A\N:- I begin this story with the solemn promise that it shall be completed.
Harry Potter and the Two Flowers
Chapter 1: It Begins.
Chateau Delacour, Marseille, France Aug-04-1994
A small castle stood majestically and alone on top of a hill overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Lush green grass stretched as far as the eye could see, dotted here and there by stray trees. The combination of the sun beating down on the bleached walls of the castle, the sound of the waves licking the sands of the beach and the general fragrance of a flower-filled countryside made for a very pleasant atmosphere. It seemed only appropriate that a building which housed such beauty should in itself be a sight to behold.
Inside the castle, Dominique Delacour sat at the head of the dining table with a letter in his hands. It confirmed what he had already known, but it did not make him any happier. He didn't let his displeasure show on his face as Apolline drew up the nearest chair to him and sat on it. His wife however, seemed to have already sensed something was wrong with her husband. She did not say anything, but merely smiled at him enquiringly. Dom allowed himself to return the smile.
"There are times, not very often, when I wish you couldn't do that."-he said.
"Read me like a book."
She laughed her tinkling laugh. "You should've thought about that before marrying a veela. Now tell me. What's troubling you?"
Dom looked into her blue eyes, trying not to lose himself like he had done so many times before -"I think the entire family needs to hear this. Could you please go get them all?"
Apolline gave her husband a quick, searching look before gliding out of the room. Dom watched her go and sighed into his long black beard. He was not looking forward to doing this. His daughters had already gone through enough for no fault of their own.
The door behind him, which lead to the kitchen opened. A tall veela with dark black hair and darker eyes stood there. Even though he loved his wife dearly, and considered Camille to be nothing more than a sister, he felt himself drawn to her. Veela simply broadcasted their allure which worked to enhance their already considerable beauty.
Camille Fletcher walked towards the table and sat on the chair her friend, Apolline had just vacated. She took one look at him before saying-"What's the matter Dom?"
This was too much. He may not have been a poker-faced individual, but he certainly wasn't an open book either. In fact, most of his political rivals had a very hard time reading his expressions. At home however, it seemed to be a completely different story.
"How do you two do that? It's really starting to bother me now. None of my opponents can tell what I'm thinking. But I seem to be a toy in your hands."
Camille gave a trademark veela giggle that would have made most men's heart flutter. Dom's certainly did. "Well, we have known you a lot longer than your opponents."
At that precise moment, Apolline walked into the room through the hallway door. "They'll be down in a moment." -She announced, and noticing the expression on Dom's face added with her eyes twinkling-"Not trying to seduce my husband, are you Camille?"
Camille smiled mischievously at Dom and said- "Hmm… let me see…. Actually, I think it was Dom who was trying to flirt with me."
Apolline grinned at Dom, who was now red in his face and said-"Well then, I guess I'll have to keep an eye on you two from now on. Right, Dom?"
"Hmph"-Dom grunted. Teasing him was one of their favorite pass-times. He didn't mind much. He would never have admitted it, but he liked it.
The hallway door opened again. This time, to reveal a much younger veela. To say she was beautiful was inaccurate. Silky smooth, waist-length silver hair cascaded down her face hiding two deep blue eyes that put the sea outside to shame. The perfect complexion of her face would have made many a man dream about stroking her cheek. Her nose was a mark of precision and her perfect mouth with its full lips was complemented by her delicate chin. Even at fourteen years of age, her figure could have had any woman on the planet turning green with jealousy. Beauty was earthen, Fleur Delacour was divine.
Fleur was followed into the room by another veela. She was slightly shorter than Fleur, but no younger. There weren't many women, or even veelas that could claim to be equal to Fleur in beauty. But Jasmin Adrienne Fletcher was exactly that. Like her mother Camille, she had lustrous dark hair, which fell just below her rather large breasts in elegant curls. Those, combined with her sparkling dark eyes, rosy-red lips and milky-white complexion, made her look like a goddess sent straight down from heaven. The room looked much too small to contain both of them.
Dom waited until they were both seated next to their respective mothers. He felt a small swell of pride at his 'two little girls'. He certainly considered Jasmin to be like his daughter. They were beautiful alright. Even for veelas, they were immensely beautiful. And that was the problem. They were too beautiful. Although only fourteen, they had been approached by numerous boys already. Some had merely stood looking at them with their mouths half-open, while others had tried all kinds of antics to impress them. Others had gone one step farther.
Two years ago, when they were in their second year at Beauxbatons, Fleur and Jasmin had been cornered by a gang of sixth-year boys. Dom's blood still boiled at what they had attempted to do to two twelve-year old girls, much less his daughters. Thankfully, Madame Maxime had heard the girls' screams of terror and had arrived just in time to stop them. But the damage had been done. Although the boys had not gotten their wish, both the girls now tried to avoid any form of contact with boys, especially Jasmin. Even now, she cringed when Dom tried to hold her.
The boys had been dismissed from Beauxbatons, but Fleur and Jasmin were subjected to a lot of persecution from their peers. They were loathed by all the girls at school for their beauty and Fleur and Jasmin despised all the boys. This meant that they were completely alone at school, which only caused them to grow closer together.
Dom sighed again before beginning- "I just received an owl from the French ministry. They have confirmed something I've known for some time now. The British were very eager to hold the Triwizard tournament this year at Hogwarts. The letter I just received confirmed that both the French and Bulgarian governments have agreed. From what I can gather, this tournament is going to be very different from the previous ones. I'm sure Madame Maxime will tell you more about it on your first day of term. For now, all I can tell you is that you'll be spending the entire year at Hogwarts. You'll also be attending classes with Hogwarts and Durmstrang students."
Fleur glanced at Jasmin to find her returning the look. Clearly, she'd had the same thought-the more people there were the more their chances of being harassed. Still, she couldn't bring herself to feel too bothered. The Triwizard tournament hadn't taken place for more than a century and now, and she was going to get to watch it first-hand.
