Harry Potter and the Trouble With Neurotypicals 32

Harry Potter and the Trouble With Neurotypicals: Book Four.
Or, "Autistic Potter and the Goblet of Fire."

Notes: I do not own this. J. K. Rowling does. This is just fan fiction. No money is being made. Not by me, anyway.

There may be a few bits and pieces lifted word-for-word from the canon material. I tried to do that as little as possible, though, but there's a lot more in this one than usual because it was unavoidable. Still, lots of details are changed, so don't skip by familiar parts or you might miss something.

Just as a reminder, so I don't have to shoehorn in descriptions in the text of the story as a reminder, but in this fanfic Harry and Hermione, apart from having Asperger's Syndrome, are both black as well.

'Italicized text between single quotes is almost always Parseltongue.'

Note: I made a mistake and forgot to include the first day of History of Magic in the last chapter, so we'll be backtracking a little to cover it.
Also, I had been intending to get this out by Thanksgiving, but well, clearly that didn't happen.

Chapter 8: “The Importance of History”

One other class Harry and several of his friends were most looking forward to was History of Magic, now that they had a new teacher. The first class, on the day after their first DADA lesson with Moody, everyone had entered the new History of Magic classroom (the old one was still haunted by Binns) and were waiting to find out what the class would be like, now. A few people complained about lost nap time, but mostly people were glad they'd have an actual class for once.

When they were all seated, they waited only a couple minutes before the teacher came in and closed the door. She was a woman of Indian descent, tall for a woman, and looked like an older version of Antigone.

“Hello, students,” she said with the faintest of Indian accents, getting everyone's attention. “I am Mrs. Dreyfuss. I am your new History of Magic teacher. And yes, before you ask, I wrote the textbook, too. I do not normally approve of teachers writing their own textbooks, it's a bad habit some universities let too many professors get away with, but in this case, the only decent textbooks around are all in other languages. Both the UK and the US, I hate to say, have their own peculiar biases, and there's more fiction than fact in history books from both countries. I did write the textbook, though, but I had not intended to also be teaching it. But since nobody was stepping up to take the position, I took the job when Dumbledore offered it to me.”

Harry was already impressed; her voice caught the attention, and made you want to hear what she had to say. Though her reference to universities made him wonder if she was Muggle-born. Not that it mattered, but it would be cool if she was.

“First, I'll take roll.”

This was another change. Binns never paid any attention to his students, not even to take roll. It had been an easy class to get away with skipping. No more, it seemed. She went through roll, and Harry was impressed to note that neither her voice nor her mannerisms changed when she reached his name. Either his fame meant nothing to her, or she'd braced herself to act normally towards him. Either way, he approved.

“Good,” she said when roll was done. “Now on to history.”

She paused to consult some index cards for a moment, then set them aside to begin.

“First off, I want to tell you right now, there's no such thing as facts in history, not really. And why not? Well, for the same reason eyewitness testimonies in the Muggle justice system are fraught with error. People all have their own perspectives on the world, their own reality tunnel that colors everything they experience, and beyond that, memory is very suggestible to change, very fallible.

“Have you ever heard of 'leading questions'? Those are questions where the solicitor asks a question in a way that loads the meaning with emotion or changes the entire context of the question and answer, often resulting in changes of content. Muggle scientists have done studies that found it is scarily easy to alter someone's memories, even implant false memories, without even needing to use magic. The brain, given the right verbal stimuli, will often accept something stated as fact by another person and accept the lie, filling in the blanks until suddenly you're remembering something that never happened. You may have even experienced this effect in your lifetime; ever had a vivid memory of doing something, or being somewhere, and later you found out it was just the memory of a dream? That's the sort of thing I mean, except it happens when one is awake as well, and often the brain forgets that the false memories are false.

“The only reason I specified this as a problem with the Muggle justice system is because the magic of Pensieves is slightly related to time-turners; it takes your memory of the event, and looks back in time to fill in the details. Without that aspect of Pensieves, eyewitness accounts in the wizarding justice system would be just as unreliable. In an alternate universe where Pensieves didn't have that aspect to them, Pensieve memories would be basically worthless as testimony, because our brains don't know things, they tell themselves stories about their lives, and stories can easily change the more you tell them, which is why we need hard evidence. Take the recent trial that exonerated Sirius Black, for instance. In a world where Pensieves couldn't look through time to fill in details, the only worth all those eyewitness accounts of Peter Pettigrew being alive would be that they all agreed that the man was alive, and only the photographs of the man taken after his capture would have been worth anything as evidence.

“And so, what we historians call 'facts' in history is really nothing more than 'two or more sides of this issue agree that such-and-such happened at such-and-such time and place.' Did it really happen at all? Well, we have to assume it did, because we don't have any better information without using a time turner and risking damaging the timeline, or contemporary written accounts, photographs, archaeological evidence, and so on. In the wizarding world, we have other options as well, for instance Pensieves, but those have limitations. Biases can also get in the way; it is easy to get wizard or witch Pensieve memories for events, but getting the same thing for Muggles, Goblins, and other sapient races is not so easy. First, they're not allowed wands, so they can't do it themselves. And second, most wizards or witches never offer to help them copy those memories. And let's be honest here, most of them wouldn't trust us to do that anyway, because the memory copying spell involves a wand right to the temple, and they don't exactly trust us.”

There was some laughter here. She paused, smiling, and waited for it to pass before continuing.

“Perception can also change the content of memories and 'facts.' For instance, did you know that the ancient Greeks didn't have a word for the color 'blue'? We know this from the writings of Homer. His color descriptive palate was limited to metallic colors, black, white, yellowish green and purplish red, and those colors he often used oddly. He calls the sky "bronze" and the sea and sheep as the color of wine, he applies the adjective chloros (meaning green with our understanding) to honey, and a nightingale.

“Now this might just be a quirk of Homer, but we've seen the same thing in other cultures, living cultures. Some call the daytime sky a shade of black, for instance. And some cultures have words for colors that English doesn't. But my point here is, if something as fundamental as color can be so subject to perception differences, anything can.”

She paused to take a drink of water before continuing.

“And so, we don't really have facts, we have a bunch of stories that say what happened. Which is why the word 'history' has the word 'story' in it. What's more, a lot of history around the world has been entirely one-sided, only one story being told. In a world so full of uncertainty in the form of fallible memories, quirks of perception, and problems with bias, we can't rely on one side of the story to get the facts. We need to hear other sides, compare them, see where they agree and disagree. But there are other benefits to hearing other sides of history, as well.”

She paused, walking a little ways as though thinking, before going on.

