Disclaimer - since I still have to drag myself to work every Monday to Friday, that should be proof enough that I am neither a professional author nor do I own Harry Potter. RobSt is just someone having a bit of fun during the long, dark Scottish evenings by playing in the world JKR created for us. I also don't own any of the words used in this chapter, and claim only the order I placed them in as my own.
The excitement inside Hogwarts was growing at roughly the same rate as the magnificent new stadium, now rising majestically out of the ground about a hundred yards from the main gate. All week, any free periods the students had were spent watching the new Hogwarts facility undergoing construction. Filius had even taken his O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. students down to observe some of the practical applications of what they were learning in his class.
The Ministry had scored a massive public relations coup by announcing this was a gift to Hogwarts. A gift to say thank-you for all their hard work in the last few years, hard work that had certainly turned the school around. They didn't actually come out and say 'from the mess Dumbledore dragged the school into', they didn't need to - everyone got the message.
That Dumbledore was actually back in Hogwarts at the moment allowed the ministry to publicly and politically poke him one in the eye. The other major coup was allowing Hogwarts students the opportunity of inviting their parents to the first task of the Tri-wizard Tournament. Once Augusta could confirm numbers, the ministry would then know how many tickets it had available for allocation. There would also be a percentage of that allocation heading for Gringotts too, there was after all a goblin champion in the tournament.
Severus was continually looking around him, amazed at the changes wrought in such a small space of time. If the ministry putting the parents of Hogwarts students above their own greedy needs wasn't enough, Severus didn't have to look very far for more examples of radical change. Draco would be playing seeker for Slytherin on Saturday, on a broom loaned to him by Crow and with the entire school backing his efforts.
Yes they were playing Beauxbatons and, as everyone had expected - Durmstang beat Hufflepuff, but the sight of Gryffindors supporting Slytherin had Severus thinking he'd gotten some potions ingredients mixed up. He simply had to be hallucinating.
Tonks was smiling at him. "Don't worry, Severus, we all get moments like that. I saw you space out there while staring at what's in front of us. The atmosphere inside Hogwarts has changed beyond all recognition since the time I was a student here. Henrica's been in the castle since the start of the changes, and even she struggles with it sometimes. I can't help but wonder what it will be like by the time my goddaughter attends Hogwarts."
That she lovingly held Astrid in her arms focused Severus' thoughts in that direction too. "My godson is like a different person now. Without his father's influence, Draco has been allowed to grow into the outstanding young wizard I always knew was in there. The influences of the people he now listens to are having a far better affect on him."
Henrica was siting beside Tonks, watching the two marauders at the Gryffindor table chatting animatedly with the Weasley twins. "It's not only Draco who's being affected, Severus, it's spreading throughout the entire school. By all accounts, Fred and George Weasley were a couple of terrors. Now look at them. Prefects, marauder trainers, and they are currently sitting down there trying to sell Sirius and Remus on the idea of funding a joke shop. As you can probably imagine, that's not going to be a hard sell to our two big kids."
While Tonks could only smile at the apt description of their two wizards, that joke shop idea horrified Severus. "Oh dear, I can hardly imagine some of the things those two could come up with…"
"Master Pitslay says those two are mavericks, mavericks who will either go on to be very rich - or blow up half of Diagon Alley."
"Who's to say they won't do both?"
Henrica found Severus' dry wit to be highly amusing, especially since it had lost all of its sarcastic undertones. "They might blow Hogsmeade up instead, Sirius thinks that's where the greatest opportunities now lie."
This saw both Severus and Tonks looking for Henrica to explain that view. "You can buy land and build premises to your exact specifications, without many of the restrictions having a shop in the alley places on you. This Saturday's quidditch match won't have visitors, but the plan is to roll that out over the rest of the games - as well as the three tasks. Not only will Hogsmeade still have all the traditional weekend visits from Hogwarts students, in future years there will now be thousands of parents passing through the village every time there's a quidditch match scheduled. It's all wheels within wheels. The stadium helps Hogwarts, creates passing business - which will help regenerate Hogsmeade - and lets parents see their children throughout the year. That is the perfect example of the way things work now, everyone benefits."
