Harry Potter and the Dragon's Breath
Chapter 10 – Grand Announcements Beginning the Term
Harry was wondering if there had ever been a moment in his life when he had been soaked more thoroughly as he stepped out of the sheets of rain and into Hogwarts. Water was running off him as though he were still standing under a large faucet. He and the other students were starting to wring the water from their robes when a great splash interrupted Ron's complaining and flung more water into Harry's Face.
Cold! Harry thought, looking up in time to see a second water balloon miss Ginny and Hermione by centimeters and proceed toward his feet. Harry tried to jump back, but the sheer number of students behind him stopped him dead in his tracks, and he grimaced as a wave of cold water splashed over his sneakers. Harry looked up once again to see Peeves floating above the group with an armload of water balloons in his possession, and a nasty grin on his insane face.
"Diffindo!" Harry shouted, aiming his spell at the balloons in Peeves' arms. In a spectacular fashion, water exploded on the poltergeist, drenching him. Harry realized his mistake too late, however, as a bucket-load of water that blew away from the hovering apparition fell towards him and the other students.
"PEEVES!" A very familiar and strict voice, shouted over the clamor and shrieking of the soggy students, belonging to a hurrying Professor McGonagall. "Come down here at once!"
"Too late, too late," howled the poltergeist, "my fun's been spoiled by these ickle brats!" He looked angrily at Harry for a moment, before smiling wickedly. "But I always have the last laugh!" With that exclamation, Peeves began to vigorously shake himself, flinging water everywhere.
The spray caught McGonagall in the eyes as she was running, so when she inevitably slipped on the wet floor she had no sight to assist her arms when they began flailing about for support. She bowled through Hermione, and into the crowd with a squawk. Peeves, happy with the end result of his mischief, began cackling gleefully and zipped off up the staircase, has laughter fading as the distance grew.
McGonagall drew herself up from where she lay amidst the students and looked at Harry.
"An understandable attempt, Mr. Potter," McGonagall said stiffly, "but please let the staff handle Peeves in the future. As you can see, trying to tackle the frustrating poltergeist by oneself usually ends in misery." Harry smiled and shrugged helplessly in response. She straightened out her robes, and cast her severe gaze across the congregation of students. "Now come on, let's get into the Great Hall, all of you!" She ordered.
Harry, Ron, Ginny and Hermione obediently led the way to the Great Hall, pushing open the large doors that led the way in. The warmth of the Great Hall was readily welcomed by the four as they made their way to the Gryffindor table, and sat down with great, watery squishes.
"I knew I should have remembered that hot air charm I read about earlier this summer," Hermione moaned as she wrung her sleeves as dry as she could.
"At least it's warm enough in here we won't freeze to death," Ginny said in agreement, "Oh, I can't wait to get Peeves on the other end of my wand. I'm certain he chilled those water bombs before having at us."
"Not like we could have gotten any wetter," Ron muttered, "I figure colder was the only way he could make us more miserable." Harry just shrugged in response, taking his shoes off to empty them. The Great Hall grew louder and louder as more people filed in, and took their seats at their own house tables. The ghosts added even more noise as they filtered in, literally, through the walls, floors and tables.
Nearly Headless Nick even popped up by the four of them with a jovial "Good Evening!" which the four of them responded in kind with much less enthusiasm.
"Ah, young Ginevra," Nick began, smiling, "a most unusual location, you usually don't sit so close to-"
"Nick, I'd hate to interrupt," Ginny cut in, heat rising on her face, "but this isn't the best time. Peeves got to us first."
"I see," Nick said, coughing into a fist to hide his blunder," well, ah, I shan't try your patience any longer, shall I?" And with that, the mostly decapitated ghost made his way further down the table, with a "Good evening!" to anyone within earshot.
"Come to think of it," Harry began, trying to ward off Ginny's growing embarrassment, "I haven't actually made it to a sorting since our first year. Last year Professor McGonagall took me and Hermione away because of the Dementor attack on the Hogwarts Express. The year before that was the mishap with Dobby." Harry snorted in amusement at the memory. "Remember, Ron, we stole your dad's car to get here on time?" Ron laughed in response.
"Oh, yeah, it's funny now," Hermione berated, "but you two got in a lot of trouble for that stunt." The laughter of the two died down quickly at the jab.
"Yeah…" Harry said, looking for another topic, his eyes settled on the empty dinnerware before them. Suddenly, his empty stomach never seemed emptier, even compared to all of the years spent at the Dursleys' house. "When are those first years going to show up? I'm so hungry I could eat a … well, I'm not sure what, but I could definitely eat it." Was all he could say when he couldn't come up with a hyperbole he felt would fit in that situation, he was pretty sure he could eat whichever example came up in his head. Hermione just rolled her eyes in response.
