And She Saw @semper.vi
They Who Suffer the Ambitious

Relevant Inspiration:

Deprived by The Crimson Lord

Disclaimer: I am not British, French, Irish, Polish, Bulgarian, Portuguese, Indian, Filipino, nor Brazilian.


*Special Note*

\When crafting this story, I wanted to make only one major change to Canon, but a change that would result in all of the other differences that form the world of my AU. The butterfly-effect of my story stemmed from Voldemort doing one thing differently, he didn't underestimate Lily.

Canonically, Voldemort was supposed to be this terrifying, powerful, genius Dark Lord, yet he doesn't suspect the 'smartest-witch-of-her-age' didn't have ulterior motives when she hardly fought back at all in Harry's nursery? He didn't find it strange that a cornered hurricane with mama-bear instincts in full drive and armed with the rage of just seeing her husband die pretty much just begged for him to spare Harry's life?

His single choice (in my world) to not be so trigger happy, to be careful instead of rushing in Gryffindor-ishly at the faint light of victory, resulted in no killing curse, no reflection, and therefore over a decade of not being a wraith to enact his plans and manipulations.

It was a Ravenclaw move to curse the defense professor's position. Smart, but (it my opinion) not clever in the long run. It was a Gryffindor move to charge in on All Hallows' Eve, killing Lily freaking Potter and not thinking for one second that it was too easy. That it could be a trap. How could the King of Cunning, the Quintessential Slytherin, show so little cunning?

Logic: It looks like a trap, it smells like a trap, if I was setting a trap then this is where I would set it.

Conclusion: It's probably a freaking trap!

Also, it always bothered me that Dumbledore tells Harry that Voldemort doesn't understand love. That this incomprehension is the Dark Lord's great weakness. If that was true, then how does he know to manipulate Bellatrix's love and devotion? How does he know to manipulate Slughorn's love of ambitious students (and flattery) to learn of the Horcruxes? How does he study Grindelwald for years and not understand that the infamous German's downfall was the result of Albus' love for Arianna? That Albus' love for Gellert meant he couldn't kill the German wizard?

Maybe you could try and argue Voldemort doesn't feel love, but you can not argue that he doesn't understand the power of love. So, in my world, Voldemort uses the brilliance that even Ollivander credits him with, and takes a second to think.

He doesn't fall for a rather simple plan...a plan revolving around blood magic and sacrifice...two things he is intimately familiar with.

He doesn't waste a decade of his life because he can't stop and assess a suspicious situation.

He stops. He thinks. And then, he acts.

Voldemort is supposed to be a terrifying, powerful, mastermind. A peerless manipulator.

In this AU, he actually is.


Enjoy!


-IX-

Neville couldn't help but grin at Seamus' dropped jaw when the massive boat rose from the depths of the Black Lake. In truth, he too was amazed by the ghostly presence that had materialized like an apparition in the morning fog. But as his grandmother had drilled into him, he kept his composure. Her voice, damaged from battles long ago, rasped in his ear now. Neville, you are not only the Heir to House Longbottom, but you are the boy-who-lived. Do not let others see your emotions, for your emotions will betray your thoughts. If your enemies know how you think…

Then they will be able to take advantage of me. I know, grandmother. I know. She had rapped him on the head with a ladle that she had been using to stir some pasta, and he had hissed. Not from the wooden spoon, but from the scalding water it had carried.

Do not interrupt. It is a sign of disrespect. Take that Greengrass girl, Cyrus' eldest daughter. She doesn't talk out of turn, and she doesn't let people know what she is thinking. I can only pray that you will one day learn such a habit.

He now was staring into the distance remembering that conversation, lost in the trail of memories, when he felt a tug on his shirt, and saw Hannah pointing at the sky. He followed her finger and this time was unable to keep his jaw from loosening slightly in amazement.

Soaring from the skies was a massive carriage pulled by seven equally giant pegasi. At least, he thought them pegasi until Hannah's next words.

"Abraxans! I've never seen them in real life. Did you know, Neville, that their feathers are a key ingredient in the plague-purge potion?" He kept his eyes on the carriage as he spoke to her.

"I've never heard of them before." She nodded.

"I only know because of the potion. In fact, something that Hermione didn't even know is that there are now only three wild herds of them left in the world. One in France of course, but one in Peru and the last in-"

"Neville, mate, Durmstrang is getting off of their ship!" Seamus' voice came, interrupting. The Hufflepuff turned his gaze from the landing Abraxans and saw that his Irish friend was right. A large procession of students in heavy coats over what even at this distance had to be equally heavy robes. The rumor mill was alight with different reasons for the schools all gathering, but the teachers seemed resolute in their silence. Dumbledore had promised to explain everything that very night, after dinner, and anticipation had been growing all weekend.

"I hear it's the Triwizard." A dreamy voice spoke up, and Neville looked down to see Luna lying prone on the ground, poised in mid crawl with her eyes focused on something around ankle level. He, Hannah, and Seamus all passed a look around, a silent conversation. Seamus spoke.

"Luna, you've said some pretty mad things, but that might take the cake. Not only did they end the Tournament due to fatalities, but-"

"Luna, what are you doing." This time Neville interrupted. Clearly his friend had misunderstood the glanced discussion. The crawling blonde didn't look up.

"Romilda is wearing a colorful bracelet around her ankle. The same kind of anklet I have seen a few other students wearing. It is either the mark of a rising cult, or they have been corrupted by brinwhitts." She crawled between the sea of shifting legs like a cat on the hunt and Neville was stunned that no one had tripped over her yet. He shook his head in exasperation, but Hannah moved her hand to his shoulder.

"Luna, dear, I think Neville meant to ask why you are crawling?"

"Well," The effervescent girl smiled mid-prowl, "Brinwhitts are notorious for making their corrupted minions craft bright bands for them to live in. If I get close enough, I might be able to see the little critters crawling over the ankle-bracelets."

"Sometimes, Luna, you can be a bit flute." Neville smacked his friend in the back of the head.

"Just because I don't know Irish slang doesn't mean I can't tell when you're being mean." Seamus ruefully rubbed his head.

"I didn't say anything mean!"

"Oh don't worry Neville," Luna quipped, still focused on her target. "Seamus is just a gammy muppet. He feels useless when we high-class pureblood snobs talk about civilized culture." The trio looked down at her in surprise. Seamus was crimson.

"Why you rotten bure! When did you learn Irish?"

"My mum was Irish, scuttered amadan!"

"You plastered spanner! Why did you never tell us?"

"I didn't think it mattered you gom mog!" This time she scuttled off into the crowd and was lost from view, but a scream from Romilda a few seconds later gave her position away. Neville and Hannah regarded Seamus' look of half-hearted anger freeze across his face, then morph into horror.

"Neville...Hannah…"

"Yes?"

"I just understood her." His eyes locked on theirs. "I just spent ten seconds arguing with Luna Lovegood, and I actually understood every word she said!"


The quartet gathered again that evening at dinner, as they always did. Seamus had calmed down at last, though he kept shooting their eccentric friend glances as if he had suddenly discovered a great secret and no longer fully trusted her. The look of a man who had just realized that three years of snide comments had actually not been made in secret, and had been in fact understood by someone who was often their focus.

Though the four were from three different houses, it was commonplace that they would sit together at meals. Originally, this had been contested by Snape, but after appealing his decision to their heads of house, the four students had gotten the ruling overturned. Now they all sat at the Hufflepuff table, left of the center walkway. Across from Luna, and beside Neville, Hannah broke the momentary silence among their group.

"What do you think of the new teachers?" Diplomatically, as always, Neville contributed first.

"Mad-Eye is scary. He's brilliant, but scary. From what I know he has put a lot of evil wizards in Azkaban."

"Aye, he should make a good Defense teacher. Unlike Lockhart our first year, or Lupin the following two." Luna frowned at Seamus' words.

"Lupin wasn't that bad his first year! After all, even Dumbledore wasn't able to find the monster." Her voice was clear, and to the wary Irishman's confusion there was no trace of her usual airyness. "And second year he did have to deal with the Curse, his sudden suriphobia, and moon-sprites." Ah, there it was.

"Whatever his deal was, I'm just glad we have a new one. He seemed nice and all, but we'll need to know more than cutesy spells if Neville's predictions come true." The group fell silent at his words, and they all considered what Neville had told them. If all the clues were to be believed, the followers of the dead Dark Lord were trying to make another play at power.

