A/N: A tip of the hat to Tylendel over at DLP for his suggestion for the French incantation – subsequent mucking around all my own, with apologies to the French language.
Chapter 11: Champion
Harry's wand leapt into the air, but came clattering down only a short distance away from where he had originally placed it, on the other side of the table to where he was sitting. It was out of easy reach, but the fact remained that the wand had moved. The spell worked. Harry burst out in a smile, and leant lower over the table, stretching out his hand once more.
This time, the length of ash simply rolled towards him, but Harry was perfectly content with that. The conversation with Reynard at the party had paid dividends, and his spell was working better than ever.
It hadn't been an entirely simple matter. Reynard had suggested 'Reviens, baguette magique' for the full spell, and Harry had played around with it before settling on the shorter version. While the longer incantation was a more accurate translation of what he was trying to do, it did not exactly trip off the tongue, and given the nature of the spell there would probably be situations where an extra, largely unnecessary word could be fatal. Besides, Harry quietly believed that intent more than made up for any deficiencies in the actual speaking of the spell, and that went double for a spell that by necessity had no wand gesture.
Flicking his wand, now gripped firmly in his hand, he muttered the words 'Demitto Fulsi', and a ball of light appeared next to his head, hovering there unobtrusively. He had long since mastered the spell, much to Flitwick's delight. The diminutive professor had challenged Harry to a competition to see who could hang the highest number of conjured baubles from their robes to celebrate the end of O.W.L.s, apparently without realising that his pupil's extra height gave him an unfair advantage. Harry grinned at the memory, the gloriously silly sight of Professor Flitwick radiating light always something that cheered him up.
He stretched, yawning quietly, then examined his watch by the light of the bauble. He grimaced. He was up far too late again. He hadn't found it easy to sleep over the last week or so, beset by worry and a streak of regret, but there wasn't a lot he could do about it now. Besides, he was at least being productive.
He was far too awake now though. He grinned again. It worked. It actually worked! Suddenly overwhelmed with glee, he did something very few wizards would willingly do, and threw his wand to the other side of the common room. Then he threw his hand out and barked out the incantation. He practically doubled over with delight when his wand leapt over the settee towards him. It didn't quite go the full distance, but he didn't care.
The morning after, Harry's excitement had dulled, and he was beginning to wish that he had taken some Dreamless Sleep potion and just forgotten all about the spell. He yawned expansively as he manoeuvred a slice of bacon around his plate, longing for the comfort of the four poster bed upstairs. The prospect of double Defence on four hours sleep was not one he relished, particularly since Underwood was likely to be in a rotten mood. The grizzled Defence professor was getting on in years, and had little time for such occasions as the Tournament.
His weary reverie was broken by the arrival of Ron, who threw himself down onto the bench next to him with a disgruntled sigh. Anthony, who had been respecting his friend's exhaustion by hovering up a plate of bacon and eggs with enthusiasm, looking disapprovingly at the redhead. Ron ignored him.
"I need your help, mate."
Harry took a bite of bacon, chewed it slowly, carefully, and swallowed. Then he looked at Ron, smiling brightly. "Good morning! And how are you?"
"Merlin, which side of whose bed did you wake up on this morning?" Ron said. Harry glowered, and Ron held up his hands. "Ok, ok. Morning. Did you sleep alright?"
"Do I look like I slept alright?" Harry demanded.
"Not really," Ron said with a shrug. "Listen, it's about Malfoy."
"Oh, for God's sake…" Harry moaned, lowering his head to the table. It wasn't entirely a surprise. Over the last week or so, Ron had become increasingly antagonistic towards the Slytherin. It was perfectly understandable – Harry would be the first to admit to harbouring some less than favourable thoughts towards Draco – but Ron was obsessed.
"You're not going to let him get away with it, are you? Slughorn's done sod all!"
"What exactly am I supposed to be doing?" Harry asked, looking up at Ron. Ron shrugged.
"I dunno. You're the brain-box, you tell me?"
"Great plan," Anthony remarked around a mouthful of egg. Ron shot him a dirty look.
"I'm working on it…"
"Ron, you do remember what happened the last time we teamed up against Malfoy, don't you? We got caught. By Dumbledore."
"Well, yes…" Ron said. "But that was then. That was years ago!"
