The Alexander Chronicles Year 4: The Rise of Darkness
Chapter 30: The mad Ministry Official
Alex´s contact with Daphne were kept to a minimum the following days. Alex would try to get her to talk, but she always gave an excuse so she could leave. That changed after Alex had Healing, when literally ran in to her.
"Daphne!" Alex said, as he helped her to her feet. "I am so sorry. Are you alright?"
"Yeah, I'm fine," She said, brushing herself off, and then began to leave.
"Daphne wait," Alex said, grabbing her arm, stopping her. "I really need to tell you something."
"I am sort busy right now Alex."
"You always are, but really can we just talk for like a minute?" Alex said nor letting her arm go.
"There is nothing to talk about."
"Okay I am sorry okay. Look I didn´t mean to kiss you. It was an accident." She said and as Alex had let go. Daphne began walking away. Alex blinked then followed her.
"What if I didn´t want it to be an accident?"
Daphne stopped and looked at Alex, "What did you say?"
"What if I didn´t want it to an accident?" Alex said a bit shyly. "What if I liked it? What if that kiss was the best thing that had happened in my life."
Daphne blushed. "You liked it."
Alex nodded before taking a deep breath, "and I like you, way more than a friend."
"Do you mean that?"
"Yeah I-I l-like you." Alex said as he blushed.
Daphne smiled at the words, "Alex look I like you too." She said making Alex smile. "But-"
"But what? I mean if we both like each other then - I mean why should we wait? Because we have or at least I have- I have been waiting since I was third year and now I-"
"Alex I am sorry, but I can´t not right now." Daphne said laying her hands on Alex´s shoulder. "I just need to get some distance to the whole thing with Silan."
Alex nodded in understanding. "Yes of course." Alex felt a bit guilty about making Daphne think of Silan.
"I am glad you have told me you feelings and I know that I will be okay soon. I swear once the whole tournament thing is over well I snog you senseless." Daphne said as she briefly held Alex´s hand.
"Well I guess that a motivate then," Alex answered as he starched the back of the heard. "What does this mean them? I mean what are we?"
"Let us say friends for now."
"But we can talk , I mean I hate that you are avoiding me."
Daphne nodded, "of course."
Alex was happier than he had been in months, and that was all thanks to the talk with Daphne were they both had realized their feelings for each other. All the awkwardness there had been between them since Daphne had kissed him were gone, and now they just enjoyed spending time together and with their friends. Alex had kept training in the chamber of secrets. He had decided to involve Harry in that training. At first, Harry had been angry about not being told of the chamber and that he wasn´t allowed to tell Ron Weasley about, but it got better once Alex showed him around.
Alex was now having mock duels with Harry, and the rest of his friends, but Harry was the most changeling. Otherwise, he spent his time in the chamber studying up on spells with Daphne, Hermione and William. It was intense training, but Alex wanted to have a good understanding of defensive magic since he had a feeling he would need it.
Soon it became Easter holidays had passed and Alex to his surprise revived the tradition Easter egg from Mrs. Weasely. Alex, Harry and Ron's, were the size of dragon eggs and full of homemade toffee. Hermione's, however, was smaller than a chicken egg. Her face fell when she saw it.
"Your mum doesn't read Witch Weekly, by any chance does she, Ron?" she asked quietly.
"Yeah," said Ron, whose mouth was full of toffee. "Gets it for the recipes."
Hermione looked sadly at her tiny egg.
Don't you want to see what Percy's written?" Harry asked hastily. Alex and Ron leaned in to read. It was an answerer Harry, Hermione and Ron had sendt after their talk with Sirius.
Percy's letter was short and irritated.
As I am constantly telling the Daily Prophet, Mr. Crouch is taking a well-deserved break. He is sending in regular owls with instructions. No, I haven't actually seen him, but I think I can be trusted to know my own superior's handwriting. I have quite enough to do at the moment without trying to quash these ridiculous rumours.
Please don't bother me again unless it's something important. Happy Easter.
In the last week of May, Professor McGonagall held Alex back in Transfiguration.
"You are to go down to the Quidditch field tonight at nine o'clock, Mister Black," she told him. "Mr. Bagman will be there to tell the champions about the third task." Alex nodded having started to wonder what the third task was about so he could focus his training.
So at half past eight that night, Alex left the others in Gryffindor Tower and went downstairs. As he crossed the entrance hall, Cedric came up from the Hufflepuff common room.
"Black," Cedric greeted annoyingly.
Alex raised an eyebrow. "Diggory," he greeted back.
They walked down towards the Quidditch stadium.
"You know you could forfeit now." Cedric said, making Alex look at him in mild annoyance.
"Why would I do that?"
"Well if you were truthful about not putting you name in the Goblet of Fire, then you prove it by quitting the task." Cedric gave a cold smile. "It would also save you from embracement when I crush you."
"When you crush me?" Alex laughed. "That is a good joke Diggory. Do you really believe that? I am in the lead."