Lockhart had tried to steal the Philosopher's Stone for who knows what kind of dark ritual in their first year. A beast had been unleashed in the halls of Hogwarts the year after that, presumably by agents of the Dark Lord, and no one knew what had become of it after Ginny was found unconscious in a bathroom weeks after going missing. Third year had heralded Dementors, all to find and catch an escapee of Azkaban who had tried to assassinate Neville on at least three occasions.

The first time had been when he was camping with Luna over the summer in an attempt to find a crumple-horned snorkack. The two had barely escaped due to a quick thrown spell from the quirky girl who swore she had learned it from Into the Looking Glass. The second time when he had been showering after his Quidditch game against Ravenclaw and he had been forced to fly back to his common room half-naked to escape the Animagus assassin.

The third time had been close to the end of the previous school year, when the quartet were following a suspiciously behaving Lupin. They had been forced to abandon their stealth when the assassin had struck from behind after Hannah had been knocked out by the whomping willow. The children had retreated with their unconscious friend down a passage beneath the tree, and had attempted to make a final stand in the shrieking shack. However, Lupin and the stranger, revealed to be the infamous Auror Sirius Black, had helped stun and capture the attacker. Revealed to be named Pettigrew, the assassin had awoken, blown the roof off of the shack, and escaped after Lupin had fallen to his knees in the moonlight.

Hannah knew of the troubles Neville had faced from the Dementors, and the memories they brought forth of his mother and father giving their lives to try and save him. Many a night she had sat with him beside the common room fire comforting him after night-terrors. However, she had been unconscious that entire third attempt on Neville's life, and was the only one of the group who didn't know about the attacks. Neville had been adamant that his other two friends should keep it from her to avoid 'worrying her.'

Hannah remembered now the comment Luna had made on the train about a 'rat', and opened her mouth to bring it back up when a voice rang from the lectern at the head of the Great Hall. All eyes turned to the smiling face of the Headmaster, and all side-conversations died out.

"Good Evening! Now that we are all settled in, and everyone is here, I'd like to make the announcement that I am sure many of you have been waiting for. This year, not only will our lovely castle be home for all of us, but for some wonderful guests as well. And while their arrival means that Quidditch will be cancelled this year…" He held up one hand to stall the furious shouts that were starting to rise, "Our school has been given the honor of hosting the first iteration of a new and improved Triwizard Tournament!"

This time, a mere raised hand was insufficient in stopping the roar of noise from students, as suddenly everyone wanted to voice what they knew of the tournament. Three pairs of eyes turned to the smiling face of Luna, and Seamus shouted a stunned, "How in the bloody hell did you know!" Any response she could have made was cut off by the headmaster finally stepping back in to reign in the student body.

Dumbledore had let the raised voices continue for long enough, and with a pair of booms from his wand, the students quieted down, but eager faces and eager eyes all focused on him, and vociferous voices were all ready to bombard him.

"In addition to comprehensive safety measures, the International Confederation of Wizards has seen fit to add two more smaller tournaments to the main one, so that the Triwizard will have three different champions. There will be a Champion of the Tasks, a Champion of Dueling, and a Champion Team of Quidditch." He once more had to fire off canon-blasts from his wand to quiet the students, already certain that his next words would generate even more euphoria.

"Champions will be awarded seven-thousand Galleons and Eternal Glory." His voice rose to combat the cheering children. "In addition, the Champion of the Tasks will be given a spot on the Tournament Committee for all future Tournaments, the Champion of Dueling will be signed to a one-year contract with the six-time World Champions, the Swiss Templar, and…" While Dumbledore was shouting by now, a smile was clear on his face. "...though the Champion Quidditch Team will have to split their earnings among themselves, they will have a chance to play against the World Champion Irish in a friendly match in front of dozens of professional scouts and thousands of fans!"

This time, much to the displeasure of his potions master, if the huff of annoyance and muttered complaints were anything to go by, Dumbledore let the students cheer and talk. He remembered being in their seats once, and this would certainly be a year to talk about. After almost a minute, however, he recognized the need to move on, and he once more reigned in the exuberant crowd.

"Now, it is my honor to present...the Ladies and Gentlemen of Beauxbatons' Academy of Magic!" The doors to the Great Hall swung open, and a stream of blue clad students flowed in. They walked with a refined dignity that transfixed the Hogwarts students. At the Hufflepuff table, Hannah shook her head as she caught Seamus transfixed on some girl in the crowd of new students, but when Neville stiffened beside her, she followed the boy's gaze to the most beautiful girl...no, woman she had ever seen. A platinum blonde with high-cheekbones, smooth flawless skin, and an effortless grace that drew attention just as much as her beauty. However, more than the French stunner, it was the boy escorting her that snagged her eyes.

He was dressed as all the boys from the delegation were, in light-blue dress robes that matched the girl's outfits. Under those, they wore pressed grey slacks, vests, and pale blue buttoned shirts. It was the silver sunglasses that the beauty's escort wore that first caught her eyes. It was, however, his utter confidence that kept her gaze locked on him. Luna turned around to face her.

"Are you okay, Hannah? You are all red." The older girl blinked, and shook her head as if to clear her mind. Beside her, Neville tore his own gaze from the French duo to regard the girl beside him.

"I-I'm fine, Luna, nothing to worry about." Hannah stuttered out. The airy-blonde nodded, and turned back to the procession, where Dumbledore was kissing the giantess Headmistress' hand, and gesturing the new arrivals to sit with the Ravenclaw students. Beside Luna, Seamus made some half-whispered comment, and Neville kicked him under the table.

As the sea of blue settled in among their new peers, Dumbledore strode up the stone stairs to his lectern, and with a grand gesture, made his second great proclamation.

"And now, our friends from the east, the students of the Durmstrang Institute!" The doors swung open once more, and this time a river of red ran through. They wore the thick coats they had been seen leaving their ship with, but despite their bulky garb, they marched fluidly like a military formation. Heads and eyes locked to the front, chins raised, they held every bit the poise the French had, but an edge of danger marched with them. At the back of the formation, two students escorted their white-clad Headmaster.

"Blimey! That's Victor Kr-Ginny!?" Ron was standing up at the Gryffindor table, jaw dropped. Of course, his shout brought all the room's attention to the last two students. They were indeed the legendary Bulgarian seeker, and the youngest of the Weasley clan. Neville felt pain as he clenched his jaw tight, mind flashing back to when he had found her curled up in a ball in that bathroom.

There had been a trickle of blood from her nose, and her cheeks had been stained with tears. He hadn't been able to offload the blame he felt he deserved for not being able to find the monster, for not being able to find her in time to save her from whatever horrors she had faced. She had changed schools of course, but with the Weasley's not talking about it, even the gossip underground had only been able to guess at where she had gone.

"Why is he surprised, doesn't he know where his sister goes?" Seamus had turned to look at his friends. Neville shrugged and took a guess.

"The other schools didn't bring everyone, only their best and brightest, the students most likely to win the Tournaments. Maybe he didn't realize that Ginny was that skilled?" Luna laughed.

"I just think Ron was too busy worrying about his chuulrude infestation." The other three cracked smiles, having long decided that the messily-eating Gryffindor was an appropriate target for Luna's quirky accusations. The four saw their Headmaster assign the Durmstrang delegation to the Slytherin table, then return once more to his spot at the focus of the room.

"Unfortunately, our feast must wait a few moments more, for it will not be a panel of teachers or officials choosing the contestants for the Tournament of the Tasks, but an unbiased, magical creation. May I present the Goblet of Fire!" The ancient Warlock spun his wand in an intricate pattern, and a huge silk sash shot from beneath each table, one for each of the houses of Hogwarts, and two more for the visiting schools. Each was the color of the houses and schools they represented, and the six streams of color snapped through the air into a twisting swirl beside the headmaster.

The whirlpool lasted for a few breaths before it burst apart in thousands of scraps of flaming confetti, leaving a stunning goblet as tall as Dumbledore in its place. The students gasped and a few cheered at the amazing display of magic, but the Headmaster raised his hand once more to calm the crowd.

"Any student who wishes to represent their school in a series of three trying challenges may write their name and school on a piece of parchment and place it into the Goblet. I must warn you all, even with new security measures, the Triwizard Tournament can be very dangerous, and therefore no student under the age of sixteen may join." This was met by loud complaints and boos from the students, but after a few of the more overzealous youngsters got their jeers out, the room quieted down on its own. Dumbledore continued.

"Because of the new, three pronged aspect of this Tournament, any student who wishes to partake in the Challenge of the Trials must get their name entered by this time tomorrow, as the choosing will occur after the evening feast." The old wizard smiled, twinkling eyes gleaming, then finished. "And now, most importantly of course, welcome all to another year of classes. Tuck in." He waved his hands in a grand gesture, and heaping platters and overflowing baskets of food appeared up and down the tables. This elicited the loudest cheers yet, and the student's dug in with unmatched enthusiasm.

