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An Improbable Fiction by Aiedail
Chapter 7: To Restore Tradition
To Restore Tradition
“Awh, Cedric!” Rose exclaimed as the Minister’s face ran through an impressive display of purples and reds. Her swarming red curls obscured Hugo’s vision for a moment as she reached over the pinch the ghost on the arm. Hugo wasn’t sure if it’d hurt at all. Ghost Cedric didn’t appear to have felt anything. He was staring at the Minister intently.
“You ruined the plan! You were supposed to be our hostage! You were our leverage! What have we got on the old codger now?” She grabbed a fistful of Scorpius’s coat and shook him by it. He looked up at her, wide-eyed.
“Rose, you just called the Minister for Magic an old codger,” he said. He reached up and wrested his coat out of Rose’s grip, which seemed to be verging on the maniacal. He had told her once, seventh year, when she’d come dangerously close to figuring out what he and Hugo and Longbottom had really been up to in the Forest for a week, that she should go to more parties or eat more junk food or do something that teenage witches usually did and she’d had the same look on her face, the same grip on his robes. It was not an experience which he was eager to live through again.
“Nobody else would raise a son to interrupt a staged heist with a bloody speech!” Rose said, grabbing onto Scorpius’s coat again. He didn’t try to get free this time and simply sat where he was, attempting to look sheepish.
“I’m confused,” Hugo said. “You cut him out of the sack!”
“Yes, and he was supposed to plead for his life,” Rose said, letting go of Scorpius and walking over to Ghost Cedric who, seeming to realize that whatever kind of life he had as a ghost was indeed in danger, looked down at Rose Weasley with a hearty gulp. “You knew the plan! What’d you have to go giving a noble speech for?” Cedric did not have an answer for Rose and stared at the ground in shame and fear. “Hufflepuffs! Merlin, are you all this way?” Rose threw up her hands and sat back down in a huff, folding her arms over her chest and looking cross.
“I don’t see what the big deal is, Rose,” Marjie said gently, patting Rose on the shoulder. “We were going to try persuading the Minister either way, right? We just have to change tack.”
Neville Longbottom was having a hard time adjusting to this situation. He had not been included in the plans that it seemed the Hogwarts group and, for whatever, bizarre reason there could be, Percy Weasley had made, but at the present he was painfully aware that they were discussing tactic in front of the Minister for Magic. From what he understood they were trying to get him to rescind his rejection of the Tournament plans and had thought to do it with the threat of his son’s wellbeing, but Cedric had made it through his speech unimpeded and, probably, without mentioning any of the horrible things Rose Weasley had told him to say. He knew more than anything that it was probably Cedric disobeying whatever commands she had given him that was irking her, and not the fact that he’d ruined the plan, because, in a way, his speech, however inappropriate, had been rather convincing.
The Minister for Magic was slowly turning white. Hugo was not sure what to do because Marjie was busy consoling Rose, Scorpius and ghost Cedric were staring at the ground determinedly, Flitwick and Uncle Percy were arguing and Professor Neville looked quite dazed. Hugo tapped Professor Neville on the shoulder tentatively.
“Hmm?” he said, looking distracted. Hugo noticed his hair looked like it was turning a bit grey. He thought about inquiring after it as nothing he said could hardly be looked upon as rude or intrusive so short a time after his own flesh and blood had called the Minister for Magic an old codger, but he was interrupted by conversation picking up again. Alas! He’d really have to work on speeding up these faculties of his; those, of course, of the thinking variety.
“Never mind, let’s listen to them,” Hugo whispered and Professor Neville accordingly turned his attention back to Uncle Percy, who appeared to be explaining the situation to the Minister, whose face had still not recovered its usual hue. Hugo wondered idly if a face could forget what colour it was, really, and could ever get stuck in something like its best estimation of the true hue.
“Well,” Uncle Percy was saying, his hand on Rose’s shoulder contracting as she moved in a way that suggested she disagreed--leave it to Rose to disagree with a statement-opener, Hugo thought, shaking his head and wondering a bit where he’d learned the term statement-opener. “Well, it’s somewhat difficult to explain.”
“Diffic--difficu--difficult?!?” The minister spluttered this word in a way that suggested this was an unsatisfactory report on Uncle Percy’s part. Hugo didn’t know whether to feel excited that things were happening all around him, and he again was in the thicket of something big, or apprehensive, because usually whenever Uncle Percy was unhappy the rest of them were also made to feel the same way somehow, over time. Rose said he was a greedy person that way; a “cat-analyst for equal-livery”.