"So I am I."
Alex smirked. "Only because I told you about the dragons. I doubt that you would have stood a chance if I hadn´t."
Cedric growled, "Yeah I knew you were lying. I just can´t believe that some of my housemates have started believing your lies, then again you have always been good at manipulating girls."
"Maybe Susan and Hannah are smarter then you." Alex growled back, "and if I find out you are harassing them you won´t have to worry about the second task."
"Yeah whatever Black." Cedric said ignoring Alex.
The two Hogwarts students continued down dark lawn to the Quidditch stadium, turned through a gap in the stands, and walked out onto the field.
"What've they done to it?" Cedric said indignantly, stopping dead.
The Quidditch field was no longer smooth and flat. It looked as though somebody had been building long, low walls all over it that twisted and crisscrossed in every direction.
"They're hedges," Alex said, looking at the grassy walls.
"Hello there!" called a cheery voice.
Ludo Bagman was standing in the middle of the field with Krum and Fleur. Alex and Cedric made their way toward them, climbing over the hedges. Fleur beamed at Alex as she came nearer. Her attitude toward him had changed completely since he had saved her sister from the lake. Not that she hadn´t been nice to him before, both she and Krum had, ever since the first task they had been very respectful.
"Well, what d'you think?" said Bagman happily as Alex and Cedric climbed over the last hedge. "Growing nicely, aren't they? Give them a month and Hagrid'll have them twenty feet high. Don't worry," he added, grinning, spotting the less than- happy expressions on Cedric's face, "you'll have your Quidditch field back to normal once the task is over! Now, I imagine you can guess what we're making here?"
No one spoke for a moment. Then -
"Maze," grunted Krum.
"That's right!" said Bagman. "A maze. The third task's really very straightforward. The Triwizard Cup will be placed in the center of the maze. The first champion to touch it will receive full marks."
"We simply 'ave to get through the maze?" Fleur asked.
"There will be obstacles," said Bagman happily, bouncing on the balls of his feet. "Hagrid is providing a number of creatures…then there will be spells that must be broken…all that sort of thing, you know. Now, the champions who are leading on points will get a head start into the maze." Bagman grinned at Alex and Cedric. "Then Mr. Krum will enter…then Miss Delacour. But you'll all be in with a fighting chance, depending how well you get past the obstacles. Should be fun, eh?"
Alex, who knew only too well the kind of creatures that Hagrid was likely to provide for an event like this, thought it was unlikely to be any fun at all. However, he nodded politely like the other champions. In the least he was prepared for this, the offence and defensive magic he had learned in the chamber should be useful for this.
"Very well, if you haven't got any questions, we'll go back up to the castle, shall we, it's a bit chilly…"
Bagman hurried alongside Alex as they began to wend their way out of the growing maze, but just then, Krum tapped Alex on the shoulder.
"Could I haff a vord?"
"Um sure," Alex said, nodding.
"Vill you valk vith me?" Krum asked Alex.
"Okay," said Alex curiously.
Alex and Krum left the stadium together, but Krum did not set a course towards the Durmstrang ship. Instead, he walked towards the forest.
"Why are we going this way?" Alex asked, as the passed Hagrid's cabin and the Beauxbatons carriage. He put his hand on his wand just in case Krum were to attack him, after all, he did attack Silan.
"Don't vont to be to be overheard," Krum said shortly, which sounded very suspicious to Alex.
"Look if this about Silan, then you can duel me here." Alex said eyeing Krum.
"Isn´t that why you brought me here? The get revenge because I duelled Silan?"
"You mean Ambrosius?" Krum said making Alex nod. "Why vould I do that? He got vat vere coming to him."
"Wait, I thought you wanted revenge or something?"
"Vy come vith me then?"
"Don´t, it just came to me when you wanted to be alone." Alex said with a sheepish smile.
"Vell I don´t vant to duel you. I just vant to talk. So are you coming?"
When at last they had reached a quiet stretch of ground a short way from the Beauxbatons Horses, Krum stopped in the shade of the trees and turned to face Alex.
"I want to know," he said glowering to Alex. "Vot is there between you and Hermy-own-ninny?"
Alex stared back at the towering Bulgarian in disbelief. "What? Well uh she is uh. I am not sure what you mean, but she is one of my best friend."
"Like she's your girlfriend?" Krum asked.
"What?" Alex half yelled. "No she is just my friend. The whole girlfriend thing is just something Skeeter have made up."
"But Hermy-own-ninny talks about you very often," Krum said, looking at Alex suspiciously.
"Yes, because we are friends. I mean close friends, but not- " Alex couldn't believe that he was having this conversation with Victor Krum of all people. Krum the farmus Qudtitch star, saw him as an equal. Now Alex knew that he was a decent looking, but this having this convasation with Krum was unreal.
"But you haff never…haff not…"
"No, never. I don´t see her that way. I mean I care about her as a sister, so you better treat-"
Krum nodded, "Yes, of course - you are skilled dueller. I vos vatching you during the first task."