From behind Albus, Snape spoke, a clipped question.

"We are a day away from briefing the chosen challengers, and you still have not informed us of who will be in charge of student safety for each task." Albus sat down among the teachers. Several seats down from Severus, Mad-Eye grunted.

"I hate to agree with the old Snakelicker, but he is right." The grizzled ex-auror charged right through the potion-master's scathing retort. "We know the names of every single Judge for each event, the entire schedule for the events and tasks, and even the names and floo addresses of the bloody bureaucrats from the Ministry and the ICW in charge of this whole waste. Yet, despite the miles of red-tape that has been overcome, you still haven't told your staff who will have to adjust their schedules for the added responsibility of being a...what did Bagman call it...ah, a Master of Safety." The wizened warlock inclined his head in acknowledgement of the point.

"Very well. I had hoped to put it in tonight's teacher briefing for tomorrow, but more time to prepare would certainly be beneficial. Don't worry though, your schedules were already made lighter if you were chosen." All the professors turned to Minerva, who was in charge of organizing the class schedules, but her narrowed glare was only for the Headmaster, who had begun to eat.

"In his infinite wisdom, Albus saw fit to not tell me why I was making three of your schedules lighter, but only to tell me that I didn't need to brief you as he would explain it to you in person. Evidently, he didn't." She turned to her colleagues. "Alastor, you are in charge of safety for the Tasks, as Filius, of course, will oversee safety for the Dueling tournament, and Rolanda is naturally in charge of the Quidditch tournament."

The small charms teacher coughed. "I will be thrilled to help ensure the safety of the students, but even with my new schedule I would think it prudent to choose an assistant to help each of us with our new jobs." The headmaster nodded in thought, and finished chewing a piece of particularly well-cooked duck.

"I can't see any harm in it. I trust you would like to choose this time."

"Considering it might take you another month to do so, yes Albus." Moody grumbled, but his old friend seemed unphased.

"Very well, just be sure to let me know as soon as you have, so I may submit the adjusted list to our Ministry." The teachers all gave small noises of agreement, and then tucked in to the food. Though many years older than their students, even teachers grew hungry at the end of ceremonious functions.


That night, walking back from the massive feast, Fleur and Salomé chatted over their first impressions of the Scottish school.

"I can't say much of the food here, but the architecture, c'est magnifique! Don't tell Jezebel, but I would go so far as to say it rivals Notre Dame." Salomé shook her head.

"I'm not sure I would go that far, but it is magnificent." She smirked and jostled her shorter friend. "Some of the boys were easy on the eyes." It was Fleur's turn to smirk.

"Oui, but only a few were actually anything special." She gave a not-so-surreptitious glance back at the boy who trailed their footsteps a few meters back. Noticing that her athletic friend had caught the glance, Fleur quickly tried to dodge the inevitable tease. "Did you see those two boys at the green table."

"Which two?"

"There was a boy who looked like a younger Aurélien, enough that it might be his cousin we have heard of." Salomé considered this, and nodded slowly.

"I think I do, but who was beside him?" She brought to the front of her mind the best still image of the feast she could, and focused on the blurry memory. "Uh...he had...darker skin?"

"Sometimes, Salomé, you are helpless! It was the boy Jezebel was with at the World Cup!" Instantly, the fog cleared, and Salomé could see him clearly.

"Ah, oui! You're right!" She cocked her head. "Do you think they met at the cup?"

"Non, of course not. She hates quidditch, she would have only gone if someone had invited her, someone special." The tall girl accepted the point. The three of them just about formed the perfect group. Of the three, Fleur was the academic. Jezebel was the socialite. Salomé was the athlete.

And yet, though they were different in so many ways, they worked so well together. Six years as roommates attested to that. But keeping a secret boyfriend had never happened before. Being attacked over the summer at one of their houses had never happened before. Being split up by a resurrected tournament had never happened before.

This year represented a massive change to the status quo of the trio, and the girls desperately hoped it would survive. Salomé voiced the problem they faced at the moment.

"...sucks that Jezebel wasn't part of our delegation." Fleur nodded.

"She was smart enough to, but she didn't try for grades. If she had wanted to, she could have been challenging me and Kristin for Top Student." The strawberry-blonde hummed in agreement.

"I was thinking-"

"That's always a dangerous pastime."

"Shut up. Anyway, I was thinking about how we could sweep this Tournament." Fleur was intrigued.

"How so?"

"Well, since you promised your dad you weren't joining the Classic Triwizard Tournament, you could still join the Dueling tournament. Between you, John, Darian, and Aurélien, we'd have a great chance of winning. The Zag only knew of a couple of major threats at the other schools." She scratched through her memories for the names. "Durmstrang has Palla Slivka, of course, but other than her, no one is obviously a major danger.

"And even Hogwarts, while they have Fladburry, Whiterose, and Matlock…" She trailed off when she saw her friends blank expression, "...you know, the three students who are on professional teams' reserve rosters?"

"Now I do."

"Ah. Well, the odds are at least one of those will lose against Slivka or some lucky Durmstrang, and I would take you or John over the other two any day!" Fleur flushed at the compliment, genuinely surprised by her friend's faith, but she couldn't help but acknowledge a flaw in the plan.

"Zag mentioned they have some spectacular girl in the Ravenclaw house. And, of course, the Boy-Who-Lived. I saw him today. I went to the hyff...hufel...the huffpuff…" She gave up. "I went to the yellow table for some bouillabaisse and he seemed stoic and composed. I let my allure flare a touch and he only barely responded. That's five skilled duellists for five of ours. An even playing field." Salomé waved away the point.

"If the 'Boy-Who-Lived' isn't Hogwarts' champion for the trials, I will do your laundry for a month. Dumbledore has to have been training him as the next great Dark-Lord killer, who else would the White Warlock think able to replace him when he eventually ties the noose? As for the Ravenclaw, she might be good enough to worry Zag, but he is just anxious because we have the perfect storm this year. Just look at our full lineup. Merde, I might be the weakest link!" It was Fleur's turn to counter.

"Non, Salomé, you are better than Pasquier and Sersaint for sure." Too late, she saw the trap.

"Better than Sersaint? Your big...strong...burly...muscular…" Fleur smacked at her, but the taller girl scampered away. "...buff...manly ex. Mon dieu Fleur, I never thought I would see you speak ill of him in such a-ooowww!" Her teasing turned into a shriek when the silverette's wand seemingly leaped into action and showered her with stinging hexes. As Salomé ran away, laughing just as much as yelping, Fleur was about to follow, but John's words stopped her.

"Just because she doesn't know what you are planning doesn't mean I don't." She turned, and saw herself in those silver mirrors.

"I don't know what you are talking about." She lied easily.

"Tomorrow is a fork in the road, be careful which path you take."

"Was that a threat?" He laughed, and she felt her frustration with her friend turn into fury with John. She hated being laughed at.

"Fleur, you are being dramatic. I am your bodyguard. I wouldn't threaten you." Then he stepped until he was face to face with her, and though he was an inch or two shorter than her, she felt distinctly childlike in the presence of the younger boy. His voice changed, no longer light and youthful. Now it was cold, old and dark.

"Truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies." She rolled her eyes.

"Who was that? Rousseau? St. Germain? Napoléon?"

"Churchill, actually. You may not think so, but many of my lies and deceptions are for your safety. Should you follow the path you plan, you will no longer be a beacon of truth, and I will no longer need to don the cloak of lies." She laughed despite the cold that his words brought.

"Now who is being dramatic? A 'beacon of truth'? A 'cloak of lies'?" John shook his head, the beginning of disgust growing in his eyes, though it was masked by his glasses.

"You want to make your own way, to prove you are more than just a gorgeous face…" He hadn't meant to say that, but he carried on before Fleur could process what he had said. "...you can't do that when everyone knows you are being protected by a bodyguard."

"Revealing yourself as a bodyguard will only hurt you. You will lose the element of surprise!"

"On the contrary, it will free me up immensely. Think of all the time I will save when I don't have to play a part. Think of all the time I will have to ward off the darkness you want to prove yourself against if I don't have to carry on this Irish farce." He was centimetres away from her now, and the tension was palpable, heavy like a humid fog. John saw her allure beginning to flare in her passion, and he didn't want to attract more attention to this conversation, so he changed tactics.

"Even those who dislike you look to you and your family as an example of true Good in a dark world. If you leave that light, if you continue with this secret plan of yours, you threaten what your parents have earned."

"I am not my parents!"

