Chelsea woke exhausted, not knowing why she slept so horribly. Elisabeth felt the same. The two girls needed something stronger than coffee at breakfast but only found weak tea. Harry, Ron, and Hermione were nowhere in sight, Charles was sitting with his classmates that morning, and Fred and George whispering like fiends over classic English breakfasts, not paying any attention to the girls.
“I wonder what the final task will be?” Elisabeth spoke aloud, breaking the silence before waiting for the Great Hall to disperse, finding a quiet corner. The bags under her eyes prominent by the dark circles. She had apparition lessons that morning with Professor Twycross from the Ministry of Magical Apparition. Her seventeenth birthday was soon after classes ceased for the semester.
“I guess we will find out from Harry or Charlie by lunch today. I will see you later! Don’t get splinched!” Chelsea called back behind her before heading off to Alchemy. She heard Elisabeth grumble behind her.
Chelsea’s scores of three O’s on her O.W.Ls in Potions, Transfiguration, and Muggle Studies exams at Ilvermorny allowed her to pursue Alchemy. Chelsea had no clue what she would do after graduation the following year. In part, she thought about being a Curse-Breaker, like Fred and George’s older brother Bill; she also thought of becoming a Healer at St. Mungo’s. But her heart was pulling her towards Potioneering. Much like her mother. While Professor Snape had given her trouble at the beginning of the year, he nevertheless noted her affinity towards the topic and would give her extra work. As much as others despised the extra work, she reveled in it. She also reveled in Alchemy and was truly enthralled with it.
However, that day, Alchemy went so slowly, Chelsea thought time stopped. She kept checking her watch, and it moved as if turning through quicksand. She was so tired she could have slept at her desk. She wasn’t taking her usual notes and couldn’t keep her eyes focused.
When the bell finally rang, she hurried into the corridors to find her friends. She had an hour before her next class and just wanted to sit under the warming May sun. Maybe even take a nap if possible. She found Fred in the lower courtyard alone, George nowhere in sight.
“Hiya,” she whispered into his ear, the hairs on his neck standing upright. He yelped before turning to face the stranger behind him.
“Merlin’s beard, Chelsea! What was that for?”
“You can’t be the only one doing pranks, you know.” She whispered jokingly, a smile on her lips.
“Just you wait, revenge will be sweet.” He threatened, lightly pushing her shoulder.
“Oh hush,” She wrapped her arm around his, resting her head on his shoulder, “You are making too much noise to be a good pillow for my nap before lunch. Plus, if you turn me pink again, I will make sure you never walk again.”
Fred lightly chuckled before tucking the hair that had fallen in her face behind her ear. He smiled softly at the resting girl, spending the next hour sitting together under the spring sun. His heartbeat happily in his chest. He could stay like that forever.
At lunch, she found the younger trio looked as tired as she did, even after her small nap outside. Their sleepy gazes and drooping eyelids barely acknowledged her as she approached. Charles wrapped his arm around her shoulders when he joined them. His comforting scent wrapping her in a blanket. She leaned into his touch, but images of Fred popped into her mind, causing heat to rise to her cheeks.
“How did last night go? What should we expect during the last event?” Chelsea looked at him. She hid her blush behind her veil of hair.
“A maze. But enchanted and filled to the brim with magical creatures.” Harry spoke, looking up from his fish and chips before falling silent again.
“Watch out for the Magical Creatures. If they are coming from Hagrid, they will definitely be a challenge.” Ron peeped up. Hermione and Harry nodded in agreement. Chelsea noted that Harry was oddly quiet, where he was normally louder and more informative, especially when it came to events going on in his life.
“Seems like something you all can handle with ease.” Chelsea smiled at all of them. “Maybe it's good to learn a few hexes or two to protect yourself. I don’t think the Judges will be going easy on anyone! Harry, is everything okay?”
The younger wizard’s green eyes widened in shock and quickly looked between Ron and Hermione. The wise, young witch nodded in encouragement.
Harry dove into the tale from last night, where after learning of the maze, Victor Krum had asked him to walk together. Krum was inquisitive about Hermione and the on-going rumors. Harry agreed to walk with the Quidditch player because he wanted to dis-spell the rumors. While walking, they had walked towards the Forbidden Forest, when Harry noticed something moving behind Krum.
“Who was it?” Elisabeth peeped. Fred and George both shushed her.
“It was Barty Crouch!” Ron jumped in before Harry could get the name out of his mouth.
“Let Harry talk, Ronald!” Hermione glared at Ron. He held his hands up before becoming quiet.
Harry continued his story. Barty Crouch appeared behind Krum, who looked worse for wear. He looked as though he had been traveling for days. The knees of his robes ripped and bloody, his face scratched and unshaven. He was terribly exhausted and seemed in need of a bath. He was also raving mad. Muttering and gesticulating to someone that wasn’t there. He was gasping to see Dumbledore. Saying he had done something stupid and further insisting to see the Head Master. Urging Harry to warn Dumbledore.
“He kept saying he must warn Dumbledore. That it was all his fault. That someone named Bertha Jorkins was dead. That the Dark Lord was getting stronger.”
Everyone gasped. Elisabeth paled, and Charles sat straighter. Chelsea felt a violent chill travel her spine. What did this mean for her?
“After that, I ran to the castle to get Dumbledore. When we arrived back at where I had left Krum and Crouch, Krum was unconscious on the ground and Crouch was gone... Karkaroff and Dumbledore got into a large argument. And then Hagrid returned me to Gryffindor Tower, where I told Ron and Hermione what happened. We spent the whole night trying to understand what is going on.” Harry finished his tail with a long sigh. That year no one attacked him or wanted to hurt him, and finally, a similar pattern had caught up to him.
