Disclaimer - A big thank you to JKR, the owner of Harry Potter, who permits us to construct our sandcastles on her beach. Whether those sandcastles resemble Hogwarts or a house of horrors can sometimes be purely down to the conjecture of the reader. One thing unites us all though, none of us are making any money off our writing here. Please keep that in mind as you read our efforts.
Albus returned to the ship, being greeted by a party of students who couldn't wait to inform him of Viktor's condition. As he looked in on his sleeping champion, Albus had absolutely no intention of curtailing Viktor's training inside Hogwarts. Lying there in an exhausted sleep was Albus' route into Harry's inner group of friends, Viktor would need to lose a limb before he would even think of stopping his training inside Hogwarts. This was an unexpected but very welcome bonus, Albus was certainly not going to throw it away over something as trivial as an exhausted student.
Being on the judging panel, and now having some influence on the design of tasks two and three, was honestly all Albus had expected. Having Harry as the Hogwarts Tri-wizard Champion was again unexpected, however a massive bonus to his latest plans.
The real bit of unbelievable luck was discovering Dolores was in contact with Tom, and had placed Harry's name in the Goblet of Fire under his instructions. When that scheme looked as if it might actually fail, she had goaded the boy until he accepted, unfortunately getting poor Dolores kicked out of Hogwarts at the same time.
She was rightfully worried that Tom would see this as a failure on her part. Dolores would no longer be involved with the tournament, therefore unable to pass on information or carry out any tasks the dark lord ordered - since she would be forced to leave the castle too. This would certainly leave Dolores in a vulnerable position, and also without the goblin wards to prevent an attack from Tom or his two supporters.
While his insides had been doing a happy dance to put all his other happy dances to shame, externally Albus had appeared thoughtful as he masterfully entrapped Dolores further into his clutches.
His proposal was simplicity itself, often the best way to do things as there is less to go wrong. If Dolores gave Albus all the information she received from Tom, he would then feed her the latest inside news from the tournament to pass on. Dolores could tell Tom that she had some influence on whoever the new appointee was, and claim the information she passed on came from that source.
Since Tom wouldn't harm her while she was still useful to him, Dolores fell on Albus' offer like a drowning person would grab at a thrown rope. For no outlay on his part, Albus was now back where he was supposed to be - controlling all sides of the situation. He felt invigorated and could now see himself leaving this ship and moving back into the Headmaster's Suite in Hogwarts - his rightful place - by the end of this tournament.
He would need to be prepared though, Tom obviously wanted Harry in this tournament for a reason. Albus' task would be to try and unravel exactly what that reason was, and act accordingly. Best case scenario would see a confrontation between the two, with Harry narrowly losing and Albus heroically stepping in to finish off Tom.
That would place him back in power once more, and he could use the country's gratitude to start making inroads to these insane laws that had been passed in his absence. Discovering the new Gringotts branch in Hogsmeade was startling, not nearly as shocking though as seeing a couple of goblins walk through the village - and not one Hogsmeade resident batting an eyelid.
When Harry fell, that would complete the prophecy. Albus defeating Tom should once more make him the master of the Elder Wand, its powers now absorbed by the blade Dumbledore intended to claim. Albus was sure he could come up with something about wearing it to honour Harry's memory, the wizarding public would just love that angle.
Albus thought Harry really only had himself to blame for this now inevitable outcome. Having that horcrux removed from his head should have meant Harry could survive this, not any more though. Time and time again, he'd spurned Albus' offers of assistance. Now he had publicly spurned his wizarding heritage too. That arse of a minister, Fudge, might have tripped over himself to accept this outrageous outcome but Albus never would. A prominent old family being headed by someone who'd rather remain true to his goblin upbringing was an affront to their very way of life. Far better the family name be allowed to die out, and that would then see all this goblin nonsense buried along with the body of Harry Crow.
