Unofficial Portkey Archive

Hermione Granger and The Goblet of Fire by Coulsdon Eagle

Hermione Granger and The Goblet of Fire

Coulsdon Eagle

All characters belong to JK Rowling - I am merely borrowing them for the time being. This chapter picks up her story "Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire" from the start of chapter 16 and is analogous to "The Goblet of Fire" and "The Four Champions."

Chapter 1 - An Unlikely Champion

"The Hogwarts Champion is Cedric Diggory!"

Applause erupted around the Great Hall, especially from the Hufflepuff table where Cedric, mobbed by his housemates, finally emerged to make his way, grinning broadly, towards the chamber behind the teachers' table.

When Dumbledore could finally make himself heard without the use of a sonorus spell, he started speaking about how important it was to give each champion support. Hermione strained to listen, trying hard to ignore Harry and Ron, who were earnestly arguing over the merits of Angelina and why Diggory had been chosen. When she realised the headmaster had suddenly ceased addressing his audience, she looked up.

The Goblet of Fire was no longer inactive, giving out a curtain of red flames and sparks. Dumbledore was staring intently at it over his half-moon glasses. As silence fell over the Great Hall, Hermione could sense something untoward was about to happen.

A stronger tongue of flame rose from the Goblet, and then, just as suddenly, it fell quiet again, as a single piece of parchment floated down towards Dumbledore. He caught it with a minimum of movement and unfurled it. Some second sense made Hermione catch her breath; she didn't notice the vast majority of those present doing likewise. Dumbledore gazed at the scrap of paper for what seemed an eternity, then mumbled something under his breath in seeming disbelief. With all eyes upon him, Dumbledore glanced up, towards the Gryffindor table.

'Oh no! Not Harry!' thought Hermione.

Clearing his throat, aware he was once again the centre of everybody's attention, Dumbledore seemed to be looking for someone in the crowd. Hermione saw his eyes fix seemingly upon Harry at her side.

"Her … Hermione Granger."

There was a split second of stunned silence. Hermione thought she heard her name called, and shook her head slightly. Then she saw that the headmaster was staring directly at her.

"Hermione Granger," Dumbledore repeated, clearly and concisely.

The silence was broken by the buzz of a hundred whispered comments and conversations. Hermione sat frozen in place. The headmaster was calling her name out - her name! She was dimly aware that every head was now turned in her direction, everyone seeking out this fourth-named champion. She shook her head. "No," she said quietly, then realising the import of those two words spoken by Dumbledore, repeated herself more vigorously. "No!"

Dumbledore looked strangely sad. "Miss Granger, please come forward."

Hermione felt a hand tightly clutch her shoulder. She looked up and saw Harry, his face white and open-mouthed with confusion. "But … I didn't …" she muttered.

Harry swallowed nervously. He let go of her shoulder and limply pointed towards the head of the Great Hall. "I think you'd better …" he said, his voice slightly wavering.

Hermione saw Professor McGonagall sweeping down towards her. She looked beyond Harry to Ron, who was tight-lipped and equally ashen.

The atmosphere in the Great Hall was rapidly changing from exuberance through confusion towards anger. Students were standing now to get a better look. She was being pointed out to those Hogwarts' pupils who didn't know her, whilst the parties from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang seemed to be fuming impotently.

"Miss Granger?" The stern visage of her Head of House loomed over her.

Hermione twisted in her seat and looked up. "It can't be," she said.

"Just follow me and we'll sort this out as soon as possible."

Scarcely aware of what was going on, Hermione rose to her feet and started the long walk up the space between the Gryffindor and Hufflepuff tables. As the volume rose in the Great Hall, Hermione couldn't make out individual words or comments, just a wall of disapproval. And, when she reached the teachers' table, she noted that, for once, Albus Dumbledore wasn't smiling. "Well, just through the door, Miss Granger."

As if her legs possessed a mind of their own, Hermione felt herself move towards the door behind the table, opened it, and entered a smaller chamber. As the door shut behind her it cut off the background hum of conversations.

Ahead of her, grouped around a roaring log fire, were the three chosen champions: Cedric Diggory, Fleur Delacour and Viktor Krum. Fleur gave her a dismissive glance.

"What is it? Do zey want us back in ze hall?"

