I had a really strange dream last night. I was in a small house, at the end of the sloping garden of a huge manor, and all three were in disrepair. The manor and garden looked as if they hadn't been habituated in…well, years. The smaller house was a run-down shack, and it was the sort that belonged to a groundskeeper in old manors. Papa and I didn't have one. We preferred to take care of our gardens ourselves. They were mama's pride and joy, you see.
There was an old man inside too, making a cup of tea, and I assumed that he couldn't see me, since he kept looking through me. Of course, he could've been just ignoring me, but I was more inclined towards the first option.
There was some sort of light in one of the windows of the manor. After a while, the man had noticed it, and by then I had deduced what it was. Fire. The man figured it out too, but by the way it flickered, rather than sensing it like I did. He grabbed a walking stick and a ring of keys and set off across the garden.
I followed, and it was odd, my feet made no sound on the grass, nor was there any visible indication that I had walked on it. It was like I was a ghost, or something.
We reached the house and, using a large rusty key from the ring he had brought with him, the man opened the door and entered the dark and dusty house. Climbing the stairs, I heard the faint murmurs of voices and it was then I realised that I had normal human hearing in this dream. It felt weird…
The door was slightly ajar and the man stood in the shadows, looking surprised that the fire was lit in the grate. I stopped behind him, listening carefully when the voices began to talk again. I stiffened. That voice was familiar. Horribly familiar. "There is a little more in the bottle, my Lady, if you are still hungry." Wormtail. The little rat who was the reason my grandparents were dead. Another voice responded and chills ran down my spine since this voice was all too familiar as well. "Later. Move me closer to the fire, Chase." Wuya.
I heard a scraping noise and the figure of Chase Young came into view, pushing an armchair closer to the fire. "Where is Nagini?" I had only heard that voice once two years ago, but it was unmistakable. Chase Young.
"I – I don't know, my Lord. She set out to explore the house, I think…" Wormtail sounded nervous. Good, he deserves it.
"You will need to milk her before we retire, Wormtail. She will need feeding in the night."
"The journey has tired me greatly."
"My Lord, may I ask how long we are going to stay here?"
"A week. Perhaps longer. The place is moderately comfortable, and the plan cannot proceed yet. It would be foolish to act before the Quidditch World Cup is over."
"The – the Quidditch World Cup, my Lord? Forgive me, but – I do not understand – why should we wait until the World Cup is over?" Oh, come on, Wormtail, are you really that stupid? Even I can figure that out!
Apparently Wuya agreed with me, since she spoke next with a distinctive tone of distaste. "Because, fool, at this very moment witches and wizards are pouring into the country from all over the world, and every meddler from the Ministry of Magic will be on duty, on the watch for signs of unusual activity, checking and double checking identities. They will be obsessed with security, lest the Muggles notice anything. So we wait."
"Your Ladyship is still determined, then?"
"Certainly I am determined, Wormtail."
"It could be done without Kimiko Tohomiko, my Lady."
That certainly caught my attention. Well, wouldn't it catch yours if one of the most powerful dark witches of all time was, for some reason, hell bent on killing you, and they're discussing, with their partner-in-crime and a servant, about something being done with you?
"Without Kimiko Tohomiko? I see…"
"My Lady, I do not say this out of concern for the girl. She is nothing to me, nothing at all!" Aw, thanks Wormtail. It's not like you were one of mama's best friends and my grandparents treated you like their son, or whatever… "It is merely that if we were to use another witch or wizard – any wizard – the thing could be done so much more quickly! If you allowed me to leave you for a short while – you know I can disguise myself most effectively – I could be back here in as little as two days with a suitable person-"
"I could use another witch or wizard, that is true…"
Wormtail continued to ramble, not picking up on the note of annoyance in Wuya's voice. "My Lady, it makes sense! Laying hands on Kimiko Tohomiko would be so difficult, she is so well protected…"
"And so you volunteer to go and fetch me another substitute? I wonder…perhaps the task of nursing me has become wearisome for you, Wormtail? Could this suggestion of abandoning the plan be nothing more than an attempt to desert me?"
"My Lady! I – I have no wish to leave you, none at all-"
"Do not lie to me!" Wuya shrieked and the old man beside me jumped. I had almost forgotten he was there… "I can always tell, Wormtail! You are regretting that you ever returned to me. I revolt you. I see you flinch when you look at me, feel you shudder when you touch me…"
"No! My devotion to your Ladyship-"
"Your devotion is nothing more than cowardice. You would not be here if you had anywhere else to go." Chase hissed.
"How am I to survive here without you, when I need feeding every few hours? Who will milk Nagini?"
"But you seem so much stronger-"
"Liar. I am no stronger, and a few days without either of you would be enough to rob me of the little health I have regained under your clumsy care." Wuya's voice dropped and I could tell the old man was struggling to hear it. "I have my reasons for using the girl, as I have already explained to you, and I will use no other. I have waited twelve years. A few more months will make no difference. As for the protection surrounding the girl, I believe my plan will be effective. All that is needed is a little courage from you, Wormtail – courage you will find, unless you wish to feel the extent of my wrath."
"All through our journey I have gone over the plan in my head – my Lady, Bertha Jorkins' disappearance will not go unnoticed for long, and if we proceed, if I curse-"
"If?" Wuya hissed venomously. "If? If you follow the plan, Wormtail, the Ministry need never know that anyone else has disappeared."
"You will do it quietly and without fuss; I only wish that I could do it myself but in current circumstances…"
"Come, Wormtail, one more obstacle removed and our path to Kimiko Tohomiko is clear. I am not asking you to do it alone. By that time, my faithful servant will have rejoined us."
"I'm a faithful servant." Wormtail sulked.
"Wormtail, I need somebody with brains, somebody whose loyalty has never wavered, and you, unfortunately, fulfil neither requirement." Wormtail continued to sulk and argue back, but I was too busy laughing to hear what was being said. I probably shouldn't be laughing if I really thought about the implications, but Wormtail being insulted like that was just too funny. Even if it was coming from Wuya.
By the time I calmed down enough to listen, Wuya was muttering again. "One more curse…my faithful servant at Hogwarts…Kimiko Tohomiko as good as mine, Wormtail. It is decided. There will be no more argument. But quiet…I think I hear Nagini…"
Chase started speaking in Parseltongue, which, unfortunately, I don't understand, and then Nagini, a giant serpent, slid up the stairs and into the room, the man pressing himself to the wall in fear. By the confused look on his face I guessed he was a muggle.
"Nagini has interesting news."
"In-indeed, my Lord?"
"Indeed, yes. According to Nagini, there is an old Muggle standing outside this room, listening to every word we say." That solidified it. I was invisible somehow, but the man wasn't so lucky. The door was flung open at once and Wormtail stood before him. "Invite him inside, Wormtail. Where are your manners?" Wormtail did so. "You heard everything, Muggle?"
"What's that you're calling me?" The man was brave, but standing in a room with Chase Young, Wuya and their servant, Wormtail, and you're a Muggle, you have no chance.
"I'm calling you a Muggle, it means that you are not a wizard."
"I don't know what you mean by wizard. All I know is that I have heard enough to go to the police, I have. You've done murder and you're planning more!" I must've missed that part. "And I'll tell you this, too, my wife knows I'm up here, and if I don't come back-" Bad move. Not only will Wuya know you're lying, even if they didn't it wouldn't stop them killing you.
"You have no wife, nobody knows you're up here, you told nobody you were coming… Do not lie to me, Muggle, for I know…I always know…"
"Is that right? Well, I don't think much of your manners, my Lord and Lady. Turn around and face me like a man, why don't you?"
"But I am not a man, Muggle. I am much more than that. However…why not? I will face you…" Chase began to move the chair and I closed my eyes tight, not wanting to witness a murder. Sure enough, I heard the familiar words, felt the familiar spell rustling past me, and heard the tell-tale sound of a body crumpling to the floor before I woke up.
What disturbed me most about that dream, was that it felt so real, and due to the mention of the Quidditch World Cup, I knew that if it was, it was happening around about now, and that right now, Wuya was planning something that involved me…
Speaking of the Quidditch World Cup, I was waiting for the Pedrosas to arrive at my house. Mr Pedrosa, through his job at the Ministry, had managed to get tickets for the family – minus Carla and Alejandro – to go to the final, and they invited Clay, Omi and me. In the Ministerial box, no less!
Suddenly there was a loud bang from the living room, and I ran in to hear scrambling noises from the chimney. Oh no, they didn't… Papa rushed in, looking utterly bewildered.
"Ouch!" Came a sudden shout from the chimney. That was Antonio's voice. Apparently they did… "Ricardo, no – go back, go back, there's been some kind of mistake – tell Fernando not to – OUCH! Fernando, no, there's no room, go back quickly and tell Raimundo-"
"Maybe Kimiko can hear us, Dad – maybe she'll be able to let us out-"
Next came the sound of pounding fists. "Kimiko? Kimiko, can you hear us?"
Papa stared at me and I had to fight to contain my giggles enough to speak. "They – they've travelled by Floo Powder – by fire grates – only that fireplace is blocked – hang on-" I approached the fireplace, bending down and calling up it. "Hey, guys! Can you hear me?"
The noise stopped, as someone hissed "Shh!" and then, "Ouch, Raimundo!"
"What are we doing here? Has something gone wrong?"
"Oh, no, Raimundo," Ricardo answered sarcastically. "No, this is exactly where we wanted to end up."
"Yeah, we're having the time of our lives here." That was Fernando this time, only it sounded as if he was pressed against the wall.
"Boys, boys…" Antonio sighed.
"The fireplace is blocked up, guys!" I called up the chimney.
"Ah, well, stand back!" I stepped backwards, dragging papa with me and a second later, the fireplace expanded dramatically and four brunettes came tumbling out of it. Antonio quickly fixed it while his sons were struggling to their feet. "Oh, you must be Kimiko's father!" Antonio sounded rather excited, and then I remembered that he was fascinated by Muggle things. "Why on earth was the fireplace blocked up?"
"It's an electric fire." Papa explained and he and Antonio engaged in a conversation about that.
"Why didn't you just Floo into my room, there's a fire in there."
"There is?" The twins looked astounded.
"Yeah. You know that, Rai." Rai continued to look confused, while large grins were spreading across the twins' faces at the nickname. Oh dear, I think I just subjected Raimundo to a lot of teasing… "Well, first: I'm the Xiaolin Dragon of Fire, what else would I have in my room but a fireplace with a proper fire? And second, you saw it last summer."
"Oh, I don't think he was paying attention to the fireplace."
Antonio and papa rejoined us then, and Fernando and Ricardo's eyes lit up. "Would you like a toffee, Mr Tohomiko?"
"I'd love one," papa took the proffered toffee from Ricardo. Once he began to eat it, a strange expression took over his face, then he opened his mouth, and his tongue was swelling rapidly, a strange purple colour.
"Here, take this." Fernando handed him a different sweet and papa managed to place it in his mouth. His tongue shrunk back to its normal size.
"Boys!" Antonio looked mad. I had never seen him mad before. It was usually Carla who got mad. "What was that?"
"Ton Tongue Toffee." They announced proudly.
"It was brilliant!" Papa grinned. "Where did you get them?"
"We made them."
My jaw dropped. "You made them?"
"Yeah, it's for their joke business they're planning – Wizarding Wheezes." Wow.
"We should be going now. Kimiko, do you mind if we use the fireplace in your room?"
"Of course not. All of my things are in there anyway."
I hugged papa goodbye, since it was mid-August, I would be staying with the Pedrosas until school began. Antonio Floo-ed first with my trunk, then Fernando, then Ricardo, before Rai and I used the elemental transport we had perfected over the last year. I grinned as I re-materialised. This was going to be a good summer.
We arrived while the others were finishing up breakfast and I noticed that in addition to Carla, Maria, Alejandro and Pedro, there were two other young men at the table. I had never seen them before but, judging by their brunette hair and the familiar lime green eyes, I ascertained them to be the eldest Pedrosa boys – Juan and Carlos.
"How're you doing? You must be Kimiko." I figured this must be Carlos as he shook his hand, since I could feel the calluses and blisters on his fingers. Plus, he had a large shiny burn on one arm.
"I can fix that for you, if you want." I indicated the burn and his eyes furrowed in confusion.
"How? You're underage."
Rai smirked. "Trust me, she can fix it. Now, would you rather she did, or have that sting for the next week?"
Carlos shrugged and held out his burnt arm. I placed my finger on it and Carlos watched, wide-eyed in amazement, as the burn disappeared. "Wow." Juan murmured, both boys inspecting Carlos' arm.
"Thanks for that. We could really use that in Romania – the amount of times I've been burnt… Man, it hurts like a –"
"Carlos!" Carla cut across warningly.
"I had a lot of practice with that two years ago with Hagrid – well, especially a certain someone." I glared pointedly at Rai, who looked affronted.
"What? I was only trying to help Hagrid. Besides, I didn't do anything you didn't!"
"Yes," I said slowly, with the air of explaining something to a small child. "But it will hurt you, not me." He crossed his arms grumpily and I noticed the rest of his family laughing at us.
Juan shook my hand then. His hair, unlike the rest of the Pedrosa boys, was long and pulled back into a ponytail, and he wore an earring – a dangling fang – and that damn knowing expression most adults wore when they saw Rai and I bickering. What in the world was that about?
Carla ushered me into the kitchen, trying, as usual, to get me to eat something. "You're too thin!" she would implore, but I declined with the excuse that I had just had dinner.
Then I noticed that Clay and Omi were here too, but from where I had stood, they were out of my line of sight. "You guys made it, then?" Rai commented around a mouthful of bread, earning him a punch from me. But then he started choking. I sighed heavily, hiding my face in my hands in resignation, amid laughter from the others.
After breakfast, the four of us headed up to Rai's room and as soon as we walked through the door, the tiny little owl Sirius had given Clay at the end of last year zoomed around our heads, twittering madly. "Shut up, Pig." Rai swatted the bird away.
"Uh, why are you calling that owl Pig?"
"Because he's being stupid." Clay responded with a shrug. "His proper name is Pigwidgeon."
"Yeah, and that's not stupid at all." Rai rolled his eyes sarcastically.
"Jesse named him." Clay offered by way of explanation. "We have to keep him up here 'cause he annoys Errol and Hermes."
"Pedro's owl. Mum and dad got it for him when he got the job at the Ministry. Have you heard from Sirius over the summer?"
"A few times, yeah. Sent tropical birds, so I think he's somewhere south. I almost wrote to him this morning – I had this weird dream…" I explained the dream and they stared at me.
"I reckon you should've told him." Clay said grimly.
"But it couldn't be real…could it?"
"I don't know, Rai." I shrugged, ignoring Clay and Omi as they raised their eyebrows, exchanged glances and mouthed 'Rai' with amused grins on their faces. "Remember Trelawney's prediction last year? 'Servant and Master shall be reunited once more'. Now, I'd be the first to day that Trelawney's a fraud, but I swear, that one was real."
After a while I left to hang out with Maria and judging by the manic grins on both Clay and Omi's faces, I had just left Rai for a world of teasing.
When we were sufficiently caught up on each other's gossip, Maria and I trooped downstairs to see if we could help Carla with dinner, running into the boys on the stairs. Omi and Clay were wearing satisfied grins and Rai's cheeks were sporting the remnants of a blush.
"We're eating out in the garden; there's simply not enough room in here for thirteen people. Could you take the plates outside, girls? And boys, can you take the cutlery? Juan and Carlos are setting up the tables."
However, when we did get outside, we found Juan and Carlos weren't setting up the tables, but duelling with them in mid-air. We whooped and cheered as Juan's caught Carlos' and knocked off one of its legs. "Will you keep it down?"
We looked up to see Pedro sticking his head out of his bedroom window. "Sorry, Pedro," Juan called up, still grinning. "How're the cauldron bottoms doing?" But Pedro merely huffed and slammed his window shut again.
"I take it Pedro likes work?" I muttered as Juan and Carlos righted the tables.
"Enjoying it?" Rai scoffed. "I don't reckon he'd come home if dad didn't make him."
"He's obsessed!" Ricardo agreed.
"Yeah, just don't get him started on his boss." Fernando warned as Ricardo began to imitate Pedro.
"According to Mr Crouch… As I was saying to Mr Crouch… Mr Crouch is of the opinion… Mr Crouch was telling me… They'll be announcing their engagement any day now,"
Dinner in the Pedrosa household was as delicious as I remembered. Every bit as delicious as Hogwarts, in my opinion. As we gorged ourselves on Carla's wonderful cooking, the conversation soon turned to Quidditch. Well, it was inevitable, since it was the reason we're all here. Okay, when I say everyone talked about Quidditch, I mean the boys and me.
Pedro was talking with Antonio about - you guessed it - his boss, Mr Crouch. Apparently Rai and the twins hadn't been exaggerating. They mentioned a man named Ludo Bagman and a woman – Bertha Jorkins – whose name I had heard before – in my dream. They were discussing her status as missing, but I knew from my dream that she was already dead. That is, if my dream was real…
They also made reference to a 'top secret event', Pedro clearing his throat significantly and looking towards the seven of us still in Hogwarts as he did. "He's been trying to get us to ask what that event is ever since he started work." Rai muttered. "Probably an exhibition of thick-bottomed cauldrons."
At the other end of the table, Carla was arguing with Juan about his earring. "…with a horrible great fang on it!" she was saying. "Really, Juan, what do they say at the bank?"
It looked as though it took a lot of effort for Juan not to roll his eyes, but he spoke patiently. "Mum, no one at the bank gives a damn how I dress, as long as I bring back plenty of treasure."
"And your hair's getting a bit silly, dear, I wish you'd let me give it a trim…" she fingered her wand as if longing to do so.
"I like it." Maria cut in. "You're so old fashioned, mum. Anyway, it's nowhere near as long as Hagrid's…"
In the middle of the table the twins, Carlos, Rai, Clay, Omi and I were discussing Quidditch, with Alejandro watching and listening intently. "It's got to be Ireland." Carlos was saying. "They flattened Peru in the semi-finals."
"Bulgaria have got Viktor Krum, though." Fernando argued.
"Okay, so that means Bulgaria has one decent player, while Ireland has seen seven pretty great ones who work well together." Rai threw back at them and Carlos choked on his food.
"You call Krum a decent player?" He asked incredulously.
"Yeah." Rai shrugged and the twins nodded their assent.
"Oh!" Ricardo seemed to come to a sudden realisation. "Of course, you haven't seen Kimiko play."
Okay, now I was really confused. What had I to do with whether or not a guy was a decent Quidditch player?
"Alright then. How about we play after dinner?"
"Sure. Hey, Juan, you game for Quidditch after dinner?"
"Not too late – you have an early start tomorrow."
After dinner we got our brooms and headed down behind the orchard to play. "Right, so Fernando and Ricardo are beaters; Clay and Omi can play keepers; Carlos are seekers; so that leaves you and I, Juan, as chasers."
"No!" Juan moaned good-naturedly. "I don't wanna play chaser against you!"
"Well, tough!" Rai called back as we rose into the air and our positions.
It was Omi, Rai, Ricardo and me against Clay, Juan, Fernando and Carlos. Ricardo looked ecstatic while Fernando pouted. "That's not fair! You have the better team!"
"Oh, come on Fernando, stop whining and let's start the game!" Maria called from her spot as referee. The rest of the Pedrosas had turned up to watch.
Almost as soon as the match got underway, our team had the upper hand. Neither Clay nor Omi were particularly good fliers, but their instincts and speed allowed them to block quite a few goals.
Juan had scored one goal to Rai's ten when I saw it. It was fluttering along the grass directly below me, so I dived. Straight down. I grabbed the golf ball Carlos had charmed to behave like a snitch in my hand and pulled out of my dive milliseconds before I hit the ground, spiralling upwards to meet the others up in the air. I was back before Carlos had time to react to my absence.
While my team-mates congratulating me, I saw Juan and Carlos staring at me in shock. Carla and Antonio had pretty much the same expressions from their positions on the ground and beside them, Alejandro was clapping happily.
"Yeah." Carlos spoke up, blinking. "I get your point. Krum is a decent player." Juan nodded mutely.
"Look at the time!" Carla exclaimed suddenly. "You must be exhausted! You really should be in bed; the whole lot of you, you'll be up at the crack of dawn to get to the Cup. If you all leave your school lists out, I'll get your things for you tomorrow in Diagon Alley. There might not be time after the World Cup. The match went on for five days last time."
"I hope it does this time!" I said excitedly as we vegan to climb the stairs. Five days of straight Quidditch – how awesome is that!
"Well, I certainly don't!" sniffed Pedro. "I shudder to think what the state of my in-tray would be if I was away from work for five days."
"Yeah, someone might slip dragon dung in it again, eh, Pedro?" Ricardo grinned teasingly.
Pedro went quite red and hissed, "That was a sample of fertiliser from Norway! It was nothing personal!"
"It was." Ricardo whispered as we reached Pedro's bedroom and he slammed the door shut. "We sent it."
By the time I reached Maria's room, my exhaustion finally hit me. I was still running on Tokyo time, and so I had been awake for over 24 hours. I crawled into bed and fell immediately into a – thankfully – dreamless sleep.
Carla was right when she said we'd be up at the crack of dawn. It was still dark when she shook Maria and I awake. We got up and dressed, still half-asleep, and headed downstairs into the kitchen where Rai, Clay, Omi and the twins were eating their breakfast in a zombie-like state. Antonio was re-checking a large sheaf of parchment tickets and he was wearing a golfing jumper along with an old pair of jeans that looked a little short. You know, they look kinda like papa's clothes…
"What do you think?" he asked anxiously. "We're supposed to go incognito – do I look like a muggle, Kimiko?"
"Yeah. Very good." I grinned. For some reason, adult wizards found it exceedingly difficult to dress like muggles, so it really was a huge achievement.
"Where's Juan and Carols and Pedro?" yawned Fernando.
"Well, they're aspirating, aren't they? So they can have a bit of a lie in." Carla responded, ladling porridge into mine and Maria's bowls.
"So they're still in bed? Why can't we apparatus too?" grumbled Fernando.
"Because you're not of age and you haven't got your test." Carla shot back.
Apparition is the main form of transport for of-age wizards, though you had to pass a test to get your licence first.
"Why do we have to be up so early?" whined Maria as she continued to miss her mouth with her porridge-laden spoon.
"We've got a bit of a walk." Antonio replied.
That jerked Maria awake and she noticed the porridge accumulating on her cheek. "Walk?" she asked incredulously, wiping the porridge from her cheek. "We can't walk all the way to the World Cup – it's in England!"
"Oh no, we only need to walk part of the journey." Chuckled Antonio. "It's just that it's very difficult for a large number of wizards to congregate without attracting muggle attention. We have to be careful about how we travel at the best of times, and on a huge occasion like the Quidditch World Cup-"
"Fernando!" Carla cut across sharply, making everyone jump. "What is that n your pocket?" she demanded.
"Nothing." Oh, Fernando, that never works!
"Don't lie to me! Accio!" she pointed her wand at his pocket and several of the twins' Ton Tongue Toffees flew into her hand. "We told you to destroy them! We told you to get rid of the lot!" She was swelling with anger now. If I look even one tenth as angry as that when I'm angry, it's no wonder Rai, Clay and Omi back away looking terrified. "Empty your pockets. Go on, both of you!"
The twins had obviously been trying to smuggle as many toffees from the house as they could carry, but Carla – through the use of the summoning charm, Accio – managed to find them all. The twins looked outraged as she threw them out.
"We spent six months developing those!"
"Oh, a fine way to spend six months!" she shrieked. "No wonder you didn't get more O.W.L.s!"
And like that the mood took a complete 180 degree turn. The twins hoisted their rucksacks onto their backs and stormed out without another word to their mother.
"Well, have a lovely time." Carla called after us as we hurried after the twins, to whom she called, "And behave yourselves!" but still received the silent treatment. "I'll send Juan, Carlos and Pedro along around mid-day."
"So how do we get there without all the muggles noticing?" Maria asked, picking up on the conversation before we were interrupted by the toffee fiasco.
"It's been a massive organisational problem." Antonio sighed. "The trouble is, about a hundred thousand wizards turn up to the World Cup, and of course we just haven't got a magical site big enough to accommodate them all. There are places muggles can't penetrate, but imagine trying to pack a hundred thousand wizards into Diagon Alley or Platform 9 ¾." Maria and I glanced at each other, stifling giggles at the sudden mental image. "So we had to find a nice deserted moor, and set up as many Anti-Muggle precautions as possible."
We had just reached the forest near the Pedrosa house and stopped just outside it. Antonio stooped down and began searching for something on the ground. "Now there are many methods used – apparition and muggle transport among them – but we're using a portkey. An object used to transport wizards from one spot to another at a prearranged time. Two hundred portkeys have been placed at strategic places around Britain. They're mostly used by British wizards but, since there's so many of us, we're going to use one. We've just got to find the portkey that's to take us to the village of Ottery St Catchpole first… Aha!" He straightened up triumphantly, holding up an old boot. "Everyone grab on, we're just in time."
We all did so and almost as soon as we did, the boot picked us up, and almost immediately we landed on a hill in the typical British breeze. I pulled my jacket tighter around me, the sudden change from the heat of Brazil made it even colder.
"Right, we've got ten minutes. Everyone look for the portkey."
We had barely begun to look for it when a voice called from across the hill, "Over here, Antonio!"
"Amos!" We walked over and Antonio shook hands with the wizard who, I assumed, had talked to us. "This is Amos Diggory, everyone." That name sounds really familiar… "Works for the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures." No, that's not it… "And I think you know his son, Cedric?" Ah, that's why.
Cedric Diggory was a seventh year in Hogwarts and was captain of the Hufflepuff Quidditch Team. He appeared from the other side of the hill and smiled in greeting. "Hi."
We all said 'hi' back. Well, all but the twins, who hadn't gotten over the outcome of Gryffindor and Hufflepuff's last Quidditch match.
"Hope you didn't have too long to walk. We had to get up at two, didn't we Ced?" But…wouldn't miss the Quidditch World Cup for a sackful of galleons – and the tickets cost about that. Mind you, it looks like I got off easy… All those yours, Antonio?"
"Oh, no!" Antonio laughed. "Just the brunettes, my three eldest are apparating later and my youngest is at home with Carla. These are Raimundo's friends: Omi, Clay and Kimiko."
"Merlin's beard! Kimiko? Kimiko Tohomiko?" Oh, boy. Not again. "Ced's talked about you, of course. Told us all about playing against you last year… I said to him, I said – Ced, that'll be something to tell your grandchildren, that will…you beat Kimiko Tohomiko!"
Really bad move to bring that up in front of over half of the Gryffindor Quidditch Team. It didn't exactly bring back good memories, and while the twins' scowls had returned full force and both they and Rai clenched their fists in anger, I clenched mine and squeezed my eyes shut in an attempt to dispel the memory of my grandparents' dying screams reverberating through my head. Rai knew what I was trying to do – he always seems to know when it comes to me – and he took my hand, unclenching the fist, and held it. It helped.
"Kimiko fell off her broom, dad." Cedric muttered embarrassedly. "I told you…it was an accident…the Dementors-"
"Yes, but you didn't fall off your broom, did you? Always modest, our Ced, always the gentleman…but the best man won. I'm sure Kimiko'd say the same, wouldn't you, eh? One falls off their broom, one stays on – you don't need to be a genius to tell which one's the better flier!"
"A better flier?" Rai demanded in a low, deadly voice. I know that voice. It's the voice he uses when he's about to give someone a serious tongue-lashing. "You think it came down to who was a better flier? No, it came down to who was more affected by the Dementors. What do you hear when Dementors come near you, Cedric? Do you hear your grandparents being mercilessly murdered by Wuya? Oh…wait…no, that's Kimiko. Do you think you could've remained conscious under that much despair from multiple Dementors?"
There was complete silence on that hill now. A small gust of wind blew, making the surroundings just as cold as the atmosphere, reflecting Rai's emotions as usual. Everyone's eyes flickered between me and Rai. I hadn't actually told anyone else what I hear when Dementors come near me. "And could we please move on, so that Kimiko can stop hearing their dying screams in her head?" Oi! Stay out of my head!
"Uh, must be nearly time.! Antonio said quickly, checking his watch. "It's a minute off, we'd better get ready."
"Here." Amos Diggory held out an old boot that looked as if it could be the pair of the one we had recently used. Probably was.
After a minute we travelled again by portkey and landed next to two wizards who had obviously attempted to look like muggles. They failed, though. One was holding a large pocket watch and the other a roll of parchment. The one with the parchment directed us to our campsites and we split up – the Diggorys one way and the rest of us the other.
As we started to walk away, Cedric caught my arm. "I just wanted to apologise…my father…"
"Oh, don't worry about it. He's just proud of you."
"And – uh – sorry if the subject brought up any bad memories…"
I shrugged. "You didn't know. Besides, I can handle bad stuff. Wouldn't be here if I couldn't."
"Alright." He nodded and looked as if he wanted to say something else, but he merely smiled. "See you at school."
I hurried to catch up with the others. We only hit a minor snag when paying since the site manager got suspicious when Antonio had to consult me for the money, and eventually a security wizard had to come and place a memory charm on him.
We had to put the tent up by hand and Antonio was buzzing at the prospect of acting like a muggle for the rest of the day. Inside the tent was like a small flat with a bathroom, kitchen and three bedrooms.
"We'll be a bit cramped, but we'll all squeeze in. Right, we'll need water."
"I can-" Omi started but Antonio cut across him.
"Ah, there's a tap marked on the map." He pointed to it on the map the site manager had given us. "Raimundo, Kimiko, Clay and Omi, you go there and get the water, and the rest of us can go and get some firewood."
"But we've got an oven!" Rai argued. "And Omi and Kimiko can-"
"Anti-Muggle security, Raimundo!" Antonio exclaimed excitedly, looking like a small child at Christmas. "When real muggles camp, they cook on fires outdoors – I've seen them at it!"
We sighed good-naturedly at his enthusiasm as he pressed pots and pans into our hands and pushed us out the flap.
I held back a bit from Clay and Omi, who had started to debate Quidditch again. Rai held back with me. "Hey…you okay?"
"Yeah. I just…wanted to say thanks. You know, for earlier. For sticking up for me."
"No problem." Rai said, rubbing the back of his neck in the way he did when embarrassed or sheepish. "Anytime."
"Although, you could've been a little less harsh on Cedric." Rai's eyebrows rose incredulously. "He's actually pretty nice – he even apologised."
"Hmmm." Rai's mouth set in a grim line – actually pretty reminiscent of Professor McGonagall's when she's angry – and hurried after Clay and Omi. I scurried quickly after them, confused.
On the way to the tap we passed through the Irish supporters' tents – completely covered with green shamrocks. We saw Aidan and Sishi and I met their mother – who was actually really nice, and from Ireland, so was very anxious to know who we'd be supporting; and then we had to fight not to laugh at a wizard in line for the tap who was wearing a muggle nightgown.
So far this was shaping up to be one of the best summers ever.
On the way back to the tent we met a few more school mates, including Oliver Wood, who introduced us to his parents and told us he had been signed to a professional Quidditch team, as well as the other members of the Gryffindor team – Katie Bell and Angelina Johnson, who had replaced Oliver as captain.
"You've been ages." Fernando remarked when we finally made it back.
"We met a few people. You not got that fire started yet?" Fernando shook his head.
"I can do it – it'd be much quicker."
"Nah." Ricardo grinned, appearing beside his twin brother. "Dad's having fun with the matches."
There were several splintered matches littering the ground next to where Antonio was sitting cross-legged before the pile of firewood with a gleeful look on his face. As we watched, he managed to light one and promptly dropped it in surprise.
I showed him how to do it properly and at last we had a fire. Soon – with a little help from me – it was hot enough to cook on. We had just started to cook the sausages and eggs when Juan, Carlos and Pedro strolled out of the woods. "Ah, excellent, lunch!" Pedro declared when he saw what we were doing. With a little more help from me, the food was soon ready and we were halfway through our lunch when Antonio jumped to his feet.
"Aha!" he declared. "The man of the moment! Ludo!"
I had heard that Ludo Bagman used to play Quidditch himself and he seemed to have dug out his old robes for the occasion – yellow and black horizontal stripes.
"Ahoy there! Antonio, old man – what a day, eh? Could we have asked for more perfect weather?"
"Ah – yes," said Antonio, grinning, "this is my son, Pedro – he's just started at the Ministry – and this is Ricardo – no, Fernando, sorry – that's Ricardo – Juan, Carlos, Raimundo – my daughter, Maria – and Raimundo's friends Omi Greensburg, Clay Bailey and Kimiko Tohomiko." His eyes flickered to my scar. Typical. "Everyone, this is Ludo Bagman. It's thanks to him we've got such good tickets."
Bagman beamed. "Fancy a flutter on the match, Antonio?"
"Oh…go on, then. Let's see…a galleon on Ireland to win?"
"A galleon?" Was it just me or did Mr Bagman look disappointed? "Very well, very well…any other takers?"