"Yes, and I'm sure he won't hold it against us when we get caught this time," Harry snapped back. "Look, if you want to get back at Malfoy, just hex him next time you see him in the corridor. You don't need to be a master strategist to do that."
"Do you really think that hadn't occurred to me?" Ron said with an irritated expression. "I'm not an idiot. But that's not enough – he humiliated my sister!"
"She seems ok to me," Anthony said, looking over Ron's shoulder. Harry followed his friend's gaze; it was true, Ginny was looking cheerful enough, laughing at something with a fellow Gryffindor. She saw them looking, and gave them a jaunty wave.
"She hides it well," Ron said. Harry gave Ron a dubious look, and he sighed. "Ok, she's fine, but that's not the point. It's the principle of the thing!"
"Oh well, that's ok then. So long as it's a matter of principle."
"Are you going to help me or not?"
"Ron…you haven't told me what it is you want me to do."
"Oh!" Ron looked slightly embarrassed. "Yeah, ok. I know that calling him out or something isn't going to work. He's not stupid enough to do that now. But I don't know all that many hexes. Certainly nothing that's going to do enough to him to pay him back."
Harry sighed, and poked at his bacon listlessly. "Wouldn't you be better off writing to Fred and George? They must have hundreds of hexes they could teach you."
"I can't do that! They'd never let me forget it if I had to go to them for help. Besides," and here Ron looked a little uncomfortable, "can you imagine what they'd do to Malfoy if they found out about this? I'm not that angry."
Harry conceded this point. The twins could be inventively vicious to those who inspired their fury. Placing his fork down, he pulled his notebook out of his pocket, and scribbled down a couple of words, before tearing the sheet loose and passing it to Ron. The red head looked down at it hopefully.
"What is it?"
"It's a hex."
"I can see that you pillock. What does it do?"
"If you don't screw it up? It'll turn his kneecaps the wrong way round," Harry told him. "Should stop him walking around for a while, at least until Crabbe and Goyle can drag him upstairs."
Ron nodded appreciatively. "Nice! Knew I could count on you, mate." He stood up, clapping Harry on the back before heading off with a satisfied air. Harry went back to his bacon. Across the table, Anthony put his spoon down, an expression of concern on his face.
"Is that a good idea?"
"Hmm? Why wouldn't it be?"
Anthony just looked at him, and Harry sighed. "Look, it's not a terribly complex spell, so chances are he won't screw it up. Even if he does, it's not going to really hurt Malfoy. If he gets it right, then Draco will have the piss taken out of him for a bit, and Madame Pomfrey will be able to fix him up with a tap of her wand. Ron gets to feel better about things, Draco looks like a prat, no-one gets hurt or – crucially – in any particular trouble."
Anthony did not look convinced of Harry's optimistic outlook, but said nothing more. They went back to their food in silence. As they left though, there was a little crackle from the other end of the room; when Harry looked over his shoulder, there was a little belch of flame coming from the Goblet, still standing in front of the staff table. Had the flame changed colour slightly?
With a start, Harry realised that today was the day. The Goblet would announce its chosen Champions for the Tournament at the feast that night.
Suddenly, he felt rather nauseous.
The day passed without word of non-ambulant Draco Malfoy, so Harry assumed that Ron had either not seen him, or had not had the nerve to just outright hex him. Either possibility was fine with Harry. He had more important things to worry about than what chaos his friend might be causing; where most people where chattering in excitement over the pending selection, he was on the verge of a panic attack.
Due to the nature of the night's events, a more formal structure had been applied; everyone was in strict uniform, the hated hats and all, and seated at their house tables rather than with other friends. Despite this, there was a definite sense of nervous excitement around the hall, especially from the Gryffindor table. There was a common assumption that the Hogwarts Champion would be chosen from their house, a hat-trick if so. Harry crossed his fingers and wished all their applicants luck – although if Cormac McClaggen was chosen, there would probably be a school wide riot in disgust.
Within Ravenclaw, only two people were known to have entered their names; Cho Chang, the house Seeker, and Freddie Brennan, a seventh year with a specialty in Charms. Cho was widely considered to be the most likely pick from the house, largely due to her more obvious physical prowess. Nobody from Harry's year had admitted to entering, although he had seen Su Li staring at the Goblet with an almost frightening intensity a few times. Over in Hufflepuff, most of the Quidditch players had entered, although Edmund Summerby, the Seeker, was most vocal about it.
