The Aberforth Alternative
Summary: A chance occurrence causes Harry's life to change when he gains an unlikely confidant in Aberforth Dumbledore, the 'Other Dumbledore'. A series of scenes.
It was dark and quiet, and the faint but unmistakable scent of gold permeated everything. Gringotts loomed over the Alley, the building of goblins and greed casting its intended shadow. Harry walked as quietly as he could manage, his Cloak covering him entirely and his boots spelled to be silent. He saw the shape in a crook in the space between the bank and the nearby walls, almost missed it. He would have missed it if he didn't know something was supposed to be there already.
The goblin hid there, looking around furtively, a look of constipated anger in his face. But considering the situation, such was to be expected.
"Are we agreed then?" Harry said softly, causing the goblin to whirl in surprise and then frown.
"I don't care for that," the goblin said with a snarl. "Your hiding spells may not last in the Vaults."
This was often true, but the Cloak was a very different sort of thing as Harry had already discovered. "Never mind that," he said. "You haven't answered my question. Are we agreed or shall I be on my way?"
The goblin frowned even harder than before but then he nodded. "You have the item? Hand it over."
Harry chuckled softly. "I'm not an idiot," he said. "It's in a safe place. Unless something happens to me."
"Had to try," the goblin said with a grumble in his voice. "Most wizards wouldn't be that careful."
"So what's the next move?"
"You follow me, hidden or not, as you like," the goblin said. "I lead you to the prisoners, and then we finalize our agreement."
"Agreed," said Harry.
The goblin moved a bit further into the darkness, and then put his hand on a random spot on the bank wall. He mumbled something in Gobbledegook and a hidden door appeared. The goblin glanced over at Harry, who grasped his wand, a bit nervous. He had to trust that the greed of the goblin would weigh out over a desire for immediate revenge.
But of course, he really had little choice, so Harry walked into the bank and waited. It was dark and smelled distinctly of goblin, but small torches dotted the walls to keep the floor visible at the least. Harry's guide walked quickly, just a touch faster than was reasonable, but it wasn't difficult to keep up. They moved from cave to cave, opening both hidden and overt doors. Eventually they reached an entirely common looking rock wall, but the goblin repeated his unlocking technique and an opening unfolded from the stone.
Inside was a small cell, with only a magical light glowing from the ceiling. Two people looked up to see the goblin enter the room, although Harry doubted they realized he was there. Yet.
"What do you want now?" McGonagall said with narrowed eyes, straining against the ropes that bound her to a chair.
Flitwick nodded, leaning against a wall but not tied up at well. Of course, Harry doubted either had a wand.
Once the door had been resealed, Harry took off his Cloak and was gratified to see the shocked faces of his teachers. "Hello Professors," he said.
"An invisibility cloak?" The goblin asked, stroking his chin. "Well now, perhaps we can discuss that in our agreement."
Harry tried not to roll his eyes and said instead, "We'll see."
"Mister Potter!" McGonagall said finally. "What is going on here?"
"It's complicated," Harry told her. "But why are you tied up and not Professor Flitwick?"
"Goblin connections," said Flitwick simply. "Enough that they trust me enough not to do anything more stupid."
"Ah," said Harry. "Well, then." He smiled, although he was trying not to yell at the two adults. "Okay, let me tell you two how you bollocksed everything up."
"So do you have any ideas?" Aberforth leaned back and drained his beer in a single slurp. "Personally, I've never even thought about fighting a dragon myself."
Harry glared at the older man. "Very helpful, thanks." He stood up and began to pace back and forth. "I don't know, Aberforth. How am I supposed to even fight a dragon anyway? I mean, how are any of us? It's a dragon!"
"Maybe you're not supposed to fight it," said Aberforth and scratched his beard.
"Maybe I'm..." Harry paused as he thought about that. "Hey, you might be right?"
Aberforth shrugged. "Well, like you said, it's stupid to have a bunch of kids fight a dragon. You'd die in seconds. No offense, kid."