"Turning into Ron now, Harry?" She asked smartly, before her attention wandered up to the somewhat sparse staff table. "I wonder where the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher is." She stated, drawing everyone else's attention to the same location. Harry had to admit, he had no idea. Hagrid was leading the first years, so he wouldn't be present yet. McGonagall would be out possibly drying the Entrance Hall. But there was still one more empty seat at the staff table.
"I don't see how that's important right now," Ron said to the contrary, "I agree with Harry, when are those first years going to get here?" Hermione seemed to be puffing up to Ron's ignoring her earlier statement, but everyone's attention was drawn to the doors to the Great Hall opening with a great bang to admit Professor McGonagall and the first years.
McGonagall led the diminunitive first years to the front of the Great Hall. Wet and shivering, they all looked perhaps smaller than they really were, but one of the really stood out for his smallness. He looked less frightened than the others, though, as he peered out excitedly from what Harry recognized was Hagrid's moleskin coat. From the way he caught Colin Creevey's eye, he assumed it had to be a relative, perhaps a younger brother.
Professor McGonagall placed a stool before soon to be students and upon that stool she placed the Sorting hat, looking to be in as poor repair as ever. Harry knew better, though, the rips and tears in the beat-up, old hat were really its eyes and mouth. The Sorting Hat broke into song, which Harry noted was not the song it sung in his first year. After the song was sung, McGonagall informed all of the first years the intricacies of sorting, and the process began.
With each student, though, Harry decided that the sorting took entirely too long. His stomach was positively screaming for food, and he heard several others, Ron among them, make comments mirroring his own thoughts. Finally the last student, Kevin Whitby, was sorted into Hufflepuff. Harry turned eagerly to the plates, and had to stifle a groan as Dumbledore stood to speak.
"I only have two words to say to you," the wizened old Headmaster said, "tuck in!"
"Hear, hear!" Harry and Ron cheered, as food magically appeared in front of them. Harry's mouth began to salivate as he looked across his choices for loading up his plate. The mashed potatoes looked particularly delicious, but something was telling him he would prefer, no, he needed meat.
There! Harry thought as he spied some truly delicious and tender looking steaks, glistening in their juices. He tossed three onto his plate immediately.
"Hey, save some for the rest of us!" Ron exclaimed around a spoonful of the mashed potatoes Harry had looked over earlier.
"Not like they're going anywhere," Harry replied between bites of steak. Harry noted that, while he normally enjoyed a well done steak in earlier years, these seemed dry for some reason, despite how juicy they were. His stomach wasn't complaining, that was for sure, but his mouth was telling him that the steak lacked a certain flavor. "Though they are a little over done, don't you think?" Ron gave him a funny look.
"What, would you prefer taking a bite out of a cow you could talk to? These're great!" Ron said with enthusiasm.
"Maybe he would," Ginny pointed out, "or at least maybe he would now. Harry used to like his steak well done." Hermione smiled at Ginny thoughtfully, Ron looked at her as though he had an idea, his smile quickly becoming mischievous.
"You know," Ron began, leaning toward Harry, "I reckon me and Hermione don't need to worry about keeping an eye on you for any new developments, Harry. Ginny probably could spot everything as it- OW!" Ron dropped his fork, and began rubbing his now sore shin, glaring at Ginny. The look did nothing to cow his little sister, whose red face wore an expression of outrage.
"You know," Nearly Headless Nick said, unintentionally heading off a redheaded explosion, "you're lucky there's a feast at all."
"What are you talking about, Nick?" harry asked, working on his third steak, now.
"Peeves," Nick explained, "thought he should've been let in the feast this year, but you know how Peeves is." Nick heaved a heavy sigh at the insinuation, along with a roll of his ghostly eyes. "Quite naturally, the Bloody Baron decided against, which he has my thanks for. So Peeves threw a tantrum, ended up in the kitchen, scared the wits out of the house-elves. Delayed–"Nick was interrupted by a loud clattering of silverware.
"There are house-elves in Hogwarts?" Hermione asked. Nick was puzzled at her reaction.
"Of course there are, over a hundred of them," Nick said proudly, "and they are hardly ever seen, great house-elves every one of them." The explanation did nothing to quell the fire growing in Hermione's eyes, and she immediately launched into a heated debate with Nearly Headless Nick over house-elf rights.
