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Slytherin Harry and The Goblet of Fire

Chapter Text

Harry had dreamt of dead things all year, but couldn’t seem to be bothered with that fact when he woke up in the best dream ever. Voldemort and whatever minion his brain concocted to torture him with faded easily to the background when for the past few weeks he had been staying at the Weasley’s ancestral home, otherwise known as the Burrow. He had even been able to visit with Sirius and Remus who were both blissfully happy. Harry had told them about the dreams, but that it was nothing to worry about. Whether it really was or not, Harry didn’t want to think about. The pair didn’t seem overly concerned or at least they never let on.

Remus had fetched him from the Dursleys. Harry still held a lot of affection for his former Professor, but being rescued from the Dursleys felt more personal, more like Remus, and less like Professor Lupin.

Things had been slightly better after Sirius’ visit with Aunt Petunia, but this was Pivet Drive and Sirius was still on probation while Remus for whatever reason still wasn’t afforded the same rights as other wizards merely because he was a werewolf.

Ron had wrote to him. Somehow Mr. Weasley had gotten tickets to the Quidditch World Cup, and they had invited Harry to come along. They wrote to say that someone would be along to collect him and the Dursleys were more than glad to get rid of him.

On the day of his departure the atmosphere at Pivet Drive was extremely tense. The imminent arrival at their house of an assortment of wizards was making the Dursleys uptight and irritable.

“I hope you told them to dress properly, these people,” Uncle Vernon had said. “I’ve seen the sort of stuff your lot wear. They’d better have the decency to put on normal clothes, that’s all.”

“They are going to drive aren’t they?” he had asked when a knock sounded at the front door.

“Early? How inconsiderate? Do they think that that we have nothing else better to do then to make sure that you get gone some place? We could have been out
and not returned until five o’clock on the nose.” Harry merely rolled his eyes, knowing that they would have complained either way.

Harry went to the door and threw it open, ready to accept Mr. Weasley or Ron, but it wasn’t either of them.

It was….

“Remus!” said Harry as he hugged the other man.

“Harry!” he said, returning the hug. The two pulled back and Remus said, “Are you ready to go then? Let me help you get your stuff.”

And since Harry was more than ready to go, he ushered Remus into the house.

“Vernon. Petunia,” Remus greeted the Dursleys politely.

“Ugh,” they said, barely acknowledging him. Remus merely chuckled.

“Having a good holiday, Dudley?” Remus asked kindly. Dudley hugged his bottom like he was suffering from a very heinous memory of a particularly bad bathroom
experience and hid behind Aunt Petunia’s frail frame.

Harry and Remus gathered his things, Remus levitated his trunk, causing Uncle Vernon to have a minor coronary, and Harry carried Hedwig. It would be good to let her out at the Burrow. Mrs. Weasley always said that she was the best rat hunter she had ever seen.

“Well…bye then,” Harry said to the Dursleys.

They didn’t reply.

Harry moved toward the door, wondering what kind of car Remus had borrowed to pick him up in. But just as he reached the boundary between the living room
and the hall, Remus put out a hand and held him back. He was looking at the Dursleys in amazement.

“I believe Harry said goodbye to you. Didn’t you hear him?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Harry muttered, anxious to leave.

Still, Remus didn’t remove his hand from Harry’s shoulder.

“You aren’t going to see your nephew til next summer,” Remus said, voice cold. “Surely you’ll say goodbye to him.”

Uncle Vernon stiffened as Aunt Petunia and Dudley cowered behind him.

“Good bye, then,” Uncle Vernon said shortly.

“See you,” said Harry, putting one foot further. But Remus still wasn’t moving.

“It isn’t worth it, Remus,” he said. But Remus stepped further into the room.

“You have a very nice place here,” he said to the Dursleys. “Very clean,” he walked to the fireplace and ran a hand along the mantel. “Good job, Harry,” he
said. “You are the one who dusts aren’t you? And mops and sweeps and cooks? Isn’t that what you said?”

Harry merely nodded, wondering where the man was going with this. He may have only been starting to get to know Remus, but he knew this man really well.

This man was Professor Lupin and he was about to teach a lesson.

“Ah,” he said, startling the three stick figures. “It seems as if I’ve found a problem.”

“There’s no problem with our home,” said Uncle Vernon bravely. “It’s even better if people like you don’t like it.”

Remus smiled.

“Of course not, good sir. There’s nothing wrong with your house stylistically. It’s just not entirely functional for a wizard. Besides I think there’s something wrong with
your fireplace. I’ll just fix it for you.”

“Oh no you do…”
Remus drew his wand, drying up Uncle Vernon’s words.

“Oh,” he said smiling wide. “It will only take a moment.” Remus tapped the fireplace once, twice then asked Harry to move to his side.
Harry did.

Then the boards that had been blocking up the fireplace exploded out into the middle of the room, dust and debris littering the area.

“There we go,” said Remus as he chucked a handful of Floo powder into the fireplace and inviting green flames lit up inside. Remus stepped into the flames and then Harry followed, an awed look on his face.

Did he really just?

Oh, yeah, he did.

Uncle Vernon was looking around the living room in shock, but Dudley was sitting in a corner devouring something off of the coffee table.

“Oh,” said Remus. “I do hope that you’ll accept the cake I left. It’s a special thank you from Sirius and I for taking care of Harry this summer.”

Aunt Petunia looked toward the coffee table and the cake that was not sitting there, but that was being steadily fed into Dudley’s wide mouth and froze in
terror. “No!” she screeched as Dudley dropped the cake and started to bloat.

And perhaps, Harry considered, it was the water weight that he had been putting off and putting on again this whole summer as he fought to control his new “diet”, but then Harry saw his ears and his face enlarge in a distinctive and very familiar circular fashion.

Remus had pulled an Aunt Marge.
Harry looked to his right and grabbed the offered Floo powder out of Remus hands.

“Don’t worry,” Remus shouted. “He should return to normal in a few hours. Wouldn’t open any windows though.” And then together, Remus and Harry threw the powder to the ground, and shouted, “The Burrow!”

Mischief managed, Harry thought with a wry smile as he and Remus were swept up in green flames.

Chapter Text

The Weasley’s home was just as alive and full of magic as it had been, though two new faces greeted him.

“How are you doing?” said a red head Harry hadn’t met before. The man grinned and held out a rough, large hand. Ah, thought Harry, this had to be Charlie, Ron’s brother from Romania. He had a broad, good natured face which was weather beaten and so freckly he almost looked tan, but it was the large burn on his muscular arm that tipped Harry off the most.

Next, Bill, the other brother, got to his feet smiling. Harry knew from Ron that Bill worked for the Wizarding Bank Gringotts, and that Bill had been Head Boy at Hogwarts, but where Harry had always thought Bill would be just an older version of Ron’s other brother Percy, fussy and law abiding, Bill Weasley looked down right illegal.

He was tall, like Ron, with long hair that he had tied back in a ponytail. He was wearing an ear ring with what looked like a fang dangling from it. He looked like he had just come from a rock concert, with leather, no, dragon hide boots, too.

Just then, a flurry of sparks burst into the room.

“What was that?” Harry asked.

“Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes,” said Ron, clapping Harry firmly on the shoulder. The twins came into the room next. “Our newest invention,” they said together.

“Yeah,” said Ginny Weasley. “Who knew all those noises and explosions coming from their room were actually leading up to something.”

“And not just fireworks,” said Fred.

“But all sorts,” said George. “Prank wands, trick sweets.”

“Brilliant,” Harry said amazed. Percy came over then and shook Harry’s hand before skiving off to finish some very important work.

“He’s enjoying the new job then?”

“Enjoying it,” said Ron darkly. “I don’t reckon he’d come home if Dad didn’t make him. He’s obsessed. Just don’t get him talking about Crouch.”

“Yeah,” said George. “They’ll be announcing the engagement any day now.”

“A Minister’s husband, we couldn’t be more proud,” said Fred, making cow eyes in the direction Percy had gone.

Mrs. Weasley moved into the kitchen after greeting Harry and offering him some food. “Have a bite dear, I just need to finish the rest then we’ll be ready to eat.”

“Are you staying for dinner, Remus?” she asked.

“Can’t, Molly, but thank you, you know how Sirius gets.”

“How is he?” Harry asked. “He sounded good in his last letter.”

Remus smiled, the one he seemed to only have when he thought of Sirius.

“He’s becoming a barrister apparently. He’s been studying the law and writing letters to send to everyone he can find to see if he can expedite his case. He wants to have you with him as soon as possible.”

“I want that too,” said Harry. “But you guys will be home soon, and I can come see you.”

“Of course,” said Remus. “We’ve already received partial free hours with Arthur’s help so that we can come here some days to see you. And of course, you can always come over ours. We may have to employ some non-magical means as to stay off the radar. But Sirius can’t wait to see you.”

“Tell him that I feel the same,” Harry said as he walked Remus out of the house.

“And thanks for coming and getting me today.”

“I wish I could have come sooner,” said Remus, looking regretful. “Your cousin will be alright by the way. It’s a simple charm. He should be back to normal by now, in case you were wondering.”

And before Harry could tell him that he hadn’t been wondering.

“It’s okay, Harry, wanting the best for family doesn’t stop just because they don’t want the same for you. It’s engrained in us to want good things for family and to want them to love us back.”

Harry nodded, but he didn’t want to think about it.

Then, Remus touched his shoulder.

“But family comes in many different boxes, and I want you to know that you have a family, families actually, and that we all love you and want the best for you and we want you to know that we care.”

Harry smiled.

“Even if that means blowing up someone’s fireplace?”

Remus laughed, looking younger in his joy.

“Yes,” said Remus, chuckling. “Even if it means blowing up someone’s cousin.”

 

After explaining the concept of a portkey they began their climb up Stoatshead Hill. Harry couldn’t ever say that he was in shape, but after a summer of being ignored and locked away in his room, this time his choice, he was more out of it than normal and the climb was taking its toll on him. When Harry made it up the hill he saw Mr. Weasley shaking hands with a ruddy looking wizard with a scrubby brown beard who was holding a moldy looking old boot in his hand.

“This is Amos Diggory everyone,” Mr. Weasley introduced. “He works for the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. And I think you know his son Cedric?”

Cedric Diggory was an extremely handsome boy of around seventeen. He was also Hufflepuff’s seeker and Captain. After everyone said, “Hi,” Amos Diggory asked good naturedly, “All these yours then, Arthur?”

“Oh no, only the redheads,” said Mr. Weasley. “This is Hermione, friend of Ron’s and Harry, another friend.”

“Merlin’s beard,” Amos Diggory said, his eyes widening. “Harry? Harry Potter?”

“Er…yeah,” said Harry, feeling a little uncomfortable with all the attention. “Ced’s talked about you of course,” said Amos Diggory.

Really, thought Harry.

“Yeah, he told us all about playing against you.”

“Yeah,” said Harry, breaking into the other man’s litany. “Well your son’s a great flier sir.”

Amos Diggory looked pleased and Harry thanked Pansy for that little piece of advice. People always like to talk about themselves and a change of subject was only as far away as you could bring up their child or ex. And Amos Diggory did just that until they were surrounding the boot and the portkey activated.

The campsite was amazing. Harry had rarely seen so much magic or so many wizards in one place with the exception of Hogwarts. Mr. Weasley sent Ron, Hermione, and Harry off on an errand. On their way back they ran into Seamus Finnigan. They had wandered into a patch of tents that were all covered with a thick growth of shamrocks, so that it looked as though small, oddly shaped hillocks had sprouted out of the earth.

“Like the decorations?” said Seamus grinning. “The Ministry’s not happy.”

“Just showing some pride,” said Dean Thomas, their classmate and Seamus’s best friend. Seamus clasped Dean on the back and Dean smiled at him good naturedly.
Seamus gave Dean a bright smile in return, looking at his best friend like he was a member of Ireland’s team.

“Right-o, Thomas,” he said.

The trio after giving vows of loyalty to Ireland set off to investigate the other team’s side: Bulgaria.

There, each and every tent was adorned with the image of Viktor Krum.

“He looks really grumpy,” said Harry, looking at the boy’s surly face and heavy black brows. “Really grumpy?” Ron raised his eyes to the Heavens. “Who cares what he looks like? He’s unbelievable. He’s really young, too. He’s a genius, you’ll see.”

After getting the water, they met up with a few more familiar faces. Oliver Wood spotted Ron’s red head, and mistaking him briefly for one of the twins stopped and pulled him into a quick conversation. He had made the Puddlemere Untied Quidditch team and Harry felt happy for him. Wood was a good player. He knew from
last year that Flint had made Bulgaria, he doubted that he would be playing tonight but he was still happy for his former Captain.

“There you are,” said an all too familiar voice.

Harry turned around to see his old Captain coming up behind the trio, eyes only for Oliver Wood.

“I said to meet me by the gate three minutes ago, Wood.” The man looked like he had last year. Large, burly, with a no nonsense air about him, and that tone in his voice that said that Harry…no Wood, this time, would be running extra laps.

Flint reached Wood then finally noticed the three people Wood had just been talking to.

“Potter? What are you doing here?”

“I’ve just come to see the match,” Harry said. “With the Weasleys. We were just getting water when…”

“Great news,” said Flint, cutting him off. “Now, can we get going Wood, or do you wanna keep chatting with the third years instead of meeting the Bulgarian team?”

Wood looked at Ron like Flint had somehow just announced that Wood was about to give Flint top secret Quidditch secrets, but then he said, “It’s just to gather intel, Flint, you do remember that right?”

“Right, right,” said Flint unflinching. Then under his breath, “Intel on how thick Krum’s broomstick is.”

Harry nearly choked. Flint patted him on the back, said cheerily, “Nice to see you, Potter, mess up my team while I’m gone and I will find you.” Then walked away with Wood following quickly at his footsteps, keeping up their argument about intel verses waxing brooms.

They passed Ernie Macmillian who still flinched slightly when he saw Harry, heir of Slytherin or not, but always made an effort to wave regardless. Ernie was normally okay after the first bout of boasting passed his mouth. Still, they didn’t stay long.

They also passed Cho Chang, a very pretty girl who played seeker for Ravenclaw. She waved and smiled at Harry and as Harry raised his hand to wave back, water splashed all over his front as Millicent clapped him hard on the back.

“Oi, Potter, try not to dribble, yeah?”

“Millicent!” he said, throwing himself at her, and nearly dropping the water all together.

Millicent hugged him back just as hard as he hugged her, but then pulled away like it was all Harry’s idea. She looked the same as ever, perhaps a little bit taller, but still broad around the shoulders. Millicent would never be a small girl, but to Harry she was the most wonderful bit of magic he had seen all day. She looked healthy, her skin tanner than normal because of the summer. Her hair had grown back, and she was now wearing it in a longer, slightly tousled way that framed her round face nicely.

“Granger,” she greeted and pulled Hermione into a tight hug. “Got your letter, nice of you to tell me that you were staying with the Weasleys. I recognized it for the cry of help that it was and have come to rescue you.”

“Ha, Ha, Bulstrode,” said Ron.

“Oh Weasley, sorry I didn’t see you there,” said Millicent. “Though perhaps I thought you were one of those floating Muggle contraptions that they use to attract the attention of feeble minds at automobile parks. It’s the red, is all.”

Ron rolled his eyes, but Harry could see that he was holding back a small laugh.

“What are you doing here? I didn’t think you liked Quidditch,” Harry asked.

“I don’t,” said Millicent. “But events like this are equally about the connections and esteem as they are about the actual game.”

Ron looked at her blankly.

“Meeting people,” elaborated Millicent. “Haven’t you noticed all of the different wizards here, from all over the country? My father knows a good investment opportunity when he sees one. He might be a barrister by title, but his heart runs gold.”

Harry nodded. He had seen the influx of different wizards. He had heard a group of kids their age speaking French not a few moments ago.

After agreeing that Millicent would come back to the camp ground with them, Harry and the group started to make their way back.

Mr. Weasley was having quite the time lighting a fire, so Hermione quickly stepped in and showed him the correct way to not scald himself.

Millicent shoved her way into the tent past a surprised looking Fred singing Ginny’s name. Fred quickly followed her back into the tent though he was just saying something about taking a walk around with George.

Then Harry noticed that someone else was standing by the fire.

“Everyone, this is Ludo Bagman, you know who he is. He’s the one we’ve to thank for getting us such good tickets….”

Ludo Bagman was easily the most noticeable person Harry had seen so far. He was wearing long Quidditch robes in thick horizontal stripes of bright yellow and black. An enormous picture of a wasp was splashed across his chest. He had the look of a powerfully built man gone slightly to seed; the robes he was wearing stretched taut around his belly that he surely had not had when he had played for England.

Bagman waved his hand as if to say the tickets had been nothing.

“Fancy a flutter on the match, Arthur?” he said eagerly, jingling what seemed to be large amounts of gold in his pockets.

Mr. Weasley bowed out, not eager to get on Mrs. Weasley’s bad side. Harry couldn’t blame him. Then the twins stepped up.

“We’ll take your bet,” they said in unison as they came back outside. “We have 20……… that Ireland will win, but that Krum will catch the snitch.”

“Now, boys!” chided Mr. Weasley, still looking as if Mrs. Weasley was going to pop out and catch him at any moment. “You’ve worked hard for that money. You shouldn’t risk it.”

“Now, come on Arthur, it’s their money, let the boys do as they please.”

“And girl,” said Millicent, walking up and handing some money to Bagman.

“Ms. Bulstrode,” he greeted happily. “And what would you like to bet.”
Millicent smiled, looking as if she was going Bagman a favor by having her cater to his bet. “What they said,” she gestured to the twins.

Bagman looked like he wanted to warn her off such a bet, but she said, “I’m sure,” then disappeared back into the tent.

“Yeah, dad,” said Fred. “If Bulstrode can handle it then I think we’ve got this.”

“ Yeah, don’t worry, Dad,” said George.

“Absolutely not. If your mother finds out she’ll…”

“Okay,” said Bagman, but added a conspiratorial wink in the twin’s direction when Mr. Weasley wasn’t looking.

“Have you seen Crouch?” Bagman then asked.

“Mr. Crouch?” said Percy, suddenly abandoning his look of poker-stiff disapproval and exchanging it for a look that was positively writhing with excitement.

“Yes,” said Bagman. “The man knows over two hundred languages, and I really need him to help me with a troll delegate right about now, but I seem to have lost him.”

Bagman looked around, and shrugged.

“Any news of Bertha Jorkins yet, Ludo?” Mr. Weasley asked.

“No, though being as forgetful as she is she’ll probably wonder back in October sometime thinking it’s still July.”

“Someone should be sent to look for her,” said Mr. Weasley. “She’s been gone quite a….”

With a snap, like a quick change in subject, Barty Crouch apparated in. Looking rather stiff and uptight, the elderly man was dressed impeccably in a crisp suit and tie. His hair and mustache neat and trimmed perfectly. He shoes were polished to shine. Harry could see why Percy idolized him.

“Some tea, sir?” Percy offered.

“Oh,” said Mr. Crouch, looking over at Percy in mild surprise. “Yes….thank you, Weatherby.”

Fred and George choked into their cups. Percy went very pink around the ears, but busied himself with the kettle as Crouch bid a curt farewell to Mr. Weasley then left with Bagman to meet with the delegate.

&&&

Mr. Weasley was right, they did have good seats. They were close to the Minister himself, and Millicent and her family. Harry waved at her, and noticed the rather similar looking but older girl sitting beside Millicent looking bored even with all the excitement in the air.

Harry sat and looked in front of him.

“Dobby?” said Harry, incredulously. The house elf turned slightly, and Harry realized his mistake.

“Sorry, I just through that you were someone I knew.”

“But I know Dobby too, sir,” squeaked the elf. “My name is Winky, sir, and you, sir. You is surely Harry Potter.”

“Yeah, I am,” said Harry.

“Dobby is a always talking about you Harry Potter, sir, he says that you are the greatest wizard to ever live, sir. And that you are brave and good, sir. But Dobby isn’t here, sir, and he wouldn’t be up this high either unless maybe you asked him, sir. Dobby would do it for you. Dobby is quite fond of you, though he is getting wilder and wilder. Out there with no family to serve and doing whatever he likes…being downright bawdy.”

“He’s just having a little bit of fun,” said Harry.

“House elves is not supposed to have fun Harry Potter,” said Winky. “House elves does what they is told. I is not liking heights at all, Harry Potter,” she glanced towards the edge of the box and gulped---“, but my master sends me to the Top Box and I comes, sir, to save his seat. Winky is a good house elf, Harry Potter, sir.”

“So you found someone to consort with even lower than the Weasleys did you, Potter?” drawled the voice that haunts Harry’s dreams.

“Only when I have to share a room with you, Malfoy.”

Harry could hear Draco roll his eyes.

“Enough Draco, your mother is waiting,” said another familiar holier than thou voice: Lucius Malfoy.

Harry watched as the blonde and his father walked away, looking up for the first time to see that like he had, Malfoy had shot up quite a few inches over the summer. Whatever, Harry thought, his face is probably still as pointy as ever. He was still a git, just maybe a taller git.

Then the show began, and Ireland rained gold from the skies as Harry and Ron watched from Omnioculars.

Harry looked down at the field as dancers made their way to the center of the pitch. Music started and they started to dance. “Veela,” Harry heard someone say in an awed tone. Harry didn’t know what the big deal was, until he started to watch them. Ron nearly bumped him out his seat in an attempt to get closer to the creatures on the field.

Harry’s own mind started to go blank. The Veelas skin was moon white, their hair white gold. The nagging suspicion that the Veelas white blonde hair reminded him of someone kept Harry mostly sane while George looked like he was about to follow Ron over the edge. And before Harry could remember who they reminded him of or follow the others, they stopped.

Ron looked like he had been abruptly woken from a vivid dream while Fred like Harry, merely looked a little dazed. Malfoy further down the aisle looked as if he hadn’t been affected at all. Harry wondered at that before he saw Draco remove something from his ears.

Millicent eyed Harry wearily as if to make sure that he was alright, and motioned to Fred and George, George of who was nearly passed out on the ground. Harry laughed as George’s more together brother tapped him on the cheeks lightly to spur him from the stupor the Veelas’ dance had put him in.

&&&

The game was amazing. Ireland had won. Bagman announced the ending of the match. “Krum may have caught the snitch, but team Ireland are the winners!!!”
Then after removing the sonorous from this voice. He said a little hoarsely, “They’ll be talking about this one for years.”

“A really unexpected twist that… shame it couldn’t have lasted longer….Ah, yes… yes, I owe you.. how much?” he asked, as Fred and George had just scrambled over the back of their seats and were standing in front of Ludo Bagman with broad grins on their faces, their hands outstretched.

&&&

“The Ireland supporters are really going at it, huh?” asked Fred as the group plus Millicent walked back to the camp. Ginny and Millicent were singing Irish folk songs with George as accompaniment. Ron was still going on about the beauty that is Krum in motion when they entered the tent and Harry heard a particularly loud explosion of fireworks before Mr. Weasley rushed into the tent.

“Kids, now!” he says in a tone Harry had never heard from the older man before.

The group rushes outside. “Dad, it’s just the Irish,” said Fred.

“It’s not the Irish!” said Mr. Weasley panicked. Then the sight before Harry’s eyes changed. No longer were the screams he was hearing those of triumphant joy, or the shouting that of congratulations, but of terror. The fireworks that Harry thought were going off in the distance were no longer bright lights in the sky, but light from wands that were exploding tents in the distance.

They were under attack.

“Fred, George, take Ginny and go that way, we need to meet at the portkey. We need to help the Ministry.”

People were running everywhere as Bill, Charlie, and Percy took off with Mr. Weasley in the direction the ministry officials were gathering against the threat.
Millicent gave Ginny Weasley a panicked once over before joining in beside her, Fred had one of Ginny’s hands and Millicent the other as George held his wand out, cast Lumos, and started to lead them back to the hill.

Harry, Hermione, and Ron followed in behind them, but as people rushed past, the two groups got further and further separated from one another. As the group got further away from the explosions and the subsequent fires, the woods started to grow darker, and quickly the two groups lost one another.

Harry was about to demand that they all link hands so that he didn’t lose either of them when he heard Ron yelp in pain.

“What happened?” said Hermione anxiously, stopping so abruptly that Harry walked into her. She illuminated her wand.

“Tripped over a tree root,” Ron said, sounding slightly embarrassed.

“Well, with feet that size it’d be hard not to,” said a drawling voice from behind them.

Draco Malfoy was standing alone nearby, leaning against a tree looking utterly relaxed. Ron uttered a particularly nasty word in the English language, but Malfoyonly laughed.

“Oh, Weasley, hadn’t you better be hurrying along now,” said Malfoy, as he refused to address Harry directly since Harry had snubbed him in the booth. “You wouldn’t like her spotted, would you?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” said Hermione.

“Granger, they’re after Muggles,” said Malfoy. “D’you want to be showing off your knickers in midair? Because if you do, hang around…they’re moving this way, and it would give us all a laugh.”

“Hermione’s a witch,” Harry snarled.

“Have it your own way, Potter,” said Malfoy, grinning maliciously. “If you think they can’t spot a Mudblood, stay were you are.”

“You watch your mouth!” shouted Ron.

“Don’t mind him, Ron,” said Hermione, seizing Ron’s arm to restrain him as he took a step toward Draco.

There came a bang from the other side of the trees that was louder than anything they had heard that night. Several people screamed nearby. Malfoy chuckled softly, but Harry heard the shaky quality it held.

“Scare easily, don’t they?” he said loudly. “I suppose your daddy told you all to hide? What’s he up to----trying to rescue the Muggles?”

“And where are your parents?” said Harry, his temper rising. “Out there wearing masks, like real heroes?”

“If they were I wouldn’t likely tell you, would I? But there’s no need to ask where your parents are?”

Harry just rolled his eyes. He knew now what his parents died for. And now that he had Sirius and Remus, Harry would never forget what his parents had done for their world.

“Let’s go,” said Hermione, “We need to find the others.”

“Keep that big, bushy head down Granger,” Malfoy sneered, but Hermione looked as over Malfoy and his taunts as Harry was.

The trio set out on the path again to find the others.

“I’ll bet you anything his dad is one of that masked lot!” said Ron.

“Well, with any luck, the Ministry will catch them,” said Hermione fervently.

Hermione scanned the forest, but Fred, George, Millicent, and Ginny were nowhere to be found. The forest was packed with other people, just not the people that they were looking for. They encountered a group of teenagers arguing in what Harry thought was French. Hermione mentioned that they must be students from Beauxbatons, another wizarding school.

“Oh…yeah…..right,” said Harry.

“Fred and George can’t have gone that far,” said Ron, pulling out his wand, lighting it like Hermione’s, and squinting up the path. Harry dug in the pockets of his jacket for his own wand….but it wasn’t here. Only his Omnioculars.

“Ah, no,” Millicent was never going to let him live this down. “I’ve lost my wand!”

“You’re kidding!” Hermione and Ron scolded in unison, like two very upset parents who were very disappointed in their child.

“Maybe its back in the tent?” offered Ron, after they had searched the immediate area.

“Or it fell out of your pocket when we were running.”

“Yeah,” said Harry. “Maybe…”

Then a rustling in the woods drew their attention, and Winky the house elf made her way into their field of vision.

“There is bad wizards about!” she squeaked distractedly as she leaned forward and labored to keep running. It looked as if she had just escaped some invisible force instead of a thorny bush. “People high…high in the air! Winky is getting out of the way!”

And she disappeared into the trees on the other side of the path, panting and squeaking as she fought the force that seemed to be restraining her.

“What’s up with her?” said Ron, looking curiously after Winky. “Why can’t she run properly?”

“Bet she didn’t ask permission to hide,” said Harry. He was thinking of Dobby and the way that he would have to beat himself up anytime he did something that he knew the Malfoy’s wouldn’t like. And before an argument could break out between Hermione and Ron that Harry would be forced to join, they set off once again.

They followed the path deeper into the woods, passing Goblins and wizards who were spouting nonsense. Harry saw Stan Shunpike, from the Knight Bus, before he, Hermione, and Ron ducked into a clearing. Hermione was just saying something when she broke off abruptly. Harry and Ron turned around and looked too. It sounded like someone was staggering toward their clearing. They waited, listening to the sounds of the uneven steps behind the dark trees. But the footsteps came to
a sudden halt.

“Hello?” called Harry tentatively.

There was silence.

Harry got to his feet and peered around a tree. He was about to ask, “Who’s there?” when without warning, the silence was rent by a voice unlike any they had heard in the wood; and it uttered, not a panicked shout, but what sounded like a spell and a battle cry.

“MORSMORDRE!”

And something vast, green, and glittering erupted from the patch of darkness Harry’s eyes had been struggling to penetrate; it flew up over the treetops and into the sky.

“What the…?” gasped Ron as he sprang to his feet again, staring up at the thing that had appeared.

For a split second, Harry thought it was another leprechaun formation. Then he realized that it was a colossal skull, comprised of what looked like emerald stars, with a serpent protruding from its mouth like a tongue. As they watched, it rose higher and higher blazing in a haze of greenish smoke, etched against the black sky like a new constellation.

Suddenly the world erupted into screams, but when Harry looked back to see the person who had conjured the skull, he was gone.

“Who’s there?” he called.

“Harry, come on, move!” Hermione had seized the collar of his jacket and was tugging him backward.

“What’s the matter?” Harry said, startled to see her face so white and terrified.

“It’s the Dark Mark, Harry!” Hermione moaned, pulling him as hard as she could. “You-Know-Who’s sign!”

“Voldemort’s……”

“Harry, come on!”

Harry turned before a series of popping noises filled his ears. Harry whirled around, and in an instant, he registered one fact: They were surrounded, and each of the twenty or so wizards that had appeared out of thin air had their wands pointed right at them.

Without pausing to think, he yelled, “DUCK!”

He grabbed the other two and pulled them to the ground.

“STUPEFY!” roared twenty voices….there was a blinding series of flashes and Harry felt the hair on his head ripple as though a powerful wind had swept the clearing. “STOP!” yelled a voice he recognized. “STOP! That’s my son!”

Harry’s hair stopped blowing about. He raised his head a little higher. The wizard in front of him had lowered his wand. He rolled over and saw Mr. Weasley striding toward them, looking terrified.

“Ron…Harry…” his voice was shaky….”Hermione…are you all right?”

“Out of the way, Arthur,” said a cold, curt voice.

It was Mr. Crouch. He and the other Ministry wizards were closing in on them. Harry got to his feet to face them. Mr. Crouch’s face was taut with rage.

“Which of you did it?” he snapped, his sharp eyes darting between them. “Which of you conjured the Dark Mark?”

“We didn’t do that!” said Harry.

“We didn’t do anything!” said Ron, who was rubbing his elbow. “What did you want to attack us for?”

“Do not lie, sir!” shouted Mr. Crouch. His wand was still pointing directly at Ron, and his eyes were popping….he looked slightly mad. “You have been discovered at the scene of the crime!”

“Barty,” whispered a witch in a long woolen dressing gown, “they’re kids, Barty, they’d never have been able to….”

“Where did the Mark come from, you three?” said Mr. Weasley quickly, jumping on the pause in Crouch’s allegations.

“Over there,” said Hermione shakily, pointing at the place where they had heard the voice. “There was someone behind the trees….they shouted words…an incantation…” Crouch seemed to doubt Hermione’s words, but none of the other Ministry wizards apart from him seemed to think it remotely likely that Harry, Ron, or Hermione had conjured the skull; on the contrary, at Hermione’s words, they had all raised their wands again and were pointing in the direction she had indicated, squinting through the dark trees.

“We’re too late,” said the witch in the woolen dressing gown, shaking her head. “They’ll have Disapparated.”

“I don’t think so,” said a wizard with a scrubby brown beard. It was Amos Diggory, Cedric’s father. “Our Stunners went right through those trees….There’s a good chance we got them….”

“Amos, be careful!” said a few of the wizards warningly as Mr. Diggory squared his shoulders, raised his wand, marched across the clearing, and disappeared into the darkness. When he appeared once again, he was dragging something or someone along with him.

It was Winky. For a few seconds Crouch remained transfixed, his eyes blazing in his white face as he stared down at Winky. Then he appeared to come to life again.

“This….cannot…be,” he said jerkily. “No…..”

He moved quickly around Mr. Diggory and strode off toward the place where he had found Winky.

“No point, Mr. Crouch,” Mr. Diggory called after him. “There’s no one else there.”

But Mr. Crouch did not seem prepared to take his word for it. They could hear him moving around.

“Bit embarrassing,” Mr. Diggory said grimly, looking down at Winky’s unconscious form. “Barty Crouch’s house elf…. I mean to say….”

“Come off it, Amos,” said Mr. Weasley quietly. “you don’t seriously think it was the elf? The Dark Mark’s a wizard sign. It requires a wand.”

“Yeah,” said Mr. Diggory. “and she had a wand.”

Ludo Bagman showed up to make matters even more colorful.

“But she couldn’t have done that, she would have needed a wand.”

“She did, and I think we should hear what she has to say for herself.” Crouch gave no sign that he had heard Mr. Diggory, but Mr. Diggory seemed to take his silence for assent. He raised his own wand, pointed it at Winky, and said, “Rennervate!”

Winky stirred freely. Her great brown eyes opened and she blinked several times in a bemused sort of way.

“Elf!” said Mr. Diggory sternly. “Do you know who I am? I’m a member of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures!”

Winky began to sob, rocking herself backward and forward on the ground in what Harry recognized as a self-soothing gesture. He was reminded forcefully of his own past.

“As you see, elf, the Dark Mark was conjured here a short while ago,” said Mr. Diggory. “And you were discovered moments later, right beneath it! An explanation, if you please!”

“I….I….I is not doing it, sir!” Winky gasped. “I is not knowing how, sir!”

“You were found with a wand in your hand!” barked Mr. Diggory, brandishing it in front of her. And as he did, Harry knew where his wand had went.

“That’s mine!” he said.

Everyone in the clearing looked at him.

“Excuse me?” said Mr. Diggory, incredulously.

“That’s my wand!” said Harry. “I dropped it!”

“You dropped it?” repeated Mr. Diggory in disbelief. “Is that a confession? You threw it aside after you conjured the Dark Mark?”

“Amos, think who you’re talking to?” said Mr. Weasley, very angrily. “Is Harry Potter likely to conjure the Dark Mark?”

“Of course not,” the zealous man seemed to concede. “Sorry…carried away….”

“I didn’t drop it there, anyway,” said Harry, jerking his thumb toward the trees beneath the skull. “I missed it right after we got into the woods.”

“So,” said Mr. Diggory, his eyes hardening as he turned to look at Winky again, cowering at his feet. “You found this wand, eh, elf? And you picked it up and thought you’d have some fun with it, did you?”

