The ceiling had a nice colour this evening. The setting sun washed the room in a light that made the peach walls almost pleasant instead of the usual puke colour they appeared during the day. For once it was going to be an almost enjoyable birthday for Harry. The Dursley’s had decided to go and visit Aunt Marge for the weekend. Harry was glad that instead of being forced to go and endure Aunt Marge's criticisms, he had been locked in Dudley's old spare bedroom, (so that he couldn't touch their belongings) which he greatly preferred. Overall his summer had been quite improved once the Dursley's had learned that the mass murderer Sirius Black was free and also his godfather. Harry hadn't thought to bother the Dursley’s with the information that he was in fact innocent, especially with the resulting improvements to his conditions.
The day had been sunny and Harry had spent most of it rereading his textbooks, (wouldn't Hermione be proud) and his quidditch book. At present though he was busy examining the ceiling, watching the way the shadows changed upon the stucco and noticing a few worrisome cracks (okay, maybe not so worrisome but a few hours spent on imagining what could happen would cause anyone some small degree of worry). Sometimes he changed his view to the window but that came with the voice of Vernon in his head shouting threats as to what would happen should he be seen by the neighbours.
While Harry had been pondering the likelihood of the ceiling completely collapsing, night had fallen quite rapidly. Harry jolted when he realized that it was only a few minutes to midnight. He smiled at the watch he had hidden under his pillow to keep it from getting broken on purpose by Dudley or by accident during one of his beatings.
“Happy Birthday Harry.” he whispered to himself at midnight, just before the strangest sensation came over him. There was a sharp pain spreading through his back and legs, rippling outwards to his other limbs. Harry had closed his eyes and gritted his teeth against the shocks of pain when suddenly he felt as though he had been pushed under a waterfall. His eyes flew open at that and the room was dry, though the sensation hadn't stopped. The pressure from the non-existent water soon became too much and all Harry saw was darkness.
The next morning he woke in a cold sweat, not entirely sure he hadn't dreamt up whatever it was that had happened last night. But considering the odd soreness in his muscles as he tried to sit up he had to admit that something had happened. Should he tell someone about this? Because surely it wasn't normal but what would he say? “Sorry to bother you, but I blacked out last night after feeling like I was dying and woke up this morning completely fine.” Because that sounded completely loony even in his own head not to mention overly dramatic, and what could he expect for a reply? He could already hear Hermione saying that she might have seen something in some book that may help and Ron asking him if he was sure he hadn't just dreamt it. No perhaps it was better to keep this to himself for now and maybe it really was just a really odd dream.
The train whistle blew and the Hogwarts Express made its way through the hills of Scotland. The infamous trio had found themselves a compartment halfway down the train. Hermione had her nose back in The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 4. Ron had begun to cheer up after Neville got him going on about the Quidditch World Cup (for the hundredth time).
“But like I was saying before Malfoy barged in, my dad got us all into the Top Box! We were in the same box as Bagman and Fudge, and the Bulgarian Ministers too.” Ron rambled on.
“Didn’t the teams shake hands with the Ministers?” Neville asked wistfully.
“Yeah they did! I swear I was within touching distance of Krum!” Said Ron dreamily as he pulled out his miniature Krum again to watch him waddle back and forth on his hand. He placed his mini-Krum into Neville’s hand before he went on for a bit about the other players while Harry blankly stared out the window, nodding at Ron at what seemed to be the appropriate spots.
Hermione glanced up subtly from her book. “Everything alright Harry?” she asked, noticing his preoccupation with the familiar scenery, though it couldn’t really been seen right now through the deluge that assaulted the window. Ron had been in the middle of a sentence and turned to Hermione with an appalled look on his face at the interruption, before turning to take a proper look at Harry. Harry gazed back at Hermione with an unsure look on his face, as if he wanted to say something but wasn't sure if he should. Since his birthday he’d been having recurring dreams of that intense pressure flowing around him and he would wake up with his muscles sore, as if he had run a marathon in his sleep.
A pointed look from Hermione made him sigh. “Well I meant to talk to you about it earlier but then I got the letter from Ron's mum and then we all went to the World Cup, and you have to admit we never really got a chance to talk just the three of us. Then there was the incident with the Death Eaters....” Harry trailed off.
“That's true, it's been a bit of a whirlwind summer. Is it something to do with your family? Did they do something worse than usual?” Ron asked, innocently oblivious to what was “usual” in the Dursley household.