Hermione just stood there, rooted to the spot. How could she reply - for once in her life she hadn't a clue what was going on. Before she could do anything, however, her arm was once again grasped, this time by Ludo Bagman as he entered the room behind her, and led her forwards. "Extraordinary!" he muttered under his breath. "Quite extraordinary."

When Bagman let go, Hermione felt like she'd been cast away. Her head was still spinning, and she barely took in his next words to the other occupants. "May I introduce - incredible though it may seem - the fourth Triwizard champion?"

As they closed in around her, Hermione registered how small she was compared to the older students.

Viktor Krum looked darkly at her, with an expression of grim appraisal. From what she knew of him, this was his emotional equivalent of running screaming from the room.

Cedric Diggory was looking from her to Ludo Bagman with an air of bemused disgust. "You are joking, Mr. Bagman?"

Fleur Delacour looked down her nose at Hermione with a superior air. "Ah oui, Monsieur Bagman, a vairy funny joke, ne c'est pas?"

Bagman looked very embarrassed. "It's no joke, I can assure you," he said hurriedly. "Miss Granger's name came straight out of the Goblet of Fire. I wouldn't have believed it myself if I hadn't seen it with my own two eyes!"

Krum raised a sardonic eyebrow. Cedric looked affronted - after all, he was the Hogwarts' champion! And, if possible, the look Fleur flashed Hermione was even more contemptuous.

"But evidently zair 'as been an erreur," the Beauxbatons champion began. "She is only a girl - she is far too young to compete."

"Look, I don't know wha -" Hermione started to protest but her words were overridden by Bagman, who looked down at her with a rather dazed expression.

"Well … granted it is amazing. But as you know, the age restriction was only imposed this year as an extra safety measure, And as -" He turned to Hermione. "It is Hermione, isn't it?" Dumbly she gave a curt nod. "Well, as Hermione here's name came out … I don't think there's much we can do," he finished lamely.

"But I don't want to compete," Hermione interjected.

Bagman's worried frown was replaced by a scowl. "Well then, you shouldn't have entered your name, should you, young lady, hmm? It's all down in the rules - you're obliged to comp -"

Before Hermione could launch a tirade at Bagman, they were both interrupted as the door back to the Great Hall was opened, and that blanket of noise sounded even more agitated than before. Dumbledore came in first, giving Hermione a long searching look, followed closely by Mr. Crouch, Madame Maxime, and Professors Karkaroff, Snape and McGonagall. Last in, the Head of Gryffindor closed the door firmly, then moved to stand beside Hermione.

Fleur's whining complaint broke the uneasy silence. "Madame Maxime!" She moved over to face her headmistress. "Zey are saying zat zis little girl is to compete also!"

Hermione was taking an instant dislike to this French tart; by the muttered imprecation from her side, she guessed that Professor McGonagall wasn't taking it too lightly either.

Towering over everybody, Madame Maxime demanded of Dumbledore the meaning of this, and was joined in her complaints by the icily formal Karkaroff. Both insisted to know by what right Hogwarts could be allowed to claim two champions.

Before Hogwarts' esteemed headmaster could reply, Professor Snape interjected. "I doubt it's anyone's fault but Granger's," he said softly but clearly. Hermione glared at him. "She's a know-it-all determined to prove herself. She's probably done it just to get the attention."

"Severus!" McGonagall's sharp response echoed through the chamber.

"Now look, I never -" Hermione's retort was cut off with a gesture from Dumbledore.

Fixing the Potions Master with an authoritative glance, Dumbledore's voice was clear and firm. "Thank you, Severus." Snape fell quiet but remained glaring at Hermione.

Dumbledore switched his attention to his young student. "Miss Granger, did you put your name into the Goblet of Fire?" he asked, not unkindly.

"No." Hermione's reply was crystal clear. "I mean, I know all about …" She trailed off as Dumbledore gestured that she should stop. In the background she could make out a grunt of disbelief; probably Professor Snape, her subconscious registered.

"Did you ask an older student to put your name in the Goblet of Fire for you?" Dumbledore ignored the looks from the others present.

"Of course not!"

Dumbledore sighed. "Miss Granger, did you in any way cast a spell, curse, hex or any other form of magic on the Goblet of Fire?"

"Absolutely not!" Hermione's ire was rising as she could see disbelieving glances between the professors. Snape was shaking his head.