“Well, Minister, perhaps I should explain,” Marjie said, standing suddenly and placing her hands respectfully behind her back. “It’s simple really, but simplicity must not always save us from our sin of impropriety.” Oh, no, Hugo thought. She’s going all thesaurus on the Minister for Magic. Surely that was a glaze passing over the Minister’s face even as Hugo dared to think!
“Quite right,” he said suddenly, and banged his fist on his knee. Everyone turned to look at him.
“If that’s penitence, Hugo, I’m quite surprised,” Marjie said. She raised one dark eyebrow over the rim of her spectacles and pushed hair out of her eyes. “I didn’t think you’d understand the--er--exact gravity of this situation.”
There was a moment of silence in which the nine persons present (save, of course, Hugo, upon whom all was most certainly lost) seemed to mourn, and then Marjie resumed her heart-felt rendition of the night’s festivities.
“It was perhaps not quite right of us to barge in on you this way, to seek an audience with you when you are so powerful and we owe you so much; and of course, it has been a great shock to you to see your son after so many--”
“Your son who ruined everything!” Rose screeched suddenly, a strange look on her face. Her red hair was trembling around her head like a nervous cloud.
“Rose, I think the minister would like some tea,” Scorpius said, standing suddenly. “Let’s go find some.”
“Tea?” Rose said, staring at him. “Oh, quite, yes, tea.”
“Two sugars,” Ghost Cedric called after them as they left the room. “That is, if these years haven’t also changed your preference in tea.” He gave an awkward but respectful bow of his head to his human father, who simply nodded curtly.
“Yes, yes,” the Minister for Magic said. “I take two sugars even still. Merciful Merlin! Where is the calming presence of a pre-trinket elk when you need it!”
“Elk?” Hugo piped.
“No,” Uncle Percy said. “Dear Merlin, no.”
“Ahem,” Marjie said. Her particular knack for arresting the attention of each and every person in the vicinity worked wonders in the Minister’s office, but could not touch the attention of Flitwick who, after Percy had given up his argument with him, had promptly fallen asleep. Marjie appeared to take slight offense at his blatant disregard but seemed to decide after a short moment of hesitation that it was probably best, for the time being, to leave him be. “Ahem,” she said again.
“Minister, if I could only implore you to consider the plight of the students at Hogwarts, Beaubatons, and Durmstrang,” Marjie said, drawing a deep breath and pushing her glasses up. Her hands clasped again behind her back. “I, of course, do not deny that this is a dangerous tradition which ended in utter tragedy when it was last instated at Hogwarts. However, I would like to present a side of things which I believe may be more important than--than you may have imagined it to have been.”
The Minister appeared to be quite placid, staring at the ghost of his son with a far-off expression on his face. Marjie, true to the core, did not take this as any sort of deterrent. “You see, Hogwarts has excelled in many things since the end of the war, but one thing it has never quite had to get its head around is the art of cheering.”
“The…art--of cheering?” The Minister asked, looking as though he wished he did not feel like he had to ask.
“I admit the phrase could have probably used some more work, but you have to allow me the fact that I did not have time to prepare…Sir. That’s all beside the point, at any rate.” This was her getting-down-to-business tone, Hugo thought with a hint of foreboding. “It’s just the honest-to-Merlin truth that Hogwarts has gone into a right mess trying to pick up the spirit of the student body! I haven’t seen it myself, of course, but Hugo says that just tonight he barely escaped Madame Pomfrey, the school nurse, who was chasing him around with a ten-pound block of chocolate! They’re in over their heads, the staff and students both.”
“I am sorry to hear that Mr Weasley’s life was put in danger by a large block of chocolate,” the Minister said after a moment. “But as a smart and well-versed young witch such as yourself must be aware of the--the dangers presented by this tournament. It seemed rather a joke that the international congregation should even consider the idea!”
“Perhaps it was,” Marjie said, looking completely at peace. Hugo wasn’t sure she should be so confident. “However, you must admit, there is a problem at Hogwarts when students are running from chocolate.”
The room was quiet, each considering for himself the ramifications of this statement, which struck Hugo and strangely resonant. Rose and Scorpius entered with a tea tray at this moment, both looking considerably subdued.