"None taken," said Harry. "After all, even a decrepit old man like you with life experience would die too. No offense."
"None taken," said Aberforth with a laugh. "You want a beer?"
"I'm thinking about it," said Harry with a grumble. "But okay, so if I'm not fighting the dragon, I still have to worry about dealing with it somehow. Like maybe we just need to get past it or protect against it for a short time. Hard, but not impossible for a talented young witch or wizard."
Aberforth nodded. "Well reasoned," he said.
"Not that I really know how to defend against a dragon though," said Harry with a sigh. "Any ideas?"
"Personally? No," said Aberforth. "But I know a few blokes that could. I could ask around."
"That'd be really helpful," admitted Harry. "I'm not sure what else to do."
"I don't think it's supposed to be easy," said the older man. "Really, maybe you're looking at it the wrong way."
Harry narrowed his eyes. "And what, if I may ask, is the right way?"
Aberforth shrugged again. "I don't know. Nobody told me anything about the Tasks. But if you ask me, maybe you need to think off the broom for once."
"Think off the... Oh, I think I know what you mean," said Harry. And then an idea suddenly came to him. "Maybe you just helped me more than you realize."
"Sounds like me," said Aberforth. "Care to share?"
"Not just yet," Harry replied. "I think I'll need to talk to my friends in the Seeker's Club."
Aberforth made a snorting sound, looking to try and hide his amusement. "Stupid name, that club of yours."
"Bug off!" Harry said with as much anger as he could fake.
Aberforth didn't bother to hide his laughter this time, wiping away tears from his eyes. "I like it," he managed to say. "Despite your inability to curse correctly. Keeping all your little secrets. Go on and let me know how it turns out."
Harry chuckled. "Of course," he said. "I'll see you later." He left the pub began the long walk back to Hogwarts. Luckily, he had already planned to meet the others in the Club, so there was no need to make things more obvious. Not that anyone would see the Hogwarts team hanging out particularly unusual, but Harry liked his privacy.
Later, he waited in the secret place behind the locker rooms, writing down a few thoughts on his idea. Brooms! Aberforth had helped more than he knew. Although Harry would need help to pull it off.
"You're here earlier than usual," said Cedric as he walked in. "Then again, so am I." He looked around. "Where's Cho?"
Harry smiled. "Not here yet, Cedric. But hey, she's not competing."
"She's a Hogwarts Seeker too," the Hufflepuff pointed out. "And us Seekers have to stick together... Slytherin excepted, naturally."
"Naturally," said Harry in agreement. "Although we wouldn't have to exclude Malfoy if he wasn't such a prat."
"And yet, he is," Cedric in a mock-sad voice. "A shame, not to be able to have a united Hogwarts front."
"What's all this about fronts?" Cho popped her head in the room, a saucy grin on her face. "Don't tell me you blokes have started the measuring contest already?"
"Oh, it's no contest," said Cedric with a laugh.
"Not going to argue, Harry?" Cho asked with a wink.
"Um," Harry mumbled and looked down, hoping his face hadn't reddened. When the three were talking normally, he was fine, but when the two older students began their all too common risque talk, Harry never knew what to say.
Cedric shook his head. "Don't bother the lad, he's helpless when you start like that." He straightened. "We've got more important things to worry about."
Instantly Cho's face hardened and she nodded in agreement. "So any ideas on the dragon?"
"I've gotten pretty decent at my Transfiguration," said Cedric. "Maybe we could distract it with something that looked tastier than us."
"That's a bit tricky," said Harry with a frown. "Who knows how dragons might pick up on magical decoys? They might not be so tempted."
"You may be right," said Cedric and he sighed. "But I don't have any spells that can actually take down a dragon. Aside from a Killing Curse, I don't know if there even are any at all."
"Ah!" Harry smiled. "But see, that's the thing. What if we aren't supposed to take it down?"
Cho said, "What are you getting at, Harry?" She leaned forward over a chair, and her hair fell in her eyes, which was not unusual for her. With annoyance, she blew it back, which was also typical.
