Harry woke up at the crack of dawn the next morning knowing what he had to do.Without waking Ron, Colin Creevy, or any of his other new dorm mates, he went straight to the Headmistress’s office, noticing with a start that the statue had changed to a large cat.The unfamiliarity of it brought him up short, yet it wasn’t unexpected, only different.He took up residence in the corridor outside the office until finally, at precisely 7:25, the stairwell began to recede and Harry spotted McGonagall’s black boots and tartan robes.
He scrambled to his feet immediately.“Professor, might I have a word?”
“My goodness, Potter,” she exclaimed, jumping slightly and throwing a hand to her heart.“You startled me.”
“Why didn’t you simply ring the doorbell?”
“Doorbell?” Harry repeated, looking around in confusion.“What doorbell?”
She pointed to the cat’s nose.“This one.Didn’t the Head Boy or Girl tell you?”
“No, they didn’t.”
“Well, never mind,” she said briskly.“Now you know.Tell me, what brings you to stalking my doorway at this early hour?I take it there’s a reason for this visit.”
“I wanted to talk to you about the Triwizard Tournament,” he explained, shifting his book bag to his other shoulder nervously.
“So you do.I’m not surprised,” she stated shrewdly.“Why don’t we walk?I like to have my breakfast early so that I can concentrate on other matters that may come up, especially on the first day of a new term.”As they began walking towards the Great Hall, Harry was grateful to find the corridors relatively empty of students, although they did pass a cheerful Professor Flitwick along the way who called out a bright greeting.
“I’m sorry this had to happen your last year here,” she began.“I know you would have preferred to spend it here at Hogwarts, especially after all the hard work you put into seeing this place restored and your Daily Prophet article that helped increase our student population, but it can’t be helped.I had hoped that Hogwarts would be excused from the tournament this time, but the Ministry and Board of Governors have taken the decision out of my hands.We will leave bright and early on the morning of the twenty-ninth, and you will receive more information concerning your duties and responsibilities then.”
Harry stopped abruptly.“Excuse me?” he said, thinking he misheard her.“I don’t understand...I was coming to tell you that I wouldn’t be entering the Tournament this time.”
“Heavens, no! Of course you won’t,” McGonagall exclaimed, an amused smile twisting on her lips.“No, Potter.As a past champion you’re not eligible to enter again.But as the reigning Champion, you are required to attend the current Tournament as part of the delegation, and as a current student you will have to stay the entire year.There are certain responsibilities, too, that go along with the title – but as I said, those will be outlined on the on the way to Beauxbatons.”
“Excuse me, Professor.Did you say I have to go to Beauxbatons with the delegation?” he exclaimed, his mind not having caught up with the conversation yet.
“Why yes, didn’t you know?” she said in surprise.“Surely you knew this.”
He shook his head, knocked for six.So much for a quiet year with Ginny, playing Quidditch and trying out all the broom cupboards in the castle.Instead he would be spending it in a foreign country, far away from Hogwarts, his girlfriend, and his friends.
“Is this why I didn’t get Head Boy?” he blurted out, not even knowing he was going to say it.
She looked at him sympathetically.“I’m sorry it had to turn out that way, but I wasn’t a hundred percent certain that Hogwarts would even participate this year.When the three of you decided to come back I had to make a difficult choice.Mr. Weasley and Miss Granger are both former prefects.With your possible involvement in this Tournament, I felt it was only fair to award them the titles.I hope you understand.”
It made sense now, but he still didn’t understand why no one had told him.He was about to ask her when Tonks appeared suddenly looking frazzled.
“Wotcher, Harry!Wish I could chat, but I have a crisis,” she said breathlessly.“Minerva, I was just down in the transfiguration room and discovered that the teapots I was planning to have the fourth years transfigure into terrapins this morning have somehow decided that they would rather be turtles. I don’t know what happened… I followed your lesson plan carefully, and Remus is being no help.He just laughed at me and told me I needed to figure it out on my own.Please, I really need your help on this one.”
McGonagall gave her an odd look, opened her mouth to say something then shut it abruptly.“Excuse me, Potter.I really should take care of this,” she said, sounding vaguely amused and also a little disappointed, possible because the delay would cause her to miss breakfast.She sighed heavily and turned to follow Tonks back down the corridor, then stopped and turned back to him.
