[Where: Great Hall]
[When: After supper, to 8:00pm, Sunday]
"Hold on! You- you can't do this!"
What should have been a joyful occasion for James Potter quickly turned into something miserable when he was called to the room adjacent to the Great Hall by Minerva McGonagall. There, he was told by Dumbledore and McGonagall that he should unpack his bags; he wasn't going anywhere.
"It was a bloody joke!" He shouted.
"Language, Potter, and keep your voice down," McGonagall said sharply. "I won't be spoken to in that tone, understand me?"
James struggled to snap back an instant retort, but his rage was still evident. "Sorry, Professor. Let me try again. It was just a joke. For laughs. And nobody got hurt."
"Oh I would say young Mr. Snape's pride got yet another thorough beating at your hands, Mr. Potter," Dumbledore chimed in. He almost seemed amused.
McGonagall looked at James as if seeing him for the first time, and Dumbledore's jocularity dimmed visibly. Both seemed surprise by the spitefulness coming from the young Gryffindor.
"Really," Minerva whispered, "why don't you just kill him instead?"
James smiled ruefully. "Cause it's against the rules, naturally."
"And so," Dumbledore said slowly, "If it was not against the rules, if you could get clean away with it, then you would?"
"Of course not!" James flexed his hands in frustration. "Look, nobody got hurt. Not even Snape. He was just dazed a little, the Aurors said so, nothing more than Sirius and I, but at least we were enjoying ourselves. Besides, you don't dare to kick me out of this competition."
The Transfiguration teacher's eyebrows raised at that remark. "Oh really? Because we as a team would just do so horribly without you."
James knew she was being sarcastic, but didn't seem to care. "Yes, quite frankly. I'm the best striker of all the house teams, I'm the best in my class in all about all the courses, especially yours, Professor. Taking me off the team would be like... crippling an Abraxan before a race. It's ridiculous! Am I right, Professor," James said, turning to Dumbledore.
Dumbledore paused for a moment and to McGonagall's surprise, nodded slowly. "That would be correct..."
Smiling to himself, James nodded respectfully to his Head of House. "I'll do however much detention you assign when I get back, Professor. That'll wrap this up nicely won't it?"
"Why should it? Detention has never deterred you before. Detention means nothing to you."
James, knowing it was wise not to push her any further, simply shrugged.
"Well then, I suppose you will receive your 'punishment' after the Trials," Minerva said.
Both James and McGonagall turned to Dumbledore again. He still looked like he was trying to remember something. He was pondering something deeply. Finally, he met their gaze and smiled.
"No, you will not be joining us, James. Yes, even though it will hurt our team, and even though it will injure our chances of winning several events, you will not be joining us."
James gaped silently as Dumbledore continued.
"Because this event is not about winning events. It's about representing one's school. It's about representing Hogwarts, and for all your fantastic skill and wondrous talent, James, you are not fit to represent this school."
Though he said it calmly, as if musing to himself, Dumbledore's words hit Minerva McGonagall and especially James Potter hard. McGonagall put a hand to her mouth to cover her shock, and James lost all colour from his face. He gulped as he tried to wet his mouth.
"Minerva, please call in Mr. Black."
Stunned, James turned to McGonagall, who looked equally shocked, but nodded and started to the door.
"No wait!" James shouted, physically grabbing her arm.
"Sirius had nothing to do with this! It was me, all me! I put the idea in his head, I always do!" He turned to Dumbledore, who was looking at him with serious doubt in his eyes. "Well not always, but this time I did. I swear! He didn't want to do this! He wanted to get it off with McKinnon, but I dragged him there to get Snape. I did. It was my fault! Don't punish him for being stupid enough to follow me! Okay!?"
McGonagall looked at Dumbledore, who looked back at her and nodded minutely. "Release me, Mr. Potter."
Sighing in relief, James did.
"Minerva, please find Mr. Longbottom and tell him he's got, oh, 10 minutes to pack."
"Let me do it, Professor," James said. His teachers looked at him with a bit of surprise, not only for that but because James for once couldn't look them in the eye. "I'm going back to the Common Room anyway."
Dumbledore smiled and nodded. "Then, if you'll excuse us."
And the Headmaster strode out of the room to meet with the other contestants. McGonagall put a hand on Potter's shoulder briefly before following him, leaving the teen alone in the dark room, his shoulders shaking slightly for some strange reason...
Dumbledore reached the crowd of students who were either standing with or on their trunks and waiting for the show to get started with wide arms.
"I'm sure you're all excited. There'll be a slight delay, but I can assure you, we'll all be going shortly. Oh yes, from your parents."
With slight-of-hand, 15 passports appeared. One would have to arrive en route.
"Take one and pass them around," Dumbledore said, as he waved his hand and floated the passports to the nearest student.