Nobody from Slytherin had come right out and said they'd entered, but almost everyone eligible for Championship was sporting a condescending expression that night, looking round at the other students as if the whole thing was a foregone conclusion.
The Goblet had been wheeled further into the centre of the Hall, right in front of the Headmaster's chair. The effect was a little unsettling, to Harry's mind; Dumbledore was sitting there with his usual expression of benign interest, but now he was looking out at them all over writhing blue flames. The old wizard looked like something out of a Muggle story now, even more so than usual, but now he was playing the part of the villain. Even when Madame Maxime, sitting at his right, said something to him that provoked a beard-shaking chuckle, there was something off-putting about it.
There was no attempt to cut to the chase; Dumbledore and the other staff seemed perfectly content to wait until after they had eaten to hold the draw. Nobody on the students' side of the Hall was eating much, as far as Harry could see, most people eating a few bites before sinking back into frenzied debate. Over at the Gryffindor table, it looked like a betting syndicate had broken out, and Cormac was arguing his odds.
Eventually though, Dumbledore stood up, rapping a fork gently against his goblet. Silence fell so quickly that Harry wouldn't have been surprised to find out the goblet was enchanted to do so. He beamed at them all, and spread his arms wide.
"I would like to begin by thanking you all for your patience! I know it is unfeasible cruel of us to keep you in suspense for the duration of dinner, but we professors are regrettably practical sorts, and sustenance must take priority."
He paused for a moment, walking at a leisurely pace around to the front of the table, finally coming to a halt just to the side of the Goblet. He rested his hand on the stand for a moment, looking into the flames with a smile. Then he turned to face the students once more, a bright smile on his face.
"The Triwizard Tournament is a noble tradition, designed to test the Champions in every way imaginable. It will reward skill, inventiveness, courage, and honour. Those happy few chosen can count themselves – regardless of the eventual winner – among the finest wizards and witches of a generation. To be Champion is to be honoured almost beyond compare. And it is not something to be undertaken lightly." Dumbledore paused for a moment, sweeping a suddenly piercing gaze across the Hall. "There have been many Champions who have doubted their ability, and many who have doubted them in turn. But the Goblet chooses only the best. So take heart! And let the draw commence!"
He stepped back, and the flames from the Goblet leapt higher in the air, suddenly turning a deep crimson. Closing his eyes, Harry crossed his fingers.
There was a sudden whoosh of sparks, and Harry's eyes snapped open. Dumbledore was stretching up to grab a scorched bit of parchment. His fingers closed around it rather like Harry's father claiming a Snitch. He read it, then looked out at them all again. "For Beauxbatons, Reynard Merovich!"
There was an eruption of applause as the wizard Harry had spent most of Slughorn's party talking to stood up to make his way to the front. He was grinning, practically laughing with excitement, and many of his friends clapped him on the back in celebration as he walked past them. As he reached the front, Madame Maxime went one further, reaching over the table to shake him by the hand. Reynard took up position on the other side of the Goblet to Dumbledore, still smiling brightly. As he turned to face the crowd, there was another burst of sparks, and a second scrap of parchment leapt from the flames.
"For Durmstrang…Mara Aramov!"
Somewhat more restrained applause this time, as a haughty looking young witch, with dark hair flowing down her back, made her way to the front. By contrast with Maxime's exuberance, Karkaroff simply joined in the applause, although he did incline his head towards her in a gesture almost like respect. Whatever was intended, it was clearly more than Aramov had been expecting; something almost like pride slipped onto her face, and there was a trace of a smile as she took her place next to Reynard – although she did not deign to look at her fellow Champion.
"And for Hogwarts…Harry Potter!"
It had happened.
Harry found himself staring into space for what felt like an eternity, but could really not have been more than a second. Anthony brought him back to himself, slapping him on the back and laughing with shock. "You git! Why the hell didn't you say anything?"
Harry did not reply, simply shrugging and offering a smile as he stood up. He barely registered his walk up to the front of the hall; he could hear the applause he was receiving, as if from a long way away, but it wasn't until he reached the Goblet that anything penetrated his daze. As he walked past Dumbledore, the elderly wizard touched his shoulder.