"They're a bit young to be gambling," Antonio cut in quickly. "Carla wouldn't like-"
"We'll bet thirty-seven galleons, fifteen sickles, three knuts," said Ricardo as he and Fernando pooled their money, "that Ireland win – but Bulgaria get the snitch. Oh, and we'll throw in a fake wand."
"You don't want to go showing Mr Bagman rubbish like that-" Pedro hissed, but Mr Bagman took the wand and roared with laughter when it turned into a rubber chicken with a loud squawk. Pedro looked as if he had been stunned.
"Boys, I don't want you betting…that's all your savings…your mother-"
"Oh, don't be a spoilsport, Antonio! They're old enough to know what they want! So, you reckon Ireland will win but Krum will get the snitch? Not a chance, boys…not a chance…" Antonio watched helplessly as Mr Bagman wrote out the slip and handed it to the twins. "Haven't seen Barty Crouch, have you? I've hit a bit of a language barrier, see. Barty'll be able to sort it out. He speaks about a hundred and fifty languages."
"Mr Crouch? He speaks over two hundred!" Pedro had perked up at the mention of his beloved boss. "Mermish and Gobbledegook and Troll…"
"Anyone can speak Troll!" scoffed Ricardo dismissively. "All you have to do is point and grunt." Pedro glared.
"Any news of Bertha Jorkins yet, Ludo?"
"Not a dicky bird. But she'll turn up."
Rai and I exchanged worried glances. If my dream was real, she wouldn't be turning up anytime soon…
"You don't think it might be time to send someone to look for her?" Antonio suggested tentatively as Pedro handed out tea.
"Barty Crouch keeps saying that, but we really can't spare anyone at the moment. Oh – talk of the devil! Barty!"
Mr Crouch had just appeared by our fireside. It was obvious why Pedro idolised him so much. Pedro was a great believer of following the rules, and Barty Crouch looked like the sort of man who put a lot of stock into rules. He was even perfectly dressed as a muggle.
"Pull up a bit of grass, Barty." Mr Bagman said amiably.
"No thank you, Ludo." Mr Crouch replied with a bite of impatience in his voice. "I've been looking for you everywhere. The Bulgarians are insisting that we add another twelve seats to the Top Box."
"Oh, is that what they're after? I thought the chap was asking to borrow a pair of tweezers. Strong accent…"
"Mr Crouch!" Pedro jumped up and sank into a kind of half-bow. "Would you like a cup of tea?"
"Oh. Yes – thank you, Podley." The twins snorted into their cups but Rai and I had more self-restraint thanks to Xiaolin training, but we'd be having a good laugh and no doubt teasing Pedro away from the Ministry officials.
Before Bagman and Crouch left, they let slip that the big 'top secret event' was happening at Hogwarts. So, as soon as they left, Ricardo turned to Antonio. "What's happening at Hogwarts, dad? What were they talking about?"
"You'll find out soon enough." Antonio smiled.
"It's classified information until such time as the Ministry decides to release it." Pedro said stiffly. "Mr Crouch was quite right not to disclose it."
"Oh, shut up, Podley."
As it got darker, the mood of the campsite got more and more exciting. Soon it was time for us to set off towards the stadium. Along the way we passed many stalls and I bought a shamrock rosette and hat. There was no doubt who I was supporting. Ever since I was little, I had looked forward to when papa had to go to Ireland for business. I loved it there. Sure, the weather isn't the greatest, but the culture, the music, the dancing, the myths and legends…
We all bought a pair of omnioculars – like a pair of muggle binoculars but, but they had many enhanced magical features, such as play-by-play breakdown – and a programme each.
By the time we reached the stadium, we were buzzing with anticipation, and the Xiaolin Dragon trait of living for excitement and adventure came through, causing the four of us to literally bounce on the balls of our feet.
The Ministry witch at the entrance checked our tickets. "Prime seats – Top Box! Straight upstairs, Antonio, and as high as you can go."
They really were prime seats and the least fit of our party were panting as we reached them. It was a small box at the highest point of the stadium and directly between the goalposts.
We were in the front row of the box, so I glanced over my shoulder to see who else was sharing the box with us. We had arrived quite early, so it was empty except for a small creature sitting in the second from last seat in the row behind us, huddled with its face in its hands.
"Are you alright?" The creature started at being spoken to, and lifted its hands and I saw that it had large brown eyes, bat-like ears, a nose that looked like a tomato, and was wearing a tea-towel draped like a toga. A house-elf.
"Is Miss speaking to me?" The tiny elf squeaked incredulously.
"Yes. I was just wondering if you were alright – all huddled up like that."
"Oh." She looked shocked that I was asking after her well being. "Winky is fine, Miss. I is just worried about my friend, Dobby, Miss. His last masters were very cruel, but somehow they freed him and now he is getting ideas above his station – he wants paying for wok, and getting up to all sorts of high jinks, Miss, what is unbecoming to a house-elf."
"Well, shouldn't he have a little fun?"
"House-elves is not supposed to have fun, Kimiko Tohomiko." Winky insisted. I would've been freaked out that she knew my name, if not for the fact that everyone does once they see my scar. "House-elves does what they is told. I is not liking heights at all, Miss, but my master sends me to the Top Box, and I comes, Miss."
I frowned. "But why would he send you up here, if he knows you don't like heights?"
"Master – master wishes me to save him a seat, Miss, he is very busy. Winky is wishing she was back in master's tent, Kimiko Tohomiko, but Winky does what she is told, Winky is a good house-elf." She gave the edge of the box a frightened glance and hid her eyes again.
I turned back to face the front and began flicking through my programme. "'A display by the team mascots will precede the match.'" I read aloud.
"Oh, that's always worth watching." Antonio remarked. "National Teams bring creatures from their native land, you know, to put on a bit of a show."
Over the next half hour, the box filled with what were evidently very important wizards, given the way Pedro kept jumping to his feet – he looked like he was trying to sit on a hedgehog. When the Minister for Magic himself, Cornelius Fudge, arrived, Pedro bowed so low that his glasses fell off. He shot the four of us jealous looks as he repaired them, as Fudge treated us like old friends after our meeting last year, and introduced us to the wizards on either side of him.
"Kimiko Tohomiko, you know." He said loudly to the Bulgarian Minister, who didn't seem to understand a word of English. "Kimiko Tohomiko…oh, come on now, you know who she is…the girl who survived You-Know-Who…you do know who she is-"
The Bulgarian Minister suddenly spotted my scar and pointed at it, gabbling loudly and excitedly.
"Knew we'd get there in the end." Fudge sighed wearily.
The Spicers arrived next, and all of the seats were filled, apart from the one Winky was saving. Ludo Bagman bounded into the box excitedly. "Everyone ready? Minister – ready to go?"
"Ready when you are, Ludo."
Mr Bagman pointed his wand at his throat. "Sonorus." His voice was magically magnified and echoed throughout the entire stadium.
"Ladies and gentlemen…welcome! Welcome to the final of the four hundred and twenty-second Quidditch World Cup!"
The crowd erupted. The huge blackboard stopped showing advertisements and spelt out – Bulgaria: 0, Ireland: 0.
"And now, without further ado, allow me to introduce…the Bulgarian Team Mascots!"
The scarlet side of the stadium roared in appreciation.
"I wonder what they've brought?" Antonio mused, leaning forward in his seat. "Aaah!" He pulled his glasses off and polished them on his jumper. "Veela!"
About a hundred Veela glided onto the pitch. They were beautiful in an inhuman sort of way, hauntingly so, but there was a sort of…menace…for want of a better word…behind their faces. I didn't trust them..
The music started and the Veela started to dance. All of the boys had a dazed expression from the start. I caught Maria's eye and we both shook our heads and rolled our eyes before leaning back in our seats with our arms and legs crossed, and thoroughly un-amused looks on our faces.
The Veela eventually stopped dancing and angry yells filled the stadium as they left the pitch. I scoffed. "Honestly!" The boys blinked blearily at me and Maria hit Ricardo, who was closest to her, and I smacked Rai, who was next to me, upside the head.
"And now," Ludo Bagman's voice roared, bringing everyone's attention back to him, "kindly put your wands in the air…for the Irish National Team Mascots!"
A green-and-gold blur zoomed into the stadium, and did a complete circuit before splitting into two, each heading towards a goalpost. A rainbow arced between them, across the length of the pitch, and then the two blurs merged to form a glittering green shamrock, which soared over the stands, raining galleons.
The shamrock eventually dissolved, and the leprechauns drifted down and settled at the opposite end of the pitch from the Veela to watch the match.
"And now, ladies and gentlemen, kindly welcome – the Bulgarian National Quidditch Team! I give you – Dimitrov! Ivanova! Zograf! Levski! Vulchanov! Volkov! Aaaaaaaand Krum!" The crowd cheered as seven scarlet-clad figures shot out onto the pitch, the cheers increasing as the last figure shot out.
"Who's that?" I asked, wondering what the hype was all about.
"That's Viktor Krum." Carlos pointed out.
"He's the second best seeker in the world!" The twins said in unison.
"Second best? Then who's the best?" If he was second best, would there really be all this hype?
They all stared at me incredulously. "You, of course!" Rai grinned.
I shook my head, smiling, and turned my attention back to Mr Bagman. "And now, please greet – the Irish National Quidditch Team! Presenting – Connolly! Ryan! Troy! Mullet! Moran! Quigley! Aaaaaaaand – Lynch!" The seven green blurs shot out and through my omnioculars, I could see the word 'Firebolt' on each of their broomsticks.
The referee entered the pitch and released the four balls. "Theeeeey're off!" screamed Bagman. "It's Mullet! Troy! Levski! Moran! Dimitrov! Back to Mullet! Troy! Levski! Moran!" The speed of the game was incredible! It was the sort of speed that I had always kinda wished we could play it at school – probably my Xiaolin instincts talking.
Troy scored the first goal for Ireland and as he did a lap of honour, the leprechauns rose, once again, into a glittering shamrock, as the Veela watched sulkily.
The Irish chasers were spectacular! Far better than Bulgaria, who seemed to have decided that their best chance lay in preventing them from using their best moves by pelting bludgers at them. That was how Bulgaria managed to score a goal. "Fingers in your ears, boys!" bellowed Antonio, as the Veela began to dance in victory.
"Dimitrov! Levski! Dimitrov! Ivanova – oh, I say!"
Krum and Lynch tore through the chasers at full speed, heading straight for the ground.
"They're gonna crash!" gasped Clay, and he was half-right. At the last moment, Krum pulled out and Lynch slammed into the ground.
"Fool!" We all moaned. "Krum was feinting!"
"It's time out!" yelled Bagman. "As trained medi-wizards hurry onto the pitch to examine Aidan Lynch!"
"He'll be okay, he only got ploughed." Carlos reassured Maria, who was hanging over the edge of the box, looking horror-struck. "Which is what Krum was after, of course…"
I quickly pressed 'replay' and 'play-by-play' on my omnioculars and watched the move again in slow motion, the words 'Wronski Feint – dangerous Seeker diversion' splashed across the lens. I've got to try that some time…
Lynch got to his feet, amid cheers, mounted his Firebolt and kicked off. When the whistle blew again, the Irish team played faster and more skilfully than before. After fifteen minutes, Ireland had pulled ahead by ten more goals, and were now leading by one hundred and thirty points to ten.
The game started to get dirtier too. As Mullet shot towards the goalposts clutching the quaffle, Zograf, the Bulgarian keeper, flew out to meet her. Almost instantly, Mostafa – the referee – gave a long shrill whistle blast as a scream of rage rose from the Irish crowd.
"And Mostafa takes the Bulgarian keeper to task for cobbling – excessive use of elbows! And – yes, it's a penalty to Ireland!"
The leprechauns had risen angrily into the air when Mullet had been fouled, but they now formed the words 'ha ha ha'. On the other side of the pitch, the Veela leapt to their feet and started dancing again, tossing their hair angrily.
The boys stuffed their fingers in their ears again, but I soon pulled Rai's out, giggling. "Look at the referee!" He had landed before the Veela and was flexing his muscles and smoothing his moustache.
"Now, we can't have that!" called Bagman, sounding highly amused. "Somebody slap the referee!" A medi-wizard came tearing across the pitch, fingers in his ears, and kicked Mostafa hard on the shin. He came to his senses – looking exceptionally embarrassed – and began shouting at the Veela, who had stopped dancing. Now they looked mutinous.
"And unless I'm very much mistaken," Bagman's voice could be heard over our laughter. "Mostafa is actually attempting to send off the Bulgarian Team Mascots! Now there's something we haven't seen before…oh, this could turn nasty…"
Oh, it did.
The Bulgarian beaters landed on either side of Mostafa, arguing furiously with him, and indicating the leprechauns, who had now formed 'hee hee hee' in the air. Mostafa wasn't at all interested in their arguments and jabbed his finger in the air, clearly telling them to resume play, and when they didn't, he gave two short blasts on his whistle – two penalties for Ireland.
The game got even more viscous, especially on Bulgaria's side. Both sides' beaters were acting without mercy, but the Bulgarians – Vulchanov and Volkov – didn't seem to care whether their clubs made contact with a bludger or a person.
The Irish supporters screamed "Foul!" standing up in a wave of green as Dimitrov shot straight at Moran – currently in possession of the quaffle – nearly knocking her off her broom. The officials agreed and Ireland got another penalty, prompting the leprechauns to rise into the air, forming a hand, which was making a particularly rude sign at the Veela.
Then all hell broke loose.
The Veela lost control, launching themselves across the pitch and throwing handfuls of fire at the leprechauns. Huh. Kinda reminds me of someone…
Rai heard that last thought and turned to me with raised eyebrows. I shrugged with a grin and turned back to watch the drama unfolding on the pitch. Ministry wizards were flooding the pitch in an attempt to separate the leprechauns and the Veela – who, it seems, I had been right about. They weren't even remotely beautiful now – they had sharp, cruel-beaked bird heads, scaly wings and were emitting feral shrieks.
"And that, boys, is why you never go for looks alone!"
Meanwhile, the quaffle changed hands at the speed of a bullet – it was riveting! The Irish beater, Quigley, shot a bludger at Krum, breaking his nose. Mostafa didn't notice – he was too busy trying to put out the fire on his broom tail.
"Time out!" Rai yelled at him. "Ah, come on, he can't play like that, look at him-"
"Look at Lynch!" I cut across him excitedly, as the Irish seeker had suddenly gone into a spectacular dive, and this was no Wronski Feint. "He's seen the snitch!" I squealed. "I see it! Look at him go!" The crowd seemed to realise what was happening and the Irish were on their feet. The Bulgarians got up too as Krum drew level with Lynch, and the pair hurtled towards the ground.
"They're going to crash!" Maria shrieked.
"They're not!" roared Rai.
"Lynch is!" I yelled, wincing as Lynch hit the ground and was immediately stampeded by a group of angry Veela.
"The snitch!" Carlos bellowed. "But where's the snitch!"
"He's got it – Krum's got it – it's all over!" I shouted, for Krum was steadily rising, snitch in hand,
The scoreboard flashed – Bulgaria: 160, Ireland: 170.
The Irish screamed in delight as they realised what had happened. "IRELAND WIN!" shouted Bagman, taken aback by the abrupt end of the match. "KRUM GETS THE SNITCH – BUT IRELAND WIN – good lord, I don't think any of us expected that!" Well, the twins did. No wonder they're looking so happy.
"What did he catch the snitch for?" Rai bellowed, even as he screamed himself hoarse for the Irish. "He ended it when Ireland were a hundred and sixty points ahead, the idiot!"
"He knew they were never going to catch up," I yelled as my hands began to burn from all the clapping. "The Irish are too good…he just wanted to end it on his own terms."
The Irish players were dancing gleefully in a shower of gold from their mascots as the Veela sulked.
"Well, we fought bravely." A heavily accented voice said gloomily from behind. I turned to see Fudge staring at the Bulgarian Minister.
"You can speak English!" he demanded, outraged. "And you've been letting me mime everything all day!"
"Well, it was very funny." The Bulgarian Minister shrugged and I had to stifle a giggle at the expression on Fudge's face.
The Top Box was suddenly illuminated as the Cup was brought up. "Let's have a really loud hand for the gallant losers – Bulgaria!" The Bulgarians entered amid much applause, and I saw many omnioculars lenses flash in our direction.
Then came the Irish. Aidan Lynch was being supported by Moran and Quigley, as he second crash seemed to have dazed him and his eyes looked strangely unfocused.
A quick glance and we all understood. The four of us simultaneously cast our healing magic at him and he recovered immediately, turning to see where it had come from, his eyes widened when he recognised us, but he winked in thanks.
At last, after the Irish had raised the Cup to thunderous approval from the crowd, and after they had left for their lap of honour, Mr Bagman pointed his wand at his throat. "Quietus." His voice was hoarse but he still grinned. "They'll be talking about this one for years! A really unexpected twist, that…shame it couldn't have lasted longer… oh yes…yes, I owe you…how much?"
Fernando and Ricardo had scrambled out of their seats and were now standing before Ludo Bagman with their hands outstretched and broad grins on their faces.
Back inside our tent we sat up drinking hot chocolate and discussing the match. "You know," I mused thoughtfully, swirling the last of my hot chocolate in my mug. "It felt kinda strange to be cheering the players in green rather than in scarlet."
"Yeah." Maria yawned. "For a moment it felt like Gryffindor versus Slytherin."
"Oh, please!" Raimundo scoffed. "As if Slytherin could play that well."
Maria slumped forward on the table, fast asleep, and Antonio declared that it was time for bed.
"Don't tell your mother you've been gambling." Antonio implored the twins as we traipsed off to bed, me half-carrying Maria.
"Don't worry, dad," grinned Ricardo, "we've got big plans for this money, and they don't involve it getting confiscated."
Antonio looked for a moment as if he was going to ask what these 'big plans' were, but upon reflection, he seemed to decide that he didn't want to know. "Oh, I'm glad I'm not on duty." He murmured sleepily, referring to the singing and fireworks coming from the other side of the campsite. "I wouldn't fancy having to go and tell the Irish they've got to stop celebrating."
I helped Maria climb into bed before crawling into the top bunk. Since we were the only girls, we got the smallest room to ourselves. I lay awake, too wired to sleep, watching the occasional leprechaun lantern fly overhead, and itching to get back on my Firebolt and try out that Wronski Feint…
I must've fallen asleep, as the next thing I knew, Antonio was shouting. "Get up! Maria – Kimiko – come on now, get up, this is urgent!" It was obvious that he was telling the truth, not just by the panic in his voice, but by the fact that outside, the singing had turned to screaming, and those bangs definitely weren't fireworks… sounds like people running, too.
I jumped down from my bed and hurriedly shook Maria awake. Xiaolin instincts can be a pain sometimes, but in instances like this, they were a lifesaver. I was wide awake in a second, unlike Maria, who groaned and sat up. "S'matter?" she mumbled, but I pulled her out of bed and she was awake enough then to hear the screams. She glanced at me before reaching for her clothes.
"No time, Maria – just grab a jacket and get outside – quickly!" We exchanged frightened glances. It must be really serious if Antonio – who was wearing jeans over his pyjamas – was telling us to go outside, into the cold night air of England, in spaghetti strap tops and shorts. I pulled on my boots and grabbed the first jacket I could find, coincidentally, it was the hoodie Rai had given me last year, and we scurried out of the tent.
It was chaos. A few fires were still burning, and I could see people fleeing into the woods, escaping the large mass of something that was moving across the field, emitting flashes of light and the bangs I had heard earlier. They were roaring and laughing drunkenly, and as they set fire to the nearest tent as they passed, I could see them through the light of the flames. It was a group of hooded and masked wizards, who were levitating a family of muggles – the family of the site manager – and treating them like their own personal puppets.
"That's sick…" Maria muttered as I watched helplessly. "That is really sick…"
I couldn't just stand there and do nothing! Blame it on my Xiaolin instincts, but I dashed towards the group, only stopped when Rai, Clay and Omi – having emerged from the tent and seen what I was doing – grabbed me from behind and held me back.
Juan, Carlos and Pedro emerged from the tent, fully dressed with their wands out. "We're going to help the Ministry." Antonio shouted over the noise, rolling up his sleeves and drawing his own wand. "You lot – get into the woods, and stick together! Fernando, Ricardo – Maria is your responsibility! I'll come and get you once this is all sorted out!" He sprinted towards the crowd, as did Juan, Carlos, Pedro and many other Ministry wizards, who came from all directions.
"C'mon!" Fernando and Ricardo grabbed Mara's hands and started to pull her towards the woods. The four of us scrambled after them, Rai still keeping a tight grip on my arm, as if he was afraid I'd run after the masked wizards again, or disappear.
The woods were pitch black. You could see the dark shapes of people running, and hear panicked voices, but even we couldn't make anything out. I eventually got too impatient and lit my hand so we could see. Fernando, Ricardo and Maria were nowhere to be seen, but Jack Spicer was leaning against a nearby tree, watching the scene on the campsite with a smirk. "Hadn't you better be scurrying along, now? You wouldn't want her spotted, now would you?" he sneered.
My eyes narrowed; almost as a reflex from being near him. "What's that supposed to mean?"
He gave a derisive laugh. "They're after muggles." He grinned nastily. "D'you want to be their next puppet? Because, if you do, hang around…they're moving this way, and it would give us all a laugh."
"Kimiko's a witch." Omi stated, looking confused.
"Have it your own way." Spicer shrugged. "If you think they can't spot a mudblood, stay where you are."
"You watch your mouth!" Rai snarled, lunging at Spicer, but I pulled him back.
"Just ignore him."
A loud bang came from the campsite, and several people screamed. "Scare easily, don't they?" Spicer said lazily before turning to Rai. "I suppose your daddy told you all to hide? What's he up to – trying to rescue the muggles?"
"Where're your parents?" Rau shot back, his temper rising. Not good. "Out there wearing masks, are they?"
"Well…" Spicer floundered for a moment before he found something halfway intelligent to say. "If they were, I wouldn't be likely to tell you Xiaolin losers." But he sort of just did.
"Oh, come on, let's ho and find the others." I pulled Rai after me so he wouldn't kill Spicer, though it wouldn't be much of a loss if he did.
"I'll bet you anything his dad's one of that masked lot!" Rai said hotly.
"Well, with any luck the Ministry will catch him."
We pressed onwards, looking for the twins and Maria, and soon came across a group of arguing teenagers. When they saw us, a blonde girl turned to us. "Où est Madame Maxime? Nous l'avons perdu-"
The boys blinked, utterly lost. "Je suis très désolée, mais je ne sais pas." I smiled apologetically.
"Merci." The girl shrugged, and I walked on. The boys hurried after me, looking rather shocked.
"You speak French?" Rai asked incredulously.
"Yeah," I shrugged, "I speak most languages – papa used to take me with him on his business trips."
Clay and Omi pulled out their wands and lit the tip. Rai searched his pockets. "I don't believe it…I've lost my wand!"
We turned to look for it, but it was nowhere to be seen.
"Maybe it's back at the tent." Clay suggested.
"Yeah…maybe…" It must feel awful without a wand – so vulnerable – but at least he had his elemental magic. I offered him mine, since I was using my flames for light, but he declined, saying that I might need it.
Winky the house-elf jumped out of a nearby bush, but she was moving oddly, as if something was holding her back. "There is bad wizards about!" she squeaked. "People high – high in the air! Winky is getting out of the way!"
"What's up with her? Why can't she run properly?" Rai asked, staring curiously after Winky.
Clay shrugged. "Maybe she didn't ask permission to hide."
I thought about it as we continued searching. Winky's master had forced her to save him a seat in the Top Box, even though he was scared of heights, and had never come for his seat. And yet, she adores him…
We came to a quiet clearing, where no one was running about like headless chickens and we could still hear the sounds from the campsite. Though I'm not sure someone with human hearing could. "I reckon we can just wait here, you know, we'll hear anyone coming a mile off."
We sat down to wait and after a while, Ludo Bagman appeared. "What are you doing in here, all alone?"
We exchanged glances. "Well – there's a sort of riot going on."
Bagman stared at me as I explained. "What?"
"On the campsite…some people have got hold of a family of muggles…they're levitating them…"
Bagman swore loudly and disapparated. We sat in silence, waiting.
"I hope the others are okay." Clay muttered after a while.
"They'll be fine." Rai insisted, but he sounded worried.
"Imagine if your dad catches Marcus Spicer!" I mused with a smirk, sitting down next to Rai and trying to cheer him up. "He's always said he'd like to get him for something."
"That'd wipe the smirk off Spicer's face, all right."
"Those poor muggles, though. What if they can't get them down?"
"They will. They'll find a way."
"Mad, though, to do something like that when the whole Ministry of Magic's out here tonight! I mean-" But I broke off and we all scrambled to our feet, Xiaolin instincts on full alert. Someone was moving through the trees. "Hello?" The footsteps stopped. "Who's there?"
The voice answered, but not with words, with a spell. "MORSMORDRE!" It shrieked. A jet of green light shot into the air and formed a giant skull with a snake for a tongue, sticking out.
Suddenly the wood was alive with screams, but I couldn't figure out why. All of my instincts told me do duck, and it was lucky we did so, for a moment later, voices all around us yelled, "STUPEFY!" and jets of red light shot over our heads, rebounding through the wood.
"Stop! STOP! That's my son!" Antonio was rushing towards us, looking terrified. "Are you alright?"
"Out of the way Antonio." It was Mr Crouch, his face taut with rage and his eyes popping. He looked rather mad. "Which of you did it? Which of you conjured the Dark Mark?" So that was the Heylin's mark – Wuya and Chase. No wonder everyone is terrified.
"We didn't do that! We didn't do anything!" Rai said indignantly. "What did you want to attack us for?"
"Do not lie, sir!" Mr Crouch shouted, the only one still pointing his wand at us. "You have been discovered at the scene of the crime!"
"Barty…they're just kids, Barty. They'd never be able to-" A witch in a dressing gown tried to reason with him, but he cut her off with a wave of his hand.
"Where did the Mark come from?" Antonio asked us.
"Over there." I pointed in the direction where we had heard the footsteps. "There was someone behind the trees and then they shouted something…"
"Oh, stood over there, did they?" Mr Crouch turned to me, looking madder by the second. "Said something, did they? You seem awfully well informed about how that Mark is summoned, missy-"
"Barty!" The witch said sharply as the others headed to where we had indicated. "Think of who you are accusing! Is Kimiko Tohomiko likely to conjure the Dark Mark? Be reasonable!" But Mr Crouch didn't seem to be in a very reasonable mood.
He was only distracted by Amos Diggory's shout from the trees. "We got them!" he shouted. "There's someone here! Unconscious! It's – but – blimey…"
"You've got someone?" Mr Crouch called. "Who? Who is it?"
Mr Diggory didn't answer, but walked over, carrying the last person I would've expected – Winky. Mr Crouch seemed to be as shocked as me. He stuttered out, "This – cannot – be – No –" before he moved to check the bushes himself.
"Come off it, Amos!" Antonio muttered. "You don't seriously think it was the elf? The Dark Mark's a wizard's sign. For one thing, it requires a wand, and-"
"Yeah. And she had a wand."
Ludo Bagman appeared then, almost trampling Winky in his panic as he spotted the Mark. "The Dark Mark! Who did it? Did you get them? Barty! What's going on? Gulping gargoyles!" he leapt into the air as he spotted Winky. "What happened to her?"
"My elf has been stunned, Ludo." Mr Crouch said shortly. I blinked in surprise. Somehow, I hadn't expected Mr Crouch being Winky's master.
"Stunned? By you lot, you mean? But why – no! Winky? Conjure the Dark Mark?" He fell silent in disbelief.
They revived Winky and began questioning her. "I is not doing it, sir! I is not knowing how!" she squeaked tearfully.
"You were found with a wand in your hand." Mr Diggory brandished the wand in question. Hang on…
"Hey – that's mine!" Rai shouted in surprise. Everyone stared at him. "That's my wand! I dropped it!"
"Is this a confession? You threw it aside after you conjured the Mark?"
"Amos!" Antonio cut in angrily. "That's my son. And think who he is – is he likely to conjure their mark?"
"Er – of course not." Mumbled Mr Diggory. "Sorry…carried away…"
They discovered that Rai's wand had been used to conjure the Mark, before they gave it back to him. It couldn't have been Winky though – her voice was too high-pitched, and the voice and the presence we had felt of the one who had cast it were definitely human – but Mr Crouch dismissed her anyway.
When we got back to the tent, Carlos stuck his head out as we approached. "Dad, what's going on? The twins and Maria got back okay, but the others-" he broke off when he saw us.
"Did you get them, dad?" Juan asked once we were back inside. "The person who conjured the Mark?"
"No." Antonio sighed. "We found Barty Crouch's elf holding Raimundo's wand, but we're none the wiser about who actually conjured the Mark."
"What?" Juan, Carlos and Pedro exclaimed in unison. Something I had always associated with the twins. Perhaps it's a Pedrosa thing.
"Raimundo's wand?" the twins echoed.
"Mr Crouch's elf?" Pedro was thunderstruck.
We told the story, and Rai got impatient. "Look, can someone just explain what that skull thing was? It wasn't hurting anyone…why's it such a big deal?"
"It's the Heylin's mark, isn't it?" I asked and Antonio nodded gravely.
"And it hasn't been seen for twelve years. Of course people panicked…it was almost like seeing You-Know-Who back again."
"I don't get it. Rai frowned. "I mean…it's still only a shape in the sky…"
"Rai – Wuya, Chase and their followers sent the Dark Mark into the air whenever they killed." Rai's face showed a dawning comprehension.
Antonio nodded slowly. "The terror it inspired…you have no idea, you're too young. Just picture coming home, and finding the Dark Mark hovering over your house, and knowing what you're about to find inside… Everyone's worst fear…the very worst…" Antonio finished with a shiver.
It was silent for a moment as everyone thought over what Antonio had said. Juan broke it, wincing as Rai healed his arm of a rather nasty gash. "Well, it didn't help us tonight, whoever conjured it. It scared the Death Eaters away the moment they saw it. They all disapparated before we'd gotten near enough to unmask any of them. We caught the Roberts family before they hit the ground, though. They're having their memories modified right now."
"Death Eaters?" Rai spoke us as he came to sit back at the table after healing Juan's arm. "The Heylin's followers, right?"
"Yeah. I reckon we saw what's left of them tonight – the ones who managed to keep themselves out of Azkaban, anyway."
"We can't prove it was them, Juan." Antonio sighed hopelessly. "Though it probably was."
"But if they were Death Eaters," Maria piped up, looking confused, "why did they disapparated when they saw the Dark Mark? Wouldn't they be happy to see it?"
"Use your brains, Maria!" Carlos teased, ruffling her hair. "If they really were Death Eaters, they worked really hard to keep themselves out of Azkaban when You-Know-Who lost power, and told all sorts of lies about her forcing them to torture and kill people. I bet they'd be even more frightened than the rest of us to see her come back. They denied they'd ever been involved with her when she lost her powers, and went back to their daily lives… I don't reckon she'd be over-pleased with them, do you?"
I shook my head. "No. Somehow, Wuya didn't strike me as a very forgiving person two years ago. Did she to you, Rai?"
"Nah. Neither did Chase."
"I keep forgetting you two have met them…" Carlos muttered, shuddering at the thought.
"But," I furrowed my brows in confusion, "only Death Eaters would know how to conjure the Dark Mark…"
Juan looked as though he was going to reply, but Antonio cut his off, yawning, "Listen, it's very late, and we'd best try to get an early portkey tomorrow – your mother will be worried sick!"
He shepherded us off to bed, but I lay awake for ages, my mind buzzing with questions. That dream…it couldn't be real…could it?
"I reckon it is."
I jumped out of my skin. "Rai! What have I told you about staying out of my head!"
Even though we were talking over our mind link and were at opposite ends of the tent, I could practically see his smirk as he replied. "Well, I couldn't sleep and I was bored. Then I found you were awake, so…"
Note to self – reinforce mind barriers.
"Why me, though? Why not Clay or Omi?"
"Oh. Lucky them. So, you reckon the dream was real?"
"Yeah. I mean, you said Trelawney mentioned a servant and master being reunited in her prediction last year, and now this…" He trailed off, but I understood his meaning perfectly.
"Stuff like this doesn't just happen by coincidence."
"By the way, what Spicer said in the woods…'mudblood'…what does that mean?"
"It's the most insulting word he could come up with! It means dirty blood – a derogatory term for people with muggle parents."
"Oh. I mean, I knew it was bad by the way you reacted…thanks again, by the way…for sticking up for me, again."
"I meant what I said earlier – anytime." There was silence then that was just a tinge awkward – mostly on Rai's side. "Well, dad's right; mum will be freaking out. The clock will have told her… We'd best get to sleep and get up extra early."
"Yeah. Well, goodnight."
We got up early, almost as early as we had to get here, and dressed hurriedly. The two wizards who were on-duty sorting out the portkeys were swamped with most of the campsite, who were trying to catch a portkey home ASAP. Antonio had a quick word with the wizards and we were given a special portkey that would bring us straight to the Pedrosa house.
