Disclaimer: I own nothing, neither Naruto nor Harry Potter
Author's Note: Please review. I am anxious to make this story as good as possible, so any comments, advice, suggestions, critique, and corrections are greatly appreciated. Flames, however, are not. If you're going to hate the story, that's fine, but please provide some reasoning for doing so.
Many thanks to Audrey for being my superfantastic beta!
Uzumaki Naruto and the Goblet of Fire
Chapter One: At the Ministry
Ludo Bagman was, not for the first time in his life, unhappy. It should be stated that, despite the undeniable presence of misery in his past, Ludo was normally of a pleasant disposition—he'd even been described by that charmingly malicious Rita Skeeter as "jovial." Nevertheless, the fact remained that, at that moment, Ludo distinctly felt overworked and underpaid, two thoroughly disheartening states of being.
He told himself that it would all pay off in the end, that this year the World Cup would be hailed as one of the best, and that his name—his name—would be firmly attached to the entire event. He told himself that, when the time came to sit down and watch the Quidditch match, everything would suddenly be worth it. He told himself that he would have the time of his life at the Cup, and he'd win enough money when his team won to pay back any and all debtors. And, if all went as planned, there would be the Tournament to look forward to, the reinstatement of which would be largely credited to him. This is what he told himself, and sometimes he even believed it.
This was not one of those times. This was one of the other times, when the temptation of simply handing in his resignation was almost too great to resist.
The hour was one o'clock in the morning, and all Ludo wanted was sleep. He had been signing papers for four hours, each one even more insubstantial than the next, despite the insistence of those around him that all these documents were imperative to…well, something or another. The Cup, probably. He'd learned within months of taking up his position that it was just a waste of time to read everything he was asked to sign.
When Ludo was first offered the job of Head of the Department of Magical Gaming and Sports, he'd expected it to be fun. Something fast-paced and based on instincts (much like his previous position on the Quidditch pitch, all those years ago)—not paperwork of the dullest variety.
And yet, as paperwork was what his job entailed, paperwork was what he would have to do. He was initialing the bottom of yet another piece of parchment, when there was a soft rap on his door.
"Sir," said a familiar, timid voice. Ludo heard the door creak as it was opened just a hair. "Sir, Mr. Crouch is here to see you."
"Deirdre, what in Merlin's name are you still doing here at this hour?" Ludo demanded of his mousy secretary, a twenty-something girl who had only been working for him for a week.
"You—you never dismissed me, sir. I didn't know…and you were still here, so I thought I ought to stay." Though he couldn't see her face, which was still hidden behind the door, Ludo could tell just by the waver in her voice that she was flushed red and immensely distraught.
"It's alright, Deirdre. You can go home. And tell Barty to come on in," he added, to which Deirdre responded with a curt, "Yes, sir," before retreating.
The door gave no noise when it was opened again. Instead, it swung forward silently and smoothly to reveal Bartemius Crouch, Head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation and the man who had been ordering Ludo about for weeks now.
"Working late I see," Ludo observed, forcing a smile. "What's happened now?"
Barty responded by thrusting something into Ludo's hands and saying, "Read this. It's safe to say that it's urgent."
It was a letter, and urgent or not, it was short: it rested very lightly in Ludo's hand and was emblazoned with a vaguely familiar silver seal, the ridges of which felt smooth and slippery beneath Ludo's thumb. The middle of the seal, he noticed, with decorated with a large, looping "B."
"Ah," said Ludo after a moment. "Beauxbatons, right?"
Barty didn't respond, so Ludo looked back to the piece of parchment. It said, in a neat, even hand:
On behalf of Beauxbatons Academy of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I must decline your invitation for our fine institution to participate in the Triwizard Tournament. So long as Durmstrang is competing, we must abstain. If the current situation changes, then perhaps so will my decision.
Madame Olympe Maxime
"Oh, blast!" said Ludo, growling at the letter.
Barty sniffed in agreement. "Yes, as you say. Without a third wizarding school, there is no Triwizard Tournament."
"But why on earth is she declining?" Ludo asked, frowning at the other man. "Surely not all that business from the last tournament. Why, that was more than a century ago!"
"A boy was killed, Bagman," said Barty disparagingly. "A Durmstrang boy. His death cleared the way for the Beauxbatons champion to win, which prompted Durmstrang to accuse the boy of murder. Beauxbatons's reaction was to accuse Durmstrang of—"
"—framing their champion. Yes, yes, Barty. I know the story," interrupted Ludo, who began to pace the small length of his office. "And I also know that the investigation turned up nothing on the part of either school, and it was concluded that the entire ordeal was just a big misunderstanding based solely on grief. Madame Maxime can't honestly still hold a grudge against Durmstrang for something that happened in neither her nor Karkaroff's lifetime."
