Chapter 12: Marked
Harry found himself rudely awakened the next morning, by a pillow connecting with his face at some speed.
"Wha…?" he muttered, looking up blearily and fumbling for his glasses. When his vision cleared, he saw Anthony, standing next to the bed with an exasperated look on his face.
"What the hell happened to you last night? You missed the party!"
"What party?" Harry asked, sitting up.
"Your party, you idiot. You're the bloody Champion! What did you think, it'd be a slap on the back and a 'Well done!'?"
"I, ah…well, I hadn't thought about that, to be honest. Did I miss much?"
"Yes!" Anthony sat down on his own bed, staring at his friend. Then he shrugged. "Well, I suppose in the end you didn't; it didn't really get started because you weren't there, but we were all having a few drinks. We wanted to celebrate, you're the first Ravenclaw since the Tournament restarted."
"Yeah, I guess. Sorry mate, I went to tell my parents. Dumbledore let me use his Floo. Spent a couple of hours there." He smiled at the recollection. "My dad was really pleased. Can't remember the last time I saw him so enthusiastic about something, to be honest."
"Well, that's good," Anthony said grudgingly. "How long were you there?"
"Dunno. Couple of hours?"
"So where did you go when you got back?"
"I…" Harry hesitated. He had a feeling his answer wasn't going to go down terribly well. "Well, I had patrol…"
Anthony spent a long moment glaring at him, then threw the pillow at him again. "I swear to God, Harry, sometimes I think you're beyond all help. Come on. People will want to see you before breakfast."
Harry sighed and slumped back onto his pillow as Anthony left the room. He hadn't considered the general reaction around Hogwarts. Now that he had…it almost made him more nauseous than the thought of the tasks. At least he knew how to deal with those, in principle at least. Being the centre of attention? That was something he had no idea about.
His first taste, on descending to the common room half an hour or so later, was more muted than Anthony had implied; most people had already gone down to breakfast it seemed, or were taking advantage of a last few minutes hidden from the realities of a November morning in a Scottish castle. Those few people still in the room though appeared to have found a way around the restrictions on Apparation, such was the speed with which they vacated their seats to come and congratulate him; a hearty slap on the back from Michael Corner, a boy in the year below, and a hearty declaration that he had always believed Harry could do it; a dazzling smile from Cho Chang which made him fleetingly regret her longstanding relationship with Cedric Diggory; a firm handshake and an invitation to discuss strategy from Sachin Tripathy, a Beater on the Ravenclaw Quidditch team – a request Harry declined for the present, making the not unreasonable point that he had no idea what the tasks might be yet.
He made as quick an exit as he could, muttering about needing some food and offering a vague promise to talk properly later, and made his way down the Grand Stairs to the main hall. It was bewildering; the castle appeared to be full of people who knew him all of a sudden, people who knew just how good he was at magic and how well he was going to do, despite the fact that he barely recognised most of them even in passing. He wondered how they would react if he admitted that he had entered his name purely on a petty whim. He couldn't help but chuckle slightly at the thought that most of the Gryffindors, at least, would probably have a great deal more respect for him if they knew that.
Upon entering the main hall though, he was greeted with what might not have quite reached the level of thunderous applause, but was certainly a far, far more enthusiastic welcome than the student body than he had hitherto experienced. Every single student at the Ravenclaw table rose in a standing ovation, and a sizeable number from the other houses joined them. The scattered Beauxbatons and Durmstrang students were more restrained, but respectful nonetheless. He could not see Renard, but Mara Aramov, the Durmstrang champion, was eyeing him distinctly coolly. He looked away quickly, not exactly at his ease facing the intimidating looking girl under such circumstances, and made a beeline for his usual spot, which was looking rather more crowded than usual, although Anthony had saved him a seat. His friend slid him a plate piled with bacon and toast, and smirked at him.
"You did, can't deny it," Harry admitted, taking a bite of some toast and waving at a staring young girl on the Hufflepuff table. She immediately blushed a terrifying scarlet, and disappeared in the midst of a group of squealing house-mates. "I'm not sure I like it yet…"
"Don't worry, we won't let it go to your head," Terry Boot chipped in.
