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For the first time ever, it was Hermione who had to forcibly remove Harry from the Library. Hermione was quite pleased that Harry seemed to have forgotten what day it was, and even happier that he was taking an interest in one of her favourite subjects, but they had a feast to go too and it would not do to miss the Choosing of the Champions. He had become so totally engrossed in the chapter of the Arithmancy book concerning spell construction that it had taken her poking him in the side quite hard to rouse him.
Harry's good mood however, was not to last. They had barely left the Library when Draco Malfoy who had, after almost a month, finally figured out that they would have to pass that way in order to get to dinner, stepped out of a side corridor flanked by his two goons.
"So Potty, you and your mudblood girlfriend off to the feast?" Draco said in what he probably thought was a superior tone, but just sounded as if his nose was stuffed. "I think it's great that Hogwarts has a feast to celebrate the Dark Lord ridding the world of another piece of mudblood scum."
'It is amazing,' Harry thought, from the crest of the rage rising like a tsunami in his mind, 'that he has yet to figure out that Snape can't protect him anymore.'
Though he would probably never realise it, Draco was at that moment spared an incredible amount of pain by two important factors. The first factor was that after the last time Draco had directly confronted him, Harry had planned out his next dressing down of the blond as it had worked so well the first time. The second, and by far the most important factor, was the presence of Hermione's restraining hand on Harry's wand arm, which prevented his instinctive reaction for long enough for Harry to regain some of his self-control.
"I am not sure which of you three is the smartest, or the most handsome," Harry began in a disparaging voice. It was well known to everyone, including Draco, that Crabbe and Goyle were the stupidest and ugliest children in their year and Harry could almost see the insult hit Draco right in his oversized ego.
"But I can't argue with how well suited you are for each other," Harry continued. "It's nice to see that you are brave enough to openly display the fact you are in a three-way relationship."
Harry personally didn't have any problem with homosexuality but he knew that the implication would really get under the bigoted boy's skin. The best bit was that, in any well-adjusted person's mind, there wasn't a problem with being gay so it couldn't be considered an insult.
"When my father hears about this…" Malfoy announced, his face flushing with embarrassment and anger.
"I'm sure he will be very proud to know you are just like him," Harry sneered.
Seething in outrage, Draco drew his wand. The point swung round, trailing crimson sparks, to point at Harry but before he could utter a spell a voice cut through the air.
"Stop right there Mr Malfoy," Professor McGonagall said.
When planning his ambush Draco had forgotten an important detail. The corridor that went past the library was the fastest route from the transfiguration classroom to the great hall, and McGonagall passed through there every day on her way to dinner. She had been passing through when she had heard Draco's opening salvo and had been about to interject when Harry had come in with his response. Now that wands had been drawn she couldn't let it go any further.
"Could you explain to me why you are drawing your wand on your fellow student?" she demanded.
"He insulted me Professor," Draco said piteously, the only outward sign that he was still angry the slight reddening of his cheeks.
"I heard what Mr Potter said to you and it was in no way an insult," McGonagall said, her voice becoming cold as she continued. "However, what you had said to Mr Potter insulted not only Mr Potter's mother, but Miss Granger and this school as well. That will be ten points for your insult, a further ten for each use of the word 'mudblood' and ten points for the insult to the school. Now I suggest you go to the feast."
Malfoy scowled, spun on his heel and headed down the corridor to the Great Hall muttering about how low the standards at Hogwarts had fallen if a pure blood could be punished for putting Half-bloods and Mudbloods in their place. Professor McGonagall frowned at the boy's blatant lack of respect.
"That is another twenty points you have lost for lack of respect and using that dreadful word in my presence again," McGonagall called after him as he rounded the corner, her voice becoming even frostier.
Once Draco was out of sight McGonagall's face softened somewhat. She looked down at Harry, who was carefully watching her face for any sign of her thoughts and at Hermione, who was studying the floor.
"Well done Mr Potter, for refraining from physically hurting Mr Malfoy," she said warmly, shocking both of the Gryffindor fourth years. "I hope you will continue to show such restraint and bring any future incidents to my immediate attention. However, you need to be more careful with your choice of response. I understand why you did it but, by using your implication as an insult, you have prolonged the bigotry that Mr Malfoy subscribes to. I'm taking five points from Gryffindor. Now the feast will begin shortly and I wouldn't like to be forced to remove points from Gryffindor for late arrival."