We appeared at the end of the lane, and as soon as we did, we heard a shriek. We looked up, and there was Carla, rushing towards us, with Alejandro close behind her. Carla was carrying what I assumed was today's edition of the Daily Prophet and Alejandro carried the Pedrosa family clock. "Oh, you're alright! Thank God! I've been so worried!" she launched herself at Antonio, who gave us a 'what-did-I-tell-you' kind of look.
Alejandro didn't look as if he had a clue what was going on, but looked glad to see us anyway. He hugged Rai and I – who were closest – around the knees, lifting his arms in a request for Rai to pick him up, which Rai did with a chuckle. I took the clock from his hands so he could wrap his arms around Rai's neck and he rested his head on Rai's shoulder. Despite the fact that he was seven, he was still quite small, so he still fit quite easily into Rai's arms. Even if he had been bigger, Rai would still have been able to lift him – Xiaolin abilities and all.
"I saw in the paper and…" Carla handed the paper to Antonio. "Oh boys!"
To their immense surprise, Carla drew the twins into a hug so tight their heads knocked together. "Ouch!"
"Mum, you're choking us!"
She released them, looking as if she was longing to keep hugging them. "I kept thinking, what if something had happened to you, and the last thing I had said to you was that you didn't get enough OWLs!"
Antonio was now flicking through the paper. "I saw that, and I panicked! During the night, the clock switched, but I thought it was a glitch, and then this morning…I mean, the clock said you were alright, but I was just afraid it was delayed, or the charm had stopped working…"
I glanced down at the clock and saw all eleven hands pointing at 'home'. Wait…what? Eleven? "I'm on this!" I exclaimed in shock.
"Of course, dear!" Carla smiled, my exclamation seemingly breaking her out of her anxiety. "You're like one of the family." I was speechless.
"Yeah," Ricardo smirked, "especially with the way Rai fe- oof!" Ricardo broke off as he landed face first on the grass. Fernando just stood and laughed at his twin. "Oi!"
"What?" Rai asked innocently. "I was nowhere near you – all the way over here."
"Boys, boys, no fighting!" Carla sighed good-naturedly, her mood improving greatly seeing us here and acting normally – assuring her that we were alright. Everyone was nodding their heads, as if they agreed with what Ricardo was saying before Rai knocked him over with the wind, but I had no idea what that was. Ugh. I hate not knowing things – being kept out of the loop…
"Damn." Antonio sighed, finishing looking over the article. "Of course Rita Skeeter had to write this. I've got to go to the Ministry – they're going to need all the help they can get." He kissed Carla on the cheek before disapparating.
"She's the most acid-tongued reporter you've ever met." Pedro glowered. "She actually said that the Ministry's wasting time over cauldron thickness, instead of stamping out Vampires – but the law clearly states that-"
"Do us a favour, Pedro?" Juan sighed, rubbing his head as we headed inside. "Shut up."
After eating breakfast, we all headed upstairs for some extra sleep. But while I was up there, I couldn't. After the journey, I was wide awake, and just couldn't get back to sleep, though no-one seemed to have the same problem.
Carla had left all of our school supplies in our rooms, and I flicked through mine, pausing in confusion when I came across an extra package, which, upon opening, confused me even more. Carla herself was checking in on each of us, probably to reassure herself that we were safe, and saw me sitting up. "Can't sleep, dear?"
"No." I shook my head with a smile. "I'm fully awake now. By the way, what's this? It wasn't on the school list." I held up the opened package.
"Oh, no, it wasn't on the list, but you're going to need it this year." There was a twinkle in her eye that made me wonder just what was going on this year that I was going to need this for.
"But…the money I left out…surely it wouldn't cover this as well as my school stuff?"
"Well, no. It paid for half."
"But then, how-"
"It's a gift."
"You shouldn't have!" I floundered for words. "I mean, you knit me a jumper every year!"
"Oh, don't be silly dear. You needed it anyway."
I got up from where I was sitting cross-legged on the floor and drew Carla into a hug. "Thank you." I had gotten presents before…but from papa. The rest were Christmas or birthday presents. It was a strange feeling, getting a present from a non-relative. Strange, but it felt nice.
"You're welcome, dear. If you can't sleep, why don't you go and play with Alejandro? I'm sure he's probably bored, and I've got to start making lunch. I'm sure you'll want it after what you had to eat yesterday – the boys especially!"
Alejandro and I were playing 'Go Fish' in the living room around lunch-time, when there was a commotion from above. It sounded like someone shouting. Well, to me, at least. Next thing I heard, someone was thundering down the stairs, and a second later, Rai burst into the kitchen, something clutched in his hand. Carla spun round in surprise.
"Mum, what is this?" Rai demanded, looking rather red in the face. It didn't look like exertion, not anger either. It looked like embarrassment.
"They're dress robes. For this year at school." Carla responded, looking at her son speculatively.
"They look more like a dress, rather than dress robes!" Rai retorted incredulously. "And why do I suddenly need them this year?"
"I can't tell you that."
"Well, it doesn't matter, 'cause I'm not wearing them – not ever!" Clay and Omi appeared behind him, each holding package similarly wrapped as the one I had received.
"Fine. Go naked, then." Carla said with an impassive face. "And make sure you two boys get a good picture of it." Clay and Omi looked as if they were trying hard to suppress their laughter. "They have them too, Raimundo. And Kimiko has her dress. I don't know why you're making such a big deal over this."
"Theirs' are all right! Mine are…mine are…well, look at them!"
"I used everyone's own money, Raimundo." Carla said sternly and Rai backed down.
The ministry was in chaos over the rest of the summer. Antonio wasn't home much over that time, and when he was, it was for some sleep, a quick breakfast, and then he was gone again.
The last day before we went back to Hogwarts we were sitting in the living room, going over last-minute details before tomorrow. Clay and I were flicking through our schoolbooks while Rai and Omi played a game of chess, Maria was playing snap with Alejandro, and the twins were hunched over some parchment in the corner.
"What are you two up to?" Carla asked sharply after a minute.
"Homework." Ricardo shrugged, speaking in a vague tone.
"Homework?" Carla replied dubiously.
"Yeah, we've left it a little late, see?"
"You're not, by any chance, writing out a new order form for Wizarding Wheezes, are you?"
"Now mum," Fernando looked up with a pained expression, "if the Hogwarts Express crashed tomorrow, and Ricardo and I died, how would you feel knowing that the last thing we heard from you was an unfounded accusation?" Even Carla had to laugh.
Juan and Carlos still hadn't left by the time we were heading to the station, so they decided to come and see us off. Pedro, on the other hand, insisted that he had to get to work. "I just can't justify taking more time off at the moment. Mr Crouch is really starting to rely on me."
"Yeah, you know what, Pedro?" Fernando asked seriously. "I reckon he'll know your name soon!"
At the station, we said our goodbyes, Maria clinging tightly to Juan and Carlos. "I might be seeing you all sooner than you think." Carlos grinned.
"You'll see. Just don't tell Pedro I mentioned it – it's 'classified information, until such time as the Ministry sees fit to release it' after all."
But despite all our protests, they simply refused to tell us. Rather frustrating, really.
Inside the train we split up again, the same way we did last year, and the four of us sat in our compartment, which was exclusively ours this year, and played exploding snap. "Hey, Kimiko?" Rai spoke up as Clay re-shuffled and dealt the cards. "Do you still have to use that Time Turner thingy this year?"
"No." I shrugged, picking up my cards. "Since I dropped Divination last year, and have decided to give up Muggle Studies, I'll have an ordinary schedule."
Rai stared. "Why were you doing Muggle Studies? Your dad's a muggle, and he raised you as one until you were eleven! You know all about muggles and muggle things – why study them?"
I shrugged again, suppressing a smirk as Rai placed down his card without looking. "It was fascinating to study them from a wizarding point of view." He stared incredulously at me. "And that's snap."
Once inside the Great Hall, I chatted with the girls – mostly about the World Cup – while we waited for the sorting and the feast. Keiko was outraged when I told her about Mr Crouch and Winky. Apparently, she's a great advocate for house-elf rights.
By the time Master Fung told us to "Tuck in!", Clay was raring to go, and as soon as the food appeared, he wasted no time in doing so. Nearly Headless Nick wrinkled his nose in disgust.
"You know, you're lucky there's a feast at all tonight."
"Why? What happened?" I asked curiously.
"Peeves, of course!" Nick sniffed disdainfully. Peeves was the Hogwarts poltergeist, and a right menace too. Nick particularly didn't like him, as he thought he gave the ghosts a bad name. "The usual argument – he wanted to attend the feast… We refused, of course, so he wreaked havoc in the kitchens – terrified the poor house-elves out of their wits!"
Keiko dropped her fork with a loud clang. "There are house-elves here?"
"Of course." And no matter what we said, she refused to eat another bite.
When Master Fung stepped up to make his announcements, he made one that shocked the entire school. "The inter-house Quidditch Cup will not take place this year."
"What!" resounded throughout most of the hall. Rai and I gaped at him in utter disbelief. "This is due to the fact that, starting in October, the Tri-Wizard Tournament will take place at Hogwarts." The hall once again burst into whispers and exclamations, but this time they were ones of excitement. "The delegations will arrive in October, along with some of the organisers to explain the rules – including two new ones we have added for the participants' safety."
I had no idea what this tournament was, but I could wait until October. Right now I was feeling rather sleepy…Hogwarts food…
"And may I introduce our new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Moody."
Mad-Eye Moody? The ex-auror? I had heard of him. He was the reason most of the cells in Azkaban are filled.
We traipsed up to Gryffindor Tower, and I usually loved being at the top of the school, but tonight it was just tiresome having to climb that many stairs. I had just enough energy to change into my pyjamas before I collapsed onto my bed, asleep in seconds.
Oh, it's good to be back!
I practically skipped down to breakfast next morning, I was that glad to be back. Once we were given our timetables, we pored over them intently. "Today's not bad." Rai commented, putting down his timetable to start eating breakfast, something Clay had wasted no time in doing. "We're outside all morning – Herbology with the Hufflepuffs, and then Care of Magical Creatures…damn it, we're still with the Slytherins!" I wrinkled my nose in distaste. Why did it have to be the Slytherins? "Then we've got DADA, the only downside – Divination!"
"No!" Aidan groaned from his place at the table. At least Trelawney wasn't predicting his death every minute like she had in the two months I took her class last year.
"Well, then you should've dropped it like Kimiko did, and then maybe you could've been in our Ancient Runes class – it's fascinating!" Keiko spoke as she dropped into the seat opposite him, immediately reaching for the toast.
"You're eating again, I notice."
"I've decided there are better ways of making a stand about elf rights." Keiko insisted before stuffing her toast in her mouth – she was obviously hungry after missing out on the feast the night before.
Aidan sniggered. "Yeah…and you're hungry."
In Herbology we were working with Bobotubers and their pus, which was highly dangerous, so we had to wear our gloves, and then we all felt like keeping our gloves on once we got to Hagrid's, as we were working with something called Blast Ended Skrewts which, I had a sneaking suspicion, Hagrid had bred himself, and seemed to be extremely volatile – they could bite, sting and burn you. It was a 'project' of sorts, Hagrid had said, for us to raise them.
We were glad to get away when the lunch bell rang, and most of the class practically sprinted up to the castle.
When we sat down, Keiko immediately began eating as fast as she could. We sat and stared as she finished within a minute – even faster than Clay! – and then began to gather up her things. "What's the rush?"
"I've got to go to the library – loads to do!"
"But we don't have any homework!" Aidan stared at her as if she had grown another head.
"Oh, it's not schoolwork." She said brightly, lifting her bag over her shoulder and scurrying off.
"She's mental!" Aidan muttered, staring after her. "Absolutely mental!"
We were interrupted in our simultaneous incredulous staring by the arrival of the Pedrosa twins and Lee Jordan. "Moody – how cool is he?" Ricardo said excitedly as he dropped into a seat.
"Beyond cool!" Fernando agreed, mirroring his twin's movements.
"Supercool!" Lee added excitedly. "We just had him."
"What was it like?" Rai asked eagerly. Defence Against the Dark Arts was the one subject that Rai and I had matching views on. It was by far the most interesting – even though first year's classes were a bit of a joke – the teacher being afraid of me, on top of having Wuya in the back of his head – but last year's teacher, Professor Lupin, had actually managed to teach us something.
The three of them exchanged excited looks. "Never had a lesson like it."
"He knows, man!"
"Knows what?" Clay asked, his food forgotten in front of him.
"Knows what it's like to be out there doing it! Fighting the Dark Arts… He's seen it all…"
"Amazing…" Lee trailed off in awe.
Aidan dived into his bag, presumably in search of his timetable, but I already had it memorised. "We have him next."
We hurried up to DADA and the eight of us managed to take up the entire two front rows. Three guesses who was at the very front! We took out our books, but the first thing Moody told us when he entered the room was to put them away again, as we wouldn't be needing them. This only served to heighten the excited anticipation of the class. He called the register before turning to face us.
"Right. So, I've had a letter from Professor Lupin about this class, and it seems you've had a pretty thorough grounding in tackling Dark creatures, but you're very behind in dealing with curses."
A murmur went through the class at that. We hadn't even mentioned curses in class yet. I shot a quick confused glance over my shoulder at Keiko, who looked just as confused as I was. We both had read ahead, me especially in this subject, and we knew that we weren't really supposed to deal with curses until much later.
"So – curses. They come in many strengths and forms. According to the Ministry of Magic, I'm supposed to teach you counter-curses and leave it at that – not mention the Dark Curses until at least sixth-year – when you're ready." So why was he telling us about them. "But Master Fung has a higher opinion of your nerves, and he reckons you can cope. So…do any of you know which curses are most heavily punished by wizarding law?"
Most people put their hands up. This was a pretty well known subject matter. Rai spoke up from beside me when Moody singled him out. "Er…my dad told me about one…the Imperius Curse, I think it was…"
"Ah, yes. Your father would know about that one. Gave the Ministry quite a bit of grief." He dug around behind the desk and produced a jar of three spiders. He lifted one out and raised his wand to it. "Imperio!" The spider began to do anything and everything that Moody told it to – that was the nature of the Imperius curse. The class started to laugh as he made the spider tap dance on the palm of his hand. "Think it's funny, do you? How would you like it if I did it to you, eh?"
The class was instantly silenced. Moody went on to explain how the curse was a problem for the Ministry – Death Eaters claiming that they only followed the Heylin under the influence of the curse. But how did you sort out the liars?
"Anyone else know one? Another illegal curse?"
Aidan raised his hand tentatively, which was unusual for any class other than Herbology – his best subject by far, and as Moody called upon him, Sishi shot a frantic glance at him and winced, a look of horrified dread on her face. "There's one…the- the Cruciatus Curse." Aidan spoke in a small voice, as if wishing he hadn't spoken at all, his face starting to adopt the same expression as his twins'.
"Your name's Bakerset, isn't it?" Aidan nodded, and Moody enlarged the spider, saying that it needed to be larger so we could see it properly. Pointing his wand at the spider, once again, this time he muttered, "Crucio!"
The spider began to twitch horribly, rolling around, and I suspect that if it had a voice, it would've been screaming. I could feel the terror coming in waves from behind me and spun round. Aidan and Sishi were gaping, pale faced and wide-eyed in horror, at the spider, their hands were clenched so hard that their knuckles were white and they were trembling violently.
"Stop it!" I shrieked at Moody, who looked up from where he was staring at the spider intently, and relinquished the hold he had on the spider. Most of the class turned to look at the twins worriedly, and after a moment, their trembling ceased, but they were still very pale and looked frightened.
Moody cleared his throat awkwardly before talking a little about the curse before glancing around the now much more subdued classroom. "Anyone know the last of the three?" He glanced around at the rest of the class, and upon seeing that nobody was going to give him the last curse, prompted, "Miss Tohomiko?" I shook my head, fighting to suppress tears. I knew the answer; I just couldn't bring myself to utter the name of the curse that I desperately wished I could forget.
"Avada Kedavra!" There was a flash of green light and the spider fell to the floor, limp. I flinched and closed my eyes against the sudden barrage of images. I felt a hand settle over my own, and I opened my eyes slowly, and sent Rai a grateful, if watery, smile.
When we hurried out of DADA and everyone began to set off towards their own classes, everyone began chatting animatedly about the lesson, as if it had been some sort of show! I certainly hadn't found it very entertaining. I don't think the guys did either. "Hurry up!" I hissed to them as I spotted what I was heading for.
"Kimiko, where on earth are you going?" Rai exclaimed as I dragged him behind me. "You're not trying to rush off to the library too!"
"No." I snapped, but then my voice softened as we slowed down. "Aidan and Sishi." They were leaning against the wall, staring out the window, and their faces were still incredibly pale, and their eyes still held that awful horror struck look. "Aidan? Sishi? Are you alright?" I asked gently.
"Oh, hello." Sishi spun round and spoke in an unnaturally high voice. "Interesting lesson, wasn't it. I wonder what's for dinner, I'm – I'm starving, aren't you?" We exchanged worried looks. Dinner wasn't for another half an hour. We still had Ancient Runes. Well, Keiko and I did. The rest of them had Divination.
Aidan still hadn't moved. "Aidan?" Raimundo looked worried, and reached out and placed his hand on Aidan's arm. Aidan jumped and turned to us with wild eyes. "Are you…okay?" he asked, unsure.
"Oh, yes, I'm fine." Aidan spoke in the same high voice as his twin sister. "Very interesting dinner – I mean lesson – what's for eating?"
We exchanged even more worried looks at that, but we were interrupted by the arrival of Professor Moody, who took the twins for some tea to 'calm their nerves'.
During dinner the twins were still absent and Keiko once again shovelled her food into her and took off once again. We ate in a subdued sort of silence, wondering why that lesson had affected the twins so much, and if they were alright now.
After dinner we headed back to the common room, where we found the twins on the sofa, Sishi asleep, leaning on Aidan's shoulder, who was reading a book. "You all right, Aidan?" Rai asked upon sighting him, and I think we were all glad to see the fear absent from his eyes when he looked up.
"Oh. Yeah, I'm fine, thanks." He held up his book, which was one on Herbology. "Just reading this book Professor Moody lent me. Apparently, Professor Sprout told him I'm really good at Herbology, and he thought I'd like this." He went rather red and there was a faint note of pride in his voice. It made all of us smile. Aidan wasn't that great at most subjects, but he really made up for it with his spectacular performance in Herbology.
"I'm sure she did tell him." I said with a grin, collapsing into my chair. "You're the best in the year. Heck, probably the whole school! I bet you'll be the Herbology Professor one day."
Rai grinned. "Professor Aidan Bakerset." He mused. "I like it. Kinda has a ring to it, don't you think?"
Aidan was blushing harder now, but looked very pleased. It wasn't as if we were saying this just to cheer him up. Well, we were, but it was true. "I'm not as good as you or Keiko."
"Yeah, you are. And ton's better!" He gave up trying to argue with us and went back to his book. Rai and I sent each other grins before turning to our homework.
About ten minutes later, Rai set down his quill with a huff. "I haven't got a clue what this lot's supposed to mean!"
"You know," Aidan spoke up without looking away from his book, "I reckon you should just go with the old Divination standby."
"What – make it up?"
Rai shrugged and began to scribble. "Next Monday, I am likely to develop a cough, owing to the unlucky conjunction of Mars and Jupiter." He read off.
Aidan nodded approvingly. "Yeah. You know her – just put in loads of misery, she'll lap it up."
"Yeah… Okay, on Tuesday, I'll come off worse in a fight."
Aidan laughed. "You? Lose a fight?"
"He's fighting me." I piped in, finishing off my translations.
"Ah, of course." Aidan grinned, while Rai glared at both of us. "Well, then, I'll lose a bet."
"Yeah, you were betting I'd win my fight."
"Well, in reality, I'd bet on Kimiko, but for the sake of this, alright."
"Oi! Fine, on Wednesday, I'll be in danger of…uh…burns…"
"Yeah. You'll be in danger of burns right now if you don't let me read in peace."
This went on for several minutes before Rai put down his quill again, this time satisfied. "There. All done. That was the most fun homework's ever been!"
I glanced over it from where I was curled up in the armchair he was leaning against, reading. "Not going to have a very good week, are you?" I asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Ah, well," he sighed dramatically, "at least I've been forewarned."
I giggled. I seemed to be doing that around him a lot more lately. I wonder why? "You seem to be drowning twice."
"Oh, am I? Better change one to getting trampled by a rampaging Hippogriff."
"Don't you think it's a bit obvious you've made these up?" Clay asked, glancing over the parchment.
"How dare you!" Aidan said in mock outrage. "We've been working like house-elves here!"
"Better not let Keiko hear you say that!"
It was at that moment that Keiko came hurtling into the common room and headed straight for us. "Kimiko! You've got to see- I've just found- Oh, just come on!" She grabbed my arm and dragged me from my seat, and towards the portrait hole. Rai, Clay and Omi hurried after to save me from her clutches, while Aidan just waved with a grin before turning back to his book.
"Keiko, what on earth, is this about?" I demanded, not for the first time, as we reached a portrait and she tickled the pear. She ignored me, stepping through as it opened, and I suddenly found myself being hugged around the middle.
I pulled back and saw a house-elf gazing up at me, awe shining in his eyes. "Oh, you're Miss Kimiko Tohomiko! I'm meeting you at last! This is such an honour!" The little elf looked quite beside himself with excitement to meet me! I blinked in astonishment as the others looked on, smirking. "When Winky told me she had met you, I thought she was so lucky, and now I've met you too!"
"Oh! You must be Dobby!"
The elf almost fell over in shock. "You know my name! You remembered my name!"
"Winky told me you were having trouble finding work…" I trailed off, unsure of what to say to him.
"Yes, Miss Kimiko, but when I heard Winky had been freed too, it hit me. Where can two house-elves go to get work? Hogwarts, of course! Master Fung is very generous – he even pays me – a galleon a week! – and I get one day off a month!" He looked very excited about that, even if Keiko did seem to be thinking it wasn't enough, and the other house-elves looked embarrassed to be near him when he started talking like that. "I use my money for clothes! He pointed to the mismatched socks, tea cosy, and shirt he was wearing. "I'm buying a jumper next!"
"Tell you what, Dobby." Rai spoke up. "My mum knits us jumpers every year for Christmas. I could ask her to make one for you too, if you'd like."
Dobby's eyes shone with admiration. "Oh, Master Raimundo is very kind!" Rai blushed.
"Is Winky here too?"
His face fell slightly. "Yes, Miss Kimiko, but she is still upset over Mr Crouch." He pointed to the fireplace where she was in a rocking chair, drinking butterbeer while sobbing, occasionally hiccupping.
I tried to talk to her, but she seemed slightly drunk, so I decided to come and see her tomorrow, when she was sober, and since it was late, we should probably get to bed.
As we turned to leave, Dobby tugged on my sleeve. "Miss Kimiko? Would it be alright if Dobby came to see you sometimes? To see the four of you?"
"Of course." I answered, still slightly shocked by his seeming hero-worship of me.
"Looks like you've got your second fan, Kimiko!" Rai smirked on the way back up to Gryffindor Tower.
"Second?" I repeated, confused. "Who's my first?"
"My little brother, of course! Both him and Dobby simply worship you!"
"Oh, shut up!" I snapped back, and we laughed the whole way back to the tower.
The rest of the week was just as jam-packed as that first day. Although, I did get much less homework than last year. The work itself may have been harder, but it was much easier now that I didn't have to travel back in time three or four times a day and lengthen my day by several hours, not to mention the fact that I got pretty much double the amount of homework than the rest of the year.
Anyway, this year went more smoothly, and I was actually able to finish my homework on time to keep up with my extra-curricular reading, as well as reading ahead on each subject.
About half-way through September I saw Sakura soaring through the window in the Common Room and grinned. After the World Cup final, the guys had managed to convince me to write to Sirius about my dream, and it looked like Sakura finally had his answer. I unfolded the parchment and read over the small note, my eyes widening in disbelief as I reached the bottom.
I jumped out of my armchair, and immediately began searching in my bag for a quill and parchment. "What's the rush?" Rai asked from where he was lounging, once again, against my armchair.
"Well, since you three thought it was such a good idea to write to our friend about my dream, I need to write back and convince him that I'm really fine and there's nothing to worry about." I snapped as I pulled out the utensils I had been looking for. I knew it wasn't really their fault, but I was just so frustrated that I needed to snap at someone.
"I'm sure he knows that-" Rai started to placate me but I didn't give him a chance, straightening and holding out my arm for Sakura.
"Apparently not, since he decided to come back."
The three scrambled after me as I stormed towards the Owlery. The only people there when we arrived were the Pedrosa twins, and the only part of their conversation that I heard through my distraction before they left was the word 'blackmail'. I suppose it should be slightly worrying, but I was more worried about my supposed mass-murdering godfather, who had just decided to come back, putting himself at risk of getting caught and put into wizarding prison, just because my scar hurt. I needed to try to talk him out of it.
I scribbled a short letter, explaining how I thought I had imagined it, and he didn't need to come out here and sent Sakura out with it, muttering darkly the entire time. Okay, so I lied, but it was necessary!
I didn't sleep well that night either. The worst case scenarios kept popping into my head – Sirius caught and in Azkaban…all because of me…
Halloween was fast approaching and soon a notice was put up in (I assume) all of the house Common Rooms – the delegations from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang would be arriving on Halloween. A selection of pupils were to come with their headmasters and enter the Triwizard Tournament. The rules and how to apply would be announced at the Halloween feast – just another reason to look forward to it!
In Defence Moody had been teaching us about each of the Unforgiveable Curses in detail, and we had recently moved on to the Imperius Curse. This time, as well as giving us notes and demonstrations, he actually put the curse on us. He said it would put our notes into context and perhaps make it easier to understand. I was just glad that he hadn't for the others.
It was a strange sensation, being under the Imperius Curse. It was almost as if you were floating, and a dazed smile came across the Imperiused one's face. Well, for the humans at least. For the guys, there was a hint of the goofy expression, but their eyes were much clearer than the others', and I could hear them struggling with conscious thought. They hesitated before following whatever orders Moody was giving them, too, and Moody was quick to point this out to the class as signs that they were trying to fight it.
When it was my turn, I heard Moody's voice through the thick fog, telling me to jump onto the table, but the little voice in my head piped up as I was getting ready to jump. "Why?" The thought threw me for a moment. Why should I jump on the table? What was the point?
Moody's voice got more insistent, and as he continued to command me to jump on the table, my impulsivity kicked in, and I had the sudden urge to cross my arms. "Who's he to demand I do anything?" My little voice demanded, back in full force now. I had decided I wasn't about to jump onto a stupid table, when the force of the spell suddenly doubled as Moody's voice roared in my head for me to jump, and my brain seemed to get really confused.
I sort of jumped and didn't jump at the same time, and ended up crashing headlong into the table. And let me tell you; it is not fun.
I picked myself up off the floor gingerly rubbing my head. Ow.
"Did you see that?" Moody was saying to the class, who for the most part, were wincing sympathetically. "She tried to fight it too – and damn nearly beat it! Right, you four – back up here."
He made the four of us – the only ones to show any kind of resistance to the curse – do it again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and- Well; I think you get the picture. He kept putting the curse on us until we were all able to completely throw it off.
We were exhausted by the time we got back to the common room that night, and we barely managed to keep our eyes open long enough to do our homework. Luckily, it was a Friday, so we didn't have any Xiaolin training, and we had the entire weekend to relax.
Halloween was soon upon us, and we eagerly anticipated the end of the day, when the foreign students would arrive. We all quickly dumped our bags in our dormitories before heading down to the grounds in front of the castle, where we were inspected by our heads of house.
After passing the inspection, we lined up and waited. It seemed like ages to me, but that was probably just my Xiaolin Instincts talking, so it was probably only about ten minutes, before a shape was distinguishable in the dark sky.
Less than a minute later, it was visible to human eyesight, so everyone began to speculate what it could possibly be. The closest guess was that of a first-year – that it was a flying house – since it turned out to be an enormous carriage, drawn by winged horses.
When the carriage opened, a woman stepped out, and not just a normal woman, a woman about the same height as Hagrid. Behind her came several boys and girls, all wearing blue silk uniform robes, and clutching scarves and cloaks to themselves. Well, in fairness, Beauxbatons – which is what I assumed this school was – is in France, so the cold air of the UK would definitely be a shock to the system. Especially in those flimsy robes. Unsurprisingly, they decided to wait inside.
The Durmstrang delegation arrived next, in the form of a giant ship rising out of the Black Lake. This seemed to be an all-boys school, but they were more suitably attired – thick furs and robes, so I assumed that they were from somewhere further north. Most people around me gasped as the headmaster shook hands with Master Fung.
Rai tugged on my sleeve. "It's Viktor Krum!" he hissed in my ear.
I squinted where everyone was staring – at the sulky-looking figure standing just behind the headmaster, and realised that I recognised him as the broody Bulgarian seeker from the World Cup. I guess that answers my question. Durmstrang is either in Bulgaria, or somewhere very near.
We followed the Durmstrangs into the castle and headed for the Great Hall. The students from Beauxbatons sat with the Ravenclaws, and the Durmstrang students sat at the Slytherin table. So they're that kind of school…
Master Fung gave a short speech, welcoming the visitors, before proclaiming the start of the feast.
The feast was even more delicious than usual, with international dishes. We mostly left them alone, though they were tasty. About half-way through the feast, one of the girls from Beauxbatons came over to ask for one of the dishes that I recognised from when papa had taken me with him on a business trip to France. As she walked back to the Ravenclaw table, most of the boys at the table seemed to be staring at her.
"She's a Veela!" Maria hissed across the table.
"Don't be silly, Maria." Rai scoffed as he reached for the desserts that had just appeared on the table, but I glanced back at the girl again, eyeing her silvery blonde hair. Maria could be right…but I was distracted again when I glanced up and saw the staff table out of the corner of my eye.
As well as the headmasters of each school seated on chairs that had been pulled up – by magic, of course, since they hadn't been there before, Mr Crouch and Mr Bagman were there too. Of course, when I thought about it, it made sense. Master Fung had mentioned that some of the organisers were coming to explain the rules, and as heads of the Departments of International Magical Co-operation and Magical Games and Sports respectively, of course Crouch and Bagman would be organising it.
Master Fung stood up as the tables cleared of the food and cutlery and the Great Hall went silent. "Now that we are all fed and watered, we will begin." Two covered objects were carried over, and the smaller of the two was placed on the table and the other, which was as large as any of the statues in Hogwarts, was placed beside him. "As I said at the start of term, Hogwarts is hosting the Triwizard Tournament this year, and now our friends have arrived, I will explain. The Triwizard Tournament is exactly that – a tournament. It consists of three tasks. Three very dangerous tasks. And as such, the Ministry has seen fit to write some new rules, and Mr Crouch, head of the Department of International Magical Co-operation will explain these rules to you now."
Master Fung sat down again and Mr Crouch stood in his own seat. "There have been two new rules added this year. Number one: whereas in previous years, a single champion was chosen, but for your own safety, it will now be a team from each school. A boy and a girl, as far as possible, but in the case of Durmstrang, it will have to be two boys." Whispers broke out across the hall. Everyone was intrigued by the mention of very dangerous tasks, but were slightly apprehensive of going it alone. "And number two: no student under the age of seventeen will be permitted to put forth their name."
Mr Crouch sat down again amidst shouts of protest. Master Fung got up again and silenced us with the look. He tapped the covered object next to him, and the cloth fell away, revealing a sort of goblet raised on a plinth. "To enter the tournament, you need only put your name into the Goblet of Fire, and it will select the teams. Be warned though, it is not easily fooled." His eyes wandered in the direction of the Gryffindor table. Well, historically we produce the most trouble makers. "And you will be competing for your prize – eternal glory!" everyone exchanged excited glances. "The Triwizard Cup!" he pointed his wand at the other covered object and its cloth flew away too, revealing a gleaming silver trophy. "Oh, and one hundred thousand galleons, too."
The whole way back to the tower, everyone was excitedly discussing the tournament. It did sound like fun, even just watching it, as it seemed inevitable for me. Master Fung had said that the Goblet of Fire was not easily fooled, looking towards our table as he said so. That meant that it was even beyond our powers. Damn. Ah well, this year was sure to be fun, regardless of whether I actually competed or not. Hopefully one of the Hogwarts team would be a Gryffindor, though I'd still cheer them on if they weren't.
Rai and Aidan had their heads together, probably discussing possible ways to get past the Goblet, and I noticed the twins in a similar position. So I chatted with Keiko and Maria about all we knew about the tournament. From what I had read, and what they could tell me, it was the ultimate challenge for young witches and wizards.
Bring it on.
It was about a week later that the champions were selected, and that week was filled with people, such as the Pedrosa twins, trying to cheat the Goblet, usually with an ageing potion, but always got the same results – a rather spectacular silver beard.
After the usual Friday night feast – including, as it did nowadays, quite a few international dishes – Master Fung stood up and the entire hall fell silent, a tangible excitement in the air. It was time.
Master Fung raised his wand. "Now, when the champions' names are called, I ask them to please head to the chamber through here," he indicated a door by the staff table, "where they will receive their first instructions." He pointed his wand at the Goblet of Fire and we all waited.
