It was the middle of potions call when Harry was called to his first event as a champion. Harry really would have preferred remaining in class. Snape, however, didn’t seem to want to force the issue and sent Harry off with a glare.
Relying on Snape being Snape to keep from going was probably always going to end in failure, that annoying, the contrary bastard. Harry was likely being a bit uncharitable towards the man, seeing as he knew that Snape was keeping his act together in effort to get the Board off his back but seriously. Would it kill him to push the issue one time?
It didn’t help that Colin Creevey had been the one sent to get him. Now, Harry liked Colin and had been genuinely upset when he was attacked during the Chamber incident. That didn’t mean that the other boy’s fan worship wasn’t aggravating. Harry had almost become accustomed to random photos being taken of him at any given moment of any day because of Colin.
“So what is that about?” Harry asked, trying to make conversation. It was a little awkward being stared at for so long without a sound being made.
Colin shrugged. “Professor Dumbledore just said to retrieve you from class.”
They descended into silence again. Harry nearly cheered when they arrived to the room where everyone was gathering and Colin headed back to his own class. That was the most awkward ten minutes of his life, Harry lamented.
Thankfully, Gabriel didn’t comment.
“And here he is!” A shrill voice sounded. Harry nearly blanched when he saw the woman who had spoken up. Rita Skeeter was a well known reporter for the Daily Prophet and not everything said about her was good. Skeeter had a habit of embellishing her stories to make them more interesting. “The famous Harry Potter, fourth champion!”
Harry immediately sought out Cedric, eyes pleading with the older boy for help. The Hufflepuff seemed rather rattled already and gave Harry a grimace in answer. Harry did not like the look the older boy shot at the woman at all. “Pleased to meet you,” he hesitantly spoke up.
′I’d go with flattery,′ Gabriel advised. ‘Reporters like her always like flattery.’
Harry didn’t have time to answer as he found himself pulled away from the doorway and into a small corridor off to the side. The raven haired teen didn’t even have time to shout for help before the door closed behind them. “Shouldn’t we be in with the others?” Harry asked, desperately trying to will himself into the room.
He may have gotten over his hesitance with people over the last few years but Rita was bringing all of his instinct gained from a decade at the Dursley’s right back. Harry didn’t appreciate it, either.
“Oh, but it’s you who the public are so curious about!” Rita batted her eyelashes at him. “The unwilling fourth champion, forced to compete in a Tournament against his will. Why, it’s a tragedy!”
Somehow, Harry got the feeling that if people weren’t afraid of pissing of Sirius and Molly that Rita would be playing a much different tune. He would have to remember to thank them both later. Right now, he needed to figure out how he was going to play this.
′Try playing the uncertain fourth year.′ Gabriel prompted. ’Add in a little flattery and point her at the others as the ‘real’ champions. That should give her enough to work with and if she does anything funny, we sick Sirius on her.′
“Well, I’m not all too sure how to take it,” Harry began. “I really wasn’t expecting anything like this to happen. After last year, I was kind of hoping to have a rather boring, uneventful year getting to know Sirius better.”
Rita positively frothed at the mouth. “You and your godfather are getting along rather well, then?”
′This better not be another Sirius is crazy angle.′ Gabriel growled. It still annoyed them to think that after everything, the ministry had tried to pull a stunt like that when Sirius first filed for custody. Come to think of it, they had never asked the man why he was so annoyed with Dumbledore like they had meant to. ‘Oops.’
“Sirius is great.” Harry narrowed his eyes at the woman. “He and I get on wonderfully. We shared a house together over the summer. I don’t think that has anything to do with what’s going on with the Tournament.”
Rita’s eyes glimmered at his change in demeanor. “You’re right, of course. My own curiosity was at work there, I’m afraid. I’m sure as a bright young boy, you know the feeling.”
′Flattery will get you nowhere.′ Gabriel snickered. Harry fought to keep his own amusement down. He had enough life experience from his memories to spot a trick like that a mile away and that was just from his human memories. This woman might be good at manipulation but she was no Samael.
