Chapter Eight – The Cup Runneth Over
Nothing is lost if you give yourself wholly
Nothing is gained if you keep it inside
-Enter the Haggis, "Broken Line"
Later that evening, Peter returned from a session in the Danger Room of Requirement, as his sister put it, to find his roommates all around the warmth of the fire. Cedric was pacing, apparently having backtracked from his dinnertime announcement, and all the while he being cajoled by his surrounding housemates.
"Oi, Peter," Anthony said when he saw him, "tell Ced that he has to put his name in the Goblet."
"Yeh, no going back!"
"Yeh, Peter, tell him! He's the best wizard in the student body, he has to represent us. Can you imagine how insufferable the Gryffindors would be if they get Hogwarts Champion too? Or some snooty Ravenclaw?"
"C'mon, everyone," Cedric said, "Johnson or Davies are accomplished wizards in their own right."
"Not as accomplished as you," shot back Malcolm, "Listen, Ced, even Peter thinks that you should enter."
"Do you, Peter?" Cedric asked, amused.
As everyone turned their eyes to him, Peter tried to choose his words carefully. "I think," he said, "that in a fair competition, you would have an excellent chance at victory."
"But," Peter continued, "only you can say whether it is the right thing to do. I have heard it can be dangerous. If you are willing to face that peril..."
He was interrupted by the crowd, "Sure he'll face the peril, he's a Quidditch player!" "Yeah!" "Go for it, Ced!"
Igor Karkaroff bustled through the corridors of Hogwarts' dungeons. He'd run into that blasted Auror twice already, and hoped to avoid the piercing glare of Moody's magic eye. On top of that, the Dark Mark had been spotted at the World Cup, and that certainly boded ill for him. Some Death Eaters - Lucius Malfoy, for example - had remained free through deceit and bribery, but he had been captured and had given up names. And if his former comrades were feeling up to making a show of themselves, they would not look kindly on a man they saw as inept enough to be captured and weak enough to betray the Dark Lord's cause.
Caught up in these concerns, he did not see the arm snake out from the corridor he'd just passed to seize him roughly by the shoulder.
"Yee-argh!" he exclaimed, his hand plunging in his furs for his wand. His eyes narrowed, "A student? How dare you lay hands on me? I'll have you whipped! I'll-"
A backhand caught him on his weak chin and sent him flying into the opposite wall. "I dare. And if you do not release that wand, I will have you begging me to just have you whipped."
Karkaroff's eyes tried to focus. The blow had caused him to smack his head against the stone, and all he could see were stars and a pair of burning eyes. There was a familiarity in that gaze, however. Not one he'd ever seen before, but one somehow imbued in the halls of his school at Durmstrang. "You! You are dead!"
"Death is no obstacle to true men of power, Igor. Your petty little 'Dark Lord' has even come close to solving it." The voice was muffled, somehow, making Karkaroff suspect he'd been concussed by the impact. "And it is of Voldemort that I've come to speak of you."
"It is merely a name, Igor. An assumed one, at that," the voice said, "As you may be aware, your master still clings desperately to his half-life. But he has acquired an artifact that will allow him to regain a corporeal form, and he's hatched a plan that will accomplish that."
"The Dark Lord... back?"
"Please try to keep up, Igor. He is no longer your lord. You will do my bidding, and mine alone. We will swoop in and steal both artifact and ritual from Riddle's grasp. As you can see, while powerful, this is not my natural form, and I find myself missing my old body."
The figure's eyes blazed again, the intensity blinding. "You will. Or you can die here, in this hall."
Karkaroff cowered, raising his arms feebly over his head.
"I jest, of course. I need you, so you will do my bidding."
As the evening drew to a close, they retired to their room to escape the mounting peer pressure, Cedric turned to Peter, saying, "I think you may be wrong. It isn't just my decision."
Peter looked at him quizically. "What do you mean?"