Soon the blue flames turned red and two slips of parchment shot out and into Master Fung's hand. "The team for Durmstrang is: Viktor Krum and Dimitri Voskef." There was a storm of applause as the two in question got to their feet and passed through the indicated door.
The flames turned red once again and two more ribbons of parchment fluttered out. "The Beauxbatons team is: Fleur Delacour and Luc Garcon." The Veela-girl and a tall boy who had the same nose got to their feet, beaming brightly as they headed for the door the Durmstrang team had just disappeared through.
Another two slips of parchment drifted down into Master Fung's hand and the entire hall held its breath. This was the one we had all been waiting for – the Hogwarts team. "The Hogwarts team is: Cedric Diggory and Cho Chang." I had been hoping for a Gryffindor Champion, but Cedric and Cho were nice enough, and as Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw, at least they were better than Slytherin.
After they too disappeared behind the door, we all turned back to our conversations, but a moment later I felt something warm up. As if a fire was increasing. Glancing behind me, I shook Rai's arm and pointed wordlessly. The Goblet of Fire hadn't gone out as it should have. The flames were turning red again. Everyone turned and stared as a single piece of parchment sprang from the flames and landed in Master Fung's hand.
He lifted it to his eye line and his shocked face quickly drained of what little colour it had left. He shook his head, mouthing wordlessly, before raising it and finding the four of us in the crowd quite easily. "Kimiko Tohomiko and Raimundo Pedrosa."
Whispers broke out across the hall as Rai and I sat stunned. Master Fung couldn't have said our names. Our names couldn't have just come out of the Goblet of Fire!
Master Fung's gaze was insistent, and soon Rai and I found ourselves walking towards him. I took the parchment from his outstretched hand as we passed as though in a dream, and saw that our names really were on that small scrap. This was real.
We passed through the door in silence and found ourselves in the school trophy room. I spotted our names on the Quidditch Cup as we passed, soon coming upon the six seventeen year old wizards before the fireplace.
"Well?" Fleur demanded after a moment of staring expectantly at us. "What is it? Do they want us back up there?"
I blinked a few times. "Uh…we…uh…"
I was saved from answering by the sound of hurried footsteps and arguing voices coming along the passage. The eight of us turned to face the doorway and Master Fung came through first, honing in on Rai and I instantly. "Kimiko, Raimundo, did you put your names in the Goblet of Fire?"
Rai and I shook our heads frantically, eyes wide. "No, Master Fung!" we insisted in unison.
"Did you ask one of the older students to do it for you?"
"No!" Rai answered vehemently. He may tweak the rules a bit sometimes – as do I – but he hates to be accused of cheating or breaking the rules when it comes to something really serious.
"Are you absolutely sure?"
"Yes, Master Fung. We…" I fished about for something to convince him. "We swear on Grand Master Dashi's grave!" Rai nodded eagerly beside me.
Master Fung sighed and stepped back, convinced, though Madame Maxime and Karkaroff weren't so convinced.
"But, of course, they are lying!" Madame Maxime insisted.
"No." Master Fung said resignedly, looking intently at the two of us. "They swore on Grand Master Dashi's grave – the creator of the Xiaolin. As Xiaolin Dragons, it is the most solemn promise you can make. If they lied about something using that promise…" the three of us shuddered. "Well, let's just say that the consequences are too horrible to mention."
Once they were convinced that we hadn't cheated, they set about arguing over it. Both Karkaroff and Maxime threatened to pull out unless we did or they were allowed to put names into the Goblet to choose another team for each school. However, the Goblet of Fire is a magical object, and will not re-ignite until the next tournament starts. It also constitutes a binding magical contract – none of us can back out now. They seemed to come to the conclusion that an 'exceedingly powerful wizard' had tricked the Goblet into entering us under the name of another school, though they couldn't find any motive.
They explained the basic rules to us and then let us go. The walk back to Gryffindor Tower was silent, both of us lost in our own thoughts – why does everything happen to us?
Everyone was celebrating in the Common Room when we arrived, and they were all under the impression that we had entered on purpose, despite the number of times we assured them otherwise.
Finally, I got fed up and headed towards the girls' dormitories. I found Maria in the bathroom when I went to brush my teeth. "Heading to bead already, are you?" she asked bitterly. "I would've thought you'd want to celebrate more. Oh, I forgot – you're little miss perfect goody-two-shoes."
I frowned in confusion. "What are you talking about? Are you alright?"
"No, I most certainly am not alright. I thought you would have told me. Raimundo I'd expect the silence from, but you?"
I blinked owlishly at her, still lost and she rolled her eyes. "How you got your name in. You could've told me."
"We didn't put our names in."
"Rubbish." Maria spat venomously and I was so stunned I simply stared. "Absolutely rubbish. Of course you did, you just wanted all of the glory to yourself. I'm no one. Just Raimundo's stupid little sister, and first chance you get, you run off with him. You always do. Why should this be any different?"
I was stunned. I had never heard Maria talk like that before. "I don't-"
"Yes you do, don't even try to deny it. I'm not good enough to be friends with you, or to hang around with you. I'm just a stupid little human girl, I don't have your skills or abilities, or your money, looks, or fame. So I'm not worthy of hanging around you! Just because you've got my family hanging on your every word and drooling Raimundo wrapped around your little finger, don't think you've got me fooled. I know exactly what you are – a spoiled little brat."
And she turned on her heels and stormed out, slamming the door behind her. I stared after her for a moment before I turned to the mirror, staring at my reflection. Was what she said true? Do I really ditch her all the time? It wasn't my fault I moved up a year and aren't in her classes anymore. I don't always ditch her to hang out with the guys, do I? I don't think I'm better than her…do I? Am I really that selfish?
I wiped away the tears and hurried to the dormitory and luckily everyone else was still down in the Common Room. As I lay in bed, trying to sleep, haunted by Maria's words, I couldn't help the nagging feeling…was my dream connected to what had just happened?
I rolled over, giving up on sleep and started musing on the tournament. They told us that the first task was designed to test our daring, that courage would be important. Well, no worries there, I suppose. We have courage and daring to the point that some would call madness.
Most of Gryffindor House seemed to be hailing us like heroes, and the rest reacted like Maria had, though not to the same extent. Rai raised his eyebrows when he noticed Maria and I pointedly ignoring each other but decided – wisely – not to say anything. Probably because of the dark warning thoughts I was sending his way.
One good thing that came out of this whole thing: we got to skip most of double potions. A third-year came to tell us that some people from the Daily Prophet were here to interview us. Though I'd rather have taken the potions lesson than the interview with that horrible woman.
Ollivander was there, and he weighed our wands, making sure that they were in good order, which they all were, and I discovered that Fleur was, in fact, part Veela, and that her wand contained hair from one.
Next, a photographer took photographs, and then came the devil-woman. Her hair was in sleek curls and she wore jewelled glasses and a lot of make-up. Rita Skeeter. The same reporter the Pedrosas had been complaining about over the summer, and over the next ten minutes, I found out why. She used a quick-quotes quill, despite my protests, and though we didn't answer a question with anything other than 'um' or 'uh' – for the questions were rather odd – the quill had written about ten pages by the time the interview was over.
We exited the broom cupboard where the interview had taken place – 'where we should feel right at home' she had said. I couldn't help blushing at the way she glanced between us and raised her eyebrows at me with a wink – dazed and rather confused. "You'd better write home to your mum."
I laughed. "Because if she reads that woman's article, she's going to believe that we entered this bleeding tournament-"
"Oh, we'd be in for a right tongue-lashing!"
"And not only that! She'll think we're quivering in our beds, worrying about it – unable to sleep, and when we do, having nightmares! And that we cry over it!"
"Ah, no!" Rai looked aghast. "She'll lecture us, then baby us! What could be worse!" We giggled and it felt like it had before this stupid tournament, but then we remembered that we were to be taking part in a tournament that people had actually died in and the panic set in.
At dinner I got two owls: one from Hagrid, asking us to come and meet him tomorrow night in the forest, and the other from Sirius. The one from Sirius was worrying and I muttered a quick "Damn it!" before scurrying up to the Common Room, so no one else could read the letter, Raimundo close on my heels. I dropped into my usual armchair, glaring at Rai. "This is all your fault." Okay, so I knew that it wasn't really, and he knew I knew that, but I was just a bit frustrated. "Listen to this: 'Nice try, Kimiko. I'm back in the country and well hidden-"
"Probably back at Lupin's house." I glared at him. "Uh…sorry. Continue."
"Thank you. 'I know better than anyone that you can look after yourself, and that while Master Fung and the rest of the dragons are around, I don't think anyone will be able to hurt you,'" Rai beamed proudly, "'However, someone seems to be having a good try. I can't say everything I would like to in a letter – too risky – but can you ensure the two of you are alone by the fire in Gryffindor Tower at one am the day after tomorrow? I want to know everything that goes on at Hogwarts – keep me posted.'"
"What, he's going to come here?"
"I hope not! He'll probably use Floo powder." Rai nodded in agreement and we fell into silence.
"Well, that'll be a busy night – first Hagrid, then Sirius." He sighed dramatically, rolling his eyes. "Oh, we're so popular, aren't we?"
"Aren't we just?" I teased back, and over his shoulder I saw Maria glare at me before dashing up the staircase. I sighed. Why must everything be so complicated?
Rai and I waited in the common room, playing wizard chess, until it slowly emptied as everyone else went to bed. As the door closed behind the last of them, I sprung up from my seat, pulling up the Invisibility Cloak from where I had been sitting on it and throwing it over myself and Raimundo. We scurried out of the portrait hole, ignoring the Fat Lady's startled shouts of 'who's there?' as we used our elemental transport to get to Hagrid's Hut – we were rather late, you see.
We knocked on the door and Hagrid quickly ushered us in. Once we took off the cloak it took all we had in us not to laugh. Hagrid had dressed up, and I mean really dressed up. He had tried to comb his hair – I say 'tried' since there is a broken comb entangled in the back of his hair – there was a flower in his button hole, and he was wearing cologne. A bit too much cologne.
"Aw, Hagrid, it's so nice of you to dress up for us. You should've said something. I feel so overdressed." Rai teased pulling at the jacked he had pulled on over his pyjamas. Well, if we were going to wait in the common room all evening, we had to make sure we were at least in our pyjamas. We didn't want to be bothered by the prefects. I was wearing Rai's old hoodie again over my winter pyjamas.
"Uh…I…uh…" I giggled as Hagrid stammered, going rather red.
"It's alright Hagrid. So, who did you really dress up for?"
He was about to answer when there was a knock at the door. With a glance at each other, Rai and I knew exactly what to do, and we backed silently into the corner, throwing the cloak over ourselves again. When Hagrid opened the door I grinned widely, elbowing Rai hard in the ribs to stop him from laughing aloud. It was Madame Maxime. How cute!
Hagrid led her out into the forest, and as he held his cabin door open for her, he gave us a significant look, so we followed at a distance. The two were flirting – or at least attempting to – and due to our enhanced hearing we could hear every word. And cute as I found them, it wasn't really something I particularly wanted to hear, so Rai and I chatted in low voices that were outside the human range of hearing.
We were discussing our latest training session when Rai trailed off, staring at me. "What?"
"Is that…my jumper?"
I glanced down at it, my hands gripping the sleeves that were far too long and twisting them between my fingers. "Uh…yeah. It is. Sorry. You lent it to me last summer, and I sort of forgot to give it back…"
"That's okay. It's probably too small for me now. It looks better on you anyway."
My cheeks flushed red and for a second I wished Rai had regular human vision so he couldn't see it, but he did, and he surprised me by not teasing me mercilessly for it, he simply smiled. That funny feeling that had been growing inside me the longer I knew Rai – especially this year – was back again and it suddenly struck me. Great Ghosts of Dashi – I like him! Well, obviously I like him, but I like him like him. As in, more than friends.
That's why I've been blushing, and giggling and that's what that Skeeter woman meant when she winked, though she was still way off. Rai and I hadn't been doing anything like that in a broom cupboard. A, we're thirteen and fourteen, and B, he doesn't like me like that. Of course he doesn't; why would he? What's so special about me? Okay, I'm a witch, a Xiaolin Dragon, famous…but so is he. I'm rich, but that wouldn't matter to him. Not that I'd want anyone to be interested in me solely for papa's money anyway. What else am I? Nothing. I'm not pretty or anything… A sudden memory popped into my head, something Maria had said to me in the midst of all the yelling, 'I don't have your looks'. What in Dashi's name was she on about?
There was no time for further reflection, though, as 'the giant couple' – as Rai and I had been referring to them all night – came to a stop in the forest. I could hear furious roaring, footsteps and yelling, though the trees were blocking my view. I heard Madame Maxime asking if she could get a better look before she hurried off and Rai and I hurried to Hagrid's side in her place.
A jet of fire flashed across my vision. Dragons. There were four dragons in cages in a clearing. "Dragons?" I demanded, pulling off the cloak. "That's the first task?"
"Ah, come on now. They're vastly misunderstood creatures. Quick – back under the cloak!"
One of the dragon handlers was approaching Hagrid and when he got close enough, I recognised him – Carlos. "Alright there, Hagrid?" When he was close enough, he leant in and muttered, "What'd you bring her for? She'll be running off to tell her team."
Hagrid looked quite sheepish and I thought I heard him mumble "thought she might be interested" though I couldn't be sure.
"Don't know why they wanted nesting mothers." Carlos mused as he watched his friends and colleagues trying to subdue the dragons. "I don't envy the one who gets the Horntail." He was looking towards the largest and most vicious of the four, as eight stunners were shot at it, finally knocking it out.
"Yeah. It looks like a right nasty piece of work." Hagrid glanced at where we were – though still invisible – and seemed to think it tactful to change the subject. "How's the rest of your family doing?"
Good old Hagrid. Pick a subject he knows Rai and I will be dying to hear about.
"Worried. We all are. I suppose if anyone can handle this, those two can, but that doesn't stop us being afraid. Raimundo's my favourite little brother, you know? None of us want to see him get hurt – even Al, though he doesn't really know what's going on. And then there's Kimiko. She's practically part of the family already. Mum and dad think of her as a daughter and the rest of us think of her as a sister. Especially with the way Raimundo feels about her. She's one of us. And well, we all know she will be someday." At the last sentence he shared a smile with Hagrid and I glanced – utterly confused – at Rai. 'we all know she will be someday'? What does he mean by that? Rai seemed to know though, given the way he was glaring daggers at his brother.
We decided to take our leave when we noticed the time and crept away slowly, almost walking into Karkaroff who was sneaking around the forest. It seems that everyone will know by tomorrow – apart from Cedric and Cho. "Dragons? Are they mad?" Rai exploded once we were back inside the common room, waiting before the fire for Sirius to appear.
"I bet, with our luck, we'll get that 'Horntail'." I said grimly. "If Hagrid's saying that it looks like a nasty piece of work then it must be really bad."
"Oh, it is." Rai said darkly. "Carlos has told me about them. The most vicious and temperamental of any dragon. I wonder why they wanted nesting mothers, though. They're more vicious than others."
I was starting to get really nervous about the task when Sirius' head appeared in the fire.
"We don't have much time." Rai and I glanced at each other in confusion. "You should be in bed!" I rolled my eyes. "Right. Tell me everything that's happened."
We explained everything, including what we had just discovered.
"This is serious." As if we didn't know that. "It sounds like someone is trying to get you killed." Alright, way to make me feel better, Sirius. "People have died in this tournament."
I felt sick. "I'm not ready for this, Sirius. I don't think I can do this."
"It doesn't matter if you're ready. You have to compete. It's a binding magical contract." Sirius really wasn't helping, and luckily Rai realised or I would've had a mental breakdown right there and then.
"Hey." I turned my panicked eyes to him and he locked his on mine, his gaze unwavering. "We've done things normal people would consider crazy just for training. We've dodged the branches of the Whomping Willow, which only makes it madder, and enjoyed it. We've fought Cyclops the troll, you fought off at least a hundred Dementors at once, a Basilisk… We can handle a dragon. It'll be just like training."
The more I thought about it, I realised he was right. These tasks were just like our Xiaolin Training. Suddenly I didn't feel so afraid, and sensing this, Rai smiled, letting go of my hands and turning back to Sirius. "All we need to do now is plan. Now, I know a bit about dragons from Carlos, but you, Sirius, have the wider knowledge of magic. What do you suggest?"
He thought for a moment. "Well, if it was me, I'd-" but he broke off and Rai and I spun round. Someone was coming down the stairs. "I've got to go. Good luck. You can figure it out."
I hissed a quick goodbye and turned to face the staircase, terrified of who would come down. Would it be a prefect, who would get us into trouble? But it was only Maria. She glared at us – me specifically – suspiciously. "What are you two doing down here at this time?"
I sort of just blinked at her. I wasn't really sure what to say. "We were just…"
"Oh." Her eyes flickered between the two of us, raising an eyebrow. "I see…" The tone of voice she said it in though made my cheeks redden again. It reminded me of our interview with the devil-woman. "I could've sworn I heard talking though. That doesn't require much talking…"
I could practically feel the heat radiating off Rai's cheeks now as well as my own. "Perhaps you're imagining things." I said sweetly. "Wouldn't be the first time, now, would it?"
Maria's eyes narrowed at me and Rai's flickered between the two of us, unsure. "Probably just practicing for your next interview, I expect."
I felt a flare of hot anger surge through me and I grabbed one of the muggle badges that some of the students were trying to enchant so that they read 'support Kimiko and Raimundo' and flung it at her. It hit her exactly where I had been aiming – her forehead. Right between the eyes.
"There!" I spat acidly, eyes burning. "Maybe you'll even have a scar now! Just what you wanted, eh?"
She glared back before storming up the stairs. I took a few deep breaths to calm myself before Rai thought it safe to talk to me. "What has been going on between you two? I thought you were practically sisters."
"She thinks that we put our names in the goblet."
"So she hates you now?" I found it a bit odd that Rai seemed to be under the impression that it must be Maria's fault that she and I aren't speaking and seem to hate each other. Though it makes me feel strangely happy that he isn't even entertaining the notion that it could be my fault.
"She thinks…she…she said…"
"She said what?" Rai demanded softly.
"…some stuff…" I said evasively but Rai got around that by wracking through my memories when my guard was down. "Hey!" He found what he was looking for and his eyes hardened and darkened in anger. Note to self: seriously strengthen mental barriers.
"She said that to you?" I nodded meekly. "How could she? She's supposed to be your friend! I mean, Aidan wasn't too happy about it and he thought we'd done it at first, but he listened to me, like a friend should!"
"Rai, it's okay-" I tried to cut across Rai's ranting but it only seemed to anger him further.
"Okay? How can it be okay? Those things she said to you…"
"Maybe…maybe there's some truth in them…" I said quietly.
"I mean…I do always hang out with you guys instead of her and-"
"No. Yeah, you hang out with us more than her, but we're closer. And besides, that doesn't give her the right to say something like that to you."
I searched Rai's eyes for a moment, finding only sincerity, and gave him a small smile, which was soon broken up by a yawn. "Time to follow Sirius' advice. Of to bed – chop chop!" Rai chivvied me up the stairs and into my dormitory, making me laugh again, and I gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek in thanks.
As I lay in bed that night, I thought over my revelation. So, I like Raimundo Pedrosa as more than friends, and he is my best friend who can tell when anything is wrong with me… How in Dashi's name am I supposed to keep something like this from him?
The next morning I woke up to find that Rai had told all of our friends about what Maria had said to me, and now none of them were speaking to her, simply giving her looks dirtier than the ones she gave me – even Fernando and Ricardo. I felt awful that her own brothers were angry with her because of me, and of course, Raimundo sensed this. "She deserves it, Kimiko. No thinking otherwise." He had said, but I really couldn't help it. I mean, they're her family. They should be on her side, not mine. No matter what. It's what families do, right? "You're part of the family though, too Kimiko." Rai murmured in my ear.
"Not a blood relation, though. And seriously? Can't you stay out of my head for one day?" Rai only chuckled though, returning to eating his breakfast.
Morning classes passed by mostly with me trying to prod Rai awake both physically and mentally. "Oh, come on, Kimiko!" he would whine each time I woke him up. "We're not getting tested this year, so we don't have to pay attention now. It's too early."
"Rai, we may be exempt from this year's Hogwarts exams, but we're certainly not exempt from next year's O.W.L.s!"
"Oh, you can just tell me later." I opened my mouth to protest, but Rai already had an excuse on his lips. Standard practice for a prankster. "You can use it as a mode of revision. Recite it back to me. It'll be helping both of us at the same time."
He did sort of have a point, so I dropped it. Though I didn't warn him when Professor McGonagall was coming near our row, so she caught him sleeping. Unfortunately she didn't see it quite the same way he did, and now he has detention on our new free night that would usually be Quidditch practice, which was cancelled due to the cancelation of the Quidditch Cup. Rai and I usually went out flying anyway. We missed it too much.
He levitated me in the air for a good few minutes, swinging me round above his head, in revenge at lunch. Then he dropped me unceremoniously on the ground. I glared as I picked myself up, causing him to catch his wrist in his other hand with a small cry of pain.
I noticed that Cedric and Cho were sitting nearby with some of their friends and remembered that they were now the only ones who didn't know about the dragon. I nudged Rai, nodding in their direction. He nodded in understanding before following me.
We stopped in front of them and their friends started to jeer. "Hey, read the badges, Xiaolin Losers." Ah, they've adopted Spicer's catchphrase. They shoved their badges in our faces – as much as you can when they're pinned to your lapel – and I saw that they were modified versions of the badge I had thrown at Maria last night, reading 'Support Cedric & Cho: the REAL Hogwarts Champions' before turning an acid green colour, and their captions turned to 'Tohomiko & Pedrosa STINK'.
"Heh heh heh. Real mature, guys. Cedric, Cho, can we have a word?" They got up and followed us with a shrug. Once we were out of earshot, we stopped and turned to them. They looked as if they were going to say something but I quickly cut them off. I needed to tell them before someone interrupted. "Dragons." They closed their mouths and stared at me.
"That's the first task." Rai finished for me.
Cho's mouth dropped back open. "Are – are you serious?" Cedric stuttered.
"Oh, yeah. Dead serious. They've got one for each team."
"And the others. Do they know?" Cho seemed to have found her voice again."
"Yep." They blinked a few times.
"Right. Dragons." They seemed rather shell shocked. Well, I suppose as a normal human you're not used to strange things. At least not in the way Rai and I are. Well we have to be since they're pretty much a regular occurrence. "Thanks for telling us."
Cho started to walk back to her waiting friends and Rai and I nodded, turning away, but Cedric caught my arm. "Uh, about the badges… I've- well, we've asked them not to wear them but…" he shrugged.
"Don't worry about it. I'm used to idiots by now. They're definitely not the most imaginative nor the most hurtful insults I've received in the last few days."
I ignored his confused expression and hurried to catch up with Rai, but he seemed to have noticed that I wasn't with him and had stopped, talking to the twins. They were saying something to him with a grin, but I only caught the last few words. "…watch out, Raimundo!" They made no sense to me, though they did seem to do so for Rai, who scowled, causing the twins to laugh before leaving.
"Done with your little chat?"
I blinked, surprised at the anger in his voice. "He was just apologising for the badges." Rai grunted and we set off again back to Clay and Omi. We collapsed at the base of the tree where we found them, and I leant against it, crossing my legs and picking at the grass. "So, do you guys have any idea how to fight a dragon?"
"Well, I am sure we can think of something. I mean, we are the Xiaolin Dragons, so you do have an added advantage-" Omi was cut off when we heard the voice of the person we really could've done without knowing from above us.
"Hah! An added advantage!" I jumped to my feet, glaring at the one and only – thank God! – Jack Spicer. "You know what, Xiaolin Losers? My father and I have a bet going." Our faces remained unchanged, glaring at him, though he seemed not to notice. "Oh, yeah. You see, I think you won't last ten minutes in this tournament." Jack continued airily, not noticing our clenched fists. "He disagrees. He thinks you won't last five."
I leant against the tree, seething, though it was still an anger that I could control. "I don't a damn what either of you think. Your father's vile and cruel, and you're just pathetic." I scoffed and turned my back on him.
I'm not quite sure what happened next, though I do remember an angry shout from Rai and when I turned back round, Spicer's wand was flying through the air. He looked quite put out and moved as if to climb down the other side of the tree. "Smell ya later, Xiaolin Losers!" he called to us as he turned but soon found himself caught in the lasso Clay carries around in his bag. Wow. I suppose it did come in handy.
"You'll smell us now, ya dirty snake." Clay pulled him to the ground as Rai and I stared with raised eyebrows.
"'Smell us now'?" I echoed.
Rai leant in close and muttered, "Clay's villain taunting…needs some serious work." I giggled, fighting the blush that was rising. Wow, it hadn't even been a day and this hiding a secret crush thing really is hard work!
Clay had loosened the lasso and Spicer was crawling to his feet. "What did you hear of our conversation, Spicer?"
He just stared at us, as if he didn't understand us. Knowing him, he probably didn't. Omi grabbed him by the lapel of his robes and pulled him close to his face, yelling, "I order you to spill your internal organs right now!"
I felt like burying my face in my hands, though a wide grin was spreading across my face. Only Omi… The whole courtyard had gone quiet at Omi's words and everyone was staring at us as Spicer whined. "What kind of sick people are you!" he screeched.
"Uh…" Rai piped up from beside me. "I think he means spill your guts."
"Oh. I didn't hear anything, I swear! Just that cheese-ball here thinks you two have some sort of advantage over something just 'cause you're famous."
"Hey!" the four of us yelled in support of Omi.
"Alright, he only heard that, Omi, he didn't hear any of our top secret Xiaolin Secrets." I know, I know, that isn't really what we were talking about, but he doesn't need to know that.
"Awww man!" He scrambled to his feet as Omi dropped him and ran to grab his wand when Moody appeared.
"Thought you'd try to curse her when her back was turned, huh?" Oh, so that's what happened… "Rather a cowardly thing to do. I'll teach you not to be so cowardly. Oh, it was brilliant! He turned Spicer into a ferret! Bouncing him up and down before sticking him down the back of Ashley's robes! Well, until Professor McGonagall showed up and put an end to it. Moody asked Rai and I to follow him to his office and we did, burning the image of Jack Spicer: The Amazing Bouncing Ferret into our brains forever as we went.
We sat down at a table in his office, in front of his foe glass, and we were rather shocked by his question. "What are you two going to do about your dragon?"
"Uh…" we were so shocked that he knew we knew, and not only that, but seemed fine with it that we were speechless.
He gave us a little speech about how the other teams would have a plan – as if we didn't know that! And we would have a plan by the time the task came. We're not stupid. Though we usually like to wing it. Things don't usually go according to our plans.
"You can bet their plans will play to their strengths. Come on. Think! What are your strengths?"
"Um, well," I glanced at Rai, who shrugged. "We can fight. Martial Arts, our elements…uh…we can fly. Well, that's a given with Rai's element, but I'm a fair flyer too-"
"Better than fair the way I heard it." I allowed myself a small smile at Moody's words. Rai nodded in agreement. We sort of just stared at Moody before we realised that flying was the strength that he had been trying to hint at.
"But we're not allowed a broom." Rai pointed out the obvious.
"No, but you're allowed a wand."
"Of course…the summoning charm!" Rai's eyes widened in realisation. After all, how many times had his mother used it this summer on the twins? "Thanks Professor!" I jumped from my seat and grabbed Rai's arm, dragging him along with me. I didn't really want anyone to hear our full plan. Plus, the bell for the end of lunch just rang.
We sat in our usual chairs by the fireplace in Gryffindor Tower after Xiaolin Training. It had been a particularly gruelling session, so Clay and Omi had already gone to bed, but Rai and I wanted our plan sorted out tonight.
"Right. So, we use the summoning charm to summon our broomsticks. Then what do we do?"
"Well, I suppose that depends on whatever the challenge is. It wouldn't just be fighting the dragon. They wouldn't expect students to kill it."
"No." I stared into the fire for a moment. "Okay, so I distract the dragon and you complete the task, whatever it is."
"No, I'll distract the dragon." Rai cut in quickly.
"Why?" My eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Don't you think I can handle it?"
"No, of course not. I just…" He stared into the fire, too, blushing, before he returned my gaze. "I don't want to see you get hurt."
My heart fluttered. Damn him. He is making hiding this crush seriously hard! He's turning me into a Kimiko shaped puddle! "That's really sweet, Rai, but I'm fireproof, remember? And you're not, so you'll be completing the task while I ward off the dragon."
"I suppose that's the best plan. All we need to do is learn that summoning charm."
"Of course it is – it's my plan!" He stuck his tongue out at me and I giggled while he stood up and stretched. My giggles dissolved into a yawn and I accepted Rai's hand to get up and out of the chair. "We should probably get to bed a bit earlier than last night, eh?"
"Night. And no popping into my head, this time."
"Hey, I was bored!" he whined.
We spent the next few days practicing the summoning charm and soon it was lunchtime on the day before the task. I had managed to perfect the spell but Rai was still having some trouble. He was close, but he didn't seem to agree with me, getting increasingly frustrated each time he failed to move the cushions. We only had one class left after this and when the bell rang Rai seemed inclined to stay – I couldn't really blame him, he had Divination next – but I wasn't about to miss Arithmancy and he seemed to think it was pointless to keep going without me, so he went to class, albeit grudgingly.
After Arithmancy I headed straight for Professor McGonagall's classroom. She had let us use it for practicing spells for the tournament. She seemed really worried about us. All the teachers do. I think they momentarily forget that we've faced worse things than this tournament. And they were all for fun!
We had decided to go straight after class rather than going to dinner. If we didn't finish in time we could always go and visit Dobby and Winky down in the kitchens. The house elves down there practically throw food at you if you're down there.
When I got to McGonagall's classroom, Rai was already there, and he looked to be in a foul mood. "What's up?"
"It's that old cow, Trelawney." He answered sullenly. "In your absence she has moved on to predicting my death every five minutes."
"Ah." I knew from last year just how annoying that really was. "What did she say this time?"
"She spent half the lesson explaining how the position of Mars in relation to Saturn at this moment in time means that people born in September are in great danger of sudden, violent deaths."
I winced sympathetically. Then I noticed his face. "You lost your temper at her, didn't you?" I could feel a grin spreading across my face.
His face split into an almost identical one. "Yeah. I sorta shouted to the whole class 'well, that's good. Just as long as it's not drawn out, I don't want to suffer.'" I couldn't fight back the giggle and his grin showed me that I had been successful in cheering him up. "I stopped paying attention after that. Started trying to practice the charm. I think it worked. It could've just been that the fly just flew into my hand."
"Even flies aren't that stupid."
He raised his eyebrows at me, still grinning. "Oh, you think something has to be stupid to fly to me, huh?" My eyes widened as he raised his wand to me, and I scrambled backwards, anticipating what he was doing. "Accio Kimiko!"
I squealed as I felt the charm pick me up and carry me towards Rai. However, in typical Rai fashion, he hadn't quite thought it through. He was lounging in a chair, his feet propped up of the desk in front, smirking and laughing at me being dragged through the air towards him, and so whenever I reached him, the force of the spell dragging me – since I was a bit heavier than the books we had been practicing with and he hadn't thought of that (as usual) – sent the two of us tumbling to the floor.
I blinked as I suddenly found myself on my back, pinned between the floor and Rai. I was still giggling – though nervously – and could feel a furious blush working its way up my cheeks. Rai stared for a few moments before he shook himself and got up, offering me his hand. "Does that make you stupid?" I replied by sticking out my tongue at him.
"Well, if you can summon me, a human – well, not quite but that's not the point – person, summoning your broomstick will be no problem tomorrow. Shall we go down to dinner?"
The day of the first task was a sunny day with a clear sky and when I met Rai downstairs in the common room, identical grins spread across our faces: perfect flying conditions. Though that probably only fuelled the rumours that we had put our names in the Goblet, grinning like that on the morning of the first task…
After breakfast our large group headed down to the grounds where the task was to be held, separating only when we came to the stands where Rai and I were to go to the Champions' Tent while the others headed to find seats. They called 'good luck' after us and nerves started to set in.
Inside the Champions Tent we found only Cedric and Cho, who nodded to us as we headed to sit in the corner. Soon Fleur and Luc and Krum and Voskef joined us but we still had to wait for the school headmasters and Bagman and Crouch. The headmasters and Crouch were to be the judges and Bagman was to commentate.
As we sat around waiting, Rai and I having fallen silent due to growing nerves, I stared around the tent for something to distract me. I noticed that there was another joined onto the side and it appeared to have cubicles and beds in it. I swallowed. A medi-witch tent for Madame Pomfrey. Oh Dashi, what am I in for?
I glanced around at the others. They were all staring around silently like I was. We all seemed to be wearing tracksuits of some sort made of flameproof material. They all had our individual school crests on it and the two Hogwarts teams' had their house colours too. Rai and I had wanted to just wear our Xiaolin robes, but we weren't allowed. I adamantly refused to wear tracksuit bottoms any longer than knee-length though. It just didn't feel right.
