FernWithy (fernwithy) wrote,
FernWithy
fernwithy

The Secret of Ville-Sauvage, Prologue: Champions

Okay. I realized I was trying to get too much of this into random expository prose, which was totally sapping the early chapters of energy (not to mention that I should have started with James interacting with Harry, not Teddy). So, here's a re-start, POV approach courtesy of the beginning of Goblet of Fire (which seemed appropriate).




The Château de Chamanes, tucked away in a hidden valley on the shores of Lake Geneva, had been built to look like it had stood forever. The stones were old, wound through with vines, weathered by wind and water. The windows were narrow and multipaned, and ancient tapestries bedecked the halls inside. At first glance, it looked like any other old Alpine castle, if a bit too run-down to be a tourist attraction. Indeed, the people of the nearby village of Aveugloeil happily told stories of its medieval glory. They firmly believed they had heard their grandparents' tales, for generations without end, and were simply glad that the new international conglomerate had taken it over for its occasional trade meetings.

The wizarding populace of the area had an idea that this might not be so, but most paid it little attention. The château had been there long enough, after all, that only the oldest wizards and witches remembered its building. These gathered at the chalet on cold winter's days, huddled at the fire, talking. The younger men and women--as young men and women everywhere are prone to do--indulged the talk without listening to it, and promptly forgot anything that did accidentally impress itself, momentarily, on their minds. "It was something to do with the war," the more educated among them might say breezily in French, Italian, Romansh, or German--it sounded the same in every language. "Grindelwald, not the British one," they would add disdainfully, as it was fashionable to believe that the British War--which they called "Potter's War" or "The Blood Wars"; neither name had entirely adhered to it yet--had been merely a local affair, of no conceivable concern to anyone else.

"I don't see what it has to do with any of this," said Césarine Depaul, nodding toward a rack of extra conference brochures as she drizzled a rich icing onto the pastries. She was seventeen, out of Beauxbatons, and well on her way in her chosen apprenticeship. "What happened at the last one wasn't about the Tournament. Nothing would have gone wrong if it hadn't been for a few criminals."

"A boy did die," said her master, Isam Lefevre. "It's a sad memory to have about an event."

"That can hardly be blamed on the event," Césarine said. "It was their Dumbledore who wanted it to start again. Now they will hold it up? At this rate, the Americas' competition will be finished before we even decide! Then they'll say we are the imitators. We, who started it."

Isam Summoned the pastries (it was all the magic he would allow in preparation, a bit of silliness that Césa did not plan to continue once she'd finished her apprenticeship) and stacked them attractively on the silver tray. "Listen, Césa," he said, "you will remember, upstairs, that you are not speaking to me, or to your compatriots. You will be speaking to Harry Potter, who saw the boy die. You will be speaking to Viktor Krum, who was enchanted into committing crimes. You will be speaking to Fleur Weasley, who was tortured during the final task. They will not care to hear you prattle about your jealousies."

Césa rolled her eyes extravagantly. Last night, she had overheard Fleur Weasley's sister, Gabrielle DuLac (who had taught Césa's Potions classes at Beauxbatons), saying exactly the same thing about the Quintamage Competition in the Bahamas that was now the talk of the sporting world. It was what everyone was saying.

"Césa?"

She sighed and took the tray. "All right. Not a word."

Isam looked at her with great suspicion, then shook his head and began lining up other trays next to the dumbwaiter. She would be able to Summon them through it without any danger of a tray of pastries flying prettily into the head of a visiting dignitary. She headed upstairs to set up the banquet table in the main conference room.

As she made her way up the stairs and through the great hall, where most of the conference-goers were gathered, she heard bits and pieces of conversations, most less than diplomatic. Yesterday, Didier Laurent--who had convened this conference and whose dream it was to reinstate the Triwizard Tournament--had given a speech about his deep respect for Harry Potter. He'd even bowed, and thanked him for giving the rest of Europe the freedom to discuss matters so trivial as sports again. It had been very gentlmanly, in Césa's opinion, but it hadn't exactly achieved its ends. The British were still stubbornly arguing about it.

Outside the conference room, the tone wasn't nearly as gentlemanly.

"This belongs to us!" a boy Césa vaguely remembered from Beauxbatons was saying. "What right has Harry Potter or anyone else to stop us from reaching for our own glory?"

This was cheered loudly as Césa passed, and moved into the next group, where a tall German was saying, in English, "We did not shun the Muggle Olympics after Munich! Had we shunned, we should not have seen Nadia in Montreal!"

Césa had no notion of what that meant, but she gathered that the German delegate was, at least, pro-Tournament. She smiled at him as she passed, and he snagged a pastry from her tray.

In another group, they seemed to be debating holding the tournament without Hogwarts, should the Ministry not come around. "We could invite whichever school wins the Quintamage Cup in the Americas," someone suggested. "It would be a good prize for them."

A companion snorted derisively, and suggested that the schools in Italy and Greece and Spain might object to being overlooked, if they were going to change the configuration anyway.

Césa reached the door to the main conference room and turned to lean against it to open it, and groaned as she heard her least favorite voice here.

"It's doomed!" the voice thundered. "It's accursed! My boy's blood is screaming out of the earth...!"

The wild-eyed old man broke through the barrier of people, pushing for the door, but a mild-looking man with a few strands of red left in his remaining whitish hair put a hand on his arm and said, "Amos, please, come sit with Molly and me, won't you? Molly's ordered a drink for you..."

The man steered Amos Diggory away.

Césa sighed, and went into the conference room.

