Disclaimer: Neither the world nor the characters belong to me. They are the property of J K Rowling, to whom I owe thanks for letting us use her creation to tell these alternate stories. The challenge belongs to whitetigerwolf, to whom I owe thanks for the idea that kick-started this story. I'll happily claim credit for the story itself, though.

Some Author's notes: Communication and language.

"Normal speech"; "Thoughts"; Lingua Felinarum; {Parseltongue}.

Chapter 34: Like Herding Cats.

The silence of the Great Hall stretched out as all eyes turned to the young feline wizard. The splintering of wood as his claws gouged trails in the table was clearly heard as far away as Daphne's seat at the Slytherin table. As he reluctantly rose, a subtle pressure (he was hard-pressed to describe the sensation as anything else) began to slowly build.

"For the record, I swear here and now on my magic that I did not enter, ask another to enter, or in anyway cause to be entered, my name in the Goblet of Fire. As I swear, so mote it be." The declaration, accompanied by his wand raised high in his hand, was followed by his casting of a spell. "Scintillus Rubeor!"

The crimson sparks fountaining from Harry's wand were enough to prove he retained his magic, and the cacophony of whispers and mutterings that followed was soon drowned by Dumbledore's voice. "I believe you, Harry," he announced. "Sadly, we must proceed from here by the rules and regulations of the tournament. If you would join the Champions in the next chamber, we can begin to investigate how this happened."

Hermione began to release her mates hand to allow him to go, a plan already forming in her mind to scour the shelves of the library for the information they would need, but Harry's grip tightened, refusing to let go, and when she looked up at his face, a flick of his eyes drew her attention to Ron, who made a shooing, 'get-along-now' gesture, before making a circling motion and placing his palms together before mimicking the opening of a book. If she was reading him right...

"Ron's got it covered," Harry hissed in a low voice, barely audible even to her. "He had a feeling you shouldn't be too far from me."

Nodding, the cat-girl rose to her feet, prompting a query from Professor McGonnagal.

"Where, pray tell Miss Granger, are you going?"

"You know me, Professor," Harry interrupted with a Cheshire-like grin. "I'm completely lost without her advice, and I believe I'm going to need it all the more now than I ever have before."

The stern Scotswoman gave the two an appraising stare, then a slight nod, and the couple moved towards the door to the next room.


Fleur was nervous enough before the kitty couple appeared in the door of the chamber. With the arrival of the two felines, it got worse. Still, she managed to speak up without stuttering.

"What eez eet? Do zey need us out in ze Hall again?" She swallowed, as Harry opened a mouth that had far too many sharp teeth for her liking to speak.

"Sorry about this, but we've had another incident in the badly written drama that is the life of Harry Potter. Apparently, the Goblet of Fire can't count. Ow." The last statement was entirely due to the bushy-haired cat-girl nudging his ribs with her elbow, even as Ludo Bagman strode into the chamber with the assorted Heads of each school, and Erasmus Whisk, a Ministry flunky who'd replaced Barty Crouch at his heels. Snape billowed in afterwards, with a nod towards the couple that indicated support.

"It's amazing! Astounding!" The excited former Quidditch star said, almost shouting. "Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the fourth Tri-Wizard Champion!"

As soon as he'd spoken, a number of hostile glares were aimed at the cat-boy. Harry shrugged. "Point of order? How can I be chosen when I didn't put my name in?"

Whisk answered. "Your little oath out there aside, boy, someone obviously did put it in the Goblet, and as such it has formed a binding magical contract. You have no choice but to compete."

Harry grimaced as the pressure he'd been feeling grew. If anything it was growing faster than before. "But the Ministry said I had to be of age to do that, can't we use that to drag me out of this?"

Dumbledore sighed. "As much as I'd like to do so, the Goblet itself has no age-recognition enchantments." He held up a hand to forestall the outburst he knew was coming. "The Ministry put in the laws on age-of-majority long after the Goblet's creation, and then made them ironclad to the point that they couldn't repeal them if forced to. As a result, we have this mess here, where whoever did this, most likely a follower of Voldemort and under heavy disguise, has managed to force us to declare you of age, or completely sacrifice your magic."

The onlookers, including Hermione, suddenly gaped as a pulse of golden light surrounded Harry, as he screamed.