Harry couldn't help but notice how adorable it was, but he soldiered on. "I think it's about getting past the dragon in a way. Maybe we'll need to distract it, each person doing a different part of the Task. And if that's the case, we'll need a plan where we both shine."
"Which is what?" Cedric asked, although a light of understanding had appeared in his eyes.
"Brooms!" Cho interrupted. "Oh, sorry, Harry."
Harry pretended to glare at her, causing her to giggle.
"Thank you, Madame Rowena," he said with an exaggerated sneer, but she only laughed louder. "As I was going to say, it's all about Quidditch." He glanced at Cho. "And brooms too, if we're being technical."
"Oh let's be that!" Cho enthused and clapped her hands.
"Ravenclaws," said Cedric with dramatic disgust.
Harry quickly explained his idea to the other two Seekers, although he was often interrupted by admittedly helpful ideas from Cho to improve it slightly.
Cedric grinned and stroked his chin. "Gotta say, Harry, this may actually work. And work brilliantly! We'll beat the other two teams with our eyes closed!"
"You'll beat 'em good. Blow 'em out of the water!" Cho said with a grin. "Blow 'em hard!"
"Enough of that," Cedric said with a laugh. "I don't think Harry's even gonna get that one."
"Um, sure I am," said Harry, completely lying. But just in case it was embarrassing, he decided not to repeat it.
Cho giggled and she winked at Harry. "I think sometimes Harry gets more than he puts on. Likes to stay mysterious, does our Gryffindor."
"That's me," agreed Harry. "Dark and mysterious, past full of secrets, with every sentence filled with lies and misdirections."
The other two Seekers burst into laughter.
"It wasn't that funny," said Harry with a frown.
"Okay, so let me go work on some of these scenarios." Cho wiped tears from her eyes. "You two would be rubbish on the complex bits anyway."
"Piffle!" Cedric said loudly, pointing his finger straight up.
Harry and Cho gave him an odd look.
"That's an odd thing to say," said Harry finally.
"Very true, Harry." Cho grinned at him. "Our Puffy friend may be going a bit round the bend."
"Get out of here already, devil woman!" Cedric said, waving his arms about. "Everyone knows girls can't ride a broom as good as a bloke."
Cho glared at him. "No need to be an arse, even if you don't mean it. Harry, good luck at the Task. Cedric, try not to die, it'll ruin Harry's chances." With that, she flipped her hair in a dramatic fashion and walked out of the room.
Harry watched her go with a grin, feeling glad for some reason.
"Oh, you're in it now, my son!" Cedric said after Cho had disappeared.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Harry asked in confusion.
Cedric raised an eyebrow. "You fancy our lady Ravenclaw."
Harry felt his face heat up and he shook his head. "No, nothing like that."
"What's wrong with it?" Cedric asked. "You should ask her out. She'd probably say yes. I think you guys would make a cute couple."
"But..." Harry paused as he collected his thoughts. "I thought you two... well, you know."
"She's a cute bird, that's true," agreed the Hufflepuff. "But it's not like we're in love or anything. Plus, I can tell you like her, and we're friends here. We like to flirt, which is something you should try by the way, but that's really all it is."
"Really?" Harry considered this and scratched his cheek thoughtfully. "I dunno, Cedric. I've never asked out anyone before."
Cedric rolled his eyes. "Yeah, I know. You're the bloody Boy-Who-Lived, who'd say no?"
"Cedric, you know how I feel about that!" Harry said with a touch of anger.
"Just saying that most girls would say yes to a date in a heartbeat," said Cedric. "Without knowing you at all. But Cho is your friend. Different story altogether."
"Maybe you're right," said Harry. "But I can't worry about that now. We have to worry about the Task, not dating. I'll think about that sort of thing after we don't die."
"Suit yourself," Cedric said with a shrug. "As for me, maybe I'll ask out that French girl."
"Fleur or the other one?" Harry could never remember the other Beauxbatons girl's name.
"Fleur, of course," said Cedric. He grinned widely. "I mean, think about it. She's pretty, I'm pretty, you gotta admit it makes a lot of sense."
