The morning of the task dawned bright, clear and cold. Yusuke dragged himself out of bed, grumbling. He was wide awake, as usual, but he was freezing. He decided to wear a heavy ski suit to the task so he dug it out and handed it to a waka, telling him, "Here, keep this handy, and these boots." He handed over heavy hiking boots. He could have put it all in mallet space, but he didn't want to have to dig for it. Besides, it was impressive to have a manservant nearby.
Breakfast was a circus; Mr Bagman and Mr Crouch were both in attendance. The champions were seated at the champions' table, along with their advisors. There was a new reporter, accompanied by Bozo, who seemed to be in awe of everything. He was sent to the guests' table on the other side of Slytherin.
This table was set up to handle all the hangers-on who seemed to think that they were important enough to merit a seat at the high table, which was now crowded with the Governors, a few Aurors, and Minister Fudge. Dumbledore was seated in the throne-like chair at the foot of the table, much to his disgust. But Hogwarts herself had stymied his attempt to take the head of the table.
Hagrid came in, stumped up to the head table, and whispered something in Dumbledore's ear. Dumbledore stood up, threw his napkin onto the floor, and hurried out after the retreating giant. He muttered, "Nothing but trouble, I swear. The wards should be in better hands than this." He felt a strange pulling sensation, but ignored it in favor of getting Hagrid's charges through the wards.
Headmistress McGonagall noticed the strange push and closed her eyes. "Idiot. That's torn it." She had realized that Hogwarts was slowly taking the wards from Dumbledore and giving them to her. Hogwarts, not the Governors, chose the Head. And she seemed done with Dumbledore. No one was sure exactly how the castle chose, but they all knew that she did. The muggles would have had all sorts of theories about AI and ambient magic creating a pseudo-personality. All the magical population knew was that Hogwarts chose, and you'd better not argue with her.
Headmistress McGonagall asked the castle to open the wards to the animals for the task. She didn't hear any complaining from anyone, so she assumed that the wards had accepted the beasts. She did wonder what they might be, but she figured she'd find out soon enough.
Yusuke looked up from his perch on the central fountain. He'd been sitting there, smoking and waiting. The front courtyard was full of visitors and so the champions had gathered in the inner courtyard. With its grassy quadrants and center fountain, it was the most peaceful place they could find.
They ignored Ludo Bagman as he babbled about what a wonderful opportunity for publicity this was. He was acting a bit off, even for him. Yusuke glanced at Remus. "Find out what the hell he's really up to, will you?"
"Sure thing. He's got a bit of a rep as a gambler. Might be something in that." Remus eyed the man for a moment then motioned to a waka. He gave orders that, if Bagman was in over his head, or even if he wasn't, the waka was to buy up any and all bets.
Minister Fudge called them to attention. "Everybody! Yes, well. The task will begin shortly. We'll all process to the stadium now. Come along."
He led the way, self-important and pleased. He didn't see what a picture he actually made. To say he was portly was polite, "fat" was more factual. His lime green suit didn't go well with his complexion, and he found that he had to scurry to stay in the lead.
He was followed by the three champions. Odette Renaud was slim, shapely, and quite beautiful. Her long, honey-blonde hair was in a braid that nearly reached her slim waist. Her robes were heavy wool, but fitted her nicely. Ivan was taller than Odette by about four inches. He had broad shoulders, made even broader by his heavy fur coat. His black hair was hidden by a rabbit-fur ushanka with the earflaps tied on top. He'd opted for Russian traditional clothing of the Cossack sort, so his loose wool trousers were tucked into tall, black leather boots.
Yusuke had been persuaded to leave off the ski suit in favor of more traditional clothing. In other words, he wore the uniform of a samurai. His under-robe, or nagajuban, was heavy white silk; his kimono was quilted of flannel, in deference to the cold. He wore hakama over leggings, and straw sandals. He was armed with his rings, which he never took off, his wand, at Sirius' insistence, and his daisho. Kūki to Kumo and Kitsuen were tucked into his obi, ready for service. He had his hair in its usual tight tail, but it was double bound with wet silk ribbons to keep it from coming undone. No one realized how tall he actually was until he was standing near someone else. He was as tall as Ivan and nearly as broad through the shoulders. He was obviously a martial artist. He handled his swords easily and it was plain that he'd handled swords most of his life. Bozo was in heaven; this time he'd get plenty of good pictures.