“I is not doing magic with it, sir!” squealed Winky, tears streaming down the sides of her squashed and bulbous nose. “I is…I is…I is just picking it up, sir! I is not making the Dark Mark, sir, I is not knowing how!”

“It wasn’t her!” said Hermione. She looked very nervous, speaking up in front of all these Ministry wizards, yet determined all the same. “Winky’s got a squeaky voice, and the voice we heard doing the incantation was much deeper! It didn’t sound anything like Winky did it?”

“No,” said Harry, shaking his head. “It definitely didn’t sound like an elf.”

“Yeah, it was a human voice,” said Ron.

“Well, we’ll soon see,” growled Mr. Diggory, looking unimpressed. “There’s a simple way of discovering the last spell a wand performed, elf, did you know that?”

Winky trembled and shook her head frantically, her ears flapping, as Mr. Diggory placed his wand against the tip of Harrys.

“Prior Incantato!” roared Mr. Diggory.

It was the Dark Mark.

“I is not doing it!” Winky squealed, her eyes rolling in terror. “I is not, I is not, I is not knowing how! I is a good elf, I isn’t using wands, I is not knowing how!”

“You’ve been caught red handed elf!” Mr. Diggory roared, though Harry knew that he knew her name. “Caught with the guilty wand in your hand!”

“Amos,” said Mr. Weasley loudly, “think about it…precious few wizards know how to do that spell…Where would she have learned it?”

“Perhaps Amos is suggesting,” said Mr. Crouch, cold anger in every syllable. “that I routinely teach my servants to conjure the Dark Mark?”

There was a deeply unpleasant silence. Amos Diggory looked horrified. “Mr. Crouch…not….not at all…..”

“You have now come very close to accusing two people in this clearing who are the least likely to conjure that Mark!” barked Mr. Crouch. “Harry Potter….and myself! I suppose you are familiar with the boy’s story, Amos?”

“Of course…everyone knows….,” muttered Mr. Diggory, looking highly discomforted.

“And you are aware of my own history, and that I detest anything tied to the Dark Arts.”

“Yes….b….”

“And I am fully aware that, in the ordinary course of events, you would want to take Winky into your department for questioning. I ask you, however, to allow me to deal with her.”

Mr. Diggory looked as though he didn’t think much of that suggestion at all, but it was clear even to Harry that Mr. Diggory fell lower in the hierarchy at the Ministry than Mr. Crouch did.

“You may rest assured that she will be punished,” Mr. Crouch added coldly.

“M-m-master…”Winky stammered, looking up at Mr. Crouch, her eyes brimming with tears. “Mmmmaster, please.”

Mr. Crouch stared back, his face somehow sharpened, each line upon it more deeply etched. There was no pity in his gaze.

“Winky has behaved tonight in a manner I would not have believed possible,” he said slowly. “I told her to remain in the tent. I told her to stay there while I went to sort out the trouble. And I find that she disobeyed me. This means clothes.”

“No!” shrieked Winky, prostrating herself at Mr. Crouch’s feet. “No, master! Not clothes, not clothes!”

Harry knew that the only way to turn a house-elf free was to present it with proper garments. It was pitiful to see the way Winky clutched at her tea towel as she sobbed over Mr. Crouch’s feet.

“But she was frightened!” Hermione burst out angrily, glaring at Mr. Crouch. “Your elf’s scared of heights, and those wizards in masks were levitating people! You can’t blame her for wanting to get out of their way!”

Mr. Crouch took a step backward, freeing himself from contact with the elf, whom he was surveying as though she were something filthy and rotten that was contaminating his over-shined shoes.

“I have no use for a house-elf who disobeys me,” he said coldly.

Mr. Weasley got Harry’s wand back and excused them.

“What’s going to happen to Winky?” said Hermione, the moment they had left the clearing.

“I don’t know,” said Mr. Weasley.

“The way they were treating her!” said Hermione furiously. “Mr. Diggory, calling her ‘elf’ all the time…and Mr. Crouch! He knows she didn’t do it and he’s still going to sack her! He didn’t care how frightened she’d been, or how upset she was…it was like she wasn’t even human!”

“Well, she’s not,” said Ron.

Hermione rounded on him.

“That doesn’t mean she hasn’t got feelings, Ron. It’s disgusting the way…”

“Hermione, I agree with you,” said Mr. Weasley quickly, beckoning her on, “and you’ll find that many others do as well. But now we need to get back to the tent and see if we can find the others.

“We lost them in the dark,” said Ron. “Dad, why was everyone so uptight about that skull thing?”

“I’ll explain everything back at the tent,” said Mr. Weasley tensely.

But when they reached the edge of the wood, they were stopped by a large group of anxious looking people.

“What’s going on in there?” they asked Mr. Weasley.

“Who conjured it?”

“Arthur…it’s not…Him?”

“Of course it’s not Him,” said Mr. Weasley impatiently. “We don’t know who it was; it looks like they Disapparated. Now excuse me, I want to get to bed.”

He led Harry, Ron, and Hermione through the crowd and back into the campsite. All was quiet now; there was no sign of the masked wizards, though several ruined tents were still smoking.

Charlie’s head was poking out of the boy’s tent. “Where are….”

“I’ve got them here,” said Mr. Weasley, bending down and entering the tent to see Fred, George, Millicent, and Ginny waiting for them.

Bill was sitting at the small kitchen table, holding a bedsheet to his arm, which was bleeding profusely. Charlie had a large rip in his shirt, and Percy was sporting a bloody nose. Fred and George looked unhurt though shaken. Ginny was sitting near Millicent and the two looked shocked by what they had gone through.

“Did you get them, Dad?” said Bill sharply. “The person who conjured the Mark?”

“No,” said Mr. Weasley. “We found Barty Crouch’s elf holding Harry’s wand, but we’re none the wiser about who actually conjured the Mark.”

“What?” said Bill, Charlie, and Percy together.

“Harry’s wand?” said Millicent.

“Mr. Crouch’s elf?” said Percy, sounding thunderstruck.

With some assistance form Harry, Ron, and Hermione, Mr. Weasley explained what had happened in the woods. When they had finished their story, Percy swelled indignantly.

“Well, Mr. Crouch is quite right to get rid of an elf like that!” he said. “Running away when he’d expressly told her not to…embarrassing him in front of the whole Ministry…how would that have looked, if she’d been brought up in front of the Department for the Regulation and Control….”

“She didn’t do anything…she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time!” Hermione snapped at Percy, who looked very taken aback. Hermione had always got on fairly well with Percy better, indeed, than any of the others.

“Hermione, a wizard in Mr. Crouch’s position can’t afford a house-elf who’s going to run amok with a wand!” said Percy pompously, recovering himself.

“She didn’t run amok!” shouted Hermione. “She just picked it up off the ground!”

“Look, can someone just explain what that skull thing was?” said Ron impatiently. “It wasn’t hurting anyone…Why’s it such a big deal?”

“I told you, it’s You-Know-Who’s symbol, Ron,” said Hermione, before anyone else could answer. “I read about it in The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts.”

“And it hasn’t been seen for thirteen years,” said Mr. Weasley quietly. “Of course people panicked…it was almost like seeing You-Know-Who back again.”

“I still don’t…”

“Ron, You-Know-Who and his followers sent the Dark Mark into the air whenever they killed,” said Mr. Weasley. “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….” Mr. Weasley
winced. “Everyone’s worst fear….the very worst….”

There was silence for a moment. Then Bill, removing the sheet from his arm to check on his cut said, “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 got near enough to unmask any of them. We caught the Roberts’ before they hit the ground, though. They’re having their memories modified right now.”

“Death Eaters?” said Harry. “What are Death Eaters?”

“It’s what You-Know-Who’s supporters called themselves,” said Bill. “I think 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, Bill. Though you’re probably right.”

“Yeah, I bet it was,” said Ron suddenly. “Dad, we met Draco Malfoy in the woods, and he as good as told us his dad was one of those nutters in masks. And we all know the Malfoys were right in with You-Know-Who!”

“But what’s the point?” asked Harry. “Levitating Muggles… I mean?”

“That’s their idea of fun,” said Mr. Weasley. “Half the Muggle killings back when You-Know-Who was in power were done for fun. I suppose they had a few drinks tonight and couldn’t resist reminding us all that lots of them are still at large. A nice little reunion for them,” he finished disgustedly.

“But why did they disapparate then?” asked Ron.

“Use your brains, Ron,” said Bill. “If they really were Death Eaters, they worked very hard to keep out of Azkaban when You-Know-Who lost power, and told all sorts of lies about him forcing them to kill and torture people. I bet they’d be even more frightened than the rest of us to see him come back. They denied that they’d everbeen involved with him when he lost his powers, and went back to their daily lives….I don’t reckon he’d be over-pleased with them, do you?”

No, Harry thought. He didn’t think Voldemort would be pleased at all.

***

The rest of the summer went by in a calmer manner. They got their books, played Quidditch, and Harry ate more food than he thought he could hold. The only majorly exciting thing had something to do with a wizard named Mad-Eye Moody. Mr. Weasley and Amos Diggory had rushed to take care of that matter. Then before Harry knew it, it was time to board the Hogwarts Express.

Bill and Charlie decided to come and see everyone off at King’s Cross station, but Percy, apologizing most profusely, said that he really needed to get to work.

“Don’t worry about it,” Fred told Percy. Then to George he said, “I think their having a lover’s tiff?”

“I agree,” said George. “If my lover forgot my name I’d be quite miffed myself.”

“Oh, poor boy,” Fred said, gazing after Percy’s retreating form as he hurried to get ready for work.

Millicent met them at the station. She was waiting for them as they went through the barrier.

“Wow!” she said when she saw them. “Ginny, I never would have guessed you were hiding that in your family tree,” Millicent said as she eyed Charlie as he lifted Ginny’s trunk onto the train.

Ginny laughed at her.

“Charlie’s not that great. He volunteered to help me pack my trunk…it took two hours, Millicent, TWO hours!” Ginny bewailed.

“That’s fine, Ginny, I like a thorough man.”

“Ugggh,” Fred gagged as he had caught wind of their conversation. Millicent merely blew him a kiss. And though George got on the train to save their seats, Fred had quite the time trying to get his trunk on the train until it was time for everyone to say goodbye.

“Goodbye, Charlie,” said Millicent in an over dramatized fashion.

“See you, Bulstrode, I’ll send you that book we talked about soon.”

“Great,” she said, flashing the dragon tamer a bright smile.

“Yeah,” said Fred, clasping Charlie hard on the shoulder. “Send her that book on dragon grooming, she really needs to get those scales under control,” he said before boarding the train. Millicent scowling at his back.

“Bye, Charlie, I’ll miss you,” said Ginny.

“Ah, don’t worry, Gin,” Charlie said. “I might be seeing you sooner than you think.”

After quite a few more intriguing and frustrating hints about what was in store for them this year, they boarded the train. Millicent, Ron, Harry, and Hermione ducked into a compartment and Hermione held her hand to her mouth, “Shh,” she whispered suddenly.

They listened, and heard a familiar drawling voice drifting in through the open door.

“Father actually considered sending me to Durmstrang rather than Hogwarts, you know. He knows the headmaster, you see. Well, you know his opinion of
Dumbledore…the man’s such a mudblood lover…and Durmstrang doesn’t admit that sort of riffraff. But mother didn’t like the idea of me going to school so far away.
Father says they actually learn the Dark Arts there, not just the defense rubbish that we do…”

Hermione got up and shut the compartment door before Malfoy and his gang could walk by.

“So he thinks Durmstrang would have suited him, does he?” she said angrily. “I wish he had gone, then we wouldn’t have to put up with him.”

“Durmstrang’s another Wizarding school?” said Harry.

“Yes, and it’s got a horrible reputation,” said Hermione. “It puts a lot of emphasis on the Dark Arts.”

“Or they used too, you would never know now,” said Millicent. “As the school and their secrets are kept well-hidden.”

Harry looked at her blankly.

Hermione assisted.

“Other wizarding schools like to conceal their whereabouts so nobody can steal their secrets. Hogwarts itself is concealed from Muggles,” she said. Then added, “But I think Durmstrang must be somewhere in the far north. Somewhere very cold because they’ve got fur capes as part of their uniforms.”

“Ah,” said Ron. “Think of the possibilities. It would’ve been so easy to push Malfoy off a glacier and make it look like an accident…Shame his mother likes him…”

Several of their friends looked in on them as the afternoon progressed, including Seamus, Dean, and Neville. Seamus was still wearing his Ireland rosette, the tiny voices squeaking the names of Ireland’s members. Dean reached to try and reenchant it but the normally relaxed Seamus pulled away from him in an odd gesture.

Dean shook it off though, and Harry knocked it down to the superstition of it all.

Neville listened jealously to the others’ conversation as they relived the Cup match.

“Gran didn’t want to go,” he said miserably. “Wouldn’t buy tickets. It sounded amazing though.”

“It was,” said Ron. “Look at this, Neville…”

He rummaged in his trunk up in the luggage rack and pulled put the miniature figure of Viktor Krum.

“Oh, wow,” said Neville enviously as Ron handed him the figurine.

&&&

They were all positively soaked as they made their way into the castle. Peeves was launching water balloons at unsuspecting fifth years soaking them even further until Professor McGonagall threatened to get Dumbledore.

Harry sat at the Slytherin table beside a very decidedly not wet Blaise.

“How did you manage this?” Harry asked the dark skinned boy and his dry clothes.

“What?” asked Blaise. “My mother taught me grooming charms before she was concerned with teaching me how to walk. It’s not my fault your magical education has failed you.”

Harry laughed.

“Could you at least shoot a drying charm at my underwear then, it’s turning into a swamp down there.”

Blaise laughed at him but took pity just as the sorting was about to start.

After the sorting hats song, Professor McGonagall called the first name.

“Ackerley, Stewart!”

“RAVENCLAW!”

“Baddock, Malcolm!”

“SLYTHERIN!”

It was normal for the houses to cheer loud for their new classmates, but Slytherin seemed to be trying to outdo even that standard today. They cheered loudly for Baddock, and though the rest of the houses would seem to have every reason to not clap for the newest snake after news of what happened at the Cup had spread, a few gave a polite clap. Even the people at the Gryffindor table who Harry knew had been distressed from the attack didn’t react any different than normal.

“Creevey, Dennis!”

Tiny, Dennis Creevey, Colin’s brother edged forward, tripping over Hagrid’s moleskin, just as Hagrid himself sidled into the Hall through a door behind the teacher’s table.

The hat was placed on his head, and the announcement was made:

“GRYFFINDOR!”

After the sorting and the feast, Professor Dumbledore got to his feet.

“Now that we are all fed and watered. I must once more ask for your attention, while I give out a few notices.”

Most of the notices were the same, until Dumbledore said, “It is also my painful duty to inform you that the Inter-House Quidditch Cup will not take place this year.”

“What?” Harry gasped. And Malfoy who hadn’t been paying attention to Dumbledore in the slightest was now shushing everyone in his immediate vicinity so he could hear what the man had to say next.

“This is due to an event that will be starting in October, and continuing throughout the school year, taking up much of the teacher’s time and energy, but I am sure you will all enjoy it immensely. I have great pleasure in announcing that this year at Hogwarts….”

But at that moment, there was a deafening rumble of thunder and the doors of the Great Hall banged open.

“Aw,” said Dumbledore as the odd looking man, clunked his way into the Great Hall. “May I introduce our new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher? Everyone, Professor Moody.”

It was usual for new staff members to be greeted with applause, but none of the staff or students clapped except for Dumbledore and Hagrid. Everyone else seemed too transfixed by Moody’s bizarre appearance to do more than stare at him.

It was the man’s eyes that did it. One of them was small, dark, and beady. The other was large, round as a coin, and a vivid, electric blue. The blue eye was moving ceaselessly, without blinking, and was rolling up, down, and from side to side, quite independently of the normal eye, and then it rolled right over, pointing at the back of the man’s head so that all they could see was whiteness.

“As I was saying,” proceeded Dumbledore as Moody took his seat at the staff table. “We are to have the honor of hosting a very exciting event over the coming months, an event that has not been held for over a century. It is my very great pleasure to inform you that the Triwizard Tournament will be taking place at Hogwarts this year.”

Dumbledore explained the rules, and that it was a competition. One person, a champion, from each of the three major wizarding schools in Europe would compete. Beauxbatons, Durmstrang, and Hogwarts.

Then and Harry wasn’t sure whether it had to do with the fact that the competition hadn’t been held in a hundred years or the death toll, Dumbledore announced that there would be an age limit.

Harry could hear all the hopefuls in the Great Hall bust out in outrage. Precautions would be put in place and no one under the age of seventeen would be able to enter. Malfoy looked downright disappointed while a rather large looking Slytherin seventh year merely nodded to himself.

“The delegations from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang will be arriving in October and remaining with us for the greater part of this year. I know that you will extend every courtesy to our foreign guests while they are with us, and will give your whole-hearted support to the Hogwarts champion when he or she is selected.
And now, it is late, and I know how important it is to you all to be alert and rested as you enter your lessons tomorrow morning. Bedtime! Chop chop!”

They had been dismissed.

Chapter Text

The dorm looked the same as ever. It was nice to be back at Hogwarts. It was home, more than Pivet Drive had ever been even if he still had to share sleeping arrangements with less than savory characters. But, Harry would take Malfoy’s bragging over Aunt Petunia’s twittering laugh any day.

Harry was currently unpacking some of his things to the rhythmic drawl of Malfoy telling Crabbe and Goyle what he did this summer for what looked like, judging by Goyle’s face, the five hundredth time. Odds are they were present for most of it anyway.

Blaise, Harry noticed, somehow got even more attractive since last year. His dark skin seemed to glow as if he were on a beach enjoying the sun instead of in a dungeon lounging on his canopy bed.

“You really must go to France one day, Potter,” said Blaise.

“Not all of us have a new stepfather with a villa,” replied Harry.

“Yes, but I did invite you to join me, several times I might add.”

Harry shrugged, that was true. Blaise had sent him plenty of letters detailing his mother’s whirlwind romance with a wealthy French wizard and her decision to move them at least semi-permanently to the South of France. Blaise and his two younger sisters were now living in the lap of luxury, and letters that had started out like “Won’t you come down, Potter? Get yourself a taste of the good life?” And “Potter, the man has a yacht. I’ve already bought you a first mates cap.” Quickly became “Ariella and Jasmine are becoming quite overwhelming. Must every woman in my family be blinded by pretty things? Thank Merlin, I am immune to such flights of fancy. Come and assure me that I am the prettiest flower or my self-esteem my never recover.” Then “We’ll take care of the Muggles, don’t worry. Mother performs a wicked memory charm. Lockhart has nothing on what my mother can do when faced with someone’s very angry wife.” “Save me Potter,” the last one said simply, with a p.s. for levity, “I’m getting wrinkles.”

Harry had gotten the point plainly enough. But as much as he would have liked to physically be there for his friend, there was no way that even Lockhart level memory charms would be enough to make the Dursleys forget their personal life mission of torturing Harry at every possible moment.

“We’ve been all abuzz at the Manor. Father was quite envious that I would be attending Hogwarts this year with well….you know,” Malfoy said to Crabbe and Goyle, clearly begging for Harry to ask him what he was talking about. But Harry was used to hearing plans that didn’t involve him so he had learned to not to give a Hippogriff’s booty about things like that.

“How were Jasmine and Ariella when you left?” Harry asked Blaise. From everything Blaise had ever told him about his sister’s it seemed as if the two girls, the twins were really quite something. Blaise launched into a rather complicated story about the girls, a summer dance recital they put on, and Blaise totally pulling off the tights he was forced to wear when Theo got out the newest issue of Quidditch weekly and let the other boys devour his older issues which he always seemed to have on hand. Harry drew Slytherin in the draw they had so he picked last months issue all about the World Cup.

He opened and hoped probably in vain to see a picture of himself in its pages.

***

Harry was asleep the next morning at breakfast. Millicent kept having to nudge his side so he wouldn’t fall into his porridge. The dreams had abated somewhat while he was back at the Burrow, but last night with Quidditch Weekly open on his chest dark dreams had haunted him. Dreams of graveyards, headstones, and the feeling of anticipation.

Harry kept waking, feeling as if someone stood ready to curse him just beyond his curtains. He thought about opening them, but the fact that Crabbe and Goyle slept with their curtains open quickly derailed that thought. His dreams were bad, but that was a reality worse than anything. So, he merely slept with his wand in his hand.

Space was always at a premium on the first morning back as nearly everyone misses the food at Hogwarts and are eager to catch up with old friends so Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle were forced to sit on the opposite side of the table as Harry, Millicent, and Blaise. Malfoy may have grown taller this summer, but Crabbe and Goyle grew in every direction. The two boys nearly blocked all the space between them as they took a spot, leaving Malfoy with an open spot beside him. Harry wondered vaguely if Pansy had gotten what she wanted after how much she had unwittingly helped him and Sirius last year. It would only serve Malfoy right if he had to actually marry Pansy.

But as Malfoy wasn’t wearing a collar emblazoned with P.A.N.S.Y on it, then he doubted the blonde had gotten that far yet. He’d have to ask Millicent later what on Earth she had done to poor Malfoy to turn him into such a commitmentphobe. He’d likely get hexed for his trouble, but it would be worth it.

The typical series of forgotten items rained down on the students at breakfast time and Malfoy got his usual deposit of sweets and cakes, but Harry wasn’t disappointed as he got a rather long letter from Sirius as he described a rather funny story of he and Remus trying to fix the kitchen sink. He also provided a brief update on his case, saying that he was still trudging along and that he had gotten someone, an American lawyer to take a look at his case. He also sent him something about his father. James' favorite color was red.

An unfamiliar owl dropped something onto Millicent’s plate.

“Isn’t that a school owl?” asked Blaise, eyeing Millicent’s correspondence with the same look Harry was giving it.

“From your betrothed?” asked Blaise. Millicent went to shake her head, no….when Goyle with a mouth full of food grabbed his heart as if he were having pains, and said, “So does this mean you’re rejecting my offer?”

“What offer?” Malfoy demanded to know.
Goyle straightened a little in his seat. “Well, you know, Draco….Mom’s always quite liked Mil, and dad didn’t think it’d be a bad idea….”

“To do her a favor,” Pansy said, finally taking her place by Malfoy’s side. She looked the same as ever though perhaps there was something different about her nose? More uppity? Harry wondered. Or perhaps it was just the way she was staring down at Millicent that made her look so pugish.

“She broke a serious engagement with a prominent family. No pureblood in their right mind would give her an offer now. The only reason Goyle’s mother offered is because Bulstrode here has hips like a bull and Goyle children come out that size.” She motioned to Goyle who was steadily eating his eggs and bacon.

“So, you do the math on why that was on offer. And besides my mother told me that your father talked some sense into her.” Pansy smiled ruefully. “Can’t have a blood traitor marry into the family. Wouldn’t want her staining the furniture. Though it appears mutts of the same street corner run together.”

Pansy turned her gaze to Harry.

“How is Black doing by the way?” Pansy asked.

“My godfather,” said Harry standing and holding out his hand for Millicent. “Is probably making out with Professor Lupin right about now. You do remember him right?” Harry eyed Nott who had been laughing quietly until then.

“About yeah high,” said Harry, motioning. “Werewolf.”
Pansy rolled her eyes.

“He’s quite happy too, now that my godfather is about to be freed completely and a real traitor is in jail. Who knows,” said Harry, grabbing a piece of treacle tart to go.

“Maybe soon the Ministry will pull their heads out of their arses and allow people to marry whoever the heck they want. Two men. A werewolf.”

“A tainted pureblood witch,” Millicent kicked in.

“Hear! Hear!” said Blaise as Harry and Millicent walked away.

Hermione stopped them as they were leaving to head to classes together, telling them of her brief hunger strike and the new war she was raging herself.

Chapter Text

Classes were normal. Trewlaney was still insistent that none of them were going to make it. Hagrid was still teaching Care of Magical Creatures and Transfiguration was still a very difficult class. They had to team up and take care of some Blast-Ended Skrewts but where normally Dean and Seamus partnered in nearly everything, Seamus teamed up with giggly Lavender Brown. Harry wondered if something was going on between the two.

Dean partnered with Neville.

They were studying planets in Divination, and since Trewlaney was too set in her ways, she said last year’s partners were this year’s partners so Dean and Seamus were forced to sit together though neither seemed to thrilled with the idea.

Due to the upset of third year friendships apparently no longer in vogue Trewlaney finally let some people switch seats, but then saddled them all with extra homework. They were to create a detailed analysis of the way the planetary movements in the coming month will affect them, with references to their personal chart.
And she wanted it next week.

“Miserable old bat,” said Ron bitterly as they joined the crowds descending the staircases back to the Great Hall to dinner. “That will take all weekend.”

They had reached the entrance hall when Draco pulled something out of his bag. It had been surprisingly quiet on the Malfoy front, but Harry knew that couldn’t last.

“Wealsey! Hey, Weasley!”

Harry turned around and saw Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle walking over and looking way too pleased with themselves.

“What?” said Ron sharply.

“Your dad’s in the paper, Weasley!” said Malfoy, brandishing a copy of the Daily Prophet and speaking very loudly, so that everyone in the packed entrance hall could hear.

“Listen to this!”

“Further mistakes at the ministry.”

Oh, no, thought Harry.

“Arnold Weasley, who was charged with possession of a flying car two years ago, was yesterday involved in a tussle with several Muggle law-keepers over a number of highly aggressive dustbins. Mr. Weasley appears to have rushed to the aid of “Mad-Eye” Moody, the aged ex-Auror who retired from the Ministry when no longer able to tell the difference between a handshake and attempted murder. After Mr. Weasley arrived at the house, Mr. Weasley was forced to modify several memories before he could escape from the policeman, but refused to answer Daily Prophet questions about why he had involved the Ministry in such an undignified and potentially embarrassing scene.”

“And there’s a picture, Weasley!” said Malfoy. “Can’t even spell his name right, like he’s a sort of non-entity, isn’t he?”

Malfoy flipped the paper.

“A picture of your parents outside their house….if you can call it a house!”

“Get stuffed, Malfoy,” said Harry. “C’mon, Ron..”

“Oh yeah, you were staying with them this summer, weren’t you, Potter?” sneered Malfoy. “Didn’t Bulstrode have room for you, or does her family not need another house elf?”

Harry turned around, knowing that he wasn’t getting anywhere with Malfoy.

“Don’t turn your back on me, Potter?”

But Harry was already walking away.

BANG!

Several people screamed….Harry felt something white-hot graze the side of his face…he plunged his hand into his robes for his wand, but before he’d even
touched it, he heard a second loud BANG, and a roar that echoed throughout the entrance hall.

“OH NO YOU DON”T LADDIE!”

Harry spun around. Professor Moody was limping down the marble staircase. His wand was out and it was pointing right at a pure white ferret, which was shivering on the stone-flagged floor, exactly where Malfoy had been standing.

There was a terrified silence in the entrance hall. Nobody but Moody was moving a muscle. Moody turned to look at Harry.

“Did he get you?” Moody growled. His voice was low and gravelly.

“No,” said Harry. “missed.”

“LEAVE IT!” Moody shouted.

“Leave…what?” Harry said, bewildered.

“Not you…him!” Moody growled. Crabbe was trying to pick up the white ferret. Moody limped toward them and the terrified ferret squeaked and tried to get
away.

“Stinking, cowardly thing to do…attacking someone when their back is turned.”

The ferret flew through the air, under the control of Moody’s wand.

“Never…do….that….again,” said Moody, speaking each word as the ferret hit the stone floor and bounced upward again.

“Professor Moody!” said a shocked voice.

Professor McGonagall was coming down the marble staircase with her arm full of books.

“Hello, Professor McGonagall,” said Moody calmly, bouncing ferret Malfoy still higher.

“What…what are you doing?” said Professor McGonagall, her eyes following the bouncing ferret’s progress through the air.

“Teaching,” said Moody.

“Teach… Moody, is that a student?” shrieked Professor McGonagall.

“Yep,” said Moody.

“No!” cried Professor McGonagall, running down the stairs, and pulling out her wand. A moment later with a loud snapping noise Draco Malfoy had reappeared, lying
in a heap on the floor with his sleek blonde hair all over his now brilliantly pink face. He got to his feet, wincing.

“Moody, we never use Transfiguration as a punishment!” said Professor McGonagall. “Surely Professor Dumbledore told you that?”

“He might’ve mentioned it, yeah,” said Moody, scratching his chin unconcernedly. “but I thought a good sharp shock…”

“We give detentions, Moody! Or speak to the offender’s Head of House!”

Malfoy, whose pale eyes were still watering with pain and humiliation, looking malevolently up at Moody and muttered something in which the words “my father” were
distinguishable.

“Oh yeah?” said Moody quietly, limping forward a few steps. “Well, I know your father old boy…You tell him Moody’s keeping close eye on his son…you tell him that from me…Now, your Head of House’ll be Snape, will it?”

“Yes,” said Malfoy resentfully.

And then the two were off in the direction of Snape. Oh, how Harry would have liked to watch that encounter, but as it stood, Ron was a bit stuck, trying to “fix that image in his memory forever” as he said.

&&&

Everyone seemed to be on thin ice around Mad-Eye Moody and that also included Professor Snape.

Everyone knew that Snape really wanted the Dark Arts job, but even this year it had gone to someone else. Another incompetent idiot, Harry could almost hear
Snape say. But Moody didn’t seem like an idiot. Fred and George and their friend Lee Jordan seemed to be enamored with the man.

“Never had a lesson like it,” said Fred.

“He knows man,” said Lee Jordan.

“Knows what?” Ron had said.

“Knows what it’s like to be out there doing it,” said George, sounding impressed.

“Doing what?” Harry had asked.

“Fighting the Dark Arts,” said Fred.

Whatever his qualifications, Snape seemed to be wary of him. Whenever Harry saw them together at mealtimes or the like, he always got the impression that Snape
was avoiding Moody’s magical eye.

Harry settled into their first Defense Against the Dark Arts class with his copy of The Dark Forces: A Guide To Self Protection, and waited for class to start. Soon they heard Moody’s distinctive clunky footsteps coming down the corridor, and he entered the room, looking as strange and frightening as ever. They could just see his clawed, wooded foot protruding out from under his robes.

“You can put those away,” he growled, motioning to the classes open books.

“You won’t be needing them.”

Blaise sent him a look, but they all did what he asked. After the roll call and a disturbing once over by Moody’s magical eye he said, “Right then. I’ve received a letter from Professor Lupin and are aware that you have had quite the grounding on dark creatures. But you’re behind…quite behind on dealing with curses. I’m here to bring you up to scratch about what wizards can do to each other.”

He gave an unexpected harsh laugh and then clapped his gnarly hands together.

“So, straight into it. Curses. They come in many strengths and forms. And while the Ministry of Magic believes that you are too young to show you anything more than counter curses until sixth year Professor Dumbledore has got a higher opinion of your capabilities. And I say, the sooner you know what you’re up against the better. You can’t be expected to defend yourself against curses you’re not familiar with. A wizard who is about to put an illegal curse on you isn’t going to warn you before he does it. There is no dueling etiquette in battle,” Moody said, eyeing Malfoy’s hand as it began to rise. Malfoy looked unfazed by his time spent as a ferret. If anything he looked less afraid of the man now that he had been covered in fine white fur.

“Yes, Mr. Malfoy, perhaps you can tell us which curses are the most harshly punished by wizarding law?”

Malfoy tried to lower his hand, no doubt going to say something about the curriculum, but Moody either not noticing or not caring about his discomfort kept staring at him with his mad eye.

“Imperious curse,” said Malfoy haughtily. “It’s one of the Unforgiveables.”

“Ah,” said Moody, clicking his tongue. “Yes, you would be quite familiar with that one.”

He turned away, finally.

“Total control is what the imperious curse offers you. A wizard who can cast the imperious curse can make another do almost anything, say certain things, give up
their jobs, force them to marry or murder someone. With this placed on you, you are put at the mercy of the caster. Your life is theirs. No bond is too strong, they
could turn you against your mother even against yourself as the basic will to live is taken away and replaced by their will.”

Moody paved the room, the sound of his wooden leg amplified in the tension filled room.

“Years back, there were a lot of witches and wizards being controlled by the imperious curse,” said Moody and Harry knew he was talking about Voldemort’s all
powerful reign.

“Some job for the Ministry, trying to sort out who was being forced to act and who was acting of their own freewill.”

“The imperious curse can be fought, and I’ll be teaching you how, but it takes real power, and not everyone has the stuff necessary. Better avoid being hit with it in the first place. CONSTANT VIGILANCE!” he barked, and everyone jumped.

Blaise nearly fell out of his seat.

“Another one?”

“The Cruciatus,” Pansy volunteered.

“Ah, yes,” said Moody. “You don’t need thumbscrews or knives to torture someone if you can cast the Cruciatus. But you need to really mean this curse. You have to want to cause your enemy pain. You don’t need power, just feeling.”

“That one was quite popular back then too.”

After several moments, Moody sighed.

“Another?”

No one seemed to be willing to answer.

“No one? Perhaps you’re further behind then I had thought. The last unforgiveable is called the killing curse.”

Then he whispered the incantation.

“Avada Kedavra.”

The castle was the only thing breathing.

“Completely deadly. There’s no countercurse and no blocking it.”

Moody swept the room with his eye.

“Only one person has ever survived it, and he’s sitting right in front of me.”

Harry felt his face redden. This was different than when Colin asked for an autograph or when Mr. Diggory and countless others had asked if he was in fact Harry Potter, way different than that.

Moody produced a dead arachnid form his pocket.

“A recent demonstration of the Killing Curse.”

Harry looked at the spider and it clicked.

So that was how his parents had died. Were they as unmarked and unblemished in death as this bug? Was it the green light Moody had been telling them about and then nothing? Harry had been picturing his parent’s death over and over again for three years now, ever since he had found out what happened to them. How Wormtail had betrayed them. How his dad tried to hold Voldemort off while his mother fought to get them to safety, and how she had refused to step aside so he murdered her too, before turning his wand on Harry.

That night at dinner, Ron was all aflutter about what had happened in their defense class. Hermione seemed less pleased.

“I’m all for knowledge, but oh, you should have seen it,” she said.

“We did see it, Granger, he put the dead spider right on top of Potter’s schoolbooks before he pointed out that Harry was the only thing that could stop the killing
curse in its tracts, and then he made us all give it a shot to see if he could withstand it again,” said Blaise.

Hermione looked completely scandalized before coming to her senses. “Well, I don’t doubt that he would try to do such a thing. The man seems insane. Scared poor Neville something fierce.”

“Longbottom’s a big boy,” said Millicent. “He looks quite happy now.”

And he did. Neville sat at the Gryffindor table, nose buried in a book with a large green plant on the cover, looking completely absorbed.

“Knitting clothes for yourself?” Blaise asked, as Hermione pulled a ball of yarn and two knitting needles out of her bag.

