Key:

"Words."

Thoughts / "emphasis" / Title of Books or spells used

~~Parseltongue~~

¬¬Foreign Language¬¬

"Magical language."

The Tri-Triwizard Tournament

1st September 1994

"Remember, Jean," the Immortal Alchemist told the teenage girl. "You are never to take those bracelets off. Those within Hogwarts would not understand the new you."

"I understand, Master," Hermione promised, clipping the slender cuffs around her wrist. They clicked shut and faded from view while shifting her appearance to a far more normal one. She couldn't stop frowning at the need to hide herself, but she understood the limitations of the mages she was now forced to spend nine months around.

"Good. And should you see myself or Perenelle when not in a secure location, you will pretend not to know us, won't you?"

Hermione's eyes clouded over for a moment before the apprentice nodded, activating her portkey that would take her near King's Cross.

"You truly think you had to reinforce the command?" Perenelle Flamel frowned.

"I think she has too much of Gellert's stubbornness and belief in her own brilliance," the alchemist answered, getting a nod from his wife. They had punished the girl multiple times for her attitude, after all. "You should visit our daughter and let her know I'm about to begin the next step of the plan. What name is Elizabeth going under now?"

"Wilhelmina," the witch answered, giving him a kiss. "I'll pass on your love."

The man grunted and apparated away to land in a place that none outside of his inner circle knew of.

Azkaban. A place of horror and terror long before the British Ministry found the castle and its North Sea island. The Dark Lord Ekrizdis had made it his home, intent on using the power of his bloodline to destroy his father, the Lord Danu, and the rest of his House before claiming the world. Horrific experiments took place on the island, deep beneath the Azkaban fortress the mage had his slaves build. It had been Ekrizdis who aided the Romans in their successful war against Albion and her protectors. The Danu's last act before leaving the world along with the High Fae was to call upon Magic and Death to shred his son's soul. While the father had not known the full extent of his offspring's actions, he knew enough to request the shredding to last for as long as time existed.

The Beings agreed. And those sensitive to the energies of Death could still hear Ekrizdis' screams echoing throughout his castle should they wish to.

As the Immortal Alchemist appeared at his personal apparition spot, his thoughts turned as they always did to the first time he found the island. He had been chasing down the myth of Grendel from the Beowulf epic and found the island, the monster of legend, its 'mother,' and a treasure-trove of Ekrizdis' notes and paraphernalia. Including the Dark Lord's enchanted pitch-black armour and mace. He had claimed the secrets for his own use and came to an agreement with the monstrosities that were the dementors. They were who warned him of the British Ministry's goal of turning the fortress into a prison, allowing him to take the place of the Ward Smith contracted to keep out all magical travel from the island.

The fools didn't know what they had done. Azkaban prison was a small section of the fortress as he had hidden the rest behind powerful wards none could even sense, let alone break. And as the alchemist approached the large hall-like prison cell, he once more marvelled at Ekrizdis' plan.

Despite having created the dementors by forcing hundreds into splitting their souls until nothing remained, the resulting spiritual monsters weren't enough. The Dark Lord had wanted an army of overwhelming force that could slaughter its way across the land. Ekrizdis had reached outside the barriers of the world to trap two daemons, forcing their terrible essences into growing foetuses. Much like the ritual Tom Riddle had performed earlier that year, the plan was for the human body and terrible magics Ekrizdis used would anchor the daemonic spirits in this world while also making them subservient to their 'creator.'

Ekrizdis' plan was for them to be the parents of his monstrous armies. 'Grendel's Mother' was not the giant's mother, but the mother of his terrible brood. But the Dark Lord had overextended himself, and while both the two daemons and their offspring lived, they were weak compared to their true potential. It had taken a genius in alchemy, such as the one who found them, to stabilise their bodies and help them breed the first Darkspawn.

The Immortal Alchemist arrived at the open doorway that shimmered with a powerful barrier. 'Grendel' had given him many names, including the Magister, the Conductor, the Architect, and even the Elder One, but the powerful mage had used his brilliance to identify the daemon's True Name. Corypehus. By naming the being, he bound the creature to his bidding as tightly as any of his apprentices.

It was huge, clearing seven feet with ease, even with its slightly hunched posture. The pale celadon green skin was stretched tight over the body, causing every muscle, artery, and vein to look like they were ready to burst through the epidermis. Yet the mage knew the slender body held a strength that rivalled any magical being. It had glowing orange eyes and the left side of its face stretched out and back as growths distorted that side of the head. The growths pulsated and glowed like rock, showing they were both a part of the creature's body and an 'infection' from the daemonic essence it harboured. A type of chitinous armour adhered to the far too slender chest, hips, and legs, leaving the feet, arms, and hands bare. Said feet were reptilian with dangerous claws, while the human hands had three inch long obsidian nails.

"And the Lord of Amon Amarth returns!" A seductive yet nerve grating voice declared as it always did upon its speaker seeing him. The mage turned to the other being in the cell. Not quite six-foot, with pale, milky skin, the creature who only wished to be called Mother was as naked as the day it was born. Its feet had bird-like claws, giving it a siren-like appearance, while its prehensile tail swished behind it when not obscenely stroking its own body. An enthusiastic hermaphrodite, it often played with either its large phallus or constantly wet opening just to get a reaction from him. Even if that reaction was one of utter disgust. It had mismatched breasts, one far larger than average while the other was little more than a palmful, and it had stretched out limbs that made a mockery of human standards. It also had claws where nails should be at the end of disturbingly slender fingers. Black, silky hair fell around a skull-like face that had slitted eyes, a mouth full of dagger-like teeth, and a long, prehensile forked tongue.

"A lord greater than your creator, beast," he replied, giving the same answer he always did to the remark.

"For as long as Ekrizdis' taint lasts and the Danu do not return to finish what Lord Gwydion started," Corypehus added its line. The Immortal Alchemist didn't understand why the creatures refused to speak to him unless they went through this song and dance, but they did.

"And as the Danus are gone, that will never happen," he finished with a growl, only to be stunned at the Mother's laughter.

"He doesn't know!"

Corypehus looked at the Mother and then turned its misshaped head to look at him. The orange glow of the creature's eyes swirled as though something else looked through them. The beast approached the barrier, black nails scrapping against the magical shield.

"The taint has been removed," Corypehus told him as the nails caressed the barrier as though they were running over his face. "The Aos si have returned. Danu's blood flows once more."

"How?" he demanded to know, ignoring the cackling Mother to stare into those fathomless eyes.

"Your enemy," the monster smiled, the lips pulled at an angle from stretched skin. "Blood will tell. You more than most understand that."

"It doesn't matter," the man snarled. "I'm not here about some House that abandoned this world, nor the creatures that went with it. It's time to release your children. The Muggles have carved a tunnel between Albion and the continent. The first attack will happen there, and then I want your blight and Darkspawn to spread across the world. East, West, Africa, everywhere. I want the Muggles to know they're right to fear what dwells beneath."