"Oh, definitely!" Anthony exclaimed. "Whenever it looks like the attention's getting to you, we'll be on hand with something to deflate you a little, ok?"
"I couldn't ask for better friends."
"We know, mate," Terry said, reaching over to clap him on the shoulder. "But we'll shoulder that burden, it's ok. Oh, yeah. Congratulations I guess."
"You're too kind," Harry replied.
"Any thoughts on strategy yet?" a boy named Bexley asked, leaning across the table with a level of enthusiasm Harry wasn't accustomed to at this hour of the morning.
"Well…I don't actually know what I'll be doing yet," Harry told him. "So no. Be good at magic, I guess?" He didn't quite understand why the boy looked so disappointed with that answer. What had he expected?
And then Hermione crashed down in front of him with a face like thunder, and jabbed her finger threateningly at him. "What the hell were you thinking, Harry James Potter?!"
Harry leant back a little, trying to pretend he hadn't heard Anthony muttering "Uh-oh" under his breath. "Morning, Hermione. You alright?"
"Don't 'morning' me, Harry! What the hell?!"
Harry sighed, and looked at young Bexley, now staring at Hermione in rapt awe. When the boy failed to take the hint, he drew his wand and gave a certain flick; Bexley immediately clapped his hands over his ears, staring around in confusion. Harry turned his attention back to Hermione, who appeared to have moderated her temper in favour of curiosity.
"What did you do?"
"Little spell my godfather taught me over the summer," Harry told her. "Makes it sound like there's a swarm of wasps around, really good for making sure you can't be overheard."
"Oh? That's quite interesting actually – could I get the incan…" She broke off, shaking her head. "No! Don't distract me, I'm still mad at you!"
"What for?" Harry demanded, exasperated. "Stop snapping at me and tell me what I've done!"
"This!" she hissed, waving her arms around. "You, Champion! You're going to get yourself killed!"
"Well, thank you for your support," he replied, glaring at her. She just glared right back at him.
"Don't try and guilt trip me. We talked! Remember Sullivan? And he was in the Duelling Club, played Quidditch every week, top grades across the board!"
"I like to think I'm fairly smart."
"You're very smart, but that doesn't make you a Champion! You read books. You invent spells. You're an academic, not a sports-star!"
"The Goblet picked me for a reason, you know. And it's not like I can't apply that knowledge in practice."
"Oh of course, because the pressure's going to be so similar to the exam hall! And Defence isn't quite your best subject!"
Before Harry could respond to that, Anthony leant between them, glowering. "Do you guys want to take this somewhere else? We might not be able to hear you, but we can still see you!"
They both stared at him, before looking around, breaking their focus on each other. Sure enough, their argument, although utterly inaudible to anyone other than themselves, was clearly drawing attention. They were hardly the focus of the room, but Harry knew his fellow students well enough to know that half the school would have heard about it by the end of the day. It was precisely the sort of thing that he had been worried about since waking up that morning, and he shot Hermione a disgusted look, which seemed only to irritate her more.
"Anything else you want to tell me? Or can I have my breakfast in peace now?"
She looked at him for a long moment, and then stood up and walked away, shaking her head. He watched her return to the Gryffindor table, where Ginny immediately pulled her in close. The red head shot him a fleeting look of confusion, to which he shrugged before turning away. Anthony was watching him carefully.
"Really though, congratulations," Terry said. "You must be thrilled."
"Oh yeah," he replied with a sour look. "Just giddy."
Harry found it hard to concentrate in classes for the rest of the day. Partly because of the row with Hermione, which sent him into a black mood every time it crossed his thoughts, but also because of the sheer amount of staring to which he was subjected. He might have been able to cope if it had just been the students, but he nearly walked out of Charms when Professor Flitwick started applauding at his entrance. It wasn't that he didn't appreciate the support, but he would have preferred it to be a little more discrete. It didn't help that Terry and Anthony were treading on eggshells around him. He didn't get angry often, so he supposed he could understand them being a little wary, but it was infuriating.
