Excitement was rife inside Hogwarts, today was the first quidditch match to be played in the new stadium. If that wasn't a big enough incentive to get excited about, Viktor Krum would be playing too. Factor in that there would also be loads of parents here to see the match and the level of excitement at breakfast was perhaps understandable.
Ginny didn't seem to be sharing that excitement however as she slipped in beside Luna and Colin at the Ravenclaw table. "Mind if I have breakfast with you guys? Between Ron threatening to throw up everything he's ever eaten because of his nerves, and Lavender then slobbering all over him in the name of trying to keep Ron calm, I couldn't eat a bite over there. My teeth gnash every time I hear her squeak 'Won Won' at him."
"Why is Ron nervous?"
Shaking her head, Ginny answered that ridiculous question. "Hermione, he's playing against Viktor Krum today..."
"Okay, everyone knows my knowledge of quidditch could hardly be called extensive, but Ron's a keeper while Viktor's a seeker. They may be flying in the same bit of sky, Ginny, but the only way Viktor will be anywhere near Ron is if the snitch thing flies up the leg of those ridiculous trousers they wear."
Padma's knife and fork hit her plate. "Well, that's me done eating. Just the thought of Viktor searching through Ron's britches for a little golden ball has put me off food for the rest of the day..."
There were spit-takes being done up and down the table as Ravenclaws discovered they couldn't eat or drink while laughing at the same time. Purely out of academic interest, Padma was rather relieved to notice that even a veela couldn't pull off having pumpkin juice spurting out her nose with any degree of elegance. Roger was choking with laughter himself while rubbing his girlfriend's back - the only good thing to come out of New Year as he'd asked Fleur on the stroke of midnight.
After getting her breath back from laughing, Ginny managed to answer Hermione again. "Don't let Ron hear you say that. He's built this match up until it's a battle between him and his hero."
"Yeah, right! Well we don't need to be Sapphire to work out the odds on how that contest is going to go..."
Harry interrupted his mate. "Just in case you do, Sapphire's here - with father."
Hermione was out her seat in a flash, all thoughts to do with quidditch already forgotten about. They were all soon given a reminder though. There was quite the delegation visiting this morning, Bill being accompanied by his father, Percy, Penny and Jenny. Greetings were being exchanged before Ron burst into the group, dragging Lavender with him.
"Dad, Percy, you're here to see my first game?"
"Sorry son, we have a meeting first. Your mum will be there from the start, and we'll be along as soon as we can."
Ron felt the red mist descending but managed to shake his anger off. It was obvious this meeting involved Harry, and without Harry a certain Ron Weasley wouldn't be playing quidditch today - far less going up against Viktor Krum. He couldn't quite hide his disappointment though.
"That's fine, dad, just make it whenever you can."
This saw Barchoke intervene. "We shall hold the part of our meeting that concerns your father first, letting him get to your game as quickly as possible."
Wearing his first smile of the day, Ron bowed to the goblin the way he'd seen Harry do. "Thank you, Ambassador. This is my first ever match and it would mean a lot for my father to be there." Lavender was then dragged back to the Gryffindor table, Ron felt ready to tackle some breakfast now. Arthur was left standing with his arm still around his daughter but his chin now almost hitting the floor.
Jenny's arm was around Euan and the mother could see something was bothering her son. It didn't take long to discover what it was. "With Viktor now being in our house, Hufflepuff are going to support Durmstang today. Bill was a Gryffindor though, and three of his brothers are playing today."
The boy's blond hair was soon being ruffled by the eldest Weasley brother. "Don't you worry about that, just go to the match with your friends and have a good time."
Barchoke had signalled for Tonks to join them, Luna led Sapphire over to the Ravenclaw table while Euan and Natalie led Jenny to Hufflepuff.
Everyone else headed off to the room for their meeting. When they were all seated, Barchoke indicated for Arthur to start.
"The muggle government didn't take too well to being told we would look after this matter ourselves, they're really struggling over your ages - and you being so heavily involved in this. They're asking if a representative can meet with you, and possibly your parents. Even the suggestion that you four are somehow being coerced into this has Amelia, Amos and The Minister absolutely raging."