They reached the tent where the champions were to await their turn at the task and ignored Bagman's lecture about good sportsmanship and something about shared glory. Yusuke smoked, offered cigarettes around and sulked. He wished Bagman would shut up and get on with it.
Karkaroff did too and said so. Madam Maxime added, "I agree. My colleague might not have been particularly polite but he is right. Go about your business and start this. Go."
Bagman frowned around but, seeing that everyone was looking irritated, he went.
Madam Maxime opened the tent flap so they could all hear the speeches that it seemed everyone and his dog wanted to give. It was another twenty minutes before Mr Bagman was back with the announcement that the beast they were to face was, he paused for heightened effect, a Cynogryphon, brought straight from Ireland for the task.
Yusuke eyed the idiot for a moment then said, "What the fuck is that when it's at home?"
Sirius sighed. "You'll love this. It's a half-eagle, half-dog or -wolf. They live in high mountains, on the side of cliffs. They're the smallest of the griffon family, but don't let that fool you. They're the strongest and meanest. They're also extremely intelligent, some say on the level of a five- or six-year-old human. They're also called the chamrosh, or the sky-hound. Some say they're some god's gift to dragon-hunters― things heal like lightening. Can bite through almost anything, claws like a bear. It's a strange thing though, they'll help people stranded in the mountains, if you don't try to touch them, that is. And they're telepathic. Maybe."
Ivan sighed. "I'm dead. There's no way to fight something like that."
Odette frowned. "But ... no one said we had to fight it. They just said we had to get an egg from it." She thought about that for a moment then walked off.
Ivan watched her then shrugged. "Well, what's odd. How ... Hmmm." he wandered off, thinking hard.
Yusuke was sure he knew what Odette was up to; he was also sure it wouldn't work.
Ivan, he had no idea of.
He also knew exactly what he was going to do.
Sirius looked at his godson. "You're awfully calm."
"No sense in going crazy over this. I'm calm because it doesn't make sense to be anything else." Yusuke nodded to a waka. "Get me a Tasuki. I forgot."
The waka hurried off to get the required cord. He returned at the same time Odette did. He helped her finish carrying the large lump of something to the tent. She thanked him and settled beside Madam Maxime to wait her turn.
Ivan also returned but he wasn't carrying anything.
Remus looked from one contestant to the other then shrugged and sat down.
Yusuke smirked at him. "So. Who goes first?"
Remus laughed. "Not my problem. When do you want to go?"
"I don't know. If I go first, I'll give my trick away. But if I go last the cynogryphon might be pissed."
Sirius thought about it for a moment. "Go last. Remus?"
"Last, if you have a choice."
"Okay." Yusuke went back to his smoking.
It turned out that no one had any idea how to pick the order, now that Bagman's trick with the toy dragons wouldn't work. Yusuke pulled a deck of cards out of his sleeve and offered to cut for place. He sorted the cards with a flick of his hand, showing the three cards to everyone. He then handed the cards to Sirius. Sirius simply fanned them in one hand then held the hand out to Odette. "Ladies first." she drew a card, then Ivan, then Yusuke.
Odette showed her card, it had one fan on it. Ivan had two fans while Yusuke had three.
Sirius nodded to Odette. "You are first, Ivan second and Yusuke last. Good luck to all of you."
They settled back again but it wasn't but a few minutes before Odette was called. She left and they could hear cheering and a loud roar. Then a short scream.
Odette didn't come back to the tent, but no one expected her to. Madam Maxime didn't come in either.
Karkaroff put his head to Ivan's and they had a quick, fierce conversation; as they whispered, no one heard them. Yusuke didn't care, he could read lips. What they talked about wasn't pertinent to the problem, but they didn't know that.