Then Ron caught up with him outside the Defence classroom (in which he had taken immense pleasure in receiving full marks for his work on counter-curses), and slung his arm around his friend's shoulder. "Hey, mate!"
Harry looked at him suspiciously. This was unusually effusive for Ron. "Hey there."
"Never thought I'd be friends with a Champion!" Ron said with a slight laugh. "And no offense, never would have thought it'd be you – you'll be great though! How you feeling? Excited?"
"Irritated, mostly. Getting sick of being stared at."
"What, you weren't paying attention the last couple of years? The whole school went nuts for McCoy, and she wasn't even here for most of the year."
"I suppose," Harry admitted. "Still not sure I like it."
"Ah, you'll get used to it," Ron told him airily. "Just remember us all when you're famous, 'kay?"
There was a slightly wistful tone to his voice, and Harry repressed a wince. He knew Ron had been thinking about putting his name in, and for all he knew, he might actually have gone through with it. He hadn't considered that when he'd put his own name in – not that he'd really been thinking about all that much at the time – and it wasn't unknown for Ron to go through bouts of jealousy and insecurity. He hoped this wasn't going to be one of those times.
"Course I will!" was all he said though. "You can be my publicist, how's that sound?"
"Pretty dull, to be honest," he replied with a grin. "You can give that one to Hermione."
Harry scowled. "Sure, if she really wants it."
"Why wouldn't she? She loves organising you."
"Not if this morning's anything to go by – ow!" He reeled slightly, Ron just having clipped him round the back of the head. "What the hell was that for?"
"Being a pillock," Ron said, as if that explained anything at all.
"She started it! She's the one who thinks I'm incompetent – and where the hell does she get that from?"
Ron just stared at him incredulously. "Is that what you think this is about?"
"Well…that's what she said. Kind of, anyway." He had to duck as Ron tried to smack his head again. "Hey!"
"How can you be so smart and so bloody stupid at the same time? She's worried about you! Should have seen her last night: 'Oh, what if he gets hurt? What if they give him something really dangerous to do? They had a dragon a few years ago, what if he has to face that again?'" He shook his head. "Honestly, bloody aggravating it was. Didn't shut up for hours."
"… Are you serious?" That was something else he hadn't really considered. A little concern was understandable, but Ron was describing something far more than that. "Why's she so worried?"
Ron leant in close, affecting a knowing expression. "Because she has feelings for you that she's only ever felt about the Restricted Section before now."
Harry stared at him blankly, and Ron sighed. "She fancies you, you muppet."
"What? No she doesn't!"
"Oh, like you'd know a crush if it hit you in the face?"
It wasn't an entirely unfair point, Harry had to admit. "I suppose not…but seriously? She fancies me?"
"Guarantee it, mate."
"She's never said anything."
"Well, you don't, do you? Not unless you're sure they like you back, and you don't."
"I've never really thought about her that way," Harry said.
"Exactly. If she hasn't got you to polish your wand at least once in all the time you've known her, you're probably never going to."
Harry closed his eyes for a moment, trying to banish that particular image. "You've got such a fantastic command of the language, Ron."
"Cheers. It's growing up with the twins. They'd amaze you," Ron told him cheerfully.
"I'm sure." They walked on in silence for a while, Harry musing over the new information. Ron was right, he'd had no idea, and he wasn't certain how he felt. He was very fond of Hermione, and their argument that morning had upset him for more than just the obvious reasons of feeling un-supported, but when he tried to picture her as anything other than a friend…something about it just didn't click. Still, he had to admit that it was a little flattering. And it did put her outburst that morning in a more understandable light, leaving him feeling a little guilty. He'd have to try and find her later, try and make it up to her.
Preferably without giving her the wrong impression.