Master Fung entered the tent with all the others we had been waiting for. They made us gather round in a circle and held out a bag for us to pick from. "Ladies, if you please. Oh. Well, apart from the Durmstrang team, of course! Ha ha!" The Bulgarian wizards simply stared at him, no traces of humour on his face so he moved quickly on.
Fleur reached into the bag first and pulled out a tiny green dragon model – magic, of course, so it moved and breathed fire anyway – with the number two around its neck. "The Welsh Green. That means you two are second." I heard Rai scoff inwardly from his position just behind me. 'Lucky. Welsh Greens aren't that bad, really.'
He turned to the Durmstrang team next. "Now, uh, who wants to pull it out?" Krum reached into the bag next and pulled out a scarlet dragon this time, with the number three around its neck. "Ah, the Chinese Fireball. So you're to go third." 'Well?' I called silently to Rai.
'Well, not as bad as that Horntail seems to be, but worse than a Welsh Green.'
"Miss Chang, if you will." Cho reached into the bag and pulled out a greyish-blue one with the number one around its neck. "Ah, so you're first with the Swedish Short-Snout." 'Not too bad.' Rai silently commentated.
'But know we know what we're getting. Just as we thought, eh?'
"Miss Tohomiko?" I reached in and pulled out just what I had known we were going to get ever since I saw it in the forest. The Hungarian Horntail. Oh, well. At least we get to go last."
"Now. Each of these represents a real dragon, each of which has been given a golden egg to protect. Your task is simple: collect the egg."
He left not much later, and soon Cedric and Cho were leaving the tent for their turn. "Good luck!" I whispered as they passed.
We were right in thinking that Maxime and Karkaroff would tell their teams as no one had looked surprised upon seeing the dragons coming out of that bag.
At first I had tried to keep up with Bagman's commentary to find out how the others were doing, but the roar of the crowd as well as that of the dragon that my extra-sensitive hearing can pick up made me feel rather sick so I tried to block it out instead.
In what seemed like no time at all it was our turn. "Remember. I distract the dragon, you get the egg." I muttered to Rai as we headed to the arena. He nodded mutely.
We stepped out into the arena, which was basically a sort of crater with a lot of rocks in it. The crowd made a lot of noise when we emerged – I'm not sure whether it was for or against us though – but I blocked it out. I didn't need that sort of distraction.
Out of nowhere the horned tail of the dragon we were supposed to be stealing a golden egg from landed next to us, and we only managed to avoid it using our Xiaolin instincts. We dodged the tail, splitting and trying to confuse it as we scrambled for higher ground.
Once we got to it, I could see the eggs, the golden one nestled in with the rest of them. I saw the dragon then, too. She dropped out of the sky and landed on the eggs, protectively, eyeing us suspiciously. Rai and I raised our wands, simultaneously calling out the spell we had worked so hard on the last few days.
All of us had pooled together our money to buy Rai a Nimbus 2001 for his birthday. We had wanted to buy him a Firebolt, though we knew he would freak about the cost. As it was, he did freak; at least until I told him that we had almost bought a Firebolt. Then he calmed down when he realised we went for the cheaper option.
We ducked behind a large rock as we waited for our brooms to arrive. The dragon had decided she didn't trust us and had set her flame breath on us. It quickly melted the rock so I held it at bay until the brooms arrived, and we dived sideways onto them. 'Alright' I thought to myself, narrowing my eyes in determination. 'Diversionary tactics. Let's go.'
First I shot through the dragon's legs – she had lifted herself up to aim the fire at our heads – and shot straight into the air again, avoiding her tail. I grinned. This was gonna be fun!
Once I had reached the same height with the dragon's head, I shot over it, to the ground once again, pulling up at the last millisecond, avoiding the dragon's flames again. Not that it really mattered. I could've diverted it with a flick of my wrist. I shot up once again, only to pull a 180 degree turn and head for the ground once again, pulling another 180 about a centimetre from the ground – just as I had done to catch the golf ball-snitch during the summer at the Pedrosas'. I let out a whoop of laughter and heard an answering one from Rai as he entertained himself by dodging around the rocks, keeping out of the dragon's sight.
"Great Scott she can fly!" I heard – not without a swell of pride – Bagman yell as the crowd shrieked and gasped – not the Pedrosas though. They had seen that trick before, so they merely laughed. "They both can! Are you watching this, Mr Krum!" Okay, I won't lie. That felt good.
I kept at it for a while, circling the dragon's head to get it nice and dizzy. This time it tried to hit me with its flame-breath and its tail at the same time. I dodged the tail, though I was flying head-first into the fire. Some in the crowd screamed, but I just grinned, lifting a hand and stopping the fire in its tracks as I flipped over backwards in mid-air.
I wondered why I had ever been scared to do this – it was the most fun I had had since the summer!
The dragon was getting nice and frustrated now, so I flew higher this time, calling "Catch me if you can!" back to the dragon with a laugh. It roared and lifted into the air, swinging its tail as it did. I was too busy laughing and flying circles around the dragon to watch what Rai was doing but when I heard the cheer from the crowd the grin on my face widened considerably.
"Look at that!" Bagman yelled delightedly. "Will you look at that! Our youngest Champion Team is the quickest to get their egg! Well, this is certainly going to shorten the odds on them!"
I turned my broom as I saw Carlos and the other dragon-keepers rushing to subdue the dragon that I had severely angered. "Thanks for that, Kimiko!" he yelled up at me, but I could see that he wasn't really angry. He was glad Rai and I were safe. I dove quickly and landed beside Rai who was standing with Professor McGonagall, waiting for me.
"That was excellent, Tohomiko!" she beamed at me. "You too, Pedrosa!" We just kept grinning.
"You know, Professor," Rai grinned cheekily. "I thought these tasks were the most terrifying thing since Wuya and Chase the way you lot described them."
"Yeah. That was the most fun I've had since summer!" I laughed in agreement with him.
Professor McGonagall just shook her head at our madness. "You'll need to see Madame Pomfrey before you get your scores, Mr Pedrosa."
I turned to him in alarm. "What? You got hurt?"
"I, uh, wasn't watching the dragon's tail when I went for the egg." He said sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck.
I shook my head incredulously. "Idiot. The whole point of the 'I distract the dragon while you get the egg' plan was that I'd be the one in danger of getting hurt since I didn't have to worry about its flame-breath, just the tail. You're a chaser! How could you not notice the tail! That's like not noticing a bludger!"
"I got a little over-excited. Better me than you anyway."
I sighed. Our argument had taken us the whole way to the first aid tent, where Madame Pomfrey was bustling about, ranting about the dragons. She examined the cut on Rai's shoulder, saying that she needed to clean it out before she let us heal it.
While she was doing that I went to see Cho and Cedric in the next cubicle over. They were sitting up and talking, so they didn't seem too badly hurt, but their clothes were singed and they looked to have a few bad burns. Cho had one on her arm and Cedric one on his cheek.
"Hey. Congratulations on getting your egg." I said by way of a conversation starter.
"You too. I heard you did a spectacular bit of flying." I grinned at Cho's words.
"It was fun." I said with a shrug.
"Yeah, we heard you laughing." They both looked at me as if I was mad.
"Hey, maybe my dad will believe me about last year's match, now." Cedric suggested.
"Maybe." I laughed. "You want some help with those burns? I can't imagine how they must feel." They shrugged. "No, really. I can't imagine – I'm fireproof. That's why we came up with the 'I distract the dragon' plan."
"Lucky you. Yeah, some help would be appreciated."
I healed Cho first, then Cedric. Rai entered the cubicle just as I was finishing with the burn mark on Cedric's cheek. "Hey,grins spread across our faces:n't let me heal the stupid thing myself. Says if I can't see the wound, I won't be able to see if it's healing properly."
"Sure, I'm coming." I laughed at the sulky tone in his voice at not being allowed to heal it himself. "I'll see you guys later." I didn't miss how Rai glared at Cedric as he left, nor how he closed the cubicle curtain harder than necessary. Odd.
The whole gang burst through the door as I was finishing with Rai's shoulder, congratulating us, but I was surprised to see Maria slip in after them. Rai spotted her too and glared, alerting the others to her presence and they glared too. I didn't though. She didn't have the accusing glare on her face that she had been wearing the last few weeks. She was really pale – almost as pale as me – staring at me wide-eyed.
"I reckon whoever put your names in that Goblet is trying to do you in!" she said, very seriously.
My face split into a wide grin. Rai wasn't so forgiving. "Finally caught on, have you? Took you long enough." I hit him, though I kinda forgot that it was his injured shoulder, so he yelped louder than usual.
Maria opened her mouth to say something, but I cut her off. "It's okay. Forget about it."
"No." She tried to apologise. "I shouldn't've said those things."
"Damn right you shouldn't have." Rai muttered darkly, rubbing his injured shoulder and ducking out of my way when I went to hit him again.
"Forget it." I repeated and Maria grinned back.
"You'd have to be mad to put your own name in that Goblet!"
"Hey, I am mad, remember? I just proved it by actually enjoying getting a dragon angry at me!" We giggled and she grabbed my hand.
"Come on, they'll be putting up your scores now." I grabbed Rai's hand as she dragged me out the door.
As we were waiting, she told us what everyone else had done. Cedric and Cho had transfigured a rock to a dog in an attempt to distract the dragon – though a distraction with live bait works better – Fleur and Luc put it in a kind of trance and Krum and Voskef hit it in the eye with something, though they lost marks because the dragon stomped around in its pain, squashing the real eggs.
"Yours was the best by far! No competition. And get this – Krum didn't even think of flying! Not that he's anywhere near as good as you or anything, but it's how he makes his living, you know? Oh, look! Here come the scores!"
The marks were out of ten, and were displayed by silver ribbons in the air. Madame Maxime came first, awarding us eight. "Not bad." Maria commented. "I suppose she took the points off for your shoulder, Raimundo."
Both Crouch and Master Fung gave us nines. "Looking good!"
Then came Bagman, who, for whatever reason, gave us a ten! "Ten? But idiot here got himself hurt! What's he playing at?"
"Don't complain!" The Pedrosa siblings yelled back at me excitedly.
Karkaroff was next, giving us a measly four. "What?" Maria bellowed furiously. "Four! You gave Krum and Voskef ten, you lousy biased scumbag!" I couldn't care less at that moment in time. Maria standing up for me was more than enough and I tried to tell her that by hugging her tightly around the middle. I think she understood.
After I let her go, both Rai and I were picked up from behind and I heard Carlos' voice yelling in our ears over the noise of the crowd, "Well done you two! You're tied with the Durmstrangs for first place." He set us back down again, grinning. "Well, I gotta run. I promised mum I'd owl and let her know how it went. I'll be sure to tell her you two enjoyed it so much!"
We had a quick meeting in the Champions' Tent before we were allowed back up to the castle for lunch. They told us that the eggs held the clue for the second task before letting us go.
We had the rest of the day off to relax and our usual crowd spent it on the Quidditch pitch, re-enacting our epic battle against the dragon, taking it in turns, and when I wasn't playing myself or parodying Rai's stupidity to the point where he got so annoyed he stuck his tongue out at me, I was playing the dragon, chasing everyone around the pitch, shooting fire, though not actually hurting anyone – it was the fire I use to throw at Rai's head when I'm not too mad at him, so it doesn't actually harm you, it treats everyone the way normal fire treats me – until Rai catches me around the waist, dragging me from my broom to his, declaring that he's caught the dragon. Then Maria rescues me, coming up behind him and clobbering him until he lets me go.
All in all, it was a great day.
Well, I'm not sure whether or not everyone believed us now, but they were certainly supporting us. Gryffindor House especially seemed to think that our fight against the dragon was the best thing they'd seen at Hogwarts and were hailing us as heroes. They held a party that night, encouraging us to open the egg.
"Come on! Let's hear the clue!"
I felt myself lifted into the air and glanced around frantically before I realised that it was just Rai and he had lifted me onto his shoulders. Okay. Must. Not. Blush. I don't want the whole of Gryffindor Tower knowing of my crush. "You want us to open it?" Rai called to the partying Gryffindors. Oh, he was so enjoying this. At the answering yell his grin widened and he turned to me, still grinning that adorable grin. Why do you have to make this so hard? "Should we open it?" I grinned back, and of course he understood. He opened the egg.
A horrible screeching came from it and I toppled off Rai's shoulders when he reached up to block his ears. Finally he seemed to come to his senses and he shut it. "What was that?" Maria asked incredulously, pulling her hands away from her ears. I noticed that everyone was. Hey, they only have human hearing. What do they think it felt with a heightened sense of hearing?
"It sounded like a banshee." Aidan piped up.
"Maybe you have to fight one of those next!" Sishi grinned, bringing the atmosphere in the room back to what it was.
As I lay in bed that night, though, I mulled it over. I knew I had heard that kind of sound before. There was a sort of dim recognition in the back of my mind. As if I knew what it was, but I just couldn't remember…
In Transfiguration a few days later Professor McGonagall made an announcement that made most of the girls squeal in excitement. There was to be a dance held at Hogwarts! On Christmas Eve, fittingly titled the 'Yule Ball', and held in honour of the Triwizard Tournament.
We had to wait until after class to talk about it, but instead of waiting for the guys, I scurried over to the girls and we were soon in a conversation about the dance. "Miss Tohomiko, Mr Pedrosa; a word please." Professor McGonagall's voice called us back and I glanced at Rai, only to receive an equally confused look back.
"Why does she want to talk to us?"
"I don't know. Did you do something again?"
Professor McGonagall interrupted our hushed argument with a stern look, though I could see her eyes twinkling. Understanding what people meant when they looked at me around Rai with that knowing look in their eyes didn't make it any less annoying.
"As I have said, the Yule Ball is in honour of the Triwizard Tournament, and is a dance. This year, the difference is that we have teams of champions rather than a single one from each school, so to make it easier, we have decided that the teams are to go to the ball together."
Okay, so I was secretly happy – there was no way Rai would've asked me to go with him, so this was really the only way I could. Though any girl would tell you that they would prefer it that the guy asked them to go, rather than being forced to.
I felt my cheeks heating up as I glanced at Rai, to see him doing the same, his cheeks faintly tinged with pink. "T-together?" Professor McGonagall only nodded.
"And it is tradition that the champions open the ball."
"How?" I rolled my eyes. Come on, Rai! It's a ball. Use your brain.
"Dancing of course, Mr Pedrosa."
I was surprised to see a smile creeping across his face. He couldn't be happy at having to go with me, could he? "So Krum and Voskef have to go together to the ball and open it dancing?" Rai sniggered and I fought to keep the sinking feeling off of my face. Of course. My brain seemed to have momentarily disconnected itself, leaving me vulnerable to immense stupidity.
"No, they are free to choose their own dates due to the issue of gender." I felt my face flush brighter red at the mention of the word 'date' and out of my peripheral vision I noticed Rai doing the same. McGonagall let us go and we half-ran to our next class in complete silence.
"So, who are you gonna ask to go to the ball with you?" I glanced up to see Keiko staring incredulously at Sishi, who had a mischievous twinkle in her eye. We were lounging on our dormitory – Keiko, Neko, Sishi, Maria and I – discussing the ball, since we had finished our homework. I had zoned out, concentrating on my book, but Keiko's spluttering brought me back to the conversation.
"I can't ask someone!" Keiko's voice was an octave higher than usual, bringing a small smirk to my face as I turned back to my book, though shifting so that I was leaning against my headboard so I could still see the girls, listening in.
"Oh, come on, Keiko! Don't tell me you're one of those old fashioned types!" Neko teased from her spot on my trunk. "There's nothing wrong with a girl asking a guy out."
"I know that." Keiko muttered, her face flaming. "I'd just prefer to have him ask me. And anyway, I don't know who I'd ask."
I sat up, putting my book beside me on the bed. "You said 'him' Keiko." She stared blankly at me, though the others seemed to be catching on. "You didn't say 'I'd prefer to have a guy ask me', you said 'I'd prefer to have him ask me'."
Keiko's eyes widened and she began to fiddle with her pillow. "Is there a difference?"
"You like someone." I couldn't help but grin. Teasing was too much fun. "There is someone who you want to ask. Well, who you want to ask you."
"I…I don't know what you're talking about." I grinned, about to continue prodding her until she broke, when she cut across me. "What about you?"
"What about me?" I echoed her words, taken aback.
"Come on, Kimiko. We all know who you want to ask you. We all know how you feel."
My eyes widened in panic. They couldn't know…could they? "I…I-I don't…"
"We all know you like my brother, Kimiko." Maria cut in softly, smiling, not smirking, which gave me some comfort. "There's no point denying it."
"How did we know?" Maria continued gently. "You're rather obvious, I'm afraid, Kimiko. I think the only one who hasn't noticed is my idiot brother."
I groaned, hiding my face in my hands. "Great. Just great. I'm having a hard enough time hiding it from him – what with him being able to hear my thoughts and whatever – but now the whole ruddy castle knows? He'll know by morning!"
"I wouldn't be so sure, Kimiko. Raimundo can be pretty oblivious."
"How long have you known?" I finally asked, dreading the answer.
"Longer than you have. I dunno, I guess I could always see it. Ever since the train. No one had ever stood up to him like that. Well, Omi, Clay and the rest of us Pedrosas have stood up to him, but no one had ever bested him like you did, and still do every day. It wasn't exactly a giant leap to say that he'd end up falling for you. I wouldn't be surprised if he fell for you on the spot, right there, right then."
I scoffed. "Oh, please. Rai doesn't like me in that way. He never has and he never will. End of story." My heart felt heavy as I spoke the words, wishing that they were untrue, but knowing that they weren't.
"But Kimiko-" I shook my head, cutting off their protests. I didn't want to hear them trying to cheer me up with lies. It would just hurt too much.
"Are you going to ask him to the ball?" Sishi ventured to ask, though timidly. I shook my head. "But you'll never know if you don't ask, right? I mean, you really should just ask him. What harm could it do?" Apart from losing the best friend I've ever had?
"I don't need to ask him." I leant back against the headboard again, drawing my knees to my chest.
"What do you mean?" Keiko came to sit by my feet and the others all climbed onto my bed. I was mildly surprised that everyone fit, though Neko was still perched on the trunk at the end of the bed.
"We're going together."
"He asked you?" Maria squealed happily. "I told you he likes you! I knew it! He-"
"He didn't ask me. The champion teams have to go together. Well, apart from the Durmstrang team."
"Oh." I could feel that they didn't quite know what to say, and I was rather glad they said nothing further.
They started talking again, this time about dresses and make-up, though I felt no inclination to join in, so I kept silent. "How about we all look for some on our next Hogsmeade trip? It's next weekend, so we'll have plenty of time."
"Kimiko and I have already got ours. Mum bought them for us when she was buying our school stuff while we were at the World Cup." I remembered the extra package and felt guilt swell up once again when I remembered that Carla had paid for half of the dress. It had looked very expensive. I vaguely wondered how she knew, before remembering that Antonio – and Pedro now, too – worked in the ministry, Pedro in the Department of International Magical Co-Operation, so of course they would know.
"Really?" Keiko squealed excitedly. "Can we see?"
Maria pulled hers out first. It was simple but absolutely gorgeous. A pale pink colour with a ribbon around the middle a little darker than the rest, half-sleeves and fell almost to the floor in a rippling fashion, the shade of pink darkening the further down it went. The others gushed about it as I searched my trunk.
I finally found the package and sat cross-legged on the bed while the others continued to examine Maria's dress. I carefully opened the brown paper again, feeling just as awed as the first time I saw it. It was the same shade of blue as my eyes, and made of material so soft it felt like silk. Its sleeves were designed so that they would sit just off my shoulders and when worn it would fall to just below my knees.
I heard a gasp and looked up to see the others staring at the dress in my hands. "It's beautiful." I heard Keiko gasp as she gently, almost reverently, lifted the dress from my grasp, and I gasped too when I saw it sparkle slightly as it caught the light.
While Keiko, Neko and Sishi were examining my dress, Maria sat next to me. "You're gonna give Rai a heart attack in that." She said softly. I looked down at my hands, twisting my fingers. "He does like you, you know. Really he does. He just hasn't realised yet. He's a bit slow, you see."
I looked up into Maria's eyes. They were sincere, as if she really believed what she was saying. I still didn't believe her, but I smiled back anyway. "Remind me to pay your mum back next time I see her." I muttered, eyeing the dress. "That can't have been cheap, and I don't believe her when she says that my money paid for half of it. It couldn't have even paid for the fabric of the sleeves. I may have a small size, but that type of fabric isn't cheap."
"She wanted to buy you something. Something you'd like, something you'd use." She glanced slyly at me out of the corner of her eye. "Something to give Rai a kick up the backside and make him realise what we've all known all along." I only half registered what she had murmured, still overcome by the strange feeling that entered my chest as I realised that Carla Pedrosa was the closest thing to a mother I had. And the thought was rather comforting.
It was odd, but over the next few days I seemed to get more attention than usual from the male population of Hogwarts. I could hardly go anywhere without someone asking me to go to the ball with them. They all seemed really disappointed when I had to turn them down, though I suppose they were only faking it. I mean, the only reason they were interested at all was because of my fame and my money.
Rai got increasingly grumpy over those days too. I tried not to be too offended as I assumed that it was over the fact that he was pretty much being forced to go out with me. The girls had tried to protest when I brought up this theory but as I had shot back, it was obvious that it was something to do with me as he was particularly touchy when talking to me. Maria had just looked incredulously at me, as if I was missing the most painfully obvious thing in the world.
I was rapidly losing my temper with Rai as he got surlier with each passing day, and it all came to a head in Xiaolin training, about a week before the ball was to take place. We had been training with the Shen Gong Wu, though not the ones we usually worked with. Something about training with the other elements. Anyway, Rai was working with the Orb of Tornami and he wasn't concentrating as he had been told time and time again that you must when using Shen Gong Wu, meaning that instead of hitting the target he was supposed to be hitting, he had let loose a flood, sending the rest of us flying across the grounds.
I slammed, rather painfully, into one of the stone slabs we had hid behind last year when Buckbeak was executed, and heard the others doing the same. "Sorry." Rai supplied as he walked towards us rather sheepishly. "But I think the Orb is defective."
I could feel the anger that had been building up inside me for weeks boiling beneath the surface of my skin. "I'm pretty sure something's defective, and it's not the Orb." I snapped, glaring at Rai.
Rai's eyes narrowed. I could see Clay and Omi's gaze flickering uncertainly between the two of us, but I was too far gone in my anger to stop now. "What's that supposed to mean?" he hissed.
"Oh, you know perfectly well what I mean!" I hissed back, drawing myself up to my full – though still rather short – height, hands on my hips and flames flickering about my fingers.
We ended up screaming ourselves hoarse at each other for the best part of half an hour, oblivious to Clay, Omi, Master Fung, and even Dojo's attempts to separate us, and calm us down, too focused on the other. I poured out all of my frustration from the past two weeks, and managed to calm down enough by the next day to have a civil conversation with him.
The four of us lounged under the tree in the courtyard again at lunchtime, bundled up in hats, scarves and gloves as the cold weather started up. I watched in amusement as Jack Spicer attempted – unsuccessfully, once again – to get himself a date to the Yule Ball. I really didn't understand why he didn't just go with Ashley. I mean, they seem to be the only ones in the whole school that can stand each other.
I giggled with a mock sigh as the girl simply laughed at him before walking away. "Yet another girl falls prey to the charms of Jack Spicer."
The guys looked up and followed my line of sight. Rai and Clay smirked while Omi looked confused. "But he-"
"Sarcasm." Rai muttered and Omi's face cleared in understanding.
Rai and I still struggled to figure out what the egg's clue was supposed to be, yet admittedly it got pushed aside due to the fighting and the ball, but that didn't mean it wasn't still on our minds.
As the night of the Yule Ball approached, the female population of Hogwarts got increasingly excited. The ball was to be for third-years and above since I – as the youngest champion – was thirteen, so technically should be in third year, that was the minimum age.
Sishi was going to the dance with a Ravenclaw in our year, named Ryan, and Maria was going with Michael Goodfellow. Keiko and Neko both refused to tell us who they were going with, dissolving into giggles every time they were asked. I decided not to burst their bubble with the knowledge that I already knew, but I didn't want to ruin their fun either, so I told no one.
Clay and Omi hadn't asked anyone to go with them, claiming that they didn't really know any girls apart from me and the girls, all of whom had dates. The only girl they knew that didn't was Ashley, and neither was eager to go with her. Aidan seemed to be having a problem. He didn't seem to know who to ask, and soon it was only a few days before the dance and he still hadn't asked anyone.
The group of us sat in the Gryffindor Common Room, Keiko and I curled up on armchairs, reading, while Maria messed with my hair from behind. Aidan glanced over at us, his gaze lingering on Keiko, before he sat up a little straighter. "Hey Keiko," she lifted her eyes from the pages of the advanced transfiguration book I had recommended to her, to his face. "You're a girl."
"Oh, brilliant observation, Aidan." Sishi cut across him, her voice dripping with sarcasm. Aidan went faintly pink before continuing.
"Do you want to go to the ball with me?" Keiko's face flushed slightly, though I'm not sure it was noticeable through normal vision.
"I've already got someone." She looked down, fiddling with the edge of her robes.
"Come on." For some reason Aidan didn't seem to believe her. "It's one thing for a bloke to show up alone. For a girl it's just sad."
Keiko's eyes flashed, along with the rest of the girls', and she glared at Aidan. "Well, I won't be going alone because, believe it or not, someone's asked me." She snapped her book shut, clambering to her feet, still glaring at Aidan. "And I said yes." She hissed angrily before storming off, the rest of us girls following behind her.
The night of the Yule Ball had finally arrived and our dormitory was busy as everyone rushed to get ready. Maria had helped me to do my hair, and I hers, before we got dressed. I soon found myself ready – thank you inhuman speed – and at a loss of what to do. I figured that the guys would have finished getting ready by now, and headed out to the Common Room. There I found them sitting and talking, but Rai wasn't there.
I found him in his dormitory, staring in horror at his reflection in the mirror. "I didn't realise you were quite that vain, Rai."
He spun round to face me, an expression of despair on his face. "Look at these!" he indicated his dress robes, which to be fair, weren't exactly the nicest I'd seen. They were rather old and while they were a rather nice black colour, the collar and the sleeves were lacy and ruffled. I grimaced sympathetically.
"Let me." I pulled out my wand and neatly severed the ruffles and lace. "There." But Rai didn't seem to have heard me. He seemed to have noticed what I was wearing and was staring. "Uh…Rai?"
He jerked, shaking his head. "Uh…wow…you look great, Kimiko."
I blushed. "Thanks."
We stood awkwardly for a while until Rai broke the silence. "Well, we'd best be going."
We headed down the staircases with Aidan, Clay and Omi, the girls having already gone ahead with their dates. "Poor girl." Aidan said suddenly, prompting the rest of us to look at him, utterly confused. "She's probably alone in her room, crying her eyes out."
"Who on earth are you talking about?"
"Keiko, of course! Why do you think she wouldn't tell us who she was going with?"
"Because you'd take the mickey out of her if she did." I shot back but he only shook his head.
"No one asked her, of course." I clenched my hands into fists. "I would've taken her myself if she wasn't so ruddy proud."
I wheeled on him, my eyes blazing. "Someone did ask her, Aidan Bakerset. Is it really so hard to believe?" and I stormed off, dragging Rai behind me. After all, we did have to open the ball.
Professor McGonagall quickly ushered all but the champions into the hall, instructing us to wait outside until everyone else was inside. I spotted Keiko and Neko on the arms of Krum and Voskef, sending them my best version of that damned annoying knowing grin, to which they grinned back.
We were eventually ushered into the hall where we opened the dance with a waltz before sitting down at the large table to have dinner before the proper dance part begun. Luckily Rai and I were seated near Master Fung – though this was also near Pedro, at his insistence – so we weren't at a loss for entertainment for the evening.
I barely sat down after that Rai and I were dancing so much, and it was one of the best nights at Hogwarts. I couldn't see Omi in the crowd but I could see Clay, talking to a very pretty red headed girl I'm pretty sure was in Ravenclaw, and the rest of my friends generally having a good time, though Aidan disappeared halfway through the ball.
When it ran into the wee hours of the morning, the teachers ushered us out of the hall, declaring the ball over, and we headed, albeit reluctantly, to bed. When we reached Gryffindor Common Room, we were met with the sight of Aidan and Keiko, red in the face from yelling at each other. "Well, if you don't like it, you know what the solution is, don't you?" Keiko was screaming at him, in typical Rai and I fashion, her hair falling out of her elegant bun and onto the shoulders of her gorgeous purple dress. "Next time there's a ball, pluck up the courage to ask me before somebody else does, and not as a last resort!" and she rushed off.
I glared at Aidan before running after her, purposely knocking into his shoulder once again as I did so. He had been glaring at Keiko and Krum all evening. What made him think that he could just ruin this for her! She had been having such a wonderful time… Keiko deserved to have someone 'pluck up the courage' to ask her to the ball, she deserved to have fun. I mean, she works so hard. And she had had that with Krum before Aidan ruined it.
She deserved it, even if Keiko had secretly wished it was Aidan who had asked her.
Keiko and Aidan continued to give each other the silent treatment – though I think it was more being ignored on Aidan's part – for the best part of a week. It was with the arrival of the post at breakfast the following Friday that had them talking again.
Keiko got the Daily Prophet, as usual, and she scanned over it as she buttered her toast, giving out a small gasp as she reached one of the inner pages. "Is it Rita Skeeter again?" I asked, rolling my eyes at Keiko's nod. "What's she saying this time?"
"She…it's…oh, it's horrible! Look." She passed the newspaper across the table to me and I glanced down at where she was pointing, nearly choking on my own toast when I saw the headline. "Master Fung's Giant Mistake?" I read aloud disbelievingly. I proceeded to read the article aloud, feeling the horror and disgust grow as I did.
It was about Hagrid. That evil hag had written an article about Hagrid and how he had a giant for a mother. I mean, it wasn't really hard of a jump to make, really. But the article went on to insist that it meant that Hagrid was just like the giants: aggressive and violent. Anyone who had spent half a minute with Hagrid knew that was a lie.
Upon finishing the article, I glanced up to see the others staring at me and the paper with expressions matching my own. "Is it…is it true?" Maria stammered. "Was his mother really a giant?"
"Of course!" I said, along with Keiko and, surprisingly, Aidan. We all stared at him.
"What?" he demanded defensively. "I mean, there's his obvious size, for starters. Plus, during the ball, I went outside for a bit, and had to hide in a bush to keep from getting caught by Snape and Karkaroff. I wouldn't have hidden there if I had any other choice, but it was that or hide where all the couples were hidden, snogging, and…well…" he trailed off rather awkwardly, his cheeks flushing slightly before he continued. "I tried not to listen in to their conversation, really I did. I kept trying to block it out – I even tried focusing on an annoying little ladybird on the stupid statue I was crouched against – but I could still hear them."
"Who?" Keiko asked exasperatedly, obviously wanting him to get on with it, though we all permitted ourselves small grins since it was the first time she had acknowledged his presence since the ball and really, she was almost civil.
"Hagrid and Madame Maxime. He was telling her about his mother. Though how Rita Skeeter knew it all I have no clue."
We glared at the newspaper, as if the glares would somehow reach the journalist herself, before hurriedly eating our breakfasts and rushed off to class.
Hagrid hadn't taken Care of Magical Creatures the rest of that week. Eventually, the nine of us invaded Hagrid's hut, Rai and I threatening to break the door down until he let us in, and we managed to convince him that the students didn't care about what the devil woman had written. The parents didn't either – we had heard from Master Fung. They had all known Hagrid when they were at school and they, like their children, knew that he wouldn't hurt a fly unless in self-defence, and would never harm a student.
As the second task began to draw nearer I grew increasingly anxious. We still hadn't figured out the egg, and the niggling feeling at the back of my mind, telling me that I knew it but just couldn't remember was driving me insane!
The Tuesday before the task found Rai and I on the bridge that crossed over the lake between the castle and the part of the grounds with the stone circle and Hagrid's Hut. It had a gorgeous view and we sat with our legs dangling over the sides, staring out past the grounds in comfortable silence.
We felt rather than saw someone approaching us and turned when they neared us. It was Cedric and Cho, and I saw Rai's face settle into a distinct frown. Odd. "What do you want now?" he grumbled, but low enough so that they couldn't hear him. I shot him a confused glance before turning to Cedric and Cho.
"Hi guys." Cho smiled at us, though she too shot Rai's still scowling face an unsure look.
"How are you doing?" Cedric added, eying Rai's face with a speculative look.
"Spectacular." Rai growled and Cedric smirked.
Cho glanced between the two of them before continuing. "We, uh, realised that we never really thanked you for tipping us off about the dragons."
"Don't worry about it." I smiled. "I'm sure you would've done the same for us." Rai grunted.
"Exactly. Um, you know the prefects' bathroom on the fifth floor, right?" We nodded, confused. "It's not a bad place for a bath." I raised my eyebrows incredulously at her. "Just…take your egg and…mull things over in the water. Oh, the password's 'pine fresh'." She smiled again before turning to leave. I clambered to my feet too, noting the sun's position in the sky. It was getting dark, so we had to head in. Rai got up to follow me and we started to walk across the bridge. "What on earth was that all about?" I spluttered once out of their earshot. "What do you think? …Rai?"
