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Vestiges of Normalcy

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Screams, shouts, cries, wails. Everywhere Harry looked, all he could see and hear, were people’s panic. Fear, pure unadulterated fear, was the order of the night. Anarchy had fallen, people were running, tripping, stumbling, falling, all trying to get away at the same time, uncaring of anyone’s wellbeing but themselves.

 

It was the night of the Quidditch World Cup final between Ireland and Bulgaria. Ireland had come away as the winner, while Bulgarian seeker, Viktor Krum, had his moment of glory by catching the snitch for Bulgaria. The night was meant for everyone to rest after an adrenaline-filled, heart-thundering match, before returning to their homes the next day.

 

But that came to an abrupt halt, when Death Eaters attacked the grounds.

 

Some had captured the Muggle groundskeeper’s family and himself, while others had gone around gleefully causing chaos and mayhem amongst the fleeing innocents.

 

Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, was caught in the middle of it all. He had been with his friends Ron and Hermione when the first screams echoed. But in the ensuing chaos, he was separated from his two friends, and by the time he had regained his bearings from the pushes and shoves of the crowd, Ron and Hermione were nowhere in sight.

 

A whoosh sailed over his head. Harry instinctually ducked down. Spells were now being fired. Harry watched the few aurors who had been stationed as security personnel firing curses and hexes at the Death Eaters, who were firing Dark spells in return.

 

Harry didn’t know it happened. He never knew how he started running towards the battles, firing his own curses and hexes at the Death Eaters. Maybe it was the sight of an Auror being killed by a dark spell. Or an innocent child getting hit by a stray hex, falling to the ground, screaming in pain. But Harry went ahead, his Gryffindor sense of righteousness and courage kicking in against his brain telling him to run.

 

His first target was a Death Eater, who was about to overwhelm an Auror.

 

Bombarda!”

 

There was a loud boom, a scream that was almost instantly cut off. Harry braced himself from the resulting shockwave, dirt, grass, and blood flying in all directions. When the dust settled, Harry relaxed his stance, seeing the aftermath.

 

The Death Eater was undeniably dead. But how he went was another story. The explosion had blown his body to smithereens. There was almost nothing remaining, save for bloodied bits of the robe he wore, and a piece of his mask.

 

The Auror had fallen backwards, a stunned expression marring his face. His eyes darted from Harry to the remains of the Death Eater, his mouth opened in disbelief at the sudden escalation of atrocity.

 

“Be careful!” Harry shouted to the Auror. Not waiting for a reply, he dashed away.

 

Harry ran through the burning campground, putting out fires with over-powered Aguamenti spells, helping other terrified campers to escape by pointing them to the forest, and attacking other Death Eaters who were running around.

 

His death count rose steadily, as another five Death Eaters were either put out of commission or met untimely ends with curses and hexes leaving Harry’s wand like bullets in a gun. Running aimlessly, he found himself in the section where the competing Quidditch players were spending the night. Like the rest of the campground, tents were on fire, screams could be heard, and battles were ongoing.

 

Only this time, it was professional Quidditch players against Death Eaters.

 

Harry balked. There were bodies of players scattered about the ground, though how since he didn’t recognise the faces, he assumed they were the reserves. The main players were still fighting the Death Eaters in a tense stalemate, neither side crumbling to the other.

 

Among them, Harry spotted the one face that prominently stood out to him, Viktor Krum.

 

The Bulgarian seeker was taking on three Death Eaters, with, to his credit, rather Dark spells. But these Death Eaters were noticeably better-trained. Shields were conjured up at lightning-fast speeds, allowing them to fire their own spells back at the seeker.

 

Viktor was forced to duck, roll and tumble out of the way of these dangerous spells. Harry could see that the seeker was already exhausted from a gruelling match earlier in the day. This battle was not helping things. Harry needed to intervene, and quickly.

 

“Krum! Stay down!”

 

Harry’s shout snapped the Death Eaters’ attention towards him. They barely had time to spot the Boy-Who-Lived with his wand aimed at them, before they heard what arguably was the last words they would ever hear.

 

Diffindo!”

 


To Be Continued


 

Chapter Text

Viktor Krum had just been preparing for a well-deserved night’s sleep, when the first screams echoed in the distance. He and his teammates tumbled out of bed as they rushed out of the tent to see what was going on.

 

The screams grew louder, and coloured lights shot across the sky like rockets. Viktor and his teammates watched as people ran for their lives, some occasionally falling from accidents, or getting hit by a spell. Cloaked figures wearing masks ran about, gleefully adding fuel to the chaotic fire.

 

Suddenly, a red-coloured light flashed past Viktor, followed by a cry of pain. One of his teammates, Nikolai, had fallen to the ground, grasping his right arm in agony – a bone-breaking hex. Death Eaters were attacking the athletes’ campsite.

 

Viktor was forced to ignore Nikolai’s screams as a volley of spells began to unfurl. He cast spell after spell, not caring which were borderline-illegal or not. Killing Curses and other lethal spells were now being thrown, and to the seeker’s outright horror and outrage, he’d seen at least one player, Bulgarian and Irish, getting hit by these deadly curses and having the life snuffed out of them.

 

Viktor didn’t know how long he fought, but a combination of tired muscles from a hard-played Quidditch match that had no time to recover, plus literally fighting for one’s life, meant exhaustion was upon him relatively quickly. He now had three of those damned bastards throwing spells at him. In his current state, Viktor was on the defensive, conjuring shields to protect himself, or rolling out of the way of spells.

 

One thought flashed across his mind. He was going to die tonight. He would never play Quidditch again, finish his education, or even see his family again. But… he did manage to catch the snitch for his country, so he could, at least, take comfort in that as he laid his last breath, as he ducked to avoid what turned out to be a blood-boiling curse…

 

“Krum! Stay down!”

 

A loud voice suddenly put the brakes on his hopeless thoughts. Viktor couldn’t help but stay down (not that he didn’t want to, he was exhausted after all) as the same voice shouted an incantation, three times.

 

“Diffindo!”

 

There were green flashes, splattering sounds, and cries of pain. Viktor looked up. He saw the same three Death Eaters, the ones who nearly did him, sprawled on the ground. One was missing his wand hand and the source of the cries, another had been scalped and sprawled on the ground, twitching; and the third unmoving, lifeless on the grass in a pool of blood. If it wasn’t for the exhaustion, the seeker was sure he would have vomited.

 

Footsteps rushed towards him. A pair of jeans-clad legs and trainers came into his field of vision.

 

“Hang on, we’re getting out of here.”

 

Viktor said nothing as he allowed himself to be lifted off from the ground, his arm draped over a pair of shoulders. He didn’t notice that the remaining Death Eaters who had attacked the players’ camp had fled, leaving the dead and wounded behind. His teammates never did cross his mind either, survival instincts clouding all superficial (in comparison) emotions.

 

He only felt his legs barely walking, as he and his rescuer trekked through the burning campsites, screams and the occasional spell punctuating the night. Viktor vaguely registered that they had entered the woods surrounding the campsites. The blurry, dimly-lit outlines of trees, branches and roots filed past his vision as they travelled deeper, away from the screams and chaos.

 

Viktor felt them come to a stop. His arm was lifted from his rescuer’s shoulders, and he was held steady. He was gently lowered against the base of a tree, as the stranger spoke again.

 

“Lie still, I think you’re dehydrated.”

 

‘Vell…I vas about to get a glass of vater before things vent to hell…’ Viktor couldn’t help but think.

 

The stranger conjured up a glass from a nearby pebble, and filled it with an aguamenti spell. They brought the glass to Viktor’s parched lips, and tilted it slightly to let the seeker drink slowly. Once he had finished the water, the glass was banished, and his rescuer set about healing the scratches, cuts and bruises that he sustained from the battle earlier.

 

“I don’t know much about healing spells, so this will have to do for a while,” they said, as multiple Episkey spells were applied to the injuries.

 

“You saving me vas more than enough mister…um…”

 

At this, his rescuer’s face came into view, thanks to his vision clearing up from the rest and the water. Messy, raven hair, sparkling emerald-green eyes behind round wire-frame glasses…and a small lightning-bolt scar on his forehead.

 

Viktor’s eyes widened.

 

“You’re…Harry Potter.”

 

Viktor might have only been a young boy when Lord Voldemort was vanquished, but the stories of the boy who ended the evilest Dark Lord since Gellert Grindenwald had spread to even the borders of his native Bulgaria. He remembered seeing his parents and other adults raise their goblets to Potter in celebration and relief. He had seen books of the famous boy, slaying murderous beasts, single-handedly capturing criminals, and saving the innocent from the hands of evil. Even when he attended Durmstrang, it was not uncommon for him to overhear female students swooning over Potter (when they were not swooning over him), fantasizing about marrying the kid and their subsequent life in domestic bliss. Potter was even the subject of their first year Dark Arts lesson.

 

From everything he had seen and heard in his seventeen years of life, Viktor had expected a lot of things from the Boy-Who-Lived.

 

“Dear Merlin, not you too?”

 

Viktor blinked. That…he did not expect. He expected Potter to act all high and mighty from being recognised. After all, when was it that a celebrity seeker recognised you on your first meeting? Viktor expected prideful preening, cocky remarks, and all-round holier-than-thou attitude. An exasperated sigh and a look of disbelief was the last thing he thought would come from the saviour of the wizarding world.

 

“…vhat?”

 

Potter, who had turned to the side to shake his head, turned back towards him, a questioning look piercing his emerald-green eyes.

 

“Before anything else, please tell me you aren’t going to start shaking my hand until my arm drops off, or bombard me with praises and well-wishes, or worse, try to curry favours from me?”

 

Viktor’s confusion grew, alongside a tiny bit of annoyance. Just what was Potter going on about?

 

“…no?”

 

Potter visibly relaxed, “Oh thank Merlin for that.”

 

The seeker raised an eyebrow, as the bespectacled raven-haired boy shifted over and leaned back against the tree beside him with a sigh.

 

“…vhy?”

 

Potter was silent for a second, “Krum…have you ever had a moment where you wished you were just a regular person, with no celebrity status and nothing hanging over your head?”

 

Viktor wasn’t quite sure what was going on. Barely minutes before, he had been fighting for his life, he had been rescued – by Harry Potter, of all people – and now, he was about to have a deep, insightful conversation with him. How events had led up to this moment, he didn’t know.

 

But Potter was expecting an answer, so Viktor gave him one, “There are times, vhy do you ask?”

 

Potter replied, staring off into the woods, “I never wanted this, being the “Boy-Who-Lived”. How can they expect a one-year-old baby to kill a Dark Lord? It was my mother’s sacrifice that ended him. But no one sees that, they all think I somehow had some god-like power that blasted Voldemort’s body. And just because their lives were now safe, I became their go-to place for all the answers in the world, expecting me to deliver what they want.”

 

Viktor stayed silent, as the bespectacled boy continued his rant, pulling his knees into his chest, “I just want to be a regular bloke. I just want a family, people who love me unconditionally, and not only when it benefits them or keeps their sorry arses on. I don’t want fame, or fortune. I just want my own life, and not have others determine it.”

 

The Bulgarian seeker, obviously, didn’t know how to react. They had only just met, but already Potter was spilling out his woes into the open. Also, this Potter looked so…vulnerable, and lost; nothing like the brave man who finished off three Death Eaters. Inwardly though, he agreed with Potter, to some extent.

 

“Vell…I obviously cannot compare vith you, but I get vhat you mean. Being a celebrity is not easy, especially vith people’s expectations.”

 

Potter snorted, “But at least you earned your fame. You worked hard and persevered. Me? I’m famous because of my mother’s sacrifice. I couldn’t do anything at all, it was only my mother’s love that saved me. I was not some powerful wizard who delivered the final blow. I was only a baby; why can’t no one see that? And besides, you only have to worry about your education and Quidditch, if Voldemort rises again, the whole of the wizarding world will expect me to finish him off again. Can they expect a fourteen-year-old to do something almost no one else can?”

 

Viktor gazed at Potter meaningfully. Potter was right, even if he didn’t exactly say it in the nicest way possible. His main worries in life were that of any other eighteen-year-old, alongside the added layer of maintaining his Seeker prowess. But Potter, he was carrying an entire world on his shoulders. People’s lives depended on him. And he was only fourteen, for Merlin’s sake. He should be having fun in school, getting good grades, and looking for the one he loves. Not killing or fighting for his life.

 

“Surely you have others to share your burden?”

 

“Sure, Ron and Hermione, but they can’t be around forever. My schoolmates aren’t much better, supporting me one moment, and ostracizing me the other like I had the Black Death. The Hogwarts professors don’t seem to give two hoots, given I had to fight Voldemort at the back of a professor’s head and a basilisk…”

 

Viktor’s eyes widened, and his mouth fell open, “V-Vhat? You fought Voldemort? And a…a…a basilisk?”

 

“When I was eleven and twelve,” Potter mumbled, obviously not proud of what he’d done.

 

Viktor was blown away. A young child, still wet behind the ears, not only faced Voldemort, and a basilisk, and he survived? Suddenly, Viktor’s own worries seemed miniscule in comparison.

 

“Then there was hundred or so dementors trying to suck the souls out of me and my godfather last year…”

 

Viktor was now well and truly floored. He had heard about dementors, and how only the Patronus charm could ward them off without sustaining major injury. To face a hundred of these dark monsters, and still survive…it was a miracle his mind hadn’t short-circuited, he wasn’t sure if he could handle anymore of Potter’s death-defying escapades…if there were any more.

 

“I’m scared to think that if Ron and Hermione are gone, how am I supposed to carry on?”

 

The fear was clear in Potter’s eyes; Viktor could see that. It was also clear, that everything he had heard about the Boy-Who-Lived was complete hippogriff shit. Potter was not some fearless, adventurous hero who saved damsels in distress from dragons, or charged head-first into battle with monsters with nothing but a wand and sword as the books and hearsay made him out to be. He was just a regular boy, who had his own dreams and aspirations, which were certainly not fighting deadly beasts or homicidal megalomaniacs.

 

The more Viktor thought about it, the more he realized he and Potter were in the same boat, albeit the latter’s circumstances were much more extreme. They had the expectations of a country on their shoulders, but for very different reasons. They were talked about, gossiped about, pointed at, no matter where they went. And, to Viktor was the most annoying, they were – at least, he assumed Harry was too – the subject of many a girl’s love fantasies and gold-digging families who wanted to marry their daughters to them in order to gain prestige and fortune.

 

But Viktor understood the stark differences too. While he didn’t have many friends, at least he had his teammates and his close-knit clique in Durmstrang. Potter had only two, and without a social safety-net to fall back into should they betray their friendship. Also, Viktor had his parents, Potter didn’t.

 

“Then, vill you allow me to be your friend?”

 

Potter’s head whipped around so fast he came close to whiplash.

 

“What?”

 

“Ve’re both celebrities,” Viktor explained, “Ve ought to look out for vone another, you know?”

 

Potter’s left eyebrow raised.

 

“There aren’t many people ve can really see as our true friends,” Viktor continued, “Everyvone vants our attention, just because of our titles, not ourselves. I just thought…perhaps also as thanks for saving me, that ve could be friends? I don’t think ve could leave tonight after vhat happened not as friends.”

 

Viktor outstretched his hand at Potter. Potter gazed at the hand for a moment, before speaking again.

 

“Well, that is if you call me Harry.”

 

Viktor let a rare smile grace his thin lips, “Call me Viktor then.”

 

That night, as the aurors rounded up the remaining Death Eaters who hadn’t died or apparated away, and more combed the woods for anyone who was still hiding, a friendship was forged between the Boy-Who-Lived and the Seeker of Bulgaria.


To Be Continued.


 

Chapter Text

As it had and always would, life carried on after the attack on the Quidditch World Cup. After an Auror found them in the woods, Harry and Viktor were escorted back to the campsite to their friends and teammates respectively. Before separating, both promised to write to one another and hopefully meet up again in future. Once Harry returned to the Weasley tent, he was dive-bombed by his friends. Hermione was especially worried over his disappearance during the attack, and it took multiple assurances from the Harry himself that he was able to keep himself safe until rescue came.

 

Though, admittedly, he kept silent about how he, in the chaos, wounded four Death Eaters; killed another five, and became friends with Viktor Krum himself. Harry certainly didn’t think the time was right to spill such information.

 

Not wanting to spend another moment in the campsite, the Weasleys, Hermione, Harry and the Diggorys (who had come along for the match), sought out a private portkey which brought them back to the Burrow, where Molly was anxiously waiting for news of her family’s safety after hearing about the attack on the wireless and seeing the hands on the clock for those who left for the match turn towards ‘mortal peril’.

 

There Harry and Hermione stayed with their hosts until the first of September. And Viktor stayed true to his promise of exchanging letters almost immediately.

 

The morning after returning from the World Cup, Harry was woken to the sound of something tapping against the curtained window. Beside him, Ron was still fast asleep, snoring loudly. Harry grabbed his spectacles, tiptoed over to the window, drew the curtains apart, and saw what was making the tapping noise.

 

It was an eastern imperial eagle. Harry opened the window, admittedly marvelling at how majestic it was. The eagle stared back at him for a moment, appearing to scrutinize the human in front of it. Then, it stuck out a leg. Harry immediately noticed a letter tied around it.

 

“Is it from Viktor?” asked Harry.

 

The eagle appeared to nod. Harry immediately untied the letter from its leg.

 

“Wait here, you had a long journey.”

 

The eagle made no inclination of movement, merely sitting on the windowsill in silence as Harry disappeared back into the room. He placed the letter on Ron’s desk, and went through his trunk to look for mice he would feed Hedwig with. Said snowy owl was shaken from her slumber by the sound of her owner digging through his trunk. Blinking slowly, she turned towards the open window, and made eye-contact with the eagle.

 

For several moments, both birds of prey made no noise or movement, just staring at one another like a battle of who-blinks-first. Hedwig was the first to break the silence; a single, quiet hoot escaping her beak. The eagle responded with a slightly louder cry, but not loud enough to wake a still-snoring Ron.

 

Harry finally found the dead mice in a box under a stasis charm. Opening it, he turned towards the eagle, only to notice it staring at Hedwig, who was staring back at it as well.

 

“Sorry, Hedwig. Did I wake you?”

 

The snowy owl turned to her owner, and gave a nonchalant hoot.

 

“I hope you don’t mind me giving the eagle here one of your mice. It had a long journey delivering me a letter.”

 

Hedwig gave another nonchalant hoot, turning her gaze back at the eagle. Harry plucked a mouse from the box and went back to the windowsill.

 

“Here, this is what my owl, Hedwig’s her name, usually eats after long journeys,” said Harry, putting the mouse in front of the eagle, “I don’t know much about eagles, but since you are a bird of prey, I assume that this is something you eat as well?”

 

The eagle made no sound, just staring back at Harry with unknown intentions. It stayed that way for several moments, and Harry began to worry that he had offended the majestic bird by offering it a measly mouse as a thank-you for the letter.

 

His fears were ultimately unfounded, as it took the mouse into its beak, gave a somewhat muffled cry, and flew into the room onto the top of a wardrobe to eat its meal in peace. Staring at the eagle a moment longer, Harry returned to the letter, and was about to open it when Hedwig hooted to get his attention, nudging her beak against the cage door.

 

Harry opened the cage, letting the snowy owl out. Hedwig fluttered down onto his shoulder, nipped at his ear gently in affection, before hooting towards the letter.

 

At his owl’s prompting, Harry broke the wax seal, opened the envelope, and pulled out the letter inside.

 

Harry,

 

How are you? I hope you got back home safe. I remember seeing a mad push-and-shove for the portkeys leaving the grounds before we left.

 

Bulgaria is in uproar. Two of our reserve players were killed last night, and the people were demanding answers and retribution. I can expect your Minister to come under huge fire from wizarding Europe and within Britain itself, since from what I heard, the British Ministry had taken a long time to intervene when the Death Eaters attacked.

 

‘I’m not sure about that…’ Harry thought to himself, knowing how corrupt the Ministry was and how the general wizarding population would just follow anything the Minister or the Daily Prophet says.

 

I really wish this clears up soon. My father has a lot of work to do now, being the Minister’s aide, in handling this fallout.

 

I hope this letter gets to you safely. It’s not often that Velia, my family’s eagle, delivers letters across the continent, but I’m confident that she’ll make the journey. Please reward her for her hard work, she’s a really excellent eagle.

 

I hope to hear from you soon.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Viktor

 

Harry smiled. He was glad to hear that Viktor got back to Bulgaria safely, though his heart went out to the families of the reserve players who were tragically killed in the crossfire. Bulgaria had every right to be mad at wizarding Britain, he thought; they send their best players to the World Cup, only to come back with several of them dead or wounded.

 

‘Well, I better not keep him or Velia waiting too long.’

 

Harry put the letter back into the envelope, and returned to his trunk. He deposited the letter into a compartment, and pulled out an empty envelope, parchment, ink bottle and quill. He then went back to the desk, and wrote out his reply.

 

Viktor,

 

I’m doing quite well, thanks for asking. I’m glad that you also got back home safely, I presume you had a good rest too?

 

I’m sorry to hear that two of your teammates were murdered. Let me assure you that my heart goes out to them and their families, and that no one but the Death Eaters who are to be blamed for their deaths.

 

To be honest, I’m not confident that the British Ministry is going to handle the fallout properly. They are incredibly corrupt, and for all we may know, they may just release some empty statement of promising to bring justice to those responsible and then sweep the entire thing under the rug. I don’t know how their going to do it, but I’m not getting my hopes up.

 

But what I do know is, Velia is indeed an excellent eagle. She managed to find where I am currently staying, admittedly arriving when I was still sleeping. She is really majestic, and I think even Hedwig, my snowy owl, is also taken to her too.

 

I did reward Velia for the long journey, though I only had Hedwig’s mice to give her. What do eastern imperial eagles usually eat? The next time she comes around again, I’ll be sure to give it to her then.

 

Please send my regards to your father. And I too hope to be able to hear from you again soon. All the best in your future endeavours.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Harry

 

Just as he signed his name off at the bottom of the parchment, Harry heard wings flapping down on his left. Velia had finished the mouse, and had landed on the desk, waiting for Harry’s reply to her owner’s letter.

 

The bespectacled lad slipped the parchment into the enveloped, sealed it, and tied it to the eagle’s leg, “Here Velia, take this to Viktor. Please send him my regards.”

 

Velia let out an acknowledging cry to Harry, and another, slightly softer one to Hedwig, before taking off from the desk, flying round the room once, and out the window into the distance, eventually disappearing from sight.

 

Harry stared at the open window for several moments, until a rather loud yawn brought his attention back into the room. Ron had woken up.

 

“Morning, Harry.”

 

“Morning, Ron.”

 


 

As expected, the Ministry did come under heavy backlash for its folly in the attack of the World Cup, though this was partly fanned by the sensationalist flames by a certain Rita Skeeter. But as Harry also expected, the Ministry did come up with a “promise” to find those responsible and bring them to justice, but penned his scepticism to Viktor in subsequent letter that same day.

 

Over the rest of the summer, Harry and Viktor traded letters daily, writing about mainly Quidditch and school life – like which teachers do they hate the most, or the funniest thing they have witnessed, to name a few -, and giving Velia quite the workout. Harry learnt that the eagle’s favourite food were hares, and there were plenty about in the hills of Ottery St. Catchpole for him to stupefy and take back to the Burrow. Surprisingly though, Viktor also wrote that Velia was partial to garden gnomes as a snack.

 

Harry found it amusing as Mrs. Weasley began to notice that the garden gnome population had been steadily decreasing, scratching her head as to why the little miscreants had suddenly stopped invading the garden, not that she wasn’t pleased by it.

 

Other than Hedwig, no one else in the Burrow knew of Harry and Viktor’s correspondence. Harry had asked if he should tell the Weasleys about their communication, mentioning that Ron was a huge fan. Viktor’s reply hadn’t been comfortable with that notion, stating that he didn’t want either of them to get hounded any more so, when they probably had constant fan letters and booby-trapped messages to deal with every day. Here, Harry raised an eyebrow. While he expected a celebrity seeker like Viktor to receive fan mail, other than that particular Valentine’s Day letter from Ginny in second-year, he’d never received any sort of fan mail at all.

 

Nonetheless, in his reply, Harry didn’t mention that, and agreed that it was for the best to keep their correspondence between themselves.

 

The days went by, spent working on the garden (which got progressively easier due to the gnomes disappearing), playing Quidditch, either alone (which Harry took as an opportunity to practice several tricks from Viktor), or with the other Weasleys kids, and studying for fourth year (much to Hermione’s delight and Ron’s consternation). But no matter the day’s activities, Harry always found time to read Viktor’s letters and write replies.

 

Despite being in relatively good company with the Weasleys and Hermione, Harry found his greatest solace in writing to his seeker friend across the continent and reading his letters. Even though it was only words, Harry felt his greatest bond with Viktor, which over time, grew stronger and closer than Harry could say for both Ron and Hermione. Sure, he had gone through plenty with Ron and Hermione, but as Viktor said in the woods, they were in the same boat, and ought to look out for one another.

 

Harry felt Viktor couldn’t have said it better.

 


 

Then, two days before September 1st rolled in, Harry received another letter from Viktor. After rewarding Velia with pieces of chopped hare, Harry sat down to read what his friend had to tell him now.

 

The subject matter, it seemed, was intriguing…and concerning.

 

Harry,

 

I don’t know if your Ministry or Hogwarts has made any statement or announcement recently, but apparently, there’s some big event happening this year. I overheard my father talking to the Bulgarian Minister about it. Something about a tournament between the three European wizarding schools – Hogwarts, Beauxbatons and Durmstrang?

 

I’m curious if you’ve heard anything from your side. I heard the British ministry and your headmaster Dumbledore were in negotiations over it too, at least, that was what I overheard from my father.

 

What do you think about this?

 

Your true friend,

 

Viktor

 

Harry put the letter down. Somehow…he didn’t feel comfortable about what was going on. A tournament between Hogwarts, the French school Beauxbatons and Viktor’s school, Durmstrang? Was that why the year’s school-list included dress robes among the textbooks and usual stuff?

 

Harry fell into deep thought. Whatever tournament this was; he knew that something was going to happen because of it. And if fate decided to mess with him again, he was going to be thrown into the middle of the fracas.

 

Letting out a sigh, Harry took another piece of parchment, and wrote his reply.

 

Viktor,

 

As far as I know, neither Hogwarts nor the British Ministry has said anything about a tournament happening. But if it is indeed true, then I am concerned.

 

Something happens during each year of my Hogwarts education that threatens the lives of mine and those around me. I told you what they were back at the World Cup. If there is a tournament happening, I have strong suspicions that I am going to be unwillingly thrown into it in some form or another, usually at the threat of my life.

 

I really hope that would never happen, but after what happened over the last three years, I have little hope that this year would be any more peaceful as the previous three.

 

I hope to hear from you soon,

 

Your true friend,

 

Harry

 


 

September 1st came, and Harry’s concern came to light. At the Welcoming Feast, Dumbledore first announced the cancellation of Quidditch for the year (which nearly started a riot in the Great Hall) and second, the reinstatement of the Tri-Wizard Tournament (which quickly pacified the would-be rioters, particularly the Weasley twins).

 

While the rest of the school excitedly gossiped and speculated about the upcoming tournament, Harry felt his stomach churn. Later that night, while the rest of Gryffindor house was still chatting away in the common room, Harry had retreated to the dorms, placed privacy wards on his bed, and wrote an urgent letter to Viktor.

 

Viktor,

 

It’s really happening. This tournament you talked about, it’s the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Dumbledore announced it during the Welcoming Feast earlier.

 

I got a really bad feeling about this. I just know that somehow, one way or another, I’m going to get involved in this tournament, completely against my will. It doesn’t matter that Dumbledore said there will be an age line to ensure only of-age students can participate, I’m almost certain that that would not stop whatever, or whoever, wants to threaten my life through this tournament.