Severus was finding it hard to argue with any of that, the proof was staring him in the face. As he looked around Hogwarts, he could see the benefits for himself.
Since they wouldn't be training over the Hogsmeade weekend, the four did their usual and gave the quidditch match a miss. They also didn't leave their training to follow Umbridge, Father had Rita keeping an eye on that situation. After her encounter at the Parkinson house however, nothing could convince Rita to try and follow Lestrange if she appeared. Rita had no intention of going anywhere near that crazy witch, far less trying to hitch a ride to Voldemort's hideout.
A Slytherin win against Beauxbaxtons restored some Hogwarts pride, and now had all minds focused on the following weekend. Fleur and Viktor had then found themselves being invited to Crow's Marauders meeting on Monday evening, both stood astonished as the four put the club through its paces. It was the bit of magic the room provided at the end though that impressed the hell out of everyone.
Their wind-down session suddenly incorporated a scaled-down model of Hogsmeade Village, with the entire thing labeled and colour coded.
"I know everyone here is looking forward to visiting Hogsmeade, that doesn't mean though you should forget everything we've taught you. If an alarm sounds, get yourselves inside one of the buildings coloured green. You will notice the shrieking shack and Hogsmeade Station are coded red, these areas are out of bounds. They are just too far away from any protected buildings. Should an attack happen, anyone visiting there could be caught out in the open. Remember too, your emergency portkeys will get you to safety if you need them."
Having been taught tactics in this room for over two years, all could easily see Harry was right about the lack of cover. Their badges were still charmed as portkeys and would transport them to a secure room in Gringotts.
"Auror Tonks will have teams of aurors on site, I will be leading squads of warriors through the village too. Should an alarm sound, I don't want to hear of anyone trying to play hero. Get yourself to shelter and let us deal with it. We teach you how to get away from trouble, and not to go looking for it, that's what you will do at the weekend."
Harry found a hand appearing on his shoulder while a very familiar one also slipped into his. Hermione and Padma knew why Harry was doing this, Crow's Marauders was practically family to him now. He was determined nothing was going to happen to them, even if he had to scare each of them a little to ensure that.
Hermione was going to say something, before realising she didn't have to. The entire membership of the club were smiling at him, understanding exactly what was being said here. Luna stepped forward and kissed Harry's cheek.
"We'll be careful Harry, I promise."
"I know you will, Luna, it's others I'm worried about. Colin here still has those Gryffindor tendencies..."
This got some chuckles but a smiling Colin joked right back. "Yeah, I keep forgetting you need to be in Ravenclaw to slay trolls, basilisks and dementors."
That got some more laughs. Being a marauders trainer had really seen Colin start to mature, which was why Harry had singled him out here tonight. He was certain Colin would act responsibly but it was a reminder to those who might not.
As the happy students left, Sirius and the two champions approached the four friends.
"You worried about an attack at the weekend, Harry?"
"It's my job to worry, Sirius. All indications are the risk of an attack are very low, that doesn't mean we get complacent though. We nearly lost Luna once, once was certainly more than enough for me. Tonks is having a map made to go over this at dinner on Friday, I just wanted to make sure our lot heard it from us. No heroics, everyone rushes to the nearest safe building and lets us deal with it. Voldemort comes after any of mine, trust me - I'll deal with it."
The focus and ferocity with which Harry made that declaration certainly let Fleur and Viktor see where his true purpose lay. They could now understand Harry's attitude that the tournament was nothing more than a game, a game he wouldn't even miss his potions class for. Compared to the mammoth task he seemed to have set himself, the tournament was mere child's play.
As they walked towards their morning training, Hermione had switched to goblin in case anyone was listening. ""Are you sure about this plan, Harry? Why don't we give them squirrel blood or something?"