Harry laughed. "You've got a point there."
The Task came quickly enough, but Cedric never said whether or not Fleur had agreed to go out with him. He claimed it would just distract Harry from focusing, which Harry had to admit might be accurate.
As they waited in the tent with the other two teams, Harry tried to figure out if Fleur had said yes. She stood with her typical aloof mein, talking with Alisanne as though she were friends, but the body language and tension in her words - French, but it was still clear - told a different story. Harry figured that they were only pretending to be united to look better.
That was better than the Durmstrang team, where Krum didn't even bother to pretend he tolerated Krause's presence. Krause, his mouth tight and in a constant grimace, was obviously no fan of the Quidditch star either. But Harry didn't think that would stop either one from trying to win.
"You guys ready for the task?" Harry asked them.
"Yes," Krum answered. "Are you?"
"We are," said Cedric. He grinned over at the French girls. Alisanne scowled at him while Fleur just rolled her eyes.
Krause scowled. "You should not talk to them," he said.
"You two need to get your story straight," said Harry. "Otherwise, you won't seem much like brothers anymore."
Everyone in the tent gave him an odd look and then Cedric began to laugh.
"I fail to see this humor," said Krum with a confused look on his face. "Your jokes do not make sense, Potter."
"It's your names," explained Cedric.
"Shut up." Krause spat on the ground. "You are trying to distract us."
"It's because your names sound similar," said Harry, ignoring Krause because Krum certainly didn't care about him. "It's a stupid joke, but it's all I could think of right now."
Krum still seemed confused but he shrugged and said, "I see. As you say, Potter. Ve haff more things to vorry about now anyvays."
And then the Durmstrang team was called and the two large boys left the tent. Harry walked nervously over to the exit, although he couldn't see anything.
Cedric put his hand on Harry's shoulder. "We've got this," he whispered. "And I think Fleur is warming up to me." He winked back at Fleur, who made a face like she was trying not to smile but not entirely succeeding.
After only a few more minutes, the sound of cheers and shouts were obvious, and then Bagman came into the Tent. "You two ready?" He asked with a large grin. "Gonna make our country proud, right boys?"
"Of course," said Cedric. "Me and Harry have got it in the bag, Mr. Bagman."
Bagman chuckled. "Nicely put, lad. Nicely put. Just wait a moment, and I'll call you out." He then walked back outside, leaving the contestants a minute to gather their thoughts.
Harry and Cedric stood before the exit, and then Harry frowned.
"What is it?" Cedric asked. "What are you thinking?"
Harry looked at his teammate. "So do you really think Cho will go out with me?"
"I do know a few people," said Tonks, but her face made it clear she didn't like to admit it. "Among those people, I know a few who are trustworthy. And among those, maybe three or four that are useful for us."
"Three or four?" Harry frowned and said, "We really need to get into Azkaban. Is there any help there?"
Tonks tapped her chin and her hair became slightly darker. "Actually, I do know a few guards. One of whom I think we can talk to." It was her turn to grimace. "Bloody Umbridge. Has her meaty hooks in everything."
"It's not just the pink monster," said Harry. "You know that."
"Yes," said Tonks with a wince. "But I'm an Auror. Don't like to talk about how the whole Ministry is buggered up beyond repair."
"Not beyond repair," Harry said and grinned at the older girl. "I wager it could use a few new coats of paint, and perhaps replacing a few . . . key structures."
Tonks rolled her eyes. "Yeah, thanks champ. I'll get the guy over here and owl Abe the details. Standard procedure."
Aberforth nodded as he drank his beer in the corner, although Harry wasn't sure if he had heard his name or was just nodding because he liked beer.
"You're a real pal," Harry said. "I'd kiss you if I didn't think you'd change into me again."
"That was one time!" Tonks hissed. "And that was after what you pulled. Teasing me like that."
"Aw, someone's sensitive," said Harry and he winked. "You really know how to cheer me up Tonks Tonks."