“If we get enough applications, we’re planning a test of skills in the format of a friendly duel to pick the most worthy candidates for the delegation,” she said.“The top fifteen will go.You should be there to help us judge the competition and choose our candidates.It will give you some experience in these things and your input would be most valuable.”Without waiting for his answer she did an about face and walked away at a brisk pace.
Harry was left standing alone in the corridor contemplating all that he had learned.Foremost in his mind was how he was going to tell Ginny they would be spending the year apart.
Harry didn’t catch up with his girlfriend until their first class together.She had overslept, so he had taken Hermione’s advice and wrapped a cold piece of toast and a few pieces of bacon up in a napkin and presented them to her as they dashed into the potions classroom.She rewarded him with a big smile and a quick kiss on the cheek, declaring him the ‘best boyfriend ever.’They found a seat directly behind Ron and Hermione and settled in as Ginny quickly devoured the food.
Double Potions was the first thing on the schedule for the morning, and to his surprise Harry was not especially dreading it.Although he had horrible memories of classes with Snape, Slughorn’s class had actually shown him that he wasn’t a total imbecile when it came to potions.With proper instruction from a different teacher, he might actually have been a decent potions student all along.It was just another reason to loath Snape, the greasy haired git, and more motivation to do well this year, in fact.
Harry hadn’t known Charlie’s new wife Amanda for very long, but she had a sunny disposition and a very down-to-earth personality.He liked her immensely from the moment they had been introduced.When he had found out that her mother had run a successful apothecary and had apprenticed Amanda at a very young age, he was surprised to say the least.For some reason he had always pictured the apothocarist to be a shrivelled up old man hiding behind the counter of a dank and dingy store full of bottles and bottles of smelly ingredients.She just didn’t seem the type.Having suffered through six years of Snape and Slughorn, he couldn’t imagine what Professor Weasley’s teaching method would be, but it promised to be better than either of her predecessors.
“Good morning, class,” Amanda said vibrantly when they were all seated.“Welcome to NEWT level potions.I’m excited to see all of you here for what I hope will be a very rewarding year.I thought it would be a good idea to take a few classes to review some of the basics before we head into new territory.It’s been awhile for all of us since our last potions class and, having had at least one of your former professors before, I think that we could all save ourselves a fair degree of heartache but starting from the beginning.”She then promptly spent the next two hours reteaching them basic potions making from the beginning.Harry couldn’t believe how much he had missed the first time around.Really, it wasn’t that complicated and, with a few tricks, it could be downright easy.He came out of the lesson with a more thorough understanding of the art of potion making and feeling even more confident in his abilities.From the sound of excited chatter all around him, he wasn’t the only one with such sentiments.
From there the foursome headed to Transfiguration where they had a nice chat with Tonks about what would be expected of them throughout the year.Unlike McGonagall, she was a very informal teacher with a relaxed demeanour.The end result was an unforgettable class that made all the NEWT level students feel as if they were equals with their professor rather than underlings, but Tonks was no slouch, either.She expected great things from them and her syllabus showed a difficult year ahead.
“Harry,” Tonks said after the class was over.“Could I have a word with you?”
“Of course, Professor,” he said, hanging back from the others.He motioned them to go on, saying he’d catch up with them at lunch.
“I just wanted to keep you up to date on some recent news,” she told him in her most serious Auror voice.She was all business, so Harry knew it must be important.However, what she said next surprised him.“I’ve had word from a distant relative who lives in Romania that he’s recently been contacted by one of my relations.”
At first Harry wondered why she was telling him this, and then it dawned on him.“Is this about Malfoy?” Harry asked, stiffening his back.Catching Draco Malfoy had all but been a personal mission of Harry’s since the blond Slytherin had fled Hogwarts three years prior.Voldemort and Snape had both been dealt with, but the issue of Draco remained – a bit of unfinished business that gnawed at him.
Tonks nodded.“He’s destitute and asking for refuge.I don’t know Cousin Tobias well, but I do know he is wealthy and has the resources to keep Draco in comfort for a very long time.However, he’s very stingy with his money and I’m not certain how far family loyalty will go for a penniless son of a Death Eater.Most of that side of the family sided with You-Know-Who, but they never outright joined him.Tobias and I are not close, and he only owled me because I contacted him directly asking for information a few months ago when Draco’s case came up for trial.Since the little ferret was acquitted due to his age I dropped it, but Tobias didn’t know that.”