""I have a hundred and thirty six reasons for doing this, Hermione. Starting with little Bea Potter and the rest of the murdered Potters, three Dursleys tortured to death, the attack on Diagon Alley and then the World Cup. A hundred and thirty six people have lost their lives. Wizards, goblins and muggles, women and children, it makes no difference to these monsters. I have killed, Hermione, but each of those one hundred and thirty six innocents murdered haunts me just as much as those lives I took. What do you think Riddle and his sidekicks would do when they discovered we had tricked them? Just think of the damage they could cause by apparating into the middle of a muggle city and pulling the same shit they did in the Alley?""
This was a sobering thought for the friends, they certainly believed Harry when he said he took every one of those deaths personally.
""While they are working on this, they will be laying low. Not wanting to risk the slightest possibility of them being caught before they spring their trap. Meanwhile, we know the where and when, and even who's working for him. I honestly think this is our best chance to end this, I will certainly understand if any of you want to change your mind..."" Harry was stopped from saying any more by Hermione kissing him.
""That kiss is from us too, Harry. Though personally I would have gone with smacking you around the head for even suggesting we bow out. Sticking together has brought us this far, it's time to take it all the way."" It was then Padma's turn to be kissed from her proud betrothed.
Hermione had another thought though. ""Harry, what if we're wrong? What if he goes after our families?""
""Goblin warriors have now been garrisoned in Kingussie, to protect Crow's Nest and the goblin families living on our estate. Father, Smita, Alice, Frank and Ramrao are all moving there too. Father has been asked to acquire some rifles Dan specified, I get the feeling there is going to be a lot of shooting practice at Kingussie. We're taking every precaution we can think of, Hermione, it's their turn to do the dying.""
The decision made, there would be a bloody towel being put in the soiled clothes basket today. The Hogwarts elves had already been instructed by Lady Helena to let Umbridge's elf take it.
They were in their last class of the week, potions with Master Pitslay, when there was a knock at the door and Colin stuck his head into the classroom.
"Harry, I was grabbed by Madam Umbridge and ordered to come and get you. The Champions are meeting with the press, she said something about a 'weighing the wands' ceremony. You don't have a wand though, and I know you won't let old Olivander anywhere near your knife."
"It's fine, Colin, go back and enjoy the rest of your free period. Madam Umbridge has no authority within the school, you don't have to take orders from her. I already told her I wouldn't be taking part in anything other than the tasks, she's just trying to rile me up before Monday. Not much chance of that happening, nor my missing potions."
A smiling Colin then left, with no intention of informing Umbridge that Harry wasn't coming to whatever she'd arranged.
Master Pitslay enjoyed his time in Hogwarts immensely, he was also one of the few who knew what the four had planned - leaving Hogwarts at the end of their fifth year. He'd been pushing this class hard and they had all responded exactly as he'd hoped, by working even harder. It was now time to give them their reward.
"As you all know, Messrs Weasley and Weasley here are sitting the ministry's N.E.W.T. potions exam at the summer. I expect them to do well. As for the rest of you, O.W.L. level will be passed by December. You could sit that exam this summer, and easily complete your N.E.W.T by the following year. Do you want me to arrange these exams with Professor McGonagall?"
After getting over the shock of that news, an excited bunch of Ravenclaws, and of course Neville, all quickly agreed with that idea. Harry still had no intention of sitting these exams, though Hermione explained he would have to pass muggle exams for entry to university. They intended to spend their two years between leaving Hogwarts and starting university studying to do just that - after they got married of course.
Fleur thought Hogsmeade Village was quaint. She was on Roger's arm and enjoying herself, though she couldn't help but notice her date seemed distracted - and not by her.
"Are you looking for somezzing, or someone?"
"Oh, sorry Fleur. Just confirming where all the safe havens are, those plaques are a brilliant idea. As well as having a good time today, I also need to make sure you're safe too. Harry might be able to take everything in with a glance, I need to study it a bit more..."
"Zat woman was not 'appy 'Arry never appeared yesterday. Wizz Madam Longbottom saying 'e did not need to come, she got more angry still."