The table along the south wall, across from the great window that looked up the snowy mountain, was waiting for her pastries. There were only three people here, the three meant to present their views to the next session of the conference. As Césa set down her tray and slipped over to the dumbwaiter, she glanced at them, hoping they wouldn't notice. She'd seen all of them at at a distance, but never up close.

Viktor Krum was slouched at the head table, cradling a cup of coffee. He was a bit hunch-shouldered, and his black hair had the first threads of white in it. Fleur Weasley wore her hair in a glorious crown of braids, and her pale blue robes seemed to shimmer. She'd had many children and gotten twenty-five years older, but she was as beautiful as she'd seemed in all of the pictures at Beauxbatons.

Harry Potter stood at the window, looking up the mountain, his hands clasped at the small of his back. He was shorter than Césa had imagined him. He heard the dumbwaiter come up and gave Césa a little smile to show that he acknowledged her presence, then looked at Fleur and Viktor again. "I promised Amos that I'd make sure his views were known."

"'e has no problem making 'is views known," Fleur said, nodding toward the door.

"Yes, but I can make it sound... possibly a bit more sane."

"Vot is sane about it?" Krum asked. "Ve all knew Cedric. Cedric vould not vish to be a ghoul."

"I know," Potter said. "But it's not about the dead. It's about the living who remember what happened--that night, and after it."

"We remember," Fleur said. "Viktor and I. And I lost friends in the war. Bill lost Fred. And Tonks was my friend. You know, I've spoken to her portrait at Teddy and Victoire's. She's already trying to decide who the Hogwarts champion ought to be."

"I know," Potter said. "Sirius's portrait as well. But they're portraits, Fleur."

"Teddy's in favor of it."

Potter rolled his eyes. "Teddy has a bet with Lee Jordan about it."

"This is a healthy thing," Krum said. "Teddy--and Lee--lost things. But they are smiling."

"D'you think I don't know that?" Potter turned back to the window. "Viktor, do you remember Fleur's wedding?"

"Yes, of course."

"Do you remember seeing the sign that Xeno Lovegood was wearing--the Hallows sign?"

"It vos Grindelwald's sign."

"To you. To him, it was about something else. But you still wanted him not to wear it." He sighed. "That's what the Triwizard is. Not just to Amos. To a lot of people who wrote to me and asked me to speak their piece for them. It's the sign of Voldemort returning."

"What is it to you, 'arry?" Fleur asked. "After all these years?"

"Something that gives me nightmares," Potter said. "I wake up and I can still hear, 'Kill the spare.'"

"But that's vot Laurent vos saying!" Krum said. "Having the Tournament again--it is to kill nightmares. To make the last one only a dream from vich ve have finally avoken!"

"I know, I've read his editorials--Potter's Nightmares don't sound very appealing next to Didier's Dream." He took a pocketwatch from his waist and glanced at it. "Where is Didier, anyway? I thought he'd want to be early."

"Hiking in the mountains," Fleur said fondly. "Gabrielle says that Didier and Sandrine--she is the deputy headmistress at Beauxbatons, you know, and they live there--like to walk together. It seems cold for it, but there you have it."

"It's actually warming up a bit, I think," Potter said. He shook his head. "I wish I could see it like he does. I remember seeing it that way. Before my name came out of the goblet, anyway. A chance at glory, fame..."

Krum laughed. "You know vot they say--be careful vot you vish for, Harry."

Potter even cracked a smile--it was hard to imagine anyone who'd gained more glory and fame than Harry Potter.

There was a pause, and Césa realized that she'd been doing nothing but eavesdropping. She opened the dumbwaiter and pulled up the first stack of trays, then busied herself with setting them out attractively on the table. Outside, the crowd had started chanting, "Vive le rêve!"

Irritated, Fleur jabbed her wand at the door. "I am sorry about the way my young friends at Beauxbatons are behaving. I think I left them with something to prove, and they... perhaps feel that they could field a better champion, if allowed."

"You were a great champion!" Potter insisted, looking offended. "Our entire tournament was rigged. If it hadn't been..." He shook his head. "Who knows what it might have been, if it had just been the pair of you and Cedric competing?"

"Vich is vy..." Viktor begain, then pointed at the window. "Ah, there they are."

Césa turned away from the table, and looked out the window. Madame Laurent, laughing, had Conjured cross-country skis, and was racing toward the château, along the lake shore. Monsieur Laurent was behind her by quite a bit, running through the snow, also laughing. When Césa saw someone run out of the castle, she assumed it was a photographer, getting what would be a lovely shot for the newspapers.

She was starting to smile at the thought of seeing the picture for herself when she realized it wasn't a reporter at all, but Amos Diggory, waving his arms wildly, and shouting. She couldn't hear him from here, but as he'd been saying the same things since the beginning of the conference, she could imagine.

Potter sighed. "I guess Arthur wasn't able to keep him dist--" He stopped. "Fleur, what's--?"

"Oh, my God!" Fleur shouted. "Reinforce the window. Then come help!"

Césa looked up. At the top of the mountain, she saw what seemed, at first glance, a beautiful plume of snow. Then she felt the deep rumble in the ground.

Through the window, she saw Amos Diggory look up, then run. Madame Laurent saw him, but the avalanche was behind her. She pulled to a stop, then turned to call to her husband.

She screamed, loudly enough to be heard inside, and started skiing, faster and faster, yelling for her husband, but he was paying attention to his feet, not hearing her.

The rumbling increased.

Wizards ran outside, wands drawn, and pulled Madam Laurent inside.

Didier Laurent finally seemed to realize something was wrong.

He turned.

And the wall of raging snow buried him.
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