“No, something strange happened on my birthday...”
“Did you get your inheritance?!” Ron interrupted excitedly.
“Oh I've read about those! That's really very exciting Harry!”
“My what?” said Harry, his face it's usual look of befuddlement when it came to all things magical that he should know about the Wizarding World but didn't.
Ron took pity on his friend. “Every wizard gets a magical inheritance during their teenage years, almost always on their birthday. Mostly it's just a small boost of power. Bill said his hurt but he got a huge boost, Charlie said his felt like a tingling feeling in his wand arm; but some people don't get much.” Ron chuckled, “Percy said it must be a myth because he hasn't gotten it yet, or maybe he just didn't feel his like Bill and Charlie.”
“More powerful wizards may even have two inheritances and some of the stronger ones come with gifts like the ability to do wandless magic or a significant increase of ability in a particular branch of magic.” Hermione said.
The train's whistle decided just then to let out a long screech. Hermione snapped her book shut, “We'll have to talk about this more later. Time to change into our robes.” she said as the train began to noticeably slow down. As they stepped off the train in Hogsmeade they were instantly drenched as they tried to rush to one of the carriages that awaited to take them up to Hogwarts through the gale that was building up around them.
Sopping wet they made their way into the Great Hall before Peeves could aim another water balloon at them. Harry drained his trainers as they discussed the DADA position (since they couldn't see any new teachers at the head table) and how their classes might be this year. And then the Sorting began and seemed to take ages to finally get to “Whitby, Kevin!”. Halfway through their meal Hermione had the misfortune of learning about the Hogwarts house elves which put her off her food completely. She glared at Ron and Harry for their disregard of her indignation. Ron tried to tempt her unsuccessfully with dessert but she merely gave him a fearsome glare reminiscent of Professor McGonagall.
Once everyone was full of food (except Hermione who was still frowning at her now magically cleared plate) Dumbledore stood up to address the hall. As he declared the cancellation of the Quidditch Cup the hall exploded in exclamations of protest and expletives from some of the older students
Dumbledore raised his voice slightly, “This is due to an event that will be starting in October, and continuing throughout the school year, taking up much of the teachers' time and energy – but I am sure you will all enjoy it immensely. I have great pleasure in announcing that this year at Hogwarts -”
The doors to the Great Hall burst open, interrupting Dumbledore's announcement. Dumbledore looked at the newcomer over his half-moon glasses, the usual twinkle missing. The newcomer gave a nearly imperceptible nod in return. Dumbledore cleared his throat, “Might I introduce our new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Moody!”
Where a polite applause would generally be heard at the announcement of a new teacher there was silence. Most likely due to the reality of the Professor's appearance. He sported a rugged travel cloak and a well worn staff. His face, thrown into sharp relief by the lightning playing in the ceiling of the Great Hall, appeared gnarled and weathered, reminiscent of cracked old leather that had never once had a good buffing.
“What happened to his face?” asked Seamus
“Moody? As in Mad-eye Moody? The man, Cedric’s dad sent your father to help out?” Harry whispered to Ron.
“Must be.” Ron said in a similar hushed tone that was laced in awe.
Soon after the Professor had found his seat at the head table and started picking at his food suspiciously, his magical eye keeping up a constant scan of the crowd, Dumbledore resumed announcing the Triwizard Tournament. The hall ruptured in excited cheers followed quickly by disappointed shouts and angry outbursts when Dumbledore stated that applicants must be 17 years of age or older.
“This is a measure we feel is necessary, given that the tournament tasks will still be difficult and dangerous, whatever precautions we take. The tournament organizers feel that it will be difficult for students below sixth and seventh year to be able to cope with them anyway.” Dumbledore raised his voice to be heard over the racket. Soon after everyone was dismissed to bed, however that didn't stop them from continuing the debate on their way to the dorms. Fred and George were insistent that they would find a way to enter themselves.
“I mean it really -”
“- isn't fair that -”
“- our birthday is in April!” Exclaimed the twins as they plotted how to hoodwink the 'impartial judge' that would be deciding the champions.
The group parted ways at the foot of the stairs to their rooms. Seamus and Dean were already in bed and Ron was muttering about the tournament all the way until his words turned into snores. Harry tucked himself in and imagined what it would be like to become the champion and then quickly dismissed those ideas. He had enough attention without the fame of an international tournament like this. With any luck the tournament would draw away the usual attention he garnered. And with that thought Harry drifted off into a peaceful slumber.