"Oh, master," the Mother cackled, the second word purred mockingly. And with its utterance came another presence that the trio felt pressing in. A presence from Beyond. "It will be our pleasure!"

The Mother threw back her hand and laughed. And if the alchemist could hear another's laughter beneath the creature's, something that promised everything and nothing should he just open his mind to it, he ignored it as he always had. He refused to be a slave to what lay Beyond.

Corypehus chuckled as though reading his thoughts, all the while continuing the stroking of the magical barrier. He gave the larger monster one last glare before leaving them to their humour. They couldn't escape the prison, not with his alchemy elixirs being the only thing keeping their bodies stabilised. All he needed of them was for them to use their mental connection to the Darkspawn and have their twisted children do as he commanded.

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OoOoO

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Platform 9 3/4s

Harry topped the reaction from the year previous that his presence at the magical station. While a far taller than expected Boy Who Lived wrapped in a crimson snake stunned the gathered crowd, it couldn't compare to when the parents and students caught sight of his Elven features.

Those of Celtic roots that felt his change on the last day of year rushed to find their seats on the Express and barricade themselves inside, while their parents would return home and hastily spread the news to their neighbours. They didn't need confirmation of what Harry's looks meant; they knew it in their bones.

The rest of the crowd was a mix of those who misunderstood or didn't know what his features meant, and those who refused to believe the possibility. Many found their human supremacy clashing with the thought of what someone with High Fae blood among them meant.

The crowd was further kept off-balance by the blasé attitude of Harry's inner circle and their family members. Not only was this new Harry Potter happily chatting with Amelia Bones and the Diggorys, including enthusiastically congratulating Cedric on his prefect badge, but everyone saw the obvious and powerful bond between the Boy Who Lived and the Longbottoms. The rumour mill would have a genuine piece of information when people saw the trio acting like old friends and question whether Harry Potter had anything to do with the 'Longbottom Miracle.'

The only crimp in the visual was when the Weasleys arrived. Harry welcomed the Hogwarts students as friendly as he had everyone else, and even shared a firm handshake with Charlie Weasley. It was when his tri-tone gaze settled on the Weasley parents and their other son that the tension appeared. Not that the noisy crowd could see or hear much, given how the rest of Harry's group encircled their friend to form a barrier of privacy.

"Mr Weasley, Mrs Weasley," Harry nodded to both.

"Oh, Har -" Molly Weasley went to say, only to be stopped by her husband putting a hand on her arm.

"A creature inheritance?" Arthur asked, his friendly face closed off as he took in Harry's features. The Lord of Magic had tied his black and red streaked hair back into a thick braid that put his ear tips on full display, and only one magical race had eyes like his.

"From both sides of the family," Harry admitted with a nod.

Arthur looked at his children. The event in Ron's first year where the boys had used Charlie to smuggle out a dragon from Hogwarts – his dragonologist son had been positively giddy when retelling that story – would have been when Charlie met Harry Potter, but Arthur didn't miss the lack of surprise his second oldest had at the teen's new look. The rest of his children sans Bill were not only were unfazed by it, but were giving him and Molly various glares at how they were reacting. Arthur was no fool, regardless of how he allowed himself to be thought of, and he knew something major was going on with his family and the young man in front of him. Just as he could also tell that it was far too late to stop.

"You'll take care of them, won't you?"

"As though they were my own family," Harry promised solemnly.

Arthur gave a nod of thanks and began drawing his wife away. "Come on Molly, let's go home."

"But, Arthur..." the Weasley matriarch tried. The horror dawning on her face showed she had reached the same conclusion as her husband.

"It's out of our hands, dear."

To the surprise of everyone who knew Molly Weasley's temper, the plump woman let her husband lead her away from her children. Harry felt his heart clench at the interaction, but hardened it when he turned to the last Weasley.

"I'll talk to him," Charlie spoke up before the pair could speak. He had an iron grip on his glaring brother's arm and didn't want to see what happened if Bill's Weasley temper got the better of him. "I'll probably see you all soon."

"I'm sure you will," Harry sighed, knowing full well what the dragon handler meant. He gave the man a nod of thanks before getting on the Express with the rest of the group. Out of the in-school Weasleys, only Ginny gave both Charlie and Bill her usual goodbye, even if the hug to Bill wasn't as tight as what Charlie got.

"Well, that was awkward," Draco stated as they entered a compartment. Cedric and the Weasley twins had their wands out to expand the space for the large group.

His comment got snorts from most, but it was Neville who caught their attention. The teen had been holding in his emotions since seeing Harry, but the safe space meant they were breaking free. The Lord of Magic saw this and pulled his friend into a hug. "I know. You don't have to say it."

Privacy wards sprung up around the compartment as the apprentices supported one of their own. Neville had lost all control and his body wracked with sobs. Harry let his friend's emotions flow, and only when it became clear Neville's control had shattered did he release a low whistle. A flash of flames was the instant reply to Harry's call, as Fawkes appeared on one of the expanded seats. The phoenix sang a soft song that eased the Longbottom heir turmoil, and Harry helped him sit beside the avian who then skipped onto Neville's lap. Parvati and Lavender took the seats next to him, with the rest settling down in their own places.

"Thank you, Fawkes," Neville mumbled, stroking the affectionate magical bird. The phoenix trilled a response that Harry translated.

"He said you're welcome as long as you continue scratching that spot."

Chuckles rippled through the compartment. The group left Neville to recover from his breakdown, talking about their summers and other events that took their fancy. The protection charms over the compartment kept inquisitive students from disturbing them, and their jumped topics and between serious and humorous with ease.

"I still can't believe Cad was a Welsh dragon," Justin said. It had taken a lot of explanations from a visiting Sirius and Remus to ease the Muggle-born's parents after the debutante ball.

"It wasn't something I was expecting either," Harry told them with a shrug. He was sitting next to the window with one arm thrown over the across the back of the seat. Luna had snuggled against him and fallen asleep a few hours into the journey.

"Potter," Blaise said, his tone catching everyone's attention. "Please tell me you can stop Grindelwald."

The Lord of Magic sighed, his gaze moving from one pleading set of eyes to the next. "I won't say it'll be a walk in the park. The man earned his legacy and the fear it causes. I can promise you I'm the most qualified to do it and should I fail, it'll cost him more than enough for someone else to finish the job."

The group weren't happy, but they understood it was the best they would get. One of Harry's constant lessons had been that no one was invincible, and anyone could take down a Lord of Magic with the right luck or an overwhelming force.

"Listen, guys," he continued, looking mostly at the sixth-years. "You know I won't tell you what to do, but I hope you seriously consider what the tournament means and what it could cost you."

He knew before he finished he wouldn't like what the trio was going to say. And he was right.

"I'll be putting my name in," Fred told them after sharing a look with his twin. George took Fred's hand as the jokester struggled with his words. "I love being Gred and Forge, but I've realised I want to be known as Fred Weasley, you know?"

The Patil twins nodded along, while Harry sympathised with wanting to be known for who he was. "I won't deny I'll be hoping you aren't picked."

"I know, Lord Harrikins. Thank you."