Alex smiled feeling extremely proud of Krum´s praise. "You have done great too, plus you flying skills-" Alex paused as he saw something moved behind Krum in the trees, and he instinctively pulled Krum away.
"Vot is it?" Krum said.
Alex shushed Krum, staring at the place in the tree where he had seen something while reaching for his wand.
Suddenly, a man staggered out from behind a tall oak. For a moment, Alex didn't recognize him at first… then he realized it was Mr. Crouch.
He looked as though he had been travelling for days. The knees of his robes were ripped and bloody, his face scratched; he was unshaven and grey with exhaustion. His neat hair and moustache were both in need of a wash and a trim. His strange appearance, however, was nothing to the way he was behaving. Muttering and gesticulating, Mr. Crouch appeared to be talking to someone that he alone could see.
"Vosn't he a judge?" said Krum, staring at Mr. Crouch. "Isn't he vith your Ministry?"
Alex nodded, hesitated for a moment, and then walked slowly toward Mr. Crouch, who did not look at him, but continued to talk to a nearby tree.
"… and when you've done that, Weatherby, send an owl to Dumbledore confirming the number of Durmstrang students who will be attending the tournament, Karkaroff has just sent word there will be twelve…"
"Mr. Crouch?" Alex said cautiously.
"… and then send another owl to Madame Maxime, because she might want to up the number of students she's bringing, now Karkaroff's made it a round dozen… do that, Weatherby, will you? Will you? Will…"
Mr. Crouch's eyes were bulging. He stood staring at the tree, muttering soundlessly at it. Then he staggered sideways and fell to his knees.
"Mr. Crouch?" Alex said loudly. "Are you all right?"
Crouch's eyes were rolling in his head. Alex looked around at Krum, who had followed him into the trees, and was looking down at Crouch in alarm.
"Vot is wrong with him?"
"I have no idea," Alex muttered. "But it isn´t good, you'd better go and get someone -"
"Dumbledore!" gasped Mr. Crouch. He reached out and seized a handful of Alex´s robes, dragging him closer, though his eyes were staring over Alex´s head. "I need…see…Dumbledore…"
"Okay," said Alex, "if you can get up, Mr. Crouch, we can go up to the-"
"I've done… stupid… thing…" Mr. Crouch breathed. He looked utterly mad. His eyes were rolling and bulging, and a trickle of spittle was sliding down his chin. Every word he spoke seemed to cost him a terrible effort. "Must…tell…Dumbledore…"
"Mr. Crouch, come on, get up," Alex said loudly and clearly. "Get up, and we'll take you to Dumbledore!"
Mr. Crouch's eyes rolled forward onto Josh. "Who are you?" he whispered.
"I'm a student at the school," said Alex, looking around at Krum for some help, but Krum was hanging back, looking extremely nervous. "I am Alexander Black, remember I am the fourth tri wizard champion."
"You're not…his?" whispered Crouch, his mouth sagging.
"His? No, I don't…" Alex said, without the faintest idea what Crouch was talking about.
"Yeah, that's right," Alex, said. "I am one of his students."
Crouch was pulling him closer; Alex tried to loosen Crouch's grip on his robes, but Crouch was holding to tight.
"I could get to Dumbledore if you let go of me," Alex said. "Just let go, Mr. Crouch, and I'll get him…"
"Thank you, Weatherby, and when you have done that, I would like a cup of tea. My wife and son will be arriving shortly; we are attending a concert tonight with Mr. and Mrs. Fudge."
Crouch was now talking fluently to a tree again, and seemed completely unaware that Alex was there, which surprised him so much he didn't notice that Crouch had released him.
"Yes, my son has recently gained twelve O.W.L.S; most satisfactory, yes, thank you, yes, very proud indeed. Now, if you could bring me that memo from the Andorran Minister of Magic, I think I will have time to draft a response…"
"He is mad," said Krum doubtfully, staring down at Crouch, who was still gabbling to the tree, apparently convinced it was Percy.
"Well you better stay with him anyway." Alex said trying to stand up, but his movement seemed to trigger another abrupt change in Mr. Crouch, who seized him hard around the knees and pulled Alex back to the ground.
"Don't…leave…me!" he whispered, his eyes bulging again. "I…escaped… must warn…must tell…see Dumbledore…my fault…all my fault…Bertha…dead…all my fault…my son…my fault…tell Dumbledore…Harry Potter…the Dark Lord…stronger…Harry Potter… Black´s son."
"Yes I am Black´s son and what about Harry? Look I'll get Dumbledore if you let me go, Mr. Crouch!" said Alex. He looked furiously around at Krum. "Help me, will you?"
Looking extremely apprehensive, Krum moved forward and squatted down next to Mr. Crouch.
"Just keep him here," Alex said, pushing Mr. Crouch off him. "I'll be back with Dumbledore."