"Thank you Professor," Harry said.
Harry grabbed Hermione's hand and dragged her towards the hall as quickly as possible without actually running in the halls. It was a good thing he had too because they had barely made it to their seats when Dumbledore stood up to start the feast. Dumbledore first introduced Barty Crouch and Ludo Bagman as the impartial member of the judging panel and the ministry contact for the tournament respectively, before telling everyone to tuck in.
The feast was as always amazing, made even more so by the sheer variety of foods that the house elves had made in order to make their guests feel more at home and the spectacular decorations that festooned the Hall. The tables had been draped in tablecloths which had been embroidered with moving images of ghosts, wizards and witches. A ghost would sneak up on a witch who, in fright, would accidentally turn a wizard into a toad. She would then pick up the toad and kiss it, turning it back into a wizard, who would promptly cast a spell at the ghost, causing it to float away in fear. Then the whole thing would start again. The corners of the room had been turned into pumpkin patches with pumpkins ranging in size from barely an inch across to six foot tall. The candle holders which normally floated over the tables had been replaced with skulls, which would occasionally dive-bomb the students while laughing manically.
After dinner had been eaten and the plates cleared, anticipation began to build. The Goblet of Fire which had been in the entrance hall for the past month had been moved to the front of the Great Hall in preparation for the moment it would choose the Champions.
The Goblet of Fire had been protected by a selective want-me-not ward. A want-me-not ward, as Hermione had explained when Harry had asked, was impossible to circumvent without totally demolishing it. The ward caused the target to become more and more disinclined to enter their names the closer to achieving said aim they were. The twins had provided a perfect example of how it worked with their attempt to enter their names. Their plan had been to form their name slips into paper airplanes and to throw them from outside the circle of runes which formed the ward. They had started off enthusiastic and had then, as they formed the airplanes, become visibly more and more bored with the idea. Eventually they had ripped the pieces of paper up in disgust and walked off. It had about thirty seconds for them to realise what had happened and five days to shut up about it. Towards the end of the week everyone in Gryffindor had become quite bored with the topic, but they had ignored their fellow students' complaints and continued to go on about it. In the end Angelina and Alicia had dragged them out of the room and into a nearby class room, where they threatened to do extremely cringe-worthy things to the twins' crown jewels if they didn't stop. The two boys had come back into the common room shivering and sweating, and hadn't said a word about the incident since.
Now, with the attention of everyone in the room focused on it, the Goblet flared. The low flame which had filled the cup for the past month turned into an inferno, which radiated such an intense cold, the surface of its pedestal began to ice over. An area on the outside of the goblet suddenly burst into flames. As the flames on the outside faded away Dumbledore leaned in to read the words that appeared to have been etched into the Goblet.
"The Champion for Durmstrang," Dumbledore announced to the hall, "is Viktor Krum."
Viktor got up from where he had been sitting, at the Slytherin table, and made his way to the front of the hall to stand beside his Headmaster. Viktor's eyes scanned across the cheering room and he nodded slightly at Harry who had given him a thumbs up.
The hall fell once more into a hushed silence as another area of the Goblet ignited.
"The Champion for Beauxbatons is Fleur Delacour," Dumbledore said.
Fleur gracefully stood up from her place at the Ravenclaw table and walked down the aisle towards the Head table. About half way to the front, something was pressed into her hand by the spacey blond that hung around with Harry. Confused she moved on and came to a halt standing next to Madam Maxime.
It was not long before the Goblet once more burned a name into its side.
To the jubilation of Hufflepuff House the next words out of Dumbledore's mouth were, "The Champion for Hogwarts is Cedric Diggory."
The Great Hall was rocked by the loudest cheers yet as, regardless of house, the students of Hogwarts supported their Champion. Cedric left the Hufflepuff table and proudly took his place next to Dumbledore at the front of the Great Hall. While Cedric's Championship was being announced Fleur had read the note which had been given to her by Luna and then surreptitiously passed it on to Viktor. As Dumbledore stepped forward to address the hall Krum, looking concerned passed the note to Cedric.