The worst part of the day came after dinner, as Harry, Anthony and Terry were heading back to the common room. Leaving the grand staircase on the fifth floor, they became aware of a small group of people at the end of a corridor, huddled together as if hiding something in the middle of the group. Anywhere else in the castle, they might not have really noticed it, or at least not paid much attention to it – it was hardly unusual to find people grouped up checking out some dubious spell, or a Zonko's product that Filch would have begged to skin them alive for simply possessing – but in this part of the castle, it was a different story. Ravenclaws in general had little to hide – a combination of intellectual curiosity and openness being considered a good thing, and not being stupid enough to have anything even vaguely dubious out in the corridors. There was one Ravenclaw student though who appeared to draw trouble upon herself, and often in groups. The three friends exchanged weary glances, and made their way down the corridor, readying their wands as they did so.
Before they got too close, Harry cast a quick charm on their ears, the better to work out what was going on – it was always embarrassing to go in like a knight in shining armour, only to find that nothing untoward was happening. On this occasion though, their instincts were right; he could hear Luna Lovegood's familiar, relentlessly airy tones, and more aggressive sounds from the people harassing her. He shook his head in exasperation. Nobody ever did anything too bad to her, but that wasn't the point at all. Luna was clearly batty, but that was no reason to treat her like a freak.
The various students who stuck up for her on such occasions had learnt that it was best to make an entrance. It saved time in the long run; few students seemed to make the intellectual leap between the idea that Ravenclaws were, as a rule, more talented and widely read than the average student, and the idea that as a result, a Ravenclaw might be more able to inventively jinx you than, say, a Gryffindor, and so letting the initiative get away from them could lead to far more hassle than anyone wanted.
So he extended his wand, gave a quick upward flick, and smiled slightly as one of the group was hoisted into the air by his ankles.
At his sides, Anthony and Terry cast their own spells, and two other members of the group fell to the floor as they spun around, their feet mysteriously resistant to movement. It was only then that they realised the students they had jinxed were not from Ravenclaw. They weren't even from Hogwarts.
The trio slowed to a halt, reassessing the situation in light of the fact that jinxing a group of rather burly Durmstrang students was probably not the best idea they'd ever had. Harry gulped. While it was true you could rely on a Ravenclaw to having something unexpected up their sleeve, it was also generally held to be true that you could rely on a Durmstrang student to know something nasty that might leave you permanently scarred. And that didn't even take into account the fact that no-one was likely to look kindly on the Hogwarts Champion assaulting some guests less than twenty four hours after the Goblet had chosen.
One of the visitors took his eyes off them for a moment, looking up at his steadily revolving companion, and let out a grunting noise that might charitably have been called a laugh. "Nice spell," he said, through a thick accent Harry couldn't quite place. He lowered his gaze once more. "Do not think it will help now."
The five Durmstrang still standing let out a barrage of spells almost faster than Harry and the others could react. Almost. Having realised their mistake, all three of them had had shield charms ready to cast, and cast them they did, resulting in an explosion of light as the spells ricocheted back and forth. When the light and smoke cleared, there were a few more pockmarks in the walls than there had been five minutes previously. Some of them were still smoking. On the down side, none of the Durmstrang students appeared to have been hit in the crossfire, apparently not stupid enough to go without shields themselves. Behind them, pressing herself up against the wall, Luna was visible through the hazy sheen of a shield charm, watching proceedings with her usual detached interest. Harry felt a stab of irritation at that; did she really not understand what was going on?
"You should not be interfering!" another of the Durmstrang group shouted, a girl this time, her eyes blazing. "The bliad is zloy ved'my!"
Harry flicked his eyes towards Anthony, on his left. "What?"
"I think," his friend replied, confusion flickering across his face, "that they're calling her a dark witch."
Harry looked back at Luna; a tiny girl, really, although with out-sized eyes, and her constantly dazed expression didn't lend itself to the description of dark witch. "Seriously? Because that – that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard."
"Maybe Quibbler means something else over there?" Terry suggested. "Maybe it's the incantation for some really foul curse?"
"Ok, that's the stupidest thing I've heard," Anthony muttered.
"Luna?" Harry called out, ignoring them both. She focused her watery eyes on him, and smiled vaguely.
"Hello, Harry. Thank you for stopping by, I think I've irritated them a little. Not sure how…"
He waited a second, in case more was going to be said, but that appeared to be it. "Luna, do you know why they think you're a dark witch?"
"She supports Grindlewald!" the first one to have spoken to them spat. Harry almost choked at his words.