Ron and Neville had gathered their friends quickly as the feline couple had left the Great Hall, and all of them had quickly shifted their garb to the green-black basilisk-skin of the Chaos' bodysuits. The only two who hadn't were Fred and George, who had to settle for their cloaks, as although the armour had been ordered for them, it took time to craft. Where there were couples, they stood close, holding hands for mutual support. Ron would have been restlessly pacing otherwise, had Daphne not latched onto him so.

"I hope he remembers..." the red-haired wizard was muttering. "I just wish I could... I don't know, do something." He looked around at the others, and nodded, as a plan came to mind. Quickly, using their Chaos names to impress the urgency upon them (as unnecessary as it may have been), he laid it out.

"Skyfire, Spiral and Midnight hit the library, please. We need the rules for the TriWizard Tournament, the History of same, and all we can find about the Goblet of Fire, too." As Ginny, Luna and Daphne left the Hall, he turned to Neville. "Grizzlegrim and Rumblerend, we need you to get in touch with your families. There's going to be legal and political impact from this, or I don't know my own name. I'll stay here and wait for our feline friends, let 'em know what's going on."

Fred nudged George as he spoke up. "And what are we doing?"

Ron tapped his chin in thought for few moments before replying. "I want you too to brainstorm. Check out the security and precautions, and figure out how you'd get around them. Your pranking skills are very important here. And try to figure out who we overlooked that might have been responsible for the Goblet spitting out a fourth name in a three-person tournament."

Their tasks defined, the Chaos scattered, and so it was only Ron who heard Harry's scream, which was just as well, for with the room secured as it was, there was nothing anyone out here could do.


The pressure Harry had been pushing through had intensified a hundredfold at Dumbledore's declaration, and the golden light, when combined with Ron's warnings from earlier, was causing tantalising fragments of memory to slap against Harry's control. As Viktor Krum swore under his breath, and Karkaroff blanched at the magical maelstrom pouring out of the cat-boy, Fleur moved quickly behind her Headmistress and strove to be as small as possible. Even Dumbledore was being pushed back slightly by the torrent of arcane energy.

Hermione had it both easier and yet more difficult than any other in the room, save Harry himself. Although the golden light had no direct and immediate effect on her, she could a pressure upon her building, not heavy yet, but as if in anticipation of something. As the magic forced her boyfriend to one knee, a momentary lull in the sheer force of magic caused them each to stagger a little, even as Harry's eyes lit with realisation.

His hand dipped swiftly into his pocket and he lifted a ring towards Hermione as he spoke rapidly., his eyes aglow with both love and desperation. "It's way too soon, but the oath doesn't care," he said, and Hermione's face reflected her sudden understanding even as the pressure resumed. "Hermione, my Mai, will you marry me?"

In the instant of calm that the magical pressure dropped to nothing , and before it could re-orient on her oath, Hermione gave her answer as she embraced her beloved. "Yes, Harry, yes, a thousand times yes!"

The sudden release of the magical pressure bowled over everyone in the room as it rushed outwards from the kitty couple, before diffusing itself into the walls. As the other occupants all struggled to their feet, Fleur turned to Cedric in trepidation.

"So, eez zees some-sing zat happens around zem a lot?"

The Hufflepuff's nod said all it needed to.


The Chaos was gathered in the Chamber that night, sharing their hard sought information. The laws, rules and by-laws of the tournament, as well as the general workings of the Goblet's enchantments, was laid out on a table to one side, with Pakhet pinning down one side of the parchment with the arithmantic array and runic overlay scribed upon it. With so many minds of such calibre working together, the problems were taken apart quickly. It was not as comforting as it might sound. The newly-engaged felines were growling low, but getting louder as the facts piled up. Daphne had the task of summing everything up, and she too would have been growling if she were capable.

"According to Fred and George," she said, fighting hard for control, "Auror Dawlish was on duty last night during the shift starting at eleven pm. Neither of his fellow guards remember anything out of the ordinary, but Dawlish is known to be very susceptible to certain mental magics, and they might have been memory charmed. Susan, thanks for the heads-up from your aunt, by the way, brings us the news that the man is showing signs of having been Imperiused within the past week. At first, we thought the DMLE might be compromised, but we recently discovered he's Fudge's nephew. That's why he keeps showing up like this... if he's on the force, the Auror budget doesn't get as badly cut as Fudge would otherwise want."