 

What should I do?

 

Your true friend,

 

Harry

 

Finishing the letter, and sealing it in an envelope, Harry put on his father’s Invisibility Cloak, left the dorms, cut through the still-lively common room, and disappeared through the portrait hole. He navigated through the corridors, passed through the Entrance Hall, and crossed the moonlit grounds towards the Owlery.

 

Entering the home of the owls, Harry glanced about for Hedwig. Finding the snowy owl up on a rafter, he whistled for her. Hedwig, seeing her owner, flew down from the rafter and onto his outstretched arm.

 

“Hey girl, could I trouble you to deliver this letter to Viktor in Durmstrang?”

 

The owl gave Harry an incredulous glare, as if saying, ‘You’re asking me to do what?!’

 

“I know it’s a long journey, Hedwig, but this is important,” Harry pleaded, “Maybe you’ll see Velia while there? And I’ll give you more bacon when you return, okay?”

 

Hedwig scrutinized her owner a moment longer, but the reward of one of her favorite treats and possibly seeing the eastern imperial eagle again eventually won her over. Taking the letter in her talons, Hedwig took off from the Owlery and into the night.

 

It would be 36 hours before Hedwig returned with Viktor’s response. At breakfast, the snowy owl joined the hundreds of owls flooding into the Great Hall to deliver the mail. Hedwig dropped the letter into Harry’s lap, before fluttering down in front of his plate. She hooted insistently, pecking at a rasher of bacon. Harry pushed the three rashers off his plate, leaving Hedwig to happily attack her reward. Making sure no one was watching, Harry slipped the letter into his pocket, intending to read it in a more private place.

 

After morning lessons and lunch, the Gryffindors had a free period. Harry retreated to the library, found a quiet spot away from the other students, and took out Viktor’s letter.

 

Harry,

 

I’m aware. Karkaroff too announced it to the whole of Durmstrang yesterday.

 

But first, calm down. Don’t work yourself into a panic. We don’t know anything yet, and nothing has happened so far. We aren’t seers, we can’t see what the future holds. The most we can do now is mentally prepare ourselves for all possible outcomes.

 

And besides, we’ll be seeing each other again soon. As your friend, I promise you that I’ll stick by you to ensure your safety through this year.

 

But for now, just stay calm. Stay strong, and stay brave. You can count on me to know that we will get through whatever comes our way this year. Take care, I will see you soon.

 

Your true friend,

 

Viktor

 

Harry released the breath he had been unconsciously holding. His stomach was still churning, but it had eased a little. Closing his eyes, Harry brought Viktor’s letter to his chest, trying to steady his worried breaths. Viktor was right. Nothing had happened yet, and he can’t see the future. He had to be strong, calm, and brave, not just for himself…

 

…but for Viktor too.

 


 

 

The end of October came within sight, and with it news that the delegations from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang were due to arrive on the 30th. Lessons were halted for that particular day as Hogwarts prepared for the arrival of their foreign guests. But until then, routines were still carried out, but for Harry, the status quo was changing.

 

Why?

 

It didn’t seem like it to anyone, but the Golden Trio had begun to fray. Harry was increasingly irritated and exasperated by how overbearing Hermione and Ron both seemed to be this year, what about house-elf rights and Quidditch respectively. To be fair, Harry did wonder what was his role in this change, but he put it to the flows of life, and how he had found a better friend in Viktor, someone who understood his troubles and not tried to either brush them off nonchalantly or inundate him with pointless rationality that do not solve the issues at hand. Personally, Harry didn’t see that as too big an issue.

 

Harry was slowly, but surely, drifting away from Hermione and Ron, not that they, or anyone else, realized it. But when the 30th finally came, things went into uncharted territory, though Harry kind of expected that to happen.

 

The entirety of Hogwarts, staff and students, were all gathered outside of the castle on the grounds near the Black Lake. The sun was beginning to set, and the temperature was falling thanks to the autumn wind. Warming charms were already being utilized amongst the impatient students, just as someone spotted something in the sky.

It was a humongous house-shaped carriage, painted light blue, and led by winged horses on reins. It was clearly the Beauxbatons delegation. The Hogwarts students all whispered to one another excitedly as the carriage landed with steady thud on the ground, the horses braying loudly as Hagrid went to calm them.

 

The door of the carriage swung open, and a male student, dressed in a blue silk suit, hopped out. He pulled out a set of folding steps, and stood to attention at the side of the door. A giant of a woman stepped out of the carriage, inciting more whispers from the Hogwarts students. Behind her, were two dozen students in neat rows.

 

Harry watched as Dumbledore came forward with a charming smile. He stopped in front of the giantess, clearly dwarfed by her height.

 

“Madame Maxime, it is our pleasure to host you here in Hogwarts this year,” Dumbledore greeted, kissing Maxime’s outstretched hand.

 

“Ah, Dumblydorr,” Maxime spoke, her accent apparent, “charming as always. I presume you are doing good?”

 

“As good as I can be, Madame Maxime,” Dumbledore nodded, “Would you like to head to the Entrance Hall first to escape the chill?”

 

“Zat would be most appreciated,” said Maxime, “But our ‘orses…zey need proper care.”

 

“Not to worry,” Dumbledore beamed, “Our Care of Magical Creatures professor, Rubeus Hagrid, will take care of your horses right away! Believe me, he is excellent with animals.”

 

Maxime turned to Hagrid, who was soothing one of the horses inaudibly.

 

“Very well,” the headmistress turned back to Dumbledore and nodded, “but could you inform zis ‘agrid zat our ‘orses consume only single-malt whisky? Zey get very temperamental if fed anyzing else.”

 

“That will be arranged right away,” Dumbledore reassured.

 

Satisfied, Maxime called her students to follow her. The Beauxbatons delegation dutifully followed, silent amidst the whispers from the Hogwarts students. A good number of them were really good-looking, hence the whispers, Harry inwardly noted.

 

With the Beauxbatons students disappearing into the castle, the consensus amongst the Hogwarts students was about how the Durmstrang delegation was going to show up. Harry heard all kinds of theories being thrown back and forth, but he only had one thought in mind.

 

Viktor. He was going to see Viktor again.

 

Harry felt he must have been really excited, for his heart was beating wildly and he could hardly keep still at the thought of Viktor. His mind was completely engrossed with their upcoming reunion, that he barely heard Lee Jordan shout something about the lake bubbling.

 

Indeed, when Harry and his schoolmates turned to look towards the lake, it’s once gentle, clear surface was rippling and bubbling, as if an underwater volcano below was waking up from its slumber. The bubbling grew more vigorous, and Harry began to wonder if Durmstrang was going to make its entrance in a spectacular explosion of water, glory and awe.

 

Well, as it turned out, it wasn’t so much of a wall of water from an explosion below the surface and a tremendous loud noise of glory, but Durmstrang’s entrance still left many in awe nonetheless.

 

Something appeared to break the bubbling surface of the lake. It looked like a sharp, pointy pole at first, but Harry quickly realized it was the mast of a ship as more of it rose out of the water and came into view. The mast was followed by the bow of the ship, then its three towering sails, and finally its stern.

 

More excited voices broke out amongst the Hogwarts students, as the bubbling began to subside and the ship sailed towards the shoreline. It came to a stop, presumably where the water was still deep enough without it running aground, and the anchors were dropped with loud splashes. A long gangway was seen lifted over the side of the ship, and dropped onto the shore with a thud.

 

The gossiping grew louder as people began to appear coming down the gangway. All of them, with the taller man who was presumably the headmaster, were wearing thick fur coats and hats.

 

The general question amongst many of the Hogwarts students was where in the world could Durmstrang be. Wherever it was, it must be extremely cold, if this was the students’ regular uniform.

 

All thoughts of frigid weather and wondering where Durmstrang was hidden away though were not present in Harry’s mind. He only had one objective. He scanned the Durmstrang students, ignoring their headmaster, Igor Karkaroff greeting Dumbledore warmly.

 

It only took him a moment. There standing pride of place next to Karkaroff looking decidedly annoyed, was Viktor.

 

“Harry! It’s Krum! It’s Viktor Krum! I can’t believe it, he’s actually here!” Ron whispered excitedly beside him.

 

Harry ignored Ron, his heart now thundering like a bullet train going at top speed. With his own excitement growing, he couldn’t wait any longer.

 

Meanwhile, a dour expression graced Viktor’s face, clearly showing his displeasure of being shown off by his headmaster like some prized pet. However, the dark frown was quickly erased, when a voice rang out that silenced everything else.

 

“Viktor!”

 

Immediately, the seeker’s heart warmed immensely, and not because of his fur coat. He turned away from the headmasters, a smile stretching across his thin lips as his pen pal of several months broke away from his staring schoolmates, and dashed towards him, a look of absolute joy radiating from his face.

 

“Harry.”

 

Viktor opened his arms, just in time to catch Harry as the shorter male ran into him, the seeker’s strong physique preventing the both of them from toppling over. Harry’s arms wrapped around his waist, and he returned the gesture with his own arms embracing his friend.

 

Completely oblivious to the wide eyes and slack jaws all around them, they were in their own little world, reunited after months of separation.

 

“It’s so good to see you again, Viktor.”

 

“It’s good to see you too, Harry.”

 


To Be Continued.


 

Chapter Text

You could have dropped a pin onto the grass and you would have heard its impact. The entire grounds by the lake had gone dead silent. Eyes were wide and unblinking. Mouths were hanging open. Everyone, save for two embracing seekers, were in shock.

 

Nobody moved. It was like a body-binding jinx had been casted onto everyone present. They couldn’t tear their eyes away either. The sight before them was unimaginable. The Boy-Who-Lived was hugging the Seeker of Bulgaria, and they sounded close, like friends!

 

The general consensus was made clear by the youngest Weasley son.

 

“What the bloody hell?!”

 

“Mr. Weasley!” came the stern voice of Professor McGonagall, “Ten points from Gryffindor for your language!”

 

Harry and Viktor were abruptly pulled out of their little world at the sound of the Scottish professor’s admonishment. They finally noticed the wide-eyed stares from the Hogwarts students, plus the raised eyebrows from the Durmstrang delegation. Harry noticed Ron looked like a mix between ready to blow his top and passing out from shock. McGonagall’s scolding clearly didn’t register with him.

 

“Well, I kind of knew this would happen,” Harry said to Viktor, pulling out from the embrace.

 

“It vas either sooner or later. I vanted later,” Viktor replied.

 

“What?!” came Ron’s voice again.

 

To save the redhead from getting an aneurysm, Harry decided now was the time to come clean.

 

“I will explain everything in detail later,” said Harry, “But short version here, Viktor and I met during the attack at the World Cup. We’ve been writing to one another over the summer and the beginning of term.”

 

That seemed to clear the atmosphere a little, but not by much. There were still too many questions running through the heads of those watching the scene before them. And they wanted answers…now.

 

Someone cleared their throat, turning everyone’s attention towards them.

 

“Well,” Dumbledore remarked, “that was certainly a bit of an unexpected change of events for most of us. But I think we should seek the warm comfort of the entrance hall where the Beauxbatons students are waiting for us, before we all catch our deaths of cold.”

 

The shock temporarily put aside in favour of the warmth, the Hogwarts and Durmstrang students followed their teachers and headmaster respectively up the path towards the castle. Harry stayed by Viktor’s side, ignoring the whispers from his schoolmates that were almost certainly about him now.

 

Halfway up the path, Harry noticed a small group of Durmstrang students, two boys and two girls, approach them.

 

“Viktor! You never told us about him!” one of the boys spoke in what Harry presumed to be German.

 

“Sorry, Klaus,” Viktor replied in fluent German, “It was meant to be a secret.”

 

The seeker then switched back into his accented English for Harry’s sake, “Harry, these are my friends, Klaus, Nicolae, Uliana and Anastazja.”

 

“It’s a pleasure to meet you all, I am Harry Potter, Viktor’s pen pal,” Harry bowed respectfully.

 

“The pleasure is ours,” Uliana replied, her Russian accent prominent, “It’s not every day that you get to see Viktor smile so genuinely.”

 

“Uliana…” Viktor deadpanned.

 

“Oh come off it Viktor!” Nicolae butted in, “That smile when you hugged Harry was definitely real! Most of the time you just go around looking like this!”

 

The Romanian student pulled his expression into an uncannily similar appearance to when Viktor was being shown off to Dumbledore earlier. Harry couldn’t help but snort in a failed attempt to hide his laughter. Klaus just burst out guffawing, while Uliana giggled and Anastazja smirked. Viktor’s deadpan darkened into a frown, looking quite ready to strangle his friend.

 

“Oh c’mon Viktor, don’t get upset,” Harry placated, “Your frown is just as nice as your smile!”

 

Unaware of the unintentional flirt he just made, Harry patted Viktor’s arm and looked ahead towards the castle. Viktor meanwhile, caught the subtle meaning behind Harry’s reassurance, and felt his heartbeat quicken a little. The flirt didn’t go unnoticed by Viktor’s friends either.

 

“I don’t know if Harry realized that he just flirted with Viktor…” Nicolae whispered in Russian to Uliana.

 

“I don’t think he does,” Uliana whispered back.

 

“But Viktor seemed affected by it either way…” Anastazja joined in, gesturing at their Bulgarian friend.

 

Indeed, Viktor cheeks had become somewhat flushed, and his friends didn’t think it had to do with the cold.

 

Finally, the crowd arrived back at the castle. The doors were opened, revealing the Entrance Hall where the Beauxbatons students and Madame Maxime were waiting.

 

“Ah, Karkaroff,” the headmistress approached, “Good to see you again.”

 

“Likewise,” Karkaroff nodded, his tone polite, but eyes steely.

 

Harry noticed the exchange. Did Karkaroff have something against Madame Maxime?

 

He leaned towards Viktor, who had recovered from his blush, “Viktor, does your headmaster dislike Madame Maxime?”

 

The seeker glanced at Karkaroff, before returning to Harry, “I’ll explain later. Too crowded.”

 

Understanding that secrets might be at play here, Harry spoke no further of the matter, taking instead to joining his schoolmates as they entered the Great Hall. The four house tables were waiting, with empty plates, goblets and cutlery aligned neatly. The floating candles were overhead, casting their glow alongside the burning torches by the walls.

 

“Vhere do you normally sit?” asked Viktor.

 

“The Gryffindor table is over there,” Harry pointed, “Would you like to join us?”

 

“Of course,” Viktor nodded.

 

The four Hogwarts houses separated to sit at their respective tables. The Beauxbatons students mixed in with the Ravenclaws, while most of the Durmstrang students went towards the Slytherin table. Viktor and his four friends, on the other hand, broke away from their delegation and followed Harry to the Gryffindor table. This started another round of hullabaloo as the lions realized that the seeker would be elevating their status tonight by sitting with them, pulling jealous glares and looks of envy from students at the other tables, particularly Slytherin, and especially a certain Draco Malfoy.

 

There was a mad rush to sit as close to Viktor as possible at the Gryffindor table. Harry didn’t have to fight; he simply took his usual place. Viktor automatically took the spot next to him. Klaus and Anastazja took spaces on Viktor’s left, while Nicolae and Uliana sat opposite them.

 

Ron pushed and shoved his way to snag the spot directly across from Viktor, while Hermione sat down by Ron’s left with a groan, exasperated by how her housemates were acting just because some celebrity was sitting at their table. Honestly, it’s like they think he is some kind of god, she thought to herself.

 

With all the spaces near Viktor taken, the rest of the disappointed Gryffindors were forced to sit elsewhere along the table, since the staff had taken their places at the high table, which meant the Welcoming Feast would be starting. They didn’t want to embarrass themselves in front of the entire school after all. And, at least they were sharing a table with Viktor himself.

 

“Oh yeah,” Harry suddenly remembered, “Viktor, these are my friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger.”

 

Torn between jealousy, anger and excitement, the redhead put on a quivering smile as he shook the seeker’s hand. Pulling back, Ron continued looking conflicted while Viktor kissed Hermione’s hand, who merely nodded in acknowledgement. The Gryffindor bookworm then turned to Harry.

 

“So, care to explain how you became friends with Viktor Krum, in more detail this time?”

 

Those surrounding the Golden Trio, upon hearing this, all leaned in to hear the full story. Harry opened his mouth to begin, when he was interrupted by Dumbledore standing up from his seat, clinking his goblet with his spoon to get everyone’s attention.

 

“A very good evening to everyone gathered here tonight. And to our friends from the continent, we welcome you humbly to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The Tri-Wizard Tournament will officially begin later tonight, but for now, let us all satisfy our empty stomachs. Dig in, everyone!”

 

Dumbledore clapped three times. Platters of food from across the European continent magically appeared on the tables, along with pitchers of various drinks. Lively chatter broke out in the hall, as everyone ate and drank their fill.

 

Harry got a little nervous when Dumbledore mentioned the tournament. But his growling stomach distracted him towards the food. And quite frankly, he had no idea where to begin. There were just so many dishes to choose from. Maybe he should ask Viktor for his favorites.

 

“Viktor?”

 

“Hm?”

 

“I can’t quite decide where to start, what would you recommend?”

 

Viktor scanned the table for a moment, his eyes falling on one particular dish. Using his wand, Viktor levitated it over, and set it down in front of them.

 

“What is it?”

 

“It’s a musaka,” Viktor revealed, using his cutlery to cut out a small cube of the layered dish, “Here, try it first.”

 

Amidst the chatter, the section surrounding the Golden Trio of the Gryffindor table fell dead silent. Slowly, this spread to the entire length of the table, as more noticed that their fellow housemates had stopped chatting and realized what was going on. Viktor had brought the spoonful of musaka towards Harry. The latter engulfed the layered cube whole, Viktor pulling the spoon away from his lips immediately after. Harry chewed tentatively, letting the flavor permeate his taste buds.

 

Harry’s eyes widened slightly, and a delighted smile stretched his lips.

 

“It’s really good, Viktor. Very savory,” Harry remarked, voice slightly muffled by the chewed-up musaka.

 

Viktor smiled contentedly, “I’m glad you liked it.”

 

Oblivious to their surroundings, the stunned Gryffindors, particularly the girls, began whispering amongst themselves, gossiping and speculating. Hermione merely raised an eyebrow at the display, while Ron was struck dumb again, a chicken drumstick halfway to his open mouth, unmoving.

 

Klaus leaned over to Anastazja, whispering in Polish, “Now I’m wondering if they are really that oblivious, or are they messing with us?”

 

“Probably oblivious,” Anastazja replied, “But this is a new side to Viktor that we’re only just seeing now, so it could be either.”

 

The meal carried on with no major incidents, unless you counted Viktor feeding Harry samples of the different Balkan dishes laid out like it was no big deal, which the same couldn’t be said for the seeker’s friends and the rest of the Gryffindors. Everyone, especially Hermione (for information’s sake), wanted to find out what exactly happened that brought the Boy-Who-Lived and the Seeker of Bulgaria together.

 

But their questions had to wait. The dishes were suddenly cleared, as Dumbledore stood up from his seat again.

 

“Everyone, may I have your attention please. This is the moment that we have all been waiting for. It is my honor to announce that the Tri-Wizard Tournament has officially commenced!”

 

Polite clapping echoed through the Great Hall. Harry clapped too, but the nervous churning of his stomach was back again.

 

“Three schools, three champions. Only one winner. Eternal glory awaits. But terrifying dangers stand in the way, as I’m sure you are aware. Three tasks, dangerous creatures, life-threatening moments. I ask you, are you brave enough to take on these challenges?” Dumbledore asked rhetorically, before continuing, “But before we continue, I would like to introduce you all to two very important people who will oversee the running of this tournament. Please give a warm welcome to Mr. Ludo Bagman, Head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports, and Mr. Bartemius Crouch, Head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation.”

 

The hall echoed with applause, though it was much louder for Bagman than Crouch. Dumbledore waited for the clapping to cease, before continuing.

 

“Mr. Crouch and Mr. Bagman, alongside Madame Maxime, Mr. Karkaroff and I, will be judges for the tournament, awarding and deducting points based on each champion’s performance. Now then, Mr. Filch! Bring in the casket please!”

 

The loathed caretaker of Hogwarts ambled in with a bejeweled casket made of wood. Harry watched intensely as it was placed before Dumbledore.

 

“Inside this casket, determines who will be the selected champion from each school,” Dumbledore explained, tapping his wand on the lid, which opened, “Everyone, I present to you, the Goblet of Fire!”

 

Dumbledore pulled out what looked like a plainly-made wooden cup. But what caught everyone’s attention were the blue flames flickering out of the cup. Harry watched the spectacle uneasily.

 

“Each of you have until the Halloween feast tomorrow evening to put your name into the goblet. However, be warned that if your name is chosen, there is no backing out. You will be bound to a magical contract that will force you to see through the entire tournament. If you break that contract, you will forfeit your magic.”

 

Harry’s stomach dropped at his headmaster’s warning.

 

“Also, as I have informed my students before your arrival, no one under the age of seventeen would be allowed to put their name into the goblet. I have set an age-line that would repel underage students from taking part. Just a fair warning to all, but I am sure that you will have no trouble following that rule.”

 

Harry could have played it off as a trick of the light, but he swore he noticed Dumbledore turn his gaze on the Weasley twins, whom Harry had overheard conspiring to age themselves up in order to compete some time before.

 

“Well, that concludes what I have to say,” Dumbledore continued, “The goblet will be placed here in the Great Hall until tomorrow night. Until then, thank you for your time, and I wish you all a good night!”

 

The hall erupted into applause again. The chatter picked up again as the students and staff stood up from the tables and made their way out.

 

“Hey Viktor?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Is there a curfew the Durmstrang students have to abide by?”

 

Viktor pondered for a moment, “I suppose if ve return to the ship by eleven, that’s okay.”

 

“Great! I was hoping if you and your friends would like to check out the Gryffindor common room, if you’re interested?” Harry suggested.

“Why not?” Viktor replied with a grin.

 

The seeker turned to his clique, and relayed Harry’s request. All four agreed, having nothing better to do until curfew.

 

Of course, word spread quickly through the other Gryffindors, and the excitement went straight through the magical ceiling. Harry and Viktor stood up first, followed by the seeker’s friends and Ron and Hermione. Their housemates followed closely behind, all wanting to get a closer look at Viktor.

 

The Gryffindors and five Durmstrang students were just about to exit the Great Hall, when a sneering voice cut them off.

 

“I expected a famous seeker like Krum to associate himself with a much better crowd than this.”

 

Harry’s face darkened noticeably, as did all the other Gryffindors as Draco Malfoy and his goons, Crabbe and Goyle, came forth, blocking the way out.

 

“What do you want, Malfoy?” Harry growled, something Viktor noticed, not that he hadn’t already gotten bad vibes from the Malfoy heir.

 

Draco smirked, “What do I want? Why, just wondering why Krum is lowering his standards to mingle among lowly folk like you Gryffindorks?”

 

Now it was Viktor’s turn to frown, not that Draco actually noticed.

 

“I’m just here to show Krum that there are much better people that he should be associating with. After all, we don’t want him to catch anything harmful from you lot.”

 

Several Gryffindors, particularly Ron, looked ready to hex Draco to next Sunday. Viktor’s friends also had thunderous looks flashing across their faces. The Malfoy heir ignored this, and approached the seeker.

 

“I am Draconis Lucius Malfoy, son and heir of the Most Ancient and Noble House of Malfoy,” the blonde ponce introduced himself, sticking his hand out for Viktor to shake, “It’s a pleasure to meet you. Let’s get to know one another, I can show you the more cultured side of Hogwarts.”

 

A hush fell, those watching waiting with bated breath how the seeker would respond. Harry still had his murderous glare, but inside, he was worried that Viktor was going to abandon him for the blonde peacock. Surely, he wouldn’t do that right? After months of writing to one another and a close bond, Viktor wouldn’t just throw their friendship away for the bigoted ways of Draco Malfoy and the Slytherins?

 

Harry’s concerns were quickly unfounded. He felt Viktor’s hand reach around and grasp his shoulder firmly, pulling him close.

 

“It is certainly not a pleasure to meet a stuck-up brat like you, Malfoy,” Viktor growled, voice low.

 

Dead silence.

 

Draco was taken aback, “W-What?”

 

“Vhy vould I associate myself vith the spawn of muggle-hating, bigoted terrorists vho lied and bribed their way out of getting convicted for their dastardly deeds in the first vizarding var?” Viktor continued, eyes flashing dangerously.

 

Eyes widened, and mouths fell open as Viktor verbally tore into Draco. Harry was surprised too at his friend’s response, but inside, relief soothed his heart.

 

Draco, on the other hand, was both mortified, and outraged.

 

“How dare you?!”

 

“How dare me?” Viktor responded, not in the slightest bit unnerved, “You are the son of Lucius Malfoy right? The Death Eater vho claimed the Imperious defense during his trial and got off scot-free? People like him sicken me, and so do you. So get lost, Malfoy, I don’t vish to have anything to do vith you.”

 

Harry could have sworn he heard at least one “oh shit” in the crowd of students watching. Looks of awe graced the faces of many of his schoolmates, including Ron. Harry then felt being led away from the scene.

 

“Let’s go Harry, I do not vish to be near that son of a bitch.”

 

Even if it was meant to be a whisper, Viktor made it loud enough so that Draco heard it too, and the insult towards his mother. Harry knew right away that Draco wasn’t going to take this sitting down.

 

And he did.

 

“You will pay for this!”

 

Draco pulled out his wand and hurled a curse at Viktor’s back. Harry immediately slipped under the seeker’s arm, pulled out his own wand, and summoned a shield that deflected the spell towards the ceiling, destroying some of the stonework. Realizing what happened, and seeing how his friend had put himself in danger to protect them both, Viktor’s anger went flying out the window.

 

Roaring in fury, Viktor pulled Harry to him, fished out his own wand and hurled a jinx at Draco, just as another familiar voice echoed through.

 

“Oh no you don’t, laddie!”

 

It was Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody, Hogwarts’ Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. He had appeared suddenly at the scene, and had taken his own wand out and fired another spell at Draco.

 

Both spells hit the blonde at the same time with a colossal bang, shaking the entranceway of the Great Hall and sending showers of dust raining down on the gathered students. Coughing, spluttering and squeaking reined as the dust took a while to dissipate.

 

Wait…squeaking?

 

As the dust finally settled, those watching were met with a shocking, and admittedly hilarious sight. Where Draco previously stood only a moment before, was a snowy-white ferret with…purple tentacles for paws. It was squeaking frantically, trying and failing to stand up as its tentacles slipped about comically.

 

Harry was the first to break out of his stupor. A snort escaped his lips, then a chuckle. Finally, the bespectacled fourth-year broke out in rambunctious laughter, tears beginning to trickle down his cheeks. Like a domino effect, other students began laughing and pointing as Ferret-Draco tried to escape the Great Hall.

 

“You aren’t getting away, you cowardly miscreant! This will teach you to attack somebody from behind!” Moody shouted again as he slashed his wand at the creature.

 

The sight that was beheld sent the laughing students into stitches, as Ferret-Draco was catapulted into the air on Moody’s will, slammed into the top of entrance archway, smacked down onto the floor, thrown into a wall (while barely missing a lit torch), thrown across into the opposite wall, smacked onto the floor again, and hurled towards the ceiling once more.

 

If not for Viktor still holding him securely, Harry was sure he would have fallen over and started rolling around in his uncontrollable laughter. Other students were in similar plights, holding onto friends or strangers to keep themselves steady as they laughed their socks off.

 

It was truly an entertaining show, bringing together the students of all three European wizarding schools as they reveled in the Malfoy heir’s misfortune.

 

Sadly, like all good shows, it had to end sometime.

 

“Professor Moody!”

 

The students stopped laughing at the familiar voice, some parting ways to allow a frantic Professor McGonagall through.

 

“Oh, good evening, Professor McGonagall,” Moody greeted as cordially as one would describe the weather.

 

“What are you doing?!”

