Title: Thousands Of Reasons To Smile
Parings: Harry/Alphard, Charlus/Dorea, Tom/Minerva, Ignatius/Lucretia
Disclaimer: I own nothing
Thousands Of Reasons To Smile
"Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be."
Harry woke to Alphard crawling into the bed beside him, burrowing into Harry's arms, trying to find a comfortable spot.
"Go back to sleep," Alphard said, pressing an awkward kiss to Harry's chin.
"I thought you were grounded again," Harry mumbled through a yawn. He felt Alphard smile against his neck.
"Yeah, but I promised to spend the whole day with you on your birthday didn't I? It started a minute ago."
Harry forced his eyes open the barest amount and peered at Alphard. The room was dark, so he could only make out a shadow, the barest outline of Alphard's features tucked against his shoulder.
"Happy Birthday, Har-bear." Alphard said.
Harry pressed his nose against Alphard's hair, holding him closer.
"You say the nicest things," Alphard teased, trailing his hands down Harry's back.
Harry hummed happily and closed his eyes again. "Love you."
"Love you to, Har." Alphard said as he closed his eyes and slept.
Harry's warm. He can see his phoenix Joxer from where he is, so he's still on his bed. He's lying down and he's under a blanket, and he's cozy. He wouldn't mind staying here.
Harry pulls at the blanket and closes his eyes again.
The morning was bright and very early for the two Potter brothers as Hermes, the family dog woke them abruptly as he jumped on top of Tom and started barking. Tom let out a soft grunt as Hermes landed on his stomach.
Charlus automatically pulled his blanket over his head and groaned.
Tom sighed and sat up and stretched as Hermes began to slobber all over Tom's face.
"Hermes!" Tom pushed Hermes away and the dog bounced off the bed left the same way he came.
After a couple minutes, Tom threw a pillow at his younger brother. "Hey! Make yourself useful and go to the store in Diagon Alley."
Charlus sat up and glared at him. "Like what?"
"Grab a parchment and make a list."
"A list? How much stuff could you need?"
"Streamers, confetti, banners, wrapping paper – "
"Alright, fine! Let me find some paper. Why didn't you stop to get this crap yesterday?"
"We had to go to summer school and we were babysitting. And what store do you know is open near midnight?"
"Why can't we have mum and dad get-"
"Mum and dad are going to be busy doing stuff." Tom interrupted.
Charlus finally found something to write with and sat at their desk. "What is it we need?"
Charlus read the list back to him once finished and Tom nodded in approval.
"I think that's good for now. Hopefully we'll find some stuff we can use in the house when we go back to it." With that, Charlus put on some mostly-clean clothes and headed out to the Diagon Alley.
"Harry?" Alphards says. "I'm hungry and I smell food downstairs."
It's not dark. It's not the middle of the night, and Harry isn't half-asleep. It's morning, with the sun already coming up.
Harry uses the toilet, brushes his teeth, and get's dressed for his big day. Harry just wore a plain long sleeved red plaid shirt over his white t-shirt and denim jeans and sneakers.
Alphard had brought a set of clothing for the day and was having his nape of the neck brunette hair slick back. Alphard wore a dark grey plaid blazer over his white dress shirt and black dress pants.
Knowing that his father was going to be upset, probably already knowing where his whereabouts was, Alphard didn't want to push it by staying another extra day.
"Al, come on, I told you not dress all fancy-"
"Har- today is your birthday,-!"
"...and we're spending it here!-"
"Blacks dress to impress-"
"I don't even want to celebrate my birthday, I just want a small get together with family-"
Alphard went up and kissed Harry on the lips. "Don't be so uptight. Today is your birthday, relax luv."
Harry just grumbled underneath his breath.
"Good morning!" Alphard said walking into the kitchen happily with Harry at his side.
"Alphard, you're here... again." Tom says from the kitchen table.
Harry sighed looking at Tom's outfit wondering why he even bothered asking his family to try to look normal or even passing as muggle for him for just one day.
Tom was wearing a navy blazer over a black t-shirt and red cardigan. He wore black slacks and I guess Tom's compromise was to wear sneakers with them.
"Good morning, Mrs. Potter." Alphard says, because he's always been hopelessly polite to Harry's great grandparents.
"Good morning, Alphard, sweet heart and a very happy birthday to you, Harry." Valerie came up and hugged both Harry and Alphard. "You two help yourself to breakfast, Xander made special banana pancakes for you, Harry."
Valerie Potter was wearing a short sleeve cream lace trimmed vintage dress that went to her knees and white dress shoes.
"I'll thank him when I see him." Harry replied.
"I appreciate your generosity, Mrs. Potter."
Valerie smiled and motioned both Harry and Alphard to the table. Boniface and Charlus had yet to show up in the kitchen.
"You could try something other than brooding or surly, Tom." Alphard said as he walked towards the kitchen table to eat breakfast.
"Hey," Tom says. "Brooding and surly work for me."
"Do they work with Minerva?" Alphard asks as he sits at the kitchen table along with Harry.
"I'm always charming," Tom tells him. "Maybe I'm only brooding and surly because I'm around you."
Alphard smiles. "I'm glad you feel you can be yourself around me, Tom."
"Let's me know that you like me."
"I don't like you," Tom tells him. "I don't hate you as much as I hate everyone else. There's a difference."
"It's okay," Alphard says buttering up his toast. "I don't need a declaration. It's clear that you have feelings for me, and I'm well aware of your inability to communicate them."
Tom huffs, and it's almost a laugh. Tom's pretty sure that anything he says will be the wrong thing, so for once he keeps his mouth shut.
"Sorry Tom, Alphard's brain and his mouth don't talk to each other much." Harry said to while Alphard rolled his eyes.
"There's no evidence, contextual or otherwise, to support that conclusion," Alphard says.
"I'm hoping that by ignoring you I'll discourage your attention-seeking behavior," Tom tells Alphard.
Charlus strolls into the kitchen and runs up behind Harry and gives him a huge hug behind his back.
"Happy Birthday, Harry! I hope you have many more to come!" Charlus says to him and then gives him a noogie.
Harry can't help it; he laughs while Alphard scowls and tries to fix Harry's hair back.
Harry was happy that at least Charlus followed by what he wanted and dressed casually for his birthday.
Charlus wore a blue denim jacket over his brown plaid long sleeve shirt and white t-shirt. He had on brown cargo pants and sneakers.
"Thank you, Charlus. At least somebody remembered." Harry said teasingly to Tom.
Harry can feel Charlus frowning at Tom. He doesn't even have to turn his head to know the expression's there.
"He was too busy harassing me to wish his own brother a happy birthday." Alphard answered with a roll of his eyes.
Tom makes a face. Whether he's right or not, Alphard knows exactly how to manipulate Tom. "You know, I really hate you sometimes."
"Not as much as you hate everyone else," Alphard replies, the smile in his voice.
"You boys, try to behave. I'm going to look for your father." Valerie said walking out the kitchen.
"House rules," Tom says. "Don't be a jackass."
"Oh," Alphard says. "So the rules don't apply to you? That's typical."
"This is the most affectionate that I've seen you two with each other." Charlus said to Tom and Alphard as he sat and joined them at the kitchen table.
"Tom," Harry says. "Has it occurred to you that it's not worth it? Alphard has gotten exceptionally snarky than you and you two, if given the chance, can go on like this for hours. And I'm still waiting for my happy birthday."
"Happy birthday, brother."
"You need help with that, Boniface?"
Julius! Harry turns his head to the sound of his godfather's voice on the other side of the kitchen door.
"For crying out loud, Boniface! Let Julius help you."
Julius gets through the door with a huge box, lifting it easily, making it look like he's hefting a Styrofoam box. An empty Styrofoam box.
"Where would you like this, Boniface?"
"Over there," Boniface says, waving him toward the other side. "Wherever is fine."
"This okay?" Julius asks. He's standing in the farthest corner, up against the windows.
The boys watch Julius put the box down and shift it deliberately so it's pressed up against the wall.
Julius could always pull off looking cool no matter he wore, but today, he especially looked the part. He wore a black leather vintage jacket over a white business shirt and skinny navy blue tie, denim jeans, and converse sneakers. Julius hair was in a pompadour hairstyle.