"Harry had already said he wouldn't attend. Maybe with her out of the castle soon, Hermione might be able to convince him that a ball is a good idea. They will still need to change the date though, he will be going home for the holidays. If there is a ball, I hope you will let me accompany you?" This had Fleur chuckling with laughter, a sound that did wondrous things to Roger's insides.
"I zought it was Griffendors who charged in, not intelligent Ravenclaws..."
"...and this Ravenclaw's intelligence is telling him to ask first, before anyone else steals in there ahead of me." That musical laughter was once more enchanting him, Roger was hoping for a yes.
"If zere is a ball announced, and if you ask me, I will be 'appy to go wizz you."
A very 'appy' Roger then led his date into Honeydukes, he doubted though if even those masters of confectionary could concoct something as sweet as Miss Fleur Delacour.
Later, Fleur spotted Bill, with a younger version of himself she didn't know, walking through the village. She asked Roger about it.
"That must be Charlie Weasley, he's the only one I haven't met. I wouldn't be surprised if Percy and his fiancee, Penny, are here too. This is Ginny's first visit to the village and her brothers really watch over her. I pity the wizard who tries to date her, imagine being faced with six very protective older brothers."
"Why do you not know zis Charlie?"
"Oh, he works abroad. He's a dragon handler in Romania, probably here to see the first task on Monday. You feeling confident about it?"
Fleur was actually feeling rather sick. There was certainly the possibility Charlie Weasley was merely at Hogwarts to witness the first task. What was making her feel ill though was the thought he could be here in a professional capacity, Fleur had a dreadful premonition that she'd just worked out what the first task was. She held on to Roger's arm a little tighter, making him actually smile.
Roger took her reaction as nerves about the first task, resolving to try and keep her mind off the tournament for the rest of today.
It was a much relieved Harry who sat down to dinner that Sunday evening. The entire Hogsmeade weekend had just passed without incident, now he could relax and spend some time with Hermione and their friends. Only after potions tomorrow would he turn his mind to the tournament, and the first task.
Harry trusted implicitly in the people who would be standing by to intervene tomorrow. Should Voldemort make an appearance, it would be remembered as the shortest attack in history. Between bullets, blades and wands, he would be cut to pieces. There would also be warriors guarding the stadium tonight, and sweeping it again for portkeys before the task started.
By all accounts, Tom Riddle was an incredibly intelligent wizard. Harry wasn't going to let that worry him though. The combined smarts, and downright sneakiness, that his side of this contest brought to the table should be more than a match for the three criminals opposing them.
He was disturbed from his musings, and his delicious dinner, by a very worried Lady Helena.
"Champion, you are sorely needed. You must hurry though..."
A golden Harry shot out of the hall, portraits and ghosts directing him where he needed to be.
"Marco no, stop. I thought we were only going to talk..."
"Do you usually hold conversations vith the boys you enter broom closets vith?" Using her embarrassment at that question, Marco captured her lips once more as his hands continued their predetermined tasks. This saw her struggles resume with increased force and determination.
"No, Marco. I mean it. I've never gone this far with a boy before..."
"...and that is vhy ve are having this problem. You got tired of boys, and decided to meet vith a man." She had nowhere to go and Marco was a great deal stronger than her. They nearly all said no at this point, very few said no when he was finished with them. Those that did said it quietly, knowing he could destroy their reputation with a few well chosen sentences. 'She was all for it, only later did she begin crying - muttering something about cheating on her boyfriend'.
This one was really struggling now, Marco had her too far along his chosen course though to let that stop him. His little victory smile as he felt her tiring was short-lived as a shiver ran up his back.
"You sir, are a cad. Unhand this young witch, I clearly heard her say no - more than once too."
"If I vill not listen to her saying no, vhat makes you think I care vhat a ghost says? Go and haunt someone vho cares..."
"Oh youth is certainly wasted on the young. You are a fool, as well as a cad. Inside Hogwarts, I have some very powerful friends..."
