A/N: It's my take on the Goblet of Fire, Mashup Version: Harry's got a new Headmistress and new Professors from another great magical tradition! Harry Potter...meet Mary Poppins!
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter, Mary Poppins, or any of the other named characters you'll find herein. I make no profit from this story; it's been written solely as a tribute to the great people who've created such wonderful, charming, evil, memorable characters over the years. Thank you, JRK and Walt Disney (and your legions of helpers) for bring such joy to us all.
Dedication: to Brennah, on the occasion of her graduation from OTIS College of Art and Design. Best of luck, luv!
Once upon a time, a little boy was born, with messy black hair and huge green eyes, to fulfill a great destiny...
The Goblet of Fire let out a fresh gout of flame, and began quivering on its base. Every eye in the Hall snapped to the ancient magical artifact as it danced in place, a high-pitched keening sound assaulting everyone's ears. The Goblet wheezed...groaned...then let out what could only be described as a tortured wailing noise as shower after shower of multicolored sparks spewed forth. Then, with a final convulsive belch of sound—rather like a 20 stone treacle tart might make, if it were thrown from the top of Gryffindor tower onto the courtyard below—the Goblet let out one last shudder and expelled another slip of paper before giving a final wheeze and going dark.
The entire Hall was silent as the slip of paper floated down into Albus Dumbledore's hand. His voice was steady as he read what was written there.
"Harry Potter...of the Poppins Institute", he said, his eyes going wide.
The loud thunk of Harry Potter's head hitting the Gryffindor table was the signal for complete pandemonium to break out throughout the Hall.
Harry had reluctantly gone with the other Champions into the meeting room off the Great Hall. Unfortunately, the screeching he had heard from Hermione and Ron's outraged overreaction had only been a small sample of what he was now getting.
"This is preposterous! I demand that the Goblet be re-lit, so that my school may have a second champion selected!" Durmstrang Headmaster Igor Karkaroff was stalking the floor, waving his arms for emphasis.
"I agree with Karkaroff! Beauxbatons, too, must have a second champion, just as Hogwarts!" The statuesque Headmistress Maxime put in coolly.
"The Goblet cannot be re-lit until the next Triwizard Tournament!" Bartholomew Crouch was just as angry as anyone else in the room. "What I want to know is how Harry Potter was able to put his name in the Goblet in the first place. Albus, you assured me that your age line was fool-proof!"
"It certainly seemed effective against the Weasley twins," from a corner, Snape sneered. Harry wondered just why it was that the Slytherin Head of House had invited himself, while his own Head of House had apparently decided to let him fend for himself.
"It would take a powerful Confundus charm to confound a magical artifact like the Goblet," Mad-Eye Moody put in, giving Snape the Evil Eye with his one real eye. Like the Potions Master, he had invited himself to this little tête-à-tête, and no one had said the first thing about it. Harry found himself not minding, however; at least Moody was the single voice of reason in the room. "I find it hard to believe that a student, even Harry Potter, could manage a spell of that strength."
"Especially Potter," Snape sneered once more. He looked like he would say more—Harry could feel another of his 'shortcomings of Harry Potter' lectures coming on, but he was interrupted by the Headmaster.
"Harry, did you put your name in the Goblet?" Dumbledore asked, staring directly into Harry's eyes.
Harry met the old wizard's gaze squarely. "No, sir, I did not."
"Perhaps a few drops of Veritiserum might be useful, Headmaster," Snape suggested, stepping forward. He was moving his hand into his robe when he stopped abruptly, Moody's wand scant inches from his chest.
"Carrying a tightly-regulated substance around with you, Snape? No, that's not suspicious behavior, not at all," the old Auror grated. "Not to mention, giving it to minors like young Potter here without Ministry sanction, or at the very least his guardian present, could get you into all manner of difficulties."
Snape's lip curled a bit more. "The Headmaster stands in loco parentis while Potter is enrolled here...a condition which I hope may shortly rectified when he is expelled from this school for such a blatant disregard for the rules of the Tournament!"
While Moody and Snape argued, inspiration struck Harry. Raising his wand, he said in a loud, clear voice. "I, Harry James Potter, swear on my life and my magic that I did not put my name into the Goblet of Fire." A pulse of light from the tip of his wand sealed the magical oath.
"It doesn't matter," Ludo Bagman said, shaking his head as all those in the room considered the implications of Harry's oath. "The Goblet creates a binding magical contract when the names are entered. Having the name come out of the Goblet seals the contract, just like a magical oath. Whether or not Mr. Potter entered his name, the fact that his name came out of the Goblet means that he is obligated to compete."
"Even though it means that Hogwarts will be represented by two champions?" Karkaroff demanded.
"Apparently the Goblet thinks that Harry will be representing another school," Moody snickered.
"Despite how wonderful that sounds, I still cannot see Potter convincing the Goblet to allow him to compete. As my distinguished college has pointed out," Snape's sneer turned to Alastor Moody briefly, before returning full force to Harry, "Mr. Potter is only a fourth-year student, and a mediocre one at that."
Harry gritted his teeth. "It. Wasn't. Me." he got out, then turned his head before he said what he was really thinking.
"Yes, yes, and we all witnessed your oath to that effect, Mr. Potter," Crouch snapped. "Nonetheless, the rules of the Tournament are clear: you must compete."
"Even though you all admit that it's been rigged?" Harry asked sourly.
"Even so," Crouch said, his voice a touch sad. "I'm sorry, Mr. Potter," he went on, and by his tone of voice he might almost have meant it. "We'll begin a full investigation, of course, but I still see no way around your having to participate as a Champion, to the best of your ability."
