Pushing the door open, Skyler confidently stepped into the room adorned with portraits of wizards, many of whom were exceptionally old. Upon Skyler’s entrance, the wizards within the frames gathered in the large central frame, engaging in peaceful discussions about his figure and appearance.
Eleanor, catching wind of the commotion, looked over with a knowing expression. “It truly is you, Skyler. It seems the day we’ll compete on the same stage isn’t too far off.”
Having accepted the reality of his selection, Skyler released the burden from his heart. Confidence emanated from his eyes as he replied, “You won’t be disappointed, Eleanor.”
Catalina joined them with a surprised expression, “Well done, Mr. Malfoy. I didn’t expect you to be a Hogwarts champion. It’s been my dream to compete with you on the same stage.” She continued in a serious tone, “Please give it your best, and let me witness your ‘real’ strength!”
Skyler raised the corner of his mouth, a mysterious light filling his eyes. The long-lost fighting spirit flared within his chest.
“My real strength? Do you know that when I get serious, I get scared of my own self considering how potent the power inside me rested!” He had suppressed his true capabilities for too long—since the Ghost Society and Knight of Walpurgis joint attack during the bird incident.
Due to numerous scruples, he had relied on foreign allies to act on his behalf. After inheriting Hufflepuff’s legacy and crafting the magic of the three-in-one, the extent of his strength became elusive, even to himself.
After a moment, the door creaked open, revealing a hesitant figure. The three champions turned their heads, and Harry Potter entered with uncertainty.
Thinking he might have come to convey a message, Catalina eyed him with suspicion. “What’s the matter?” she asked. “Are they asking us to return to the auditorium?”
Following a flurry of footsteps, Ludovic Bagman entered the room, seizing Harry by the arm and ushering him forward. “It’s utterly bizarre!” Bagman exclaimed. “Completely unbelievable! Let me introduce—though it seems implausible—this is the fourth champion in the Triwizard Tournament!”
Eleanor straightened up, scrutinizing Harry before casting a contemplative gaze at Skyler.
Catalina shook her long hair and grinned arrogantly. “He can’t compete; he’s too young! Of course, Mr. Malfoy is an exception. You can’t expect everyone to be as exceptional as Mr. Malfoy, right?”
“It’s a bit complicated,” Bagman shook his head. “The age restriction, implemented as an additional safety measure, was only put in place this year. Now that your names have been expelled from the Goblet of Fire… I mean, I believe you’re not allowed to back out at this point. The rules are crystal clear—you must adhere to them. You must give your best effort to complete the tasks!”
The door swung open again, ushering in a flurry of figures: Professor Dumbledore led the way, trailed by Mr. Crouch, Professor Karkaroff, Madame Maxime, Professor Sprout, Professor McGonagall, and Professor Snape.
Before Professor McGonagall closed the door, a cacophony of voices from hundreds of students could be heard in the adjacent auditorium.
“What on earth is the meaning of this, Dumbledore?” Madame Maxime bellowed arrogantly, her ample bosom heaving beneath the black satin.
“I’m eager to know the same, Dumbledore,” added Professor Karkaroff, a cold smile playing on his face, and his ice-cube-blue eyes exuding a chilling intensity. “Two champions of Hogwarts? I don’t recall anyone informing me that the host school can have two champions. Was I not diligent enough in reviewing the regulations?”
“It’s preposterous,” Madame Maxime asserted, her large hand adorned with numerous opals resting on Catalina’s shoulder. “Hogwarts cannot have two champions. This is outrageously unfair.”
“In our understanding, Dumbledore, your age line is supposed to exclude underage contestants,” Karkaroff continued, his cold smile deepening in his eyes. “Otherwise, we would have brought more candidates from our school.”
“You can only hold Potter accountable for this, Karkaroff,” Snape interjected softly, dark eyes flashing with hostility. “Don’t blame Dumbledore; it’s all because of Potter’s insistence on violating the regulations. He hasn’t stopped breaking school rules since he first entered—”
“Thank you, Severus,” Dumbledore cut in decisively. Snape fell silent, though the malice in his eyes still flickered through his greasy black hair.
Professor Dumbledore gazed down at Harry, and Harry returned his gaze.
“Did you put your name in the Goblet of Fire, Harry?” he asked calmly.
“No,” Harry replied. Snape emitted a disbelieving sound impatiently from the shadows.
“Did you ask an older classmate to help you put your name in the Goblet of Fire?” Professor Dumbledore ignored Snape and pressed on with his inquiry.
“No,” Harry replied with excitement.
“He must be lying!” Madame Maxime exclaimed. Snape shook his head and pursed his lips.
“He can’t cross that age line,” Professor McGonagall asserted sharply. “I believe we all agree on this point—”
“Dumbledore’s line must be faulty,” Madame Maxime retorted, shrugging her shoulders. “At least I know—both Mr. Malfoy put their names in publicly.”
Professor McGonagall was momentarily speechless.
The fact that two fourth-grade students had bypassed Dumbledore’s magic was incredible in Professor McGonagall’s eyes.
“Mr. Crouch…Mr. Bagman,” Karkaroff interjected, his tone becoming ingratiating again, “you two are our—uh—impartial referees. You must also find this matter highly inappropriate. Isn’t that right?”
Bagman wiped his round baby face with a handkerchief and exchanged a quick glance with Mr. Crouch.
Mr. Crouch stood on the fringe of the firelight, his face partially concealed in shadows. He appeared somewhat peculiar, the darkened half casting him in a much older light, almost resembling a skeleton. However, when he spoke, his voice retained its customary firmness.