"Vell, once I am finished here, you and your powerful friends are velcome to haunt this cupboard. I vill even leave this stupid vitch in it, a reminder of things you can no longer do." Marko was too close to his objective now to let a little thing like a ghost watching put him off his stride. One last final effort and her resistance would be crushed, she would soon be his.
Those thoughts were interrupted by the spell-locked door being ripped right out of its mountings, a golden hand grabbing his shoulder saw Marco following the door's trajectory by flying into the corridor. He had such a tight hold of the struggling witch that she had no choice but to come along for the ride too.
Even in the torch-lit corridor, Harry was able to see everything he needed to at a glance. The clothing pulled open and buttons missing, the bruises starting to appear where the Durmstrang student's fingers had dug deep, the sword of Godric Gryffindor was leaving its sheath - and it cried out for justice.
"Vhat? She vanted it. She met me, and ve villingly vent into that little room together."
"Young champion, she repeatedly said no - and you can see she put up a fight. He was just too strong, and she had nowhere to run."
"You vould believe the vord of a ghost?"
"Unlike you, Sir Nicholas de Mimsy Porpington is a man of honour. A ghost who charged a giant basilisk to save Hogwarts students' lives. I certainly believe his word over yours..."
Watching the blade that was coming slowly toward him, Marco began to fear for his life. He was saved by an unlikely source.
The other three had been hot on Harry's heels. While not being able to keep up with Harry when he was magically enhancing his armour, the trio were still easily fast enough to leave the rest of the school behind.
"Harry, don't kill him!"
"Hermione, if this was a goblin matter, he would already be dead."
This incense the downed wizard, and saw him throw any caution to the wind. After all, Marco had standards to protect. "If I had been in there vith an ugly goblin bitch, I vould vant you to kill me."
Hermione was now between Harry and Marco, probably the only thing that saved the imbecile's life. He wouldn't be thanking her for that though. Hermione spun and her foot connected powerfully with his groin, the connection being clearly heard.
A big black dog had just raced onto the scene, it transformed into Sirius right beside Neville. "Oh, that's just gotta hurt!"
"He deserves it, and more..." Neville indicated where Padma was trying to offer some comfort to a distraught witch, while removing her black marauders robe to provide bodily cover. Sirius instantly agreed with Neville.
Hermione's concentration though was on the wizard who was now rolling around the floor, clearly in agony. "If you had gone anywhere near Sapphire, I can assure you that your wish would have been granted - I would have killed you myself. You clearly didn't learn from grabbing me that first night, I hope you learn from this!"
Her kick this time wasn't quite as effective, since Marco now had both hands clutching his previously injured equipment. There was the definite sound of some fingers being broken though.
McGonagall had copied Sirius and her cat form had outrun the masses that were following on behind. She was about to reprimand Hermione for her actions when she saw the sobbing witch in Padma's arms. Minerva headed straight over there, feeling like having a good kick at this brute herself.
Tonks was soon with them too, though she and Sirius were quickly pressed into crowd control mode as the rest of the school arrived. Whispers soon spread back along the crowd, alerting those who could not see to what was going on. This led to a wizard elbowing his way to the front, he needed to see for himself.
"You told me you had a headache, and didn't want any dinner. Now I can see why, you had arranged to meet someone else..."
The angry redhead was soon faced with Neville. "Ron, I understand you're upset, but this is not the time or place for this."
His twin brothers were soon at his side, leading Ron away from the sight of his sobbing girlfriend wrapped in Padma's cloak.
An angry Harry then approached Tonks, changing language so the masses wouldn't understand. ""What are the chances of the ministry being able to arrest this piece of shit?""
Knowing Harry wouldn't like what she had to say, Tonks was still truthful with him. ""In any case where only two people are involved, it comes down to his word against hers. That Lavender appears to have agreed to meet him, and probably went into that broom closet willingly, would certainly count against her. I'm not saying it's right, Harry, just how the law would look at it. If we took this to a trial, they would quickly drag Lavender's reputation through the dirt - and almost certainly be successful in him avoiding being found guilty.""