"Meaning, someone wants the boy dead," Moody gruffed. "Well, think about it! The Tournament's designed for upper-level students, and rough enough on them. The boy should've had at least two more years of education before he'd be considered ready. And, let's not forget just who and what he is," Moody gave Harry one of his less-scary smiles. "There's plenty out there who'd just as soon see the Boy Who Lived dead. Am I right, Snape?"
Severus Snape barely spared his colleague a glance before turning the full force of his gaze onto Harry. "I dare say you are correct," he said, staring into Harry's eyes.
Harry met and held his Professor's gaze, determined not to be the one to break eye contact. He ignored the itching sensation just behind his eyes that often came when he made eye contact with the greasy git, but instead concentrated on an image of Snape being rendered down in an extra-large cauldron in the middle of the Quidditch pitch.
Surprisingly, Snape blinked, then looked away, a faint blush rising on his sallow cheeks. Alastor Moody, on the other hand, had watched the exchange with both of his eyes, and moved into the silence quickly.
"Hmm...let's see, Snape. It's common knowledge around this old pile that you and Potter don't exactly get along like berries and cream. Might you be one of those who'd like to see James's son depart this veil of tears? You certainly had access, and a possible motive; since entering Potter basically amounts to a death sentence. We might be needing some Veritiserum after all..." he grinned, obviously enjoying Snape's discomfiture.
Snape was doing his best to maintain his composure. Regally, he raised his wand and intoned, "I, Severus Snape, did not place Harry Potter's name in the Goblet of Fire. I so swear on my life and my magic." His wand pulsed, sealing the oath. "There, I trust that satisfies you, Alastor," he hissed.
"For now," Moody shot back. "Still, it'll have to do, won't it? Albus, we'll be having everyone with access to the Goblet swear oaths now, won't we?"
"I'm not certain that such a course would be effective," Dumbledore shook his head. "If we could be more certain as to who might have done such a thing, then certainly, give them the opportunity to either swear such an oath or take Veritiserum."
"There would be a number of objections raised if you began insisting on mass oaths, Dumbledore," Crouch sighed. "We ran into the same thing at the last round of Death Eater trials. Without any evidence of wrongdoing, the law is clear: oaths may not be compelled, nor Veritiserum administered without consent, except when a reasonable suspicion or probable cause can be shown. Mr. Potter and Mr. Snape have both voluntarily given their oaths, which I appreciate," he said, nodding first to Harry and then to Severus. "Still, we cannot just line people up and make them take oaths on their magic; the barristers would be all over us just as soon as they could find a floo."
"There is that," Dumbledore sighed.
"So...what will be done?" Karkaroff demanded.
"As I said, a full investigation will be started immediately, beginning with the Goblet itself," Crouch began, only to be cut off.
"But what about young Harry, here?" Olympe Maxime looked at the small little boy with concern. "La petite cannot possibly hope to manage the tasks which lie before the Champions. Surely something can be done!"
"I'm afraid not," Bagman said sadly. "Harry Potter either competes, or he looses his magic. He'll just have to do his best, and we can all hope for the best. He is, after all, the Boy Who Lived." His weak smile didn't reassure Harry in the slightest.
"More like the Boy Who Got Screwed Once Again," Harry muttered, wondering just how difficult it would be to officially change his name to that. Or, failing that, make sure that it was put on his tombstone. Given the speed that the Ministry processed paperwork, he'd probably do better just contacting a stonemason straight off. Thinking dark thoughts, Harry made a note to himself to look into the price per letter carved on a nice monument...something appropriate, like a fist making the one-finger salute coming out of a cauldron, maybe?
The image made him snicker, which drew odd looks from the other Champions; the adults in the room were too busy arguing among themselves to notice him.
"Harry, what's so funny?" Cedric Diggory edged closer to him. "I mean, we all saw your oath, surely they can't be serious about you competing, can they?"
"Hullo, Ced," Harry smiled up at the much taller boy. "You heard them, it's a binding contract, just like an oath."
"That really sucks," the Hufflepuff said, honest commiseration shining in his eyes. "Still, you seem to be in good spirits about it."
Harry couldn't help but grin, even if it was a bit morbid. "Oh, just now? No, I was just planning my tombstone." At Cedric's confused look, Harry described the monument he had in mind.
"Oh, sweet Merlin," Cedric snickered, "that's horrible!" Then, catching himself, "no, I mean...well, it's funny, yeah, but...Harry, really? I mean, you are him, after all, the Boy Who Lived! You'll do fine, probably mop the flagstones down with all of us!"
Harry sighed. The Hufflepuff was trying so hard, and it wasn't helping. "Yeah, Ced, I'm him; always him, the Boy Who Lived. I'm never just Harry."
The implications of that statement hit Cedric like a plank between the eyes. Blinking, he started realizing just what Harry's life might be like, always to be judged by what (according to what Cedric knew) was some kind of freak occurrence when Harry was just an infant. Then, thinking fast, the Hufflepuff reached a decision that he would never regret.
"Hullo, I'm Cedric," he said sticking out his hand.
Harry's eyes went wide with amazement, and he took the offered hand. "Hullo yourself, I'm Harry."
The two just stood there, grinning at each other like loons, while around them the arguments raged on. At one point, Karkaroff demanded to see the paper with Harry's name. Holding the wretched thing itself gave him no satisfaction, and in disgust he tore it into shreds and threw them into the fire before launching himself into another rant.
No one noticed as the shreds of paper, rather than burning up, merely floated up...up...and out the top of the chimney, finding a breeze that would carry them all the way to London town...