Harry nodded back at the twin. They all knew he'd support them even if he didn't agree with their choices. Cedric was already sighing as Harry's gaze shifted over. "Dad is pushing me to do it. He thinks I have to prove I'm good enough to stand by your side."

"You know that's bunk, right?"

"I know, my Lord. But I..."

"You have to balance your relationship with your father over what you want," Harry finished. He understood the delicate balance Cedric was in, if only in theory. The Lord of Magic said as much to his apprentice, who gave a weak smile in return.

"Thank you," the Hufflepuff simply said.

The journey passed peacefully for the large group. They took the charms down long enough to buy from the trolley lady, who didn't give Harry's appearance a second look, and then spent the ride enjoying each other's company.

The closer the Express moved into Scotland, the worse the weather got. Harry frowned at the sky and reached out with his thunderbird abilities. His elemental mark sparked as he manipulated the skies, pushing the rain clouds ahead of the train so they would roll past Hogwarts and into the sea.

"What?" He asked the smirking group as he released his control. Fawkes trilled an obvious giggle that had him poking his tongue at the firebird.

"I should have you on call for holidays," Lavender joked. Harry let them laugh.

The group had worked out his animagus forms from his lessons, although him admitting he had merged with them and that his scar was now a lightning elemental mark made it an easy guess.

The Express pulled into Hogsmeade station. Rather than the booming voice of Hagrid calling for the first-years, they heard the voice of a grey-haired elderly-looking witch with a prominent pointed chin.

"I wonder where Hagrid is," Ron mused as the group made their way to the thestral-drawn carriages. A simple thing, given how most of the students were too busy staring at Harry and the phoenix riding on his shoulder rather than trying to claim a carriage for themselves.

"I doubt he's left the school," Harry said with a one-shoulder shrug. The Lord of Magic turned to Fawkes, who just blinked back. "Are you riding with us? You could just flame there, you know."

The phoenix blinked again and went to headbutt Harry, who saw the move coming and butted the avian first, knocking the bird back and causing him to wobble on Harry's shoulder. Tiny flames flickered around the phoenix's dazed head as the group erupted with laughter.

"Serves you right," Harry told the firebird, easing Fawkes off his shoulder so the animal wouldn't bump against the top of the carriage.

"You're going to give Dumbledore a stroke walking in like this," Daphne smirked. She, Parvati, Sue Li, and Draco had claimed the rest of the carriage seats.

"It's his own fault," Draco sniffed, sounding like his previous spoilt self. "If it does, then it means he should have retired long ago."

"I think we can all agree with that," Harry agreed with a smile, only to freeze as the carriage crossed the boundary of Hogwarts' ward line. His body glowed as the full weight of the school's protections laid down by the Founders themselves crashed down upon him.

The quartet of apprentices called out to him as his mind flooded with an awareness of the school along with the sense of something scratching at his mind from the far too many independent wards laid within the castle. And then he heard Sal' voice whisper through them. A gift to you, Harry. Another jolt of magic surged through him and Harry gasped. Not from the energy, but from what it meant. His ancestor, his master, his grandfather, the Lord of Warding Magic, had done the impossible and manipulated Hogwarts' wards to accept him as their Ward Smith.

It took Fawkes' singing to calm the frantic students and help focus Harry's thoughts. He pushed the constant flow of information to the back of his mind for the moment, knowing he would need to organise an Occlumency 'program' to sort out anything important.

"I've just become Lord of Hogwarts and her lands," he told them with wide eyes. The quartet's jaws dropped at the pronouncement. They knew his plan had been to wait a year until he could was a legal adult. That thought had Draco swearing, with the others turning to him.

"Your exams," the Malfoy heir explained, causing the rest to groan at missing the obvious. "You're an adult by the law of the land."

"What about Dumbledore?" Sue asked. A shake of Harry's head knocked any fear the apprentices started feeling from the question.

"Hogwarts kept him from feeling anything," he promised them.

They had a moment to sigh with relief before the carriage pulled to a stop. Harry stepped out and was putting Fawkes on his shoulder when McGonagall's voice cut through the air.

"Mister Potter, what are you doing with the headmaster's phoenix?" the woman demanded. Harry felt Fawkes bristle at being considered belonging to a human, and he reached up to stroke the bird's chest in understanding as he turned. The Scotswoman caught sight of his features and froze, her ire bleeding to shock and horror between heartbeats, and she brought a hand to her mouth. "I cannae believe it."

Harry stared at the woman who disrespected him for most of the previous year. The hand over her mouth was trembling, and he could see by the movement of her cheeks that her jaw was moving despite not saying anything more. The students watch on as he stalks closer, and those who could see his eyes would swear the three rings of his pupil were spinning.

"You should, Minerva of Clan McGonagall," he warns the woman, who stumbles back and away from his steady approach. "Your fate is in your hands."

Harry carried on into the school and couldn't help smiling at how spotless the entrance was. He would beat all his vaults that the rest of the school was the same, and used his new connection to Hogwarts to share with the house-elves how pleased he was with their work. The smile widened when he felt their reaction to his praise.

He had a moment when entering the Great Hall to see everyone's reaction to the house-elves' hard work. And then those in the Hall saw him. Severus' faced closed off, but Harry saw exasperation in the man's dark eyes. Filius just shook his head as though having expected a crazy entrance. There was a new face sitting next to the half-goblin who had been happily talking to Babbling.

Dressed in light greens, his top had short-sleeves to show off his muscular arms, and the leather cord wrapped around his right bicep. Aside from the leather boots, the only non-green colouring came from the reptile-skinned waistcoat he wore. Harry only saw the boots because the man was using one to press against the edge of the thick table to lean his chair back. The position allowed the Lord of Magic to see a large knife strapped to the man's right thigh. His open shirt showed off a corded necklace from which small teeth or bones hung, while a hat sat on the table near the toe of the boot. The dark material had a ring of sharp teeth ringed around the brim. The man looked at Harry, and despite his round face and open smile giving off the impression of trust, Harry saw something more in those sharp blue eyes. He flicked two fingers from his temple in a playful salute, and Harry realised who he was. Estefan Arwyn, the Black Gate Care of Magical Creatures teacher.

Harry gave the man a subtle nod and turned his attention to the other end of the table. He held back a frown at what he saw. A scowling Moody with a drinking flask half-way to his lips. Harry flexed his fingers at the sight of the retired Auror and moved on before he gave in to the urge to curse the man. The rest of the staff were the same until Harry reached Dumbledore and the squat woman in a horrid pink cardigan sitting to his left. The Danu Lord ignored the sneering Umbridge and focused on the shocked features of Albus Dumbledore.

As though waiting for the moment the two powerhouses locked eyes, Fawkes exploded in song as he stretched himself up and his wings out. The magical avian bathed Harry in an outline of phoenix fire that soared almost to the enchanted ceiling without burning the man or his clothes. Only when Fawkes flashed away did Harry turn from the visibly shocked Dumbledore, and most in the Hall remembered the previous year's face off when Cadwaladr had made his thoughts about the headmaster clear.