“Of course not,” said Hermione. She held up what looked to be a tiny pair of half done mittens, if Harry had to guess. “Does that look like it would fit me?”

Blaise shook his head, no, the odd blank look on his face whenever Hermione started to talk coming to settle.

“It’s for the house elves. This whole castle is run on nothing but slave labor. The food, the cleaning, everything and it’s completely outrageous, and I’ve had enough. I’m going to enlighten them.”

“The house elves?” Blaise said, sounding slightly frightened.

“Yes,” said Hermione proudly. “I’ve decided to call it SPEW. The Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare, and the first step is making clothes.”

Blaise gave Harry a look, which Harry tried deftly to ignore as he didn’t want to interrupt Hermione mid speech with a laugh.

“I thought of Stop the Outrageous Abuse of Our Fellow Magical Creatures and Campaign for a Change in Their Legal Status, but it wouldn’t fit on the pins. So
that’s the heading of our manifesto. I’ve been researching it thoroughly in the library. Elf enslavement goes back centuries. I can’t believe no one’s done anything about it before now.”

“Hermione,” said Ron. The same time Blaise said, “Granger.”

Blaise gestured for Ron to “go ahead”.

“It’s not like that,” the redhead said. “They don’t care about being enslaved. They. Like. It.”

“Well,” said Blaise.

Ron stopped talking.

“I wouldn’t say they like it. But that’s the way things are Granger and it’s ridiculous to think that you might be able to change centuries of a societal construct with a pair of mittens.”

Hermione raised herself up to full height.

“Firstly, Zabini, this is a sweater…or will be, and secondly, the most dangerous phrase in the human language is, “that’s the way it’s always been”. And besides I have a
plan. Our short term aims are to secure house-elves fair wages and working conditions. Our long term aims include changing the law about non-wand use….”

“You want to give them wands?”

“Granger, everyone knows that a house elves magic is strong, what use would they have with a wand? Wands are for wizards.”

Hermione sighed, eyeing her seat in the Great Hall seriously.

“And this is where Muggles come through,” she said. “Because ideally what we should be hearing during our education is that we are in the process of being indoctrinated. And that teachers have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination. And that they are sorry, but it is the best that they can do.

We are being taught an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history wizarding or Muggle will show how impermanent both the choices and prejudices must be. You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought already laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system. And those of us who are more robust,” she eyed Zabini like Pansy eyes third years in last seasons’ robes.

“More robust and individual than others will leave and find ways of educating ourselves and our own judgments. While those that stay will be forced to remember that they are being molded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of society. Now, you only need to ask yourself Zabini, which you would rather be?”

And with that, she took her “sweater” out of Ron’s hands where he had been examining it, turned her back on a stunned Blaise Zabini, and walked away to get herself some food.

Chapter Text

Quidditch may have been canceled for the year, but that didn’t mean that any of the players wanted to get out of shape. Angelina Johnson, the unofficial Quidditch captain of Gryffindor after Oliver Wood, had just led the team in a “fun” fly around the pitch. Harry had no idea how exactly Johnson was measuring fun on the little clipboard she had but to each their own Harry thought with a wry smile. After watching the ragged looking group of kids leave the pitch, Harry got into the sky.

His Firebolt felt powerful and antsy. Harry took the turns of the pitch at the fastest speeds possible. There were no kinks that needed to be worked out, even after so long on the ground. This, Harry thought as he zipped around the pitch, felt right. He wondered briefly as he zoomed in and out of the three hoops in a twisty pattern Flint always favored as a warm up if there were any trunks in the shed. Chasing the snitch until he was breathless was just the thing he needed.

He was already heading to the ground when a sharp pain erupted in the center of his forehead. The broom started to fall as Harry lost contact with it in favor of keeping his skull in one piece. He forced himself to place one hand back on the broom as images that normally only haunted him at night filled his head. Voldemort’s voice angry and insistent pounded loudly in his head. The pain then the pleased feeling he then experienced turned Harry’s stomach. The pleased feeling was worse than the anger, but Harry couldn’t seem to care too much as his scar ached intolerably.

He managed to open his eyes to see that the ground was a lot closer than it had seemed earlier. Harry would have crashed had it not been for someone casting, “Aresto Momentum” on him and his broom before he touched ground.

Still, his head hit the grassy pitch with a smack. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but it did make his scar stop hurting.

“Harry!” a voice called, panicked. “Blimey, are you okay?”

It was Dean Thomas.

“Dean?” he asked as the boy helped him to his feet.

“What happened? You were flying so well and then just….splat.”

“Very eloquent and very accurate,” Harry said laughing despite the after pain in his scar.

“Just too long without flying I guess,” Harry lied.

Dean nodded. “Pulled about every muscle in my body during my first pickup football match this summer back home. It always takes a while to get back into
things. Glad I mastered that charm though. After you and Seamus with those dementors last year, I figured I’d learn it just in case he… I mean anyone needed it. No one really has the best luck with Quidditch around here.”

Harry laughed, knowing only how true that was then changing the subject he said, “What are you doing out here? Thinking of trying out for Gryffindor next year?”

“Me?” said Dean. “Absolutely not, I was just trying to….” Dean spluttered. “See me and Seamus haven’t really been getting on too well lately so I figured I’d spend some time with him while we were…”

“Not so bumpy,” Harry filled in.

Dean shook his head.

“It’s all my fault, really,” Dean said, running a hand over his short brown hair.

“I’m sure it’ll all work out,” said Harry. “You are Seamus are best friends, you can get over anything. Besides if you guys aren’t friends who’s going to partner flaming
Finnigan in Potions?”

Dean chuckled, looking slightly less concerned than he had before.

***

The next morning he got a letter from Sirius. He hadn’t wanted to write to him, but after Hermione had heard about the pain in his scar, she notified him that if he didn’t write to Sirius that she would. And instead of Remus and Sirius getting some clinical depiction of what he had told her happened on the pitch. Harry had explained, but backed it up saying that it was probably just a freak accident or something like that. He got a letter regardless.

Harry,
This news about your scar is the latest in a series of strange rumors and events that have reached us. If it hurts again, please notify us, or go directly to Dumbledore. We’ve heard that Dumbledore got Mad-Eye out of retirement which means he’s reading the signs even if no one else is.

Keep your friends close, and your eyes open.

Love,

Sirius

P.S.

Remus says, “Hi”, and reiterates everything that I said about your scar. We’re concerned for you. And we’ll write soon.

P.S.S.

James always nicknamed his brooms.

***

Harry missed Quidditch. He would even take Flint back barking orders and making them train in the rain and cold if it meant that he could get in the sky again. Heck, he would even take flying with Malfoy if that was the only way it could happen.

He wondered how hard it would be to sneak away for some fly time. Maybe he’d see if Ron wanted to go up sometime soon just in case something happened like last time.

In Defense Against the Dark Arts, Professor Moody announced that he would be putting each of them under the imperious curse, to demonstrate its power and to see whether they could resist its effects. A few people looked like they were about to interject while a few looked down right sick.

“Dumbledore,” said Moody. “wants you taught what it feels like. However, if any of you feel that this particular lesson goes against your delicate sensibilities then you are excused.” Delicate sensibilities? Every Slytherin in the room, even the ones that looked a bit iffy, were now staring at Moody steadily. They knew a challenge when they heard one. And they couldn’t back down now.

Moody began to beckon the students forward, and each bristled slightly under his wand. Harry watched as, one by one, his classmates did the most extraordinary things under the curses influence. Tracey Davis got on her hands and knees and moo’d like a cow. Crabbe grabbed Blaise and pulled him into an embrace and took him around in a version of the waltz, not caring how much Blaise was struggling in his arms until Moody too, made Blaise forget that he cared at all. Draco hopped on one leg, a seemingly tame action, but one that clearly brought back some painful memories because he kept brushing his backside as if he were checking for a tail.
Then it was Harry’s turn.

“Potter,” Moody growled. “You’re next.”

Harry moved forward into the cleared space Moody had created at the beginning of class. Moody raised his wand, pointed it at Harry, and said, “Imperio!”

It was the most wonderful feeling. Harry felt a floating sensation as every thought and worry in his head was wiped gently away leaving nothing but a vague untraceable happiness.

And then he heard Mad-Eye Moody’s voices, bellowing in some distant chamber of his empty brain: Jump onto the desk! Jump onto the desk.

Harry bent his knees obediently, preparing to spring, when a thought came to him.

Why? Another voice had awoken in the back of his brain. Stupid thing to do really, said the voice.

Jump onto the desk.

No, I don’t think I will, thanks, said the other voice, a little more firmly. No I don’t think I really want to….

JUMP! NOW!

The next thing Harry felt was considerable pain. He had both jumped and tried to prevent himself from jumping…the rest was that he’d smashed headlong into the
desk, knocking it over and feeling as if he had fractured both of his kneecaps.

“Now, that’s more like it!” growled Moody’s voice and suddenly Harry felt the empty feeling in his head vanish.

“Look at that, you lot… Potter fought! He fought it and he darn near beat it! We’ll try that again, Potter, and the rest of you, pay attention. Watch his eyes, that’s where you see it….very good, Potter, very good indeed. They’ll have trouble controlling you!”

All the fourth years had noticed a definite increase in the amount of work they were required to do this term. Professor McGonagall had given them an explanation.

“You are now entering a most important phase of your magical education!” she told them, her eyes glinting dangerously behind her square spectacles.

“Your O.W.L’s are next year and you all need to be as prepared as you possibly can.”
Harry and Ron had come up with a brilliant plan to plot their demises in new and creative ways to appease Trewlaney, but there was no easy way out for them with the essays they had to write for Professor Binns about the goblin rebellions of the eighteenth century. While Harry’s head of house Professor Snape was forcing them to research antidotes for a mystery test that Harry was sure was going to involve a poisoning at some point in the future. While Professor Flitwick had asked them to read three extra books in preparation for their lesson on summoning charms.

Even Hagrid was adding to their workload. The Blast-Ended Skrewts were growing exponentially and they were to take careful notes on their progress which meant extra evening work.

“I will not,” said Draco Malfoy when Hagrid had proposed the idea. “I see enough of those foul things during lessons, thanks.”

“Yeh’ll do wha’ yer told,” Hagrid growled. “or I’ll be taken a leaf outta Professor Moody’s book… I hear yeh made a good ferret Moody.”

The Gryffindors roared with laughter. Malfoy flushed with anger, but apparently the memory of Moody’s punishment was still sufficiently painful to stop him from retorting. Harry laughed quietly to himself. After what Malfoy did trying to get Hagrid fired last year let him squirm.

The sign for the tournament was up in front of the Great Hall in early October.

TRIWIZARD TOURNAMENT

The delegations from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang will be arriving at six o’clock on Friday the 30th of October. Lessons will end half an hour early. Students will return their bags and books to their dormitories and assemble in front of the castle to greet our guests before the welcoming feast.

Macmillan of Hufflepuff emerged from the crowd his eyes gleaming and said, “I wonder if Cedric knows? Think I’ll go and tell him.”

“Someone’s got a crush,” said Blaise, eyeing Macmillan.

“Cedric?”

“No, Macmillan, but Diggory’s certainly going have his hands full with that cow eyed Hufflepuff.”

“Seems like you have some experience in that area, huh, Zabini,” said Millicent, like she knew more than the rest of them.

Blaise only shrugged.

“Let’s just say the sorting hats clearly never gone out with a Hufflepuff. Loyal, my broomstick.”

“Do you think he will enter the tournament?” said Harry. “Diggory,” Harry clarified.

“That idiot, Hogwarts champion?” said Ron as they pushed their way through the chattering crowd toward the staircase.

“He’s not an idiot you just don’t like him because he beat Gryffindor at Quidditch,” said Hermione. “I’ve heard he’s a really good student…and he’s a prefect.”

“As though that settles anything,” said Ron. “You only like him because he’s handsome,” Ron accused.

“Excuse me, I don’t like people just because they’re handsome,” said Hermione indignantly. Ron gave a false laugh that sounded a lot like, “Lockhart!”

The castle was cleaned and everything was prepared to receive the other schools. Fred and George seemed to be involved in some secret tug of war with someone, but they were keeping quiet on the details while Hermione was still going hard for SPEW.

The school gathered themselves together in the Great Hall. And prepared to receive the other schools. Dumbledore moved to the podium and in a grand voice announced, “Beauxbatons.”

The doors to the Great Hall opened and a group of young women all dressed in light blue uniforms pranced up the aisles between the tables, fluttering charms that spelled tiny birds from their hands. All of Hogwarts especially the guys seemed to be enthralled by the show.

Then walked in the largest woman that Harry had ever seen in his life that was as tall as Hagrid; in fact he doubted there was much difference in their heights at all. As she stepped into the light of the Great Hall, she was revealed to have a handsome, olive-skinned face; large, black, liquid-looking eyes; and a rather beaky nose. Her hair was drawn back in a shining knob at the base of her neck. She was dressed from head to foot in black satin, and many magnificent opals gleamed at her throat and on her thick fingers.

“My dear Madame Maxime,” Dumbledore said. “Welcome to Hogwarts.”

“Dumbly-dore,” said Madame Maxime in a deep voice. “I ‘ope I find you well?”

“In excellent form, I thank you,” said Dumbledore.

Then after they had entered the hall, Dumbledore called, “Durmstrang!”

And the members of the other wizarding school stomped into the Great Hall, their billowing fur capes trailing behind them as each stomp of their staffs hit the ground
and sparks shot from the contact. Then, in walked,

“Viktor Krum!” was the echo that ran around the Great Hall as the man walked confidently into the room. Even a few people at Harry’s own table looked lost for words. Tracey Davis looked as if she was about to pass out. Then Harry was pretty sure she did when Viktor and the other Durmstrang students sat at their table. Malfoy bent over to speak to Krum. The Durmstrang students pulled off their heavy furs and looked up at the starry sky with interest. A couple of them were picking up the golden plates and goblets and examining them with interest. Karkaroff, Durmstrangs headmaster sat at the head table.

“Good evening, ladies and gentleman, ghosts, and most particularly guests,” said Dumbledore, beaming around at the foreign students. “I have great pleasure in welcoming you all to Hogwarts. I hope and trust that your stay here will be both comfortable and enjoyable.”

One of the Beauxbatons girls still clutching a muffler around her head gave what was unmistakably a derisive laugh.

A few of the girls noticeably bristled at being in contact with the Beauxbaton’s crew.

Once the golden plates had been wiped clean, Dumbledore stood up again. A pleasant sort of tension seemed to fill the Hall now. Harry felt a slight thrill of excitement, wondering what was coming.

“The moment has come,” said Dumbledore, smiling around at the sea of upturned faces. “The Triwizard Tournament is about to start. As you know three champions compete in the tournament, one from each of the participating schools. They will be marked on how well they perform each of the tournaments tasks and the champion with the highest total after task three will win the Triwizard cup. The champions will be chosen by an impartial selector. The Goblet of Fire.”

A large wooden box was carried out and placed in front of Dumbledore.

Dumbledore now took out his wand and tapped three times upon the top of the casket. The lid creaked slowly open and a large, roughly hewn wooden cup was
withdrawn. It would have been entirely unremarkable had it not been full to the brim with dancing white blue flames.

“Anyone wishing to submit themselves as champion must write their name and school clearly upon a slip of parchment and drop it into the Goblet. Aspiring champions have twenty four hours in which to put their names forward. Tomorrow night on Halloween, the Goblet will return the names of the three it has judged the most worthy to represent their schools. The goblet will be placed in the entrance hall tonight where it will be freely available to all those wishing to compete. To ensure that no underage students yield to temptation, I will be drawing an age line around the Goblet of Fire as to that no one under the age of seventeen will be able to cross the line.

A roar of outrage erupted in the Great Hall, but Dumbledore quickly silenced the shouting with a look. The Great Hall was dismissed shortly after and everyone filled with excitement headed to bed.

“Someone said the Weasley twins were thinking about entering,” said Goyle as he sat on the side of his bed.

“Those fools, please,” said Draco. “Dumbledore said he was going to draw the age line himself, they don’t stand a chance.”

Harry thought about going to his friend’s defense, but in this instance he knew Malfoy was right. No one under seventeen was getting entered into the tournament, but that didn’t stop him from listening to Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle talk about past champions and the tasks that they had read about.

He chatted with Blaise about the idea. Being a champion. Harry wished.

Chapter Text

All anyone wanted to talk about the next day was who was going to and who may have already entered their name into the Goblet. Harry had heard all about the failed but brilliant spectacle that was Fred and George and beards so glorious that it made Dumbledore jealous. Angelina Johnson had also submitted her name. Harry had played against the girl in Quidditch and felt sorry for the other schools champions if she was selected as Hogwarts champion.

“Anyone but pretty boy Diggory,” Seamus had said. Harry looked naturally to Dean to agree with this, but Dean seemed to think that Diggory would do quite well in the tournament which launched the two into a very intense argument which seemed to be all the pair of “best friends” seemed to be up for lately.

Talk around Slytherin that morning and been all about whether Warrington, the big, slothlike looking bloke, entered or not. Harry didn’t think it would be bad at all to have a Slytherin champion, but Ron seemed to have quite strong feelings about it.

The Halloween feast seemed to go by slower than normal as every one anticipated what was about to happen. At long last the plates were returned to their normal state and Dumbledore stood by the Goblet.

“Well, the goblet is almost ready to make its decision,” said Dumbledore. “I estimate that it requires one more minute. Now, when the champions’ names are called I would ask them please to come up to the top of the Hall, walk along the staff table, and go through into the next chamber where they will be receiving their first instructions.”

Dumbledore took out his wand and with a great sweeping wave most of the candles in the Great Hall were extinguished. Everyone watched the goblet, waiting.

“Any second,” someone whispered. Then a tongue of flame shot into the air and a charred piece of parchment fluttered out of it…the whole room gasped.

Dumbledore grabbed the charred parchment out of the air and read.

“The champion for Durmstrang will be Viktor Krum.”

“Bravo, Viktor!” boomed Karkaroff, so loudly that everyone could hear him, even over all the applause. “Knew you had it in you!”

The clapping and chatting died down, and a second piece of parchment shot out of the air.

“The champion for Beauxbatons is Fleur Delacour.”

The other girls from Beauxbatons looked quite disappointed. In fact two girls who had not been selected had dissolved into tears and were sobbing with their heads on their arms. Then the Hogwarts champion.

The tongue of flame shot the last piece of parchment into the air and Dumbledore grabbed it eagerly.

“The Hogwarts Champion is…. Cassius Warrington.”

Shocked silence filled the hall, as Cedric Diggory nearly rose to his feet to accept his spot before realizing that his name had not been called. Silence filled the Great Hall until Cassius rose to his feet, ushered into motion by the pleased looking boy that sat beside him. Then Harry’s table erupted into applause and cheers so loud that it made up for the fact that a few people were decidedly not clapping. Warrington followed Krum on his way to wait for further instructions. A few people were looking around in concern and astonishment. But Hogwarts had their champion and plenty were thrilled that at least Warrington was the same size as Krum if the tasks required something physical. Harry thought he might stand a fair chance. It’d be fun to root for someone from his own house anyway.

“Excellent,” Dumbledore called happily as at last the tumult died down. “Well, we now have our three champions. I am sure that I can count upon all of you, including the remaining students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang to give your champions every ounce of support you can muster. By cheering your champion on, you will contribute in a very real….”

But Dumbledore suddenly stopped speaking, and it was apparent to everybody what had distracted him.

The fire in the goblet had just turned red again. Sparks were flying out of it. A long flame shot suddenly into the air, and borne upon it was another piece of parchment.

Automatically, it seemed, Dumbledore reached out a long hand and seized the parchment. He held it out and stared at the name written upon it. There was a long pause, during which Dumbledore stared at the slip in his hands, and everyone in the room stared at Dumbledore. And then Dumbledore cleared his throat and read out….

“Harry Potter.”

&&&

Harry sat there, aware that every head in the Great Hall was now turned in his direction. He was stunned. He felt numb. Maybe he was dreaming. Or Dumbledore had
made a mistake.

There was no applause now. Some students were standing now, to get a better look at Harry where he sat. Up at the top table, Professor McGonagall had gotten to her feet and was now urgently whispering something in Dumbledore’s ear.

“Harry Potter!” Dumbledore called again. “Harry! Up here, if you please.”

“You have to,” Millicent said. “You don’t want to be here right now.”

Harry got to his feet, trod on the end of his robes, and stumbled slightly. He set off up the gap that had formed for him. With the hundreds of eyes upon him, it felt like he was walking hundreds of feet verses just a few. The buzz of conversation and awes, grew louder and louder as he reached Professor Dumbledore.

“Well…through the door, Harry,” said Dumbledore. He wasn’t smiling…

Harry moved off along the teacher’s table. Hagrid was seated right at the end. He did not wink at Harry, or wave, or give any of his usual signs of greeting. He looked completely astonished and simply stared at Harry as he passed like everyone else did. Harry went through the door out of the Great Hall and found himself in a smaller room, lined with paintings of witches and wizards. A handsome fire was roaring in the fireplace opposite him and all of the people in the portraits turned to look at him as he entered.

The three other champions stood by the fire. They looked impressive and he felt out of place. Krum, hunched-up and brooding, was leaning against the mantelpiece, slightly apart from the other two. Warrington was standing with his hands behind his back, staring out into the room as if he couldn’t relax for a moment. Fleur Delacour looked around when Harry walked in and threw back her sheet of long, silvery hair.

“What is it?” she said. “Do zey want us back in ze Hall?”

She thought he had come to deliver a message.

Warrington took note of him then and looked like he was about to say something when Ludo Bagman entered the room. He took Harry by the arm and led him forward.

“Extraordinary!” he muttered, squeezing Harry’s arm. “Absolutely extraordinary! Gentleman…lady,” he added, approaching the fireside and the champions. “May I introduce….incredible though it may seem…the fourth Triwizard champion?”

Viktor Krum straightened up. His surly face darkened as he surveyed Harry. Warrington looked like he was about to explode with confusion. He looked from
Bagman back to Harry as if he had surely misunderstood in some way. Fleur tossed her hair, and said, “Oh, vairy funny joke, Meester Bagman.”

“Joke?” Bagman repeated, bewildered. “No, no, not at all! Harry’s name just came out of the Goblet of Fire.”

Krum’s thick eyebrows contracted slightly. Warrington still looked slightly bewildered. Fleur frowned.

The door behind them opened again, and a large group of people came in. Professor Dumbledore, followed closely by Mr. Crouch, Professor Karkaroff, Madame Maxime, Professor McGonagall, and Professor Snape. Harry heard the buzzing of the hundreds of students on the other side of the way, before Professor McGonagall shut the door.

Fleur rushed to Madame Maxime’s side, “Zey are saying zat sis little boy is to compete also!”

Little boy? Harry thought.

“What is ze meaning of zis, Dumbly-dorr?” she said imperiously.

“I’d rather like to know that myself, Dumbledore,” said Professor Karkaroff. “Two Hogwarts champions? I don’t remember anyone telling me that the host school
is allowed two champions, or have I not read the rules carefully enough?”

He gave a short nasty laugh.

Everyone seemed to have an input and everyone seemed to think that Dumbledore had the answers. But the only person that Dumbledore wanted to talk to was him.

“Did you put your name into the Goblet of Fire, Harry?” he asked calmly.

“No,” said Harry. Snape made a soft noise of impatient disbelief in the shadows. Harry felt the rest of their eyes on him as he spoke.

“Did you ask one of the older students to put it into the Goblet of Fire for you?”

“No,” said Harry vehemently.

Both he and Dumbledore faced even more accusations.

“The Goblet of Fire is an extremely rare and powerful magical object and only someone of great power and knowledge could have hoodwinked it. Barty, Ludo, you two
are in charge of the tournament and this decision will have to be up to you,” said Dumbledore.

Mr. Crouch stepped forward. “If the boy has been selected to compete than he must compete.”

Ludo Bagman seemed to be bouncing on his heels.

“Well, shall we crack on, then?” he said, rubbing his hands together and smiling around the room. “Got to give our champions their instructions, haven’t we?
Barty, want to do the honors?”

Mr. Crouch seemed to come out of a deep reverie.

“Yes,” he said, “instructions. Yes…..the first task…”

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 to his skin that hadn’t been there at the World Cup.

“The first task is designed to test your daring,” he told Harry, Warrington, Fleur, and Krum, “so we are not going to be telling you what it is. Courage in the face of the unknown is an important quality in a wizard…very important….”

“The first task will take place on November the twenty-fourth, in front of the other students and the panel of judges.

“The Champions are not permitted to ask for or accept help of any kind from their teachers to complete the tasks in the tournament. They will receive information about the second task when the first is over. Owing to the demanding and time consuming nature of the tournament, the champions are exempted from end-of-year tests.”

The champions were dismissed and Harry started the long walk back to Slytherin on his own. Warrington had took off in the opposite direction and Harry didn’t bother to try and find out where he had gone.

Was anyone going to believe that he hadn’t done it? Blaise and Millicent for sure should believe him. They had seen the look of surprise on his face. And Hermione and Ron, they would believe him wouldn’t they? Or would they all just assume that he had done it. Yet how could anyone think that, when he was facing competitors who’d had three years more of magical education then he had, and when he was now facing tasks that not only sounded very dangerous, but which were to be performed in front of hundreds of people? He had thought about it, but he’d never really considered entering….

But someone else had considered it….someone else had wanted him in the tournament, and had made sure that he was entered. Why?

To see him make a fool out of himself?

To get him….killed?

Was Voldemort behind this somehow? But how could Voldemort have ensured that Harry’s name got into the Goblet of Fire? Voldemort was supposed to be far away…in hiding, along, feeble and powerless.

Yet, Harry couldn’t get his dream out of his mind. Voldemort hadn’t been alone there, he had been talking to someone….plotting Harry’s death.

Snape was waiting for him outside the entrance to the common room. Harry barely saw him as he went to utter the password, but Snape stepped seemingly out of the shadows and in front of him.

“Mr. Potter, let it be clear,” he said. “That despite what the Headmaster said that I am keenly aware of the kind of trouble that you and your sort are want to get up to. And I in no way believe that you are a victim in this. I will find out how you submitted your name into the Goblet of Fire and you will face the most severe consequences that I can think of, and I mean more than just no Quidditch.”

Snape stepped closer to Harry and said, “I will send you back to your mutts one way or another, best hope that I find out how you cheated rather than what this tournament will do to you. In that instance, I may very well have to send several owls to achieve my goal.”

Snape then turned on his heels, spun in a flurry of robes, and walked away.

“It’s doesn’t mean anything,” Harry said into the darkness.

“Oderint dum metuant,” Harry said to the stone wall that led to his common room.

No one said a word as he entered the dorm. Blaise was still in the shower, but the rest of his dorm mates barely even looked at him. Perhaps they too, thought that he had cheated and entered his name illegally, or maybe they just wished, like Snape, that he would be sent back home in boxes….several boxes.

 

&&&

When Harry entered the Great Hall the next morning, he looked anxiously up at the head table and spotted Snape staring down at him in barely concealed fury. No one else seemed to be paying him any mind. Warrington was sitting at the Slytherin table eating his breakfast. His friend chatting amicably with others as Warrington ate his porridge. Someone bumped into his shoulder as he moved out of the entrance, but as he turned to threaten Malfoy, he was shocked to see that it wasn’t him. It was Ron.

“I can’t believe you did it,” Ron said. “I can’t believe you did it, and that you didn’t tell me. I’m your friend or at least, I thought I was.”

Harry couldn’t believe it.

“You are my friend,” he said. “And I didn’t do it, you have to believe me, Ron, I’d never.”

“Just save it,” Ron said, stalking angrily over to the Gryffindor table and sitting down.

Harry almost moved to follow him before he saw Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle come to his side and just when he thought he was going to have to face another
argument, Crabbe sent a stinging hex at the back of Ron’s legs. The red head jumped in surprise and turned back to glare at Harry.

Harry tried to tell him that he didn’t send it. That it had been Crabbe, but the look on Ron’s face said that he wasn’t buying it. Then Malfoy threw an arm over his shoulder and led him to the Slytherin table.

“What the heck was that?” Harry said, shrugging off Malfoy’s arm.

“That was me doing my duty by the Hogwart’s champion,” Malfoy answered.

“Yeah,” said Harry. “,but I didn’t see Warrington anywhere near you.”

Malfoy rolled his eyes. “Warrington is a sloth of a boy who has no possible chance at winning this thing, but you, Potter, you’re young and a darn good flier. You, Po….Harry, have potential.”

Harry rolled his eyes.

“Any potential you think I have, Malfoy can’t be a good thing. And besides you forget that I didn’t enter and therefore have no idea what exactly I’ve signed myself up for.”

“Sure,” said Greg, winking at Harry conspiratorially.

“We’ll help you,” said Malfoy, like that solved everything.

Harry stood from the table, he had had enough.

“Didn’t I tell you once Malfoy, that if I wanted a side kick then I’d put out applications?”

Then he walked away.

He needed to find Millicent, Blaise, and Hermione. He needed to know that someone believed that he hadn’t done this.

The others had been quite easy to convince.

“Not even you are that stupid,” Millicent had said. Blaise had agreed with her. “I could have saved you some needless brooding if you had waited for me to get out of the shower last night.”

Harry had laughed.

“Who has time to wait for you to finish your nightly soak and face routine, Zabini.”

Blaise scoffed.

“You might be taking a few notes on that yourself, Potter, you’re gonna be quite the commodity until this whole thing is over.”

Harry hoped he was joking.

Hermione had believed him too. While the rest of his friends in Gryffindor house, Dean, Neville, and Seamus all seemed to be thrilled that someone they knew
personally was competing, whether he got there by illegal means (he assured them he didn’t) or not (he most definitely did not). Harry even noticed that the news had led to Dean and Seamus getting along better than he had seen them in months.

He knew he would have to write Sirius and Remus and tell them about it soon. But he shuddered to think about how worried this was going to make his overprotective Godfather and Step Godfather. Sirius wrote to him multiple times this summer asking if he was wearing enough sunscreen. It was the one thing Hedwig could carry back to him that wasn’t too big for her to handle. And something that Remus could easily buy at the convenience store near his, no, their place.

The letter went something like this, “Wasn’t sure if you were aware, but the Triwizard Tournament is happening at Hogwarts, and I got picked as the fourth champion. I’m going up against three seventh years, Viktor Krum Quidditch seeker for Bulgaria, a witch who looks like a daisy but could also kill you. Oh, and the other Hogwarts champion is a fellow Slytherin. Malfoy now thinks he’s my best friend. Send my love to Remus.

Harry.

Despite the support from most of his friends, the next few days were some of his worst at Hogwarts. The only thing he had to compare it to was second year and
being taunted by Voldemorts “Dear Diary” entries.

Malfoy had said something about Warrington not looking like a champion, too big, too slow, but he looked more like a champion than Harry and his gangly limbs. Warrington was the real Hogwarts champion. He carried himself with confidence, and his friend, the tall, handsome one with blue eyes and dark blonde hair that seemed to be permanently attached to Warrington’s hip was charming and was more than enough to help Warrington field the horde of girls who approached him after lunch one day asking for autographs. And here he thought that was reserved for the likes of Viktor Krum.

Warrington had managed admirably then held out his hand for the boy, Ely, Ely McGovern to take. Ely merely gave him a high five then a teasing brush over his hair before the two had walked away.

Snape had also been after him worse than normal. Watching and waiting for Harry to make a mistake so he could assign a champion detentions with Filch. They were just down to testing their antidotes in double potions when Colin Creevey knocked on the door.

He edged into the room, beaming at Harry, and walked up to Snape’s desk at the front of the room.

“Yes?” said Snape curtly.

“Please, sir, I’m supposed to take Harry Potter upstairs.”

Snape stared down his hooked nose at Colin, whose smile had faded from his eager face. Millicent was thus unaffected.

“Potter has another hour of Potions to complete,” said Snape coldly. “He will come upstairs when this class is finished.”

Colin stuttered.

“Sir…sir…Mr. Bagman wants him,” he said nervously. “All the champions have to go, I think they want to take photographs.”

Harry wanted the ground to swallow him whole.

“Very well,” Snape snapped. “Potter leave your things here. I want you back down here later to test your antidote.”

“Please, sir…he’s got to take his things with him,” squeaked Colin.

Snape huffed, Harry watched for fire. Instead, he got an explosion. “Potter take your things and get out of my sight!”

Colin happily escorted him to a small classroom chattering away about his new camera, and his brother Dennis, who Harry had to meet right away. Harry
promised that he would before the boy left him at the entrance.

No one seemed to be talking to one another. Viktor Krum was standing in a corner, moody and silent. Fleur seemed to be having a silent conversation with Madame Maxime. She smiled at Harry when he entered. She looked a great deal happier than she had in Harry’s memory, perhaps the girls in her class were finally getting behind her.

Warrington was standing near Bagman listening to the man’s constant chatter. Warrington’s eyes passed quickly over Harry as if he weren’t there but Bagman quickly excused himself from Warrington’s presence and bounded toward Harry.

The weighing of the wands was a mere formality it turned out. Bagman explained that it was just to test that the champion’s wands were fully functional. After that and an actual photo shoot, Harry met Rita Skeeter, a reporter for the Daily Prophet. Her hair was set in elaborate and curiously rigid curls. She wore jeweled spectacles, and had her fingers clutched around a crocodile skinned handbag.
Harry had once overheard Tracey Davis telling Pansy that any basic witch carried a crocodile bag, but dragonhide was the mark of classy witch.
Harry eyed the witches fake two inch crimson nails and tried to remember which colors meant a witch couldn’t be trusted and which meant that she secretly hates her mother.

After agreeing to speak with her, Skeeter grasped Harry’s upper arm with surprising strength, and was steering him out of the room and toward a nearly open doorway.

“We don’t want to be in there with that noise,” she explained. “Ah, yes, this should be nice and cozy.”

It was a broom cupboard.

“You won’t mind, Harry if I use a Quick Quotes Quill? It leaves me free to talk to you normally…”

She didn’t wait for Harry to respond.

“So, Harry, what made you decide to enter the Triwizard Tournament?”

“Er,” said Harry, ever so elegantly. Then he noticed that the quill was writing wildly away. (An ugly scar, souvenir of a tragic past.)

“Ignore the quill, Harry,” said Skeeter firmly.

Harry looked up at her while trying to keep an eye on the quill. She was an authority figure after all. And Harry had always been told to respect his elders.

“I didn’t actually,” Harry said finally. “I don’t know how my name got into the Goblet of Fire. I didn’t put it there.”

Rita Skeeter raised one heavily penciled eyebrow.

“Come no, Harry, there’s no need to be scared of getting into trouble. Our readers love a rebel.”