Harry very nearly skipped breakfast the next morning, but Neville Longbottom did everything but drag him out of bed.
"Harry, you can't let them get to you. I believe that you didn't put your name in the Goblet, and everyone who knows you knows that you didn't. Ron and Hermione are just being gits about the whole issue, but they'll come around. Now, get up before I take steps, Potter!"
Neville's tone—stern and unyielding, so unlike his normal self—was almost enough just by itself to get Harry up and moving. However, Longbottom was also holding his wand, and Harry had seen Neville cast Aguamenti enough in the greenhouses to know that he was a past master of the spell.
So, Harry had come down to breakfast escorted by Neville, as well as Seamus and Dean. He wasn't quite sure just what had transpired between the three—the evening before, Neville, who had stayed behind to have a few words with the Gryffindor common room, had sent him up to their dorm.
Just outside the Great Hall, Neville stopped Harry with a gentle hand on his arm.
"Just a minute, Potter," he said. "You can't go in there like that."
Harry paused, confused, as Neville went on. "Buck up, Harry. You look like you're being led to an execution, not breakfast."
"It might as well be," Harry groused. "Professor Moody said that somebody probably confounded the Goblet to spit out my name as part of a plot to kill me."
"Well, then, all the more reason to buck up," Neville grinned. "If they think that you don't realize that, they may slip up and reveal themselves. Keep on looking like you are, and they'll know you've figured them out for sure. They might not be willing to wait for you to die in the tasks, then. Think about it."
Harry scratched his head, thinking hard. "So, I should look like I don't have a care in the world, so that they'll think their plan is working?"
"Exactly! Now, straighten up, and act like a Gryffindor!" Neville grinned.
"You realize, that makes no sense at all," Harry grinned despite himself.
"Shut it, Harry. My Gran's being teaching me to 'fake it 'til I make it'. I figure the same thing applies here." Neville's grin was a bit mad to Harry's eye, but it made him feel better nonetheless.
"All right, here we go," he said, pulling himself up. "Coming, Longbottom?" he asked.
"Absolutely, Potter. Never let it be said that a Longbottom let a Potter go where he was afraid."
"Even if it was only to breakfast?" Harry asked.
"Especially if it's only to breakfast," Neville laughed, nudging Harry with his shoulder as the two of them went into the Great Hall.
Aside from the expected glares, especially from the Hufflepuffs, and strange stares from the rest of the Hall, breakfast was about what Harry expected. Harry waved to Cedric, who beamed and waved back, then turned to scold his housemates for not being nicer to Harry. Ron and Hermione were still being their typical unreasonable selves, and Harry suspected that someone, probably Neville, had had words with them the previous night. Both of them were giving he and Neville the cold shoulder, which quite frankly was easier on Harry's nerves than having to actually talk to them. At any rate, Harry was able to actually get down a fairly large (for him) breakfast, and he had every intention of leaving the Hall before the morning owl post arrived. Rather typically for one of Harry's plans, this one was doomed to failure, but in a way that no one could have anticipated.
Breakfast was almost over when the doors to the Great Hall opened suddenly. Standing there was a woman of indeterminate age, dressed severely in late-Victorian clothes from the lace at her neck to her button-up shoes. Of course, this put her at least two centuries ahead of the most current witch's fashions, but still she seemed to have stepped out of time as she stood, unmoving, in the doorway.
A hush fell over the hall as she began walking rapidly, confidently towards the high table. Her shoes clicked on the flagstones with each step, and her face held a neutral if not terribly pleased look as she briskly approached the faculty.
The reactions of said faculty to the strange woman's appearance was somewhat mixed. Headmasters Maxime and Karkaroff looked stunned, as did Professors McGonagall, Sprout and Flitwick. After a moment's shock, Snape affected his customary sneer, while Professor Moody stared at her with both of his eyes, then leaned back in his seat, stunned. The rest of the faculty seemed to be about evenly divided between disbelief and sheer horror. Only Headmaster Dumbledore sat calmly as the woman walked towards him.
"Albus Dumbledore, dare I ask what is the meaning of this?" the woman's voice rang out, one gloved hand holding aloft a slip of parchment while the other clutched a large black umbrella firmly. Harry felt the restrained anger in it, but the voice itself was calm and quite pleasant to hear.
"And good morning to you, Madam Poppins," the Headmaster began; rising to greet his unexpected guest, only to be interrupted by her snort at hearing the title he gave her.
"I'm no Madam, Albus, as you well know; my given name has always been and always will be sufficient," she snapped. "Now, enough of this dilly-dallying! Explain to me just why I am required to take on a student at this time, and also please introduce me to this Harry Potter," she went on, holding out the slip that the Goblet had produced the previous evening.
"That's the piece of paper from the Goblet with my name on it, that Karkaroff threw into the fire last night," Harry hissed to Neville, surprised. "How did she get it?"
"Just a guess, mind you, but I'd have to say 'magic'," Neville grinned, and then rubbed his arm where Harry shoved him. "Oi! What was that for?" he groused.
"For being so bloody obvious," Harry grinned, never taking his eyes off of the confrontation taking place at the front of the Hall. It looked like Dumbledore had offered his office as a less-public meeting area, and the newcomer—Madam Poppins?-had tentatively agreed. Knowing what was coming next, Harry looked up at McGonagall, catching her eye. As he expected, she gave him a thin-lipped grin, then nodded her head to the side where the Headmaster was already disappearing from view.
Sighing, Harry stood up, but paused when Neville put his hand on his arm. "Whatever happens, Harry, we're your mates. Okay?"