 

“Giving this hooligan a lesson he deserves,” the Defense professor replied, sending the ferret into the side of the archway.

 

“Hooli – Moody! Is that a student you are hurtling about?!”

 

“Of course, little bastard tried to curse one of the Durmstrang students from behind. Absolutely cowardly.”

 

McGonagall shrieked in horror. She drew her own wand and cancelled the spells on the helpless creature. It just so happened that the ferret reverted back into a human Draco while it was still in the air. Those watching winced as the blonde ponce crashed back onto the floor, the sound of bones cracking audible in their ears. And there he stayed, sprawled out, unable to move.

 

The transfiguration professor, still affected by the shock, turned to a questioning Moody wearily, “Professor Moody, need I remind you that we don’t transfigure students as punishment? We cut house points, give detentions or bring the matter up to the head of house.”

 

Moody seemed unaffected by the withering look sent at him by his colleague, “True, but a good few whacks never hurt anyone.”

 

McGonagall deadpanned at Moody.

 

“And I’d say it does the job better. Now, let’s see…”

 

The defense professor looked thoughtful and did some mental calculations, “For attacking a foreign guest from behind, that would be fifty points from Slytherin, plus two weeks’ detention.”

 

On cue with Moody’s words, fifty emeralds levitated up from the bottom of the Slytherin hourglass, cutting the total points by said amount.

 

“And a long talk with Professor Snape,” the former auror finished as he stepped over to Draco, “Now up you get.”

 

Moody roughly pulled a limp Draco from the floor, a groan of pain fluttering out from his cut lips. Uncaring towards the blonde’s suffering, the professor dragged him out of the Great Hall and out of sight.

 

“Well, move along students,” McGonagall broke the momentary silence, “return to your common rooms please.”

 

With that, the crowd dispersed, but the chatter returned to excited back-and-forths about the performance of a lifetime. Harry turned to Viktor, who had finally relaxed from the whole debacle.

 

“So…you and your friends still up for visiting our common room?”

 

Viktor smiled, “Of course.”

 


 

 

Thanks to the Draco-being-turned-into-a-half-ferret-half-squid-creature-and-tossed-about-the-Great-Hall incident, not everyone remembered that Viktor and his friends were supposed to be visiting the Gryffindor common room that evening.

 

But as Harry and the Durmstrang students approached the Fat Lady’s portrait, the Gryffindors’ memories were revived, and another wave of excitement filled the corridor, as they fought one another to get as close as possible to Viktor and his friends.

 

“Oho! Who do we have here?” the Fat Lady gushed.

 

“Milady, this is Viktor Krum and his friends from the Durmstrang Institute,” Harry introduced, “They wish to see the common room.”

 

The Fat Lady laughed, “Oh my! Indeed! Well, don’t let me stop you, my dears. No need for the password for this occasion!”

 

The Fat Lady opened her portrait, revealing a doorway with the common room behind it.

 

“After you,” said Harry.

 

“Thanks Harry,” Viktor nodded, before entering.

 

Klaus, Anastazja, Nicolae and Uliana gave their thanks too, and followed Viktor through the portrait hole. Once inside, the Durmstrang students gave the red and gold-colored schemed room a sweeping look, from the lit fireplace to the many armchairs dotting the circular room.

 

Harry entered a few moments after, followed by the rest of his house, “So how do you guys find it?”

 

“Very cozy,” Uliana remarked, feeling the material of the one of the armchairs.

 

“I like it, it has a homely feeling,” said Viktor.

 

“I agree, it’s at least warmer here than at Durmstrang,” said Nicolae.

 

“How cold is it there?” asked a second-year.

 

“So cold that we have to wear our fur-coat uniforms for most of the year, even a lit fireplace doesn’t help much,” Anastazja remarked. Some of the younger students shivered involuntarily at the thought of such frigid temperatures.

 

“You guys can grab a seat if you want. We have about two hours until curfew anyway,” said Harry, taking an armchair for himself.

 

“Harry! You promised to tell us how you and Krum met!” Seamus called out, starting another round of excited pleas from the lions.

 

The bespectacled fourth-year turned to his friend, who had sat himself down on the armrest. Viktor nodded, giving his go-ahead.

 

“Alright then.”

 

There was a rush to sit as close to Harry as possible, many sitting cross-legged on the carpeted floor while others took the remaining armchairs. Some stood, unable to find a spot to take.

 

“So, it started the night of the Quidditch World Cup…”

 

The entirety of Gryffindor house and four Durmstrang students listened in complete awe as Harry recounted the events leading up to him rescuing Viktor after finishing off the three Death Eaters who were attacking the seeker. For the sake of the younger students, Harry deliberately omitted the part where he killed one of the Death Eaters and gravely wounded the other two, and the ways of how he disposed of the six others before that. He then explained how they retreated to the woods, which was where their friendship was formed whilst waiting for rescue.

 

“So that’s where you disappeared to!” Hermione exclaimed.

 

“It was pure coincidence finding Viktor,” Harry reasoned, “There was just so much chaos happening. I was just running around, trying to find my bearings.”

 

“But it vas a lucky coincidence,” Viktor cut in, “If Harry hadn’t rescued me, I vould have been dead that night.”

 

A wave of murmurs spread amongst the Gryffindors, many impressed with Harry’s actions in saving the Seeker of Bulgaria.

 

“So how did you two keep in touch?” asked Angelina Johnson, captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team.

 

“We wrote letters over the remainder of the summer and the beginning of term,” Harry explained.

 

“You wrote letters to one another?” Ron interrupted, “How come you never told us at the Burrow?”

 

“I didn’t vant Harry to get harassed anymore than he vould probably be, given his status,” Viktor replied, “He deserves to have a normal life.”

 

Murmurs continued to spread through the common room. Ron looked conflicted yet again, his eyes gleaming with hurt if one looked closely.

 

“So that’s about it,” Harry concluded, “Does anyone have any more questions?”

 

It appeared that no one did, so the storytelling session came to an end. The Gryffindors went about doing their own things, chatting with one another (mostly about the selection of the champions the next day), chatting with Viktor’s friends, or getting along to finish things like homework or revision. Hermione went to do the last option, while Ron bagged an armchair, deep in thought.

 

With the attention no longer on them, Harry and Viktor disappeared into their personal bubble.

 

“Hey Viktor, this just occurred to me, did you bring Velia with you?”

 

“I did,” Viktor nodded, “She refused to leave my side even vhen I vas about to leave Durmstrang for Britain. Vhy do you ask?”

 

“I think Hedwig would be extremely pleased to see her again.”

 

Viktor smiled at that, “True, they are really close.”

 

It was thus decided that they would go fetch the eagle to reunite the two feathery friends in the Hogwarts Owlery. After notifying Klaus of their departure, Harry and Viktor left the common room through the portrait hole, completely unaware of the scrutinizing eyes of a certain Ron Weasley.

 

They descended from Gryffindor tower, cut through the castle’s corridors and staircases, before stepping out of the Entrance Hall into the moonlit grounds. They went down the path towards the Great Lake, where the Durmstrang ship sat anchored on the smooth, moon-reflecting water. The air was definitely chillier than when the foreign delegations arrived, but a good warming charm cleared up that issue quickly.

 

Finally, they reached the gangplank leading up to the ship.

 

“Come vith me.”

 

“Am I allowed to enter the ship?”

 

“You showed me your common room. It is only right that you get to see the ship too.”

 

Conceding that point to Viktor, Harry followed behind the seeker, gingerly climbing up the gangplank. Stepping on board, Viktor led Harry to a door, which opened to a staircase going downwards. After descending down the staircase, and bypassing several doors to other decks, Viktor stopped at a door, and pushed it open.

 

A corridor greeted them. It was completely sparse, the floor, ceiling and walls were all constructed from wooden planks, with doors made from a darker type of wood on both sides. The only objects of any ornate design were the brass knockers on the doors, and the metal lanterns burning overhead, casting soft glows down the length of the corridor.

 

“Follow me,” said Viktor.

 

Harry nodded, staying close to his friend’s side as they cut through the corridor.

 

“This deck and the one below are the sleeping quarters,” Viktor explained, “My room is at the other end.”

 

There was absolutely no sound from the doors as they passed, which meant that the others hadn’t returned from the castle yet. They reached the last door on the left side of the corridor. Viktor took out his wand, canceled the wards and keyed Harry in. He then pushed the door open, giving Harry his first look into the room.

 

There was definitely an enlargement charm placed in the room, Harry noted, as it was definitely bigger inside than what it appeared to be on the outside. The walls were made of the same plain wooden planks as the corridor outside, but the otherwise bare floor was covered by a simply-designed rug. At one end of the room, was a four-poster bed with fur quilts and soft pillows. Next to the bed was a wooden bedside table with drawers. Next to that was plush loveseat embossed with floral patterns. At the other end of the room, was a writing desk and chair set. A door leading to somewhere else stood by the desk’s side.

 

But Harry zeroed in on where the purpose of their visit was. Sitting on a perch sandwiched between the foot of the bed and an expensive-looking trunk that was undeniably Viktor’s, was Velia.

 

The eagle had been grooming herself when her owner and friend’s owner appeared in the room. She let out a loud trill.

 

“Hey girl,” Viktor beckoned.

 

Velia took off from the perch, and fluttered down gracefully onto Viktor’s outstretched arm. Harry, meanwhile, was taking a good look at the room.

 

“Wow, this looks really nice. Are all the rooms like this?”

 

Harry immediately noticed that Viktor grimaced a little.

 

“No, the others are not this big.”

 

“Really? Why?” asked Harry, turning to his friend.

 

It took only a moment for the bespectacled fourth-year to put the pieces together.

 

“Oh…it’s Karkaroff, isn’t it?”

 

“Yes,” Viktor nodded darkly, “He vants to ensure that his “famed seeker” is comfortable and vell taken care of. Do you see that door over there?”

 

Harry looked towards the door next to the desk, “It’s for this room’s private bathroom. Karkaroff has the only other room on this ship that has its own private bath. The others have to bathe in the communal showers on the deck below us.”

 

Harry nodded. He had already seen first-hand how much favoritism the Durmstrang headmaster had for Viktor, if being shown off to Dumbledore like a show dog earlier was any indication.

 

“Also, he is a right bastard,” Viktor continued, “He made the students row and steer the ship the entire vay vhile he slept. I vas forbidden to help.”

 

Harry shook his head exasperatedly with a sigh. If he thought Dumbledore was bad after his years at Hogwarts, Karkaroff seemed to take the cake. Just why were most of Europe’s magical schools led by such terrible characters? With the exception of Madame Maxime, of course. She seemed to be only one who had good character and was truly respected by all of her students…

 

Suddenly, Harry was reminded of something, “Hey Viktor?”

 

“Hm?”

 

“You promised to tell me earlier why Karkaroff seems to dislike Madame Maxime when they greeted one another at the Entrance Hall. Did they have a falling out in the past?”

 

Viktor stayed silent for a moment. He took out his wand, Velia flying off his arm and landing on Harry’s shoulder. The seeker magically locked the door and casted privacy and silencing wards along the outer perimeter of the room to ensure maximum security.

 

Putting his wand away, Viktor turned to Harry, “Harry, vhat I am going to tell you must not leave this room vhatsoever. Can I have your promise to that?”

 

“I promise, I will not tell anyone,” Harry nodded, crossing his heart for good measure.

 

Viktor took a moment to collect himself, “Karkaroff…he is an acquitted Death Eater.”

 

Harry’s eyebrows raised, “Really? He fought on Voldemort’s side?”

 

“Yes, he vas captured after Voldemort vas vanquished. He vas tried by the British Ministry and on his vay to Azkaban, vhen he struck a deal by giving the names of other Death Eaters. He vas let go, and he fled to the continent. By the time I started school at Durmstrang, he vas already the headmaster.”

 

Harry nodded, “But how does this have to do with Madame Maxime?”

 

“Madame Maxime is a half-giantess.”

 

Harry’s eyes widened, but he put the pieces together fairly quickly. Not only would it explain the headmistress’ height, but it also explained the animosity between her and Karkaroff. As a Death Eater, Karkaroff would have a strong hatred towards those who aren’t of pure-blood status. And since Madame Maxime was half-giant, that fact alone put her on the hate list of people like Karkaroff.

 

But one question remained.

 

“How do you know all of this, Viktor?”

 

“My father is a close aide to the Bulgarian Minister of Magic,” Viktor explained, “I overheard them talking about Karkaroff before. About Madame Maxime, I learnt that vhen I vas on an exchange program with Beauxbatons three years ago. Apparently, if you vere caught commenting about her height in her ear-shot, or if someone reported you, the punishment vould be severe.”

 

Harry nodded. He understood very clearly why Viktor made him promise to keep these details to himself. If word got out, it would not only just be a major social faux pas, but people could get hurt, and not just metaphorically.

 

Seeing that the atmosphere had become somewhat dark by all of these secrets, Harry knew right away that a change in subject was warranted.

 

“So, how about I show you where the Owlery is?” he suggested, while petting Velia’s head.

 

Viktor’s serious expression melted away into a small grin, “Lead the vay, Harry.”

 


 

Harry, Viktor and Velia left the Durmstrang ship behind them as they crossed the grounds towards the Hogwarts Owlery. The towering home of the owls stood silhouetted against the moon, and even though the walls were made of stone, the sound of owls hooting and wings flapping could be faintly heard.

 

Harry pushed the door open, the hinges screeching loudly from rust. This caused all hooting and flying to stop, and turn towards the door, which was a bit comical as one owl had stopped in mid-flight and had plummeted a few feet before frantically taking to the air again.

 

The two seekers, plus eastern imperial eagle, entered, the door closing noisily behind them. All the owls, including the one who nearly crashed, were now staring at the majestic eagle perched on Viktor’s shoulder. Velia stood proud, regal, and distant, as if to say that none of these owls who were staring at her were of anything significant.

 

Except for one snowy owl, of course, who just so happened to be snoozing in a deeper corner of the Owlery where the noise of the door didn’t reach so audibly.

 

She did however, here her owner’s whistle and voice.

 

“Hedwig! Where are you? There’s someone here to see you!”

 

Rather annoyed of being shaken from her sleep, Hedwig slowly appeared out of the corner to see who her owner was talking about. All annoyance and sleepiness disappeared in a flash however, when her eyes fell on Velia perched on a grinning Viktor.

 

Hedwig let out a loud hoot, hopped off the platform, and soared downwards towards the seekers. Velia let out a trilling cry, took off from Viktor’s shoulder and flew upwards, meeting Hedwig halfway.

 

The two birds of prey flew around one another, hooting and trilling, before soaring up back towards the platform where the snowy owl had been snoozing, and disappearing from sight.

 

A few moments of silence followed, before the other owls went back to their own business.

 

Harry turned to Viktor, “You have to admit, they really did hit it off with one another.”

 

“Yes, I agree vith that,” the Bulgarian seeker nodded amicably.

 

Harry took out his wand, and casted a Tempus charm.

 

“We still have about an hour before curfew,” said Harry, canceling the charm, “Do you want to head back to the common room for a bit?”

 

“That vould be nice,” said Viktor, but he paused, the previous amicable tone turning serious, “but I have to put my name into the goblet first.”

 

Viktor was right to turn serious. He could literally see the color drain from Harry’s face as an uneasy expression took hold.

 

Things were silent for a moment, save for the owls hooting around them. Viktor knew that any mention of the goblet was an unnerving topic for his friend, but he wanted to be honest, as any real friend should be.

 

“It’s Karkaroff again…isn’t it?” asked Harry.

 

Viktor nodded his dourly, “Even if it vasn’t him, I vould most probably be chosen out of the Durmstrang delegation.”

 

Harry understood that very quickly. Viktor was by far the most accomplished wizard of the entire delegation, and not just because of his Quidditch prowess. Through their letters, Harry learnt that Viktor excelled in his studies, from a regimen of diligent revision and tutoring from his father. Not that it resulted in an over-inflated ego, thank Merlin for that. Quite the opposite, seeing the no-nonsense expression on his friend’s face.

 

“I understand,” Harry replied, schooling his face into a blank mask, “Shall we head to the Great Hall then?”

 

Viktor nodded, waiting for Harry to take his leave first. As the door opened and closed noisily behind them, Hedwig was in a midst of a bird-conversation with Velia.

 

The snowy owl’s hoots and barks had been excited, before fading into a softer, gentler tone as their reunion settled down. Velia’s trills had softened too, but still held their majestic edge that had the snowy owl entranced.

 

Hedwig hooted again, almost inaudibly this time. She inched closer to the eagle, eyes looking down, appearing to shuffle from one foot to the other. Velia’s piercing eyes appeared to soften, a gentle trill escaping her beak. Hedwig looked up, facing the eagle, as she too inched closer, and nuzzled her beak against the white feathers on her head.

 

The snowy owl cooed, eyes slowly closing as Velia wrapped a wing around her form, keeping her close. Velia trailed her beak down, skimming lightly over Hedwig’s feathers, slowly reaching for the owl’s slightly ajar beak.

 

In a tender moment, unnoticed by the other owls, Hedwig and Velia shared their first kiss, the bond between the two birds of prey forging into an unbreakable love that would last a lifetime.

 


 

Meanwhile, back in the castle, Harry and Viktor were also sharing a tender moment, but for a different reason.

 

When they arrived in the Great Hall, it was empty. The tables were cleared away, and floating candles from the feast earlier had vanished, leaving only dim torches to illuminate the hall, with the added help of the stars twinkling in the enchanted ceiling above.

 

That, and the eerie blue glow of the flames dancing out from the mouth of the goblet, and the age-line drawn clearly on the ground surrounding the goblet.

 

Outside of the line, there was a table. On it, was a quill steeped into an ink bottle, and a stack of small pieces of parchment. Viktor went over to the desk, took a parchment piece, pulled out the quill, and wrote his name down.

 

Harry watched silently as Viktor moved away the table, stepped through the age-line, and stood before the flaming goblet. The seeker threw the parchment into the goblet, and it was done. Viktor had placed himself in the running for Durmstrang’s champion.

 

Even when Viktor stepped back over the age-line, Harry never tore his eyes away from the goblet. He didn’t even register Viktor calling to him, not until his friend placed a hand on his shoulder.

 

“Harry, vhat’s vrong?”

 

A moment of silence passed.

 

“Viktor…I’m terrified.”

 

Harry tore his eyes away from the goblet, facing Viktor’s dark ones. The Bulgarian seeker immediately saw the fear and vulnerability swimming in those emerald irises.

 

“I’ve really tried, Viktor. But any mention of the goblet fills me with chilling dread. It reminds me of how I’ve never, or probably will never, have one ordinary year at Hogwarts. It reminds me of all the times my life and the lives of those around me were threatened by something unexpected happening. And with Voldemort’s followers still out there, this is a perfect chance to send a strike at me. Furthermore…”

 

Harry swallowed, “I’m afraid of losing you Viktor. People have died in this tournament, that was why they stopped it in the first place. You are my first true friend, Viktor. Someone who knows me as Harry Potter, not the Boy-Who-Lived, and understands that I have fears and worries just like everyone else. I cannot bear to see you get hurt or killed because of this tournament, I don’t think I would be able to handle it...”

 

Viktor’s eyes softened, seeing the shimmer in his friend’s emerald pools from the glow of the goblet. The seeker stepped closer, arms wrapping around the shorter male in a tight hug. Enveloped in Viktor’s warmth, Harry leaned into his friend’s strong chest, his own arms encircling the seeker’s waist.

 

“I know, Harry, I know,” Viktor whispered, “You have gone through too much for someone your age. You’ve seen horrors most vould never even dream about in their vorst nightmares. Your fear is genuine. You do not vant pain. But I’m here for you, Harry. Even if the vhole vorld ends, I vill be by your side. I promise that.”

 

Viktor tightened his hug to underline his declaration. Harry closed his eyes, his heart racing with comfort and from the seeker’s soothing heartbeat, soft against the fur coat. Against his friend’s chest, the bespectacled fourth-year nodded, a single tear escaping from his eyelid, trailing down his cheek, and falling away with an inaudible splash on the stone floor.

 


 

The next day came. Harry woke up, still feeling uneasy from the night before. It was the day of the selection, less than twelve hours to go. The day’s events and activities were dwarfed by the sinking feeling in his stomach. His appetite lessened, as he couldn’t eat in the same room as the goblet.

 

Not even the Weasley twins’ attempt to fool the goblet, which ended hilariously by the goblet repelling the twins back and causing long white beards to grow from their faces, did anything to alleviate Harry’s foreboding aura.

 

The only solace came from Viktor. As much as possible, the seeker stayed by Harry’s side, trying to distract him from the main event that evening. It only went so far, but Harry could at least say that Viktor’s company helped dampen the churning discomfort a little, even if only temporarily.

 

Time, in the end, stopped for no man. Evening came, and the students and staff of Europe’s three magical schools have gathered for the Halloween feast, and the highlight of the day, the goblet’s decision.

 

Harry ate very little during the feast, as he had for the two previous meals. The general excitement in the air did not help things with his growing anxiety. When the plates, cutlery and goblets were magically cleared away, everyone knew the big event was upon them.

 

Dumbledore stood up, “Well my friends, it seems that the goblet has reached its decision. Any moment now, we should expect to see the names of the selected champions. Those who are selected, please proceed to the antechamber on my right.”

 

The headmaster took out his wand, and waved it across the hall. All of the floating candles overhead went out with a puff. Now, the only source of light was the goblet, which casted a bluish glow across the Great Hall. Harry felt his stomach tie itself into knots, sensing an ominous wisp in the glow of the goblet.

 

Moments later, the blue flames turned red, prompting awed murmurs. Yellow sparks began shooting out from the cup, and to everyone’s amazement, a swirling vortex of fire shot up from the goblet, a piece of parchment flying up with it and fluttering gently down. Dumbledore caught parchment, and peered at the name written on it. Everyone held their breath.

 

“The champion for Durmstrang is…Viktor Krum!”

 

A wave of applause and cheers swept the hall. Harry clapped politely as Viktor emotionlessly got up from his space next to him, amidst the cheers from his friends at the Gryffindor table. As he passed, Viktor’s hand gripped Harry’s shoulder in a subtle sign of assurance. Harry acknowledged it with a nod.

 

The seeker went up to Dumbledore, took the parchment from the headmaster, and disappeared into the aforementioned antechamber, pointedly ignoring Karkaroff’s praises at his selection.

 

As the clapping faded, the flames turned red again. More sparks erupted as the vortex of fire threw up another parchment.

 

Dumbledore caught it, read it, and said, “The champion for Beauxbatons is…Fleur Delacour!”

 

Another wave of applause rippled through the audience, as a beautiful girl with platinum-blonde hair that flowed down in gentle waves stood up, looking decidedly proud of herself, and went up to Dumbledore, took her parchment, and disappeared into the antechamber. Harry noticed the disappointed looks on Delacour’s schoolmates, some were gritting their teeth, others were crying.

 

The applause died down. Now the Hogwarts champion would be chosen. The tension in the air was so thick, even a cutting curse would not have cut through it entirely. Harry watched the flames turned red again, heart thumping wildly against his chest and a mild feeling of nausea as the third parchment was thrown into the air.

 

Dumbledore delivered the name, “And the champion for Hogwarts is…Cedric Diggory!”

 

The resulting explosion of cheers and screams would have been enough to blow the Great Hall’s roof clear into the sky. Harry and his schoolmates clapped as Diggory got up from his seat, cheered and smacked on the back by his fellow Hufflepuffs as they celebrated the achievement of having one of their own selected for such an honor.

 

But despite that all three schools had their champions selected, the ominous churning in Harry’s stomach did not recede.

 

Diggory disappeared into the antechamber, like his two fellow champions before him, as Dumbledore turned to the rest of the students.

 

“Now that our three champions have been chosen, the excitement continues. They will need every little show of support in face of terrible danger, but I am well assured that everyone single one of you will stand united behind your champion as-”

 

Dumbledore was interrupted by the sound of sparks. All eyes were now on the goblet, as for some reason unfathomable to those watching, the blue flames have turned red again.

 

Harry felt like his stomach was going to implode, ‘Oh dear Merlin…no…please no…”

 

A single parchment flew out of the goblet, much to everyone’s surprise. Dumbledore caught it, and peered at what it contained.

 

The headmaster then spoke a name that nearly made a certain bespectacled fourth-year’s heart stop.

 

“Harry Potter.”


To Be Continued.


 

Chapter Text

Dumbledore was interrupted by the sound of sparks. All eyes were now on the goblet, as for some reason unfathomable to those watching, the blue flames have turned red again.

 

Harry felt like his stomach was going to implode, ‘Oh dear Merlin…no…please no…”

 

A single parchment flew out of the goblet, much to everyone’s surprise. Dumbledore caught it, and peered at what it contained.

 

The headmaster then spoke a name that nearly made a certain bespectacled fourth-year’s heart stop.

 

“Harry Potter.”

 


 

 

Absolute silence.

 

Everyone was staring at Harry, eyes wide and disbelieving, mouths hanging open. The four Hogwarts houses, the staff, the foreign students, they were all turned towards a bespectacled boy at the Gryffindor table. No one moved, no one said anything.

 

Poor Harry, his fears have come to light. The worst had happened; he had been thrust completely unwillingly into the tournament. He was the fourth champion, and he felt the world crashing down around him.

 

He wanted to run, run anywhere. Just away from the Great Hall, from Hogwarts, from everything. Harry felt like vomiting, he felt sick, he felt like he was drowning in the middle of the ocean, help nowhere in sight, death coming for him with its scythe.

 

“Harry Potter,” Dumbledore’s voice broke the silence, “Please come up here.”

 

Harry made no movement to get up. He felt a hand on his shoulder. It was Klaus. Harry saw many emotions on his face -  confusion, disbelief, and…concern? He really wanted to tell the German student, or anyone for that matter, that he did not put his name in the goblet. But his voice remained stuck in his throat, unable to produce any words.

 

Klaus nudged Harry, prompting him to go up. Harry’s mind remained numb by the shock, his legs doing the work as they mechanically lifted him up from his seat, and made the walk towards Dumbledore. He barely registered the headmaster handing him the parchment and telling him to head into the antechamber. His legs mechanically took him there, his eyes open, unblinking, as if in a catatonic state.

 

He didn’t remember pushing the door open, but the setting had changed. Inside the antechamber, was a roaring fireplace, a few armchairs scattered about on a floor covered by a rug, and display cases lined with trophies and awards of all shapes and sizes. And standing, or sitting, around the fireplace, were Viktor, Cedric, and Fleur.

 

The Beauxbatons champion was the first to notice Harry’s appearance, “What ees eet? Do zey want us back in ze ‘all?”

 

Now Viktor and Cedric’s eyes were on him.

 

“Harry,” said Viktor, concern rising in his chest at the catatonic look on his friend’s face, “vhat happened?”

 

“V-Viktor…”

 

Harry took one step forward, just as his legs lost their strength and he crumpled towards the floor like a ragdoll.

 

“Harry!”

 

Thanks to his lightning-fast reflexes honed from intense training as a seeker, Viktor was able to catch Harry before the latter crashed onto the floor in a dead-faint. Fleur stood up from her armchair, as she and Cedric watched in confusion as Viktor tried to steady his friend.

 

“Harry, vhat happened?” Viktor asked again, tone pouring with worry, “Vhat’s vrong?”

 

Secure in the seeker’s arms, Harry tried to will the strength to reveal what happened outside just minutes before, when the sound of hurried footsteps making their way towards the antechamber. The door burst open, and Ludo Bagman appeared in the room, smiling like a kid whose Christmas came early.

 

“Incredible! Simply incredible! Never has this happened before in the history of this tournament!”

 

“What do you mean?” asked Cedric.

 

“Harry Potter here,” Bagman pointed at the boy in Viktor’s arms, “has been selected as the fourth champion of the Triwizard Tournament!”

 

Despite the roaring fire in the fireplace, the temperature of the room fell by several degrees.

 

Viktor was the first to break his shock, “V-Vhat?”