While never a supporter of the idea that someone's blood made them superior, Albus certainly believed wizards should be able to lord it over everyone else. There was no doubt in his mind that, being a wizard, he was superior to any other being on the planet, magical or not. It wasn't common knowledge but Albus had designed the fountain that proudly stood in the centre of the atrium in the Ministry of Magic, a not so subliminal reminder to everyone who saw it of that very fact.
Albus had come across a couple of his students venting their disgust at a goblin female being allowed to attend a ball in Hogwarts. When he'd asked them if they'd said anything at the time, both boys had looked at him as if he was crazy. Harry currently had more control over Hogwarts than Tom Riddle could ever have dreamed of possessing, and was using that control to push his own agenda - an agenda that was rapidly eroding wizarding values which had stood for centuries.
That they had even managed to brainwash Severus was a measure of just how far the goblins were prepared to go in order to rule Britain, something that would never happen while he still drew breath. The Baron of Kingussie was every bit as formidable a foe, and now should be considered a far greater danger to Britain, as Lord Voldemort. Albus intended to do his best to see that he solved all their country's problems - by ensuring these two deadly adversaries faced each other to the death.
For the first time in years, Albus felt the tide was finally turning in his favour. Now all he needed to do was use his experience, knowledge and power to grasp the opportunity when it came. Albus Dumbledore was going to be back where he belonged, back on top. He might even let Dolores have a shot at being Minister of Magic. For the greater good of their world, the current incumbent just had to go.
After reading the note from Voldemort, Dolores' unexpected good mood simply vanished. She thought the dark lord had asked the impossible last time, getting the goblin into the tournament would be child's play compared to this. She had no idea how to complete this task, though thankfully she now had someone to advise her. Dumbledore had forgotten more about Hogwarts than most people knew, surely he would know how to go about this.
With two quidditch matches, a Hogsmeade weekend, the first task and then the Halloween feast, October was going to be an exciting month in Hogwarts.
it was a couple of other events though that caught the four friends flat-footed. The first was when Euan was waiting on them as they finished their Saturday lesson, what caught them out was Euan not actually waiting on them.
"Hi Bill, could you do me a big favour? I was sitting talking to Natalie last night and, before we knew it, it was curfew. I had my letter for my mum all ready but couldn't get up to the owlery because I'd left it too late. Since you're seeing her tonight, could you pass it on for me?"
"Not a problem, Euan. I promised your mum I would look you up and see how you were settling anyway. You want to go and have lunch?"
Four stunned friends watched the pair happily head off for the great hall. Hermione's eyes were drawn to Fleur though, their French friend appeared deflated.
"I saw them dancing together at Jamie's christening but never thought anything of it. When did that happen?"
Harry then attempted to answer Padma's question. "They obviously met at the fayre, then Assistant Ambassador Weasley volunteered to help the Abercrombies with their moving house. I didn't know he was still visiting there but Jenny is a lovely person…"
At that, Fleur pushed past, her embarrassment clear for all to see.
"Okay, I've obviously said something wrong again. Would either of you ladies care to explain exactly what it was to me?"
"You didn't say anything wrong, Harry. Fleur just didn't want to hear that Bill was involved with anyone." Hermione then took pity on him and explained exactly what was going on. "Fleur is rather taken with Bill, she was actually considering asking him to Hogsmeade at the end of the month. None of us knew he was seeing someone. That's what upset Fleur, not you."
Neville was as confused as Harry. "But Hermione, he's a professor. Are students allowed to date professors?"
"Well, technically he's not a professor, and Fleur is now of age and considered an adult."
Neither Neville nor Harry seemed totally convinced by that argument. Viktor kept his own council on the matter, wisely saying nothing. Padma and Hermione weren't sure whether to follow their friend or not. Harry suggested waiting until after lunch and speaking with Henrica about the matter. If anyone would know the best way to handle this, it would be her.