"Clearly."

"Hey, you two!" They spun to face the open door to the carriage, where Professor Zaghloul was sticking his head out. "Save your energy for Tuesday! It will be our first practice as a dueling team and I don't need my two best duelists hurting each other without supervision!" His smile was clear even at their distance, and Fleur took the excuse to storm off with what she perceived to be victory. John waited a few seconds, shook his head and followed.

He didn't understand how anyone raised by Sebastien and Apolline, anyone with the intellect she had, could be so foolish sometimes. Then again, he admitted to himself, she was a teenager, one who hadn't been forced to grow up far earlier than a child should have.

His thoughts turned to a Mansion surrounded by mountains, and all the brutal training that had earned him a spot among its residents. For the first time since he had accepted this assignment, John thought about where his numeric siblings were, and what missions they were on. Last he had heard, 0783 was in the Caribbean on the hunt, 0759 was tracing a smuggling route between North and South Korea, and 0748 was in Jordan guarding one of the daughters of their King. He had no clue if they were still there, or where any of the other nine graduating survivors of his class were now.

He wondered if any of them had to deal with entitled brats. Gorgeous entitled brats, he amended, then he chided himself on the addition. Some emotions, even brutal training couldn't eliminate.


Salomé, to her complete shock, awoke the next morning to frigid water. She spluttered, spat, and tread among the gentle waves until she got her bearings. Just over a kilometer away, Hogwarts stood a towering bastion of light in the pre-dawn morning. But between her and it, standing on a pebble beach, John waited. His wand was presumably behind his back as he lounged in his familiar, languid, infuriating stance. The moon reflected off his glasses, two silver discs seemingly floating in front of his eyes.

The French girl pulled herself easily from the cold water and began her first salvo of spells. She didn't care that he had happily fallen back to their old training method now that they were near a large body of water. On the other hand, she didn't care that the freshwater of the Black Lake stung her eyes far less than the saltwater Mediterranean. Deep down, she found that grain of her being that reveled in the challenge, that enjoyed the pain. She found it, latched on to it, and let the energy fill her. She wasn't cold, she had the warmth of focus. She wasn't tired, she had the energy of anger and frustration. She wasn't out of control, she was composed with the passion of a goal. She would beat the boy at his game.

When he called time, she still hadn't reached the line he had drawn, but she let the anger and frustration recede until it was a small grain again, and she mentally pocketed it for later. Looking at the sky, she noted it was earlier than he normally called an end to the tried and true exercise, and she cocked her head quizzically.

"Already?"

"You weren't going to win today. Did you want to continue anyway?"

"Yes." He smiled at the blunt truth.

"I had something else in mind. Something I went through myself when I was being trained." Salomé perked up. The younger boy gestured for her to follow, and walked the perimeter of the lake with her. In the distance, she thought she saw a flash of movement, and she drew her wand quickly, but John motioned that it was okay. "First, it's just a motivated student from Hogwarts on her morning run. And second, I lined our path and training area in notice-me-not runes, she can't see us."

The strawberry-blonde nodded, but it turned to a smirk and she let out a small verbal jab. "You seem to attract nothing but motivated girls. If I didn't know better, I would think you were building a harem of powerful witches." Behind his glasses, John rolled his eyes.

"Again, two counter-points."

"Only two?"

"Shut up. As I was saying," He began, realizing he was echoing the rhythm of her and Fleur's bantering conversation from the previous night. "One: Jezebel." Salomé nodded in acceptance. The short chatterbox was anything but motivated. "Two: motivated wizards, really men as a whole, on average, prefer lifting weights to running. Generally, more runners are women."

"Not if it is a lone runner." He looked over at her. She elaborated. "Women don't like to run alone in the dark, whether it's morning or evening. They don't feel as safe as when it's bright outside." The bodyguard nodded in acceptance.

"True, but she is armed. A wand and the know-how to use it makes a difference." While Salomé agreed, she wanted to continue the debate, but they had reached their destination. At least, she assumed the strange pit was their destination.

It was maybe fifteen meters on each side, square, and filled with walls like a maze with no dead ends. It had been cleared of rocks and roots, and was entirely solid dirt. She scanned it with critical eyes, but couldn't see anything special. She gave it a second look, but nothing new stood out as an obvious objective.

"What...what is it?"

"A pit. The rules are simple. Win." Then, he pushed her in.

If she was honest with herself, she should have seen it coming. Like something from a muggle cartoon, it was too obvious an opportunity. She pinwheeled her arms trying desperately to keep her balance on the earthen edge, but after an agonizingly long second, she saw the futility, and gave up.

"Casse toi!" She got out before hitting the not-so-soft ground three-meters down. She rolled to absorb some impact, but only ended up crashing into one of the walls, bouncing off with a grunt and finishing her not-so-graceful descent on one side. With several prolific strings of insults, she pulled herself up to her feet. A shimmer of red gleamed to her left, so she stumbled forward into the cover of the wall she had crashed into, barely avoiding the stunner.

It was suddenly a heart-pounding game of cat and mouse...in a maze...with wands. She really should have seen this coming. Then, just as she was trying to scrap together a plan, a sound from past training broke the adrenaline-filled haze. While the Black Lake merely lapped at its shores, what sounded suspiciously like a large wave hitting the beach-

A massive dark shape thundered over the edge of the pit, blasting and battering Salomé through the maze and off of walls like a marble in a plinko casino. Pulling herself to her feet for the second time in less than twenty seconds, she realized the other twist the wave had brought.

The entire pit had become thick, heavy mud. Within ten seconds she had lost both of her conjured sneakers and fuzzy zebra socks, and was vowing unholy vengeance as she tried to escape the seemingly unhindered bodyguard.

Ten seconds after that, she caught a glimpse of John flicking his wand towards the lake, and she heard another wave crashing to shore, quickly racing up the beach to the pit.

Dammit.


Easily navigating the familiar challenge, John climbed to perch on top of one of the walls, watching as another conjured wave battered the tall French girl around like a game of pinball. Off in the distance, he saw a girl in blue try to sneak her way back from the castle to the Beauxbatons carriage.

She was using a disillusionment charm, but he could feel her every footstep on the soft earth. That and he had known she would be sneaking into the castle and back out that morning, so a couple simple latent runes had also set a small bell off in his head to her departure and arrival at each building.

He sighed, then returned his focus to Salomé. John cocked one eyebrow. Clever girl. She had figured out the other twist of the water. Slowly, the pit was becoming a pond, and the water level was rising with each new wave. However, to his amusement, she hadn't yet thought of the most magically economical way of combating the rising water. As it was, she seemed to have decided to resort to swimming, as she had been forced to do for their previous training.

John tapped his feet with his wand, activating the gripping runes he had spelled there. He could just morph the sides of the wall to create better foot holds, but that would be splitting his focus more than necessary.

The bodyguard waited for the next wave to force Salomé below water, then he began wall-running around the maze to attack the swimming girl from behind.

She didn't see him coming.


Fleur sat with John and Salomé for breakfast that morning, but refused to talk with her bodyguard. The tall strawberry-blonde noticed, but she was still too worn out from training to worry about it, much less to comment. Instead, she saved her energy to scarf down as much food as her two friends combined. The trio were in silence for most of the meal, before Fleur spoke aloud.

"Ah, our first potential challengers." The other two followed her gaze to the goblet, where several students were tossing small slips of parchment into the ancient relic. Two wore the black Hogwarts robes, one wore Durmstrang red, and the last two wore pale blue. Salomé frowned.

"Darian, I understand, but Florentin? If this Goblet picks the most capable, as they say, he doesn't stand a chance against Darian." Across the table, and out of the girl's view, Fleur had a ghost of a smile. She got the subtle message that Florentin going second had meant. That makes a second favor I owe them, but it will be worth it. John saw her smile, and frowned.

It wasn't long before the meal was coming to an end that a caramel-skinned girl in powder blue slid into the spot beside Salomé.

"Shalom, Sal'! Did you hear the news?" The gossip queen of Beauxbatons fired off the words in a heartbeat, and before any of the trio could respond, she charged on. "Kristin Hoffmeyer just got a red letter from the German Ministry! Supposedly it's a few days late because it went all the way to Beauxbatons before it got rerouted here! She had to go home!" Salomé blanched.

"Oh my God, did you hear who it was? Was it her grandmother? They were really close, weren't they?" Lucretia nodded emphatically.

"I don't know yet, but it had to be someone close judging by her face when she read it! I've gotta run though, yesterday I found out these two red-heads here at Hogwarts are organizing a betting pool for the Tournaments, and I need to change my bets before they change the prices."