“Your tea, Minister,” Rose said and plunked two cubes into the cup. “We apologise for the delay, it was difficult to find a tap that didn’t run feathers on the third floor.”
“Yes, yes, I’ve been meaning to get on Porkley about that,” Amos Diggory said and thanked them as he took his tea. It seemed to fortify him.
“Well?” he said, addressing Marjie. “Will you go on with your story? I’d like to know just how my son comes into this.”
“Of course,” Marjie said. “As anyone would. Now, we don’t know why Cedric came back. I’ve explained to the group that there are three main reasons I suspect could be applicable for Cedric’s case. It’s unusual especially because he hasn’t always been a ghost. It’s not that we know where souls do go when they depart the earth, but the fact of it is that they do go somewhere, and that it’s not necessarily a permanent move. This is evidenced, of course, by the fact that Cedric was able to return to a place he knows as Ghostland, where he was equipped with a sea shore, a large rock, and a bowl of frosted flakes shortly before his deportation. He reappeared in the earthly realm--as strange as that is to say, Merlin help me--in the prefect’s bath, where he ran across Hugo--”
“You don’t mean to say that Mr Weasley has been made a prefect?” The Minister for Magic asked. Hugo wasn’t sure whether or not to feel flattered.
“No, I don’t mean to say that Hugo’s a prefect. He was in the bath because it’s also of use for Quidditch captains, who have equal status and, arguably, responsibility.”
“Hear, hear!” Hugo exclaimed. Only Professor Neville turned and regarded him out of a kind, light eye, nodding slightly.
“At any rate, we believe, because Cedric recognized Hugo as Hermione Granger-Weasley’s son before he realized that so much time had actually passed as to allow Hermione Granger-Weasley to have had a son, that somehow, Cedric must have come back for the purposes of, in some way, aiding Hugo with a certain task. It was admittedly Headmaster Flitwick--”
And at this the said man stirred in his sleep, snoring slightly.
“--Flitwick who devised the plan which we would probably have carried out with little flaw if--” she looked at Rose suspiciously, but Rose looked rather spacey, staring at the ceiling as though extremely interested in its architecture, so she continued-- “if your son, sir, if Cedric hadn’t come out with his speech. None of us were expecting him to have had it ready. We were rather…”
“Yes, go on,” the Minister urged. He looked very interested. But of course, it only made sense. A group of relative strangers had burst into his office at an untimely hour and had brought with them the ghost of his tragically-dead son. Of course he would be interested in their story! Hugo thought, with a feeling of dim pride at having reasoned it all out so well.
“Well, I’m rather sorry to report that we were hoping that he would plead for your mercy.”
“I’m afraid I don’t understand,” the Minister said after a while. He looked almost pitiful. This whole business was starting to make Neville feel slightly uncomfortable. He could have kicked himself at the thought if he was the type to kick himself--starting to make him feel uncomfortable! The whole thing was preposterous and while he was very fond of Hugo he had absolutely no surprise in the fact that he was somehow behind this.
“We had it planned, sir,” she said, pushing her glasses up and widening her eyes. Neville recognized this posture because he’d had her ask for so many favours while she’d been his student--of course, he’d always used the excuse with himself that it was really the fact that she was an excellent student and tutor that he granted her late-night access to the Venomous Tentaculas in Greenhouse Four--but it wasn’t really that, he supposed, after all. He felt apprehensive for the Minister, but strangely thrilled at the idea of Hogwarts hosting another tournament. It was rather unlikely that the reincarnation of another such Dark Lord would punctuate the end of this one, though there were, he knew, other horrors that could occur or start another war.
“We had it planned that we should stage a kidnapping and demand the reinstatement of the tournament as ransom for your son’s ghost,” Marjie said after steeling herself. “Of course now you know that your son is not in any real danger and we feel horribly for having considered such a barbaric way to persuade you, but you see, it just really must be done! There will be optimum security and the tasks will be mitigated in honour of all that was lost at the last!” With these words Marjie’s voice quivered dangerously and her eyes piled up with glassy tears. Oh, Mr Diggory, I pity you, Neville found himself thinking. He didn’t take the moment to take it back. He really did pity the Minister, even if he was the most powerful man in the UK.