“You've learned over the years all kinds of lists of names, dates, and other facts and figures about things like the goblin rebellions, but have you ever stopped to wonder why the goblins rebelled? Or what exactly a goblin rebellion is? We don't often stop to think about the motivations behind these events, because our prevailing idea is that it all happened in the past, it's over and done with, it has very little to do with our present. But that's incorrect, in so many ways. History is important because the past informs our present, and because we can draw parallels to the modern day. History has a tendency to repeat itself, especially if we don't pay attention to history. Many of the same problems our ancestors faced, we still face today, whether we are aware of it or not.

“So let's take the goblin rebellions for a start. Goblin and human relations haven't gone very well for a very long time, but it might surprise you to know that our two races were once very friendly. Way back before wands or staffs were invented, human magic was mostly just wandless magic, runic magic, or ritual magic. Wandless magic is, of course, basically accidental magic that people can learn to control and shape with the power of their Will. It used to be the most common form of magic in use by humans, until staffs and wands were invented, which made learning wandless magic mostly obsolete. Aurors sometimes use it, mainly to summon their wands if they lose them, but also often to keep on fighting if their wand gets broken or irretrievably lost. But wands and – to a lesser extent staffs – are incredibly useful. They speed up the process of controlling one's magic by a significant margin, and make it significantly easier to do at the same time.

“See, if wands and staffs hadn't been invented, we'd all be starting to learn how to control our magic as young as seven years old, if not earlier, and most of us would still be working on mastering it into our early twenties, if not longer. But despite this, it was more popular than runes and rituals because it was faster, easier to control than either, and needed no tools to use. Also, ritual magic can be very dangerous and unpredictable, as it usually requires the same kind of focused Will power and control as wandless magic, but usually uses far greater amounts of magic. To compare the two, wandless magic is like learning to move streams into new paths, while ritual magic is like learning to do the same to rivers.

“Well these kinds of issues aren't just limited to humans. Some species, like house elves, have a greater innate control over their magic. Even Goblins have this extra innate control, to an extent. But there are limits. I doubt a house elf's magic would be much helped by a wand, but Goblins are another matter altogether. Wands would help them almost as significantly as they helped humans, but humans refused – and still refuse – to share the knowledge of wand making with Goblins.

“And there, students, is where the enmity began. Human magic took a great leap forward in power and control. The speed and ease it took to learn magic with a wand, even if wand magic has to wait until the student is around age 11 to best master it, means that wands freed up a lot of time for humans, time we spent inventing new spells, where once we used to use that time to struggle to learn the old spells.

“Because of this leap forward, we quickly became a force to be reckoned with. Species that used to prey on us started to fear us. Even allies like the Goblins – and yes, our two races were once allies – started to fear our power. Being allies of ours, the Goblins asked for us to share our new technology, these wands, with them. But by then we'd already grown inflated by our newfound power. The human race wasn't keen on slipping back so quickly into a world where we were prey, for our ancestors feared the secrets of wand lore getting to sapient races that were not as friendly to them as Goblins were, so they refused to share wand lore with the Goblins or any other sapient race, a policy which still dominates the globe to this day.

“Out of their understandable fear and jealousy, the Goblins and the humans started to wage war on each other. And despite being a warrior culture with great magical metal-smithing skills, the Goblins started to lose to us. It eventually got to a point where their race was being threatened with possible extinction. And so they made peace with humans in order to survive, accepting we would not give them wand technology. They even gradually convinced us to let them handle our gold and our banking for us, using their magic to make counterfeiting impossible, something that didn't go over very well until Christianity started to overtake Europe, for despite paganism still having a good foothold in the wizarding world, Christianity is still rather popular among us as well. With Christianity back then banning usury – money lending, that is – the Goblins eventually gained control of the wizarding banking system for much the same reason so many Jewish Muggles got into banking and finance: because they didn't have a cultural stigma against usury, and finding a job they could do where they weren't persecuted was difficult, for both groups also struggled to survive in a world that hated, distrusted, and even feared them. Thus, going into banking helped both of these groups survive and even thrive, despite the oppression.

“So now I think we have a good idea of the root cause of the Goblin rebellions: a proud warrior race reduced to being thought of as greedy, gold-loving bankers, when Gringott's only exists as a means to ensure the survival of the Goblin race. Such a culture, knowing its history and still valuing its martial nature and its weapons-crafting skills but being oppressed by another species that had proven repeatedly it could end their species, well... if you were in their position, wouldn't you lash out on occasion? Wouldn't you want to have the same edge as your oppressors, so you would no longer have to demean yourself to survive?

“Why am I telling you all this, you may be wondering. Well, I admit I am an optimist. I hope that in the centuries we've been around, we've learned a thing or two. Sure, countries like Britain have become corrupted by a blood purity mania that doesn't exist in most other places around the world, where we're fighting each other over whether we're old blood or new blood, the whole time letting it become the downfall of many ancient Houses via the negative effects of inbreeding. Still, those attitudes are being fought, and good thing, too; intermarrying with Muggles has made the wizarding communities of a great many countries around the world thrive, where British wizarding culture is on the decline thanks to this whole blood purity nonsense. Anyone telling you the wizarding population as a whole has been declining in numbers is repeating a falsehood; that is only true here in the UK.

“What's more, all over the Muggle world, people are rising up for social justice causes, fighting hatred, ignorance, and fascism to make the world a better place for everyone living in it.

“So as I say, I'm an optimist. An optimist who hopes that by educating you on the complex nature of history and how it affects us in the modern era, that you'll recognize the old mistakes that are being re-made in the present day, and fight them so that our world can continue to thrive and prosper. Which extends to other races, too. For as intelligent and crafty as the Goblins are, they will eventually figure out how to make wands. It would be better if we shared that information with them freely with an aim for peace, rather than force them to develop the technology in secret and surprise us. For nothing good can come of continuing to deny the Goblins the chance to expand their powers via wands.

“I'm going to warn you now, I will also be teaching some Muggle history as well. Prior to the Statute of Secrecy, Muggle history and Magical history were deeply intertwined, even inseparable in places. Even after the Statute, events in the Muggle world have affected our world, and vice versa. For instance, there will be a section in this class about World War One and World War Two, Muggle wars that impacted the wizarding world too. World War II is going to get the greater bulk of the coverage, because of Gellert Grindlewald's hand in it. Also there are some other parallels between World War II and the wizarding world that I will get into later.

“But that's not where we'll be beginning. No, to start with we will be going back to the beginning of the persecution of witches and wizards, and exploring that era, for that was the time when Muggle and magical history began to divide. But in the process of exploring the differences, we'll also explore the similarities, the ways that Muggle history is our own history, even into the modern, post-Statute world.”

Hermione raised her hand.

“Yes, Miss Granger?”

“Will we be learning dates and names and so on, as well?”