"Why would they change the prices?" John asked, though he already knew the answer. It looked like he was talking to Lucretia, but behind silver shields, her eyes were locked on Fleur. Lucretia's laugh was like honey.

"Well, I wouldn't expect you to know considering you just got to Beauxbatons, but Kristin was possibly Fleur's only rival when it came to grades. She was going to join the tournament too! If she's gone, stock in her winning will be worthless as soon as all the gamblers realize she won't be here to submit her name in time!" The gossip smiled and turned to face the Veela. "That means you have the best odds now, Fleur! I'm going to sell all my stock in her name, buy into your stock, and make-"

"Ma pere told me not to join the Tournament." Fleur said. Lucretia actually froze for a few long seconds then sighed.

"That sucks. Well, thanks for saving me money, now I'll have to bet on Darian, or someone else." Then a wicked smile crossed the girl's features. "Do you mind keeping that under wraps? If no one else knows, a bunch of people will lose a lot of money, and I can make a lot….especially if I spread the right rumors…" Lucretia cackled with glee as she slid off the bench. "Au revoir, I am off to make money!"

Salomé didn't see the tension in the glares her two friends were exchanging, and she broke the eyelock when she jostled John.

"Could you pass the...er...whatever that pile of white-and-brown goodness is…"

"Bangers and mash?" John offered, shaking his head and handing her the plate of sausage, mashed potatoes, and gravy. "For breakfast?"

"Oui, of course, it is food is it not?"

"At least have some peas too, some green food will do you good." The girl shrugged.

"As long as it is not belgian sprouts..."

"Brussels sprouts."

"Whatever."


Their first class of the day was together, and was deep in the dungeons with the green students, who they had learned were called Slytherin. Salomé and Fleur, of course, sat together. John sat alone. He surveyed the room, taking in everyone within the small room. A few stood out from the herd, but not many. There was a boy named Derrick who was probably two-meters tall and built like a rugby phenom, the duelist girl Salomé had mentioned named Whiterose, and...another Malfoy. This one, at least, was younger than his French counterpart. But this was an advanced class, so he had to be several years ahead of his peers in potions. Decidedly, an intelligent, and thus dangerous, person.

As he was finishing his analysis, the door swung open, and a man strode in, cloak flapping in his wake. An impressive entrance. Silence greeted him.

John watched as the professor made his way to the front of the classroom, and deposited a small journal, open to a bookmarked page, on the front table. Without facing the students, he drew his wand and began precisely flicking it back and forth, opening cabinets and floating various vials and containers to the main table. John noted that some more volatile substances were grabbed by hand. When the professor spoke at last, it was a drawling voice that slipped through the classroom.

"Malfoy, take attendance of our new students."

"Yes professor." The british Malfoy, Fleur noted, was almost as tall as his cousin, and certainly not hard on the eyes. He stood smoothly from his seat beside some girl with jet black hair, and moved to the journal on the desk, and picked up a quill.

"Alouane, Assia." He pronounced the foreign name easily, the trio noted with inadvertent appreciation. Salomé's teammate rose from her seat.

"Présent." She said, then sat again. Malfoy made a flick with the quill, then moved to the next name.

"Bardot, Salomé."

"Présent." The blond boy glanced at her, nodded, then made another mark.

"Botrel, Lucretia."

"Présent."

"Bouvier, Lilou."

"Présent."

"Carrel, Léopold."

"Oui." The ignoble flirt said lazily, trying a smile at Fleur, but she ignored him.

"Dach, Arkady."

"Présent."

"Delacour, Fleur."

"Présent." Her eyes met his, and he lingered for a second, blinked, then nodded. He made a note in the journal.

"Hoffmeyer, Kristin." Silence. Malfoy frowned. He tried again. Still no answer.

"She had to go home for a family emergency." Lucretia supplied, smiling at the handsome blond. He ignored the flirtatious batting of eyes, and made a small annotation in the journal.

"Thank you Ms. Botrel." Then he moved on, "Leblanc, Jasmin." John ignored the quidditch player's response to focus on Malfoy. Unlike his companions, he had noticed something in the fluidity of the british boy's response.

Malfoy had, unerringly and unhesitatingly recalled a witch's name after hearing her respond once to it. Lucretia was pretty enough to remember, but the boy hadn't been focused on her looks. That spoke to classical, court training.

Not many people, even in high-pureblood society, bothered to memorize everyone's names after learning them, especially not a halfblood like Botrel. Most would only memorize the names of those who could prove useful to them. John's evaluation of the boy rose.

Then the boy did something different.

After Gwen Popelin had been called, and checked off, the british blond frowned, gave a small snort as if he had heard a bad joke, and made a long line through the next name. John heard him mutter, that's not possible, then he continued like nothing had happened.

Odd.

The blond continued.

"Rizal, Florentin."

"Oui."

The name game continued until, after Malfoy finished with, 'Zariri-Atallah, Sonia', he said, "All accounted for, Professor. One is absent with medical permission, another changed classes."

"Very well, Mr. Malfoy. You may be seated." The man turned around, and approached the table. He glanced at the page of names, and stopped. Then he scanned the faces before him. "How...strange…" He half muttered to himself, then scanned the paper once more. The students maintained a strained silence. The Beauxbatons students were clearly wondering if this was the norm, but based on the confused reactions of the Hogwarts residents, this was unusual enough to warrant total silence.

The professor had black hair, a hooked nose, and a generally cold demeanor. When he spoke again, his steady drawl carried across the students like a sudden chilly breeze.

"Mr. Malfoy, that will be five points from Slytherin. You missed a student." Malfoy froze, and though John couldn't see his face, he was sure the blond wore a look of confusion.

"Professor?"

"Sixth row back, fourth chair, at a table by himself."

"My apologies, Professor, it won't happen again." Malfoy said. The professor gave John a shrewd glare. John smiled tiredly, and stood. He cancelled the small rune he had drawn on the desk.

"Good morning Professor, my name is John Constantine. I am a transfer student from the College Cú Chulainn to Beauxbatons. It is possible my name didn't appear on your ledgers due to some clerical error." The dark haired man treated John to a piercing stare and single, drawn out word.

"Obviously." Then, after several tense seconds, he added. "It seems Beauxbatons has lowered their standards, here at Hogwarts we do not permit students to wear sunglasses indoors."

"It's a condition, sir. The glasses help."

"Surely, a student of one of the eight great schools of dueling would receive help curing any malady he might have."

"It's incurable, sir."

"That is up for debate. Let me see." The professor strode across the room to stand before John, and the room held its breath. Malfoy looked on with unveiled interest, as did Fleur and Salomé.

"Are you certain, Professor?"

"Unquestionably." John nodded once, then he lowered his glasses, eyes locked on the Professor's.

The first thing the potions master realized was that he was sinking into the pale green depths. Then he realized that he hadn't even cast legilimency, yet the boy's thoughts were bare for him to see. Frustration. Regret. It was then clear to him that the boy had no walls for his mind. Not even the barebones basics that every magic user had. Nothing.

Then, just as he began brushing aside the outermost thoughts, he realized the boy was in his head.

Like a shadow in the night, like the Greeks at Troy, Mr. Constantine had slipped past his own probe and into the professors private sanctum. Even the Dark Lord himself can't breach my defences, much less this easily! Suddenly, Snape realized that the boy had heard that mental revelation, and the older man was immediately throwing every possible defence he could bring to bear at the strange student.

Nothing struck, but as quickly as the boy had slipped past some of the strongest Occlumency barriers in Wizarding Britain, he was gone, and Snape found himself back in his body, in his first potions class of the day. The students all around were staring at the duo who had been eyelocked for several long seconds. Snape closed his eyes, then turned and walked back to his desk.

"You may wear the glasses, Mr. Constantine, but should I think you are sleeping, there will be vast consequences."

"Understood, Professor." John lowered the silver shields back over dead eyes. Students began to whisper, but Snape silenced them by turning to take in his class once more.

"Good Morning, and welcome to your first Potions class under my tutelage. For my Slytherin students, this is your first with our Beauxbatons visitors. Treat them with respect, and assist them should they ask for help." He turned and waved his wand to the board, and a long list of ingredients and instructions appeared.

"These are the instructions from brewing a Pest-Scourge Potion. You have one hour to complete it. Be aware, I will be quizzing you as you work over material you should already know. Be vigilant. Brewing is dangerous." He made sure to make eye contact with every student, lingering on John's face now that the glasses covered the dangerous green once more. "Begin."

