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Chapter 6 : Chapter 6: Trains, Stars and Goblets
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“What do you think it’s about?” Scorpius asked, looking at Albus.
“Dunno,” he replied, shrugging. “Let’s go check it out.” They walked over to the notice board, pushing their way to the front. When no one moved, Scorpius sighed. He ducked and shoved through the jungle of legs, ignoring the confused yelps of the people in the crowd who felt something large brush past them. Once he was in front of everyone, he scrambled up, poking out his head. He reached towards Albus and tugged him by the arm to the front. Out of breath, ignoring the angry muttering of the crowd behind, they read the new notice pinned on the board. It said:
ARRIVAL OF THE STUDENTS FROM ELMBARK AND SALEM
The students from Elmbark and Salem will be arriving on the 30th of October. Classes will not be held that day. You are all requested to be present on the Grounds that night for receiving them, and you are expected to be dressed formally.
Professor N. Longbottom
Head of Gryffindor House
“So they are coming in a fortnight?” Scorpius echoed.
“No classes!” Albus exclaimed. “Thank you, students from Elmbark and Salem!”
“Honestly, Al, you think that is good?” Rose asked, suddenly appearing. A frown was knitted between her brows, and her arms were folded across her chest. She seemed to be quite cross. “Think about how this will affect us!”
‘Oh, stop whining, Rosie!” Albus said exasperatedly. Trust Rose to ruin his mood. “Nothing will happen in one day!”
Rose muttered something inaudible and stomped away. Scorpius and Albus exchanged exasperated looks and went to sit by the fire.
The next few days passed away fairly quickly, and before they knew it, they were heading towards the grounds on the thirtieth of October. All students were there, chattering and wondering curiously how the others would arrive. The Heads of Houses were busy organising students into a line, which was proving to be a difficult job indeed.
“Mr Potter, stop fighting this instant!” yelled Professor Longbottom, dashing furiously past Albus. “You too, Mr Ashton!”
Albus turned around and saw James and a second year Slytherin scuffling on the ground. James was on top of the Slytherin, his hand held up to punch him. He already had a swollen lip, and the Slytherin sported a bloody eye, which had already turned purple.
“But Professor!” James tried to justify, getting off the Slytherin. “He was insulting –”
“I don’t want to hear anything!” Professor Longbottom said, pulling James up by the ear. “Detention, tomorrow evening, both of you! And fifty points each from Gryffindor and Slytherin! Your father will hear about this tonight, Potter!”
Albus though that this was a bit hard, but maybe the Professor was a bit worked up, what with the tournament coming up. He saw James go back to the line, and mutter something darkly to Louis. They both shot filthy looks at the Professor’s retreating figure.
“Look!” shouted a third-year Ravenclaw suddenly, pointing to the starry sky above. Albus turned away from his brother and looked up. “Up in the sky! One of them is here!”
“What is it?” asked another student, moving her head sideways and standing on her toes to get a clearer view. Suddenly everyone started talking, pointing eagerly towards the sky.
“It’s a huge snake!”
“A flying thing!”
“I think-- Merlin, it’s a train!”
And so it was. As it descended, Albus saw that it was white in colour and had seven big carriages. It came down, down, down… and finally landed with a big thud and moved forward slowly, decelerating. The engine let out a huge hiss and a puff of white smoke, stopping altogether. Albus was amazed at how the train moved without tracks. Then, as he looked at the wheels, he noticed that there was something silvery beneath the train. He realized they were temporary tracks that were made entirely of silvery light just to support the train.
After a few seconds, the doors opened, and students came pouring out. They all gathered together at one place, and after a few seconds, a man came out from the front-most compartment.
He was old, apparently in his eighties. He had dark skin, and white hair and a beard. His face was lined with wrinkles. His black eyes were crinkled around the corners, and they looked warm. He was wearing a white robe, and a pointed brown hat. He looked at the Hogwarts students and smiled.
Professor McGonagall started to clap, and the students followed her lead. The man shuffled slowly towards Professor McGonagall.
“Professor Sobhan,” she greeted, extending her hand. “I welcome you, once again, to Hogwarts.”
“Thank you, Professor McGonagall,” he replied, shaking McGonagall’s hand. “It’s great to be back. I hope you are well?”
“Yes, perfect, thank you. How are you?”
