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But an odd clunking noise sounded behind them, and they turned to see Professor Moody limping toward them. All four of them fell silent, watching him apprehensively, but when he spoke, it was in a much lower and gentler growl than they had yet heard.
"I will not," said Draco Malfoy flatly when Hagrid had proposed this with the air of Father Christmas pulling an extra-large toy out of his sack. "I see enough of these foul things during lessons, thanks."
"Evidently, someone 'oo wished to give 'Ogwarts two bites at ze apple!" said Madame Maxime.
Sirius "Why d'you have to keep changing owls?" Ron asked in a low voice.
Dumbledore remained standing, and a silence fell over the Great Hall.
But Madame Maxime had already put her arm around Fleur's shoulders and was leading her swiftly out of the room. Harry could hear them both talking very fast in French as they went off into the Great Hall. Karkaroff beckoned to Krum, and they, too, exited, though in silence.
"- and he hit Goyle - look -"
But this query was answered almost instantly; they were level with the Slytherin table now, and Karkaroff had just bustled up to his students.
Harry bent his knees obediently, preparing to spring.
. how long d'you reckon you're going to last, Potter? Ten minutes into the first task's my bet."
He moved forward into the firelight. Close up, Harry thought he looked ill. There were dark shadows beneath his eyes and a thin, papery look about his wrinkled skin that had not been there at the Quidditch World Cup.
Harry will just have to do the best he --"
"C'est impossible," said Madame Maxime, whose enormous hand with its many superb opals was resting upon Fleur's shoulder. "Ogwarts cannot 'ave two champions. It is most injust."
Harry and Hermione both laughed, and Hermione began doling beef casserole onto each of their plates.
Upstairs in the dormitory he pulled on his pajamas and got into his four-poster, but he didn't feel remotely tired.
The next two days passed without great incident, unless you counted Neville melting his sixth cauldron in Potions. Professor Snape, who seemed to have attained new levels of vindictiveness over the summer, gave Nevihle detention, and Neville returned from it in a state of nervous collapse, having been made to disembowel a barrel full of horned toads.
The plates in front of them filled with food as usual. The house-elves in the kitchen seemed to have pulled out all the stops; there was a greater variety of dishes in front of them than Harry had ever seen, including several that were definitely foreign.
She nipped his finger, perhaps rather harder than she would ordinarily have done, but hooted softly in a reassuring sort of way all the same. Then she spread her wings and took off into the sunrise. Harry watched her fly out of sight with the familiar feeling of unease back in his stomach. He had been so sure that Sirius's reply would alleviate his worries rather than increasing them.