"I meant what I said, beginning of the year. These people are my family. I have a responsibility to them, to be a person they can look up to. To show that Hufflepuffs can be as brave as any Gryffindor, as smart as any Ravenclaw, as ambitious as any Slyth- OK, maybe not that ambitious, but still determined. We can be great. We have been great, but sometimes people forget that. "
When Peter started to respond, he held up a hand. "It isn't just for them. Hogwarts has been my home for six years, and, humility aside, I'm one of the best students in my year. I owe it to Professor Dumbledore as much as Professor Sprout to have my name in that Goblet. If I'm picked, if I can actually win the Tri-Wizard Tournament, then that chance is why I have to enter. This is bigger than me." He smiled, "Not that the glory and prize winnings aren't attractive and worth a little risk in their own right."
Peter nodded gravely, "So your mind is made up?"
"Not completely," he said, making Malcolm and Herbert groan with exasperation. "I said I would sleep on it, and I will."
At that, he plopped down on his four poster bed, and slipped under the covers. Peter did the same, and lie there waiting for Rachel's telepathic conference call to begin, in hopes that his teammates had made progress on their primary mission, stopping Aescwine Natan.
The next morning, after a brisk run of several laps around the circumference of the Quidditch stadium, Peter made an effort to return to the Common Room on time. As Cedric had left everyone in suspense the previous night, most of his House was gathered there waiting to hear his decision. Peter wanted to warn the boy off from the endeavor, but Kitty was holding firm that it was a necessary sacrifice. They'd gotten a little heated in their previous night's discussion, as Peter had wondered if she would feel the same if it were one of the Ravenclaw girls she'd befriended to be sacrificed. It had been a mistake to entertain idle musings during a telepathic conversation, as it came across to Kitty that he felt she wasn't sympathetic. He'd done what he could to mollify his fiancée, but she'd remained somewhat frosty to him when they'd said good night. He resolved to apologize as soon as he saw her that morning.
Cedric came through the passage, uncharacteristically disheveled and bleary eyed. If he was taken aback by the crowd of enthusiastic supporters that surrounded him, it was only momentary, and was quickly replaced by a warm smile. "So," he said, holding up a scrap of parchment, "Shall we go toss my name in that big flaming cup down in the dining hall?"
The common room exploded with cheers, as Hufflepuff House swarmed around their favorite son and swept him towards the barrell door. Peter followed along, concerned but cognizant of Cedric's position in the matter. He couldn't argue with the Prefect's motives; he himself had been raised to think the same way.
Even though it was a Sunday, Peter, as was often his wont, tried to find something to do to steady his thoughts. He went over to the Herbology greenhouses to tend to a project he was developing for Professor Sprout's class. An hour later his hands were muddy and blistered from his efforts. There hadn't been a pair of dragonhide gloves large enough for him, and the magic resistant nature of the material rebuffed his attempts at the enlarging spell. His stride increased as he headed to the nearest bathroom to wash up.
"Hey Peter, wait up!"
He turned to see his sister crossing the lawn. He waved in greeting and slowed his pace. "How are you?" he asked when she caught up with him.
"Oh just fine. Just studying some Transfiguration with Kitty. You know, I don't think McGonagall knows how to smile, do you? I mean, even the Professor let his hair down and cracked a joke from time to time." She giggled a bit, "Well, in a manner of speaking."
"She is indeed very strict. You did miss some of the early days at school, where Gospodin Xavier did not, as you say, 'let his hair down' in any manner of speaking. His attitude towards Wolverine was quite-" He was distracted by a group of Slytherin students gathering around a single, individual. He recognized the chubby, blond-haired boy as Neville Longbottom, one of Harry's friends, and began to move.
A hand touched his arm, "No Peter, I think I'd better handle this. They're my housemates, after all." His sister strode towards the group purposefully.
It was, Peter saw, the usual suspects. Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle, along with two girls, Pansy Parkinson and… Millicent Bulstrode, if he recalled correctly. Bullying a smaller student – he half hoped his sister would cause things to escalate, that he could step in.
"Gee, Draco, think you all can handle him?" Illyana began. "Is this what Slytherin has been reduced to, five of you picking on a near Squib?"