"Well done, Harry."
Those three words did more to relax Harry than he would ever have thought. Maybe, he thought to himself as he took his place next to Aramov, maybe it would be ok. After all, it was like Dumbledore had said; the Goblet wouldn't have chosen him if it didn't think he could do it. Although that begged the question of just how the Goblet judged your capabilities…did it have access to your exam results? Had it read the essays you had slaved over? Somehow, he knew that 'magic' was likely to be the only answer he would ever get on the subject, and while that was normally answer enough, on this occasion he suspected it would not be much comfort.
Nonetheless…he had been chosen. Dumbledore thought he could do it, he had seen it in the old wizard's eyes. Somewhat to his surprise, he realised he was smiling widely. Not even Hermione's closed expression, just visible at the other end of the Hall, could remove it.
An hour or so later, Harry was starting to make his way back to the Ravenclaw common room, his head spinning slightly from all the rules and regulations that the Champions had just had explained to them. A sour faced Barty Crouch had spent a good twenty minutes longer than was necessary talking them through everything, most of which boiled down to 'You're going to be on show, so don't be an idiot, and don't make us look bad", as far as Harry could see. They had then been informed that there would be a wand-weighing ceremony in the next few days, followed by a photocall, the prospect of which did not excite Harry in the slightest.
The fact that he was Champion was slowly starting to sink in. It was curious; in the days after he had put his name in, in what he had come to think of as the absolutely defining moment of madness, he had been absolutely terrified of what was going to happen. Now though…while he would not necessarily claim he was over the moon at his 'luck', he had to admit that he was rather excited. He knew, of course, the stories from previous tournaments, and Anton Sullivan was not to be lightly dismissed, but…the Tournament was at Hogwarts this year. Which meant that Dumbledore was in charge. And while the Headmaster would of course want to put on a good show, he had nothing to prove. Harry was fairly convinced that there wouldn't be anything quite as extravagant as a wraith this year.
Harry turned with a start. As if his thoughts had summoned him, Dumbledore was walking towards him.
"And how are you feeling, my boy?" The Headmaster drew level with him, and they started to walk together.
"I'm…can I get back to you on that, sir?"
Dumbledore chuckled softly. "Of course. It is quite something, is it not? I have to confess, I was not entirely certain you would enter."
"I wasn't going to," Harry admitted. "It was…sort of a spur of the moment thing."
"These things often are. No regrets though, I trust?"
"Let me see what the tasks are before I answer that one," Harry replied with a grin.
"Ha! Very sensible Harry. Such caution will serve you well over the next few months. I have every confidence in you though. I can not think of a better Champion for the school."
Harry ducked his head slightly, faintly embarrassed but very pleased.
"I imagine your parents will be delighted as well."
"Yeah, yeah I think so," Harry replied. Then he thought about it for a second. "Well…my mum might be more worried than delighted. My dad'll be thrilled though."
"Such is the way of mothers," Dumbledore said with a smile. "I wonder…would you care to take advantage of my fireplace? I'm sure they would want to hear the news in person."
"Yeah, that would be great! Thanks!"
Although Harry was rather more familiar with the Headmaster than most of his peers, that was largely due to his parents' longstanding association with him than anything else; thus far in his time at Hogwarts, he had not yet had occasion to visit Dumbledore's office. The closest he had ever come was on Halloween in his first year, when Voldemort had nearly killed him in the corridor outside. It was hardly something he relished remembering. It was strange, therefore, to see the gargoyle swing aside with a salute to its master – as opposed to rugby tackling a vicious dark wizard – and the office itself was surprisingly normal. Walls lined with bookshelves, with portraits higher up. A desk piled high with paperwork. It was clearly a place of work. He was somehow disappointed.
Then came a soft chirrup, and Harry realised that there was a phoenix on a stand in the corner.
"I don't think you've met Fawkes, have you Harry?"
Harry shook his head, approaching the magnificent bird in awe. Even in the dimly lit room, the deep red feathers gleamed, with little flickers of flame at the wing tips. Fawkes shuffled on his perch, and trilled softly in something that seemed to Harry to speak of recognition. Whatever it was, the sound sent a warm glow right through him, and he grinned.