"So, tell me if this is none of my business-"
"It's none of your business," Boniface says automatically.
Julius ignores him. "But isn't this going a bit over the top?"
"What is this?" Harry asked.
"Open it up and see." Boniface said smirking.
Boniface wore a black blazer over a white business shirt, no tie, with black slacks and wearing black converse sneakers. Harry could tell that Boniface actually did try to make an effort to look casual.
"You like it?" Boniface asks when Harry unwrapped the gift.
It was a wizards tent, a fancy wizards all-purpose tent for magical use only. It was gigantic, it might as well be a miniature house.
Harry moves his eyes away, and only then does he see the excited look on his great grandfather's face. "Of course I like it," Harry says, gaze flicking away again. "It's fucking amazing."
"Your use of profanity is very all-purpose," Julius cuts in, sounding amused. As usual. He's probably smirking. Harry forces himself not to look.
Tom, watching the two of them together, Harry and Julius talking like they have all the right in the world, makes him wonder what it would be like to believe the way they do. To assume-to just know, without having to think about it-that vampires have rights. That they should have a choice, not because they're good people, like Julius, but just because they are. Because they exist.
Why wasn't England more tolerant dealing with magical wildlife?
"So does that mean we're going camping for Harry's birthday?" Charlus asked.
"Yes it does. So be ready in an hour, I already made reservations."
"Julius?" Harry asked uncertain.
"Julius can come." Boniface said with a sigh.
"Do you want to?" Harry asked his godfather hopefully.
Julius smirked. "When have I ever willingly missed your birthday?"
It's a hike up to the campground, that much Harry was expecting. He wasn't, however, expecting it to take two whole hours.
It's no secret that he's the smallest one in the group; no matter how hard he tries to actually enjoy the mandatory work-out and training sessions, he's always trying to give himself. He's been carrying his backpack and sleeping bag and one of the three packs of food Boniface packed for them for just over an hour and he keeps wondering how much freaking longer is this going to take.
"Want me to carry one of those for ya, Harry?" Charlus throws a look back at him, pulling his chain. But even if he was being serious, Harry wouldn't want Charlus to carry his stuff for him, even if he is trailing behind.
"Hey, his boyfriend is right here." Alphard said beside him panting.
Charlus rolled his eyes. "I know, that's why I offered."
Alphard just scowled in response.
After forty-five minutes, they finally make it.
"I don't think that peg goes there." Harry said matter of factually.
Harry, Charlus, Tom, Alphard, were to share a tent with each other. Julius was with Harry's adopted parents and Tom was watching Alphard and Charlus progress with him.
"If you're so sure, why don't you come help?" Charlus asked, reaching for a second peg.
Harry started as if to move towards him, and then slumped back as he exclaimed, "I'd love to, but today is my birthday."
Charlus ignored Harry and slid the peg into the spot that it definitely belonged, no matter what Harry was saying.
Alphard sighed, "You don't know anything about setting up a wizarding tent anyway Harry, just let me and Charlus set it up luv."
"I know how to set up a tent, you know. I went camping with wizards before. And that peg doesn't go there." Harry explained, leaning back against the tree he was standing beneath, looking quite cool and content, despite the dry heat of the early onset storm season.
Extending the second part of the peg, Charlus brushed the beading sweat away from his forehead, and then fed the material of the tent over the frame, sliding it gently over the exposed metal. He was unable to resist shooting a smug look in Harry's direction when it snapped into place and was decidedly tent shaped.
"Well, if I'd known you were trying to build a tent…" Harry replied, cocking his head to inspect both Alphard and Charlus handiwork, "I suppose it's structurally sound."
Charlus just shook his head, and moved to sort out the rest of their belongings, spreading their sleeping bags out neatly in the open tent, and piling the cooking utensils and miscellaneous things that he'd obviously though they might need, into a pile around the coolers that held their foodstuffs for the weekend.
"Of course, If I'd set it up, I'd have at least made sure the tent isn't inside out." Harry continued.
Both Alphard and Charlus looked at Harry, looked at the tent that they'd, yes, put together inside-out, and then looked back to their brother/boyfriend who'd watched them put it together inside out.
Tom laughed and shook his head in merriment.
When Harry's friends arrive, they exchange animated greetings, clapping each others backs, already cracking jokes. Some of them go off to go find Charlus and Tom or go dance as some music starts up.
"Harry I really need to change out of these clothes!" Alphard whined to him. "I'm dirty and sticky-"
"Oh thank goodness you said it first." Harry said making a face.
Alphard pouted at his boyfriend. "Well do I at least get a kiss goodbye?"
Harry laughed as he went up and kissed Alphard sweetly on the lips. "Hurry back, yeah?"
"Yes, sir." Alphard said grinning from ear to ear.
Harry looked on at his family and friends as he leaned up against the oak tree.
The music was okay, but it wasn't anything to dance to. Right now if you had to rate the party it would probably get a one or two.
"Hey. Don't think I've seen you around before."
Harry doesn't recognize the voice, but he does turn around to see whom is speaking to him. He gets guys, and girls, trying to pick him up all the time, so he's pretty much used to it. He knows how it goes. They drop a line, he gives a monosyllabic response. They ask a question, he gives a monosyllabic response. If the conversation lasts longer than five minutes, Harry gives them credit for their determination.
In this case, he just shrugs.
"How'd you get into my party when I don't even know who you are?" Harry asks as the young preteen boy pauses, but Harry goes on to say, "Guess it's time for a new security team."
There was no doubt in Harry's mind that this boy was from the Black gene pool. The resemblance between him and Alphard were remarkable. Only this boy's eyes were an ocean blue instead of Alphard's sparkling silver gray.
"Nah," the boy comments, "They patted me down real good, I was just joking before. Dorea invited me here."
Harry sticks out a hand for the boy to shake. "Harry Potter. And you are?"
The boy takes it. "Marius. Marius Black."
"Oh, Dorea is always talking about her little brother Marius."
Marius nods, removing his hand from Harry's grasp. "Yep, that's me," he agrees sardonically. "Little squib Marius. Disgrace of the Black family name." Marius sighed and looked elsewhere.
Harry frowned in disapproval. "There's nothing wrong with being a squib, Marius. Don't let your family make you feel otherwise. I'm sure you'll still go on to do great and wonderful things. That's all you can do, is do your best in this world."
Marius grins despite himself. "Are you sure you should be sharing such delicate information with a person you don't really know?"
Harry shrugs. "I'm bored. I'm at my own party. I think I'm at liberty to do as I please."
Marius gestures to the room around them. "I'm sure any one of those people would be glad to rid you of your boredom." He pauses, then adds, "Other than my ill-tempered sister. She's probably not your type."
"Dorea?" Harry laughs. "She's not bad once you get past her prickly shell. Just look at her and my brother."
Marius looks over and laughs along. Charlus was currently twirling Dorea too many times in a circle as they did their waltz. She didn't look annoyed at all though, just slightly amused.
"Well, who would have guessed." Marius smiled.
Marius is a pretty cool guy, Harry soon discovers. He talks with his head bowed a lot that tells Harry he's reserved, if not at least a little shy. But he's funny, too, and has a really great sense of humor that Harry finds it easy to relate to. Like, he's quick-witted and sarcastic in the most modest way possible, and has already made Harry laugh out loud at least five times at jokes he's not even aware he's making because he's just so natural at it.
He would be a second year, the same year as Cynthia if he weren't a squib. Though his family has him going to a private school for boys in England.
"One would hardly expect you to attend an event such as this, Alphard."
Alphard whirled around to find himself, well staring somewhere between the immaculate grey lapel of the suit and a frown of a man altogether very unhappy.
Harry turned his head when heard the loud appropriation noise. His body was immediately filled with dread when he recognized Alphard's father, knowing that this definitely wasn't going to end well. Harry hurried and made his way to Alphard's side.
Several responses sprang to mind - all of them pithy and biting, of course - but what Alphard found himself saying, stunningly casually, was, "What, my own boyfriend's party?"
Mr. Black frowned. "Be that as it may- these self-serving aristocrats do not-"
"Pollux, these are my guest and they have the honor of being here unlike you."