Ivan left, head high. There was no roaring or screaming this time, but the crowd cheered loudly.
Yusuke nodded to Sirius. "Guess it's my turn. Wonder how Odette and Ivan actually did." He took the tasuki and used it to tie his sleeves back by simply sticking one end in his mouth and then passing the other in an X across his back, catching the left sleeve with it, then tying the ends together. This caught both sleeves and pulled them back, a waka stepped forward to tuck the ends of the sleeves under the X at his back; this would keep them out of his way if he had to use his swords.
Yusuke was announced as Harry Potter and scowled. He ambled into the stadium and saw his opponent. He couldn't actually think of the thing as a beast―it was very handsome. It had the body of a large horse, a percheron perhaps. Wings like an eagle, only huge; he didn't dare guess at the span. It had the head of a hawk and likewise the feet, and a tail like a lion. All in all, it was more than a bit scary.
The Cynogryphon watched him as he walked into the stadium; the intelligence in its eyes made him change his plan completely. He didn't need to fight this creature, he needed to reason with it.
Yusuke produced a cigarette and squatted on his heels to smoke. He didn't even look at the creature. He kept his head down and waited.
It didn't take long before the curious creature couldn't stand it any longer. He felt a nudge on his shoulder but ignored it.
He finally felt the thought. "What?"
He still didn't look up. He tried to project what he was thinking, forming clear words in his mind. "Smoke."
"I like it." He blew out some smoke.
"Stinks." The Cynogryphon shook his head.
"Sorry." Yusuke put the cigarette out then carefully stood up.
He was just short enough that he wasn't quite eye to eye with it.
"What you want?"
"That." Yusuke pointed to the golden egg on the ground just by the stake the Cynogryphon was chained to.
"Let me go." the Cynogryphon tugged at the chain, looking longingly at the sky.
"Ok." Yusuke formed a picture in his mind of what he wanted the Cynogryphon to do. He wasn't about to leave the creature in the control of the Ministry, they'd probably chop it up for potions or something. He knew that the powerful creature could make it back home, if it did what he wanted. "You do this. I'll keep them from shooting you."
"I go. Not home. Follow. Where?"
Yusuke nodded. "Okay. Go here. Long flight, long."
"I go. Turn loose now."
Yusuke waved his hand and the chain popped loose. It dropped to the ground and the Cynogryphon sprang into the air, flapping hard. Yusuke put up a smoke screen that prevented anyone from getting in a hex before the creature was a dwindling dot in the sky. He just hoped it made it to Japan ok. He'd send a note to his father to look for the animal in the mountains around home. It should like the area.
Yusuke sauntered over to collect his egg. The crowd went wild.
He was a bit startled to see Professor Flitwick, Hagrid, and three men he didn't know, holding up cards. They had numbers on them. Flitwick had a 9, Hagrid a 10, and the other three had an 8, 9, 9. He realized that this was how they decided on the winner, who ever got the highest score from the judges won the task. He wondered who won. His score of 45 was just short of a possible 50. He wondered if anyone had gotten higher.
He returned to the starting line and was told to go to a different tent. When he arrived he saw Odette, then Ivan. Odette was sitting on a fainting couch, obviously freshly healed. Her robes were slit from the left shoulder to the right hip, and the open edges showed a rapidly fading red line. She looked disgruntled and tired.
Ivan was holding a cold pack to his head, frowning at Karkaroff, who looked angry. Ivan also had a huge gash in his coat. It was across the left side of his chest, but didn't go deep enough to touch him.
Neither one of them had an egg.
Yusuke showed them the egg he'd gotten, then he told them the whole story of his task. Ivan grinned, Odette just sighed. "I did truly think that giving it food would work."
Yusuke thought about that. "It is way too smart to fall for that sort of thing. I offered it safety. It will be in Japan soon. I'll have to send to Father to keep him from breaking my word."
Sirius entered just then and said, "Don't worry. I did that already. I'm sure the beastie will be happy. And, Odette, it was a good idea to feed it. Ivan? Brute force? With something that big?"