It was then a thought hit Fleur. Traditionally, three champions were chosen from the competing schools. What if she was chosen as the Beauxbatons champion? That would really shut up all the other girls at school who said she and Jasmin used their looks to secure good marks. She had a brief vision of herself standing tall and proud in front of all her so-called peers, having just won the tournament. She would be able to go around the other students with her head held high. She wouldn't be 'just a pretty face' anymore. Then and there, she decided to enter the tournament if she could.
Dom was speaking again. With an effort she pulled herself out of her musings. "Apparently, there's been a lot of excitement at the ministry." he said scanning the letter again. "According to the Department of Magical Sports and Games, there's going to more than just the one main competition. I'll go get all the details today when I'm at the ministry."
Apolline interjected-"That's all well and good Dom. But what do we do about Fleur and Jasmin. They'll be hounded by all those boys and don't forget, Britain isn't the safest place for a veela."
Camille agreed with her friend-"Maybe you can convince the Minister of Defense to spare a few aurors to act as bodyguards."
Dom frowned. It would be difficult to convince the Defense Minister to provide aurors for such a small thing. But his daughters' safety was paramount. He decided to try asking him nonetheless. "You're probably right Camille. I'll talk to Rodin and see if he can spare a couple of female aurors."
Fleur bristled at this. She wanted to protest, but Jasmin beat her to it. Jasmin was afraid of boys in general. But she was no pushover either. "We can't go to Hogwarts surrounded by aurors. We'd look really silly. Besides, we're not twelve anymore. We can take care of ourselves now."
"That may be. But I can't chance it." He looked at both their indignant faces before adding-"Fine. I'll ask Rodin to send just one auror who can disguise herself as a student. How about it?"
"We don't need…."
"It's either this or you won't go at all."-Dom spoke with a tone of finality that he rarely used at home, before getting up from the table and heading for the fireplace. The girls were left staring at each other wordlessly.
Malfoy Manor, England Aug-04-1994
Lucius Malfoy paced around his drawing room. His feet sank into the plush carpet pleasantly. His cold, grey eyes swept around the room. It was as richly furnished as the rest of the house. The furniture in the room could have belonged to a king of old. The ornate ivory chair in the corner alone had cost him a fortune. But he hadn't minded. Money, he always told his son, ran the world. It was the supreme power that decided the fate of all. The more you had of it the better your chances of survival. And you needed to know how to flaunt it in front of others.
He turned towards the mantelpiece which held an antique clock. It was just before midnight. His visitor had insisted on arriving at that time. No doubt whatever business he had with him wasn't strictly legal.
The doorbell rang. He stepped out on the corridor and began making his way towards the front door. The eyes of the portraits all along the corridor followed him. His footsteps rang out loud and clear. The rest of the house was deathly quiet. Narcissa and Draco had gone to bed early. He had insisted on it.
He opened the front door himself to find two men standing outside, shivering in the cold wind. One of them was short with greying hair that fell down to his brown eyes, which were twitching with uneasiness. He seemed particularly diminutive, standing in Lucius' large doorway. In contrast, the man next to him was nearly seven feet tall and built like a bull. His neck alone was thicker than the other man's thigh. The rest of him was just as massive. He could easily have been mistaken as a half-giant. His eyes however, mirrored the cold, expressionless ones of Lucius. Lucius instantly marked him down as a professional killer. He had seen the type before.
Lucius silently moved aside to grant them passage. The shorter man seemed almost reluctant to enter, but did so nonetheless. The giant followed him in and stood behind him with his hands behind his back. Lucius turned to face them after closing the door. "Which one of you is Yves Gluant?" he asked, knowing the answer.
The short man held out his hand as anticipated. "It's a pleasure to meet you Mr. Malfoy. My contact spoke very highly about your….er…..efficiency."
Lucius surveyed the man coldly before taking his extended hand. His English was surprisingly good. "I wasn't expecting two of you, Mr. Gluant."
Gluant smiled good-naturedly at Lucius. "You'll have to forgive Vladamir here. He's my bodyguard. He goes wherever I go."
Lucius shifted his eyes to Vladamir who stared back at him unblinkingly. It wasn't a hostile stare, nor was his body language in any way aggressive. Yet, Lucius felt a deep unease about the man. Lucius gestured for them to follow him and lead them into the drawing room. As soon as he entered the room, Vladamir quietly stepped behind the door and stood with his hands clasped in front of him. Lucius made a mental note to get himself a bodyguard as soon as possible. He may not have much need for one, but a bodyguard would definitely make him look intimidating.
Gluant began with what appeared to be a prepared speech. In his nervousness, the words fell out of his mouth in a rush -"Mr. Malfoy, the first thing you should know about me is that I am here representing a client of mine who wishes to remain anonymous. He has heard of your reputation for keeping your name and that of your business associates out of the papers. That is the main reason we've chosen to deal with you. You must understand that confidentiality is of utmost importance to both my client and myself."
Lucius nodded. That tallied with what his contact had told him to expect. Gluant continued-"My client would like to enlist your help in… "He paused; contemplating how to convey what he had to say mildly before-"well, there's no simple way of putting this…. We require your services in kidnapping someone."
Gluant looked nervous again. His grip on his stick seemed to momentarily tighten before he replied-"The daughter of an important French ministry official. Money is not a problem." He added quickly. "We're willing to pay handsomely if you can get the job done."
Lucius exhaled slowly. This was not what he had expected. He usually had his agents kill, abduct or rob someone inconsequential. It was easy money and he need not fear his victims' backlash. Kidnapping a Ministry official's daughter however was much too risky. Ordinarily, he would have refused. But, Gluant had said that money wasn't a problem. He needed time to think. So he asked- "Surely, you have people in France itself who can carry out this task."
Gluant replied pleasantly-"No. The girl is too well protected in France. But the entire family will be coming here to witness the Quidditch World Cup. She will be vulnerable there. It will be up to you to separate the girl from her family and bring her to us then."
"How will she be protected?"
"Our sources inside the ministry tell us that four aurors have been assigned to protect the entire family. We'll inform you if that changes."