Mr. Black bristled at Boniface statement. "This is my son's birthday and I wish it to be a pleasant one, so if you could please to be so kind as to leave-"
"Not without my son, Boniface." Pollux Black sneered back grabbing Alphard by his arm. "He's not supposed to be here and he knows that. Neither are you Dorea, Lucretia." Pollux didn't even acknowledge Marius.
Dorea stuck her chin up defiantly as Lucretia looked down at her shoes. "We know where we're supposed to be, Mr. Pollux sir."
As Pollux turns his head, he looks like he's about to say something rude to Harry, but Julius is suddenly right there behind him, his shoulders are set and his hands are in loose fists at his sides, posture deceptively casual but Harry knows that if Mr. Black makes any dumb moves, he's gonna end up on his back on the floor and in a world of pain.
"Julius, would you mind taking them to the right grounds to go Disapprate?" Boniface asked with a resignation look on his face.
Julius nodded and lead the way, not looking to see if Pollux Black was following. Alphard looked back at Harry sadly and Harry just gave him a small smile back.
Boniface turns to him, eyes softening. He reaches out, one hand sliding into Harry's hair to cup the back of his head. There's worry in those royal blue eyes of his.
"He didn't hurt you, did he?" Boniface asks softly, pulling Harry in close for a hug.
Harry finds himself tucked up against Boniface's chest and under his chin, he takes a deep breath before he shakes his head, "No, no I'm fine."
"Alright, I'm going to finish that barbecue I was making everybody. I'm sure everyone is starving!"
They've gathered a little bit of a crowd by now, and Boniface just smiles charmingly at the worried family and friends gathered around, assuring them that everything's fine and that everybody should go back to doing what they were previously doing before the interruption.
Boniface was cooking barbecue, burgers, hot dogs, chicken and other grilled meats. The picnic tables had potato salads, baked beans, coleslaw and potatoes chips.
Watermelon was cut up in pretty triangles on glass trays. Valerie also made fruit kebabs and had set up a large jug of lemonade and water on the picnic tables.
For dessert, you could set up an ice cream cone station where everybody can top their ice cream with sprinkles, jimmies, cherries and other treats.
"Hey Harry!" Abraxas said brightly with Venus by his side.
Harry muttered something under his breath, eyes fixed on the wooden table in front of him.
"What was that? Couldn't hear you over all that teenage angst," Abraxas said grabbing a bottle of beer out of a bucket of ice.
"Shut up, Abraxas," Harry said not in the mood.
"You eat anything yet, kid?" Abraxas called over his shoulder. Harry heard the hiss of Abraxas beer bottle opening and rolled his eyes.
"This may come as a shock to you but I know how to take care of myself when you aren't around. I'm not a baby." Harry pulled angrily at a loose thread in the arm of his plaid shirt.
"What the bloody hell is your problem, kid?" Abraxas asked with a quirked eyebrow as he took a seat next to Harry.
"Today is your birthday Harry, why aren't you celebrating it?" Venus asked as well.
"Because nothing is going right."
"Harry, aren't you happy? It's your birthday, after all."
"I suppose I'm as happy as I'll ever be," Harry replied shortly. And really, there was no real reason for him to be unhappy. It wasn't like he was dying or anything.
Abraxas rolled his eyes. "I hear your mum is going to be bringing out your birthday cake any second now."
"Oh! I hope it's chocolate! She makes the best chocolate cakes!" Harry said excitedly, his mood quickly changing as he stood up to go find his great grandmother.
"Well..." Venus said looking on in amusement.
"Never underestimate the power of chocolate dear."
It could have been the unfamiliar terrain, or a noise from their natural setting, but something just felt off, and Harry grew more uneasy the longer he contemplated.
Tom was still fast asleep beside him, half on top of him, one hand curled under Harry's arm, and the other resting against his hip, and while it was possible the he'd murmured or shifted in his sleep, Harry didn't think that was what had woken him. It wasn't a call of nature, and he wasn't overly hungry or thirsty.
Eventually, knowing he'd never get back to sleep with how worked up he'd gotten himself, Harry slipped out away from his brother, smiling when Tom murmured something unintelligible and curled in on himself.
Harry got to his knees, crawled the few feet to the tent opening and unzipped quietly, stepping outside, stretching to stand as he exited.
For a second, everything was fine, nothing seemed out of place, the creek still trickled softly to the left, and the stars twinkled overhead.
Then he breathed deeply, and the smell hit him.
Smoke. Thick, cloying, choking.
And behind him, the entrance to the valley burned.
Blurred by darkness, smoke and distance, the gaping mouth of the valley was a towering glowing haze, colossal and terrifying in its sheer size. Even as Harry watched, colors started to solidify, amber, crimson and glittering spiraling patches of gold splashing across his vision as the fire raged toward them.
Denying the reality of his disbelief, his complete and utter unpreparedness for such a sight, Harry shook himself from his shocked stupor.
They had to move. Now.
He ducked to crawl back inside their previously cozy tent, which suddenly felt ten times smaller, the air seeming stale and sweltering hot as it dragged at his throat. Harry was plagued by strange dread, his fear trying to convince his mind that the fire, unseen, unheard, was just outside, set to consume them at any second.
It was his brothers completely normal presence that calmed Harry's racing mind. Tom hadn't stirred, hadn't even moved from where he'd curled into Harry's vacated spot a few minutes earlier.
"Tom, Charlus! Tom, wake up. We've got to move." Harry prompted, voice intense and focused, adding a gentle shake for urgency.
To his credit, Tom's eyes opened almost immediately, wide and alert.
"Trouble?" Charlus asked, and Harry's mind snapped back to the situation at hand with a startling jar.
"Wildfire- we need to leave." Harry replied, knowing Charlus was likely expecting dark wizards to attack them.
"Fire. Okay. Shit. Right- Where is Mum and Dad? How much time do we have?" Charlus asked, sitting up and scrabbling out of the tangled mess of sheets wound around his legs.
"None. Clothes and shoes- we've got to move, now. I don't know where Mum and Dad are, probably still asleep." Harry replied, pulling the first shirt he laid hands on from their bag and tossed it to Charlus, following it with a pair of jeans, before dragging his own shirt over his head.
Tom reached for his trainers, grabbing Harry's at the same time, dumping them between them as he pulled the left on, tying the laces securely.
Crawling back out the small opening, the first thing Harry noticed was that the smell of smoke now permeated the area. It wasn't subtle anymore, it was thick and cloying and damn near visible, wisps starting to form in the air around them.
Tom climbed to his feet beside him, already turning to take in the approaching wall of flame.
And 'wall' was the most apt description Harry could think of. In just the few minutes he'd been in the tent, the fire had crept closer with alarming speed. Harry could make out individual plumes of flame that danced with their neighbors.
"Boys!" Boniface came straight to them along with their mother Valerie. "We can't Apparate out of here. I don't know what's going on, if this was planned or if Grindelwald is behind this but-"
"How fast is it moving- how far has it traveled?" Tom asked.
Boniface tried pinpointed the exact spot he'd been staring at earlier, but the smoke and the fire were too obscuring. "Can't tell- but it's moving fast, very fast,"
Shielding her eyes with her hand, Valerie tried looking beyond the fire, to see how far back its path still blazed,asking "Do you think we can make it through, Boniface?"
Boniface considered, "Not the way we came..."
"We head further up the valley then, outrun it until it burns itself out, or we find a way out." Boniface reasoned, his eyes tracking the progress of the fire, assessing, theorizing, calculating, before continuing, "We'll have to go on foot."
"The far canyon wall has been climbed before. It's not exactly beginner, but we can make it up that if we have to, I know for a fact that at that point we should be able to Apparate out." Valerie replied.
"Let's go", was all Boniface said.
Everybody headed off at a steady jog, following the line of the river as it wound out of sight of their camp.
The fire was gaining. Harry hadn't chanced more than a fleeting glance over his shoulder, but the quiet of the night was slowly fading beneath the dull roar of the approaching flames, and he could feel warmth starting to prickle at the back of his neck.
Darting around a rock that lay half submerged at the rivers edged, Boniface breathed a warning to his son, "Watch your step".
He felt more than saw Tom nod, also altering his path slightly to avoid the rock.
They'd been silent for the past few minutes, about fifteen minutes since they'd left the camp, each seemingly lost in their own panicked thoughts and getting into the steady repetition of the movement.