“I’m well, thank you. And here are my students,” he said, gesturing behind him. Albus looked to where he was indicating and saw about three dozen boys and girls, all apparently in their fourth years and above. They were wearing white robes with different coloured cloaks and were shivering slightly.
“Would you like to go in,” asked Professor McGonagall, “or would you prefer to wait for the Salem delegation?”
“I’d wait,” he replied, his thin lips curving to form a smile that reached his eyes.
Albus looked at his friends and whispered, “These are the people from Bangladesh?”
“Yep,” Rose replied.
“Why are they shivering?” asked Andrew, frowning. “It isn’t that cold,”
“Well, they come from the tropics,” Rose said. “Their country is in the Tropic of Capricorn, and it never snows there. It’s really warm in their country; it’s natural to feel cold.”
They stood waiting for the Salem party to arrive. “Do you think that they’ll arrive like that too?” asked Scorpius.
“Maybe, maybe not,” Albus said. “I think it’ll be different.”
They waited, waited and waited. It was getting really chilly now. Albus looked up at the sky, wondering how long it would take. Suddenly –
What the hell is that? he wondered. Up in the sky, he saw a huge moving six pointed star-shaped object, like something that he had seen in one of Aunt Hermione’s books. For one moment, he thought that they came in a flying star. But then, as they came closer, he found that they were actually flying. They were flying in broomsticks in a very close formation.
“Whoa!” he exclaimed. “Look up there, guys! They’re flying all the way!”
“Fascinating,” Scorpius said, awed. “They are flying in the shape of the Star of David!”
“Huh?” Albus looked at Andrew, who seemed as lost as him.
“Oh honestly, Al, Andrew, don’t you read at all?” Rose said in a disapproving tone that reminded Albus of Aunt Hermione. “The Star of David is a symbol that appears in a lot of religious scriptures. It is a symbol that represents male and female unity. It is quite suitable to Salem. They are all witches in Salem, but they still respect the equality between male and female. They still value their unity.”
“How do you guys know all this?” Andrew asked, awed, looking at Rose and Scorpius.
“I read,” both replied simply, looking smug.
Albus’ head hurt.
The Salem witches descended, without breaking the formation. They landed on the ground simultaneously. Their Headmistress, who was leading them, seemed to be in her fifties. She had long grey hair which was tied in a bun at the base of her neck. She had bright blue eyes, and her face was slightly wrinkled. She was wearing pale pink robes with a pure white cloak.
“Professor Faerie, welcome to Hogwarts,” Professor McGonagall said, smiling.
“Professor McGonagall!” she exclaimed, grinning broadly. Her eyes lit up excitedly as she rushed towards McGonagall with such energy that Albus hadn’t seen in someone her age. “I am very pleased to meet you! How are you?”
“Fine, thank you, Professor.” She extended her hand, and Professor Faerie shook it. Professor Faerie then turned to the Elmbark Headmaster and shook his hand eagerly.
“Here are my students,” Professor Faerie said once they were done, gesturing towards the group of students who had just descended.
Albus saw that there were also about thirty students from Salem, all girls. They were all wearing different coloured robes, but they all had the same black lace at the hem and sleeves. They had matching hats. There was the same Star of David emblazoned on all of their chests. Some of them were all looking at the castle with interested expressions on their faces, whereas some of the others didn’t seem to care at all and were gossiping intently.
“Shall we go in?” Professor McGonagall asked the other Head of Schools.
“Yes, please, let’s go,” replied Professor Faerie.
They all walked back into the castle with the two delegations, and went into the Great Hall. It looked larger than before, and so did the tables. Albus thought that maybe it was because the Great Hall had to seat about sixty more people now. Albus, Rose, Andrew and Scorpius all sat together at the Gryffindor table, and the Salem students sat at the Ravenclaw table. The Elmbark students went and sat at the Hufflepuff table. There were two other people sitting at the Staff Table: Albus’ Aunt Hermione, and another wizard whom Albus didn’t recognise. He assumed it was the other judge. The three Heads of Schools went over and sat down and the other teachers followed suit.
The students started talking among themselves.
“That,” Andrew said, grinning, “was cool. I loved how the Salem girls arrived. They flew all the way?”
“Yeah, that was something,” Albus agreed. “Flying all the way across the Atlantic... they really showed what they’ve got, didn’t they?”