Harry felt a slight blush of warmth reach his face, and couldn't help but grin. "Thanks, Neville," he said, relishing the support from his housemate. It was so different from they way he was used to being treated that he really wasn't sure how to manage it.
The surge of warmth that Neville's comment brought to Harry's face spread through his body and carried him all the way to the gargoyle guarding the entrance to the Headmaster's office. It was only as he stood there, stumped, that he realized that no one had given him the password. He was about to begin naming sweets at random, when the statue grated to one side, revealing the spiraling stairs behind.
When Harry arrived in the Headmaster's office, he found himself facing the usual crowd, with one addition. Madam Poppins was standing primly before the Headmaster, coolly gazing down at the older man. Headmaster Karkaroff, Headmistress Maxime and Professor Moody occupied the chairs in the office, while in one corner Snape lurked like a great greasy bat. Harry moved to the one unoccupied chair but only stood by it, not wanting to sit down without permission.
"Ah, there you are, Harry. I'd like you to meet Mary Poppins, who it seems has been dragged into this entire unfortunate misunderstanding along with you." Dumbledore went straight to introductions while gesturing for Harry to sit.
"Hello, Harry," Mary Poppins turned to smile gently at the small boy. "I'm Mary Poppins, and it seems that you and I will be spending quite a bit of time together these next few months."
"I hardly see how that matters, given that Potter obviously will be ineligible for the Tournament once he is expelled from Hogwarts," Snape fired from his corner.
"I rather doubt that will matter in the slightest, as this piece of paper states very clearly that Mr. Potter is now my student," Mary Poppins turned to the Potions Master, her voice as cold as liquid helium, one eyebrow arching carefully. "Since your oh-so-reliable Goblet of Fire," the scorn in her voice was unmistakable, "has created a binding contract between Mr. Potter and myself, I find that I have no option but to be his tutor for the next academic year. Therefore, I have come to collect him."
"And good riddance to bad rubbish," Snape fired back.
"Somehow, I suspect that Mr. Potter might say the same about you, given the chance to speak freely," Mary Poppins sniffed, then turned away, completely ignoring the black-robed man. Despite himself, Harry snickered, but no one noticed because of Professor Moody's guffaw.
"I'd heard that she was brilliant, but now I've seen it myself," the scarred old Auror laughed. "Not five minutes, and she's got you pegged, Snape."
"Alastor, Severus," Dumbledore said repressively. "And Mada...Mary Poppins," he caught himself. "None of this is helping us to resolve the situation we find ourselves in. Obviously, Harry cannot leave Hogwarts..."
"Rubbish." Mary Poppins interrupted the Headmaster.
"I beg your pardon?" Dumbledore's confusion hid his irritation at being interrupted quite well.
"There is no 'obviously' here except that Harry Potter must be my student for the next academic year," Mary Poppins gave the Headmaster's own words back to him in her own form. "The Goblet of Fire was somehow convinced that Harry is my student; I would like to hear from him as to just what he think happened." That said, she turned to Harry expectantly, motioning for him to sit.
Harry found himself sitting down before he even thought about moving. Then, looking up at the gently smiling face of Mary Poppins he took a deep breath. "I didn't put my name in the Goblet, er, Miss Poppins," he said carefully.
Mary Poppins smiled down. "Mary Poppins will do just fine, Harry," she said gently. "So how did your signature get on the paper?" she asked.
"I think that it was probably taken from one of my assignments, Mary Poppins," Harry answered. "The parchment looks like the same type that I use to write my essays on."
Mary Poppins nodded. "I suspected as much, Harry, especially when I noticed that the handwriting on the rest of the slip is different from that of your name."
Harry perked up at this last. "So, you can find out just who put my name in the Goblet?" he asked.
"Probably not, Potter," Professor Moody spoke up. "Anyone halfway competent would have used an inscribing spell, then erased his or her magical signature to prevent us finding it. Also, I've checked the Goblet. There's evidence of a Confundus charm, just as I thought, but also traces of signature-erasing spells. I'd be surprised if that slip of paper doesn't show the very same thing."
"It does," Mary Poppins said coolly. "Also, I suspect that the original document has also been destroyed, to prevent us from using it to further the investigation into the real perpetrator's identity."
"I rather doubt that the original would be found, regardless," Moody said. "Most of the faculty, myself included, Incendio essays after they're graded to keep the things from piling up. Assuming that the person responsible has access to the castle—which they must, given that they had to have access to the Goblet between the time it lit and young Potter's name came out—they must have 'acquired' one of Potter's essays to get his signature. That could have happened at any time since the beginning of the term, as the faculty and any number of people at the Ministry knew the Goblet of Fire would be used to select the champions."
"And not just your Ministry here," Karkaroff rumbled. "Coordinating the Triwizard Tournament took months, and involved any number of people in Ministries across Europe. The list of possible suspects must number in the hundreds," he finished.
"Including a fair number of former Death Eaters and sympathizers, eh, Karkaroff?" Moody asked. "Most of whom wouldn't shed a tear if Harry Potter wound up dead, as might be expected from entering a fourth year student into the Tournament."
"What are you implying, Moody?" Karkaroff rumbled.
"Well, I'm sure that this is all very interesting, but I see no need for my new student and I to have to witness it. Harry, please go and pack your trunk; I'll meet you at the front entrance to the castle as soon as you're done."
"Now see here!" Dumbledore thundered, rising from his seat. "Harry Potter must stay here at Hogwarts! It's the only place that he is safe!"
"Safe? Here?" Harry's voice broke on the last, then he checked himself.