“Yes. But those will be secondary to the greater context of events, the motives of those involved, and how those events are relevant to the modern day. Because names and dates and that sort of thing are dry and boring. History is a story, as I said before. How many stories have you remembered that were boring and dry? Probably not very many. How many years would you remember a boring old tale like that? I'm sure the figure would be closer to 'weeks' or 'months' for most of you!”

She paused while many people laughed.

“No, dry and boring is not the way. The stories we remember are the ones that grab our attention, hold it, and fill us with a thirst to learn more. Stories like that are hard to forget, which is why I'm teaching history as a series of stories. My hope is you'll remember them for decades to come.

“But now, we are almost out of time. I'd like you to read the first two chapters of the textbook, take notes, and be ready to participate in a class discussion on them next Friday. I suggest you read through your notes the day before, to refresh your memory. That is all. See you next week.”

The bell rang then, and they all got up to leave, talking excitedly among themselves about the lecture, for only the second time in the history of the class, as far as Harry could remember. The first had been when Hermione had convinced Binns to tell the story of the Chamber of Secrets, back in their second year.

Harry had since read the two assigned chapters, dealing with the events that led up to the witch persecutions, and he got so hooked on the story that he read the next couple chapters as well, which went into the witch persecutions themselves. According to the textbook, there weren't very many burnings; most witch trials involved being held under water, or heavy stones put on a person's chest, and the use of many gruesome torture devices. What was more, this book referenced the Bagshot book, the bit about Muggles being pants at finding real witches and wizards and burning not being very effective, and ripped into it mercilessly. The first part wasn't even true; at first, they'd been quite good at finding real witches and wizards, and hurting or killing them. But then the witches and wizards got cleverer, getting away more often, and the witch hunts died down eventually. Witch persecution was a thing that came and went over the centuries, waxed and waned, and the more recent European witch hunts hadn't involved any witches and wizards at all, but had instead been mostly an excuse to persecute women – especially old women who knew useful things like herbalism and how to perform an abortion.

And the idea that burning had no effect was only relevant if you managed to keep your wand somehow, knew the flame-freezing charm, and could get out of the ropes binding you. There were also children to consider, the fact that staffs were almost as common as wands back then (and it was a lot harder to hide a staff), and also there were squibs who could do potions but not other kinds of magic (or just happened to be living with witches or wizards when they got caught). The book also said there was no evidence at all that Wendelin the Weird ever got caught even once, but plenty of evidence to suggest she liked to tell tall tales for attention.

These weren't all baseless suppositions, either; she gave a great many references, both magical and Muggle, in her book. There were footnotes on every page, an endnotes section, a bibliography even; it was like no other book Harry had ever seen in the wizarding world. Most wizarding books rarely cited any sources, and now he came to think about it, you pretty much just had to take it on faith that most wizarding books were accurate. It was no wonder Gilderoy Lockhart had gotten away with stealing other people's achievements for so long, it was like nobody in the wizarding world had ever thought to attempt to verify things said to be facts.

According to Draco, the Slytherin reaction to Professor Dreyfuss's lecture was markedly different than the other Houses' reactions. There'd been interruptions, arguments, and detentions assigned for disrupting class. Harry worried, after hearing this, about how long she would be able to teach before the parents of the Slytherins pressured someone into firing her. Dumbledore wouldn't fire her, but the school governors probably could, and Harry worried they might. He hoped they wouldn't, though; controversial as her lecture might have been, it still left an impression that didn't easily vanish. Even Ron was talking about it still a week after the fact.

~

Crouch Junior was dismissing the last class of the day when he saw an owl in the classroom window, waiting for him. He ushered everyone out and closed the door, moving to the window to let the bird in and take its package. It was a two-way mirror from his master. He stumped along to his office, locking it behind him as he went in, and covering the room with as many anti-eavesdropping spells as he could think of, which was quite a few more than the average person could, some spells covering methods of eavesdropping that only dark wizards and witches knew. Once he knew it was safe to talk, he pulled out the two-way mirror and spoke.

“Master,” he told the mirror.

A moment later, his master's face appeared in the mirror.

“Master,” he said again reverentially, this time in lieu of greeting.

“Greetings, Barty,” said the cold voice. “I called to discuss the Potter issue you brought up in your letter. I assume it is safe to speak?”

“Yes it is, Master. I remember your lessons well.”

“Good. I do not know, of course, what Potter is doing with Dumbledore. I could make a joke suggestion, but no, I will not. For all his faults, he is not that depraved.

“But I digress. Have you seen any new developments since your letter?”

“No, Master. Just more of the same. Potter visits Dumbledore every week, and it appears as if Dumbledore is casting a spell on him, and he is resisting. The old goat did, to my surprise, let me do the old auror training routine of casting Unforgivables on the children to teach them resistance, it's possible he's doing more of the same. But... no, I don't think so. He doesn't behave the same way in Dumbledore's office as he does in my class, fighting the Imperius. I think it is another spell.”

“Interesting. Am I to understand that the two spells look somewhat similar to one another, though?”

“There are indeed similarities to the Imperius curse, my lord.”

“Hmm... well the only thing that makes sense in that case is occlumency, the art of occluding the mind from external penetration. But we cannot be sure. It is too bad you cannot eavesdrop on them, Barty.”

“Would that I could, Master, but I have a magical eye, not a magical ear.”

His master laughed with genuine amusement at the joke.

“Oh my, you are a witty one, Crouch. Perhaps you could turn your talents toward inventing some sort of magical ear. Hmm... I think it could be done, and it wouldn't even be very difficult. Surprising nobody's thought to do it yet.”

“I shall put my mind to that task, Master.”

“Good, good,” his master said distractedly. “But that is for later. For now, this Potter problem. Is it occlumency the old fool is teaching him? And if so, why? That is what I do not understand. Is there any way for you to find out more without being suspicious?”

“I doubt it, my lord. Moody would not think twice about why the boy goes to see Dumbledore, I think. But...”

“Yes?”

“Well, Moody is quite paranoid. And even someone he trusts as much as Dumbledore might get looked at askance for seeing so much of the boy without any other witnesses around. If I play my cards right, I might be able to work up a case for asking about it. Maybe come in toward the end of one session and express curiosity that way. Something like 'The boy was in here with you pretty late tonight, Dumbledore. Just the two of you in here together? I trust you, Dumbledore, but if the wrong person saw it, they might come to the wrong conclusion,' that sort of thing.”

“Excellent. I see your mind is still as sharp as ever, even after your long imprisonment under the Imperius curse. Yes, proceed with that plan if you are able to, and report back to me later. I shall think more on this conundrum.”

“Thank you, Master. I will do that, Master.”

His master grinned. “I know you will, Barty. You are my most faithful, and my most capable, servant. Go, continue your ruse.”