"The Champions have been chosen and…" Dumbledore was forced to stop speaking when the Goblet of Fire flared up again.
The cold flames had become more intense but hot red flames had begun to grow from the edges of the cup. The flames fought with each other for dominance, rising up till they almost reached the beams above. The pedestal alternated between frozen and steaming under the influence of the flames. Dumbledore was frantically casting spells at the Goblet to contain the fire and to try and prevent what was happening. The battle went back and forth and there was a moment where the red flames were almost extinguished but then the red flames suddenly grew in ferocity and completely overwhelmed the blue ones. The moment the blue flames were completely gone the side of the Goblet was lit by the devilish fire. Then, their intended purpose achieved, the crimson flames receded and the Hall was left in a stunned silence.
A few seconds later the Goblet, sputtering back alight in its normal icy fire, drew Dumbledore out of his shock and he leaned in to read what was now on the goblet. The cup was only designed to hold three names, so the fourth, which glowed with the light of the embers the red flames had left when they died, overlapped Cedric's and Viktor's. This didn't make the name any less recognisable and it was with a serious visage that Dumbledore straightened up and announced the name to those in the Hall.
"Harry Potter," Dumbledore said gravely, his usual twinkle missing from his eyes.
Harry's mind, much unlike those of most people when faced with a difficult situation with awful consequences, kicked itself into high gear. Someone had forced the Goblet to make him a champion and it probably wasn't for any nice reasons. Most likely this was another plot to kill him. The more pressing problem however, was how to ensure that everyone knew and believed that he hadn't put his name in himself. The necessary first step would be to get himself heard before they could form their own opinions and the best way to do that, would be to openly deny it and refuse to compete right now. His entire thought process took less than a second so it was before anyone could even begin to whisper that he stood and came out with his statement.
"No!" Harry's voice cut through the silence that came in the wake of Dumbledore's proclamation. "I refuse to compete. Firstly, I did not place my name in the goblet. Secondly, I did not cast nor do I, as a fourth year student, have the knowledge required to cast the magic which forced the Goblet to choose my name, or even the magic to avoid the ward placed by Dumbledore. And thirdly, I do not want to be a part of a tournament where the last three contestants all died during the first task!"
"I am afraid that you have no choice Mr Potter," the condescending voice of Barty Crouch said. "The rules are very clear on the point, once chosen a Champion must compete or lose their magic."
Harry's presence expanded out into the Hall cowing those it touched, his temper had already been stretched to its limit once that night and the second time it had broken its bounds. The air grew heavy and breathing difficult. An ethereal wind blew, carrying the sounds of conversation just out of earshot and the light from the candles bent into shapes which defied logic. One of the floating skulls chose that moment to dive bomb Harry and exploded, when it got too close, into fragments of bone which rained down across the hall. Crouch gasped involuntarily as Harry glared at him from amidst his writhing magic. From beside Harry, Hermione made a strangled sound. Abruptly the force withdrew completely and utterly, leaving the Hall feeling empty, despite it being filled to capacity with people.
Harry sent a worried look at Hermione who nodded her head to say that she was ok. He glanced at Ron but the red headed boy refused to even look at him. Shaking his head, he decided to deal with whatever was up with Ron later. He then steeled himself and looked back up at the Head table.
"Fine, I will compete in your tournament," Harry said," but know that nothing you can do can make me win it."
Harry walked down the aisle, ignoring the stares and the whispering which had begun around the hall. He just hoped that at least some of the whispering was on his side. He eventually reached the Head table and stood next to Cedric. He glanced anxiously at the older boy to see how he had reacted to Harry being chosen as well, and received a sympathetic smile instead of the expected scowl. When he looked further down the line to Viktor and Fleur he received the same reaction. His confusion must have shown on his face because Cedric passed him a note. Understanding dawned as he read it.
The note simply said, 'It isn't Harry's fault. Someone just wants to kill him.'
The note had no signature but the way the 'I's had been dotted with radishes told Harry it had come from Luna. Making a note to himself to find out how she had known what would happen, and why she hadn't told him, he slipped the note into his pocket.