"You are quite fortunate," Dumbledore continued. "He only recently went through a Burning Day; he still has a certain youthful vigour now, although I shudder to think how old he truly is."
"How long have you had him?" Harry asked, reaching out tentatively to stroke the phoenix. The flames were warm, but did not so much as tingle as they flickered over his fingers.
"I'm not entirely certain that I 'have' Fawkes at all, Harry. He's much more of a friend than a familiar, after all. Very good at crossword clues, believe it or not."
Harry laughed, looking over his shoulder at Dumbledore, but the Headmaster did not appear to be joking. Shrugging, and with one final admiring glance at Fawkes, Harry headed to the fireplace, where Dumbledore was holding a jar of Floo powder.
"Don't be too long, Harry. You may be Champion, but you still have curfew, don't forget."
"Actually it's patrol duties tonight, sir."
"Well, even more reason to be prompt then, my boy."
Floo travel was probably one of Harry's least favourite things in the world. Apparation might leave you feeling squeezed around the middle, but Flooing always left him nauseous, dizzy and worried that his robes might have caught fire. And he still hadn't quite mastered the trick of exiting smoothly – although he was infinitely better than Sirius' cousin, Tonks.
Or at least, he usually was. On this occasion, he stepped out, staggered, and stood on his own robes, ending up sprawling on the floor. He pushed himself to his knees, shaking his head in irritation, then snapped his head up at the sound of rushing feet. The door to the lounge burst open and his father leapt in, his wand out. Before he had fully registered who was there, he had snapped off a spell. Harry yelped, falling back, but his own wand was in his hand and he deflected the spell into the wall with a smooth gesture. Father and son stared at each other across the room, James panting heavily.
"Merlin and Morgana, Harry, what the hell are you doing here?"
"Hi Dad, nice to see you…"
"Don't get snarky with me, do you have any idea…" James took a deep breath, visibly restraining himself. "Sorry. And sorry for trying to curse you. You ok?"
"Yeah, I'm fine," Harry replied, climbing to his feet. He shot a guilty look at the wall. "Sorry."
"I think we can let it go under the circumstances," James replied wryly. "You just startled me, that's all. You know, unannounced individual just Flooing into the front room…"
"Oh. Yeah. Shit, I didn't think!" It was true. Given the heightened security those in the Order had taken up, he really ought to have let his parents know he was coming. It was a wonder that they hadn't both appeared firing off the most vicious curses they could think of.
"Well, no harm done," his father said, pocketing his wand. "So…are you ok?"
"Yeah, yeah I'm good. Just wanted to talk to you both."
Concern flashed across James' face. "What's up?"
"I'm the Champion. The Triwizard Champion, I mean. In the Tournament."
There was a long moment of silence while James just stared at his son. Then he burst out laughing and bounded across the room to embrace him.
"You're bloody kidding! That's fantastic! I thought you weren't…"
Harry laughed slightly ruefully, shrugged. "I wasn't. Seemed like a good idea at the time though."
"That's the kind of reasoning I like!" James said, stepping back and beaming. "Merlin. My son, Champion. Never thought I'd see that."
"Proudest moment of your life?"
"I'm always proud of you!" James shot back defensively. "But yeah, this is pretty fantastic, I've got to admit."
"I know you are," Harry said, rolling his eyes. "Just winding you up. Where's mum?"
"Oh, yeah, sorry. She's at the Burrow – ladies night with Molly and Alice. So what changed your mind?"
Harry hesitated. "Well, Professor Slughorn pointed out a couple of benefits…"
"Did mum tell you about Draco Malfoy and Ginny the other week?" Harry asked, rubbing the back of his head awkwardly. James nodded, with a flicker of displeasure. "Well, I knew he'd put his name in the Goblet, and I was so angry, and…I just kinda didn't want to see him walking around the school with that smug look on his face."
James nodded once, very slowly. "Harry. Are you seriously standing there telling me that you entered the Triwizard Tournament, one of the toughest, most challenging things a wizard can do, just to piss off a Malfoy?"
Harry considered this, then returned the nod. "Yeah, I guess so."
"I was wrong a moment ago. This, this is the proudest moment of my life!" James burst out laughing once more, pulling Harry over to a cabinet in the corner of the room. "Come on, we need to celebrate!"