~To the Waters and the Wild~
~Chapter 18: The World Quidditch Cup~
Author's Note: Sorry it took me so long to update! Bad writer's block!
Draco Malfoy stared down at the moldy boot, an expression of distaste on his face. "Don't tell me we are going to travel to the Quidditch World Cup by... by worn-out footwear?"
Arthur Weasley beamed at him. "Precisely! Gather around, everyone! It's almost time."
Harry looked at the boot in awe. "So this boot is going to... what? Kick us all the way there?"
"Believe me, Harry, it's going to feel like it," muttered Ron, who had apparently traveled by Boot before.
Harry glanced nervously at the boot. Human wizards really didn't care about comfort when they traveled, did they? First broomsticks, and now this! And hadn't Ron mentioned something about fireplaces sucking people in and spitting them out elsewhere? Harry really hoped Ron had been joking about that part.
"Arthur Weasley! Wait for us! Is that the portkey?" A human wizard with a beard came running toward them now, followed by a tall bronze-haired boy.
"Hello, Amos!" Mr. Weasley smiled and waved at the man. "Yes, indeed! Such a clever portkey, isn't it? For some reason, Muggles never seem to suspect that single boots and shoes left in the middle of nowhere are magical. Is this your son?"
"Yes, this is my Cedric. Prefect and Hufflepuff Seeker!" The man named Amos surveyed Mr. Weasley's companions. "Sweet Merlin, are these all yours, Arthur? For some reason, I don't remember you having quite this many."
Mr. Weasley laughed. "Fred, George, Ron, and Ginny are all mine - my oldest ones apparated there already. And these are Ron's friends Harry Potter, Draco Malfoy, and Hermione Granger, and Ginny's friend Luna Lovegood. Children, this is Mr. Diggory, who works for the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures."
"Harry Potter?" Amos Diggory frowned a little. "Cedric's told me about you. The famous "Boy Who Lived" and all that. You are not a Quidditch player, though, are you?"
Harry shook his head. Ron, Draco, and Ginny had tried desperately to teach Harry Quidditch back at the Burrow, where Ron lived, but it hadn't gone terribly well. Harry kept forgetting his broom when he flew, and the little golden ball they were supposed to catch had been so enchanted by Harry's fairy magic that it kept following him around the entire game.
Mr. Diggory studied Harry for a minute. "You have been raised by fairies, I understand?"
Mr. Diggory immediately produced a stack of papers from his coat pocket. "In that case, you really must fill these in. Nobody has done proper paperwork on fairies for centuries. They are completely unregulated. Could you please fill in these forms and return them to the Ministry as soon as possible?"
Harry stared at the papers Mr. Diggory had handed him. "Erm, what are these? What are forms, exactly?"
"Oh, don't worry about it, Harry. George and I will be happy to help you!" Fred patted Harry reassuringly on the shoulder.
"Of course we will. We will make sure that these forms contain absolutely everything the Ministry ever wanted to know about fairies... and then some!" George grabbed the stack of papers eagerly from Harry's hands.
"Thank you, boys!" Mr. Diggory beamed at them.
"Erm, are you sure about this, Father?" Cedric Diggory looked a little worried. "I mean, Fred and George?"
"Come closer, everyone!" Mr. Weasley beckoned them to step up to the boot. "Make sure you touch the boot; it's almost time. No, no, Draco - it will only work if you take your glove off."
Draco winced, but pulled his glove off. He touched the cleanest part of the bootlace lightly with his finger, shuddering. Harry grabbed hold of the bootlace as well, and the others reached out and touched various parts of the very dirty old boot.
Harry squeezed his eyes shut as the boot kicked them, hard, into the next county. Fantastic colors swirled around them, intertwined with ribbons of darkness and light, and then...
Thud. Harry felt himself land, head-first, in heather. He scrambled to his feet and glanced around. The Quidditch World Cup. This was going to be fun!