With that, his master's image disappeared from the mirror. Barty hid the mirror in one of the compartments of Moody's trunk. He tore down the anti-eavesdropping spells, and continued on with his greatest acting role ever.

~

One day, when they arrived in the entrance hall, Harry, Ron, and Hermione found themselves unable to proceed owing to the large crowd of students congregated there, all milling around a large sign that had been erected at the foot of the marble staircase. Ron, the tallest of the three, stood on tiptoe to see over the heads in front of them and read the sign aloud to the other two:

TRIWIZARD TOURNAMENT

The delegations from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang will be arriving at 6 o’clock on Friday the 30th of October. Lessons will end half an hour early —

“Brilliant!” said Harry. “It’s Potions last thing on Friday! Snape won’t have time to poison us all!”

Students will return their bags and books to their dormitories and assemble in front of the castle to greet our guests before the Welcoming Feast.

“Only a week away!” said Ernie Macmillan of Hufflepuff, emerging from the crowd, his eyes gleaming. “I wonder if Cedric knows? Think I’ll go and tell him. …”

“Cedric?” said Ron blankly as Ernie hurried off.

“Diggory,” said Harry. “He must be entering the tournament.”

“Who's he?” said Ron as they pushed their way through the chattering crowd toward the staircase.

“He's on the Hufflepuff Quidditch team, at least from what I've heard. He sounds pretty smart and capable, I hope he ends up being the champion for the school.”

“Oh him. Yeah, I remember him. But a Hufflepuff, school champion?”

“Why not? They value hard work and fairness. Who better than a Hufflepuff?”

“Well yeah, I guess. Better a Hufflepuff than a Slyth—er, nevermind.” Ron said, turning red in the face. “I guess Antigone or one of the others would make a great Champion. Heck, even Draco wouldn't be bad at it.”

“I dunno about Draco,” Harry said. “I like him and all, but he's a bit of a scaredy-cat. Dunno if he could manage a cockatrice or whatever.”

Ron laughed. “Yeah, he'd probably scream and run away.”

The appearance of the sign in the entrance hall had a marked effect upon the inhabitants of the castle. During the following week, there seemed to be only one topic of conversation, no matter where Harry went: the Triwizard Tournament. Rumors were flying from student to student like highly contagious germs: who was going to try for Hogwarts champion, what the tournament would involve, how the students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang differed from themselves.

The school was getting extra cleaning as well, from the halls and the suits of armor to the paintings, which were somehow getting scrubbed clean without damaging them. And all the teachers were on edge, Professor McGonagall even snapping at Neville about what Durmstrang would think after he switched his ears onto a cactus.

When they went down to breakfast on the morning of the thirtieth of October, they found that the Great Hall had been decorated overnight. Enormous silk banners hung from the walls, each of them representing a Hogwarts House: red with a gold lion for Gryffindor, blue with a bronze eagle for Ravenclaw, yellow with a black badger for Hufflepuff, and green with a silver serpent for Slytherin. Behind the teachers’ table, the largest banner of all bore the Hogwarts coat of arms: lion, eagle, badger, and snake united around a large letter H.

Sitting next to Fred and George at the Griffindor table, most of them began to discuss the Tournament. Soon Harry's Slytherin friends came over to join the discussion. After Fred and George mentioned that the teachers wouldn't tell them how the Champions were picked, Ron took a turn speaking.

“Any of you lot going to try to join?”

“Don't look at me,” Harry said. “It took me loads of planning and coping tools just to watch the Quidditch World Cup without needing the hospital, I don't even want to think about trying this Tournament thing. What about you, Antigone?”

“Can't. I don't turn 17 til November 5th.”

“Ouch! That's some rotten luck,” Fred said.

“Yeah, worse than ours. We won't be 17 til April.”

“What about you, Danzia?”

“I'm only 14 until November 3rd,” Danzia said.

“Darn. Angela?”

“I'm younger than Antigone by a month,” she said. “Sorry.”

“Damn. Oh well, we'll figure something out.”

There was a pleasant feeling of anticipation in the air that day. Nobody was very attentive in lessons, being much more interested in the arrival that evening of the people from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang; even Potions was more bearable than usual, as it was half an hour shorter. When the bell rang early, Harry, Ron, and Hermione hurried up to Gryffindor Tower, deposited their bags and books as they had been instructed, pulled on their cloaks, and rushed back downstairs into the entrance hall.

The Heads of Houses were ordering their students into lines, so they couldn't stand with their Slytherin friends. But they could see them, and Draco seemed to have bulked up his entourage again, this time with Daphne Greengrass, Tracey Davis, Blaise Zabini, and a couple other Slytherins Harry didn't recognize.

Professor McGonagall was chiding people for the way they were dressed, so she must have still been on edge. When she was done, they filed down the steps and lined up in front of the castle. It was a cold, clear evening; dusk was falling and a pale, transparent-looking moon was already shining over the Forbidden Forest. Harry, standing between Ron and Hermione in the fourth row from the front, saw Dennis Creevey positively shivering with anticipation among the other first years.

The wait was long and cold and annoying, but eventually something happened. First, a giant carriage pulled by enormous winged horses arrived. The carriage was the size of a house, and the size was soon explained. For, along with several dozen students was a woman who had to be 11 feet tall. Whatever caused Hagrid to be absurdly tall had affected her as well, but where Hagrid was bumbling and looked a bit like a mountain man, Madame Maxime was beautiful and elegant, even regal as she walked down the steps.

The boys and girls of Beauxbatons being all cold, she and her students were led indoors while the rest of the school waited for Durmstrang. Again the wait was kind of long and annoying, but soon something was happening; the lake appeared to be boiling. Then it swirled around, and a ship came out of it, like a reverse whirlpool. Soon, a bunch of boys and girls in furred capes were climbing the gangplank down to land, led by a man in sleek silver furs, who spoke to Dumbledore in a fruity, unctuous voice. The man was tall and thin like Dumbledore, but had a goatee instead of a Gandalf beard like Dumbledore had. It didn't quite hide his weak chin.

“Dear old Hogwarts,” the man, Karkaroff, said, looking up at the castle and smiling; his teeth were rather yellow, and Harry noticed that his smile did not extend to his eyes, which remained cold and shrewd. “How good it is to be here, how good. … Viktor, come along, into the warmth … you don’t mind, Dumbledore? Viktor has a slight head cold.”

Karkaroff beckoned forward one of his students. As the boy passed, Harry caught a glimpse of a prominent curved nose and thick black eyebrows. He didn’t need the punch on the arm Ron gave him, or the hiss in his ear, to recognize that profile.

“Harry — it’s Krum!”

“Huh. Didn't know he was a student still,” Harry said.

“Me neither! Oh my god, I need to get his autograph!”