"Stay out of this, Rasputin," Pansy snapped, "Longbottom's earned some grief. He's one of Harry Potter's friends."
"So?" countered Illyana, "If your trouble's with St. Potter, go after him. Don't waste your time with this kid." She paused, for dramatic effect, Peter thought, "Or is it that Potter's too much for you lot to handle, so you single out weaker prey? You can't even go after Weasley or Granger, you have to go after the absolute weakest link?"
Draco looked up, annoyed. "I'll get Potter in my own time."
"Besides," the pug-faced girl snapped, "I'll bet you can't do any better!"
Draco glared at her, as if to tell her that Harry Potter was his business, but Illyana was already speaking, "I bet I can. That Tri-Wizard thing coming up, that's pretty dangerous, right? Contestants getting hurt, even killed?"
"Yeah," Draco admitted, "But you won't be able to get him to enter. Not with the age line and Dumbledore protecting him every step of the way."
She gave one of her trademark mischievous grins, "Leave it to me. He'll be one of the Champions, and he'll either have to face the peril, or have to quit in disgrace. So, do we have a wager, say, five galleons?"
"Done," Pansy responded. "Even if I lose, it'll be worth it to see the school turn on that spoiled brat."
With that, the Slytherins departed, and Illyana returned to her brother.
"An interesting ploy, snowflake," Peter said as they walked back to the castle, "I assume you will get credit when the Potter boy is chosen, now? Not a fair wager, at that," he said, disapprovingly.
"The key to any bet, dear brother," she said, "is to have more information than those you are wagering against. And you don't have to live near Pansy." The girl made a mock gagging noise. "Oh, there's Professor Dumbledore, I have to ask him something."
She bounded up to the Headmaster, saying, "Excuse me, Professor?
"Yes, Miss Rasputin, is there something I can help you with?"
"Well, not necessarily me in particular, but possibly me if that's the way things happen. But we were thinking that we might be able to help you, or rather... "
"Miss Rasputin," the wizard said, "as delightful as it may be to listen to you, I feel the demands of my position compel me to remind you that I am in fact, a rather busy person, so if you would be so kind as to proceed with a tad more directness."
"Oh," she replied, bemused at his own circumlocution, "right. We think one of us should enter the tournament."
"That is an interesting thought, indeed, but one to which I am unsure that Madam Maxime and Professor Karkaroff would be at all amenable, to say nothing of rendering the tournament nomenclature invalid."
"Well, our thought is that we'd be provisional or advisory contestants, unable to compete for the prize but more to see how far behind American wizardry is to the great schools of Europe."
Dumbledore considered this. "While I agree that argument may sway many of the spectators," he replied, "there are other factors that I do not believe you are considering; that is, the legalities of the situation and the associated costs. To allow you - or your compatriots - to join would involve writing an entirely new magical contract, as well as to increase by roughly a third any expenditures."
"A quarter," Illyana said absently, her face showing her disappointment.
"No," he said, slightly confused, "I am fairly certain of my maths, unless you are aware of any economies of scale that I am not privy to."
"Ah well," she said, no matter. "I thought I'd give it a shot, but if you think it wouldn't be approved, then I'll let it drop. Out of pure curiosity, what would happen if I entered my name in the goblet?"
"You're of the appropriate age, so the Age Line would not restrict you," he answered, "but the Goblet would not recognize you as being on the rolls of any of the associated schools. So you would never be chosen."
"Well, that's good to know." Her face turned pensive for a moment, then she smiled, walking off to rejoin her brother with a bounce in her step.
As the hours led up to the Goblet of Fire's final decision, Peter found himself even more anxious for his young friend. It was all well and good to preach temporal stability, but in practice it could excruciating. To know something, to be able to prevent it but to refrain. To not be able to even warn the boy about the fate. His mind grasped for the exact nature of that grisly death, but found the details fuzzy. Although he hadn't spent a lot of time with the source material, certainly, not when compared to Katya or his sister, it seemed to him that he should at least remember something about Cedric's forthcoming death. He chalked it up to the amount of schoolwork he'd accumulated while also trying to focus on their mission, and made a mental note to talk to the others about it that evening in the Room of Requirement. Then, with a sigh, he picked up his Potions book and began to methodically copy out the recipe for a camouflage draught.