The four were looking at each other for suggestions when Tonks exerted her bodyguard authority. "If they want a meeting then we'll hold it here, I'm not chancing them trying to kidnap these four - for their own good of course. Hogwarts won't let anyone touch Harry in this room, that's better than any security we could come up with."
Harry was objecting to that plan on slightly different grounds. "We don't want to be sneaking people in and out of Hogwarts too often. The last thing we need is Dumbledore getting suspicious, we intend to continue needling him so he's kept off-balance. By all means bring this person to Hogwarts but do it on the day of the second task, all the family will certainly be here that day."
This presented another problem though, one that Hermione picked up on immediately. "Not all of them know what's going on, and that's the way we want it to stay. Why have Luna, Susan or Hannah worrying over this when there is nothing they can do about it." Hermione aimed her question at their father. "I'm assuming Sapphire now knows, since she works for you?"
"Our department are heavily involved in this, she simply couldn't work there and not know. Jenny of course has no idea what's happening, and I think we would all agree that's for the best. Neville, please congratulate your grandmother on an astute piece of negotiating. That was a masterstroke she pulled to get her ball."
Arthur was running the current suggestions through his mind and liking what he was coming up with. "I could sit with this representative during the tasks, I would need your help keeping your mother at the other end of the stadium however." Bill and Percy quickly agreed to that. "After the task, this representative could then meet with the people involved..."
"Those meetings would have to be short. It's father's birthday, I won't let anything interfere with that." Harry's declaration brooked no argument. They had gone to a lot of trouble to get their father here on his birthday, they weren't about to then waste that by sitting in some meeting.
With that part agreed upon, Arthur headed off to watch three of his sons play quidditch for Gryffindor. Barchoke could then bring those remaining up to date on the Gringotts side of things.
"Finding a method of bypassing the wards is not looking promising. We're basically trying to build a Loki Talisman, something that has been taboo in our society for centuries. It doesn't sit well with our people that they are trying to discover methods of bypassing the very things that protect us. There is also the fact that these attempts would usually be enough to see heads rolling along the floor. The Director has called a halt to the research, while berating himself for having that one we confiscated destroyed."
Harry hadn't really expected any other news. "Gringotts wouldn't be safe while one of them existed, destroying the talisman was the right thing to do - the only thing to do."
That Neville agreed with Harry surprised no one, that he spoke so passionately about it did. "Harry's right, can you imagine what would happen if one of those devices fell into the hands of someone like Riddle? It's far better to know our families are safe, and then rely on Amelia getting those wards down. I also think we need to know when the final task is. With gran, Tonks and Amos on the panel they should be able to decide it amongst themselves - long before involving Madam Maxime and making it official."
Padma could see where her Neville was coming from with this, she just hoped he was looking forward to the weekend before that task as much as his betrothed was.
Blood bonding was traditionally done as part of a couple's wedding ceremony, neither she nor Hermione had been able to find any information on couples undergoing the ceremony years before actually getting married. Padma wasn't sure whether the bonding played any part in her feelings, perhaps it was the extreme danger they knew they would be facing shortly, something though was playing havoc with her hormones. Neville just needed to smile at her and she was ready to rip the shirt of his back. Only hearing from Hermione that she was the same, with Harry of course, kept Padma on an even keel.
Agreeing with Neville that was a good idea saw Barchoke move on to the next matter. "Since Harry has announced to everyone that day is my birthday, I really have to be seen inside the stadium. Ramrao is taking my place in the roof. You'll again have three fathers protecting you, and none will hesitate to put a bullet into any threats. All our intelligence and analysis is pointing to a portkey for the last task, but we won't be taking any chances on the twenty ninth either. Umbridge has passed her latest package to Riddle, we're waiting to see what he gets back to her with."
His father not being one of the shooters didn't bother Harry in the slightest. With both girls going to be involved in this task, he was certainly happy to put his trust in that particular trio to keep them safe.
The Ambassador's attention now turned to Tonks, Barchoke then gave out the best news he had for them. "Tonks, we think your portkey can be adapted to take you to wherever Harry is - the portkey's blood binding passing straight through any wards."