Harry rolled his eyes. He'd gotten the impression, from Krum's usual behavior, that the boy didn't much care for his fame, either. But Harry didn't want to presume, so he didn't say anything.

Ron was far from the only person excited by Krum; girls and boys alike clamored for a look, bemoaned not having quills or parchment or even paper and pen on them, and other such silliness.

In the press of bodies on their way back into the castle, Harry ran into Antigone.

“Has it ever struck you as odd that the thing most people want most from celebrities is their signature?” he asked. “I mean, how do they sign checks if they're always giving out their signature? Surely someone could use the autograph to forge their signature on a check?”

“No idea. Maybe they use a different signature for autographs. Or, you know, they're famous, so who's going to accept a check in Krum's name if it's handed over by a 30 year old Chinese woman, or something of the sort?”

“Good points.”

“Have you ever given any autographs?”

“No. And I never will. If it bothers people, so what?”

“What if it's a small child suffering from cancer or dragon pox?”

“Maybe I would, then. Dunno for sure.”

They walked over to the Gryffindor table and sat down. Ron took care to sit on the side facing the doorway, because Krum and his fellow Durmstrang students were still gathered around it, apparently unsure about where they should sit. The students from Beauxbatons had chosen seats at the Ravenclaw table. They were looking around the Great Hall with glum expressions on their faces. Three of them were still clutching scarves and shawls around their heads.

“It’s not that cold,” said Hermione defensively. “Why didn’t they bring cloaks?”

“They might not need cloaks where they're from," Harry said.

“Over here! Come and sit over here!” Ron hissed. “Over here! Hermione, budge up, make a space —”

“What?”

“Too late,” said Ron bitterly.

Viktor Krum and his fellow Durmstrang students had settled themselves at the Slytherin table. Harry could see Krum talking with Draco and his new entourage.

“Oh well. At least he went to Draco and avoided Theodore Knott,” Ron said.

“Where d’you reckon they’re going to sleep? We could offer him a space in our dormitory, Harry … I wouldn’t mind giving him my bed, I could kip on a camp bed.”

Hermione snorted.

“They look a lot happier than the Beauxbatons lot,” said Harry.

The Durmstrang students were pulling off their heavy furs and looking up at the starry black ceiling with expressions of interest; a couple of them were picking up the golden plates and goblets and examining them, apparently impressed.

When everyone was seated, Dumbledore said, “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, ghosts and — most particularly — guests,” said Dumbledore, beaming around at the foreign students. “I have great pleasure in welcoming you all to Hogwarts. I hope and trust that your stay here will be both comfortable and enjoyable.”

One of the Beauxbatons girls still clutching a muffler around her head gave what was unmistakably a derisive laugh.

“No one’s making you stay!” Hermione whispered, bristling at her.

“The tournament will be officially opened at the end of the feast,” said Dumbledore. “I now invite you all to eat, drink, and make yourselves at home!”

He sat down, and Harry saw Karkaroff lean forward at once and engage him in conversation.

The plates in front of them filled with food as usual. The house-elves in the kitchen seemed to have pulled out all the stops; there was a greater variety of dishes in front of them than Harry had ever seen, including several that were definitely foreign. Harry tried some of them out of curiosity, but Ron avoided them, and even moved them to where the Beauxbatons boys and girls could see them.

Hagrid showed up late, because he'd had some issue with the skrewts, and Ron's gambit paid off, for a girl with long, silvery hair came over to ask for the bouillabaisse. Ron gaped like an idiot at her, and Harry took over for him, passing her the soup. She took it carefully over to the Ravenclaw table. Harry laughed at Ron, which snapped him out of it.

“She’s a veela!” he said hoarsely to Harry.

“Of course she isn’t!” said Hermione tartly. “I don’t see anyone else gaping at her like an idiot!”

But she wasn’t entirely right about that. As the girl crossed the Hall, many boys’ heads turned, and some of them seemed to have become temporarily speechless, just like Ron. Even some of the girls were staring at her in much the same way.

“I’m telling you, that’s not a normal girl!” said Ron, leaning sideways so he could keep a clear view of her. “They don’t make them like that at Hogwarts!”

“They make them okay at Hogwarts,” said Harry without thinking. Luna happened to be sitting next to the girl Ron had been goggling at, and was talking with her. Harry laughed at the perplexed expression on the French girl's face as Luna talked.

“When you’ve both put your eyes back in,” said Hermione briskly, “you’ll be able to see who’s just arrived.”

She was pointing up at the staff table. The two remaining empty seats had just been filled. Ludo Bagman was now sitting on Professor Karkaroff’s other side, while Ms. Selby, Percy’s boss, was next to Madame Maxime.

Eventually, the feast ended and Dumbledore began to speak. He introduced the judges, and then Filch brought in a 'casket' – a wooden chest encrusted with jewels. Harry wondered briefly if the one who chose the Champion was a zombie, but then he looked closer; if it was a zombie in there, it was the zombie of a toddler, for the casket was rather small.

“The instructions for the tasks the champions will face this year have already been examined by Ms. Selby and Mr. Bagman,” said Dumbledore as Filch placed the chest carefully on the table before him, “and they have made the necessary arrangements for each challenge. There will be three tasks, spaced throughout the school year, and they will test the champions in many different ways … their magical prowess — their daring — their powers of deduction — and, of course, their ability to cope with danger.”

At this last word, the Hall was filled with a silence so absolute that nobody seemed to be breathing.

“As you know, three champions compete in the tournament,” Dumbledore went on calmly, “one from each of the participating schools. They will be marked on how well they perform each of the Tournament tasks and the champion with the highest total after task three will win the Triwizard Cup. The champions will be chosen by an impartial selector: the Goblet of Fire.”

Dumbledore now took out his wand and tapped three times upon the top of the casket. The lid creaked slowly open. Dumbledore reached inside it and pulled out a large, roughly hewn wooden cup. It would have been entirely unremarkable had it not been full to the brim with dancing blue-white flames.

Dumbledore closed the casket and placed the goblet carefully on top of it, where it would be clearly visible to everyone in the Hall.

“Anybody wishing to submit themselves as champion must write their name and school clearly upon a slip of parchment and drop it into the goblet,” said Dumbledore. “Aspiring champions have twenty-four hours in which to put their names forward. Tomorrow night, Halloween, the goblet will return the names of the three it has judged most worthy to represent their schools. The goblet will be placed in the entrance hall tonight, where it will be freely accessible to all those wishing to compete.

“To ensure that no underage student yields to temptation,” said Dumbledore, “I will be drawing an Age Line around the Goblet of Fire once it has been placed in the entrance hall. Nobody under the age of seventeen will be able to cross this line.