I turned to where Rai had been walking beside me, but saw that he was talking to Cedric, who had apparently caught his arm, and he didn't look happy. I headed back towards them, catching only the end of the conversation. "…thirteen! And besides, you have Cho." Rai hissed.
Cedric glanced over his shoulder to where Cho was waiting for him, turning back to Rai with a smirk and a shrug before jogging to catch up with her.
I decided to leave it alone, though my instincts were screaming at me to ask. I'm incessantly curious, you see, but Rai's face held such a dangerous expression that I was afraid to ask.
I jumped up onto the railing of the bridge, flipping along it to dispel my boredom. I misjudged the placement of my feet at one point and would probably have landed in the water if Rai hadn't reached out and grabbed my arm, pulling me away from the railing and onto the bridge. The motion brought me flush against him and we blinked owlishly before quickly stepping away from each other, faces flaming.
"So…" Rai began, coughing awkwardly. "What do you think they meant?"
"I dunno." I stared out across the lake as we neared the doors. I knew the answer, I just couldn't remember.
"We'll go tonight then. I mean, if anything, it's an excuse to check out the prefects' bathroom, eh?"
We snuck out later, swimming suits under our pyjamas, and headed for the fifth floor. As the bath ran we sat on the edge, the egg on my lap as I played with the catch absent mindedly. "I'd try putting it in the water if I were you." A voice from behind said suddenly, making both of us jump and I dropped the egg into the bath which had just finished filling.
I spun round, wondering why I hadn't picked up the person's life force as they entered. Moaning Myrtle was lounging in the nearest cubicle, half in the toilet, resting her elbow on the seat. Ah, that explains it. She doesn't exactly have a life force, does she?
"Hello Kimiko, Raimundo. Long time no see. You know, the other day I was circling the drains and I could've sworn I saw a bit of Polyjuice potion." Her eyes narrowed at us. "You haven't been naughty again, have you?"
Confusion clouded Rai's face for a moment, before realisation took its place and a large smirk spread across his face. I elbowed him in the side, though I was grinning too. Last year we had been rather bored, so we had made some Polyjuice potion, hiding in Myrtle's bathroom to do so, for a prank on the Slytherins. We had infiltrated their common room disguised as Ashley and Jack Spicer, proceeded to…well, let's just say that the Slytherins were laughing at Ashley and Jack for the rest of that year, under the impression that it had been them acting that way. Though, to be honest, Rai's impersonation of Jack was spot on – a big baby.
"Polyjuice potion? No, we've kicked the habit. Did you say put it in the water?"
She nodded gravely. "Yes. That's what those others did."
"Cedric and Cho?" she nodded again and I glanced at Rai, shrugging. We dived into the water, after removing our pyjamas, of course, for the 'bath' more closely resembled a swimming pool, and Rai collected the egg from the bottom. He opened it under the water and I could faintly hear…singing? We shared puzzled glances before ducking our heads under the water to listen. It was singing, a beautiful voice was singing the instructions.
"Come seek us where our voices sound, We cannot sing above the ground, And while you're searching, ponder this: We've taken what you'll sorely miss, An hour long you'll have to look, And to recover what we took, But past an hour – the prospect's black Too late, it's gone, it won't come back."
Unable to last under the water any longer – Rai was using his element to ensure that we had air in our lungs, though he couldn't hold it for too long – we broke the surface, and it hit me. "I knew it!" I exclaimed excitedly, causing Rai to stare incredulously at me. "I knew I had heard the sound somewhere before! It's Mermish. You know, the language of the merfolk. It can only be heard underwater, otherwise it's just horrid screeching."
Rai looked thoughtful for a moment. "Are there merpeople in the Black Lake?" I nodded with a grin.
"Ooooh! Very good. It took them ages. And she was awake too." She looked disdainfully over her shoulder at the painting of a sleeping mermaid on a rock.
"We should really be getting back to bed now. Thanks for the help, Myrtle." We hauled ourselves out and drained the bath. Myrtle disappeared from view, back into the toilet, as I dried the two of us off with my powers and we pulled our pyjamas back on.
Sliding back under the cloak, we checked the Marauder's Map to ensure our way was clear, and I pulled Rai to a stop. "What is it?" he whispered in my ear.
Fighting a blush, I pointed to the map. "Does anything look wrong in that picture?" Rai looked to where I was pointing and frowned.
"What is Mr Crouch doing in Snape's private stores?"
In the small square marked 'Snape's Office' a little dot, marked 'Bartemius Crouch' was darting about. "He's supposed to be sick. He didn't come to the Yule Ball, so what's he doing sneaking around Snape's potions store?"
"Let's go check it out." Before I had a chance to protest – not that I would have, I was too curious – Rai dragged me after him, heading for Snape's Office. Unfortunately, Rai didn't seem to be looking where he was going and soon had himself sunk knee-deep in the trick staircase half-way down the staircase.
I just about managed to stop myself from shrieking in surprise as Rai was still dragging me behind him, so when he jerked to a stop, I almost went head over heels down the stairs. I would have if Rai hadn't caught me. Thanks to my short stature, I was able to stand upright next to Rai, and we were still under the cloak, but when Rai pulled me back, the egg and the map slipped from my hands.
The map landed a few steps below us, but the egg bounced to the bottom of the staircase, falling open upon reaching the floor, emitting the piercing shrieks.
Rai and I shared horrified looks. It was a bit odd having Rai's head at my eye level. The only way I could get Rai out was to pull him out, but the cloak would come off, so we could be seen by anyone. And with the egg shrieking like that, it would be no time before Filch showed up.
Sure enough, he appeared seconds later, yelling about Peeves stealing the property of a Triwizard Champion. Moody showed up later, and his magical eye could see through invisibility cloaks – focusing on us straight away. He managed to convince Filch to hand over the egg – nothing short of a miracle – but pointed out the map at the last second. Rai and I frantically motioned to him that it was ours, and he made up a story about dropping it himself.
He asked to borrow the map, and we couldn't really say no. Even though we didn't really want to part with it.
"So you have to go into the Black Lake and get something from the merpeople?"
"Kimiko, tell me the rhyme again." Keiko asked. We were seated by the edge of the Black Lake, the nine of us lounging against and in the tree on the lake's edge.
"Come seek us where our voices sound."
"The Black Lake. That's obvious."
"An hour long you'll have to look."
"Again, obvious. Though potentially problematic."
"Potentially problematic?" Aidan asked incredulously. Thankfully they had each moved on from the 'Yule Ball Incident' and we weren't witness to an explosion. "When's the last time you held your breath underwater for an hour?"
"It's not really a problem." Rai countered from where the four of us Dragons were doing our sit ups for training, hanging upside down from the tree. Master Fung had left us when we only had them to do, since the second task was tomorrow. "We've borrowed the Gills of Hamachi." Omi gave him a stern glare. "Oh, come on, Omi. We asked."
We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing, until Keiko and Neko were called to Professor McGonagall's office and we were sent inside.
I was equally excited and nervous for the task. I mean, we have an hour to retrieve something from merpeople, who are known to be vicious at times, but we're heading into the depths of the Black Lake with the Gills of Hamachi. We're Xiaolin Dragons; we live for that kind of adventure. Though that didn't stop me from being kept awake most of the night. And I found it rather odd that Keiko and Neko didn't come back.
When I woke up the next morning, Keiko and Neko still weren't back. Well, unless they got back and left again before I woke up, but since I woke at dawn due to a mixture of excitement and nerves, I highly doubt that.
I quickly dressed and found Rai in the empty common room. We sat in silence for a while, nerves getting the better of us, but as time passed, they seemed to drain away, leaving only excitement.
"We've taken what you'll sorely miss."
I turned to look at Rai, cocking my head to the side in confusion. "What?"
"'We've taken what you'll sorely miss.' That's what the riddle said. What d'you reckon it is?"
"I don't know." I answered quietly. There are a lot of things I'd sorely miss. I mean, the most obvious would be Rai – I willed myself not to flush as I thought that – but he was supposed to be working on the task with me, so that's not possible. We fell into silence once more until the other Gryffindors began to trail down the stairs, chattering eagerly about the task.
We headed down to the Great Hall when the others joined us – still sans Keiko and Neko, though. Aidan looked around with a frown as we sat at the Gryffindor table. "Where's Keiko?" Despite my own concern, I had to fight to conceal a grin at the worry on Aidan's face.
"I don't know." Sishi frowned. "I haven't seen her or Neko since they went to see Professor McGonagall."
I briefly wondered if Keiko was to be what I would 'sorely miss', but then I reasoned that if it was, Aidan would be gone as well. Or if not, either Clay or Omi. Besides, that wouldn't explain Neko's disappearance.
After breakfast we all headed down to the lake for the second task. There were large, three-storey platforms floating on the surface of the centre of the lake. We headed towards them on little boats – presumably the same boats we use in first-year – and Rai and I split from the others upon reaching the other champions.
We pulled off our tracksuits, leaving us only in our swimming suits as Master Fung, voice magically amplified, explained the task to the gathered students. "Last night, something was taken from our champions. A treasure, of sorts. Their task today is to retrieve that treasure and return within the hour. You may begin."
Rai and I glanced at each other, rather disappointed that he hadn't told us what we were supposed to be retrieving, though honestly, we hadn't really expected him to. Rai held out the Shen Gong Wu and I grabbed onto it, as we activated it in unison and dove into the water.
It was rather dark under the water and the teams quickly split up. Rai and I continued forward, trying to figure out where we were supposed to be going, when our enhanced hearing picked up the distant strains of the merpeople's riddle. "Come seek us where our voices sound…"
We quickly swam in that direction, only to be attacked by the Grindylows. I was pleased to see that my fire still worked under the water. Master Fung had never let us use our elements when we did this, though the creatures of the lake were cleared from our training area for it. It was particularly hard for Omi. I couldn't imagine having to refrain from using your element when you were surrounded by it…
As we got closer, we heard the merpeople sing again. This time it sounded like "Your time's half gone, so tarry not; lest what you seek stays here to rot." Another shared glance and we were increasing our speed.
We soon came to a clearing – well, the equivalent of a clearing underwater – and saw a large rock-type-thing. It was huge and there were merpeople around the edges, where the rushes and reeds started.
Around the rock-thing there were six people. On one face of the rock, Keiko and Neko were tied, another were who I recognised to be Cedric and Cho's best friends – Marietta Edgecombe and Daniel Wexford, the third had a small girl about ten-years-old with silvery blonde hair and my eyes widened as I saw who the sixth person was.
It was Alejandro! He had some sort of mirror around his neck, simply decorated but still beautiful, but I didn't really pay much attention to it. Rai and I were speed-swimming towards him. As we reached him, Rai reached out to cup his face. He was asleep, looking as small and innocent as ever.
I quickly burnt through the seaweed ropes binding him and Rai grabbed him as he started to sink. Then I turned to Keiko and Neko, but the merpeople suddenly sprung into life. They shot towards us, pointing their tridents at my throat. "Only take your own!" they hissed.
"But they're my friends!" I tried to protest, but they just jabbed their tridents at me again. "Okay, okay." I backed away slightly from the rock and the merpeople turned back to their sentry posts.
A quick glance at Rai told me that he understood. I couldn't just leave Keiko and Neko there with the rather vicious looking merpeople. So we waited.
Soon Cedric and Cho arrived, shooting something from their wands towards the ropes binding their friends, grabbed their arms and started to swim to the surface, tapping their wrists to indicate the time as they did.
I looked at Rai again, apologetic, but he didn't seem to mind. We hadn't entered this tournament, so while obviously we'd like to win, but it was all about having fun, really. So losing this task wouldn't matter all that much.
The merpeople shrieked and darted from sight as two sharks sped towards us. "Do sharks live in the Black Lake?" I could hear Rai ask in my head. I shook my head slowly. I didn't think so, and besides, I had never heard of sharks working together as these two did.
When they came close enough, I could see that it was actually the Durmstrang team, who had transfigured themselves into sharks. Though rather badly, they still had human legs. My eyes widened as I realised that they didn't have any hands to free Keiko and Neko – the only way they could free them was their teeth, and that would rip them apart! So I quickly disintegrated the ropes around the two and they grasped the ends of their robes in their teeth before rising towards the surface.
Rai and I waited uneasily after they left. Where were Fleur and Luc? I looked towards the little girl again. She was probably Fleur's sister, I thought, she certainly looked enough like her to be.
We finally came to the conclusion that Fleur and Luc weren't coming and I got rid of the bindings on the little girl and grabbed her arm. Rai and I started to swim towards the surface and out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that the merpeople had returned, but they weren't trying to stop me from taking the girl. I couldn't figure out what the expressions on their faces were as they trailed after us, but it looked strangely as if they were…pleased…
As we broke the surface the sleeping spells on Alejandro and the girl broke. I saw Fleur, wrapped in towels and a bathrobe, run to the edge of the platform, holding out her hand to the girl and calling to her in rapid French. Luc looked just as happy that she was alright.
Rai and I took one of Al's arms each and brought him to the platform, helping him up before clambering up ourselves. Towels and huge fleeces were flung at us immediately and I felt myself being drawn into a tight hug from the girls.
"What happened down there?" Aidan demanded when we were seated on the platform corner, waiting for the judges to reach their verdict – Master Fung was conversing with the merchieftain. "Cedric and Cho said you were there before they were." He groaned. "You didn't take that song seriously, did you?"
"No. It's because we're Xiaolin Dragons. We're supposed to be protecting people. We couldn't have left everyone down there, our very nature screams against it."
We were interrupted by Fleur and Luc, who thanked us for saving Gabrielle, who was, as I had guessed, Fleur's sister, and Luc their cousin.
In the end, Cedric and Cho won first place, though Rai and I won second for what Master Fung described as an 'outstanding display of moral fibre'. Fernando and Ricardo wouldn't stop calling us 'Mr and Mrs Moral Fibre' for about a week.
On the way back up to the castle, Alejandro walking in between us – he was to be sent back home after lunch – Rai seemed to notice the mirror. "What's that?"
Al glanced at it, pulling it from his neck. "Professor McGonagall and Master Fung said that I was representative of what meant most to you – family. And that the mirror would show who meant most to you."
He handed the mirror to Rai, who took one look into it and flushed bright red, before passing it back to Al. He then passed it to me, and just as I had guessed, Rai's face came to the surface. I felt my face flaming and passed it back to Al so he could return it to Master Fung before he floo-ed home.
"Who did you see?" Maria murmured as she and the other girls sat beside me at the Gryffindor table, the boys were sitting a little way away, and from what I could see, Rai was being teased mercilessly for something.
"You know what I saw." I mumbled back and saw the bright grins on her faces.
"Oh, I do. And I know what he saw too. You really should trust me, you know. At least about this. I know what I'm talking about."
I wanted to believe her – oh, how I wanted to! – but couldn't. It just didn't seem at all possible. Rai's my best friend, and that's all I am to him. No matter how much I wish I could be more.
I glanced at Rai over my shoulder. His face was scarlet now, under the ceaseless teasing he had undergone since entering the Great Hall. As if sensing my gaze, he looked up. I grinned shyly at him, kicking myself as I did so. Thankfully, he didn't react to it, just gave me a wide grin that had my own grin spread wider across my face seemingly of its own accord.
The next few weeks were rather harsh for Keiko and Neko. While everyone found it adorable that Alejandro was what Rai and I would miss most – 'well, besides the obvious thing' they would say, with a wink that never failed to get a blush out of me – they teased the two girls mercilessly about being what the Durmstrangs would miss most.
It was coming up to Easter and still there was no word on the third task. When I asked Professor McGonagall, she told me that it would take place after exam week, giving the champions a whole week just to prepare, since we were exempt from the exams.
The morning after the dates for the next Hogsmeade meeting went up I got a letter from Sirius, asking us to meet him on the end road with as much food as we could muster. When I read the note, I started to choke on my cereal. As soon as I had managed to swallow, I showed the guys the letter. "He hasn't come back to Hogsmeade, has he?" Rai spluttered incredulously.
"It looks like it, doesn't it?" Clay muttered. We made sure to keep our voices down; we still hadn't told the others about Sirius. I glared at the letter. How could he be so…so…stupid? I mean, it's dangerous! He could get caught!
I was distracted from these thoughts by the arrival of Maria at the table. She had a copy of Witch Weekly in her hands and she sat down beside Keiko, an odd look on her face. "You might wanna take a look at this, Keiko." She murmured, handing the magazine to Keiko, who flicked through it with a look of confusion, before she stopped and stared incredulously at an article.
"What is it?"
"It's…she…" Keiko floundered, still staring at the article.
"Rita Skeeter." Maria stated darkly, though at the same time, sympathetically. "She's written about Keiko and Krum."
Aidan scowled and reached for the magazine. Keiko made to grab it back, but too late, for Aidan had already began to read it aloud. When he came to the end of it, he began to choke, just like I had at Sirius' letter. "He asked you to come and visit him over the summer?"
"But how did she know?" Keiko's eyes narrowed and she shook her head.
"What, it's true?" Aidan stared at Keiko, his hands trembling slightly.
Keiko flushed. "Well, yes…he asked me after he pulled me out of the lake… But how did she know?" None of us could come up with an answer. That devil-woman had eyes and ears everywhere!
"Never mind that, what did you say?" Aidan demanded.
Keiko flushed deeper, looking anywhere but at Aidan. "Come on, Kimiko. We'd better go to Ancient Runes."
And she grabbed me by the arm and dragged me from the table, ignoring Aidan's shouts of "But what did you say!"
Soon it was time for the Hogsmeade visit and the days leading up to it were rather uneventful. Well, apart from a conversation Rai and I overheard between Snape and Karkaroff in which both were worried about something 'getting stronger, clearer' and it seemed to be on their left arms.
After a quick visit to the kitchens for some food – Dobby was delighted to see us, though Winky still seemed rather depressed – we headed out to the road where Sirius had asked to meet us. We soon met the large black dog on the road and followed him to a cave, hidden amongst the boulders at the foot of the mountain.
Scrambling into the cave after him, I saw the beaming faces of my godparents. "Sirius! Lupin!" I grinned and hugged both of them. It still felt a bit too weird to call Lupin 'Remus' since he was my DADA teacher last year.
Drawing back, I took a look around the cave. They had conjured comfortable furniture, so at least I didn't have to worry about them being uncomfortable on top of my worry over Sirius getting caught.
We settled down to lunch with the food the house elves had given us and I immediately turned to the two. "What are you doing here?"
"Fulfilling our duties as godfathers." They replied without a moment's hesitation. "We want to be on the spot. After all, you hadn't written to us about the tasks."
I grinned sheepishly. "I guess with the ball I kinda forgot about the first task. I was going to write to you about the second – honest! But I just…"
"It's alright. We understand. Now, tell us about them."
Rai and I launched into an explanation of the tasks and the events from when I last sent a letter until now. "I was going to suggest what Durmstrang did to the dragon." Sirius told us, grinning. "But I like what you did much better."
"It was so much fun!" I grinned widely, as did Rai. I think they thought we were rather insane.
We noticed the recent editions of the Daily Prophet, all speculating about the mysterious illness that had befallen Mr Crouch, prompting Pedro to take his place as Triwizard judge. Somehow, from there, we got onto the topic of Winky and what had happened at the World Cup. They seemed especially interested in that.
"Raimundo, did you check your pockets for your wand after you left the Top Box?"
"Uh…no…" Rai shook his head slowly, confusion written across his face. "I didn't need to use it before we got to the forest."
"Wait, are you saying that whoever conjured the Dark Mark stole Rai's wand from the Top Box?" Sirius and Lupin exchanged a glance before shrugging, as if to say 'it's possible'.
"But we know Winky didn't steal it. It was a male human voice that conjured the Mark."
"Yes Omi, but Winky wasn't the only one in the box with us, was she?"
"Who else was there, sitting behind you?" Lupin asked.
"Um…there was Cornelius Fudge, the Bulgarian Minister and some other Bulgarian wizards, the Spicers and Mr Bagman."
"I don't know anything about Bagman, other than the fact that he used to play Quidditch. What's he like?"
"He's okay. Keeps trying to help us in the tournament, doesn't he, Kimiko?" I nodded in agreement.
Lupin frowned. "I wonder why he'd do that?"
I shrugged. "Dunno. He says he's taken a liking to us."
The conversation turned back to Mr Crouch and the cave shook with our anger – before we reined it under control – when Sirius told us that he had already passed judgement on him and had formed a sentence before they even caught him. Without even the chance of a free trial! Although, I admit that I had a hard time stopping myself from feeling rather sorry for him when I heard that his own son was caught conspiring with known Death Eaters, and it was believed that they were trying to bring Wuya back. That is, until I learnt that he gave him up to the Dementors.
We discussed Karkaroff and Snape for a while – apparently they both used to be Death Eaters, until Snape was converted by Master Fung and Karkaroff was released from Azkaban for snitching on other Death Eaters. We left soon after that, with stern warnings from both Sirius and Lupin to write to them if anything unusual happened.
After the Easter holidays, Rai and I were ecstatic when Professor McGonagall told us that we were to meet Mr Bagman on the Quidditch pitch that night, when he would explain the third task. We were glad of something to break up the monotony that school would become without Quidditch.
We met Cedric and Cho on the way through the entrance hall and the four of us walked together towards the Quidditch pitch. We stopped dead when we reached it, an odd squeak of horror escaping my mouth. "What have they done to it?" Rai gasped.
The pitch's flat surface was covered in small hedges! We stared at them in disbelief and horror – the four of us being avid Quidditch players – until Mr Bagman noticed us. "Hello there!" he called cheerily. "What d'you think? Growing nicely, aren't they? Give them a month and Hagrid will have them twenty feet high." I let out another high-pitched sound at this. Bagman finally seemed to notice the horrified expressions on our faces – especially mine and Rai's – for he quickly added, "Oh, don't worry. You'll have your Quidditch pitch back when the task is over. Now, we're making a maze. The task is rather straightforward, really. The Cup will be placed at the centre of the maze and the first team to touch it gains full marks."
"We simply have to get through the maze?" Fleur asked incredulously.
"There'll be obstacles, of course." I added in an amused tone, and thankfully Fleur took it in the way I had meant it, and flashed me a grin.
"Yes, Hagrid's providing a number of creatures…there will be spells to be broken…all that sort. Should be fun, eh?" Rai and I nodded enthusiastically, though we were the only ones that did.
We began to hurry back towards the castle when Cedric pulled on Rai's arm. "Could I have a word? In private?" Rai grumbled an agreement reluctantly and he and Cedric walked a little way away from where Cho and I still stood at the edge of the forest.
I stared after them in confusion. "What do you reckon that's about?"
Cho rolled her eyes at me. "Are you honestly that thick?" she asked acidly.
"What?" I stammered, as confused by her words as by the tone in which she said them. It was a complete one-eighty from the way she had been treating me every other time we met. She scoffed and turned on her heel, marching back up to the castle without waiting for Cedric to return. I stared after her for a moment before shrugging and leaning against a tree to wait for Rai.
My head snapped up as I heard movement in the forest behind me – something big. I lifted my hand in front of me slightly, but dropped it back down in shock at who emerged from the trees. It was Mr Crouch, though I hardly recognised him. He was dirty and dishevelled, talking to the air, and then to the tree, addressing it as 'Podley'. He didn't seem to hear me, and when he did, he snapped out of it, gasping "Master Fung…need…"
I nodded in understanding as his eyes glazed over and he continued his conversation with the tree.
I scrambled after where I had seen Rai and Cedric disappear, my heightened sense of hearing allowing me to hear their conversation before they came into view. "…We can all see it. How much you care." Cedric was saying, and I was more than a little confused as to what they could possibly be talking about. "Well, are you gonna man up or what? 'Cause if you don't, someone else sure will. I just might myself." I reached them at that point, and it was lucky I did, as Rai looked about ready to punch Cedric. I grabbed his arm, pulling frantically and talking a mile a minute.
"Rai…Mr Crouch…needs Master Fung…come on!"
"What?" Rai seemed to understand my urgency but Cedric was staring at us as if I was speaking a foreign language.
"Mr Crouch is back there. You stay with him while Rai and I get Master Fung." And with that the two of us were sprinting towards the castle. As we did so, I glanced at Rai, noticing the anger still lingering in the set of his jaw and in his eyes. I briefly considered asking what Cedric had been talking about, but thought better of it. It wasn't exactly the most opportune time. And we needed to get to Master Fung right now.
I was beginning to realise that it was probably not the best idea for both of us to go. One of us should've stayed with Mr Crouch, rather than leave Cedric out there. At least then if anything should attack, or if Mr Crouch proved dangerous, we wouldn't have the guilt of letting a human get hurt on our consciences. Man, being a Xiaolin Dragon sure is tough.
We reached the gargoyle guarding Master Fung's office, hissing the password at it before Rai grabbed my hand and flew to the top step. Bursting through the headmaster's office door wasn't probably the best idea, especially given the fact that he was in a meeting with the minister for magic, but hey, we never said it was a good idea. Besides, we hadn't known the minister was there, and this was urgent.
"Master Fung! It's Mr Crouch! He-" Rai broke off when he noticed Fudge's presence. "Oh."
Master Fung, however, ignored the minister and turned to us. "Mr Crouch?"
"Uh, yeah. I saw him in the forest, but he…wasn't quite…" I fished around for words, but eventually gave up. "Well, he was asking for you."
Master Fung nodded and turned to follow us. "If you'll excuse me Cornelius, perhaps we could reschedule." The door closed before we heard Fudge's reply. "What did Mr Crouch say, Kimiko?" Master Fung asked as we hurried across the grounds.
"Well, he was spouting complete nonsense. He came to his senses and asked for you, but then he went back to talking to the tree as if it was Pedro. I could hear some thoughts fighting in his mind… Something about…he'd done something wrong…he mentioned Bertha Jorkins and his son…and Wuya…something about her getting stronger…"
Master Fung frowned and he picked up the pace. "We left Cedric Diggory with him." Rai supplied and we both squirmed at the tone in Master Fung's voice.
"Well…we shouldn't have, I know, but we're faster and we needed to get to you quickly, so…"
"Where are they?" Master Fung asked as we reached the outskirts of the trees. I stared around.
"They…they were right there…" Rai and I exchanged worried glances. Rai didn't seem to like Cedric much, but it was still our duty to protect him. "Cedric?" I didn't hear any reply, so I lit up my hand and started to search between the trees. "Over here!"
Rai and Master Fung hurried to where I was, Cedric sprawled on the forest floor and with Crouch nowhere in sight. "Stunned." Master Fung remarked, before performing the counter-curse.
It turned out that Cedric hadn't seen his attacker – they had hit him from behind – and Crouch had disappeared once again.
I sent a letter explaining what had happened to Sirius and Lupin, receiving a very strongly worded one in return, making me swear by return owl never to walk off with anyone near the forest again. Well, to be fair, I hadn't exactly walked off, but I figured that that wasn't quite the point; standing around at the edge of the forest alone wasn't much better. They also ordered me to keep to Gryffindor Tower after hours, as they were convinced that someone very dangerous was at Hogwarts, trying to attack Rai and me.
Rai seemed to take their words to heart, for he wouldn't let me go anywhere unless he was with me. He even walked me to Ancient Runes and Arithmancy, making him late to his own classes. Okay, I admit, I kinda liked the attention, but hey! What girl wouldn't like it when the guy they're in love with pay them all this attention! Yeah, I'm in love with him. I realised it when I saw Rai's face in the mirror from the second task. I mean, I had expected to see him, but it was only then that I realised what it implied. He was what I would miss most, more than my own father.
I don't just like him; I'm in love with him.
We met the twins in the Owlery, once again discussing blackmail, and they purposely wouldn't let us see (or hear) who they were writing to. It was rather worrying, but I couldn't focus too much on it. After all, I have a mega-dangerous maze to make it through, and there's apparently someone at Hogwarts who wants me dead.
As we sat up doing homework in the common room one night, I felt myself drifting to sleep over my book. I'd already finished my homework earlier when the boys had been messing around. I soon fell asleep and drifted into another dream.
I was in a room not unlike that in my last dream, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't the same. Wormtail was there again, and the snake – Nagini. Wormtail was cowering before the chair which I assumed held Wuya. "You're in luck, Wormtail." Her high, cold voice drifted from it, confirming my suspicions. "You are very fortunate indeed. Your blunder has not ruined everything. He is dead."
Wormtail whimpered and fell to the floor on his knees. "My lady! I am…I am so pleased…and so sorry…"
"You are out of luck, Nagini. I will not be feeding you Wormtail after all. But never mind…there's still Kimiko Tohomiko…" The snake that was curled by the fire raised its head disinterestedly. By the way it reacted this time, now that Chase wasn't here, I assumed it was his. "Now, Wormtail, perhaps one more little reminder why I will not tolerate another blunder from you…"
Wormtail's eyes widened and he tried to back away. "My lady…please…I beg you…"
Wormtail dropped to the floor again, twitching and screaming in agony. I felt my scar burn and screams filled my ears, Wormtail's mixing with my own…
I opened my eyes to find myself on the floor in Gryffindor Common Room, Rai's worried face hovering over me. He helped me up and I sat back in my chair, rubbing my still throbbing scar. "What happened? Are you alright?"
"I had another dream…"
"Come on, Kimiko. You have to tell Master Fung about this!"
"Alright." I stood up and Clay stared at me in shock. I don't think he expected me to agree. "I'll go now." I turned and walked out of the portrait hole, Rai scrambling after me.
We arrived at Master Fung's office door the more conventional way this time, and knocked. When the door swung open, I felt an odd sense of irony. This was clearly the meeting Master Fung had rescheduled with Fudge, and we were interrupting once again. Although, this time it looked as though Fudge and Dumbledore were fighting.
"Oh. Uh… Sorry Master Fung. We'll just…come back later…"
"Oh, no need. The minister was just leaving." Fudge didn't seem too happy, but he grabbed his cloak and left the room, Master Fung walking after him. Rai and I waited in his office, and soon Rai was drawn to the corner of the room.
"What is this?"
I walked over to what he was looking at. It was an ornate bowl with a silvery substance swirling within it. "That's a pensieve." I told him, but he didn't seem to be listening. He leant in, and kept leaning until his face was practically touching it. "No! Rai, don't-" I reached out to try and pull Rai back, but I just got sucked in myself.
We landed in what I assumed were the courts, sitting next to Master Fung's image. Rai noticed him and started babbling. "Master Fung! I'm sorry…I didn't mean to…I was just looking in that basin…honest!" He paused to look around. "Where are we?"
"In Master Fung's memory." Rai turned to face me, looking confused. "I tried to tell you not to get too close. It's a pensieve. You put memories in it and you can view them like this. It makes sure you never forget them."
"Oh. Sorry." He looked rather sheepish.
"It's alright." I said with a dramatic sigh. "I'm used to you not listening by now."
"Hey! I always listen to you!"
"I'm only kidding, Rai." I said with a giggle.
We turned our attention to the surroundings when two Dementors dragged a younger and decidedly rougher looking Karkaroff into the centre of the room. Mr Crouch was sitting in the middle of the bench before Karkaroff and he stood and began to talk. It seemed that Karkaroff had bargained for his release from Azkaban in exchange for the names of Death Eaters who had escaped Azkaban. He gave up the names of mostly convicted or deceased Death Eaters, except for one, so they sent him back to see whether the last was truly a Death Eater before they released him.
The image flickered and a new memory took its place. It was the same courtroom, but it was a trial for Ludo Bagman, who had apparently given information to known Death Eaters.
Then the memory changed again, and Crouch looked gaunter and greyer than before. A witch sat near him, crying into her handkerchief. A woman and three men – one of whom looked little more than a boy – sat in the centre of the room this time. The youngest looked frightened – exceedingly so, and the other two men looked nervous, though the woman sat as though on a throne.
Crouch stood up, looking at the four with pure hatred written across his face. "You have been brought here before the Council of Magical Law so that we may pass judgement on you for a crime so heinous-"
The youngest cut across him, crying out "Father! Father…please…"
I stiffened as I understood. This was the trial of Crouch's son. The woman must be Crouch's wife, the boy's mother, who died shortly after his death in Azkaban. I wasn't entirely sure I wanted to see this, even though I had no choice, so I gripped Rai's hand tightly.
Crouch continued as if he hadn't heard his son's pleas. "-that we have rarely heard the like of it within this court. We have heard the evidence against you. The four of you are accused of capturing an Auror – Frank Bakerset – and subjecting him to the Cruciatus Curse before his wife and their two children, believing him to have knowledge of the present whereabouts of your exiled master, She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named."
"Father, I didn't!" Came the shriek from the youngest of the chained. "I didn't, I swear it, Father! Don't send me back to the Dementors-"
"You planned to restore Her to power, and to resume the lives of violence you presumably led while she was strong. I now ask the jury-"
"Mother!" He turned to the sobbing woman. "Mother, stop him, Mother, I didn't do it, it wasn't me!"
Crouch merely raised his voice. "I now ask the jury to raise their hands if they believe, as I do, that these crimes deserve a life sentence in Azkaban." The jury all raised their hands.