Brushing an invisible fleck of dust from the sleeve of his robes, Barty said nonchalantly, "And yet it seems she does."
Ludo grunted in reply, too exasperated to form actual, coherent words, and he sunk into his desk chair.
"As I've said, it seems that, without further change on Madame Maxime's part, there will be no Tournament." Barty smiled tightly, an expression that seemed wildly out of place on his somber face. "Ah, well, perhaps for the bet—"
"Wait. The rules," Ludo interrupted, a light creeping into his eyes that might have been excitement or exhaustion. Not waiting for Barty to respond, Ludo said, as he dug through the contents of his desk drawer, "Within the rules for the Tournament, it never says that the three schools that must participate are Hogwarts, Durmstrang, and Beauxbatons." Pulling out a booklet from his desk with a triumphant "ha," Ludo continued, "It was sort of an unofficial rule, wasn't it?"
"What're you saying?" Barty asked, peering over Ludo's shoulder at the now-open booklet.
"Yes, yes, I am right. See, right here? Although it's certainly implied that it'll be those three, there are no actual restrictions on which schools compete. Which means—"
"Which means," said Barty, sounding none too pleased at the revelation, "that another school could compete in place of Beauxbatons."
Owls were sent to six schools in total: one in America; one in Brazil; one in Côte d'Ivoire; one in Australia; one in Venezuela; and the final was sent to Konoha Academy of Sorcery, located in Japan.
The last of these owls was sent at the suggestion of Ludo Bagman, although neither he nor anyone else within the Ministry of Magic particularly expected Konoha Academy to accept the invitation to participate in the Triwizard Tournament.
The school was of an infamously reclusive nature. Its headmaster, Professor Sarutobi, and his small population of students (a number amounting only to a little under one hundred) were rarely seen. When they did make appearances, at international conferences or meetings with the Japanese magical government, they were largely silent and infuriatingly enigmatic. However, Konoha's claim to fame was not its mysterious staff and students, but the fact that it was the only school of any merit that specialized in teaching exclusively wandless magic.
Ludo had heard of Konoha in his early days at school, when he had thought that, coming from a pureblood family, he already knew all there was to know about magic. Upon learning that some wizards could perform magic without the use of wands, he determined that he too should become a master of the skill. In the end, it seemed he had no capacity for unfocussed magic, but he had been left with an undeniable appreciation for those who did. And so, when Barty Crouch came to him, asking if he had any schools to add to the list of possible participants, Ludo had mentioned Konoha.
Now, three weeks since all letters were sent, and the only reply had been from the Salem Witches' Institute, a firm "No, thank you," on the Americans' part. It had been the day that great gray owl arrived that Ludo first took to keeping a bottle of firewhisky in his desk. When a fourth week passed with no replies, he fired (and rehired) Deirdre twice, both times for something which was his, if anyone's, fault. Finally, after thirty-three days, the owls from Côte d'Ivoire and Brazil arrived, both saying that their schools would be happy to participate. Ludo slept easier after that, even when Melbourne School of Magic was saddened to say that scheduling conflicts wouldn't permit them to join and the Venezuelan School of Wizardry declined without reason.
The letter from Konoha, embossed with a golden leaf seal, was finally placed into Ludo's hands after forty days, when the Ministry was almost completely decided upon the Brazilian school. Unable to hide the anxiety in his features, he tore the letter open.
Misters Bagman and Crouch, (it read, in an unfamiliar scribble)
Firstly, I apologize for not replying sooner. I misplaced the letter you sent, and only just found it. Secondly, I fear I must tell you that the addressee of your kind invitation, Professor Sarutobi, Third Headmaster of Konoha Academy of Sorcery, passed on some time ago. I was named his successor and am now Headmistress. In an effort to dispel some of the misconceptions regarding Konoha's students, and to introduce these students to the international magical society, I happily accept your offer.
Konoha Academy of Sorcery
Staring in disbelief at the letter, Ludo was faintly aware of a tight feeling in his chest. It was only as he began to smile that he realized the feeling was excitement. He was slightly embarrassed that he had been unaware of Sarutobi's death, but that shame was sure to be alleviated when he sent his respects, along with the news that Konoha was chosen to participate.
