October 30, 1994.
The witches of Beauxbatons joined the Ravenclaws at their table along the rightmost wall as their distaff counterparts from Durmstrang joined the Slytherin table along the opposite wall, starting conversations with those they would share the castle with for the next eight months with.
Roger Davies leaned over the table so that his voice could be heard over the clamor of all the other students. "Hello. I'm Roger Davies. Welcome to Hogwarts."
The two girls who sat across from him turned from their perusal of the statues and looked at him, the brunette with a smile across her face while the blonde kept up a look of cool indifference.
"I'm Aimeé Gravois," the brunette said, extending a hand across the table. Roger grasped hers lightly with his and bowed his head over it, bringing her hand almost to his lips.
"A pleasure, Aimeé," he said as he released her hand, a friendly smile of his own upon his face. His grin grew as Aimeé blushed lightly, looking very pleased with his actions. Note to self, he thought, imitate Master Altaïr more often.
He looked over to the blonde, who still wore a detached look on her face. "And you are?"
"Fleur Delacour," she answered in a near emotionless tone. Roger was almost sure that the temperature had dropped significantly.
Aimeé hit her lightly with the back of her hand, giving her a quick look. "Come on, Fleur. Be nice. He's not a drooling idiot."
"He soon will be."
Aimeé opened her mouth to return another, more scathing statement when Roger cut in. "Why would I become a 'drooling idiot,' mademoiselle?"
Aimeé looked at Fleur with a raised eyebrow, jerking her head in his direction. Fleur sighed and nodded, waving a hand as if giving permission to proceed.
"Fleur is a quarter Veela, which usually causes males in her vicinity to become charmed by her presence alone," Aimeé explained, watching Fleur out of the corner of her eye, just in case she explained something Fleur didn't want getting out.
"Ah, that explains why I have the sudden urge stare at her and boast of my deeds," said Roger, folding his fingers in front of his face. "Luckily, I've some control over my actions."
"You've trained in Occlumency?" asked Fleur, a spark of interest in her eye.
"I have the basics mastered, which allows me better control of my emotion and mental faculties, the latter very important to any Ravenclaw," said Roger, his brows furrowed in thought. "Though long term exposure to your Veela Allure might fray my control, so if I become a 'drooling idiot,' just hit me over the head. That'll get me back to normal…somewhat anyway."
Aimeé's smile grew as she saluted Roger, clicking her heels beneath the table. "Aye, aye, Captain."
"Now that we have introduced ourselves, what do you think of Hogwarts thus far?" he asked, gesturing to the rest of the hall.
"Who are these statues of?" asked Aimeé, looking up at the armed and cloaked figures hewed out of black marble. "Are they famous?"
"Those are statues of our security force, a group who calls themselves the Assassins," explained Roger. "They're probably somewhere around the castle, keeping an eye out for anything out of the ordinary."
"So, we'll see them about the castle sooner or later?" asked another, looking at the statues with interest. "Some of them are really cute."
"Aimeé!" admonished Fleur, looking at her friend with an annoyed look on her face. "Might I remind you of Renaud?"
Aimeé scowled, remembering that last time she had gone on a date based on looks alone. The man had only one goal in mind for the length of that particular relationship: get in her pants as fast as possible. "That was a mistake. I've learned from it, okay?"
"I can introduce you, if you want," said Roger, staring at the two statues that were in the center of the lineup. "The two in the center are Master Raphael and Master Altaïr. Judging from the reactions of the other Assassins, they're the leaders of the team."
Fleur looked over, looking at the statues with a keen eye. I've seen these uniforms before… that Ezio Audi-something wore the same.
"Do any of them have a scar across their lips?" she asked with what she hoped was an innocent look on her face. If he's here, I'm going to beat the answers out of him myself.
"Master Altaïr has one, on the right side of his face," said Roger, pointing out his statue in the lineup. "Others have scars on other parts of their faces, but the only one with a scar on his lips is Master Altaïr."
Fleur looked at the statue, black marble forming a face that she wanted desperately to be familiar to her. Assuming the statue is accurate, this 'Altaïr' closely resembles Ezio's physique, and by the look of the carving of his mouth suggests his face bears the same scar… it could be him.
~The feast is coming to a close, Altaïr.~ said Raphael, watching the heads of the three schools stand. The Durmstrang and Beauxbaton students immediately leapt to their feet, prompting scattered laughter amongst the Hogwarts students. They returned to their seats when their respective heads waved their hands, palm down.
