"It's so cold," Phoenix stuttered as she hurried up the steps to Hogwarts alongside Angelina, Alicia and Katie. Fred, George, and Lee were already up ahead, their legs were much longer than theirs and they had practically flew into the castle and out of the rain.
"I know," Angelia said as a flash of lighting lit up the sky.
They were now in front of the oak front doors, where Fred, George, and Lee were waiting for them to catch up.
"Alright slow pokes," greeted Fred.
"Alright lanky," Angelina retorted as they all entered the warmth and safety of the torch lit entrance hall and into the Great Hall. The hall was decorated as usual for the start-of-term feast. The four long House tables were overcrowded with students, golden plates and goblets on the tables and hundreds of flaming candles floated over them in midair.
Phoenix and the others walked past the Slytherin table, where some of the members the Slytherin Quidditch hissed and sneered as they passed and Fred and George made rude gestures at them. They walked past the Ravenclaw table and the Hufflepuff table and then finally sat down on the far side of the hall at the Gryffindor table. Phoenix had sat down between George and Angelina and she looked up at the enchanted ceiling, which reflected the night sky outside, dark clouds were rumbling with thunder above their heads and lighting flashed.
"I feel sorry for the first years," she said, frowning. "They're probably going to drown in the lake."
"You feel sorry for everybody Nix," Alicia said.
"I know." Phoenix replied.
"I can't see any new faces," said George, his eyes looking up and down the staff table. "Maybe they couldn't find a new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher."
"Or maybe Snape finally got the job," smirked Phoenix. Her friends looked at her in horror, as though this statement was the worst thing that could possibly happen, which is was. Professor Snape was everybody's least favourite teacher, apart from the students in his house, Slytherin. He was the potions master at Hogwarts but everyone knew that he wanted the position of the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, but Dumbledore never allowed him for reasons nobody knew.
"I was joking," Phoenix said, "Dumbledore would never allow it."
"I'm hungry," groaned Fred, looking longingly at the golden plates.
"You're always hungry Fred," said Angelina, staring at Fred incredulously.
Fred was about to answer, when the doors to the Great Hall opened and the entire hall fell silent. Professor McGonagall led a line of nervous looking first years to the very top of the Hall. The first years looked as though they didn't use boats to travel over the lake, but looked as though they had swam across it. They were soaked from head to toe. The first years filed nicely in front of the staff table and looked around, nervously, shaking from cold and nerves, as they stood in front of the entire school.
Professor McGonagall had placed a stool in front of the first years and, on top of it, was an old and battered looking wizard's hat. The entire hall stared at it in silence, before a tear that was near the brim of the hat opened wide like a mouth and suddenly hat broke into song:
"A thousand years or more ago,
When I was newly sewn,
There lived four wizards of renown,
Whose names are still well known;
Bold Gryffindor, from wild moor,
Fair Ravenclaw, from glen,
Sweet Hufflepuff, from valley broad,
Shrewd Slytherin, from fen.
They shared a wish, a hope, a dream,
They hatched a daring plan
To educate young sorcerers
Thus Hogwarts School began.
Now each of these four founders
Formed their own house, for each
Did value different virtues
In the ones they had to teach.
By Gryffindor, the bravest were
Prized far beyond the rest;
For Ravenclaw, the cleverest
Would always be the best;
For Hufflepuff, hard workers were
Most worthy of admission;
And power-hungry Slytherin
Loved those of great ambition.
While still alive they did divide
Their favorites from the throng,
Yet how to pick the worthy ones
When they were dead and gone?
'Twas Gryffindor who found the way,
He whipped me off his head
The founders put some brains in me
So I could choose instead!
Now slip me snug about your ears,
I've never yet been wrong,
I'll have to look inside your mind
And tell where you belong!"
"When I call out your name, you will come forth, put on the hat and sit on the stool," Professor McGonagall called to the first years, unrolling a scroll of parchment. "When the hat announces your House, you will go and sit at the appropriate table." She paused before reading out the first name. "Ackerley, Stewart!"
"RAVENCLAW!" the hat bellowed as the Ravenclaw table applauded him.
The Slytherin table cheered as Malcolm Baddock sat down. Fred and George hissed at him.
"GRYFFINDOR!" the hat announced.
Phoenix cheered along with the Gryffindor table as Dennis Creevey became the first Gryffindor to be sorted.
The sorting continued, as one by one, timid and terrified looking first years sat down on the stool and were sorted in their houses. But finally Kevin Whitby was sorted into Hufflepuff and so the Sorting ended.
"Oh finally," Fred breathed hungrily.
"You should like Ron," snorted Phoenix as Professor McGonagall picked the hat and the stool and took them from the Hall.
Professor Dumbledore stood up, looking around at the students through his half-moon spectacles, his arms wide, smiling. "I have only two words to say to you," he began, his voice echoing around the Hall magnificently. "Tuck in."