“Oh, they couldn’t have flown all the way,” Rose countered, looking sceptical. “It’s too long a flight. Only one person ever flew across the ocean on a broom, and kind of turned out to a fiasco. I think that they travelled to England by Portkey and then flew here.”
Andrew tried to argue, but then Professor McGonagall stood up again, cutting short whatever Andrew was about to say. “Students from Salem and Elmbark, welcome to Hogwarts!” she said loudly. “I hope that your stay at Hogwarts will be pleasant, and please, make yourselves comfortable here. As long as you are here, the castle will be your home.
“Now, the judges for the tournament are Professor Khondokar Abdus Sobhan, Professor Eilina Faerie, and I. We also have three other judges from our Ministry: the Head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports, the Head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation, and the head of the Auror Office. Here they are.” She gestured towards the wizard Albus had seen a moment ago- he was bald, with a rather bushy, brown moustache- and at Aunt Hermione, who was wearing a pointed blue hat and midnight blue robes. The other chair beside them, however, was empty. Albus assumed that it was reserved for his father.
Where is he? he thought.
“Mum’s there!” Rose whispered to the others. Aunt Hermione spotted them and waved. The two cousins waved back.
“But where’s Dad?” Al asked.
Just then, a door to the left of the staff table opened with a creak and Mr Potter came in, looking slightly flushed and out of breath. Walking over to the empty seat, he sat down, and greeted Aunt Hermione, the other Ministry member and the Heads of Schools. He then looked towards the Gryffindor table. Finding Albus and Rose, he smiled. They both waved back enthusiastically.
“Finally, Dad!” Albus said happily. “I get to meet him again!”
“Now, our three other judges are here today,” Professor McGonagall continued. “Mr Nigel Bowman, the Head of the Department of Magical games and Sports,” Mr Bowman stood up, bowed and sat back down, “Madam Hermione Granger-Weasley, the Head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation,” Aunt Hermione smiled and waved happily, “and Mr Harry Potter, the Head of the Auror office and the previous Hogwarts champion and tournament winner.”
At the mention of Mr Potter’s name, the Gryffindor, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw Tables started applauding heavily, some whistling. Most of the applause came from the Weasley/Potter clan. The foreign students also clapped politely. Mr Potter stood up, bowed and smiled, and sat back down.
“Now, they are here today to explain the rules of this year’s Tournament. I suggest that all of you listen quietly and attentively.”
Mr Bowman stood up, and started, “Good evening. I’m sure that your Heads of School have told you all a bit about the tournament, but I’ll elaborate. The tournament will start officially today. Then all those interested to compete will put their names in the Goblet of Fire in twenty-four hours, as the champions will be chosen tomorrow.
“Now, the tournament will consist of three tasks, each task testing the champions. The one who will have the most points after all three tasks will win the Tournament and the Triwizard Cup, not to mention a thousand Galleons as prize money!
“The students from Elmbark and Salem will be staying here all year, and I hope that you’ll be as comfortable as possible. Also, there will be a ball at Christmas known as the Yule Ball, where we shall all congregate and hopefully have a good time, forgetting all barriers of language, culture, and hopefully house. Now I’ve finished, and it’s Mr Potter’s turn to speak.”
He sat down, and Mr Potter stood up. “Hey, everyone.” He smiled. “Now this year’s Tournament should definitely be better than last time’s tournament, for which the word ‘fiasco’ would be a very big understatement.” A lot of people nodded, obviously having heard about the whole affair. “So, to prevent anything happening like that, we have enforced many rules upon you. First, the games have been made a lot less dangerous, but still very challenging. There will be Aurors at hand to take care of things if anything goes out of control, so the champions will be safe.
“Now, about the age restrictions.” Suddenly, the great hall was full of groans and annoyed expressions, and a lot of the students stood up and started shouting angrily. Albus looked at James, who was staring at his father, his mouth open in horror. Albus, however, thought it was a good thing. Rose seemed to be thinking along the same lines.
Scorpius, on the other hand, didn’t seem amused.
“Now that’s not fair,” he said, grimacing. “I was planning to enter!”
Professor McGonagall, no longer able to tolerate the racket, stood up and yelled “SILENCE!” at the top of her voice. Everyone stopped at once. It was as if someone had abruptly turned off a radio.