Augusta had arrived with Poppy. As the healer headed for Lavender, she joined their conversation. ""Because he's not a Hogwarts student, the harshest sanction I can bring is to exclude him from the castle. Only Dumbledore can administer any further punishment...""
This wasn't good enough for Harry. ""Contact Amelia, see if we can get him shipped back to Bulgaria. If he wants to challenge that, he can face me in a duel. The honour of Hogwarts demands no less of me.""
Augusta agreed, quickly directing a couple of Durmstrang students to get their injured colleague out of her school. She would be contacting Dumbledore right after she spoke to Amelia. Augusta couldn't miss the way her grandson kept looking from Lavender to Parvati, his anger matching Harry's at what he was seeing here. Getting this Marko out the castle quickly might just save his life. Poppy and Minerva soon had Lavender on route to the infirmary while the staff cleared the corridor.
Harry turned and bowed his head to Nick and Helena. "Thank you for your actions tonight, they allowed me to get here just in time."
"We ghosts have always patrolled the castle, helping to keep Hogwarts safe. It was only when headmasters stopped listening to us that we began neglecting our duties. Pureblood males could do no wrong, and no one wanted to hear a ghost's complaint against them. Thank you champion, for once more restoring the balance." Helena and Nick then bowed to him, with Nick having to hold his head in place as he did so.
Blaise was holding a shaking and tearful Parvati, only releasing her into the arms of her twin. Neville stood beside him as they watched the sisters draw comfort from each other.
"Harry got here in time to prevent what that bastard intended, otherwise even Hermione wouldn't have been able to stop him. She certainly made sure it won't be happening again, you could practically feel the crunch as she put her foot through Marco's nuts."
Understanding this wasn't a brother warning his sister's boyfriend off, Blaise nodded in agreement. "Good, any wizard who tries to force themselves on a witch deserves at least that. We are two lucky wizards, Neville. If that was Parvati he tried that with, I would have killed him."
"If that was Pav, he'd already be dead. Hermione may be able to stop Harry but none of us could have stopped Padma avenging our sister. Parting her from Lavander was one of the best things that happened to Pav, she finally grew up. You are also very good for her, don't mess it up Blaise."
Here was the gentle warning, and Blaise knew just how to respond. "I don't intend to, I really like Parvati - and Padma scares me a lot more than you do."
This almost drew a smile from Neville. "Just goes to show how intelligent you are." Both then moved to hug their witches.
Hermione was also trying to talk Harry down. "You got here in time, Harry, and saved a great crime from being committed. You can't do any more than what you've already done, we can't right all the world's wrongs on our own."
Harry held her close, whispering a question in her ear. "Why are you so good to me?"
She smiled and held him tighter. "Because I'm your girl."
The three couples then headed off to the room to eat, none of them fancied returning to the great hall tonight. They would have a quiet meal together, leaving the staff to deal with the fallout from the situation. Padma brought up tomorrow's task, just to have something else to talk about. Parvati couldn't believe Harry still didn't know what he'd be facing, or that he wasn't troubled by that.
"I could easily find out, just asking Hogwarts would give me the information I needed. That would be cheating though, and if you're going to cheat then the entire tournament becomes pointless.
Parvati's confession that she would just have to know raised a few smiles, the other five well aware of her nosey nature.
At breakfast that morning, they'd heard Lavender's father had removed her from school - what happens next was anyone's guess. Marco was also now back in Bulgaria, the only thing that stopped Mr Brown calling him out. Harry had found himself being quietly approached by Fred and George, it seems Ron was having a hard time dealing with the incident and they were looking for any information that could help their young brother.
"Guys, I don't know what preceded the incident last night. I do know Lavender fought with everything she had, managing to keep him off her long enough until I got there. That's really all I can tell you."
They would think about passing that on to Ron later, both were unsure of how he would react at the moment. Their parents arriving at the castle today couldn't have happened at a better time.
Neither Viktor nor any Durmstrang students had entered the castle since the incident, Harry expected to hear their Bulgarian friend's views on the matter later.