That was why Henrica found herself being escorted to Fleur's room by Madam Maxine. "She 'as been so enjoying 'erself at "Ogwarts. I saw she was upset but she would not talk to me about ze matter…"
"She might not talk to me about it either, Madame Maxime. I do know why she was upset though, and can assure you nothing untoward happened. You've seen how Harry reacts if a lady is mistreated, you have nothing to worry about on that front."
She found Fleur sitting on her bed, just facing the blank wall. The room was so small that Henrica really had to sit beside her on the bed. "Do you want to talk about it?"
"I 'ave made a big fool of myself, 'ow could I 'ave been so stupid…"
"That's not what I heard. Your friends are concerned about you, and came to me for advice. They told me what happened and you did nothing wrong."
"I almost asked a professor on a date, what was I zzinking…"
"You weren't thinking, and you were at least a week or so from asking. Those four certainly won't breathe a word of this to anyone else, they came to me because I'm family. I would certainly count Bill as a friend but even I didn't know he was in a relationship with Jenny Abercrombie."
"…'Arry says she is a nice woman?"
"We all thought so, she and Euan stayed at Kingussie for a weekend during the summer. We might be jumping to conclusions here, they may be nothing more than friends."
"At least I do not 'ave to worry now about 'im saying non because I am veela."
"Oh that would make no difference to Bill, Jenny is a muggle after all..."
"Ce que vous êtes sérieux? You make joke, oui?"
"Yes, I'm serious. The fact you're only seventeen would worry Bill a lot more than you being veela."
"School is full of leetle boys, only 'Arry, Neville and Viktor do not, 'ow you say, baver?"
This saw Henrica smile. "I think the word you're looking for is drool. The students were like that with me when I first started, give them time and it will soon settle down."
"I do not believe 'Arry would drool…"
"You're right, only after Hermione. I know Bill is an attractive man but you shouldn't be in such a hurry to grow up. If you continue training with Harry's group, you will be seeing him twice a week until summer. Get to know him first, and let him see the real you. Meanwhile, try and have some fun. Hanging out with Harry and the gang will allow you to meet nice people. If they're close to Harry, then you can trust them. Enjoy your time at Hogwarts and who knows what the future holds. I met Sirius through working with Harry, certainly not something I expected when I arrived in Scotland."
This saw Fleur lean in and hug Henrica. "Zzank you, it es so good to 'ave someone zat understands to talk wizz."
"You're very welcome. Hermione and Padma sometimes come to me too, which is why they felt secure about mentioning this to me. I could easily see Madam Maxime exploding if you had gone to Hogsmeade with Bill - just before the first task too!"
This drew a chuckle out of Fleur. " An angry Madam Maxime is a very frightening sight. She would tell me I need to focus on ze tournament, and she would be correct."
By the time Henrica left, Fleur was feeling a lot better about the situation.
Harry was still working on the situation later on that evening, he pulled Roger aside for a quiet word. "Could you do me a favour tomorrow? Fleur has come here looking to make friends, could you be one of them?"
"Harry, that won't exactly be a hardship, mate."
"If you hit it off, there's a Hogsmeade weekend coming up…"
"I get the picture, and she's a friend of yours?"
"Fleur is becoming a good friend to both Hermione and I."
"Gotcha, best behaviour at all times."
"Roger, if I didn't know that would already be the case, I would have asked someone else."
This actually saw the older Ravenclaw smile. "Thanks, Harry, I really appreciate that vote of confidence."
The second event that would have a far greater affect the group of four friends happened later that night, the Lady Helena waited until she got Harry alone before speaking to him.
"Young Champion, I think we may have a problem. The castle's elves reported to me that there was another elf shadowing you during your training, they have identified this elf as belonging to that Umbridge witch. She has barred the castle's elves from entering her quarters, claiming her elf will look after her needs."
"So Dolores is spying on us?"
"Not just spying, Harry, we think it's worse than that. Her elf was spotted going through your soiled clothes basket when you left for breakfast. The Hogwarts elves have told me your towel sometimes has blood on it, they are afraid that is what he's after."