"Excuse me, are these seats over here taken?" Harry, who had reached the top of the stands first, smiled at a little elf who was sitting by herself.
The elf just stared at him with huge dark eyes and shook her head slowly. She was clutching the bench she was sitting on, and Harry immediately realized that she must be as terrible with heights as poor Trevor.
"Oh, are you afraid of falling? Here, I'll help you." Harry gave her a quick spark of fairy magic, and the elf loosened her death-grip on the bench a little bit. She peered fearfully down toward the egg-shaped golden stadium, far below.
"It's all right, said Harry soothingly. "I know it's far down, but there are lots of people in front of you; you are not going to fall." He reached out to give the frightened elf a hug, but for some reason, he stumbled over some sort of obstacle in the seat next to the elf, even if there was nothing to see there. What was that? Some sort of invisible fence? Harry kicked the fence a few times, puzzled, and the fence let out a tiny squeaky sound. But nothing moved, and try as he might, Harry could not see anything there. Perhaps someone had set up a magical ward of sorts to protect the nervous elf from falling? That was a rather clever idea!
Harry leaned around the magical fence. "My name is Harry, by the way. Who are you?"
"Winky, sir," breathed the elf.
Harry put an arm around Winky and gave her an extra spark of magic. "There! Are you feeling better now?"
Winky blinked rapidly. "Oh. Winky is... Winky is feeling much better now, sir. Thank you."
But Harry did notice that the elf didn't even watch the stadium when the game started; she just stared at her invisible fence the whole time. Harry himself watched the game in fascination. It was very kind of Mr. Weasley to bring them all to the match, and Harry enjoyed himself immensely, even if he didn't quite see the point in chasing balls on broomsticks. But there were sparkling leprechauns in the sky and very lovely dancers. For some reason, Ron wanted to climb down from the stands and join the dancers, but Draco yanked him firmly back. This was probably a good thing, since Harry had seen Ron try to dance before, and he was not especially graceful. Everyone yelled themselves hoarse during the match, and both Ron and Draco did dance a little at the very end, when someone named Krum... fainted? Ginny was trying to explain to Harry that it was a very special sort of faint, named Wronsky, but she only succeeded in making Harry even more confused.
Harry gazed up at the darkened sky with a frown. This really was the most terrible leprechaun he had ever seen! It almost looked like a skull.
The magical leprechaun figures that had appeared in the air before the final Quidditch match had been quite charming, and Harry and his friends had laughed in delight at seeing them. But this one... Harry shook his head. It was a lovely green color and very bright, but the face was much too narrow and looked rather sickly. The leprechaun did not even have a body, just a gaunt sort of face, and its tongue was so long and thin that it almost looked like a snake. Harry didn't want to be overly critical of human magic, but this leprechaun needed some serious work.
Harry had heard a lot of cheerful singing from the Irish part of the camp after the match was over, and if he hadn't been mistaken, the fire whiskey had been flowing rather freely in celebration of the Quidditch victory over Bulgaria. Harry squinted up at the strange leprechaun that glittered in the night sky. Whoever had cast this sorry figure had obviously drunk a little too deeply from his firewhiskey.
Harry could hear quite a few people screaming around him now, and he had to admit that there was something rather unsettling and eerie about this distorted leprechaun. Oh, well - only one thing to do! Ever since he was very young, Harry had known about the Ancient Bargain between the fairies and the Irish: An Irishman will never, ever reveal what he knows of the fairies, and a fairy will always cover up for a drunk Irishman. All right, then! Harry focused all his magic upwards.
Slowly, ever so slowly, the glittering leprechaun lost his eerie thinness. His cheeks filled out, and his empty eyes began to twinkle. His snake-like tongue assumed normal proportions and disappeared inside his mouth. Soon, the leprechaun looked cheerful and normal again, and he beamed down from the dark sky.
Much better! Harry smiled to himself.
"What the -?" A group of hooded dark-clad wizards paused nearby, and they stared up at the sky in wonder. "What... what happened to the Mark?"