"The Champions have been chosen," Dumbledore restarted, "and it is now time for all of you to go to bed. I hope you all sleep well and don't stay up too late celebrating as there are classes tomorrow. Goodnight."
When the Champions made to leave with the rest of the students, Dumbledore motioned for them and their Professors to follow him into the side room at the end of the Hall. As soon as the door closed behind them the questions and complaints started.
"How could zis 'ave 'appened Dumbly-dore?" Madam Maxime said.
"Yes, how could this have happened?" Karkaroff repeated. "This is unacceptable. I demand that Durmstrang be allowed a second competitor as well."
Madam Maxime nodded in agreement to Karkaroff. Neither of them wanted their school to be at a disadvantage. Harry listened in irritation to their continued complaints, which only grew when Crouch informed them that, once the Goblet had chosen, any new names which were added to the Goblet would be disintegrated. The names would not fade from the Goblet until the competition was completed so, until then, no one else could be entered. It wasn't long before Harry's patience with the proceedings wore thin.
"I don't care whether or not the boy entered himself," Karkaroff said. "I only care about the unfair advantage to Hogwarts."
"Did no one listen to what I said back there?" Harry asked. "I quite clearly told you that I would purposefully come last. There is no advantage to Hogwarts!"
Karkaroff's face went a dangerous shade of mauve. The man was unused to being challenged by children and he had a rather short fuse.
"Shut up boy," Karkaroff spat out. "Silence while your betters speak, you cheating little runt."
Karkaroff raised his hand to cuff Harry around the head, but couldn't do it. His wrist had been grabbed in Dumbledore's iron grip at the beginning of his swing. The arguing had ceased instantaneously as a small amount of Dumbledore's magic leaked into the room.
"That is enough," Dumbledore's voice was filled with authority and all those in the room, even the adults, took a step back. "I will not permit you to strike my students for any reason, least of all because something they said displeases you."
Over to the side of the room the door silently opened and Moody sidled into the room while everyone's attention was focused on the Headmaster.
"Now you will hear me speak," Dumbledore said. "One of my students has been forcibly entered into the tournament but has gracefully decided that he will not attempt to win it. I will not accept any more posturing when both of you know full well that, as a fourth year, Mr Potter would be hard pressed to match the efforts of three seventeen year olds, even if he was competing."
Madam Maxime's face turned sheepish as, when the facts were displayed, her arguments became rather petty. Karkaroff, on the other hand, looked like he wanted to add something but a glance at Dumbledore had him holding his tongue. Dumbledore released Karkaroff's wrist slowly.
"Now we shall see what Alastor has found for us," Dumbledore said.
"Dark magic," The grizzled old Auror grunted.
Everyone except Harry and Dumbledore jumped when the man's voice came from behind them. Moody clunked forward out of the shadow he had been standing in, his magical eye spinning around the room. For some reason the eye seemed to land on Harry the least.
"I detected a strong confundus and the remnants of something which I've never seen before, but which has a dark taint all over it," Moody reported. "My theory is that they cast the confundus to weaken the Goblet for long enough for the other spell to do its work."
"Could the boy have done it?" Karkaroff asked.
The glare Moody sent Karkaroff's way made Durmstrang's Headmaster quail.
"Not a chance. It would take an experienced user of the Dark Arts to get that spell to work, judging by how much darkness it left behind," Moody answered. "The only people around with that sort of experience are 'ex' Death Eaters."
Harry had to wonder why Moody looked as hard at Karkaroff as he did when he said that. Dumbledore looked thoughtful for a few moments before rousing himself.
"It is getting late and we have yet to tell the Champions what they need to know," Dumbledore said, a little of his usual cheer returning to his visage. "The first thing you should know is that the Weighing of the Wands will take place of Friday afternoon so please tell whoever is teaching you at that time that you will need to leave early on in your lesson. You will be collected by a teacher and brought to the correct room. The other thing is that the First Task will consist of a test of daring and as such, we will tell you no more. Goodnight."