“Yes, I’m sure, but I didn’t enter,” Harry repeated. “I don’t know who…”

“How do you feel about the tasks ahead? Excited? Nervous?” she cut him off.

Harry tried to ignore it.

“Nervous, I suppose,” he said.

“Champions have died in the past. Have you thought about that at all?”

“That was before,” said Harry. “It’s supposed to be safer this year.”

“Ah,” said Skeeter. “but of course you have looked death in the face before. How would you say that has affected you? Do you think the trauma in your past might
have made you keen to prove yourself?”

“I’m not out to prove myself. I tried to explain to you that I didn’t enter.”

“Can you remember your parents at all?” she asked.

People may have thought Harry was a diva before with the autographs, photos, and “celebrity”, but he was about to go to Malfoy levels of prima donna in the fit
this woman had him working toward.

“How are my parent’s memory involved in this exactly? Or perhaps are you that bad of a journalist that you can’t actually fill a page with the topic that you were assigned?” Harry asked, channeling the Malfoy heir for the first and only time in his life.

“You have asked me the same question at least three different ways and since you’re hearing is as poor as your crocodile handbag,” Skeeter clutched the thing fiercely to her chest. “And I have given you the same answer. You can’t ignore it because it isn’t the one you want to hear.”

Harry then threw open the door of the cupboard and stormed out, Malfoy saying, “My father will hear about this” running through his head.

Harry didn’t have a father anymore, but he did have a Sirius and a Remus and a….”Dumbledore!” cried Rita Skeeter behind him.

Harry didn’t wait around to hear Skeeter defend herself over describing Dumbledore as an obsolete dingbat in her last article and walked back toward the other champions.

Chapter Text

Harry was woken the next morning by Millicent shoving a copy of the Daily Prophet in his face. Skeeter’s piece turned out to be less of a piece about the tournament and more of a highly colored version of Harry’s life story.

“Top student?” Millicent laughed.

“Dating Granger?” said Blaise, through his laughter. “It’d be more believable if she had said you were dating Creevey.”

“What?” Blaise said when Harry gave him a look. “Now there’s two of them,” he said, talking about Colin and his younger brother, Dennis who Harry had met after
dinner last night. Harry grabbed the article, and gave it a scan.

He was not amused.

Draco was.

“Want a hanky, Potter, in case you start crying in Transfiguration?” He was headed down the hall fielding Malfoy’s remarks when he heard someone else call his name.

“Hey… Harry!”

He had been fielding hits and insults all day about the article and what Skeeter had apparently uncovered, and he had just had enough.

“Yeah, that’s right,” Harry shouted. “I’ve just been crying my eyes out over my dead mum and I’m just off to do a bit more….”

“No, I was just....you dropped your quill.”

It was Cho Chang.

“Come to get your broomstick signed, Chang? No tips for the competition, Potter,” said Malfoy, sidling up to Harry like they were old chums. Ignoring him, Harry accepted the quill and shrugged Malfoy’s arm off his shoulder.

“I just wanted to say good luck actually.” She smiled at Harry ignoring Malfoy altogether.

“I’m sure you’ll do great.”

Malfoy smirked at her then at Harry.

“And I’m sure you’re going to go down in flames you’re first task,” said Malfoy before walking away, perturbed that Harry had turned down Malfoy’s brand of helpfulness once again. “And Chang, count yourself as lucky there’s no Quidditch this year. You really do need the practice!” he shouted after the dark haired girl.

Hermione was dealing with her own fair share of unpleasantness as well.

“Stunningly pretty?” laughed Pansy. “That’s a quick quotes quill for you.” Pansy and her gang laughed nastily at Hermione’s retreating back.

“Oh, Millicent, why couldn’t have Harry been matched up with you.”

“Because Granger,” Millicent said as she took a seat at their table in the library. “No one in their right mind would ever believe I’d accept Potter.”

Harry looked at Ron for some support. He had just tucked in beside Hermione, but he only said, “Yeah, I agree. Bulstrode needs someone a bit more headstrong and cunning.”

Millicent shook her head with each new adjective.

“Someone inventive and funny.”

“Humor is very important,” Millicent said.

“I’m funny,” Harry defended. “Yeah, mate, but Bulstrode needs more backbone, someone who won’t back down when they know she’s wrong.”

And again Millicent shook her head.

“She needs someone like my brother.”

“What?” Millicent asked, her head still nodding involuntarily. “No,” she said. “No way in any universe would I ever marry… Fred Weasley. At least give me Percy or
the dragon tamer if I’m to one day spawn red headed children. Besides Fred Weasley isn’t any of the things you just said. He’s stubborn and sneaky and definitely not funny….not whatsoever. I mean well….”

Her voice grew quiet and then she said, “On second thoughts, you might not be so bad, Potter.”

Harry rolled his eyes, pretending not to notice Millicent’s pink cheeks when Fred and George stopped by and the pair engaged in their usual bout of verbal sparring. As they were leaving, Ron kept him back for a second.

“No, Ron,” he said. “It’s not true and will never be true. Hermione’s just my friend. I’d be more likely to kiss you than her.”

Ron laughed, but looked more assured than he had before.

“Is it the ginger?” Ron asked, tugging at his hair.

“You caught me,” said Harry. “I’ve got a thing for redheads.” Ron and Harry laughed all the way to dinner.

 

&&&

Hogsmeade was a disaster. Skeeter was following him around relentlessly in search of her next story. Then Hagrid found him and invited Harry on his date or at
least that’s what Harry thought it was before he saw Charlie Weasley approaching them near midnight close to the Forbidden Forest.

“All right, Hagrid?” the man panted, coming over to talk. “They should be okay now. We put them out with a sleeping draught on the way here, thought it might be better to wake them up in the quiet and the dark”

“What breeds you got here, Charlie?” asked Hagrid, gazing at the closest one, a black one with something close to reverence.

“This is a Hungarian Horntail. Then there’s a Common Welsh Green and a Chinese Fireball.”

Madame Maxime marched toward the creatures in awe. Harry heard Charlie say something about telling her student, but Hagrid assured Charlie that they had just come to look.

“Really romantic date, Hagrid,” said Charlie.

Harry left, knowing Hagrid wouldn’t miss him.

“Oh!” someone said as Harry was bumped to the ground. Karkaroff.

Great, now Krum would know too. Harry wished he didn’t.

He had to tell Sirius. He had to tell Warrington. He had to figure out he was going to make it out of this alive. Because he finally knew what the first task was.

Dragons.

Sirius had reassured him that the dragons would be no big deal.

“A simple spell,” he had said. Hermione had other ideas as she ordered him to the library as soon as he told her.

They had been working for hours when Hermione had to get back to the tower.

“It’s all right, Harry, you’ll get it,” she encouraged him, but Harry wasn’t as sure.

Then he heard them.

Ely and Warrington were sitting at one of the nearby tables. Both were seventh years and always seemed to be studying for their NEWTS that were quickly approaching. Harry doubted he could handle that pressure on top of being a champion himself. Which was all the more reason that he had to tell them.

He walked over to their table when he saw Ely slip away to get another book. He ruffled Warrington’s hair casually and Harry wondered how anyone could do that and live. He quickly made his way over to Warrington.

Harry shifted from foot to foot waiting for Warrington to acknowledge him, but when he gave no sign as to even seeing Harry, Harry gave him an awkward, “Hi.”
Warrington only grunted.

Then, looking in the direction Ely had gone.

“What do you want Potter?” said Warrington. “I’ve got plenty to do before the task tomorrow, and I’m sure you do as well.”

“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about actually.”

“Talking is very overrated.”

You would think so, Harry thought. Ely seemed to be the one who did most of the talking. It was a bit like being around all of the Weasley’s at once. In the beginning when Harry had first met them and was still a little shy, he never had to say a word unless he didn’t want to. They filled in the conversation brilliantly without him. It had been comforting, and he wondered if Warrington felt that way around Ely?

“And what are you two talking about? Deciding which one is getting the next cover of Witch Weekly?” said Ely, walking back toward the table. “I’m sure Krum’s had it enough he could stand to pass on the honor in favor of a new handsome face.”

Harry wasn’t sure but he thought he saw Warrington blush.

“I just needed to talk to Warrington for a moment. I need to tell him something.”

Harry looked around where Ely had moved in between the two of them, but Warrington was already standing behind Ely having packed his things. He whispered something in the other boy’s ear. At first, Ely looked like he wanted to protest, giving Harry a scathing look, but then nodded leaving the pair alone.

“Sorry about that,” said Warrington. “He’s just a little protective, especially now.”

Harry nodded. He understood. His friends were behaving exactly the same way.

“Now, if you’ll excuse me,” said Warrington, preparing to move past Harry, but then Harry said, “Dragons.”

“What?” asked Warrington.

“The first task, it’s dragons, Fleur and Krum already know. I saw them in the forest the other night.”

Warrington seemed to take this in like Harry had done in the forest the other night. He looked terrified and Harry wondered if he had looked the same. He was sure he had looked worse.

“And what are we meant to do with them?”

“I don’t know, but I know that they have one for each of us,” said Harry.
Warrington nodded then said, “Dragons,” under his breath.

“I just thought you should know, thought it should be even.”

“Thanks, Potter,” the other boy said. “I really appreciate it.”

As Warrington walked away, Harry turned around and saw Mad-Eye Moody emerging from a nearby classroom. His life as a ferret flashed before his eyes.

“In my office, Potter.”

Harry followed Moody and pretended that he didn’t feel his magical eye fixed on his back.

“That was a very decent thing you just did, Potter. Very stupid, but decent.”

Now, that wasn’t what he had expected at all.

“Sit down,” said Moody, and Harry sat.

The office looked different now than it did under Lockhart and Remus. What appeared to be a mirror hung opposite Harry on the wall, but it was not reflecting the room. Shadowy figures were moving around inside it, none of them clearly in focus.

“Like my Dark Detectors, do you?” said Moody, who was watching Harry closely.

“Secrecy Sensor. Vibrates when it detects concealment and lies, no use here of course, too many students lying about why they didn’t do their homework. That mirror is my Foe Glass. See them sulking around in there, well I’m not really in trouble until I can see the whites of their eyes.”

“So,” said Moody. “Got any ideas how to get past your dragon?”

Harry froze.

“I didn’t cheat. It was an accident that I even…”

“Don’t worry,” said Moody. “Cheating is a traditional part of the Triwizard Tournament. But as your Professor I can’t really give you any advice besides it’s always best to play to your strengths. Just think of what you’re best at.”

Harry wanted to say that he didn’t have any strengths, but he held his tongue. He was good at a few things, Quidditch for one. It was like Moody had read his mind.

“I head you’re one heck of a flier.”

“But I’m not allowed a broom,” said Harry.

“Yes,” said Moody. “but you’re allowed a wand.”

The first person Harry sought after he left Moody was Hermione.

“’Mione, I need your help. I need you to teach me to do a proper summoning charm by tomorrow afternoon.”

Hermione almost agreed right there to help him out, but then Millicent whispered something in her ear. Hermione and Millicent both gave him a look that did
unsettling things to his stomach before Hermione nodded.

“Okay, but,” she said, reminding him strongly of the girl sitting beside her. “I want you to do something for me, too.”

And since Harry needed the help and Hermione surely wouldn’t make him do anything that bad. He said, “You got a deal.”

Chapter Text

Harry had been presented a green and silver Slytherin kit before the task. It had been taken into Hermione and Millicent’s hands immediately just to make sure that it was “just right” in time for the first task.

He entered the tent set up for the champions and was greeted by Ludo Bagman.

“Harry! Good-o!” said Bagman happily. “Come in, come in, make yourself at home.”

He brought a small silk bag out from his back.

“Now that we’re all here, we can begin. You will each select a small model from this bag, a symbol of what you are about to face! Your task is to collect the golden egg.”

Warrington looked unconcerned, but Harry remembered the look he had when Harry first told him about the dragons. Knowing now that his calm expression was all just an act.

Krum and Fleur also looked stoic in their pre-knowledge until Bagman said, “Ladies first,” and offered the bag to Fleur.

She put a shaking hand inside the bag and drew out a tiny, perfect model of a dragon. A Welsh Green. Krum pulled out the scarlet Chinese Fireball. Warrington pulled out a Swedish Short-Snout, number one tied around it’s neck. Then Harry pulled.

He would go last and he would face the Horntail.

Harry smartly ignored Bagman and chose to sit next to Warrington until he left. Before long Warrington was called. Harry wondered how much they would be able to hear, but when Warrington entered the enclosure the roar of the crowd was hard to miss.

It was worse than Harry could ever have imagined, sitting and listening. A champion would go out. Bagman would comment on the task. The scores would be shown, but not announced then the whistle would sound signaling the next champion.

Warrington. Whistle. Fleur. Whistle. Krum.Whistle. Oh sweet jumping Hippogriffs. It was his turn.

He walked out through the entrance of the tent, the panic rising into a crescendo inside him. Then he entered the enclosure.

Harry saw everything like it was a dream. Hundreds of faces stared down at him from the stands. Then there was the Horntail. She stood at the other end of the enclosure crouched low over her eggs, her wings half furled, her eyes watching Harry’s every move. Its spiked tail thrashed leaving yard-long gouge marks in the hard ground. Harry didn’t want to be one of those spikes.

So, he rose his wand.

“Accio Firebolt!” he shouted. Harry waited, every fiber of him hoping, praying….then, he heard it speeding through the air behind him. He turned and saw his Firebolt hurtling toward him around the edge of the woods before entering the enclosure, stopping midair, waiting for him to mount. He swung his leg over the broom and kicked off from the ground, but then something happened. The whistle that signaled the next contestant sounded again and the Horntails attention was drawn to the sound before it stopped on Harry.

He was on his broom, when the Horntail flew up and sent a slew of fire in his direction. The end of Harry’s broom caught fire. He put it out, cursing himself for caring about his broom when the dragon was gearing up for another hot blast.

Harry barely made it behind a large boulder when he felt the burn of it start to heat the edge of his robes. He could hear the dragon moving so he took a chance, and came out from behind the rock and made a run for it.
He had his Firebolt in his hand ready to mount again, but dropped it when the dragon made a swipe at him.

Harry looked eagerly under her, and saw the eggs. One of them stood distinct and golden from the others, and Harry knew that was the one that he needed.

As Harry had to dodge another blast, he wondered if there was anything like a shield charm that he could use in this scenario, and just when exactly he would learn that particular spell.

“Accio, Egg!” he called halfhazardly, part of him knowing that it wouldn’t be that simple. Sadly, the dragon heard that failed attempt too and swatted at his body like a human swats at a nat.

“It’s not even yours,” Harry said. “That egg doesn’t belong to you!”

He had said it more in frustration than he had anything, but the dragon’s head whipped around toward her eggs as if she could….understand him.

She smelled them, eyeing Harry like he was a sheep that needed to stop bleating.

“It’s fake,” he said again.

But the voice that was coming out of his mouth was different.

He was speaking in Parseltongue.

“I’m sorry,” Harry said. “Sorry, that you have to be here. That you have to do this, but it can be over….”

The dragon swiped at him again, and Harry just barely got out of the way. The rocks that the dragon did hit splintered like it was nothing.

“I just need the egg,” said Harry, and now, not even the roar of the crowd could be heard. They were all listening intently to the words that he had to say even if they couldn’t understand him.

Everyone in the crowd watched as Harry moved ever closer to the dragon.

“I just need the egg,” he repeated.

And the dragon, nodded.

Then reared back and Harry had nowhere to hide, and he couldn’t run. He was going to get flayed alive.

He raised his wand to cast something, anything that might save him, but then the dragon sat back on her haunches and she lowered her nose to the eggs, and touched the golden one. Then, it did the most remarkable
thing. It nosed the golden egg right to Harry’s feet.

Harry picked it up to the absolute silent awe of the crowd.

He moved into the relative safety of the alcove. The crowd could still see him, but he was out of the direct range of the dragon.

Now, the really hard part.

He cast, “Sonorous,” on his voice. Then waved a wand over his kit. His outfit changed into Hermione and Millicent’s invention.

On the back it spelled, “SPEW” in big bold letters. And on the front a rather nicely done depiction of Dobby himself. He stood atop a boulder so that he could be seen by everyone, then started speaking.

“House elfs deserve freedom. House elfs deserve fair pay. House elfs deserve equal rights. It is unfair the things that we are doing to our magical brethren and the cruelty must end here. I…” Harry stopped briefly.

“I, Harry Potter, a Triwizard Champion, declare my loyalty to the house elves and to house elf liberation, and urge each of you to contact me or Hermione Granger if you would also like to join us in the Society for the
Promotion of Elfish Welfare and to support this wonderful cause for justice.” Harry smiled and waved at the crowd, removed the Sonorous from his voice, bowed to the dragon then left the arena his SPEW kit blazing for all the
crowd to see and ponder.

“Last year dementors, this year dragons, what are they going to bring into this school next?” Madame Pomfrey said as she checked him over.

Somehow, Harry only had a small cut which Madame Pomfrey cleaned with some purple liquid that smoked and stung before she touched his shoulder with her wand and it felt healed instantly. She ordered him to sit still, but when Ron, Hermione, and Millicent entered the room, he jumped up to meet them.

“Harry, you were brilliant,” said Hermione. “and now everyone knows about S.P.E.W. Several people were already asking about it where I was sitting. A little blonde Ravenclaw also looked very interested in your speech.”

“Ditto, Granger,” said Millicent, though Harry doubted the Slytherin section where Millicent was most likely sitting were very concerned about elf rights, more like they were busy making fun of Harry.

“Mate,” Ron said in complete shock. “That was wicked. The way that dragon just nudged you the egg. We all had no idea what you were saying of course, but…. Wow! I’m glad that I told you about the dragons in advance.”

“Wait, what?” Harry asked before getting the whole story from Ron about Charlie and Hagrid and how he had really been the one to make sure that Harry had a heads up in the first place. Harry didn’t care about that
honestly, he was just glad to have his friend back.

Harry had his own field of support that followed him up to the castle. The twins, Lee Jordan, even Angelina Johnson were there along with his friends and quite a few Slytherin lower years to find out what exactly was in the egg.

“Go on, Harry, open it!” several people cheered.

Harry dug his fingernails into the groove that ran all the way around the egg and pried it open. It was hollow and completely empty, but the moment Harry opened it, the most horrible noise, a loud and screechy wailing, filled the air.

“Shut it, Harry,” Millicent shouted.

“What was that?” said Seamus Finnigan, staring at the egg as Harry slammed it shut again. “Sounded like a banshee…Maybe you’ve got to get past one of those next, Harry!”

Neville was shaken. Believing wholeheartedly that Harry was going to have to fight off the Cruciatus Curse for the next task. While George had offered up Charlie himself who apparently like several members of the
Weasley clan couldn’t carry a tune. While Blaise threw fighting his mother into the mix.

“Perhaps you have to marry her next? That’s a task few survive,” he said so only Harry could hear.

When Harry got back to his dorm, he sat his tiny model of the Horntail on his dresser, and watched as it yawned, curled up then closed its eyes. Harry did the same.

At breakfast the next morning, Ron was the one to meet him at the entrance to the Great Hall. Everyone turned to him and looked, a few stood up to get a closer look and then people were applauding.

Harry looked at Ron in shock.

They were applauding him now more than they had when he had finished the first task. “Go Harry!” Dean shouted from the Gryffindor table as well as a few others.

It was like he had stepped into another universe.

“Ron, what’s going on?”

Ron smiled at him, and clapped him on the back.

“Everyone’s keen to support the real Hogwarts’ champion is what,” said Ron.

“What do you mean?” asked Harry. “There are two Hogwarts champions.”

“Technically yes, but you’ve gone and got the school divided. Where some people before thought that you may have cheated or gotten in illegally, now everyone knows that you’d be barmy to put your name in the Cup, and now,
people are wanting to throw their support behind you. Everyone’s split,” Ron explained. “The younger years fourth and below are all hoping for you to win, while the upper years are pulling for Warrington, mostly. But we’ve got a
good crowd behind us, Harry,” Ron said, and instead of arguing with his friend that he had newly made up with, Harry had simply nodded.

It would be nice for someone to be in his corner anyway.

Later, Blaise, Millicent, and Harry were heading to the library when they were stopped by a frazzled looking Hermione.

“Didn’t try to lead them on strike, did you Granger?” asked Blaise. “House elf magic is not to be messed with. Keep going and while it may look like chicken or meatloaf, or even pumpkin juice it will taste like sardines, Granger, sardines.”

“You sound like this has happened to you before,” Harry asked. But Blaise was too distraught to talk about it.

Harry shushed his quiet laughter and then urged them all to follow her.

Millicent shook her head.

“I’m way too curious to say no. She never gets in a tiff. Trust me,” she told Blaise. “this should be interesting.”

Blaise nodded then said, “Better than studying,” before following Hermione and the others.

He had one brief glimpse of an enormous high ceilinged room, large as the Great Hall above it with mounds of glittering brass pots and pans heaped around the stone walls, and a large fireplace at the end. Then someone was
squealing, “Harry Potter sir! Harry Potter!”

Next second all the wind had been knocked out of Harry as the squealing elf hit him hard in the midriff, hugging him so tightly he thought his ribs would break.

“Dobby?” Harry gasped.

“It is Dobby, sir, it is!” squealed the voice from around his navel. “Dobby has been hoping and hoping to see Harry Potter sir, and Harry Potter has come to see him, sir!”

Dobby let go and stepped back a few paces, his tennis ball eyes brimming with tears of happiness. He looked the same as always, but was wearing…something unusual. When Dobby worked for the Malfoys, he had
always worn the same filthy pillowcase. Now, however, he was wearing the strangest assortment of garments Harry had ever seen. A tea cozy for a hat pinned with bright badges, a horseshoe patterned tie over his bare chest, odd
socks, and plaid shorts.

“Dobby, what are you doing here?” Harry said in amazement.

“Dobby has come to work at Hogwarts, sir!” Dobby squealed excitedly. “Professor Dumbledore gave Dobby and Winky jobs, sir!”

“Winky?” said Harry. “She’s here too?”

“Yes, sir, yes!” said Dobby, and he seized Harry’s hand and pulled him off into the kitchen between the four long wooden tables. Harry noticed as he passed that the tables were positioned exactly beneath the four house tables
alone in the Great Hall. Harry supposed that the dishes full of food were transported to their counterparts above at mealtimes.

Dobby led Harry to the front of a brick fireplace and pointed.

“Winky, sir!” he said.

Unlike the other elves who were wearing Hogwarts emblazoned togas, Winky was dressed in a blue blouse and skirt, but where Dobby looked neat though unusual, Winky matched but was rumpled. There were soup stains all down her blouse and a burn in her skirt.

“Hello, Winky,” said Harry.

Winky’s lip quivered. Then she burst into tears.

“Oh dear,” said Hermione. She, Blaise, and Millicent had followed them to the end of the kitchen.

“Winky, don’t cry, please don’t….”

But Winky cried harder than ever while Dobby beamed ever brilliantly back up at Harry.

“How long have you been here, Dobby?”

“Only a week, Harry Potter, sir!” said Dobby happily.

“Dobby came to see Professor Dumbledore, sir. You see, sir, it is very difficult for a house-elf who has been dismissed to get a new position, sir, very difficult indeed…”

At this Winky howled even harder, her nose dribbling all down her front.

“Dobby has traveled the country for two whole years, sir, trying to find work! But Dobby hasn’t found work, sir, because Dobby wants paying now!”

“Good for you, Dobby,” said Hermione while Blaise looked nearly as disgusted as the other elves, who had turned away as if Dobby had said something very rude indeed.

“Thank you, miss,” said Dobby, grinning toothily at her. “But most wizards doesn’t want a house elf who wants paying.”

“Of course not,” said Blaise. “That’s not the point of a house elf.”

“That is exactly what they said, sir! And Dobby likes work but he wants to wear clothes and he wants to be paid Harry Potter…Dobby likes being free.”

Winky’s cries grow louder.

“Then I goes to visit Winky, and finds out Winky has been freed too.”

“It’s a revolution,” Millicent said, nudging Hermione’s side. Dobby then explained how they got to Hogwarts and what Professor Dumbledore had offered them but, “Dobby beat him down miss…Dobby likes freedom, miss, but he isn’t wanting too much, miss, he likes work better.”

While the discussion of what Winky was being paid went far worse.

“Winky is not sunk so low as that! Winky is properly ashamed of being freed!”

“Ashamed?” said Hermione blankly. “But Winky, can’t you see? It’s Mr. Crouch who should be ashamed, not you. You didn’t do anything wrong, and he was horrible to you.”

Winky slammed her hands over her ears.

“You is not insulting my master miss! Mr. Crouch is a good wizard. Mr. Crouch was right to sack bad Winky.”

“Winky forgets she is not bound to Mr. Crouch anymore; she is allowed to speak her mind now, but she won’t do it.”

Millicent stepped forward.

“House elves aren’t allowed to speak their minds. They keep their master’s secrets at all costs. They’re supposed to uphold family honor,” she explained.

“And that means not bad mouthing Crouch?” Harry supplied.

“But Professor Dumbledore said we could call him….” Dobby stopped, appearing nervous. “He said we is free to call him….a barmy old codger if we likes sir! But Dobby is not wanting to Harry Potter, sir. Dobby likes Professor
Dumbledore and is proud to keep his secrets and our silence for him.”

“But you can say what you like about the Malfoys now?” Harry asked him, grinning.

A slightly fearful look came into Dobby’s immense eyes.

“Dobby…Dobby could,” he said, doubtfully, before squaring his small shoulders. “Dobby could tell, Harry Potter, that his old masters were….were bad Dark wizards. And about their friends.”

“You ought to be ashamed, Dobby, talking about your masters that way.”

“They isn’t my masters anymore, Winky!” said Dobby defiantly. “Dobby doesn’t care what they think anymore!”

“Bravo!” Hermione cheered.

“What?” said Blaise. “He’s merely realized what most of us have realized for years.”

“That Malfoy’s full of hot air.”

“Precisely,” said Blaise. “Oh, my poor Mr. Crouch what is he doing without Winky to help him?”

“Winky,” said Hermione. “I’m sure Mr. Crouch is getting on just fine. Every time we’ve seen him he’s looked…”

“You is seeing my master?” said Winky breathlessly. “You is seeing him here at Hogwarts?”

“Yes, said Hermione. “He and Mr. Bagman are judges in the tournament.”

“Mr. Bagman comes too?” squeaked Winky. “Mr. Bagman is a bad wizard. A very bad wizard. My master isn’t liking him at all.”

“Bagman Bad,” said Harry.

“Oh, yes,” said Winky, nodding her head furiously. She looked angry. “My master is telling Winky some things, but Winky is not…no she is keeping her master’s secrets..,” she said fiercely before dissolving into tears once again.

“Poor master, poor master.”

Sensing Winky wouldn’t be up for anymore conversation the group walked away. The other house elves plied them with food and Hermione promised that she’d knit Dobby a new sweater.

“Harry Potter…can Dobby come and see you sometimes, sir?”

“Of course you can,” said Harry. “I’d like that very much.”

Out in the hall, Millicent said, “That was odd.”

“Yeah,” said Hermione. “She doesn’t think much of Bagman.”

“Who does?” said Blaise. “The man’s the definition of the bad sort.”

“And you should know all about that, Zabini,” said Millicent.

“We’ve all got to be good at something,” the boy quipped.

Chapter Text

"Viktor Krum is staring at you,” said Harry.

Is he?” questioned Blaise, sounding bored. Malfoy had soundly corned Krum and most of the other Durmstrang students, but Krum and his friends who had at first looked fascinated were now looking quite bored with Draco and his lofty rantings. A few had already plead incomprehension and more than a few had slunk over to other house tables as the three schools blended more and more with one another.

“He’s probably just admiring my perfect complexion and bone structure. Completely normal thing to do, Potter. Please stop being so judgey.”

Millicent laughed.

It is perfectly normal for someone to stare when you have that thing wrapped around your neck.”

Blaise touched the gift from his mother. The object of discussion was a rather large diamond choker and chain that Blaise’s mom had sent after Blaise had “forgotten” to reply to a few of her letters since he came back to school. Blaise kept each of the letters in a neat pile on his desk unopened and collecting dust. The stack was a good five inches tall, and Blaise was getting letters nearly every other day.

Still, he seemed in no hurry to reply hence the bribe.

And somehow he still managed to look masculine, Harry thought, even with the rather large necklace he was currently wearing. Girls from every house seemed to flock to Blaise and unlike other members of his house, Blaise didn’t much care for dating only Slytherins. And unlike his mother, Blaise liked to keep his “relationships” discreet. The most Harry had heard about Blaise’s relationships before the “incident” as Harry called it was merely a collection of distinct longing filled sighs that erupted when Blaise walked down the corridor and a few teary eyes and red faces as both girls and guys stared daggers into Blaise’s skull at meal times. Blaise, of course, always seemed unaffected.

In fact, Harry had only ever heard about one of Blaise’s “dates”.

Last year, Blaise had come to Harry asking for his help in dealing with a rather overzealous Ravenclaw. But in that instance, it couldn’t have been helped. After Blaise broke it off with the Ravenclaw she then turned on him with several quite painful stinging hexes. Harry had thrown his invisibility cloak over the two of them and took off towards the dungeons.

Harry had felt those curses for a week. He felt them now hoping Blaise’s beauty wasn’t enough to attract Krum. Harry was a good flier, but he highly doubted he could catch Blaise’s fine form if Krum decided to toss him off his broom mid-flight.

Whatever it was, Krum caught them staring and quickly looked away.

***

That evening, Snape stopped by the common room, gathering everyone. He had to make an announcement. It was rare that Snape was seen in the Common Room. If someone needed him or if they were in trouble, it was always encouraged for them to go by his office during office hours, only. Snape didn’t like to be disturbed, unless you had a very good reason. And what a good reason was to Severus Snape constituted blood or death, nothing less.

Millicent did say he was always good for a potion if you didn’t feel up to walking all the way up to the infirmary. Harry had blanched, knowing that he wasn’t likely to drink
anything offered him by Severus Snape.

“The Yule Ball is approaching, and as a traditional part of the Triwizard Tournament it is an important opportunity for Hogwarts to socialize with our foreign guests. The ball is only open to fourth years and above although if you wish to invite a lower year as your guest then you are free to do so.”

Snape ignored the excited twittering of a few.

“Dress robes are mandatory. The ball will start at eight o’clock on Christmas Day, finishing at midnight in the Great Hall. The ball is to be a fun occasion,” Snape nearly cringed at the word. “But it is not an excuse to be lax in the standards which we expect from the students of Hogwarts. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the customs surrounding formal events and or have not had the proper training in the art of movement, you will be receiving a notice from your prefects about special mandatory lessons. Be aware, that if you do not attend, I will know, and your next mandatory event will be in detention with me.”

Snape nodded once then dismissed them with a flurry of his robes.

Harry really shouldn’t have been surprised when he got the notice that he was one of the selected few assigned to the special lessons.

Harry remembered laughing as Fred and George had told him about Ron’s dance with McGonagall, and he really, really regretted it right about now.

Pansy Parkinson now paced the length of the empty classroom they had conveyed in, eyeing each of them with stern disapproval. And since apparently all Slytherins were born with “unique grace and the innate style and knowledge of ballroom dancing” as Pansy had put it, Harry had been sent to dance lessons.

Thankfully, he was not alone.

Goyle had been sentenced too, as well as a couple of fourth years who Harry assumed had dates with upper years, and a girl in the year above him named Cordelia. Harry had seen her in the library studying fiercely, like her hair was about to be set alight if she didn’t finish reading or writing what was in front of her in that moment. Harry had witnessed her shake down seventh years for books, but even she fell in line when Pansy started barking orders.

The sound of a whip cracking caught Harry’s attention. Pansy lowered her wand and then started speaking, “You are here because Professor Snape demands the best out of Slytherin House in all areas and that means that we need to be good representatives at all times. And to make sure that you do not besmirch your house with all the grace and class of illiterate monkeys, I am here to ensure that you can go to the ball and not make utter fools of yourself.”

She flicked her wand and then a long cane appeared in her hand. The cane came to about Pansy’s hip. It was oak and maybe only over an inch in thickness, but it looked painful nonetheless.

Pansy swung the cane in what looked like a jazzy fashion, but to Harry it looked like a very threatening order to behave. She then instructed everyone to partner up. Harry immediately went for the older girl assuming she wouldn’t be as much of a target as some of the younger years and by extension he wouldn’t be as much of a target himself.

He had made it nearly to her side when a force pulled him back by the collar of his robes.

“Oh, no, Potter, as the only major special case in this group, you’re mine.”

Harry gulped, suddenly knowing what it felt like to be Malfoy. He didn’t like it.

“Put your hand on my waist, Potter.”

Harry hesitated and Pansy’s enchanted cane stalked toward him where it had been whacking Goyle’s legs because he wouldn’t move them far enough apart. He had been trying to dance with his legs shut, hoping to avoid the canes blow on that other part of his anatomy if he could.

“Pay attention, Potter. This isn’t some simple Muggle two step.”

Harry nodded, dividing his attention between Pansy and her death stick. Not bothering to tell Pansy he didn’t know how to do one of those two step things either.

Harry put his hand on her waist, and allowed her to lead him around the room.

“You’re going to have to learn this, Potter, if you’re going to represent Slytherin house in front of the whole school.”

“The whole what?” Harry asked. “What are you talking about?”

Pansy gaped at him.

“Didn’t you know?”

“Know what, Parkinson?” They were on a brief five minute break and instead of chatting with Pansy, Harry really needed to chug about a liter of water. Harry had thought that Quidditch practice with Flint had been challenging. Yeah, well, that had nothing on dancing lessons with Pansy Parkinson.

“The Champions, and you are one, Potter, and their date start the ball with a dance. It’s traditional.”

“It’s not going to happen!” Harry said. “I’m expected to make a fool out of myself in front of the entire school.”

Pansy rolled her eyes.

“Don’t be so dramatic, Potter. It won’t be that bad. Besides your date will help you, I’m certain. Merlin knows she won’t want to look like a fool either.”

Pansy stood and with a bright smile and her cane dancing, waiting, happily by her side, she clapped her hands, and urged them all up. Goyle was nearly passed out on the
other side of the room. The two fourth years each had one arm trying to pull him up, but the floor seemed to need him there at the moment. While Harry was still stuck on what
Pansy had last said.

How on Earth was he supposed to find a date?

***

In Slytherin, negotiations were in full swing. The Yule Ball was quickly approaching and every day the news about who was going with who took over more and more of everyone’s conversations. Harry had never known so many people to put their names down to stay at Hogwarts for Christmas.

Harry had never quite noticed how many girls Hogwarts held until giggles erupted every time a boy passed a group of girls in the hall. Ron was equally as confused about how they were supposed to get dates.