The dark haired woman who had now been sentenced rose from her seat, eyes only on Crouch. "The Dark Lord and Lady will rise again, Crouch! Go on, throw us in Azkaban, we will wait! They will reward us beyond any other – we alone searched for them! We alone were faithful!"
Crouch's son was crying and screaming and pleading. "I'm your son!" he cried.
"You are no son of mine!" Crouch called coldly. "I have no son." His wife fainted and the boy was dragged away, screaming.
It was horrible and I was immensely glad when I noticed Master Fung – the one from our time – beside us, and saw him motion us back.
He chuckled lightly as he put the pensieve away. "Naturally this would've attracted your attention."
"I'm sorry." Rai mumbled sheepishly.
"Curiosity is not a sin." Master Fung said amiably. "I assume Kimiko has already told you what it is, Raimundo, and what it does?" I nodded and he chuckled again. "What is it you came here for?"
So I explained about the dream, well, dreams. Master Fung told me not to worry, though I could tell that he was doing so enough for both of us. When Master Fung had told us all he was willing to, we turned to leave, but something held me back. I turned back to Master Fung, unsure whether I really wanted to know the answer to my question.
"Master Fung… In the pensieve…you know the trial you found us in? The one with Mr Crouch's son? Well…were they talking about Aidan and Sishi's father?"
I felt Rai stiffen next to me as Master Fung looked down sadly. "Yes. They broke into their house and tortured him. Unfortunately, young Aidan and Sishi were there. They were three."
I bit my lip, tears welling in my eyes. That was horrible. Three years old and having to watch their father being tortured by such an evil witch as the woman had seemed to be.
"So he's dead?" Rai asked quietly. I could hear his voice was rather shaky, as if he too was holding back tears.
"No. He is insane. He is in St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. I believe their mother takes them to visit him during the holidays. He does not recognise them."
I couldn't hold back the tears anymore. It was just awful! And how, after knowing them for three years, did I not know… Well, I suppose if they didn't want people to know…
"Please do not speak of Aidan and Sishi's father to anyone else. They have the right to let people know, when they are ready." We turned to leave and reached the door before he called after us, "Young Dragons." We turned back to face him, and in the light of the pensieve Master Fung looked older than ever. "Good luck with the third task."
"Poor Aidan and Sishi!" I whispered as we walked back to Gryffindor Tower.
"Yeah." Rai said quietly. "No wonder they reacted the way they did when Moody used the Cruciatus Curse in class."
I shook my head, wiping away more tears. It was just so unfair. Everyone gave me sympathy – even if it was only in between awe and questions about the whole defeating Wuya thing – but Sishi and Aidan deserve it so much more than I do. They actually had to watch their father be tortured and they most likely remembered it. It's just…horrible.
It was hard to look Aidan and Sishi in the eye the next morning at breakfast without bursting into tears, so Rai – with his sixth sense for knowing when I'm upset – squeezed my hand under the table, causing me to flush bright red instead.
I consulted Keiko about the task and together we combed through the library to find jinxes and charms that might be useful. Professor McGonagall lent us her classroom again and we spent a lot of our time in there, practicing. As exam week drew nearer it was just me and Rai, since we were exempt from the exams, though Keiko still gave up some of her precious study time to help search for more spells.
The task was to be the Saturday after the exams and so we spent the majority of exam week in the empty classroom or common room, practicing stunning – Sirius and Lupin's suggestion, for protection – along with a variety of defensive jinxes and helpful charms such as the four-point jinx, and the rest of our time was spent practicing Quidditch or sparring to ease nerves and tension as well as for some fun.
The last exam was on Friday and by then; Rai and I had perfected the spells and so decided to head down to dinner early. We had barely sat down at the table when Professor McGonagall approached us.
"The champions are congregating in the chamber off the hall now, if you two would care to join us."
"But Professor, the Task's not until tomorrow!"
Professor McGonagall raised an eyebrow. "I'm aware of that, Mr Pedrosa, but the champions' families are invited to watch the task, you know. This is your chance to greet your family."
She walked away again and I looked to Rai, who merely shrugged and stood up to follow her. She had said our family was here, singular. So why did both of us have to come? I suppose if it's tradition… I had no doubt that Rai's parents would be here, along with Alejandro, but papa's a muggle. He physically cannot come into Hogwarts. If he tried, he'd see old ruins and a sign informing him that it was unsafe. He wouldn't be able to resist the compulsion to leave.
I followed anyway; not really sure why I did.
As soon as I walked in the door I was knocked backwards into Rai as something flung itself around my legs. I heard Rai chuckling behind me as I ruffled Alejandro's hair, a little overwhelmed. He ran to me first. He was Rai's brother, not mine. Shouldn't he have hugged Rai first? I suppose he might've gone to me first as Rai was behind me, but still…
"What about me?" Rai asked, stepping up beside me, fighting a grin.
Alejandro pulled back enough to grin cheekily up at Rai. An expression learnt from him, I have no doubt. "Kimiko's nicer than you."
"Oi!" Rai crossed his arms and mock-glared at him before looking to me despairingly. "My own brother…" Alejandro stuck his tongue out at him.
When Alejandro finally released me to hug his brother, I noticed Rai's parents, and even Juan, slightly further into the room. "Hey Kimiko, how are you?"
"Fine." I replied, giggling as Rai glared at his other brother.
"Oh, Kimiko dear, it's so good to see you again." Carla pulled me into a tight hug. Antonio said hello too. Rai was gaping at them by this point.
"Oi! You lot are supposed to be my family!" He turned to me, looking indignant. "My own family like you better than me!"
I giggled again. "Ha."
"Oh, don't be silly, Raimundo dear." Carla insisted, pulling him into a hug too and fussing over him, to his chagrin.
"You asked for it, Raimundo." Juan muttered at the expression on Rai's face.
"I was just worried. After that article in the paper…"
"What article?" I asked, glancing at Rai again in confusion.
"Oh, didn't you see it? There was an article written in the Prophet about you – said you'd collapsed, screaming, seemingly in pain. Well, amongst other things…"
Antonio rolled his eyes at his wife and put his arm around her. "Look, Carla; she's fine. What did I tell you? You shouldn't believe what Rita Skeeter writes."
I turned wide-eyed to Rai again, to see a matching expression of astonished confusion. "How in Dashi's name did she know about that!"
"You mean it's true?" Carla gasped, pulling me into another hug. "Oh sweetheart, are you sure you're alright?"
"I'm fine." I assured her once she let me go. "I just fell asleep in the common room and had a nightmare the other day." She looked at me in concern for another moment before she was seemingly satisfied with my explanation.
As talk turned to what had been happening back at the Burrow, my concentration wandered a little. Don't get me wrong, I love the Pedrosas, I was just a little curious about the other champions' families. I saw the Durmstrangs in one corner, the Diggorys and the Changs over near the fireplace, and Fleur, Luc and their families in the other corner. I noticed that her attention had wandered from her conversation in rapid-fire French with her parents and followed her eye line to see her eyeing Juan, who was eyeing her right back. I caught Rai's gaze and grinned.
Soon it really was time for dinner and we made our way to the Gryffindor table to wait for the others to return from their exams. Antonio, Carla and Juan's gazes were roaming nostalgically around the hall, no doubt remembering their own student days. Alejandro too was eyeing the hall, but in wonderment. I grinned at his obvious delight at seeing Hogwarts again and offered to give him a tour later, delighting in the grin I received in return. After all, last time he was here, he wasn't able to look around much.
A while later, the others took up their places around the table and the hall began to chatter loudly. Maria was the last to slide into place beside me, after a quick hug from Alejandro, who was on my other side. "How'd the exam go?"
"Ugh. I had History of Magic. It was alright…ish." She shrugged. "I couldn't remember some of the goblin rebels' names, but I just made some of them up."
"Maria!" Carla admonished sternly.
Maria grinned. "It's alright. They're all called stuff like Bodrod the Bearded and Urg the Unclean. It wasn't hard." She repeated with a shrug.
We chatted while we ate our dinner and parted ways afterwards, Carla promising to show me the article in the morning.
"What was she talking about, Kimiko?"
"Rita Skeeter has changed her view on me." I informed him. "She's now writing about how I've gone insane."
They continued to look confused so Rai added, "She wrote about how Kimiko collapsed in the common room."
"What?" Keiko, Clay and Omi all looked astonished.
"How did she know?" Clay asked.
"Never mind how she knew!" Keiko snapped. "You collapsed!"
I shrugged, trying to calm her down. "I just had a bad dream, Keiko. Well…" I hesitated for a moment, unsure whether or not I should tell her. In the end, I decided to trust her. "I'm not entirely sure it was a dream. I've had another. During the summer."
"You mean, you think that what you saw really happened? You-Know-Who is planning something involving murdering you?" Clay asked, eyes wide.
"Makes sense, doesn't it." Rai added darkly. "The dreams and then somehow we're entered in this tournament…"
"And Master Fung's worried." I added. "He told us we shouldn't but it's clear he is."
"Ah! Kimiko! Raimundo!" We turned to see Mr Bagman heading towards us.
"You guys go on ahead; we'll meet you in the common room."
When Mr Bagman reached us he smiled brightly. "So, you ready for tomorrow evening?"
"Uh…yeah…" I was slightly confused.
"You sure?" He prodded. "You don't need any help?"
Now I was really confused. He's one of the judges. He's not supposed to be offering us help… "Uh…no. No, we're good." Rai answered after a raised eyebrow at me.
"Okay then. Well, see you tomorrow." I watched him leave, confused. Rai glanced at me, equally confused, before he shrugged and we headed back to the common room.
I spent the morning showing Alejandro around the school and practicing the jinxes with Rai. After lunch, we headed down to the mutilated Quidditch pitch. I felt a little more confident about this task than the others. It was to be a maze, an obstacle course of sorts. It was the sort of thing we trained with in Xiaolin training. If I just thought about it as another training session…
Master Fung announced the nature of the task to the gathered audience and told us that we were to enter the maze in terms of points. As the two Gryffindor teams were tied for first place, we went first, then the Durmstrangs, then Beauxbatons.
Cho still seemed to be angry at me for something, but Cedric was perfectly civil. At least to me. He and Rai seemed to be giving each other death glares. I had to resist the urge to cross my arms and pout. I hate being left in the dark.
We headed along the maze until we reached the first fork and split there. Rai seemed to cheer up considerably after that. "Like one of our training sessions, eh?" I grinned back and walked on with a spring in my step.
Not long later, we came across another fork, but after a quick 'point-me' spell, we were soon on our way. Another few turns and 'point-me' charms later, Cedric and Cho stumbled across our path again. Their Hogwarts t-shirts were a little singed and their hair a little messed. "Just ran into Hagrid's Blast-Ended Skrewts. They're bloody massive!" Cedric panted before the two of them ran back off along the next fork.
As Rai and I continued to follow our 'point-me' spell and our instincts, I got to thinking. "Hey, Rai. Do you think it's odd that we haven't come across anything yet?"
Whatever he was about to say was cut off when we turned the corner to come face to face with a Dementor. I quickly cast my patronus, but then the Dementor did the strangest thing: it tripped. I laughed as I realised what it really was and quickly cast 'riddikulus' at the Boggart-Dementor.
It was like coming across that Boggart was the catalyst for the maze as after that we hardly had a spare moment. First there was an odd mist spread across the next turn. I eyed it, unsure. Rai reacted first. "Reducto!" Of course, the blast just went straight through it.
"Rai, that spell's for solid objects." He flushed slightly. "Well, I suppose there's nothing to do but go through it." We stepped forward and as soon as we were inside the mist, the world seemed to go upside down. I wasn't too freaked out, because I knew that if I fell, Rai would be able to stop it. So, I took a step forward and the world righted itself again. I shrugged and kept walking.
That was when we heard the scream. It was high-pitched – undoubtedly female – and was answered by a cry of "Fleur!" and then another scream of agony; male this time. It seemed that the Beauxbatons team were in serious trouble. That was when I first started to worry.
There was nothing we could do, as much as it pained us to admit, and so we kept going, and soon enough we came across one of Hagrid's Blast-Ended Skrewts and dear Lord, was Cedric right. They were bloody massive! As soon as I saw it I began to back away, Rai at my side, shooting stunners at it. Getting desperate, I yelled "Impedimenta!" and as the Skrewt stalled, we ran for it!
The next thing I knew, we could hear Cedric shouting around the next corner. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" We turned the corner to see the two Durmstrangs pointing their wands at Cedric and Cho. However, one look in their eyes and you could tell they weren't in their right minds.
"Stupefy!" Rai and I called out in unison, each aiming for a different Durmstrang. The two collapsed to the floor and Cedric and Cho turned to see us.
"Thanks." Cedric panted. Cho still glared at me. What is her problem!
Rai and I raised our wands again, pointing them towards the sky this time.
"What are you doing?" Cho cut in.
"Sending up red sparks." I said with a raised eyebrow. Surely she remembered the rules – send up red sparks if in trouble.
"Why?" she scoffed.
"Uh…because they're hurt…" I said slowly, as if talking to a small child.
"Why bother? They attacked us."
I gaped at her. "Can't you tell they weren't in possession of their minds? Besides, we can't just leave them here!" I ignored all further protests and shot the sparks into the air.
"Did you hear Fleur and Luc earlier?" Cedric asked hesitantly and Cho reluctantly glanced at me.
"Yeah." I bit my lip worriedly.
"You don't think…"
"I don't know."
He nodded distractedly. "Well. I suppose we'd better get going. Some game this, eh?"
"Yeah…Rai muttered as we split again. "Some game…"
"Was it just me, or did Krum and Voskef look as if they'd been Imperiused?"
"Yeah…yeah, they did. But who…" He trailed off, unable to think of an answer. Nor could I.
My worries only increased the further into the maze we went, but we soon came upon a sphinx, and though I didn't forget, it distracted me for a while. I had always wanted to see a sphinx and I knew she would give us a riddle – something fun for us to work out.
"You wish to pass me?" she asked as we stopped before her. "You'll have to solve my riddle."
"Bring it on."
She smiled before reciting,
"First think of the person who lives in disguise, Who deals in secrets and tells naught but lies. Next, tell me what's always the last thing to mend, The middle of middle and end of the end? And finally give me the sound often heard During the search for a hard-to-find word. Now string them together, and answer me this: Which creature would you be unwilling to kiss?"
Rai blinked. "Uh…right. Well, 'the person who lives in disguise, who deals in secrets and tells naught but lies' – that's a spy, right?"
"Yeah. Great. Now for the rest."
"Er…" Rai trailed off and looked at me expectantly.
"So…spy…'the middle of middle, the end of the end' – that's 'd'…"
"And the noise…er…"
"That's it! 'er'!"
"Something you'd be unwilling to kiss – a spider!"
The sphinx smiled and let us through. Okay, I'll be honest; we did share a high-five as we did…
We followed our instincts this time and soon found ourselves at the end of a pathway leading straight to the cup. We started along the path, hardly able to believe it. We hadn't really thought too much about winning. We were just having fun trying to stay alive…
Cedric and Cho hurtled onto the path from the side and sprinted towards the cup – eyes only on it. That meant that they didn't notice the acromantula heading down another side path, that they were about to run into…
"Cedric! Cho! On your left!"
They saw it just in time and dove out of the way, tripping and dropping their wands in the process. The huge spider continued after them and I quickly pulled my wand from where it usually stayed, up my sleeve. "Stupefy!"
The stunner only bounced off the spider's massive hairy body and Rai and I ran towards it, splitting up to try to confuse it, sending stunners at it, even if just to confuse it long enough for Cedric and Cho to get their wands back.
The spider seemed to give up on Cedric and Cho and turning from them, caught sight of me instead. "Impedimenta! Stupefy!" I yelled as it hurtled towards me, still trying to distract it, if not harm it, but it was no use, and soon the giant spider was upon me.
Its pincer grabbed my leg and lifted me upside down in the air. I stifled a cry of pain as the pincer cut into my leg and excruciating pain erupted through the limb.
I could hear Cedric and Cho's voices adding to the fray as they too shot stunners at the acromantula, but they were having no effect. Getting desperate, I shouted the first spell that came to me. "Expelliarmus!" Probably not the best idea.
The disarming spell managed to make it drop me, but it was so unexpected that Rai had no time to slow the air around me, so I dropped the twelve-feet from the spider's pincers to the ground, landing on my already injured leg, which crumpled beneath me.
From my position on the ground, I noticed that the spider's body was not so well protected from the underside and I aimed my wand at it, and the others, seeing me do so, aimed theirs there too. "Stupefy!"The four combined stunners sent it sprawling into the hedge.
"Kimiko!" I heard Rai shout as he hurried over. "Are you alright? It didn't fall on you, did it?"
"No. I'm good." I called back, gritting my teeth as I tried to stand. This time, I wasn't able to suppress my whimper of pain as I gingerly put weight on my injured leg, only to have it crumple beneath me again and I crashed to the floor. Or, I would've if Rai hadn't caught me.
I glanced at my leg, which was bleeding heavily and covered in some thick gooey substance from the spider's pincers. It probably hadn't helped matters that I was wearing knee-length leggings and my leg straps with my Xiaolin pumps. But hey, they're comfortable and easy to run in. The wound was rather nasty and since I couldn't put any semblance of weight on it without crashing to the ground, I took it that it was probably sprained if not broken, and badly so.
"I don't think we should risk trying to heal that ourselves." I muttered to Rai, who winced and hissed as he saw the state of my leg.
"Yeah." He agreed, a strange strain to his voice. "Besides, we're almost done; Madame Pomfrey can look at it when this is over."
I glanced over at Cedric and Cho, who were hanging around. "What are you waiting for? The cup is yours – take it."
Both shook their heads, though Cho looked rather reluctant to do so. "You two should take it. That's twice you've saved our necks in here."
"That's not how it works." I huffed out a laugh as I tried to at least straighten up. "The ones who reach the cup first get the points. That's you two. I'm telling you; I won't be winning any races on this leg."
"Please." Scoffed Cho. "He could just carry you. Or you could do your flying thing."
"Well, that would still require moving my leg, so… Besides, you're already almost there. You were beating us before that thing. Go on; just take it."
Cedric shook his head. "No." He said simply, moving closer to us.
"Stop being noble." Rai snapped. "Just take it and then we can get out of here and Madame Pomfrey can heal Kimiko's leg!"
"You told us about the dragons." Cedric said, coming closer and ignoring Rai's words.
"Yeah." Cho agreed reluctantly. "We would've gone down in the first task if it wasn't for you; if you hadn't told us what was coming."
"Yeah, well, we had help on that too." Rai said shortly, trying to use some of the fabric of the oversized Hogwarts t-shirt I was wearing as I did my Xiaolin robes. "Besides, you helped us with the egg – we're square."
"We had help with the egg in the first place."
"We're still square."
"You should've got more points in the second task. You stayed behind to make sure all the hostages were safe. We should've done that."
"No, you shouldn't have." I told him, gritting my teeth as I moved so I was leaning against Rai, my injured leg slightly elevated. "It's a Xiaolin Dragon thing – irresistible urges to ensure all the humans are safe – especially when it's a little girl. Now, just take the cup – you actually entered the tournament!"
"No." They continued moving away from the cup.
"Fine." Rai snapped. "We'll take it at the same time. We'll tie for it and then we can get Kimiko's leg seen to."
Cedric and Cho exchanged glances. "I suppose…"
"It's still a Hogwarts victory."
I managed a – slightly-strained – smile and Rai helped me half-limp half-hop towards the cup. The four of us stopped before it. "You sure?"
"Yes! Just take it! On three, alright? One-two-three-"
We grabbed the cup, each team taking a handle each. As we did, the cup glowed blue and I felt the familiar jerk. Something wasn't right.
We were lifted off the ground and dumped again roughly, I whimpered as I hit the floor, the pain in my leg reigniting. I stared around as Rai helped me up and leant me against a headstone.
We were in an old graveyard in the countryside. It looked awfully familiar.
"Hey, guys!" Cedric called from where he was still crouched beside the cup. "The cup's a portkey! Do you think this is part of the task?"
"No…I…" I answered slowly, unable to place the feeling, but knowing something wasn't right. Then I realised. "I've been here before…"
"What?" Rai turned to stare at me from where he had been glancing around too.
"I've been here before! I've got a really bad feeling – I don't think we should be here…"
"Come on, Kimiko." Cho taunted from where she was flitting about, reading the different headstones. "You're a Gryffindor – where's your sense of adventure?"
"I'm serious, Cho! We shouldn't be here!" She laughed and ignored me, continuing her search.
"You said you've been here before, Kimiko? When?" Rai asked as he eased me into a sitting position, leaning against the headstone for support.
"In my dream…the first one…"
I turned my gaze to the large headstone I was leaning against, the one with a large reaper on the side. The names on the stone caught my eye. All of them were 'Riddle's…
"Rai…" I began hesitantly, almost afraid of the answer. "Wasn't 'Riddle' Wuya's name before she changed it?"
Rai's eyes widened in terror as he saw the names. "Great ghosts of Dashi…"
I struggled to stand, ignoring the pain through sheer terror. "Guys, we've got to get out of here! Right now!"
Cho laughed again, but Cedric looked concerned. "Kimiko? Raimundo? What's going on…?" He seemed to sense our terror and looked frightened himself.
"I've been here before…in a dream…" he seemed to relax when I mentioned it was a dream.
"It was just a dream…relax…" Cho taunted as she approached us again.
"No! You don't understand!" I was bordering on hysterical now and I could feel Rai supporting me and trying to calm me down. "I don't have normal dreams! I've been dreaming about Wuya and Chase and everything is happening as I dream them! I saw this graveyard and I heard – as clear as you hear me now – that they're plotting something! Something they need me for! They said they'd got an insider at Hogwarts and this is obviously their attempt to get me away from there for whatever the hell they need me for! We've got to get out of here! Now!"
Their eyes widened as they finally understood what I was trying to say, we turned to rush back to the cup… but it was too late.
A high, cold voice hissed through the air, clear as day to Rai and me at least. "Kill the spares!"
I screamed in both horror – mixed with terror – and pain as a sudden flash of green light burst through the graveyard. Cedric and Cho crumpled to the ground and I would've followed if it hadn't been for Rai. My scar felt as if it had split open – the pain even worse than in my leg. I knew something was wrong… I knew She'd be here… I knew we should've left…
But it was too late now.
I was blinded by the pain in my forehead and leg, and I didn't hear much either, but I did hear Rai's sharp intake of breath and then I was being flung backwards through the air, landing hard against the Riddle family headstone. The reaper statue on the side was moved so that the scythe prevented me from dropping to the ground and I quickly brought my hands up to scrabble for purchase against it. I couldn't reach the ground and tried not to move my injured leg too much, but in general, I couldn't move, for fear of choking.
I opened my eyes from where they had slid shut in pain to see Rai bound and gagged, tied to another headstone across from me, a giant cauldron that I hadn't noticed before between us.
I heard shuffling footsteps approaching and struggled to turn my head in their direction, a fresh wave of fear sliding through me when I did. It was Wormtail. Wormtail was hurrying towards the cauldron carrying a bundle of robes and placed it gently by the cauldron. "Hurry up!" the now familiar voice hissed and Wormtail hastened to open the robes on the floor.
At the sight of what was inside the robes, my eyes widened further, seemingly impossible amounts of fear rushing through my veins. It was like a child, only a gruesome, half-there mockery. I turned to Rai again, jolting in shock at the sight of Chase Young lounging against the headstone Rai was tied to, eyes fixed on the cauldron.
Wormtail lifted the…thing…(though he didn't look too happy about doing so) and dropped it in the cauldron, which bubbled, an acrid stench filling the air.
Drawing out his wand, Wormtail turned towards me, walking forwards. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Rai's wide eyes and struggling, and the sick, sadistic grin on Chase Young's face.
However, Wormtail stopped some distance away from me and pointed his wand at the ground below. "Bone of the father, unwillingly given…" he muttered, as a bone rose from the earth and levitated towards the cauldron and dropped in with a splash. "You will renew your daughter!"
Wormtail moved back towards the cauldron, unease and reluctance clear in his every move. This time, he drew out a small silver dagger. "Flesh – of the servant – willingly s-sacrificed…you will revive your master!" Screwing his eyes shut and turning his head away, Wormtail brought the knife down through his right wrist. I winced, closing my eyes as he did so, and heard the 'plop' as the hand dropped into the cauldron too.
He turned back to me again, after he had regained hold over his pain, and began heading towards me, not stopping this time, knife still raised. Even though I knew it would only cause me more pain, I still struggled. Wormtail caught my arm and ripped through the sleeve, digging the knife into the flesh of my arm until he drew blood, collecting it in a small vial.
Moving back towards the cauldron, he dropped the contents of the vial into it, muttering "Blood of the enemy…forcibly taken…you will resurrect your foe…"
Once the last drop fell into the viscous liquid, Wormtail fell to his knees, sobbing and holding his bloody wrist. The potion was bubbling fiercely, hissing and emitting sparks.
My breathing quickened as I quickly glanced from Rai to the cauldron. We knew exactly what was happening. And I couldn't have been more terrified.
The cauldron melted down and the liquid disappeared, leaving a lone figure standing where it once did, wearing a purple robe and her long red hair tumbling about her shoulders.
"Wuya…" I muttered, practically ready to faint with fright.
She turned towards me then, a wide, twisted grin spreading across her face, her piercing green eyes boring into mine. "In the flesh."
Chase moved from his position behind the tombstone and halted at her side. "Wuya."
"Chase." She smiled; a twisted, evil grin. "My wand." She held out her hand and he placed the long, thin wand in it. Her grin widened as he did so and I felt the balance of the world shift. Oh boy, were we in for it now…
Turning away from Chase, who went back to his previous position, Wuya regarded Wormtail, who scrambled to kneel before her. "My lady…" he whimpered. "My lady…you promised…"
"Hold out your arm."
"Thank you…thank you…" he held out his right arm, the sleeve saturated with blood, but Wuya merely stared down at him.
"The other arm, Wormtail."
"B-but…my lady…please…you promised…"
Wuya rolled her eyes at his protests and grabbed his left arm in a tight grip, pushing the sleeve back to reveal the tattoo…the Dark Mark…The area around the marking was a vivid red and the tattoo itself was a grey-ish colour.
"It is back." She said softly, grinning that twisted grin once more. "They will all have noticed…and now, we shall see…now, we shall know…" she pressed her finger to the mark and searing pain shot through my forehead. When my vision cleared, I saw that the mark was now black and seemed to be burning. "How many will be brave enough to return when they feel it?" Wuya mused aloud, sharing a grin with Chase before turning to stalk towards me. "And how many will be foolish enough to run? To stay away?" She grinned again, sparing a glance for the tombstone. "You stand, Kimiko Tohomiko, upon the remains of my late father. A Muggle and a fool…much like your dear father. But they both had their uses, did they not? Your father provides you with love…and I killed my father, and see how useful he has proved himself, in death…"
She continued to taunt me, telling me of how the house on the hill was her father's house, soon turning to talk of family. "You and I are very alike, you know. Our mothers, both powerful witches, fell in love with filthy Muggles…both died in childbirth – under different circumstances, of course – though my father left my mother before I was born. He found out about her, you see. Because of him I had to grow up in an orphanage. Oh, but I got my revenge… I swore to find him… And I changed my name… unable to keep his vile name! 'Riddle'! Hah! Oh, but look…my true family returns…"
The Death Eaters formed a circle around her, Chase watching in amusement as she tore at them for their abandonment, one by one. I glanced at Rai as our suspicions were confirmed. Marcus Spicer was a Death Eater. She analysed the gaps, speaking of some in Azkaban, some dead, one too terrified to return, one to have turned from them and one – the most faithful – at Hogwarts, who had orchestrated this meeting.
She told the story; the whole story: what happened twelve years ago, how what had just happened was possible. She told them how my grandparents' sacrifices had protected me against the evil of her. She answered a question that had been floating about my head since the first dream – why did it have to be me? Why not simply any other enemy?
She had taken in my blood, and thus the protection charm. It was no longer valid. She could harm me now.
She told how the three of them had abducted Bertha Jorkins, the missing ministry worker, and extracted the wanted information before disposing of her.
When she had finished her tale, she turned to me again, raising her wand with a malicious smirk. "Crucio!" The pain was excruciating, especially as I writhed, knocking my injured arm and leg against the harsh texture of the tombstone. Finally it stopped, and I slumped back, panting.
"You see," Wuya grinned, "I think how foolish it was to suppose that this little girl was more powerful than me. Could ever be stronger than me." Her grin morphed into a vicious snarl as she came closer. "The power of the fire should've been mine!" she hissed, before she stepped back again, smirking. "But I want there to be no doubt in anybody's mind. Kimiko Tohomiko escaped me by luck alone. I am going to prove that by killing her here, now, in front of you all. Of course, I will give her the chance to fight…not that it will be of much difference."
With a flick of her wrist, the scythe moved and I was dropped to the ground, grunting in pain as I landed on my injured leg. Leaning back against the headstone, I slowly raised myself to stand on my one good leg. Wuya continued to grin at me. "First, we bow." Wuya started, but I don't see why, as neither of us did. Not that I could've, but that wasn't the point. "And now – we duel."
Since I was unable to move, I couldn't dodge the Cruciatus curse she quickly threw at me and I slumped back against the headstone again, sliding down it slightly as she lifted it.
"A little break." Wuya taunted. "That hurt, didn't it? You don't want me to do that again, do you?" In truth, I didn't, but I wasn't about to give her the satisfaction of a reply, and I especially was not going to beg. "I asked you whether you want me to do that again. Answer me! Imperio!" she snapped.
I felt the familiar floating sensation and the little voice, telling me to say no. I resisted, though. I wasn't going to give her the satisfaction, I wasn't. I was stubborn, and after all, Moody had taught me how to entirely throw off the curse.
Her eyes flashed as the curse failed and I saw – with my Quidditch and Xiaolin-trained eye – her raise her hand to undoubtedly use the Cruciatus curse again. This time, though I still couldn't put any weight on my leg, I managed to gather enough energy to use my elemental transport, moving to the other side of the headstone.
"Come back here, Kimiko Tohomiko!" I heard Wuya shrieking, enraged. "I want to look at you when I kill you! I want to see the light leave your eyes!"
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, steeling myself, and transported back; away from the tombstone this time, closer to Rai. Locking eyes with Wuya, she grinned malevolently and raised her wand, shrieking "Avada Kedavra!" and at the same time, I called out the first spell that came to mind "Expelliarmus!"
Shockingly, the spells collided in mid air and turned an odd gold colour, connecting our wands. I felt myself stumble backwards, only to be caught by Rai, who had obviously attempted elemental transport too. Chase appeared over Wuya's shoulder, staring in shock at the gold thread, just as Wuya was.
Small beads appeared and, sensing it was the right thing to do, I forced them back towards Wuya. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw one of the Death Eaters pulling out a wand, but Wuya screamed, "NO! Leave the girl to me!"
Her eyes widened in the beginnings of fear as the last bead disappeared into her wand tip and ghostly figures began to emerge from it. First came Cedric and Cho, then the old man from my dream ("She was a real witch, then? Killed me, that one did…you fight him, lass…"), a woman, who I assumed to be Bertha Jorkins ("Don't let go now! Don't let her get you, Kimiko – don't let go!"), and finally…my grandparents…
I felt tears welling up as I looked at the ghostly figures of my grandparents. "When the connection is broken, we will linger for only moments…but we will give you time…you must get to the Portkey, it will return you to Hogwarts…understand?" I nodded numbly.
"Kimiko…" Cho looked at me, whispering with tears in her eyes. "Take our bodies back? Please, take them back to our parents…" I nodded again, fighting to keep control of my vibrating wand.
"Do it now…"
I wrenched the wand away, using elemental transport as I felt Rai do so as well, landing next to where Cedric and Cho's bodies lay. I grabbed Cho's arm and Rai grabbed Cedric's. Stretching out my wand arm, I called "Accio!" and Rai and I grabbed a handle each, in unison, feeling the swirl again, leaving behind Wuya's frustrated screams.
I hit the ground hard, whimpering in pain as I did so. Cheers erupted around us and I realised that we were back, safe…
It finally all caught up with me and I burst into tears, trembling violently with fear as well as my sobs. I felt Rai's arms come around me as he gently drew me into his lap, mindful of my leg. I fisted my hands in his t-shirt and buried my face in it, feeling his hand soothing up and down my back.
That seemed to be when people started to realise that something was wrong. Or perhaps they'd noticed that Cedric and Cho weren't moving. Whatever it was, the cheers abruptly stopped and the screams started, amongst the frantic voices.
I heard Master Fung approach us, voice urgent. "Raimundo? Kimiko? What happened?"
"She's back." I sobbed hysterically, my voice breaking. "She's back. Wuya's back!"
I think I sort of zoned out after that, paying no attention to my surroundings, and the next thing I knew, I was being lifted into Rai's arms and Rai was being led away, the horrible sound of heart-wrenching sobs and wails from Amos Diggory and the shrieking of Cho's mother.
I leant my head against Rai's neck, the sobs having finally subsided, though I was still trembling. I could hear Rai trying to explain, through fragmented sentences, roughly what had happened to Mad-Eye Moody, I gathered from the sound of his footsteps (due to the wooden leg).