"Supports Grindlewald? Seriously? That's your…that's insane!"
"Yep. That's definitely the stupidest thing I've ever heard," Terry commented. On the other side, Anthony gave a murmured agreement. The burly Durmstrang student reached behind him, and grabbed the lapels on Luna's robes, dragging her forward sharply. Harry stepped towards them, raising his wand a fraction in warning.
"Show him your necklace," the wizard told her. Luna reached into her robes, looking supremely unconcerned, and pulled out a long gold chain, on which a brooch of some sort dangled. Harry couldn't make out the design. "Is Grindlewald's mark!"
Harry started to snap a response to that, but hesitated. He didn't believe for a moment that Luna was in any way dark inclined, but he knew for a fact that she believed all sorts of strange things, as did her father. It wasn't beyond the realms of possibility that they might have some sort of crackpot idea that Grindlewald was simply misunderstood. "Luna…just out of curiosity, how would you describe Grindlewald?"
"Oh, not a very nice man at all, Harry. He certainly deserved everything Professor Dumbledore did to him." She was looking around, and he thought he could hear her humming rather tunelessly.
"Right, well, I think that clears that up," he said brightly. "Mistakes on all sides, least said soonest mended, no harm done? Hmm?"
The Durmstrang wizard just smirked, and shook his head. "My grandfather was killed by Grindlewald's followers. Will not let her walk round like this."
"Like what, may I ask?"
In all the years Harry had known him, however vaguely, Albus Dumbledore had not lost his penchant for mysterious appearances. Harry would have bet every one of the thousand galleon prize money that the Headmaster had not been in the corridor a second ago, yet there he stood, looking mildly over his pince-nez at the confrontation. Possibly worse, the Headmaster of Durmstrang was standing next to him, and he did not look happy at all.
There was a moment of silence, none of the various students quite able to work out how to start explaining it all. Then Karkaroff cancelled the spells on his students, and the suspended one fell to the floor in a heap, startling them all.
"Well? Dragomir, explain yourself!"
"This girl dishonours us, Master," the burly wizard said sullenly. "She carries Grindlewald's mark."
"Don't be ridiculous, boy!" Karkaroff scoffed, but Dumbledore had taken a step forward, reaching out to take Luna's shoulder.
"He thinks there's something wrong with my necklace, Professor," Luna told him, and she slipped it from round her neck to show it to him.
Harry was watching closely, and was perfectly positioned to see the shock that flashed across Dumbledore's face as he examined the necklace. Then his expression returned to its normal geniality as he handed the necklace back. "I believe I see the confusion, Igor. It is an old Saxon symbol; rather obscure, I have to say, but nothing to do with Grindlewald. I can understand your students reaction, but Miss Lovegood is not one of his supporters."
"We know his sign! We see it every day, he left it carved in the walls!" the witch who had called Luna a dark witch exclaimed. "No-one would wear it unless they believed in him!"
There was a hushed pause as Dumbledore turned his gaze on the girl, and although his expression did not appear to have changed in any meaningful way, his displeasure at her outburst was palpable.
"Igor, I realise that Durmstrang emphasises the practical over the theoretical, but surely it is safe to assume that your students are not entirely unfamiliar with recent world events? And so they might be expected to know that if anyone could be described as an expert on Grindlewald and his background, it would be – without wishing to promote myself, of course – me?"
"Dragomir and his companions are not my best," Karkaroff said stiffly. "Good at Quidditch. Good at Duelling. Not thinkers."
"Oh, I'm sure they would surprise you, Igor," Dumbledore said, his beard twitching slightly with the suggestion of a smile. "And as I said, I can see the confusion. Grindlewald took a shine to the Saxon runic systems in his time in Britain. His mark was a rather twisted version of this symbol, but still recognisable. An easy mistake to make, wouldn't you agree, Miss…?"
The girl stared at Dumbledore for a moment, clearly unwilling to admit defeat, before finally ducking her head. "Iveta. Iveta Skadi."