Ivan had the good sense to flush heavily. "Headmaster Karkaroff advised it. I wanted to try distracting it with flashing lights and loud noises then sneaking the egg away."
Yusuke smoked for a moment. "I don't think that would have worked."
Ivan nodded. "After due consideration of the Cynogryphon's intelligence, I don't think so either."
Yusuke sighed, flopped down on another fainting couch and demanded, "What are your scores?
Ivan looked disgusted and glared at Karkaroff before saying, "25. Not good."
Odette looked annoyed when she said, "30. Better, maybe."
Yusuke shook his head. "45. I might have gotten a 50 but I let the Cynogryphon go. It's headed for Japan. There's some nice places it might like around my home; I sent it there."
The conversation halted as a group of big-wigs, hangers-on and reporters came in. Minister Fudge was pleased with his entourage, never realizing that he was lost in the crowd. The entourage proceeded to make a nuisance of themselves, asking impertinent questions and trying to take photos with their arms around the champions. Odette, especially, objected to this as one older man tried to grope her. Madam Maxime stymied this, spraining the man's wrist in the process.
She then announced, "It is enough! All this commotion is not good. We go."
Sirius had already had the waka form a wall between Yusuke and the mob, calling in extra waka to do so. Ivan looked at the stern-faced men longingly but he was abandoned by Karkaroff, left to his own devices and stranded in the milling mass of bodies.
Severus Snape was not a nice man; he said so himself, frequently. But he was disgusted by Headmaster Karkaroff and his indifference to his star pupil. He decided to help the poor kid out. He might need a favor later, after all. "Excuse me. Headmaster Karkaroff has asked me to escort Gozpodin Dubrovsky back to his quarters." Snape poked a reporter in the kidney with a sharp finger. The man moved and Snape saw that Ivan was looking more or less like a hunted man. "Come along then, boy."
Ivan edged over to Snape and nearly clung to him. "Thank you, sir."
"Welcome." Snape eyed the people between him and the tent flap then barked, "Well! Out of the way! Don't just stand there like sheep!"
The crowd parted grudgingly and Snape escorted the harassed young man up to Hogwarts, grumbling all the way. He left Ivan at the door to Durmstrang territory. "I swear, I don't know what's come over that man. Not that he's that responsible in the first place. Man's a total loser, but you'd think he'd take better care. Here. Go inside before the vultures descend. And tell someone to stay on the door and not allow strangers in."
"I will. Thank you very much, Professor." Ivan proved that he was a smart boy. "I will remember this favor. And tell my Father."
Snape narrowly avoided saying, "Be sure that you do." That remark wouldn't do him any good, implying that Ivan wouldn't keep his word. He bowed slightly and went away.
Ivan went in the door and did as Snape had suggested. He told the Durmstrang head boy to watch the door, per Professor Snape's instructions. All Durmstrang was glad he'd done so as the Head Boy had to turn away dozens of celebrity seekers and nosy parkers.
Odette was just glad to be in Beauxbatons' dorm. She was tired and still ached from her injury. All she really wanted was a hot bath and some soothing oil for her still-healing scar.
She was to get that and much more. The second she entered the common room, her friends grabbed her and dragged her away with much cooing and fussing. She got her bath, oil, and some potions. She also got a facial, mani-pedi, and massage.
Madam Maxime took the time to file a complaint with the Ministry about all the hangers-on who had been allowed into the champions' tent. Her complaint named names and offenses. She never got a response, not that she expected to.
Dinner was annoying.
All the champions had to sit at the champions' table again. Odette was joined by her sister and best friend, Ivan by his father and older brother, and Yusuke by Sirius, Remus, and six waka. Hermione and Neville had politely refused to sit at the table; the reporters put them off.
Yusuke's glower made most of the reporters avoid asking him questions. The few photographers who managed to get a full face photo were disappointed to find that it didn't come out. None of the pictures of the other champions did either. Yusuke had asked both of them if they wanted to learn the charm. They had.
Sirius, Remus and the waka had all cast the spell as well.