The French delegation hesitated for a moment, but the Hogwarts students had shot to their feet and began, one member from each table gathering the ingredients while the other made basic preparations. Fleur was the first up, and she hurried to gather Lavender, Worrywort, and Sevenstrand Silk, the first three ingredients needed. John sighed, and shook his head at Salomé's inquiring glance.

As he was getting up to gather his ingredients, a round faced girl with straight brown hair cut to shoulder length nodded to him.

"Do you need a partner? You can join me and Peregrine." John looked between the short girl with a Lancashire accent, and the six-foot-five giant he had noticed earlier. "Ah, sorry. I'm Gemma Farley, Slytherin Prefect."

"John Constantine." He shook her offered hand and looked past her to the table, where the hulking seventh year was splitting the lavender in half lengthwise with surprising dexterity. "I'd be happy to join you. How can I help?" She smiled wide.

"Well, 'Grin has the lavender, I was going to crush the worrywort, could you unravel the silk?"

"Sure." He took a spot at the end of the table, half in the wall-side walkway because of the sheer space the larger Slytherin took up. As he worked, he studied the dynamic of the other two students. Gemma was cracking open the strange magical plant that had the shape of a mushroom, but were much more similar to clams. Every now and then, she would ask the tall boy a question, and he would usually just nod or shake his head in response.

On the few occasions where he did respond, he spoke slowly and cautiously, as if he was testing every word. After dividing the purple flowers, he began stirring the unraveled silk in clockwise, then changed direction with each new piece.

String. Two full stirs. String. Opposite direction, two full stirs. Repeat.

After exactly two minutes, they began syphoning in the juice from the crushed worrywort, three drops at a time, four seconds apart, for fifteen drops. John hated potions. Whoever had first discovered the processes to make each potion had been someone with too much time on their hands. Not like rune workers, who elegantly mastered the containment of magic itself into as few scratches as possible.

Fundamentally, John knew, both studies revolved around arithmancy, but where John loved the combination of arithmancy with the physics of energy, he hated corrupting arithmancy with chemistry. He was good at it, certainly. His MAB scores could attest to that, but he disliked it immensely.

Working with the two Slytherins went smoothly, and one of his least favorite classes passed rather quickly, culminating with a quartet of potion vials just the barest glowing hue off of Aegean Blue. Snape studied the concoctions, before awarding them full marks.

"Acceptable work, Ms. Farley, Mr. Derrick. How helpful was Mr. Constantine?"

"Quite helpful, sir. He caught a near error before it could corrupt the potion during step five." The Prefect answered truthfully.

"Too many flakes of dried hemlock?"

"Yes, Professor."

"I see. Tell me, Mr. Constantine, what would happen if you added forty-seven milligrams of iocane powder to a quarter liter of ethyl acetate?"

"Well, Professor, if the person drinking the result was less than ninety kilograms, a lethal cup of poisonous wine."

"And if they were heavier?"

"A perfectly tasty cup of wine and perhaps a nasty night of vomiting."

"How much would it cost to acquire such an amount in Brazil?"

"South America may be the potion-ingredient capital of the world, but iocane only grows in Australia, sir."

"That is not what I asked."

"I'm sorry, sir. I do not know the answer."

"Three feet of parchment on the distribution of potentially lethal potions ingredients by next Tuesday, Mr. Constantine." John figured this was revenge for the eye surprise, but he wasn't going to complain. He didn't need to earn this teacher's ire any more than he had already.

"Yes, sir." He returned to his own seat, a nod of thanks and a quiet farewell to his two class partners. Behind his group, Fleur and Salomé turned in their four vials.

"Perhaps the closest to perfect so far. Ms. Delacour, I presume you are the daughter of the French Minister of Arcane Defences?"

"Oui, Professeur."

"I have met him on two occasions, he is an exceptional investigator. Do you intend to follow in his footsteps?"

"No, Monsieur. I hope to be a cursebreaker." Snape raised a single eyebrow.

"That is a very difficult field to be accepted into."

"I do not want an easy road."

"That is clear, Ms. Delacour. Carry on." She inclined her head respectfully and returned to her seat with her friend. Snape's face seemed to grow less irritated, though it was an admittedly minuscule change, so John wasn't sure.

"Ah, Ms. Granger, a perfect potion as always…"


The next class of the day resulted in the French trio splitting, with John and Fleur going to Runes, and Salomé going to her least favorite class. Arithmancy.

Whereas Fleur had passed the class a year ahead of her peers, Salomé had not been that mathematically skilled, and had barely passed the year after. So, while Fleur was finished with four years of the class, and John of course was exempt because this was John they were talking about, she still had to pass her third year of it. Last year she had been one, infuriating percentage point from passing. One...damn...point. Arithmancy 3, here she came….again.

She arrived at the class right before the bell tolled, having been forced into two detours by a series of moving staircases. Therefore, all of her fellow students were paired up at tables, leaving only one open spot. At the very back. She hated sitting in the back.

Salomé slid into the last chair right as the professor walked in, a woman who was dressed in casual robes over an outfit that looked like it belonged on some muggle punk-rock star. She looked like she had just woken up.

"Sorry everyone, the Weird Sisters unveiled a new album at their concert last night, and I stayed up too late at the after party!" She smiled the kind of wide grin teens threw to each other after an inside joke. "I woke up approximately eight minutes ago and am currently running on a hangover-potion, a cheering-charm, and baseless optimism that I'm not going to regret only having an hour-and-a-half of sleep!" The students laughed, and Salomé had a sudden flare of hope. She might just make it this year.

Beside her, a girl with dirty blonde hair and a dreamy expression muttered something under her breath. Salomé focused on her for the first time. Were those corks? And radish earrings?

"Pardon moi, I didn't hear what you said."

"Oh, I was practicing a greeting in french, but then I realized I don't really know french, and I didn't want to accidentally declare my undying love for you." Salomé blinked. Then again.

"Thank you? I...I'm not sure how to respond?" The other girl smiled lazily.

"You speak really good English, better than your other schoolmates at least. Did you grow up muggle or do you have a scuttlebug infestation?"

"Uh...quoi?" The tall girl was flummoxed.

"Scuttlebugs can translate anything you say into the language most spoken where they live. Sometimes, tourists are lucky enough to be infected with local scuttlebugs, but occasionally things get really confusing if they get infected before travelling."

"Erm...well...I don't know about...scuttlebugs...but I'm muggleborn. I grew up with my brother in the muggle world. We have to learn English from a young age at school." The strange girl nodded.

"Do you live with your brother because your parents died? My mom died when I was little, but my dad didn't." If Salomé had been drinking water, she would have choked.

"Uh, oui. My parents died in a terrorist attack when I was young. It was crazy for a few years, but then my brother was able to get...comment dit…"

"Custody?"

"Oui, merci. He got custody of me. I've lived on base with him ever since."

"On base?" Salomé opened her mouth to respond, but the professor had finished her quick preparations and was addressing the room.

"Sorry again for the wait, and good morning everyone!" Her smile was infectious. "I am Professor Vector, but you can call me 'Vec' when other teachers aren't breathing down our necks!" Salomé felt a huge wave of relief crash over her. This teacher was really cool.

"This is year three Arithmancy for our friends across the Channel, and year two for us." The strawberry-blonde perked up at that. Fleur would kick herself if she knew the british school taught at a higher level than even Beauxbatons well-respected program.

"As today is our first class together, and I still have to learn your names, I have designed a fun problem on the board. Called the Eschen Equation, it has multiple possible solutions, and I can learn more about how you think by how you solve it. None of you should be challenged by it, but if you are, feel free to raise your hands and I will give you a hand." Almost immediately, a timid student in black and red (was it griffin d'or?) raised his hand, and she went over to help him.

"I am sorry, I never got your name. I'm Salomé." She stuck her hand out, and her strange seatmate looked at it. Then she took it, shook once, and let go quickly.

"I think I remember that the French only shake once...or something...I'm Luna." She looked from the french girl to the board. "Do you think we should solve this using the Quentenic Formulae or the Siphod Triangle...I mean, the Tagettic Theory could work, but it would be very round-a-bout." Salomé blinked. Then she groaned, and brought her head to desk in despair.

"Why are all my friends smarter than me? Not just a little, but leaps and bounds. It's just not fair." Luna patted her shoulder, and placed a necklace of bottle caps she produced from a pocket in her robes over Salomé's head, pulling the girl's hair through so it could sit correctly on her neck.

"It's okay. I'm certain you are far better than me at certain things. That's just the way things are….or it could be you were born under a waxing quail cluster passing our galaxy in deep space. Bad luck that." It was a testament, perhaps, to her adaptability that Salomé had quickly come to accept the strange girl's quirky way of talking.