Harry was filling up his plate a second time, when Hermione pushed her plate away in disgust. The argument spilled over to include Ron, while Harry cleaned his plate. He looked around at the nearly empty serving trays, and knew the first course was about to end, and dessert was about to be served. He still needed to fill up more, and sweets were not the answer, his tongue was telling him. Harry looked at Hermione's still full plate of food, and looked at her irritated expression as she watched everyone around her consume the slave produced food. When she looked at Harry, though, something in her mind clicked.
"Here, Harry," Hermione said, sliding her plate towards him, "I may refuse to eat it, but you might need it if our guess is right." Harry gratefully took the plate, and added some of the remaining dinner to his plate, just in time for the remains of the first course to disappear. Ron began trying to tempt Hermione with the assorted desserts before them on the table, to no avail.
Harry was finally beginning to feel somewhat full as he finished his third heaping plate of heavy foods. Ginny just looked at him, stunned at the amount he had just put away.
"At least you aren't wearing most of yours," she said, indicating Ron, whose mouth was messy with dessert. Harry had the decency to look somewhat embarrassed as he wiped his mouth with a chuckle.
"I guess I was a little hungrier than I thought," Harry admitted. Setting his napkin aside, Harry couldn't help but appreciate how much more rounded their group felt with Ginny included, and it definitely helped when relations were strained between Ron and Hermione. At the very least he would have someone to talk to when the other two were having at each other.
"Hey," Harry said, "thanks for earlier, in the summer, about my godfather, I mean."
"I'm sorry?" Ginny asked, not fully understanding. Harry shook his head.
"I meant about believing me," Harry clarified, "it helps, you know, having someone else in the know." Ginny could feel the heat begin to build in her face.
"So!" Dumbledore exclaimed, getting everyone's attention, to which Ginny would be ever grateful for. "I must ask for your attention as I give out a few notices." Dumbledore continued on with his yearly reminder of newly forbidden items, and areas that were out of bounds for students. It was the announcement that followed that information that caught Harry totally unguarded.
"It is to my greatest displeasure," Dumbledore stated, "that I must announce that this year we will not be holding the Inter-House Quidditch Cup."
"What?" Harry couldn't help but exclaim at the top of his lungs, along with nearly every other Quidditch player in the Great Hall. He couldn't fathom a single reason that could take precedence over the Quidditch Cup; it just wasn't done, as far as he knew. Dumbledore held up a hand to quiet the dissenting voices in the hall.
"This is due to the fact that this October, Hogwarts will have the pleasure of-" He was interrupted by a great roll of thunder, and the banging of the entrance doors of the Great Hall, revealing a man whose features could only be described as grizzled.
Harry leaned back in his seat to get a better view of the man as he limped his way up the main isle towards the staff table, leaning heavily upon his staff. His improved eyesight revealed to him the man's horrifying features. His hair was soaked, tangled mane of gray, matted to his forehead. This served only to partly hide the man's horribly scarred face. Scars ran the entire length of his face, including across his disfigured nose that seemed to have lost a piece in the past. His mouth was a lopsided gash that hung partly open as he made his way forward. His right eye was a beady black, but it was nothing compared to the electric blue eye in his left socket. It was as large as a coin and spinning madly about, free from the focus of his right eye.
The man was outright terrifying in Harry's opinion. But that opinion was about to be upgraded as the man moved past Harry. A great bolt of lightning illuminated the Great Hall, and threw the man's features into a truly nightmarish relief. Harry could hear the wails of some of the weaker hearted girls among the student body.
After a brief exchange with the Headmaster, the stranger limped around the table to the only empty seat, an action which caused Harry's heart to sink slightly. It was not a pleasant feeling that he knew what Professor Dumbledore was about to announce.
"Allow me to introduce our new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher," Dumbledore proclaimed happily," Professor Moody!"
"Moody?" Harry asked, "Isn't that the name of the man Mr. Diggory asked your father had to see to this morning?"
"I hope not," was Ginny's only response.
"What happened to his face?" Hermione wondered aloud.
"Now as I was saying before," Dumbledore continued, "this October, I am pleased to announce that Hogwarts will be hosting the Tri-Wizard Tournament!"
"You're joking!" The Twins accused excitedly.
"Most assuredly not, my dear boys," Dumbledore reassured, "though I did hear a good one over the summer it starts with-"the wizened old man was interrupted by a pointed cough issued by Professor McGonagall. "Though, perhaps this is not the most appropriate time. I do hope those in the know will forgive me a rather brief explanation, as to allow those who are less informed to let their imaginations wander."