Lucius considered this. He knew for a fact that the security at the World Cup was going to be tight. Every single ministry official would be there. Fudge had even mentioned recalling a few retired aurors to provide protection for the visiting dignitaries. It was going to be risky. He had to be sure it was worth it.
"How much are you willing to pay?"
For an answer, Gluant reached into the pocket of his robes and extracted a large money sack. "There are 10,000 galleons in this bag. If you can get the girl to us alive and unharmed, we'll pay a further 90,000 more."
Lucius smiled. It was almost an evil leer that seemed out-of-place on his aristocratic face. He would have to enlist the help of most of the Dark Lord's remaining followers, but it would be worth it. "Mr. Gluant, we have a deal. Do you have a picture of the girl?"
Gluant reached into his robes again and pulled out a leather-bound diary. From between its pages, he extricated a small muggle photograph and handed it over to Lucius Malfoy.
"She is the daughter of the French Minister of International Affairs and co-operation, Dominique Delacour."
Chateau Delacour, Marseille, France Aug-04-1994
Fleur sat on her bed with her slender legs folded neatly beneath her. Her room was furnished plainly. For all the wealth her parents had, Fleur herself had very modest tastes. The walls of the room were painted a simple sky blue and it only contained a small cupboard, a desk and chair, dress closet and her bed. The room was moderately large with a solitary window that faced the sea.
It was out of this window Fleur sat staring. It was another sunny day and the Mediterranean was glittering in the sun. Fleur liked watching the sea. It looked so unrestricted, unconcerned and free. It was everything she wanted to be.
The door opened to admit Jasmin. She was the only person allowed to walk into her room without knocking. Jasmin seated herself on the lone chair in the room with her knees touching and her ankles crossed. Clear blue eyes turned away from the window to look at her.
"I'm going to try and enter the Triwizard tournament."
Jasmin simply looked at her. Anybody else would have been shocked at this proclamation. Jasmin however, understood. But that didn't mean she wanted to see her best friend risk her life.
"You don't have to."
"Yes I do."
"No you don't." Jasmin persisted. For all her intelligence and patience, Fleur could be a hot-head who made bad decisions when she was worked-up. "You don't have to prove yourself to anybody. That's why you want do this, isn't it?"
"Yes. But you're wrong Adri. I do need to prove myself." Fleur turned to look at the sea again. "Look at what happened today. Even my father doesn't think we can take care of ourselves." Her voice hardened. "You're wrong Adri. I have a lot to prove to a lot of people. We both do."
Jasmin knew about Fleurs stubbornness better than anyone. But she wasn't about to give up without a fight. "There are other ways of proving yourself. You know the history of this tournament as well as I do. People die in this tournament Bell."
Fleur turned back to look at Jasmin, her eyes were blazing with determination. "I've already made my decision. I'm going to enter and I'm going to win." Jasmin knew right then it was a lost cause. Fleur looked like she was ready to wrestle with a troll, if she had to, to compete in the tournament. Jasmin decided to help her as best as she could.
They sat in companionable silence for a while. Fleur, thinking about the reaction of her school if she won the tournament and Jasmin, trying to remember everything she had read about the tournament. A thought struck Jasmin.
"How do you think they're going to react when they see us?"
Fleur didn't have to ask who 'they' were. Jasmin usually talked about boys like they were a different species. "Probably the same as Beauxbatons. They'll try to impress us by doing something silly or follow us around with their tongues hanging out." Her voice was filled with disgust.
Jasmin tried and failed to hide the fear in her voice. "What if they try to hurt us?" For a minute, she could have been a small, twelve-year old girl cowering in the corner, Fleur's screams echoing in her ears, as an obese, foul-mouthed boy tried to forcibly kiss her. She was no longer twelve and helpless. She and Fleur had spent the last two years learning to defend themselves. But something about boys still left her too frightened to fight.
Fleur couldn't think of anything comforting to say. So she placed her hand on Jasmin's forearm and squeezed reassuringly, saying the only thing she could think of- "Don't worry Adri, we'll be fine. After all, what's the worst that can happen?"
French Ministry of Magic, Paris, France Aug-04-1994
Dominique Delacour exited the floo and caught himself from falling just in time. From both his sides came the sounds of others exiting the floo network. Dom hurried to get out of the way of the others who might be coming in behind him. Morning was always the busiest time at the floo network. A majority of the ministry workers used the floo to get to work in the morning causing blockages in the corridor. Today was no different. All around the room, people were stumbling out of fireplaces and dashing off to their respective departments.
Once he was outside the floo room. Dom slowed down his pace. Being the Head of a department meant he could keep his own hours. He planned on getting to his Department of International Affairs to see what changes the Triwizard organizers had planned that was causing so much uproar at his department.
But first, he had an appointment with the Minister of Defense.
He reached the main foyer and was shocked. Utter chaos reigned all along the vast hall that acted as a juncture for all the departments. Dom had never seen the place so crowded before. People were being buffeted from one place to another, most of them reporters. It seemed the news about the Triwizard tournament taking place had been made public.
Dom decided he was going to have quite a job of getting to the Ministry of Defense, the entrance to which was, inconveniently, located at the far end of the hall. Just as he was steeling himself to fight his way through the mêlée, he heard someone call out his name.
Dom turned to see a large man making his way towards him. As he walked, his head and shoulders towered over the others around him. He parted the crowd easily, or rather, the crowd seemed to part for him. Dom thought he looked vaguely familiar.
"Lucien Caron, sir." He said stretching out a huge hand and covering Dom's entire hand as he shook it. "Department of Improper use of Magic."
His face was as massive as his body. But his chubby cheeks, combined with his tiny, half-open mouth made him look a very cuddly teddy-bear. He turned to survey the hall. "It's a mess, sir. Apparently, the English Minister of Magic made a public statement about the Tournament taking place." The way his nose flared told Dom, what Caron thought about the English minister. "The whole place has been swarming with reporters since. We can't deny them entry, or they'll start saying we're trying to repress them." He turned to face Dom again, his cheeks bulging as he talked. "Would you like me to escort you to your department, sir?"
"That's alright. I wanted to have a word with Minister Rodin first."