"I like that Luna, I've always wanted to have something to blame. A 'waxing quail cluster in deep space' was it?"

"Yep."

"Cool, I'll remember that. So, what were those methods you were saying? I was just going to plug in seven and see what happens. That usually works to some degree." The dirty-blonde nodded.

"Temmet's Rule of Seven. Though for this problem, that would…" She stared at the board for a second. "That would bring six of the thirteen petals of equations into balance…" Salomé perked up.

"That leaves seven petals! Pure chance? I think not!" Luna rolled her eyes.

"Certainly not a coincidence. What if we did the Heptagon Rule next?" Her new friend narrowed her eyes and rubbed her temples.

"Uhhh…" She grabbed a pad of paper and Luna's teal-inked quill. "Then these would equal out and then…" Luna saw the girl was stuck so she butted in.

"Then we can use the Siphod Triangle like this. We could have done it from the beginning, but it's easier this way." Salomé slowly nodded as she took in the quick scratchings of Luna.

"Uh, why does that work?" She asked, pointing to an annotation the spacey girl had solved beside one of the petals.

"Because it does."

"Oh."

"Yep."

There was silence for a few seconds as Luna sketched out their maths and then drew the new, nearly solved flower of formulae.

"I could explain the proof for why it works, but that could take hours." Salomé shook her head violently.

"Nope, no need for that. It just works. I'm fine with that." Luna smiled widely, and guided her older companion through the equation all the way until the end. Salomé's eyes were wide.

"That...that is actually quite cool."

"I think it's pretty."

"You know what? Sure. I can see that."

"Thank you."

"For what?"

"For being nice."

"Me? Nice? You're the one who just made Arithmancy make some sense."

"No...I mean sure, you're welcome, but..." It was the first time she had seen Luna stumble over her words. "Not everyone is nice. But you are like Neville, Hannah, and Seamus. You are nice."

"Are they your friends?"

"Yep."

"Then I would love to meet them." Salomé broke into a wicked grin. "Were they also born under a 'waxing quail cluster in deep space'?" Luna burst out into peals of laughter.


The three french friends came back together for lunch, and then their third and final class of the day. History. Fleur looked determined as she walked into the classroom, ready to fight her way through her least favorite class. She had a quill and an inkpot divided into six compartments for different colored inks, a notepad with dedicated blocks for side notes and doodles, and a driving determination to make it through the next two hours.

Ten minutes in, and her eyes were blank, her face was slack, and she tried desperately to listen to the droning ghost. It was a valiant effort, but futile.


Dinner brought all three schools back together. Every student was talking excitedly as the feast slowly finished, glances thrown frequently to the teacher's table and flickering flame of the Goblet. And they didn't have to wait for long.

Dumbledore stood, and strode to stand beside the ancient artifact. Without even having to raise a hand, the students fell to silent anticipation. He smiled at the hundreds of eager faces turned his way.

"Good evening to you all. I had originally planned a grand speech, but I am certain none of you would want to hear it." Some scattered laughter met this, and his smile widened. "So, without further ado, the champions of the Goblet of Fire!" With a flourish of his wand, the lights in the room dimmed slightly, and the goblet's flames flared red. A puff of smoke brought a slightly burnt slip of paper flickering through the air and into the headmaster's hand.

"Representing Durmstrang, Viktor Krum!" The lights brightened again, and Durmstrang erupted into cheers. Fist pounded on the table, and a throaty roar thundered from dozens of throats. Many other students across the schools joined in loudly cheering, and Fleur was surprised to see that Salomé was one of them.

"If he is in the main tournament, he can't be a part of the Quidditch team! We could sweep this! We could win all three!" Fleur shook her head ruefully at her friend's exuberance. John just watched sadly. Viktor stood up and walked to the goblet to shake Dumbledore's hand, and then through a door behind the staff table. Slowly the cheering died down, and the lights dimmed once more.

Again, the flames turned red, and with the crackling of flames and a whoosh of smoke, another slip of parchment shot into the quick hand of the Headmaster.

"From our own beloved school, Cedric Diggory!" This time, almost four tables worth of students exploded in noise. It seemed to the french that this boy was popular among all the houses. A handsome youth with brown hair stood from the yellow table, shook off some of his friends' enthusiastic back-smacking and hair-ruffling, and confidently met Dumbledore for a handshake before following Krum into the antechamber.

Salomé noticed that Luna and a few students beside her seemed relieved by the choice, but she couldn't make heads or tails over the movement, so she waved it aside. John saw her inquisitive glances.

"Make some new friends?" She laughed.

"One good friend, and potentially three more."

"Congrats are in order? Doubling the amount of friends one has is something to be celebrated, surely!"

"Oh shut up!" She smiled though, and then the whole hall quieted for the third and final name.

The lights dimmed.

The flames grew crimson.

A name flew up.

The Headmaster caught it.

"From our wonderful friends in France, Fleur Delacour!"

The french shot to their feet in cheers, as both friend and foe alike sought to show more pride and solidarity than their two competing schools. Salomé, however, did not stand. Her eyes were wide and accusing, and her jaw slightly agape. Fleur spared her an apologetic glance, but stood and made her way up for the familiar hand shake, and a short walk to the door.

Through the door was a short stairway to a well lit room, with Viktor, Cedric, the Durmstrang Headmaster, and Madame Maxime. Her headmistress seemed only somewhat surprised, but she still embraced her student. As they stood ready for the Hogwarts Headmaster to arrive, they were first visited by another. A student in the same livery as Cedric walked slowly down the staircase.

"Neville? Did the headmaster...oh no."

"I promise Cedric, I didn't do it. I told you I wasn't going to." Fleur saw the older boy tense for a long moment, then sag in acceptance.

"I know. It's All Hallows' Eve." The boy-who-lived nodded, and the two seemed to reach an understanding. But just as quickly as silence regained the chamber, the door burst open, and several figures stormed in. The Headmaster, the hook-nosed potions professor, the strange teacher with a staff and a magical roving eye, and a strange british man she felt that she recognized but couldn't put a name to the face, all crashed down the stairs. Dumbledore grabbed Neville by the collar.

"Did you or did you not place your name in the goblet!" His voice held more anger than she could remember ever hearing from him, and she spoke before she thought through her word.

"He is but a little boy! How could he have?" Neville shot her a glare, but it was Snape who spoke next.

"A valid point, Ms. Delacour. Now, Neville, did you get another student to place your name in the goblet?" The boy opened his mouth to reply, but the teacher with the magical eye interrupted.

"That's not possible, the goblet is goblin made. It wouldn't let someone deceive it that easily. Bad business if it were that simple to fool." Again, the headmaster seemed placated by the answer. This time Karkaroff spoke up.

"Albus, this looks like your school is trying to cheat to get a hand up in this tournament. I thought you were more noble than that." Madam Maxime nodded. The handsome older boy from the yellow table seemed to have enough.

"I'm sorry if this is out of turn, but all that has happened is accusation after accusation have been thrown around, and Neville hasn't been given the chance to defend himself. He told me he didn't submit his name, and I believe him. He's a good bloke." Fleur didn't care if the boy-who-lived was a 'good-bloke'.

"It would be just the chance for him to gain even more fame. Not to mention glory and seven thousand galleons! Many would happily kill for that, much less cheat." Neville had had enough. He gathered every possible mote of patience his grandmother had drilled into him and let it loose.

"Headmistress, Headmasters. Professors. I do not have, nor have I ever had, a desire to be a part of this tournament. Sure, I may have thought it would be fun as a challenge to compete against the best that schools as famous as Durmstrang and Beauxbatons can offer, but I would not submit my name into a tournament that has been so frequently famous for its lethality. Especially not after being told I was too young to join, or after promising a friend I would not.

"As for Ms. Delacour's accusations, I don't need the fame, I don't want the money, and I neither need nor want the danger. My life is dangerous enough as it is." Fleur didn't understand that part, but before she could ask, Dumbledore had turned to the familiar, unnamed man.

"Ludo, there is no way to remove a competitor from the competition once their name has been chosen?"

"No, certainly not. The Cup's choices are magically enforced. That is what made it such a powerful tool for so many years when it was in the hands of bankers and blood-dealers like the goblins. Once you are chosen, you can't break the contract until the terms have been met. It's magically binding!" The weight of finality filled the room before Karkaroff snorted in disgust.

"I do not like this, we will talk further tomorrow. Let us go, Viktor." He stormed out, followed by the Bulgarian Seeker, who seemed to almost shoot his fellow champions a sad look.

Madam Maxime was next to excuse herself. "I will go deal with the Durmstrang Headmaster before he does something rash."