Dumbledore, on hand for the night, stood and announced, "Before we eat, we will have the champions' scores. Professor McGonagall, if you would."
Headmistress McGonagall stood. "Yes, Professor Dumbledore. The scores are as follows. Ivan Dubrovsky, 25. Odette Renaud, 30. Miyamoto Yusuke, 45. The only person who has a hint to the next test is Miyamoto-san. We can only hope that ignorance will not handicap the other champions too much. I'm not going to blather on, I'm hungry. Anyone else who has anything to say, can say it after. Let's eat." She couldn't help the challenging look she cast at the high table. She was well aware that Bagman, Crouch, and Fudge had speeches. She wasn't about to make hungry children listen to nearly an hour of blather. "If anyone wants to give their speech, they can do so while we eat, or wait." She sat down and began her own meal, well satisfied with herself.
Dumbledore frowned; he'd tried to stop her from serving by contacting the Head Elf. The creature didn't answer and the food had been served. Fudge was glowering at him, as was Bagman. He shrugged, smiled a bit, twinkled and whispered, "We must let the ladies have their way. I'm sure the children might be more attentive if they're not listening to their stomachs growl. Please, go on."
Fudge stood up and began his speech. He noticed that some of the older students were actually listening and he was sure the younger ones were quieter. He concluded with, "And now, a few remarks from Mr Ludo Bagman. Ludo."
Mr Bagman stood, pushing his chair back and clearing his throat importantly. He pulled several heavy cards out of a pocket and started to laboriously read them. No one paid any more attention to him than they had Fudge, something that he was well aware of. After telling a third joke that fell flat, he concluded his speech by throwing Barty Crouch Sr. to the wolves.
Barty, seeing the way his fellows had been treated, decided to forego his speech until after the meal. He smiled benignly on all the students and returned to his meal. Hermione whispered to Neville, "Thank goodness. We can sneak out just before afters and have something in peace in the juku. Ok?"
Neville eyed the head table. "Sounds good to me. Yusuke's going to be pissed as hell."
"No way is he going to be able to sneak out. And Sirius is already glassy eyed. Remus is ... looks like he's asleep with his eyes open." Neville snickered.
Hermione nodded. "Remus is asleep. He admitted that he perfected the ability in Binns' class. Sirius might be asleep too. Yusuke ... what is he doing?" she peered at her friend then snickered as a small origami bird fluttered through the air and landed beside her plate. She unfolded it and read. "Well, he's bored and restless. I wonder what he's going to do about it." Neville raised an eyebrow at her. "He just wrote, 'Brace yourselves.'"
It didn't take long for them to find out what Yusuke intended. When the deserts were served, he just got up and walked away from the table, followed by his waka, Remus and Sirius, in that order. Hermione was quick to rise and follow them with Neville and Seamus on her heels.
Dumbledore demanded that they return to their seats. Yusuke ignored him as did everyone in his personal gumi. Other students, attempting to emulate them, reseated themselves as their nerve failed.
The other two champions also stayed, not being quick enough to get out with Yusuke nor brave enough to disobey Dumbledore.
Yusuke led the way to a small visitors' room on the second floor. Most students didn't know that such rooms even existed. Dumbledore discouraged visits from parents, even though the Hogwarts charter allowed visits on a monthly basis.
They got settled; elves brought refreshments in the form of cakes, tarts and other sweets. Tea was poured and even the waka were seated.
Yusuke looked around then produced the egg. "Well, here it is. I've opened it. I wouldn't advise opening it again. It screams. Very odd. It's supposed to be the clue to the next task. I'm not impressed."
The egg was passed from hand to hand, even the waka having a turn. They were impressed with Yusuke on a general level and now even more so. He addressed them directly, "You are all here because you have experience. Any suggestion is welcome, no matter how silly you might think it is." He then settled back, handed cigarettes around and waited.
Neville, Sirius and Remus all took a cigarette. Hermione and the waka refused. The waka all produced pipes, while Hermione stuck to her tea. No one really noticed Seamus until he refused a cigarette.
Seamus glanced around then asked, "Should I leave?"