“It comes down to this,” said Hermione, rubbing her forehead, her voice exhausted. “Either Mr. Crouch attacked Viktor, or somebody else attacked both of them when Viktor wasn’t looking.”
“It must’ve been Crouch,” said Ron at once. “That’s why he was gone when Harry and Dumbledore got there. He’d done a runner. Why else would he not be there?”
“I don’t think so,” said Harry, shaking his head. “He seemed really weak. I don’t reckon he was up to Disapparating or anything. He wasn’t making much sense either, I don’t think he had the ability to concentrate either, therefore he couldn’t have attacked Krum.”
“You can’t Disapparate on the Hogwarts grounds, haven’t I told you enough times?” said Hermione. Elisabeth and Chelsea nodded in agreement. There was no way that could happen.
“Okay... how’s this for a theory,” said Ron excitedly. “Krum attacked Crouch — no, wait for it and then stunned himself!”
“Seriously Ron? And Mr. Crouch evaporated, did he?” said Fred sarcastically.
“Oh yeah...” Ron looked down into his plate, rolling a roast potato with his fork.
“I wonder where Crouch is now...” Elisabeth whispered, grabbing Gideon Ollivander’s hand. Chelsea thought fondly of the two, as Gideon just seamlessly joined the group over the last few months. He was kind, with soft blue eyes. Gideon listened attentively but didn’t offer much in words. From what Chelsea had been told, he had always been like that. He balanced the wild energy that was her roommate.
“I don’t have a clue where Mr. Crouch disappeared,” Harry offered truthfully. “I am glad Krum was fine, but I feel something is off. I can’t put my finger on it.”
“Don’t worry too much about it, mate. Dumbledore will handle it.” George offered, consoling the young boy. Harry half-smiled at his friends before trying to eat something again; though it seemed everyone had lost their appetites.
For the rest of the day, Chelsea couldn’t focus on anything other than the fact that there was a chance that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Name was coming back. Was this connected to Rookwood’s letters? Does this have to do with Oliver’s warning? It had to do with his warning, no doubt. Not even her potions homework could calm her racing thoughts.
“You think You-Know-Who’s getting stronger again?” Charles whispered later that evening, the two of them sitting in her room trying to do homework.
Charles stared out the window. Chelsea thought she saw him shiver slightly, even though they were wrapped under a blanket.
“I hope not, Charlie,” Chelsea said.
“I don’t think my parents can relive that again. Mom already has so much riding on her since her promotion to Head Auror for MACUSA. Everyone expects a Wilkinson descendant to be a fantastic Auror. Dad nearly lost her when You-Know-Who rose to power originally and she came here to help.” He prattled on, he was sitting with his forehead in his hands, staring at the blanket in his lap.
“I worry about everyone if that is the case.” She muttered.
“What do we do if that’s the case?”
“What our parents did before us. We fight. We fight for our families, our friends, those we love, and those who can’t fight for themselves.” She reached for his hands, drawing them to her lips. “It is what we should and can do. You are the smartest wizard I know, Charles Tanner.”
He moved his hands away from her face, pressing his lips to hers. “You always make me feel better. I think it is time for me to say goodnight, we haven’t gotten any work done! Plus, you look tired, you need to get some sleep. Sleep well, miss smart witch.”
He tucked her into bed, wished her sweet dreams, and left a soft kiss on her forehead. As he closed the door behind him, she found herself staring out the window, clouds floating dark in the night sky. She imagined all the changes that were going to happen in the next month. She hoped to spend her summer at the Weasley’s, having heard all the wonderful stories of the Burrow and the Weasley Family; of spending it with Charles for their traditional Holiday trip to Cape Cod and sailing for two weeks; of her brother and playing quidditch. Sleep enveloped her like a warm beach towel left in the sun.
Chelsea should have been studying for her exams, which would end on the day of the final task, but she was putting more effort into helping Charles prepare.
“Come on Charles, when was the last time I did poorly on an exam?” Chelsea responded slightly annoyed after Charles pointed it out. “You are supposed to be practicing these spells I found for you. Thanks to your mom, we’d be lost trying to find them.”
“Good training for when she makes me an Auror,” Charles muttered under his breath.
“You’ve always talked about being an Auror since we were eleven.”
“That was before my mom was made Head Auror. Now it’ll be nepotism if I join.”
“I don’t think so, you will now have a few obstacles but you’ll make it on your own merit. I believe it entirely.”
“You’re not from a family where your brother, mom, grandfather, great grandfather, and almost every male on your mom’s side is a high ranking Auror.” He muttered under his breath again.
She wanted to tell him about her biological father, of her distress with her family in some ways to sympathize with familial pressures but she couldn’t. Her anxiety rose by the day as the third task came nearer and nearer.
The mood in the castle as they entered June became excited and tense all at once. Everyone was eager for the third task, which would take place a week before the end of the term. It seemed Harry and Charles practiced spells at any available moment, even practicing on one another. Charles felt both confident and nervous again. Difficult and dangerous this task would be, Chelsea reassured Charles that he had managed to find his way past magical creatures in the past and knew how to keep a level head, without bringing up the Hide-Behind. Harry too seemed confident, he walked with his head held high for the first time in weeks.
Chelsea’s nerves mounted as the end of term drew closer. She had not received a letter from him in many weeks, but she feared she would find one every time she opened her eyes. For one thing, she knew there would be another letter, there had to be. For another, this was the final hurdle, and however this ended, the tournament would be over at last, which would mean peace at last and time to process. And she would be protecting her friends, all who have warmed and healed her hurt heart.