a cost — time.
Thankfully, at least one of his classes, Ancient Runes, didn't seem all that difficult, probably because all the work he and Katie did during the summer was now paying off. In an interesting twist, Harry actually gave Hermione a few helpful tips with their homework — granted Katie had showed them to him over the summer, but it was still a pleasant surprise to be able to teach his best friend something new.
While he spent most of his time studying with Hermione and Ron, the few times he tried to sneak off with Katie, he had the distinct impression that something was wrong, though she denied it and said it was nothing. Pushing it out of his mind, he'd gone back to studying and was pleasantly surprised when Katie came over to gave him a quick hug and kiss goodnight before heading up to her dorms. It wasn't anything like what happened at the World Cup, but he wasn't about to complain.
During the little free time he did have outside of studying or talking with Katie and her friends, Harry hung out in the common room trying to put some of Ollivander's lessons to use. He soon learned that there were a few drawbacks to paying more attention to what was happening around him. He had never really thought about it before, but people could be cruel. While not necessarily deliberate — although he suspected some of that did happen as well — his dormmates were hurting each other everywhere he looked.
In several groups there was often someone who was ignored and barely even acknowledged. It wasn't that the person was too quiet. Harry saw a few examples of them trying to break into the conversation, only to be roughly shot down. Worse was when he realized that his friends did this to Neville, and to his disgust, even to Hermione. He was slightly mollified that he didn't do it himself and hoped he never had in the past — especially not to Hermione.
The only explanation he could really come up with was that people really didn't notice what went on around them or even what they were saying most of the time. This had been true for himself, as well — at least until this past summer. Ollivander's lessons were a double edged sword in that respect. Thankfully, unlike his primary school, there wasn't much in the way of outright bullying at Hogwarts, at least not within Gryffindor house. Fights between houses were somewhat common, especially with Slytherin, but Harry expected no less from the snakes.
After realizing what his fellow Gryffindor's put Hermione through, Harry decided to walk off his anger a bit. He wanted to be mad at them; sure, Hermione's nagging could be a bit much at times, but she was still a good friend who had helped them all quite a few times over the years. He wanted to be mad, but as he thought about how he acted to her most of last year, he knew he really couldn't. Harry might not have caused the row last year, but he hadn't thought about how it affected her until Hagrid had pointed it out to them. Lost in thought and not paying attention to what was going on around him, Harry was caught surprised when someone interrupted him.
"Wotcher Harry!" a decidedly female voice called out to him.
Standing there, on the outskirts of a group of people he didn't know talking to Professors McGonagall and Flitwick, was the woman he'd met at the World Cup, Tonks, in her bright red official ministry robes and long black hair.
"Tonks," Harry said, as he remembered she mentioned Hogwarts during their walk, "you've been assigned to Hogwarts then?" She really had saved him a great deal of trouble with her quick thinking that night by taking the blame for why he took so long getting back to the camp site.
"Just now," she replied as she walked over to him. "It looks like I'll be bugging you on and off for the next few months!"
"You didn't get in trouble with the Ministry did you? Those officials didn't look happy when you left."
"Ha! Those old duds complained to my supervisor, but he pretty much just waved it off. It's not the first time some official has had a problem with the MLE."
The, now short, pink-haired Auror trainee then switched gears and began going on about her new duties at Hogwarts. Harry listened closely, mostly because he really was interested in what an Auror did, but also because it kept his mind of his own problems regarding Hermione and why in the world it seemed to matter so much to him all of a sudden. Tonks' enthusiasm was so over-the-top he couldn't help but smile back at her, and he was soon caught up in the excitement as well, his previous thoughts forgotten.
The next week at Hogwarts started with another horrible Potions class, followed by a surprise test in Transfiguration. Such tests were always annoying, but the real surprise about today's was that he actually knew the answers – knew – not just guessed.
Though Ollivander had taught him a lot over the summer, none of it was on this exact subject, so his only knowledge came from taking notes during the previous weeks classes. Between the increased difficulty of his classes and his own promise to change things fresh in his mind, Harry had really been trying to pay attention and do well this year.