Yusuke shook his head, "No, in fact, as you're Irish. Would you know a banshee's shriek if you heard one?"
Seamus nodded. "I would. Me Mam made sure I knew all the dangers of Magical Ireland. Damn nasty surprise when they came up with that chamrosh, I can tell you. So, banshee?"
Yusuke told the waka who was holding the egg, "Open that, everyone else plug your ears, it's loud."
The waka waited for a second then opened the egg. The resultant noise made everyone cringe. The waka hastily shut the egg.
Seamus took his hands off his ears and said, "Definitely not a banshee. No idea."
Yusuke looked around. "Anyone?" everyone shook their heads. "Well, shit. Hermione?"
She sighed, "I can start research. I just ... there's no way to compare sounds. If I had a computer and some software, I could compare it to all recorded animals and see if I come up with something. But ... I'm not sure it would work. I don't think there's many electronic recordings of magical beasts."
Sirius offered. "We could just ask Hagrid."
A sudden knocking at the door caused them all to look up. Yusuke gestured to a waka who opened the door. Headmistress McGonagall stuck her head in and asked, "Everything alright in here? We heard screaming."
Yusuke admitted, "We opened that damn egg. It just screams. Is Professor Hagrid around?"
McGonagall looked at him for a moment then rather smugly admitted, "He's still in the Great Hall. He's enamored of Madam Maxime and attempting to flirt with her."
Neville snickered. "And how's that going?"
McGonagall laughed, "Not that well. I'll ask him to step in, shall I?"
"Please do." Yusuke conjured a heavy, wooden chair.
It didn't take long for Hagrid to show up. "Well, I 'ear you need 'elp. So ..." he accepted a huge mug of tea. "T'ank ya kindly."
Yusuke motioned to the waka, who opened the egg again. Hagrid listened to the shrieking for a moment then shook his head. The waka closed the egg.
Hagrid sipped his tea, consuming half the mug in one go. "Well, it's Mermish, but what anyone expects from that you'll have to find out for yourselves."
Hermione frowned. "But how do we translate it? It just sounds like screaming."
Hagrid nodded wisely, then said, "'At it do. So ... where would you expect to actually 'ear Mermish? Not in air, I don' think." he finished his tea and stood up. "'An 'at's all I'm prepared ta say. Not supposed to 'ave said this much." He smiled around, thanked them again for the tea and left.
Yusuke blinked at Sirius for a moment then said, "We need a big pool, or bath. I'm not about to leave you all out. So, where?"
Remus laughed, "The prefects' bath. It's huge and very nice. I'll get the password from ... someone."
Yusuke snorted, "You think I don't know every password in this place? Please!"
They all headed up to the prefects' bathroom and Yusuke said the password out loud. They entered; Hermione, as the only female, went into the changing rooms, while the men all just dropped their things into the provided baskets. Yusuke, the waka, and Sirius were all wearing fundoshi instead of smalls. Seamus and Neville needed a bit of help, provided by a waka who transfigured their handkerchiefs into fundoshi.
Hermione emerged from the ladies' changing room wearing a bikini. It wasn't a small one, her father had actually picked it out for her. But it was a bit of a surprise to Seamus. "Bedad!"
Hermione eyed him for a moment then said to a waka, "Kare o Hirate!" The resultant smack in the head made Seamus wince.
"Sorry, sorry. It's just ... wow!" Seamus then realized that he was standing around in just a bit of something that didn't actually cover much of anything. "Oh, mu' God." And with that bit of brilliance he turned around and scurried into the bathing pool, mooning everyone in the process.
Hermione laughed herself silly. She actually had to be held up by Sirius.
Yusuke eyed them all with patient amusement. "If you're all done being so English, let's get this on the road."
They all waded into the pool, Yusuke bearing the egg.
It didn't take long for them to get arranged on the seats around the edge of the pool. It was so much like a Japanese Ofuro that no one had difficulties. When they were comfortable, Yusuke stuck the egg under the water and opened it.
The song was short but not that sweet.
Come seek us where our voices sound;
we cannot sing above the ground.