"Hundreds of years ago, the Tournament was established to improve international relations between the three largest wizarding schools in Europe: Hogwarts, Beauxbatons, and Durmstrang. Unfortunately, the rather high death toll assured its eventual end. Over the centuries, many people have attempted to reinstate the Tri-Wizard Tournament as a means to improve our relationships between the great schools, but alas, every attempt has failed."
"However, this year, our departments of International Magical Cooperation and Magical Games and Sports, have decided it was time to try again. We have all labored hard, and are sure that at no time during this Tournament, will any of the competitors be in mortal danger."
"This October, the heads of Beauxbatons and Durmstrang shall arrive, with several of their pre-determined candidates. An impartial judge will then decide a single person from each school to compete for the glory of their school, and a thousand Galleons in prize money."
Harry looked around the table at his friends and housemates, and there were few present who did not look excited at the prospect of possibly competing in the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Indeed, if he peered at their facial expressions, he could almost make out the fantasies of each person playing out in their head. He was sure they mirrored the thoughts running through his own mind.
"However," Dumbledore continued in a somewhat pained expression, as though continuing might have a negative reaction, "the Ministry of Magic has decided that only those who are of age, seventeen years, or older may compete for the cup. This is due to the fact that the Ministry believes that only sixth and seventh year students will have the wherewithal to defend themselves from the grueling challenges they are sure to face. I have agreed to lend my aid in thwarting any attempts by those who are underage from entering their names for consideration. I beg you not to attempt, for if you do so, you will fail." Harry could swear that his twinkling gaze settled on the twins, as if in challenge.
"That's unfair!" The twins bellowed.
"Won't stop me from entering, though," Fred said, loudly to George, who nodded in agreement. Dumbledore continued despite the outburst.
"I trust you will treat our fellow academics with great respect when they arrive this October, and that you will all vigorously support the Hogwarts Champion when he or she is chosen. Now I believe that it may be just a little past your bedtimes, so off with you all. Chop, chop!"
Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny made their way out of the Great Hall with the majority of the students.
"Would've been wicked to be able to compete," Ron said wistfully as they made their way up the marble staircase. "D'you think they'll figure out a way past the age restriction? Fred and George, I mean." Harry thought for a moment.
"Dunno," he said at last, "though I'm not sure I like the idea of stepping into competition with sixth and seventh year students. I mean, yeah we've done loads, but we've only just been able to make it by working as a team. I don't think I'd have been able to get to the Chamber without your guys' help." Ron and Hermione blushed at the praise.
"I guess you're right," Ron said, "would've been wicked though, being a champion."
"Until you get blown to smithereens five minutes in," Ginny teased, dodging a half-hearted swat from Ron.
"I think it would've been interesting," Hermione professed, "but if the Ministry thinks it's too dangerous…" Hermione let her line trial off at that. They slipped into the Gryffindor common room behind some fifth year students who had given the Fat Lady the password. As they approached their respective staircases they said their goodnights, but as Ron and Hermione began their climb, Harry turned around.
He wasn't sure why, but something nagged at the back of his mind. It had taken him a moment to identify it but it was the memory of this past summer, it had been by far the most fun he had had. He felt as though he had made a new friend in Ginny, even knowing about her crush on him, which he suspected might not be as over as she claimed.
"Hey Ginny," Harry called, getting the younger girl's attention, "don't be a stranger, yeah?" He was sure her blush was so severe that it would be permanent, but the broad smile that appeared on her face showed that it was the right move to make.
"Never!" She called back, and ran up the stairs to Hermione.
End chapter the Tenth.
Author's note post script:
My wife just got finished with a marathon of the Harry Potter movies, which I caught most of, and I couldn't help keeping my mind from wandering, and my fingers from twitching. Now I know that most of you probably get perturbed when they get a rehashing of what they already know (most of the events of this chapter) but I hoped I tweaked it enough for it to feel fresh. I remember from my college days, the golden rule of writing, and that is to assume your readers have no prior information to reading your material. A little assuming, I know, given the subject matter here, but it just feels right. I don't know why, but this chapter was exceedingly fun to write, from Harry's already slightly changing demeanor, to the dialogue between him and Ginny. It all just makes me smile. And yes, having Minnie McG slip and fall was entirely due to watching a few Family Guy episodes before sitting down and writing in earnest, now if you could just go back and read that part while imagining it in that super fast-forward animation style of typical MacFarlane slip and falls, that would be great. I'll definitely be seeing you all again in the future, hopefully sooner than later.