"Can't do anything normal, huh?" Ron said, shaking his head as Harry sat opposite his friend.

"It wasn't me this time!" Harry playfully whined. He sent a curious look down the Gryffindor table and frowned at the glare Hermione was sending him. It was a look he'd seen on the Slytherins during his first two years at the school, and seeing it on his former friend's face drained him of all his humour. He pulled his gaze away from her and meet Ron's understanding look.

"Yeah, I know, mate."

A pale and still shaking McGonagall led the first-years into the Hall. Filius took one look at his colleague and sighed, jumping off his seat to hurry towards the Head of Gryffindor. The woman was almost in a trance as she handed over the enrolment scroll and went to her seat rather than begin the Sorting.

Those sitting shared glances and whispers at the woman's strange behaviour, with many eyes jumping between her and Harry as those who saw their confrontation shared their insight. Filius had retrieved the Sorting stool and Sebastian, who immediately broke into a funeral dirge-style song of the Founding of the school. While the sombre mood of the living artefact didn't surprise Harry, the Hat's last words did.

"Oh, know the perils, read the signs,

The warning history shows,

For our Hogwarts is in danger

From external, deadly foes.

And we must unite inside her

Or we'll crumble from within

I have told you, I have warned you…

Let the Sorting now begin."

"Is that from...?" Neville whispered, pale even in the candlelight. Harry nodded as Filius conjured himself a set of stairs to help reach the new students' head height and started the Sorting.

"I'd say so," he confirmed, looking around the Hall to each of his apprentices as they sent worried looks his way. "It's going to get worse from now on."

Despite his words, Harry clapped for every Sorting, as did his apprentices and many members of his Magic Club. The Slytherin Lord could not be prouder of the students for remembering the unity they had forged the previous year.

When the last first-year had taken their seat, Dumbledore stood to address the students. The man had regained both colouring and his jovial mask, looking for all the world as though nothing was amiss. "There is a time for announcements, and this is not it. Tuck in!"

The braver Gryffindors used the order to fire questions at Harry. But considering they were all variations of the same thing, he gave a concise answer to the entire table.

"It's a High Fae inheritance from both sides of my family."

All bar his Gryffindor apprentices recoiled back at the words. Harry left them to it, choosing to focus on his food and talking to Ron and Neville while the rest of the House worked out their feelings to what he was. Time passed, and Dumbledore stood to once again address the room.

"So!" the old man smiled at the all, even if it looked somewhat brittle when turned towards Harry. "Now that we are all fed and watered, I must once more ask for your attention for the start-of-term notices. First-years should to know that the Forest in the grounds is out-of-bounds to students – and a few of our older students ought to know by now, too. The village of Hogsmeade is also out-of-bounds to all below third year."

The Weasley twins put on their most innocent faces, while Harry, Ron, and Neville exchanged smirks. The Lord of Magic had told his friends of cleaning out the Forest, and Ron had almost cried with relief at hearing of the extinction of the acromantula colony.

Dumbledore then went through what joke items Filch had added to his banned list. He then reminded them of the restriction on performing magic in the corridors. Harry realised that both rules were equally followed. That is, they weren't.

"We have a unique situation with staffing this year," the headmaster continued. "We are pleased to welcome Professor Estefan Arwyn, who will be taking Care of Magical Creatures lessons. He will be assisted by the talented Professor Grubbly-Plank while our own Hagrid is away on personal business. Professor Arwyn?"

The round of applause for the rising man was polite but mostly unenthusiastic, with only a smattering of more passionate clapping heard from those who were aware of the man's reputation. "Thank you, Professor Dumbledore, it's a delight being here."

The man began describing what he was expecting from his Care students, only for Dean to speak and distract the table. "He sounds like a Kiwi!"

"With a name like Estefan?" Seamus shot back. "He's obviously Spanish."

"He's South African, you dolts," Angelina Johnson snapped, silencing the pair before they got into a playful argument.

"I'm sure many of you will recognise our head of security, Alastor Moody," Dumbledore continued once Arwyn sat down. "He is back and will also be taking the role of your Defence Against the Dark Arts practical teacher, while we are also delighted to introduce Professor Umbridge, our new Defence Against the Dark Arts theory teacher."

The woman stood, not that you could tell with how short she was, and Harry found her pink Alice band with its pink bow disturbing given the toad-like face it framed.

"Hem, hem. Thank you, headmaster, for those kind words of welcome," the woman simpered in her faux sweet voice that had Harry want to claw her throat out. What followed was near enough ten minutes of ramblings from a woman jumped up on her own importance that had Harry frowning from the first line.

"What the bloody hell was that all about?" Ron grumbled once Umbridge had finished.

"That was about a declaring herself a traditional fundamentalist bigot who wants us to revert to the stone age," Harry ground out as he glared at the woman.

"Huh?"

"She's not just politically Dark, she's politically Black," Neville translated with a frown of his own. "She thinks the Ministry is the only thing that's allowed to say what we do or don't learn, think, or feel."

The very antithesis of what a Lord of Magic was all about. And while Ron didn't know the word, he understood its meaning. "Can they do that?"

"Not in Hogwarts," Harry promised his friend, eyes sliding to Dumbledore who was clapping the woman's speech.

Hogwarts' charter had a rigid system in place for outside interference. There couldn't be any. The Founders knew what they were doing when they created the school. They went to the Wizard's Council and demanded independent sovereignty, turning the school's lands into a microstate or city-state, depending on how one looked at the situation, with full freedom from the land's government in how it ran itself and what it did and didn't teach. The four friends had argued that only then could the Lords be assured that their heirs were safe from any feuds between Houses. While skirmishes could, and did, happen between warring families, the school was required by law to keep such fights from escalating. It also had the power to offer sanctuary to those who their society had turned its back on. If the school followed a ministry prescribed curriculum, it was by choice and not legal requirement.

The Founders' desire for separation of education and state didn't stop there. It was illegal for a member of staff to hold a paying job outside of the school, especially if that job was part of the government. The Founders understood the concept of 'conflict of interest,' after all. Harry had planned on using the charter to kick Dumbledore from Hogwarts once the Triwizard Tournament fiasco was over with given his role in the damnable thing would keep him around anyway, but he was more than willing to use it early if it meant destroying Umbridge's career. And her life.

"It is also my painful duty to inform you that the Inter-House Quidditch Cup will not take place this year." Dumbledore informed them. As Harry glanced around the grumbling room, he suspected the students were almost split in half between those who knew of the reason behind the cancellation and those who didn't. "We are to have the honour of hosting a very exciting event over the coming months, an event that has not been held for over a century. It is my very great pleasure to inform you that the Triwizard will be taking place at Hogwarts this year."

Excited murmurs turned into a rising tide of noise as everyone got a chance to talk about the tournament. Those who knew the most random of information were eager in sharing it to hungry ears. Dumbledore let the sound build until raising a hand and releasing a wandless bang that caught the students' attention.