Hurry, vont you?" Krum called after Alex who began sprinting away from the forest and through the dark grounds. They were deserted; Bagman, Fleur, and Cedric had all disappeared. Alex tore up the stone steps, through the giant oak doors, and up the marble staircase, towards the second floor.
Five minutes later, he was hurtling toward the stone gargoyle outside Dumbledore's office.
"Sherbet Lemon!" Alex panted at the Stone Gargoyle.
This was the password to the hidden staircase to Dumbledore's office - or at least, two years ago, but the password had evidently changed, because the stone gargoyle did not spring to life and jump aside, but stood frozen, glaring at Alex malevolently.
"crap baskets!" Alex growled. "C'mon, move! Uh Treacle fudge."
"Damm just open, it important." Nothing happened. "Come on I know you can talk. Look just let me in."
Alex growled as the gargoyle, that remained silent. Well maybe he could try the staffroom, there had to be a teacher there. He started running as fast as he could towards the staircase –
Alex skidded to a halt and looked around. Snape had just emerged from the hidden staircase behind the stone gargoyle. The wall was sliding shut behind him even as he beckoned Alex back toward him.
"What are you doing here, Black?" Snape asked, and not demanded as he usually did to others.
"I need to see Professor Dumbledore!" Alex said running back up the corridor and skidding to a standstill in front of Snape instead. "It's Mr. Crouch…he's just turned up…he's in the forest with Krum -"
"What are you talking about?"
"Mr. Crouch!" Alex shouted. "You know the strict old guy from the Ministry! He's ill or something - he is afraid - he's in the forest with Krum! Just give me the password up to -"
"Cockroach Cluster," Snape said immediately, and the Gargoyle sprang to life. The stone wall behind Snape slid open, but already, Dumbledore was standing there, wearing long green robes and a mildly curious expression.
"Is there a problem?" he said, looking between Alex and Snape.
"I'm afraid there is, Headmaster," Snape said, nodding. "Mr. Black have found-"
"Professor!" Alex said, sidestepping Snape so he could speak, "Mr. Crouch is here - he's down in the forest, he's with Viktor Krum and he's rambling!"
Alex expected Dumbledore to ask questions, but to his relief, Dumbledore did nothing of the sort.
"Lead the way, Serverus please wait here," he said promptly, and he swept off along the corridor behind Alex, leaving Snape standing next to the gargoyle.
"What did Mr. Crouch say, Alexander?" Dumbledore asked as they walked swiftly down the marble staircase.
"Said wanted to warn you…said he's done something terrible…he mentioned his son…and Bertha Jorkins…and - Harry and Voldemort and well me. He mentioned that Voldemort getting stronger…"
"Indeed," said Dumbledore, and he quickened his pace as they hurried out into the pitch-darkness.
"He's not his normal self," Alex said, hurrying along beside Dumbledore. "He doesn't seem to know where he is. He keeps talking like he thinks Percy Weasley's there, and then he changes, and says he needs to see you…He's there with Viktor Krum."
"He is?" said Dumbledore sharply, and he began to take longer strides still, so that Alex was running to keep up. "Do you know if anybody else saw Mr. Crouch?"
"No," Alex said. "Mr. Bagman had just finished telling us about the third task, we stayed behind and Krum wanted to talk, and then Mr. Crouch appeared out of the forest, but we were alone -"
"Where are they?" said Dumbledore as the Beauxbatons carriage emerged from the darkness.
"Over here," Alex said, moving in front of Dumbledore, leading the way through the trees. He couldn't hear Crouch's voice, but he knew where he was going; it hadn't been much past the Beauxbatons carriage…somewhere around here…
"Krum?" Alex shouted. "Mr. Crouch?" No one answered. "They were right here," Alex said to Dumbledore as he looked around, but it was too dark to tell. "They were definitely somewhere around here…"
"Lumos," Dumbledore said, lighting his wand and holding it up.
Its narrow beam travelled from black trunk to black trunk, illuminating the ground. And then it fell upon a pair of feet.
Alex and Dumbledore hurried forward. Krum was sprawled on the forest floor. He seemed to be unconscious. There was no sign at all of Mr. Crouch. Dumbledore bent over Krum and gently lifted one of his eyelids.
"Stunned," he said softly. His half-moon glasses glittered in the wand light as he peered around at the surrounding trees.
"Lumos," Alex murmured and his wand lit. He held it out in front of him towards Krum for more light.
"Should I go and get someone?" he said once he had established that he could see no one. "Madam Pomfrey?"
"No," said Dumbledore swiftly. "Stay here."
He raised his wand into the air and pointed it in the direction of Hagrid's cabin. Alex saw something silvery dart out of it and streak away through the trees like a ghostly bird.
Then Dumbledore bent over Krum again, pointed his wand at him, and muttered, "Ennervate."
Krum opened his eyes. He looked dazed. When he saw Dumbledore, he tried to sit up, but Dumbledore put a hand on his shoulder and made him lie still.