And while you're searching ponder this,
we've taken what you'll sorely miss.
An hour long you'll have to look,
to recover what we took.
An hour's gone, the prospect's black.
Too late, it's gone, it won't come back.
Hermione voiced everyone's thoughts. "Well, that's not very reassuring. And not much help. What are we supposed to do, play Animal, Vegetable, Mineral?"
One of the waka offered, "Perhaps they mean one of your daisho?"
Yusuke shook his head. "No, I treasure them but, as you well know, Father would beat me bloody if I risked my life for something like that. No, the Merpeople will be guarding something. Something ... irreplaceable."
Neville sighed. "That means a person. But who?"
Sirius shook his head. "Well, this task is done before it's begun, too. I'm not going to volunteer to be stuck ... damn it! Under the fucking Black Lake to be guarded by Merpeople ... who, by the way, have no love for wizards. Nor, I firmly believe, will either Ivan or Odette's parents."
Seamus voiced the question that all of them had. "An' who the flamin' hell thought up this shite, anyway?"
Neville looked at Sirius and then Remus, they all said, in chorus, "Dumbledore and Bagman."
Yusuke grumbled, "Those baka are worthless as ... something completely worthless."
Seamus snorted. "Tits on a boar come to mind."
This cracked everyone up, especially as Yusuke translated it for those whose English wasn't up to the task.
Since it was a bathing room, they decided to have a wash while they were there and Yusuke just handed a back brush to a waka with the order, "Suru!" The waka obediently began to scrub his back.
They traded around, scrubbing each other's backs, telling bad jokes and, in general, enjoying themselves. Hermione even got a polite back scrub from Remus.
They hauled themselves out when the seventh year Hufflepuff prefect came in and asked them, politely, to leave so that the prefects could have a wash.
They climbed out, splashing water everywhere and dripped into the exit chamber to dry off and get dressed. House elves provided towels and clean clothing, yukata for everyone. Seamus didn't say anything, after all yukata and robes were similar. He did need a bit of help from one of the waka to get everything crossed and tied properly.
Yusuke donned hakama over his yukata and added a daisho just for show.
Remus and Sirius bid him good evening and went back to Ken No Ie. They both began composing letters to both Musashi-san and the ICW. Sirius also took it upon himself to write letters to the parents of the other champions, Madam Maxime, and Headmaster Karkaroff. He had his doubts about Karkaroff, but wrote anyway.
Miyamoto Musashi eyed the letter, handed it to Genji-san and began to laugh. Genji-san finished reading, handed it on and began to laugh too. Kuma read it out loud to everyone in the room.
When the laughing was finished, Musashi-sama told his sons, "No one is to do this. No cooperation with that fool. Write a letter." And with that he proceeded to get drunk and tell stories about Yusuke. All the men in the room enjoyed the stories very much. They also were well aware that Musashi didn't exaggerate, at all.
Odette's father, Charles, read the letter and demanded all his children return to the chateau at once. He also recalled most of his servants, his wife, and her parents. His also came.
He held a small dinner for the fifteen or so souls in attendance on him and read the letter that he'd received. He also announced to all and sundry, "No one is to agree to participate as the victim. No one. I do not trust Dumbledore to take proper precautions."
A small voice from the end of the table asked, "Who would be silly enough to agree to be sedated and stuck under a lake? Really? That's ... stupid."
Charles agreed. "Exactly. And, if Dumbledore is idiotic enough to take someone against their will ... the ICW will ring with complaints. I swear. And I do count 'imperius' as against their will. Also any potions. Do not make the mistake of looking him in the eye or eating any of those damn lemon candies of his."
Everyone agreed to all his requests and they finished their meal in agreement that the task was too dangerous for the hostage to be agreed to.
Gozpodin Dubrovsky the elder called his family to him as well. He didn't bother with a banquet, or anything of the sort. He just held audience in his family home.
His announcement was about the same, with the addition that anyone who willingly cooperated with this foolishness would be 'written out of the family book.' Which was a very unpleasant thing to have happen.