Of course, that brought about the problem that Konoha hadn't been chosen to participate. It had been assumed that Konoha wasn't even going to reply, let alone agree. And the letter to the Brazilian school had only to be signed and sent. To change the decision now would set the Ministry back days, a bad decision with the Quidditch World Cup coming up so soon.
And yet…this was Konoha. For the Headmistress and students of such an historically isolated school to come to Hogwarts—well, it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance, one Ludo would fight for, even if he wasn't a hundred percent sure why he cared so much.
He knew what his course of action ought to be, although he cringed inwardly at the idea.
He would have to convince Barty.
"Why, Bagman," said Crouch, frowning at the blonde man before him, "would we put ourselves at a clear disadvantage for the sake of some school that didn't even have the courtesy to reply promptly."
"Come on, Barty! This is a rare opportunity," said Bagman brightly.
Crouch had been working tirelessly for months (for years, really, if you got down to it), and he had been almost virtually without complaint. He had watched Fudge serve as the Minister for more years than he cared to count, always unable to keep himself from silently noting how he, Crouch, would have handled the situation Fudge usually managed to bungle. Crouch was undoubtedly the hardest-working employee of the Ministry of Magic, and he had handled every blow dealt to him with dignity—all of which is merely a roundabout way of saying that he didn't have the time or patience to deal with the whims of Ludo Bagman, whom Crouch had never much cared for in the first place.
"Rare opportunity or not, it seems an unnecessary inconvenience to my department."
Bagman's round eyes seemed to narrow momentarily, and Crouch heard him murmur, "I knew you'd say that." Louder, Bagman said, "Look, Barty, I'll work extra hours—even more extra hours. My department can take on some of your department's work. Anything. But this Tournament has to be, I don't know, monumental, and—"
"Monumental?" Crouch repeated scornfully.
"Yes, and, without Konoha, it just won't be."
Crouch glared silently at the other man for a moment. "Yes, well…perhaps next time it will be 'monumental,'" he said. "However, it's too late—we're already behind schedule because of Maxime's rejection and working on the Cup. It's ridiculous to cause more trouble for ourselves."
"No, dammit, it's not. It's what our job is, Barty. We want to provide for the Hogwarts students the best tournament we can, don't we?" Crouch didn't have time to balk in reply, before Bagman added, "Yes, we bloody well do."
A very long, very awkward silence ensued, during which time Crouch stared at Bagman with a mixture of surprise and exasperation. Finally, after minutes of watching Bagman twitch, Crouch said, turning away from the former Beater with a shrug, "Do as you like. I have more important things to work on." Looking back at Bagman, he added, "Talk to my new assistant, Weatherby, before you leave. Ask for the letters."
Crouch retreated through a nearby door before he saw the smile light up Bagman's features.
Ludo sought out "Weatherby," for nearly fifteen minutes, before coming to the realization that Barty had been referring to Arthur Weasley's boy, Percy. The rail-thin redhead frowned suspiciously at Ludo while handing over two pieces of parchment and intoning, "This letter just needs to be signed. This is just a first draft of the rejection letter. Are you sure Mr. Crouch wanted you to have these?"
"Yes, yes. Tell Arthur hello for me," said Ludo, taking the letters and reading them as he wandered back to his office. The Brazil letter would have to be completely rewritten, but the one to the school in Côte d'Ivoire only needed a little cleaning up. He would leave the writing of both of these letters—the ones delivering the bad news—to Deirdre. Conversely, he would be writing the letter to Konoha.
To the Headmistress of Konoha Academy of Sorcery:
On behalf of the Ministry of Magic, I would like to extend our sympathies for the loss of the great wizard Sarutobi. On a less somber note, I am pleased to accept your offer to participate in the Triwizard Tournament. Further information will be included in this letter, and please feel free to contact either myself or Barty Crouch from the Department of International Magical Cooperation. Furthermore, I would like to express my own personal excitement to meet both you and the students of your fine school. This tournament will truly be monumental.
Department of Magical Gaming and Sports
Ludo was at work until the early hours of the morning, but, that night, he slept with a smile on his face.
Author's Note: I know this is a rather slow-ish chapter, but don't worry, the gang from Konoha shows up in the next chapter! It should be longer, too. Sorry about the formatting issues with the letters...they were indented in the Word documen, and it looked considerably better.
Next time (an excerpt from Chapter Two):
There, in the doorway, stood the tall, dark figure that was Uchiha Sasuke, his lean frame clearly silhouetted as the sun filtered through the window. It was an impressive entrance, to say the least, and Sakura wondered idly if he'd planned it. Of course, if he'd planned it, there probably would have been a fog potion involved. After all, ambiance was everything.