Ron piped up for the next bombshell. "I'm fairly sure that's how the name got in the flaming cup, but how did it come out?" He paused, the centre of attention as the kitty couple waited, their tails lashing in anger now, for the rest. "From what Daph, Gin and Luna brought back, it shouldn't have. The Goblet's enchantments are supposed to reject anything that's not your own name, in your own writing, put in by your own hand. Obviously there's a way around that. Polyjuice is out, as it's designed for human transfiguration," at this point, Harry and Hermione both blushed, not that anyone else could tell. "But the aspiring efforts of our own Rogue and Dire," he nodded at his brothers, who looked a touch startled by their new Chaos names, "have given us the answer. The parchment in question had to have been placed under a temporary transfiguration, one that would expire shortly after the name was past the Goblet's protections, but before the Goblet actually chose the Champions. One that made the name on it, match the person putting it in."

If it hadn't been for the fact that this was targeting their friend and de facto leader (however much he'd deny it), the Chaos of the Tigers may have spent a moment in admiration of the plan. But as it did, they instead focused on a very important conclusion.

"Whoever set this up knows about the protections... intimately." Harry's voice was all ice and steel as he said what they were all thinking. "That narrows it down to a couple of dozen people at most. The staff and security teams, and the officials for the TriWizard and other schools' Heads. Still too many choices, and most untouchable without a major kerfuffle."

Hermione threw her tuppence into the hat, so to speak. "So we focus on how the Goblet forgot that three plus one is not three. With all this magic flowing around, it can't have been easy."

Ginny shook her head. "Actually, it was the easiest part of the whole mess," she said. "The enchantments on the Goblet of Fire were rock solid, but the pedestal it stood on? That was carrying traces of something similar to a Confundus Charm, with traces of something like a time-turner, according to the spell. If Harry's name was under a different school, or without the school listed, the blasted relic would throw him out as the only option left, since, as the Goblet's enchantments were intact, it wouldn't choose a second Durmstrang Champion."

Sirius was muttering as he paced. "This is all very convoluted and mostly guesswork," he pointed out. "It's also the only thing that fits. How about loopholes and ways out? Any luck there? As Harry's guardian at the time of choosing, I have to give permission, don't I?"

Susan grimaced. She didn't want to have to break it to him. "Auntie said Dawlish was found with Polyjuice in his pocket... keyed to you. It wasn't 'Auror John Dawlish' putting the name in, but 'Sirius Black'. That was enough to slip by the permissions." As the group sighed with anger and sorrow, she went on. "Whoever did this was well-prepared. They've gone through others to get what they're after, going to no small effort to remain hidden, and they targeted Harry specifically. My guess is that this was Riddle's plan B."

The kitty couple's eyes narrowed. "So now what?" Hermione almost snarled, holding it back by the barest of margins. These were her friends, not the ones responsible for throwing her Harry to the wolves. "Do we just sit around and do nothing?"

The rest of the Chaos grinned, an evil smirk on each face that would have terrified hardened tyrants. Harry thought it strangely comforting, as Daphne replied, slapping down the Tournament rules and guidelines on the table they'd gathered around.

"We've gone over this book for several hours," she explained, "and there are only so many of the recommended challenges that can be implemented in a place like Hogwarts, even with magic. So we believe we can be ready for almost anything. The tasks are usually tests in and of themselves, and the first one is almost always something involving a dangerous creature."

Harry's hand tightened on Hermione's, and the feline wizard growled low. "It won't be anything even part feline," he reasoned aloud. "They wouldn't want to give me any advantage like that. So no griffins, manticores, grecian chimera, sphinxes, or nundu..."

Ginny's gasp broke into Harry's musings. "Not even Minister fudge is that stupid... is he?" She quickly glanced around the room, looking for reassurance, and Harry chuckled.

"I wouldn't have put it beyond the man," he said. "If we weren't Duati Bast'et, he might have thought it a good means of being rid of us." Shaking his head, he returned to his previous train of thought. "So what else is there that would be on that level? Acromantula aren't that bad, sorry Ron, except in large numbers or from ambush, Giants are too uncontrollable, they don't have any basilisks... or I hope they don't, anyway..."

As he trailed off, Hermione took up the chain of reasoning. "That leaves a cockatrice, which I doubt they'd use since the last Tournament was shut down because of one getting all the judges and half the spectators, or dragons."

An offhand comment by either himself or Professor Snape earlier in the year (Harry couldn't recall who'd said it) came back to Harry at that moment. "Dragons. And I'll get the meanest and nastiest of the lot. I'd move to Australia if I wasn't convinced that all this trouble would follow me."