That seriously upped the ante for Harry. Whatever Dolores Umbridge wanted a sample of his blood for, he was certain it wasn't to do him any good. He sat and spoke to Helena for at least an hour, a plan slowly forming in his head. Harry would certainly send word of this development to his father, they needed more information though before they could do anymore.
Their first Sunday training went well, Viktor and Fleur seeming pleased to discover the other four boys weren't miles ahead of them. Last week, neither Fleur or Viktor had been up for lessons two days in a row. Bill finished with a six against four battle and, while the young quartet still won, the result was a lot closer than usual.
Roger was joking with Fleur that she should bring some friends with her next week, maybe then they would have a chance. Her laughter encouraged him to say what had been on his mind since Harry mentioned this last night.
"There's a Hogsmeade weekend coming up at the end of the month, would you like to accompany me to the village? It won't be just the two of us, since there is still a threat of an attack, but we'll have fun as a group."
"I would like zat, very much. Will everyone be going?"
"All except Harry, he's on duty." Seeing the blank look from Fleur, and that Viktor was listening in too, Roger explained his last comment. "There will be joint auror and goblin patrols in the village for the entire weekend. Auror Tonks leads the Ministry side of the operation, but Harry's in charge of The Nation's response. Occasionally he'll have time to have lunch with us, and his squad of warriors, I suppose it depends on how great they think the likelihood of an attack is. After what happened at the World Cup, I don't expect they'll be taking any chances."
This saw Viktor shake his head. "The more I learn about Harry, more confused I become."
The Ravenclaw could only laugh at this. "He's certainly different from anyone I've ever met before. Last summer, the four of us actually holidayed with his group in Egypt, one of the best experiences of my life. Harry's philosophy is that we're all different, and it's how we embrace those differences that make us who we are."
"I saw you dancing whiz 'is goblin friend at ze ball…"
"Sapphire, yes. We first met her in Egypt last year, then she holidayed in Kingussie for a week. she's been back and forth but her family have now returned to Britain. She's lovely, and certainly one of my friends too. It's funny but, when I'm dancing with her I don't see a goblin - I just see Sapphire. I think that's what Harry meant…"
Fleur actually took Roger's arm as they left the room. Here was somebody that might actually be able to look past her being veela and just see Fleur. "I zzink zat is what "Arry meant too."
Viktor followed on, still confused by the enigma that was the youngest champion.
Bill watched them go, actually with a fair bit of relief. Ever since the first day he stepped back into Hogwarts, some of the older witches had been making eyes at him. He decided right from the start that dating someone who was still attending Hogwarts was simply something he couldn't do.
He'd just mentally added the other two schools to that list when they arrived. Maybe in a couple of years he might find Miss Delacour interesting, hanging about with Harry's crowd would certainly help her with any growing she had to do. He had the spectacular results of his twin brothers to back that assumption up. Ginny too had changed from all recognition to the young witch they were worried about sending to Hogwarts. Even Ron had finally pulled his socks up, gotten himself a girlfriend and was boring everyone with how he was now the Gryffindor keeper. The opportunity to play against Viktor Krum had his quidditch obsessed youngest brother working those same socks off, not wanting to give McGonagall the slightest excuse to prevent him from playing.
Their lesson with the Blacks that afternoon soon became a strategy session, with Remus, Tonks and Augusta all being invited to hear what the Lady Helena had warned them of. None of them were happy about the blood issue, and Harry would be practicing with his armour activated until they discovered just what was going on here.
They had a plan for dealing with that failing, a plan they spent the afternoon refining.
It was the following Saturday before they could put those plans into action. Even though there was currently a quidditch match taking place, the four were still training. Fleur, not being a fan, deciding that's what she wanted to do too. The Lady Helena entered their training room to inform them the event they were waiting for had just taken place.
The four stopped at once, their swords were soon on their backs and they were ready to go.