The room had provided two large sofas for the meeting. Tonks was currently sitting between Padma and Hermione, their respective partners on either side of them. Her arms shot out and hugged both girls to her, all three had tears in their eyes. "Thank you, Barchoke. You have no idea how much this means to me."
"I'll tell you what it means to me, Tonks. The chances of these four getting through this just took a huge jump in the right direction. From the way Padma and my daughter are clinging on to you, they believe that too."
"That might be news you want to pass on to Amelia and Mr Weasley, he can now tell this muggle representative we have a responsible adult with us."
A smiling Padma may have been wiping tears from her cheeks but that didn't mean she was going to let such an opportunity slip bye. "Stretching the truth a bit there, Harry. Tonks, a responsible adult?"
Bill had the last word though. "If she's going to be in this fight, then it's time she started training with you four - and there's no time like the present."
A Hogwarts' elf appearing with her duelling robe gave Mrs Lupin some idea of what she'd just volunteered for.
Harry kissed Hermione, hugged Padma, Sapphire and a giggling Gabrielle before picking up his broom case to wait on Fleur saying cheerio to her younger sister. Watching the French champion smile as Padma and Sapphire took Gabrielle by the hands and walk away with Professor Snape was a massive turnaround from the last task, all three champions were looking forward to this.
They left Hermione, Cedric and Roger at the main door of Hogwarts with Professor Sprout while Master Flitwick escorted the champions to the stadium. Their route was currently under canvas so none of the champions could glimpse what awaited them, Filius explained that the canvas would be removed so the crowd could then see, since this would become the marked safe route for their ground hostages to get to the stage.
Filius shook all their hands as he left them in the changing room, a changing room that this time didn't have silencing charms on it. Hearing how your fellow champion performed was not considered an advantage for the second task, since they all knew what they would be facing.
Fleur was excited rather than scared this time. She kissed both her fellow champions on the cheek just before leaving, crediting Harry for her change in attitude. "I decided to take a friend's advice, just go out zere and do my best."
While waiting on Fleur's attempt at the course to start, Viktor nodded toward Harry's case. "I see you decided to go vith a broom?"
"Now Viktor, that would be telling."
Graham Cole thought he'd seen and heard it all. For the last twenty eight years, the psychologist had been working more and more for the government. It all started pretty innocuously, assessing Foreign Office staff for overseas embassy postings. As his reputation for getting it right grew, so did his security clearance. He now worked almost exclusively for the country's security services, assessing assets before and after they were allocated sensitive assignments. He was renowned for his cool and calm manner, no matter what he heard. At the moment, Graham Cole's cool head was in imminent danger of exploding from trying to process what was all around him.
It had all began when that Arthur fellow had asked him to touch an old boot, humouring this strange request saw Graham transported from Surrey to Scotland in an instant - and things had just gotten weirder from there.
Graham was here to discover why these people thought it was acceptable to let four children fight three deadly terrorists. All his preconceived ideas though had vanished by the time he was standing on Scottish soil - in front of the most magnificent castle he'd ever laid eyes on. The stadium that was their destination didn't look too shabby either. The food stalls were familiar territory, the little creatures serving the food though were a complete mystery to him, as was a good percentage of the audience.
Only after being led to his seat in the stadium did Graham realise he was now surrounded by some of the very people he had hoped to meet. The name Emma Granger finally kicking his brain back into gear. The woman was holding a baby in her arms and made no attempt to hide her hostility, hostility that was aimed in his direction.
"Mrs Granger, I understand you and your husband are dentists. Where is your husband, will he be joining us?"
Sirius had erected a charm that meant anyone trying to listen in to the group's conversation would just hear a faint buzzing sound. Knowing it was safe to talk, Emma didn't hold back. Indicating Smita and Alice, who were also part of the group, she told Graham where their menfolk were. "All three of our husbands are currently concealed in the stadium roof, armed with rifles and ready to blow the head off these terrorists if they dare to show their faces here today. We will do whatever it takes to protect our sons and daughters, and Dan and I especially resent our own government insinuating otherwise."