"He attacked me!" Krum muttered, putting a hand up to his head. "The old madman attacked me! I vos looking around to see vat had made a rustling sound and he attacked from behind!"
"Lie still for a moment," Dumbledore said.
The sound of thunderous footfalls reached them, and Hagrid came panting into sight with Fang at his heels. He was carrying his crossbow.
"Professor Dumbledore!" he said, his eyes widening. "Alexander - what the -?"
"Hagrid, I need you to fetch Professor Karkaroff," said Dumbledore. "His student has been attacked. When you've done that, kindly alert Professor Moody -"
"No need, Dumbledore," said a wheezy growl. "I'm here." Moody was limping toward them, leaning on his staff, his wand lit. "Damn leg," he said furiously. "Would've been here quicker… what's happened? Snape said something about Crouch -"
"Crouch?" said Hagrid blankly.
"Karkaroff, please, Hagrid!" said Dumbledore sharply.
"Oh yeah… right y'are, Professor…" said Hagrid, and he turned and disappeared into the dark trees, Fang trotting after him.
"I don't know where Barty Crouch is," Dumbledore told Moody, "but it is essential that we find him."
"I'm onto it," growled Moody, and he pulled out his wand and limped off into the forest.
Neither Dumbledore nor Alex spoke again until they heard the unmistakable sounds of Hagrid and Fang returning. Karkaroff was hurrying along behind them. He was wearing his sleek silver furs, and he looked pale and agitated.
"What is this?" he cried when he saw Krum on the ground and Dumbledore beside him. "What's going on?"
"I vos attacked!" said Krum, sitting up now and rubbing his head.
"By who?" Karkaroff said, and then his eyes fell on Alex. "Of course!" he shouted, pointing at him. "Caught red handed are we? That two of my students you have attacked now. This time I demand that-"
"What?" Alex said, appalled. "You think I attacked you precious seeker?" Alex growled.
"I'm afraid it wasn't young Alexander who attacked Viktor, Igor," Dumbledore said.
"Then who was it?" Karkaroff growled.
"Mr. Crouch or votever his name vos -" Krum said.
"Crouch attacked you? Crouch attacked you? The Triwizard judge?"
"Igor," Dumbledore began, but Karkaroff had drawn himself up, clutching his furs around him, looking livid.
"Treachery!" he bellowed, pointing at Dumbledore. "It is a plot! You and your Ministry of Magic have lured me here under false pretences, Dumbledore! This is not an equal competition! First you sneak Mister Black into the tournament, though he is underage! Now one of your Ministry friends attempts to put my champion out of action! I smell double-dealing and corruption in this whole affair, and you, Dumbledore, you, with your talk of closer international wizarding links, of rebuilding old ties, of forgetting old differences - here's what I think of you!"
Karkaroff spat onto the ground at Dumbledore's feet. In one swift movement, Hagrid seized the front of Karkaroff's furs, lifted him into the air, and slammed him against a nearby tree.
"Apologize!" Hagrid snarled as Karkaroff gasped for breath, Hagrid's massive fist at his throat, his feet dangling in midair.
"Hagrid, no!" Dumbledore shouted, his eyes flashing.
Hagrid removed the hand pinning Karkaroff to the tree, and Karkaroff slid all the way down the trunk and slumped in a huddle at its roots; a few twigs and leaves showered down upon his head.
"Kindly escort Alexander back up to the castle, Hagrid," said Dumbledore sharply.
Breathing heavily, Hagrid gave Karkaroff a glowering look.
"Maybe I'd better stay here. Headmaster…"
"You will take Mr. Black back to school, Hagrid," Dumbledore repeated firmly. "Take him right up to Gryffindor Tower. And Alexander - I want you to stay there. Anything you might want to do - any owls you might want to send - they can wait until morning, do you understand me?"
"Er - yes, Professor," Alex said, nodding.
"I'll leave Fang with yeh Headmaster," Hagrid said, staring menacingly at Karkaroff, who was still sprawled at the foot of the tree, tangled in furs and tree roots. "Stay, Fang. C'mon, Alex."
They marched in silence past the Beauxbatons carriage and up toward the castle.
"How dare he," Hagrid growled as they strode past the lake. "How dare he accuse Dumbledore? Like Dumbledore'd do anythin' like that. Like Dumbledore wanted you in the tournament in the firs' place, Alex. Worried! I dunno when I seen Dumbledore more worried than he's bin lately. An' really!" Hagrid suddenly said angrily to Alex, who looked up at him, taken aback. "What were yeh doin', wanderin' off with ruddy Krum? He's from Durmstrang, Alex! Coulda jinxed yeh right there, couldn he, to avenge his fellow classmate? Hasn' Moody taught yeh nothin'? 'Magine lettin him lure yeh off on yer own -"
"It's okay, Hagrid. Krum's okay!" Alex said as they climbed the steps into the entrance hall. "He wasn't trying to jinx me, he hates Silan as well. Krum just wanted to talk about Hermione -"
"I'll be havin' a few words with Hermione, an' all," said Hagrid grimly, stomping up the stairs. "The less you lot 'ave ter do with these foreigners, the happier yeh'll be. Yeh can trust any of 'em."