"Fleur, could we ask you a favour? Could you stay here until our normal finishing time? We don't want anyone realising we left this room."
The French champion quickly agreed as the four left, the room then provided a couple of comfy chairs and refreshments.
"I get ze feeling zis 'as nozzing to do wizz ze tournament?"
"You would be right, Fleur. Those four have other things on their minds."
This left the French champion shaking her head. "I am worried more because we do not know what we will be facing, do you zzink 'Arry 'as any idea?"
"If he had, he would have told you. Harry will certainly want to win for the honour of Hogwarts, but he would find no honour in cheating to do so. I've gotten to know him pretty well in the last few years, I also work for his father. Those two are more alike than you would believe possible."
Fleur had decided to take Henrica's advice, and spent a very pleasant morning chatting with Bill.
Dolores was very careful as she meandered toward Hogsmeade, continually stopping to look around the spectacular countryside. In reality, she was making sure she wasn't being followed as Dolores got ready to make her drop under the rock. For all she was being careful though, not once did she ever think to look up. If she had, Dolores might have noticed she had a feathered aerial escort.
Her drop finally done, she then headed off down the path to the village.
They had certainly considered this possibility, and then planned accordingly. Saber and Buff found suitable trees to perch in, keeping a close eye on whatever Umbridge had placed under that rock. Hover and Swift continued following the witch down to the village.
The hawk and the owl easily spotted the dark haired little girl in the yellow polka-dot dress, skipping toward the rock from the direction of the station. She appeared to be about eight or nine, and was singing to herself as she skipped in time to her own beat. It was almost too casual the way she sat on that specific rock to pretend to take something out of her shoe.
Both birds of prey easily spotted the girl lift the small roll of parchment, slipping it under her dress and into her knickers. As the girl headed back the way she came, Sabre and Buff were careful to stay far enough behind that they wouldn't scare away whoever she was going to meet.
She eventually reached the station, sitting dangling her legs over the edge of the platform. The two birds again took up positions where they could see everything. What they eventually saw was shocking, and caught both of them unawares.
The little girl began growing before their very eyes, and suddenly she wasn't so little anymore. Sitting wearing a child's dress that now looked obscene on her, Bellatrix Lestrange stood and waved.
Saber was already moving, with only the hawk's faster speed enabling her to intercept Buff before the tawny owl could reach the person he detested most in the entire world. With Lestrange portkeying away, Saber managed to keep her enraged mate in the air, both birds of prey setting off for the castle.
Harry and Hermione entered the Blacks' apartment, and immediately understood something was really wrong. Padma was sitting on Neville's lap, her arms lovingly wrapped around him as she whispered in his ear. The problem though was Neville sitting there, rigid with anger and wearing a face like thunder. The newcomers didn't have to wait too long to discover the problem, Neville had clearly been waiting on them.
"Umbitch is working with Voldemort, Bellatrix Lestrange picked up the message herself. She was polyjuiced to look like a little girl, the bitch changed back and then portkeyed away before I could get to her." The anger was dripping off every syllable Neville uttered, his mate again tried to alleviate his pain.
"Neville, honey, she was being watched. That's why she waved, and why I stopped you attacking her. We need a plan to take her and her accomplice out, and I want the four of us there when we do. She's a psycho, Neville, we don't give her any chances whatsoever..."
Harry had his knife out, sending a signal to his father that he needed to talk to him. "Tonks, could you see if Amelia is available? I've just sent for my father, we need to have a war council to see what our next move is."
Hermione then filled them in on what else had happened. "Umbridge also met someone in Hogwarts, she had tea with Albus Dumbledore..."
That got Tonks moving, Augusta suggested they might want Alice and Frank here too, her suggestion received a unanimous yes.
The meeting was now in the Headmistress' Office, the castle's elves had provided food but few were hungry. Harry was sitting with Astrid in his arms yet Hermione wasn't the only one who could see his mind was on other things. What those things were soon became apparent as the meeting got underway, everyone was brought up to date with the information they had before Harry got right to the heart of the matter.