Stressed, agitated and scared, Tom of course, took his mind off their current situation by running his mouth.
"Camping, he said. Peaceful and relaxing, he said."
Glancing across, and seeing no actual anger or blame, Boniface replied, "Roasting marshmallows on an open fire, he said"
Tom snorted, stumbling half a step as they rounded a bend, "Open fire! Yeah, okay. Shall we dance around the raging inferno to?"
Harry wasn't sure if the wind suddenly changed direction, but whatever the case, thick cloying white/grey smoke suddenly engulfed them, cutting visibility completely.
Boniface stopped on a dime, an arm flinging out to catch Tom as he overshot his father's unexpected halt. Valerie had grabbed Charlus and Charlus had grabbed a hold of Harry.
Charlus wrapped an arm around Harry's waist, while Valerie turned sharply, trying to keep her bearings in the sudden onslaught of smoke.
Boniface tried to waft the air between them, but it made little difference, and Tom felt viciously nauseous as he breathed in and the acrid thick smoke coating his mouth and throat.
"I can't see a fucking thing. Can you see anything?" Boniface asked his wife Valerie.
"Very little. Blurry outlines at best. Stay close- I don't want to lose you in this."
"We need to- keep m-moving. Stay low-"
"Why can't we use our magic?" Tom choked on his words, and spoke around rasping hacking coughs as he breathed in a lungful of the smoke.
"Because if this is a trap- it'll lead them right to us- and we can't- can't Apparate out safely and we'll endanger even the muggles."
"Keep go-Keep going!" Valerie gasped out and Harry felt his heart stutter as he heard the rattle of his great great grandmother's lungs around the last word.
They stopped for a mouthful of water, using the moment to try to catch their breaths. The pops and crackles of burning, breaking twigs had long since been drowned out by the constant roar of all consuming flames, only the loud gunfire like cracks and occasion thuds spoke of larger branches and entire trees giving way under the onslaught.
The fire had gained, eating up the ground behind them faster than Boniface had thought possible, but he was pretty sure they were going to make it. The canyon wall was only another half mile or so.
They'd make it.
"Come on, we're almost there." He said.
They had to make it.
Something close behind him cracked, and a dull thud caught Boniface attention. Something wasn't quite right about the sound, something niggled at his brain. It had come from too close behind him.
Boniface stopped, swiveling back to look over his shoulder, just catching Valerie pulling herself back to her feet, brushing leaf matter from the palms of her hands.
Immediately he pressed closer, hands moving to settle on Valerie's shoulders as his eyes trailed over his lover's body, as he asked urgently, "Valerie? Are you oka-"
"It's nothing. Keep going. Boniface- we ha- have to keep going!" Valerie reminded him.
The fire was right behind them, and Boniface knew, if he looked, that his entire field of vision would be flame.
He kept moving.
It only took him 34 seconds to realize that Valerie was limping, badly. It only took him 34 seconds because Valerie didn't say anything, didn't slow, didn't stop pushing herself.
Boniface looped Valerie's arm over his shoulder, wrapped his own around Valerie's waist, and propelled them toward the canyon wall that was looming up before them.
They made it. The could Apparate out of there.
"Dad, there's three of us, you can only Apparate two, that is if Mum can even handle doing a side-along Apparation." Tom said.
The canyon wall was already almost unbearably hot beneath his hand, and the fire was so close he could feel his hair stating to melt, hear it sizzle, and smell the noxious burning smell.
They were too late.
"I can Apparate just fine by myself." Harry said, "Dad take Tom and Mum can take Charlus."
"What? Since when-"
"Dad seriously? There's a fire coming-"
Boniface huffed out and grabbed Tom before he could protest and Apprated. Valerie did the same to Charlus but at the last second Charlus twisted away from his mother.
Harry just stared at him for a moment, thoughts running through his head, trying and failing to compute the fact that Charlus actually stayed behind with him.
"What's wrong with you? Are you out of your bloody mind?!" Harry practically yelled at him.
"I don't believe for a second that you know how to Apparate, Harry. You probably just said that to do some self sacrificing-"
"You idiot! I'm not really fourteen! I've been Apparating and Disapprating for years! Since I was fifteen-sixteen! I can't side-along Apparate with you with this body!"
"Well, we'll just have to dive in the water and take our chances."
"I don't know how to swim and I can't hold my breath that long-"
Charlus simply scooped Harry up, one arm beneath his knees, the other at his back, cradling his brother slash grandson against his chest as he waded into the large pool of water nestled against the canyon wall.
"What are you doing?!"
Charlus looked to where the water was darkest, coldest, deepest, answering quietly, "We're going to use the water, submerge ourselves."
"I don't need you to carry me!"
Charlus whispered "Breathe" and then, one long breath later, he stopped swimming, and they sank, fast, beneath the water.
Charlus deflated his lungs and they sunk like a rock. They went down, down further than Charlus had really anticipated, but that was okay, because deeper was better. The deeper they were the less heat would reach them.
Harry appeared calm. Relaxed, or as relaxed as one might be under these circumstances. His eyes were closed and he was still, peaceful, but for the hands Charlus could feel clenching and unclenching in the back of his jacket.
The water around them heated slowly, but not unpleasantly so, the increase in temperature little more than that of a luke-warm bath. Comforting even, until Charlus glanced up, and realized he was looking at flames licking against the surface above them.
Harry spends the next few minutes with his eyes squeezed shut, trying to hold his breath without choking or throwing up.
When it's finally clear and there's no more cogent evidence of blazing fire above the surface; Charlus and Harry break the surface a few meters away, surging upwards through the water.
Harry is gasping and Charlus is panting, treading water in front of Harry.
"Charlus, Harry, get over now!" Boniface bellows, and Charlus doesn't have to be told twice. He pulls Harry along and they both start swimming, heading towards the shore.
Hands are grabbing at Harry's arms and he grasps hold as he's pulled bodily out of the water.
"You two are grounded for the rest of your lives," Boniface is saying, as Charlus unsteadily clambers to his knees. Boniface wraps his arms around them both. "Never allowed to go outside ever again."
There was a definite end-of-the-summer gloom in the air when Harry awoke next morning. Heavy rain was still splattering against the window as he got dressed in brown slacks and a sweater; they would change into their school robes on the Hogwarts Express.
He, Tom, and Charlus had just reached the first-floor landing on their way down to breakfast, when Mrs. Potter appeared at the foot of the stairs, looking harassed.
"Boniface!" she called up the staircase. "Boniface! Urgent message from St. Mungos! You're needed right away!"
Harry flattened himself against the wall as Mr. Potter came clattering past.
"Muggle neighbors heard bangs and shouting, so they went and called the Police. It was Grindelwald's followers attacking random muggles and in their homes. Boniface, you've got to get over there, there was so many injured —"
When Harry and the others entered the kitchen, they saw Mrs. Potter looking anxiously at her husband.
"I can take the boys to King's Cross by myself-" Mrs. Potter was saying while Mr. Potter was bending over the fire, talking to Mr. Longbottom's head which was sitting in the middle of the flames like a large egg.
They were talking very fast, completely unperturbed by the sparks flying around it and the flames licking its ears.
"You wouldn't mind? I know it's at the last second, but this is urgent-"
"I heard about it," said Mr. Longbottom, "I had to come into the office early to send a couple of owls, and I found the Improper Use of Magic lot all setting off —"
"Did any Muggles witness the whole thing?"
"One muggle says he heard an intruder in his yard. Says he was creeping toward the house, but was ambushed-"
"Will you be able to take my boys with you, Michael?"
"Boniface, you know I will," said Mr. Longbottom's head, rolling its eyes.
"All right, I'm off," Mr. Potter said, and dashed out of the kitchen again.
Mr. Longbottom's head looked around at Mrs. Potter. "Sorry about this, Valerie," he said, more calmly.
"This isn't your fault, Michael, we appreciate all the help you give us." said Mrs. Potter.
"Just returning the favor," said Mr. Longbottom.
"The boys and I will meet you at your house in half an hour?"
"Sure, see you then." Mr. Longbottom smiled and then, with a small pop, vanished.
Harry could hear Boniface Potter calling hurried good-byes to him, Charlus, and Tom.