"Yeah, but I do and you were getting on all right with Madame Maxime," Alex said, annoyed.
"Don' you talk ter me abou' her!" said Hagrid, and he looked quite frightening for a moment. "I've got her number now! Tryin' ter get back in me good books, tryin' ter get me ter tell her what's comin in the third task. Ha! You can' trust any of'em!"
Alex doubted that Madame Maxime wanted that, well at least that wasn´t all she wanted. However Hagrid was in such a bad mood, that Alex didn´t care mention that. In fact Alex was quite glad to say good-bye to him in front of the Fat Lady. He clambered through the portrait hole into the common room where he noticed Ron and Hermione on a table playing chess, and Hermione who was sitting by the fire, reading a book.
"Hey guys!" Alex said, "you wouldn't believe what I just saw."
"It comes down to this," said Hermione, rubbing her forehead. "Either Mr. Crouch attacked Viktor, or somebody else attacked the both of them when Viktor wasn't looking."
"It must've been Crouch," said Ron at once. "That's why he was gone when Black and Dumbledore got there. He'd done a runner."
"I doubt it Weasley." Alex said. "Crouch seamed really weak. I don't think he was up to running let alone stun someone."
"He could've Disapparated!" Ron said, making Alex roll his eyes.
"You can't Disapparate on the Hogwarts grounds, haven't I told you enough times?" Hermione said.
"Okay…how's this for a theory," said Ron excitedly. "Krum attacked Crouch - no, wait for it - and then stunned himself!"
"And Mr. Crouch evaporated, did he?" said Hermione coldly.
It was daybreak. Alex, Harry, Ron, and Hermione had crept out of their dormitories very early and hurried up to the Owlery together to send a note to Sirius. Now they were standing looking out at the misty grounds. All four of them were puffy-eyed and pale because they had been talking late into the night about Mr. Crouch.
"Just go through it again, Alex," Hermione said, ever since Alex´s talk with at the hospital wing they were on very good terms. "What did Mr. Crouch actually say?"
"I told you," Alex signed. "He wasn´t making much sense at all. He wanted to talk with Dumbedore - he wanted to warn him - warn him against Voldemort. And he mentioned Bertha Jorkins as well along with me, Harry and uhm his son."
"Well, that was his fault," said Hermione testily.
"Well whatever. Crouch was out of his mind," Alex said. "Half the time he seemed to think his wife and son were still alive, and he kept talking to Percy about work and giving him instructions."
"And…remind me what he said about Voldemort?" Harry said
"That he was getting stronger."
There was a pause as Harry took a deep breath and scratched his scar. Alex was pretty sure that his friend were worried, he certainly was. Then Ron continued in a falsely confident voice, "But he was out of his mind, like you said, so half of it was probably just raving…"
"He was sanest when he was trying to talk about Voldemort," Alex said, and Ron winced at the sound of the name, but Alex ignored it and continued. "He was having real trouble stringing two words together, but that was when he seemed to know where he was, and know what he wanted to do. He just kept saying he had to see Dumbledore."
Harry turned away from the window and stared up into the rafters. The many perches were half-empty; every now and then, another owl would swoop in through one of the windows, returning from its night's hunting with a mouse in its beak.
"We need to see Professor Moody," Hermione said. "We need to find out whether he found Mr. Crouch."
"If he had the Marauder's Map on him, it would've been easy," said Harry.
"Unless Crouch was already out of bounds," Alex said, "because it only shows up to the boundaries of Hogwarts and Hogsmeade, doesn't -"
"Shh!" said Hermione suddenly.
Somebody was climbing the steps up to the Owlery. Alex could hear two voices, two boys arguing, coming closer and closer.
"- That's blackmail, that is, we could get into a lot of trouble for that-"
"- we've tried being polite; it's time to play dirty, like him. He wouldn't like the Ministry of Magic knowing what he did -"
"Yeah, and you won't be complaining if we get a nice fat payoff, will you?"
The Owlery door banged open. Fred and George came over the threshold, then froze at the sight of Alex, Harry, Ron, and Hermione.
"Alex what are you doing here?" Fred said looking at the four Gryffindor.
"Sending a letter, you known classified stuff."
Fred and George shared a look. "Yeah the same goes for us." George said.
"You mentioned blackmail." Ron said looking at the twins.
The grins vanished from Fred's face. Alex saw George half glance at Fred, before smiling at Ron.
"Don't be stupid, I was only joking," he said easily.
"It didn´t sounded like you were."
"But I were, and Ronald I have said that many times. Keep your nose out if you like it the shape it is."
"It's my business if you're blackmailing someone," Ron said. "George's right, you could end up in serious trouble for that."
"It was a joke Ron, and don´t begin to sound like Percy."