That gave Harry an idea, actually. Rita wasn’t going risk the wrath of the infamous Sirius Black, innocent or not. Only a moron actually believed that Sirius broke out of Azkaban to warn people about Pettigrew. No, it was obvious that Sirius had broke out to kill the rat and to get him away from Harry. And Rita wasn’t a moron, despite her rather poor attempts at manipulation.
“Of course!” Harry gave her a bright smile. “It just bugs me, how the Ministry could put my godfather through years of Azkaban and then question his sanity when he tried for custody of me. Custody that he rightfully would have had when I was a baby if he had been granted a trial like our basic rights assure us that all citizens are entitled to.”
“Really?” Distraction successful, Harry thought smugly.
“Oh yes. He wasn’t even allowed to contact me during that time period.” Harry continued. “I mean, it’s nice that they compensated him for the twelve year of Azkaban he suffered through and the lack of trial, but money isn’t going to take that away is it?”
“No, it isn’t.” Rita simpered, seemingly drooling with what Harry was telling her. It didn’t surprise him that the Ministry kept his custody change quiet. At the same time, he could see the wheel in her head turning as she realized what Sirius having custody of him meant for her. Everyone knew that Harry had been raised by muggles and Rita had likely been banking on the fact that the muggles wouldn’t be aware enough of Wizarding Law to know how to fight back if she slandered him. Sirius, though, was a different story.
“And now there’s the Tournament to worry about!” Harry gave her his best ‘pity me’ look. Gabriel cackled in their head. This was kind of fun. “As a minor, I shouldn’t be allowed to participate at all without guardian consent, not to mention how they managed to let someone alter the Goblet enough to enter me at all! And until the Headmaster pointed out that it’s impossible for a fourth year to alter the magic of the Goblet like that, everyone was set to blame me! Sirius was livid!”
Rita was definitely drooling now. “That must be really frustrating,” she acknowledge sympathetically. The glint in her eyes gave her real feelings away. Harry could also see wariness at the mention of Sirius.
“You have no idea,” Harry sighed, making sure that his body language screamed misery. ‘How is she falling for this,’ he marveled internally.
′Easy,′ Gabriel answered. ’Extreme stupidity and the fact that she underestimates us because we look fourteen. If we were an adult, she probably would have caught on to what we were doing a while ago. As it is, she’s focused on the fact that we aren’t an adult.′
“It’s even worse for the others!” Harry made sure to add. “They earned being chosen as Champion and now everyone’s ignoring them in favor of me! I doubt that besides Krum, you know who the other two are. Shouldn’t the public be more interested in who was actually chosen for this rather than the one forced into it?”
Rita nodded frantically, her eyes wide and gleaming. Just as she was about to ask another question, the door opened and revealed Dumbledore. “If you are quite done with young Mr. Potter, we would like to begin.”
Rita was quick to agree and practically bolted out of the corridor. Harry gave the Headmaster a grateful look and darted through the door. Cedric waved him over after noticing him re-enter. “How bad?” the seventh years asked in a whisper.
Harry smirked. “Not as bad as it could have been.” Name dropping Sirius and mentioning the change in guardianship had made sure of that, he thought smugly.
Cedric eyed the smirk for a moment before shaking his head. “You spend too much time around the twins,” he laughed.
Harry shrugged, unrepentant. “I regret nothing.” Cedric snickered some more, drawing questioning looks from the other two champions and an interested glimmer from Rita.
In could have been worse, Harry acknowledged as the Weighing of the Wands began.
The article on the Champions came out the next day and sent the students of all three schools into a flurry of discussion.
Rita had done exactly what Harry had wanted her to.
The Four Triwizard Champions!
By Rita Skeeter
Yes, dear readers, you read that right! On Halloween night when the Goblet of Fire picked the champions of each school, a fourth champion was also selected! And who could this fourth champion be other than Britain’s own Harry Potter!