The first subject he had to do this for was Professor McGonagall's class, and he'd given it his all. He struggled at first as he didn't really understand the basics of what she was talking about with the new in-depth lessons, but this only caused him to follow along even more carefully as she went over the lessons and sometime during the week he'd suddenly got it, like a light bulb going off in his head.
At the same time, another light bulb had gone off in his head. Harry had previously always claimed that he was trying — maybe not his hardest, as he justified spending part of his free time with Ron, and also spent a great deal of time practicing for the Quidditch team — but that he was actually trying in his classes. Now though, Harry realized that he'd only been pretending to himself. He'd taken this new attitude into each class, hoping it'd help him change things in the end, but he'd never expected that it'd start to pay off so soon.
The teachers did slow down on the busy work, instead seeming to favor fewer more difficult and in-depth assignments. Surprisingly, Harry actually preferred this method because it reminded him more of the assignments that Ollivander had him do over the summer, when he easily spent an hour or two working out the different parts to a single problem. Though he couldn't hold a candle to how fast Hermione worked, he was still impressed by how few questions he had to ask her, preferring to try — and often succeeding — to figure it out by himself first.
Ron, during all this, was struggling. Though Hermione had reneged on her threat not to help him with classes after his thoughtless remark on their first night back at Hogwarts, she was limiting her help to examples only, forcing him to do the actual assignments himself. That was still better than several of their other classmates, who would stop by their table to ask for help when stuck but otherwise were on their own.
By the end of the week, Harry knew something was afoot. Though there was no specific rumor, there was a feeling of wrongness that he couldn't shake. It continued to grow until they walked into the Great Hall for dinner Friday evening. A low platform had been erected at the front of the hall, and Minister Fudge and quite a few other important-looking people, including one of his least favorite people — Lucius Malfoy — were sitting at a new table nearby. Beyond them and toward the far wall of the Great Hall were a group of journalists who were standing around and snapping the occasional photograph.
A memory of a very similar scene flashed through his mind, but he tried to shove it away and continue to walk toward their regular seats. He wasn't completely successful, but at least he didn't fall down and stumble. This was not the time Harry wanted to deal with something like that.
The buzz of hundreds of conversations flowed through the Great Hall as the rest of the students slowly trickled in. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Dumbledore very deliberately stood, calling for everyone's attention.
"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen," he said, his bearded face beaming around at the packed Great Hall. "We are all here for a very exciting event, one that we hope will help usher in a new age of international co-operation and respect between our great countries. Before we begin, I would like to speak about the past and how this event has come to be."
"Judicium Magus," Dumbledore continued after a moment's pause, "dates back to the age of Merlin and refers to the practice of magic itself, proceeding over a judicial hearing to decide the innocent. Though the knowledge to invoke such a procedure was lost during the Cataclysm, the idea of allowing magic to judge an event remained."
"700 years ago, in a time when distrust, ill-will, and violence between societies and beliefs ran rampant, Headmaster Chauncey Everard grew tired of seeing the magical world living in fear of trusting each other; but there were scars on that generation that could never heal, and he was not blind to that. His idea, however, was brilliant in its simplicity. The only true way to create lasting peace, he believed, was to show our children that while we may and often do disagree, we have more in common than our differences can divide."
Dumbledore stopped a moment to let his words sink in before continuing. "To that end, he worked extensively with the Headmasters of Beauxbatons and Durmstrang to create a school-oriented event in the hopes of promoting peace. For several years the three schools tried to organize the event, only for it to be caught up in the same distrust that it was being designed to fight. Eventually they decided that the only way to have a fair competition was for magic to be the judge. It was then that the Experientia Magus — trials of magic — was born.
"Today, when distrust between our societies continues to grow, we once again must place our hopes for the future in our children."
"It is my greatest honor and pleasure to officially welcome the students of Hogwarts, Durmstrang, Beauxbatons, Gaia, Salem, and Victoria to the Trials of Magic."
Silence reigned as Dumbledore took his seat. After such a speech Harry could see why the professor was considered one of the greatest wizards of all time. It may have been his magical strength and knowledge that evil wizards feared, but it was his words and determination that people believed in — this was what Ollivander had tried to make him understand in the beginning. Studying defense books could make him a good fighter, but it could never make him a great wizard.