"Harry?" Mary Poppins asked, tilting her head to one side.
"It's just that...well, there was that business with the Philosopher's Stone, and Voldemort's possession of Professor Quirrell. Then, the basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets my second year, and Sirius' escape and all of the end-of-year madness we had then," he said, glancing to where Snape looked like he was going to explode in the corner. "So, no," Harry said, turning back to Mary Poppins, "I can't say that I feel really safe here."
"Be that as it may, my dear boy, you need to be trained for the Tournament, Harry. Also, there are...other considerations, not the least of which is your OWL and NEWT tests." Dumbledore brushed away Harry's objections. "Without an education, what will you do with yourself?"
"I think Mr. Potter will find that I am perfectly capable of providing him an adequate educational experience," Mary Poppins sniffed. "Of course, I can't guarantee that he will have to deal with professors who are possessed by Dark Lords, or creatures such as a basilisk; however, my educational credentials have been on file at the Ministry for at least as long as most of your faculty, Albus."
"I didn't mean to imply that you weren't qualified, Mary," the Headmaster said carefully. "Only that...there are other considerations involved with Harry's education that..."
"The only consideration which matters at this point, Albus, is that by your own silly rules, I am compelled to take Harry Potter as my student for the duration of the Triwizard Tournament, at the very least. If I fail to do this, or Mr. Potter fails to compete, both of us could loose our magic completely. Since neither of us wishes to risk that, then the matter is settled. Now, Harry, off with you, spit-spot; pack your things and meet me at the entrance." With a nod, Mary Poppins sent Harry scurrying out of the Headmaster's office, and then turned to face the sputtering man behind the desk. "Albus, I strongly suggest that you not try to keep us from leaving the castle."
"Mary, can we at least discuss this? Harry Potter must stay here at Hogwarts, there are things about him that you can't understand." Dumbledore tried one last gambit. "Perhaps, if we found a place for you on the faculty here..."
"I would still be bound by the contract of the Goblet, and also under your control as well, Albus. No, I think that I much prefer to take Mr. Potter and leave, so that I can teach him what he needs to know to survive this wretched Tournament. Good day, all!" And with that, Mary Poppins swept from the room, leaving behind a stunned group of wizards and witches.
Somehow, Harry and his new Headmistress managed to leave the castle without further incident. Thus, Harry was spared the arrival of that morning's Prophet, and the utterly predictable reactions of his peers when they read what they already knew. Sadly, he also missed Neville's staunch defense of him at table that morning, but that couldn't be helped.
Over the next few days, Harry's classmates and professors found themselves reading tantalizing hints of what must have been a flurry of activity for the Boy Who Lived to Be Roped Into the Triwizard Tournament. With his sources in the Ministry and elsewhere, Albus Dumbledore had a slightly larger view of the proceedings, but that was only enough to annoy him. He even found himself gritting his teeth in anticipation of the morning paper, something that he had never, ever done before. Reading—and then seething over—the Prophet each morning made it quite difficult for him to maintain the aura of grandfatherly calm he worked so hard to project; so hard that after the second day he had taken to reading the paper in his office after leaving breakfast early.
Apparently, the very afternoon that Harry had been removed from Hogwarts, he and Mary Poppins had put in an appearance at Gringotts Wizarding Bank. The details of just what transpired then were not clear (the Goblins certainly weren't telling, and getting anything out of Mary Poppins was more than any reporter dared to manage), but the pair left shortly after arriving, only to reappear a short time later with a respected wizarding solicitor in tow. Their second meeting lasted until well past the bank's regular closing hours, when the now-trio was escorted from the bank by no less a personage than Ragnok, Chief and Head of the London branch himself.
The next day Harry, Mary Poppins and Edward Spindle (the solicitor) were at the Ministry bright and early, accompanied by Harry's new dog and an old family friend, Remus Lupin. 'Snuffles', a great black hound that had apparently seen better days, came with the group to a meeting with Madam Bones in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement that took up most of the morning and spilled itself into Bone's afternoon schedule. According to the Prophet, the group departed the Ministry for places unknown sometime shortly before teatime, with no further information being available at press time.
Of course, Albus knew a bit more than what the students read on Harry's second post-Hogwarts morning. In addition to his Prophet, he had received a number of letters; among them was a 'request' for his presence to remove the Fidelius charm from Number 12, Grimmauld Place that afternoon (a portkey for his convenience was included, as was a notice that the standard rates for his services would apply). There was also official notification that an investigation had been launched by Gringotts into the improper sealing of the wills of James and Lily Potter by the Wizengamot, a letter from Amelia Bones requesting a meeting to discuss certain 'irregularities' in the case of one Sirius Black, and a bill from Twilfitt and Tattings for four quite fetching custom-made robes in fuchsia, mauve, violet and saffron. He initialed the bill, authorizing payment from his vault, and smiled to see it vanish in the usual puff of smoke. Then, no longer smiling, he leaned back and considered just what all of the above implied. Oh, and he certainly intended to keep his appointment that afternoon at Grimmauld Place. Not only would he almost certainly be able to interrogate, er, question his old students Black and Lupin, but he strongly suspected that Harry Potter would be there as well. It would be the work of mere moments to Legilimize the boy, and that would tell him all that he needed to know. Also, the standard fee for services for a wizard of his statue would more than cover the cost of his recent tailor's bill!