"The moment has come," said Dumbledore, smiling around at the sea of upturned and curious faces. "The Triwizard Tournament is about to start. I would like to say a few words of explanation before we bring in the casket just to clarify the procedure that we will be following this year. But first, let me introduce, for those who do not know them, Mr. Bartemius Crouch, Head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation" — there was a smattering of polite applause — "and Mr. Ludo Bagman, Head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports."
The Assassins had much better files on everyone in the room, of course, which was supplemented as soon as new info was found. Every aspect of Crouch and Bagman's public life, and a lot of their private lives, could be found in an Assassin dossier. ~Bagman's in debt with the goblins…again…~
~That man has the worst luck…or Padraig has been messing with the odds again.~ said Jacinta, her voice full of mirth.
~He shouldn't have messed up that Templar triple kill I had set up in 'eighty-eight. But this one is not my fault.~
There was a much louder round of applause for Bagman than for Crouch, perhaps because of his fame as a Beater, or simply because he looked so much more likable. He acknowledged it with a jovial wave of his hand. Bartemius Crouch did not smile or wave when his name was announced. His toothbrush mustache and severe parting looked very odd next to Dumbledore's long white hair and beard.
"Mr. Bagman and Mr. Crouch have worked tirelessly over the last few months on the arrangements for the Triwizard Tournament – " ~they have indeed; dragons, a sphinx, and several other magical animals, dueling referees from Britain, Russia and France, and several magical plants~ said Raphael, listing off the purchases as they rolled down his screen. "– and they will be joining Professor Karkaroff, and Madame Maxime and I on the panel that will judge the champions' efforts."
At the mention of the word "champions," the attentiveness of the listening students seemed to sharpen. Perhaps Dumbledore had noticed their sudden stillness, for he smiled as he said, "The casket, then, if you please, Mr. Filch."
Filch, who had been lurking unnoticed in a far corner of the Hall in his ancient moldy suit, now approached Dumbledore carrying a great wooden chest encrusted with jewels. It looked extremely old. A murmur of excited interest rose from the watching students; a few had to stand on their seats to see. One even climbed onto the statue of Raphael
"The instructions for the tasks the champions will face this year have already been examined by Mr. Crouch 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 took out his wand and tapped three times upon the top of the casket. The lid creaked slowly open on hinges that had probably not been used for a long time. 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.
A good choice… wood holds magic much better than gold or precious metals…Altaïr thought, his HUD displaying the high level of magic still in the enchantments on the simple cup.
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."
Everyone stood, ready to leave, already discussing the Tournament. A few had struck up conversations with the foreign students and were asking where they would be staying.
Groan… crack! Crack! Crack! Crack!
Everyone froze at the creak of stressed stone accompanied by the sound of splitting marble. Several of the students stared, including Fleur, Aimeé and Roger, at the statues along the hall, which had shifted from their original positions.
With a bang of heavy marble meeting the floor, the black marble Assassin statues stepped off their plinths. Screams filled the air as they walked to the front of the head table, striding through the crowd with practiced ease, not stepping on any toes or even making a student fall. Any of the students, foreign or domestic, who were in the way were gently but firmly pushed to the side.
The three heads and two guests had moved to the front of the table, discussing the security arrangements Dumbledore had set for the tournament. Crouch had his wand out as soon as the statues started moving and, now that the sculptures had drawn close enough, cast a blasting spell. Madame Maxime chose to use a more direct approach, swinging a fist that could palm a medicine ball towards the approaching marble warriors.
The lead Assassin batted the spell aside with his arm, as if waving away an insect, and redirected it harmlessly into the ceiling. Before the Ministry official could fire off another spell, the Assassin palmed his arm out of the way and snatched the wand from his hand. The next Assassin in line placed his palm directly in Madame's path, not even moving as Maxime's fist bounced off the outstretched stone.
"I request that you don't do that again, Crouch, Maxime," said Altaïr, twirling the captured wand between his fingers. "Dumbledore, explain the situation. Raphael, heal the Madame's fist."
Both men bowed their heads slightly in acceptance, Dumbledore raising placating hands at the rest of the group while the black form of Raphael healed Maxime with brutal efficiency, which made the French half-giantess wince slightly as the broken bones shifted back into place.
"Ladies and gentlemen, please let me introduce the security force for the duration of the tournament, the Assassin Order. Master Altaïr – he indicated the one standing next to him, still twirling Crouch's wand – is in charge of the team. Should any of you feel that you are in danger in any way, shape, or form, please inform one of them and they shall bring either bring the matter to one of us heads or act in their own accord. Should any of them require your assistance, please cooperate to the best of your ability."