“Finally, I wish to impress upon any of you wishing to compete that this tournament is not to be entered into lightly. Once a champion has been selected by the Goblet of Fire, he or she is obliged to see the tournament through to the end. The placing of your name in the goblet constitutes a binding, magical contract. There can be no change of heart once you have become a champion. Please be very sure, therefore, that you are wholeheartedly prepared to play before you drop your name into the goblet. Now, I think it is time for bed. Good night to you all.”

“An age line!” Fred Weasley said. “Well, an aging potion might work for that. Anyone else want us to put their names in if we can?”

“No way,” Harry said.

“But I don’t think anyone under seventeen will stand a chance,” said Hermione, “we just haven’t learned enough.”

“Speak for yourself,” said George shortly. “But Fred and I are a lot more clever than we appear to be.”

“Yes, but only one of you would be able to be Champion.”

Fred shrugged. “So what? We'll still be co-conspirators. Doesn't matter which of us gets made Champion, we'll both share in the glory.”

“And much more importantly, the gold. A thousand galleons! We'd be able to start our joke shop for sure, with that kind of money!”

Everyone started to get up, then, and they made their way to the doors. Karkaroff was talking with Krum and another student, then turned and led his students toward the doors, reaching them at exactly the same moment as Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Harry stopped to let him walk through first.

“Thank you,” said Karkaroff carelessly, glancing at him.

And then Karkaroff froze. He turned his head back to Harry and stared at him as though he couldn’t believe his eyes. Behind their headmaster, the students from Durmstrang came to a halt too. Karkaroff’s eyes moved slowly up Harry’s face and fixed upon his scar. The Durmstrang students were staring curiously at Harry too. Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw comprehension dawn on a few of their faces. The boy Karkaroff had been talking to nudged the girl next to him and pointed openly at Harry’s forehead.

“Yeah, that’s Harry Potter,” said a growling voice from behind them.

Professor Karkaroff spun around. Mad-Eye Moody was standing there, leaning heavily on his staff, his magical eye glaring unblinkingly at the Durmstrang headmaster.

The color drained from Karkaroff’s face as Harry watched. A terrible look of mingled fury and fear came over him.

“You!” he said, staring at Moody as though unsure he was really seeing him.

“Me,” said Moody grimly. “And unless you’ve got anything to say to Potter, Karkaroff, you might want to move. You’re blocking the doorway.”

It was true; half the students in the Hall were now waiting behind them, looking over one another’s shoulders to see what was causing the holdup.

Without another word, Professor Karkaroff swept his students away with him. Moody watched him until he was out of sight, his magical eye fixed upon his back, a look of intense dislike upon his mutilated face.

As the next day was Saturday, most students would normally have breakfasted late. Harry, Ron, and Hermione, however, were not alone in rising much earlier than they usually did on weekends. When they went down into the entrance hall, they saw about twenty people milling around it, some of them eating toast, all examining the Goblet of Fire. Even Mouse-Stalker poked his head out of Harry's robes to look at it. It had been placed in the center of the hall on the stool that normally bore the Sorting Hat. A thin golden line had been traced on the floor, forming a circle ten feet around it in every direction.

“Anyone put their name in yet?” Ron asked a third-year girl eagerly.

“All the Durmstrang lot,” she replied. “But I haven’t seen anyone from Hogwarts yet.”

Someone laughed behind Harry. Turning, he saw Fred, George, and Lee Jordan hurrying down the staircase, all three of them looking extremely excited.

“Done it,” Fred said in a triumphant whisper to Harry, Ron, and Hermione. “Just taken it.”

“What?” said Ron.

“The Aging Potion, dung brains,” said Fred.

“One drop each,” said George, rubbing his hands together with glee. “We only need to be a few months older.”

“We’re going to split the thousand Galleons between the three of us if one of us wins,” said Lee, grinning broadly.

“I’m not sure this is going to work, you know,” said Hermione warningly “I’m sure Dumbledore will have thought of this.”

Fred, George, and Lee ignored her.

“Ready?” Fred said to the other two, quivering with excitement. “C’mon, then — I’ll go first —”

Harry watched, fascinated, as Fred pulled a slip of parchment out of his pocket bearing the words Fred Weasley — Hogwarts. Fred walked right up to the edge of the line and stood there, rocking on his toes like a diver preparing for a fifty-foot drop. Then, with the eyes of every person in the entrance hall upon him, he took a great breath and stepped over the line.

For a split second Harry thought it had worked — George certainly thought so, for he let out a yell of triumph and leapt after Fred — but next moment, there was a loud sizzling sound, and both twins were hurled out of the golden circle as though they had been thrown by an invisible shot-putter. They landed painfully, ten feet away on the cold stone floor, and to add insult to injury, there was a loud popping noise, and both of them sprouted identical long white beards. Neither of them had even gotten close enough to try putting their names in.

The entrance hall rang with laughter. Even Fred and George joined in, once they had gotten to their feet and taken a good look at each other’s beards.

“I did warn you,” said a deep, amused voice, and everyone turned to see Professor Dumbledore coming out of the Great Hall. He surveyed Fred and George, his eyes twinkling. “I suggest you both go up to Madam Pomfrey. She is already tending to Miss Fawcett, of Ravenclaw, and Mr. Summers, of Hufflepuff, both of whom decided to age themselves up a little too. Though I must say, neither of their beards is anything like as fine as yours.”

Fred and George set off for the hospital wing, accompanied by Lee, who was howling with laughter, and Harry, Ron, and Hermione, also chortling, went in to breakfast.

“Oh well,” Harry said. “At least they tried.”

As Harry went toward the Great Hall, he was stopped by an older Slytherin student, a boy, who handed him a pamphlet. “I heard from a mutual friend, Potter, that this might interest you. There's an Old Ways club in school, you're invited to join our Samhain ritual tonight. Sorry I didn't get this to you sooner.”

“Oh. Thanks. Um... is the invitation just to this ritual? Or to the club?”

“Both. If you're not interested in this ritual, and still want to join the club, I can invite you to the Imbolc ritual. There won't be a Yule ritual this year, because there's going to be a Yule Ball instead, thanks to this tournament. As to the Samhain ritual, that's tonight at midnight in the same wood where you do your own ritual. Oh don't look at me like that, Potter. Your spot in the woods leaves enough magical traces behind that we've run across it on our way to our rituals before. I didn't know whose spot it was until Draco clued me in. Anyway, the club gets special dispensation to be out after curfew for religious rites. And if you doubt my word, just ask McGonagall or any of the other teachers.”

“Hmm... well I was going to do my own ritual, but... I suppose if this one isn't enough for me, I could always do my own on November 1st.”

The older boy smiled. “That's the spirit, Potter. So I'll see you there?”

“Yes, I'll be there.”

“Great!”