“How’re you supposed to get one on their own to ask them?” Harry wondered aloud.
While politics in Slytherin were clearly defined, Gryffindor was more of a free for all, and Harry didn’t envy them at all.

“Lasso one?” Ron suggested. “Got any ideas who you’re going to ask?” Ron said.

Harry didn’t answer. He had assumed that he and Millicent would go together, but when he mentioned it, she had said that she was already going with someone else, though she wouldn’t tell him who.

“Still in the negotiation stage?” Blaise had asked.

“Deal’s almost finalized,” Millicent had said, with an uncharacteristically bright smile.

So far Harry had been asked to the dance by a third year Hufflepuff he had never spoken to, out of his surprise he had said no before he could even consider it. The next day,
two more girls asked him to the ball as well as a sixth year boy from Ravenclaw. Harry had been so surprised then that he wasn’t sure that he had said anything at all, just shook
his head then partly down the hall he had shouted, “Thank you,” then ran to find Blaise.

“Well,” said Blaise. “You’re not particularly hot, Potter. But you are a champion and famous which means quite a lot to some people.”

Then noticing the look on Harry’s face added, “Don’t get me wrong, you’re handsome in a very traditional plebian sort of way. Though,” he considered Harry. “The dark hair is
quite nice and you’re getting less gangly every year, not my type but I think you’d definitely be…..”

“Thanks, Blaise,” Harry said.

“The point is, Potter, that all of your already good attributes, your history, and new status have all culminated in you attracting a lot of new attention from both sexes.”

“But don’t people look down on…”

Blaise shook his head no.

The only things Harry knew about all of that was what he had heard from Uncle Vernon, and that hadn’t been pleasant at all.

“Harry,” said Blaise. “I don’t know what kind of backward things you’ve learned about homosexuality from those Muggles you live with, but people in the Wizarding World don’t think that way. Two men, two women, they simply don’t care,”

“But the law,” said Harry.

“The law,” said Blaise, “needs an update. Prejudice was more prevalent decades ago then it is now. Same sex couples are allowed to live together, but not marry, the wizarding way,
at least. Muggle style marriages are still valid though, as well as name changes…”

“Then why don’t they just change it?”

“Because no one angry enough or powerful enough has went against the Wizengamot to try to.”

Harry thought about this.

He had, or at least everyone said he had, some pull in the wizarding world. Could he make it possible for Remus and Sirius to get married properly? What about Blaise, if he fell in love with a man? Ernie Macmillan? Or even himself?

He didn’t want to box himself in. He had never really felt anything serious for a member of either sex, but there had to be reason he never noticed any of the girls at Hogwarts before, but could still remember what Bill Weasley was wearing the first time they met.

Blaise touched his shoulder.

“You don’t have to know right now, Harry.”

“You do,” Harry said.

“Yeah, well…” Blaise said, shrugging.

“I’m just more mature than you, Potter,” he said, but for a moment Harry thought he was going to say something else. He let it go though. Blaise was a little like a piece of
hard candy, bite to hard and hurt your teeth, wait awhile and getting to the center becomes a lot easier.

In the library that day, Fred and George came over to where Harry, Hermione, Millicent, and Ron were sitting and grabbed a seat.

“Ron, can we borrow Pigwidgeon?” George asked.

“No, he’s off delivering a letter,” said Ron. “Why?”

“Because George wants to invite him to the ball,” said Fred sarcastically.

“Because we want to send a letter, you stupid giant git,” said George.

“Who do you keep writing to, eh?” said Ron. “Is it the same person you’ve been exchanging letters with all summer?”

Ron turned to the table.

“He’s been waiting in the kitchen all summer to get their letters faster. Writes them back right then and there, but then saves it a day or two to send it back. So, he doesn’t seem
desperate, I think. Mom thinks it’s a “special someone”.”

Then Fred quickly changing the subject said, “So…you lot got dates for the ball yet?” Ron glanced at Hermione who had just set off to find another book and said, “Not yet,” then

“What about you two?”

Fred seemed to blanche though he had been the one to bring it up.

“Georgie has his eyes set on someone.”

“But not you?” asked Ron. “What about your special someone?” Ron teased, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively.

Fred fiddled with the hem of his jumper, ignoring everyone’s eyes as Harry, Ron, and Millicent stared at him and waited on an answer.

“That’s nothing,” he said. “Just something to keep me entertained. I was thinking about taking someone from the team, I think…”

George stared at his twin like this was the first that he had heard of this, but then again, Harry guessed they couldn’t tell each other everything.

“Well,” said Millicent loudly. “Despite this scintillating conversation, I’ve actually got work to do.” She stood from the table then followed Hermione after a book or two. Fred watched her as she went.

Chapter Text

HARRY JAMES POTTER!!!! IT IS COMPLETELY NEEDLESS FOR ME TO TELL HOW WORRIED, HOW DISTRAUGHT, HOW UTTERLY WRETCHED I FELT WHEN I HEARD…HOW COULD YOU….TALK???? TO???? A???? FIRE BREATHING DEMON???????? Dearest Godson, Congratulations on getting past the Horntail. Whoever put your name in that goblet shouldn’t be feeling too happy right now!

Because I’m going to find them and use a conjunctivitis curse on every inch of them until they howl in pain and agony. I was going to suggest a Conjunctivitis Curse, as a dragon’s eyes are its weakest point, but how you handled that dragon was simply amazing. Don’t get complacent though, Harry. You’ve only done one task; whoever put you in for the tournament’s got plenty more opportunity if they’re trying to hurt you.

Main you, injure you. Perhaps you should just drop out, quite Hogwarts completely. Remus and I will take you in. I’ve been learning to knit, and have started quite the quilt to wrap you in. Keep your eyes open, particularly around certain other headmasters, and concentrate on keeping yourself out of trouble. For the love of all that is holy keep yourself out of trouble before I have a panic attack. Keep in touch, we will want to hear all about the Yule Ball.

Please try to go with a Gryffindor. Slytherin children are notoriously difficult to raise. I should know. And I’m too young for grey hair in case someone impregnates you.

All our love,

Sirius and Remus

P.S.

Your father was one of the most supportive people I’ve ever known and would be very proud. He would have been the loudest person in the crowd for every task. Other than your mother.

Harry hoped that both of his parents would have been proud of him. As far as a date, Harry was starting to highly consider asking Myrtle if she would be willing to take a break from the bathroom and haunt the dance floor with him for a few hours.

Ron, however, had set his sights a little more on the living side.

“Fleur? Are you insane?” Ginny had asked her shell shocked brother who was barely able to speak since he had done the unthinkable. They were outside at the scene of the crime, or as most people called it, the courtyard. Several people were gathered around a stunned Ron as he explained what had happened.

“Shoot for the stars?” said Seamus Finnigan. “I sure did,” he said, gazing at Lavender Brown, another Gryffindor girl, who Seamus seemed to be newly smitten with. Dean, near him, seemed to choke on something slightly before excusing himself.

“I don’t know, Harry, it just happened. I just looked at her, and then, BAM! I honestly didn’t even mean to ask her. I’ve been meaning to ask…”

Harry nodded.

“It’s that she’s part Veela, her grandmother,” said Harry. “It’s not your fault. You probably passed her when I did. She was putting it on quite heavy for Cedric Diggory, I nearly got pulled in myself.”

“Ah,” said Seamus. “But he’s going with Cho Chang I’m pretty sure.”

Ah, Harry thought, that made sense. Cute couple.

“But then whose Fleur going with?” asked Harry.

“I saw her chatting with that Ravenclaw Roger Davies,” said Seamus.

“No,” said Ron, still looking out of his skin. “Worse,” he said, shaking his head.

“I don’t even know how he did it, but….oh, Harry, it’s so bad. And gosh, now, she’ll never agree to go with me when she hears about this…” Ron trailed off.

Harry looked at his friend and tried to read his mind the way Millicent sometimes managed to read his, but he got nothing. Just then, Pansy Parkinson stalked across the grass of the courtyard looking so fierce that Harry thought she was going to hex him flat out.

“Potter!” she hailed, and Harry nearly jumped out of his skin, looking for her cane on reflex because he was surely about to get hit in the shins.

But when no hit immediately came, it was already too late to run.

“You’re going to the Yule Ball with me, I will be by your rooms later tonight to make sure that your dress robes are suitable. If they are not you will wear what I pick out and you will not complain. You will meet me for extensive dancing lessons until I can say with all certainty that you will not embarrass me.”

“Now, wait just a second….” Said Ginny Weasley, the only one brave enough in the crowd to talk to Parkinson that way. “Harry doesn’t have to go with you.”

“Listen, Potter,” Pansy said, coming close so only he could hear what she had to say. “You promised me Draco Malfoy and since I helped you with your little flea problem, I
suggest that you get on board or I will ruin you….” She stressed the word and Harry had no doubt that she meant it.

Harry merely nodded, meekly.

Pansy smiled then turned on her heel.

“Seven o’clock, Potter,” she said over her shoulder.

Harry berated himself for not asking Myrtle sooner.

The night of the ball, the entrance hall was packed with students, all milling about, waiting for their dates and for eight o’clock to sound and the Great Hall doors to be opened.

Harry had to be up early, but the rest of his house came up the stairs soon enough, Draco Malfoy at their head. He was wearing dress robes of black velvet with a high collar and his hair was jelled back in a slightly different way than usual. He looked… decent as he strode over to Fleur Delacour and took her hand.

Pansy was next, she was wearing a pale pink dress and a rather delicate line of jewels in her hair. She took Harry’s arm forcefully, not daring to look at Draco who was chatting amicably with Fleur. Blaise had explained, saying that Draco had been working on this little coup all year.

“She thinks you and he are best friends.”

“Me and Malfoy?” said Harry. “That’s a joke.”

Harry had tried to get close to Fleur to tell her the truth, but every time he tried to get close, Pansy pulled heavily on his arm and Harry realized what a bad idea that was after all. All of the Weasley’s were dressed up nicely. Fred had somehow gotten Angelina Johnson to go with him while George had asked fellow teammate Katie Bell. Neither of the twins looked as happy as most of the other students. Harry had assumed that Fred and George would be shooting off more of those sparklers that they had at the Burrow, but instead, they barely seemed inclined to talk to one another.

George kept glancing at Angelina Johnson with a longing sort of look that Harry thought matched Pansy’s non-looks at Malfoy.

“What’s going on?” he had asked Ginny who had agreed to go to the ball with Neville.

“I’m not sure,” she said, though she too, noticed that something was wrong with her brothers.

As the doors opened, and people started to file inside, Harry was ordered to stay where he was by Professor McGonagall. The champions would go in last. While neither Ron or Hermione had made an appearance.

Harry was starting to wonder if he could get away with leaving Pansy for a few minutes to go and get the map and try to find them when Hermione walked down the staircase.

She was breathtaking.

Harry had never known Hermione to be one who took too much time with her appearance. She was always neat and hygienic, but she had never employed the varied cosmetic charms that Pansy, Tracey, and even Lavender and Parvati from Gryffindor knew like they knew the back of their hands. But tonight she looked stunning.

Then as if she could get any more beautiful, she smiled as Ron Weasley came down beside her, took her hand in his, and then escorted her to the Great Hall.

“Wow,” said Harry, giving them both a hug.

“You guys look great,” he said.

“You too, Harry,” said Hermione cheerily, smoothing down her blue dress. Ron said it too, but his eyes never left Hermione.

And before Pansy could say anything cutting to Hermione, Professor McGonagall ushered Ron and Hermione into the Great Hall.

“Good luck,” they echoed as they moved further and further away from him.

Everyone seemed to have their dates. Even Warrington with…Ely? Harry had wondered at first if they had just gone as friends until Warrington had bravely and quite proudly pulled his very handsomely dressed date into his arms and kissed him to the shock and awe of quite a few. Pansy however looked as if this was old news.

“You knew about…” Harry gestured to the two boys who were now holding hands and waiting to be let into the Ball.

Pansy nodded.

“Old news, Potter, we all go through that phase, don’t we?” she asked. Then, “But for some it’s more than just a phase, sometimes it lasts until seventh year.” Pansy sighed. “And sometimes a good pureblood goes to rot on a hot blonde.” Harry thought that comment was a bit brusque when he heard someone whistle at him.
He turned to see Millicent walking up the stairs from the dungeons. Wow, Harry thought. Millicent was wearing a deep green almost black suede strapless dress that fit her incredibly well. Her hair was beautifully done in loose waves to one side, the jewels she was wearing only exemplified the fact that she was definitely shining.

Harry waited to see if anyone else was coming up the stairs, but when Harry saw neither Crabbe, Goyle, or Blaise in her company, Harry wondered if she had decided to come alone after all. Blaise had said that he was going stag, maybe they just planned to dance together and or make fun of everyone else’s dancing skills or lack thereof.

Then, Viktor Krum moved past him, walked up to Millicent, took her hand in his, gave a low bow, and kissed her hand.

“No flipping way,” said Pansy beside him, her eyes wide as “big, burly, broad shoulder, butch Millicent Bulstrode” was taken into Viktor Krum’s arms and led to the line of
champions.

Millicent winked at him as they passed.

“What company you keep, Potter,” said Millicent, tsk’ing him. “Oh, and Pans,” she said, as Professor McGonagall started to count them in. “I’d shut your mouth if I were you. You’re already inclined to premature wrinkles, and that expression is only going to give you more lines.”

Harry had to pull a shocked Pansy into line because it was time.

Harry was never more amazed by magic than in moments like this. Flying, spells, those were one thing, but the Great Hall for the Yule Ball was spectacular. Snow drifted from the ceiling, glitter and shine had replaced the dark wood and boring paint.

Everything was silver and white. It looked like a fairytale. Too bad Harry couldn’t properly appreciate it as he was about to vomit. Pansy tugged on his arm sharply.

“Mess this up Potter, and even a niffler won’t be able to find your body even with all my jewels shoved down your throat.” Harry eyed the rather large expensive looking jewels and that didn’t help his stomach at all.

“Don’t worry,” Pansy whispered as the music started. “I can always buy new ones.” Then the doors opened and Harry followed one obnoxiously proud Warrington and his
immaculately dressed boyfriend to his death.

After spinning him around like he was a dog on show, the rest of the school joined them in the first dance. After a few dances, it was less traditional and more just everyone and their partner or partners just moving together and having a good time, the strict moves that had been drilled into Harry’s head nearly forgotten.

Harry thought he’d be free after the first couple of dances, assuming Pansy would abandon him for greener pastures, but she had stuck to him like glue. “You are the hot commodity, Potter,” she had said. “So, don’t think I’ll be letting you go to dance with other girls.”

But as he and Pansy engaged in their third dance of the agreed seven of the evening, the memory of Pansy’s cane kept his feet in line and his body on beat. Harry was about to call for a break as some of the other couples had done, filtering off and on the dance floor. Tracey Davis had gone with Crabbe after some very fine begging and a very nice, antique necklace that Crabbe had bribed off his mother for the occasion. Too bad the way that Tracey kept looking at it in every reflective surface meant that she wasn’t getting it back anytime soon. The two were one of the few couples who hadn’t left the dance floor for a break. Ron and Hermione were the other pair who just couldn’t get enough….dancing.

Harry was happy for his friends.

Ely and Warrington were also doing their fair share of dancing and mingling. Ely was treating the ball like he treated everything else, like a politician you always forgot was one until you were in the voting booth.

Neville and Ginny looked like they were having the time of their lives, dancing and eating the little cakes that had been made for the occasion. They were like two kids at a carnival, enjoying all the lights and sounds, and Harry thought it was brilliant. Other couples weren’t having the same fun.

While Millicent and Krum spun around the dance floor looking like a very fine couple, Fred and Angelina Johnson kept stepping on each other’s feet while George Weasley was barely content to dance with his date at all. Draco and Fleur were also going the politician route and since Malfoy had gotten what he wanted in taking Fleur to the Ball and having been seen with her, he seemingly had his fill of the fierce champion and part Veela. She was turning on the charm though as several boys surrounded them, suiting her and Malfoy both just fine.

Pansy kept staring daggers. Harry kept wondering where she put her wand in that dress and just how quick she could get to it before he had the opportunity to get out of the way. Though, her plan was definitely working, Malfoy despite the crowd of people that he had around him, kept glancing at them before covering it up with a obviously fake laugh.

Pansy excused him to get him and her a drink while she took Goyle up on his offer of a dance, and Malfoy stared even harder as Harry gave her away “to anyone but Draco”. Harry had nearly sprinted off to get himself some of the punch. As he was tipping some into a glass, someone bumped into his back.

“Sorry,” the guy said shortly.

Harry turned around, ready to ask the guy what his problem was when he saw that it was Seamus Finnigan. He barely seemed to recognize that Harry was there at all. He was staring quite intensely at the dance floor where Dean Thomas danced with his date, a boy named Caleb from Durmstrang.

They hadn’t cause quite the stir that Ely and Warrington had, but that could be because of Slytherins innate prejudice against anything not supporting pureblood values and not because Hogwarts students or staff as a whole were against same sex relationships. That, made Harry feel lighter than anything. No one seemed to care that the two boys were dancing together or that any other couple had decided to go together just because of their sex. Were they judged on what they were wearing? Yeah. If someone couldn’t dance? Of course. But nothing else.

No one cared. But Seamus Finnigan.

The Irish fellow stared at Dean like he had personally AK’d his mother or tried to Crucio his cat, but all Dean was doing was having the time of his life, or at least that’s what it looked like to Harry.

“All right, Seamus?” Harry offered loud enough so that the boy snapped out of his stupor.

“Fine,” he said, shortly then remembering that he was actually friendly with Harry said, “You?”

“Totally fine,” Harry replied. Then deciding that potentially being caught on fire was worth it, he said, “Dean looks nice tonight.”

To his surprise, Seamus laughed.

“Dean looks nice all the time. But that other guy, you would think someone would put in more effort for something like this, but what do you know, foreigners, I guess.”

“Fleur’s a foreigner and so is Krum and they both look excellent tonight,” Harry commented.

Seamus grudgingly looked at the two people that Harry mentioned. Fleur was now dancing with Roger Davies and several other boys at the same time until two girls from Beauxbatons gave her a dirty look. Fleur shot a look at Hermione as she entertained both Neville and Ron, twirling both the boys under her arms as Ginny went to get a drink then Fleur sent the other boys away leaving her with only Davies. Krum was listening as Millicent told him some story, laughing as loudly as Harry had ever heard the boy. Fred was trying to talk to his brother as Katie Bell was dancing with a Hufflepuff Harry was only vaguely familiar with.

“I mean,” said Seamus. “I guess they look fine, but it’s just…”

“It’s just that you don’t like that guy because he’s dancing with Dean. It could be anyone and you wouldn’t like it.”

“Well,” huffed Seamus. “He’s my best friend and he only deserves the best, and…and…that guy clearly isn’t it, that’s all.”

Harry looked once again at the dancing pair who were laughing quietly as the music suddenly changed direction and they had to readjust their steps.

“Where’s the light of your days and nights anyway? I thought you and Lavender have been getting on quite well these days.”

Seamus sighed.

“She said that if I was going to be in a sour mood all night then she was just going to dance with Parvati, not that they don’t spend every waking hour together anyways.” Seamus chuckled lightly. “They’re a bit like Dean and I really, I had just assumed that we were going to go with them as a foursome, but then Dean had said that someone had asked him to go. When I asked him who, he had said a guy from Durmstrang. He had said that he had waited for someone else to ask him for awhile but since they didn’t seem like they were willing….he had said yes.. to this other guy.”

Harry nodded, finally thinking that he had it all connected. But before Harry could say anything else, Pansy walked over and seized him.

“We’re making a move, Potter. Keep up for full tilt.”
Draco had finally pulled another Slytherin girl into a dance. And as Harry and Pansy started to dance, Draco quickly maneuvered his date to be right beside them.

At times, Malfoy got so close to them that Harry could feel his hot, labored breathing on the back of his neck. Towards the end of the night, he was sure he and Draco were wearing the same cologne.

Still, the night wasn’t a total loss. When he was finally able to sneak away from Pansy on one of her “breaks” he had run into one Marcus Flint, chaperone extraordinaire.

“Flint?” Harry had asked.

It was odd seeing Flint in this context, dress robes and nodding along to the Weird Sisters.

Flint turned at the sound of his name, a slight smile on his face as he saw Harry. Harry almost turned away. He wasn’t exactly sure that he had actually seen Flint smile before. Maybe he’s drunk, Harry thought. He wouldn’t be the first to sneak in some Fire Wiskey.

“Haven’t seen Wood, have you?” Flint asked distractedly, looking around the room.

“He’s here too?” Harry asked.

Maybe Pansy had drugged him and this was all a hallucination.

“Yeah,” said Flint, answering Harry’s question, but not really.

“What are you doing here?” Harry asked.

“I thought you’d be busy with the team? And Wood, too. I didn’t think professional athletes took breaks.”

Flint leveled him with the old “Captain’s glare”. It almost made Harry feel nostalgic.

“It’s Christmas, Potter,” Flint said like it was the most obvious thing in the world. “The league breaks for Christmas, every team.”

Harry felt like he was making some sort of connection when up walked Oliver Wood dressed smartly in his jet black robes. Side by side, Harry thought Flint Wood made quite
the pair.

“Hello, Potter,” Wood greeted, much more amiable now that they weren’t on opposing teams.

“I owled Flint here and asked if he wanted to have a little one on one at the old pitch and he accepted my challenge.”

“Of course I did,” said Flint, looking rather fondly at Oliver.

Maybe he was feeling nostalgic too.

Flint’s cheeks started to redden like they always did when he was about to start shouting at someone, so Harry quickly said goodbye to the former Captains. He looked back as the pair were heading to the door, but Flint didn’t look upset at all.

Back on the dance floor, he and Pansy were interrupted. “I’d like a dance,” Malfoy said as soon as his partner excused herself for a moment. “Do you mind if I cut in,” he asked Harry. But before Harry could throw Pansy into his arms, he was thrust into Malfoy’s.

“Sure,” smirked Pansy. “Keep him busy for me Draco, darling, while I get a drink. I’m famished.”

Malfoy looked like he wanted to argue but the look on Pansy’s face dissuaded him of that quick enough. A sound like a whip cracking filled the air and reflexively Harry put his hands on Malfoy’s waist. Harry damned Pansy and her death stick both, praying that wasn’t going to be a permanent reaction.

“Well, well, Potter, didn’t realize I was your type, domineering, in control, powerful. I could have pitched Skeeter a far more interesting tale than Granger.”

Harry heard Pansy call, “Draco!” in what he had deemed her “teacher voice” and Draco’s hands were suddenly on his shoulders.

“Really Malfoy,” Harry had laughed. “because it seems like I’m the one leading this dance.”

“Yeah right,” said Draco, moving them back a step. “It’s a wonder Pansy doesn’t have bloody toes by now.”

“Ha, Ha,” laughed Harry, tugging firmly on Draco’s waist so that he could lead. Malfoy pushed back, but instead of fighting they were each trying to outdo one another in a
weird sort of dance battle.

Harry only realized they weren’t actually fighting when Pansy tapped Draco on the shoulder.

“If you are done trying to steal my date, Draco. I would really quite like him back.”

Draco flushed, pushing back from Harry quickly before scurrying off. Pansy then reclaimed her spot, and they finished out the rest of their allotted dances. The Great Hall was bright and hot, people’s bodies pressed together, and he still smelled like Malfoy. Deciding to break away from the pack, Harry moved to the edge of the dance floor where he saw something he never thought he would see. Fred and George Weasley arguing.

“Not having fun with your date?” George commented.

Fred merely rolled his eyes, like the two had talked about this before.

Angelina was now dancing with one of the guys from Durmstrang. After the first few dances of the night, Harry hadn’t seen Fred take her out once. Likewise, Katie Bell looked as if she was having quite the time with a pretty Beauxbaton’s girl.

“I really don’t want to talk about this right now, George,” said Fred. He was eyeing someone on the dance floor, but Harry couldn’t see who in the mass of bodies.

Fred stood to leave, but George grabbed his arm, whispering something in his ear.

“I know,” Fred said, jerking his arm away from George. “I know, but it wasn’t my fault that the plan went to crap. And it’s not my fault that you didn’t ask her when you should have done. You’ve practically been in love with the girl since second year.”

“You’re one to talk. All the mooning you’ve been doing this summer put all the cows in Ottery to shame.”

Fred went red in the face.

“You know it’s complicated.”

George, normally the more reserved brother was starting to shout.

“It’s not complicated! YOU LIKE HER! Just admit it, she gets you like no one else does, she understands how your mind works, and she doesn’t put up with any of your crap. The girl is practically an evil genius and you have failed, Freddie, on the recruitment process.”

Then realizing that he was perhaps talking a bit too loudly, and that some people were now staring. George said,” But you’re right. I should have asked her when I had the chance. And now that I do, I’m going to take it.”

George then stalked off in the direction of Angelina Johnson, pulled a whisbee from his pocket, and promptly launched it at her dancing partner.

A stunned and giggling Angelina was then pulled into his arms and the two took off where Angelina and her former partner who was now dealing with smoke coming from his pants left off.

Millicent who had stopped dancing with Krum to watch the carnage of the scene before her gave one inscrutable look at Fred and then returned to her partner. Krum whispering something insistently in her ear. Millicent nodded then shook her head. “I can handle it,” Harry could almost hear her say.

Fred, upon seeing everyone start dancing again, returned to his brooding, stalking off in the direction of the now spiked punch.

Harry walked outside to get a breath of air and too cool down, but was instead confronted with Snape and Kararoff. Harry ducked behind a bush as he watched Snape call out random couples who had snuck off for a quick snog all the while keeping Karkaroff at bay.

“We need to do something, Severus. Tell me that you haven’t noticed, that you aren’t concerned.”

Snape huffed haughtily.

“I assure you Kararoff that you have nothing to worry about. Dumbledore has everything under control.”

Kararoff continued to speak, but Snape silenced him. “He is gone Kararoff. Gone.”

The pair were heading toward him so Harry went off in another direction, not quite ready to go back inside in case Pansy decided on dance number eight.

Harry just turned around another corner when he heard something that sounded like a scuffle. With Fred and George’s fight still on his brain, he kept going, just in case
others were letting the excitement of the night get to them.

But as Harry got closer, he not only heard groaning as if someone was being punched, but moaning as if someone.

The two who were supposed to be flying, but instead Marcus Flint and Oliver Wood were making out rather heavily against one of the stone corridor walls. Flint’s hand was inside Oliver Wood’s robes as Harry stood transfixed watching the two kiss passionately. Oliver was grinding himself against Marcus’ thigh.

“Marcus. Marcus,” Wood chanted in a breathy moan. Each time Wood said his name, Flint looked as if he was going to bust.

Harry knew he had to leave. He knew that he shouldn’t be watching. So, he turned slowly. When he was away from the two lover’s he felt dirty. He felt like he had witnessed something that was off limits to him, and worse than that, he felt lonely. Harry wondered what it would feel like to kiss someone. What it would feel like to have someone say his name the way that Wood was chanting Flint’s. Then his mind wandered to Malfoy in his arms and how completely normal that felt verses dancing with Pansy.

Malfoy, Harry hated to admit it, was quite a graceful dancer, with his long legs and delicate hands that were so good for potions making. Then Harry remembered that this was Malfoy that he was talking about and that even if he did decide that he liked men or women or both or neither that he couldn’t have Malfoy like that because the Malfoy that was also less pointy than he had been in recent years was still the same prejudiced snob that he had always been, and Harry doubted that would ever change.

Chapter Text

On Boxing Day, a special edition of the Prophet was released. Harry slammed a copy of the rag onto a table in the common room.

“That woman’s going to pay!” he said. “Have you ever read such vile filth? Nothing and I mean nothing is wrong with Hagrid. Giant or not.” The announcement had been made at breakfast that a new professor would be taking over for Hagrid while he was on temporary leave.

“Calm down,” said Millicent. “I’m sure it’s only temporary.”

“Wrong there,” said Pansy, sitting gracefully by the fireplace. Malfoy had just been off to collect a book she forgot in her dormitory.

“Unlike your one night transformation, that oaf will be gone for good. Everyone now will be afraid that he’ll eat us if we misbehave. Merlin knows he’s got room for all of us.”

“You have to retract your statement,” Harry said as soon as he saw Crabbe.

“A Flobberworm bit you? Really? They don’t even have teeth.”

“Hey!” said Crabbe indignantly. “I didn’t say it bit me, I said I’m always afraid that they will.”

“Yeah,” said Goyle defending him. “It’s why he always beheads them before he does anything else if they’re used in Potions.”

“And that’s why,” said Draco, trotting out with Pansy’s book. “You’re potions always turn to sludge. A whole Flobberworm
does not mean whatever you can scoop off your table after the ritual sacrifice.”

He sat on the arm of the wingback chair Pansy was in and kissed her cheek. The gesture was enough to make Harry puke. He locked eyes with Pansy, motioned to Draco with his eyes then shook his head. Pansy nodded once, discreetly. She had what she wanted now, and that meant Harry had her silence about Sirius and the slate between them was clear, for now.

“Crying over that oaf. I always knew something was off with him, but I never could have guessed what Skeeter found out.
That woman’s a genius with a quill.”

Harry sighed, frustrated.

“She’s vile and you are too. What did she give you to tell such lies?”

“You see, Potter,” said Draco standing. “I’m very intrinsically motivated. Hagrid is a stain on this school, worse than the
mudbloods. Half breeds are abominations.”

Harry rolled his eyes. He’s heard this all before. Draco stiffened at the gesture, rising from his spot beside Pansy to face Harry.

“I stand by what I said, and that bloody Hippogriff did attack me. How you and your beloved giant engineered his escape I may never know. But a Malfoy never forgets.”

“And the Malfoy’s need a new line,” said Harry.

He didn’t have time to waste with Malfoy. He had to see if there was something he could do about Hagrid.

“We need to do something, petition the Wizengamot or the Board of Governors, lets go see Dumbledore.”

“Calm down,” said Hermione. Harry had been in such a fit over Rita and her lies that Millicent had to explain to Hermione what happened.

“Oh,” said Hermione. “That woman’s vile.”

“That’s what I said,” Harry said.

“I don’t know about petitioning the Board, but we could do one ourselves,” Hermione suggested. “Professor Grubbly-Plank
really knows her stuff though. Our first lesson was so brilliant…. I mean, I didn’t know half the things she told us about unicorns.” She stopped her gushing when she saw the blank look on Harry’s face.

“I’ll see if I can draw something up,” she quickly went on.

“Great,” said Harry, relaxing a little.

Within minutes, Hermione had a document ready and a charm on it that would verify that each signer had only signed once and only for themselves.

After Harry, Millicent, and Hermione all signed, Blaise entered the library looking unusually disheveled.

“Zabini, come sign this,” instructed Millicent.

Blaise signed immediately.

“Reinstate Hagrid?” Blaise read. “Only you, Granger.”

“Actually,” she said. “It was more of a collaborative idea.”

Harry raised his hand.

“I should have known,” said Blaise, shaking his head in a longsuffering kind of way. Millicent leaned over and plucked a large piece
of lint off Blaise’s shirt.

“Been exploring crawl spaces?” Millicent asked him.

Blaise shook his head no, plomping into a chair, looking exhausted.

“I’ve been trying to explore Eloise.”

“Eloise Midgen?” said Hermione in surprise. “I saw you dancing at the ball, but I didn’t think you guys were…”

“We’re not,” said Blaise. “Though that’s not because of me. She won’t hardly look at me, and I am very nice to look at.”

“But isn’t she?” Hermione started.

“What Granger?” Blaise said, messing with her. Everyone knew Eloise Midgen was a rather heavy set Gryffindor third year who had
acne and what Ron had called an off centered nose. Everyone else knew that Blaise Zabini was the both the textbook definitions of
beautiful and charming.

“Well, she’s you know…just…”

Blaise held up a hand, stopping her before she could dig herself any deeper.

“She is,” said Blaise. “She is pudgy, and her nose is a little,” he made a motion with his hand near his face, “but man is she something else. Some stuckup Ravenclaws were giving her a hard time at the Ball so I waltzed over and asked her to for a waltz. I had only planned on one dance, but she was just….”

“Too much woman for you?” asked Millicent.

“Really nice?” offered Hermione.

“Ah” said Harry, noticing they wanted his contribution. “You really liked her, uh, dancing technique?” Harry offered.

Blaise shook his head. “It was because she’s flipping amazing. Hexed those Ravenclaws before she took her first step. I do
love a feisty woman even more than I love a cocky man. But now, she wants nothing to do with me.”

“Rejection,” said Millicent. Blaise looked confused.

“This has never happened to me before.”

Hermione tutted.

“I know Eloise to be a very respectable kind of girl. So, I’m not too sure if I believe you, Zabini.”

“And respectful girls don’t go snogging?” Blaise asked.

Hermione shook her head, primly.

“Well, well,” said Blaise. “Because as Eloise was doing very nice things to my person I do believe I saw another respectable young lady being not so respectable last night.”

“Ron!” Harry shouted immediately and at the same time Millicent yelled, “Granger!”

“Exactly what I heard that night,” laughed Blaise. “Though I believe he said Hermione.”

Hermione’s cheeks reddened an impossible amount.

“The last time I checked it was perfectly acceptable to snog ones boyfriend.”

Millicent slapped her on the back playfully before dragging her off for “details”.

When Harry saw Ron later on the boy told him everything.

“I just hope I don’t mess it up,” he said, cheeks blooming.

“No offense mate, but with Hermione’s knowledge of curses and antique toxic potions you better do more than hope.”

Ron paled.

“Maybe I should have picked someone less…” He shook his head. “Nah, I think I’m quite good with her exactly the way that she is.”

“Me too,” said Harry, congratulating his new loved up friend.

Harry couldn’t think of two people more suited for happiness.

***

At the next Hogsmeade weekend, it wasn’t Skeeter that was an issue, but Bagman. After getting Harry alone he started in on him.

“I just thought I’d congratulate you again on your splendid performance with the Horntail, Harry,” said Bagman. “Really superb.”

At the bar Madam Rosmerta served a group of goblins who eyed Harry and Bagman shrewdly. Harry thought it looked like the goblin equivalent of the “evil eye”.

“What do they want?” asked Harry.

“Er…well…,” said Bagman, looking suddenly nervous. “They….er…they’re looking for Barty Crouch.”

“Why are they looking for Mr. Crouch here?” said Harry. “He’s at the Ministry in London, isn’t he?”

“Er…as a matter of fact, I’ve no idea where he is,” said Bagman. “He’s sort of….stopped coming to work. Been absent for a
couple of weeks now. Young Percy, his assistant says he’s ill. Apparently, he’s just been sending instructions by owl. But let’s not spread that around, huh, Harry. Wouldn’t want Rita Skeeter making it more than it is. Barty Crouch is not Bertha Jorkins,” Bagman said, though he looked about as convinced as Harry felt.