Within five minutes, he was back in the kitchen. "I'd better hurry - you have a good term, boys," said Mr. Potter fastening a cloak over his shoulders and preparing to Disapparate.
"Valerie, honey, are you going to be all right taking the kids to King's Cross with Michael and Crystal?"
"Of course I will," she said. "You just look after yourself, we'll be fine and I'll come help you at work later on."
As Mr. Potter vanished, Emilia and Bruce Reeves entered the kitchen.
"Was that Boniface?" Emilia asked. "Where's he going?"
"Urgent injury's at work, Boniface was needed right away." said Mrs. Potter.
Emilia was Boniface's twin sister.
"Your husband is a doctor right?" said Bruce thoughtfully.
"In Muggle terms, yes. He would be considered a doctor." Valerie smiled lightly at Bruce. "What brings you two here?"
"I'm here to!" Cynthia said walking in with Shiloh on her back. "I had to take Shiloh to the bathroom."
"Cynthia? We haven't seen you all summer. What have you been up to?" Harry asked.
"Sorry about that, I was in the process of getting adopted."
"What?!" Harry asked shocked.
"Yup, Mr. and Mrs. Reeves have legally adopted me."
"Why didn't we know about this?" Valerie asked shocked as well.
"Oh I'm sorry, Val. It was all very sudden. Cynthia wasn't happy and you know we adore her. Bruce and I have plenty of room for Cynthia at home and I've always wanted a daughter-"
"My last name is still Maximilian though. I'm more happier with the Reeves than with my own father. It wasn't working out and I wasn't happy and the Reeves said they were willing to adopt me, so yeah."
"Well, good for you, Cynthia." Charlus said.
"So now you're really stuck with us." Tom said.
"Face it, Tom; you could do a lot worse than having me as your cousin."
"Yeah," Tom says, most of his attention on eating his scrambled eggs. "I could be married to you. Then it'd be all you, all the time. Twenty-four seven."
"Oh, wait," he adds, before Cynthia can interrupt. "It already is."
"Thanks for looking out for her, Emilia. Merlin knows she won't do it herself." Valerie said.
Emilia smiled. "Bruce and I are happy to have Cynthia as apart of our family, so is Shiloh."
"Sorry I missed your birthday, Harry. How was it? Did you like my present?" Cynthia asked as she sat down next to Harry, who was drinking orange juice that Valerie had put in front of him at the table.
Emilia had decided to come and see everyone off at King's Cross station, but Bruce, apologizing most profusely, said that he really needed to get back to work.
"I just can't justify taking more time off at the moment," he told them.
Mr. Longbottom had managed to order Ministry cars, three ordinary looking Muggle cars to take them into London.
Tom whispered to Harry as they stood in the rain, watching the Ministry Official drivers magically putting six Hogwarts trunks into the cars.
"How are all fourteen of us and our luggage going to fit into three little Muggle cars?"
Harry smiled. "By magic of course."
Tom gave Harry an unimpressed look.
"Tom, there will be plenty of room, trust me. These cars are not ordinary cars, these are magic made." Harry said.
The journey was actually really comfortable, owing to the fact that they were in van like cars on the inside. Harry, Tom, Charlus, Alphard, Francis, Cynthia, Shiloh and Mrs. Reeves were in the the first taxi. Aurora, Kayley, Ava, Ryan, Mr. and Mrs. Longbottom, and Mrs. Potter were in the second taxi and all the luggage was in the third taxi.
By the time they entered London, Harry, Tom, and Charlus were all in high spirits. They were very happy to get out at King's Cross, even though the rain was coming down harder than ever, and they got soaked carrying their trunks across the busy road and into the station.
Harry was used to getting onto platform nine and three-quarters by now. It was a simple matter of walking straight through the apparently solid barrier dividing platforms nine and ten. The only tricky part was doing this in an unobtrusive way, so as to avoid attracting Muggle attention.
They did it in groups today; Harry, Alphard, Tom, and Charlus went first; they leaned casually against the barrier, chatting unconcernedly, and slid sideways through it... and as they did so, platform nine and three-quarters materialized in front of them.
The Hogwarts Express, a gleaming scarlet steam engine, was already there, clouds of steam billowing from it, through which the many Hogwarts students and parents on the platform appeared like dark ghosts.
Harry, Tom, and Charlus set off to find seats, and were soon stowing their luggage in a compartment halfway along the train. They then hopped back down onto the platform to say good-bye to Mrs. Potter, Mrs. Reeves, Aurora and Francis. Alphard went off to check on his younger brother Cygnus and to look for Ignatius Prewett.
"I might be seeing you all sooner than you think," said Emilia, grinning, as she and Shiloh hugged Cynthia good-bye.
"Why?" asked Cynthia.
"You'll see," said Emilia. "Just don't tell your grandpa Harold I mentioned it... it's 'classified information, until such time as the Ministry sees fit to release it,' after all."
"What does grandpa Harold have to do with any of this?" Charlus asked curiously.
Harry smirked to himself. He hadn't told his brothers about the Tournament, wanting it to be a surprise.
"You kids are going to have an interesting year," said Mr. Longbottom, his eyes twinkling. "I might even get time off to come and watch a bit of it."
"A bit of what?" said Ryan.
But at that moment, the whistle blew, and Mrs. Potter chivied them toward the train doors.
"Thanks for helping us out today, Mr. and Mrs. Longbottom," said Harry as they climbed on board, closed the door, and leaned out of the window to talk.
"Yes, thank you for everything, Mr. and Mrs. Longbottom," said Tom remembering his manners as well.
"Oh it was our pleasure, dears," said Mrs. Longbottom. "Ryan, girls, I'd invite you all for Christmas, but... well, I expect you're all going to want to stay at Hogwarts, what with... one thing and another."
"Mum!" said Kayley irritably. "What d'you three know that we don't?"
"You'll find out this evening, I expect," said Mr. Longbottom, smiling. "It's going to be very exciting - mind you, I'm very glad they've changed the rules-"
"What rules?" said the Longbottom's and Potter's altogether.
"I'm sure Professor Dippet will tell you... Now, behave, won't you? Won't you, Charlus? And you, Harry?" Valerie said excluding Tom, believing that he was more well behaved than his brothers.
The pistons hissed loudly and the train began to move.
"Tell us what's happening at Hogwarts!" Charlus bellowed out of the window as Mrs. Potter, Mrs. Reeves, and Mr. and Mrs. Longbottom sped away from them. "What rules are they changing?"
But Mrs. Potter only smiled and waved.
Harry, Tom, and Charlus went back to their compartment. The thick rain splattering the windows made it very difficult to see out of them.
"I want to know what's happening at Hogwarts," Charlus said grumpily, sitting down next to Harry.
"We'll know soon enough." Harry replied shrugging his shoulders nonchalantly.
Both Charlus and Tom eyed Harry suspiciously.
"We'll know soon enough?" Charlus repeated Harry's words appalled.
"You know something don't you?" Tom asked, eyes narrowed.
"Harry you better not be holding out on us!" Charlus said as he stood up from his seat and stood to face Harry, trying to look intimidating.
"Nice try," Harry said with a roll of his eyes, "but we both know that you won't hurt little ol' me."
Charlus smirked. "I don't have to hurt you to make you talk, Harry. There are other methods of persuasion." Charlus pulled out his wand.
"Wait a second!" Harry said putting both his hands up.
"Are you going to talk?"
"Whatever it is, which I'm not saying that I do or don't know, it would ruin the surprise and what would be the point?"
"Tom?" Charlus asked his older brother's opinion.
"Hey!" Harry said shocked.
"What's going on in here?" Alphard came walking in just in the nick of time, standing between Harry and his brothers.
"This doesn't concern you, Al! This is between Harry and us!" Charlus said rolling up his sleeves.
"Harry?" Alphard asked frowning.
"There is an event coming up and Charlus and Tom want me to blab to them what it's about." Harry replied back with a roll of his eyes.
"What event?" Alphard asked.
"That's what we want to know, now if you could move aside-" Tom tried to push Alphard, but he wouldn't budge.
"Nobody is attacking, Harry!"
"We're not going to attack him... much." Charlus replied back.
"I'm not even supposed to know about this! It's supposed to be a surprise, why do you guys want me to ruin the surprise?"