Seeing she apparently represented the view of everyone present, Graham decided honesty was not just his best policy here - it was the only thing that stood any chance of him receiving the information he'd been sent to gather. "Mrs Granger, you of all people must know how strange this is for us. We simply don't understand the situation, I'm hoping it can be explained to me today."
Barchoke, Ragnok, Rainha, Amelia, Remus, Neville and the Blacks completed the group that surrounded Arthur and Graham, it was Barchoke who took up the explanation.
"The information you were given on the Potter killers is relatively accurate, though not complete. A prophecy was made that claimed a child would be born with the power to defeat Voldemort. Not one for taking chances, this so-called dark lord acted to ensure this prophecy could never come to pass. He murdered both Harry's parents but, when he used the same curse on baby Harry, his curse rebounded and destroyed Voldemort's body. This unfortunately left Harry an orphan, one that I immediately adopted - and I am prouder than I could ever put into words of my son."
Sirius then took over the narrative. "Voldemort is such a sick puppy, he had delved deeply into the dark arts in an attempt to make himself immortal. He was partially successful with his efforts in that he didn't die that night. Those measures have been gradually stripped away and he's now mortal, the bastard is still fixated on killing my godson though. He's set this entire scenario up as an elaborate trap, not knowing we're monitoring his every move. If only we knew his location, we wouldn't be sitting here having this conversation - he would already be dead."
"Mr Cole, my husband and I were aurors, almost a cross between your police and a soldier. We both fought Voldemort in the last war, there is no way on this earth we want our Neville involved in any of this. We all want to see this conflict end so people can get on with just living their lives, this is currently the only option available for achieving that outcome. That these criminals are concentrating all their efforts on this attempt is also the only reason why your people aren't up to their armpits in dead bodies, and these four know this."
Graham switched his attention to the boy, though he used the term boy in the loosest possible sense. This young man physically appeared much closer to sixteen or seventeen, rather than his reported age of fourteen. His eyes though seemed to belong to someone much older, eyes that were constantly scanning his surroundings. Graham didn't miss that his hand was also on the hilt of what appeared to be a sword. "And what do you think of this, Neville?"
The shrug of his shoulders would be recognised by parents of teenagers the world over. Graham was merely being humoured here, Neville apparently had far more important things on his mind.
"Voldemort wants Harry dead. He'll have to go through us first to get to Harry, it's as simple as that."
"Surely though, that terrible task shouldn't be left to the four of you?" Graham understood he'd made a mistake when the teen's steely gaze now fixed on him.
"Instead of asking stupid questions, open your eyes and really see what's right in front of you. Amelia has this place flooded with aurors, while Director Ragnok has warriors and centurions all around us. Those three bastards turn up today and we won't have to lift a finger, it will be all over in seconds. We don't think he'll come today though, otherwise I wouldn't be wasting my time talking to you."
They all then heard the real reason for Neville's anger. "Our parents are having a hard enough time dealing with this, they don't need outsiders making the situation worse. I'll give you some free advice however, upset our girls today and Harry will kick you out of the castle as quickly as your government withdrew your offer of help. Our previous deeds see us recognised as adults in both our societies. If yours can't or won't accept that, tough luck. Just stay out of our way."
Alice had her hand on his arm now. "Easy son. You just said it yourself, nothing will touch them today."
Neville merely nodded, his eyes returning to scanning for any signs of trouble.
Graham never got to say anymore as a stunningly beautiful woman made her way onto the small stage, the announcer letting him know she was the French champion. Watching as she climbed onto her broom destroyed every myth about witches he'd ever heard. The countdown was loud with the entire crowd being whipped up by the announcer, reaching zero saw her shoot off that stage like a rocket.
Not for the first time, Graham's chin was resting on his chest as this blond bombshell zoomed over, under and between obstacles, all while flying hazards continually tried to knock her out of the air. It was a breathtaking display of ariel acrobatics that would make the R.A.F.'s Red Arrows display team appear as if they weren't really trying. Passing through the last obstacle saw her swerve onto the tallest tower in the castle, picking up a passenger who could only be her younger sister. Blonde hair streaked behind the siblings like a victory pennant as the broom was now piloted along a protected route at breakneck speed, coming to a screaming halt on the stage as the crowd were now going crazy.