 

“You heard me!” Bagman smiled, “Young Harry here was chosen by the goblet to be the fourth champion!”

 

“Harry, is this true?” asked Viktor, not quite believing his ears.

 

Harry shrunk back, thinking Viktor was angry at him. But all he saw was disbelief, shock, and extreme worry. Harry slowly nodded, his eyes starting to shimmer with pained tears.

 

Before Viktor, or either of the other two champions, could utter another word, more footsteps came towards the door. This time, Dumbledore, Madame Maxime, Karkaroff, Crouch, Professors McGonagall, Snape, and Moody, strode into the room.

 

Fleur was immediately at her headmistress’ side, “Madame Maxime! Bagman said zat ‘arry Potter is ze fourth champion!”

 

“I’m aware, Fleur,” Maxime replied, before turning to Dumbledore with dangerous eyes, “and I demand an explanation for zis breach of rules!”

 

“I was under the understanding that only one champion could compete for each school they represent?” Karkaroff added in, more speaking than asking, “Are you trying to give yourself an unfair advantage over us, Dumbledore?”

 

“I would hardly think that would be my intention, Karkaroff,” said Dumbledore calmly.

 

“Zen ‘ow do you explain ‘ogwarts ‘aving two champions?” Maxime rebutted.

 

“It’s simple, Madame Maxime,” Snape replied, “It’s one of Potter’s constant attempts to break the rules. Obviously not content with his fame, he somehow tricked the goblet to make him a champion and show to us once again how he is above the rules like the arrogant brat he is.”

 

Still dazed by events that had transpired, Harry barely registered the malicious slight on his character by the greasy git. Though, he did hear a low growl rumble from Viktor’s chest.

 

“I would keep your mouth shut if I were you, Severus!” McGonagall cut in vehemently, “Mr. Potter is only a fourth-year! How do you expect him to trick an ancient magical artifact like the goblet?”

 

Snape was about to give a sneering reply, but a warning look from Dumbledore silenced him.

 

“Do any of you have any brains?” Moody growled, “Why are you speculating amongst yourselves when the subject of this hoo-ha is right there? Why haven’t you asked him for what he has to say?”

 

All eyes were now turned towards the boy. Harry inwardly shuddered under the appraising looks, Viktor tightening his hug protectively.

 

Dumbledore took a few steps towards Harry, “Harry my boy, did you put your name in the goblet?”

 

Harry shook his head quickly, and Viktor was about to jump to his friend’s defense, when Fleur butted in, “’e ees lying! What else would ‘e do zis? Ze leetle boy just wants to grab glory zat ees not rightfully-”

 

Whatever Fleur wanted to say, she wasn’t able to finish, as a low-power Confringo curse was fired just shy of her shoes. The resulting blast shook the room, rattling the display cases. Fleur screamed, stumbling backwards and nearly landing on her behind, if not for the quick actions of Madame Maxime, catching her in time and steadying her.

 

All eyes, including Harry’s, were now on who casted the spell at the French champion.

 

Viktor was pointing his wand at Fleur’s direction, a vicious scowl marring his features. Eyes went wide with disbelief, and mouths hung open from the sudden attack.

 

“V-Viktor! What are you doing?!” Karkaroff exclaimed.

 

The seeker ignored his headmaster, aiming his ire at Fleur, “Vho are you to call Harry a ‘little boy’, you snobbish bitch?! Apologize to Harry at once!”

 

Scandalized gasps echoed in the antechamber. Despite the insult being like a slap to her face, Fleur steeled herself and stood defiantly towards the seeker.

 

“And who are you to defend zat liar?” she shot back, “Why should I apologize to ‘im? ‘e ees nozzing but an insignificant brat who illegally entered ze tournament to gain attention!”

 

Viktor retaliated with a roar. He fired a banishing charm at Fleur, who was thrown backwards into a display case. The French champion crashed against the case, sending it toppling backwards on its side, one of its glass walls shattering on impact and the awards inside thrown about like the numbered balls in a Bingo mill.

 

The adults in the room reacted with horror, just as Fleur found her bearings again. With an outraged shout, she drew her wand and fired a curse back at Viktor, who shielded Harry from the spell while barely dodging it. The seeker prepared to cast again, but before an all-out war could begin between the two champions, Dumbledore fired a loud blast from his wand, effectively ending the would-be duel instantly.

 

“Friends! Friends! Please, calm yourselves!” Dumbledore pleaded loudly, “Violence will not get us anywhere!”

 

“I vas vith Harry the vhole of yesterday evening and today. There is no vay he could have put his name into the goblet!” Viktor bellowed, cutting Dumbledore off, before turning on Fleur, “And as for you Delacour, Harry is more than a ‘little boy’. He is ten times the adult than you and every single one of you all combined!”

 

This shocked the entire room into silence, allowing the seeker to continue.

 

“Is a “little boy” able to defeat a Voldemort-,” many of the occupants (bar Harry) flinched at the name, “possessed professor, kill a basilisk vith nothing but a sword and an old hat, drive off a hundred dementors vith a spell adult vizards struggle to conjure successfully, and take out Death Eaters vhile rescuing me from an early death?! All before he is even fourteen?!”

 

Cedric, Fleur, Madame Maxime and Karkaroff gaped in shock. Moody raised an eyebrow, McGonagall looked stunned at the thought of Harry incapacitating Death Eaters, while Dumbledore remained calmly neutral.

 

Snape, on the other hand, was sneering with disdain.

 

“You’ve obviously been brainwashed by the brat. How else would you believe the lies that he constantly spills to gain attention to boost his over-inflated ego?”

 

The potions professor was immediately hit in the chest by a powerful stinging hex from Viktor. The greasy git tumbled backwards into the wall behind him, clutching the spot where the spell had hit him, groaning in pain. The others gasped, horrified that a student had attacked a member of staff.

 

“You have no right to talk, you covardly Death Eater scum!” Viktor bellowed, inciting more gasps, “You let yourself fester over a childhood grudge, vhich is partially your fault in the first place, and then you take it out on an innocent person just because he looks like the one you fought vith! You show blatant favoritism to your own students and belittle everyone else. Just how petty and immature are you, you greasy disgrace of a scumbag?!”

 

Snape, just as everyone else in the room, was silenced by the seeker’s disparaging. He couldn’t even reach for his wand in an attempt to fight back, incapacitated by the overwhelming outrage from the physical and verbal attack.

 

“I vill not stand by and let my friend’s honor be dragged through the mud,” Viktor made clear, lowering his wand, “The fault belongs to everyone single one of you vho could have stepped in, but didn’t. Vhich brings me to my next question.”

 

The seeker turned to Crouch, “Mr. Crouch, is Harry still required to take part in this Merlin-forsaken tournament?”

 

It took a moment for the man to regain his composure, “Mr. Potter’s name came out of the goblet, therefore he is bound by the contract to complete the tournament from start to finish, lest he lose his magic for failing to do so.”

 

“Very vell,” Viktor growled, “Since it has come to this, I vill make this clear to everyone in this room tonight. Rules be damned! I vill help Harry through this tournament. I vill show him that he has me by his side to ensure he survives thanks to your blatant negligence and incompetence in this farce!”

 

Silence reigned as Viktor made his proclamation. The seeker turned to Bagman.

 

“Vhat are the instructions for the first task?”

 

Releasing a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding, Bagman replied, “T-The first task will be held on the 24th of November. It will be a test of your courage, and it will be held at the Quidditch pitch. Beyond that, we aren’t allowed to disclose any more details about the task.”

 

That did not ease the glare from Viktor’s face, but the seeker nodded nonetheless. He then directed Harry, who was still held close by his arm, away from the group and towards the door.

 

“Let’s go Harry, ve should get out of here before I murder someone.”

 

Still recovering from the drama, Harry could only nod silently, as the pair stepped out of the antechamber, the door closing with click behind them.

 


 

Harry and Viktor left the antechamber behind them and crossed the now vacant Great Hall in silence. When they entered the Entrance Hall, they were surprised to find Klaus, Nicolae, Uliana and Anastazja waiting furtively for them. Upon seeing the two seekers, the four Durmstrang students rushed up to them.

 

“Is everything okay?” asked Klaus, “Vhat happened in there?”

 

“We heard shouting, and spells being fired,” said Anastazja, “Are you two hurt or anything?”

 

“Ve’re fine,” Viktor replied, squeezing Harry’s shoulder with his hand, “but Harry is now forced to take part in the tournament as a fourth contender.”

 

The eyes of the seeker’s four friends widened.

 

“What? But I thought only three of-age students could participate?” asked Nicolae.

 

“Someone must have confounded the goblet to select Harry as a champion,” Viktor replied, “Obviously, in an attempt to kill him.”

 

A collective gasp was the response of the four Durmstrang students. Harry looked down despondently, “Do you believe us? That I didn’t put my name in the goblet?”

 

“Of course!” Anastazja exclaimed, “We saw you with Viktor all the time yesterday and today! There’s no way you could have put your name in without him noticing!”

 

“But what is your plan now?” asked Uliana, “If you don’t, you’ll lose your magic.”

 

“I promised to stay by his side at all times,” Viktor replied, “I don’t give a fuck about the rules, I’m ensuring that he gets out of this shit-show alive.”

 

All four Durmstrang students nodded, with Nicolae speaking up, “That is a wise decision, especially since we noticed how upset and outraged the Hogwarts students, particularly the ones with the yellow and black ties, were when they were dismissed.”

 

Harry’s heart sank, it was going to be the Chamber of Secrets fiasco all over again. He only hoped his fellow Gryffindors, especially Hermione and Ron, would believe him and continue to support him like Viktor and his friends have done.

 

“You both look vorn out,” Klaus remarked, “You should get an early night’s rest.”

 

“Ve vill,” Viktor nodded, “but you guys go back to the ship first, I’ll escort Harry back to Gryffindor tower, make sure he gets there safely.”

 

His four friends agreed. After wishing Harry well and reiterating their support for him, the four left the Entrance Hall back to the ship. Viktor led Harry away from the hall, and together in silence, they passed through the corridors and staircases towards Gryffindor tower.

 

When they came to the portrait of the Fat Lady, she gave Harry an unreadable expression, which made his already unsettled mood worse. The Fat Lady swung her portrait aside, letting Harry and Viktor into the common room, where the whole of Gryffindor house was waiting.

 

Harry immediately felt his heart crash into his stomach. It was like he was prisoner, being escorted into the courtroom to face a panel of justices and the jury, with the evidence against him so strong it was a near-certainty that his fate was sealed and acquittal is impossible. Every face he saw held either contempt, disappointment, or hatred with an intensity he had never experienced before.

 

This was definitely worse that the Chamber of Secrets fiasco.

 

“So, the attention-seeking traitor finally graces us with his presence.”

 

The sneer in the words made Harry’s mind automatically relate it to Draco. But in a shock to his system, the words came from Ron, a very disappointed looking Hermione by his side.

 

“W-What are you talking about, Ron?”

 

“Don’t play dumb with us, Potter!” the redhead shouted, “Why didn’t you tell me, or anyone of us, that you were planning to put your name in the goblet?!”

 

“Vhat rubbish are you spewing, Veasley?” Viktor growled, immediately at Harry’s side.

 

“Oh, so the great seeker Krum has been brainwashed into believing Potter’s little lie?” Ron mocked, “Well too bad for you, Potter! We aren’t going to fall for your deceit!”

 

A noise of agreement echoed from the rest of the Gryffindors. Harry, whose fragile heart was further cracking, looked to Hermione for support, only to get a contemptuous sniff in return.

 

“You already have fame and fortune beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, Potter!” Ron continued, “And yet it’s still not enough for you. So you decided to become a champion of the tournament to further outshine us all! After all, you are the Boy-Who-Lived! An entitled, spoiled brat who gets whatever he wants and whenever he wants just because he slain a dark lord!”

 

Harry’s heart shattered, like a pane of glass unable to sustain itself from too many blows. As pain spread from his ruined heart to his entire soul, his emerald eyes lost their shimmer, turning a dull green.

 

“So that’s what this is all about, Weasley?” Harry spoke, voice low, “That I crave attention and wealth? Even though whatever wealth or fame I had, and never wanted, was due to my parents’ sacrifice?”

 

“Your parents are probably rolling in their graves for what you’ve did!” Ron viciously shouted back, with nods of assent from those behind him, “If I were them, I would be ashamed of having son who is as spoiled and arrogant as you are!”

 

Harry was mere milliseconds from drawing his wand on his former friend, but Viktor beat him to it.

 

There was a flash of light, and a scream of pain. Ron crumpled to the floor, holding his nose, as the Gryffindors behind him scuttled back in shock. Blood was pouring freely from the broken nasal bone, courtesy of the bone-breaking hex Viktor had vehemently thrown at him.

 

But Viktor wasn’t done. He stomped over to the redhead, and viciously kicked him onto his back. Ron barely had time to register what had happened before all the air was knocked out him by Viktor slamming his foot down on his stomach.

 

The seeker stomped on Ron’s stomach once more, and delivered a kick to his side, before growling down at him, “You speak one more vord, and I vill break every single bone in your body before I cut you to pieces!”

 

Ron could only groan in agony, as Viktor turned his wrath on the watching Gryffindors, “And the same goes to every single one of you bastards! How dare you slander Harry and his parents for something he never vanted? I ought to flay you all alive for this slight!”

 

A wave of fear swept through the Gryffindors, knowing Viktor would stay true to his promise, if Ron sprawled out in a heap was any indication. But Harry intervened, preventing what would have been a bloodbath.

 

“Viktor, please, stop. They are not worth it.”

 

The seeker turned to the shorter male. While his eyes remained dull, they still pleaded him not to cause anymore carnage. Despite wanting to rain hell on those who wronged his friend, Viktor eventually relented, stepping back with Harry, while also giving Ron another kick to the side for good measure.

 

“Since it seems that you all decide to believe Weasley and not bother to seek out the truth,” Harry addressed his housemates, voice dull and flat, “I will ensure my own safety by removing myself from Gryffindor tower. I will no longer associate myself with a bunch of cowardly sheep who follow a weasel and a bookworm in their falsehoods. I would say it was good knowing all of you, but I shan’t.”

 

Harry turned away from the silent crowd, heading towards the staircase leading to boy’s dorms. He needed to collect his belongings, after all, if they hadn’t already been destroyed by his traitorous housemates.

 

He hadn’t even reached the stairs, when something popped into existence in front of him.

 

“Dobby?”

 

“Master Harry Potter, sir, is yous being alright?” asked the house-elf.

 

“Well, considering that my entire house now sees me as some arrogant, deceitful bastard for participating in a deadly tournament that I have no desire to participate in the first place, I would say I’m quite peachy,” Harry replied, voice dripping with sarcasm, “Sorry Dobby, I need to collect my things. I’m moving out of Gryffindor tower.”

 

“Oh but Dobby is already be doing that, Master Harry Potter, sir,” Dobby reassured, “Dobby be seeing how the fat weasel and buck-toothed shaggy worm be spewing lying to the great Harry Potter’s housemates. So Dobby’s be moving your trunk and belongings outside the common room, safe from traitorous hands.”

 

Harry raised an eyebrow, as Dobby suddenly became nervous, “If…that is what Master Harry Potter wants Dobby to do?”

 

Knowing the house-elf’s tendency to punish himself, Harry quickly smiled, and knelt down to Dobby’s level, “Yes, Dobby, that is what I wanted. Thank you, you really saved me the effort.”

 

Dobby lost all his nervousness and his joy returned full-force, “Master Harry Potter is the greatest wizard in the universe! He is thanking lowly house-elf like Dobby for his work!”

 

The house-elf hugged Harry’s legs, before glaring at the Gryffindors, “You is all bad, terrible lions! Yous be kicking out an innocent person like the great Harry Potter for no good reason other than for fat weasel’s jealousy! Mark Dobby’s words, yous be paying for your treachery soon!”

 

With his little speech over, Dobby returned to Harry, bowed to him respectfully, and disappeared from the room with a ‘pop’.

 

Harry got to his feet, and returned to Viktor’s side.

 

“Let’s go.”

 

Viktor nodded. They both made their way back to the portrait hole, only to be stopped by the same sneering voice that started this entire mess in the first place.

 

“That’s right Potter!” Ron shouted, words somewhat muffled by his broken nose, “Get the fuck out of here! You are no longer welcome in Gryffindor! And don’t you dare think of showing your arrogant little face around us!”

 

Harry stopped. He didn’t turn around, but he noticed Viktor discretely pulling his wand out from his pocket.

 

“Viktor, no.”

 

But the seeker wasn’t having it, “Viktor, yes.”

 

With reflexes so fast that no one saw it coming, Viktor spun around and fired another bone-breaking hex at Ron, this time at his leg.

 

As the redhead screamed in agony again, Viktor and Harry left the common room, the portrait door closing behind them with a click.

 


 To Be Continued.


 

 

 

Chapter Text

True to Dobby’s words, Harry’s trunk was sitting idly outside of the common room, with a strong notice-me-not charm on it keyed to anyone except for Harry and Viktor, who spotted it easily in the torch-lit corridor.

 

“Harry, you’re coming vith me back to the Durmstrang ship,” said Viktor firmly, “It is not safe to be vandering the halls of Hogvarts given the current state of affairs.”

 

“Mm, okay,” Harry nodded, shrinking his trunk and putting it into his pocket.

 

The two seekers silently retraced their steps back towards the Entrance Hall. They went on their way uninterrupted, which was just as well for any heckler, for Viktor was in such a foul mood that if anyone had intercepted them with the intention of harassing Harry, the perpetrator would have been hexed until an emergency visit to St. Mungo’s would have been immediately warranted.

 

Thankfully, the use of bone-breaking hexes or other spells were no longer needed, as the pair left the castle behind them and made their way through the grounds towards the ship.

 

Climbing up the gangplank, descending the stairs and cutting across the corridor, Harry and Viktor arrived back at the latter’s room.

 

Stepping inside, Harry took out his shrunken trunk, enlarged it back to its original size, and placed it next to Viktor’s trunk.

 

“You should use the bathroom first, Viktor,” said Harry as he went through his trunk, “I think a cool-down is what you need right now.”

 

Still fuming from the early debacles, Viktor grunted in appreciation. Using his wand to pull out his sleepwear from his trunk, Viktor disappeared into the bathroom, leaving Harry to sort out his belongings.

 

Dobby had done an impeccable job in ensuring that everything was safe, from his father’s invisibility cloak, his family photo album from Hagrid, the Marauder’s Map, Hedwig’s cage, to all of his clothes, quills and textbooks.

 

Nodding to himself, Harry pulled out a pair of pajamas and clean underwear, closed his trunk, and moved over to the loveseat to wait for Viktor to finish.

 

Above the loveseat, was a porthole with a view of the Great Lake. It was just as beautiful as one would see it either on the top deck, or along the shoreline. There was no breeze at this hour, leaving the surface of the lake as still and smooth like the pane of a mirror, reflecting the perfect image of the moon, stars and the trees of the Forbidden Forest.

 

Such stillness was an antithesis to how Harry’s soul was still recovering from the turmoil of the past hour. He had been selected, against his will, as a champion of the tournament, and was kicked out of Gryffindor house by the very people whom he thought were his friends. The uncertainty of how badly the school will come to see him tomorrow was also another can of worms he had to deal with.

 

Harry sat down on the loveseat, pajamas on his lap. He stared out towards the lake. Quietly, he reflected on everything that happened, on how everything had changed this year, and how the rest of the year would play out. He was definitely still nervous about his survival in this tournament, but the one thing grounding him to a sane mindset, was Viktor.

 

Viktor, unlike his former friends, had stayed by his side, swearing to do so in the antechamber. Even the seeker’s friends believed him and gave him their support.

 

If people he had met only the day before (and in Viktor’s case, a couple of months) could show they had the brain capacity to think logically and rationally, rather than the people he had known for years just getting up and abandoning him over obvious falsehoods, it just goes to show the situation in Hogwarts, and in microcosm, the whole of wizarding Britain, was undeniably broken.

 

What was he, Harry Potter, still doing here then? When people’s attitudes towards him shift as suddenly and as drastically as the weather, over their own self-interests and self-preservation? Not even stopping to think that he too is a human with limitations on what he can do?

 

The bathroom door opened. Pulling his thoughts back, Harry made to get up so that he could have his turn freshening up for the night, when he stopped dead in his movements, unable to tear his eyes away from the sight in front of him.

 

Viktor stepped back into the room, hair damp, towel draped over his broad shoulders, his sleepwear consisting of only boxers and a pair of shorts. Harry felt a rush of blood to his cheeks as he eyed the sturdy, sculpted body of the Seeker of Bulgaria. Powerful, muscular arms, ripped torso with defined pecs and washboard abs, down to sturdy, muscled legs.

 

“Harry, I’m done, the bathroom’s yours now. There’s a spare tovel you can use.”

 

“Ah…o-okay,” Harry replied, trying hard to not to stutter, “Thanks, Viktor.”

 

Viktor appeared oblivious to Harry’s red-hued face as the shorter male got up from the loveseat, and tried his hardest to act casual as he disappeared into the bathroom. Once the door closed however, Viktor allowed a small grin to appear.

 

‘He’s so cute…’

 


 

The bathroom, like the bedroom, was a mix of basic and homely. It had the basic fittings – bathtub, sink, toilet bowl, and mirror. But as Harry discovered, in a bid to take his mind away from Viktor’s sculpted body, the bathroom had been given a do-over to make it appear more ostentatious.

 

What would have been wooden planks for the floor, walls and ceiling, was transfigured into marble panels. The toilet bowl, sink, mirror and bathtub were lined with gold, and a small, candlelit chandelier hung from the ceiling, giving the room a soft, orange glow and allowing the light to reflect off the gold in shimmers.

 

Harry put his sleepwear on a gold-plated clothes rack. Making his way over to the bathtub, he opened the hot-water tap fully, and the cold-water tap partially to get a nice balance of soothing hot water without the threat of being scalded.

 

Letting the water fill the bathtub, Harry stripped off his uniform and took off his glasses. Letting the clothes drop onto the marble floor and placing his glasses on the sink counter, Harry turned off the taps, and tested the water to ensure it was just right. Satisfied, he slowly stepped into the tub, gently sinking into the hot water with a contented sigh.

 

Adjusting to the heat loosening up all the knots accumulated from a day of stress, Harry immersed himself fully into the water. Resurfacing after a few seconds, Harry reached for the porcelain shelf holding various soap bottles, taking the one labeled “shampoo”.

 

It smelled of pinecones, a woodland scent, Harry remarked inwardly. Working in a generous amount into his messy hair, Harry’s thoughts went to a more pressing concern.

 

‘There’s only one bed, and I’m not sure if Viktor is willing to share. But the loveseat is good enough, I’ll just need to ask Viktor if he has a spare blanket or if he can transfigure one for me.’

 

The body-wash soap was of a different scent, a little more floral, if Harry had to guess. After rinsing off, Harry unplugged the tub. As the soapy water drained away, he stepped out of the tub, reaching for the spare towel that Viktor mentioned earlier, which was hanging on a metal rail opposite the tub.

 

Drying himself off, Harry draped the damp towel over the rail. He put on his sleepwear and his glasses, before picking up his dirty uniform for the house-elves to collect in the morning to wash and dry.

 

Stepping back into the bedroom, Harry noticed Viktor sitting on the loveseat, reading a book.

 

Viktor peered up, “Oh, you’re done.”

 

“Yeah, sorry for the wait,” Harry hummed as he put the dirty uniform away, “Say, Viktor?”

 

“Hm?”

 

“Do you have a spare blanket?”

 

Viktor raised an eyebrow, “Vhy?”

 

“I’m planning to sleep on the loveseat,” Harry replied, closing his trunk.

 

Viktor frowned, putting his book away to the side.

 

“Vhy vould you sleep on the loveseat? You can share my bed.”

 

Harry spun his head around so fast he almost got whiplash, “Pardon?”

 

“My bed is big enough for the two of us,” Viktor continued, eyebrow raised, “Unless you’re uncomfortable vith that?”

 

Harry immediately shook his head, “Oh, no, no, it’s not that. I just didn’t want to intrude on your personal space, that’s all. I wasn’t sure if you were comfortable sharing the bed.”

 

Viktor’s raised eyebrow lowered, and his lips spread into a grin, “You’re not intruding. And ve’re friends, aren’t ve? I see no issue for the both of us sharing the bed.”

 

Harry eventually consented, mainly because it was getting late, and knowing what kind of shit-show he would have to face the next day, he didn’t want to spend the entire night going back-and-forth with Viktor over sleeping arrangements. Plus, there was the part of him that screamed with joy at the thought of sleeping next to the one true friend who had gone through tumult with him and stayed by his side no matter what.

 

Plus, said friend had a really hot body!

 

“Alright, thank you for your generosity, Viktor.”

 

“It’s not just generosity,” Viktor replied, “I vant to look out for you, show that someone cares about you.”

 

Harry’s heart started singing, and his stomach felt really fuzzy. Outwardly, he nodded with a small smile. Leaving his trunk behind him, Harry walked over to the bed, and climbed into the left side, lying back with a contented sigh as his tired body pressed into the soft mattress. Viktor got up from the loveseat, and got into the unoccupied right side. Slipping under the quilt, Viktor picked up his wand, which had been placed on the bedside table, and whispered an incantation that turned the lights off.

 

“Good night, Harry.”

 

“Good night, Viktor.”

 

Viktor closed his eyes, and slowly descended into the lull of sleep. Meanwhile, Harry stayed awake, staring at the canopy draped over the four posts. Everything was silent and dark, save the soft splashes of water against the ship’s side and the moonlight shining through the porthole.

 

Harry was tired, but for some reason, his body didn’t want to power down for the night. Harry couldn’t pinpoint the cause, but it was like one last piece to get the machines of slumber rolling was missing, interrupting the entire process and keeping him awake.

 

The final piece came with the sound of the quilt shifting.

 

Viktor had rolled over onto his side, facing Harry, and still asleep. Harry slowly rolled over to face his friend, inwardly noting the peaceful expression that graced the seeker’s face. In a way, it was hard to link the Viktor who went spell-happy on people who had bad intentions towards him, and the Viktor who was sleeping quietly, as if he had no troubles in the world.

 

Harry found this peaceful Viktor to be very endearing, but that’s not to say that he didn’t like the Viktor who protected him and faced off adversaries with a roar that would quell the fiercest of lions. Those strong arms holding him tight, pressed against a broad, chiseled chest, made his stomach squeal with fuzziness when Harry thought in retrospect.

 

Now though, he was dealing with a peaceful Viktor, and his heart was doing the thinking now. Harry wanted to get closer, to shift over the few inches of mattress separating him from his friend. He wanted to be closer, Viktor’s warmth and magic pulling him in like a magnet to an iron nail, until he was enveloped, claimed, ensnared and held tight, freedom lost, replaced by rapturous bliss.

 

Harry slowly, and as quietly as possible, scooted over to the sleeping Viktor, moving closer until only an inch or so of mattress separated them both. Viktor’s soft breathing was more audible now, and so too was Harry’s thundering heart.

 

He so desperately wanted to forge that intimate connection, but being this physically close to Viktor had reawakened his rational brain. It was now fighting with his heart for control of his thoughts and actions. But being this close also strengthened his emotions, and eventually, his heart won out.

 

Harry’s hand stretched forward, his palm gingerly coming into contact with Viktor’s chest. The muscle underneath was hard and strong, and Harry felt the steady heartbeat reverberate on his palm.

 

Harry felt entranced, blood rushing to his cheeks in a blush. Feeling the strong muscle, in contrast to the soft heartbeat, shivers ran down his spine as raw intimacy and emotion seemed to fire his nerves with tingling shocks. His head began to swirl from all rationality draining away, replaced by his strongest emotions.