"What we need to decide first is whether we are going to take out Lestrange, or play along and hope to end this once and for all." He wasn't surprised that Neville was glaring at him for even suggesting not taking her down, Harry certainly owed him an explanation.
"Neville, hitting Lestrange leaves two thirds of the job still to do. Her watcher will be somewhere in the mountains with a pair of omnioculars. If he's disillusioned and laying still, we would never find him - certainly not in the time we had available. That would see them move locations at once, leaving any information we got out of her useless - it doesn't take any imagination to see Riddle and Rookwood having a revenge killing spree against soft targets. While they're focusing on whatever it is they are attempting, the rest of the country is free from any attacks."
"Harry, I know what you're saying makes sense, I just have a blind spot where she is concerned. Lestrange is the last survivor of those who attacked my family, I want her to pay for that - and everything else she's done."
His mother was first to try and help her son see through this. "I would love to put a bullet in her myself, Neville, but it all comes back to Voldemort. This time we know he's mortal, kill him and he's gone for good. That has to be our main objective here, though I certainly hope that bitch goes down with him."
It was Hermione who tried to move the conversation in a different direction. "The fact they are after Harry's blood has me really worried. Whatever we decide here will only work if we can anticipate what their plans are, otherwise Harry could be getting left out there as some sort of sacrificial goat - that is so not happening. Dumbledore's involvement in this also makes me feel sick. We're getting Umbridge out the castle but he's still going to be here, and that old goat is far more dangerous in every way than the toad."
Barchoke had be honest with his children, he'd learned from his mistake with Lestrange's pregnancy. "The only thing we can see Harry's blood being needed for is wards. Whether that's to portkey Harry through them, or possibly to produce some sort of masking device that lets them gain access, we simply don't have enough information at the moment."
This got Harry's attention immediately, he was thinking of three Grangers who were behind these wards. "Do you think they could produce some kind of Loki Talisman?"
Amelia had been shocked at what she'd heard here today, she would certainly need to inform Cornelius about this. There was information she could pass on to the group however, information they needed before plans could be made.
"Through physical evidence left behind, and then interviewing the Carrows, we discovered exactly how they escaped from Azkaban. Rookwood carved himself a runes powered protection disk out of the rock plinth that was his bed. He completed the unbelievably complex task entirely from memory, and actually pulled out his own teeth to use as carving tools. He and Lestrange then blood bonded in her cell to allow the protection to include her as well. Rookwood and Riddle are certainly intellectually capable of just about anything, where Dumbledore fits into this whole mess I have no idea."
This had given Hermione an idea however. "With Harry and I being blood bonded, will whatever they do affect me too? I haven't put myself through all this training to be left sitting on the sidelines now."
Their father had bad news for them though. "I'm sorry, my daughter. For something like this, the blood bond would only come into play once it was finalised."
"Well, that only leaves us one option..." Hermione's comment seemed to suck all the oxygen out of the room, with the only sound being that of jaws hitting the floor.
Ever since the night he'd asked her to be his girlfriend, Harry had been quiet happy to let Hermione set the pace of their growing physical relationship. This though seemed a step too far, too quickly, and certainly not something they wanted to be announcing to their family.
It was probably to be expected that Padma would be the first to come back at her best friend. "That's a bit bold, Hermione, even for someone who put a dementor to the sword."
Hermione was wondering why she was getting strange looks from her family, and also had no idea what Padma was referring to. "Bold? What are you on about?"
"Having sex with Harry to complete your bond..."
"What? Are you nuts, I said no such thing..."
"...then how do you propose to be by Harry's side?"
"Simple, by making sure my blood is on that towel too. Did you all think the same as Padma?"
It was actually Henrica who answered, thinking she had the best chance of doing so without hurting anyone's feelings. "Hermione, there is not one person in this room who doesn't think you would do absolutely anything to help keep Harry safe. I'm really sorry but I never saw that simple solution either."
