The following day went by in a blur. Since I didn't get much sleep the night before, I slept most of the way on the train ride to London.
When we arrived at Platform 9 ¾, I found a small surprise waiting for me. Grandma was waiting for me dressed in black robes with faint geometric patterns stitched with yellow thread. A wide-brim sun hat mostly covered her dark hair that was beginning to grey.
After greeting her with a hug, I asked, "Grandma, what are you doing here? Where's Mum and Dad?"
Grandma fondly ruffled my dirty blond hair. "Your father had an important meeting he couldn't get out of, and your Mum just got in a large order for potions. So, I volunteered to pick you up."
Grandma fondly smiled as she looked around at all the parents reuniting with their children on the platform. "It's been so long since I've been here," she mused. "I've nearly forgotten how busy the platform could be."
Snapping out of memory lane, Grandma turned back to me, "You ready to get out of here?"
Seeing me nod, she pushed her way to an open area designed for apparition. Once we were in the clear, she held out her arm for me to grab. Typically, we would have to take the bus, but we could apparate since I didn't have any luggage and Athena didn't count.
As I gripped her arm tightly, my world went black as the familiar sensation of being squeezed through a small rubber tube.
After what seemed like an eternity, we reappeared outside the iron gates that led to the Fawley estate. The gates were bound to our bloodline and opened with no prompting as if to welcome us home.
Once we got inside the house, I was immediately swarmed by the twins. Rebbeca started interrogating me about school with a hungry look in her blue eyes. While Sasha settled for snuggling Athena and listening to everything I said.
I could smell a delightful smell from the kitchens as Lola tended to go overboard whenever I returned from Hogwarts. Once, I had tried to convince her that it wasn't necessary, but all I got in response was some shaking and fat watery tears leaking from her big green eyes. So now we always have a big family dinner the night I return.
The next few days went by quickly as I got ready for the tournament. I had tried to see Uncle John, but he wasn't on his ship, and no one would tell me where he was at, only that he promised to be back in time for the tournament.
There were a few things different about the tournament this year. The tournament changes locations every year, and this year it would be held in Rome, in the Colosseum. Not the muggle one, the real one that lies beneath it.
Back when Rome was at the height of its power, the Magical Conclave of Rome built the Colosseum. Back then, magic was not a secret and was commonly used. Even today, half of Rome still pulses with remnants of ancient magics.
It's a shame that the historical records had to be altered when wizards went into hiding. The ancient Roman wizards were capable of crafting wonders. It didn't come as a surprise that I learned that the headquarters of the Charm-Crafting Guild was located there.
The location wasn't the only thing that would be different. Neither Cedric nor Alicia was coming this year. Alicia's parents took her back to Egypt for a family reunion, and Cedric's dad was dragging him on some Ministry retreat. Amos Diggory wanted Cedric to rise high in the Ministry. I've heard him suggest that Cedric would make a good Minister, and the retreat was a good way for Cedric to build connections.
I don't think that the fact that Cedric wants to play professional quidditch has even registered with Amos. Sometimes Cedric is too accommodating for his own good.
This year, I will be traveling with the Silver Spears. After last year's fiasco, they tightened security, determined not to let anything else happen on their watch.
The morning of the tournament, I headed downstairs dressed in my dueling robes. They were dark blue with a hawk colored in different shades of bronze on the front.
Not wanting to be late, I used the Floo Network to instantly travel to the British Chapter House of the Silver Spears.
At the chapter house, I found the other members of our club waiting. Zack, our fearless leader, was dressed in dark robes with hints of silver. He acknowledged me with a lazy grin, not wanting to move. He was lounging without a care in the world on a faded grey couch, with his head in the lap of his girlfriend, Addison.
Addison's robes went in the opposite direction of Zack's robes. She was wearing bright sunny yellow robes with black runic symbols running along the seams.
She sat on the couch, absently running her fingers through Zack's blond hair, mentally preparing for the upcoming competition. This would be her final year competing at the junior level. And while she was guaranteed a mentor from the ranks of the retired members of the Silver Spears, she wanted to land a mentorship with a former champion. Zach had already received several offers in his sixth year, and I knew she was aiming for similar offers.