“Say how are you getting on with your golden egg?”

“Not bad, nearly there,” Harry lied.

“If I can help at all, just know that I’m here,” the man offered as if the two were conspirators.

Harry nodded. “And have you offered help to Warrington?”

Bagman frowned.

“Well, no, but it’s just I’ve taken a liking to you is all.”

After thanking Bagman for his blatant offer to cheat, Harry met Hermione were she had been gathering signatures.

“This is great Hermione,” Harry said. He nodded towards Hagrid’s. “Let’s go.”

“Nearly everyone,” Hermione said as she handed the long scroll to Hagrid. “Loads of people support you, Hagrid, this is just
proof.”

The man who had been sitting primly in his chair with a mug of hot tea now began weeping openly, so grateful and so happy
that his happiness overwhelmed him and the cup of tea he was holding onto.

“This…means…so…much…ter…me,” Hagrid said through his sobs. Harry smiled at Hermione and mouthed, “Thank you.”

Whether Hagrid was reinstated or not, it was nice to watch the haunted look Hagrid had when they first entered his hut fade away, and be replaced with a look of genuine love and appreciation as he hung the scroll, with nearly every student in the school’s name on it, on his wall and smiled.

***

At breakfast the next morning after having quite the conversation with Hagrid Harry felt like he had actually accomplished something the previous day. Rita Skeeter may be a stain on journalistic integrity, but at least she hadn’t gotten Hagrid, or Hermione for that matter. So far, all of his friends had been spared from that woman’s pen, and Harry couldn’t be more grateful. Harry sat down at his table. Millicent seemed to be running a little late so Harry saved her a seat. Blaise sat in front of them like he normally did, and the two were chatting when the mail arrived. More letters that usual seemed to fall onto their table as kids reached up and grabbed them.

Several letters hung in a large group right in front of where Millicent usually sat, and seemed to be waiting for her. The birds had left, but the normal hustle and bustle and tearing of envelopes was missing as Millicent walked into the hall. Everyone seemed to be watching her. Flipping her hair to one shoulder, Millicent didn’t seem to take any notice of the people staring at her until she saw the stack of letters that seemed to be waiting for her.

She looked like she normally did, Harry thought, but when she got closer to the table it looked as if she hadn’t slept. Her eyes were puffy, and her hair was a little frizzy, like she had been running her hands through it repeatedly.

“Hey, are you…” Harry started, but Millicent held her hand up.

“I am perfectly fine, Potter,” she said, loud and clear enough for everyone who was paying attention to hear what she said. It was then that Harry realized that the letters waiting for Millicent were not ordinary letters, but howlers.

As Millicent sat down, despite Harry’s concern and “let’s go take a walk, Mil,” the girl simply wasn’t having it.

“No thanks, Potter, if you want to take someone for a walk may I suggest Weasley. He always has some extra energy that he
needs to burn off before he’ll sit nicely for Granger.”

As soon as her butt touched the bench the first one started in on her.

“Do you really think that you deserve VIKTOR KRUM? YOU ARE A SNAKE! A SLYTHERIN! AND NOT EVEN A PRETTY ONE!”

Millicent scooped some eggs on to her plate.

The next one: “YOU UGLY, FAT TROLL! Thinking that you’re better than everyone when YOU”RE NOT!!”

Millicent grabbed some bacon.

“COW!!!!!!!!!!!!! Can’t believe he even touched you!!! DID SOMEONE CAST SCOURGIFY!!!”

Millicent deliberately grabbed some more bacon.

“HIDEOUS! Not even a pretty dress can hide the FAT ROLLS!! EAT SOME MORE WHY DON’T YOU??”

Millicent grabbed a pastry from and shoved the whole thing in her mouth.

“Yummmm,” she intoned.

One after the other the howlers berated Millicent, calling her names, and chanting evil things. Different voices every time.
Voices from girls in other house that were clearly smiling as their vitriol rolled off the parchment and into Millicent’s ears.

The teachers had tried to stop it, but no one could seem to get the howlers to quiet. Quite a few of them had set off to get Professor Flitwick. Millicent continued to eat her breakfast. Only those closest to her could see that her hand was beginning to shake. But she was proud. She was a snake, and she was not going to let these people see her break. But Harry knew that it was getting close and that a person could only take so much. Some of the other Slytherins had tried to form a circle around her, but anytime one of them got close, the howlers would seem to attack. It was like they wanted to make sure that Millicent could be seen by the whole populous.

There were older voices too. Apparently Rita had run another article, and the whole population of England thought that Krum deserved someone better. But as far as Harry knew Millicent wasn’t interested in Krum like that. She had told him the day after the ball. We just get along, she had said, and that was it. Harry had believed her.

Just as Millicent started to bite her lip, tears brimming at the corners of her eyes that a rocket of red sparks shot through the air and into the horde of howlers, exploding them to ash. Then Fred Weasley who had just entered the hall, climbed onto the
closest table and cast “Sonorous” on his voice.

“Now, you lot listen here!”

The students all looked in Fred’s direction. The twins were normally up for a good time no matter what, but the look on Fred’s face was murderous. And the few who thought that perhaps he was just going to go along or agree with them and their howlers slumped in their seats, their smiles falling.

“Now, I think I must be mistaken because I thought when I woke up this morning that I was in Hogwarts, is that not true?”

“It sure is,” said George who stood solemnly by his brother’s side as he had appeared out of nowhere. Fred spared his brother a grateful look. The twins were back together again. That message was sent out to the Great Hall and everyone in it.

“Now surely George, students as smart as Ravenclaw will know what bullying looks like. And surely Hufflepuffs know what it’s like to be an easy target. And Gryffindors know that being brave doesn’t mean that you don’t have confrontations with others, but that you don’t go around their backs like a bunch of wankers, but that you say it to their face. And lastly, I know that Slytherin is the house that protects their own.”

People were looking downright ashamed now as Fred Weasley held court.

“But how do you know these things, Freddie?” George asked, and Fred smiled evilly.

“I know, Georgie because I spend a lot of time in the library researching charms and potions to use for our extracurricular activities,”

A shudder ran through the room. A prank from the twins was always fun until you were the one covered in puss or had half of your eyebrows shorn off in the name of humor. Some Gryffindors reached up to their own eyebrows reflexively as if to make
sure that they hadn’t fallen out while Fred was talking.

“And I always see Ravenclaws there, also reading books. Now, surely they would have learned something about what it means to be a student and Hogwarts and what it means to be an ignorant little Twat. And I also know this castle like the back of my hand. Secret doorways and entrances, hallways that only a few students use. I know the paths that most students have to take to get to their classes and I know about the Peach.”

The Hufflepuffs noticeably started to eye one another though Harry didn’t know why.
George eyed his brother expectantly.

“And what else do you know, Fred?”

Fred, finally, looked over at the Slytherin table, and Millicent forgot her breakfast and looked back at him. Almost daring him to keep going.

Fred cleared his throat.

“And I know that Millicent Bulstrode is one talented witch. She’s strong and crafty and a smart mouth and cunningly evil, and beautiful….And I know that while she was pretending to enjoy her breakfast that she was making a mental list of all the people that had sent those fowl things, and she’s going to destroy them in the most elegant way possible because she is a Slytherin. But I am a Gryffindor, and Gryffindors prefer to do things the messy way.”

Fred then eyed everyone in the hall.

“And here’s one last thing that you should all know.” Fred opened his arms wide and swept them around the room before pointing back at Millicent.

“You should know that if one, even one more howler is sent in her direction or I hear that one more disgusting word was sent her way that I will not only unleash terror on that person, but the whole school will be subject to ALL HOLY PRANK TERROR!”

Harry could hear the simultaneous gulp of the students, their minds wondering what exactly that could mean and their eyes
saying that there is no way that they want to find out.

Fred nodded to an incoming Professor Flitwick. Before saying, “That is all,” and stepping down from the table, grabbing a biscuit to go, and leaving the Great Hall. And this time, Millicent was watching him.

Chapter Text

Harry was sitting in the common room waiting for Blaise to get ready so they could head to Transfiguration when he felt someone tap him on the shoulder. But when he looked back there was no one there.

“Do try to keep up, Potter,” Ely McGovern said, not standing in front of Harry.

Ely shoved something in his hands.

“What’s this?”

“Information, Potter, you can read can’t you?”

Harry nodded dumbly.

“Good then, I had my doubts, but Cass seems to think more highly of your abilities than I do. He was always one to favor lost causes and abandoned pets.”

“I’m not a….”

“Of course you’re not a pet, Potter, you’re clearly a boy,” Ely puffed some of his long blonde bangs out of his face looking handsomely candid as he did so. Harry probably would have just ended up with a mouth full of his messy locks if he attempted to do any such thing.

“I’ve noticed that you’ve been getting a lot of attention, Potter, from a particular judge in this tournament.”

“Bagman?” Harry asked.

Ely waved his hand in a “come on” gesture, urging Harry to continue speaking.

“What about him? He’s a prat?”

Ely stared at him intensely.

“And are you or are you not attempting to cheat in this tournament?”

“What?” Harry exclaimed. “Of course not, I never wanted anything to do with this tournament in the first place, and I certainly don’t want anything to do with Bagman now.”

“Then why were you talking with him in Hogsmeade a while back?”

Harry huffed, feeling all sorts of wobbly as Ely showed him the other side of his politician’s persona, the one who gets the information they want at any cost.

“That was nothing. He was just talking to me about Barty Crouch.”

“Yes,” said Ely. “And just how much do you know about Mr. Crouch?”

“He’s been sick. I mean, my mate Ron’s brother works for him, but that’s it.”

“Ah, but I meant how well do you know, Mr. Crouch?”

“I just answered you?” Harry said, uncertain of his certain answer.

“Did you?” Ely asked before turning to walk away. “Perhaps you should read that Potter before you go thinking that you know anything.”

Ely left him then, and Harry stared down at the parchment in his hands.

When Harry got a chance the first thing he did was read what was in the parchment, and lucky for him and Madam Pince he moved the letter off the table he had it on in the library as soon as it caught on fire after he was finished with it. For someone with a Pureblood upbringing Ely sure did seem to like to reference Muggle movies.

Harry got out his quill and started a letter to Remus. If he wanted to know what happened right after the first war then Remus would be the one to know. Everything that Ely or whomever had written about Crouch couldn’t be true, could it?
Harry received a reply back that next morning at breakfast.

“Dear Harry,

Sirius says hello. He is currently out at the shops. The ministry has allowed him that much leave to stray from our residence. We are working on attaining license for a visit to see you very soon. Having a Hogwarts champion for the school looks quite good on the Ministry and a happy one looks even better. I did quite enjoy what you said about SPEW at the first task, that was wonderfully put. Should I think Ms. Granger or Ms. Bulstrode for the lovely outfit you were photographed as wearing? All joking aside, I am glad that you are well. Sirius has been in a tizzy, and I confess that I am not that much better. But using what skills you have and what tools are available is a wonderful lesson for dealing with the Dark Arts and I’m glad that you remembered that. You always were one of the best DADA students. Please also tell Ms. Granger that I still have her last essay with extended notes and commentary if she would like me to owl it to you for her. She has been quite insistent on its status.

Please tell me that you are being careful. I have no idea how you came by the information that you did, but I have to tell you that everything that you wrote to me is right. Barty Crouch did serve as the sentencing agent in many of the cases regarding rouge death eaters. Karkaroff was one of them. He eagerly gave up the names to several others. Crabbe, Goyle, Malfoy. I am sure that none of these names will come as a surprise to you Harry. Everything you read in that harrowing account was real, even the part about Crouch sentencing his own son. He was involved in the rather gruesome torture of the Longbottoms alongside the Lestranges. We were rather good friends with the Longbottoms. They were fierce aurors and they loved each other and their son very much. I was glad to see that Neville is so much like them as you are your father. Barty Crouch Jr. was sentenced to a life sentence in Azkaban. His poor mother was devastated, but it turned his father into the man that he is today, strict, unrelenting.

We have no information about Crouch yet, but we will check into things on this side. No one can seem to get a hold of him. Until then, please take care. Sirius sends his love as always. Also, Sirius and I would like to know what color you would like your room to be painted?

Love,

Remus

Harry tried to think about all of the things that he had just learned about Crouch and his son, but all he could really
think about was what Remus had said. His own room? What color? The tournament would be coming to an end soon, and then the year and he would have to go back to the Dursleys, but then would he? Would he finally have a home like so many of his friends and housemates had? Would he finally be able to feel like he belonged somewhere, where the people were happy to see him instead of anxious for him to leave? Would he finally have what Malfoy had? Not the summers spent in luxurious places, but the time that the boy seems to spend with his parents. Would he finally have something that most people seem to take for granted? A family?

But Harry wouldn’t. No, he would cherish it if he got the opportunity. He would, he promised himself.

Now, all he had left to do was act on the last piece of information that was in the letter. After the location, it had said, “Time to take a bath.”

***
The prefect bathroom was magnificent and large. It was the size of a swimming pool with different taps for bubbles and different colored water. He placed his things by the side and got in. It was so deep that his feet barely touched the bottom, but even as he swam a few laps around the pool no sudden streak of brilliance came upon him. No more understanding seemed forthcoming as he donned a bubble beard either.

Finally, Harry decided to just try opening the egg while he was in the water. The wailing, screeching sound filled the bathroom and he quickly closed it so as not to attract
Filch. Wouldn’t that be awkward?

“I’d try putting it in the water, if I were you.”

Harry had swallowed a considerable amount of bubbles in shock. He stood up, spluttering, and saw the ghost of a very glum looking girl sitting cross-legged on top of one of the taps.

“Myrtle!” Harry said in outrage. “I’m…I’m not wearing anything.”

The foam was so dense that it hardly mattered but it was still eerie.

“I closed my eyes when you got in,” she said innocently blinking at him through her thick spectacles.

“You haven’t been to see me in ages unlike that rather nice George Weasley,” she said nice like Hermione says library. Harry tried not to think about that.

“Sorry, Myrtle, but see I got in trouble for being in there the last time. Didn’t want to risk it. If I got caught then I couldn’t visit you at all and that would have been horrible.”

Myrtle seemed slightly appeased by this.

“Well, anyway….I’d try putting the egg in the water. That’s what Cassius Warrington did. Not too handsome in the face that one, but actually quite fit. His boyfriend wasn’t that bad either.”

Harry tampered back the question of whether she had watched them take a bath too, and instead lowered the egg into the water. When he opened it….it didn’t wail. A gurgling song was coming out of it.

“You need to put your head under too,” said Myrtle.

Harry nodded, took a breath and then dived under the water.

“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 never miss, An hour long you’ll have to look, And to recover what we took, But past an hour, the prospects black, too late it’s gone it won’t come back.”

Harry popped back up above the water.

“What on Earth does that mean?”

Harry swam around in the tub for what felt like an eternity before he had to get back to the dormitory. Snape always had the head girl and boy do nightly checks to make sure that everyone was where they should be. It involved nothing more than a quick charm cast on the outside of the room that monitored body heat, but if anything was amiss, Snape was notified immediately. And Triwizard champion or not Snape would have Harry in detention for the rest of the year if he caught him out this late after hours.

After getting dressed and heading back to the common room, Harry was almost there when he felt someone pull on his collar.

“And just where do you think you’re going?” Draco Malfoy said from the alcove he had just pulled Harry into.

“The dorm,” Harry answered succinctly, wondering where Crabbe and Goyle had gotten themselves off to.

“Did you get caught in a rain storm, Potter, or perhaps a poorly cast aguamenti?”

Harry shook his head no, and moved to leave when Malfoy noticed the egg.

Harry was walking away, going to the door, ready to go back to the dorm and try to solve the riddle when Draco said, “I can help you solve that thing you know.”

Harry stopped walking.

Draco met him down the hall.

“It’s obvious to everyone that you need a bit of help, and since this is now the battle between the upper and lower years, it only stands to reason that I should help you.”

“And what do you want out of it?” Harry asked, knowing that nothing with Draco Malfoy came without a cost.

“A favor to be named later,”

“Absolutely not,” Harry replied.

Malfoy laughed. “Then let’s just say that I get to be in charge of your campaign. Harry, the true Hogwarts champion.”

“I won’t bash Warrington,” Harry said plainly.

Draco scoffed.

“And you think I would. I do have eyes Potter, there’s no way I would ever want to get on Warrington’s bad side. I’d even less like to get on Ely McGovern’s bad side.”

“What’s Ely have to do with Warrington?” Harry looked on confused.

“They’re together,” Draco clarified. “Ely and Warrington, Warrington and Ely, they’re together, boyfriend and boyfriend til Warrington’s father has Ely murdered and then marries
Cass off to a lovely Slytherin Pureblood with a vagina. Until then McGovern pulls that leash though I haven’t heard Warrington complaining.”

“Okay, okay,” said Harry. “I get it. Then what will you do then as the head of my campaign?”

Draco approached Harry who had basically all ready given his assent to this proposal and said, “First, you’re going to take me back to wherever you just were and I’m going to solve this puzzle for you, and then after that, I’m just going to….support you. Having a Triwizard champion from Slytherin and one as young as you are will only do good things for the House and thus by extension, me.”

Now, that made sense to Harry. He was sure that Malfoy wasn’t telling him the whole truth, but he figured that it was good enough.

“Deal,” said Harry, sticking out his hand.

Draco merely smirked then trotted off in the direction Harry had come from not even waiting for him to catch up.

***

Draco was apparently very aware of the prefect’s bathroom. He flicked his wand at the nozzles to turn on the hot water and what seemed to be a very specific series of bubbles and green balm that tinted the water.

Draco turned to look at Harry.

“I have to know how to work these for next year. It’s practically guaranteed that I’m going to be a prefect.”

“Sorry to tell you this Malfoy, but you don’t need any practice on how to be a pompous git. You don’t need a prefect badge to teach you how to be bossy.”

“The air of authority is a natural trait, Potter, that’s true,” Malfoy dismissed.

Then after making sure that the door was locked, and that no one could hear them from the outside, Draco started unbuttoning his robes.

“What are you doing? I already told you the riddle,” said Harry.

“I’m aware,” said Draco as he slipped out of his shirt.

“But I am also painfully aware of your memory and complete lack of detail when describing anything remotely important to anyone. So, forgive me if I’m not going to take
your word for it.”

Harry turned away as the sound of a zipper filled the air, and he heard Malfoy slipping his pants off. Harry thought he waited long enough for Malfoy to get in the pool, but when he turned back around, Draco was still standing there naked as the day he was born.

Nobody in the dorm was particularly shy about their bodies, but it was also quick changes or Blaise walking around without a shirt, and that was when they were all bumbling first and second years trying to make it to class on time in the mornings, but this was different. Harry might spend most of his time at the Dursleys alternatively starving and working his body to exhaustion, but even he had grown taller and filled out with age.

Draco, it turned out, had done the same thing.

He was still skinny, but now it was more like lean. The sharp lines of his face were starting to soften, his legs were long, and his limbs were no longer gangly. Harry was starkly reminded of how Malfoy had looked at the Yule Ball, and how he had felt in his arms. The image of Flint and Wood’s passionate display also played out in Harry’s mind. Harry felt a tug in his lower abdomen as he fought to pull his attention away from Malfoy. Harry’s eyes were traveling a bit too low when Malfoy huffed in annoyance.

“The egg, Potter,” Draco said, hurriedly.

“Oh, right,” Harry said, reaching down and then handing Malfoy the egg.

He wasted no more time after that, jumping into the water then diving under. He stayed under for so long that Harry thought that he might have to dive in after him, at least
to get his egg back. But just as Harry was about to do just that. Draco popped back up. But didn’t say anything.

“Did you hear it?” asked Harry. “What do you think?”

Still, Draco remained silent.

Then Harry looked to the stained glass behind Draco. Then the words clicked.

“The Black Lake,” they said at the same time.

“What?” said Draco.

“The Black Lake, that makes perfect sense, I don’t know why I didn’t think of that before.”

“Right,” said Draco. “But Potter, do you know what kind of creatures live in the Black Lake? Do you know what haunts those waters? What the flicker of shadow is that blocks
the light for only moments in the dorm?”

Harry shook his head no, as Draco got out and wrapped a towel around himself.

“Come on, Potter,” he said, dressing quickly. “There’s a lot I have to tell you.”

***

By the evening before the second task, Harry left as if he were trapped in a nightmare. He was fully aware that even if he found a spell that would help him hold his breath for an hour that he’d unlikely be able to master it before tomorrow. Draco had been as much help as he possibly could be, but not even all the gold in the Malfoy vaults could help him now. He sat with Hermione, Ron (Romione, as Millicent had taken to calling them), the girl herself, and Draco’s representative Crabbe in the library, tearing feverishly through one book after the other, trying to find anything that could help him.

“There must be something,” Hermione muttered. “They’d never have set a task that was undoable.” Ron looked like he wanted to disagree, but kept his mouth shut as Hermione shouted, “There has to be a way. There just has to be!”

Crabbe kept silent, dutifully flipping through book after book. But when Draco walked into the room, Crabbe breathed a sigh of relief.

“Thank Salazar,” said Crabbe rising to leave with his master, commander, and owner. But Draco simply raised the letter in his hands.

“You and I have a date with Snape.”

Great, Harry thought, rising despite the bricks in his shoes.

“Not you, Potter. Snape wants to see me and Mil.”

Millicent seemed surprised by this, but said, “I’ll be back as soon as I can,” then lower to Ron, “Keep Granger on the rails or we’re all doomed.”

Ron nodded solemnly accepting the duty. Crabbe moved to go with them, too, following Millicent.

“Oh,” said Draco in mock surprise. “Have you solved it already, Vince? If that’s the case, you should have said and then we all would leave.”

Crabbe looked down at his hands. “No,” he muttered, sitting back down looking like a kicked puppy.

Millicent was gone for longer than Harry thought and even Hermione had to leave.

“I have a meeting with Professor McGonagall, but it shouldn’t take too long.”

Eventually both Crabbe and Ron feel asleep and Harry had to admit defeat as his own heavy eyelids fell shut.

Chapter Text

Throughout his life, Harry had woken up to quite unsettling and unusual things. Aunt Petunia in her rollers and green face cream, Percy’s bottoms on top of his face as he ran around Ron’s room chasing his Prefect’s Badge as Fred and George had enchanted it to fly away at his touch, Goyle’s bare chest every morning since he started getting chest hair, so Dobby’s big eyes almost didn’t scare him out of his seat. Almost.

He had fallen asleep in the library, his invisibility cloak slipping off him some time during the night.

“Harry Potter needs to hurry!” squeaked Dobby. “The second task starts in ten minutes and Harry Potter….”

“Ten minutes?” Harry croaked. “Ten….ten minutes.”

“Harry, Harry Potter,” squeaked Dobby, plucking at Harry’s sleeve. “You is supposed to be down by the lake with the other champions, sir!”

“I can’t. It’s too late, Dobby,” Harry moaned hopelessly. “I don’t know….”

“Harry Potter will do the task!” squealed the elf. “Dobby knew Harry Potter had not found the right book so Dobby did it for him.”

“What?” said Harry. “How?”

Dobby thrust something into his hand.

“You has to eat this, sir,” squeaked the elf. It looked like slimy, grayish green rat tails.

“Eat this right before you go into the lake, sir…..it’s gillyweed! It will make Harry Potter breathe underwater, sir!”

Thoughts of the last time Dobby tried to help him ran through his mind.

“Dobby, are you sure about this?”

Dobby nods solemnly.

“Dobby is quite sure, sir!”

And since Harry had no choice. He accepted it.

“Thanks, Dobby,” Harry said with a broad smile.

“Dobby will be missed….good luck, Harry Potter, sir, good luck!”

Harry made it to the lake just in time to be scolded by Percy Weasley.

“Where have you been? The tasks about to start!”

He was sitting at the judges’ table, Mr. Crouch had failed to turn up again.

“Now, now, Percy, let him catch his breath!” said Mr. Bagman.

Then after assuring him that Harry really did have a plan. Bagman announced the task.

“All of you champions are here, and are ready for the second task, which will start on my whistle. It is easy and admirable to save and love what is natural to us, but difficult
and even more admirable to accept the traits in others that confuse and challenge us. Champions find the thing you despise the most and embrace your envy. On the count of
three. One, Two, Three!”

The whistle sounded, Harry pulled the handful of gillyweed from his pocket, toasted Dobby, stuffed it in his mouth, and jumped into the lake.

Harry thought he was drowning. The gillyweed hadn’t worked. He opened his mouth to scream as he felt a slicing pain on each side of his neck.

Harry felt his neck….he had gills? Great, Dobby had turned him into a merman. He hoped they would fade in the hour or else Harry was going to have to get quite cozy with the giant squid. Fred and George had always said he could be a tad prickly.

Small fish zoomed past him like silver darts. Dark shapes flirted just outside his vision. Harry swam past seaweed and large rocks that turned into caves and a ….village. The merfolk looked nothing like the image in the Prefect’s bathroom mirror, but had greyish skin and wild green hair. They blended in so well, Harry wondered how he had noticed them at all. In the center of their town rose a crude sort of statue; a gigantic merperson hewn from a large boulder.

Four people were tied tightly to it’s tail. Ely McGovern, Draco Malfoy, Blaise Zabini, and Hermione Granger.

Bagman had said who you despise the most, what you envy, the clue was what you’d never miss. Harry immediately swam towards Draco, but then thought who did Ely belong to? Surely Fleur and Krum wouldn’t have cause to envy or despise Ely. Harry doubted they really knew him, but as Harry swam to look at Ely. Cassius Warrington swam right beside him. Some sort of bubble was wrapped around his face. But Harry could see his face clearly. He stared at Ely in what could only be seen as horror.

And Harry knew that it wasn’t Ely that he was taking back up to the surface. Harry drew his wand and sent a burst of fire toward the rope that held Draco to the statue, grabbed the prat by the arm and tugged him toward the surface, leaving Warrington behind him.

When they popped to the surface Malfoy woke out of whatever state he had been placed under and instantly started screaming that Harry was attempting to drown him.

“I’m trying to save you, you prat!”

Harry was announced as being the first to complete the task as he dragged Malfoy to the platform. A towel was tossed over his shoulders as an eager and lost looking Crabbe and
Goyle told Draco about the clue?

“Aw, ack… Potter…I never…kkknew…you admireddd meee so…” Malfoy carried on despite his shivering.

Harry could barely roll his eyes he was so cold.

Thankfully someone thought to cast a warming charm over the platform that they were on. The way Malfoy looked you would have thought they did it just for him.

“Ever want a repe….”

“No,” Harry said, stopping the boy from discussing anything that had happened in that bathroom. Harry certainly wasn’t thinking about it, no, definitely not.

In quick succession, Hermione and Fleur broke the water and then Viktor and Blaise. The two champions were only a few seconds apart, but Cassius was still under the water.
The look on Fleur’s face as she stared down at the murky water hinted that the witch knew why Warrington was yet to finish.

Then Warrington and Ely’s head popped above the water. Cassius seemed to cradle his boyfriend as the two made their way to the platform. Ely was enjoying the attention,
allowing Cassius to garner the cheers of the crowd for saving him. Cassius helped Ely on to the platform and the Slytherin boy took a deep nod toward the people.

“Well done, all of you,” Bagman’s voice boomed from the crowd.

“Alas, the task is not over. Each of the champions must confront the object of their envy, the vessel of their distaste for the only way to overcome an obstacle is to face it.”

Viktor held out his hand for a shivering Blaise and the two moved off into a secluded corner. Harry watched for a moment in case Blaise needed him, but in a matter of moments Blaise was laughing at something that Krum had said. And Krum seemed to be blushing. Some of the other Durmstrang students fought to hear what the pair were saying, but neither seemed to care.

“I do not hate you,” Fleur said near Harry’s ear. But she wasn’t talking to him, she was addressing Hermione.

“I envy you.” The blonde part veela was soaked to her skin, her wet hair plastered to her skull, and yet she still looked enthralling.

“What?” spluttered a recovering Draco Malfoy before Hermione had a chance to say anything.

“You’re jealous of this mudblood?”

Fleur turned sharply in Malfoy’s direction.

“I don’t know what that word means, but I do know that she is far better a wizard than you. It was like dancing with a piece of bamboo. Not to mention trying to talk with
one.”

Malfoy scoffed. But Fleur continued.

“She is strong and independent. She is smart and doesn’t care to cover it up. She doesn’t hide herself from others like I do.”

“And you,” she turned on Malfoy.

Hermione looked at her.

“But you’re a champion?”

“Yes,” said Fleur. “But several Beauxbatons students believe that a woman’s place is secondary to their husbands. Ruthlessness is not an attriubute that we are taught to strive
for. Intelligence is neglected in favor of more aesthetical charms. But you,” she turned to face Hermione.

“But you have no fear in being the one who stands on her own. And that is why I envy you, that is why I despised you without knowing.”

“But, France is full of independent women, most of the queens took a quite active role in the making of society and even modern culture.”

As Hermione pulled Fleur to the side to educate the girl on her own fierceness it suddenly made sense to Harry. The girls who had cried and balked when Fleur had made champion. The looks from the people when Fleur was at the ball dancing with more than one person before she quickly peeled off to give attention to just the one.

Harry could see how even a girl who seemed to have it all like Fleur would envy his friend. Hermione was a force to be reckoned with. She knew it, and she made sure that others knew it too.

Malfoy having recovered from Fleur’s verbal beat down turned to Harry.

“Anything you’d like to say to me Potter? I can list at least several things that I have that you would be jealous about. My confident personality,”

“Cocky,” Harry supplied.

“My handsome looks,”

“Protruding cheekbones,” Harry corrected.

Draco stopped. “That’s a compliment, Potter.”

Harry ignored that one.

“Mother always does say that us Malfoy’s have exceptional bone struct….”

“It’s that!” Harry said. He hated himself for raising his voice, but Malfoy always did get the better out of him.

“It’s the fact that you have a family that loves you, and that supports you!” Harry shouted. The whole platform now had eyes for the pair. “It’s that you got to be raised by a mother and father who loved you and who wanted you. Yes, maybe they spoiled you into the little rat that you are today, but at least you have them.”

Malfoy looked stunned.

“I envy that you have that, but I also despise you because all that love seems to have been wasted.”

Harry stood from the platform, prepared to make a grand exit when Ely McGovern and Cassius Warrington knocked into his shoulder.

“Don’t touch me,” Ely hissed. “I can’t believe this.”

“Ely, wait, it’s not like that.”

Ely turned on him, his blonde hair disheveled but still nicer than Harry’s ever is.

“I heard what the man said, Cass. Am I what you hate? Really? Am I something that you would never miss? Am I the thing that you despise the most?”

“No, no, E, let me explain. You just have to listen to me.”

Ely laughed cruelly. “Actually, I don’t.”

He turned and jumped in the water as graceful as could be. His body barely made a splash as he swam towards the shore faster than Harry thought possible. And without
hesitation, Cassius jumped in after him. But he wasn’t fast enough. Ely was already to the shore by the time Cassius was almost halfway. Harry watched as Ely walked up on the shore and headed toward the castle. The Slytherins around Harry gave each other a look. This was something that couldn’t be missed.

The scores were announced as soon as Ely hit the water, each of the champions having completed their tasks of facing their envy and in Harry’s case his enemy. Millicent pulled his arm and the two got on one of the first boats back to the castle, Malfoy far from his mind.

The other Slytherins looked eagerly toward the castle. If there was one thing that Slytherins loved more than the possibility of watching people nearly drown to death it was drama. And that’s exactly what they were due for in their common room. Ely McGovern would go no where looking like he did now, and both were too proud and too involved to let this go that easily so Harry walked steadily toward the castle.

To anyone else it would have looked like the horde of students were just returning to their rooms eager to get close to the fireplace. But as Tracey Davis nudged Millicent in comradery Harry knew there was something in the air.

Someone whispered the word to the common room, and they were let in.
Ely McGovern was standing the middle of the common room, dripping water on to the carpet from his clothes. Cassius stood in front of him.

“Please, Ely, you know it isn’t like that.”

“Then explain it to me, Cass, because that’s not what it seems like. It seems like you have been lying to me all this time, and that I don’t mean as much to you as you.”

“Of course you do, it’s not just that…it’s just…”

“Just what, Cass?”

“That you’re so free with it,” Warrington mumbled.

“Free with what?” Ely asked. “I don’t understand.”

Cassius sighed. Neither boy seemed to be conscious of the crowd that had gathered around them.

“With us, with being who are, with not having the expectations of a father who refuses to acknowledge anything that his son tells him.”

Ely seemed to drop his guard.

“I know how your father is Cass.”

“Yeah, but did you know he’s literally been counting down the days until I leave Hogwarts.”

Ely’s eyebrows scrunched together. Then recognition.

“He’s been counting down the days that you leave me.”

Warrington nods.

“He doesn’t think that we’re going to make it. He thinks I’m just going to lay down and join him at the ministry. And I’ve never once told him no. I’ve never told him that it’s not
going to happen. I’ve never told him that I wasn’t going to join the ministry or marry a nice pureblood witch. I’ve never told him that I want to live my own life, but I know that you
would. You have no issues in being exactly who you are, and I can’t even tell my own father the truth when he’s throwing lies in my face.”

Suddenly, Harry feels like he is intruding on a very personal moment. He feels sick with it. But just when he thinks that the pair are going to launch into another tirade. Ely crossed the room and kisses Cassius in front of everyone.

“This,” Ely says when he pulls back. “This is who you are, Cass. And I don’t give a damn about your father or about what he thinks because I see you. And while he may doubt the kind of man that you are, I don’t.”

Harry was warmed by the conviction in Ely’s words. He could only wonder what the effect they had on Warrington was. But as Ely took Warrington’s hands they seemed to become aware of everyone else in the room, and Ely dismissed them with a cool look.

“Enjoy the show, kiddies?” he taunted. And the people in the room disassemble like they just hadn’t been watching the whole thing at all.

Chapter Text

Draco seemed bent on talking to him, taunting him about his declaration the day of the second task. Draco had asked Harry if he would like his parents to adopt him. The thought of totting around with his nose stuck in the air and living under Lucius Malfoy’s thumb was enough to turn his stomach. Harry had said thanks, but even though he could probably pull of the blonde that he held no desire for the Malfoy family stick or whatever to be permanently shoved up his bum.
Harry was ignoring him the best he could as he walked into the Great Hall when he saw Ron, who had stood from his seat and was now heading over to Harry.

Dean Thomas at the Gryffindor table saw where Ron was heading and started clapping his hands wildly. All of the younger years in the hall seemed to follow Dean’s lead. Were they applauding him? Harry thought.

“What’s going on?” Harry asked.

‘It’s you, mate,” said Ron. “The schools divided, two Hogwarts champions, one younger, one older. One, is a Slytherin brute and one is known to have friends in other houses and to be an all around decent kind of guy. The rivalry is real, Harry.”