"What, by keeping us in the dark?" Tom said.
"By refusing to implicate you in whatever is going on," Harry says.
"Aha!" Charlus points at Harry. "You admit something's going on!"
"There's always something going on," Harry says. "The point is that this time, maybe you really don't need to know till the time is right. "
"That's not good enough." Charlus said pouting.
"Harry just give the baby a bottle." Alphard said with a roll of his eyes.
"You can at least tell us what this event is?"
"If I tell you, you can't try to look it up and you can't bombard me with questions. Professor Dippet is going to tell us as soon as we get to Hogwarts if you can be that patient." Harry said dubiously.
It may be a brief moment of agreement, but right now they all agreed to Harry's terms.
"The Triwizard Tournament will be taking place at Hogwarts this year. It usually happens once every five years and only students who are of age fourteen years or older - will be allowed to participating in the tournament."
"What," Tom says. He didn't see that coming.
"Yes," Harry says impatiently. "Are you genuinely confused, or is your ego having a moment?"
The corner of Tom's mouth quirks up in a smirk and he says, "Grandpa Harold obviously had a hand in the age restriction."
"Yes, well now you guys know. There goes the excitement of astonishment and wonder."
"Oh shut up, Harry." Charlus said sitting down on the opposite side of Harry. "This is going to be a fun year after all! I can't wait."
The rain became heavier and heavier as the train moved farther north. The sky was so dark and the windows so steamy that the lanterns were lit by midday. The lunch trolley came rattling along the corridor, and Harry bought a large stack of Cauldron Cakes for them to share.
Several of their friends looked in on them as the afternoon progressed, including Conall Norton, and Artemis Bones. There was no hard feelings between Artemis and Tom, after the whole incident with Minerva, Tom still kept in contact with Bones.
Ignatius Prewett, Dorea Black, Lucretia Black, and Minerva McGonagall came into the compartment and stayed.
It was the third sigh in the last five minutes, and Dorea was getting tired of trying to ignore Charlus pitiable para verbal pleas. Everybody was looking at Dorea to shut Charlus up.
"Confound it, Charlus!" Dorea finally ejaculated, exasperated beyond belief when a fourth sigh came from Charlus mouth. "What on earth is the matter with you?"
Charlus turned his head over to face Dorea, where she sat across from him.
"I have," Charlus pronounced, injecting his words with incredible suffering, "the most horrid crick in my neck. I do believe it is a veritable knot, in fact, and it is paining me so immensely..." His words drifted off, his eyes locked onto Dorea's own.
Dorea held Charlus gaze with a stern look upon her face for a matter of moments. Then her eyes crinkled into a smile without her volition, at roughly the same moment that her eyes softened, and with a rather over-dramatic sigh, Dorea set her book back in her bag and stood.
"Tom, trade places with me."
Charlus eyes followed Dorea, as Tom reluctantly got up with a roll of his eyes and sat with Minerva.
"If you'd sit up a smidge, Char, I'll give you a massage."
Charlus pursed his lips in pretend surprise-as though he hadn't been scheming for Dorea to give him a massage.
"Unbelievable. Would you do that for me Lucy?" Ignatius asked Lucretia.
Lucretia just laughed.
"Tom, I'm a prefect now!" Minerva said excitedly.
"Oh I can't wait till you become one next year and we can-"
"You're so sure I'll be a prefect next year?"
"Well, yes." Minerva said like it was so obvious.
"Tom, everybody knows you will be." Charlus inputted.
"Because you're a suck up goody two shoes with high marks." Alphard said casually.
Both Tom and Minerva glared at Alphard.
"What?" Alphard asked, "Am I wrong?" Alphard asked everybody in the room.
"I would like to live longer than fourteen, so I'll pass on that question." Ignatius commented.
"I concur." Both Lucretia and Dorea said together.
"Harry?" Alphard pouted at his boyfriend.
"Tom, you're exceptionally smart and gifted and everything that a Professor would want every student to be like. And Professor Dumbledore talks very highly about you to Professor Dippet, so yeah, you're on the top list of being a Prefect for Gryffindor."
Tom smirked. "I can accept that."
"Nice save." Charlus whispered to Harry.
After half an hour or so, Minerva and Tom, growing tired of the endless Quidditch talk, buried themselves once more in The Standard Book of Spells. Tom reading Grade 4 of the Standard Book of Spells trying to learn more protection spells.
Demios Avery had appeared in the doorway. Behind him stood Donald Nott, both of whom appeared to have grown at least a foot during the summer. Evidently they had overheard the conversation through the compartment door, which one of their friends had left ajar.
"Don't remember asking you to join us, Avery, Nott," said Harry coolly.
"So... going to enter, Prewett? Going to try and bring a bit of glory to the family name? There's money involved as well, you know... you'd be able to afford some decent robes if you won..." Avery sneered.
"What are you talking about?" snapped Ignatius. "And my family is not poor you bastard."
"Are you going to enter?" Avery repeated. "I suppose the Potter brothers will? You lot never miss a chance to show off, do you?"
"Either explain what you're on about or go away, Avery," said Minerva testily, over the top of The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 5. A gleeful smile spread across Avery's pale face.
"Don't tell me you don't know?" he said delightedly.
"You and Prewett got father's at the Ministry and you don't even know? My God, my father told me about it ages ago... heard it from the Minister. But then, Father's always associated with the top people at the Ministry... Maybe your father's too junior to know about it, Prewett, McGonagall ... yes... the Ministry probably doesn't talk about important stuff in front of them..."
"Minerva looks like she can't decide whether to be angry or angrier," Alphard whispers to Harry.
Minerva stood up, and marched up to Avery and Nott, Tom stood up as well, but there really was no need as Minerva was very well known to be able to handle herself. Minerva didn't punch Avery or Nott, no she did something much worse. She kicked both of them below the belt and slammed the compartment door shut.
"Wow, Minerva, didn't know you had it in you." Lucretia said while everybody else looked speechless.
"I say the both of them can sod off." Minerva said sitting back down next to Tom."I don't like people claiming stupidity as their defense,"
"I hate those bloody snarky bastards, making it look like they know everything and we don't..." Ignatius snarled. "'Father's always associated with the top people at the Ministry'..."
Lucretia said quietly, "Don't let Avery get to you, Ignatius -"
"Him! Get to me!? As if!" said Ignatius folding his arms to his chest.
Ignatius bad mood continued for the rest of the journey. He didn't talk much as they changed into their school robes, and was still glowering when the Hogwarts Express slowed down at last and finally stopped in the pitch-darkness of Hogsmeade station.
As the train doors opened, there was a rumble of thunder overhead.
The rain was now coming down so thick and fast that it was as though buckets of ice-cold water were being emptied repeatedly over their heads.
"Harry, I can't find Ryan and I don't know what to do." Ava Longbottom came up to Harry practically pouting.
"Oh, well you're going to head to Hogwarts on a boat with the other first years." Harry said. "The conductor will instruct you, you'll be fine. You better go now, I already see the other first years heading to the boats."
"Oh!" Ava ran away as Harry yelled, "See you at the feast!"
First years traditionally reached Hogwarts Castle by sailing across the lake with the conductor.
"Oooh, I wouldn't fancy crossing the lake in this weather," said Dorea fervently, shivering as they inched slowly along the dark platform with the rest of the crowd. A hundred horseless carriages stood waiting for them outside the station well, to those whom hadn't witness death, the carriages were horseless.
Harry, Charlus, Tom, and Cynthia climbed gratefully into one of them, the door shut with a snap, and a few moments later, with a great lurch, the long procession of carriages was rumbling and splashing its way up the track toward Hogwarts Castle.
Ignatius and Alphard sat with the girls in another carriage much to Alphard's disappointment. Cynthia whined her way to sit with her cousins.
Leaning against the window, Harry could see Hogwarts coming nearer, its many lighted windows blurred and shimmering behind the thick curtain of rain.
Lightning flashed across the sky as their carriage came to a halt before the great oak front doors, which stood at the top of a flight of stone steps. People who had occupied the carriages in front were already hurrying up the stone steps into the castle.
Harry, Charlus, Tom, and Cynthia jumped down from their carriage and dashed up the steps too, looking up only when they were safely inside the cavernous, torch-lit entrance hall, with its magnificent marble staircase.