"I don't mind Minister Delacour. I'm passing that way." Dom was about to ask Caron to go on and leave him when one of the reporters spotted him and started rushing towards him. Dom changed his mind.
"You know what Caron? I think I would appreciate that very much."
"Alright then, sir. Get behind me." He ordered and immediately started moving. His large belly led the way, as he made his way through the people as if they weren't even there. His muscular arms kept anyone from crossing his path. Even if they managed to evade his arms, they were pushed, forcefully, out of the way. All Dom had to do was keep up with him.
Questions were hurled towards Dom from all sides when the reporters realized that a Minister was in their midst.
"Minister Delacour, could I please have a minute of your time?"
"Is it actually taking place? How did you get Durmstrang to agree?"
"Why isn't the tournament taking place in France? What are the chang….."
Dom was secretly glad Caron had found him. Some of the reporters around him didn't seem above physical violence to get a story. As they reached the entrance of the Ministry of Defense, where two guards stood preventing any of the reporters from going in, Caron expertly managed to steer Dom to the front. Dom inserted his hands into his robes to take out his badge for identification, but the security guards just waved him and Caron through -they were too busy stopping the press from getting through the doors.
Once inside the double doors which separated the main hall from the departmental corridor, Caron fell into step with Dom. He seemed remarkably unfazed for a man who had just bashed his way through a mob.
"Going to meet Minister Rodin about your security for the World Cup, sir?" Caron enquired.
"No, that's already taken care of." They had reached a point where the corridor split into four similar-looking passageways, each leading to four different departments. There were signs over the entrance of each passage that announced where they led.
The passage on the extreme left had a large black sign over it proclaiming "Department of Improper Use of Magic" in bold letters. The next passage had a similar board that read "Department of International Affairs and Co-operation." The second from right was "Department of Magical Sports and Games" and the one on the extreme right was the "Department of Defense".
Dom thanked Caron before taking the path on the extreme right. The passage was a short one and it was lit with flaming torches. As Dom reached the end, it turned sharply and ended in a blank wall. Once again, Dom took out his badge and this time, he rubbed it against the wall. As the Head of his department, he had access to almost all of the other departments.
The wall before him started to shake, rumble and then collapsed suddenly. Someone new might have been fascinated by this performance. But Dom had seen it too many times before to even pay attention. The wall had collapsed to reveal a large room which seemed to be just as chaotic as the main hall. The Defense Ministry officials, most of them French aurors, were hurrying around with large stacks of parchments in their hands. Clearly, all of them had been pulled out of their routine duties to provide security for the World Cup, and more importantly, the Triwizard tournament.
Dom started making his way towards the end of the room, careful not to bump into anyone. Some of the workers called out to him or wished him a good morning. He was well known and respected in most departments because of his quick wit and political acumen.
There was a solitary door at the end of the room. This led to the chamber of the French Defense Minister, Mark Rodin. He was a key member of the French Ministry since he controlled the aurors and co-ordinated with the auror forces of other countries. He was also a good friend of Dom.
Dom entered without knocking. As he had expected Rodin was in his office. He rarely ever left it. Today, he was standing with a cup of coffee in his hands, looking out of a barred window.
The man himself looked nothing like one of the most powerful men in France. He was a small man, no taller than five foot five and looked almost emaciated. His thin, brown hair looked wild and unkempt. His face was as lined as possible and spoke of the eternal torment he'd endured. He looked a lot older than his fifty five years. But the eyes behind the owl-like spectacles showed who he truly was. They were completely devoid of any emotion. They were the eyes of someone who had killed, and had not regretted it. For Mark Rodin had been one of the best aurors of his time.
When Dom entered, Rodin silently motioned him towards one of the straight-back chairs in front of his desk. Dom seated himself without a word. Clearly, Rodin was in deep contemplation and he did not want to interrupt his train of thought. Dom sat back and eyed the room. It was littered with crushed papers and the entire room stank of tobacco smoke. A heavy, brown dossier sat in the middle of his desk, bursting with parchments. Presently, Rodin pulled himself out of his reverie and settled down on his arm-chair behind his desk. He took out a pack of cigarettes and offered one to Dom, who declined. Rodin promptly put it in his mouth, lit it and inhaled deeply. It was only then he spoke.
"You want protection for your children during the tournament." It wasn't a question. It was a bland statement. "The answer is no."
Dom was astonished, which in itself was a rare occurrence. "How did you know?"
"Because I've been requested the same thing by at least four others." Rodin took another drag on his cigarrete, making the end glow. "Not to mention the ones who have requested the Minister of Magic himself personally. All of them are worried about the safety of their children and want auror protection. And we don't have enough man power to assign separate aurors for everybody. So, the minister has ordered me to send a couple of aurors to guard all the students."
"But Mark, you know my problem. My daughter and her friend are veelas. They'll be harassed by most of the boys there and I can't have that. They need special protection and you better provide it." Dom had not meant to sound threatening, but didn't care if he had. His daughter came first.
Rodin crushed his half-burnt cigarette in the ash tray on his desk before sighing tiredly. "I sympathize with you Dom. I really do. But I simply don't have a single auror to spare, especially for an entire year." Dom gave him an almost disappointed look. Rodin continued as if he had not noticed- "Look, the Triwizard tournament will be taking place under heavy security due to the amount of celebrities and public figures who will be turning up to watch. I know for a fact that the British auror department is taking this very seriously. They won't let anything happen to the daughter of a senior French ministry official. But if you're still worried about your daughter, you can contact a private security firm and hire someone. I'll arrange for that person to be granted full access into Hogwarts. I know it's not much, but I'm afraid that's the best I can do for you Dom."
Dom got up, threw him a look of contempt and left without a word. Rodin leaned back on his comfortable arm-chair as he reached inside his robes for another cigarette. He regretted the way the meeting had ended, but he really had done everything he could. Dom would have to find a way to protect his daughters on his own. He had no idea why the schools had suddenly agreed to hold the tournament. But he was sure as hell it was going to cause him all kinds of problems.