“What do you think your cousin will do?” Harry asked her.
Tonks shrugged.“There’s no telling.I owled him back and told him that if he knew what was good for him he’d toss Draco out on his ear, but I doubt he’ll listen.The half blood daughter of a Muggle lover, and an Auror to boot, doesn’t hold much weight with that side of the family, if you know what I mean.Since I married Remus it’s even less.”Her eyes twinkled when she said this and Harry knew that it didn’t bother her one little bit.“I just thought you’d want to know.”
“Thanks, Tonks,” he said gratefully.He began gathering up his books and belongings to leave.
“Remus and I have another bit of news,” she said timidly, catching his attention.When he looked up at her she was actually blushing.Something in her eyes told him that what she had to say was even more important than the whereabouts of Draco Malfoy and immediately his stomach knotted.
“We’re going to have a baby,” she whispered.
Harry broke out in a genuine grin, the tension leaving his body immediately.This was good news for a change.
“That’s wonderful!I’m really happy for you.”
“We found out a few weeks ago but we didn’t want to tell anyone until we had it confirmed by a mediwitch,” Tonks said.“Remus is still worried because of his ‘furry little problem’, but I told him to stop being a spoil sport.Everything is going to be perfect and he’s going to make a wonderful papa.”
“I think so too.”Harry leaned over and gave her a kiss on the cheek, surprising both of them.“I think this baby is very lucky to have such great parents.Every child should have it so good.”
Tonks seemed very pleased.“Remus and I have been discussing the details and we both agree.We want you to be the baby’s godfather, Harry.Remus would have asked you himself but every time he even thinks about the baby he starts scratching like a dog with fleas.I think it’s psychosomatic, but I can’t prove it yet.Still, I agreed to ask since the very topic still makes him nervous.”
Harry was touched, but part of him could understand what Remus was going through.He wondered if his own father had reacted that way about him.The very idea of being responsible for someone else’s life, especially an innocent child, was enough to make anyone nervous.Still, he knew it was a big honour and he couldn’t refuse.
“I’d be happy to be your child’s godfather, if that what you want,” he told Tonks.He grinned.“You sure you want to trust a rule-breaker like me with the life of an innocent child?” he said lightly.
Tonks’ face grew serious and she reached up to touch his cheek in an uncharacteristically emotional way.“Who better to trust than you, Harry?”
Harry passed on the information Tonks had given him about Draco and the new baby to the others at lunch but decided to keep the bit about being included in the Beauxbatons delegation to himself for the moment.He’d have to tell them soon, but he didn’t want to do it in the Great Hall in front of the entire school.He was still worried about Ginny’s reaction and truthfully he was still hoping to find a way out of it.As it turned out, she learned of it anyway – and not from him.
Soon after dinner Ginny had disappeared to go see Charlie without giving anyone an explanation as to why.Harry had not thought much of it until she came stomping into the common room later, obviously peeved about something.
“What’s got your knickers in a twist?” Ron asked in his usual insensitive way.Harry wondered the same thing but he had better sense than to actually say it.
“I’ve just come from Charlie’s,” she said tightly, “and found out a few things.”She whirled on Harry.“When were you planning on telling me that you had to be part of the delegation to Beauxbatons?” she asked him accusingly.
Harry shifted in his seat uncomfortably, aware of the glares of more than just Ginny.Ron and Hermione were also now looking at him expectantly.“I, ah…” he stammered.“I only found out about it this morning before breakfast.”
Ginny looked at her watch dramatically.“Oh, I’m sorry Harry.It’s only been almost twelve hours since this morning, most of which have been spent by us together.Did you need more time to break it to us that you were going to be spending the year away?”She practically shouted this last bit at him, making his own temper rise.
“As a matter of fact, I did,” he said sharply, standing up from the chair so that he wouldn’t feel inferior to her as her small frame towered over him.
“What’s this all about?” Hermione asked confused.“I thought you said you weren’t going to enter, Harry.”
Harry opened his mouth to reply but Ginny interrupted him, still ranting.“He’s not, Hermione,” she said.“But as the former Champion he’s obligated to be part of the delegation.He’s even going to be one of the judges.”