"Blimey," said Charlus, shaking his head and sending water everywhere, "if that keeps up the lake's going to overflow."
Harry, Tom, Charlus and Cynthia slipped and slid across the entrance hall and through the double doors on the right, Alphard pushed his sopping hair off his face as he pulled Harry away from his brothers and lead him towards the Slytherin table.
The Great Hall looked its usual splendid self, decorated for the start-of-term feast. Golden plates and goblets gleamed by the light of hundreds and hundreds of candles, floating over the tables in midair. The four long House tables were packed with chattering students; at the top of the Hall, the staff sat along one side of a fifth table, facing their pupils. It was much warmer in here.
Tom, Charlus, and Cynthia walked past the Slytherins, the Ravenclaws, and the Hufflepuffs, and sat down with the rest of the Gryffindors at the far side of the Hall, next to Nearly Headless Nick, the Gryffindor ghost. Pearly white and semitransparent, Nick was dressed tonight in his usual doublet, but with a particularly large ruff, which served the dual purpose of looking extra-festive, and insuring that his head didn't wobble too much on his partially severed neck.
"Good evening," he said, beaming at them.
"Says who?" said Cynthia.
"Hope they hurry up with the Sorting. I'm starving." Charlus said.
"Ava's really excited!" said Kayley, practically bouncing up and down in her seat next to Charlus. "I just hope she's in Gryffindor! Keep your fingers crossed, eh, Charlus?"
"Er - yeah, all right," said Charlus. He turned back to Tom, Cynthia, and Nearly Headless Nick.
Tom was looking up at the staff table. There seemed to be rather more empty seats there than usual.
"Tom, is that your grandfather sitting at the Defense Against the Dark Arts seat? Is he going to be our new professor?" asked Minerva, who was also looking up at the teachers.
"Grandpa Harold is going to be our Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher!" asked Charlus hopefully.
Tom rolled his eyes at his brother's remark. "If he is, I bet it is only going to be temporary. I'm sure Grandfather is here only for the tournament."
Sitting in the very center of the table, sat Professor Dippet, his sweeping silver hair and beard shining in the candlelight, his magnificent deep blue robes. The tips of Dippet's long, thin fingers were together and he was resting his chin upon them, looking lost in thought.
The Great Hall opened and silence fell. Professor Dumbledore was leading a long line of first years up to the top of the Hall. If Harry, Tom, Charlus and Cynthia were wet, it was nothing to how these first years looked. They appeared to have swum across the lake rather than sailed.
Professor Dumbledore now placed a three-legged stool on the ground before the first years and, on top of it, an extremely old, dirty patched wizard's hat. The first years stared at it. So did everyone else. For a moment, there was silence. Then a long tear near the brim opened wide like a mouth, and the hat broke into song:
A thousand years or more ago,
When I was newly sewn,
There lived four wizards of renown,
Whose names are still well known:
Bold Gryffindor, from wild moor,
Fair Ravenclaw, from glen,
Sweet Hufflepuff, from valley broad,
Shrewd Slytherin, from fin.
They shared a wish, a hope, a dream,
They hatched a daring plan
To educate young sorcerers
Thus Hogwarts School began.
Now each of these four founders
Formed their own house, for each
Did value different virtues
In the ones they had to teach.
By Gryffindor, the bravest were
Prized far beyond the rest;
For Ravenclaw, the cleverest
Would always be the best;
For Hufflepuff, hard workers were
Most worthy of admission;
And power-hungry Slytherin
Loved those of great ambition.
While still alive they did divide
Their favorites from the throng,
Yet how to pick the worthy ones
When they were dead and gone?
'Twas Gryffindor who found the way,
He whipped me off his head
The founders put some brains in me
So I could choose instead!
Now slip me snug about your ears,
I've never yet been wrong,
I'll have a look inside your mind
And tell where you belong!
The Great Hall rang with applause
as the Sorting Hat finished.
Professor Dumbledore was now unrolling a large scroll of parchment.
"When I call out your name, you will put on the hat and sit on the stool," he told the first years. "When the hat announces your House, you will go and sit at the appropriate table.
A boy walked forward, visibly trembling from head to foot, picked up the Sorting Hat, put it on, and sat down on the stool.
"RAVENCLAW!" shouted the hat.
Dorian Ackerley took off the hat and hurried into a seat at the Ravenclaw table, where everyone was applauding him.
The table on the other side of the hall erupted with cheers; Harry joined the clapping as Baddock joined the Slytherins.
The Sorting continued; boys and girls with varying degrees of fright on their faces moving one by one to the three-legged stool, the line dwindling slowly as Professor Dumbledore passed the K's.
"Is it just me or is there a lot less students then there was last year?" Charlus asked.
"Who knows, it could be a lot of reasons, the war for instance," said Cynthia as "Longbottom, Ava!" became a Gryffindor.
"Way to go Ava! I knew you had it in you!" Kayley clapped for her sister as she came scampering to her big sister.
"I do hope this year's batch of Gryffindors are up to scratch," said Nearly Headless Nick, applauding as "McDonald, Dominick!" joined the Gryffindor table as well.
And finally, with "Wilson, Carl!" ("HUFFLEPUFF!"), the Sorting ended. Professor Dumbledore picked up the hat and the stool and carried them away.
"About time," said Charlus, seizing his knife and fork and looking expectantly at his golden plate.
Professor Dippet had gotten to his feet. He was smiling around at the students, his arms opened wide in welcome.
"Welcome to another year to Hogwarts and a new start," he told them, his voice echoing around the Hall.
Nearly Headless Nick watched mournfully as Tom, Charlus, and Cynthia loaded their own plates.
Nearly Headless Nick chortled so much that his ruff slipped and his head flopped off, dangling on the inch or so of ghostly skin and muscle that still attached it to his neck.
The rain was still drumming heavily against the high, dark glass. Another clap of thunder shook the windows, and the stormy ceiling flashed, illuminating the golden plates as the remains of the first course vanished and were replaced, instantly, with puddings.
When the puddings too had been demolished, and the last crumbs had faded off the plates, leaving them sparkling clean, Headmaster Dippet got to his feet again. The buzz of chatter filling the Hall ceased almost at once, so that only the howling wind and pounding rain could be heard.
"So!" said Dippet, smiling around at them all. "Now that we are all fed and watered, I must once more ask for your attention, while I give out a few notices.
"May I introduce our new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher?" said Dippet brightly into the silence. "Professor Harold Potter."
"I'm sure there will be favoritism amongst the staff this semester." Demios Avery sneered out to his fellow Slytherins regarding the new Defense Professor.
"Jealous much? Is it our fault that none of your family members were educated enough to be a Professor? Can they read and write Avery?" Alphard sneered back.
Before Avery could retort back, Professor Dippet continued on with his introductions.
"As ever, I would like to remind you all that the forest on the grounds is out-of-bounds to students, as is the village of Hogsmeade to all below third year. It is also my painful duty to inform you that the Inter-House Quidditch Cup will not take place this year."
"What?" Charlus gasped. He looked around at his fellow members of the Quidditch team. They were mouthing soundlessly at Dippet, apparently too appalled to speak.
Professor Dippet went on, "This is due to an event that will be starting in October, and continuing throughout the school year, taking up much of the teachers' time and energy - but I am sure you will all enjoy it immensely.
I have great pleasure in announcing that this year at Hogwarts we are to have the honor of hosting a very exciting event over the coming months, an event that has not been held for over a century. It is my very great pleasure to inform you that the Triwizard Tournament will be taking place at Hogwarts this year."
The houses started talking amongst themselves wondering what exactly was the Triwizard Tournament and why was it so important that it canceled out Quidditch.
"The Triwizard Tournament... well, some of you will not know what this tournament involves, so I hope those who do know will forgive me for giving a short explanation, and allow their attention to wander freely.
"The Triwizard Tournament was first established some seven hundred years ago as a friendly competition between the three largest European schools of wizardry: Hogwarts, Beauxbatons, and Durmstrang. However this Tournament we will be having two more worldwide wizardry schools competing, which will be Magic School Academy of Elite Potentials and Salem Witches' Institute.