His eyes were drawn towards the brown dossier. It contained the details of his next assignment. As if the list of high profile personalities planning to attend the tournament wasn't enough, the American minister of magic had been invited by the French minister to watch the first task with him. And the British and Bulgarian ministers were going to be there with their respective families. Organizing security for that was going to be a nightmare. There was a dull pain in his forehead- the beginning of an headache. He examined the cigarette in his hand before sighing softly again. For Mark Rodin, the tournament couldn't be over fast enough.
Hogwarts, Scotland Aug-05-1994
The great castle stood stalwartly under the night-sky, its many towers and turrets highlighted by the hundreds of stars dotting the sky. With all its charges away for the summer, the castle was unusually silent. Even the air was still. On the whole, it looked gloomy, abandoned and forlorn; nothing like the host of one of the most highly anticipated events of the century. The current master of the school sat in his office, fingertips touching, head bowed and his perpetually twinkling eyes doing what they did best. The only light in the office came from a stone basin which had runes carved on its sides. Its components could either have been liquid or gas. But they were moving ceaselessly, emitting a silvery light that danced around the room.
Across the desk from him, sat a heavily scarred, wooden-legged individual who was regarding Dumbledore with a look of pure amazement. His gash of a mouth opened to speak- "You can't be serious, Albus. He's just a boy. How old is he? Twelve?"
"Fourteen. And I wouldn't ask him to do this unless I had complete confidence in his abilities. I've trained him myself for the past year and I've done a good job of it, even if I do say so myself." Dumbledore's eyes twinkled almost annoyingly at Mad-eye Moody. "I daresay he would give any auror a run for their money."
"But why?" The question came from the only part of the room where the pensieve's light did not reach. A hook nose emerged from the patch of darkness, followed by a curtain of greasy, black hair. In his dark robes, he seemed almost one with the darkness. Snape's eyes were fixed on Dumbledore. "I thought you were trying to protect the boy." His voice was sneering, but Dumbledore could discern the resentment underneath.
"I am. And that's precisely why I want Harry to enter the Triwizard tournament." Three sets of eyes were now looking at Dumbledore, each with their own doubts. Moody appeared unconvinced, Snape seemed unsure of Dumbledore's willingness to protect Harry and Minerva McGonagall looked like she doubted Dumbledore's sanity. When she spoke, she could have been reprimanding a naughty eleven-year old. "How is asking him to enter one of the most dangerous events happening in this century protecting him?"
Dumbledore stood up. His magenta robes swirled around his feet as he started to pace. He seemed to be contemplating his answer. Presently, he turned to look at them with a solemn expression. "As you all know by now, I have long since been convinced that Voldemort is not truly dead." McGonagall flinched. "It is my belief that the time of his return is nearing. And when he does return, killing Harry will be Lord Voldemort's main priority. It is for this very reason I've trained him for the past year." He looked up to see all three of them watching him with disbelieving expressions. He continued before they could interrupt. "While I have taught him enough to handle himself in a fight, theoretical knowledge alone can never be the same as first-hand experience. If he can face the tasks of the Triwizard tournament without the fear of failure or any insecurity, then he can certainly deal with anything Voldemort might try."
McGonagall looked livid at this answer. "So you're going to throw him in a life-threatening situation yourself so that he can learn to defend himself." The scorn in her voice was evident.
"In a word, yes." Dumbledore answered cheerfully.
Snape was the first to recover. "You seem extremely confident Potter will be chosen to represent Hogwarts. His talent, at best, is mediocre." He sneered. "Might I point out that there are many other, older, better-qualified candidates at Hogwarts? My own seventh-years are a very gifted batch."
McGonagall snorted. The only thing the slytherin seventh-years were gifted in was polishing off an exorbitant amount of food in one sitting. But even she couldn't deny that Snape had a point. Trained or not, Harry was only fourteen.
"Albus are you insane. All this so the boy could prove to you he is capable of defending himself? Nearly half of the champions have died in the past. And he is only fourteen. What if something goes wrong? What if Harry dies in one of the tasks? Or don't you care anymore?"
Dumbledore's eyes flashed warningly. "Don't dream for a moment that I don't care about Harry, Minerva. If I had the slightest doubt in his abilities, I wouldn't ask him to do this. His age is immaterial. I have belief in my proficiency as a teacher and in Harry's own survival instincts." Suddenly, his voice, which had been strong and decisive up until then, took a rather somber note. "I know it seems a bit too much to ask of a fourteen year old boy, but it is just as essential. You see, I made a mistake in leaving Harry with his relatives. Although he grew up as modest and humble individual as there ever was, he doubts his abilities and feels the need to take responsibility for events beyond his control." His voice was now so quiet that McGonagall had to strain her ears to hear him. "He needs to do this. More than anyone can ever imagine." He turned to look at Snape "You ask me why I think Harry will be selected if he chooses to enter Severus? The truth is, I'm not. But considering Harry's exploits until now, I think he has just as good a chance of being chosen as any seventh-year. If however, he is not chosen or does not want to enter, I will not think any the less of him for it."
McGonagall looked unconvinced and Snape livid. "So you want to use one of the most anticipated events of this century as your own personal testing grounds." Moody growled from his chair. "Excellent."
McGonagall looked like she was having a stroke. "You agree with him?" She squawked.
Moody's magical eye turned in her direction. In the dimly lit room, it almost glowed. McGonagall nearly shuddered, but managed to keep herself poised. "Yes professor, I agree. I have always maintained if you want to make someone a warrior, you have to throw them to the dogs first. This is good for the boy. It'll toughen him up."
"He is not a warrior." McGonagall hissed. "He is a student. What would Lily and James have said if they were alive?" She shot at Dumbledore. Somewhere in the corner, Snape twitched.
"I cannot speak for Lily." Dumbledore answered calmly. "As for James, I believe he would have wanted his son to enter the tournament and do his best." Snape snorted.
McGonagall wanted to argue about that, but knew better. James would indeed have wanted his son to compete. There was silence in the room. Everyone seemed to have reached the end of their respective arguments.