"But of course she is lying!" cried Madame Maxime.

"Do you have any Veritaserum?" Karkaroff enquired of Snape.

Dumbledore's response was sharp. "We do not use Veritaserum on our students, Igor." Snape seemed to be vaguely disappointed.

Hermione bit back a retort as she felt McGonagall's restraining hand on her shoulder. "I will have you know, Madame Maxime, that Miss Granger is the top student in her year." Hermione thought her professor's Scots burr was thicker than usual in her indignation. "She is also completely trustworthy. If Hermione -" Hermione was a little shocked at the use of her forename "- says she had nothing to do with her name appearing, then I for one believe her." Her sharpness returned. "After all, we all agreed that the Age Line could not be crossed by an underage student." She ended by glaring at Snape. "Veritaserum indeed!"

"Dumbly-dorr must 'ave made a mistake wiz ze line," said Madame Maxime, shrugging her huge shoulders.

Dumbledore was conversational politeness personified. "It is possible, of course," he said politely. Of course, no-one believed he had made any such mistake.

Karkaroff's voice was like sugared honey. "I believe this should be the responsibility of our unbiased judges." He gave Crouch and Bagman an unctuous smile. "For an objective judgement, of course. Surely you will both agree that this is most irregular?"

Before either could reply, Hermione's patience was exhausted. She'd stood here, been accused of lying, had some French tart look at her like she was something picked up on the sole of a shoe, and Snape was far too self-satisfied. "It doesn't matter what they think," she yelled. Karkaroff and Madame Maxime actually took a step back, so seemingly surprised that such a little girl could shout so loud. "I didn't enter my name, I don't want to enter the tournament. People have died in it, you know? I'm not stupid!" When she realised all eyes were on her, Hermione suddenly felt isolated and extremely humbled, despite McGonagall's presence close by. "I'm not taking part, and that's that."

The response she received surprised her, given that she'd just given them the way out of this predicament, and avoided a damaging dispute between magical schools. Cedric and Fleur looked a little pale - probably thanks to the mention of the deaths of past competitors. Snape just clucked his tongue in knowing disapproval. Karkaroff and Madame Maxime looked at her as though she was stupid, whilst Dumbledore just looked sad.

It was Barty Crouch who stepped forward and fixed her with a hard stare. "I'm afraid that it very much matters what we have to say, young lady," he said reproachfully. "The rules are clear, and must be followed at all times. Those people whose names come out of the Goblet of Fire are bound to compete in the Triwizard Tournament."

In the seconds of heavy silence that followed, only the crackling of the log fire could be heard. Then Snape's voice, quiet but deliberately pitched for everyone to hear, carried dismissively. "To think that Granger didn't know that," he observed heavy with sarcasm.

Bravely Hermione shot a dirty look at the Slytherin head. "Doesn't matter," she stated firmly. "I withdraw."

Bagman gave Crouch an anxious look, then turned to Hermione. "It doesn't work like that."

Crouch drew himself up. "Entrance to the Triwizard Tournament is acceptance of a magically-binding contract," he stated, clearly annoyed with this turn of events.

"What?" shrieked Hermione.

Crouch's mouth was a hard, firm, cruel line. "Withdrawal from the Tournament is the equivalent of breaching a Wizard's Oath. Are you prepared to face the consequences if you follow that course of action?" he demanded.

Hermione's head was spinning. She knew all too well what retribution would follow should she decide to withdraw. Her magical abilities would be ripped away. She'd never again be able to enter the wizarding world. Everything she'd set her heart on for the last five years would disappear, never to return. She'd lose Ron. And Harry. There was only one immediate decision she could make.

"No sir," she muttered.

Ludo Bagman clapped his hands. "Good, good … well, as Barty knows the rulebook back to front, that's all settled then."

Hermione was still in shock, and the arguments between the two invigilators and three headmasters just did not register with her. She was still standing there alone, as McGonagall joined in the arguments, when she was grabbed roughly from behind, and spun round.

"How in the name of Merlin did you do it, girl?" Moody's electric blue eye bore into her as he shook her by the shoulders.

"Professor Moody!" McGonagall's sharp cry cut across the buzz of conversation, but the ex-Auror ignored her.

"That must have been a powerful spell, Missy!" He was angry with her, and Hermione tried to shy away, but his grip was too strong.

