He didn't even mean to go to the Games, which seemed rather dull and landbound. It was just that he happened to be passing through the Franco-British Exhibition--at least the Muggles seemed determined to succeed in international solidarity, and he felt he might as well support their efforts.
But then as he was leaving, he noticed the Muggles attacking each other with long swords. Quickly, he hurried over, wand at the ready to help out if need be, but there was no need. No one seemed to be actually hurting each other, they just counted hits and that was that.
"It's fencing," someone explained.
"Fencing what? Stolen swords?"
"It's the Olympic Games.
"Oh, that clears everything up then."
But people were being more patient than usual--perhaps it was all the foreigners around that needed explanation. In no time at all Albus was hearing all about the rackets competition in befuddlement--the Games were supposed to bring in athletes from around the world, from what he can make out, but all seven of those competitors were British. He decided instead to find something with a whopping forty percent foreign competition, and duly watched the Liverpool Police trounce the United States' national tug of war team.
"Dad. Dad? Is there gonna be a fire?"
"I don't think so, Rudi, it's the middle of winter."
"Lothar said in the summer they're gonna bring a big fire all over the world. Up to the stadium."
"That's the just the ceremony at the start."
"Mmhmm. Is the Muggle Führer gonna be there? Lothar said."
"Well, I don't know. We're going to see the real events--people skiing in the snow!"
"Going down a mountain fast on special shoes--it'll be fun. It's the first time ever they've gone down a hill."
"Do they have brooms?"
"I don't think so. You're going to need to be quiet about magic, okay, Rudi? Just talk about the sports you see."
"Okay. Are we going today? When are we going?"
It was not exactly soon enough for Rudi, who kept asking questions in the coming days. Beyond the absence of brooms, there was also going to be an absence of animals ("Lothar said they have horses in the summer"), or even balls to throw, hit, or kick around. None of this diminished his excitement, however, and Friday finally showed up.
"They're gonna go down the hill?" Rudi squinted at the first skiier as he took off from the Kreuzjoch.
"Yep!" said his dad.
"Where's everyone else?"
"There's lots of fans right here, all around us."
"Where's all the other skiiers?"
"They're still at the top, they have to wait their turn."
"They--they don't all go at once?"
"No, they wouldn't all fit on the mountain, they'd crash into each other."
"That'd be funny!"
"This way it spreads out more, we can look at each skiier one by one."
"That's so boring though. How do we know who wins?"
"They time them, and whoever has the fastest time wins."
"That's gonna take so long! When I'm in charge of sport things are gonna be fun. Even if they take long."
His dad laughed. "All right, then. Let's watch this one first."
"Okay," sighed Rudi. "...Whoa!" One of the British Muggles had veered off-course, hit a tree, and shot into a river. As Mr. Brand anxiously watched to make sure the Muggles in charge got to him, Rudi's eyes lit up. "Okay, this is cool."
Dear Mum and Dad,
Thank you so, so much for letting me come, it's been brilliant so far and I can't believe it's almost done. Today Pomona and I saw a kayak race, they've let women in the canoeing now! A woman from Denmark won it.
Dad, you'll be glad to know I'm learning about poetry that isn't by your relations. Mr. Sprout took us to the V&A to see the art competitions. A lot of the categories they didn't give out gold medals because they thought no one was good enough to win, which sound rubbish. And the poem that did win wasn't that brilliant either. I mean, really?
"Laurel of Hellas noble-born,
most celebrated tree,
gazing to your lofty crown
the mind must dazzled be."
Maybe it sounds better in Finnish but I doubt it!
Pomona thinks we should be able to get into the football finals somehow, so tell Malcolm we should be there. Mr. Pomfrey says to tell him Dougie McBain has gotten to play even if the Queen's Park guys haven't much. Whatever this means. I'd rather watch Montrose but they're all excited!
See you soon.
"Is there the games in here?"
"Yes...er...Is your family here?"
"They're coming. But the games are here, right?"
"Er, some of them."
"Oh not the big ones, with the medals. Just the extra ones."
"...Yes...the demonstration event."
"With the brooms!"
"Yes. Are you quite sure your family is coming? Or--"
The volunteer broke off at the approach of a teenage girl, telling himself to focus and not get distracted by her very cute hair. "Gabi. Gabi! Sssh, come on!"
"Excuse me," he said, addressing the young girl. Wouldn't want an incident. "Do you know her?"
"Yeah," she said, as witheringly as she could muster--she looked about six.
Of course they're related, he told himself, not just anyone looks like that.
"C'mon Fleur! Let's watch this one, they have brooms!"
"Maman is waiting for you. Let's go. Don't run away again, you scared us!" And she turned to look at him. "Thank you," she mouthed.
"It--it was nothing. Really."
"But I want to see--" Gabi interrupted.
"We're going to see lots of sports, okay? Come on." Grabbing her little sister by the hand, Fleur marched off.
"Wait!" he called.
"You--you know it's an hour to Albertville, right?"
"Yes, we're fine," she said, as they walked away.
The volunteer shook his head. You never could tell with curling fans.
Ian Thorpe began the first day of competition by winning a gold medal and setting a world record in the 400 meter freestyle swim. Later that day came the four by 100 meter freestyle relay, an event the United States team had never lost in at the Olympics. Australia, they said, would be smashed "like guitars."
Thorpe led the Australian relay team to win another gold medal, set another world record, jumped out of the pool, and began playing an air guitar.
Three days later, despite him only earning a silver in the 200 meter freestyle, excitement was still high.
Perhaps too high.
"He's not even our countryman, really!"
"He's as good as. And he's our friends' countryman, and they're having us over, and I think it's the very least we can do to cheer him on!"
"We didn't exactly get tickets through the proper channels--"
"These are the Olympics, we've come--from all over--in the spirit of friendship and all. Just this once let's not worry about the proper channnels."
Thorpe swam the first leg for Australia, giving them a lead of more than three seconds over the United States. Then it was just a matter of holding on, and if one of the proud spectators' wives' had told him to stop screaming, well, he couldn't really hear her. Australia won by over five full seconds to set the world record. It was the Olympics' best relay margin of victory in fifty years.
"I can't believe him! He's brilliant!"
"I love you, and I love sport, but you're getting a bit worked up about a seventeen-year-old child."
"He's an Olympian," Hermione interrupted, "not a child."
It was her twenty-first birthday.
Some days he felt almost too lucky to be anywhere at all. It was more than enough for him to be himself, alive. Everything else he was--a wizard and a Gryffindor, a Briton and an Englishman, a Londoner and an East Ender--seemed unnecessary.
"You might want to close your eyes," said his half-sister.
"For this next part. It could be--upsetting."
"You said you wouldn't spoil anything!" Other than that she needed their mom to scan a Muggle photograph of his father for some reason, and he had to go remind her how to use the scanner.
He blinked to make sure he knew what he was seeing, and then gave a slow laugh. "Sure, the Statue of Secrecy's been overturned--but I wasn't expecting this."
"You--you're all right?"
"Yeah. Why not? It's my history. Good thing he didn't win or it would have been everyone's, I guess."
"Or we'd have been history," she ventured.
"Good one!" he laughed. Even though years had passed, she was usually very sober about the months she had spent in the dark, desperately using the coin he had left behind to try and connect with him, with Lee and the radio show, with anyone.
She shrugged. "We're celebrating being British. Might as well make jokes about things."
"That's the way."
She blinked. "Mary Poppins wasn't one of you lot, was she?"
"Not that I know of. Although, that umbrella--would explain a lot."
Dean made a note to look into that, later. In the meantime, East London was echoing around him. There were more bubbles to blow, forever. There always were.