Tonks pressed her lips together; she was either trying not to laugh or trying not to yell.
Harry waited a few seconds for his friend to recover.
"I have told you," said Tonks in a measured, careful tone. "That I don't like that stupid double name."
"You said you don't like your first name."
"He's got you there girl," said Aberforth, who was now walking next to their table.
"I still hate that nickname, Harry!"
"Well, I hate using your last name," said Harry, only mostly joking. "It makes it seem like I'm talking to an enemy, like Malfoy or something."
Tonks snorted and stood up. "See you soon, Potter."
After Tonks had left, Harry looked over at his butterbeer and considered his options. "Do you think we'll really find anyone trustworthy?"
"Miss Tonks has a good eye for that sort of thing," said Aberforth. "She knows people. And more importantly, knows when they can be trusted. Breaking into one of the most secure places in the country isn't something we can just share with every house elf that catches your fancy."
Harry glared at the older man. "Dobby is trustworthy," he said. "Any other ones, I can't speak for."
It didn't take Tonks long at all, as it turned out, and Harry had sneaked into the Hog's Head only a few days later for his meeting with the Azkaban guard.
"I'm doing this for the principle," the guard said nervously, holding tight to his mug of butterbeer. He sipped slowly. "That one individual in the Ministry is ruining things for many of us, and those of us with any muggle ancestry and any sense can see where they're heading soon."
"That's reason enough," said Harry softly, his face hidden behind the Cloak, although he otherwise dressed in nondescript black robes. "The Ministry is pushing the country towards disaster unless something is done. And if we can take down You-Know-Who in the process, so much the better." He sipped from his own mug of butterbeer.
Aberforth scowled. "Are you two little girls sure you don't something real to drink?"
"I'll take something," answered Tonks with a grin.
"Of course!" Aberforth pounded his fist on the table. "That's why you're the real man here, Tonks!"
Tonks laughed and then nodded. "It's sadly true."
"Fine, I'll take some too!" Harry was glad nobody could see his face, as he had suddenly turned quite pale.
Aberforth smacked Harry on the back. "Well done, lad! Drink it like a man." He then smacked down four glasses and poured a liberal amount of firewhiskey in each one. "Shall we?"
The guard lifted his and looked uncertain. "I dunno, I probably should have a clear head."
"One shot won't kill you," scoffed Tonks. "Cheers! To a successful operation!"
They all pounded down their alcohol, and Harry's vision blurred for a few seconds, although he managed to make out that Tonks' face had turned a bright red before she burped out a few flames.
"Well then," he rasped out. "Shall we discuss our plans?" He quickly explained the barebones of what they needed from Azkaban.
The guard had started looking very skeptical, but then his face became clearly impressed, then worried.
"Can you help us?" Harry asked.
"Yes," said the guard, scratching his chin nervously. "It'll be dangerous and risky. I can help you, even though I think I can figure out where you're going to go next."
"Is it that obvious?" Tonks shared a worried glance with Harry. "We can't take chances on anyone figuring this out."
The guard laughed lightly, although it was not a very pleasant sound. "Nobody would ever suspect something so audacious," he said with a touch of awe in his voice. "So utterly bloody stupid. Still, maybe that's why it has a chance."
Aberforth leaned forward and poured them each another shot. "Well put, young man! That's precisely why we're trying this sort of nonsensical plan!"
Harry grinned and picked up his glass. "So after we pull this off, it'll be a simple matter to do the next step."
"I dunno about that," said the guard, but he was smiling as he picked up his own firewhiskey. "Gotta tell you, you'll never convince the goblins to help you with anything."
"Oh, I've heard that." Harry chuckled. "But let's just say I have something they want." And he downed his firewhiskey in one shot.
Harry sighed and rubbed his forehead. "Listen Professors, I know you meant well. And obviously you're talented at magic and more knowledgeable than me."
"Than I," corrected McGonagall.
"Than I am," corrected Flitwick.
"Don't you start," McGonagall told him with a glare.