Taking that as a dismissal, the four Champions left the anteroom and walked into the empty Great Hall. Without all the students, the Halloween decorations were much creepier. Every few seconds a floating skull would hurtle, laughing emptily, down a table. The four of them subconsciously moved slightly closer together as they walked down the centre aisle.
Once they reached the entrance Hall they stopped to say their goodbyes because they would all be going different ways from there.
"Congratulations on becoming Champions," Harry said sincerely.
The other three smiled in response.
"Sorry that you got put in to the tournament as well Harry," Cedric replied.
"I hope you do not get too hurt because I vant to fly with you again sometime," Krum added.
"If all we 'ad to do was fly a broom 'e would 'ave already won," Fleur said with a smile.
Harry took their words as they were meant; as something to make him feel a bit better about the whole thing. Harry hadn't ever really had any contact with Cedric but he knew that many people liked him a lot. Among those people were the Weasley twins, who said the Cedric had helped them prank the Hufflepuff common room once. Cedric had been caught but hadn't handed them in, which put him in the twins' good books.
As for Fleur and Krum, he had spoken to them both a few times when they had stopped by the library to make use of one of the advantages to coming to Hogwarts that year, regardless of whether they became champions or not. All three of them also had something in common which they could all commiserate about, the number of brainless admirers which followed them around all day. It wasn't their only topic of conversation, but talking about ways to lose their stalkers was one of their favourites.
Bidding them all goodnight, Harry made his way up to Gryffindor tower. At this time of night it took longer than normal because some of the shortcuts changed where they went. Because of this it took him twenty minutes, rather than ten, to get up to the seventh floor.
When Harry got to the portrait of the Fat Lady he paused to collect himself before he had to weather whatever reaction to his championship had developed while he was absent. It was a tossup between outrage and celebration. Annoyingly, neither would let him just go to bed. What he found when he gave the password was a room full of sleeping people. They had all been waiting for him to start the party, judging by the butterbeers on the table, and had fallen asleep because he had taken so long. He couldn't see Ron anywhere in the common room which caused him to frown. If Ron wasn't there then he was probably angry at him for becoming a Champion.
Harry slowly picked his way through the sleeping people until he reached Hermione's chair. She was curled up in the chair asleep, her arms wrapped around what appeared to be a Triwizard Tournament rule book. Smiling, Harry drew her hair away from her face so it wouldn't tickle her nose and wake her. Then he very quietly called for Dobby and Winky, who appeared just as quietly.
He asked them to put the students to bed and the two elves began to pop the students up to their beds. Harry waited until the last of the students had been moved before tiredly climbing the staircase to his dorm, with the intention to fall straight into bed. This was not to be as, when he entered the room, he came face to face with the only other Gryffindor still awake, a furious Ron.
"You just had to do it, didn't you?" Ron hissed. "You couldn't even tell your best mate how to get his name in the Goblet as well."
"Ron," Harry sighed. "I didn't put my name in, someone just happens to want me dead again this year."
"Listen to poor Harry," Ron mocked. "Someone wants me dead. You might be able to fool everyone else but not me."
"Fine Ron," Harry said in a resigned voice. "Believe what you want."
Ron, still fuming, pulled his curtains closed.
With another sigh Harry pulled open his own curtains and immediately gave in to the urge to 'face palm', for there in his bed asleep hugging his pillow was Hermione. The book she had been holding lay by her side and he put it on his side table before calling deciding to call for Dobby.
"Dobby," Harry called, waiting a moment for the elf to appear. "Why didn't you put Hermione in her own bed?"
"I puts Master Harry Potter Sir's Miss Mione in Master Harry Potter Sir's bed," Dobby said fearfully. "Dids I do wrong Master?"
"You didn't do anything wrong Dobby," Harry said before Dobby could try and bludgeon himself with anything, "but I think you should put Hermione in her own bed."
The elf quickly popped away with the sleeping girl to do just that. Once the elf was gone Harry groaned when he realised that Hermione had taken his pillow with her. Deciding he was too tired to try and do anything about it, he quickly changed into his pyjamas and crawled into bed. His head had barely hit the mattress before he fell fast asleep.
I hope that you all liked this one. Positive reviews and constructive criticism are, as always, appreciated. Flames will be ignored.