“We must adhere to the regulations. The rules explicitly state that anyone whose name emerges from the Goblet of Fire must partake in the Tournament for Supremacy.”
“Hey, Barty knows the rules inside out,” Bagman remarked, a smile playing on his face. Looking back at Karkaroff and Madame Maxime, it seemed the situation had been successfully resolved.
“Durmstrang will never take part in the upcoming competition!” Karkaroff erupted in anger. “After numerous meetings, negotiations, and consultations, I didn’t anticipate such an occurrence! I just want to leave now!”
“Bluffing threats, Karkaroff!” a voice snarled from the doorway. “You can’t withdraw your champion now. She must participate in the tournament. They all must participate. As Dumbledore mentioned, they are bound by a magical contract. Suits you well, doesn’t it?”
Moody had just entered the room, limping towards the fire. Each time his right foot hit the ground, a loud thud reverberated through the space—thud, thud.
“Beneficial?” Karkaroff sneered. “I’m afraid I don’t quite catch the meaning behind your words, Moody.”
Karkaroff attempted to infuse his tone with contempt, as if he were dismissing Moody’s words, but his hands betrayed his true feelings, involuntarily clenching into fists.
“Is that so?” Moody said softly. “It’s quite simple, Karkaroff. Someone placed Potter’s name in the Goblet, knowing that if the name were expelled, Potter would be obligated to participate in the tournament. I have a feeling that the individual who submitted this boy’s name into the Goblet is undoubtedly a wizard with formidable skills…”
“Oh, do you have any evidence for this?” Madame Maxime interjected, raising her sizable hands.
“Because they deceived a magical object with potent magic!” Moody retorted. “To bewilder the Goblet and make it forget that only three schools are partaking in the competition. This requires an exceptionally powerful Confundus charm… I surmise they reported Potter’s name as a student from the fourth school, ensuring he was the sole candidate for that school…”
“Is that so? Are you sure you didn’t pull all of that out of your arse simply because you work in Hogwarts?” Karkaroff scoffed at this and nearly engaged in a heated argument with Moody.
“How has this situation come about? We don’t know,” Dumbledore addressed everyone in the room. “But in my opinion, we have no choice but to accept it. Harry and Skyler have both been unexpectedly selected to participate in the competition. Therefore, they must adhere to the regulations set by the Goblet of Fire and give their all in the tournament.”
“Alright, shall we proceed?” Bagman suggested, rubbing his hands and smiling at the assembled individuals. “I’ll be guiding our warriors, won’t I? Barty, it’s over to you. Right?”
Mr. Crouch seemed to snap out of his contemplation. “The first task is designed to test your courage, and we won’t be revealing what it entails. Confronting the unknown is an essential quality for wizards. The first task is scheduled for November 24. It will be conducted in front of other students and the referee team.”
“During the challenge, the warriors are not permitted to seek or accept assistance from their teachers. Armed only with their wands, they must face the initial set of challenges. Once the first task is concluded, they will be briefed on the second task. Due to the demanding nature and extended duration of the competition, the warriors will be exempt from the regular school-year exams.”
Mr. Crouch turned to Dumbledore. “I believe that covers everything, Albus?”
“Yes, nothing has been omitted,” Dumbledore affirmed.
“Wait, Professor, I have something to add,” Skyler interjected suddenly.
Dumbledore looked at Skyler with curiosity.
Skyler spoke up, saying, “Mr. Crouch emphasized the importance of wizards facing the unknown. However, upon researching past Triwizard Tournaments, I discovered a plethora of cheating methods. It seems that school professors often disclose the details of the tasks to their students. I find this practice highly undesirable and believe it needs to be addressed to ensure a fair competition.”
A discerning gleam appeared in Dumbledore’s eyes as he fixed his gaze on Skyler. “Are you suggesting…”
“It’s quite simple, really. We could establish a magical contract. The magic would bind anyone privy to the task details not to disclose any information to the warriors. Violators of this agreement would be subject to the magical constraints of the contract, enforced until the conclusion of the Triwizard Tournament,” Skyler explained, accompanied by a wry smile.
No one understood the potential pitfalls of the competition better than Skyler. For instance, even before the first task involving the Fire Dragon had begun, every warrior was already aware of the nature of their respective challenges.
Madame Maxime and Professor Karkaroff displayed visible discomfort.
Madame Maxime remarked, “This seems unnecessary.”
Professor Karkaroff added, “The Triwizard Tournament has existed for numerous years, and there’s never been a need for a confidentiality agreement.”
Dumbledore turned to Bagman and Crouch. Both nodded in agreement, aligning with Dumbledore’s proposal. With three out of the five referees supporting the idea, Madame Maxime and Professor Karkaroff reluctantly conceded.
Dumbledore gracefully waved his wand, conjuring a parchment that hovered in the air. The tip of his wand emitted a radiant glow, swiftly inscribing a comprehensive set of terms outlining the confidentiality agreement.
As everyone in the room perused the document, it became evident that the contract addressed potential issues from various perspectives.
A subsequent wave of Dumbledore’s wand engraved the golden names, powered by magic, onto the parchment.
The names included Maxime, Karkaroff, McGonagall, Bagman, Snape, Hagrid, Flitwick, and Sprout—the last four being the competing champions.
Once the process was complete, the parchment burst into a sudden blue flame, rapidly incinerating itself in mid-air. It seemed as
if an invisible thread had woven through everyone’s minds, serving as a constant reminder to uphold the terms of the agreement.
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