"But I had this under control," continued Harry, ignoring the grammatical assistance. "The Lestrange vault is dangerous anyway to outsiders, even if you hadn't been caught." He turned to the goblin. "We may be able to use this as an excuse, now that I'm thinking about it."
The goblin scowled. "Explain," he said curtly.
"You already were worrying about hiding the break-in, so now we have something useful," explained Harry. "Of course, we'll have to 'destroy' the entrances to several vaults to make it convincing."
"It is a terrible idea," said the goblin. "No damage to bank property will be permitted."
Harry laughed. "I figured you'd see it that way," he said. "But think of it this way: none of the wizards that owned those vaults would be able to get to their money until the damage was repaired."
The goblin's face puckered, as he clearly tried to measure his intense hatred of wizards against listening to a wizard. On one hand, destruction to the bank to get back a priceless artifact, but on the other, there was the smug satisfaction of telling a wizard or witch that their money wasn't available. Harry thought that was it, anyway.
"And of course," Harry continued with a large grin. "You'd 'lose' the cup and perhaps a few other things might get 'lost'?"
Flitwick chuckled and he said something in Gobbledegook to the goblin, who seemed almost thoughtful at the remark. He turned to Harry. "You've created quite a tricky puzzle, Mister Potter! I approve. Very sneaky."
"I don't care for it," said McGonagall. "We don't owe Gringotts anything." She glared at the goblin. "You can't continue to keep us here against our will! I demand to speak to the ambassador!"
Harry groaned. "Professor, please. You did break the treaty by trying to steal from them."
"As if you were not attempting the same thing!" Professor McGonagall frowned at Harry. "And you know how important this task is to the Headmaster!"
"I never should've hinted about Gringotts," said Harry at close to a mumble. "He interpreted it entirely the wrong way. Or just you two did."
"I will let these two go in exchange for something else," the goblin interrupted. "But I also accept your terms for the artifact switch."
Harry sighed. "I'm sure I've got something else you want, but for now just keep them unharmed." He didn't mention the plan rapidly forming in his mind to break them out, but then again, Harry wasn't a complete moron.
The signed permission slip lay on the bed in front of him, almost daring Harry to look away. He dared not, just in case it disappeared on him. He still could not believe that Petunia had agreed to sign it, although she had not exactly been happy about it.
Harry just hoped that he could manage to keep his promise to not make waves when Marge Dursley arrived. Petunia had been exceptionally clear on that.
But when his will was tested, and Marge kept spitting her poisonous words at Harry, he soon reached a breaking point. Harry stood up from his chair and nearly yelled at the horrid woman. Until he caught Petunia's eye, looking at him with severe warning.
He couldn't take it, and ran to the cupboard, barely able to hold back his anger. The door to the cupboard exploded off its hinges as Harry neared, giving him the chance to heave his trunk to the door. He opened the lid and took out his wand; he had a feeling he might be needing it quite soon.
"What was that noise?" Vernon yelled and Harry knew he had little time left. Harry raced to his room, grabbed the permission slip and grabbed Hedwig's cage. As he turned to leave, he saw Vernon already at his door.
"Don't say anything!" Harry spat at his Uncle, brandishing his wand. "I'm leaving, just like you always wanted. It's what we both want, and you can just tell Marge I'm running away like a thuggish brute."
Vernon's eyes narrowed and then he sneered. "Your little school won't care for this sort of thing."
"That's not your concern anymore," Harry told him. "After tonight, I don't expect us to see each other again."
Vernon made a scoffing sound. "I'm not that bloody lucky." But then he walked away and Harry could not believe it has happened.
As he dragged his trunk down the dark street on Privet Drive, leaving his only family behind, Harry wondered if he had done the right thing. But there was no way he was willing to go back and hear anything from Marge, not now, not ever again.
So Harry kept walking.
Harry fidgeted with a Snitch, letting it go and then catching it after a second. He tried very hard and unsuccessfully not to think about what was coming next.
"Would you stop that for a bloody minute, Harry?" Cedric gave the younger boy an annoyed look. "I'm studying here."