Rivalry, he definitely didn’t want to have a rivalry with someone who looked like Cassius Warrington, but it seemed as if that had been decided without him. His table had been split with some invisible dividing line. Warrington wasn’t even at breakfast but as far as Harry could tell the upper part of the table was filled with fifth, sixth, and seventh years students, while the others had been delegated to sit closer to the doors. Members on both sides seemed to be staring at one another as if they were on the brink of war, one wrong word and spells would start flying.

The school might have had two Slytherin champions but apparently he had been deemed the lesser evil.

It turned out that even champions had to go to potions. Thirty minutes in and Harry found himself hoping for another appearance by Colin Creevey. He would gladly face Rita Skeeter again than Snape in the mood that he was currently in.

The man paced back in forth in front of Harry’s workstation, glowering down at him like he had committed some kind of heinous crime. Nothing Harry did was right. His slicing was subpar. His dicing was disastrous. And his stirring was the “strongest indication yet that you are an incompetent buffoon and unworthy of the house of Slytherin”.
Great, Harry thought.

“You know, Potter,” Snape said the ninth time he stopped by his station. He picked up Harry’s blade and began to strip a weed that Harry would need for his potion. “Magic is a wonderful thing. Potions more so. There are potions for almost anything. Potions that can turn you into another person, potions that you can steal your life with a sip, there’s even potions that can make you tell the truth no matter how badly you fight against it. Veriterserum, it’s called. It’s highly regulated of course. You may be familiar with one other regulated material. A certain weed that allows you to breathe underwater.”

Harry nodded.

“I’m not sure I understand the context, sir,” said Harry, feeling more and more anxious the longer Snape stood in front of him. He never lingered longer than to deliver his dose of malice, but this was something different.

“I had a disturbance in the wards around my store room the other night. No one was there naturally, but it did turn out that I was missing quite a few things. It was almost like an invisible man had taken them.”

He looked up at Harry then, the weed that he had been slicing was done to perfection. “The reason for this little anecdote is because if there is another discrepancy in my store’s accounts again that you may find a little truth telling serum finding it’s way into your morning pumpkin juice.”

Snape looked around the room.

“I’m sure there is more than one person who would like to hear all the Savior’s secrets.”

Harry forced himself to meet Snape’s eyes.

“I hope you find the person responsible, sir.”

Snape huffed then turned on his heel.

“Might be hard though,” Harry continued despite himself. “With them being invisible and all.”

Snape glowered, eyeing Harry with all the hate he had the first time he had ever saw him that first year. Then left Harry to his perfected ingredients.

There was a knock on the dungeon door. Too late now, Colin, Harry thought. But it wasn’t Colin, it was Karkaroff. Nervous, but steady he walked over to Snape.

“We need to talk,” said Karkaroff abruptly when he had reached Snape. Kararoff seemed to want no one to hear what he was saying as he barely moved his mouth to speak.

“I’ll talk to you after my lesson, Karkaroff,” Snape muttered, but Karkaroff interrupted him.

“It’s imperative.”

“What’s so urgent?” Harry heard Snape ask Karkaroff.

“This,” said Karkaroff, and Harry peering around the edge of his cauldron saw Karkaroff pull up the left-hand sleeve of his robe and show Snape something on his inner
forearm.

“Well?” said Karkaroff, still making every move not to move his lips

“Do you see? It’s never been this clear, never since…”

“Put it away!” snarled Snape, looking anxiously around the classroom.

“But you must have noticed..” Karkaroff began in an agitated voice. But Snape quieted him with a promise to talk later in his rooms.

Harry had no idea what that was about. But he was definitely going to find out.

Chapter Text

Millicent had something on her mind. They were in the library, reading anything that could possibly help them with the last task. Hermione and Ron had a copy of Tournament Tricks: The Ultimate Cheaters Guide to the Triwizard Tournament open in front of them seeing if they could decipher any news about the grand and final task.

But Millicent was pacing.

“Anything particular on your mind, there Millicent?” asked Blaise, who was pretending to do his Herbology assignment.

“Of course not,” Millicent said, shaking her head in a rather irritated fashion.

“Hmm,” said Blaise. “It almost looks as if you’re looking for someone.”

Millicent stopped then.

“Don’t be ridiculous, Zabini, I was merely warming up. It’s blasted cold in this castle.”

Blaise chuckled under his breath, something that sounded a lot like, “Sure” before Millicent sat beside him, brushing him harshly with her shoulder.

“Ouch, Bulstrode, no need to attack me. I was merely attempting to calm you as you seem to be concerned about something.”

Clearly Blaise knew something that Harry didn’t. But as the dark skinned boy didn’t seem to be letting up, Millicent sighed only for Dobby to pop into existence right beside
Blaise.

“Mr. Zabini,” said Dobby then spotting Harry. “Oh, Harry Potter, sir, hello.”

“Hey, Dobby, how are you?”

“Good, sir, very good sir, just come to thank Mr. Zabini for his gift again sir.”

“Gift?” Harry asked, eyeing the brightly colored blue sweater Dobby was sporting along with the gift that Harry had given Dobby for Christmas.

Blaise blushed, something Harry had never seen the handsome boy do.

“Don’t mention it, Dobby, it was merely a present for the work you do for the school,” Blaise added, sounding a bit rehearsed.

“Okay then, sir, but Winky is wanting me to tell Mr. Zabini that she is still loyal to the Crouch’s sir, but that she will gladly wash Mr. Zabini’s new robes in the periwinkle soap
as that is his new signature scent. She doesn’t cry nearly as much as when she washes Mr. Zabini’s robes special.”

“What?” Hermione shouted, breaking the cardinal rule of the place she loved most in the world.

“Oh no, mate,” said Ron, as Millicent laughed devilishly beside a now white faced Blaise.

“Thank you, Dobby,” said Hermione. “Please do tell Winky that she has no obligation to wash Blaise’s robes separate from the others.”

Dobby looked confused between Hermione and her righteous anger and Blaise and his rather impressive impression of a kicked puppy.

“I better be getting back to the kitchens. Good day, Harry Potter,” then he blinked out of the library.

Hermione wasted no time.

“I can’t believe you.”

“What?” Blaise said, straightening in his seat. “I was merely trying to give her a present. It’s not my fault she couldn’t be swayed alone by Honeyduke’s finest.”

“Yeah, Hermione,” said Harry. “I don’t get it.”

“Oh, I do,” replied Millicent, seemingly ready to pay Blaise back for whatever the two had been on about before. “He’s trying to win your little elf’s loyalty, Potter.”

“Oh no,” said Blaise. “Dobby is too far gone. He doesn’t want to be house elf anymore, but Winky’s just lost her family, I’m merely looking out for her best interests. And my
mother is extraordinarily kind to loyal house elves like Winky.”

“Her best interests?” said Hermione, voice still a little too loud for the library. “You mean trying to get her to come and work for you and your mother for free instead of
staying at Hogwarts?”

Harry looked confused. He was clearly missing something.

Hermione took pity on him.

“On the rare, and I mean, very rare occasion that a house elves family is dismantled or the last living relative dies, or a house gets abandoned then that elf is essentially a free agent, and can be won to a new house with favors.”

“Gifts,” Harry supplied.

“Yes,” said Millicent. “But it’s different for house elves especially for one who is just newly separated from her family. A wrecked house elf will want to feel useful which is why Blaise is…

“having her wash his robes. Do you even like Periwinkle?”

Blaise nodded sheepishly.

“I was just trying to help her. Winky is clearly lost without Crouch, and my mother happens to always be in need of a new elf.”

“How many does she need?” asked Millicent. “She already has enough to furnish my family’s mansion and hers.”

“Yes,” said Ron, “but it’s like a status symbol isn’t it among purebloods?”

Blaise and Hermione nodded.

“A sick tradition,” Hermione said. “And one that you are unlikely to win. If even one of Mr. Crouch’s relatives are alive, Winky will more than likely feel that she owes her
loyalty to them.”

“Aw,” said Blaise. “But I can be quite convincing, Granger.”

“As long as you stay away from Dobby. He’s free and I want him to stay that way,” said Harry.

Blaise nodded.

“Of course.”

“Then why did you get him that sweater?”

Blaise shrugged.

“Everyone looks good in blue, Potter. Besides, I wanted to prove I was a better knitter than Granger over here.”

Hermione’s eyes went wide, choking on what she was going to say next.

***

The Quidditch field was no longer smooth and flat. It looked as though somebody had been growing long walls all over it that twisted and criss-crossed in every direction.
Harry heard footsteps behind him. He stood and looked.

“It’s a maze,” said Krum, looking out over the hedges. Harry saw it too then.

“Vill you walk with me?” Krum asked Harry. Harry nodded. Krum let them to a quiet stretch of ground a short way from the Beauxbaton’s horses’ paddock.

“I vont to know,” Krum said. “Is there anything going on between you and Milly-cent?”

“Are you interested in Millicent then?”

Krum looked around as if he was concerned they were being listened too.

“I am merely concerned that you do not hurt her. She is an incredible person and rumors are that you are also with this Hermy-own-ninny Gr….”

“No,” said Harry. “I’m not, nor have I or will I ever date either Hermione or Millicent. We’re just friends.”

“You haff never…you haff not…”

“No,” said Harry very firmly and Krum seemed to visually lighten.

“Besides,” said Harry. “I think they’re both a little too good for me on just about every level.”

As they started to walk back Harry noticed the scarf wrapped around Krum’s neck. “That’s funny, my friend Blaise has one just like that.”

“It is hiz. Not entirely varm, but Blaise says its in the fashion. He says I lack in that area. No pizazz, vhatever that means. It is just that people where I’m from do not concern
themselves with such things. But school vont last forever and I vill soon be gone.”

Krum looked out over what was the pitch.

“You fly very well. I vas watching at the first task. Perhaps you vill be the one to beat me.”

“Thanks, but I doubt the second part,” said Harry, grinning broadly. “I saw you at the Quidditch World Cup. The Wronski Feint you reall….”

Something moved behind Krum in the trees.

“Vho is it?”

Harry was reaching for his wand when suddenly a man staggered out from behind a tall oak tree. Harry almost didn’t recognize the man then he realized it was Mr. Crouch.

He looked as though he had been traveling for days. His robes were ripped and bloody. His face was scratched. He was unshaven and grey with exhaustion.

He was muttering and gesticulating like he was talking to someone only he could see.

“Vosn’t he a judge?” said Krum, staring at odd Mr. Crouch. “Isn’t he vith your Ministry?”

Harry nodded.

“Mr. Crouch?” Harry said loudly. “Are you all right?”

Crouch didn’t or couldn’t’ answer. His eyes were rolling in his head, unable to focus.

“Vot is wrong with him?” Harry shook his head. “Listen, you’d better go and get someone…”

“Dumbledore!” gasped Mr. Crouch. He reached out and seized a handful of Harry’s robes, dragging him closer though his eyes were staring over Harry’s head.

“I need….see…Dumbledore…I’ve done….stupid..thing….Must tell….D….” Crouch muttered something about “escaped……must warn…..my fault….Bertha…dead…
Dumbledore…Harr Potter….the Dark Lord…stronger…Harr…”

“Keep him here,” said Harr, pulling himself free of Mr. Crouch.

“I’ll be back with Dumbledore.”

“Hurry, von’t you?” Krum called after him as Harry sprinted toward the castle. Halfway to the castle, Harry stopped. Of course, he’ll just send his patronus.

After conjuring his stag and sending it off with a message, Snape and Dumbledore were there and together they quickly walked back to the woods.

“They were here,” Harry said to Dumbledore as they looked out over the now empty area.

“Lumos,” Dumbledore said, lighting his wand, sweeping it until its beams fell on a pair of feet. Krum was sprawled on the forest floor, stunned. There was no sign of Mr.
Crouch at all. Dumbledore pointed his wand at Krum and uttered, “Rennervate.”

Krum opened his eyes, he looked dazed.

“He attacked me!” Krum muttered. “The old crazy man attacked me.”

“Lie still for a moment,” Dumbledore said. Harry looked to the hill behind them where Karkaroff was running toward them with alarming speed, clearly having been summoned by Dumbledore.

“Oh, Viktor,” Karkaroff said, ushering Krum back toward the castle.

Harry was released after they were all safely back indoors.

Stronger. Bertha Jorkins. Warn. Escape.

It was clear who Crouch had been talking about.

Voldemort.

Chapter Text

Draco was the one to walk him to the last task. They walked in the oddest group to ever exist toward the pitch for Harry’s final show.

“Yeah,” said Ron, eagerly discussing something with Millicent. “Fred and George have this brilliant idea for a joke shop when they quit school. That’s all the stuff they’ve been testing out this year. It combines something they love with something they can do for a living.”

“Well, that’s….ingenious,” said Millicent despite herself. “But I’m proceeding with the plan Weasley, It’s only out of respect for Granger that I warned you about it, but go blabbing to those brothers of yours and next time I won’t be so merciful.”

“Stop paying attention to them, Potter, this is serious business,” Draco scolded him. “Now, when we get to the pitch, they’re going to let you talk to the other champions and what not, but don’t get psyched out. This tournament is purely mental.”

Harry scoffed.

“Like fighting a dragon, and nearly drowning have been purely mental? Maybe I should have left you to find a state of Nirvana with the merpeople instead of rescuing you.”

Draco rolled his eyes.

“Malfoy’s don’t need Nirvana as we never allow our baser urges to take ahold of us in the first place.”

“Right,” Harry sighed. Harry could only imagine what was coming next. Dragons. Merpeople. Screeching eggs. Threatening professors and headmasters. Crouch’s disappearance. What waited for him inside the maze couldn’t be worse than all of that could it?”

Harry waved a pitiful goodbye to the others as they climbed the stands. Draco stayed by his side. “You’ve got this Harry,” Hermione shouted warmly.

Harry nodded weakly. He wasn’t so sure.

Draco chuckled.

“Scared Potter? You should be. If only you had joined my side earlier, you would have had this whole school shaking in their boots. Don’t you wish you had accepted my hand that day back in first year?”

Harry rolled his eyes. Of course it would come back to this, it would always come back to this.

“Perhaps you just need a little dance before you go on? Something to lighten the mood?”

Draco lifted his arms to place them on Harry’s shoulders.

Harry dodged out of the way skillfully.

“You wish,” Harry said, running toward the champion’s tent before Draco could pull him into a dance. Harry could hear the sound of the other boy’s laughter from inside the tent.
And just had he had escaped an attack outside the tent, he was instantly tackled inside the tent.
Sirius looked like Aunt Petunia anytime Dudley brought home anything over a C. Proud as fuck.

“My godson!” he proclaimed loudly looking Harry over as if he expected him to be injured some place only Sirius could find. Harry hugged him.

“How are you here?” he asked.

“How is here?” he asked Lupin when he saw him walk over with Mr. and Mrs. Weasley.

“Harry,” they said, each hugging him in turn. “What are you all doing here?”

“Come to see you, of course,” said Sirius. “It’s not every day my godson is named a Triwizard tournament contestant.”

Harry laughed.

“That’s true,” he said. “Though I am your only godson.”

“And my favorite,” Sirius added brightly.

All of the champions and their families were in attendance and where Harry would have felt left out in a situation like this today he felt honored. All thoughts of the tournament
went away when he could see that Sirius and Remus were okay, and that Mr. Weasley and Mrs. Weasley were happy. This was his family, and he was proud.

A notable absent from the tents was Ely. Harry assumed that he would be right by Cassius’ side, but as two people, Harry could only assume were Cassius’ parents took up residence by the boy’s side Harry could only guess they were the reason that Ely was absent. Cassius looked empty without the other boy by his side, lost even among the people who were supposed to know him most in the world.

Fleur, Harry noticed, was having quite the time chatting with Bill Weasley. Her parents looked on in mild disapproval not it seemed because she was talking to a boy but because said boy was still rocking those dragon hide boots and earrings. Harry wondered how much charm Fleur was throwing out there, but when he walked by the pair, he didn’t feel anything at all.

As they were walking toward the exit, saying goodbye to their families, Harry noted that Fleur handed something to Bill, assuming that it was her address. She was taking the first move. Hermione would be proud.

Lupin grabbed him by the shoulder, and pulled him into a hug. Looking him in the eyes, Remus said, “You’re going to do great, Harry. Trust yourself and your instincts, they won’t disappoint you. I’m proud of you.”

It had been the first time that anyone had said something like that to Harry, and it felt good.

Sirius hugged him once again before the Weasleys and together they all left the tent. Sirius muttered a, “Good luck,” and what Harry sounded like some convincing arguments to Dumbledore to just call the whole thing off as Harry was left alone with the other champions.

Then, it was their turn.

Harry and Warrington tied for first place would be released into the maze first, followed by the others. Bagman was ready with the whistle.

“On my whistle, Harry and Cassius!” said Bagman. “3,2,1…” After a short blast of the whistle, Harry and Warrington ran into the maze. Harry’s chosen path seemed completely deserted, Warrington having split off at a fork some way back.

“Lumos,” Harry cast. Then putting his wand in front of him said, “Point me.” Then he was off.

The blast ended skrewts and boggart were nothing compared to Warrington’s voice angry and just a tinge frightened when he heard the boy shout not an hour into the trial.

“What the hell d’you think you’re doing?”

And then Harry heard Krum’s voice, “Crucio!” The air was full of Warrington’s screams. Harry turned the corner of the hedge he was running down. Krum turned to curse him next, but Harry cried, “Stupefy!” And the boy fell to the ground.

Harry dashed over to Warrington.

“Are you all right?” Harry asked.

“Yeah,” panted Warrington. He shook Harry off. “I guess the competition just got to him. Twenty thousand galleons is a lot to some people. Enough to start a life with,” Warrington said, brushing off the danger that he had just been off like a bit of lint off his shoulder. Harry shot up sparks so that someone could come and collect Krum while he and Warrington moved on.

“Did you hear that earlier? The scream?” Harry asked.

Warrington hesitated, before admitting, “Yeah, I did.”

“At first I thought it was just a trick, but it had to have been…”

“Fleur,” Harry finished. “Looks like she got a piece though,” said Warrington looking at a large burn on Krum’s face. “Not so pretty anymore.”

After watching Warrington send some sparks into the air so Krum could be collected, Harry started to walk on.

“Thanks for saving me,” said Warrington to Harry’s back.

Harry laughed.

“And have Ely murder me for breaking his boyfriend? No way.”

“Ely wouldn’t,” Warrington started and then, “You’re probably right. Be a shame if we had to live on conjugal visits. And here I thought we were finally going to get to live together,
alone, for the first time in seven years. Then again, he’s smart enough to not get caught…so..”

Harry laughed, and the two walked on.

“So, that’s what you’re going to do with the money?” asked Harry.

Warrington shrugged, looking at Harry, judging him. “I guess I can tell you, Potter. No one believes a word out of your mouth anyway.”

Harry laughed again, knowing how true that was.

“I guess Rita Skeeter has that affect.”

“Oh,” said Warrington, chucking. “It’s not just Skeeter, oh heir of Slytherin, target of mass murderers everywhere, and Madame Pomfrey’s most frequent patient. Sorry, Potter, but you have a reputation as being quite a drama queen.”

Harry giggled. He couldn’t deny that. But, “It’s not my fault people keep trying to murder me.”

Warrington rolled his eyes. “Hey, you’re a Slytherin, you get death threats on the daily and you wipe you pert little bottom with them.”

“An Ely quote?” Harry guessed.

Warrington nodded, smiling fondly.

Then they saw it.

One corner. One choice, left or right. And there it was. Everything that they had been fighting for.

Harry eyed Warrington out of the corner of his eye before taking off at a sprint. The other tried to elbow him out of the way, but Harry was smaller. Those Quidditch reflexes
were still good for something. Somehow, Warrington managed to knock Harry to the ground. Warrington ran towards the cup with every intention of being the winner.

“Sorry, Potter, but I need this. I need to do this for me and Ely. We’re going to start a life together, finally. And I’ll be free of my father and his influencers.”

Harry nodded.

He knew that Warrington needed this, and if he were anything other than a member of the snake house, maybe he would have let him have it. But he was a Slytherin.

Harry found his wand and cast a lightening fast Stupefy towards Warrington who hade made the mistake of many before him in underestimating Harry. The boy stunned and still as stone began to fall towards the cup. Harry got to his feet, and ran. He was only feet away, but somehow Warrington was already coming out of the stupefy. Shaking himself out of the curse as fast as Harry could now throw off the imperious curse.

The two boys reached for the Cup at the same time. And it took them away.

Chapter Text

Harry felt his feet slam into the ground, the leg he injured by facing the blast ended skrewt gave way, and he feel forward; his hand let go of the Triwizard Cup at last. He raised his wand.

“Where are we?” he said. Warrington said he didn’t know, but drew his wand regardless. Harry looked around, feeling like they were being watched.

“Someone’s coming,” he said suddenly. Squinting tensely through the darkness, they watched the figure drawing nearer, walking steadily toward them beneath the graves.

Harry couldn’t make out a face, but from the way it was walking and the position of his arms. The figure looked like he was carrying something. It looked like…a baby or maybe just a bundle of robes.

Harry lowered his wand slightly. Both he and Warrington stalked the figure with their eyes. The figure stopped beside a towering marble headstone only six feet away from them. Warrington reached Harry’s shoulder to pull him down, and out of the man’s sight, but it was too late because without warning Harry’s scar exploded with pain.

It was agony such as he had never felt in all his life, his wand slipped from his fingers as he put his hands over his face; his knees buckled; he was on the ground and he could see nothing at all; his head was about to split open. Then maybe it would be over.

“Potter….what’s,” said Warrington. “Harry?” And then a cold voice, “Take care of the spare.”

But instead of a blast of green light and Avada Kedavra, the dark figure whistled and called, “Here boy!”

And Warrington hit Harry across the back of the head.

Then before he could ask Warrington what was going on, Mad-Eye Moody had him by the collar of his shirt. Harry felt for a moment as if everything would be okay, someone was there to save him after all, until he was thrown into a nearby headstone. The name reflecting clearly in the moonlight.

Tom Riddle.

Cords of rope shot from Moody’s wand and tied him to the headstone.

“Professor?” he gasped.

But Moody paid him no mind as he made sure the cords were tightly wrapped around Harry’s body, making sure he couldn’t get away.

“Cassius?” Harry asked, eyeing his wand in the other boy’s hand.

Moody pushed a stone cauldron to the foot of Harry’s encasement. It seemed to be full of water. The bundle of robes was stirring persistently. The water in the cauldron
started bubbling, a flame had been lit underneath, and the glow of it lit Moody’s ghastly face.

“Hurry!” the cold voice sounded once again. The whole surface of the water now glowed with sparks and Moody said, “It is ready, Master.”

It was like when he was at Pivet Drive, growing the hedges and cleaning out the winter dead to allow for Aunt Petunia’s new roses. The old ones never seemed to make it.

He’d go to move the rocks surrounding the flowers to plant the new ones. He’d lift the neat looking rocks and from underneath would spring all manner of crap. Rolli-pollis and earthworms wriggling around in the dirt beneath. Aunt Petunia would always tell him to crush them, but he never could.

But Harry wished he could crush this thing. It was in the shape of a human child, but hairless and scaly looking. Its arms and legs were thin and feeble. And its face was flat and snakelike with gleaming red eyes. Moody cradled the creature like any mother does a child then dropped the creature into the cauldron. Harry prayed that it would drown and that he’d never have to see those eyes again.

Moody then raised his wand, closed his eyes, and began to enchant. “Bone of the father, unknowingly given, you will renew your son!” Harry held tight by the ropes, struggled as much as he could as Moody drew a thin, long, shining silver dagger from his cloak. “Flesh of the servant willing given, you will revive your master,” he said confidently, as the sharp knife fell down on his hand and he cut it off.

Moody’s hand fell into the cauldron. Harry’s screams filling the graveyard. Then he was in front of him. “Blood of the enemy forcibly taken, you will resurrect your foe.”

Harry could do nothing to prevent it, he was tied too tightly. Squinting down, struggling hopelessly against the ropes wrapped around him, the tip of the silver dagger
stabbed into the crook of his right arm and blood seeped from the meeting of dagger and skin. Moody dripped a bit of Harry’s blood into the cauldron, and the water sparked brighter. For a brief moment, Harry convinced himself the thing was dead, but then as he watched with an icy surge of terror, the outline of a man emerged from inside the cauldron. Moody, ignoring his bleeding stump, offered his master a robe. But the thin man didn’t even acknowledge him. He stared at Harry and Harry stared back into the face of his nightmares.

Whiter than a skull with wide, livid, scarlet eyes and a nose that was flat as a snakes, with slits for nostrils, Voldemort had risen again.

Voldemort looked away from Harry and began examining his new body. Harry could barely stand to watch as Voldemort eyed his new body exultantly. Moody, who must be getting weaker by the minute offered up his undamaged arm. The Dark Mark waited patiently for Voldemort’s wand. Voldemort eyed it greedily.

His eyes full of longing as Moody slowly bled to death.

“It’s back,” he said softly. “They will all have noticed it…and now, we shall see…now we shall know….”

He pressed his long white forefinger to the brand on Moody’s arm.

The scar on Harry’s forehead seared with a sharp pain again. A look of cruel satisfaction on his face, Voldemort surveyed the graveyard.

“How many will be brave enough to return when they feel it?” he whispered. “And how many will be foolish enough to stay away?”

He turned towards Harry. “You stand, Harry Potter, upon the remains of my late father, a muggle and a fool, very like your dear mother. Some things and people are only
useful in death.” Voldemort gestured to his side.

“You see that house upon the hillside, Potter? My father lived there. My mother, a witch who lived in the village fell in love with him. But he abandoned her when she told him
what she was. He didn’t like magic my father….

“He left her and returned to his muggle parents before I was even born, Potter, and she died giving birth to me, leaving me to be raised in a Muggle orphanage….but I vowed to find him… I revenged myself upon him, that fool who gave me his name…. Tom Riddle…., but I’m growing sentimental. Blood doesn’t always make family….But look, Harry! My true family returns.”

The air was suddenly full of swishing cloaks. Every wizard hooded and masked. One of the Death Eaters fell to his knees, crawled toward Voldemort and kissed the hem of his black robes, “Master….Master….” he murmured. The Death Eater behind him did the same; each of them approaching Voldemort on their knees and kissing his robes, before backing away, and standing up, forming a silent circle, which encircled Harry and his headstone. Harry tried to catch Warrington’s attention but the boy wasn’t looking anywhere near him.

Distinct gasps were left in the circle as they seemed to wait for more people.

“Welcome, Death Eaters,” said Voldemort quietly. “Thirteen years, thirteen years since last we met. Yet you answer me as though it were yesterday. United under the Dark Mark or are we?”

He put back his terrible face and sniffed, his slit-like nostrils widening.

“I smell guilt,” he said. “There is a stench of guilt upon the air. I see you all, whole and healthy with your powers intact though such prompt appearances. I was gone and you
slipped back among my enemies, pleaded innocence, ignorance, bewitchment.”

The Death Eater’s shuddered.

“And then I ask myself, but how could they have believed that I would not rise again. They, who knew the steps I took long ago to guard myself against mortal death? They, who had seen proof of the immensity of my power in the times when I was more powerful than any wizard living? And I answer myself, perhaps they believed a still greater power could exist. Did they shift their power to a new allegiance, perhaps that champion of commoners, of Mudbloods, and Muggles Albus Dumbledore?”

The members of the circle shook their heads, no, vehemently. One of the men broke and flung himself toward Voldemort, collapsing at his master’s feet.

“Master!” he shrieked. “Master, forgive me. Forgive us all.”

Voldemort began to laugh. He raised his wand.

“Crucio!”

The Death Eater writhed and shrieked wildly. Voldemort removed the curse.

“Get up, Avery,” said Voldemort softly. “Stand up. You ask for forgiveness. I do not forgive. I do not forget. Thirteen long years and so I want thirteen years repayment before I
forgive you. And you, Lucius!”

The hood was removed from his face, revealing Draco’s father.

“I am told that you have not renounced the old ways, though to the world you present a respectable face. You are still ready to take the lead in a spot of Muggle torture, I believe. I
heard of your exploits at the Quidditch World Cup, but might not your energies have been better directed toward finding and aiding your master?”

“My Lord, I was constantly on alert. Had there been any sign from you, any whisper of your whereabouts, I would have been at your side immediately, nothing could have
prevented me….”

“And yet you ran from my Mark when a faithful Death Eater sent it into the sky. Yes, I know about that. You have disappointed me. I expect more from faithful servants in the future.”

“Course, my Lord, of course you are merciful, thank you….”

Wizard after wizard was unmasked. MacNair, Buckbeak’s would be executioner. His dormmate’s and classmate’s fathers. Did they know as little about their sons as they knew about them? Did Vincent’s father know that he had a long standing crush on Tracey Davis and that he was such a good dancer that even Pansy had stolen him for a dance at the Yule Ball? Did Greg’s dad know that he slept with his curtains open and he wrote a letter to his mother every Sunday and that he was as big of a Cannon’s fan as Ron was? Did Nott’s dad have any clue how much his son had admired his old Defense professor who happened to be a werewolf? And did Malfoy’s father know just how much he had helped his Lord’s enemy this year? That his son had cheered for him in the stands? That he had snuck out with him and that they had shared the prefect’s bathroom to solve the riddle for the second task? That he helped him solve and train for the tasks, or how strongly he smells like mint after a shower?

But then again, maybe they did know. Maybe Greg, Vincent, Malfoy, and Theo, maybe even Blaise and Millicent knew that their parents were just waiting for their master to come back and murder Harry in this graveyard? Did they have the faith that their parent’s hadn’t? Would they be eager to have one less bed taking up their space in the dorm?

“He is at Hogwarts,” Harry heard Voldemort say. “And my faithful servant has led Harry Potter to us to celebrate my rebirth.”

All of the Death Eaters seemed to want to ask him something. Lucius Malfoy spoke up.

“Master, we crave to know…..we beg you to tell us…how you have achieved this….this miracle....how you managed to return to us…”

“Ah, what a story it is, Lucius. This boy who was supposedly my downfall. He was protected by his mother’s sacrifice…an old kind of magic I had not foreseen. I could not
touch the boy. I was foolish to overlook such ancient magic, but no matter,” Voldemort said approaching Harry. “Because I can touch him now.”

Harry felt the cold tip of one white finger touch him, and thought his head would burst with the pain. Voldemort laughed softly in his ear, then took the finger away, and continued addressing the Death Eaters.

“I miscalculated, my friends, I admit it. My curse was deflected by the woman’s foolish sacrifice, and it rebounded upon myself. Ahhh….. pain beyond pain as I was ripped from my body. I was less than spirit, less than the meanest ghost…but still, I was alive. You knew my goal….to conquer death, and when I was tested, it happened that one or more of my experiments worked…for I had not been killed, though the curse should have done it. I settled in a far place, a forest. I was powerless as the weakest creature, my body without a wand. I settled and I waited….Surely, one of my faithful Death Eaters would try and find me…. One of them would come and perform the magic I could not, to restore me to a body, but….I waited in vain….”

A shiver ran once more around the circle of Death Eaters. Voldemort let them stew in the horrible silence.

“I had one power remaining that I could possess the bodies of others. Four years ago, a wizard, young, foolish, gullible…wandered across my path in the forest I had made my home. A teacher at Dumbledore’s school. His will was easy to bend to mine, but alas, I was thwarted…thwarted once again by Harry Potter. The servant died when I left his body…. I was weak as I had ever been, but with what little strength remained in me I called out to a faithful servant, and while he wasn’t then convinced that he felt what he did. He started looking, enquiring, listening. Then when he was free, he found me via the body of another, and sent for me. Things were quite in our favor when we learned of the tournament. It was easy for my servant to enchant one of the other competitors. Come here boy.”

Warrington walked stiffly towards Voldemort, and it was then that Harry noticed the blank look in the boy’s eyes. He was under the imperious curse.

Voldemort circled Warrington like a snake preparing to strike.

“What help you have been, dear child. Trust me when I say that you will be rewarded.”

Voldemort turned to Harry, arm around Warrington in a possessive manner.

“Who was it that directed Harry, here, toward the prefect’s bathroom?”

“Me, master,” the boy answered robotically.

“Who was it that urged the small house elf to deliver gillyweed to the boy?”

“Me, maser,” the boy answered again.

That was it. Warrington, under the spell of the imperious curse had been directing Harry all year long. He had been the one keeping him on track for the tasks, and who had
helped him succeed. It was that reason that Warrington had stalled slightly in the pursuit of the cup. Because he was directed to by someone else.

But who?

“See, Potter? Everyone wants to be ruled. My Slytherins especially. What that mangy old hat was trying to accomplish when he placed you in the vipers den, I’ll never know.”
Voldemort laughed cruelly, stroking Warrington’s hair.

The boy seemed to pull away slightly, but Voldemort held his head tighter.

“Too bad my servant wanted to have too much fun, playing with you and your little boyfriend, that one will be the first to go,” Voldemort cooed, the rest of his followers shaking in agreement.

“A gift to loyal followers, two birds with one stone,” Voldemort said. “The death of the boy, and a future for you.” Warrington’s hand tightened slightly.

Harry doubted that any of the others saw it, but he did.

“Ely,” Harry said, breaking Voldemort’s rant. “Remember him, Cassius, Ely. He’s your boyfriend. You love him and he loves you. You’re going to get out of here, and make your own life remem….”

“Silence!” Voldemort cried, lashing out at Harry with his wand.

Harry’s head hit the back of the tombstone.

“Do you think he can break free of my curse? Do you think that he is strong enough for that? Love may have beaten me once Potter, but it will not do so again.”

Voldemort then turned back to his followers seeming to forget Warrington entirely.

“An old piece of Dark Magic has revived me tonight, three ingredients. Flesh of a servant and my father’s bone were easily at hand. But the blood of a foe? Any wizard who hated me would have been enough, but I wanted to rise to former glory more powerful than when I had fallen. I wanted the blood of the one who had stripped me of power thirteen years ago…Harry Potter……for then the lingering protection his mother gave him would then reside in my veins too. My faithful Death Eater entered the boy’s name into the Goblet of Fire, ensured he won the tournament, and touched the Cup first. The Portkey activated and brought him beyond the reach of Dumbledore’s help and protection, and into my waiting arms, and here is the boy you all believed had been my downfall…”

Voldemort moved slowly forward and turned to face Harry. He raised his wand.

“Crucio!”

It was pain beyond anything Harry had ever experienced; his very bones were on fire; his head was surely splitting along his scar; his eyes were rolling madly in his head; he wanted it to end…to black out….to die…

And then it was gone.

He hang limply on the tombstone of Voldemort’s father. The night rang with the sound of the Death Eater’s laughter.

“Now, so as there is no doubt as to who is stronger, let’s put on a little show. A duel so I can kill him once and for all, and show that I am still the most powerful wizard
living. Give him back his wand.”