Dumbledore sketched a brief, polite bow to her. "A pleasure to make your acquaintance, my dear. If you are at all interested in runes, our library has an extensive collection of resources in that field. I am quite sure Harry here, for instance, would be happy to help you satisfy any curiosity you might have."
Harry started at this, but Skadi's expression suggested it was an offer he was unlikely to ever have to make good on, for which he was profoundly grateful. So he nodded, affecting a helpful expression. "Of course. Just let me know."
"And of course, I trust that this will be the last of such unpleasantness?" Dumbledore continued. "I would hate to have to take any disciplinary measures against visitors to the castle, but if needs must…"
"Do not worry, Albus." Karkaroff strode forward to stand amidst his students, who suddenly looked a whole lot smaller. "I will have words with all of them. Rest assured."
"Capital, my dear Igor. I knew this could all be sorted out amicably!"
"Although I must insist that you discipline your own, Albus. I do not see any of them with injuries, yes?"
Dumbledore cast a critical eye over Harry and his friends, and his beard twitched once more. "No indeed. Of course, you are quite right, Igor. Thirty points from Ravenclaw for conduct unbecoming of hosts."
All three of them, Harry knew, itched to say something to this, but they weren't Ravenclaws for nothing. They stayed quiet. Realistically, thirty points wasn't that much. They could probably count on making them back in a couple of days, given some favourable lessons. Karkaroff did not look as if the punishment satisfied him, but it was equally clear that he wasn't going to say anything more. Apparently it wasn't just students who were unnerved by Dumbledore. Karkaroff inclined his head, then spun on his heel, leading his students away. When they had disappeared, Dumbledore put his arm around Luna's shoulders.
"Are you quite alright, Miss Lovegood?"
"Oh yes, sir," she replied. "They didn't really do anything before my friends arrived."
"I am delighted to hear it! Now, if I might suggest that you escort Miss Lovegood back to your common room? And do keep an eye on her in the next few days, won't you? Not that I have any doubt of Headmaster Karkaroff's dedication to enforcing good behaviour in his students, of course. Oh, and boys?" Dumbledore flashed them a conspiratorial smile. "Thirty points to Ravenclaw for defending a fellow student. And a further ten for what must have been some formidable wand work."
They grinned in gratitude, and Dumbledore bowed in farewell before making his own way down the corridor, humming quietly to himself. Harry watched him go, pondering. "Anyone else think that was weird?"
"Well, yeah. Most of it," Terry said. "You ok, Lovegood?"
"Didn't you see Dumbledore though? When he looked at the necklace?"
"What about him?" Anthony asked, ignoring Terry and Luna.
"He recognised it. He was lying about it not meaning anything."
"So what?" Anthony said with a frown. "It really is Grindlewald's mark?"
They looked at Luna, chatting happily with Terry about something called Snorkacks. Then they looked at each other, and shook their heads. "Luna," Harry said, attracting her attention. "Your necklace – where'd you get it?"
"From my father. He's had it for years, he gave it to me to ward off homesickness. I don't believe that's real," she said, looking round as if to check that no-one was eavesdropping on matters of supreme importance, "but it made him happy."
"Ok…well, do you know where he got it?"
"Not really. He has some friends who have them as well. Something to do with Hallows. Or maybe Hollows." Luna trailed off for a moment, then shrugged. "I think it was Hallows."
"Can I see?" Harry asked. Luna nodded, handing him the necklace. The brooch was a triangle, with a circle contained inside it, and a straight line running from the tip to the base. There was something familiar about it, but Harry couldn't place it. "Hallows, you say?"
"I think so. Shall we go? I was going to do some stargazing tonight, the centaurs say that Mars is going to be very bright over the next few days."
Harry smiled at her, and handed the necklace back. "Sure."
The trio followed her as she skipped towards the common room, avoiding certain flagstones as if she was playing hopscotch. "So, did you recognise it?" Anthony asked Harry. He shook his head.
"From somewhere. Not sure what it is though. I'll look into it."
"Haven't you got more important things to be worrying about at the moment?" Terry said.
Harry grinned. "I'm sure I can spare a bit of time."
"If you say so."
"Oh, come on. How hard can it be?"