While Dumbledore was considering whether or not he could justify ordering another robe or three this month, Amelia Bones was holding a press conference in the DMLE's conference room. She read a short statement, informing the press that, in light of new evidence, her office had dropped all charges against Sirius Black. Also, it appeared that in the confusion surrounding the demise of the Dark Lord some fourteen years earlier, Sirius Black had been sent to Azkaban without a trial; her Department was currently investigating just who had been responsible for such a gross miscarriage of justice and expected to be able to make a report to the Minister within the next four weeks.
In the frantic question and answer session that followed, Director Bones was an island of calm in a sea of frenzy. Yes, she had more than enough evidence to justify dropping the charges against Black. No, she would not be revealing that evidence at this time. Yes, she indeed had other suspects under consideration. No, she would neither confirm nor deny that Peter Pettigrew was one of those under suspicion. No, the werewolf Remus Lupin was most certainly not under suspicion in this matter; in fact, her impression was that he was an old friend of Lord Black's, and certainly was a friend and former professor to Harry Potter. Yes, her understanding—from their papers, mind you—was that Harry Potter would be participating in the Triwizard Tournament. As the running of the Tournament itself was outside the purview of her Department, she had no further details about that; she did suggest that the Department of International Magical Cooperation would be the appropriate place to ask.
*And good luck getting anything sensible or coherent out of THAT bunch of nincompoops* she thought, but didn't say.
No, she was not going to speculate on any compensation for wrongful imprisonment that might be awarded Lord Black; that was the proper concern of the Wizengamot and Minister, not her Department. No, Sirius Black would not be appearing today to make a statement; she understood that he had gone immediately to the south of France to recover from his ordeal. No, she had no idea as to when he would return. No, she had no idea as to whether nor not anyone, specifically Harry Potter, had accompanied him.
*Well, I didn't actually see them take the portkey to the Riviera together, did I?* She justified her little white lie to herself. *Merlin knows those two could use a bit of privacy, after what they've been through.*
No, she had no direct knowledge about the current status of the Potter wills; again, that was outside the purview of her Department until and unless concrete evidence of actual wrongdoing was presented to her for investigation. No, for the same reason, she had no knowledge *officially, or that I'll spill to you lot* as to whether or not Sirius Black would be assuming custody of Harry Potter, as he was now a free man and eligible to do so.
Apparently, some eager young reporter had discovered the boy's birth announcement that had been published in the Prophet naming Lord Black as Godfather to the child. Well, no matter; by the time the truth came out, it would be a done deal. Amelia suspected that once the ink was dry on that particular parchment, Merlin himself wouldn't be able to get Harry away from Sirius...not with Mary Poppins AND Edward Spindle both in their corner.
And with that, Madam Bones announced that she had nothing more to add, and left the room. Behind her, the room exploded into motion as the reporters raced for the exits. Her press conference was going to be page 1 the next day, and each of them had the story to write up!
That afternoon, Albus took the provided portkey into London and found himself deposited behind a tree in the park one block down from Number 12, Grimmauld Place. A quick swish of his wand transfigured his robes into a Muggle suit that would have been daring in the 1960s, and a brief stroll carried him to the appropriate address. There he found the solicitor, Edward Spindle, along with two short, squat men—obviously Goblins under glamours.
"Chief Warlock," Mr. Spindle began, using his highest-ranking British title, as was appropriate, "thank you for coming today as requested."
"You are quite welcome, Mr. Spindle," Dumbledore replied. Of course, he knew the man by reputation, as well as his former time at Hogwarts—Slytherin, as Dumbledore recalled. "I rather expected Lord Black and Mr. Potter to be here," he said, looking around discretely.
"Both of them had other commitments, I'm afraid," Eddie Spindle lied. Well, it sounded better than 'both of them pretty much hate your guts, you old coot; they're probably on the beach by now, anyway'. "As I stand as solicitor for both of them, we can proceed without delay."
Dumbledore nodded, his face a mask of calm. "And when I recast the spell, who should be the secret keeper?" he asked.
"You're not redoing it," one of the Goblins rumbled. "Not after the disaster the Potter family went through. When you're done and gone, one of our teams will re-cast it; one of our senior staff will be the secret-keeper. Not going to get the secret out of a Goblin, no one isn't."
"I see," Dumbledore said, his thoughts racing. Indeed, not even Voldemort at his peak had dared to directly challenge the Goblins, especially inside Gringotts. The difficulties imposed by having a Goblin as secret-keeper might well be balanced by the added security it would provide. "Well, then, shall I begin?"
"Please," Eddie Spindle answered politely, while both Goblins just nodded curtly. Choosing to ignore their behavior—really, he'd come to expect no less from the surly beasts over the years—Dumbledore began the rather complicated task of unwinding the Fidelius charm on the townhouse. He wasn't worried about being noticed by passers-by, the Goblins having put up their own version of Notice Me Not charms before he arrived. Some ten minutes later, he lowered his wand and took a deep breath. Where previously there had been an empty space between Number 10 and Number 14, Grimmauld Place; now Number 12 stood plainly in view.
"Thank you, Chief Warlock," the solicitor nodded. "I'll see that the appropriate fee is transferred to your vault no later than tomorrow morning. You should find that the original portkey will return you to Scotland. Good day," he said, plainly dismissing the elder wizard.
"I'd very much like to see the Goblin version of the Fidelius cast," Dumbledore said, hoping that watching the spell being cast would give him some clue that he could use to work around it at need.
"Not allowed," one of the Goblins spat. "Now, go away, wizard; we've got work to do," he said, giving Dumbledore a glare that promised unpleasantness if he wasn't obeyed.
"Very well," the Headmaster answered, suppressing the urge to snap at the creature. "In that case, gentlemen, I bid you good day." Activating the portkey without walking away in a deliberate act of rudeness, he popped away.