"Hear, hear!" Phoenix heard Harry and Ron jeer, for food had appeared on the table.
Fred, George, and Lee had food piled onto their plates within seconds. Angelina and Phoenix watched, in utter astonishment as George somehow managed to stuff nearly a whole chicken pie into his mouth.
"Honestly," Phoenix breathed as she put mash potato and roast beef onto her plate, much more graciously than Fred, George, and Lee had. "It's like you've never been fed."
"I ha'ent had an'hing sin'e lunch–," George said through a mouthful of carrots.
"Please George," said Angelina in a tone that reminded Phoenix strongly of Mrs. Weasley. "Don't talk with your mouth full."
George swallowed his food heavily, "Sorry mum," he said thickly.
"I really wonder who the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teachers," said Alicia, "it's not like they can just drop the subject completely."
"Maybe Dumbledore will teach it!" Fred said brightly.
"Imagine how awesome that would be," said George, wild eyed.
"He would be better than Gilderoy Lockhart," said Lee humorously.
"Please don't remind me of him," said Phoenix, shaking her head, "I'm still not over his special Valentine's Day message, and my musical valentine from Roger Davies," she shuddered.
Fred and George giggled audibly into their plates.
"But Roger is like really good looking now," Katie observed.
"Yeah," agreed Phoenix, casting a look over to the Ravenclaw table, where Roger was talking animatedly to Cho Chang, the Ravenclaw Seeker, she turned back to the others. "But he's a bit of a git."
"He is?" Alicia said.
"He's a real show-off," explained Phoenix. "Haven't you noticed? Especially on the pitch. The amount of times I have wanted to knock him off his broom."
"Next time we are on the pitch, I'll give you a galleon if you do," said George.
Phoenix laughed, leaning over to whisper in his ear, "Yeah, when you get your money back from Ludo."
George nodded, smiling.
Desserts appeared shortly after the last of the dinners had been demolished. Phoenix picked up some rich pudding and began shovelling it down her throat.
"Honestly Nix," said George, in an incredibly good impression of Phoenix's voice, "It's like you're never fed."
"Go away you dork," Phoenix giggled, shoving his arm and causing him to drop his strawberries.
George scoffed and threw one of the strawberries at Phoenix.
"Please don't start another food fight," said Lee.
"He started it!" Phoenix said at the very same time that George said: "She started it."
"Honestly," snorted Alicia, sharing a significant look with Angelina, "you two act like children."
"Well we are," said George in a matter of fact tone. "Legally anyway."
When finally, the last of pudding had too been eaten, the leftovers on the plates faded, leaving the plates as clean as they were when they entered the Hall, Dumbledore got to his feet once again. The chatter immediately ceased, only the crashes of thunder and pouring rain could be heard over the loud silence of the students.
"So!" said Dumbledore, clapping his hands together, brightly, smiling around the Hall. "Now that we are all fed and watered. I must once more ask for your attention, while I give out a few notices. Mr. Filch, the caretaker, has asked me to tell you that the list of objects forbidden inside the castle has this year been extended to include Screaming Yo-yos, Fanged Frisbees, and Ever-Bashing Boomerangs. The full list comprises some four hundred and thirty-seven items, I believe, and can be viewed in Mr. Filch's office, if anybody would like to check it." Phoenix eye's flickered from Fred and then George, and fought back a smile. "As ever, I would like to remind you all that the forest on the grounds is out-of-bounds to students, as is the village of Hogsmeade to all below third year. It is also my painful duty to inform you that the Inter-House Quidditch Cup will not take place this year."
"No!" Phoenix, Fred, George, Alicia, Katie, and even Lee (who was commentated all of their matches) all gasped and Harry looked round at them, his expression mirroring theirs.
Dumbledore continued, "This is due to an event that will be starting in October, and continuing throughout the school year, taking up much of the teachers' time and energy - but I am sure you will all enjoy it immensely. I have great pleasure in announcing that this year at Hogwarts -"
But at that precise moment, there was an extremely loud rumble of thunder and a flash of lighting as the Great Hall's doors banged open.
Phoenix's head whipped around, as did everyone else's in the hall, to see a man standing in the doorway. The man was leaning on a long staff and a black traveling cloak, which he lowered and began to limp towards the staff table. Clunk, clunk, clunk, echoed throughout the Hall as the man took a table. Phoenix narrowed her eyes as he reached the teacher's table, turning to Dumbledore. As another flash of lighting illuminated his face and she gasped. It was Mad-Eye Moody. She may never have met Moody, but she her step-brother telling her about Moody's eye. As one was small and dark, the other however, was inhumanely large, glaring and a piercing blue. The large one moved around madly, not blinking, it rolled madly, moving to the back of his head, so all they could see were the whites of his eyes. Phoenix also noticed that a chunk of Moody's nose was missing. His appearance was slightly terrifying, but she had to admit, almost cool.