Dumbledore settled himself back on his chair behind the desk before saying-"I have told you all of this for a reason. Either he is selected or not, Harry will be at his most vulnerable this year due to huge mass of people coming here. Therefore, I expect each of you to keep an eye on him throughout the school year. Can I count on you to do that?" McGonagall and Moody nodded. Snape merely scowled.
Sheffield, England Aug-05-1994
A small Buick convertible pulled into the driveway of a modest-looking sub-urban household. The cold night air caused those within to shiver and draw their jackets around them tightly. The driver was a clean shaven middle-aged man with brown eyes. Next to him, sat his wife. She was a tall, handsome woman with bushy hair that reached her shoulders. They had never been this late to return home before. A stubborn tooth had held up Emma Granger at work.
Hermione Granger must have heard the crunch of gravel under the Buick's tyres, and she would certainly have been waiting for it. She came running out of the front door into the driveway, directly into the beam of the headlights.
Peter Granger stepped out and encompassed his only daughter in a tight hug. She was so slim and warm, her body seeming to throb with life and vitality. She had really blossomed in the last year. Already she had that old-fashioned English porcelain beauty.
"You'll catch your death." Peter scolded fondly. She flashed the big, innocent smile she had inherited from her mother at him before moving to wrap her hands around Emma Granger. These little stolen moments of joy from their daughter's life meant the world to Peter and Emma. For the greater part of the year, she was off studying magic. In a magical castle no less. And when she did come home for the summer, she usually left early to spend time with her friends. It was no surprise therefore, she was pampered and spoiled as much as possible whenever she was home.
Hermione lead the way into the house, laughing and joking. Peter couldn't help but feel happy about the way things had worked out. Gone was the timid, quiet, withdrawn little girl who had shied away from other kids to be with her books. Now, in her place was a gregarious, outgoing teenager who could capture the attention of everyone around her with her liveliness. And Peter attributed it all to her friends. He certainly owed those two boys a drink when they came off age.
Dinner was always a talkative affair in the Granger household. Peter and Emma had always encouraged Hermione to be frank with them. And Hermione never failed to tell her parents everything, especially during dinner. Today was no different. Hermione was full of ideas, opinions and explanations about the wizarding world, her school and the two boys in her life.
Emma watched her daughter's face light up as she talked about her most recent adventure with Harry when she had helped him save his godfather. "…he threw himself out of the bushes and yelled 'EXPECTO PATRONUM' and all of them just scattered like skittles. It was the most amazing thing you could imagine." She was talking without pausing to take a breath. Her food on the plate lay forgotten. "Professor Dumbledore's done an amazing job on him. He isn't so nervous an..."
"Hermione dear, your chicken's getting cold." Emma chided. Hermione looked like she could go on for days about Harry. This wasn't the first time Emma had noticed the look of joy on her daughter's face or the fondness in her voice when she talked about Harry. She also didn't fail to notice that Harry's name seemed to come up much more often than Ron's. She decided to broach the subject gently.
"So when will you be seeing each other again dear? Will he be coming with Ron to pick you up?"
"No, Ron said they were planning to rescue him from his relatives on the Tuesday before the world cup. That means I'll see him in a week."
"And what are your plans when you do see him dear?"
Hermione looked confused. "What do you mean mum?"
"Well dear." Emma said, her voice tender and caring. "It sounds to me like you have a little crush on Harry. I was just checking to see if you were planning to do anything about it."
Peter choked on his drink and Hermione turned a deep crimson at her words. "What? No." She spluttered. "Harry and I are just friends. I don't have a crush on him."
Emma had a knowing look in her eyes as she said to Hermione- "Ah…. Ok dear. I was just checking." Hermione looked like she wanted to be anywhere but there. So she decided to change the topic. "Now can you explain to me again how Ron and his father are getting here? I didn't quite follow it the first time."
As Hermione launched into an explanation of something called 'flu', her face still red, Peter silently wondered if his little girl was falling for her friend. How could it be? She was only fourteen? He tried to disregard the fact he had had his first crush when he was fourteen. Besides, what boy was good enough for his daughter? She deserved to be treated like a princess and Harry sounded like he was nothing but trouble. He had to work hard to remember only a few moments ago, he had felt grateful that Hermione had Harry in her life. All of a sudden, Peter had the overwhelming inclination to mix a vial of poison in that drink.
It was only later that night when she was laying in her bed, tucked snugly between blankets, Hermione thought about what her mother had said. Could it be possible? Was she smitten by Harry? It seemed like an outlandish idea. And yet…
She cuddled her pillow as she thought about Harry, his shoulder length black hair flying in the wind, eyes ablaze with anger and desperation and his wand slashing through the air as he drove the dementors away. He had always stood up for her, even when she had been a not-so-pretty, bossy, know-it-all. He was smart and sweet. And he never fought with her or took sides when she and Ron argued, even though Ron was his best mate. Yes, Harry was extremely fanciable, now more than ever. But would he feel the same way about her? After all, she was just plain, bookworm Hermione Granger and he was…..
She fell asleep that night hugging her pillow, and dreaming about him.
The Burrow, Ottery St Catchpole, England Aug-07-1994
The Burrow lay a little way outside the village of Ottery St. Catchpole, which suited its inhabitants just fine. The amount of noise generated by the household alone was enough to drive the entire village into sleeplessness. Besides, the occasional explosions, flying cars and a very cranky ghoul in the attic did not make for what was considered as civilized society. The jury was still out on the twin boys who lived there.
Today, the backyard was filled with five red-headed boys who were playing a game. They had placed a tin trash can on top of a tree and were trying to get a ball to land in it. It would have been a quite uninteresting game; had they not been playing it on flying brooms. Bill and Charlie were finding it hard to keep up with Fred and George. Their experience and skill was being outdone by the twins' teamwork. Ron floated in front of the tree with the bin, trying to prevent either team from scoring.
Down below, Ginny Weasley sat on a bench, hidden by the wild bushes that grew plentifully in the Burrow's backyard. She was torn between the desire to join in and show them how good she really was, and the fear of being ridiculed if she failed. She contented herself to just watching and listening to her brothers talk. As she watched, Charlie performed an impressive split on the broom raising both his legs sideways to let the quaffle Bill had thrown soar into the trash can.