Lelah, the fifth-year Ravenclaw, was focused on a mirror as she tied her lengthy, auburn hair up into a tight bun. She had on light blue robes with white patterns woven into them. As I passed her by, I noticed she shot a few sneaky glances my way, which I attributed to my current social status in Ravenclaw.
Not everyone was as welcoming. Adam, the dark-haired, fourth-year Gryffindor that I frequently spared with, tried to hide a glare. He had failed to qualify this year and more than once had grumbled that if it weren't for me competing in his year, he would have made it.
I couldn't blame him for being a little annoyed at me; I had been distracted this year, not putting in nearly as much time into practicing as he did. I can imagine how frustrating it must be to put in the time and effort to lose out to someone who only put in half the effort. I had considered competing against the fifth-years this year but decided against it because of how busy I was with my other projects.
Adam wasn't the only one who didn't qualify this year. Of the three newest members, only Hannah, the second-year Hufflepuff, qualified. Richard and Stephen didn't were both knocked out. It was moments like this that reminded us that even though we were all a part of the same club, dueling was ultimately a solo sport.
It didn't take long for Jean to appear before us with a bright smile on his face. Jean's job was to both manage and mentor the junior members that attended Hogwarts. From everything I learned about him, he never found success in the professional leagues. But, his love for the sport couldn't be denied. For the past ten years, he had done his absolute best to help any interested member find an appropriate mentor and transition into the professional dueling leagues.
He was flanked by two people who appeared to be in their early twenties. One was a tall blond witch and a wizard with rich brown hair. Judging from the matching dark robes decorated with crosses silver Spears, I guessed they were older members of the Silver Spears.
Jean cleared his throat wanting to grab everyone's attention. "Everyone gather around. I want to talk about this year's tournament."
Once everyone had gathered in a semi-circle, Jean continued, "Due to an incident last year, there is going to be some changes to the way we operate."
I ducked my head in embarrassment as I felt everyone glance at me.
Jean motioned for the witch and wizard standing behind him to come forward. "This is Ben and Katerina. They are both Professional Duelers of the Silver Spears and have graciously offered to guard our area to make sure there are no mishaps."
Everyone seemed to sit up straighter when Jean introduced Ben and Jamie. Jean smirked when he saw he had a captive audience.
"Now that I have your attention," Jean remarked. "I want to remind everyone not to go wandering off all by themselves this year. If you do feel the need to go somewhere, for Merlin's sake, take someone with you."
Jean rattled off a few more guidelines, but when he noticed that everyone seemed to be shooting glances at the two professional duelers, Jean shook his head and gave up.
"Alright, that's it from me. I'm going to let Ben and Katerina introduce themselves.
The pale, blond witch stepped forward and introduced herself.
"Hello, I is Katerina." She said in a heavy accent that I suspected was Russian. "Is nice to meet you."
I thought she would continue for a second, but she stepped back, content with what she said.
Ben stepped forward to fill the silence. "It's nice to meet you all. As Jean said, my name is Benjamin, but everyone calls me Ben. If you're wondering, I attended Ilvermorny."
Ben stuck a thumb towards Katerina, "My silent friend over here graduated from Koldovstoretz."
Katerina snorted, "I not silent. I introduce myself just fine. Not my fault you like talking rabbit."
Katerina motioned her hand in a yapping manner, "Always the che che che with you. Never stop."
Ben shot her a toothy smile, seemingly pleased that Katerina had responded. Holding up a finger, he proclaimed, "Ah hah, but I know for a fact that you think rabbits are cute. So by comparing me to one, you admit you find me cute."
Katerina looked at Ben thoughtfully. "Maybe." She admitted. "But, pretty face is ruined by loud mouth. I talk with my Babushka. She has a spell to fix problem. No more loud mouth."
Ben laughed nervously, not sure if Katerina was joking or not.
Jean cleared his throat, wanting the two to act more professional in front of everyone.
Ben tried to shoot Jean an apologetic look, but his shameless smile ruined it. Turning back to us. "Alright, does anyone have any questions?"
Zack lifted a lazy hand and decided to stir the pot. "Which one of you is the better duelist." He asked while his eyes danced with mirth.