Her task though was only half done as she leapt off the stage with her wand now in her hand, Graham at least recognised what this was. There were large boulders dotted between the stadium and the castle, some offering concealment for animated soldiers that attacked. Fleur had to subdue them, fighting her way through to her second volunteer. As she reached Roger, Professor Sprout shouted go. This released Roger to act, he grabbed Fleur's hand as they raced for the stadium to finish the task.
"One last push love, Gabrielle's waiting on us. You were magnificent!"
Needing what breath she had for the final sprint, Fleur didn't answer her boyfriend but instead gave everything she had left to the run. The crowd were roaring her home and a hyper Gabrielle was jumping up and down on the stage to encourage her sister to even greater efforts. Roger's arm around her waist swept Fleur up the steps and onto the stage, where both were immediately engulfed by a crying Gabrielle. Her little sister's wide smile though told everyone these were happy tears. To Fleur, that was worth all the effort she had just expended. Roger and Gabrielle's arms were the only thing currently keeping Fleur on her feet. She couldn't help but think Harry was right, neither scores or time mattered at the moment. Fleur was happy simply knowing she'd done her very best.
The entire stadium was still on its feet applauding her efforts, the crowd only quieting down to see what marks were awarded. When Tonks, Amos, Augusta and a very proud Olympe all awarded fives, the highest mark they could give, the applause became thunderous.
Fleur was being led away by a beaming Roger and Gabrielle, with Madam Pomfrey needing to do nothing more than dispense a mild pick-me-up potion, as they headed to the seats reserved to watch Viktor and Harry's attempts. Both girls spotted their parents in the crowd, their mother and father were still on their feet and applauding like crazy.
Graham couldn't help but comment on the reactions of those he was sitting with. "I thought this was a competition? You seemed rather pleased that the French champion did so well."
Emma soon put him straight. "Roger is one of Harry and Hermione's best friends, while the Delacour family spent Christmas with us in Kingussie. Sapphire's taking part in the next task, and she is certainly someone considered family by most of us sitting here."
An angry Remus indicated one of the judges to Graham. "That lady is an auror and has been Harry's full time ministry bodyguard since the Azkaban breakout, she is also now my wife. We married at Harry's Kingussie estate over the Christmas holidays, and spent what was left of those holidays honeymooning on his private island. You better believe we consider all four of these teenagers family. Thanks to some outstanding work by Director Ragnok's people, my wife is going to be in this fight with them. If there was a way to get any more of us in there from the start, don't you think we'd be taking it?"
It was unusual for Sirius to be a calming influence but that's what he needed to do here. A steadying hand on his best friend's shoulder reminded Remus they were all in this together, surely this arsehole could see how much this was costing the family?
It was Henrica's turn to let this man know their views, she held her daughter in her arms as her emotions added weight to her words. "Harry is Astrid's godfather, Remus' wife her godmother. Jamie is Harry and Hermione's brother while Neville and Padma are his godparents. What you need to understand is that to Voldemort and his death eaters, both these beautiful children are nothing more than vermin. Purely due to their circumstances of birth, he wouldn't hesitate to kill them both. We fight to protect our children, these two here and those yet to be born."
The verbal assault, that's really the only way Graham could think of this, was temporarily halted by the arrival of the Bulgarian champion. Whatever his final report to his waiting superiors concluded, he was already certain of one thing. This was a very close-knit family who were clearly hurting from this horrendous decision. Any thoughts of the children being coerced in the slightest way to do this was simply a nonstarter.
All these adults clearly didn't want their children anywhere near this, it would appear as if they had no other option for stopping this homicidal madman. One thing even his government was adamant about, this maniac and his followers had to be stopped.
Having only seen one person fly a broom before, Graham was in no way an expert on the subject. He didn't need to be though to instantly tell the Bulgarian was even quicker on a broom than his French counterpart had been. He was reminded of slalom skiing, and how the true experts could shave a little off their times by taking a slightly tighter line through the gates and maintaining every ounce of speed they could.