With that said, the black marble melted away, dripping off their coattails onto the stone floor before fading away quickly like water spilled on the desert sand. The Assassins then raised their right arms and threw a silver marble at the floor, disappeared into the smoke and, when the smoke cleared, vanished without a sound.
The Assasins? That's who Ezio was! thought Fleur, walking down one of the many halls of Hogwarts in search of one of these mythical killers, thinking of the cold-blooded killer at her birthday party. "Why was he sent to my home? Was he after my father? Mother? Me?"
"If an Assassin wanted someone dead, they would be dead, mademoiselle," said an Assassin, making Fleur jump as he appeared from an alcove where he had been hidden from the casual observer. As she stared at him in shock, he turned on his heel and walked down the corridor, moving much faster than any Fleur had seen before. She reached out a hand to stop him, a protest on her lips as his white-with-red-veins cloak fluttered around a corner.
"Come back here!" Fleur shouted as she ran after him, making the corner to see him disappear again around another corner. You're not getting away that easily, she thought, tapping into one of the physical aspects of her Veela heritage: lighter bones and increased musculature. With a burst of speed, she ran around the corner and charged…
Only to find an empty hallway before her. Rattled by his sudden disappearance, she took a second to realize what she was seeing before looking for an escape route: a window that was hung open or door that was ajar that would indicate his path.
"Very few people will run after an assassin," said the Assassin, his voice directly behind her.
She spun on her heel, already drawing her wand before she came to a stop. The wand tip, which was glowing a deep red, was inches away from the Assassin's shadowed hood. Breathing quicker than normal from the burst of speed, she asked, "You're the Master Assassin, aren't you?"
"Master Assassin Altaïr ibn-La'Ahad, at your service," said he, smirking all the while despite the wand in his face. She glared at him over the wand, blue eyes meeting the shadows under his cowl, searching for any telltale signs of his eyes. "Why do you seek us?"
"I want to know why one of you was at my home!" she growled, laying her wand upon his cheek so that any spell sent from it would hit his eye before anything else. Her eyes widened a sliver as the tip, still glowing, disappeared as it entered the darkness that shrouded the Assassin from the bridge of his nose to his forehead.
"'One of ours?' did this man give you his name, by chance? That would make it much easier to identify your mystery man."
"Your glibness does you no credit, especially when I have my wand to your eye," she said, angered by his carefree attitude in such a situation.
"Here I thought we were getting along so well. I was even going to name one of my children after you," he said, still smirking in an almost insufferable way. "…the grumpy one."
"Enough of your chattering! The Assassin I met was named Ezio Auditore da …la la la…"
The Assassin began chuckling, leaning back to avoid a jab to the eye should he move forward. He twisted to the side as his chuckles became laughter and put his hands on his knees, laughing so hard that tears fell from his eyes to hit the floor. "Ezio Auditore da la la la!"
In an instant, the Assassin came out of the crouch and slapped a hand over hers, palming the wand out of the way as to remove himself from its line of fire. A spin with the trapped hand had Fleur hitting the wall hard enough to force the breath from her lungs as the Assassin tugged the wand from her fingers and laid it on her cheek, just below her eye in a grim parody of the position he'd been in only seconds ago.
Before she knew what was happening, he was the one in control, holding her at wand point.
"Why do you wish to know about one of our more successful Assassins?" he asked, his voice no longer jovial and happy but grim and dark. "What makes a young woman such as yourself ask such questions of a man who could make you disappear from existence?"
"I want to know why I'm the only one who remembers seeing him!" she hissed at him, twisting her face to the side to put distance between her wand and her eye. "I want to know why!"
The Assassin pulled back his hood and pulled down his mask.
An ice blue eye stared at her from under pronounced brows, his hair fell across his face in a blonde curtain before it was casually brushed over the top of his head. A trio of scars stretched from top of the right side of his face and cut across his nose, supplying the answer to why his other eye was closed, the middle scar neatly forming right over the eye.
"You meddle in affairs you have no business in."
With that, the Assassin dropped he wand and walked backwards into the shadows on an alcove holding a suit of armor. As the darkness swallowed him, he threw his hood back over his head just after his hair changed from blonde to black.
"Who are you?" she yelled, snatching up her wand. A quick lumos lit up the shadows.
But he was no longer there…
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