Ben rubbed the stubble on his jawline for a moment. "I would say we're about the same level."
Immediately contradicting him, Katerina snorted, "I better duelist."
Ben narrowed his amber-brown eyes and challenged Katerina. "Really, what about last night's duel? I seem to remember winning."
Katerina waved a pale hand dismissing Ben's argument. "So. I have more wins. 25 to 24."
Ben rubbed his temples as if trying to ward off a headache. "That just means we're nearly tied, which is what I said in the first place."
Katerina stubbornly shook her head. "No. I have more wins. So I better duelist. When you have more wins. You better duelist."
Pleased with her logic, Katerina fell silent.
Sensing that it was pointless to continue, Ben threw up his hands up in surrender.
I smothered a laugh seeing the two of them go back and forth. And I wasn't the only one. Everyone else seemed to enjoy it, well, except for Jean. Jean looked like he was having second thoughts about bringing the two of them along.
Sensing that it was futile to argue with her anymore, Ben turned back to us. "Any other questions?"
Hanna, the second-year Hufflepuff, raised her hands. "Do you have any advice for the upcoming tournament?"
Ben considered her for a moment. "From your age, I'm guessing this is your first time dueling internationally?"
When Hanna nodded, Ben continued, "One thing you need to pay attention to is spell familiarity. What I mean by that is, for the first time, you're going to be going up against people who use spells you've never seen or heard about before. Not knowing what spells are coming at you will force you to adjust your strategies. Don't be stubborn and try to remain in the starting circle. If a spell comes at you, and you don't know what it is, get out of the way."
Even though that advice was for Hanna, I took the advice seriously as well. I missed out on last year's duels, and I was looking forward to the challenge of not knowing what was coming at me. It should be an interesting experience.
Ben spent the next twenty minutes answering questions. Most revolved around getting into the Professional Dueling Leagues. As for me, I remained silent. Perhaps in another life, I could imagine myself becoming a professional dueler. But that life wasn't for me. I was here for a very singular purpose, to learn how to sling spells at someone.
Even if there weren't a war coming, I probably wouldn't go into professional dueling. I enjoy dueling, but it's not what I'm genuinely passionate about. Over the past few months, I've found that I enjoy pushing boundaries in magic, exploring the unknown, and creating new spells.
The portkey we used dropped us off in a large spacious room that had no windows. Along the walls were bunk beds where we would be sleeping. The tournament was always a multi-day affair. The second and third-year students were dueling on day one. Since I was dueling against fourth-year students, I didn't have to do anything till tomorrow.
While the Colosseum above ground was slowly crumbling into ruin, nothing could be further from the truth when speaking of the underground. A few of us decided we wanted to explore and get a feel for the place.
The sounds of our footsteps reverberated as we walked through the stone hallways that were brightly lit with torches enchanted never to go out. It took us some time to find our way through the maze-like passageways. When we finally found the arena, my eyes widened in surprise.
Being underground, I had sort of expected the arena to be dimly lit, with perhaps the bottom arena being the brightest. But, a familiar enchantment ensured that the Underground Colosseum was just as bright as the muggle one above us.
Rather than a rocky ceiling, we could see the clear blue sky with the sun shining brightly down on us. It was the same enchantment used in the Great Hall back at Hogwarts. If I didn't know better, I would assume the Underground Colosseum was built above ground.
There was plenty of seating available; the first day was never as popular as the latter half of the tournament. Mostly, the stands were just full of family members cheering on their kids.
I didn't blame dueling enthusiasts for not showing up on day one. I imagine it's hard to go from watching professional dueling to students dueling.
Eventually, it was about time for the duel to start, and we all headed to our assigned area. As the duels started, I couldn't keep my eyes off the competition. There were witches and wizards from all over the place.
Each of the eleven schools had sent their best. From the Far East, students from Tianlong School of Sorcery were dressed in robes made from silk embroidered with glowing characters that seemed to move in random patterns known only to them. While the school's location was a secret known only to them, it was speculated to be deep within the mountains of China.
