The Hall was silent, and a shocked Harry Potter sat staring at the Headmaster.
"Come on up, please, Harry," Dumbledore said, clearly not amused.
Not knowing what else to do, Harry went up and into the chamber with the other participants in the Triwizard Tournament, but inside his mind was working frantically.
Finally the others came into the room. After much discussion and general doubt that he had put his own name in the Goblet, Mr Crouch declared that he would have to participate. Harry frowned.
"Excuse me, Mr Crouch?" he asked the man politely.
"I have a question – the age line, that was a precaution for this tournament only, isn't it? I mean, it isn't an official rule, is it?"
"I knew he had put his own name in," Fleur muttered, chagrined.
"What do you mean, Harry?" Dumbledore asked.
Harry didn't react to any of them, but looked at Mr Crouch expectantly.
"It was a precaution for this tournament after much fatalities in underage students in earlier years," Mr Crouch responded absentmindedly.
"I see. Well, Cedric and Victor and Fleur are all of age, so it doesn't apply to them," Harry kept his eye on the seemingly absentminded official, "but didn't underage participants have to get permission from their parents or guardians to participate?"
The Headmaster startled. "Harry, you heard, it is an official contract. I'm afraid you will just have to…"
"I'm sorry Headmaster," Harry frowned, "Am I to understand that I could not go to Hogsmeade in my third year because my guardians would not sign the permission form, but I AM allowed to close a contract to participate in a potentially lethal competition without their consent? That does not make sense."
From the corner of his eye, he saw Severus Snape smirk with barely concealed surprise at this turn of events while Moody looked annoyed for some reason.
"Indeed the underage participant needs permission from his legal guardians before putting his or her name in the Goblet," Mr Crouch confirmed.
"See? There it is. I do not have my guardian's permission even if I HAD put my name in the goblet, so there can be no binding magical contract."
"Your guardians are allowed to give their permission even now," Mr Crouch continued, "but it must be done within twenty-four hours."
"Very well, Harry, you will have to go to your relatives and have them sign a permission form," the Headmaster decided.
"I don't see why," Harry replied, "you were obviously unhappy when my name came out of the goblet. Why not leave me out of it and not bother the Dursleys?"
"They must be asked," Dumbledore insisted.
"If I may, Headmaster, I propose that I escort Potter to his family tomorrow morning," Snape pushed forward, "so we can resolve this issue."
The next day, Snape Apparated them both to the Dursley residence.
"If I may ask you a favour, professor," Harry asked politely, "would you kindly try to persuade my relatives that I do not wish to participate in this tournament."
Snape narrowed his eyes. "Chickening out, Potter? You should have thought of that before you put your name in that infernal piece of china."
He rang the bell, and Vernon, dressed for work, opened the door.
"What are YOU doing here, boy?" he barked.
"Mr Dursley, an…issue has arisen at school," Snape began, "it will take only a few moments of your time."
Vernon, guessing correctly that he was dealing with an adult wizard here, though it wise to oblige the man.
Once inside, Snape began the explanation. "Your nephew has entered his name for a competition without asking for your permission first. He would love to participate, but such is only allowed with written permission from his guardians, as he is underage. So if you would kindly sign this form, we shall be on our way."
Vernon narrowed his eyes. "Would love to participate, eh? Is that the truth, boy?"
Harry meekly nodded. "Yes, Uncle Vernon. Will you please sign the form?"
He felt Snape's shocked gaze on his back, but kept his eyes to the floor. Looking Uncle Vernon in the eye always was a dangerous business.
"I'd like to speak to him for a few moments alone, please," Vernon nodded to Petunia, "his aunt and I need to discuss this."
"Of course," Snape had no choice but to back into the hallway.
"What is this competition?" Vernon growled.
"The Triwizard Tournament, Uncle Vernon," Harry said truthfully, knowing it would upset his uncle even more to use the full name.
"Don't mention w…w…THAT in our house!" Petunia hissed.
"I'm sorry, Aunt Petunia," Harry replied, "Please – I have to do three tasks and compete with three other students. I am the only one underage so I need your permission."
Vernon got a nasty grin on his face. "No, no, I don't think I will give it," he stated.
"But Uncle!" Harry began.
Severus was ushered back in.
"We will not grant our permission," Vernon declared, "he is too young. The others are of age, I understand."
Snape glowered. "The Headmaster…"
"I am the boy's aunt and guardian," Petunia spoke up, "We will not sign. Now leave, please."
Two minutes later, they were walking in search of a quiet alley to Apparate.
"You deceived me, Potter," Snape said, but he didn't sound awfully angry.
"I knew you would do the opposite of what I asked," Harry shrugged, "and I knew that if I seemed eager to participate, Uncle Vernon would refuse to sign. Making me happy is something he tries to avoid at all costs. You didn't really think I want to risk injury and possible death, do you, sir? Trouble usually comes looking for ME, why would I start looking for it the one time I can avoid it?"
"That was…" Snape swallowed, "that was almost Slytherin of you, Potter."
Harry smirked. "Thank you, sir. At least now I can sit back and enjoy watching Cedric win Hogwarts the Cup."
With a crack they returned to the castle to deliver the good news.