 

He didn’t know how long he stayed there, hand pressed against Viktor’s chest gently. Harry didn’t want to move, but lying for so long in one single position wasn’t very comfortable after a while. And so Harry shifted slightly to ensure his circulation wasn’t cut off…

 

…only to feel a pair of strong arms wrap around him, and pull him straight into the chiseled chest he had been in contact with his palm.

 

It took all of Harry’s willpower to not squeak in surprise, as Viktor subconsciously closed whatever gap that remained between their bodies. If someone were to barge into the room at that very moment, they’d think the two seekers were cuddling in their sleep.

 

Harry felt his heart was going to explode from his chest. He had never been this physically close to someone in a bed before, without even going to mention that this person was an international Quidditch celebrity. The fact that he could feel Viktor’s chest rise and fall gently with each breath, and he could hear the seeker’s steady heartbeat, did not help matters.

 

But even if this situation was completely new to Harry, that didn’t mean he didn’t like it. On the contrary, the desires of his heart were being fulfilled, and Harry felt warm all over. There was a feeling of strength, and security, being held tight in the arms of his friend. Though, Harry was also curious. He wanted to test something…

 

The shorter male tried to (read: half-heartedly) wriggle out of Viktor’s grasp. Immediately, the peaceful expression on the seeker’s face was broken, a slight frown furrowing his eyebrows. Harry could have sworn he heard a low growl coming from the seeker, before he felt his friend’s grip tighten further; not to the point of uncomfortable, but enough to let Harry understand that he won’t be moving much tonight, much less escape from the strong arms holding him tightly.

 

But Harry was fine with that. Not only was the sense of security flooding his heart and easing his soul, there was a layer of protectiveness, maybe even possessiveness, in the strength holding him close. Involuntarily, pleasant shivers ran up his spine. It felt nice to feel protected, when it was usually him doing the protecting. It felt natural, even normal. Merlin, if this what normality felt like, Harry knew he had missed out on a lot.

 

Harry subtly made his reassurance to the sleeping Viktor that he wasn’t going anywhere. He curled into the seeker’s warmth, ear pressed against Viktor’s chest, one hand coming to rest on Viktor’s arm, in a gesture reciprocating the tight embrace. Letting the steady heartbeat slowly relax him, his eyes closed with a release of breath, the last sign of consciousness before Harry sank into his dreams.

 

As Harry’s light, even breathing whistled, Viktor opened an eye. Glancing at the smaller male in his arms, a tender smile stretched his lips. Quite frankly, he was surprised to be shaken awake when he heard Harry shift closer to him. It also took him quite a bit of willpower to keep his eyes closed when he felt Harry’s palm touch his chest, right over where his heart was. The palm felt cool to the touch, sending an almost indiscernible shudder down his spine.

 

Viktor then felt Harry shifting. Purely on instinct, he grabbed Harry and pulled him close, arms wrapped tightly around the shorter male’s frame. His subconscious didn’t want Harry to go. He wanted Harry, safe in his arms, to protect him from the evil of the world that had taken advantaged of him one too many times. He growled at the thought of Harry being taken away from him. He would kill those who tried to deny Harry the normal life he deserved.

 

But at the same time, Viktor’s logic fought back. His conscience scolded, ‘what if you are crossing the line?’, ‘what if Harry despises you for this?’, ‘what if you lose him, because you can’t control your instincts, and never factored in his feelings?’.

 

Viktor contemplated loosening his arms, giving Harry the option to move away, even if his heart and soul screamed for Harry not to do so. But he didn’t need to. Harry showed that he wanted this, by snuggling deeper into his warmth, ear pressed against his chest, hand gripping his arm, trying to make as much physical contact as possible

 

Hearing Harry fall asleep in his arms, Viktor’s smile stretched a little wider as relief washed over him. His half-lidded eyes slowly closed, and he joined Harry in the hums of slumber.

 

The night carried on, and all was silent. Save for the ripples of water splashing against the ship, soft breathing of two bodies cuddled together in an embrace, and two hearts slowly beating in a steady rhythm, together as one.

 


 

To Be Continued.


 

Chapter Text

Inevitably, the next morning dawned on the grounds of Hogwarts. But to a sleeping Viktor with a sleeping Harry wrapped snugly in his arms, the new day meant nothing, while they were still in the lulls of their dreams.

 

Harry was the first to stir. Eyelids flickering open, he stared dazedly into Viktor’s chest. Blinking a few times, Harry yawned. Licking his dry lips, Harry felt nature calling for him to do his morning business.

 

The only problem was…he couldn’t move. He was still wrapped tightly in Viktor’s arms, and the seeker showed no signs of getting up soon on his own.

 

Harry was conflicted. He didn’t want to wake Viktor yet, especially not wanting to disturb that peaceful expression. But at the same time, if he didn’t use the bathroom soon, there will be a huge mess on the bed that Viktor would definitely not appreciate.

 

So, Harry decided forlornly, he had to wake Viktor up.

 

“Viktor…” Harry shook the seeker’s arm, “…wake up.”

 

The only response was Viktor growling lowly, and tightening his grip around Harry’s body. This wasn’t good. The added pressure was not helping with his control on his bladder that was threatening to explode.

 

“Viktor, please…” Harry tried again, shaking the seeker’s arm harder, “…wake up. I need to go to the bathroom.”

 

This time, it seemed to have gotten through. Viktor grunted, his closed eyes furrowing a little, before releasing and opening up.

 

“Harry…?”

 

“Viktor, I’m sorry for waking you up, but I really need to use the bathroom. Could you please let me go?”

 

Silence reined for a few moments, as Viktor processed Harry’s words. His half-lidded eyelids opened fully as he realized Harry’s urgency.

 

“Oh…sorry.”

 

Viktor loosened his arms, allowing Harry to wriggle free. The Bulgarian seeker watched silently as Harry jumped out of the bed, rushed towards the bathroom, and slammed the door behind him. Hearing an almost inaudible sigh of relief, Viktor stared blankly at his room, noticing the light of dawn from the porthole.

 

Seconds ticked past, as Viktor slowly remembered the events of the previous night. Harry had spent the night with him. Harry shared his bed. They had cuddled together in their sleep. He had slept with Harry snuggled in his arms.

 

A soft smile graced Viktor’s lips.

 

‘That was the best sleep I’ve ever had.’

 


 

The next half-hour passed with little incident. After each finished their morning rituals, Harry and Viktor got changed and prepared themselves for the day ahead.

 

But both didn’t need to speak to understand that they were in for a literal shit-show when they made their presence at Hogwarts later. Despite what had happened in the Gryffindor common room the night before, Harry was still a student of Hogwarts. He still had to attend lessons and meals. Furthermore, they were both champions of the Triwizard Tournament, they both had to participate. There was no getting around it.

 

That was the main subject of discussion between the two seekers as they prepared to leave the room.

 

“You do know the whole school will not take kindly to me, and by association, you, right?” asked Harry.

 

“I’m avare,” Viktor nodded, buttoning up his fur-coat, “But I don’t give two fucks about vhat they think. I vill stay by your side no matter vhat. If anyone of them try to be funny, they vill face my vand, and a trip to the infirmary.”

 

“I appreciate the thought, Viktor,” Harry replied, “But you don’t have to go all spell-happy with them. I don’t want to get you into trouble.”

 

“Just trying to bear it vould not make them stop. In fact, they vill see it as you giving them permission to continue attacking,” Viktor countered, turning to Harry with a no-nonsense look, “They have taken advantage of you before, and they vill this time. Ve must show them that they cannot valk over us.”

 

Harry glanced to the side, “Just…don’t go overboard, okay?”

 

Little did Harry know just how quickly he would be eating those words.

 


 

As they left Viktor’s room, they encountered Klaus and Uliana in the corridor.

 

“Oh, Viktor, good mo-”

 

Klaus’ words died as he did a double-take, not expecting Harry at Viktor’s side.

 

“Harry? Vhat are you doing here?”

 

“It’s a long story,” Viktor growled, “Ve’ll tell you once Nicole and Anastazja joins us.”

 


 

 

“They did VHAT?!”

 

Once Nicolae and Anastazja joined them, and showed their surprise at seeing Harry on board the ship, Viktor led them up to the top deck. The seeker spilled the entire incident at the Gryffindor common room out for his friends to hear. Much to no one’s surprise, all four were incensed, but Harry was slightly taken aback by just how intense their anger was.

 

Klaus had gone absolutely pale and was shaking with rage. Nicolae looked like a volcano that was about to erupt. Uliana appeared ready hex the entire Gryffindor house to next Saturday, while Anastazja, who despite looking the calmest of the four, had a dark look on her face, and she appeared to be holding Uliana back from jumping off the ship and storming up to Hogwarts to deliver fiery justice.

 

“They kicked you out of your own house?!” Nicolae exclaimed, which Harry nodded forlornly.

 

“Anastazja let go of me!” Uliana shrieked, her accent sounding deadly with her anger, “Let me get my wand at them! I’ll give them hell to pay!”

 

“Everyone, it’s okay,” Harry interceded, raising his hands pleadingly, “Viktor already said that he’ll stay by me, to make sure no one tries to anything to me.”

 

“We’ll be by your side too,” Anastazja replied, “You have our support, Harry. Anyone meaning you harm will face our wands too.”

 

The Polish student’s words were met with nods and declarations of assent from the other three. Harry felt a little better, but he was unsure of what he would be facing once he stepped back into the castle.

 


 

 

The walk up to the Hogwarts castle was silent, and a little apprehensive. But it was Harry that was the source of the apprehension, his Durmstrang bodyguards were firm, unmoving in their role of keeping Harry safe, and ever-alert with their wands at the ready to fire spells at some miscreant out to cause trouble.

 

Professor Moody would be proud of their “constant vigilance”.

 

Harry felt Viktor’s hand reach across and give his shoulder a reassuring squeeze. Harry relaxed a little, as long as he stayed close to Viktor and his friends, he thought, the damage should be minimal.

 

They reached the Entrance Hall. Behind the wooden doors of the Great Hall, chatter could be heard, albeit indistinctly, echoing from the chamber within.

 

Harry released a shaky sigh. At Viktor’s nod of encouragement, he stepped forward, and pushed the doors open with all of his strength.

 

Despite the doors being rather heavy, they still made a significant noise from being pushed open, hitting the stone archway with a thud and the rattling of their metal parts. This caused all chatter in the Great Hall to cease. The students and staff, from all three schools, turned towards the door, invariably at the group of five Durmstrang students and one Harry Potter.

 

Harry steeled his expression into a blank one, though he was screaming inwardly at the attention. He could see the varied expressions from across the four house tables – calculating ones from the Slytherins, curious looks from the other Durmstrang students, appraising looks from the Ravenclaws, dismissive and/or angry ones from Beauxbatons, and the downright disgust, hatred and other negative emotions in the expressions of both Hufflepuff and Gryffindor students.

 

“Hey guys,” Klaus whispered so that only the group could hear, “let’s sit at the Gryffindor table to piss them off.”

 

The group nodded in agreement. Without saying a word, they trooped down from the doorway, and made their way to the lions’ table.

 

“Hey!” Ron’s voice broke the silence, “What the fuck do you think you are doing at our table?! Shove off!”

 

“Mr. Weasley! Twenty points from Gryffindor for you-” McGonagall scolded, but was cut off by Viktor raising his wand at the redhead.

 

Gasps echoed throughout the hall, as the seeker stared down a trembling Ron with the fiercest expression anyone had ever seen. Students stood up, trying to get a better view, while those close enough to see the action clearly were staring in complete shock. Even the staff, including Maxime and Karkaroff, were on their feet, wands at the ready should spells start flying. But even they were taken aback by Viktor’s rash action.

 

“Sit down, Veasley,” Viktor growled, “Unless you vant your big mouth shattered beyond repair.”

 

The tip of the seeker’s wand glowed ominously, with what appeared to be a bludgeoning hex at the ready. Ron quickly sat back down, cowering. Viktor’s eyes flashed, before turning his wand on the Gryffindor students sitting at the end of the table.

 

“Move.”

 

Not wanting to face the seeker’s wrath, the students, who were third-years, scooted away as fast as possible. Lowering his wand, Viktor nodded to Harry and his friends, before they took their places at the end of the table. Harry sat down between Viktor and Nicolae; Klaus, Anastazja and Uliana sitting opposite them. New sets of plates, utensils and goblets with pumpkin juice appeared before them, taking away the plates previously used by the third-year Gryffindors who were forced out, even though some of them haven’t finished their meal yet.

 

The group started eating, ignoring the looks they were getting. Slowly, conversation picked up again amongst the students, though the topic of discussion was Viktor’s actions. The staff too had sat back down, but were casting questioning glances. Dumbledore appeared to ask McGonagall something, and she responded with concerned confusion.

 

“Harry, vhat’s your first lesson today?” asked Viktor.

 

“History of Magic.”

 

“I’ll go vith you there.”

 

“Thanks, Viktor.”

 

The group finished their breakfasts, got up from the table, and left without a word. Meanwhile, two twin redheads, whose rather stupid younger brother almost had his jaw obliterated, glanced at one another, nodded, and quickly got up from the table too.

 


 

As part of their time at Hogwarts, the Beauxbatons and Durmstrang students were free to sit in on any of their Hogwarts’ counterparts’ lessons, with set schedules and timings for their own lessons to make up for the time lost due to the tournament.

 

Harry had described to Viktor about History of Magic classes as essentially free periods to catch up on one’s sleep. Not quite believing the implied sub-standard quality of an important subject, Viktor requested to sit in on one lesson with Harry to see it for himself.

 

So after bidding Viktor’s friends farewell, as they had plans to sit in on a seventh-year Herbology class, and giving reassurances that they will be able to hold out on their own, Harry and Viktor made their way through the first floor of the castle for the History of Magic classroom. They didn’t meet anyone along the way, but that quickly changed in an instant.

 

“Harry! Wait up! We need-”

 

“-to speak wi-”

 

The voices became screams, as Harry whirled around and fired a Stinging Hex at whoever it was that called out to him. Viktor was not far behind him, drawing his wand out to aid Harry in fending off the hecklers.

 

Which turned out to be Fred and George, the former clutching his arm where the hex had hit him, his brother frozen in surprise.

 

“What do you want?” Harry asked sharply, wand still raised.

 

Snapping out of his stupor, George quickly tried to do some damage-control.

 

“Harry! Wait! Hear us out!”

 

“W-We come in p-peace…” Fred added, wincing in pain.

 

Harry merely raised an eyebrow, Viktor’s scowl deepening.

 

“See? Here, we’re putting our wands down…”

 

True enough, the twins placed their wands on the ground, a sign of submission in wizarding culture. Harry and Viktor watched them warily, as the twins also raised their hands to show that they didn’t have any other weapons on them. Only then, Harry lowered his wand, but his gaze remained hard, emerald eyes glowing dangerously.

 

“And what is your purpose for calling me out?”

 

“Listen Harry, …” George began.

 

“… we just wanted to let you know…” Fred continued.

 

“…that we do not believe…”

 

“…you cheated to get your name into the Goblet.”

 

“And you have our undying support in this tournament, Harry!” the twins finished together.

 

Viktor lowered his wand. He and Harry shared a glance, before returning to the twins.

 

“If that is the case, vhere vere you two vhen your asshole of a brother and your house kicked Harry out last night?”

 

“We were in detention then!” Fred claimed.

 

“McGonagall caught us planning a prank on Snape,” George continued.

 

“We only found out what happened when we returned just before curfew…”

 

“…and discovered Ronniekins was in the hospital wing with a broken leg and nose…”

 

“…and serious bruising on his side and stomach.”

 

“The others told us what happened…”

 

“…but it was already curfew, and we didn’t know where you went, Harry.”

 

“But we were also disgusted…”

 

“…by what Ronniekins and the others did.”

 

“We wanted to deal with our stupid brother…”

 

“…but you beat us to it, Krum.”

 

“So please…”

 

“…believe us!”

 

“And please don’t hex us!” the twins finished together.

 

Harry and Viktor shared another glance. Viktor sent a questioning look, silently asking his friend if the twins’ story should be believed. Harry sent back a blank look, which satisfied Viktor’s question. Harry then stepped forward, wand in hand, towards Fred. Said Weasley twin flinched, thinking Harry’s going to hex him again.

 

Instead, Harry took Fred’s right arm, examining the swollen spot where the Stinging Hex had hit him. Harry pointed his wand at the reddish sore.

 

Episkey.”

 

The Healing charm washed over the sore, and the redness faded until unblemished skin was left behind.

 

“T-Thanks, Harry.”

 

“No problem, Fred.”

 

Releasing the arm, Harry stepped back to Viktor’s side, and addressed the twins together.

 

“Very well, I will give you two the benefit of the doubt. But be warned, Fred and George, if you stab my back just once, it will be more than just a Stinging Hex that I will throw at both of you, am I clear?”

 

“Yes, Mr. Potter, sir!” the twins replied in sync, even saluting like soldiers to their general.

 

With a nod, Harry and Viktor continued their way to History of Magic. But a few paces in, Harry stopped, and turned back towards the twins.

 

“Actually…Fred? George?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“If you’re going to deal with Ron, throw in a bit of mental trauma while you’re at it.”

 

The twins looked at one another, devious grins spreading their lips.

 

“We’ll keep your suggestion in mind, Harrykins.”

 

“Until next time then.”

 

With a wave, the twins went down the corridor in the opposite direction, leaving Harry and Viktor to move on their way.

 

“Are you sure you can trust them, Harry?”

 

“I’m giving them one chance, Viktor,” the fourth-year replied, adjusting his glasses, “But I think it's a chance they will cherish wholly.”

 


 

 

Harry had been right about the sub-standard teaching quality of History of Magic. Professor Binns’ monotonic droning about goblin rebellions sent both him and Viktor to sleep within the first three minutes of the lecture. Might as well, since it helped them ignore the ugly looks from other students at Harry.

 

The next lesson was Potions, and even that class was not lacking in terms of glares and malicious scoffs at Harry’s direction. But it didn’t progress any further than that, since Viktor stayed by Harry’s side and glared back at those who stared at his friend with less-than-pleasant intentions for more than a second. Viktor was also an immense help in keeping Snape and his sneering voice at bay. It seemed the potions master didn’t forget the nasty stinging hex Viktor had thrown at him in the antechamber. The greasy git pretended Harry didn’t exist, and only passed by once to evaluate the state of his potion. Finding no faults, since Viktor helped Harry throughout, Snape couldn’t say anything bad about it or Harry’s skills. He was even forced to give Harry a good grade when he submitted his potion at the end of the lesson.

 

Harry and Viktor spent the next few minutes after leaving the dungeons snickering about the constipated look on Snape’s face as he was forced to give his adversary’s son a good grade, which seemed like a fate worse than death for the greasy git.

 

Lunch was next. Here, Harry and Viktor met up with Klaus, Nicolae, Uliana and Anastazja at the Entrance Hall. Stepping into the Great Hall, the group took the same places at the end of the Gryffindor table, ignoring the glares from the lions.

 

The meal would have gone without incident, if not for a sudden scream further down the Gryffindor table.

 

“AHHHH!!!! NO! GET AWAY! GET AWAY!!!”

 

It was Ron. He leapt out of his seat, staggering back against the wall behind him. His face was ashen, eyes wide with fear, and his hands were swatting and slapping all over his body as if he was being attacked by thousands of mosquitoes.

 

His screams attracted the attention of everyone inside the hall. Food and drink were abandoned as all eyes were on the terrified redhead, who was now dancing about and slapping himself even harder. But the strange thing was, it looked like something was swarming over Ron, but there was nothing there.

 

At least, to everyone else, there was nothing. But to Ron, it was his worst nightmare multiplied by a hundred.

 

Spiders, small ones, but still spiders nonetheless, crawled and skittled out of literally everything. From under his plate, his goblet, the food platters, even the dips and crevices of the wooden table. The arachnids, to Ron’s horror, were scurrying towards him. Even when he leapt away from the table, the spiders followed, scaling down using their webs and scurrying across the floor. When his back hit the wall, the nightmare worsened.

 

The spiders swarmed him, climbing up his legs and all over his body, getting into his clothes, hair and pockets. Ron swatted and slapped away at the creatures, but there were too many of them, and they just kept coming, overwhelming him.

 

“GET THEM OFF! GET THEM OFF! GET THEM OFF!!!”

 

Ron screamed bloody murder for Merlin knows how long, until it came to an abrupt stop. His eyes rolled back, his knees buckled, and he collapsed onto the floor in a dead faint, frothing liberally at the mouth.

 

Professor McGonagall and Madam Pomfrey were immediately on the scene, as noises of confusion echoed throughout the hall. The school healer conjured up a stretcher and levitated a lifeless Ron onto it, as McGonagall questioned her lions on what caused the redhead to go completely berserk. Snape came by too, and sniffed Ron’s goblet for sabotage, but he couldn’t detect anything. Both professors spoke to each other in low tones, before quickly rushing out of the hall, following Madam Pomfrey who had already left with Ron for the hospital wing.

 

Silence reigned in the Great Hall for a moment, until Dumbledore stood up, clearing his throat.

 

“It seems that an unusual ailment has plagued Mr. Weasley,” the headmaster spoke genially, but with an edge of authority, “I will be leaving to visit him in the hospital wing right now. Let me assure you that a thorough investigation will be carried out as to find out the cause of his distress. In the mean time, carry on with your meal.”

 

Dumbledore stepped down from the staff table, as curious chatter started up amongst the students. Harry deliberately turned to Nicolae with a confused look to avoid catching the headmaster’s eyes as he walked past. The ruse worked, the Romanian student shrugged his shoulders, also clueless.

 

Things settled back into a confused normalcy. Further down the Gryffindor table, Harry caught sight of the twins, sneakily giving him thumbs-up signs. Harry returned the gesture with a discreet wink.

 


 

As Dumbledore had promised, an investigation was carried out, especially when Madam Pomfrey diagnosed Ron as under the influence of a hallucinogenic property. However, no potions were found in Ron’s system, and the “answer” came when it was revealed that one of the ingredients the Gryffindors had used in their potions class before lunch had a hallucinogenic side-effect if its vapors were inhaled after slicing them. Since it appeared to be the most plausible explanation, it was ruled that it was the redhead’s dismal potion-making skills that caused his psychological panic.

 

The truth of the matter, was a long shot from the official accepted reason. It was, naturally, the twins who were the culprits. But what they actually did left Harry and Viktor chortling for quite a while after the redheaded terrors had spilled the beans to them. The reason why McGonagall had sent them to detention the night before in the first place, was because she caught them discussing who they were going to prank with a potion that will make the victim hallucinate and experience their worst fears. The deputy headmistress might have caught them in the planning stages, but she hadn’t expected the twins to have already brewed the potion and hid it in Fred’s trunk under a stasis charm. Originally, as the twins mentioned, it was Snape who they wanted to prank at first. But after hearing what that idiot of a younger brother they had had done to Harry, their plans changed somewhat.

 

The twins had a free period before lunch, so they deliberately went to the Great Hall when there was no one there, but with the tables all set for lunch. They found Ron’s usual seat, and poured the potion into his juice-filled goblet. The great thing about this potion was that it was tasteless, odorless, and when it dissolved in a liquid medium, it couldn’t be traced by just about anyone, not even Snape. After lacing their brother’s drink with his worst fear, the twins innocently went back to their usual places and casually waited for more people to come by and for the sparks to fly after Ron ingests the potion.

 

To put it simply, even though no one could really prove it (other than Harry and Viktor), the prank was a roaring success.

 


 

Though what couldn’t be counted as a roaring success was the Slytherins’ attempt to humiliate Harry, one week after his name came flying out of the Goblet. Harry and Viktor were making their way down to the dungeons for potions, when they noticed most of the Slytherin fourth-years gathered outside of the potions lab, something pinned to the breast pocket of their robes.

 

Immediately, the two seekers had their guard up.

 

“Wands at the ready, Viktor.”

 

“Mm.”

 

Hands on their wands to whip them out at a moment’s notice, Harry and Viktor made their way towards the potions lab. They easily spotted Draco, who turned towards them with unfettered glee as he heard their footsteps.

 

“Potter! Just the person I wanted to see!”

 

“What do you want, ferret?” Harry asked monotonously, face carefully willed blank.

 

Viktor stifled a chuckle as Draco grimaced at his unpleasant experience of being transfigured into a half-ferret, half-octopus creature and slammed up and down, left, right and center in the Great Hall. That was quickly replaced with a smirk.

 

“Check this out!”

 

Draco pointed to the thing pinned to his robe’s breast pocket. Harry raised an eyebrow. It was a badge, circular in shape with the words – Support Cedric Diggory, the REAL Hogwarts Champion – in the middle.

 

“Wow, showing me your impressive badge-making skills, Malfoy, what else have you got to show? Your ability to transform into a peacock animagus? Because I think that will suit an arrogant, stuck-up prat like you quite well,” Harry replied sarcastically, this time Viktor failed to stop the chuckle from escaping.

 

If Draco had been insulted by the swipe at his character, he didn’t show it, “And that’s not all it shows! Just tap the badge here and…”

 

The blonde ponce tapped the badge, and the original words swirled into a different wording entirely. This time, the words said – Potter Stinks! – in the middle. The other Slytherin fourth-years followed suit, tapping their badges to change the wording.

 

“How do you like that, Potter?” Draco smirked, “I would say it's a very true representation of you, isn’t it?”

 

If Draco and his fellow Slytherins had been expecting a reaction from Harry, they would have been left thoroughly confused. Harry didn’t say anything, kept his eyebrow raised, and turned to Viktor, as if silently asking what the Bulgarian seeker thought of this situation.

 

Viktor turned to Harry, an ominous shimmer flashing across his dark eyes, before muttering, “Viktor yes?”

 

Harry replied in a heartbeat, “Viktor yes.”

 

Both nodded, and with speeds that clearly showed their prowess as seekers, they drew their wands, and fired two Banishing charms at Draco.

 

The blonde ponce had no time to react as he was magically thrown backwards, slamming hard into Crabbe, Goyle, and an unknown Slytherin before they all fell to the floor in a heap. Shocked gasps echoed from those still standing, and wands were quickly drawn in retaliation.

 

That was when shit hit the fan.

 

Spells of all kinds flew back and forth along the corridor in an almighty free-for-all. Harry and Viktor fought ruthlessly, firing stinging hexes, cutting charms, bludgeoning hexes, low-powered Blasting hexes, and other offensive spells at the Slytherins. Their lightning-fast reflexes enabled them to dodge spells casted by the snakes in green, and simultaneously fire back spells of their own. It was the Quidditch World Cup final all over again. In the confusion, some Slytherins accidentally struck spells on their own housemates, giving momentary distractions to allow the two seekers to finish them off quickly.

 

Amidst the chaos and screaming, Snape had burst out of the lab to see what the commotion was.

 

“WHAT ARE YO-”

 

Snape was cut off mid-shout when Harry unwittingly sent a high-powered stinging hex at him, striking the greasy git in the same area where Viktor had struck him back in the antechamber. Snape collapsed in pain, only to get hit by a stray stunner on the forehead and fall to the floor in a lifeless heap.

 

The entire hullabaloo lasted no more than five minutes. By the end of it, only Viktor and Harry remained standing, breathing hard, and sporting only superficial cuts. All the fourth-year Slytherins, and one Snape, were on the ground, either unconscious, or too much in pain to get up. Draco was lying, semi-conscious, with ugly orange-colored boils erupting from his pale face, some of which had already burst and oozing some foul-smelling liquid.

 

“Well…I haven’t had this much of a workout ever since the World Cup when I was blowing apart Death Eaters,” Harry remarked nonchalantly, straightening his back.

 

Viktor froze, and slowly turned to his friend.

 

“You…blew apart…Death Eaters?” the Bulgarian seeker asked slowly.

 

“Well, yeah,” Harry responded as if it was the most obvious answer in the world, “it’s either I attack them or get killed by them. Although in hindsight, being blown to smithereens doesn’t sound like a nice way to go.”

 

Viktor paled slightly, “And…how many?”