"You've taken entirely the wrong lessons from Cho," Harry retorted. "If she were here..."
"You'd snog her face off?" Cedric interjected quickly, an insufferable grin on his face.
Harry felt his face redden. "Shove off," he managed to squeak out.
"Imbéciles!" Fleur said, looking up from her book. "You boys always talk ze foolish zings, no? I zink you both need, how you say...?" She said something to Krum in French, who chuckled.
"She says you lack woman's touch," Krum told Cedric and Harry. "Is true, I think."
Cedric raised an eyebrow at Fleur. "You could fix that right quick mademoiselle, if you so chose."
The girl rolled her eyes. "Yes, I am sure zis would have you winning ze third task with ease. I am sure it would work just the same to me, so..." She shrugged. "No point, do you see monsieur?" She emphasized this last word in a very sarcastic tone.
"I will learn French one of these days," promised Cedric, sticking his finger straight up dramatically. "And then you'll have to go out with me."
"Ve vill see," said Krum. "And perhaps same day I vill learn to fly without broom."
Harry laughed. "You don't need any more of an edge in Quidditch though."
Krum shook his head. "There is still much you haff not learned, Potter."
"I won't be taking it easy on any you," Cedric announced to the room. "I fully expect the winner to be me."
"You mean us," corrected Harry.
Cedric shrugged. "If you insist. I figure you've already got the whole celebrity thing down already, so I'll just take over the Triwzard Champion part while you take things easy in the background."
Harry rubbed his chin. "I don't hate the idea," he admitted. "I'm famous enough already, but maybe this could be for something I actually did."
Fleur snorted, although like everything she did, it was surprisingly graceful. "La Voisin! You muzst not discount Beauxbatons, little boys! Our team will triumph, it iz very clear."
"Durmstrang vill vin if I haff to drag Krause's body across finish line," said Krum with no sign of joking.
Cedric shook his head and then he laughed. "I'll never figure out why you two picked partners you hated."
Fleur raised an impossibly perfect eyebrow. "No? You cannot?"
"Krause is competent wizard, if terrible human," said Krum.
"Precisely!" Fleur grinned at Cedric. "Alisanne iz ze second most talented witch or wizard at Beauxbatons. An awful person, yes, but I knew zat she wanted to win."
Cedric put his arm around Harry, who dropped the Snitch.
"I'm just lucky me and Harry are such pals," said Cedric.
"I think it's 'Harry and me'," said Harry with a glare, watching the golden orb flitter now out of reach.
"'Harry and I'," corrected Krum. "That is first English trick I learn."
"You British muzt learn some ozzer languages, no?" Fleur said with a laugh. "It iz just indication of how badly you two will lose, no?"
Cedric's eyes narrowed. "If you think that sort of talk is going to get you out of me asking you out again, you're sadly mistaken."
Harry rolled his eyes as Fleur threw a hex at Diggory. He had the sneaking suspicion they really were doing something clandestine, but he had no proof. It was nice though, being so friendly with the other Champions, their alternates excepted. Harry couldn't help but wonder how things might have ended up if he hadn't made that fateful choice when his name came out of the Goblet of Fire...
YEAR FOUR (EARLIER)
The other three Champions looked at Harry with confusion, and then anger. It didn't take long for the adults to jabber away at each other about the 'unfairness' of Harry's involvement.
But Harry tried to think things through; there was something not right about it. "So I have to compete, then? I can't just quit?"
Cedric gave him a look of surprise, while Fleur and Krum seemed not to believe the sentence.
"No, you cannot," said Crouch. "Once your name has been drawn from the Goblet of Fire, you are bound to to compete in the tournament."
"Even I didn't personally put my name in?" Harry asked. "Because I didn't." This was true. "I didn't particularly want to enter the contest." This was not.
Snape made a scoffing sound. "So you did not ask an older student?"
Harry rolled his eyes. "Would it really be that easy to get past Dumbledore's protections?"
The Headmaster smiled and shook his head. "An excellent point, Harry. The Goblet should only have accepted an entry by the person themselves."