McGonagall had grasped Moody's right arm firmly but couldn't make any impression on him. Hermione just stared fearfully at the battered face.

"Alastor!" This time it was Dumbledore, all quiet authority, who placed his hand on Moody's left arm. This act seemed to snap Moody out of his angry mood.

"Sorry Albus." Moody let go of Hermione and turned to face the rest of the room.

"What did you mean, Alastor?" Dumbledore enquired.

Moody cast a bitter look in Hermione's direction. "How did Granger's name come out of the Goblet, eh? That's the question no-one's answered yet, have they?" He glared challengingly around the circle of faces. "It would take a highly-skilled and powerful wizard - or witch -" again he shot a sharp look in Hermione's direction "- to manage that."

Karkaroff threw up his hands. "Ah, what evidenze is zere of zat?" scoffed Madame Maxime.

"Because they hoodwinked a very strong magical object," replied Moody. "I'm betting on a powerful confundus to bamboozle that Goblet, perhaps into forgetting there are only three schools competing."

"A fourth name, " whispered Hermione to herself, then found everyone was staring at her. Nervously she continued. "A fourth school. With me as the only entrant."

Moody gave her an appraising look. "That's probably right, Granger," he said grudgingly. "No-one else in that category."

"Is that how you did it?" Karkaroff demanded of Hermione.

It was McGonagall who stepped between her student and Durmstrang's headmaster. "You've already heard Miss Granger deny any involvement. And I think we all agree that any such charm is well beyond the ken of any student, let alone a fourth year one. Wouldn't you agree, Professor Moody?"

Moody looked deep in thought. "Almost certainly. But its not the 'how' that worries me now. It's the 'why'."

Karkaroff was growing even more aggressively upset. "I think we all know why, Moody. To allow Hogwarts double the chance of success!"

Moody gave him a sour look. "From Miss Granger here?" He shook his head, his magic eye remaining fixed on Karkaroff. "Not likely, Karkaroff. No - there's got to be another reason." He gave Karkaroff a cold smile. "Who knows how Dark wizards think - but you should remember, shouldn't you, Igor ..?"

Karkaroff was fuming. Hermione thought he'd most likely storm out and take Krum, who had watched the whole scenario from a point by the fireplace with a detached air, with him. Then she realised that the Durmstrang representative was as trapped as she was. He'd also entered a magically binding contract. Krum couldn't be pulled out as much as she couldn't. The same applied to the French tart and Cedric Diggory, neither of whom looked ecstatic at the turn of events.

"Alastor!" said Dumbledore warningly. Moody acknowledged Dumbledore with a dismissive wave of his hand, and turned away, taking the opportunity to have a sip from a large hipflask.

Dumbledore turned back to face Hermione. "Miss Granger, I'm afraid you're committed." Hermione nodded her head sadly; she knew she couldn't face the alternative.

"Right." Dumbledore looked almost as melancholy as Hermione did. Then he turned to address the room. "How this situation arose, we do not know." Hermione thought she heard snorts of disgust, probably emanating from Karkaroff or Snape. "The reason why will almost certainly become clear in the fullness of time. It seems to me, however, that we have no choice but to accept it. Both Cedric Diggory and Hermione Granger have been chosen to compete in the Tournament. This, therefore, they will do …"

He waited to see if anyone wanted to interrupt at this stage. Hermione sneaked a look at the faces. Karkaroff was apoplectic; Madame Maxime severely irritated; Snape was livid; McGonagall looked just a little shaken; Moody was ruminative; Bagman excited; Barty Crouch just looked ill; Cedric and Fleur were both betraying a mixture of excitement and nervous anticipation; whilst Viktor Krum's expression remained unreadable in its surliness. One choice they all shared was to remain silent.

"Good, good …" Ludo Bagman cried. "well, shall we crack on, then?" He was rubbing his hands in glee, if anything more excited than Cedric and Fleur Delacour. He smiled around the room, ignorant of the fact that no-one else outside those two seemed to share his enthusiasm. "Better give our champions their instructions, haven't we, Barty?"

* * * * *

For someone who was keen to soak up as much information and knowledge as possible, Hermione found that barely a word spoken after that remained fixed in her memory. The first task would be sometime in November, but no clues had been given as to what the four champions would confront. Her mind was still trying to process the stunning fact that she was expected to compete in this ridiculous Tournament. She racked her mind to think how her name had been given out from the Goblet of Fire, going over and over the events of the night, but nothing came to mind.