Warrington who had received instruction from Voldemort eyed Harry who was still shaking from the after effects of the torture curse. On shaky legs himself, Warrington reached out and handed Harry his wand.

“Please,” Harry whimpered. “Please, Warrington….ple….”

And the once slight tremor in the boy’s hand became more pronounced as his hand stopped a few inches from Harry’s form.

“mem….ber…” Warrington mumbled. “E…ly…Not…Ely…”

“What are you saying boy?” mocked Voldemort. “Begging for the little spunk? Don’t worry,” laughed Voldemort. “You’ll get to see him again. Maybe you’ll even be the one to slit the little half blood’s throat.”

Something shifted in Warrington’s eyes, and Harry could see that he had been freed.
Harry’s wand was dropped by side as Cassius turned and shot a curse straight at Voldemort’s head.

The wad of material gagging Harry was removed, and then he was cut from the headstone all thanks to Warrington’s wand. Warrington should have left him lie. It was what any weak willed Slytherin would do, at least in Voldemort’s view. But his house was anything but weak, and instead of helping Harry and running, Warrington was shot in the back with a jolt of green light by Mad Eye Moody.
Warrington’s body hit the ground beside him, the pain in his scar reached such a pit that he retched. Cassius Warrington was spread eagle on the ground. The Slytherin was dead. Harry stared into the face of his competitor, his school mate, Ely’s boyfriend, someone’s child, someone’s friend, and heard the scream of someone in Voldemort’s circle.

The cloaked figure rounded on Moody, but he wasn’t Moody any longer, he was starting to transform into someone else. Holding his wand with one hand to fight off the rouge death eater, and drinking from his flask with the other, the not Moody laughed manically.
Harry considered running in the confusion, but his injured leg stopped that consideration.
Voldemort quickly stepped between the two men, casting a barrier between them.

He eyed the cloaked figure who was fighting against the restraint of some of the others. In sight of Voldemort holding his wand, ready for battle, the men in the circle fell to their knees. He turned to Not Moody.

“You! You will go back to the castle, and finish what you started.” Moody disapparated on the spot. “And you,” he said turning to the man who was shaking violently.

“Your son died in my service. He will not be forgotten. And neither will the disturbance of an over eager follower. Do you understand?”

The man on the ground uttered a shallow, “Yes, my lord.” Before he was allowed to kiss his leaders robes, and the circle were allowed to rise. “Perhaps as payment you would
like to play with our newest toy before we get started.”

The man shook his head.

“I just want that boy. The other one. I want him dead for what he has done to my son.”

Voldemort approached the man, moving his hand under his chin.

“And you shall,” Voldemort promised quietly. “We shall all get the revenge that we have been waiting for, and that starts now.”

“You have been taught hot to duel, Harry Potter?” said Voldemort softly. Harry remembered, “Expelliarmus” the disarming spell that could disarm Voldemort of his wand, but he’d still be out numbered thirty to one against the Death Eaters. He had never learned anything to prepare him for this. And he doubted anyone at Hogwarts would fare much better.

His mother was not here to die for him this time…he was quite unprotected.

“We bow to each other, Harry,” said Voldemort. “The niceties must be observed…. Dumbledore would like you to show manners….Bow to death, Harry…..”

Voldemort must have seen the defiance playing out on his bloody face as the Death Eaters laughed cruelly at him. It felt as if a huge invisible hand started to bend him
ruthlessly forward.

He had no choice.

Voldemort was going to play with him before eating him.

“Very good,” said Voldemort softly, and as he raised his wand the pressure bearing down upon Harry lifted. “And now, face me, like a man! Straight back and proud, the way your father died….. And now, we duel.”

Before Harry could do anything he was hit with the cruciatus curse once again. White hot knives piercing every inch of his skin, he screamed louder than he ever had in his whole life…

And then it stopped.

He staggered sideways into the wall of watching Death Eaters. They pushed him away, back toward Voldemort. Voldemort taunted him. Harry didn’t answer. He was going to die
like Cassius. He was going to die and there was nothing he could do about it, but he wasn’t going to play along. He wasn’t going to dance for Voldemort, he would not beg.

“I asked you whether you want me to do that again?” said Voldemort softly, speaking of the last cruciatus. “Answer me! Imperio!”

And Harry felt, for the third time in his life, the blissful clean slate of an imperioused mind.

“Just answer……Just do it. Just answer no….”

“I WON’T!”

The words burst from Harry’s mouth and echoed through the graveyard.

“You won’t?” said Voldemort quietly, and the Death Eaters were not laughing now, they were regarding him in a new way.

“You won’t say no? Harry, obedience is a virtue and one I need to teach you before you die…. Perhaps another little dose of pain?” Voldemort raised his wand, but this time
Harry was ready, he flung himself sideways onto the ground; he rolled behind the marble headstone of Voldemort’s father. He heard it crack as the curse missed him.

“Does this mean you are tired of our duel Harry?” Voldemort taunted. “Come out, Harry, come out and play, then….it will be quick…it might even be painless….I would not
know…. I have never died….”

Harry crouched behind the headstone and knew the end had come. There was no hope….no help to be had. And as he heard Voldemort draw nearer still, he knew beyond fear or reason, that he was not going to die crouching here in a faux game of hide and seek with Voldemort. He was not going to die kneeling at Voldemort’s feet…he was going to die upright like his father, and he was going to die trying to defend himself like his mother had fought so valiantly to defend him.

Before Voldemort could sneak his head around the tombstone, Harry stood up…he gripped his wand tightly in his hand, faced Voldemort and cried, “Expelliarmus!” the same time Voldemort cried, “Avada Kedavra!”

A jet of green light issued from Voldemort’s wand just as a jet of red light blasted from Harrys….they met in mid-air…and suddenly Harry’s wand was vibrating. He clutched at it with two hands, where in the middle neither the red or green lights were wining, but a golden light was being born between the two wands.

The now golden thread connecting Harry’s and Voldemort’s wands splintered, a thousand more beams arched until they were enclosed in a golden, dome shaped web. The Death Eater’s scrambled to help their master.

“Do nothing!” Voldemort shrieked at them. Harry saw his red eyes wide with astonishment at what was happening.

“Do nothing unless I command you!” he shouted.

Harry wanted to break, but he held on. At once it seemed Voldemort’s wand began to emit echoing screams of pain, then, something large began to blossom from Voldemort’s wand tip, a great, grayish something….it was dense smoke then it was a head then a chest and arms, a torso…the form of Cassius Warrington. Harry would have released the hold on his wand had it been any other circumstance. The thread of golden light connecting the two of them stayed connected, unbroken between his and Voldemort’s wands even as the thick ghost emerged in its entirety from the end of Voldemort’s wand.

“Don’t you dare let go, Potter!” it said. Its voice distant and echoing. Harry looked at Voldemort, his wide eyes said that he had no more expected this than Harry had.

The Death Eaters prowled outside of the dome, waiting to get into it to help their master when another ghost burst out of Voldemort’s wand.

“He was a real wizard then?” the old man said, his eyes on Voldemort. Harry remembered him from his dreams….”Killed me, that one did…You fight him boy.” He heard the
man say, but already another head was emerging and this head grey as a smoky statue was a woman’s. She fell out onto the ground then straightened like the others.

The shadow of Bertha Jorkins surveyed the battle as if she spoke from far away.

“Don’t let him get you, Harry! Don’t let go!” Voldemort’s latest victims circled the web surrounding them and the Death Eaters. The smoky shadow of a young woman with long hair fell to the ground and straightened as Bertha Jorkins had done. Harry’s arms shook madly as he looked into the face of his mother.

“Your father’s coming,” she said quietly. “Hold on for your father…. It will be all right Harry…hold on.”

And he did…first his head then his body. Tall and untidy hair like Harry, the smoky, shadowy form of James Potter blossomed then fell out the end of Voldemort’s wand. He walked close to Harry. Harry wanted to reach out to him, but knew he couldn’t. His parents could no more embrace him now than they had ever done.

“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…do you understand,
Harry?”

“Yes,” Harry gasped, fighting to keep a hold of his wand that was slipping between his fingers.

“Harry,” whispered Warrington, “take my body back, take it back, show them all. And…and tell Ely, that he’s the exact opposite of what I hate the most. Please, Potter, please,”

“I will,” said Harry. He promised.

“Do it now,” whispered his father’s voice. “be ready to run….do it now…”

“Now!” Harry yelled; he pulled the wand upward with an almighty wrench, and the golden thread broke; the cage of light vanished, but the shadowy figures of Voldemort’s
victims did not disappear, they were closing in upon Voldemort shielding Harry from his gaze. And Harry ran as he had never run in his life, knocking two Death Eaters aside as he
passed. They offered no resistance. Spells and curses zipped past his head. He heard Voldemort scream, “Stun him!”

Then he heard a quiet voice over the chaos.

“Stand aside! I will kill him! He is mine!” shrieked Voldemort. Voldemort raised his wand, sick smile flashing for only Harry to see.

“Accio!” Harry yelled, pointing his wand at the Triwizard Cup. He felt the jerk behind his navel as soon as the cup touched his hand. Voldemort’s scream of fury followed
Harry out of the graveyard. They were going back.

Chapter Text

As soon as Harry hit the ground with Cassius’ dead body, he knew he had to tell someone, he knew he had to tell them about Moody, or the not Moody. He knew he was still here, in the stands somewhere, was he sitting beside Millicent or Ron and Hermione, was he talking with Ely in sly tones, wondering about how his boyfriend was fairing in the maze when he was the one who had just murdered him?

But he didn’t have to say a word.

As soon as not Moody saw Harry hit the ground. He stood and with a fierce anger in his crazy eyes fired the Dark Mark into the sky. Then before anyone could do anything, he slung killing curse after killing curse at Harry.

He was too far away to hit him, but faster than Harry thought possible, Sirius was by his side knocking him away. Remus was dueling with Not Moody over the heads of screaming students. Then Dumbledore joined in, binding Not Moody with the ropes the way that Harry had just been bound.

“He is risen. The Dark Lord is alive. He’s back. He’s back!” Not Moody screamed, still glaring at Harry as if he could cast the curse to kill him with his eyes. His wand had fallen and Remus had picked it up. He had levitated it to Dumbledore who cast prior incantatem on the wand, and the blood spell that had resurrected Voldemort played out for the enclosed group to see.

“He’s back!” Harry cried. “Voldemort’s back!”

Then Ely McGovern was at his side, faster than even Not Moody in his zeal to defeat Harry, faster than anyone could stop him because Cassius Warrington laid dead on the grass. Ely fell to his knees beside the dead body, and shook him.

“Cass? Cass! Please….what happened? What happened?!” he asked Harry. But all Harry could say was. “He’s back. He’s back.”

Sirius pulled him into his arms and helped get Harry to his feet.

“Sirius, get Harry inside the castle. Remus levitate Crouch to my office and wait for me. Severus, help me with the boy.”

Cornelius Fudge made his way over to the lifeless body of Cassius Warrington and a screaming Ely McGovern. Warrington’s mother was making her way to the ground,
pushing through the horde of students and aurors trying to keep back prying eyes. Warrington’s father was nowhere to be found.

Dumbledore motioned to let her through.

They should all bear witness to this, his eyes seemed to say.

Harry, for one, couldn’t look away.

***
The real Mad-Eye Moody was found in a trunk, wizard’s space; he had been stunned and under control of the Imperious Curse. He was weak, but alive Not Moody turned out to be Mr. Crouch, or at least Crouch Junior. Harry hadn’t recognized him in the graveyard, but when the remnants of the polyjuice potion he had been making all year finally wore off, Harry was told it was him. The man who Ely had written him about. Crouch’s death eater son.

Crouch, in the custody of Dumbledore and with a mouth full of Veriterserum confessed to everything. His sick mother had convinced his father to grant her one last wish. To save their son from Azkaban. She took his place and the dementors never suspected a thing. No one did. She died but they buried his body.

Crouch had been kept under lock and key by his father. Imperioused and under an invisibility cloak at all hours until he heard something, felt something. Harry knew that something was Voldemort calling to him.

Winky had been the one to watch him. She had nursed him, had cared for him since he was a child, before he was a Death Eater, before he knew what a Muggle born was, or learned to call them Mudbloods instead. She had loved him since he was born and so she wanted him to be free. One night out, the Quidditch World Cup would be perfect because Winky knew how much little Junior loved Quidditch. But things had gone wrong.

Crouch Jr. had been learning to fight off the Imperious Curse, and when he saw the other Death Eaters the ones who hadn’t been searching for their master, “the ones who lied and pretended”, he had released the Dark Mark into the air. His father had found out, gotten rid of Winky, but by then Crouch Jr. was free and he got to Mad-Eye Moody. He killed his father. He entered Harry into the tournament, and had been using the Imperious on Warrington periodically throughout the year, used him to help Harry get to the Cup, and then had murdered him when he was no longer proved malleable to his will.

“You is a bad master,” Winky had said, sobbing into Harry’s chest.

“Winky has no family,” she proclaimed, despite Crouch’s pleads.

Winky had heard everything, and Harry couldn’t shake the sound of her tears as she learned that the little boy she once loved was no longer the person sitting in front of her as she listened to his confession.

Later, in Dumbledore’s office with Sirius and Remus, Harry told them what happened.

“He said my blood would make him stronger than if he’d used someone elses,” Harry told them. “He said the protection my mother left in me…he’d have it too. And he was right, he could touch me without hurting himself, he touched my face.’

For a fleeting instant, Harry thought he saw a gleam of something like triumph in Dumbledore’s eyes. But next second, Harry was sure he had imagined it for when Dumbledore had returned to his seat behind the desk, he looked as old and weary as Harry had ever seen him.

“He asked me if I knew how to duel,” Harry went on, but when he reached the part where the golden beam of light had connected his and Voldemort’s wands, he found his throat constricted. He tried to keep talking, but the memories of Cassius, the old man and Bertha, his parents flooded into his mind.

Sirius broke the silence.

“The wands connected?” he said looking from Harry to Remus. “Why?”

“Priori Incantatem,” Remus muttered.

“The Reverse Spell Effect?” said Sirius sharply. “Exactly,” said Dumbledore. “Harry’s wand and Voldemort’s wand share cores. Each of them contains a feather from the same phoenix. This phoenix, in fact,” he added, and he pointed at the scarlet and gold bird that had perched itself peacefully on Harry’s knee.

“My wand’s feather came from Fawkes?” Harry said, amazed.

“Yes,” said Dumbledore. “Ollivander wrote to tell me you had bought the second wand the moment you left his shop four years ago.”

“When a wand meets its brother,” Remus explained. “The wands will not work properly against each other.”

Dumbledore continued. “It’s a rare effect, where one of the wand’s will force the other to…regurgitate the spells it has performed in reverse. The most recent first, and then those which proceeded it.”

“Which means,” said Dumbledore. “That some form of Cassius appeared.”

Harry nodded at the nonquestion.

“He came back to life?” Sirius asked sharply.

“No spell can reawaken the dead,” Dumbledore said heavily. “All that would have happened is a kind of reverse echo. A shadow of the living Cassius which retained his appearance
and character.”

“An old man came too,” Harry said, his throat still constricted. “Bertha Jorkins. And…..” He looked at Sirius and Remus.

“I saw my parents.”

Sirius grip on Harry’ shoulder was now so tight it was painful.

“They protected me, told me to hold on…dad….he told me what to do. Cassius told me to take his body back, to show them what had happened, and to tell Ely… to tell him that he loved him.”

At this point, Harry found he could not continue. Fawkes had left his knee, having fluttered to the floor, he rested his beautiful head against Harry’s leg. Pearly white tears fell to his injured leg and it started to repair itself.

“Harry,” said Dumbledore. “You have shown bravery beyond anything I could have expected of you tonight. You have shown bravery equal to those who died fighting Voldemort at the height of his powers. Now, I suggest a sleeping potion. There’s no need to return to the dormitory tonight. Sirius, Remus would you like to stay with him? I’m sure Cornelius will allow this in light of current events.”

When Dumbledore pushed open the door to the infirmary, Harry saw Mrs. Weasley, Blaise, Hermione, Ron, and Millicent grouped around a harassed looking Madame Pomfrey.
They appeared to be demanding to know where Harry was and what had happened to him. All of them whipped around as he entered with his two guardians and Dumbledore.

Mrs. Weasley let out a kind of muffled scream.

“Harry. Oh, Harry!”

Dumbledore tried to move between them, but Mrs. Weasley side stepped him, pulling Harry into her arms. Harry felt himself start to cry. He hadn’t been able to touch his own mother, but Mrs. Weasley’s comfortable arms surrounding him, her hand in his hair was real and strong and clearly not an echo of anything but love.

“I’m all right,” he said as soon as he was able. “Just tired.”

Sirius and Remus helped him get into bed.

Sirius eyes watched over him carefully as he smoothed his bed covers. With the help of dreamless sleep Harry quickly fell under. He hoped that he wouldn’t dream about cauldrons, and the shrill voice of Voldemort. He hoped he wouldn’t hear anything at all. And he didn’t. Until the next morning.
Harry kept his eyes closed, hearing the curiosity in Mrs. Wealsey’s voice as she and Bill Weasley listened to the conversation that was quickly turning into an argument right outside the hospital’s doors.

“What has happened?” said Dumbledore sharply, coming through the doors and looking from Cornelius Fudge to Professor McGonagall.

“Minerva, I’m surprised at you…. I asked you to stand guard over Barty Crouch.”

“There is no need to stand guard anymore, Dumbledore,” she shrieked. “The Minister has seen to that!”

Harry had never seen Professor McGonagall lose control like this. Not when Crabbe transfigured his teapot into a bowling ball and nearly knocked several holes in her desk or
even when Tracey Davis, transfigured her quill into a pair of scissors deciding that then would be a good time to trim her bangs in class before the scissors took on a life of their
own, cutting not only people’s hair, but also people’s robes, in rather inappropriate places and patterns. Crabbe’s nipples still burned into Harry’s memory.
McGonagall’s hands were balled into fists, she was trembling with fury.

“Mr. Fudge called for a dementor when we were finished questioning Barty Crouch.”

“I told him you would not agree, Dumbledore,” Professor McGonagall fumed. “I told him that you would never allow dementors to set foot inside the castle, but….”

“My dear woman!” roared Fudge, who likewise looked angrier than Harry had ever seen him, “as Minister of Magic, it is my decision whether I wish to bring protection with me
when interviewing a possibly dangerous criminal. Mr. and Mrs. Warrington thought that it was a fine idea. They care for my personal….”

Sirius laughed.

“They don’t care about you, Fudge. All they cared about was getting revenge for their son. They used you, Minister.”

Fudge scoffed.

“By all accounts, he is no loss. It seems he has been responsible for several deaths!”

“But he cannot now give testimony, Cornelius,” said Dumbledore. “He cannot give evidence about why he killed those people.”

“Why he killed them? Well, that’s no mystery is it,” blustered Fudge. “He was a raving lunatic from what I’ve heard. He thought he was following you-know-who’s orders!”

“Lord Voldemort was giving him instructions, Cornelius,” Dumbledore said. “Those people’s deaths were mere by-products of a plan to restore Voldemort to full strength
again. The plan has succeeded. Voldemort has been restored to his body.”

Fudge blocked this out. Argued. It was as if Fudge had his hands over his ears saying, “Nananananananana.” For all he was listening to the rest of them.

“I believe Harry,” said Dumbledore, his eyes blazing now.

“I heard Crouch’s confession under veriterserum, and I heard Harry’s account of what happened after they touched the cup; the two stories make sense, they explain everything that has happened since Bertha Jorkins disappeared last summer.”

Fudge smiled strangely.

“You are prepared to believe Lord Voldemort has returned on the word of a lunatic murderer and a boy who as I understand it is not only a Parselmouth but has also been having funny turns all over the place.”

“I assume that you are referring to the pains Harry has been experiencing in his scar?” said Dumbledore cooly.

“You admit that he has been having these pains then?” said Fudge quickly.

“Headaches? Nightmares? Possibly hallucinations?”

Remus had to hold Sirius back.

“I suggest you stop reading Skeeter’s swill, Minister. There’s only so many brain cells you can sacrifice,” said Sirius. Fudge snarled.

“Listen to me, Cornelius,” said Dumbledore, taking a step toward Fudge. “Harry is as sane as you or I or anyone else in this room. That scar upon his forehead has not addled
his brains. I believe it hurts him when Lord Voldemort is close by or feeling particularly murderous.”

“Look, I saw Lord Voldemort come back!” Harry shouted. “I saw Death Eaters. I can give you their names. Malfoy. Avery.”

“Both cleared,” roared Fudge.

“Macnair,” Harry continued.

“Also cleared, now working for the Ministry!”

“All old names. All acquitted thirteen years ago.”

“And we all know the Ministry is flawless,” barked Sirius.

“You fool!” cried Professor McGonagall. “Mr. Crouch, Cassius Warrington, these deaths are not the random work of a lunatic.”

“What evidence?” shouted Fudge. “It seems to me that you are all determined to start a panic that will destabilize everything that we have worked for.”

“Voldemort is back,” said Dumbledore. “Cornelius, you are blinded! Act now, get to the giants, the dementors or history will remember you as the man who stepped aside and
allowed Voldemort a second chance to destroy the world we have tried to rebuild.”

“Insane…” whispered Fudge, backing away. “Mad….”

“He can’t be back Dumbledore, he just can’t be…”

Snape strode forward, past Dumbledore pulling up the left sleeve of his forearm and showed it to Fudge who recoiled.

“There,” said Snape harshly. “The Dark Mark. It is not as clear as it was an hour or so ago, when it burned black, but you can still see it. Every Death Eater had the sign burned
into him by the Dark Lord. It was a means of distinguishing one another and his means of summoning us to him. When he touched the Mark of any Death Eater we were to disapparate and apparate instantly at his side. This Mark has been growing clearer all year. Karkaroff’s too. Why do you think he fled tonight? We both felt the Mark burn. We both knew he had returned. Karkaroff fears the Death Eater’s vengeance. He betrayed too many of his fellow Death Eaters to be sure of a welcome back into the fold.”

Snape was a Death Eater.

Fudge turned to leave before stopping and dropping Harry’s winnings on his bed then leaving. Mr. and Mrs. Warrington seemed to be waiting for Crouch in the hallway. Harry rose shakily to his feet, and moved to the door.

“Do you know what he died for?” Harry nearly shouted at the prim looking couple. Red, tear stained eyes turned to Harry in surprise.

“He died trying to protect me. He died fighting for what was right. He broke the imperious curse for me, and for himself…for the life that he will now never get to live. Ely…”

“Don’t say that name to me!” Mr. Warrington shouted, staring at Harry coldly. “That gold digger is the reason that Cassius is dead. He never should have been involved in this
tournament. He never should have been the one to touch that Cup. He should never have been with that overly ambitious sod. And now he’s left his entire inheritance to that boy.
I’d say that was the plan all along. To ruin my son and then reap the benefits. It should never have happened!”

“No,” said Harry calmly. “It shouldn’t have, but you know that’s not Ely’s fault. Don’t you, sir?”

Mrs. Warrington eyed her husband discreetly.

“Don’t you want revenge for the person responsible for your son’s death?”

Mr. Warrington looked like he was about to say that he just had, but Harry couldn’t stomach that.

“Crouch may have fired the curse that killed your son, but don’t you think Voldemort could have stopped it if he wanted too? Don’t you think he could have saved him? But no, he condemned him. You, too. Cassius chose what side he wanted to be on, now you have to do the same.”
Then Harry turned and left the grieving parents in the hall. He had his own family to be getting back to.

***

“The end,” said Dumbledore, looking around at them all, “of another year.”

He looked at the Slytherin table and Harry felt as if he was looking at each of them.

“There is much that I would like to say to you all tonight, but I must first acknowledge the loss of a very fine person, who should be sitting here,” he gestured toward the Slytherin
table, “enjoying our feast with us. I would like you all to please stand and raise your glass to Cassius Warrington.”

They all did it, all of them; the benches scraped as everyone in the hall stood and raised the goblet and echoed, in one loud, low rumbling voice, “Cassius Warrington.”

Ely wasn’t at the feast. He hadn’t been able to leave his room, Harry had heard his roommates saying.

“Cassius Warrington was a good person and a great friend. He was steadfast and strong, gifted in astronomy and like the stars he had memorized, he was headed for a bright future. His death has affected you all whether you knew him or not. I think that you have the right therefore to know exactly how it came about.

Cassius Warrington was murdered by Lord Voldemort.”

A panicked whisper swept the Great Hall. People were staring at Dumbledore in disbelief, in horror.

“The Ministry of Magic does not wish me to tell you this. Some of your parents may be horrified that I have done so either because they believe you are too young to know or
because they will simply not believe it themselves. It is my belief, however, that the truth is generally preferred to lies and that any attempt to pretend that Cassius died as a result
of an accident or some sort of blunder of his own is an insult to his memory.”

Stunned and frightened, every face in the Hall was turned toward Dumbledore now. Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle sat ashen faced, but attentive to Dumbledore’s words.

“The Triwizard Tournaments aim was to further and promote magical understanding. In the light of what has happened Lord Voldemort’s return, such ties are more important
than ever before.”

Harry looked at Madame Maxime and Hagrid, Fleur who had went to the ball with a Hogwarts student and who Harry knew had exchanged promises with Hermione to write and Viktor Krum who sat only a few seats from Harry, Millicent and Blaise. The boy who was more than just his talent on a broomstick.

Viktor momentarily looked as if he thought Dumbledore was going to say something to him, but Dumbledore had forgiven worse crimes then going to a school that supposedly teaches the Dark Arts. Snape had been a Death Eater and somehow he had wormed his way into Dumbledore’s good graces again.

“Every guest in this Hall will be welcomed back here at any time, should they wish to come. I say to you all once again that we are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided. Lord Voldemort’s gift for spreading discord and enmity is very great, but we can fight it with an equally strong bond of friendship and trust.

We are all facing dark and dangerous times. Some of you in this Hall have already been directly affected by the hands of Lord Voldemort. Many of your families have been torn asunder, and not one week ago, a student was taken from us.”

Dumbledore looked at Harry then.

“Harry Potter managed to escape Lord Voldemort. He risked his own life to return Cassius’ body back to Hogwarts. And to show the world what Lord Voldemort has done. And for his bravery, I honor him.”

Many raised their glasses in salute of Harry, but a few noticeably did not and not just the sons of the Death Eater’s that he had escaped from.

“As some of you leave these halls for the last time, I implore you to show the world what you have become, so that when it comes time, and I fear it will come, to choose
between what is right and what is easy. I hope you remember how you feel right now in such loss and remember that the boy we mourn, the boy who loved the stars, chose right.”

As they left the Great Hall, someone bumped Harry’s shoulder, but instead of seeing a green robe it was a blue one.

“Murderer.”

Harry looked around, but no one else was stopping. Then from across the hall, Harry heard, “Slytherins always do betray their own kind.”

Harry instantly shook his head.

“It’s all a lie,” said someone else and a Hufflepuff pushed him, nearly causing him to stumble. “Wanted to be champion so bad he murdered Warrington!”

“Yeah,” called someone else. “Dumbledore’s just covering it all…”

“Enough!” roared a voice, who sent a spell that knocked the most outspoken of the group to the floor.

It was Ely.

He looked gaunt and wild, nothing like the normally well-dressed, put together, impeccable image he normally presented to the world. Harry hadn’t seen him all week, but had
gone over every variation of what could happen when they met again, but he could have never thought of this.

Ely stopped beside him, calling the attention of every student present though he didn’t say a word. Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle, and Nott stood not far off absorbing everything intently.

“Cassius was a two hundred and thirty pound seventh year Slytherin. He learned how to cast hexes before he even came to Hogwarts that most only learn well after third year. He had a fast dueling arm and used to love playing Exploding Snap. He was every bit the conniving, strategic, ambitious, biting Slytherin you all have this vision of…” he stopped briefly.

“and you think, you honestly believe that this scrawny nothing killed him?”

Ely laughed cruelly.

“You all really are fools.” Ely looked straight at Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle. “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named killed Cassius.”

Everyone heard. It seemed as if no one had left the halls except for the staff. No one planned to miss this.

“While I saw Potter here, as nothing more than a nuisance, something that stood in the way of Cass becoming a champion Cass thought that Potter was a good kid, defiant, unruly but better than most.” Ely eyed the crowd, contemptuously.

“I was close enough that night to hear what Harry was saying. I saw, we all saw Crouch Junior attack Harry Potter so that he would stay silent, but I will not stay silent. This unruly, mouthy fourth year didn’t kill anyone. The Dark Lord killed the boy I love, and I won’t let anyone taint him with lies.”

He raised his wand.

“And I’ll curse anyone who says differently.”

Just then, the upper year Slytherins who had been watching stepped up and joined Ely then. Then Krum, “Harry Potter is a valiant champion and I stand by him.”

“Me too,” said Fleur and a whole host of others stood by him, his friends even people he had never talked too.

The dissenters nodded meekly before filtering out of the Hall. Harry nodded to his friends and they too, walked away. Ely moved off as well, but Harry couldn’t let him go.

“Ely!” Harry called. He had to tell him. He might not get another chance. Ely stopped. His cheeks still red with anger. He was breathing heavy, no energy from lack of food for the past week.

He looked at Harry expectantly, but impatiently. Harry’s mouth went dry. But after everything Ely had just said for him, he could say something for Warrington.

“Cassius, he wanted me to tell you he loved you.” Harry said, but instead of tears or more yelling, Ely simply laughed.

Ely shook his head, “No, he didn’t Potter. Cassius never once said those words to me.”

He turned to walk away, Harry followed him.

“He said, tell Ely that he’s the exact opposite of the thing I despise the most.”

Ely stopped, then faced him. A gentle smile now on his face.

“That’s more like it,” he said. “He always said things like, “I adore you.” “You’re brighter than the lights from the Lake.” “One day it will be us.” “I’ll show you how.” “Study with
me?” Cass never said, I love you, and yet he said it every day since fourth year.”

Ely put his hands on Harry’s shoulders.

“If you think life right now is shit just wait, Potter. Cass has got it easy now. The dead don’t have to make any choices.”

“Won’t you miss him?” asked Harry. He thought Ely was being a bit pragmatic about this.

“Weren’t you guys going to live together, make a life? That’s what Cassius said in the maze.” Ely laughed again. “I’m surprised he told you that, Potter, he must have thought you were more than what you let on.”

Ely released him.

“It was only an idea, Potter. Cass comes from a great wealthy family and would have been expected to make a good marriage and produce an heir. The only good place we had was
here and in his imagination. We both knew it wasn’t going to happen.” Harry shook his head. He couldn’t believe it. Wouldn’t. Harry looked straight into Ely’s eyes.

“Perhaps you should contact Cassius’s parents before you taint him with anymore lies. Or at least send an Owl to Gringotts,” said Harry. Harry moved past Ely’s still disheveled form.

“He loved you more than you think.”

Ely nodded. Harry didn’t have to see the tears in his eyes to know they were there.

“Thanks P….Harry.”

“You’re welcome,” Harry said.

Chapter Text

Harry’s trunk was packed; Hedwig was in her cage on top of it.

“’Arry!”

Fleur Delacour was hurrying up the stone steps into the castle. Behind her, Hagrid helped Madame Maxime back two ginger haired horses into their harness as the Beauxbaton’s carriage prepared to leave.

“We will see each uzzer again, I ‘ope,” she said, holding out her hand. “I am ‘oping to get a job ‘ere, to improve my Eenglish. ‘ermione has agreed to meet with me this summer. Bill ‘az alzo offered his services.” Fleur blushed slightly at the mention of Ron’s older brother, but Harry pretended not to notice.

“Good bye, ‘Arry,” said Fleur. “It ‘as been a pleasure meeting you!”

Krum approached Harry then Blaise at his side.

“Will you be able to get back without Karkaroff?”

“Karkaroff did not steer. He stayed in his cabin and let us do the work.” He grew serious.

“I respected Warrington. He vos always polite to me, and kept some others in your house avay. I meant vot I said, Potter. I am beside you.” He clapped him then on the back then walked toward where Hermione and Millicent were chatting with Blaise. Harry watched as they exchanged a few words. Krum nodded and looked to sign something for Hermione. He bowed lower then kissed Millicent’s then Blaise’s hand. Blaise tapped him on the cheek as a way of saying goodbye. Krum smiled wryly as he walked back to his ship. Harry doubted he would ever understand those two.

Harry hadn’t been back to the dorm all but to get his stuff, none of his roommates were there. Harry was glad. He hadn’t wanted to face them just yet, much less sleep in the same room as the sons of the men who had just tried to murder him. He didn’t know how he was going to handle next year.

Harry walked to the train with his friends beside him. Ron was gushing over his signed photo of Krum that Hermione had gotten for him. Hermione was staring fondly at her still new boyfriend. Blaise was chatting with Millicent, Fred, and George about something he couldn’t hear. George laughed raucously at something that Millicent said. Fred pretended to be put out, but walked closer to the Slytherin girl anyway. Millicent watched him with an odd look on her face. Something was definitely happening there. He would have to tell Fred to watch his tea. After dealing with a hysterical Malfoy all of last year, Harry doubted the world could handle a hysterical Weasley twin. Maybe he would include that in the letter he planned on sending them along with the winnings from the tournament. They would put it to better use than Harry ever would. Besides, it would hardly be fair if Millicent had the upper hand. Maybe all of those galleons would make it a level playing field for the two of them.

Harry was about to board the train when he heard a whistle. Turning at the sound he saw Remus and Sirius standing by Hagrid.

“And just where do you think you’re going?” Sirius asked him.

“Home,” said Harry uncertainly. He certainly didn’t want to go back to the Dursleys, but it wasn’t like he had a choice.

“Home?” said Remus walking towards him. “Now, tell me, Harry, do you really consider Number Four Pivet Drive your home?”

Harry shook his head, no. That place had never been his home. The Dursleys had never been his family.

“Then what,” said Sirius as the two approached. “do you say about coming home with us?”

“What?” Harry exclaimed. “You can’t be serious. What about…”

“All of that has been taken care of,” said Remus. “It seems as if Crouch isn’t willing to stand any more critique on his ruling of the ministry, especially not from a triwizard winner.”

Harry smiled. He couldn’t believe it.

“So you’re free?” Harry asked Sirius.

Sirius brushed his long hair out of his face.

“Not exactly, but we do have leave for you to come back with us.”

“For the summer?” Harry asked.

“Yes,” said Remus, smiling. “For the entire summer.”

Harry could have cried. Instead he jumped into the pair’s waiting arms and hugged them. Feeling the presence of his parents even though there was no real magic taking
place at all. But as Sirius and Remus apparated them and Harry’s belongings away, Harry wondered if that wasn’t the real magic after all.