After several minutes of this, restlessness drove him to the library, where he tried to revise for a forthcoming Herbology exam. He huddled over his parchment on the far end of an empty table and leafed through the text, vainly trying to copy the aspects of some obscure shrubs of the Eurasian Steppes. Looking across the room, he could see Viktor Krum walk in, with a gaggle of giggling schoolgirls following him. Better him than me, he thought to himself, and then felt shame for the thought. The boy was clearly uncomfortable with all the attention and had probably sought shelter in the library in the time leading up to the Goblet's selection. It was not so long that Peter had suffered under that sort of thing, and he knew he should be more sympathetic.
Krum and his unwelcome entourage moved to the opposite end of the library, so Peter got up and walked through the shelves to locate a tome of Mongolian flora that had been footnoted in his Herbology text, when a pair of hands reached through the books and pulled him forward. He let a small sound of surprise, which was muffled by a kiss.
"Katya!" he exclaimed when she let him breathe.
"Shh!" she whispered with a wicked smile, "We're in a library!"
"I am quite aware of that," he said in a quieter but still rather stern tone. "What do you think you are doing?"
"What does it look like - I'm making out with my fiancé. We never really got much a chance when we were originally in school."
"As I recall," Peter said, glad to see the previous night's unpleasantness seemingly past, "you preferred Ororo's attic."
Kitty had the decency to blush at the memory, "God, I don't think I've ever been that embarrassed in my life. But this isn't Ororo's attic, and snogging in the library is a time honored tradition here."
"Is it?" Peter asked, amused.
"Well, that may have just been fanfic I read," she giggled. "Now come here, you big goof."
She reached up and pulled his head down for a deep kiss, only to be interrupted by a delicate cough.
"Excuse me," said a visibly flustered Cho Chang, "I, um, I need one of the books on that shelf."
"Sorry," said Kitty. "We'll find another aisle."
"I really wouldn't," said the girl. "Madame Pince is on the prowl, and she gets quite cross at people for, well for doing anything in her library, but she is particularly unhappy at with boys and girls fraternizing near the books."
"Spoilsport," Kitty said. "You know, Cho, sometimes things are worth a little risk, or even a little punishment."
The pretty Asian girl drew herself up as if to reply, then blushed, grabbed her book from the shelf and fled back to her table.
"Be nice, Katya, she is young yet."
"I'm sure she'll learn soon enough, although I don't envy her the heartbreak" Kitty frowned. The thought seemed to fade quickly, as she then asked "Now where were we?"
Peter smiled back, but nodded his head at the figure of Madame Pince, who had left the front desk to go admonish Viktor Krum's fanclub, and was now patrolling two aisles over. "How goes the newspaper project for Muggle Studies?"
It was a code phrase they'd developed to refer to Kitty's efforts to contact Rita Skeeter during the day, when Rachel's mindlink was unavailable. Kitty frowned in the librarian's direction. "I'm still struggling getting the article together. I even tried to get Uncle Kurt to owl me a copy of a recent issue. Frankly, I'm at my wit's end" Kitty hadn't been able to get hold of the reporter, and was hoping to work through Nightcrawler.
Peter considered this, "I really don't know if we'll complete the assignment on time. The deadline is just around the corner."
"It's not too late, "Kitty said, "We can still switch to Illyana's back up project."
Peter smiled grimly, "That has its own charms."
Noting that librarian, seemingly satisfied with their school-related discussion and appropriate hushed tones, had moved on to another set of aisles, Kitty reached up to pull Peter's head down to her lips, "So shall we continue our own studies?"
*Knock knock* came Rachel's mindcall into both of their heads. *Time to cool the hormones, kids, we need to talk. Room of Requirement, 5 minutes.*
Kitty rolled her eyes, *Really, Ray?* she sent the thought, but her friend had signed off.