As Barty Crouch finished his briefing, and was joined by Ludo Bagman for discussions about a nightcap, Hermione found she didn't know what to do next. What was expected from a Hogwarts' champion? The two visiting headmasters were departing with their charges, unwilling to accept any more of Hogwarts' hospitality after the way the whole evening had turned out. Cedric - the real Hogwarts' champion, she reminded herself - had shaken hands with both Ministry officials and was on the point of exiting the room; he seemed to wait for a moment, looking in Hermione's direction, expecting something, before shrugging his shoulders and leaving for the Hufflepuff common room and the celebrations that were surely only awaiting his appearance.

It was McGonagall who tapped Hermione on her shoulder to attract her attention. As Hermione turned, her Head of House bent forward and looked her student over. "I think you'd better come with me, Miss Granger."

Hermione followed, more out of instinct than anything else. The Great Hall was empty now, and their steps echoed as the two Gryffindors walked across it. But instead of taking the marble staircase back towards her common room and dormitory, McGonagall headed towards her office, opening the door and ushering Hermione inside.

McGonagall gestured to an upright chair. "Take a seat, Miss Granger." Hermione did as bidden, her mind still a whirl. McGonagall summoned a tea tray, laden with a tea pot, cups, saucers, a milk jug, slices of lemon on a china plate, and a sugar bowl. "Tea, Hermione?"

Hermione was shaken out of her reveries by the second use of her forename by the usually stern Head of Gryffindor in one evening. It was all too much to take in. Her eyes started to brim with tears, and try as she might she couldn't stop her bottom lip from trembling. Hermione couldn't help it. It had been all too much. She started to cry . "I didn't do it," she whimpered between deep breaths. "Why me?"

McGonagall handed Hermione a napkin. "Dry your eyes, Miss Granger. Remember, above all, you are a Gryffindor!" she exhorted. Hermione sniffled, wiped her eyes, then blew her nose. She felt thoroughly miserable and lost.

"There. That's better," McGonagall said encouragingly. She poured some tea into a cup and then passed it over to Hermione. "Milk? Lemon?"

"Lemon please," Hermione mumbled, her voice thick with emotion.

McGonagall gave her a brief smile. "I'll let you add sugar if you want." She then poured herself a cup, sat thoughtfully for a few seconds, then pulled out a thin silver flask and deposited some of the contents into her cup. She gave Hermione a knowing grin. "After tonight's events …"

Somehow the fact that McGonagall was sharing a guilty secret with her made Hermione feel a little better.

"We need to think this through, Hermione," McGonagall reverted back to business. She took a sip of her fortified tea. "You told us all that you had no part in putting your name in the Goblet or bewitching it -" she held up her hand to forestall any repeat of previous protests of innocence "- so that leaves us with the same two questions: who and why?" McGonagall sat back, deep in thought.

"Professor, I don't want to take part." Hermione felt slightly better for the warmth of her lemon tea.

McGonagall nodded her head, back to her businesslike approach. "Don't take this to heart, Miss Granger, but I don't blame you." She took another sip. "Frankly, the Tournament is dangerous enough for experienced students, which is why the Headmaster insisted upon the restricted age regulation being adopted." She gave Hermione an appraising look. "You will be a fine witch, but this sort of thing …" her voice trailed off, and when she spoke again Hermione gained the impression she was speaking to herself. "Far too early. It's far too soon for you." Then she turned back to Hermione. "So, if you are not responsible, and don't know who is, the question of why may well lead us to whom."

Hermione had nothing to offer. "Why would someone do that?"

McGonagall gave Hermione another searching look, then seemed to decide that she could speak her mind. "Only someone with evil intent towards you would gain from this - assuming, of course, it isn't a plot to ensure Hogwarts' success in the Triwizard Tournament. Or to disrupt the efforts to build international links by causing the Tournament to be postponed."

That brought a shiver down Hermione's spine. "But … but - who'd want to …"

McGonagall grimaced. "There are enough rabid Purebloods around who would resent a Muggleborn being Hogwarts' brightest student," she admitted, then gave Hermione another small smile. "You know you've got the chance to record the highest academic scores in Hogwarts' history."

