AN: Just realised that I didn't put a disclaimer on here, so here goes, Harry Potter and the associated rights belong to JK Rowling. I'm just playing with them!
Couple of errors I spotted in here after I'd posted it, so a replacement corrected chapter for you all!
And many many thanks for all the reviews! I'm glad people like my writing.
The door to the small room burst open, and Dumbledore grabbed Harry by the shoulders.
"Did you put your name in the Goblet Harry?" His voice was rough and frantic, and Harry stared at him for a moment before replying.
"No, sir, I did not."
"Did you ask anyone else to do it for you? Think carefully Harry!"
"No sir." Harry stepped backwards, breaking the tight grip that Dumbledore had on him, and glanced around the room. Ludo Bagman and Mr Crouch seemed pleased at this turn of events, and Harry's opinion of them, which had not been high, lowered even more.
Madame Maxine and the Beauxbatons Champion Fleur Delacore had expressions of distrust aimed at both him and Dumbledore, whilst Karkaroff was glaring lividly at Dumbledore. Krum seemed to have a blank expression, and Professor Moody was lurking in the shadows behind Cedric Diggory, glaring at Karkaroff twice as often as he did everybody else in the room.
Snape was stood in the back of the room, with his eyes fixed on Harry. Harry felt a strange sensation, like something pressing on his mind, and he thought it came from Snape as their eyes met. He thought as hard as he could about the relief he had felt about the announcement of the TriWizard Tournament, the relief that he would not be doing anything dangerous this year, and spoke to Dumbledore without taking his eyes from Snape's.
"Headmaster, I did not enter my name into the Goblet of Fire, nor did I ask anybody else to do so for me. If my name was entered, it was without my knowledge or consent. I swear to you, I did not do this."
A brief hum of magic surrounded Harry as he spoke, and the feeling in his mind seemed to pulse with pride before disappearing.
Snape nodded once at him, before stepping forward into the light and everyone's notice, and raising a hand to stem the words about to burst from Madame Maxine. "Potter is telling the truth, Headmaster. The power required to convince the Goblet to appoint a Fourth Champion is beyond the skills of a Seventh Year, let alone a Fourth Year such as Potter."
"Nevertheless, his name has emerged from the Goblet, therefore he is bound by the magical contract to participate." Bartemius Crouch seemed excited about the possibilities, and Snape sneered at him.
"Be that as it may," he snapped, "I believe there is no more to be done tonight, and the Champions should be released to bed. A good night's sleep should refresh us for more discussion tomorrow."
His hand fell on Harry's shoulder, and pushed lightly to get the boy moving before anyone had time to protest. Briefly, before the door closed behind them, Harry could hear raised voices again, seemingly Moody and Karkaroff were shouting at each other about Dark Wizards, Azkaban, and the power required to Confund such an ancient artifact as the Goblet of Fire.
The walk to the Gryffindor Common Room was done in silence, until Snape's purposeful tread slowed as they neared the portrait.
"Potter, come see me tomorrow, I understand you have a free period second period. I believe there is much to be discussed about the events of this evening." His voice was more hesitant than Harry had heard before, and bewildered and exhausted he just nodded before stepping up to the Fat Lady and giving the password in a flat tone.
The buzz of conversation in the Common Room died abruptly as the door closed behind Harry, and he was faced with what felt like a thousand accusatory stares. Inwardly rolling his eyes, he supressed a sigh, and wondered whether anyone in the school believed that he hadn't done it, besides Snape. Even the portraits, ghosts and other inhabitants of the castle seemed to think he had somehow managed to evade Dumbledore's Age Line and cheat his way into the Tournament.
Raising his wand, he met the glares with equal venom and drew a deep breath.
" I swear, I did not enter my name into the Goblet of Fire, nor did I ask anyone else to do so." he said firmly, feeling that odd hum of magic flare around him again.
Crossing to the dormitory stairs as the whispering began again, he noticed Neville was sat with the Weasley twins. The nods he received as he passed the three boys were re-assuring, as it appeared that they at least were still on his side. Climbing up to the Fourth Year dormitory, Harry wondered where Ron was, and Hermione as he hadn't seen either in the Common room, before having the question partly answered as he stepped into the dormitory.