A champion was selected to represent each school, and the five champions competed in three magical tasks. The schools took it in turns to host the tournament once every five years, and it was generally agreed to be a most excellent way of establishing ties between young witches and wizards of different nationalities - until, that is, the death toll mounted so high that the tournament was discontinued."
"Death toll?" Minerva whispered, looking alarmed.
But her anxiety did not seem to be shared by the majority of students in the Hall; many of them were whispering excitedly to one another, and both Charlus and Tom themselves were far more interested in hearing about the tournament than in worrying about deaths that had happened hundreds of years ago.
"There have been several attempts over the centuries to reinstate the tournament," Dippet continued, "none of which has been very successful. However, our own departments of International Magical Cooperation and Magical Games and Sports have decided the time is ripe for another attempt. We have worked hard over the summer to ensure that this time, no champion will find himself or herself in mortal danger.
"The heads of Beauxbatons, Durmstrang, Magic School Academy, and Salem will be arriving with their short-listed contenders in October, and the selection of the five champions will take place at Halloween. An impartial judge will decide which students are most worthy to compete for the Triwizard Cup, the glory of their school, and a thousand Galleons personal prize money."
"I'm going for it!" Eric Prewett hissed down the table, his face lit with enthusiasm at the prospect of such glory and riches. He was not the only person who seemed to be visualizing himself as the Hogwarts champion. At every House table, Tom could see people either gazing raptly at Dippet, or else whispering fervently to their neighbors.
But then Dippet spoke again, and the Hall quieted once more.
"Eager though I know all of you will be to bring the Triwizard Cup to Hogwarts," he said, "the heads of the participating schools, along with the Ministry of Magic, have agreed to impose an age restriction on contenders this year. Only students who are of age - that is to say, fourteen years or older - will be allowed to put forward their names for consideration. This" —
Professor Dippet raised his voice slightly, for several people had made noises of outrage at these words, "is a measure we feel is necessary, given that the tournament tasks will still be difficult and dangerous, whatever precautions we take, and it is highly unlikely that students below fourth and fifth year will be able to cope with them.
I will personally be ensuring that no underage student hoodwinks our impartial judge into making them Hogwarts champion. I therefore beg you not to waste your time submitting yourself if you are under fourteen.
"The delegations from Beauxbatons, Durmstrang, Magic School Academy, and Salem will be arriving in October and remaining with us for the greater part of this year. I know that you will all extend every courtesy to our foreign guests while they are with us, and will give your whole-hearted support to the Hogwarts champion when he or she is selected. And now, it is late, and I know how important it is to you all to be alert and rested as you enter your lessons tomorrow morning. Bedtime! Chop chop!"
Professor Dippet sat down again and turned to talk to Harold Potter. There was a great scraping and banging as all the students got to their feet and swarmed toward the double doors into the entrance hall.
"They're not stopping me entering," said Kayley Longbottom stubbornly, also scowling at the top table. "The champions'll get to do all sorts of stuff you'd never be allowed to do normally. And a thousand Galleons prize money!"
"Yeah," said Charlus, a faraway look on his face. "Yeah, a thousand Galleons..."
"Charlus, why do you need a thousand Galleons?" Tom asked him frowning.
"Hey, it'll be nice to splurge a little bit. Mum and Dad like me to be responsible with my money these days."
Tom just rolled his eyes.
"Come on," said Conall Norton, "we'll be the only ones left here if you don't move."
"Oh, I have to go show the first years around! I'll see you guys later." Minerva hurried off following after the other Gryffindor prefect Abram Smith over by the Great hall doors.
Abram Smith looked up as Minerva made her way to his side. Tom narrowed his eyes at the Gryffindor prefect, not forgetting how close Smith had tried to get with his girlfriend.
As if sensing someones eyes on him, Smith turned and looked over by the Gryffindor table and saw Tom cracking his knuckles and giving him an heinous stare. Smith swallowed felling uneasy and turned away, trying to focus his attention on the first years.
"Who's this impartial judge who's going to decide who the champions are?" asked Tom.
"The headmasters and headmistress of each school will be the impartial judges." Harry said coming up behind Charlus and Tom. "Should we go and say hi to grandpa Harold?"
Tom looked up at the staff. "We'll see grandfather tomorrow, he looks occupied right now."
"Yeah?" Harry said looking at his great great grandfather Harold, whom seemed to notice that he was being looked at as he turned from his conversation with Professor Dippet and gave Harry wink and nod of acknowledgment.
"Let's go, Harry." Alphard said coming up to Harry's side. "All our classmates have already left."
"I care very little, Al."
"I would totally be on your side, Har, but Abraxas isn't here anymore-"
"What does that have to do with anything?" Tom asked scowling.
"Sylvester Mulciber is the new Headboy in charge in the Slytherin house and he hates Potter's in general, so I'm pretty sure Harry is going to be a huge target for Mulciber this year."
"Fuck that, if Mulciber even touches Harry-" Charlus started fuming, but Alphard just waved him off.
"Yeah, yeah, mayhem and destruction." Alphard interrupted with a roll of his eyes, "I think you are starting to get worse than Tom."
"Look Al, I'll just walk my brothers to their dorm and then we can go. Or I can go by myself and you can go to our dorm room with Ignatius?"
Alphard looked back at Ignatius whom was standing by the door with his girlfriend Lucretia. Dorea was nowhere to be seen.
Sighing Alphard rolled his eyes. "Well let's go then. No way am I walking back to the Slytherin dorm with those two lovebirds."
"People have died, though!" said Cynthia in awed voice as they walked through a door concealed behind a tapestry and started up another, narrower staircase.
"Yeah," said Conall Norton, "but that was years ago, wasn't it? Anyway, where's the fun without a bit of risk?"
"What d'you reckon?" Alphard asked Harry. "Be cool to enter, wouldn't it? Dunno if we've learned enough though."
They made their way up to the entrance to Gryffindor Tower, which was concealed behind a large portrait of a fat lady in a pink silk dress.
"Password?" she said as they approached.
"Caprificus," said Tom, "Minerva told me." The portrait swung forward to reveal a hole in the wall through which they all climbed. A crackling fire warmed the circular common room, which was full of squashy armchairs and tables.
"Well I'll see you guys in the morning." Harry said giving both Charlus and Tom a hug and a wave goodbye. "You behave, Cynthia." Harry said picking Cynthia up as he hugged her goodnight.
"Yeah, yeah. Goodnight."
Harry and Alphard climbed back down the staircase walked through the halls till they reached their own dormitory, which was the Slytherin dungeon.
Walking into the Slytherin dormitory, both Alphard and Harry were immediately faced with headboy Sylvester Mulciber.
"And where have you two been?" Mulciber asked with a sneer.
"Oh you know, just taking a midnight stroll." Alphard said shrugging his shoulders.
"A midnight stroll? It's not even close to eight o'clock, Black."
"Black, Potter, go to your dorm room." Avril Moreaux came up behind Mulciber.
"Yes, ma'am." Both Alphard and Harry said together leaving the common room.
Avril Moreaux was wearing her own headgirl badge.
Mulciber sneered at Avril. "I shouldn't have known you'd be sticking up-"
"Don't be an asshole, Sylvester. You weren't made headboy to hassle your fellow Slytherin piers and take that bullshit attitude somewhere else." Avril pushed passed Mulciber to go to her own dorm.
Five four-poster beds with green silk hanging stood against the walls, each with its owner's trunk at the foot. During the night you can her the lake water lapping against the windows.
Demios Avery, Donald Nott, and Ignatius Prewett were already getting into bed. Harry and Alphard got into their pajamas and into bed.
Someone - a house-elf, no doubt - had placed warming pans between the sheets. It was extremely comfortable, lying there in bed and listening to the storm raging outside.
Author's Note: Yes it's been years, a year? I don't a very long time. I know. I haven't updated in forever, I'm a horrible person. Can we please thank one person though for my miracle appearance and update? Cherri101 :) If it wasn't for this person I wouldn't have updated today. So you guys all need to give flowers and cookies or whatever you think is appropriate.
Yeah okay. So the Triwizard Tournament, who are going to be the champions? I don't know yet? I don't think Harry should this time around. I don't know how I'm going to do it yet. I'm still deciding. If you guys have some input let me know.
Thanks for reading!