Padma got up and hugged Hermione. "You know that is going to be one bloody towel? I love your idea, and it saves me having to sleep with Harry to get into this fight..."
"In your dreams, Patil!"
She looked round at Neville. "Well actually, no..." Neither could hold their laughter any longer. That both their mates were now blushing just added to their amusement, and also released a lot of tension from the room. If these four were still laughing and joking with each other, then things couldn't be too bad.
"I don't remember any decision being made where we don't just arrest who we can, far less let any blood leave this castle. I'll tell you right now, I will need to be convinced before even considering that option. There are also two sets of parents missing who certainly deserve to be involved in this decision too." A serious Sirius just put everyone back on track.
Harry actually agreed with his godfather. "Okay, lets look at the threats. A portkey is certainly a threat we need to take seriously. The chances of anyone being able to slip me one inside Hogwarts are pretty slim, the castle will protect its champion. That Voldemort wanted me in this tournament would seem to suggest that's where the move will come from, we need to be all over it. The Tri-wizard tournament is no longer a game, it could be a means to end this once and for all. Amelia, do you think The Minister would go along with that?"
"Harry, to help bring down Voldemort, Cornelius would give you anything you wanted. I'm assuming you have something in mind?"
Astrid had now fallen asleep in Harry's arms, she was probably the only person in the room who didn't experience a shiver down her spine at the expression her godfather wore as he answered Amelia.
"Riddle thinks he's setting a trap, I want him walking right into an ambush. Can I ask if the first task could fit into a stadium?"
"I don't think I would be revealing any secrets if I said yes. What's on your mind?"
"If we had a stadium, like the one built in Kingussie over the summer, we could have five thousand people at the tasks. This of course would see security increased, wards strengthened and a few surprises standing by. Dan, father and Frank waiting on any appearance from Riddle with rifles in their hands certainly springs to mind."
This got a big double thumbs up from Frank, he wasn't going to pass up a chance to put a bullet in the Lestrange bitch. Barchoke too approved of that idea, the grin he wore was predatory.
Harry was sure that idea would win approval, but he had even more. "If we build this stadium, it would then seem logical to base all three tasks around it. Let the three champions put on a show for all the people that would come to watch. Have the ministry chosen anyone to replace Umbridge yet?"
Amelia was shaking her head at that. "We have a shortlist but haven't approached anyone yet. Something tells me we won't have to bother anymore."
This got a nod from Harry as he made his suggestion known. "The less people who know what we're up to, the better. Augusta is already on the panel, we need someone else on there to back her up - and block Dumbledore at every turn. I was going to suggest an Order of Merlin holding auror, one who knows every inch of the castle, grounds, and who assisted at Kingussie over the summer."
All eyes now turned to a totally shocked Tonks, Amelia though was thinking this could really work. "She's already in the castle, and Dumbledore will think he can take advantage of her youthful inexperience."
"Moony's already done that..." This saw Sirius receive smacks to the head from both his wife and his cousin.
Neville now wanted involved in this too, and had an idea how to achieve his aims. "Harry, I know you never want to take someone close to a goblin as a hostage. What if there were volunteers involved, volunteers that you had to reach but who would be in no danger? That could get us in there with you in case Voldemort makes a move..." Padma made a move, a move that saw her betrothed getting kissed.
While Padma was busy, Hermione was running that idea through her head and liking where those thoughts were going. "Neville, that's brilliant. Harry, say yes!"
When his mate looked at him like that, Harry had trouble refusing her anything. "Providing they are in no danger from the tournament, I think it's a great idea. With the first task being in two weeks, and Voldemort not having any blood yet, I think we can assume whatever he's planning won't happen then. We take precautions but step them up for tasks two and three."