“You really must understand the tax that this cancellation has taken out on the populace of Britain, France, and wherever it is that Durmstrang is really located! The nurses have taken to chasing the children who refuse their mandatory, cheer-up chocolates! There will be mass-depression everywhere and I fear that we cannot really manage that right now, not with impending peace on the horizon with Greenland and--”
“Greenland!” Flitwick squawked, stirring at last from sleep. “Yes, that’s the thing, Amos, we’ve thought of a way to make up with Greenland through the tournament.”
If there was one thing in the world that Mr Diggory could not bear it was the sight of a woman’s tears. This in addition to the revelation that this here was his son, on the side of those who would reinstate the very instrument of his death thirty years prior to this rather unfortunate moment, was all rather wearing on him. He sipped at his tea as though it were a life vest and nodded at Flitwick to continue, feeling rather that he was a perpetually unfortunate soul and reveling a bit in the fact.
“We could hire out their elk after all. Of course, I can’t divulge exact details now, as students aren’t to know anything of the tasks, but this is, if I might add, just another reason for your cooperation in this venture.”
Mr Diggory was feeling himself very unlucky as the information sunk around him like very pesky tongues of fire which took to slapping him every so often on the cheek or the back of the head on their way down. He had so vehemently refused out of the fear and mourning of his heart that he had not taken time to consider the benefits of the Tournament, both as a tool of building up good international relations but as repairing damage that had been wrought by his own hand. He felt clearly the smallness of his own personal presence within the midst of crisis such as mass-depression--spanning into the unnamed nooks and crannies of the continent, no less! No, though it would be a veritable blow to his pride and to his moral ground he knew now that these were the moments that would either reinforce or weaken his conviction in his own capacity to lead this country to its ultimate good and benefit, and his choice, though painful now, would do more good in the end, if all was well.
It was that detail, though--and no one more qualified to answer him than the very victim of the last Tournament, conveniently placed opposite him as he was.
“Well?” the Minister for Magic said, looking the ghost of his son in the face for the first time since he’d emerged from the burlap. It was Cedric, most certainly, his dear, dear boy! Though it was painful to behold his departed soul there was some comfort, though Amos thought that anything at all, no matter how slight, that might be viewed as a comfort he would in this situation, in the fact that the soul did, as Miss Barrows had said, persist, that there was something beyond the finite, and that there was hope for negative passage between the two.
“Well? What do you say?”
Ghost Cedric took a moment to consider. “You have heard my case, Father. I stand behind everything I said earlier, although I’m very sorry to have upset you, Rose.”
Rose nodded vaguely.
“I don’t quite know why it was that I’ve come back to earth, Dad, but I have the great and overwhelming idea that it has something to do with the Tournament. It only makes sense, doesn’t it? The last one took my earthly life from me and I think that somehow I’ve got to repair the damages.”
The sight of his son, even as a ghost, resuming so easily the role of the strong and brave boy that he had been in life touched Amos so deeply that he feared he would be moved to tears before laymen.
“My boy,” he said, reaching furtively into the pocket of his robe for a handkerchief, though not daring to draw it out so soon, for appearances, of course, “you have already begun to mend the rift you left at your departure.” He could not bear to let the tears brim over, so he lifted the humble white square to his eyes and swiped at them impatiently. “What I will say is this--the Tournament shall resume at Hogwarts--”
and at this there was a great and resounding cheer, though Amos rather suspected that most of it was the product of Hugo’s pipes--
“With the condition that Cedric here, if he is willing, will serve as mentor to the Hogwarts champion, and suitable ones will also be found for those of the other schools. It is a mistake to think that we can send children into Hell without some kind of angel looking over their shoulder for them, while they are busy chasing guts and glory--as it were.”
a/n: my sincerest apologies for the amount of time that has passed since the last update! school has gotten into the habit of stealing up my time this quarter.
however, it is with great pleasure that I dedicate this chapter to my dear friend Jane, though you may know her as TenthWeasley, for her birthday! Jane you have been such a blessing to me throughout this writing process, such a general encouragement, that you deserve much more than a single chapter...which is why I've decided that that's what you'll get! More than a chapter.
It's a three-day weekend for me, so I'll be updating at least twice more before I resume classes. Now that I've got Amos to accept the fact that the Tournament is inevitable, things will pass much more quickly.
All for you, TW, and thank you to all my readers and reviewers. If you're coming to this after having read Adventure, I hope that, while it's moving a bit slower than that story did, it's doing something to satisfy your curiosity as to the lives of our bromantic trio :)
much love, lily