 

“I think it was five?” Harry guessed, counting his fingers, “I know I definitely blew one apart saving an Auror, and I do know one of the three that were attacking you was killed, but it was the cutting charm that did it. The other three…I’m not sure, but I do remember hearing explosions, so perhaps.”

 

Viktor looked ready to join the Slytherins and Snape on the floor. Just when he thought Harry couldn’t get any more badass, after rescuing him from an early death and hearing the boy’s death-defying adventures during his earlier Hogwarts years, he just turns around and casually mentions blowing apart bigoted terrorists like how one would casually comment about something they’ve read in the local paper.

 

“Merlin’s beard! What happened here?!”

 

Harry and Viktor turned around, seeing the former’s (traitorous) classmates staring at the Slytherins and Snape on the ground in complete shock. Color immediately returned to Viktor’s face as he scowled, and Harry gave them a cold look, especially seeing that the lions were wearing that cursed Support Cedric Diggory badges.

 

“Nothing that is of your business, but let’s just say Potions class is canceled for today,” Harry said coolly, before turning to Viktor, “Shall we pop by the library? Maybe we can find some clues about the first task.”

 

“Ve can do that. But first…”

 

Viktor casted a silent summoning charm over the fallen Slytherins. The badges were ripped from their robes, collecting them in his hand. Viktor transfigured a stray piece of broken wall-stone into a bag, put the badges into it, and turned his wand on the Gryffindors, who backed away a bit in fear. The same summoning charm was used, and the badges were ripped away from the lions too, some shouting indignantly as the badges disappeared into the bag. Harry looked at the bag with a raised eyebrow.

 

“Proof of bullying, ve’re going to have a little chat vith your headmaster,” Viktor explained in a low, dangerous voice, shrinking the bag and putting it into his pocket.

 

Harry nodded, turning away from his former housemates and leaving the dungeons, Viktor by his side.

 


 

As it turned out, the fourth-year snakes and lions were not the only ones with the badges. On the way to Dumbledore’s office, the pair noticed more Hogwarts students, a good mixture of all four houses, wearing those badges in an attempt to insult Harry. This fueled Viktor’s anger, who wasted no time in magically ripping the badges out from robes, any indignant or angry shouting silenced immediately with a warning from his drawn wand. He even ripped the badges from a group of Hufflepuffs surrounding Cedric, much to the champion’s astonishment.

 

After confiscating the badges from Susan Bones and Hannah Abbott, they eventually reached the gargoyle statue leading up to Dumbledore’s office. Viktor by then looked ready to kill someone.

 

“Oh yeah, you need the correct password before it grants us entrance,” said Harry.

 

“To hell vith passvords,” Viktor snarled, as he drew his wand again and aimed it at the statue, a full-powered blasting hex at the tip of his tongue.

 

The gargoyle, fearful for its continued existence, immediately revealed the winding stairs leading up to the office proper. Lowering his wand, Viktor glared at the cowering statue before joining Harry in making his way up. They reached the door of the office, but instead of knocking, Viktor kicked it open with a loud bang, startling the portraits of the former headmasters and headmistresses from whatever they were doing.

 

Ignoring their affronted shouts, Viktor stormed into the office, Harry by his side. They made their way up to a surprised Dumbledore and a rather ruffled Fawkes, who was also startled by the door slamming open.

 

“Goodness, Mr. Krum, Harry, whatever happened that warranted such an explosive entrance?”

 

“This,” Viktor growled, pulling out the shrunken bag and enlarging it, “is vhat happened.”

 

The Bulgarian seeker opened the bag, and unceremoniously emptied it of every single Potter Stinks badge that he had forcefully ripped from the robes of students all the way from the dungeons to the office where they were at now onto Dumbledore’s desk.

 

The senile, old goat stared in surprise at the badges. He picked one up, examining the words Potter Stinks on it like a historian with old texts. Dumbledore tapped it with his finger tentatively, watching with raised eyebrows as the words reverted back to Support Cedric Diggory.

 

“May I know how you came across these badges, Mr. Krum?”

 

“Those fucking bigoted bastards you call Slytherins had these on, as vell as almost every single other Merlin-forsaken student that ve’ve seen on the vay up here! I refuse to allow people to bully Harry in such any sort of manner, and as headmaster, you should be dealing vith this!” Viktor replied sharply.

 

Dumbledore blinked, before he put on a grandfatherly smile and the twinkling in his eyes went up a notch.

 

“Now, now, Mr. Krum, I think we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. I understand that emotions are running high thanks to Mr. Potter’s name unexpectedly coming out of the goblet, but don’t you think that it is too extreme to deal with petty disagreements like this? I’m sure everything will be sorted out very quickly without the need for harsh intervention.”

 

Viktor’s response was his temper erupting. Harry watched with widened eyes as his friend drew his wand on Dumbledore, just as all the windows and anything made of glass in the office exploded with an almighty shatter. Dumbledore himself nearly lost control of his bowels, finding himself held at wandpoint.

 

“Listen here, you motherfucking senile old bastard,” Viktor growled so dangerously Harry briefly wondered if a demon had possessed his friend, “this is NOT. A. PETTY. DISAGREEMENT!”

 

Viktor swung his wand to his left, a red light blasting out and sailing towards one of the blown-out cabinets. The contraptions unlucky to be in the spell’s path exploded into dust upon impact. Dumbledore was still struck stupid by the sudden escalation, not even reacting to his possessions getting destroyed.

 

“YOUR STUDENTS ARE HARASSING HARRY FOR SOMETHING THAT YOU SHOULD HAVE INTERVENED IN A LONG TIME AGO! ARE YOU EVEN THAT SENILE TO BELIEVE THAT AN UNDERAGE VIZARD LIKE HARRY CAN OUTSMART A MAGICAL ARTIFACT?! THIS SORT OF BEHAVIOR IS NOT ONLY APPALLING, BUT IT BLATANTLY SHOWS YOU AND YOUR STAFF HAVE TOTAL DISREGARD FOR YOUR STUDENTS’ ACTIONS AND SHAMELESSLY LET THEM GET AWAY VITH THEIR DISGUSTING BULLYING! AND ALL BECAUSE OF WHAT? FAME?! ETERNAL GLORY?! A THOUSAND GALLEONS?!”

 

It’s a good thing Harry casted a noise-reducing charm around himself, because Merlin, can Viktor shout extremely loud! He certainly didn’t feel sorry for Dumbledore for having to bear the wrath of his friend.

 

As for Viktor, he took a long breath to steady himself after nearly shouting his lungs out at the senile old goat. Even then, he wasn’t finished, nor had his anger receded.

 

“You had better deal vith those students by tonight. Othervise, your little trinkets von’t be the only ones reduced to dust.”

 

“M-Mister Krum…” Dumbledore stuttered.

 

“Shut your mouth, Dumblefucker,” Viktor snarled, turning his wand back on the old wizard, “Your negligence and your staff’s incompetence have caused damage for far too long! You’ve forced Harry, a boy vho should be enjoying his teenage years, into life-threatening situations year after year. Now not only does he have this farce of a tournament on his shoulders, but you’ve basically given everyone in this Merlin-forsaken school free reign to call him a liar! Now, you have one chance to do something right in all your fucking years as headmaster, so you better take it, because there vill be no more chances after this!”

 

Viktor finally withdrew his wand from Dumbledore’s nose, as Harry released the breath he had been holding. Viktor huffed in frustration, and turned away from the headmaster sharply, stepping back to Harry and leading him away from the old goat.

 

“Let’s head to the library, Harry, I don’t vish to deal vith anyone else now.”

 

“Alright, just take deep breaths, Viktor. Deep breaths…”

 

The two seekers left the office, Viktor slamming the door hard behind them. Dumbledore sat frozen at his desk, still recovering from being shouted at and almost having his beard cut off by an irate Quidditch celebrity. Fawkes, on the other wing, recovered much faster, shaking his head in disappointment at his owner’s actions. Even the portraits were clicking their tongues at Dumbledore.

 

“Fate has really come around to hit you in the arse, hasn’t it, Albus?” one random headmaster asked rhetorically in deep condescension.

 


 

Viktor’s explosive diatribe appeared to have worked. At dinner that evening, Dumbledore interrupted the meal, announcing wearily that those who had worn the badges were to serve detentions that night, and for each badge worn per student, ten points were to be taken from their respective houses. Harry watched, intrigued, as all four houses’ hour-glasses emptied. Slytherin was hit the worst, followed by Gryffindor and Hufflepuff. Only Ravenclaw house escaped the fate of having their points drop below negative, but they were dangerously close to zero, nonetheless.

 

‘Still,’ Harry thought as he returned to his steak, ignoring the glares from pretty much the entire Hogwarts student population, ‘at least they now have a good shot at winning the House Cup this year.’

 

The days that followed was like a tense armistice. Nobody wore those badges anymore, but there were no shortage of glares and sneers aimed at Harry or Viktor. Likewise, the two seekers didn’t have to hex anyone for trying to be funny, for despite their glares, virtually everyone was too afraid of crossing their path, and Viktor dealt with the haters using his own deadly scowl.

 

The Weasley twins seemed to be the only ones amused by the whole incident. As they told Harry in the corridor the next morning, their actions alone have never caused Gryffindor to slide into the negative before, and they have lost the house a lot of points in their years at the school. They congratulated Harry on setting a new record, though the fourth-year merely pointing at Viktor, as the main catalyst behind the slump.

 

Another good thing of having virtually the entire school darting out of their paths, was the peace much-needed for Harry and Viktor to try and deduce the first task of the tournament. Their trips to the library, though, weren’t exactly fruitful. Any books or articles about the Triwizard Tournament they found only seemed to primarily talk about the high death rate. One such tournament, the seekers discovered, saw all three champions, and a good number of innocent spectators, killed when an enlarged Acromantula that was used in the final task went completely berserk and went on a murderous rampage.

 

Fruitless research aside, another aspect of the tournament soon presented itself with the opportunity for Viktor to continue his spell-happy moments.

 


 

 

One week after the day that would go down in Hogwarts history as the “Great House-Points Fallout of 1994”, in Potions class, it was business as usual. Business being that Harry was still being glared at by his classmates.

 

“You’d think their facial muscles would have cramped up by now,” Harry confided to Viktor before the start of the lesson.

 

Harry got through the lesson pretty smoothly, thanks to Viktor who guided him through the objectives and kept a look-out for anyone trying to start trouble. Already, the Bulgarian seeker had stopped two would-be sabotage attempts on their potion, taking a hidden pleasure in chucking the objects back at whoever threw them, each time smacking them in the head.

 

Halfway through the lesson, several knocks echoed from the door.

 

“Enter,” Snape called out imperiously.

 

The door opened, and a third-year Gryffindor, whom Harry remembered to be Colin Creevey, poked his head inside.

 

“Yes?”

 

“Um…s-sorry about the interruption,” Colin stuttered.

 

“What is it, Mr. Creevey?” asked Snape with a sneer.

 

“Krum and Potter are needed right now, Professor Snape,” the mousy-haired third year managed to reply.

 

“Can this wait?” Snape countered disdainfully.

 

“I-I’m afraid not, Professor,” Colin shook his head, “It’s to do with the tournament. The other two champions are waiting.”

 

Seeing as he has no other choice, Snape nodded dourly. He turned his gaze over to Harry and Viktor, and jerked his head to the door impatiently. Harry packed away his potions kit, while Viktor applied a charm over the cauldron, which made the bubbling potion appear to freeze in time, some of the bubbles even stopping mid-burst.

 

When Harry raised an eyebrow, Viktor replied, “Modified stasis charm. So that no one can tamper vith it.”

 

Nodding, Harry vacated his seat, Viktor close behind. They paid no attention to the eyes following them as they left the lab, and joined Colin outside.

 

Wherever they were going, the walk was filled with a tense awkwardness. Even though Viktor acted as a barrier between them, Harry instinctually knew that Colin was in an uneasy spot. He remembered his junior getting really excited around him with his camera, being the Boy-Who-Lived and all that. But after what had happened over the past weeks, Harry was convinced that Colin’s opinion about him has definitely become questionable.

 

But then again, Harry had already stopped caring about others’ opinions about him. So why should he bother with the perceptions of an overly-excited fanboy?

 

After about ten minutes, Colin stopped at an innocuous classroom door. A single, curt nod was all Harry and Viktor needed to know that whatever tournament business this was, it was held in this classroom.

 

Without so much of glance at the third-year Gryffindor, Harry pushed the door open, and the two seekers stepped inside.

 


 

True enough, it was a classroom waiting inside for them. Or…a classroom that had all the furniture removed, leaving just a barren room, save for one table and a chair in the middle.

 

Fleur and Cedric were milling about, waiting for something to happen. Madame Maxime and Karkaroff were standing off to the side, a noticeable gap between the two. Ludo Bagman was here too, talking to a witch that left Viktor immediately gripping his wand, ready to strike. A man with a camera that looked like it belonged in the Victorian times stood next to the witch.

 

Ludo turned to the two seekers, “Ah! There you two are. Good, good, everyone’s now here. Oh! Before I forget, this is Rita Skeeter, reporter for the Daily Prophet. She’s here with her cameraman to cover the tournament.”

 

“Of course,” Rita replied, eyeing Harry like a hungry dog to a steak, “After all, it’s not everyday that we see the Boy-Who-Lived in action.”

 

Harry’s face remained carefully blank, though inwardly, he knew this woman was not someone he wanted to be associated with.

 

“Vhat are ve here for, Bagman?” asked Viktor stoically.

 

“Oh yes! Since everyone’s now present, we can begin with the wand-weighing…”

 

“Wand…weighing?” Harry repeated with a confused lift of an eyebrow.

 

“To ensure that all of your wands are in working order, of course. We can’t have them failing during any of the tasks!” said Ludo jovially, “Which reminds me, I should fetch Dumbledore and Ollivander over…”

 

“You’d do that, Mr. Bagman,” Rita cut in, “In the mean time, I suppose nobody would mind if I borrow Mr. Potter here for a quick moment. After all, I’m sure our readers want to know what has been happening so far…”

 

The reporter made a move to take Harry’s arm into her grip, when suddenly, she had a wand pointed right at her face.

 

“I do mind, Skeeter,” Viktor growled, “I know vhat your intentions are, and I refuse to allow you to drag Harry’s name into the mud as you’ve done for so many others!”

 

Rita looked stunned for a moment, but she quickly recovered, putting on a charm-offensive.

 

“Oh there’s nothing to worry about, Mr. Krum!” she gushed, not noticing the tip of Viktor’s wand beginning to glow, “I’m just curious, as with the public, about young Mr. Potter’s thoughts about being selected for the tourna-”

 

Rita was cut off from her excuses, as she was hit in the forehead by a powerful stunner that shot from Viktor’s wand like a bullet. Harry watched, blank expression still in place, as the reporter crumpled to the floor in a heap. The fourth-year vaguely heard a scream from behind - probably Fleur - as the cameraman stormed up to them.

 

“Oi! What do you think you’re-”

 

Viktor fired another stunner, the cameraman keeling backwards in a dead faint and joining his colleague on the floor.

 

Stunned silence followed. Everyone (save Harry, who merely gave Viktor a thumbs-up) stared at the brutality that just unfurled right in front of their eyes. Even Ludo, who had just been re-entering the room with Dumbledore and a certain Diagon Alley wandmaker, was struck dumb after witnessing Viktor hit the cameraman with the stunner.

 

“V-Viktor!” Karkaroff was the first to find his voice, “What in Merlin’s name are you doing?!”

 

The Bulgarian seeker lowered his wand, and calmly turned to his headmaster, “The Skeeter bitch had no right to approach Harry, and the cameraman vanted to attack us. I vas just doing vhat vas expected of me.”

 

Silence greeted the seeker’s response. Ludo cleared his throat to clear the awkwardness in the air.

 

“W-Well…um…now then, shall we move on with the ceremony?”


 

To Be Continued.


 

Chapter Text

The wand-weighing ceremony was, honestly, nothing really much to go by. The entire thing involved Ollivander having a look at each of the champions’ wands, talk some drivel that Harry honestly couldn’t be too bothered with, and casting a spell to ensure that the wand was in working order.

 

There was also supposed to be a photo-taking session immediately afterwards…but when Dumbledore moved to have both Rita and her cameraman revived, Harry and Viktor turned on their heel and left the classroom as a sign of their disapproval.

 

As far as they were concerned, the mindless sheep that were the people of magical Britain can wait a bit longer for their news on the happenings of the Tri-Wizard Tournament.

 


 

The next week passed with a pretty standard routine. Harry and Viktor divided their time searching for more clues about the first task (which was slowing down, since, as usual, any source of information about the tournament not so much talked about the tasks, more so about the high casualty rate), lessons (Harry skipped useless crap like Divination to join Viktor in one of the supplementary lessons on board the Durmstrang ship), and just spending time together in general.

 

Still, the main problem persisted. They had no idea what the first task was, or what it would entail.

 

Harry, in all honesty, was getting frustrated. After pushing aside the latest book to turn up nothing useful, he turned to Viktor, who was sitting next to him in the library.

 

“Found anything, Viktor?”

 

“Nope,” the seeker shook his head, putting down the book in his hands, “Vhat is it vith all of them alvays talking about the deaths?”

 

“People are bloodthirsty, Viktor,” Harry responded, “Call it human nature, but I think people love to see blood being spilt when it comes to entertainment.”

 

Viktor nodded. They had already gone through a good thirty-three books, not one of them providing any clue, or at very least, a pattern that would point them in the right direction of finding out a clue.

 

It was all very nerve-wracking, and stressful.

 

“Hey, dinner’s in about fifteen minutes, fancy a walk around the lake after that?” asked Harry.

 

“I could do vith some fresh air,” Viktor agreed, rising to put the books back.

 

Dinner was pretty much standard affair. Giving their excuses to Viktor’s friends, the two seekers left the Great Hall, cut through the entrance hall, and stepped out into the grounds.

 

The sun was almost gone, the last vestiges of orange and red in the sky shifting into purple, dark blues, and black as the night slowly took its turn to rule over the land. It was well into November, the month where autumn shifts to winter. Even without any wind, the air was still cold from the falling temperatures. Harry quickly applied a warming charm over himself and Viktor.

 

They reached the lake in no time at all. There was nobody about, all hidden away in the warm comfort of the Great Hall or somewhere else in the castle. The disappearing sun reflected on the crystal surface of the lake, mirroring its reflection of another illusionary world behind the glass. The silhouettes of the trees making up the Forbidden Forest and the masts of the Durmstrang ship added shadows of darkness to the myriad of colors in the sky.

 

Harry and Viktor came to a single willow tree along the edge of the lake, its mournful branches and leaves trailing the water’s surface, as if it was a lost soul, trying to find the purpose of life after a great trauma.

 

The two seekers sat down by the tree’s roots. Gazing out, they watched the leaves wave slightly against the fading daylight, the water rippling around the leaves that pierced its crystal surface. No words were needed to be spoken, silence and tranquility were what was needed after a day of activity and mental strain.

 

Harry felt all of the pent-up energy from the day fade away from his body. It was just so peaceful, sitting by the edge of the lake with the last of the sun disappearing below the horizon, letting the darkness of night roll into the world. The simple act, of watching beautiful scenery in a quiet twilight may be seen as boring and pointless to a good many of us, but for Harry, he cherished it.

 

This moment was a singular rarity for Harry, his whole life up until this point being centred around just trying to survive. His childhood ended prematurely, he was never allowed to enjoy the simple pleasures of life…he wasn’t allowed to be a normal person, for once.

 

But then he met Viktor, at the height of another extraordinary event in his life. His friendship with the Bulgarian seeker opened Harry’s eyes to the world of normality that so many of us take advantage of, but for him, he had never seen before.

 

It eased him, he felt light. The very air around him seemed to smooth over him, throwing away burdens, concerns, worries and fears.

 

And he had to thank Viktor for that.

 

It seems ironic the person who introduced him to such normality, where one could live in the moment and forget about their worries, was not the Dursleys, for all their shite about being ‘normal’, nor any of his former friends or people who he once trusted, but a fellow celebrity; a Quidditch star, who had his own loads and baggage to carry upon his shoulders.

 

But looking back on their moments together – now, sitting by the Great Lake in the twilight, studying together in the library, hexing the shite out of those who crossed their paths, writing letters to one another before this whole pile of dragon-dung that is the tournament exploded in their faces – Harry wouldn’t have wished for anything else.

 

His friendship with Viktor had opened a world to Harry that he is now embracing without any care of anything else. And…if he went by his heart, he hoped Viktor and him could become more than friends one day.

 

As for Viktor, he too was thinking on the concept of normality, but in a different manner. Unlike Harry, whose life was in danger ever since Voldemort was vanquished, the worst he had to fear was falling off his broom at a great height. Sure, he might die, but it was highly unlikely with his training. To be constantly thrown between being adored and being hated by a society that didn’t deserve the likes of Harry Potter, and facing life-threatening situations year after year, Viktor knew he wouldn’t last one week in his friend’s position.

 

Also, Viktor learnt that Harry, which stories claimed to be an all-powerful warrior who faced down danger and death with a smirk, really was just an exhausted teenager, tired with the constant threats to his life, fed-up with everyone’s constantly changing opinions about him, angry at being manipulated and used for others’ gains. Harry, the boy, just wanted to be an ordinary lad who could focus on living in the moment, and not worry about possibly dying an early death.

 

Viktor was only too happy to help. Glancing at the boy sitting next to him, it had been a good decision to propose a friendship between them. Their moments spent together, bar any use of magic, have been moments worth cherishing. Viktor enjoyed being with Harry…and perhaps…someday…

 

The Bulgarian seeker glanced down at the distance between his hand and Harry’s smaller one. Harry was still staring out towards the lake, oblivious. A faint blush spread across Viktor’s cheeks, and his stomach churned with apprehension.

 

His hand inched towards Harry’s, closing the distance slowly and inconspicuously. Only a few more inches, and he would make physical contact with Harry. Viktor felt his heartbeat quickening, so close…so close…almost there…

 

*ROOOOAAAARRRRRR!!!!!!!*

 

Both seekers jumped. Viktor immediately pulled his hand away, slightly disappointed and frustrated about not being able to hold Harry’s hand, but the reflex against danger quelled any of those thoughts as he drew his wand.

 

Harry too, had his wand out.

 

“What was that?” muttered the bespectacled Hogwarts student, looking around.

 

“I’m not sure,” Viktor replied, dark eyes scanning for any unwanted visitors, “But it sounded like…”

 

*ROOOOAAAARRRRRR!!!!!!!*

 

Another roar shook the air, followed by an almighty blast of fire shooting up from somewhere in the trees of the Forbidden Forest.

 

Seeing the fire, Viktor’s stomach twisted. As far as he knew, only type of creature could shoot fire of such intensity and strength. But he refused to believe the loud voice screaming in his head.

 

“Viktor, let’s go see what is it,” Harry’s voice brought him back to reality, “I have my Invisibility Cloak with me, we can go in without being spotted.”

 

Admittedly, Viktor was unsure of whether it was a good idea to go exploring in the Forbidden Forest, at any point of the day for that matter. But his thoughts changed when he noticed two towering figures enter the forest some distance away.

 

“Hey Harry, is that your care of magical creatures professor, Hagrid?”

 

Harry squinted, “Hey, you’re right! It is Hagrid! And…Madame Maxime?”

 

“Vhat are they doing, going into the forest?”

 

“I’m not sure, but if we follow them, maybe they’ll lead us to whatever made those roaring noises?”

 

“Ve better hurry then, before ve lose them.”

 

Harry quickly dug out the invisibility cloak, and threw over themselves, disappearing from view completely. It took a bit of getting used to, but the pair eventually found a pace they were comfortable with, and quickly headed to the forest where Hagrid and Maxime had just disappeared into.

 

The two seekers maintained a safe distance from the two half-giants, going deeper into the forest. There were more roaring noises, and what appeared to be flashes of yellow and orange lighting up the trees. The roars were much louder now, and it seemed to be much warmer at wherever they were going than outside back by the lake.

 

Soon, Hagrid and Maxime appeared to arrive at a clearing of some kind. Harry and Viktor hid behind a tree a few meters behind. What they saw in the clearing, and the sources of the roars and fires, made Harry curse under his breath.

 

“Oh by Merlin’s wrinkled arse…”

 

It was dragons. Four humongous, ferocious looking dragons, behind a reinforced barrier to keep them from escaping and causing unthinkable destruction. They appeared greatly agitated, roaring loudly and spewing bursts of fire everywhere. What appeared to be the handlers were running about, trying to calm the beasts and avoid getting turned to cinders at the same time.

 

“Are they fucking serious?” Harry heard Viktor swear behind him, “They are expecting us to fight dragons?!”

 

Harry shared the same sentiment, this was beyond insane. How could they expect three barely of-age wizards (and one underage wizard, himself) to take on dragons?!

 

Hagrid and Maxime were watching the dragons in awe. Hagrid, in particular, appeared to want to get closer, but one of the handlers was shouting at him to stay back.

 

One of the dragons blew another burst of flames, which allowed Harry to see the face of that particular handler. He recognized the familiar red hair, tied into a short ponytail, from his time at the Burrow.

 

It was Charlie Weasley, Ron’s older brother.

 

More roars reverberated, turning Harry’s attention away from Charlie. The handlers were now throwing stunners one after another at the dragons. This time, it appeared to work in sedating the four beasts. One by one, the towering reptiles collapsed to the ground with earth-trembling crashes, the handlers running about with ropes to secure the dragons to the ground.

 

Even if they were meant to be a safety measure for both dragon and humans, Harry felt a stab in his heart seeing the dragons being tied down. This was beyond cruel in Harry’s books. He thought, how could they force such magnificent beasts against their wills and their emotions? While undoubtedly dangerous, by forcing them down, it would only just anger the dragons further! How could these handlers be so ignorant?!

 

One dragon, in particular, one with black scales, scary-looking horns and spikes running from its head down to its tail, and appearing to be the biggest of the four, captured Harry’s attention. Its yellow eyes appeared to dart furiously at being tied down. Then, Harry flinched, as the eyes hovered over to where he and Viktor were hiding.

 

Harry barely heard Charlie describing the type of dragon that was currently staring at him, and Viktor’s horrified cuss at the name.

 

“…the one with the black scales is a Hungarian Horntail…”

 

For an indiscernible amount of time, Harry and the Horntail shared a connected gaze. The initial fear of having what was likely the most dangerous of the four dragons had been dashed away, replaced with a strange, unknown feeling that stirred, sending electric tingles from the very depth of Harry’s soul to every nerve ending in his body. The great yellow eyes of the Horntail didn’t appear menacing, instead they were…curious? It was as if the dragon was scrutinising the area where Harry was hidden under the cloak. Harry, like Hagrid earlier, had the strange impulse to approach the Horntail, but he was shaken out of his trance by Viktor shaking his shoulder.

 

“Ve should go…”

 

The connection broken, Harry blinked, eyes darting left and right. The Horntail appeared to have noticed too, as it started thrashing against the restraints, roaring ferociously. The ropes holding the dragon down snapped one by one, followed by shouting as the handlers tried to control the menacing beast. As the Horntail blasted more fire into the night sky, Viktor quickly led Harry away from the clearing, barely missing Karkaroff who had also come by to see the dragons for himself.

 


 

 

“They are out of their fucking minds!”

 

Harry sat on the loveseat, quietly watching Viktor rant. The fourth-year understood his irate friend perfectly, if the first task really required them to fight those dragons, it was essentially being given the death sentence. A death, albeit quick, was not one Harry personally wanted to be destined towards.

 

But at the same time, Harry was perturbed by the strange feeling enveloping him when he made eye-contact with the Horntail. What was that, he wondered. He couldn’t wrap his mind around the whole thing, unable to come up with a rational possibility that could explain the phenomenon.

 

A sigh and the loveseat sinking slightly snapped Harry out of his thoughts. Viktor had dropped himself on the space next to him, a frustrated look marring his face.

 

“What can we do then, Viktor?”