"And good riddance to you, old meddler," Eddie Spindle muttered, as the Goblins went to work. All in all, this was going to be a productive day.
If Dumbledore was none too happy about Amelia Bone's press conference, then he found himself absolutely livid when Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley brought him their letters from Harry Potter the next morning. Each was short and to the point; Harry was now in the legal custody of his godfather, and they had gone to France for a few days to rest, recuperate and bond. Harry thought that the whole situation with Sirius and Mary Poppins was 'brilliant'; that Remus was tagging along at Sirius' insistence made the whole thing even better. The letter made Harry sound happy and content—things that Albus had worked hard to prevent over the years. Damn that Mary Poppins! Already she had undone months—if not years—of work, keeping the boy depressed, repressed and completely dependent upon Albus Dumbledore!
But of course, he couldn't let any of that show to his two spies. His eyes twinkling, he advised them to answer as they thought best, then shooed them out of his office, confident that each of them would torture Harry in their letters in their own unique way. Predictably, Miss Granger excoriated Harry mercilessly for failing to comply with the Headmaster's wishes and leaving Hogwarts. Just as predictably, Mr. Weasley choose not to reply but to sulk instead. Dumbledore knew this because he managed to intercept Miss Granger's letter, justifying the violation of the sanctity of the post 'for the greater good'. He also arranged for any further posts from Harry Potter to the duo to come to him first; however, none were forthcoming. Instead, Harry chose to write at intervals to Neville Longbottom, who flatly refused to show anyone, including the Headmaster or his Head of House, his letters to and from the Boy Who Lived. Reasoning that the content of the letters couldn't possibly be that important—after all, they were to Neville Longbottom, not one of Potter's close confidants—Dumbledore let the matter drop.
The next few weeks were marked by a spat of Harry Potter sightings in and around London, mostly in Diagon Alley and at Puddlemere United Quidditch Games. Initially these were front-page news, but as they continued without any incident, they very quickly moved back, then completely out of the papers. That Harry was always accompanied by Sirius Black—who was looking more and more robust every week—Remus Lupin and his Headmistress/Governess, Mary Poppins, was not only expected but rather boring and not newsworthy. A single incident at one match, with a handful of no-name 'Death Eaters' being quickly and efficiently dispatched by Harry, Remus and Sirius made page three of the Prophet, but since none of the perpetrators were Marked, nothing much was made of it. After that, Sirius laid on a pair of stern-looking off-duty Aurors in plain robes to accompany the group, which seemed enough to discourage any further attempts by wanna-bes. Of course, the fact that most of the first group needed several days in St. Mungo's to recover from the experience before they could be transferred to cells in the Ministry might have had something to do with the reluctance of the casual Potter-Hater to act on their desires to punish the Boy Who Smote The Dark Lord.
The main effect of these appearances seemed to be in challenging the Prophet's staff to come up with new and interesting phrases to pepper their pages with.
There were a number of unconfirmed reports that Harry was also flying with Puddlemere at least once a week, but as the team's practices were closed to the public, these remained only rumors. None of the team or management of Puddlemere would comment, but a number of puff pieces ran in Teen Witch Weekly about the 'close relationship' between Puddlemere's reserve seeker (and Harry's former Gryffindor captain) Oliver Wood and the Boy Who Lived.
Dumbledore thought that his first, best chance to probe Harry's mind might be at the official weighing of the wands. Harry's summons to the event (no other word would do, despite the polite wording of the 'invitation') had been delivered by Ministry owl a week in advance. When he didn't appear as ordered, there was some consternation until Ollivander himself cleared the matter up.
"Oh, Mr. Potter? He presented himself to my shop just yesterday; I can attest that his wand is indeed in fine shape." The elderly wand maker had brushed off any suggestion that his opinion might not be acceptable to the Ministry, and had been quite insulted by Dumbledore's insinuations to that effect.
"I assure you, Headmaster, I performed the same evaluation of Mr. Potter's wand that I intend to perform on the remainder of the Champion's wands. Or is the word of Ollivander no longer sufficient to assure the quality and functionality of a wand?"
Faced with the ire of Britain's foremost wand maker, Dumbledore had no choice but to agree that yes, Ollivander's word would be sufficient in this instance. The other participants also had no choice but to agree, and the weighing proceeded without any other complications.
Faced with the absence of the Boy Who Lived, Rita Skeeter had to console herself with interviews with Viktor Krum and Fleur Delacour—neither of whom were pleased when Rita all but declared the two of them engaged to be married...after Cedric Diggory, the Hogwarts champion, had dated, then dumped, both of them. Of course, that happened to be one of the highest-selling issues of the Prophet in history, so the various threats by Krum's and Delacour's solicitors generally were ignored by her editors.
In the kitchen at Number 12, Grimmauld Place, the article was well-received; Harry promised Sirius that he'd be sure to ask the 'happy couple' where they were registered at the first task. After all, not to buy them a wedding gift would be the height of rudeness...
I hope that things are going well there at jolly old Hogwarts. Any new disappearances or petrifications to report? Just kidding. Things here are brilliant! Sirius and Remus are both helping me with my studies, and Mary Poppins is teaching me all kinds of things. She's even brought in several of her friends to help me get ready for the Tournament, but I really can't talk about that. I'll be seeing you the day before the first task. Hope that your Gran can come to the Task, I'll try to give a good accounting of myself.
"Harry! About time, mate!"
Neville's greeting rang out across the Great Hall, causing a momentary lull in the conversation before the racket returned louder than ever. Every eye turned to see Harry Potter standing there, flanked by an elegantly attired Sirius Black, conservatively robed Remus Lupin and, of course, Mary Poppins.