"It's Mad-Eye Moody," she whispered to George, still watching Moody as he reached Dumbledore, who inclined Moody to an empty seat on the top table.
"May I introduce our new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher" said Dumbledore into the stunned silence. "Professor Moody."
There was a scattered applause, not as energetic as usual and it ceased almost immediately.
Phoenix watched as Moody took out a hip flask from his traveling cloak, and took a gulp from it.
"What on earth is he drinking?" Angelina whispered.
"Probably something he has checked for poisons, he only ever drinks from his hip flask," Phoenix whispered back, "he's really paranoid that there are dark wizards everywhere. Will told me."
"As I was saying," Dumbledore cleared his throat and the students returned their attention back to the headmaster, "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 Tournament will be taking place at Hogwarts this year."
"You're JOKING!" bellowed Fred, his eyes widening and looking as though his birthday had come early.
Nearly everybody in the Hall laughing, Dumbledore chuckled and Fred smirked triumphantly.
"I am not joking, Mr. Weasley," Dumbledore said, "although now that you mention it, I did hear an excellent one over the summer about a troll, a hag, and a leprechaun who all go into a bar–,"
Professor McGonagall coughed loudly, giving Dumbledore a stern look.
"Er - but maybe this is not the time… no…" said Dumbledore, clearing his throat, "the Triwizard Tournament…well, some of you will not know what this tournament involves, so I hope those who do know will forgive me for giving a short explanation, and allow their attention to wander freely." Phoenix smiled at Dumbledore's words as she adverted her attention up to the enchanted sky, still listening however, "The Triwizard Tournament was first established some seven hundred years ago as a friendly competition between the three largest European schools of wizardry: Hogwarts, Beauxbatons, and Durmstrang. A champion was selected to represent each school, and the three champions competed in three magical tasks. The schools took it in turns to host the tournament once every five years, and it was generally agreed to be a most excellent way of establishing ties between young witches and wizards of different nationalities -until, that is, the death toll mounted so high that the tournament was discontinued."
"Death toll?" Alicia whispered, looking horror-struck. Phoenix, Fred, George, Angelina, and Lee however were all listening intently.
"There have been several attempts over the centuries to reinstate the tournament, none of which has been very successful. However, our own departments of International Magical Cooperation and Magical Games and Sports have decided the time is ripe for another attempt. We have worked hard over the summer to ensure that this time; no champion will find himself or herself in mortal danger."
"Well that's enlightening," Phoenix heard Katie whisper to Alicia.
"The heads of Beauxbatons and Durmstrang will be arriving with their short-listed contenders in October, and the selection of the three champions will take place at Halloween. An impartial judge will decide which students are most worthy to compete for the Triwizard Cup, the glory of their school, and a thousand Galleons personal prize money."
"I'm going for it!" Fred whispered and Phoenix nodded in agreement. Being a Hogwarts champion would be a dream. Not just the prize money, but bringing not only glory to Hogwarts and her house, but her Muggle born status. Her eyes were suddenly ablaze with excitement, glowing their brightest blue, as she stared back at Dumbledore.
"Eager though I know all of you will be to bring the Triwizard Cup to Hogwarts," Dumbledore continued, "the heads of the participating schools, along with the Ministry of Magic, have agreed to impose an age restriction on contenders this year. Only students who are of age - that is to say, seventeen years or older - will be allowed to put forward their names for consideration. This–"
But Dumbledore couldn't finish his sentence as there was uproar from the students in the Great Hall. Fred and George began to boo as Dumbledore began to speak again.
"–is a measure we feel is necessary, given that the tournament tasks will still be difficult and dangerous, whatever precautions we take, and it is highly unlikely that students below sixth and seventh year will be able to cope with them. I will personally be ensuring that no underage student hoodwinks our impartial judge into making them Hogwarts champion." Phoenix noticed that Dumbledore's bright blue looked briefly over at Fred and George and the corners of Phoenix's mouth twitched. "I therefore beg you not to waste your time submitting yourself if you are under seventeen. The delegations from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang will be arriving in October and remaining with us for the greater part of this year. 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 champion when he or she is selected. 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!"
"They can't do that!" George said immediately as they all joined the crowd that were moving towards the door. He glared at Dumbledore and Phoenix shook her head at his childish behaviour. "We're seventeen in April, why can't we have a shot?"
"Well right now, you are acting like a two year old who just got told that they can't have a cookie." Phoenix said smartly and George nudged her into Ron, almost knocking him over.
"Don't you want to try and enter then Pixy?" said George, grabbing her arm so to help her regain balance.