"I can't think of anyone who would see me as that much of a threat," Hermione muttered.

"I tend to agree with you." McGonagall stared down at her cup, as though wishing there was more single blend malt. "Professor Moody was right: it would take a very powerful wizard to do what was done tonight. If someone had a grudge against you, there are simpler and more effective methods of …" Her voice trailed off as she decided not to vocalize the rest of her thoughts. "Now if it had been Mister Potter sitting here …"

That gave Hermione a nasty start. Dumbledore had asked if she'd put a spell on the Goblet of Fire itself, or deliberately set out to produce her own name as a champion. Of course, she'd done nothing of the sort.

But she had cast a charm in the summer.

"Professor, I think there's something you should know." McGonagall looked askance at Hermione. "It involves Harry …"

McGonagall put down her cup and saucer. "You think its germane to the matter in hand."

Hermione nodded. "Could be," she admitted. "It's the only thing I can think of."

"Well, please continue, Miss Granger."

Hermione took a deep breath. "You know how Harry's relatives treat him?" she asked.

"I know they're not perfect, even for Muggles," McGonagall responded.

"It's worse than that," Hermione sighed. "Harry doesn't speak about it, but when Ron and the Twins broke him free at the star of second year, they saw how he was treated." McGonagall's interest was piqued, evident as she leaned forward to hear the whole story.

And when Hermione had finished, two bright spots of crimson burned high on McGonagall's cheekbones. She turned away from her student, rose to her feet and strode around her office. "I told Albus," she muttered. "I warned him. 'The worst sort of Muggles.' I never thought …" She trailed off, and now her words were tinged with self-reproach. "To think we entrusted James and Lily's baby to those … Oh, it makes my blood boil!" Hermione could see her fists clenched. "I will be having words with the Headmaster, I can assure you!"

It took her professor a few minutes to regain full composure. "I'm sorry, Miss Granger," she apologised. "But what does this have to do with tonight's events?"

Taking another deep breath, Hermione confessed. "In the summer I cast commendo praemonitus on Harry."

McGonagall looked aghast. "You did what?" she demanded in a shocked voice.

Hermione couldn't help but feel guilty. "I was worried about how Harry's relatives would treat him, so I cast commendo praemonitus. If he was in danger, then I'd know about it. Then I could warn someone or get there myself," she explained.

McGonagall didn't seem appeased. "Miss Granger, that is an incredibly complex spell, not one to be attempted by any but the most experienced of wizards. I must admit to being surprised that Mister Potter was complicit in this."

Hermione stared at her shoes. "He didn't know," she mumbled.

McGonagall sat back heavily in her seat. "I do not believe it. You cast commendo praemonitus without the beneficiary being aware? Do you know how dangerous that can be?" She shook her head. "For such a clever girl you can be remarkably lacking in common sense." Hermione hung her head. "What exactly was the incantation?"

"It was 'mone me si meus amicus, Harry James Potter, est in periculum.' I thought it would be better as a warning charm."

McGonagall fixed her with a gimlet eye. "Well, that at least seems to be in order. We will have to have a long talk about this some other time, Miss Granger." She sat back and pursed her lips. "So, you think this is connected with Mister Potter?"

Red-faced, Hermione faced McGonagall. "It's the only thing I can think of. He's been a target before."

"True." McGonagall made a steeple with her fingers. "So you think its possible that it was Harry's name that was illicitly put into the Goblet." A thought struck her. "You don't think that Mister Potter put his own name in, do you?"

Hermione shook her head. "I'm pretty certain that he didn't."

"Hmm." McGonagall's eyes had a faraway look. "I'll have to discuss this with the Headmaster - and Professor Moody. If his theory about a strong confundus charm being used on the Goblet is correct, then perhaps it interacted with your spell and could have produced your name as a form of warning." She focussed on Hermione again. "And I'll speak with Potter as well. Just to make sure he didn't do anything stupid."

"You won't tell him about …" Hermione wondered.

"The commendo praemonitus?" McGonagall gave a wintry smile. "That's between you and him, although I recommend you do talk to him about it." Hermione nodded but inside pledged to keep that little secret. Harry could be so … damned protective. "But as to the Tournament … I'm worried about this."

'Not half as much as me,' thought Hermione. "What should I do?" was the question she vocalized.