Now, most of you are probably thinking foul play on young Harry’s part however I can assure you that none was more shocked than Harry himself. And who could blame the new fourth year for his surprise? After all, in the history of the Triwizard Tournament there has never been a fourth champion. It simply shouldn’t be possible.
So how is it that now we find ourselves with an impossible fourth? I, my dear readers, am calling foul play. Somehow during the week that the Goblet was lit, someone managed to tamper with the Goblet with the goal of entering young Harry Potter into the Tournament. And instead of trying to find the culprit, those present during the choosing ceremony turned to blame Harry himself!
How, may I ask, was a mere fourth year student supposed to have correctly tampered with a magical object as powerful as the Goblet without being caught? It’s simply no possible and if not for Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, young Harry might still be accused of such a thing.
How do I know this? Well, during the Weighing of the Wands held only yesterday, I was able to interview Harry for myself. I must say, I have never met such a polite young man and it was clear to me from the beginning that young Harry wanted nothing to do with the Tournament. In fact, he seems almost distraught at being forced to participate.
"I was just hoping for an uneventful year getting to know my godfather,” young Harry told me. As you all know, Sirius Black was cleared of all charges after the capture of Peter Pettigrew. Mr. Black was sent to Azkaban without a trial only to break out twelve year later after a series of bizarre coincidences that lead him straight to Pettigrew.
That is not where the story ends, my readers. After being cleared of all charges, Sirius Black went on to fulfill his godfatherly duty and sought for custody of his godson, Harry Potter. His request was granted by the Ministry after a thorough investigation into Mr. Black’s sanity after twelve years in Azkaban. (see page 10 for more details).
Young Harry was also quick to point out how unfair this whole thing was not only to him, who is now forced to compete, but to the other champions. “I bet other than Victor Krum (see page 4 for full details) you don’t even know who the other champions are!”
I was sad to say that Mr. Potter was right. This injustice is not only focused on young Harry but on his fellow champions as well. Fleur Delacour (see page 3 for full details) and Cedric Diggory (see page 2 for full details) have been lost from the public eye due to this horrible spectacle. I wish to offer my sincerest apologies for this oversight on behalf of the wizarding world. I also offer my congratulations on their selection as Champion!
Harry stopped reading after that, firm smirk in place. Hermione snatched the paper from him in that moment and began skimming over the article. “I’m surprised,” the girl mumbled. “I was expecting her to completely pass over the others altogether. This is actually much more interesting than her usual drivel.”
Harry snickered. “I know. I was half expecting her to completely ignore or embellish everything I said entirely. I suspect that the threat of Sirius Black coming after her is what kept her from doing so. Plus, she seemed to just love everything I was telling her.”
Hermione gave him a look, eyebrows raised in surprise. “You mean you actually said those things?”
Ron, now interested, snatched the paper from her to see for himself. After a few minutes, he laughed and handed it back to the indignant girl. “You’ve been spending too much time with Fred and George, mate.”
“That’s what I said,” the voice of Cedric Diggory came from behind them. Harry looked up in surprise. Cedric gave him a rueful grin. “Now I know why you were looking so smug yesterday. You really played it up for her, didn’t you?”
Harry shrugged. “It’s not like I lied. I just embellished a bit, something she was going to do anyways.”
Cedric hummed in acknowledgement. “You made enough of an impression. I have to ask, did you tell her anything else?”
Harry frowned. “Not really. Just what it says on the front page. Why?”
The Hufflepuff grimaced. “Somehow, she found out I was the one who rescued you from the Dementors last year. She talks all about it during my page. I just can’t figure out how she knew it was me. Dumbledore never released my name when he made that statement last year.”
Harry winced in sympathy. “I didn’t tell her, if that’s what you mean. I’m not sure how she found out but it’s not like it was a giant secret. Most of the school could have told her without even thinking about it.”