"Don't think I'm done with you, Peter Rasputin," she whispered. Then she gave him a quick kiss and walked off, with a deliberate sway to her hips that caught his attention.
He shook himself, absently re-shelved the book he'd picked up in entirely the wrong place, and went to grab his things to join his fiancee and teammates upstairs. He could understand Katya's frustrations and subsequent actions in the library completely; in their real world, they had been living together for a while now, sharing a bed, and were used to a level of intimacy that was entirely inappropriate for the teenaged students they were pretending to be. And while there might be a sense of forbidden thrill about broom closets, for him it had paled against the memory of being able to wake up each day next to the woman he loved. He sighed, and wonder if similar feelings had taken the shine off their mission for Katya as well.
He reached the Room of Requirement quickly. As per protocol, he made sure he hadn't been followed and knocked five times. Kitty opened it quickly, beckoning him to enter. Rachel and Illyana were already there, arguing about something.
"It won't work, "the redhead was saying.
"Sure it will, you just don't want to admit how ingenious it was."
"What ingenious scheme won't work?" Peter asked.
"Well big brother, I decided that Plan C had some flaws. Madame Maxime is too cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs over that kid for him to just disappear, particularly right before the selection."
"And how is your plan any different?" Rachel demanded.
"Because he'll be around, just not... chosen."
"Wait, what?" Kitty said, confused. "If he's the best in his school, how would it not choose him?"
Illyana smiled maliciously and showed a slip of parchment between two fingers, "It can't pick a name that's not in the Goblet."
"And then his headmistress is going to through a fit-" began Rachel.
Kitty was shaking her head in disbelief, "How did you manage-?"
"Sorcery, of course," the blonde said impishly, "Well, mostly a discreet stepping disc to catch his entry, and a little pyrotechnics to match what happened when everyone else entered."
"Is there a reason you waited until now to tell us?"
"Krum was one of the first to enter, and Natan was right on his tail. I didn't have time to think about it, and I always figured I could pop it into the Goblet if our other plans came through. Which they haven't. I don't know how I forgot there was only one day between the presentation of the Goblet and the choosing of the Champions."
"I think the movie made it seem longer," Kitty seemed to mull over this new information. "I've been talking with my housemates," she said, "and they've been talking with the Beauxbatons crew. And the student body isn't as thrilled with Mr. Natan as their Headmistress is. He's a new transfer to the school – just this year, in fact. It seems that he did apply before we got here, so maybe someone 'helped' Illyana bring us here on the sly, as a response to Sinister's presence. It wouldn't be the first time we've been pawns in a game."
"What are you saying?" asked Peter.
"We all agreed that we needed to stop him from entering the Tournament. Illyana's plan accomplishes this. Maybe we – or Kurt – can discredit him later to mollify Maxime, but we don't have many options left, and less time. I think we can rely on Crouch to be as hidebound as always and insist that the Champions chosen by the Goblet are the ones who take part in the Tournament."
Rachel shook her head, "I've got a bad feeling about this. What if Sinister isn't even trying to be a contestant?"
"We're running on Occam here, Ray," Kitty said, "And the Tournament is the most obvious angle, not to mention the most immediate. Even if Rita Skeeter would talk with us at this point, what's she going to come up with in the next hour or so to stop him? Even if Kurt and Lupin were to figure out the whole plan, we simply don't have enough time to get it here and vetted, since no one would take their word for it. We're just out of options."
"You know Sinister will have a backup plan," Peter said soberly.
"Yeah, he probably does. For all we know, he shoved something into the vodka Illyana drank before this all started. But it's not the time to second guess ourselves."
Rachel sighed heavily, "We're not going back after this Goblet thing tonight, are we?"
"No," Kitty answered, "I'm afraid we aren't. Not until we're certain we've foiled Sinister."
"Figured as much. But I'd hoped..." the redhead wiped her eyes, "Dammit, I want to go home. To my real life. This is more than I signed on for, y'know."