"I am not. But if you guys are-"
"But we isn´t so just drop it." George walked over to Fred, pulled the letter out of his hands, and began attaching it to the leg of the nearest barn owl. Then he carried the barn owl over to the window and it took off. George turned around and grinned at them. "See you guys later
"You don't think they know something about all this, do you?" Hermione whispered, once the twins had left the owlery. "About Crouch and everything?"
"No, I don't think so," Alex said. "If it was something that serious, they'd tell someone. They'd tell Dumbledore without a moment hesitation."
Ron, however, was suddenly looking uncomfortable.
"What's the matter?" Hermione asked him.
"Well…" Ron said slowly, "I dunno if they would. They're…they're obsessed with making money lately, I noticed it when I was hanging around with them sometimes - when - you know -" Ron suddenly looked awkward.
"We weren't talking." Harry finished the sentence for him. "Yeah, but blackmail…"
"It's this joke shop idea they've got," said Ron. "I thought they were only saying it to annoy Mum, but they really mean it, they want to start one. They've only got a year left at Hogwarts, they keep going on about how it's time to think about their future, and Dad can't help them, and they need gold to get started."
Hermione was looking uncomfortable now. "Yes, but… they wouldn't do anything against the law to get gold."
"Wouldn't they?" said Ron, looking sceptical. "I dunno… they don't exactly mind breaking rules, do they?"
"But you are talking about the law Weasley." Alex said, not that he wanted to help Ron, but he had to defend the twins. "They break school rules, but so have we. Look I am hungry so let's get some breakfast."
"D'you think it's too early to go and see Professor Moody?" Hermione said as they went down the spiral staircase.
"Yes," said Harry. "He'd probably blast us through the door if we wake him at the crack of dawn; he'll think we're trying to attack him while he's asleep. Let's give it till break."
History of Magic had rarely gone so slowly. Alex kept checking his watch but it was moving so slowly he could have that time had stopped.
It took all of Alex´s self-control not to fall asleep on the table.
When the bell finally rang, Harry, Hermione, and Ron hurried out into the corridors towards the Dark Arts classroom while Alex decided to skip lunch and go have a nap in Gryffindor Tower. He didn't really feel like investigating about Crouch, because honestly, he didn't really care. He was half way when someone pulled into an empty classroom before the door was shut.
"Okay what happened to you yesterday?" a worried Daphne asked.
"Why do you think something have happened?"
"Don´t plays games with me Mr. Black. First of you have barely slept, so that tells me that you been up all night and-"
"Maybe I just couldn't sleep." Alex not wanting to worry Daphne.
I have heard rumours that you were in trouble. That Krum was attacked near the forest and I knew that you were talking with him. I just need to hear if you were in any kind of danger, because I know you wasn´t the one that attacked him. So I just need to know where you in danger Alex."
"Well I wasn´t I was just talking with Victor Krum." Alex admitted.
"I be the judge of that." Daphne said calmly and Alex begun the telling the story one more time. All about Bagman information on the third task, his talk with Krum and what had happed with Crouch. Daphne listen, but Alex could see that see got more worried as he continued.
"You were in danger Alex. What if you had been attacked as well? What if it had been the one that got you name in the goblet of fire?"
"Well it wasn´t and I had to try and talk with Crouch, I had to try to see if I could understand what he wanted."
"Yeah well why were you even near that forest? It forbidden for a reason Alex."
"I told you Krum wanted to talk with me, and he didn´t want to be overheard, and we were only at the edge of the forest."
Daphne nodded, "still what if something had happened to you."
Alex smiled, "well I am perfectly fine. Look there is nothing to worry about."
"Then there is the third task." Daphne continued.
"Look Daph I am fine. I just have to get past various obstacles, it what I trained for. Don´t worry I be fine."
"I am just worried Alex and I just-"Daphne paused. "I just would like to-"Daphne paused one more time as he looked at Alex, then she pressed him against the door, before she kissed a very shocked Alex on the lips.
Alex´s eyes whinnied in surprise as Daphne were kissing him. Why was she doing this? They had agreed to wait, wait until Daphne was ready, wait until this tournament was over. Alex had accepted this, but now he was getting this wonderful and beautiful kiss, and he couldn't do anything except return it. The two of them just stood there while kissing with their arms around each other.
As Daphne pulled back Alex had a goofy smile on his face. He opened and closed his mouth a few time before finally shuttering "W-why?"
"It should be obvious since or talk." Daphne said while smiling as still had her arms around Alex.
"Yeah, but I thought that we would-"
Daphne nodded, "yes, but given all what is happening then-"
"Then what?" Alex said as he felt his heartbeat increase, not feeling tried at all.
"We shouldn't wait. You were right when you said that." Daphne said as she put her arms around Alex. "We both have feelings for each other, and that is a good thing. I think we shall enjoy the good things."
"So we are together?" As Daphne, nodded Alex leant in and kissed his new girlfriend feeling extremely happy.