Ron was lying in bed, with the covers pulled up tight around his ears and his back to Harry's bed. Harry was surprised, he would have thought that Ron would have been waiting eagerly to commiserate with him on his rotten luck.
"Ron?" He said hesitantly, and Ron's shoulders hunched even more, burying himself deeper into the blankets.
"Ron." Harry said, more insistantly, wanting desperately to talk to his best friend about the night's events.
Ron's head slowly turned to gaze over his shoulder, and he gave Harry a flat look.
"Oh, it's you." He said, even more flatly. "Come to gloat, have you? Could have shared your secrets with me, let me enter as well."
Harry gaped, blindsided, and was suddenly reminded of what Ron had seen in the Mirror of Erised. Abruptly realising that he was too tired to care about Ron's jealousy, Harry crossed the room and started dressing for bed.
"I didn't put my name in the Goblet, Ron. I even swore an Oath saying that in front of Dumbledore and the other Champions, and another just now in the Common Room." He sighed, and turned back to the boy whose friendship he was starting to wonder about.
"I'm not going to beg, Ron, it's up to you to believe what you want. But, I did not enter my name!"
He headed to the bathroom to do his ablutions in silence before closing the curtains firmly around his bed to go to sleep in peace. However, peace seemed to be far from him that night. He lay awake for what seemed like hours, listening as the others came up from the Common Room and got ready for bed.
Once the whispering had hushed, and the snoring started, Harry applied the Silencing Charm that Fred had taught him to his curtains, and waited for sleep to arrive. He tossed and turned, and was drawn into the nightmare about Voldie killing the Muggle again. As the green light flashed, Harry woke with a scream. Of course, his entry into the Tournament was down to Voldemort, but how had he arranged it?
And, oh, he had better write to Sirius, as well, so that he was aware of the problems. Perhaps he could convince Sirius that it was all Dumbledore's fault? Chuckling at the image that evoked, of Sirius chasing Dumbledore around the Great Hall, promising to really gain his name as a murderer, Harry rolled over and fell into a dreamless sleep.
When Harry awoke the next morning, he wondered briefly why his curtains were shut, before the events of yesterday crashed down upon him.
He sighed, gathered his courage and opened the curtains, to find snoring coming from Seamus' and Dean's beds, and Neville just emerging from the bathroom.
"Morning Harry." said Neville cheerfully. "Have you seen my Gurdyroot has flowered? Isn't it pretty?" He gestured to an ugly cactus-type plant on the windowsill beside his bed, which had a long stalk with a single yellow flower on sticking up from one side.
"Morning Nev" said Harry, casting a Tempus and discovering he had woken early and still had fifteen minutes before breakfast started. "No I hadn't noticed, but it is pretty. Is it useful?"
He listened absently to Neville's excited description of all the plant could do as he gathered his washbag for a shower, glad that Neville was treating him no differently than usual.
Ron's curtains were tightly closed, but no sound emerged, and Harry decided to leave it at that. Whether Ron was awake right now or not, it was his actions which would determine what direction this friendship was headed, although Harry wondered about Hermione as he showered. Would she react as Ron had, or would she recognise the truth in Harry's words?
And, on the topic of the truth in Harry's words, how had Snape known he was telling the truth? Could it have something to do with that strange sensation in Harry's mind when he and Snape had been staring at each other?
Having dried and dressed, Harry headed down to the Great Hall with Neville, discussing the Ancient Runes class that Neville usually had when Harry had Divination. Harry wondered aloud whether he would do better switching from Divination to Ancient Runes, or even Arithmancy, as he hated predicting his own death every lesson, and Neville offered to lend him his third year books for both subjects to see if he enjoyed them, and catch him up to speed in fourth year as well if he wanted.
"Divination is unlikely to be useful in a career, unless you have the Sight. I only take it because Grandmother thinks there used to be Sight in her family. I think she's hoping it'll appear in me, but I doubt it. I'll be dropping Divination after OWLs."