Bill flinched. "Ouch. That hurts me just looking at it."
"Yeah Charlie, be careful. You might want to have kids one of these days-" George sniggered.
"-with one of your fire-breathing girlfriends." -completed Fred chortling.
Charlie frowned. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Bill explained "I think our dear twin brothers are referring to the women in your life. Or the lack of it more like."
Charlie's frown turned into a smile. He missed this good-natured ribbing he got from his brothers when he was away. He decided to play along. "I'll have you lot know- I have a beauty waiting for me back in Romania."
Fred guffawed. "Yeah? How long is her tail?" George and Bill joined in.
Ron drifted closer. "We playing or not?"
Charlie decided to turn the tables on his older brother. "Shouldn't we be more interested in our dear older brother's love life? Always assuming he has one." He winked at Bill.
Bill snorted. "And who am I supposed to date? One of those attractive mummies? Or the lovely goblins I have the pleasure to work with?" He asked sarcastically before turning to look at Ron. "What about you Ron? Has anyone caught your eye yet?"
Ron answered without thinking. "I dunno. There aren't any good looking girls in my classes."
George looked at him like he had gone stark, raving mad. "What are you talking about Ronnekins? Some of the best looking girls at Hogwarts are in your year."
George screwed his face into a mock thoughtful expression. "Hm… Let's see. Daphne Greengrass, Tr-"
"She's Slytherin!" Ron exclaimed before George could say anymore. By the sound of his voice, he could have been asked to snog a troll's unwashed underpants.
"Doesn't matter little brother. She's still hot. I would ask her out myself if she wasn't so damned aloof all the time."
"Maybe she's just being aloof to you because you're a Gryffindor." Bill suggested.
"Not her Bill." Fred explained. "She's cold with everybody. Even other slytherins. Her nickname is Ice Queen. That tells you everything you need to know about her."
George continued. "Her friend Tracy Davis isn't bad looking either."
Ron shook his head stubbornly. "I don't care how hot they are. Slytherin green is like a hotness repelling charm."
George rolled his eyes. "Alright, let's try someone from the other houses. How about Susan Bones? Nice set of twins on her." He winked blatantly.
"But everything else is just plain."
"Hannah Abbot? She's cute and perky all over."
"But she's kind of short."
George was losing patience now. "Lavender and Parvati?"
George asked with a straight face- "Are you sure you're related to us Ron?"
"One thing you'll learn as time goes on Ron is that you don't want to be too picky about the girls you go out with." Fred advised. He added as an afterthought. "Especially you."
In the bushes below, Ginny was clutching her sides with silent laughter. Trust Ron to find fault with every girl at school. But the twins made a very good point. The fourth-years had the best looking girls at school. She wondered if Harry thought like Ron. Maybe she hoped a little bit. The crush she had had on Harry before he saved her life seemed childish compared to what came after. The crush had transformed into unrequited love and now she yearned for Harry in a way even she couldn't understand. She felt possessive about him and wanted him to love her and nobody else. It was almost scary. But Harry was the same as ever. He treated her with respect and deference, but never anything more. Not even a look that said he considered her to be anything more than his best friend's sister.
Up above, the twins were still grilling Ron on his type.
"Do you think Hermione is good-looking?"
Ron was so surprised by the question; he answered without thinking. "What! No. Of course not."
Fred looked like he had been received the answer he had been praying for. "Well that settles it then." He turned in midair to look at Ron and declared- "Congratulations on being the first gay person in our family Ron." Both Bill and Charlie burst out laughing at this.
Ron's ears turned red. "Shut up." He snarled.
"Is that why you keep skirmishing with Malfoy? Is it all the sexual tension?" George chortled.
That was the last straw for Ron. He held up his right hand with all his fingers folded except the middle one which was extended towards the twins. "Fuck you." Before anyone could react, an explosion of noise came from the back door of the Burrow. Ginny nearly fell out of her bench in alarm.
"RONALD BILIUS WEASLEY! HOW DARE YOU SAY SOMETHING LIKE THAT TO YOUR BROTHER? Get down here this instant." Mrs. Weasley had seen and heard Ron. As they all landed, Ron looked like he would like nothing better than to climb on to his broom and fly away to some distant land. He made his way up to the door as slowly as possible where Mrs. Weasley was standing, breathing like a winded rhinoceros, with her hands on her hips.
Bill and Charlie watched nostalgically and the twins delightedly as Mrs. Weasley began to chew out her youngest son.
Greengrass Manor, London Aug-07-1994
Daphne Greengrass sat on a huge four-poster bed working on her Potions essay. Her blonde hair was untied and fell freely to her stomach. And she had the flawless peachy complexion to go with her hair. The lips that were chewing the back-end of a quill were soft, orange and incredibly shapely. All of this set off her icy blue eyes to perfection. Her room was enormous. And everything in it, from the luxuriously soft rug, to the expensive paintings that adorned the walls, proclaimed of money and taste.
On the study-table opposite her bed sat her best and only friend, Tracy Davis. Her auburn hair was cut much shorter than Daphne's, but it was no less striking. The friendly, brown eyes, straight nose and rounded chin gave her the look of a lost puppy. She was also engrossed in her essay.
They were two starkly contrasting people. Good looks aside, they had very little in common. Tracy was a friendly, sociable girl who was highly popular among the boys for her complete lack of objection to broom-closets. She hated working hard for anything and preferred to study for the sake of it.
Daphne, on the other hand, was one of the hardest workers Hogwarts had ever seen. It was no secret among the more studious students that Daphne and Hermione were always trying to outdo each other in the exams. In addition to this, Daphne was also a good duelist, having taken up dueling classes as a child. A skill she did not hesitate to use when any of the boys got too comfortable with her.
And yet, for all their differences, Tracy and Daphne were the best of friends and could hardly ever be seen without each other. Finally, Tracy folded her essay, placed it inside her Potions book and looked over at Daphne. Daphne, having just finished the essay herself stared back languidly at her. Then she said- "Dad was at the ministry today." Her voice would have sounded melodiously sweet had there not been a note of vanity in it.