"I can figure it out," said Moody, slinking in from the shadows. "Someone wanted Potter in the contest, used aConfundus, powerful must've been, on the Goblet. Fooled it into thinking Potter was entering himself."
"Is that possible?" Harry asked Dumbledore.
"I'm afraid it is," the Professor replied. "Not for a student, of course, but for a talented adult, that is another matter altogether."
"Anyway, I did ask an older student," admitted Harry. "But that doesn't explain how I got picked with Cedric."
"Maybe it was because I put yours in with mine?" Cedric said with a nervous look around the room.
Harry glared at him. "I wasn't going to tell that you were the one I asked."
Snape sneered. "Rulebreaking rubbing off on other students, eh, Potter? I might have guessed!"
"Only one person from each school should have been selected," said Dumbledore. "So I am afraid it is still a mystery how this occurred."
"But it iz not fair!" Fleur said, brushing the hair out of her eyes. "Now Hogwarts haz two Champions, and we have only one each!"
Krum grunted. "This is good point," he said.
And then Harry had an idea. "Well, hold on a second. What if you each got to add another Champion?"
Crouch shook his head. "We cannot relight the Goblet, not until the next Tournament."
Dumbledore had a twinkle in his eyes and he smiled widely. "It strikes me that Mister Potter had a different thought in mind."
Harry grinned at the Headmaster, having a feeling Dumbledore knew exactly what he was planning.
"We don't need to use the Goblet again," he said. "Instead, we'll have it by teams. School against school. Me and Cedric will be the Hogwarts champions, and Fleur and Krum can pick their own teammates."
Fleur looked startled and then she began to smile brilliantly. "Ooh, I must zay I like zis idea."
Karkaroff scratched his beard. "Viktor, what do you think?"
Krum shrugged. "Team or not, I still plan to vin."
The Durmstrang Headmaster burst into laughter. "Excellent, Viktor, excellent. That is the spirit, I tell you!" He turned to Harry, a look in his eyes that made Harry a bit uncomfortable. "I believe I like this idea."
Crouch frowned. "This is highly unorthodox. The competition and the events have already been determined carefully and cannot be easily changed."
"Oh, calm down Barty," said Bagman, smacking the other wizard on the back. "I think it's a capital idea, yes, a grand idea indeed!" He nodded at Harry. "Team sort of thing, it s just the trick to make things more interesting and less dangerous than the old ones, eh? Plus you'll get to do some interesting reorganization to get the team idea to work."
Crouch made a thoughtful sound, as if that idea did not entirely displease him.
So it was decided then.
As they walked back to the Hall to announce what had happened, Harry turned to Fleur. "So who will you pick?"
"A smart but annoying girl," she said with a nearly sinister glint in her eyes. "Alisanne Bonaccord. Comes from old family, but she hatez me. It will be great pleazure to have her benefit from my largesse."
Krum grunted in what almost sounded like amusement. "I haff similar thought. Rudolf Krause is smart wizard, but he hates me. Ve vill mop floor with you Hogwarts ones."
Cedric raised an eyebrow. "Piffle!" He said loudly. "Harry and I are Hogwarts Seekers, and you can't break that bond."
"I am Seeker too," said Krum. "Even if not from Hogwarts."
"He's pretty good," Harry said to Cedric. "You gotta admit that."
"I admit nothing!" Cedric insisted. "At least our lovely French champion isn't a Seeker too."
Fleur laughed. "Oh, but I waz until I quit ze team. Everyone hated me, zo..." She shrugged. "More time for me to study, no?"
They had finally reached the Hall, and Dumbledore cleared his throat, getting everyone's attention. After he explained things, Fleur and Krum had their chance to pick their teammates. Sure enough, Krause and Alisanne seemed both pleased and utterly furious to have been picked.
Harry leaned over to Cedric. "Methinks the Seeker's Club could use another member or two."
"But not another four," said Cedric.
"Not four," Harry agreed. "We don't have that kind of room."