At the moment he was busy trying to convince a tearful Orla and a concerned Euan that he would be fine. Both would be meeting their parents later too, the first task started in a few hours. Harry joking that they would have to offer his apologies for not being there restored in some weak smiles, all knew the parents would get to see him compete.
Hermione's shriek beside him had Harry on his feet, knife in hand and searching for danger. What he saw froze him completely, Padma, Neville and Luna shooting past him soon cured Harry of that affliction.
With a wide smile, he made his way to the hall doors. Barely remembering to bow to Master Sharpshard and say hello to Sapphire, Harry then engulfed the only mother he'd ever really known in a needy hug. Hermione of course had beaten him there, hugged Sapphire, their mum, and now held their baby brother in her arms.
Emma had a tight hold of her eldest son, she whispered in his ear. "There are three shooters now setting up on the stadium roof. There are also enough warriors and aurors out there to fight a war. Your trainer here wouldn't even let me walk up to the castle by myself, Sapphire of course was coming too. You'll be careful and come back to us?"
"Of course mum, Dobby will let you know as soon as it's over. We'll be back in the castle as soon as we can after that."
"Jamie and I are going to stay in the castle with Henrica and Astrid, I just couldn't sit there and watch you being put in danger."
Although loath to intrude on this tender moment, her excitement meant Hermione couldn't hold back any longer. "Harry, look at the size Jamie's getting. I'm sure he recognised me."
He let Emma go to then dote on his baby brother. The entire school was now used to this side of Harry, having watched him often with his goddaughter. The group was soon surrounded by all their friends, with Jamie being introduced to the entire school as Tonks took Emma over to sit with her and Henrica.
""We'll get a chance to sit down and talk with everyone after this is over, they're too psyched-up at the moment. It's not like Amelia's party, we've known this was coming and had time to prepare.""
""Oh, I know all about that. I just left a husband who has been preparing to put a bullet in someone for the last few weeks. It feels totally alien to a couple of dentists, until I remember who these people are - and what they will be here to do. If I had a gun I would shoot them myself, I just kissed all three of them and said to aim true before I headed here.""
Tonks had her arm around the woman, understanding exactly how she felt.
Augusta then rose to speak to the hall. "Those of you who worked in the stadium in Kingussie, you have my thanks for volunteering to do so again in our own version. Professor Lupin and Lord Black will be in charge of that operation today. The first family portkey is due to arrive at two, with everyone due to be here by three. Professors Flitwick and Sprout are in charge of that area, check with them if you're not sure when your family will arrive. Since most visitors will be flooing or apparating to Hogsmeade and walking up, they too will begin arriving shortly. With all the organisation taken care of, I would just like to quietly wish our champion good luck. I say quietly because it looks as if Jamie Granger has fallen asleep."
Such was the respect for their champion, the applause barely raised above a murmur so they wouldn't wake the baby. Harry handed Jamie over to Pansy, it was time for them to leave. Tonks and Master Sharpshard escorted the four, plus Sapphire and Luna, out the hall to the stadium.
As Pansy was handing Jamie back to his mother, Draco finally figured out what was bothering him. "There's more going on here than just this tournament? Those four are like coiled snakes, ready to strike. Are you expecting trouble today?"
Emma wasn't really sure what to say, Henrica solved her problem. "Harry's name was originally stuck in that cup for a purpose, we're just being careful..."
It all seemed to click into place for the Slytherin. "Shit! Harry's using himself as bait..."
Seeming Emma flinch at his deduction told him he was right, Draco immediately regretted it though as the pain on the woman's face was clear to see. "I'm sorry, Emma, I wasn't thinking. You know Harry will be though, those four will have gone over all the possibilities dozens of times."
"I know, Draco, it's just hard to sit here and be confident. There's no way I could watch however."
The full implications began to hit the Slytherin. "If Harry's the bait, then there will be a trap waiting to be sprung. Can we assume Amelia and Barchoke are involved in this too?"
A nod saw the couple leaving, Pansy couldn't miss the expression of awe Draco wore. "What's going on?"