The crowd were cheering like mad as he shot through the last gate and took aim for the tower, he hardly seemed to slow down as the goblin female jumped on the back of his broom and the pair streaked down the marked route to the stage.
Viktor dismounted the broom at a run, Sapphire's encouragement ringing in his ears. His training with Harry and his friends was now paying off. Not only did he feel fitter than at any time in his life, he had also practiced similar scenarios to this in that fantastic room Harry controlled.
It seemed like no time at all before Viktor and Cedric were racing down the safe route to reach the stage, and stop the clock. To great cheers, Viktor completed the course eight seconds faster than Fleur.
Turning to his girlfriend, Roger didn't see the disappointment reflected there he'd expected. Instead, Fleur's expression was almost one of awe. "I got within eight seconds of Viktor?"
This saw her receiving a kiss from her boyfriend. "When I said you were magnificent, I was talking about your efforts today - and not just about you in general."
Fleur then returning Roger's affections saw Gabrielle sigh. "I can not wait to come to 'Ogwarts."
With all the judges already awarding Fleur fives for her efforts, there was no hesitation in awarding Viktor the same score. He had certainly earned it.
As the applause finally began to die down, the six friends were all now congratulating each other on their efforts - while waiting on Harry's arrival in the stadium. It was now common knowledge that Harry had promised to put on a show, the crowd were expectantly waiting on this show starting.
It was in these few moments of silence, Amelia made her opinion known to the representative of the muggle government. "Mr Cole, taking these lunatics down is the job of my department, one I can assure you we intend to fulfil. Voldemort is going to try and sneak a device to Harry like the one you used to get here today, this will take Harry right into a supposed trap. His friends anticipated this though and took measures to ensure they would be at Harry's side when this happened. I don't mind admitting I cried tears of joy when I was informed our goblin friends had managed to include Auror Lupin in there too. Sorry Remus, but we all know her being there swings the odds more in our favour."
Remus could only nod to acknowledge Amelia was right. His whole world however was now going to be in this fight, he just didn't know how he was going to survive if they didn't.
"What we need from you, Mr Cole, is to inform your government we have no intention of letting them fight this battle for us. Harry is using himself as bait to lead us to Voldemort, their job is then to survive until we can get there and take care of it. Since these five are exceptionally gifted, and I intend for the time involved to be under a minute, you can perhaps get some idea of why we're backing this. If we had a safer option, I can assure you we would be taking it."
There was silence from the group now as Harry entered the stadium, Graham had to admit the first impression Harry made on him was certainly not that of a fourteen year old boy. Dressed in a tunic that clearly displayed some kind of rank, and with a sword strapped to his back, the word 'gladiator' was the first thing that came to his mind.
An expectant hush fell over the stadium as Harry sat his case on the stage. Viktor had easily won both quidditch matches against Hogwarts opposition, no one had really expected anything else. He was currently in the lead here too, but this time his opposition was the Hogwarts champion, Harry Crow. As Lee started counting Harry down, you could almost taste the expectation in the air as the crowd screamed the descending numbers along with the announcer.
As they got to three, Harry opened his case and removed something that clearly wasn't a broom, it only took a few seconds for everyone to discover what this item was. At zero, a now golden Harry jumped off the stage and began with the ground course. The first duelling dummy that jumped out was blasted right back as the pump action shotgun claimed its first victim. The second one faired even worse as it went down missing its head.
The vast majority of the crowd had now seen guns being fired, at tiny clay disks though. Watching what this weapon could do to an opponent temporarily hushed the crowd. As Harry proceeded to make mincemeat of the ground course, Viktor was using the lull in noise to ask Sapphire a very pertinent question. "How is he going to rescue Padma with that thing?"
"Wait and see, Viktor, wait and see." The smirk she was wearing told the Bulgarian he'd already lost the second task.
With the gun now empty, Harry dropped the weapon and his sword dealt with the last two remaining automated opponents - without using any magic. He soon reached Hermione. "Ready to go, love?"