“Hey, what's your name, by the way?”

“Oh sorry, I got excited and forgot that part. My name is Anton Selwyn.” He held his hand out. Harry shook it.

“Harry Potter.”

“Yes, I know.” Anton Selwyn said, smiling.

Harry shrugged. “It's in the script for the interaction we just had. I don't know how to go off-script in that instance.”

“Uh... okay,” Selwyn said, looking bemused. “Well anyway, for the Samhain ritual, we meet in the Great Hall beforehand. We leave the Great Hall at a quarter til midnight. Tonight, of course.”

“I'll be there.”

“Good. Draco and I will both be pleased. Some of your other friends might be there, too; Draco has been inviting some others. And since you're you, Potter, you can invite as many as three people along for the ritual, too. Your Slytherin friends are already invited, don't worry about that.”

“Oh. Thanks. Um... would it be a problem if I invited Hermione?”

Selwyn's eyes widened a little in surprise. “Well I hadn't been expecting that, Potter, but if she's interested, it shouldn't be a problem as long as she follows the rules: first, save questions for before the ritual or after, but once we've started, everyone is to be quiet unless their role in the ritual calls for speaking, or if those in charge of the ritual tell others to speak. Second, if the ritual gets too intense for you, get down on one knee and bow your head, this will be the sign, and the people in charge will let you out of the circle. Third, do what you're told during the ritual or you'll be let out of the circle and expected to leave. And fourth, be respectful to everyone at the ritual.”

“Huh. That's surprising. I was worried Hermione wouldn't be let in.”

“I understand your surprise. But the thing is, the reasons for the blood bigotry have largely changed over the centuries. At first it was distrust of Muggle-borns. Now it's mostly a mix of horrible lies about them and fear of our culture dying out. Which honestly, our culture is in danger of dying out if we don't accept Muggle-borns in, but try telling the worst of the blood bigots that. Those of us who think as I do, though, want to introduce Muggle-borns to our culture, to... convert them, I guess. And since Draco stopped believing his father, that turned the tide of the group in favor of Muggle-borns. Sure, she'll get some dirty looks from some people, but that'll be the most she gets if they want to keep being in the ritual.”

“Cool. I'll ask her, then. Thank you.”

“You're welcome, Potter. Oh by the way, don't forget your wand when you come.”

“Thanks,” Harry said.

They nodded to each other, and Selwyn left. Harry hurried to the Griffindor table to sit with Ron and Hermione for breakfast. They were already eating.

“What'd he want, mate?” Ron asked.

“He was inviting me to a Samhain ritual held by the school's Old Ways club.”

“Really, Harry? Oh that sounds so fascinating, a real group ritual with people who probably learned from their parents. I'm so jealous!”

Harry chuckled. “Don't worry, Hermione, I can invite up to three people, and my Slytherin friends were already invited. I already asked if I could invite you, and he said it was okay.”

Ron's eyes narrowed. “I think I've heard of that group, Harry. It's inter-House, but there's a lot more Slytherins in it than just about any House. Did that boy know Hermione's a Muggle-born?”

“Yes, Anton Selwyn knows she's Muggle-born.”

Harry told them about the rules Selwyn had given them, and what was expected of the others in the group as well, and Ron relaxed.

“Well that's good,” Ron had said. “And Antigone and the others will be there, too. Just take your wand with you just in case.”

“Selwyn told me to bring my wand. I gather it might be needed for the ritual.”

“Yes, and we'll be out in the woods at midnight,” Hermione said. “Not the Forbidden Forest, of course, but there could still be dangers.”

Harry piled food onto his plate and began to eat. “You know,” he said, thinking, “I might see if Luna wants to come along, too.”

“Listen!” said Hermione suddenly, before anyone could respond to Harry.

People were cheering out in the entrance hall. They all swiveled around in their seats and saw Angelina Johnson coming into the Hall, grinning in an embarrassed sort of way. A tall black girl who played Chaser on the Gryffindor Quidditch team, Angelina came over to them, sat down, and said, “Well, I’ve done it! Just put my name in!”

“You’re kidding!” said Ron, looking impressed.

“Are you seventeen, then?” asked Harry.

“ ’Course she is, can’t see a beard, can you?” said Ron.

“I had my birthday last week,” said Angelina.

“Well, I’m glad someone from Gryffindor’s entering,” said Hermione. “I really hope you get it, Angelina!”

“Thanks, Hermione,” said Angelina, smiling at her.

After breakfast, the three of them went down to Hagrid's hut. Hermione was telling them that she was thinking about starting a group, which she wanted to call Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to House Elves, and in her spare time she'd been writing out ideas for how to go about it, including talking to more house elves. She knew Netty, of course, and had spoken with her. But she wanted to be sure she was representing their best interests, so she needed to talk with as many as possible.

“I'd suggest Kreacher, but he's not too keen on Muggle-borns, last I knew,” Harry said.

They stopped talking then, because they were at Hagrid's hut. They knocked on his door, and when he finally opened it, they stood there staring at him, dumbstruck. He was wearing the fine suit Ms. Pennyroyal had bought him for his hearing about Buckbeak, and they could smell the frankly ridiculous amount of Muggle hair gel he'd put in his hair to tame it. His hair looked like he'd been trying for Draco's slicked-back look, but had given up halfway through the attempt.

Hermione, deciding not to comment on his appearance, said, “Erm — where are the skrewts?”

“Out by the pumpkin patch,” said Hagrid happily. “They’re gettin’ massive, mus’ be nearly three foot long now. On’y trouble is, they’ve started killin’ each other.”

“Oh no, really?” said Hermione, shooting a repressive look at Ron, who, staring at Hagrid’s odd hairstyle, had just opened his mouth to say something about it.

“Yeah,” said Hagrid sadly. “ ’S’ okay, though, I’ve got ’em in separate boxes now. Still got abou’ twenty.”

“Well, that’s lucky,” said Ron. Hagrid missed the sarcasm.

At Hagrid's, they talked about the Tournament, and Hagrid nearly ruined the surprise of the first task. They also talked about Harry's invite to the Samhain ritual.

They ended up having lunch with Hagrid, and the beef casserole Hagrid had made wasn't really beef, unless cows had started growing talons lately without Harry hearing about it, for Hermione found one in hers, which made the trio lose their appetites. However, they enjoyed themselves trying to make Hagrid tell them what the tasks in the tournament were going to be, speculating which of the entrants were likely to be selected as champions, and wondering whether Fred and George were beardless yet.

A light rain had started to fall by midafternoon; it was very cozy sitting by the fire, listening to the gentle patter of the drops on the window, watching Hagrid darning his socks and discussing SPCHE with Hermione.