 

“Ve need to be proficient in our most poverful spells in order to stand any chance.”

 

“Does the ship have a big enough room to conduct practices?”

 

“Unfortunately no,” Viktor shook his head, “And ve vill most likely sink the ship if ve are not careful.”

 

Harry sighed, “Is there a room in Hogwarts that we can use for spellwork?”

 

That was mostly for himself, until something popped into the cabin.

 

“Master Harry Potter, sir!”

 

“Dobby?”

 

 The house-elf, wearing mismatching socks and with one light-blue sock dangling from his right ear, bounced excitedly in front of the two seekers.

 

“What are you doing here?”

 

“Dobby be hearing Masters Harry Potter and Krum needing a room to practice spells for this bad, bad tournament! And Dobby is be knowing the perfect room for that!”

 

“You do?” Viktor perked up.

 

“Yes, Master Krum sir,” Dobby nodded, “We house-elves call it the “Come-and-Go” room, but wizards be calling it the “Room of Requirement”. It be a room that transforms into anything you desire.”

 

“Can you show us this room, Dobby?” asked Harry.

 

“Oh Dobby is be honoured to fulfil Master Harry Potter sir’s request!” the elf squealed, “Master Harry Potter and Master Krum just be holding Dobby’s hands, we be there in a jiffy!”

 

Both seekers got up from the loveseat, and each took one of house-elf’s hands, bending down significantly to compensate for the height difference. A flash of light burst from Dobby’s body, lighting up the entire cabin. Harry felt himself being apparated away, like as if traveling through the floo, which admittedly wasn’t a very pleasant experience for him.

 

The light faded away, leaving behind a cabin devoid of its human occupants.

 


 

 

On the seventh floor of the Hogwarts castle, in the corridor with the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy attempting to teach trolls ballet, a bright light flashed as suddenly as a supernova. The light shimmered and faded away quickly, revealing Harry, Viktor and Dobby.

 

Harry stumbled a bit, “Ugh…”

 

“You alright, Harry?” asked Viktor.

 

“I’m fine,” Harry nodded, straightening up, “It’s just that apparation that resembles floo rides and my system don’t go hand in hand…”

 

“Oh dear, Master Harry Potter sir is not being well,” said Dobby, “Should Dobby pop by the infirmary to get Master Harry Potter a nausea potion?”

 

“It’s okay, Dobby, just give me a few moments.”

 

Harry stood straight, swallowing to keep the bile in his stomach down. A few deep breaths in, exhaled, and his nausea was settled.

 

“Okay, I’m better now,” said Harry, “So where’s this room, Dobby?”

 

“The room is being in this corridor, Master Harry Potter sir,” Dobby replied, “But first, both Masters Harry Potter and Krum need to think clearly of what they want.”

 

“Think of vhat ve vant?” Viktor repeated.

 

“Yes, Master Krum sir,” Dobby nodded, “And while doing so, you must walk past the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy three times exactly!”

 

Viktor and Harry glanced at one another, their minds running in sync. Viktor addressed his friend, “Vhy don’t you give it a shot, Harry?”

 

The fourth-year nodded, stepping away from Dobby and Viktor. He stood in the middle of the corridor, released a breath, and formed his request in his head.

 

‘We need a room to practice spells…we need a room to practice spells…’

 

At the same time, he walked up and down the corridor, past the tapestry, exactly three times. On the third time, Harry felt a pulse of magic emanate from behind the tapestry. To his surprise, the tapestry appeared to roll upwards like a screen, exposing a door that Harry wasn’t quite sure if it was there all along or it had magically appeared.

 

“Do I open it?” Harry asked Dobby.

 

The house-elf nodded vigorously. Harry gingerly approached the door, laid his hand on it, and gave it a push. The door swung open easily, and Harry peeked inside.

 

“By Merlin’s beard…”

 

Viktor and Dobby came to the doorway too. The former got his first glance of the room behind the door, and he was left speechless.

 

The room was enormous. It resembled the inside of a Christian cathedral, but it so vast that it looked like it could fit two cathedrals and still have some space left over. The vaulted ceiling went way higher that what would be expected had it not been due to magic. Though almost immediately, Harry noticed the differences between the room and a cathedral. There was no altar, no organ at one end, and no rows of pews. It was just a vast, empty, vaulted room made out of stone, with torches burning on the walls, and what looked like mannequins standing in a neat row across from Harry.

 

“Does Master Harry Potter and Master Krum find the room suitable?” asked Dobby.

 

Harry took a moment to find his tongue, “What are those mannequins over there, Dobby?”

 

“Dobby is be thinking that those are dummies for target practice,” the house-elf replied.

 

“Really? That’s perfect then! Thanks a lot Dobby!”

 

Dobby’s eyes widened, and tears started pooling and dripping down onto the stone floor. The house-elf dashed forth, and hugged Harry’s legs ecstatically.

 

“Master Harry Potter sir is the greatest wizard in the world! Dobby is not worthy to hear such praise from good, kind wizard!”

 

Harry smiled genially, bending down to pat Dobby on the head.

 

“You’re the great one here, Dobby. Thank you, once again. We’ll take over from here now.”

 

The house-elf wiped away his tears, bowing to Harry with a grateful smile. He then turned to Viktor, and bowed to him as well.

 

“Master Krum, promise Dobby that you be keeping Master Harry Potter safe? Make sure Master Harry Potter does not overwork himself? That yous be taking care of Master Harry Potter?”

 

Harry felt butterflies flutter in his stomach, and he couldn’t help but smile with a slight blush on his cheeks when Viktor regarded Dobby seriously.

 

“You have my vord, Dobby. I vill look out for Harry.”

 

The house-elf, satisfied, bowed one more time, before disappearing from the room with a ‘pop’.

 

Harry and Viktor stood in silence for a few moments. The blush eventually faded from Harry’s cheeks, and he turned to face his friend, his emerald-green eyes shimmering in the torchlight.

 

“Well…could you teach me what you know, Viktor?”

 


 

The first two days after the learning about the existence of the Room of Requirement, Harry and Viktor spent every single free period within its walls, practicing offensive and defensive spells. The room, as the name suggested, provided everything they required, from target mannequins, mock-ups of the dragons the two seekers saw in the forest which spewed realistic (but harmless) flames, to refreshments from the kitchens after a strenuous sesson.

 

Viktor filled the role of mentor impeccably, while Harry became the studious mentee efficiently, always noting down any flaws in his wrist movements, wand movements, or his pronunciation of the incantation, to name a few.

 

On the second day, they invited Viktor’s friends to the room. After the initial amazement and awe, the four Durmstrang students joined in on the training, teaching Harry any spells they knew alongside Viktor. It was hard work, but Harry ploughed through. For the sake of surviving the tournament, he needed to build up his repertoire of spells in order to take on the dragon in the coming days. And he was determined to persevere, even when he had to be helped back onto the ship from exhausting himself in trying to get a curse right.

 

On the third day though…events took a slightly different turn.

 

It was lunchtime. While the rest of Hogwarts and their foreign guests dined in the Great Hall, one Gryffindor and five Durmstrang students ate their meals in the Room of Requirement, which once again magically brought the food up straight from the kitchens.

 

They had just finished another strenuous training session. Harry was ravenous, and tucked into the delicious food without restraint (although he maintained his civility, he wasn’t Ron Weasley after all). The conversation never stayed in one topic, although the first task was a common theme. Viktor’s friends expressed their disbelief that he and Harry were going to be made to fight those dragons, but even their skepticism wasn’t completely failsafe, since nobody intervened when Harry’s name came out of the goblet.

 

The conversation was just turning towards something lighter, which touched on the numerous pranks that the Weasley twins have done to their youngest brother, when the sound of the door opening got everyone on guard. While it was true that Harry and Viktor didn’t have to hex anyone recently for trying to be cheeky, that didn’t mean they’d ease down their guard.

 

Food was temporarily forgotten, and six wands were aimed at the opening door. In stepped a female student, with blonde hair, dreamy-looking eyes, wearing radish earrings and a butterbeer-cork necklace, and whose Ravenclaw robes were, for some reason, covered with ink stains.

 

Harry raised an eyebrow, “Who are you?”

 

“Oh. Harry Potter, I didn’t expect to see you here,” the blonde girl said, tone as dreamy as her eyes, “I am Luna Lovegood, third-year Ravenclaw. By the way, did you encounter any spurting hicklebees around here?”

 

Now it was Viktor and his friends’ turn to raise their eyebrows, clearly confused at what Luna was saying. Harry, while also confused, just answered steadily.

 

“No, we didn’t. Is something wrong, Lovegood?”

 

“It’s nothing,” Luna shrugged, “The hicklebees were particularly agitated this afternoon. I was unfortunately caught in their crossfire,” here she showed her dirtied robes, “and I figured if I came here to seek refuge for a while, they will calm down and I will not be attacked at random later on.”

 

The wands were slowly lowered, but the general confusion was not abated. Harry, on the other hand, got an uneasy feeling besides his confusion. Putting his wand away, he slowly approached Luna. Viktor sent him a questioning look, which Harry returned with one that told him to stay put. He would handle this.

 

Harry returned to Luna, “Did they dirty your robe?”

 

The blonde girl appeared unfazed, “I’m pretty sure it was an accident. The hicklebees don’t think rationally when they are agitated.”

 

Harry inspected the ink stains. They appeared relatively recent, some hadn’t even fully dried yet. Harry’s brows furrowed.

 

“How many times have this happened?”

 

“A couple of times,” Luna shrugged, “They can be very unpredictable, those hicklebees. Sometimes you just get caught up in the crossfire. It can’t be helped.”

 

Even Luna’s seemingly-carefree tone did nothing to settle Harry’s misgivings. From what little she had said so far since arriving into the room, Harry already had the strong feeling that Luna was the victim of bullying.

 

From who, he still had no idea. So he decided to play along to find out.

 

“What do these hicklebees look like?”

 

“Their forms are never consistent,” Luna revealed, looking thoughtful, “but one defining characteristic are their blue and bronze color scheme...”

 

Harry released a breath of shock and indignation. The bullies themselves, were Luna’s own housemates.

 

“…but sometimes, they sport different colors. But blue and bronze make up the majority,” Luna continued, seemingly impervious to Harry’s outraged look.

 

Harry steeled his expression into a neutral one, before replying, “Loveg – I mean, Luna, if I can call you by that?” At the blonde’s nod, he continued, “Have you had lunch yet?”

 

Luna shook her head, “I haven’t, and you’re one of the few who call me Luna. The nargles seem to take great interest in calling me Loony, for some reason.”

 

Inwardly, Harry’s anger started to flare, but his outward expression remained friendly, “Why don’t you join us? I’m sure the hicklebees won’t get to you while you’re here.”

 

“That’s very kind of you, Harry,” Luna smiled, “And quite clever actually. Kindness drives away hicklebees, especially when they are agitated. They can’t stand the good feelings kindness brings. I’m confident they won’t come after us here.”

 

Harry nodded, though he was seething inside. He took out his wand, cast a cleaning spell on Luna’s robes to remove the ink stains, and led her back to the table, the room providing one more chair out of thin air for her to sit down.

 

“Everyone,” Harry addressed Viktor and his friends, “This is Luna Lovegood. She’s a third-year Ravenclaw student.”

 

The Durmstrang students and Luna exchanged greetings, and the meal steadily resumed. Once again, Viktor sent Harry another questioning look, which the fourth-year responded with his own look, which meant, ‘I’ll explain later, after Luna leaves.’

 


 

“Was?! Are you saying Luna is being bullied?” Klaus gasped in disbelief.

 

“And it was her own housemates who instigated most of it?” Anastazja asked.

 

After the lunch hour had ended, Luna departed from the Room of Requirement, leaving Harry free to tell his friends his suspicions. Naturally, there was shock to go around at the revelation, but everyone in the room could see that the truth might not be far off.

 

“Even from the way she describes things,” said Harry, “You know there will be at least some people who won’t take it kindly on their perception of her.”

 

“But how are we going to prove that she’s being bullied, Harry?” asked Uliana.

 

“It’s either we get her to admit it, which is a breach of trust,” the fourth-year replied, “And even if she doesn’t show it, I think trust is a testy subject for Luna. Just as how she sees and explains things around her, I’m sure she has a different way of hiding her insecurities.”

 

“Or,” Viktor cut in, “ve could ask the Veasley twins if they can get Luna’s classmates to confess in a vay that they von’t get avay vith,” Viktor suggested.

 

“You aren’t just going to storm up to the Ravenclaws and hex them till next year?” asked Nicolae, half-jokingly and half-seriously.

 

“Trust me, Nicolae,” Viktor turned to his Romanian friend, “I vas tempted to confront every single one of those fuckers and give them a very painful lesson. But ve don’t know if it’s only some, or if the entire house vho is at fault. And so far, Harry and I haven’t got into trouble for hexing people who tried to cross us, and I don’t vant to push our luck unless it’s necessary.”

 

“I’m actually still surprised by that, Viktor,” Klaus remarked, “From vhat I heard, you and Harry sent all of the fourth-year Slytherins and their head-of-house, who is a nasty piece of vork if you ask me, to the hospital ving because of an insulting badge! I’m amazed that nobody, not even Karkaroff, has tried to punish you in any vay for it!”

 

“Probably because they all know, at least invardly, that these bastards deserved it,” Viktor shrugged, “And as for Karkaroff, he is just a brown-nose vho just vants to curry favour from my family and my status. I’m fairly certain he vould allow me to get avay vith everything if it keeps him in my family’s good books.”

 

With the conversation derailed from about Luna to the two seekers’ spell-happy escapades, Harry took the moment to back away from the chatter and sink into his own thoughts. Dealing with Luna’s tormentors was a priority, but the mention of the Potter Stinks badges brought Harry’s mind back to the tournament. From there, his brain put the pieces together, and sent a worrying realisation to him.

 

‘We saw Madame Maxime and Karkaroff at the dragon pen that night. If my intuition is correct…’

 

“Hey Viktor?”

 

“Mm?”

“Did Karkaroff approach you after we saw the dragons with any information regarding the first task?”

 

“Now that you mention it,” Viktor looked thoughtful, “he did. He approached me the day after, vhen I vas vaiting for you to finish your business in the toilet, and told me that the first task vould involve the dragons. Vhy do you ask?”

 

“Call it an intuition, Viktor,” Harry explained, all eyes now on him, “We saw both Karkaroff and Madame Maxime when we were in the forest. If Karkaroff told you about the task, do you think it’s likely that Madame Maxime would have told Delacour about the task too?”

 

“It is a possibility,” Viktor nodded, “But vhat are you saying?”

 

“The thing is, we also saw Hagrid there. As far as I know, he has never told me anything about the dragons. In fact, I haven’t even seen him since that night.”

 

“But if he never told you about the dragons, what about-” Anastazja spoke, only to cut herself off when she realised what this meant.

 

Everyone else seem also come to the same conclusion as the Polish girl, which confirmed Harry’s suspicions.

 

“The other Hogwarts champion, Diggory, doesn’t know about the dragons?” asked Uliana.

 

“That’s my hunch,” Harry nodded.

 

“So vhat are you going to do about it?” asked Viktor.

 

Harry remained silent for a moment, before responding, “I think I’ll go tell him.”

 

“Why would you do that?” Nicolae questioned, “He doesn’t deserve to know! He didn’t do anything when his housemates wore those badges, and he seems to believe, along with virtually everyone in this school, that you somehow cheated to get your name in the goblet!”

 

“I’m not saying Diggory is faultless in this shit-show,” Harry placated, “But being a by-stander, while not good in itself, doesn’t warrant a death sentence. Sure, he may have not kept his housemates in line over the badges, but do I want him to die? Absolutely not! This whole thing about the badges by itself is just pettiness! There are worse individuals out there in the world who deserve to die. Diggory doesn’t, for all of his flaws. And besides, I think we’ll be showing ourselves as having the higher moral ground to face this pettiness with fairness and respect.”

 

‘And also possibly by the fact that I won’t be able to forgive myself if I let a person die while knowing I could have intervened in some way,’ Harry added the last part in as a silent afterthought.

 

His reasoning gave all five Durmstrang students something to think about. Even Nicolae, who was quick to show his opposition initially, now seemed unsure of which direction to go by.

 

Eventually, Viktor spoke up.

 

“It’s your choice, Harry.”

 

“Then my choice is, I’m going to tell Diggory about the dragons,” the fourth-year replied resolutely, standing up from his chair, slipping his bag onto his shoulder, “Viktor, can I trouble you to accompany me to look for him? Safety in numbers, should things degenerate suddenly.”

 

“No trouble at all,” Viktor grinned, before turning to his four friends, “I’ll catch up vith you guys later.”

 

With nods of assent, waves and a “good luck!” from Uliana, both seekers left the Room of Requirement. Once the door closed and a few moments of silence followed, the remaining four took their conversation internally.

 

“You have to admit, despite Viktor’s influence and the load of troll dung on his shoulders thanks to this tournament, Harry is still very chivalrous and noble,” Klaus remarked.

 

“True that,” Anastazja agreed, “Viktor is incredibly lucky to have someone like Harry by his side.”

 

That was a sentiment shared unanimously by the four friends.

 


 

 

A quick scan of the Marauder’s Map pinpointed the Hufflepuff champion several floors downstairs at the Viaduct Courtyard, alongside a couple of other dots Harry assumed was Cedric’s friends.

 

For what he was going to do, he hoped he didn’t have to hex anyone. But it was better to be personally prepared, either way.

 

Descending through Hogwarts, Harry and Viktor arrived at the courtyard. Indeed, Cedric and his friends were sitting under a tree at the other side of the courtyard. There were a couple of other students scattered around here and there, but Harry paid them no heed as he zeroed his focus towards the Hufflepuff champion.

 

Whatever conversation Cedric and his friends were having slowly died away, when first Cedric, then his friends, noticed Harry and Viktor approaching them with serious expressions. As Harry expected, the Hufflepuffs went on the defensive.

 

“What are you doing here, Potter?” one of them spat, drawing his wand.

 

Harry released a quiet sigh as he took out his own wand and pointed it back at the Hufflepuff.

 

“I’m here to speak to Diggory.”

 

“Shove off Potter! Who wants to listen to a cheater anyway!” another one of the Hufflepuffs spoke up, which resulted in Viktor’s wand being drawn on them.

 

“Since it pertains to the first task, and quite possibly ensuring your friend will not be killed, I think Diggory should listen to what I have to say,” Harry responded seriously, the tip of his wand beginning to glow with a prepared spell.

 

It very nearly degenerated into the fight Harry had been hoping to avoid, not that he didn’t enjoy hexing those who treated him like shit, or when he was trying to prevent an untimely death and they were being difficult. It was Cedric, in the end, who put out the lit fuse before the explosion could occur.

 

“Guys, please, wands down,” the prefect ordered.

 

His friends all looked at him like he had grown a second head, but Cedric was unwavering in his demand. Reluctantly, they lowered their wands, but they stayed close, glaring at Harry, who ignored them as Cedric stepped up to him and Viktor.

 

“Potter, you said you have information about the first task?” Cedric asked.

 

“Yes,” Harry nodded, “It’s dragons.”

 

 

 

 

“I beg your pardon?”

 

“You heard me, Diggory. The first task will involve dragons. Each of us will have to face one on.”

 

Cedric appeared quite shocked, to be honest. His face had gone pale, his eyes were wide, and his mouth was hanging slightly ajar. The prefect’s friends, were also staring at Harry and Viktor with disbelief.

 

The badger who had drawn his wand on Harry earlier was the first to speak, “And how do we know that you’re telling the truth, Potter? How do we know you’re not lying just to give yourself and Krum an advantage?”

 

The affronted Bulgarian seeker looked ready to make the Hufflepuff’s stay in the hospital wing a long-term one. Harry, on the other hand, remained unnervingly calm. The fourth-year brought in his wand, putting it over his heart.

 

“I, Harry James Potter, do swear on my life and magic that I am not lying to Cedric Diggory and his friends that the first task of the Triwizard Tournament will involve the four dragons me and Viktor Krum saw in the Forbidden Forest. So mote it be.”

 

A soft glow rose from Harry’s form, indicating that the oath had been put into effect. A second passed. Cedric and his friends immediately realised that Harry was still alive and breathing, but it was what the fourth-year did next that finally drove the message that he was telling the truth into their skulls.

 

Harry pointed his wand back at the badger who doubted him before his oath, and muttered, “Expecto Patronum.”

 

Even if it was still afternoon, the explosion of light from the one corner of the courtyard caught the attention of even the scattered stragglers at the opposite side. Those who weren’t temporarily blinded by the light saw an incredible sight.

 

The silvery, misty form of a stag burst from Harry’s wand, drawing stunned gasps from Cedric and his friends. The stag appeared to narrow its eyes as it scanned the badgers, particularly the one who had doubted Harry first. Appearing to zero in on its target, the stag pawed the stone floor, before lunging at the Hufflepuff.

 

An undignified squeak escaped from the unfortunate badger, as he stumbled backwards and landed on his bum, quite forgetting that the stag was not a real one, and he wasn’t a dementor. But the majestic animal didn’t seem to care, eyeing the fallen lad with a look of contempt, before it trotted back to Harry, who let go of his scowl for a smile seeing the one connection he had with his deceased father.

 

The stag bowed its head. Harry immediately returned the gesture. Both human and patronus shared eye-contact for a moment longer, before the stag disappeared in a burst of silver mist.

 

As the light faded away, so too did Harry’s smile, his scowl returning as he addressed the stunned Hufflepuffs, “Are you lot convinced that I am telling the truth now?”

 

Unable to speak in the aftermath of such powerful magic, Cedric and his friends could only nod in response. Harry sighed, inwardly glad that this entire thing was over. He cast a tempus charm, the spell reading ten minutes to 2pm.

 

“Well, I have ten minutes until Herbology starts. Do you want to come along, Viktor?”

 

“I vould like to.”

 

With a nod, Harry pocketed his wand, and along with Viktor, turned his back on Cedric and his friends as they made their way back towards the castle to the greenhouses.

 

“Potter wait!”

 

Harry and Viktor stopped in their tracks. Turning back around in sync, the two seekers watched with blank faces as Cedric approached them.

 

“Yes, Diggory?”

 

“I…I just wanted to know,” Cedric stuttered a bit, “why did you tell me this?”

 

Harry, upon noticing at the prefect’s friends were also listening in to what he had to say, made his response to involve them as well.

 

“Listen, despite the fact that you, Diggory, did yourself a disservice by letting your housemates ridicule me with those Merlin-forsaken badges, I am not vengeful enough to keep you in the dark on some important information that could potentially save your life. Could I have not told you? Yes. Could I have decided not to tell you because of your lack of maturity with your house-mates? Yes. Could I have left you to face the dragon unprepared and quite possibly die horribly as a result? Absolutely yes. But I decided to go with my better judgment, for several reasons. One, this is to show you and your friends that I am not some arrogant, attention-seeking brat who would recklessly throw himself into a dangerous tournament where people have died in before just for “eternal glory”. Two, is that I believe in fairness and having all of us on an equal footing before the first task. And lastly, three, with all of the hippogriff shite this tournament has done so far, the least I could do is to show some level of maturity that a good number of students and adults in this castle seem to sorely lack, especially when there are lives at stake.”

 

Harry took a deep breath from his lengthy speech, before rounding up his point, “You have about a week to prepare yourself, Diggory. I suggest you read up on any strategies that might help your chances against the dragon, and practice your spellwork. That’s all I have to say to you. I wish you all the best.”

 

Before he turned his back away once more, Harry noted Cedric’s expression, as well as that of his friends. The prefect had a deeply thoughtful…and a rather ashamed look on his handsome features. His friends, on the other hand, didn’t share that same regret as Cedric, but they seemed perturbed by what Harry said.

 

Without giving any of the badgers a further opportunity to speak to him, Harry turned away and headed back inside the castle, Viktor stoically following at his side.

 


 

The days leading up to the first task passed relatively quickly. For Harry, it was business as usual, preparing himself to face the dragon. He upped his training with Viktor and his Durmstrang friends, delving into stronger, greyer spells that could give him the slight edge of advantage against an angry dragon.

 

Though, there were a few changes to the routine. For one thing, Harry noticed Professor Moody seemed to be quite interested in what he had planned for the first task, having been told to stay behind after class to discuss it with him. Coincidentally, or so it seemed, this was the rare time that both Harry and Viktor had classes, the latter unable to sit in with Harry as he would have normally done.

 

Their discussion had been focused on Harry’s spellwork. What surprised Harry, while also confusing him, was Professor Moody’s advice to master the summoning charm, accio, for use during the First Task. What the former auror meant by that, Harry didn’t know, and neither did Viktor when he was told about it.

 

The second thing that happened was Cedric confronting Harry while he and Viktor were going up to the Room of Requirement. The Hufflepuff champion had been doing quite a bit of thinking since their confrontation in the Viaduct Courtyard, and he wanted to apologize for his inaction in keeping his housemates in line. Harry stoically accepted the apology, but reminded Cedric that until his housemates apologized for their part in their harassment, there will be little reason for the both of them to converse together.

 

The last thing that broke the routine, was Harry officially asking Luna if she wanted to join his circle. Sure, he was all for raining hell on those who have wronged the eccentric blonde, but for now, earning her trust was the right way forward.

 

Luna was overjoyed to be Harry’s friend and agreed immediately. Seeing how quick she was to accept his friendship, Harry’s resolve to punish those who have hurt Luna was further cemented.

 

But that was for later, right now, he had a dragon to face.

 


To Be Continued.


 

Chapter Text

The day of the First Task finally dawned upon the grounds of Hogwarts, and as the occupants inside the castle rose from their slumber, a wave of apprehensive excitement had spread through every room, nook and cranny. In the Great Hall, the general topic of conversation was what the champions would be facing for the First Task.

 

Although if one were to look carefully, they would notice that half of the champions were missing.

 

Indeed, Harry and Viktor were absent from the hall, along with Luna, though their disappearance didn’t seem to completely register with the excited students.

 

The trio in question were in the Room of Requirement, eating their breakfast with Klaus, Uliana, Nicolae and Anastazja. With the first task less then two hours away, Harry had requested to avoid being around the other students. All the noise would have shattered his efforts to keep his nerves in check and stopping himself from losing his head.

 

The conversation tried to flow naturally, but the air was still tense. Everyone knew what Viktor and Harry were going to face very soon, and no amount of chatter could fully distract them from what was to come. Only Luna, it seemed, appeared to not be on edge whatsoever, humming to herself serenely as she applied butter and blueberry jam onto a scone.

 

“You’re really calm about this, Luna,” Anastazja remarked, “Aren’t you nervous for Harry and Viktor?”

 

“Why would I be?” the blonde asked, taking a bite of her scone, “Harry and Viktor will do marvellously in the task, I know they will.”

 

“Even facing dragons?” asked Nicolae.

 

“Mhm,” Luna nodded, “Especially Harry, I got a feeling he’s going to surprise us all later.”

 


 

Whether Harry had a surprise up his sleeve or not, the time came for him and Viktor to head down to for the First Task.

 

As champions, they were supposed to head back to where they spotted the dragons for the first time. An arena in resemblance to the Coliseum in Rome had been built. They had to wait in a holding tent while the spectators filled up the seats around the enclosure, which had been made bigger for the task. What happened after that though, Harry had no idea, and he was sure Viktor was clueless as well.

 

The fact that they were the first ones in the tent meant nothing to the two seekers. They found a spot near one of the tent walls, and waited. Any minute, Fleur and Cedric would arrive, and so would all the spectators.

 

The silence…it felt heavy. Oppressive, suffocating…so many words and synonyms phased through Harry’s mind as the minutes seem to crawl by. Not so far away, were four dragons waiting to be released into the arena, and they had to take them on, one for the each of them. Even if it sounds cliché, Harry really felt that he was a poorly-trained gladiator about to fight for his life against a lion.