"What kept you?" With that, she raced passed him before leaping into the air. Hover however was doing nothing of the sort, the kestrel was flying down the safe route marked for their return. She was instantly joined by Swift as the crowd went wild. It was Hermione who touched down on the stage while Swift deliberately flew around her before tackling the second part of the task. The obstacles were laughable to the bird and, being so small, Swift didn't trigger any of the automated defences.
Severus was up on the tower with Padma, awaiting Harry, and had instantly figured out what was going on here when the other two transformed. "It would seem you are about to be part of this show. Make it good, Miss Patil, make it something they will always remember."
Padma was now standing on the very edge of the tower with her arms spread wide. "Oh we intend to, Professor."
"As soon as the Centurion passes over you, I will call your release. You are good to...go!"
Padma did indeed make it look superb. As soon as the professor said that word, she dived off the tallest tower Hogwarts had to offer.
The crowd that had been cheering only a second ago were now screaming in horror. Those screams became ones of relief and then amazement as they watched the third person today change into a bird. The speed that Padma had generated from diving off the astronomy tower carried Sabre most of the way to the stage, and left Swift barely able to keep up.
Hermione stood on the stage with her arms spread as Harry performed his favourite form of landing. With Sabre transforming into Padma on the stage, Swift landed on Hermione's chest and Harry soon had his lips locked with his mate. The entire stadium was on its feet, going absolutely crazy at what they had just witnessed here today. Green sparks coming from the tower and the entrance informed the four judges that, like the other two champions, Harry's 'rescues' had met with the rules of the competition.
The judges again were all happy to award Harry maximum points, they really had no other option. His time was easily the fastest, making him the outright winner.
Roger was too busy having a playful go at Sapphire to worry about any scores at the moment. "You might have warned us, I nearly had a bloody heart attack when Padma jumped off the tower." A smirking Sapphire didn't get a chance to answer her friend as an amplified voice rang out from within the stadium, and it wasn't Lee's.
"I wish to lodge an official complaint. Not only are the rules of the competition being flouted, the very laws that govern our country have just been broken - in front of thousands of witnesses too!" Albus thought this was his moment, he had them now. Their own arrogance would be their undoing.
"These three have benefited from being considered adults, they now have to realise that these benefits come with certain responsibilities too. All three are clearly animangi, yet none of them are registered. That is against the law, and carries severe custodial penalties. They should be arrested at once, not rewarded by applause and maximum points."
Amelia stood to a now silent stadium, Sirius had cancelled his charm to allow her to be heard. Casting her own soronus, the head of the D.M.L.E. answered those allegations.
"Assistant Headmaster Dumbledore is of course correct..." Amelia had to pause for the groans and cries of 'no' to die down, she was also letting Dumbledore have his moment.
"...being an unregistered animangus is a criminal offence. In his haste to see justice done however, the good professor has overlooked the circumstances here. Centurion Crow is just that, a goblin citizen and a centurion. The ministry has no right to insist any member of The Nation register their abilities. Miss Granger is the centurion's mate, and also a citizen of The Nation, she too has no need to register any abilities."
Both of these proclamations were greeted by cheers, and Dumbledore's mood darkened with each one. Amelia was looking forward to totally ruining his day.
"Miss Padma Patil is not actually a British citizen, her family moving here less than a decade ago from India. She too has no need to register with the Ministry of Magic, though that will change when she becomes a Longbottom next summer. I'm sure the next Lady Longbottom will comply with our country's laws. I happen to know her future in-laws very well, and can state with some certainty that will be the case."
Harry had a girl in each hand as the trio then bowed to Amelia in respect, having worked all this out beforehand. They had figured Dumbledore wouldn't be able to resist, and a public dismantling of his arguments should help keep him off-balance. His fixation on Harry and his friends was now on a par with that of Voldemort, and they planned on treating him the same. When this was all over, Dumbledore and Umbridge were both going down too. They may not get the death penalty, but the odds currently favoured both of them dying in Azkaban.
Lee had quickly done the math and read out the combined scores. "For coming second in the time trial, Viktor receives seventeen points, adding his scores from the judges and the first task gives the Drumstrang Champion a total of seventy nine points."
This was greeted with great cheering from the stadium before they then quietened to hear the rest of the scores.