She shrugged her shoulders, "It would be cool," she said in a small voice, "but I would like to have a quiet year." George grinned down at her.
"They're not stopping me entering," said Fred in an obnoxious voice, he too glaring at the top table.
"The champions will get to do all sorts of stuff you'd never be allowed to do normally," said George. "And a thousand Galleons prize money!" He added in a faraway sort of voice.
"Imagine it though," Ron said dreamily, "having a thousand Galleons."
"Come on you lot," said Hermione, who shared a look with Phoenix and they both rolled their eyes as Hermione grabbed Harry and Ron's arms and pulled him towards the doors to the Great Hall, and Phoenix grabbed Fred and George's arms and pull them through the doors. "We'll be the only ones left here if you don't move."
"Who's this impartial judge who's going to decide who the champions are?" said Harry as they climbed the marble staircase.
"Dunno," Fred shrugged, "but it's them we'll have to fool. I reckon a couple of drops of Aging Potion might do it, George…"
"Don't you even think about it Fred," Phoenix said sternly, "Dumbledore knows that you are not of age and there is no way that you can fool Dumbledore."
"Yeah," Fred said, rolling his eyes at her, "but Dumbledore isn't the one who decides who the champion is, is he? It sounds to me like once this judge knows who wants to enter; he'll choose the best from each school and never mind how old they are. Dumbledore's trying to stop us giving our names."
"People have died, though!" said Phoenix looking exasperated. "I would like it for you two to get through the year in one piece."
"Yeah," said Fred, waving his hand in the air as they walked through a door that was concealed behind a tapestry and began to climb another, much narrower staircase, "but that was years ago, wasn't it? Anyway, where's the fun without a bit of risk? Hey, Ron, what if we find out how to get 'round Dumbledore? Fancy entering?"
"Don't get your brother into this," said Phoenix, shaking her head.
Fred and George clearly were not listening to her, so she huffed and shook her head disapprovingly.
They reached the entrance to Gryffindor Tower, which was hidden behind the portrait of a fat lady dressed in a silky pink dress.
"Password?" she said as they all stood in front of her.
"Balderdash," said George, Phoenix looked at George, about to ask how he knew this, but George answered before she could speak. "A prefect downstairs told me."
The portrait of the fat lady swung open to reveal a hole in the wall, which they all climbed through.
The familiar warm, merrily crackling fire danced in large fireplace that dominated one wall. The common room was full of comfy armchairs, tables, and a bulletin board. A large window overlooked the Hogwarts grounds showed that the rain was still lashing down and lighting flashed every now and then.
Angelina, Lee, and Alicia were all sat down in front of the fire, so Phoenix, Fred, and George bid goodnight to the others and went over to the fire.
"So how are you two going to enter?" Lee asked immediately as Fred and George sat down on the comfy armchairs and Phoenix sat herself down on the floor, in front of the fire.
"Bit of Aging Potion might do it," said Fred. "If Phoenix is up for making some for–,"
"Nope," said Phoenix stubbornly. "Not going to happen."
"Angelina reckons she can enter," said Alicia, "Seems as though her birthday is in October, she'll be able to enter."
"You would be a good champion," said Phoenix.
"Thank you Nix, Lee seems to disagree," said Angelina, shooting Lee a glare, "but about my birthday…"
"What about it?" said Fred.
"Well," began Angelina, the corners of her mouth twitching, "when I was packing, I managed to take a few bottles of my mum's Firewhisky and sneak them into my trunk."
"How many?" said Lee.
"When she means a few," said Alicia, "she means about six, her Dad put a charm on her case so she could fit a lot of her books in there. Did you manage to get some from Will then Nix?"
Phoenix nodded, "Yeah," she said, "Will said that he won't tell my Dad or Cecilia and he's pretty chilled about everything anyway. He got me three bottles of Blishen's Firewhisky, they're in my trunk." Over the summer she, Angelina, and Alicia had been writing to each other, planning to get as much Firewhiskey as they could for all of the coming of age parties that they were going to have.
"Phoenix!" Gasped Fred, "I didn't realise you were such a rebel!"
Phoenix shook her head, "There is a lot you don't know about me Fred."
"Like what?" he said.
"That I can get Firewhisky much more quickly than you could."
"I managed to get some Butterbeer," said Alicia, "that was the only thing my mum would get me."
"And why didn't you lot tell us about this?" George asked, looking around at the girls incredulously.
Phoenix shared a look with Angelina and Alicia, before looking back at George, smiling, "It was supposed to be a surprise," she said, "but if you don't want any, that's fine you're uninvited."
"No I'm not," George said, kicking Phoenix playfully.
"Don't kick me!"
"Oi! You two, stop flirting!" Fred said.
"Flirting?" said Phoenix, looking utterly confused, "he just kicked me. That's not flirting, that's abuse."