"In celebration of bringing back such a unique event, the organisers have made this Triwizard Tournament something unique. Rather than a single champion from Hogwarts, Beauxbatons, and Durmstrang competing in three magical tasks, for one time only we will witness three students from the three schools competing in nine tasks over the coming school year in the Tri-Triwizard Tournament!"

This time everyone was in shock, and some feeling more than a bit of horror at the news. Harry's hand twitched as the excitement exploded around him. This was worse than Salazar had ever feared. He kept an iron grip on his magic and emotions, but those who knew him could see the fury raging in his glowing pupils.

"In recognition to this unprecedented schedule, the heads of Beauxbatons and Durmstrang will be arriving with their short-listed contenders next Friday, and the selection of the nine champions will take place on the Saturday with the first task taking place the last weekend of September. An impartial judge will decide which students are most worthy to compete for the Triwizard cup, the glory of their school, and up to eleven thousand galleons personal prize money."

This time it took multiple blasts from Dumbledore's wand to calm the masses enough to focus on his next words. The man's celebratory attitude vanished as a sombre one took its place.

"Eager though I know all of you will be to bring the Triwizard Cup to Hogwarts, the reason for the tournament's cancellation was the death toll mounting too high. I plead with each of you to consider this before deciding whether you wish to put your name forward as Hogwarts champion." The warning seemed to go over most of the students' heads. The immortality of youth, as Salazar had explained to Harry. It was the same mentality that had Harry, Ron, and Hermione face off against the traps in their first year, and Harry facing off against Riddle in his second. Not a surety of surviving anything, but a lack of understanding of the true cost of failure would be. "And as is tradition with the competition, all are free to enter their name if they accept such a heavy risk.

"I know that you will all extend every courtesy to our foreign guests while they are with us, and will give your whole-hearted support to the Hogwarts champions when they are selected. For those who choose not to enter or are not chosen, never fear. Alongside the main tournament there will be other competitions for you to present your skills in academic knowledge, duelling, and Quidditch. I encourage you all, even the first years, to participate in these events."

Once more, the students shared their thoughts with their fellows and even those at other tables. Although the glory and prize money would entice many into entering their names in the Goblet, the addition of the secondary tournaments impressed and pleased Harry. This was what Salazar had admitted the Founders would have accepted rather than the gladiatorial to the death events of the primary tournament.

"More details will become available next week. Your Heads of House will announce them to you and put all important news on the notice board in each common room. I press you to keep an eye on these notices as they will include the dates of tryouts for these competitions. Additionally, Hogsmeade visits have now been increased to one per month. And now, it is late, and I know how important it is to you all to be alert and rested as you enter your lessons tomorrow morning. Bedtime! Chop chop!"

As Harry stood, he felt a familiar brush against his thoughts and saw Filius heading his way. "You lot go on without me."

His loyal Gryffindors saw who was heading their way and worked out what it meant.

"Already?" Parvati frowned while Ron sighed.

"Can't really blame Dumbledore this time," the ginger pointed out. "Not with Harry's look."

The scowls of their fellow Lions said that they were still going to blame the old man. Filius gave the apprentices an understanding smile. "Don't get yourselves in trouble. You'll see Mister Potter soon enough."

Harry waved the group off and followed Filius to the waiting Dumbledore. The Slytherin Lord found this walk far different from the one from the previous year. While Hogwarts was letting him know where the entrance to the headmaster's office was and where everyone believed it to be, it didn't influence his perception. He knew from speaking with Sal that he could now call the office door to him, regardless of what floor he was on.

That wasn't the only change. As the mismatched pair moved through the castle's sparkling clean hallways, Harry could sense every anti-apparition ward they crossed. He reached his senses out and realised that the wards didn't overlap. A minute gap existed between each one that only the Ward Smith could manipulate.

"The elves have done a fantastic job in cleaning the castle this year," Filius pointed out with a knowing smirk.

"Shame they couldn't do the same with the living rubbish masquerading as a teacher."

The half-goblin sighed. "I shall assume you meant our latest addition. Madame Umbridge's place here was a plan by Fudge to undermine Albus. Minister Fawley decided that Albus' actions against yourself and Sirius warranted letting it play out."

"Well, Dumbledore isn't the one she has to wonder about. I become lord of the lands when I crossed the ward line."

The smaller man's eyes widened. The Charms Master was quick to work out the same thing Draco did. "Your exams. I shall inform the family."

"Thank you."

The pair approached the gargoyle guardian, who stepped aside for them to pass. Harry frowned as he climbed the steps, and he realised why the headmaster's decrees over what was a secret had bound the school as tightly as they did. The office was near buried in security wards that had taken over the ones implemented by the Founders. The newer wards had highjacked the originals, using their ability to keep Hogwarts from sharing anything the head wanted, but without the emergency override the Founders had installed in case a head went out of control.

They entered the office, and Harry almost raised an eyebrow at how much the scene mirrored the previous year. Snape stood at the window with his arms crossed while Sprout had her meaningless friendly smile back on. The big differences were the still pale McGonagall that struggled to even look in Harry's direction, and Umbridge, who looked as though someone had shoved a dung-bomb up each nostril.

"Hello, Harry. I'm glad to see you," Dumbledore said, as though he hadn't ordered Filius to bring Harry to the office. "Why don't you take a seat?"

Harry did so only because it was easier than standing. His form was inch perfect, and he stared at the old man. To Dumbledore's credit, he didn't shy away from staring into Harry's eyes. The silence stretched on. The Lord of Magic was like a statue, with only the subtle rising and falling of his chest proving he still lived while the Grand Sorcerer had steepled his fingers in front of his chin and had been tapping his fingertips together. Those watching, even the ever furious Umbridge, could only watch in awe at the silent battle of wills. Minutes ticked by until finally one of them spoke.

"How did this happen, Harry?"

"Creature inheritance."

The answer got a sniff from Umbridge, whose sneer deepened.

"I never considered Lily having any creature blood in her background," Dumbledore said.

The words rattled around Harry's mind. The old man had put too much emphasis into the words, and Lily's son had a sudden insight. His enemy had either investigated or questioned his mother's bloodline. Was all of this because she was the true heir of Slytherin? He wondered.

"Both sides of the family tree, actually," Harry corrected, causing many to blink in surprise. "You should be glad the Potter's manticore blood didn't activate as well."

The first reaction came from an unexpected angle. The human toad. "Hem-hem, why, Potter, it sounds as if you're besmirching your family name. The Potters were well known to be... somewhat decent pure-bloods. This..." here the woman trailed off, giving Harry an up and down disgusted sneer. "Appearance of yours has obviously come from that Mu -"

The sound of glass shattering filled the office. Dumbledore had placed Gryffindor's sword within a display case in his wall and the magical glass exploded out to the shock of all as the weapon broke free. Harry was instantly standing, catching the grip of the blade and bringing the deadly weapon to bear. His first and second finger extended over the guard to touch the flat of the blade that then became encased in lightning.