Alex and Daphne decided to keep their relationship a secret, mainly because so that the Prophet namely Skeeter would leave Daphne alone.
The next morning after they had gotten together, Sirius sent Alex owl back. It fluttered down beside him at the same moment that a tawny owl landed in front of Hermione, clutching a copy of the Daily Prophet in its beak. She took the newspaper, scanned the first few pages, and said, "Ha! She hasn't got wind of Crouch!" then joined Alex, Ron, and Harry in reading what Sirius had to say on the mysterious events of the night before last.
Alexander Alphard Black! What in Merlin´s name were you thinking? What makes you think walking off into the forest with Viktor Krum is a good idea? I want you to swear, by return owl, that you are not going to go walking with anyone else at night, if not then you can consider yourself grounded until you are of age. And Harry the same goes for you. Alexander you need to remember that there is somebody highly dangerous at Hogwarts. It is clear to me that they wanted to stop Crouch from seeing Dumbledore and you were probably feet away from them in the dark. It was reckless and you should know better. You could have esesly been killed there. You need to remember that you name didn't get into the Goblet of Fire by accident. If someone's trying to attack you, they're on their last chance. Stay close to your friends, do not leave Gryffindor Tower after hours, and that goes for you as well Harry. Now Alexander you need to arm yourself for the third task. Practice Stunning and Disarming. A few hexes wouldn't go amiss either. There's nothing you can do about Crouch, just focus on the third task.. Keep your heads down and look after yourself. I am waiting for your letter giving me your word you won't stray out-of-bounds again. And just so I am clear I want that promise from you Alexander and from Harry as well.
Alex was a bit irritated at Sirius and he had no intentions of keeping to the Gryffindor tower after hours, that time he wanted to spend with Daphne.
"Who's he, to lecture us about being out-of-bounds?" said Harry in mild indignation as he folded up Sirius's letter and put it inside his robes, surprising Alex since it was his letter. "After all the stuff he did at school!"
"He is just worried about the two of you." Hermione said. "Just as Moody and Hagrid! So listen to them!"
"No one's tried to attack me all year," Harry said. "In fact no one has done anything to me at all, it's all about Alex this year -"
"And they must've done that for a reason, Harry," Hermione said. "Snuffles is right. Maybe they've been biding their time. Maybe this is the task they're going to get Alex, and maybe having Alex in the tournament is just to distract everyone so they can get to you."
"Look," Harry said impatiently. "Let´s just say that Sirius is right, and someone stunned Krum to kidnap Crouch. Well, they would've been in the trees near Alex, wouldn't they? So if they wanted him, why did they wait until Alex had left? And nothing's bad hasn't happened to me, so things are good. We are just not used to having a peaceful year."
"They couldn't have made it look like an accident if they'd murdered Alex in the forest!" said Hermione. "But if he dies in the third task –"
"They didn't care about attacking Krum, did they?" said Harry. "Look Krum is a Durmstang you as Silan is. So why not finish Alex off at the same time. They could've made it look like Krum and Alex had a duel or something, given Alex recent actions towards his cousin. So look Alex is not in danger, and maybe you should all stop worrying him about all that stupid stuff."
Alex looked at Harry, it was a bit weird, it sounded like Harry was worried about him. It was a bit weird. Alex had noticed it before ever since Sirius had appeared, Harry had thought of him as a brother. It were a little strange though. Truth be told Alex didn´t knew how he felt about that. He had consider Harry a brother when he was thirteen, but now he wasn´t sure. In fact, Alex often felt jealous at Harry and how close he were with Sirius.
"Harry, I don't understand it either," said Hermione desperately. "I just know there are a lot of odd things going on, and I don't like it…Moody's right - Sirius is right –" She then turned to Alex. "Alex you have too intensify your training. And so should you Harry, just so we are on the safe side. And you make sure you write back to Sirius and promise him you two're not going to go sneaking off alone again."
"I can´t promise him that I stay looked up in the common room. Sirius have no right to ask that, even if he is my father." Alex suddenly said, making both Harry and Hermione look at him.
"Yeah you have to train." Harry said.
"Fine, but you can promise that you will stay in the castle." Hermione cut in. "You have no reason to do otherwise."
Alex signed, but nodded nonetheless. He could give that promise, but there was no way he would give his time with Daphne up, if Sirius had a problem with that then it was his problem, not that Alex cared about that. Later that day he had Daphne went to the owlery to send the owl to Sirius.
"It was the right thing to do." She said as that watch the owl fly. "He is right that you shouldn't leave the school grounds. He is just worried,"
"I know, I just want to have time to hang with you."
Daphne smiled and let her fingers intertwine with Alex´s, "well you only promised that you wouldn't leave the castle. The chamber is a part of the castle isn´t it? She asked making Alex smile.
I hoped you enjoyed the chapter.
So Alex and Daphne are together now, and Harry knows about the secret in the chamber. What do you think will happen and what do you think about Cedric´s behaviour against Alex?
Please leave a review.