Cedric groaned and nodded. “True. Either way, thanks for that. I’m sure Fleur and Krum appreciate you pointing it out. Even if it was just to ’take thee ’ressure off of ‘im’.” Cedric made a face to go along with the horrible French accent before grinning.
Harry and the others that heard laughed in response. “Nice one!” Fred called out from where he was sitting not too far away. Cedric saluted at him before making his way back over to his own table.
Harry just shook his head at them all. ‘At least things are never boring around here.’ Harry could hear the grin.
‘At least boring doesn’t try to kill us,’ he muttered back as conversation finally turned to something else.
′You got me there.′
The article did exactly what Harry had hoped it would and the student body backed off. It seemed that they weren’t sure what to think of his participation anymore, though the Slytherin’s didn’t seem to care all that much whether or not he had cheated his way in or was being forced to participate. Harry found that with the rest of the school backing down, this didn’t bother him all that much.
Harry was just glad that he didn’t need to go everywhere with an escort anymore.
That didn’t solve all his problems, though.
“I’m sorry pup,” Sirius sighed from over the mirror. “Remus and I have looked into everyone at that school and no one raises any red flags. The only one with a connection to Voldemort besides Snape is Karkaroff and I would be surprised if he was the inside man.”
Harry paused. “What about Snape?” he demanded, eyes narrowed. “And why is Karkaroff not an option?”
Sirius frowned. “You didn’t know? Snape’s a Death Eater, one of Voldemort’s minions.”
“Followers, Sirius!” Remus’ voice called. “Keep calling them minions and one of them will curse you!”
“Let’em try!” Sirius called back before resuming the conversation. “Supposedly he was a spy for our side and that’s why he wasn’t sent to Azkaban. Karkaroff, though, got off by snitching. Gave away quite a few names to keep from going away, one of them being old Barty Crouch Jr.”
Harry knew that name. “You mean that asshole who threw you into Azkaban without a trail?” After the fall out of Sirius’ trial, there had been an investigation as to who had been involved in the miscarriage of justice. Bartemius Crouch had been one of the key figures and was currently holding onto his job by a very thin string.
“His son,” Sirius explained. “Tosser named the kid after himself. He was real big before that but the scandal of having his son being a Death Eater did a lot of damage to his career. Serves the man right, I say. Kid died in Azkaban awhile back. Wife died of grief not long after.”
“That’s horrible,” Harry acknowledge. “What does any of that have to do with the Tournament of the fact that there are two former Death Eaters in the school?”
′Really, what kind of name is Death Eaters?′ Gabriel snorted. ‘Death probably really gets a kick out of that one.’
Harry carefully ignored that last part.
“Because,” Sirius looked downright smug now. “The Tournament was a joint effort between Ludo Bagman and Crouch. It turns out that he was regulated to the Department of International Cooperation after the scandal. I guess he’s trying to use it to make a comeback.”
“You think he’s behind my participation,” Harry realized after a moment of thought. “By having me participate, whether it’s forcefully or willingly, that’s going to bring a lot of attention to the Tournament. It would also give the media and public something to focus on besides his blunder with your case.”
“Exactly!” Remus called. Harry rolled his eyes, wondering why they didn’t just share the mirror at this point.
“It’s a good theory,” Harry acknowledged after Sirius nodded. “As one of the people behind the Tournament he would have had access to the Goblet long before it arrived here and was lit, explaining how no one noticed it being tampered with.”
Sirius’ grin grew, becoming more and more dangerous. “I thought so too. Now I’m not saying I’m one hundred percent sure of this theory as there’s still the Voldemort angle to consider as well. It very well could have been someone else entirely but Crouch has been acting suspicious ever since the incident at the World Cup and his house-elf was caught with the wand that conjured the Dark Mark.”
That wasn’t something Harry had been aware of. “That wasCrouch’s elf?”
“It was.” Remus answered, sounding a lot closer than he was before. “The Ministry covered it up but Dobby knows a few of the elves at Hogwarts, where Crouch’s elf works now, and they told him the whole story. Apparently she’s very distraught about being freed.”