"Cup was a Portkey…took all of us to a graveyard…Wuya was there…and Chase…"
"The Dark Lord and Lady were there? What happened then?"
"Killed Cedric and Cho…they killed Cedric and Cho…"
"Made a potion…got her body back…"
"The Dark Lady got her body back? She's returned?"
"…the Death Eaters came…Kimiko and Wuya duelled…"
"Duelled with the Dark Lady?"
"…got away…wand did something funny…her grandparents came out of Her wand…"
"In here, Raimundo…in here and sit down…you'll be alright now…here, drink this, her too…"
I felt Rai sit down and shift me slightly so that I was sitting in his lap as he pressed a goblet into my hands and helped me to drink it before drinking his own. Everything came back into focus after that; sight, sound… But I stayed on Rai's lap, clinging to him.
"Wuya's back, Kimiko, Raimundo?" Moody asked urgently, glancing between the two of us. "You're sure she's back? How did she do it?"
"Took some stuff…from her father's grave…from Wormtail…from me…" My voice was hoarse from all the crying, and I burrowed closer to Rai as I heard screams from the Quidditch pitch.
"What did the Dark Lady take from you?"
"Blood." I showed him the arm that Wormtail had cut.
"And the Death Eaters? They returned? How did she treat them?"
I nodded, about to answer, when something occurred to me, something I should've told Master Fung. "There's a Death Eater at Hogwarts!" I tried to jolt upright, but Rai had a firm grip on me, as if afraid to let me go. "There's a Death Eater here – they put our names in the Goblet of Fire, they made sure we got through to the end-"
"I know who the Death Eater is." Moody said quietly, effectively cutting me off.
"Karkaroff?" Rai guessed.
"Karkaroff?" Moody scoffed. "Karkaroff fled when he felt the Dark Mark burn upon his arm…but I doubt he'll get far. The Dark Lady has her ways…"
"He's gone?" Rai repeated blankly. "So…he didn't put our names in the cup?"
"No. No, he didn't." Moody leant forwards, a wide grin spreading across his face. A nasty grin. "I did."
I blinked, shaking my head. Moody couldn't be a Death Eater! He was an auror! He put most of the Death Eaters in Azkaban; dedicated his life to chasing them… Master Fung trusts him… He couldn't be, he just couldn't…
"No…you didn't do that… you can't have…"
"I assure you, I did." Moody's evil grin still twisted across his face and his magical eye twisted towards the door as he drew his wand out. I realised with a jolt of fear that he was checking that no one was outside it. I felt like crying again. Couldn't we catch a break tonight?
"I asked you," Moody began in a low, threatening voice, "whether She forgave the treacherous scum who never even went to look for Her. Those faithless, filthy cowards who were brave enough to parade around in masks at the world cup, but fled at the sight of the Dark Mark when I fired it into the sky!"
"That…that was you? No, you couldn't have…" It certainly hadn't sounded like him. A younger, slicker voice…
"I told you…I told you all in class…If there's one thing I hate more than any other, it's a Death Eater who walked free. They turned on her when she needed them most…" his face lit up with a sadistic smile. Not as terrifying as Wuya's or Chase's, but enough to send chills down my spine just the same. "Tell me she hurt them. Tell me she told them that I, I alone remained faithful…prepared to risk everything to deliver to them the one thing they wanted above all…you."
"You didn't…it can't be you…" Rai was practically pleading now, but even I couldn't accept it; even when I realised that all along, Moody had been calling Wuya 'the Dark Lady', a name only her Death Eaters called her…
"Who put your name in the Goblet of Fire? I did. Who frightened off every person who might try to hurt you or prevent you winning the tournament? I did. Who nudged Hagrid into showing you the dragons? I did. Who helped you figure out how to get past your dragon? I did!"
I pressed closer to Rai, my mind fighting against the thought that Alastor Moody, the ex-auror, was a Death Eater…but the evidence he gave was staggering.
"It wasn't easy, you know…guiding you through these tasks without arousing suspicion. But, as long as you got into that maze, preferably with a decent head start, then I knew I'd have a decent chance of getting rid of the other champions and leaving your way clear." Perhaps Krum and Voskef had been Imperiused… "But I also had to compete against your utter stupidity. The second task…that was when I thought I'd fail… I was keeping watch on you…knew you hadn't figured out the clue…so I had to give you another hint…"
"You didn't…" Rai croaked. "It was Cedric and Cho…"
"Do you think they would've told you if I hadn't suggested it to them? Decent people are so easy to manipulate… I even planted information in your dormitory, Pedrosa. The Bakerset boy…"
"The book you gave Aidan…" Rai trailed off in confusion.
"It mentioned Gillyweed…" I remembered Aidan and me discussing it with Keiko over lunch after the task.
"Yes. Does the same job as that handy little trinket you used. I figured you wouldn't have learnt bubble-head charms yet…"
I started to shake again as Moody stepped closer and pointed his wand directly at me, though Rai shifted so that it was pointing at him instead. Moody smirked and I couldn't stand to look at him, so I shifted my gaze to the Foe-Glass behind his head. There were foggy shapes moving in it. I wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing…
"You were so long in that lake…I thought you'd drowned. Luckily Master Fung took your idiocy for bravery."
I could see that the images in the Foe-Glass were sharpening, and remembered what Moody had told me the last time we were in here, 'if you can see the whites of their eyes, they're right behind you'. That meant the people were coming closer. Moody, however, didn't notice. Both his magical and non-magical eyes were fixed on us.
"The Dark Lady didn't manage to kill you, Tohomiko, but she so wanted to. And the Dark Lord wanted you, Pedrosa, though not as badly. Imagine how they will reward me when they find I have done it for them…" I couldn't help but think that they wouldn't be too pleased; after all, Wuya had insisted that I was 'hers' to kill.
"The Dark Lady and I are so alike." Moody mused as he towered over us, still aiming his wand at us. I shuddered and pressed closer to Rai. "So much in common… Both of us, for instance, had very disappointing fathers…very disappointing indeed. Both of us suffered the indignity of having to carry that father's name, though she didn't have to carry his first name too… And both of us had the pleasure – the very great pleasure – of killing our fathers…"
"You're mad!" Rai squeaked.
"Mad, am I? We shall see… we'll see who's mad now that the Dark Lady has returned! She is back, Kimiko Tohomiko, you did not conquer her, and now, I conquer you!" He raised his wand and opened his mouth. I felt Rai pull out his own wand but there was a blinding flash of red light before either of them could utter a spell and with a loud crash, the door burst open and Moody was thrown backwards, landing hard on the floor.
I turned to see Master Fung along with Professors Snape and McGonagall, Master Fung's wand arm still outstretched. Glancing back at the Foe-Glass, I could see them there too.
Professor McGonagall headed straight for us, me still curled into Rai, clinging to him desperately. "Come along, Mr Pedrosa, Miss Tohomiko." She whispered. She looked very pale and worried, and almost as if she was about to cry. "Come along…hospital wing…"
"No." She turned to stare at Master Fung.
"Master Fung, they ought to… I mean, look at them! Surely they've been through enough tonight…"
"They need to understand. Understanding is the first step towards acceptance, through which only, can recovery be achieved. They need to know who has put them through this ordeal, and why."
"Moody…" Rai muttered.
"H-how could it have been Moody?" I sniffed, still in shock.
"This isn't Alastor Moody." Master Fung said gently. "You have never known Alastor Moody. The real Moody would not have removed you from my sight after what happened tonight. The moment I noticed the three of you gone, I knew, and I followed." He stepped over the unconscious form of… not-Moody… and took a set of keys and his hip-flask from him, handing the hip-flask to Professor Snape, who took it and opened it, sniffing.
"Polyjuice Potion." He concluded. Oh, so that's what Myrtle had seen.
"Severus, please fetch me the strongest Truth Potion you possess, Veritaserum, if you have it. Then go down to the kitchens and bring up the elf named Winky. Minerva, kindly go down to Hagrid's house, where you will find a large black dog and Remus Lupin in the pumpkin patch. Take him to my office, inform him I will be along shortly, and then come back here."
Both Professors turned and left without a word. Master Fung headed to the trunk with seven locks, opening one at a time and peering inside, finding a vast array of commonplace items, from spellbooks to broken Sneakoscopes, until he reached the seventh lock. Upon opening it, Master Fung found an unconscious and thin Moody, at the bottom of a pit. He took the cloak from the imposter's shoulders, placing it upon the real Moody, muttering to himself as he did so.
"Stunned…controlled by the Imperius curse…very weak… Of course, they'd need him alive for the potion… Seems to be in no immediate danger…must have Madam Pomfrey see him…"
As we waited for Professor Snape and Professor McGonagall's return, Master Fung explained to us how Polyjuice Potion had been the perfect plan, as the real Moody never drank anything but from his hip-flask through his paranoia. Eventually, though, the potion's effects wore off as he hadn't taken his latest dose, and the potion was only designed to give you an hour.
The magical eye fell out and the wooden leg came away, both of which the imposter didn't need. The man before us now was blonde and pale, and though he was undoubtedly older, I still recognised him. "That's…that's…" I stuttered.
"Crouch!" Professor Snape exclaimed, stopping in the doorway with Winky at his heels and Professor McGonagall close behind him. "Barty Crouch!"
"Master Barty, Master Barty, what is you doing here?" Winky flung himself at the man on the floor, shrieking. "You is killed him! You is killed him! You is killed master's son!"
"He is simply stunned, Winky." Master Fung assured her. "Step aside, please. Severus, you have the potion?"
Snape handed him the potion and propping…Barty Crouch Junior, it seems…against the wall, he poured the potion down his throat before reviving him. "Enervate."
Crouch opened his eyes, but his gaze was unfocused. "Can you hear me?" He nodded. "I would like you to tell us how you came to be here. How did you escape from Azkaban?"
He went on to explain everything, under the influence of the Veritaserum; Winky wailing and pleading with him to stay quiet. He explained how he and his mother, using Polyjuice Potion, had swapped places, his mother dying as him in Azkaban, and afterwards he and his father staged his mother's death, causing him to live under an invisibility cloak and the Imperius curse since then. He told of how Bertha Jorkins had found out, had heard Winky talking to him and guessed, prompting his father to put a powerful memory charm on her – broken only by Wuya, as I knew from my dreams – which prompted her bad memory. He told us how he had been in the empty seat beside Winky, how he had stolen Rai's wand and escaped to the woods to cast the Mark during the chaos. It explained why Winky had been running so awkwardly; she had tied Barty to herself, and it was him trying to fight her. He told how Wuya, Chase and Wormtail had come for him; how he had broken out of his father's control and Wuya had placed the Imperius curse on his father. Wormtail was left to watch over him, but he escaped, coming to Hogwarts. He told of how Wuya had warned him and he had found his father in the forest and killed him while Rai and I ran for Master Fung. He told us how he had seen him on my map – it explained how I had seen 'Barty Crouch' in Hogwarts, in Snape's stores, looking for ingredients. He told Master Fung that he had turned the cup into a Portkey in order to take us to the graveyard for Wuya's plan. He told them that she'd come back.
Winky sobbed, rocking back and forth.
"Show me your arm." Master Fung demanded.
"I'll show me mine if she shows me hers." Crouch seemed to be regaining some of his attitude. Professors Snape and McGonagall looked confused, but I understood. If Wuya had told him that they needed me for the plan, she would've told him why, at least in part. So, I lifted my arm, and Rai gently pulled back the sleeve to reveal the long, thin cut, blood still slowly dripping from it.
The teachers' eyes widened at the sight of my arm and then Crouch held out his left arm, pulling back the sleeve to reveal the black and smoking Dark Mark. "You know what this means, don't you? She's back." Crouch grinned. "Wuya's back."
I gripped Rai's hand tightly.
Master Fung stared at Crouch in disgust before binding him with ropes from his wand. "Minerva, could I ask you to stand guard here while I take Raimundo and Kimiko upstairs?" Professor McGonagall looked disgusted too, but she nodded and pointed her wand steadily at Crouch. After asking Snape to fetch Madam Pomfrey and Fudge, he turned to us. "Raimundo? Kimiko?" he said gently.
I expected Rai to put me down, but he just stood up, rearranging me in his arms so he could carry me and followed Master Fung out the door. "I want you to come up to my office first. Sirius and Lupin will meet us there." He glanced at us as he spoke before turning back to the gargoyle guarding his office as he reached it.
As soon as Rai and I got inside Master Fung's office, my godfathers – both of whose faces had gone almost as white as mine – came rushing over. "Kimiko! Are you alright?"
"I knew it… I knew something like this would-"
They helped Rai over to one of the chairs by the desk, with shaking hands, and sat down on either side of us. "What happened?" Lupin asked this time, eyes flickering between my face, Rai's and Master Fung. Master Fung told Sirius and Lupin explained what we had just heard from Crouch. I only half-listened, relaxing against Rai, with my head on his shoulder as Dojo came to rest on his other shoulder.
"Hey, Kiddo." He said quietly, awkwardly patting my head sympathetically before coming to rest on it. It was oddly comforting.
Master Fung had stopped talking, and sat looking intently at us. I tried to avoid his eyes. I didn't want to recount what had happened, to relive it…
"I need to know what happened after you touched the Portkey in the maze."
"Can't we leave that for the morning?" Sirius argued hotly. "Let them rest first."
"Numbing the pain now will only make it worse when it does hit. You have always shown bravery beyond anything anyone could expect of you. All I ask is that you demonstrate your courage one more time; to tell us what happened.
I nodded slowly and between the two of us, Rai and I managed to tell the story, Sirius and Lupin often making as if they wanted to interrupt, but a look from Master Fung silenced them.
When we got to the part about the wands connecting, though, they did cut us off. Master Fung explained to us why that had happened. It was because of the fact that Wuya's wand and mine share cores. They each contain a feather from the same phoenix. The 'brother' wands refused to fight each other, so they connected, and the gold beads had caused the reverse spell effect, causing Wuya's last spells to appear in shadowy form – the images of the last people she murdered.
We quickly finished the story and Master Fung, Lupin and Sirius – in dog-form – accompanied Rai and I to the hospital wing.
As soon as we walked in, Carla hurried towards us, face pale and tear-streaked. She gingerly threw her arms around us, though still hugging us firmly, soon Antonio joined her. Master Fung held back as he understood how they must feel at the moment, but after they pulled back, he was quick to warn them. "Please listen to me. Raimundo and Kimiko have been through a terrible ordeal tonight. They have just had to relive it for me. What they need now is sleep, and peace, and quiet. If he would like you all to stay with him, you may do so. But I do not want you questioning them until they are ready to answer, and certainly not this evening."
Carla nodded hurriedly and rounded on everyone else in the room, which I then noticed to be the rest of the Pedrosas – minus Pedro, who was probably still at the Ministry, the workaholic – Clay, Omi, Keiko, Aidan, Sishi and Neko. "Did you hear? He needs quiet!"
"Headmaster, may I ask what…" she trailed off, eyeing Sirius, who was still a large black dog.
"The dog is Kimiko's godfather's, Remus', and both will be remaining with her for a while. I assure you, he's extremely well trained."
Madam Pomfrey led Rai and me to the nearest beds, where Rai helped me into mine before going towards his own. Madam Pomfrey spent time healing my leg and arm before pulling the screen and allowing Keiko in to help me change and bustling off to fetch the potion. She brought it over and insisted that I drink it all, but I only managed to drink half before the events of the day finally caught up to me and I drifted off.
I was feeling blissfully calm – with a niggling feeling that there was something I really should remember – when I started to hear a sort of buzzing. It got louder, and as it did, I recognised it as voices.
"They'll wake them if they don't shut up!"
"What are they shouting about? Nothing else can have happened, can it?"
"That's Fudge's voice, and Minerva McGonagall's. But what are they arguing about?"
I opened my eyes then, blinking to try to clear my vision, and strained to hear the voices of Professor McGonagall and the Minister. Once I heard them, I wondered how I hadn't before, they were arguing so loudly.
"Regrettable, but all the same, Minerva-" I could hear Fudge saying loudly, but he was soon drowned out by the terrifying sound of a livid Professor McGonagall.
"You should never have brought it inside the castle! When Master Fung finds out-"
The door banged open and everyone turned to face the door, missing Rai and I jerking upright, all drowsiness evaporated.
Fudge, Professor McGonagall and Professor Snape came striding up the Hospital Wing, turning to Carla, who was nearest the door. "Where's Master Fung?"
"He's not here." Burst out Carla angrily. "This is a Hospital Wing, Minister, you-"
Master Fung appeared behind Fudge then. "What has happened?" He demanded sharply. "Why are you disturbing these people? Minerva, I'm surprised at you – I asked you to stand guard over Barty Crouch-"
"Well, there's no need to stand guard over him anymore!" She shrieked, angrier than I'd ever seen her. "The Minister has seen to that!"
While Snape was seen to get angry often – much of that time with us – I had never seen him truly angry before. At least, not when he wasn't simply angry over students. This cold fury rolling off him in waves was actually rather frightening.
"When we told Mr Fudge that we had caught the Death Eater responsible for tonight's events, he seemed to feel his personal safety was in question. He insisted on summoning a Dementor to accompany him into the castle." Snape spoke in a low voice. I felt a sort of dread creep over me, knowing what was coming next, and I glanced over at Rai, to see he had come to the same realisation. "He brought it up to the office where Barty Crouch-"
"I told him you wouldn't agree, Master Fung! I told him you would never allow Dementors to set foot inside the castle, but -"
"My dear woman!" roared Fudge, "as Minister of Magic, it is my decision whether I wish to bring protection with me when interviewing a possibly dangerous -"
But Professor McGonagall's voice drowned Fudge's.
"The moment that - that thing entered the room," she screamed, pointing at Fudge, trembling all over, "it swooped down on Crouch and - and -"
Professor McGonagall struggled to find words to describe what had happened, but she didn't need her to finish her sentence. Everyone knew what the Dementor must have done: administered its fatal kiss to Barty Crouch. I shuddered.
"By all accounts, he is no loss!" blustered Fudge. "It seems he has been responsible for several deaths'."
"But he cannot now give testimony, Cornelius," said Master Fung. "He cannot give evidence about why he killed those people."
"Why he killed them? Well, that's no mystery, is it?" laughed Fudge. "He was a raving lunatic! From what Minerva and Severus have told me, he seems to have thought he was doing it all on You-Know-Who's instructions!"
"Wuya was giving him instructions, Cornelius, along with Chase Young." Master Fung said. "Those peoples' deaths were mere by-products of a plan to restore Wuya to full strength again. The plan succeeded. Wuya has been restored to her body."
Fudge stood and simply stared, before he began to splutter. "You-Know-Who… returned? Preposterous. Come now, Master Fung…"
"As Minerva and Severus have doubtless told you," said Master Fung, "we heard Barty Crouch confess. Under the influence of Veritaserum, he told us how he was smuggled out of Azkaban, and how Wuya - learning of his continued existence from Bertha Jorkins - went to free him from his father and used him to capture Kimiko and Raimundo. The plan worked, I tell you. Crouch has helped Wuya to return."
"See here, Master Fung," said Fudge desperately, "you - you can't seriously believe that You-Know-Who - back? Come now, come now… certainly, Crouch may have believed himself to be acting upon You-Know-Who's orders - but to take the word of a lunatic like that, Master Fung…"
"When the four students touched the Triwizard Cup tonight, they were transported straight to Wuya and Chase," said Master Fung steadily. "Kimiko and Raimundo witnessed Wuya's rebirth. I will explain it all to you if you will step up to my office."
Master Fung noticed that Rai and I were awake, unlike the others. "I am afraid I cannot permit you to question them tonight."
Fudge followed Master Fung's gaze to us, looking back a moment later. "You are - er - prepared to take their word on this, are you, Master Fung?"
There was a moment's silence, which was broken by Sirius growling. His hackles were raised, and he was baring his teeth at Fudge. Lupin, without stopping glaring at Fudge himself, placed a hand on Sirius' – still in animagus form – back and pushed him down, silently warning him not to do anything.
"Certainly, I believe them," said Master Fung, his eyes were blazing now. "I heard Crouch's confession, and I heard Kimiko and Raimundo's account of what happened after they touched the Triwizard Cup; the two stories make sense, they explain everything that has happened since Bertha Jorkins disappeared last summer."
Fudge had a strange smile on his face when he glanced at us before answering Master Fung. "You are prepared to believe that Wuya has returned, on the word of a lunatic murderer, and two children who… well…"
Fudge shot us another look, and I suddenly understood.
I narrowed my eyes, glaring at Fudge, before I spoke up. "You've been reading Rita Skeeter, Mr. Fudge."
The Pedrosas, Aidan, Sishi, Keiko, Neko, Clay and Omi all jumped, realizing that we were awake.
Fudge reddened slightly, but a defiant and obstinate look came over his face.
"And if I have?" he said, looking at Master Fung. "If I have discovered that you've been keeping certain facts about the girl very quiet? Having funny turns all over the place -"
"I assume that you are referring to the pains Kimiko has been experiencing in her scar?" said Master Fung coolly. "The one Rita mentioned in her latest article?" That must've been the one Carla was talking about yesterday, the one I had missed while we were so busy practicing for the task.
"You admit that she has been having these pains, then?" said Fudge quickly. "Headaches? Nightmares? Possibly - hallucinations?"
"Listen to me, Cornelius," said Master Fung, taking a step toward Fudge. He seemed to radiate that indefinable sense of power. "Kimiko is as sane as you or I.
That scar upon her forehead has not addled her brains. I believe it hurts her when Wuya is close by, or feeling particularly murderous."
Fudge had taken half a step back from Master Fung, but he looked no less stubborn.
"You'll forgive me, Master Fung, but I've never heard of a curse scar acting as an alarm bell before…"
"Look, we saw Wuya come back!" Rai burst out angrily, obviously losing his patience, already worn thin by the night's events. He tried to get out of bed, but his mother forced him back. "We saw the Death Eaters! I can give you their names! Marcus Spicer -"
Snape made a sudden movement then, but as I looked at him, his eyes flew back to Fudge.
"Spicer was cleared!" said Fudge, visibly affronted. "A very old family - donations to excellent causes -"
"Macnair!" Rai continued defiantly.
"Also cleared! Now working for the Ministry!" Yeah, I thought, as an executioner. Not suspiciously bloodthirsty at all…
"Avery - Nott - Crabbe - Goyle -"
"You are merely repeating the names of those who were acquitted of being Death Eaters thirteen years ago!" said Fudge angrily. "You could have found those names in old reports of the trials! For heavens' sake, Master Fung - the children were full of some crackpot story at the end of last year too - their tales are getting taller, and you're still swallowing them – the amount of rubbish that comes out of their mouths, Master Fung, and you still think they're trustworthy?"
"You fool!" Professor McGonagall cried. "Cedric Diggory! Mr. Crouch! These deaths were not the random work of a lunatic!"
"I see no evidence to the contrary!" shouted Fudge. "It seems to me that you are all determined to start a panic that will destabilize everything we have worked for these last thirteen years!"
After that they devolved to arguing the politics – Fudge shooting down every plausible suggestion for fear of his precious career. It got to the point where Fudge had no further arguments and he just stared at Master Fung, almost pleadingly, for several moments. "She can't be back, Master Fung, she just can't be…"
Snape lost all patience then, storming up to Fudge and pulling back his sleeve, revealing his boldly printed Dark Mark. Fudge jumped back, uncertain of where to look, dumped a pouch on the table between mine and Rai's beds with a terse "Your winnings" before he practically fled from the room.
Master Fung sent Snape and Madame Pomfrey off after assigning tasks and locked the door as their footsteps died away. "Sirius, if you could resume your normal form? You have nothing to fear from those of us still present."
Sirius nodded and the black dog turned back into a man.
While Master Fung, Lupin, Clay, Omi, Rai and I didn't react, the rest certainly did. Keiko, Neko, Sishi and Maria gasped, covering their mouths and staring at Sirius; Aidan let out a strange choked noise; the Pedrosa boys stared and Carla leapt to her feet, pointing at Sirius and shrieking repeatedly. "Sirius Black!"
"Mum, shut up!" Rai finally yelled after nothing else would get her attention. She fell silent, whether in response or from shock I don't know. "It's OK!"
Carla stared at Rai for a moment, sceptically. "But…"
"It really is okay." I spoke up and she turned her wary gaze to me. "He's my godfather. Well, one of them." I amended with a smile at Lupin. "We met him last year – they told us how it was really Pettigrew who…" I trailed off, unable to say the words after everything – it was just too much.
"Pettigrew was my rat." Clay added. "An animagus."
There was silence for a while whilst everyone processed what we had just said. Master Fung was the one to break it. "Alright, now that everyone's acquainted… Remus, Sirius, I have work for you. You'll have to set off at once. Alert the old crowd and then lie low at home for a while, I'll contact you there."
I cut in then. I didn't want them to go yet. It may be a little selfish, but they were the only family I had with me. I mean, yes, I do consider the Pedrosas as family, but…it just isn't the same, and since papa can't come… "But-"
Sirius and Lupin seemed to realise what I couldn't bring myself to say. "You'll see us again very soon, Kimiko, I promise you." Sirius said as he and Lupin moved closer.
"But we must do what we can; you understand, don't you?" Lupin soothed.
I nodded. "'Course." I hugged them both briefly before Sirius transformed again and they left the room. Master Fung left soon after.
Rai lay back down with a sigh, staring up at the ceiling. "He doesn't believe us." He stated flatly. No elaboration was needed – we all knew who he was talking about.
"I think he does." I said quietly as I lay back down. I saw Rai turn his head to face me and I did the same. "He knows we're telling the truth, that neither us nor Master Fung would lie about this. He just doesn't want to believe it." Rai hummed vaguely.
No one spoke for a while after that, until Carla reached for the potion and goblets on the table. "You have to take the rest of your potions, dears. You have a good long sleep." She remarked as she poured out the potion. "Try and think about something else for a while…think about what you're going to buy with your winnings."
I flinched at the mention of the winnings. "I don't want that gold." As I said it, I knew Rai wouldn't want it either, so I continued. "You have it. Anyone can have it. We shouldn't have won it. It should've been Cedric and Cho's." I could feel my eyes welling up, but I didn't really care. The full weight of what had happened after the spider in the maze finally hit me. Cedric and Cho had wanted us to take the cup by ourselves, and if we had…
"It wasn't your fault, Kimiko." Carla whispered, gripping my hand.
"No," Rai spoke up from his bed, once again staring at the ceiling. "It was mine. I told them to take the cup with us."
"We both did, Rai." I argued, but he shook his head.
"Yeah, but I was the one to convince them." I wanted to argue that, too; wanted to argue until he stopped blaming himself, but I had no argument for that, and I knew that nothing I could say would convince him, so I stayed silent.
Carla gave us both our potions before she pulled her son into a hard embrace, and he hugged her back just as fiercely. The moment was broken by Keiko, who made some sort of loud slamming noise by the window, before grinning apologetically with something clasped in her hand.
There didn't seem to be much else to say, so I took my potion and drifted off to sleep again.
After that, the rest of the year passed in a blur. We spoke with the Diggorys and the Changs, who didn't seem to blame us for what had happened, instead thanking us for bringing back the bodies and refusing the money when we offered.
The others told us that Master Fung made an announcement to the school about what had happened when we were still in the Hospital Wing. I was rather glad not to have been there when it happened.
The Leaving Feast, rather than being decorated in the colours of the winners of the House Cup, was decorated in black, in memory of Cedric and Cho, though thankfully Master Fung's speech was only brief.
It wasn't until we were on the train home that I found out what Keiko had had in her hand in the Hospital Wing. She was reading that morning's edition of the Daily Prophet, which I was eyeing suspiciously. "There's nothing in here." She said, noticing my wary stare. "Honestly. Look if you like. There was only a small announcement saying that you two had won the tournament; nothing about Cho and Cedric. If you ask me, Fudge's keeping them quiet."
Rai scoffed. "He'll never keep Rita Skeeter quiet. Not on something like this."
"Oh, Rita hasn't written anything at all since the third task." Keiko said innocently, though a smirk broke out on her face straight after. "As a matter of fact, Rita Skeeter isn't going to be writing anything at all for a while. Not unless she wants me to spill the beans on her."
"Alright, so you found out how she was getting her information about private conversations; now spill!"
Keiko grinned. "Bugging."
I frowned. "But electronic equipment doesn't work inside Hogwarts."
"Oh, not electronic bugs," Keiko kept grinning; shuffling in her bag until she pulled out a glass jar. "You see, Rita Skeeter is an unregistered animagus. She can turn into a beetle."
"No way!" Rai burst out.
"You didn't…she's not…" I could feel a wide grin spreading across my face as I leant over to peer inside the jar, where Rita Skeeter – in beetle form – sat.
"Oh, yes." Keiko said gleefully. "When Sirius Black was in the Hospital Wing and you said about Peter Pettigrew being an animagus…then I saw this beetle and the markings around its eyes – don't they look just like those horrid glasses of hers? – and I figured, if Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew were unregistered animagi, why not Rita Skeeter?"
"Keiko, you're a genius!"
Fernando and Ricardo appeared in the doorway then, looking for someone to play Exploding Snap with. In the middle of our third game, I remembered a whispered conversation I had overheard.
"So, are you going to tell us who you were blackmailing?"
They blinked at me. "How did you…?" Fernando started but Ricardo cut in.
"She knows everything…" I just raised my eyebrow and they shuddered jokingly. At least, I think it was a joke.
Fernando sighed before starting to tell us. "You remember that bet we had with him at the Quidditch World Cup? About how Ireland would win, but Krum would get the Snitch?" We all nodded, it wasn't something we would forget. "Well, the git paid us in leprechaun gold he'd caught from the Irish mascots."
"So it disappeared?" I asked.
"Yep. By next morning, it had gone!"
"But - it must've been an accident, mustn't it?" said Maria.
Fernando laughed very bitterly.
"Yeah, that's what we thought, at first. We thought if we just wrote to him, and told him he'd made a mistake, he'd cough up. But nothing doing. Ignored our letter. We kept trying to talk to him about it at Hogwarts, but he was always making some excuse to get away from us."
"In the end, he turned pretty nasty," said Ricardo. "Told us we were too young to gamble, and he wasn't giving us anything."
"So we asked for our money back," said Fernando glowering.
"He didn't refuse!"
"Right in one."
"But that was all your savings!" exclaimed Rai.
"Tell me about it," said Fernando. "'Course, we found out what was going on in the end. Lee Jordan's dad had had a bit of trouble getting money off Bagman as well. Turns out he's in big trouble with the goblins. Borrowed loads of gold off them. A gang of them cornered him in the woods after the World Cup and took all the gold he had, and it still wasn't enough to cover all his debts. They followed him all the way to Hogwarts to keep an eye on him. He's lost everything gambling. Hasn't got two Galleons to rub together. And you know how the idiot tried to pay the goblins back?"
"How?" said Rai.
"He put a bet on you two, mate," said Ricardo. "Put a big bet on the two of you to win the tournament. Bet against the goblins."
"So that's why he kept trying to help us win!" I said to Rai. "Well - we did win, didn't we? So he can pay you your gold!"
"Nope, the goblins play as dirty as him. They say you drew with Diggory and Cho, and Bagman was betting you'd win outright. So Bagman had to run for it. He did run for it right after the third task."
They turned back to their cards, but I caught Rai's eye. He nodded with a slight smile. I smiled back.
When the train finally came to a stop, Rai and I hung back as the others filtered out of the compartment, with Fernando and Ricardo leaving last. Before they could, though, Rai called out. "Hey, Fernando, Ricardo – wait a moment."
Another glance and I turned to my trunk to fish out the pouch of winnings, tossing it to the twins. "Take it."
They stared at us for a moment. "What?" They asked finally.
"Take it." I repeated, glancing at Rai. "We don't want it."
"You're mental." Fernando said faintly, trying to give it back.
"No, we're not." Rai insisted. "Take it and get inventing; it's for your joke shop."
"They are mental." Ricardo muttered, awestruck.
"Listen," said Rai firmly. "If you don't take it, I'm throwing it down the drain. We don't want it and we don't need it. But I could do with a few laughs. We could all do with a few laughs. I've got a feeling we're going to need them more than usual before long." Rai picked up his trunk and walked off the train to prevent them giving it back to us. I went to follow him but the twins stopped me.
"Kimiko," Fernando said weakly, weighing the pouch. "There's got to be a thousand galleons in here…"
I grinned. "Yeah, think what you could make with that. Just don't tell your mum how you got it. Although, come to think of it, she may not be so keen on you joining the Ministry anymore…"
"Kimiko…" Ricardo began, and that's when I had enough and held out my hand.
"Look, take it, or I'll light you on fire." Okay, a little harsh, but I was losing patience now. "Don't think I won't, and Rai tells me it hurts like hell. Just do me one favour, okay? Buy Rai some different dress robes and say they're from you."
I left before they could stop me again, but they caught up to me on the platform to say thanks.
Before I left with papa, I hugged everyone goodbye, hugging Rai especially tight. Everything had changed now, and I was afraid of what was going to happen now.