“Good on yeh, Hermione, fer tryin' a help 'em out. Mos' these days are fine, a course, but evry once in a while yeh get some berk like Mr. Malfoy mistreatin' em. I wish yeh luck on that, hope yeh can get the laws changed.” Then he paused, thinking, and continued, “Ain't Sirius doin' somethin' long those lines at the Wizengamot?”

“Uh, yeah. I don't know how that's going, but--”

“You mean you didn't hear, mate?” Ron interrupted.

“Hear what?”

“Oh wait,” Ron said, thinking. “I guess I just found out about it myself yesterday.”

“WHAT?” Harry asked, louder.

“Oh, sorry. It's just, Dad wrote me yesterday and I forgot to mention it in the excitement over the Tournament starting. Sirius and Narcissa Malfoy are spearheading a move to get house elf protections in the laws.”

“Really? I wonder why Sirius didn't tell me.”

“Well, it's just in the early stages, I doubt the press even knows about it yet. Dad only found out about it because one of his contacts in the Wizengamot let him in on the rumors.”

“Mrs. Malfoy an' Sirius, workin' together on summat?” Hagrid got up and peered out his windows.

“What're you doing, Hagrid?”

“Oh nuthin, jes makin' sure the sky ain't fallin' down round our ears.”

The three of them laughed at this, Hagrid chuckling along too as he sat back down again.

“Anyway,” Harry said when the laughter stopped, “I kinda forgot to tell you, I think, that that was happening. We uh, made a deal with the Malfoys. Sirius and I, I mean. They'd help us with a few things, and we promised that if Voldemort ever came back, Sirius would put a Fidelius Charm on his house and Draco would stay with us, to keep him safe.”

The room went silent, so Harry looked up. They were all staring up at him.

“Well think about it,” he said. “Draco isn't going along with the pure-blood supremacy rubbish anymore, and they haven't been able to get him to stop it. He's their sole heir, they want to make sure he's safe, even if they disagree with him.”

Ron frowned. “No offense, Harry, but Draco doesn't exactly strike me as brave. What if he pulls a Pettigrew, betrays you?”

“Or gets Imperiused!” Hermione said.

“I'll take that chance. After all, it could happen with either of you, or my other friends.”

The three of them were staring at him open-mouthed.

“Don't look at me like that, you know it could. I don't think any of you would betray me willingly, but I'm not discounting the possibility completely. I'm more paranoid than my dad was, I have less reason than he did to trust people. If he'd had my healthy amount of paranoia, he and mum might still be alive. They weren't holding their wands when he killed them. They'd gotten careless, trusting too much in the Fidelius Charm and their secret-keeper.”

Now they were looking sad. He sighed.

“Listen, Ron, Hermione. I trust you two, Antigone, and Danzia with my life. Angela too. Draco hasn't quite proven himself fully, but I mostly trust him too. So it's not that I distrust you. It's just that, well, I'm leaving my mind open to the possibility I might be wrong about one or more of you, so I can keep an eye out for signs of betrayal – not that I'm probably terribly good at spotting such things – and not be totally taken off-guard if someone I trust betrays me. It's just... I guess what I'm saying is it's just me taking Moody's 'constant vigilance' advice to heart.”

“Oh,” said Hermione. “Well that makes sense, I suppose.”

Ron exhaled a sigh of relief. “Thanks for explaining it, mate. You had me worried for a minute there.”

“It's not just my friends, either. Something has happened every year for three years, so I'm watching all the adults and all the other students as well. I don't want to be taken by surprise.”

“Right, we get it mate,” Ron said. “Can we talk about something else now?”

At half-past five, it was getting dark, and Hagrid said he was going to take them back to the Great Hall to hear the announcement of the Champions, but then he got distracted by Madame Maxime, whom he seemed to fancy, walking with her instead. They went back to the castle by themselves instead, and caught sight of the Durmstrang students coming from their ship.

When they entered the candlelit Great Hall it was almost full. The Goblet of Fire had been moved; it was now standing in front of Dumbledore’s empty chair at the teachers’ table. Fred and George — clean-shaven again — seemed to have taken their disappointment fairly well.

“Hope it’s Angelina,” said Fred as Harry, Ron, and Hermione sat down.

“So do I!” said Hermione breathlessly. “Well, we’ll soon know!”

Harry put some earplugs in his ears. These didn't block out as much sound as his magical earmuffs did, but muffled the extra noise of the busier-than-usual Great Hall enough that it made being there bearable.

“Well I'm just glad I'm not eligible. Not that I'd be be trying out for it even if I were. Being in the crowd to watch is going to be hard enough as is, I don't even want to think about being a Champion.”

The Halloween feast seemed to take much longer than usual. Perhaps because it was their second feast in two days, Harry didn’t seem to fancy the extravagantly prepared food as much as he would have normally. Like everyone else in the Hall, judging by the constantly craning necks, the impatient expressions on every face, the fidgeting, and the standing up to see whether Dumbledore had finished eating yet, Harry simply wanted the plates to clear, and to hear who had been selected as champions.

They waited. Finally, the Goblet of Fire began deciding. With a sudden change of color to its flames from reddish to bluish, it spat out a singed piece of paper, and Viktor Krum became the Durmstrang Champion. People cheered as he left the room for the place the Champions were to wait for instructions, and they waited again. Another minute later, and the Goblet had picked Fleur Delacour – the girl Ron thought was a veela. Next was the Hogwarts Champion.

And the Goblet of Fire turned red once more; sparks showered out of it; the tongue of flame shot high into the air, and from its tip Dumbledore pulled the third piece of parchment.

“The Hogwarts champion,” he called, “is Cedric Diggory!”

“Damn!” Ron said, but only Harry could hear him; the Hufflepuffs were cheering too loudly and exuberantly.

“Good,” Harry said. “They deserve some glory.”

“Excellent!” Dumbledore called happily as at last the tumult died down. “Well, we now have our three champions. I am sure I can count upon all of you, including the remaining students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang, to give your champions every ounce of support you can muster. By cheering your champion on, you will contribute in a very real —”

But Dumbledore suddenly stopped speaking, and it was apparent to everybody what had distracted him.

The fire in the goblet had just turned red again. Sparks were flying out of it. A long flame shot suddenly into the air, and borne upon it was another piece of parchment. He grabbed it out of habit and looked at it with more astonishment than Harry had ever seen on his face. There was a long pause as he continued staring at the name, before he spoke.

“Harry Potter.”

Endnotes: Some of the text about color in Professor Dreyfuss's lecture was lifted from this page:
http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/ananda-triulzi/ancient... And there's more evidence of it here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2976405/Could... I know it's possibly a slight anachronism, as I don't know if people were aware of that fact before 2006, but if nothing else, the wizarding world might. (They might have more surviving ancient Greek texts, for one.)



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