So the elf was in the castle? Harry narrowed his eyes. “Now you’re catching on,” Sirius drawled. “That elf is insanely loyal to her old master despite being freed. Crouch could have easily convinced her to find something with your signature, like say a piece of homework, and put it in the Goblet when no one was around.”
Harry nodded, mulling over their theory. They had a good point and it was clear they had done a lot of digging to get all the information that they had. Harry wasn’t even sure how they had found this much out in such a short time as it had only been a week since he’d been entered but they had. At the same time, Harry wasn’t willing to discount the Voldemort theory entirely either. The wraith was still out there and he no doubt had Pettigrew to aid him now. That rat would have gone straight to the man as soon as he realized that hiding out in the Wizarding World with animagus form common knowledge was suicide.
“I’ll keep an eye on him during the Tournament,” he decided. “But I’m not going to ignore the Voldemort theory. We can’t know for sure which one is behind it just yet.”
Sirius nodded, “We’ll keep digging and see if something else raising alarms.”
“Keep safe!” Remus called as the connection severed.
Harry found that his free time suddenly became more and more scarce. He’d gone from suddenly having loads of time to just walk around the school and explore too spending most of his days trying to figure out what he was going to do for the first task.
To make things even more difficult, Harry had no idea what it entailed other than nesting dragons. He was tearing his hair out in frustration as it could be anything. Cedric was in no better a state either.
It had occurred to Harry that Cedric was likely still entirely clueless about what the first task could be and he had cornered the other boy a few days after talking to Sirius and Remus.
Cedric had not been pleased to hear that nesting mother dragons were going to be anywhere near the vicinity of the first task, let alone part of it. Since Harry was the one with books recommended and gifted to him by someone who worked with dragons for a living, Cedric had teamed up with him.
They spent hours in the library, tearing through everything they could find on how to deal with dragons. There was very little that was actually useful as most books claimed sending in a single wizard against such a beast was suicide.
That was not comforting.
On the fourth day of their binge reading, Harry had finally finished the last book on dragons in the library. Since owning a dragon was illegal, there were very few books on it, even in the restricted section. “This one is just as useless,” he growled.
Cedric groaned. “We need to know more about the task before we can figure out what we can use. Are you sure that Charlie can’t tell you anything else?”
“No, he really can’t.” Harry glared at the offending book. “Just that they are using nesting mothers for some reason.”
“That’s what concerns me,” Cedric admitted. “What could they possibly need nesting mothers for? Dragons are bad enough without the added aggressiveness that comes with nesting.”
Harry sat up straighter. “You don’t think…”
“That they want us to grab one of the eggs?” Cedric finished dryly. “Maybe. I hope not, though. I don’t fancy ending up dead because I was trying to steal a dragon egg, thanks. Besides, the Ministry wouldn’t be that stupid.”
“These are the same people that stationed the Dementors here last year,” Harry reminded him. “And the same people who tried pinning Hagrid for opening the Chamber of Secrets the year before, just so they could be seen ‘doing’ something.”
Cedric stared, “They tried pinning that on Hagrid?!” The Hufflepuff hid his face in his hands. “We are going to die, aren’t we? Why did I let dad talk me into this? I still have Newts to worry about, for Merlin’s sake!”
Harry gave him a sympathetic look, inwardly cursing everything he could think of. ‘It’s like these people get off on trying to kill us,’ Gabriel marveled. ‘The fact that we haven’t died yet is a miracle.’
“We need to look at this a new way,” Harry announced. “These books aren’t going to help us any and we need to start planning a strategy. Playing to our strengths.”
Cedric looked up from his fingers, studying him. “For someone who’s going to be facing a dragon, you are surprisingly calm about this. I have three years more schooling than you and I am having a nervous breakdown. Yet you’re sitting there like this is something you’ve done before.”
′Caught on to that, huh?′ Harry just shrugged, unsure of what to say. Cedric wasn’t stupid and Harry honestly liked the other boy.