McGonagall looked grim. "The best one can, Miss Granger. We're not interested in your case in winning, its more the coming out in one piece."

Unwittingly, her professor had just lampooned the Olympic motto. Hermione, tired and emotional as she was, thought this through. Then a thought struck her. "Professor, what's to stop me just turning up and playing safe - or -" her voice rose in excitement "- getting myself disqualified at the earliest opportunity!"

McGonagall's bleak expression didn't waver, something that didn't fill Hermione with confidence. "Unfortunately the Tournament rules cover that - there were early occasions when competitors were bribed or enchanted to give a fellow champion a better chance. The rules regarding disqualification, either voluntary or at the behest of the judges, are quite clear: expulsion from the school." She glanced at Hermione. "That is one way out, Miss Granger."

Hermione nodded absently. "Hobson's choice," she muttered. McGonagall raised an interrogative eyebrow. "A Muggle saying. No real choice. It's compete, or lose my magic or be expelled from Hogwarts."

McGonagall inclined her head in tacit agreement. Hermione replaced her cup and saucer on the tray. She was tired, but doubted she'd sleep a wink tonight - or, she thought, this morning as it must surely be by now. "I'd like to see if there are any legal alternatives to stop this charade," she ventured. "Mister Crouch might have overlooked something …" She gazed up at the ceiling in thought. "Perhaps something in the Muggle world?" she mused, speaking almost to herself.

"It's possible," McGonagall observed. "But don't build up your hopes. The Triwizard Tournament has lasted for centuries unchallenged. True, there's been changes over that time; the Headmaster's suggestion about raising the entry age for competitors is purely the latest. And Barty Crouch is a stickler for the rules and regulations, I can assure you of that." Seeing Hermione's downcast expression she softened her approach slightly. "But there's no harm in exploring every avenue."

Hermione was deep in thought. "I'd need a lawyer whose practice spanned both the magic and Muggle legal systems, of course. And I'll have to look up the relevant child protection laws."

"Whatever you need to do so, I'll ensure you have access to it - within reason of course." McGonagall's thin smile was rather forced. "The Ministry won't take kindly to any injunctions being brought against them; they'd probably have a seizure if the Tournament was postponed, given the amount of political and personal reputations invested in it."

"If it keeps me alive, I won't worry," Hermione muttered under her breath.

"There is one other factor to take into account, Miss Granger."

Hermione looked up sharply. McGonagall looked as tired and worried as Hermione felt.

"If someone is determined to use this to attack either you or Mister Potter, then this may force their hand. Otherwise, they may find a different way, one we're not aware of." McGonagall looked down at her empty cup. "I'll discuss these options with the Headmaster tomorrow morning." McGonagall stood, Hermione following suit. "As it's past midnight, I'd better see you back to the common room. Wouldn't do to have a Hogwarts' champion in detention for being out late, would it?" She gave Hermione a fond smile. "Hermione, we can see this through successfully. I'll do what I can to help you - within the rules, of course." Hermione gave her a brief smile of amusement. "And your friends as well, of course. They'll help." McGonagall held open her office door.

"There is one last thing I must insist upon, though." Hermione waited. "Remove the commendo praemonitus from Mister Potter. I'm not happy with your casting that level of magic unsupervised. Especially without Mister Potter's consent."

Hermione grudgingly agreed to accede to this request.

* * * * *

Hermione stood facing the Fat Lady.

It was well gone midnight. Sounds of Hufflepuff revelry had drifted down the corridors a bit back, but there wasn't a sound from behind the painting.

"Well, well, well. Who's been chosen as school champion, then?"

Hermione wasn't in the mood. "Cedric Diggory, if you must know," she bit back. "Balderdash!"

The Fat Lady gave her a haughty stare, but had no option but to swing open at the password.

Well, if there had been a party, then the house elves had already been busy, as there wasn't a trace of one in the common room. In fact, in the low light of the fire, it seemed empty. Hermione couldn't figure out if she was relieved or disappointed at putting off meeting her colleagues.

She had taken but a step when she was assailed from both sides by the Weasley Twins. "You should've told us you'd entered!" bellowed Fred (or was it George?). He seemed both annoyed and impressed.

"Yeah," George (or was it Fred?) yelled in the opposite ear. "All that gumf about following the rules, Granger. How did you do it?"