"My Lady, as an old friend I believe I can better reach-"

"Albus, I can reach his pride. That will work more certainly than any pleading." She raised her nose, "Do not mistake this for easy acceptance of this failure of security protocols, I expect you to discover what has allowed this to occur." She turned to the other adults in the room. "A pleasant evening to you all." And with that, she left. Fleur followed quickly behind, lost in equal parts pride at being chosen, and confusion at everything that had followed.


Having been sent back by her headmistresses as Maxime went a different way to head off Karkaroff, Fleur saw Salomé waiting with a crowd of Beauxbatons students outside the carriage. Whereas her schoolmates looked thrilled, and some even held quickly made signs celebrating her being chosen, her friend wore a blank look somehow more frightening than a snarl.

Fleur knew Salomé would be mad, but surely she could patch it up. It wouldn't be hard to make it up to the strawberry-blonde as soon as the silverette could make her friend understand why she had had to lie. As Fleur approached, Salomé strode out to meet her.

"Look, Salomé, I'm sorry that I-" The taller girl's fist crashed into Fleur's face with all the force of a hurricane making landfall. The veela squawked in pain and spun to the ground like a pierced bird, hands coming up to clutch her already swelling jaw. Agony clashed with surprise on her flawless features.

"You, Jezebel, and I all swore we would never keep secrets from each other. Jezebel broke her promise, now you broke your promise. Am I the only one who kept her word?"

"I-"

"Shut your mouth. I don't want to hear you lie again." She stormed off, the crowd silent behind her, and her ex-best friend now sporting a massive blackening bruise. Fleur almost cried out in pain again as she tried to work her mouth to shout after Salomé. John's voice filtered down from above.

"That looks dislocated, if not broken. You should get it checked out." Then he walked after the tall girl. Fleur drew her wand and episkeyed her jaw, then she groaned in pain as she had to speak to cast a more advanced healing charm. Hissing as she felt her jaw pop back into place, the veela blinked away tears of pain.

"I thought you were being paid to protect me?" She knew how pathetic her words were, but they were quiet enough that the rest of the students didn't hear them. John, however, could. He called back over one shoulder.

"Oops."


His feet took him along the path she had unknowingly traced under the pale moon, and he found her among the jumbled walls of the pit. She was striking the smallest of the walls, still almost ten feet tall and too big around for her and three friends to encircle with held hands. Each of her hits came with a small grunt of frustration, and a mixture of fists, elbows, knees, and feet rained down on the packed earth.

Though the strikes were targeted, and looked practiced, it was clear she was no expert, and she began to slow as the exertion caught up with her. Sweat began slow trails down her forehead and she eventually collapsed. John slid down into the pit with her, and sat down a few feet beside her. He waited for her breathing to steady, then he broke the quiet air with soft words.

"She's frustrating me nearly as much as she is frustrating you." Salomé snorted.

"I don't get why she is...so brash all of a sudden."

"She wants to prove herself."

"To whom? Why? She already is all but the perfect girl! She's a bombshell, she is smart, funny, compassionate, thoughtful...well most of the time at least...but she's fantastic at magic, and her dad is the Minister of Arcane Defenses! She literally can go wherever and do whatever she wants!" John let silence reign for a few long seconds, before he spoke up.

"People see a Veela, she just wants them to see Fleur." He held up a hand to the tall girl. "I'm not saying what she did was right, as a matter of fact it pisses me off and makes my job much more complicated, but I at least understand why she did it." This time it was Salomé who let the quiet rule the night until she finally broke it.

"I might be able to understand the why now, thanks to you, but that doesn't excuse what she did. She left me, and our school, high and dry in this competition… all because she couldn't put aside the chance to prove herself?" She took a second to compose herself, then she met John's obscured eyes.

"I took some time last night to look up the rules to this tournament. If Fleur gets injured enough to warrant a replacement, I will volunteer to take her place and win this all. If she doesn't, and she keeps winning the tasks unmaimed, then I will win the dueling and the quidditch tournaments for our school."

"Why do you care so much?"

"Beauxbatons brought magic into my life. The Delacours showed me a family I wished that I had, that I would have today if not for the random whims of a terrorist." A single tear rolled down her cheek. "My whole life, I have been saved or protected by others. One day, you will be gone, and the Delacours and I won't have you to protect us. I want to be able to protect them, the people I love, when...when you are gone. I want..." John saw the naked truth in her eyes, and the final sentence she couldn't say out loud.

"You realize…"

"Yes, maybe more than even you do. " She interrupted. He nodded once, resolute.

"I want you to see what this means, see what you will have to go through, what you will be sacrificing."

"Show me." The bodyguard nodded again, and slowly lowered his glasses. He knew he would see the roiling turmoil of fear in her, but also the unflinching strength of her desire to protect. He knew she would see the feelings of pain, of suffering, of seemingly hopeless struggle. She would see what she was volunteering to go through, something even he hadn't asked to do when the Akadimia took him from his foster parents when he was four. She would see the memories necessary to give her the last chance to back out, to have a chance at normalcy. She would see the ways in which her body would give up, in which her mind would all but shatter, in which her very soul would burn in the trials ahead.

John could feel the turmoil within himself. He shouldn't be feeling this way. He shouldn't be teaching her these things, much less showing her them.

But he lowered his glasses.

He laid bare the consequences of her choice.

And she saw.


N/B: \The Irish slang: [Flute- a little silly, weird] [Gammy muppet- useless fool (goof)] [Rotten bure- Horrible/disgusting woman] [Scuttered amadan- Drunken fool (nitwit)] [Plastered spanner- Very drunken idiot] [Gom mog- Stupid fool (unintelligent)]

\While it doesn't really matter if you know the slang translations, I tried to show a difference between the styles of insults a native Irishman would throw, and one who only learned the language from another Irish person. Especially considering she would have learned silly insults as a kid from her mom. Thus Seamus is actually swinging with insults while Luna is calling him silly and dumb in different ways.

\Lots of exposition and lore in this chapter. As usual, old questions will be answered, new questions will arise. C'est la vie. Such is life. Please take note, as stated in the foreword, all odd differences and changes stem from that one 'shatterpoint'. Logic and deduction can make everything clear. Fear not though, by the end, y'all will understand every little change! [B/N: Trust me, when puzzle pieces start clicking, the revelations are mind-bogglingly awesome. Even the rough plan of this story blew my mind when Vi explained it prior to the writing of the first chapter.]

\Fladburry, Whiterose, and Matlock are real characters. Again, however, they are canon due to Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery. I may or may not have increased their strength, but only so that Hogwarts (as Beauxbatons historic rivals) have even a chance against the powerhouse French.

\Avoir la corde ou cou, or to tie the noose, is the French version of the English expression 'to kick the bucket'. Both mean 'to die'.

\Fleur is a bit of a brat at times, and this chapter has some of that. She is trying to find her place in a world that is quickly changing. It isn't easy going from being the best you know to suddenly being second best no matter what you try. She has some maturing to do...luckily, challenges help build maturity, and there are plenty of challenges in her future.

\And, at last, the eyes are (mostly) explained...well, at least why wizards don't like looking into them. :)

\Had lots of fun writing the Arithmancy scene, hope y'all like it!

\I tried to make the antechamber scene seem hectic and slightly crazed, because that's what the champions and teachers would have been feeling. If Neville seems surprisingly calm, realize who raised him, and that he has gone through crazy crap every year. He was fully ready for stupidity to happen, he just hoped it wouldn't.

\And we have the first half of a giant literary parallel in the making. Salomé has made her choice about what she cares about most, and what she is willing to sacrifice for it.

\For the Harry/Fleur fans who have been ceaselessly patient, and for those who can't wait for the next action-packed chapter, I truly believe you will love Chp. 10! The BF has been working his fingers raw writing and editing some epic scenes!


Author's Note:

Fourteen thousand words! Fourteen! THOUSAND!

Y'all are wonderful, as is the continued support. This was actually done on Sunday, but it took three extra days to edit this monstrous chapter. As is, there are probably a handful of errors still in hiding, so if you catch them try not to flay me alive!

Also, if you are from a country that I mention, or are fluent in a language I sprinkle into the story for fun, and you catch any mistakes, please let me know. I will fix them as soon as possible! (i.e. If I misname your currency or capital or the like, please correct me!)

Next chapter will, like this one, probably start after a small time skip. It should be fairly obvious, but this is a heads-up!

If you like this, love this, or are secretly Evanna Lynch and I am butchering Luna's character, let me know in the comments! The literally make me smile like a kid on Christmas.

Love all of y'all, stay safe!

Semper,

Vi

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