That conclusion found general agreement amongst the group though Barchoke took it further. "With you now involving Hermione in this, the fact Dan will be there with a gun in his hand might be the only reason they'll approve. We will certainly be scanning everything to ensure there are no portkeys there, some of Harry's blood on the bullets should see them pass straight through any wards bound to the same substance. Remus, Sirius, could you come up with a set of those mirrors that could keep all three shooters in touch with each other? We'll need to know who to target, and that could depend on where they appear."
Being a keen shooter, and having competed in the Kingussie stadium, Amelia could certainly see the merits of this option. None of the people in this room wanted to see Harry duel Voldemort, a bullet through the bastard's head worked just fine for them. "We could build shooting platforms into the roof. They could be easily hidden and strategically placed to give all three shooters a wide field of fire."
"If we build the stadium exactly the same as Kingussie, the open end should face the castle. This would give us the arena and the area in between to set the second and third task, with everyone still being able to see what was happening." Tonks thought if she was going to be involved, it was time to add her opinion. She didn't expect Amelia and Augusta to begin chuckling at her.
"Sorry Tonks, that's a great idea. What tickled me was the original plans for the second task." Amelia actually dissolved into laughter, leaving Augusta to fill everyone else in on what was so funny.
"The second task was to be under the Black Lake, the audience would have been sitting staring at nothing for the entire task."
With the experience of the fayre under their belts, everyone there could instantly see what a bad idea that would be. Henrica had just put Astrid in her crib for the night, and she had another reason to think that was a terrible idea.
"What idiot was going to have a veela performing underwater? Please don't tell me there would have been a hostage down there Fleur would need to rescue?"
This ended the laughter, and gave Amelia another idea. "I think we need the Lady Black on the task design panel too. She is the wizarding world's recognised expert on matters of a goblin nature, and also a veela. Since two of our champions fall into those categories, we need her on board. Why waste time designing a task, only for her to tell us we got something fundamentally wrong. Having her involved from the beginning should avoid that problem, and also save time."
Augusta was in complete agreement. "Playing the veela card should get Madame Maxime on board. Since Henrica was going to look over the task anyway, Dumbledore won't be able to object too much to her being involved from the beginning. He'll try though, hoping to squeeze some concessions out of us over other matters."
"I'd like to squeeze his scrawny neck..." Henrica's outburst had a smile on Amelia's lips.
"...which is another excellent reason to have you on the panel. You may have to get in line though."
With more ideas being thrown around, a plan of sorts slowly came together. Amelia would need to inform The Minister and Chief Warlock of what was discussed here but didn't foresee any problems. She hoped to return on Monday when construction of the stadium would begin. Since this had already been done before, Amelia was certain it would be ready for the quidditch match next Saturday. It was just a pity they hadn't thought of it sooner, that Viktor Krum had been playing today would easily have filled every seat in the stadium.
The four would wait until just before the Hogsmeade weekend before supplying Umbridge with their blood. Barchoke would arrange to have her observed making her drop, since all four would need to be in the village over the weekend. This was Crow's Marauders first visit to Hogsmeade, their trainers not being there would certainly be noticed. Harry might be on duty but the other three would do their best to ensure that Luna, Colin and the rest of them had a good time..
The idea of placing a tracking charm on whatever Umbridge left was mooted, only to eventually be dismissed. Whoever picked that package up was unlikely to take it straight to wherever they were hiding. It was a safe bet they would take the package somewhere else, before casting every detection charm they could at it. Discovering a tracking charm would instantly tell Voldemort and co that they were rumbled, leaving the ministry and its allies right back at square one again. They would achieve the same result from arresting Umbridge, no one believed Dolores knew where Voldemort was hiding.
As the meeting was breaking up, Harry had one last thing to say. "I don't want any more information about the tasks than the other two champions. What I would say though is that the first task will need to be in the afternoon, we all have potions in the morning."
Amelia wasn't sure whether she was being pranked but the other three all confirmed Harry's opinion. "Master Pitslay would never let a little thing like a tournament interrupt his lesson."
With that, it was time to leave.
A/N thanks for reading