"The Order of the Avis are prepared for war, with the ministry and the goblin nation fully behind them. The dark lord thinks he's holding all the aces, Harry though has switched the deck on him. Voldemort is left with nothing but a pair of jokers while Harry has a full house. Should they turn up today, the battle will be over as quickly as that night at Susan's party - with five thousand people watching."
"But they can't get through the wards, can they? Our mums..."
"...are in no danger, or Harry would have done something. He might put himself up as bait, but he'd never do the same to someone else. Would you like to bet me the other three had to practically fight him to be included. I'm also certain no one else knows, Luna would be in a worse state than Emma if she thought those four were heading off to battle."
Pansy had to agree with that, Luna certainly considered all four of them family. Pansy had been looking forward to today, not least because they would get to meet their mothers. Now she was going to be a bundle of nerves until the first task was over.
Harry could feel the nerves in the changing room. Fleur tried to smile in greeting, it came across more resembling a grimace. Viktor could barely look in his direction, obviously embarrassed by what happened last night.
Amos and Umbridge entered the new changing room, it was time the competitors found out just what they were facing. Pulling out a purple silk bag, the three champions were given their instructions.
"In a moment, you will put your hand in this bag and draw out a model of what you'll be facing. There is a different breed for each of you, and it will also determine what order you face the first task. Once you draw, it will start the clock ticking. Whoever chooses the number one position will only have thirty minutes to form their strategy. Ladies first."
Fleur placed her hand in the bag, withdrawing a tiny model of a Hebridean Black dragon that had a number two around its neck. Having her fears confirmed saw Fleur almost drop the animated model. Things then got a lot worse when Amos described exactly what they had to do with their real dragons.
"There are three dragons, all nesting females sitting on eggs. We have added a golden egg to their nests, your task is to retrieve that egg."
Viktor then drew a Welsh Green, and pole position. Harry found himself left with a Hungarian Horntail and the number three spot, this saw his eyebrows raise questioningly. He was well aware he'd gotten the most aggressive breed of dragon, even his model was bigger than the other two.
Dolores couldn't hide her delight at this outcome, nor could she wait to offer an explanation. "It was felt that the person going last had an advantage, in that they would have longer to form their strategy. Therefor the dragons get progressively more dangerous as the task unfolds."
She was disappointed though when Harry just shrugged his shoulders and then lay down on one of the benches, he appeared ready to take a nap. Dolores had at least wanted to see him sweat, she could still hope the goblin-loving brat might get seriously injured.
The champions were told they would be called when it was time to face their dragon, Harry had his eyes closed and gave no indication he had heard.
Dan was enclosed in what was a superb shooting hide, built as part of the stadium roof structure. He was encased in the centre hide, giving him full views of the arena and the ground leading up to the castle. Barchoke was in another hide well to his right, Frank equidistant on his left. They had communication mirrors set and Dan found himself using his as the first dragon was being manoeuvred into the arena.
"Shit! How the hell is Harry supposed to face that? If I let that monster anywhere near our boy without shooting it, Emma will skin me alive."
This drew a chuckle from Barchoke. "Relax, Dan. Harry is a goblin, all our children study dragons in depth. He will know all its strengths and weaknesses."
"Okay, but you get to tell Hermione and Emma if anything goes wrong."
Like his son, Frank didn't say much. Like Neville too though, when Frank spoke they all listened. "W..we're here to make sure nothing goes w..w..wrong."
They all took that to heart. They were here to ensure nothing happened to their family, each would have no hesitation doing that. As the best shot, Dan was in the middle and would target Voldemort. Frank had asked to target Lestrange, leaving Barchoke to take down Rookwood. That was ideal conditions though, they had their mirrors in case things went wrong with plan A.
Albus sat in the stand, fuming with anger. Not only had that idiot Marko caused him heaps of trouble, walking into the stadium graphically illustrated just how far things had changed since he left. There were stalls providing food he'd never heard off, goblins mixing with wizards and even muggles in Hogwarts. This had to be stopped, Albus Dumbledore had to stop it.
A/N thanks for reading