There were other speakers, pompous, stuck-up officials from the different ministries, but no one's speech could touch Dumbledore's.
Finally the introductions and politicians were done with and Dumbledore stood, this time explaining a little of how the original three schools hired the best craftsmen of the age to create a magical object to oversee the trials, the Goblet of Fire — a roughly hewn wooden cup that was unremarkable in appearance except that it was full to the brim with dancing blue-white flames.
Dumbledore continued to explain that each school would have a team of five champions, chosen by the goblet, and each month the teams would compete in two tasks: one designed to test magical knowledge and the other to test one's skill and power.
Harry thought about everything that happened this summer as Dumbledore finished his explanations and opened it up for aspiring Hogwarts champions. He thought about the future, about all his visions and his promise to change things, the studying he'd done, and the feeling of wrongness he had all week. Harry knew what he had to do.
While everyone was whispering to each other and glancing around to see who would be first, he grabbed Ron and Hermione's arm and stood up, shocking those around him.
"Come on you two," he said, pulling them out his their seats.
"What do you think you're doing?" Hermione hissed.
"I am not letting things go the way they were," Harry fiercely whispered to her, making sure no one else could overhear them. "We've seen what happens. We have to change things!"
Cedric Diggory was sitting slightly closer to the front than they were and arrived just before the three of them. Taking a slip of parchment from the table, Harry took the contract quill — a quill that wrote not in ink, but in the blood of the witch or wizarding holding it — and magically signed his name before submitting it to the goblet. Returning to their seats with Hermione and Ron, Harry saw that the Weasley twins and a couple other Gryffindors were heading up to the table, along with a few people from the other houses. Malfoy tried to make an especially big production of submitting his name, but Harry and the rest of Gryffindor just laughed at him; he hadn't even been the first Slytherin to sign up. In all, there were 23 Hogwarts students who signed up, including two second years who did it on a dare from one of their friends.
After the last Hogwarts student finished, Dumbledore made a great sweeping gesture towards the goblet with his wand. The Goblet of Fire shone brightly with its magical blue fire as the entire Great Hall watched anxiously. Finally, after what seemed like forever to Harry, the goblet flashed red and a piece of parchment shot into the air and was caught by the headmaster's waiting hand.
"Hogwarts' Team Leader is Cedric Diggory!" Dumbledore's strong voice announced to the great applause of Hufflepuff's table.
Cedric walked up to the raised platform and waited as the goblet made its next decision. Thankfully it didn't take very long this time, and Dumbledore's voice called out, Harry Potter.
The Gryffindor table went wild around him, but Harry barely paid any attention. He'd done it. After all the work this summer, here was proof that he had actually managed to change things!
Getting up, Harry walked up to the platform and shook hands with Cedric. While sitting at Gryffindor's table, he had thought Cedric looked confident and happy, a smile on his face. Up close, however, he saw that the Hufflepuff was terribly nervous and smiling so much that it reminded him of Gilderoy Lockhart.
The next person called was an older Slytherin witch, Catherine Longford. Harry didn't particularly like the idea of working with a snake, but at least it wasn't Malfoy or one of his goons. He could only imagine how horribly Hogwarts would do with that brat on the team.
After Catherine came Cho Chang from Ravenclaw. Three of the school's seekers were on the team! Cho looked as beautiful as ever, but Harry forcefully took his eyes off her and instead focused on the Goblet of Fire. He didn't understand what he felt around the pretty Ravenclaw; it wasn't the same crush as he felt last year, but it was definitely something.
The goblet took longer this time, longer than any of the previous times really, and Harry was just wondering if maybe he had heard wrong, and it was four people team, not five, when it finally turned red and shot out another parchment.
"Hermione Granger," was called and Harry clapped like a mad man. The two of them were on the team together!
He saw Hermione talking to herself back at Gryffindor table and could only smile as he remembered the little, first-year girl talking to herself as she gathered her courage to walk in front of the school and try on the sorting hat.
Once she made it up there, Dumbledore officially introduced them to the school.
"Ladies and Gentleman, our Hogwarts Champions!"