Not to be outdone were the students from Mahoutokoro School of Magical Study. Their school's location wasn't a secret. It was located on the Japanese Volcanic Island of Minami Iwo Jima. Each of their students was wearing their unique and famous robes.
When students begin their schooling at Mahoutokoro, they each receive a set of robes that grow alongside their owners. The robe's colors start pink but slowly change colors depending on the student's grades. Gold robes indicate that the student has top marks.
The only color that is taboo is white. Any student that breaks the Mahoutokoro Wizard's Code or practices the Dark Arts would result in their uniform turning white. The change would bring great shame to their family, and they would be immediately be expelled from Mahoutokoro.
Taking my eyes off the students from the Far East, I snuck looks at the students from the Jaadoo Temple of Sages. Their students wore elaborate wrapping around their heads. Their robes seemed to explode in a splash of bright colors. Their school's location was said to be at the mouth of the Ganges River in the Himalayan Mountains, forever protecting the sacred river.
The Indian Sages were getting pretty unhappy with how muggles have been dumping into the Ganges River. Only the International Confederation of Wizards was stopping them from purging the river of toxic filth.
From there, I glanced at the students from the Babylonian Tower of Magical Learning. The school was named in honor of the ancient city. Supposedly, the founder was so fascinated with the original city that he had tried to recreate the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon on the walls of the School's Tower.
The Tower was said to be a marvel whose only competition was the luxurious gardens of Beauxbatons Academy of Magic.
As it turns out, I wasn't the only one who was checking out the competition. I locked eyes with a dark-eyed wizard with long dark hair from Koldovstoretz. Like the rest of the students from Koldovstoretz, he wore heavy robes similar to ones from the Durmstrang Institute.
Interesting enough, I noticed he was in the Koldovstoretz branch of Silver Spears. But, since he looked like he was in his sixth or seventh year, I wouldn't have to worry about dueling him.
My eyes passed over the students from the Durmstrang Institute and Beauxbaton Academy of Magic and drifted to the American Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Ilvermorny was perhaps the school that had the most in common with Hogwarts. The school was founded by Isolt Sayre and her muggle husband James Steward. While Isolt was forcible homeschooled by her wicked aunt, she remebered all the happy stories her parents told her about Hogwarts and fashioned her school after them. While I wasn't sure what they were called, the school sorted its students into four houses.
Of course, none of their students enjoyed having their school constantly compared to a knock-off version of Hogwarts. More than one duel had started over the touchy issue.
Putting the witch from Ilvermorny to the back of my mind, I turned my attention to the South American students from Castelobruxo. Most of them were wearing robes in various shades of green. Their school was located deep within the Amazon Rainforest.
Mum once told me that if she had to choose a school to attend outside Beauxbatons, she would choose Castelobruxo. They produced the finest Potion-Makers and Herbologists in the world. Thankfully for the rest of us, potions were forbidden in dueling.
I finally turned my eyes to the people I was most curious about. The group from Uagadou wore colorful robes decorated with patterns orange, blue, and purple. What was curious was half of them had wands, and the other half have them, preferring to use hand gestures. I was looking forward to testing out the differences between our magics and seeing if one was stronger.
While few may argue in favor of hand gestures over wands, I wasn't convinced. My wand had served me well over the years. These days, it felt like an extension of my hand. I can't imagine not having my wand. It was like we were partners. Olivander always claimed that the wand chooses the wizard and not the other way around. From everything I've experienced, I believe him. I wouldn't give up my wand for anything.
I did notice that there were other students not from the major schools in attendence as well. Most were from minor schools that were often critized for lacking the foundations of the major schools. But, seeing some of the expressions of the Aussie students, any suggestion that their school lacked the foundation to be a major school of magic would be met with spells. It was a sore point that their school hadn't been elevated to a major school of magic.
As the duels commenced, I paid close attention, trying to memorize the effects of spells I had never seen before. I would be dueling tomorrow, and I wanted to be prepared.
So, I wanted to mention for those who don't know, 8 of the eleven school are canon. Only Tianlong, Jaadoo Temple, and the Babylonian Tower are what I made up. Also, keep in mind there are countless smaller schools out there, and many parents also choose to homeschool.
Hope you enjoyed the chapter, expect some fun dueling nect chapter