A gasp went up as the students and faculty got a good look at the Boy Who Lived. Harry was tanned, fit, and several inches taller than he had been just a few weeks earlier. He was wearing tight muggle jeans and a Weird Sisters t-shirt, boots that looked like dragon hide, and his eyes shone a brilliant green with no horrid glasses to obscure them. Most of the girls (and more than a few of the boys) sighed as he sauntered to the Gryffindor table, moving with the grace of some great feline, long hair tied back with a black leather thong swinging down his back as he walked.
"Oi, Neville, budge over," Harry laughed, slapping his friend on the back as he slid onto the seat beside him. "Oh, the joys of a Hogwarts feast! Some things never change, eh?"
"Well, if it isn't the other Hogwarts champion," a sour voice came from Harry's left. "Come back to gloat some more, Harry?"
"Oh, hello, Ron. Still being a prat, I see," Harry said smoothly, giving Neville a wink. "Wait for it...three, two, one..."
"Honestly, Harry!" came Hermione's screech.
"Right on schedule," Harry whispered, nudging Neville, who stifled a laugh.
"You'd think that you'd have the decency to respond to my letters, Harry Potter! And what is that you're wearing? What happened to your school robes? Have you been keeping up with your studies? Next year is our OWL year, and if you fall behind there'll be no way you can possibly catch up, not even if I make out your revising schedule." The irritating whine kept on, oblivious to the rolled eyes and subtle (and not so subtle) faces and gestures that were being made.
"Well, then it's a good thing that I'll be taking my OWLS this spring, isn't it? Remus and Mary Poppins both think that I'll be more than ready by then, and it will be one less silly thing that I have to worry about." Harry grinned, completely unaffected by the tongue-lashing he was receiving.
"Wha...? This spring? But...but...you can't possibly be ready by then..." Hermione sputtered.
"Because I'm not as bright as you, and you won't be ready. Is that it, Hermione?" Harry asked, suddenly cold.
"Well, yes, of course...I mean, no, you've missed several weeks of classes already, and what about your fifth year?" Hermione struggled to cover her gaff.
"I've been quite impressed by Mr. Potter's intelligence, as well as his love of learning, when properly encouraged," a prim voice came from behind Harry. "Mr. Potter, it's time for your tonic. Now, open up!" Mary Poppins ordered, holding out a spoon full of purple liquid. The brown bottle in her other hand was the obvious source of the tonic.
"Yes, Mary Poppins," Harry said happily, opening his mouth for his governess to pop the spoon inside. "Mmmmm, raspberry ripple! What flavors did Sirius and Remus get?"
"Rum punch and lemonade," Mary Poppins smiled. "Now, remember, you may visit with your friends in their common room until eight thirty, no later. I want you back in our quarters no later than quarter of nine, understand?"
"Yes, Mary Poppins," Harry repeated, nodding earnestly as Mary Poppins strode away, heels clicking on the stones.
"Oh, did ickle Potter take his medicine like a good ickle boy?" Ron asked sarcastically. "Does she change your nappies too, Harry?"
"That tonic has done me more good physically than three years' care by Dumbledore's nurse," Harry snapped. "The physicians I saw in Paris diagnosed me with the complications of long-standing malnutrition as a child and told me I'd never reach my full growth. Mary Poppins said that was silly and began giving me a dose of medicine every morning and evening. If you're too blind to see the difference between me then and now, then you're blinder that I was without my glasses before. Which, by the way, you'll find that I no longer have, thanks to the magical contacts I'm wearing." Harry stared down his former best mate. "Or is it just that you're too jealous of me to be able to accept me as I am now...not one of your only friends like I was before?"
Ignoring both Ron and Hermione's sputtering and empty protests, Harry, Neville and the rest of the Gryffindors proceeded to enjoy themselves tremendously until Harry's curfew...and none of them missed the two irritating members of the former Golden Trio at all.
A/N: Every HP Fanfic author has to write his or her own take on the Triwizard Tournament (it's a law, or something). Well, this plot bunny has been kicking around my head for months and months, but I never really had the time to work on it. Then, after two separate computer meltdowns and a modem meltdown, all I had was an old computer with a word processor, and no Internet. So, since I couldn't do anything else (all of my other pieces are on one of the melted-down computers) until parts arrived to fix them, I started on this. As with most of my stuff, it turned out to be much longer than I'd anticipated; still, it was an enjoyable piece of fluff to write.
This piece began in an attempt to answer one of the great, unsolved mysteries of canon: just what school did the Goblet think Harry was representing? Logically, the Confundus charm either convinced the Goblet to conveniently 'forget' about the other Hogwarts champion, or 'know' that Harry was attending another school. There have been a number of fics that tacitly assume the first, but I'm not aware of any that begin with the second assumption and proceed from there—if there are, I'd like to read them.
From that point, well, who else in Britain might have a school for Harry to attend? Nanny McPhee already has a job, after all; so, why not the most famous magical Governess in English history? For those of us 'old folks', Mary Poppins was THE magical figure of our childhood (well, she and Samantha Stevens, and Jeannie, but they're both in America and don't count). That was all well before JKR, of course…as strange as it may be to imagine a world without Harry Potter; well, that's the way it was.
Expect this piece to be posted fairly rapidly, as it's already finished. I'll be putting it up in the intervals between trying to catch up on nearly three weeks of 'net isolation.
Next Chapter: The First Task! Guess whom Mary Poppins has brought in to help Harry prepare? I would drop hints, but that would be CHEATING!