"So he had some interesting news." Daphne said simply and fell back on the bed, stretched and relaxed without saying anything more. Tracy rolled her eyes. This was typical Daphne. She would create interest about something and then revealed it at her own pleasure. It was the same with boys. Daphne would make a boy think she was interested in him and when he tried to get close to her, she would enjoy herself by playing hard-to-get.
"Are you going to make me ask?"
"The Triwizard tournament is taking place this year at Hogwarts."
"What!" Tracy squealed. "Why did you keep it quiet for so long? I'm going to…" Daphne cut in- "There's also going to be a dueling tournament as a part of it and I'm planning to enter."
Tracy looked at her friend like she had lost her marbles before saying in hushed tones- "Are you crazy? There's no way you're going to stand a chance against Durmstrang." Daphne merely shrugged.
"Why do you want to enter anyway? You have money. As far as I know, you're not an adrenaline junkie. And I'm pretty sure you don't want to do it for the fame or the school."
Daphne stretched again and closed her eyes. "It's complicated."
"I'm sure I can keep up." Tracy wasn't Daphne's best friend for no reason. She had the knack to draw out the Ice Queen.
Daphne opened one of her eyes and regarded her lazily. Tracy felt like she was being surveyed by a queen, and then reminded herself she was. "Alright, I just want to prove girls are better than boys at dueling. For too long, they've repressed us from truly demonstrating our potential. Idiots like Malfoy and Blaise get to do things we can't just because they're boys. All we're encouraged to do is study." She paused, her normally cold eyes betraying a hint of anger. Even Tracy, who spent most of her time with Daphne, rarely witnessed any form of emotion from her unless she was truly moved. It reminded Tracy there was still a passionate girl behind the mask of pride and vanity. Daphne continued "The entire magical world will be watching this tournament and everything even remotely related to it. If I can beat the boys, especially the ones from Durmstrang, then I will have made my point."
Tracy couldn't think of a counter-argument to that; so decided to divert the conversation. "Why are they holding a dueling tournament anyway? That's not part of the actual tournament, is it?"
"It is this time, according to my father. There's also going to be an inter-school Quidditch tourney and academic competition in addition to the actual Triwizard tournament. The winners of each will be given points and the winning school will be decided by the total amount of points at the end of the year."
"Well, at least this year will be exciting. I wonder how many people the other schools will be bringing."
"All of the students and teachers from the other schools will be coming and they'll be taking classes with us."
Daphne watched with a small amount of amusement as Tracy squealed with joy and promptly began to draw up a list of accessories she would need to impress the foreign students.
Riddle Manor, England Aug-08-1994
The dead body of Frank Bryce lay spread-eagled on the cold floor. Very next to the body was an old arm-chair that faced the fire. It also currently contained one of the most feared men of all time. Behind the chair stood three men of varying sizes. The first one was a very short man with watery eyes and a rat-like face. This was Wormtail. Next to him stood a middle-sized man whose face bore the signs of being very handsome once. Azkaban however, had taken away most of Barty Crouch Jr's looks. His hair had already started greying behind his neck and at the sides. His face was sunken and waxy. He looked much older than his thirty one years. The last man was big and blonde. He wore a Death-Eater costume; but held the mask in his hands. It was him Lord Voldemort addressed.
"Be very sure not to leave any signs when you dispose off the body Rowle." His voice was like an icy wind. It certainly caused Wormtail to shudder every time he heard it. "Transfigure it into something before burying it. I shall be most displeased if anyone were to find out about him. I intend to spend the next few days here and I do not want curious interlopers around."
Thorfinn Rowle was not accustomed to disposing bodies. He usually just killed and left the body behind. But he wasn't about to say that to his master. He merely murmured- "Yes, my lord."
"Now… Let us go back to what you were telling me. Why is Lucius rallying my remaining Death Eaters?"
"I'm not sure, my lord. I was simply told to attack muggles after the Quidditch World Cup to create a diversion."
"Diversion for what Rowle?" The voice was almost soft now.
Rowle tried not to let his fear creep into his voice as he answered- ""I… I don't know, my Lord."
"Find out." Lord Voldemort's voice came back, sharp and biting. "There are only a few days left to the world cup Rowle. And I want to know what Lucius is planning before it takes place. Do you understand?"
"Yes, my lord. I'll go right now with your permission." His voice was almost hopeful.
"Go. And keep your ears open for any other useful piece of information."
"Yes, my lord." The relief in his voice was evident as he took out his wand, levitated the Frank's body and left the room.
Voldemort waited for a minute before speaking again. "You did well by bringing him along Barty. He has been quite useful. It seems luck favors Lord Voldemort today."
Crouch Jr. almost fell over in his eagerness to talk to the Dark lord. He approached the arm-chair and knelt beside one of its arms. "Thank you, my lord. I shall keep an eye on him."
"Very good. He must not know how weak I am. It may lead him to reconsider his allegiance to me."
"Of course. Anything else I can do?"
"Yes. No one should find out about what happened to your father. Take his place and find a way to get close to the boy. Wormtail here tells me he is too well trained to be captured by you alone. Trick him into trusting you and then bring him to me. I shall let you know where you can find us as soon as we find a safe place to stay undetected. Can you do that for me, my loyal Death Eater?"
Crouch Jr. said in a voice filled with joy and pride- "It would be an honor, my lord."
Voldemort said broodingly- "Good. For too long, the world has believed me dead. For too long, the world has believed me defeated and gone. For too long, the world has lived without the fear of Lord Voldemort. But that will change soon. I will rise again and they will learn to fear me once more. But for that, I need Harry Potter."
200 miles away, Harry Potter woke up.
A\N:- Sorry if you found the first chapter boring. It was setting the stage for the rest of the story. I promise the action will pick up from the next chapter on-wards. Please let me know what you think of it.
Also, English is not my first language. So kindly excuse any grammar discrepancies. Good night.