Umbridge's pudgy gaze widened as much as it could as she stared her death in the face. The staff were on the feet in horror at the sudden shift while a breeze of magical energy shifted around Harry. "Finish that sentence. I dare you."

"Harry, no!" Filius shouted as the powerful man's Danu magic rose. The air pressed down on the room, and Umbridge was struggling against speaking the word that would end her life. "This isn't the way."

There was no mistaking what Harry was in that moment. They could all feel the Fae magic forcing the woman to speak the slur, and only the unfocused nature of Harry's command kept it from slipping free.

While the tense stand-off continued, only Severus noticed runes appearing from beneath the standing Lord of Magic's feet to quickly shoot into a shadow. His sharp gaze jumped around the room to spot places where the runes were sinking into the stone walls.

"Harry, stop this," Dumbledore commanded with power in his voice. The attempt to influence the younger man was for nought and Harry only relaxed when Severus saw no more runes appear.

"Be careful of your words or else I'll call you out for a duel," Harry warned, the pressuring easing off as he released the struggling woman from the geas.

Umbridge gave him one final murderous glare before running out of the office. A twist of Harry's wrist had Gryffindor's sword smoothly sail back to its case and the glass repair itself. The Lord of Magic retook his seat as though nothing had happened.

Dumbledore stared down at Harry's blank face. Severus thought for sure they would engage in another staring contest, but the headmaster sighed, easing himself down in his chair. "That was Dark magic, Harry."

"That was Fae magic."

Dumbledore gave his opposition a condescending smile. "The High Fae haven't been seen in two thousands years, Harry. It's impossible for them to have returned. Just like it is impossible for a witch or wizard to use their magic."

"You use that word. I don't think it means what you think it means with magic," Harry told the old man, and it took all Snape's control not to laugh at the words the brat used. "Nothing is impossible with magic. Look at you. You knew my godfather was in prison without a trial and never tried to help him."

Dumbledore's jaw tightened, and his blue eyes darkened at the jab. "I believed Sirius had an infatuation with Lily that he had kept hidden. I saw some looks he gave your mother when they were students here. Between that, how the Blacks were supporting Voldemort's cause, and the handwritten of the Fidelius note, I believed him guilty."

"Your prejudices blinding you again," Harry stated in a tight voice. He was doing his best to keep from thinking about the man's comments about how Sirius looked at his mother.

"So it seems," Dumbledore sighed.

"And yet you kept your Chief Warlock position," Harry pointed out. "And you're back involved with the ICW."

"It's a terrible time for us, Harry. With both Voldemort and Grindelwald at large, we must all work together against the Dark that threatens us."

"Answer me one thing," Harry said after a long pause. "I agree everyone needs to work together to protect our world from the monsters. But who do you see leading that fight? Who do you expect everyone to obey without question?"

Everyone knew the questions were rhetorical. Just as everyone guessed what Dumbledore's riposte would be. "Do you dream of having the position?"

"And that's the difference between us," Harry stated, getting to his feet to end the meeting. "You want everyone to bow down to you no matter how many mistakes it's shown you make. I want them to have the ability to choose their own fates."

Harry gave the old man no room to reply. He felt Filius' presence behind him by the time he reached the door and the pair left the office in a far more thoughtful mood than they arrived. The silent duo were ready to go their separate ways when a voice had them turning back.

"Wait!" McGonagall called out. While still pale, the Scotswoman was at least able to look Harry in the face. "Please. I'm sorry. For all of it. I'm sorry."

"Are you?" Harry asked in a soft but deadly tone. "Are you sorry? Or are you sorry about the repercussions you're afraid you'll face?"

The woman was shaking, her pride visibly warring with the reality she now faced. Harry felt a brush against his hand and looked down at the tired eyes of his friend.

"Go to the others, Harry," Filius told him. "I'll speak to her."

"You have my gratitude, kin," Harry answered in Garak-da-Ruc, the language of the goblins. His accent and pronunciation were ancient, but the race's lingual evolution was far slower than human languages, and the Charms Professor had no difficulty understanding the Lord of Magic. The half-goblin bowed to the man who was changing their world and led a flabbergasted McGonagall off towards his office.

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OoOoO

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9th September 1994

Filius ended up smothering McGonagall in security spells and telling her the entire wretched truth. From Dumbledore's machinations of the Marauders and Lily, their belief of his involvement in the deaths of both elder and young Potter couples, to all the changes in their lives since Harry first found Salazar. The woman was near catatonic by the time her colleague had finished and swore to stay away from Harry until she could come to terms with the information dump and then apologise properly.

Her plan was easier than it would have been any other year. Dumbledore had forgotten to announce that he had cancelled the first week of classes to both let the school focus on getting the mini competition teams ready and allow the students the proper time to consider entering the Triwizard Tournament.

To the surprise of all, Hermione turned her nose up at the opportunity of entering the academic competition. Her telling McGonagall that she saw it as a waste of her time spread like wildfire around the school, leaving everyone wondering what was going on with the girl.

Harry felt no need to enter any of the tryouts. The Hogwarts quidditch team ended up with eight official players along with a backup group of six. Madam Hooch refused to split Ginny and Draco, choosing instead to pick both and alternate them depending on the skills of the opposition. Ginny's skills had improved to where she flew almost as well as Harry had in his first two years and was seemingly untouchable in the sky. Draco was more controlled and less wild, preferring to use his skills only when needed rather than to dominate the game.

The duelling judges turned out to be Harry and Filius, with even the most anti-Harry student not able to muster a sensible argument against his role as a judge. Harry's apprentices and the older members of his Magic Club dominated the tryouts. Once again, a list of seven with seven alternatives was ready for the beginning of the 'friendly' competitions between the three schools.

Harry did his best to ignore the constant dirty looks both Umbridge and Moody sent him.

Friday arrived, and the students of Hogwarts waited outside the castle for the other two schools to show. Harry had been on edge all day, and near constantly rolling his mother's rune dice despite gaining no more insight than a growing darkness.

"Aha!" Dumbledore cried out, dragging Harry out of his thoughts. "Unless I am very much mistaken, the delegation from Beauxbatons approaches!"

Harry looked to the sky where the old man pointed and saw something large hurling towards the school. It turned out to be a gigantic, powder blue, horse-drawn carriage, the size of a large house, pulled through the air by elephant sized winged-horses. The impractical mode of transport skimmed the top of the Forbidden Forest as it came in for land, looking for all the world as though it would crash.

It didn't.

The carriage bounced, jerked, and rattled as it settled. The carriage door opened and golden steps unfurled to allow the tallest woman Harry had ever seen to step out, followed by her Beauxbatons students.

Harry had the time to hear Dumbledore welcome her as Madame Maxime before he caught the flash of a familiar group of witches.

"Fleur, Amanda, Elaine!" He called out with a smile, moving forward to greet the French girls. "I never expected to see you here."

He and Fleur exchanged kisses to the cheeks before he kissed the hands of Amanda Szardos and Elaine Belloc. Despite his outward happiness at seeing the girls, their pensive faces worried him. Fleur was the one who whispered an explanation. "They gave us no choice."