“I haven’t said I’m going to do it yet,” Harry muttered.
“From what Charlie said you don’t have a choice,” Ginny said crossly.“Its part of the contract you agreed to when you entered.”
“It was?” both Harry and Ron said at the same time.
“Honestly, Harry,” Hermione huffed.“Didn’t you know that was part of it?”
“Seeing as how I technically didn’t enter the first time around, how would I know?” he shot back in irritation.
Like one of Aunt Marge’s bulldogs, she just wouldn’t give up.“Didn’t you think to ask the terms of the contract afterwards?” She rolled her eyes impatiently, not giving him time to respond.“No, of course not!What was I thinking?”
“Hermione,” Ginny said plaintively, a warning note in her voice.“He was only fourteen at the time.If you remember, he was more concerned about who wanted him dead rather than the actual terms of the contract.”
“Exactly,” Harry said, relieved that she was defending him.
“However it happened, the end result is that you have to go,” Ginny said tiredly, plopping down on the sofa.The others all seemed to relax a bit too, and Harry slumped back down into his chair as well.“What are we going to do?” she asked dejectedly.
“What would happen if I just refused to go?” Harry asked miserably.
Hermione shook her head.“You can’t refuse, Harry.For starters it makes Hogwarts look really bad.After everything we’ve done to rebuild the school’s reputation and honour, everyone is counting on you.”
He contemplated her words as they all sat in silence for a few minutes.
“Hey,” Ron said suddenly turning to his sister.“Why did you go see Charlie in the first place, anyway?”
Now it was Ginny’s turn to look uncomfortable.“I, um… well, he is the new Head of House for Gryffindor.”
“So?” Ron persisted.“What’s that got to do with anything?”
“Can’t a sister go see her own brother?” she said evasively, suddenly turning very red in the face.“Does there have to be a reason?”
His face suddenly turned serious.“You were getting information about the Triwizard Tournament,” he accused angrily.She shifted uncomfortably, making her look even guiltier.“You were, weren’t you?”
“I… well, I,” she stammered as he continued to badger her to tell him the truth.“Alright!” she said finally, exasperated with his pestering, “I was.”
Harry, who had not been paying attention to their conversation up to that point, spun around.“You’re WHAT?”
Ginny squirmed.“I was getting information about the delegation.I’m thinking of joining.”
He straightened up, his face angry.“How could you possibly even consider entering into something so dangerous?”
“I was only looking for information,” she retorted testily.“And it’s a good thing I did, too.Otherwise it could have been weeks before I found out that you’re going to be leaving me for an ENTIRE year!”
“I don’t have a choice,” he reminded her.“It’s not like I planned this or even want to go!I didn’t agree to come back to Hogwarts just to get shipped off to some other blasted foreign school where I don’t know anyone and have no desire to be!But my situation has nothing to do with you submitting your name, does it?It’s suicide!I won’t let you do it and that’s final.”
Instantly he knew he had gone too far.
“You won’t LET me,” she shouted, her eyes flashing.“Since when am I your property, Harry?”
“Since you became my girlfriend, Ginny,” he retorted, wanting to bite off his own tongue.He didn’t really think of her as property but he had to say something to make her change her mind.
“Well, maybe I’ll not be your property any longer, then!” Ginny shouted, jumping up.
Panic flooded through Harry, but he couldn’t back down now.He too jumped up, standing toe to toe with her.He was aware of the entire Gryffindor common room staring at them now and he said the only thing he felt he could say, given the situation.
“Maybe you shouldn’t be, then, if you’re going to do a foolish thing like that.”
They both froze, realizing the implications of what he had said.She backed up slightly, tilted her head, and then in a quiet voice said, “If that’s how you feel, then I definitely don’t think I need to be your girlfriend any longer.We’re through.”
Harry felt like she had punched him in the gut.
As she turned away and moved to the stairs, half the common room parted to give her better access.Most of them looked just as shocked as Harry felt.He wanted to scream at her to wait – that he didn’t mean it at all – but he couldn’t make his mouth work.All he could do was watch her retreat with a sick feeling that he had just made the biggest mistake of his life.
[A/N:FYI… I do know what a terrapin is, but does Tonks?]