"Nothing," said Harry quickly, remembering the Ancient Bargain. "Just another lovely little fireworks display." He looked around for his friends. Hermione had spotted a bookseller, and Luna had wanted to speak to the Minister of Magic about the real Sorting Hat, which was apparently kept under lock and key at the Ministry, while occasionally managing to send coded pleas for help over the Wizarding Wireless Network. Ron, Draco, and Ginny had run off to see if they could find Krum, the player who had fainted. For some reason, they wanted Krum to write his name on their programs, even if - as Harry had pointed out, politely - Krum's name was already printed in there.
Harry gazed around the crowded camp in wonder. There were so many interesting people to see everywhere! Some of them seemed a little shy, like the hooded wizards who tried to hide their faces inside their dark cloaks, but others seemed nice and friendly.
"Mr. Harry," squeaked a tiny voice nearby.
"Oh, hi, Winky!" Harry smiled at the friendly little elf he had met a few hours earlier.
The elf who had just appeared by his side blinked up at the sky. "What happened, Mr. Harry?" She glanced around frantically, as if she were looking for someone. "The Dark Mark... My Master..."
She was beginning to sound as nervous as she had been before Harry had cured her dizziness and fear of heights, and Harry gave her a warm hug. "There, there. Calm down, Winky."
"Harry Potter! What are you doing to Mr. Crouch's elf?" Ron's brother Percy came dashing out of the bushes now. "No, Harry! You must not touch his elf! Mr. Crouch doesn't want his elves to vanish to Majorca; he is very particular about these things. Why is that elf smiling? Leave it alone! Oh, Merlin - there he is, Mr. Crouch himself! Act normal, elf!"
"Er... yes, sir." The elf blinked up at Percy, a baffled expression on her face.
"What is going on here?" An elderly man in a dark suit rushed over to them. "I heard people screaming, and someone shouted something about a Dark Mark, but I..." He gazed up at the sky in confusion. "I don't see it." The glittering leprechaun smiled at him, and Mr. Crouch shook his head slowly.
"Winky, did you see anything out of the ordinary?" His voice was sharp.
"N-no, sir," whispered Winky, still clutching one of Harry's fingers with a tiny hand. For some reason, she still seemed quite nervous.
"Harry! Are you all right?" Mr. Weasley came running, completely out of breath. "There are rumors that someone conjured a Dark Mark, and that Death Eaters have been seen... I've been looking for you everywhere. Percy, you are here, too! Good, everyone's safe then - all the others are back in the tent."
"Hello, Father." Percy Weasley gave his father a brief nod. "Mr. Crouch has everything under control; there is absolutely no need to worry. A Dark Mark at the World Quidditch Cup! I have never heard such nonsense in my life. The Ministry is in charge of security, and everything is perfectly fine. Just some of the fireworks looking a little off; no doubt someone brought non-regulation fireworks into the camp."
Mr. Crouch nodded slowly. "Ah, you may be right, Weatherby. Illegal imports from China, no doubt."
"Really?" Arthur Weasley looked around. "The people I spoke to before sounded so sure." He wiped a few beads of sweat from his forehead. "I suppose tensions are just running high, what with two high-security events in such a short span of time..."
"Oh, is there going to be another Cup?" asked Harry curiously.
Percy smiled ever so slightly. "In a manner of speaking, Harry. That's all I can say for now; you will find out more in due time. Too bad you are too young to compete; my brothers tell me that you have a bit of talent for magic."
"Oh, Merlin, look at his eye!" Draco gazed up at the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher in fascination.
"And his leg..." Ron's voice was a hushed whisper.
Harry leaned forward to see the new teacher better. Draco was right; the professor's eyes were very lovely! He had one regular eye, small and dark, but the other one was a luminous blue, as bright as a robin's egg. His blue eye was darting around, while the other, darker eye held still. The teacher's hair was almost as long as Dumbledore's, and grey as the fur of a wolf. One of his legs was gone, but he had very cleverly attached a piece of oak to his knee instead.