Neville's face was serious, and Harry wondered why they weren't told what subjects were useful for which careers at the end of second year. If he'd known he was limiting his options, he'd not have chosen Divination.
He thanked Neville as they reached the Gryffindor table, where Hermione was devouring a large book along with her toast and tea. Harry was unsurprised by this, although the expression on her face did surprise him.
"Harry!" She screeched, albeit quietly, lowering her book to the table upon catching sight of him. "What were you thinking, entering your name in the Tournament? You know what the death tolls were like, and there's no way you know enough magic to survive! And why couldn't you have told us that you were doing it? Don't you think your friends deserve to know if you have a death wish!"
Harry's face grew stony, and he placed his pumpkin juice back on the table. Staring at Hermione as she continued to rant quietly at him, his thoughts whirled. Was she jealous, like Ron, or did she truly believe that he was not capable of surviving this? Perhaps she had a point there about his magical knowledge, he reflected, but still! She may be ahead of him in some classes, but he was very good in Defense, which would more than likely be what he would need to use during the Tournament.
Seizing the moment when Hermione paused for breath, Harry spoke commandingly but quietly, with none of the rage that Ron would have shown.
"You may not be aware, but I swore an Oath in the Common room last night, that I did not have anything to do with my name ending up in the Goblet. The fact that you would think I did, after all the discussions we've had with me saying I'm glad I won't be involved with anything dangerous this year, is horrible. Do you not know me at all, Hermione?" Harry's voice was stiff and toneless, and Hermione, glancing at Neville beside him, was startled when she realised he had the same expression.
Hermione switched her gaze back to Harry, whose face still bore that stony expression as he ate his porridge, and sighed.
She still thought that he had circumvented Dumbledore's Age Line somehow, and couldn't understand why he wouldn't just admit it. A note fluttered onto the table in front of Harry, and he turned to search the Head Table after reading it. Hermione reached for the note, and Harry dropped it into his pocket as he reached for the jug of pumpkin juice, seemingly missing the fact that she wanted to read the note.
Neville, however, hadn't missed Hermione's expectation of reading Harry's post, and his look of censure in her direction unnerved her.
"What are you doing for your free period, Harry? I have to check on a plant in Greenhouse 3, but after that I was going to the Library to make a start on the History of Magic homework we're bound to be given. Care to join me there?" Neville decided to say nothing to Harry about Hermione, or Ron, or indeed the Tournament, and leave it up to Harry to take his time in broaching any subject matter with him.
"I may do Neville, I'm meeting someone to discuss my options about the Tournament, but I may come and find you after that, if there's time. I'm not sure how long the meeting will take though."
Harry knew that Hermione was about to explode in angry questions, and thanked Merlin that Neville was there to distract him and avoid his magic breaking free and causing a scene. He also thanked Merlin for Nev's quiet unassuming manner, since he was aware that Neville had refrained from expressing his curiosity until Harry was ready to talk.
He continued to avoid Hermione's questioning by asking Neville about the plants in Greenhouse 3, since she was seated on the other side of the table and could not butt in.
The arrival in the Great Hall of a majority of the students co-incided with the post delivery, and Harry gladly seized the opportunity to slip out of the Hall with Neville quietly before Hermione noticed and could catch up to him.
During History of Magic, Harry occupied his thoughts with the Tournament, what Snape may want to speak to him about, and the chances of Neville staying his friend after he heard all about Harry. Harry hoped he would, and besides, he thoguht that talking to someone about all this would be very necessary soon. Suddenly realising it was the end of the lesson, Harry quickly wrote the homework down and joined Neville to get out of the door before Hermione could catch up to him. The advantage of Ron's not speaking to Harry was that Neville sat with him and Hermione sat with Ron.
They parted ways in the Entrance hall, with Neville heading out of the Front Door, and Harry stepped across to the stairs to the Dungeons. He was a little worried about what Snape wanted to discuss, but remembering the way Snape had seemed worried himself, Harry decided that he would face it with as much composure and calm as possible.