Mr Potter seemed rather amused, however. “Now,” he continued, apparently oblivious to the irate mutterings of the students, “no student below fourth-year will be able to compete in the Tournament. This rule has been made explicitly for your safety, and I hope none of you will break it.” He looked directly towards James when he said this; James just stared defiantly at his father. “The tasks are such that no one below fourth year will be able to complete them, so be careful before you ask an older student to submit it for you. There will be an Age-Line around the Goblet of Fire to prevent third years and below from submitting their names, and trust me, Ageing Potions won’t work, and you will be very unwise to try and use them. That’s all I had to say. I wish you all who choose to submit your names the very best of luck!” He grinned again and sat down.
Professor McGonagall stood up again. “Here is the Goblet of Fire,” she said. “Mr Filch, please bring it in.”
The caretaker brought in a large wooden crate. He placed it in the middle of the room, and took out a large cup. It looked like a giant clay Goblet, and it was full of blue flames. It didn’t look that impressive, but Albus thought that he felt a strange, warm feeling inside him when Filch took it out, as though it possessed very powerful magic – which it obviously did.
“The Goblet of Fire will be kept here for the next twenty-four hours,” Professor McGonagall continued, motioning to the Goblet with her hands. “All those interested to compete will write their names in a parchment and drop it in here. That is all. Let the feast begin.”
The tables were full of food, and they started eating. They ate silently, Albus occasionally looking towards the staff table at his father.
The food was really tasty. Along with the traditional feast, there were also a number of different dishes this time. There was one that looked like chicken curry, though the colour was really different than the ones Albus had seen. Albus tried it, but after one bite he couldn’t eat it anymore. It was too spicy. He also saw rice, which was somewhat brownish. There were pieces of mutton in it.
“Do you know what that is?” he asked Rose.
“I think it’s called biryani, though I’m not too sure. We once went to one of Dad’s colleague’s house, and he was Bangladeshi. We had it there.”
Andrew and Scorpius seemed to love the food, and they were eating ravenously. Albus caught his father’s eye and waved; Mr Potter waved back. After dinner, most of the Great Hall emptied, but Albus and company stayed back. They went towards Mr Potter and Aunt Hermione, and when they were close enough, Albus ran towards his father and hugged him. Rose did the same with her mother.
“Hey, son,” Mr Potter said, grinning. “Missed us a lot in these days?”
“Well, not really,” Albus lied.
“Stop lying, Albus!” Rose scolded, breaking away from her mother. “He was a real pain, Uncle Harry. You should have heard him when he heard that you were coming. It was as if he hadn’t seen you for years.”
“Rose!” Aunt Hermione smiled, giving her daughter a slight pat in the cheek.
“Come on, Rosie,” James smirked, coming up and hugging his father too. “He was crying his eyes out!”
“James, stop picking on your brother,” chided Mr Potter, but his grin ruined the effect. James merely stuck his tongue out at Albus, said bye to his father and aunt, and went back.
“How come you were late?” Albus asked his father.
“I was… held up by something,” Mr Potter said, frowning. Albus decided not to press the matter. It must have been some “top-secret Auror mission,” as James called it.
“Dad, Aunt Hermione, these are our new friends, Andrew Strathmore and Scorpius Malfoy,” Albus introduced them. Mr Potter and Aunt Hermione shook their hands. Mr Potter looked at Scorpius. He had inherited his father’s face, but his eyes were not as icy and his voice wasn’t the lazy drawl of his father. His eyes were full of life, and his voice was sweet and innocent. He even smiled pleasantly, unlike the sneer of his father that Mr Potter had seen so often. Mr Potter smiled to himself. Maybe he would be another Sirius, he thought.
“Well, you should all go back now, I shouldn’t keep you,” Mr Potter said. “You have to wake up early, you have class tomorrow. Bye, kids. Let’s go, Hermione, we’ll have dinner at our house. I asked Ron to come over already.”
“Oh, Harry, you didn’t have to!” Aunt Hermione protested. “I could’ve–”
“Come on, Hermione! Ginny will love to have company now that half the house is empty.”
“Oh, alright,” Aunt Hermione said, admitting defeat. “Goodbye, kids!”
“Bye!” they all chorused. Albus hugged his father one last time and went back to the Gryffindor tower. He went up to the dormitory, changed, and went to sleep, dreaming about the Goblet of Fire and the Triwizard Tournament.
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