Fred looked hard at her. "No trace of a beard, George," he said (well, that sorted out who was who).

"I'd steer clear of Angelina", George advised. "She's well pissed off. Nearly bit my head off earlier."

Hermione blanched. She'd thought the odd nose might be put out of joint by her 'selection', but if one of Gryffindor's favourites was annoyed with her …

The Twins pulled her forwards and sat her down on a sofa. "Now, come on, tell us how you did it then?"

Tired, Hermione just wanted to get it over with. "I didn't," she mumbled.

The Twins shared a look. "Come on Granger, you can tell us. We think its brilliant - how you outfoxed Dumbledore."

Something snapped within her. "I didn't enter!" she screamed. The Twins jerked back. "Why should I want to enter a stupid Tournament." She turned on Fred (or George). "Do you know how many competitors have died?"

"But think of the glory!" George (or Fred) exhorted her.

"Bugger that," replied his twin. "Think of the prize money!"

"Shut up" Hermione cried, covering her ears. "Shut up! Shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!!"

The Twins looked on in exasperation. There was movement in a dark corner of the common room. "Fred. George. Leave her be."

Harry stepped into the light. He looked in need of sleep as well, pale with dark bags under his eyes.

"He's right … " said one Twin.

"… As usual," the other replied. Then they both put an arm around Hermione's shoulders. "Sorry Hermione," they chorused.

As they left Harry sat down in one of the vacant spaces at Hermione's side. She looked up at him in irritation.

"Aren't you going to ask as well?" she snapped.

Harry didn't flinch. "No," he replied quietly. "I know you didn't put your name in the Goblet."

"How?" Hermione squeaked.

Harry shrugged his shoulders. "Dunno," he mumbled. "Its just … well, you've never lied to me, Hermione. Not even over the Firebolt." He looked into the fire. "You'd have said if you did. You were as spooked as the rest of us this evening."

Hermione was perplexed. "Do the others think that?" she asked, then noticed someone was missing. "Where's Ron?"

Harry looked away awkwardly. "He … he went up earlier," he replied, careful not to catch her eye.

"And does he believe I cheated?"

"He … um, he … didn't say, exactly, Hermione." She saw Harry was wringing his hands, nervous as hell.

"I see" she said flatly.

"Is there any way out?"

Hermione sighed and leaned back, resting her head on the soft cushioned sofa. "They don't think so, but I'm not going to take their word for it. Perhaps they've missed something …" her voice trailed off. "But I don't think much of the alternatives." Harry raised an eyebrow. "As it stands, if I don't compete, I can be expelled or worse," she continued in a small voice.


Hermione could see Harry was upset. "I could break a Wizard's Oath," she said gently. "That means …"

"You'd lose your magic," Harry muttered grimly. He was clenching and unclenching his fists.

They sat for a few minutes in an awkward silence. Finally Harry spoke up. "What are we going to do, Hermione?"

Hermione was a little heartened by the 'we'. "I don't know Harry. Frankly, I'm terrified," she admitted. "I'm not a Hogwarts champion."

Harry looked hard at her. His green eyes sort of glittered in the firelight. "You can't get out of it?" he ventured. Hermione shook her head, and he sighed.

"I'm too tired to think straight right now Harry. I'm going to bed." She got up. As Harry stood up a question popped into her mind. "Harry, why'd you wait up for me?"

Harry shrugged, as though he hadn't thought about it. "To see if you were alright. And because … well, you're always there for Ron and me; just fair, I suppose."

She was impressed by his casual nobility. She was also a bit irked at part of his answer: if she was always there for him and Ron, then where was the third part of the Trio?

Exhausted, her shoulders slumped, Hermione Granger headed towards the stairway to the girls' dormitories. Tomorrow - no, today now - was Sunday, and a long day in the Library beckoned.

Author's Notes:

My thanks to beta reader George (gti88) for all his help.

The Commendo Praemonitus and it's casting were suggested by Craig Weinstein ("Quillian") - thanks for the help with the Latin.

I have always considered Hermione Granger to be the most interesting major character in the series, and have often wondered about the large plot holes in Book 4, so I thought I'd have a go at changing the personnel around a bit and exploring those holes - so this story will centre around Hermione.

As this is posted on Portkey, it will be an H/Hr story but this will be very slow burning.