Before he could ask what she meant, he felt it. A wave of awareness hitting Hogwarts' wards to drive deep into his core. Harry felt his Peverell magic react and staggered as he fought to keep the dangerous power contained. Fleur and Amanda caught him as though expecting his stumble to happen. It took Dumbledore's next words to give him the answer.

"Nicolas! Perenelle! I didn't know you would be joining us."

"How could we turn down a chance to visit you, Wulfric?" a man's voice answered while Harry's controlled frayed. But Harry was a slave to no one, not even himself, and he ruthlessly took control of his raging senses and magic to contain them behind his strongest mental shields. Only then did he lift his head to look over the girls' shoulders to view his third enemy. The Flamels.

They were an attractive couple, Harry wouldn't deny that, but even with the distance, he could feel the Blood Magic clinging to them like a miasma. And then he frowned as he realised he could only feel their rituals through his link with the school's protections. The natural Blood Magic senses that allowed each Blood Mage to recognise one another were silent.

Harry knew a ritual to do the same. It was a vile, Evil thing that required the sacrifice of other Blood Mages. Those sacrificed had to equal the power the mage wanted to hide. It was an old ritual, used when Blood Mages were plentiful and policed themselves. Anyone who wanted to either hide what they were or pretend they were weaker could get access to condemned Blood Mage prisoners. The one 'weakness' of the ritual was that should the Blood Mage get stronger, they would need to do it a second time to hide the new power.

Harry was no fool. For the wards to pick up on the power they possessed, yet his own senses were blind meant the pair had performed the ritual a horrifying number of times.

The Lord of Magic had just straightened himself when Nicolas turned his way. His Peverell magic reacted again as the two men locked eyes and the alchemist smirked, as though knowing what had caused Harry's twitch.

"They gave us no choice," Amanda repeated in a fearful whisper.

As the Flamels talked with Dumbledore and the watching Hogwarts students shared their excitement at having the famed duo at the school, those waiting began hearing a disturbing sound. Low at first, it built until no one could ignore it.

Slip. Slop. Drip. Drop. Slip. Slop. Drip. Drop.

And then a sucking sound, as those a water pump was choking on the ocean. Lee Jordan cried out, and everyone looked to where he pointed. The Black Lake.

The smooth surface churned and bubbled, and from the frothing madness came, like the Greek myth of old, a violent whirlpool. Harry had a moment to hope the denizens of the Lake were safe before a mast rose from the whirlpool like a giant wooden antenna reaching into the sky. And with the mast came a ship from the Age of Sail. It seemed to be half-finished, or perhaps a sunken Spanish galleon wreck reclaimed by mages who thought that was what it should look like, and its portholes on the side facing the school looked like a dozen milky-white eyes in the moonlight.

Only now did Harry feel the ship within the wards, and he frowned as the Black Lake's surface calmed before the ship glided to its bank. He knew from Salazar that the body of water held no tunnel large enough for the ship to have travelled through.

The Durmstrang party disembarked and Harry wasn't the only one who hissed once the man leading the students reached the school's light.

"Dumbledore!" the bulky man called out, opening his arms as though to hug the headmaster. "How are you, dear fellow? It's been so long!"

"Volgin," Dumbledore's voice was tight, a stark contrast to the friendliness the other was projecting. "I didn't know you were the one to replace Karkaroff."

With the escape of Grindelwald, the magical papers had been retelling the Dark Lord's rise, war, and famous defeat to Dumbledore. And this new man had been a key part of those articles. Yevgen Volgin. A man taller than Harry with close-cropped grey hair, a boxer's body, and scars looking like lightning bolts or flames marring his face. A mark of the man's elemental powers running wild and hurting him. Also known as the Butcher of Bucharest, and a former Major in Grindelwald's army.

"I wanted to surprise you, old chap," Volgin smiled, and there was no mistaking the cruelty in the look. "Come, let's go inside and talk of old times!"

The muscular man wrapped an arm around Dumbledore's shoulder and forced the older man to walk with him. Volgin ignored his students, preferring to psychologically torture Dumbledore and break the man's friendly mask.

Harry sighed, sending a look to Draco that his cousin understood. The Malfoy heir stepped forward to speak to the Durmstrang contingent while Harry invited the Beauxbatons to sit with him at the Gryffindor table. That plan had to be put on hold when someone called his name.

"Tovarisch, Harry, it's good to see you!"

The Lord of Magic smiled at the approaching Piotr and the bearhug the powerful friends shared had many watching wincing. He gave Illyana a kiss on her hand and then a cheeky grin as she rolled her eyes at his mannerisms. "It's good to see you both. He isn't making you do the tournament, is he?"

"Bah, he wouldn't dare," Piotr declared with a snare. "Even Butchers fear Mikhail. Nyet, we are for the duelling."

"Not that it will do you any good," Fleur declared, getting a laugh from the Russian.

"Viktor, come meet Harry," Piotr demanded of the famous teen that had followed the Rasputin pair and was now staring at Harry's face. "Harry meet Viktor."

"Welcome to Hogwarts, Viktor," Harry told the professional quidditch star, holding his hand out. "I hear you're a damn talented dueller."

Viktor's hand froze as it automatically stretched out to take Harry's and the Bulgarian blinked. "Not flier?"

"Any madman can conquer a broom," Harry grinned with a shrug, getting a chorus of complaints from his quidditch mad apprentices who had made their way over. Everyone was watching Harry's group, but the Lord of Magic didn't care. His enemies would have noticed his friendships with the foreign students, and that was if they didn't already know. "It takes proper insanity to enjoy having someone fire spells at you."

This time, the duellers of the group complained, but Viktor Krum smiled and gripped Harry's hand in a firm handshake. "I think I like you, Harry Potter."

"Glad to hear it," Harry grinned, sending an over-the-top wink to Piotr. "This is my cousin, Draco Malfoy, and he'll look after you and Durmstrang."

"And who takes Beauxbatons?" Illyana asked with a raised eyebrow. Her accent was almost non-existent compared to her brother and Viktor. Harry knew Piotr overdid the mangled English as a means of deception.

"Why, me, of course!" Harry declared, spinning in a way that had everyone blinking as they tried working out how he ended up behind Fleur and Amanda. He threw his arms over the shoulders and gave them his best over-the-top Sirius leer. "Ready girls?"

The pair of blondes eyed each other, nodded once, and then elbowed him hard in the ribs. The group laughed at his exaggerated wince and then led the two schools into Hogwarts.

Despite the smiles and humour, Harry's face was smooth as stone before they got to the Great Hall, and those who attended his debutante ball knew he was ready for war.

The meal passed pleasantly enough, even if some Hogwarts students struggled with Fleur's allure. Harry's shrugged comment about people still having difficulties with his looks caused more than a few thoughtful faces. The only unique thing about the feast was a never-ending supply of bouillabaisse that kept appearing as soon as the soup looked close to being finished. That and the sly smirk and twinkling eyes Harry had whenever someone made a comment about it.