"Fleur received fifteen points from the time trial part of today's task, added with her other scores gives the beautiful Beauxbaton's Champion eighty points."
Along with the cheering from the stadium, a bewildered Fleur found herself being congratulated by Roger and Gabrielle - she was still in front of Viktor in the tournament?
The stadium now fell silent, this was the score they wanted to hear, Lee didn't keep them waiting too long. "After setting a quite unbelievable time, Harry won today's task and is awarded twenty points..." Some of those in the audience had already worked out the totals for themselves and were cheering loudly. Only Lee's amplified voice being able to pass that same information on to everyone else.
"Combined with his other scores, this gives the Hogwarts Champion eighty two points - and the lead!"
As the spectators now did their best to blow the stadium roof off with the noise they generated, Graham Cole found himself now beside Director Ragnok. He easily remembered Arthur's briefing on this person, classing him as both a monarch and government leader. Graham knew it was no accident he was now next to this particular goblin.
"As Friend Longbottom suggested, I want you to take a good look around you. Goblins, witches wizards and muggles sitting in this bright cold day but warmly accepting each other's company. This has not happened for centuries, and these four teens are almost totally responsible for this wonderful sight."
The three on the stage had signalled for their six friends to join them, all nine were now greeting each other and the applause just continued.
"Harry is a Centurion, a not inconsiderable rank in our society that has never been held by someone not of goblin birth before. His mate, Miss Granger, has been taken to the heart of our Nation like no one has ever managed before. So much so that, in their last battle with these dark wizards and witches, warriors were ready to throw themselves in front of curses if that was the only way to save her. Friend Patil is going to be the first witch or wizard ever to apprentice under a goblin master."
Had Graham not already felt that what he'd witnessed here today was enough to send him into shock, this would have finished it.
Ragnok could see he got through to this man. "Our Nation is taking a grave risk allowing this trap to be sprung. I will be there when it is, and would personally throw myself in front of a curse to protect any one of those four. Our Nation would survive my passing, the goblin presence in Britain might not survive theirs."
There really was only one way Graham could respond to that. "I think I have more than enough information to make my report. Let them enjoy today, and his father's birthday. I will speak to Arthur about taking me home. If it's any consolation, I think my government was wrong to withdraw its offer of help before having this investigation. I certainly hope I can be kept informed of how the final conflict goes."
Ragnok found himself being joined by his mate. Rainha had of course been listening to every word, she smiled as she told Graham the only thing they were certain of. "Believe me, Mr Cole, the entire world will find out how this ends."
Goldskin and his family were sitting in the stadium, watching as his daughter had just participated in a quite astonishing event. His daughter was now being held up in their society of what it was possible for goblins to achieve. That she was a female just added to that sense of achievement, he didn't think he could be prouder of her.
Dolores could only look on in disgust as the pureblood wizard was now clearly in last place, and Dumbledore had been verbally taken apart by a supremely confident Amelia Bones. She also noticed the Bulgarian Minister of Magic sitting beside Fudge for today's proceedings. Cornelius Fudge was beginning to take on the mantle of a statesman, and both ministers appeared to have enjoyed themselves. Disturbingly from Dolores' point of view, neither went anywhere near Albus Dumbledore.
Even she was forced to admit Crow had been impressive today. Using a mixture of muggle and goblin weaponry, combined with those unbelievable animagus transformations, was a breathtaking sight. The Order of Merlin, First Class, Centurion showed himself to the thousands present here today as a formidable opponent. Combined with his equally powerful friends, they just might be unstoppable. After witnessing this, she was beginning to doubt whether Albus could now accomplish his lofty claims.
The only thing stopping Dolores throwing herself onto Bones' mercy was the utter certainty she wouldn't receive any from that hard bitch. Dolores was committed to whatever plan Dumbledore had formed, She simply had no other options.
A/N thanks for reading.
A/N 2 I'm finding myself increasingly busy as we fight to save our school, hence the reason why this chapter is later than usual. Thanks to those few readers who supported our twitter page, (at sign)saveTHS. I completely understand the lack of response, as apathy amongst the parents is one of the greatest problems we face in our current task.