A few days passed while everything calmed down, a bit.
Rita Skeeter was out of the reporting business, permanently. She'd sustained such physical damage that she'd always have a limp. Her boss had agreed to keep her on at the Prophet, but not as a field reporter―she was now on the society desk. She was not a happy camper, but couldn't see any way to return to her former job. She contented herself with printing all the gossip fit to print and a lot that wasn't. Some of it was even true.
The editor had sent a memo that the Miyamoto family was to be left strictly alone. He forgot one thing. Wizards are singularly hide-bound. No one on the paper thought of Miyamoto Yusuke as anything other than Harry Potter. Him, they laid into with a will. The dirt flew with abandon and accusations of everything from cheating on tests to consorting with scarlet women showed up on both the editorial page and the society page.
Reply letters came from all over, both to the paper and to Hogwarts.
Yusuke dealt with all the uproar with a calm that worried Hermione and Neville and impressed everyone else. Letters that actually made it to Hogwarts were sorted with ruthless efficiency, right at the breakfast table.
The first batch, which came before Yusuke was ready for breakfast, convinced him to forego his usual breakfast in the juku. A helpful second-year was badly shocked by an exploding missive from someone who thought something blowing up in his face would teach Mr Potter to keep his bits in his pants. The fact that Yusuke had no idea what that meant sort of spoiled the effect.
His return letter carried a hex that left the man with, "Hex me," hovering over his head for days. Of course, most witches and wizards couldn't resist this and the second part of the hex made it nearly impossible for him to block.
News of the mess was carried to Yusuke by a house elf who asked politely if he'd please dine in the Great Hall so that elves didn't have to deal with 'all that messes of stupid, dangerous letters from fools who should being knowing better.' He went down to see what was going on.
He was greeted by the two friends of the injured boy and the seventh-year prefects from Gryffindor. He eyed the mess of letters then waved a hand. The pile divided itself into three.
"Well, so." Yusuke banished one pile as it contained all the dangerous letters: some contained spells, hexes and curses; others contained potions or poisons.
The other two piles were inoffensive in one, and offers in another.
The inoffensive ones he turned over to the house elves to open and read. The pile of offers he dealt with himself. He opened them, one by one, turned down the offers of daughters, and sons, in marriage, concubinage, or outright slavery, each in accordance with their politeness. The offers of business deals he bundled up and sent to Sirius. The offers of endorsement opportunities were answered with a form letter that said, "If you want me to endorse your shit, send me a sample. If it's good, I'll think about it. If it's bad, I'm sending a man to break your knees."
Hermione objected, "Yusuke, you can't send a letter like that."
"Well, it's rude." She thought about that and wasn't that startled by his answer.
"So is asking me to pimp their crap."
"True. Sorry. Do you want me to help you answer this mess?" Hermione eyed the whole thing with disfavor.
"No. I got it. I'm actually just going to duplicate this as many times as I need. They'll be getting their answers back ... on rice paper, in kanji. Let them figure out how to read it. Just like I had to." Yusuke waved a hand over the pile and it shuffled itself into a pile of replies. He picked it up and handed it to a waka. "Mail all this shit. And make sure it gets out, not into Dumbledore's box. Oh. And this." Yusuke pulled something out of his sleeve and handed that over too.
He'd sent a variety of W3 products through his mail box. He was disappointed that none of them seemed to have stuck. He was unaware of the frequent visits Dumbledore paid to an ICW curse breaker. Fred and George were similarly disappointed but did know that Dumbledore was having to pay to have the pranks removed. Their brother was assigned to the ICW for six months, breaking curses for various members. He offered advice as to how to make the pranks on Dumbledore stick better.
After the mail was sorted and dealt with, Yusuke put a charm on his mail address that diverted any and all mail from people he did not know to Dumbledore's intrusive mail box. Let him deal with all that mess.
Hermione approved saying, quite sensibly, "If he's so damn determined to keep you from being annoyed, let him. Anything you really need to see is brought by waka, right?" Yusuke nodded. "Well, there you are." She returned to her bacon with a satisfied nod.