With the meal over, the students sat back to watch as Dumbledore stood in the centre of the raised platform. The Great Hall's doors opened and Filch led in a large group of adults, the last of whom brought a smile to Harry's face.

"And the here they are, the last of our guests," Dumbledore announced. The reporters and red-robed Aurors spread around the edge of the Hall, while Amelia Bones, Corvinus Greengrass, and two others Harry didn't recognise walked to the staff table. No one missed the shocked and horrified reactions when the newcomers saw who was the new Headmaster of Durmstrang. "Let me introduce, for those who do not know them, Minister Gordon Fawley, Madam Amelia Bones, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, Mister Corvinus Greengrass, Head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation, and Mister Ludo Bagman, Head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports, and Madam Patricia Rakepick, Gringotts Bank's Chief Curse-Breaker and liaison for the tournament."

The applause ranged from the polite to the enthusiastic; the latter aimed at the former professional Beater Bagman.

"Minister Fawley and I will be announcing the champions tomorrow evening while Madame Bones' Aurors will be a constant protection for all of you during this coming year. Mister Bagman has worked tirelessly this past year with others from the Ministry on arrangements for the tournament, and along with Mister Greengrass, will be joining myself, Professor Volgin, and Madame Maxime on the panel that will judge the champions' efforts."

At the mention of the word 'champions,' the air audibly shifted as the listening students sat straighter. Filch returned with a small table into the Hall and placed it dead centre in front of the staff's platform where Dumbledore waited. The caretaker then left and came back carrying a large wooden chest encrusted with jewels that he placed on the table.

"As you all know, this tournament is an unprecedented Tri-Triwizard Tournament. Three champions from each school competing in nine different tasks, with each task taking place on the last weekend of the month. These tasks will test the champions in many different ways, challenging their skills and knowledge in all areas of magical education along with their general magical prowess, their daring, their powers of deduction, and, of course, their ability to cope with danger."

At this last word, the murmurs that had been beneath Dumbledore's speech cut off. The man's emphasis having finally caught the students' attention.

"The champions will be chosen by the impartial selector within this casket: the Goblet of Fire. And before I withdraw the Goblet, allow me to explain the rules of the tournament. Each champion will be marked on how well they perform each of the Tournament tasks, with these marks combining to form their school's total points."

Here Dumbledore paused, his blue eyes seeming to pierce those listening as his gaze moved across the Hall. "In order to enter, anyone wishing to submit themselves as champion must write their name and school clearly upon a slip of parchment and drop it into the goblet. Aspiring champions have twenty-four hours in which to put their names forward. Tomorrow night, the Goblet will return the names of those it has judged the most worthy to represent their schools.

"Finally, I wish to impress upon any of you wishing to compete that this tournament is not one to be entered into lightly. If you are chosen, you will compete. Placing your name in the goblet constitutes a binding, magical contract. There can be no change of heart once you have become a champion. The goblet will compel you to begin the task, and to fight the goblet invites it to take a price for breaking the contract. Your magic."

Gasps of horror filled the Hall while Dumbledore's stern, solemn gaze continued to scan the students.

"I repeat. There can be no change of heart once you have become a champion," the headmaster continued. "Please be very sure, therefore, that you are wholeheartedly prepared to play before you drop your name in the goblet. But for those who enter and win, eternal glory awaits you. The champion with the most points at the end of this grand tournament will receive a prize of ten thousand galleons! Second and third place will receive their own prizes of five thousand and two-thousand five hundred galleons. But fear not, for the champions who gain their school the most points, you shall be rewarded a thousand galleons, five hundred galleons, and two-hundred and fifty galleons depending on how many points you earn. Those competing in the lesser tournaments will have the chance to add to their school's point total."

Harry almost sneered at the prize money. While it was an incredible amount, he wondered if the parents of anyone who died during the tournament would agree that their child's life was worth the gamble.

"As this is a special tournament, its tasks have been made just as special. And difficult. We, the other heads of the schools, and our ministries, have attempted to make it likely the champions survive these tasks," Dumbledore took out his wand and tapped the casket three times. The lid opened, and he reached inside to pull out a deceptively plain cup that was full to the brim with dancing blue-white flames. Dumbledore closed the casket and placed the goblet on top. "For one night only, the Great Hall will remain open for free access to the goblet for all those wishing to compete. This tournament will show us things both majestic and terrible. May Magic watch over those of you who are chosen, and I wish you all a good night's rest."

Everyone stood, the noise in the Hall building to a crescendo as students and adults all shared their thoughts with their neighbours. Until someone realised Harry was moving towards the goblet. A wave of silence smothered the noise while feeding the excitement as everyone believed they were about to see the Boy Who Lived enter his name in the goblet.

"You wish to enter your name, Harry?" Dumbledore asked, his tone perfectly neutral.

"No," Harry replied tersely, shaking out his left hand. The basilisk horn in his secondary wand had been going crazy since the Flamels arrived and he had felt the vibrating wand even through his bracer. He knew he'd had to do something before it caused the forearm to get pins and needles. "Something else."

Harry released his primary wand and everyone heard a low whistle from its horned serpent's horn. The magical instrument swished and swirled as wrapped his magic around the goblet. He heard someone complain, but everyone else watched his actions. The magic solidified and flashed once, causing Harry to nod.

"A protective ward," he explained. "Now no one can enter another's name."

"A wonderful addition, Harry," Dumbledore beamed.

Harry nodded and began walking towards the doors, only to feel an ice pick slam into his mind a split second before the unique sound of shattered magic filled the air. He stumbled as something blew his ward to a million pieces, and turned to the goblet and the straight-faced Dumbledore. "Alas, the goblet does not like any other magic near it."

Harry stared at the man who had destroyed his mother's life. Those closest to the Lord of Magic felt the air thicken, while those familiar with wards knew the same as Harry did, even if no one saw the spell cast. If Dumbledore's words were true, then Harry's ward would not have settled. Someone had used an overpowered ward buster spell to bring it down, hence the raging migraine that Harry now suffered with.

Tri-tone eyes moved from Dumbledore to the smirking Volgin, to the ice-cold gazes of the Flamels, and then over to those he considered family. He saw their silent pleading – even Severus' – to not do anything rash. Oh, how he wanted to call upon Hogwarts' wards. His fingers flexed as he buried that feeling rather than giving in and burying his enemies. Collateral damage, he reminded himself.

"We live and learn, headmaster," Harry replied, turning back to the doors. Everyone moved out of his way as the man masquerading as a teen stormed out of the room.

He'd lost this round.

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OoOoO

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The same story dominated the British and French media. The last two freight trains of the day had not reached their respective ends of the Channel Tunnel. As the underwater connection between England and France was to be opened to the public in less than a month, both governments scrambled to find out the cause. Emergency crews were sent in from both sides, only for the radio communications to go dead. The last thing either country heard was their workers screaming.

Two countries who seldom saw eye-to-eye agreed to the same action and called in their military.

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OoOoO

SN:

Last Edited - 19th February 2024

Word Count – 11,849

Previous Word Count - 11,786