A/N: This is for round 13 of Season 5 of the Quidditch League Fanfiction Competition. I'm Chaser 1 for the Caerphilly Catapults. This is the last round before the finals begin!
My prompt was "Knight: write about an ordinarily timid character going into battle."
My optional prompts were: 5. (song) "Poker Face" - Lady Gaga, 14. (setting) Durmstrang Institute of Magic, and 15. (quote) "Chess: the game where a pawn can become a queen."
This is an AU where Neville's name is pulled out of the Goblet of Fire, rather than Harry's. The idea is that Voldemort doesn't know which of them is the boy from the prophecy, so he's going after both.
Neville was quite certain he was going to die. He probably should have been more terrified, but he wasn't – just resigned. He had been so since his name was pulled from the Goblet of Fire, and through the first task at Beauxbatons, where he had faced a dragon. Well, he didn't actually face it. He distracted it and took the egg from its nest. Not very impressive, but he had survived, even though he came last.
He was sure he would never even pass the second task, until Cedric (Hogwarts' real champion) gave him a tip about holding the egg underwater. Neville was quite happy that he could consult with his friends during that task. Ultimately, however, he was the one to find the gillyweed which allowed him to breathe underwater, allowing him to save Ginny from the mermaids in the Black Lake.
The third task of the Triwizard Tournament was taking place at Durmstrang, where Karkaroff was headmaster. If the hunches of his friends and teachers back at Hogwarts were correct, Voldemort was trying to eliminate him, and Karkaroff was a known Death Eater who hadn't exactly renounced the way of life.
However, when he heard what the third task of the Triwizard Tournament was, he couldn't quite figure out how he was going to die – at least not here.
"Wizard's Chess," announced the headmaster in his northern European accent, "The game where a pawn can become a queen. It is an ancient game, one with honor and glory attached to it. However, we're going to play it a little different than usual. After all, Russian roulette is not the same without a gun. And remember, it is not enough to capture your opponent – you must play to the end, and capture his king, or the game will not be over."
He pulled the cover off what everyone had assumed was the Triwizard Cup on a pedestal. They had been wrong. What appeared under the plain fabric was instead a giant chess-piece – a knight, to be exact. The horse whinnied and snorted, moving its front legs impatiently, as though it might have charged the students if his back half were not molded into a chess piece.
However, even this sight, and Karkaroff's cryptic announcement, didn't inspire terror in Neville. He was quite good at Wizard's Chess. He set about studying famous games and playing against himself during the two weeks leading up to the final task.
He thought he was ready by the time the day rolled around, but his stomach sank when he realized what Karkaroff had meant.
He was to face Viktor Krum, and Cedric was facing Fleur, on two life-sized chess-boards, equipped with life-sized chess pieces like the knight Karkaroff had revealed during the announcement. However, what was most disturbing to Neville at that particular moment was the sight of one pawn missing in the front row of each of the lineups of pieces.
Karkaroff gave the champion with more points the white characters. In this case, Krum took that prize. Neville began to wish he'd been less timid with the dragon during the first task.
Krum called out his first command in his native language, leaving Neville startled when the white knight vaulted over the row of pawns to land at F3.
Neville realized that he was at a disadvantage, because Krum knew English, and could understand his commands, but Neville did not speak Hungarian. He resolved to try to remember the foreign words for each piece as Krum called them out.
Realizing it was his turn, Neville called out, "Knight to F5." His own knight, with a deafening thud, vaulted over the black pawns and landed directly in front of Neville.
Then Krum stepped forward, crossing two spaces with confidence.
Neville ushered the pawn to his left to step forward one square. Krum called his other knight to C3. Neville moved his bishop forward to stand next to him. Krum brought another pawn towards Neville's side of the board. Neville castled. White Bishop to F4. Black pawn to D5. White queen to A4. Neville knew the time had come to engage his opponent.
"Pawn to C4," he called out.
What happened next was nothing if not startling. This was, indeed, Wizard's chess, if there had been any doubt before. Neville's pawn drew his swords and obliterated Krum's pawn. Krum retaliated by taking the pawn Neville had just sent into battle.
Black pawn to C6. White pawn to E4. Black knight to D7. White rook to D1.
Knowing Krum to be a fierce competitor, Neville knew he had to take a strategy he usually avoided. He went on the offensive. Black knight to B6, in position to take the white queen. White Queen forward to C5, in position to take the black night.
Neville called his bishop to G4, where it would be in position to take the white knight. Krum retaliated by bringing his bishop to G5, mirroring Neville's move and putting the black knight in danger. Neville swallowed, hoping he was not going to get caught up in battle. To deflect from the knight protecting him, he moved his other knight to A4. It was a risky move. The black knight could take the white queen from this position, but the white knight could also take the black knight just as easily.
Krum got his queen out of the line of fire. Neville took the opportunity to take his knight. However, Krum's pawn took Neville's knight. Neville brought his other knight forward to take the pawn next to Krum. The white bishop took the pawn next to Neville, and Neville called for his queen to move to B6.
Krum's bishop could take Neville's rook, positioned next to the king, but Neville would retaliate by taking white's bishop with his own bishop.
Instead, Krum called his bishop to C4. Neville told his knight to take the pawn at C3, leaving Krum looking very vulnerable, with no white pieces around him. Perhaps this was why his next two moves were to bring his bishops next to him, putting them in place to take Neville's queen.
"Rook to E8. Check!" called Neville.
Krum moved his king one space to the right. Neville moved his bishop to E6. White bishop took the black queen. Black bishop to C4. Neville again yelled, "Check!"
White king to G1. Knight to E2. Check. White king to F1. Black knight to D4. White king to G1. Check. Black knight to C3. White King to F1. Check.
Neville noticed, looking across the board, that Krum's face had gone quite red. Once again, he moved his king out of the way. Neville turned his attention to another part of the board.
Pawn to B5, leaving the black rook in position to take the white queen, or vice versa. White queen to B4. Black rook to A4, next to the queen. The white queen took a black pawn to get out of dancer, and Neville took the opportunity to take the white rook at D1 with his knight.
Krum moved a pawn to H3. Black rook took the pawn at A2. White king to H2. Black knight to F2. White rook to E1. Black rook to E1, taking the white rook. White queen to D8.
"Check!" said Krum, smirking.
Neville smiled back, moving his bishop to F8. White knight takes black rook at E1. Black bishop to G5. White knight to F3. Black knight to E4. White queen to B8. Pawn to B5.
Krum was left in the lurch. He had fewer pieces on the board, and had to make a move. Finally, he sent a pawn to H4. Neville sent back a pawn to H5. White knight to E5. Black king to G7. Neville thought he was going to win. Black bishop to C5. White king to G1. Black bishop to B4. Check.
Neville had Krum. All he had to do was move the pieces in the right way, while keeping Krum on the defensive, and…checkmate.
After the game, Neville thought to wonder why Voldemort hadn't made a move to kill him here, where there was every opportunity and no one would suspect foul play. Still, Neville was proud of himself. He'd done battle, and won, for the first time in his life. The tournament was over. All there was left was to be presented the Triwizard Cup. Maybe it wouldn't be so easy for Voldemort to kill him after all.