"I wonder how he lost that leg," murmured Ron. "Probably in battle..."
Shard stirred in the back of Harry's mind. Clever Nagini. Gets her own breakfast if you oversleep.
Up in front of the Great Hall, Dumbledore rose to his feet. "It is my very great pleasure to introduce Professor Moody! Not only will Professor Moody teach you how to defend yourselves against the Dark Arts, but he will also assist the other teachers in organizing an exciting event that will take place at Hogwarts this year. The Triwizard Tournament will yet again be held at Hogwarts!"
A murmur ran through the Great Hall.
"The Triwizard Tournament," continued Dumbledore with a smile, "was established over seven hundred years ago, as a friendly competition between the three largest European schools of Wizardry: Hogwarts, Beauxbatons, and Durmstrang. Each school selects a champion, and the three champions compete in three magical tasks."
"Typical," murmured Blaise. "The small private magical schools are always overlooked. What, one wonders, has the Transylvanian Thaumaturgy Institute ever done to deserve this exclusion? Or the Hungarian Hermetic Academy?"
"This year," said Dumbledore, peering at the students over the rim of his half-moon spectacles, "there is a new Age Restriction in place. Only students who are of age - that is, seventeen years or older - will be able to compete. There will be a magical age line set up, to make sure that only those students who are of age are able to submit their names for consideration." He looked directly at the Weasley twins. "The age line uses some very strong ancient magic, so it is completely pointless to try and outwit it."
Draco rolled his eyes. "Yeah, right. You will be able to use fairy your magic to get around the age line, won't you, Harry? We need a Slytherin in this tournament, and you would be great at it."
"What?" Harry glanced up from his dessert. "But I'm only fourteen. The tournament sounds like fun, but I don't want to use fairy magic to get past the age line; that would be cheating. Well, unless..."
"Unless what?" Ron looked up hopefully.
"Just thinking," muttered Harry. Hey Shard, how old are you?
Shard thought about it. Not sure. More than seventeen.
Harry beamed at his friends. "Maybe the age line will let me through even if I don't use fairy magic. We'll see!" For some reason, the diary in his pocket jabbed Harry sharply in the hip. "Don't worry, Tom," whispered Harry under his breath. "I'll bring you along if I get to be in the tournament."
Defense Against the Dark Arts with Moody was even stranger than Lupin's classes had been. For some reason, Moody seemed to hate spiders. He began by showing the class some magic to make a spider dance, even if it didn't want to. But when he proceeded to show the class some sort of Hurting Magic that made the spiders writhe in pain, Harry decided that enough was enough. He grabbed the poor spiders and threw them quickly out of the window and onto the grass.
"What are you doing, Potter?" cried Moody. "You need to know something about the Dark Arts if you are going to defend yourself against them! What would you do if someone were to cast a real curse on you?" He grabbed his wand and pointed it at Ron. "Imperio!"
For some reason, Ron began to act very strangely; he jumped onto one of the desks and began to sing.
"And now you, Potter. Imperio!"
"What?" Harry blinked up at Moody. "You want me to sing, too? But I don't even know that song."
"Ah, you can resist the Imperius curse, can you?" Moody regarded Harry thoughtfully with his swirling blue eye. "But can you resist this?" The next moment, Harry felt something tugging at him, pulling at his very soul. Fairy magic? How could that be? Suddenly, Harry felt an urge to jump up on the desk and burst into song, just like Ron. He moved slowly toward the desk.
"What is happening to Harry?" Draco's voice was a startled whisper. "How can Professor Moody make him do things?"
But just as suddenly as it had started, the strange magic released Harry. Harry stopped mid-step and blinked up at Moody in confusion.
"Lesson over for today," growled Moody, gathering up his belongings very quickly. "And remember, everyone - constant vigilance!"
Harry stared at the grey-haired man. Professor Moody was a fairy? How was that possible?