“Just how much of the rumors about your school years are true?” the seventh year continued, eyes narrowed.
Harry bit his lip in thought. “Well,” he began. “That depends on which rumors.”
“The ones about the Troll and how you and Ron took it down. Or Professor Quirrell and how your three stopped him from stealing something from the out of bounds corridor that was supposed to guarantee a gruesome death. How you and Ron found the Chamber and you killed the monster inside by yourself and rescued Ginny Weasley. Or that there was more to the incident with Black last year than everyone knows!” Cedric locked his gaze on him, frowning.
“Er, they all are?” Harry offered hesitantly.
The Hufflepuff boy stared, eyes wide. “They all are?” he whispered.
Harry shrugged uncertainly. He’d never been called out on one of the many life or death experiences that he’d been a part of before. Even after the Chamber, everyone had just been so relieved to see them that Harry had barely had to explain anything that had happened. Even when he’d explained things to Sirius, the man had been more focused on the fact that he was an Archangel than anything else.
Cedric didn’t have that distraction. In fact, he seemed both horrified and intrigued at the thought of what Harry had been up to since coming to Hogwarts. “You actually fought that Troll?”
“Um, yeah. I jumped on its back and Ron levitated its club above its head and knocked it out.”
“Was possessed by the spirit of Voldemort and trying to get the Philosophers Stone that was hidden on the third floor past a series of traps.”
“Wait, what?!” Cedric sat up straighter. “Why was the stone here?! And what do you mean he was possessed by You-Know-Who?!”
“Okay, so I don’t know how, but Voldemort’s was sticking out of the back of Quirrell’s head the entire time, hidden by the turban. The garlic was to keep people from noticing the rotting smell. And the stone was here because Dumbledore was guarding it as a favor to Flamel. I don’t know why he put it in the school, in hindsight that was a really dumb move. Hermione, Ron, and I figured it out though and managed to keep it from him. Quirrell was killed when Dumbledore arrived and Voldemort abandoned him.” Thinking about it, a lot of things from first year really didn’t add up now that he was looking back. Why did Dumbledore send Hagrid to get the stone and why put it in the school with children in the first place?
“I was taught in a classroom by a man possessed by You-Know-Who.” Cedric looked rather faint. “What about the Chamber?”
“Voldemort’s fault again. Mr. Malfoy slipped Ginny an enchanted diary that was made to open the chamber by possessing the host. Apparently, Voldemort’s the Heir of Slytherin and the monster was actually Slytherin’s basilisk.”
“You’re joking. Tell me you’re joking.” Cedric demanded.
“Afraid not. It’s dead now, though.”
“You killed a thousand year old Basilisk. At twelve."
“With Gryffindor’s Sword. It’s hidden in the Sorting Hat.” This was actually kind of fun, Harry thought before immediately feeling bad about it. “Stuck it right through the mouth after Fawkes, Dumbledore’s phoenix, blinded it.”
Cedric just started before slamming his head against the table. Madame Pince looked up from her desk and glared in warning before turning away. “I’m going to be outdone by a fourteen year old.”
Harry patted his back comfortingly.
Barty Crouch Jr. smirked from his place behind his desk.
Originally, he had doubted his ability to get this done in time for his master. The Goblet was more powerful than he had expected and a Confundus Charm just wouldn’t make it past the protections that protected it. If not for his master being clever enough to bypass the protections with a series of runes and the help of that disgusting rat, the plan would have been compromised and they would have had to find another way to get test the Potter brat.
The Dark Lord couldn’t use just anyone for this ritual, they had to be powerful to get the most out of it. While the Potter brat was certainly skilled in class, that wasn’t enough to make a decision like this on. No, if the boy couldn’t make it to the final phase of the Tournament then he wasn’t worthy of assisting the Dark Lord in returning.
A crazed gleam entered his polyjuiced eyes and Barty made no effort to hide them.
After all, everyone knew that Mad-Eye Moody was insane.