"I do know, Ray, and I'm sorry. We're doing our best. It hasn't been easy for any of us."
"Speak for yourself, Pryde," Illyana said, "I'm really enjoying myself."
It was Hallowe'en, but the atmosphere was more expectant than spooky. The four split off to their respective tables as the House Elves supplied them all with another marvelous feast. Peter, however, found he had no stomach for it, and after picking at his plate, he felt an elbow in his ribs.
"Hey Pete, why so glum?" Cedric laughed. "It's not like it's your name in there. Besides – did you see what happened to Summers? He's a little shy of being old enough, thought he could aging potion himself in, and wham! Professor Dumbledore had a jinx that made him grow a nice white beard. It was really rather funny."
Peter managed a smile, "I note that you have scarcely eaten your food as well."
"I'm a contestant, so that's allowable," he flashed his grin. As if on cue, the plates vanished, to be replaced with clean ones. "And now it seems waiting time is over."
The chatter through the Hall fell silent as Professor Dumbledore lurched to his feet. All eyes turned to the burning Goblet in front of him as he announced to the crowd that one more agonizing minute would be required, and offered instructions to those selected.
The Headmaster waved his wand, extinguishing most of the lighting, and, Peter noted, highlighting the drama as shadows cast by the blue-white flames from the Goblet flickered across the walls.
He found himself holding his breath as blue-white flames turned cherry red, and something shot from the flames. The professor caught the piece of parchment, and proclaimed, to the cheers of the Durmstrang student body, that they would be represented by Viktor Krum. He rose from Slytherin's table, the whole Hall cheering him now, and his awkward gait moving him slowly up to Dumbledore, and then off to the room on the right to await his fellow competitors.
*One down.* came Kitty's thought over the mindlink. *Next one should be Fleur if we've done things right.*
Another burning piece of parchment was hurling into the air amid a shower of sparks. The Professor caught this one as well, and with an odd expression, announced that Cedric Diggory had indeed been selected as Hogwarts champion.
In the cacophony that surrounded him at the Hufflepuff table, Peter nearly missed Kitty's thought of surprise. He glanced over at Cedric, who was accepting the congratulations of his Housemates, as well as those half-hearted ones from the other tables.
*It seems like the Goblet may be keeping the controversial selections til last.* sent Illyana over the link.
Peter found himself shaking Cedric's hand as he walked past, offering his own congratulations. He watched the boy take those steps which would end up cutting his promising life short. He wanted to object, and found himself angry with himself that he kept silent. Not that he would have been heard, not among the noise and cheers around them.
The Goblet was impatient, as Cedric had barely joined Krum in the adjoining room when the third piece of parchment was ejected into Dumbledore's waiting hands. With a slightly satisfied smile, he told everyone that Beauxbatons would have Fleur Delacour as their Champion.
There were a few cheers, but mostly there was shocked silence from the student body. Madame Maxime stood up, her eyes wide and her mouth repeating the same word over and again - "Non." Fleur seemed surprised herself, and even though several of her classmates were in tears that they hadn't been selected, she accepted the congratulations from those with better manners and made her way up to Dumbledore.
The Hogwarts Headmaster allowed the furor to die down, although Madam Maxime had made her way to Bartemius Crouch and Ludo Bagman, indicating that she wished a full investigation into the Goblet, demanding that of course Aescwine was the best choice for her school. Peter found himself looking at the boy, who seemed non-plussed, not angry or distraught.
*He has a back-up plan.* He sent the idea into the mindlink.
*He either expected not to be chosen or we just don't irritate him the way we used to.* sent Rachel
As Dumbledore began a speech about how the schools should support their respective Champions, the Goblet turned red one more time, and the sparks seem to bubble over the lip like effervescence. There was a loud pop – or was it a double pop? - and a line of sparks trailed after a glowing piece of parchment.
The parchment took a while to descend, and the crowd soon picked out that it was indeed two pieces. A loud buzz rose through those in attendance as Professor Dumbledore snatched one, and then the other, out of the air.
"Harry Potter. And Katherine Pryde."