 

Looking at Viktor, Harry for a split-second thought that his friend had his nerves under control. But he was mistaken immediately, Viktor’s lips were trembling a little, and his eyes were closed, rather tightly as Harry noticed.

 

“Viktor…?”

 

“Hm?”

 

“Are you nervous?”

 

 

 

 

“Terrified is probably more appropriate.”

 

Harry understood. He was terrified too. Those dragons, all of them towering and ferocious, could easily turn either of them into a pile of ashes or a bloody mess in seconds if they weren’t careful. Harry remembered seeing all of those handlers barely restraining the dragons that night. If trained professionals had such a hard time, what could be said about them?

 

“Viktor…”

 

Harry stepped towards his Bulgarian friend. To the latter’s surprise, the smaller boy wrapped his arms around him tightly.

 

“Harry?”

 

“There’s nothing we can do now, Viktor,” the raven-haired boy mumbled loud enough to be heard, “I just thought you needed some comfort.”

 

Viktor’s breathing hitched, feeling Harry’s body, dressed in a set of plain, black duelling robes acquired by Dobby, press against his own. To his surprise, he did find some of the nervous churning in his stomach ease. Viktor released a breath, wrapping his strong arms tightly around Harry’s lean form, returning the hug.

 

The Bulgarian seeker felt the fourth-year relax in his tight hold. Merlin, he could only guess how much terror is racing through Harry’s nerves. He was only a fourteen-year-old. Harry was younger by three years, and that difference meant a lot, even if the raven-haired boy had been working his socks off for the better part of the past week or so in preparation, practicing the summoning charm and putting his Firebolt in the open in Viktor’s cabin, with the porthole opened. Of course, they didn’t know if it was enough, if at all, depending on what the task would actually require them to do.

 

But as Harry said, there’s nothing more that can be done. They’ve reached that point where they have to face destiny with what they have. Their main objective, stay alive…and inwardly, for each other.

 

The tent door was flapped open, followed by a quiet gasp. Harry and Viktor stayed locked in their embrace, not needing to look up to know that Fleur had arrived. They had no care or concern towards their fellow champion. Their focus was on each other, for this, if thought pessimistically, could very well be their final minutes together. The arrival of another champion was no excuse to break physical contact, especially when the prospect of death was so real and there was a significant chance they will never share another hug like this again.

 

Fleur, after recovering from the surprise of seeing two fellow champions in such an intimate embrace, felt her anxiety seep through her nerves again. She went to sit on a stool some distance away, and fell into her own world. A few more minutes passed, and the tent flap opened again. This time, Cedric stepped inside. His reaction to seeing Viktor and Harry was subtler, his eyebrow raising at the unexpected level of intimacy radiating from the two. This time though, there was a reaction.

 

Harry turned slightly, one emerald-green eye facing Cedric. The raven-haired boy regarding the Hufflepuff champion for a moment, before nodding briefly in acknowledgement. Harry turned away from Cedric, burying his head into Viktor’s chest.

 

For several more minutes, Harry and Viktor’s embrace went undisturbed. That is, until a bright flash erupted from behind Viktor’s back, and an unwelcome voice grated Harry’s nerves.

 

“Ah young love! The last attempt by a couple to feel their bond before danger forces them apart! What a heart-rending story in the making!”

 

Knowing that whatever use Rita was going to do with that photo of them hugging, Harry intervened immediately. While Viktor turned to glare viciously at the unscrupulous reporter and her brainless photographer, Harry drew his wand, and fired a low-powered Confringo at the offending camera, reducing it to a shapeless, twisting pile of metal and smouldering wood.

 

Rita screamed as the curse barely missed her side, while an unrepentant Harry incurred the photographer’s ire, who had jumped away when he saw Harry’s wand glow.

 

“What the fuck?! What the hell is wrong with you?! That camera is worth a fort-”

 

Harry’s wand was then turned on the two unwanted visitors. Two bludgeoning hexes later, Rita and her photographer lay sprawled out on the ground, unconscious and with trickles of blood seeping from open bruises where the hexes had hit on their foreheads. Fleur was clutching the stool she was sitting on in shock, while Cedric had paled.

 

Harry would have pocketed his wand and gone back to hugging Viktor, had the sudden, hurried arrival of Bagman, Crouch and Dumbledore not interrupted them.

 

“W-What happened here?!” Bagman exclaimed in horrified shock.

 

“Just getting rid of two unwanted visitors, who without permission took a photo of Viktor and I,” Harry shrugged like it was no big deal.

 

Dumbledore sighed, and stepped forward, “As unethical as Ms. Skeeter is, Harry my boy, one shouldn’t resort to violence to deal with individuals like her.”

 

“As if your policy of pacification has vorked before, Dumbledore,” Viktor spat, still holding Harry in his arms securely.

 

Not wanting a confrontation to erupt and interfere with the task, Bagman stepped in, “Now, now, let’s not all fight. Today’s a day of excitement and action! There’s no need to get worked up now! You should save that for the first task, which I can now safely reveal to you all, involves procuring a golden egg from a nesting mother dragon!”

 

Immediately, Harry noted his fellow champions’ reactions. Cedric now had a greenish tint marring his face, which appeared to also get even more paler than before. Fleur had a resolute look on her face, but Harry noticed that her hands were trembling slightly. Viktor tightened his hug on Harry, who could hear his friend’s heartbeat quickening.

 

Instinctively, Harry knew that a nesting mother dragon was worse than a regular dragon.

 

“Now, inside this bag,” here Bagman produced a small sack, “contains four models of the different dragons brought here for the task. This determines who goes first in order. So, ladies first?”

 

Bagman offered the bag to Fleur. Sticking her hand inside, she pulled out a miniature model of a dragon – a Welsh Green – with a number ‘2’ on its base. Cedric was next. He pulled out a model of a Swedish Short-snout with a number ‘1’. Viktor pulled away one arm from his embrace to pull out his model, which was a Chinese Fireball with the number ‘3’.

 

At this, Viktor paled, and his stomach felt like imploding, realizing that the only one left, the Hungarian Horntail, was Harry’s to face.

 

Harry had pulled out the Horntail miniature by then with an unreadable expression. But that was quickly replaced by surprise when he was pulled into an even tighter embrace by a trembling Viktor. Harry didn’t care about Bagman stating further instructions and the three adults subsequently leaving the tent, levitating an unconscious Rita and her cameramen as they went. His mind was on Viktor, and how frightened he now was. Harry quickly wrapped his arms around his friend’s waist, noticing that Viktor was trembling somewhat harder now.

 

“Viktor, what’s the matter?” Harry whispered.

 

“Y-You have to face the m-most dangerous dragon in the vorld, Harry…” Viktor muttered, “I…I’m terrified for you. I d-don’t vant you to die.”

 

The raven-haired fourth-year nodded his head against Viktor’s chest, “I know, Viktor. I don’t want to die too. But…all I can do now, Viktor…is to do my best to get away with the egg without getting hurt. You have to do the same, Viktor. I also don’t want you to die.”

 

Viktor pulled Harry even closer, if that was possible, and tightened his desperate hug just one notch from suffocating his friend. Harry didn’t mind, he needed this tight squeeze around his form, to remind himself that he was still alive, and his friend was here, not beyond the impenetrable veil that separated the living from the dead.

 

Even the sound of a cannon blasting and Cedric’s name being called out did nothing to deter Harry and Viktor from enveloping themselves in each others’ aura. They focused completely on each other, blocking out the roars of the Short-snout, the cheers and screams of the spectators, and Bagman’s loud commentary providing some sort of audio aid to how Cedric was performing.

 

Cedric evidently got his egg in the end, and soon after, it was Fleur’s turn to face her dragon. Even as the French champion exited the tent, Harry and Viktor remained locked in their tight embrace.

 

As Fleur battled the Welsh Green outside, Harry spoke in a low murmur, “Viktor…what is your plan?”

 

“Conjunctivitis curse,” Viktor muttered back, voice low, “A dragon’s eyes are their veak points. Do you remember yours?”

 

“Yes,” Harry replied, closing his eyes, “The best would be the summoning charm advised by Professor Moody with my Firebolt, but either way, I promise you that I will get my egg and get out of there alive, even if I have to use rapid spell-firing at the dragon.”

 

“You’d better…”

 

Finally, came the third cannon blast, and Viktor’s name being announced. Very reluctantly, their tight embrace was broken. Both seekers had a myriad of emotions in their eyes, not wanting to part. But the inevitable was here, and Viktor had his battle with destiny in the form of a Chinese Fireball waiting for him.

 

“Please come back, Viktor.”

 

“I vill. And you must, too.”

 

Viktor squeezed Harry’s arms one last time, before pulling away completely. Harry let his hands fall to his sides, watching with slightly misty eyes as his Bulgarian friend stepped towards the tent flap leading to the arena, looked back at him, before disappearing into the outside world to sickening cheers from the spectators.

 

Now alone, Harry had some time to process his position. Sauntering over to a stool not unlike the one Fleur had occupied earlier, he sat down with a shaky sigh. He tried his damnedest to block out the sounds coming from outside, but it was pointless behind such thin tent-fabric. He needed a distraction.

 

That source of distraction, ironically, was the Horntail figurine in his palm. As much as he knew he would be fighting the real thing relatively soon, just looking sit innocently and quietly in his hand had a strange effect on him. It was a distraction, definitely, but a kind of distraction that Harry had not expected. It was…reaffirming? Like when someone gives their downed friend a pep-talk to rebuild said friend’s confidence.

 

That couldn’t be right, Harry thought. This was just an ordinary figurine, not even a magical one. How could it instill a reaffirming feeling over him?

 

But…what about that night, in the forest, when he briefly met the Horntail, tied down by the handlers? What was that strange feeling that ignited his nerves when he and the fearsome dragon made eye-contact for those short, few seconds? He had no answers then, and he had none now.

 

But if one thing’s for certain, it had something to do with the Horntail. Harry knew that little detail, but everything else was a blur.

 

Just what was it?

 

Harry had no more time to think. He heard the cannon blast, and his name being called. In his mind, Harry kept telling himself that Viktor got his egg and made it out alive. He pulled the tent flap aside, and stepped out to meet his destiny.

 


 

Harry certainly felt like a gladiator – a poorly trained one, for that matter – as he entered the arena.

 

There were numerous things he noticed straight away. The stands filled to the brim with spectators, a space which appeared to house the press, the rocky terrain in front of him filled with crevices and boulders, and, a bit further away, but clearly visible for everyone to see, was the Horntail, chained by a metal collar to four specific points in the terrain to limit her movement to protect the spectators.

 

If Harry had seen her angry in the forest, she was now completely livid. And can you really blame her? Taken from her home, dragged to some unknown land away from safety, possible enemies sitting in their multitudes around her, her movement restricted by the chains from the collar around her neck, and no visible means to protect her eggs other than herself. The Horntail had every reason to be furious, something that both scared Harry and made him understand the dragon.

 

Wait…understand the dragon? He could understand the Horntail’s emotions?

 

Harry blinked, completely caught off-guard. When did that happen? How was it that he could feel the same anger that the Horntail was exhibiting with her loud roars and burst of fire? Harry thought the only answer could be if a person had an animal familiar, but there was no way the Horntail could be familiar, right?

 

Maybe it was his anger at those who wronged him? Dumbledore, the Hogwarts staff, virtually every student in this Merlin-forsaken school save for Luna and the Weasley twins…yeah, that’s got to be the reason. After all, he was forced into this tournament completely against his will, with no help from any trusted adult or friend, save for Viktor and his Hogwarts and Durmstrang allies.

 

“…you have exactly twenty minutes to procure the golden egg and get out from the arena,” Ludo could be heard announcing, bringing Harry out his thoughts, “your time starts…NOW!”

 

Another cannon blast, kick-starting the countdown. At the same moment, the Horntail took the loud noise as a threat to her eggs, and retaliated appropriately. Seeing Harry from its vantage point, she perceived him as that very threat. With a tremendous roar, she blew a burst of fire straight at him.

 

Harry jumped behind a large boulder, just two seconds before the fire hit the spot where he was standing earlier. Knowing that things have gotten really serious, Harry activated his first plan of action.

 

Still keeping himself mostly hidden from the Horntail, he took out his wand, and shouted, “Accio Firebolt!”

 

In the dust and smoke kicked up by the initial fiery burst, the Horntail lost sight of Harry. But the spectators were still within her view. Temporarily forgetting Harry, her anger was now on these multitude of enemies, roaring with righteous fury and releasing her fire towards the stands.

 

Harry heard the screams of those in the path of fire, but for them, they needn’t be afraid. The stands were far enough from the range a Horntail could blast its fire at, so at least they were protected from an untimely death.

 

At the same time, he heard the whooshing sound of his Firebolt approaching. Barely able to see it approaching through the dust and smoke, Harry braced himself, and jumped, hopping onto the broomstick before he was taken into the air.

 

Now several meters over the arena, Harry surveyed his odds. The Horntail seemed distracted by her rage, leaving that small window to swoop down, grab the golden egg, and hightail it out of the arena.

 

That seemed to be the only viable option, just as long as Harry didn’t catch the enraged dragon’s attention. He was about to fly down towards the nest, when two noises reached his ears.

 

First was the Horntail’s roar, which seemed to have intensified with her ire as she thrashed about. And the second, was the sound of metal breaking.

 

Harry watched in horror as the first chain attached to the collar splintered like a rotten toothpick, followed quickly by a second one. And he wasn’t the only one who noticed. Ludo was shouting for the handlers, while the spectators were beginning to realize the serious danger they were in, as the third chain shattered.

 

Finally, the one remaining chain gave way, and all hell broke loose.

 

People were screaming, pushing and shoving one another in a mad rush for the exits. The Horntail, realizing she was now free from those cursed chains, really let her fury explode for all to see and cower in their hides. Loud roars joined the screams, as jets of fire were shot at random at the fleeing crowd.

 

From his vantage point, Harry could see the carnage happening below. Shields were conjured to protect the screaming masses. The handlers were now running into the arena, stunners being fired at the Horntail, which might as well have been flower petals for the enraged dragon. Jets of fire were flying in all directions, some at the handlers, others at random points of the stands. Some of the screams were definitely of pain now, as those unfortunate enough to not get away in time or have a shield protect them saw what was arguably their last image of a barrage of fire hurtling towards them.

 

Seeing the disaster unfold in front of him, Harry didn’t know how he reacted as he did. Perhaps it was knowing that Viktor and his friends were down there, or it was his inner desire to save those who are innocent. Maybe it was both.

 

Either way, Harry pointed his Firebolt downwards, and as fast as he could, shot down towards the Horntail.

 

As the wind whistled in his ears, what could have been horrified shrieks telling him to get away echoed. Harry ignored all of that. When he was about three meters over the Horntail’s back, he hurled himself off the broomstick.

 

The Firebolt shot away into the distance. As he fell towards those deadly spikes running along the Horntail’s back, Harry casted a cushioning charm over the spikes directly beneath him. The charm worked. When Harry landed on a spike, it appeared to bend under his weight as if it was made of soft foam, cushioning his fall and dropping him harmlessly onto the Horntail’s back.

 

Realizing he was still alive, Harry’s next goal was to gain control of the incensed mother dragon. Right away, he was shown how herculean the task would be for a fourteen-year-old wizard.

 

Every movement the Horntail made threatened to throw him off her back, and that was before she even realized he was there in the first place. Harry knew that he needed to halt the dragon’s movements if he wanted to calm her down. The Horntail lurched again, almost succeeding in throwing Harry off had he not grabbed onto the shaft of a spike as an anchor.

 

Racking his brain for an answer, it came to him in a seemingly innocuous spell that he remembered trying once with Viktor in the Room of Requirement – the Incarcerous spell, where one could conjure thick ropes to incapacitate an opponent. It had been quickly dismissed on the notion that a dragon’s fire would just turn the ropes to cinders. But at this crucial stage, it was the only idea Harry had.

 

With one hand wrapped around the spike’s shaft, Harry aimed his wand at Horntail’s head, as it prepared to blast another jet of fire at some fleeing spectators.

 

Incarcerous!

 

In the noise-filled arena, Harry had no idea that his voice sounded different. In fact, it didn’t sound like a human voice, more like a dragon’s roar. But Harry could see the unwitting change in his voice had an impact on the spell he just casted.

 

Instead of just ropes shooting out from his wand, what appeared to be leather straps and pieces of metal appeared. As if having a mind of their own, the straps and metal pieces wound and fitted themselves around the Horntail’s head, like how one would put a bridle on a horse. One long leather strap, acting as the reins, flew backwards towards Harry, who let go of the spike to catch it.

 

The dragon quickly realized that there was something similar to the ropes used to tie her down in the forest around her head, and something hard in her mouth, the intended flames dying in her massive jaws. Immediately, she roared and shook her head wildly, trying to free herself of the bindings.

 

Harry quickly pocketed his wand, took the reins with both hands, and pulled them into his chest as hard as he could. He clearly didn’t expect to see the straps pull the Horntail’s head back at the same time, as if his lean arms had suddenly bulked up and god-like strength had been pumped through his muscles. They were just leather straps, after all, surely a dragon was stronger than both cow hide and him, right?

 

His lack of action from surprise, unfortunately, nearly cost him. Realizing that she is being restrained again, the dragon’s fury exploded until pure animalistic instinct kicked in. Totally blinded by her rage, the Horntail thrashed and jerked about, trying to free herself. Harry would have been flung off and quite possibly fatally injured if he hadn’t found his footing between two large spikes, and pulled hard on the reins again.

 

It became a battle between dragon and wizard for dominance, locked in a stalemate with both sides refusing to back down. For those who hadn’t fled the arena yet, it was a surreal sight to behold, something that they would not forget for the rest of their lives.

 


 

One of those was Viktor.

 

He had managed to get his golden egg, and escaped with minor scratches, but his performance was negatively affected when the Conjunctivitis curse he used on the Fireball worked too well. The temporarily-blinded dragon had gone on a stampede, destroying several of her real eggs by accident. This would have counted for a loss of points.

 

But the dragon was not high on Viktor’s priority list of worries. Harry was to go after he escaped the arena and the Fireball replaced with the Horntail. He worried and fretted for his friend, even when inside the medical tent getting patched up by Madam Pomfrey.

 

And that was when the disaster struck.

 

In a chilling reminder of the attack at the Quidditch World Cup, the screams came, and continued. Viktor dashed out of the medical tent to see what was going on. What he saw almost chilled him to the bone as seeing the Death Eaters shooting spells around like the lunatic bastards that they were.

 

Spectators were running about, screaming and wailing as they tried to escape the fiery wrath of the Horntail, which had broken free from her restraints and raining burning hell on those unlucky enough to be in her path of her jets of scorching fire. The handlers were firing stunner after stunner, trying to subdue the dragon, but to no avail.

 

Viktor’s first thought was the whereabouts of his clique. In this sea of terrified spectators, he realized they could anywhere, trying to get away, or worse, already killed by the Horntail’s flames or trampled to death in the mad rush. Viktor hoped to Merlin that the latter two were not the case.

 

To add another weight on his increasing fear, Viktor then remembered that Harry had to be somewhere in the chaos, since he was due to face the Horntail before this madness descended upon them. Suddenly, he heard shouts from people and the handlers. Looking up, he immediately noticed a figure swooping downwards on a broomstick. The light reflecting off spectacles and the black dueling robes instantly exposed the figure as Harry.

 

Who, to Viktor’s horror, was flying straight towards the enraged Horntail.

 

Viktor wanted to join in the desperate shouts, but found his voice stuck in his throat, when he saw Harry hurl himself off his Firebolt and fall straight onto the Horntail’s back. Panic rushing through his system at full speed, Viktor dashed into the fleeing crowd, trying to get to Harry. But the pushing and shoving were too strong, too uncontrollable. Viktor found himself being pushed away from the arena, carried off like a helpless victim in strong water currents, away from his friend.

 

 

Harry was still trying to subdue the Horntail, wrestling with the reins to stop her from blasting fire at anymore fleeing spectators and get her senses back in order.

 

The Horntail herself appeared to fly into a panic. Acting on blind instinct, and totally catching those still in the arena off-guard, the rabid dragon unfurled her massive wings, and took off into the air.

 

Harry very nearly lost his footing when the dragon beneath him took to the sky. Digging his heels into the grooves of the scales, Harry could see the Hogwarts staff joining the handlers in firing stunners at the Horntail as the arena grew smaller and smaller behind them. Several stunners hit the dragon, but caused no significant injury. Harry had to duck and dodge those that barely missed him. Now that they were hundreds of meters in the air, falling off would have meant instant death.

 

With the arena disappearing from sight, Harry evaluated his options. Besides trying to stay alive, he had to find a good place to force the Horntail to land. Not so easy, as the dragon continued trying to buck him off, whilst flying blindly straight towards Hogwarts castle, seconds away from colliding head-first into one of the turrets rapidly rushing towards them.

 

Harry jumped on his instincts, tilting and pulling the reins hard to the right. The Horntail was forced to veer left, swerving past the turret with just meters to spare. Unfortunately, her spiked tail struck against the roof of the turret, busting a hole and sending showers of dust and broken roof-tiles down the mountain. The impact cost Harry his footing, knocking him against the shaft of a spike. Fighting to maintain his grip, Harry managed to stop his body from falling off the dragon and shake himself back to clarity, only to spot the headmaster’s office heading straight for them.

 

With no time to veer away, Harry dug his heels into the Horntail’s scales as hard as possible, while pulling the reins down towards his feet. The dragon shot upwards into the sky, her head and body barely missing the office. Her tail, once again, was not so lucky. The three-tiered roof was completely bashed through, broken tiles and dust raining down into the office and sending the portraits running for cover.

 

The sudden loss of momentum and lift caused by the destruction of the roof knocked the Horntail off-kilter. Disoriented by the unexpected impact, the dragon lost altitude and hurtled haphazardly down towards the Astronomy tower, barely missing more turrets and roofs along the way.

 

Fighting against his stomach rushing up to his throat in the sheer drop, Harry was able to veer the Horntail away from a head-on collision with the tower. But the angle and distance the veering was executed at caused the dragon’s right wing to hit and scrape against the wall of the tower, loosening some bricks and causing the dragon to roar in pain.

 

To Harry’s surprise, the strange emotional connection that allowed him to feel the Horntail’s anger earlier was back again. This time, the pain from her wing hitting the tower seared his right side. He fought against the agony burning his nerves, keeping his right hand on the rein and his right foot planted firmly on the scales. Merlin, it felt like someone had casted the Cruciatus curse on just his right side!

 

Eventually, the pain began to subside, but Harry knew he wouldn’t last much longer in the air. Exhaustion was beginning to seep into his body, and Harry knew the slightest misstep could send him plummeting to his death. He needed to steer the Horntail to safe place to land before either he dies, or both him and the dragon die.

 

The grounds of Hogwarts, Harry noticed, were too rocky and any flat surface, like the Viaduct Courtyard, was not big enough to safely accommodate a Horntail. Harry decided then, the only place safe enough to land without getting either one of them killed was the arena, where this entire debacle started in the first place.

 

Harry immediately veered the Horntail around, making a tight corkscrew turn just before the dragon could carry him away from the grounds. He carefully retraced the route, looking out for the damage done to the roofs to gauge his way back to the arena.

 

The Horntail, injured and still angry, constantly tried to buck or knock Harry off, but the raven-haired impromptu dragon-rider held his ground, his intense will unknowingly forcing this strange connection deep into the Horntail’s mind, slowly clearing up the mess the intense rage had done to her sense of rationality (or dragon-equivalent) to calm her just enough so she wouldn’t go absolutely berserk in mid-air and allow her to fly relatively safely back to arena.

 


 

Back at said arena, damage control was being implemented as the scale of the disaster was assessed. Those who had managed to escape slowly trickled back to see the carnage left behind by the escaping Horntail.

 

Parts of the stands had been burnt to cinders by the flames. To everyone’s horror, charred corpses and bones lay scattered over the burnt sections. Those were being cleared by a group of aurors that had been called to Hogwarts moments after the Horntail disappeared with Harry on her back. The injured were being tended to by Madam Pomfrey and a team of healers brought in from St. Mungo’s, those in dire need of treatment apparated away to the magical hospital. Many more, like a certain Viktor Krum, were desperately trying to find family and friends separated by the earlier stampede.

 

All the while, the reporters (including a certain Rita Skeeter) were busy taking notes of the scene in front of them while cameras went off periodically. Nobody cared at the time, but news of the first task ending in death and destruction would make front page news across magical Europe by the next morning.

 

Potentially destroyed reputations aside, Viktor had more good news on his end. His clique was entirely accounted for, and all made it out relatively unscathed with the exception of Nicolae, who had broken his arm during the stampede and was now getting it mended in the medical tent.

 

But there was still no sign of Harry, who was Viktor and his clique’s main concern, and the Horntail, which worried virtually everyone else.

 

That is, until a single scream echoed throughout the arena. The source, a middle-aged man, pointed at the dot in the sky. Eyes followed the man’s finger, and more screams followed. Another stampede threatened to succeed the first, as the Horntail made her terrifying re-entry back into the arena.

 


 

Seeing the arena up ahead, Harry breathed a sigh of relief, until he remembered that he was commandeering arguably the world’s most dangerous dragon. What was going to happen after they landed? Would she cause more havoc again? Will she kill him next?

 

Harry didn’t know, and for the moment, didn’t care. His first priority was to get both him and the Horntail back onto the ground safely. Only then would he worry for his life.

 

As the arena grew closer, the faint sound of screams reached Harry’s ears. They must be close enough to be seen by those still milling around, thought Harry. On that note, Harry began the descent, aided in part by the Horntail, eager to get back to the ground to her eggs, and deal with the enemy on her back.

 

Subconsciously using the emotional connection to gently steer the dragon down towards the rocky field, the screams grew louder as the ground approached. After several tense moments, the Horntail finally landed with rumble onto the arena floor. The sudden jolt disrupted the connection, the blowback knocking Harry off the dragon’s back. He hit the ground with a bump and a skid, a groan escaping from his chapped lips.

 

Slowly, and rather painfully, Harry picked himself up.

 

‘Well…at least I’m still alive.’

 

His thoughts were immediately put into question when a fearsome roar reached his ears. Slowly, he turned around to face the Horntail, who had after making sure all of her eggs are accounted for, had turned her ire on the fourth-year.

 


 

The stampede that would have been ceased to fruition, as one by one, people saw the famed Boy-Who-Lived, and unexpected fourth champion of the tournament, appearing to steer the massive Horntail back into the arena as one would manoeuvre a horse. They watched, stunned, as the dragon landed with a loud rumble, and Harry get knocked off by the impact.

 

For a brief second, the crowd breathed a sigh of relief, thinking they would be spared a repeat of the carnage. Viktor, on the other hand, was just overjoyed to see Harry had survived, and had moved to rush down to the field to his friend.

 

He was stopped, and the general relief of the crowd dashed away, when the Horntail veered up from her nest, and roared angrily at Harry, poised to attack.

 

Panic began to spread across the crowd, the recently dulled second stampede looking more likely to break out. The handlers had their wands ready, stunners at the tips to save the saviour of magical Britain from the Horntail, who looked ready to turn him to ash with a powerful blast of fire. The aurors stopped clearing up the damage to get the people out of harm’s way before it cost them their lives.

 

The tension seemed to rise as quickly as an erupting volcano, until it was suddenly halted by a loud roar, but it didn’t come from the Horntail.

 

In fact, as people checked their eyes and ears, many could have sworn on their lives and magic that it was the Boy-Who-Lived, Harry Potter, that produced that roar.

 


 

Seeing the angry Horntail roar viciously at him, Harry knew that nothing short of a miracle would save him from an untimely, fiery end.

 

It was said that as death approached, one would relive their entire lives as if on a speed-up function. That never happened for Harry, who stood his ground, wand in hand and an unreadable expression guarding his face. If he was lucky, he could get one spell in before the flames cremated his body to ashes. On the bright side, it was a quick way to go, and he wouldn’t have the fate of an entire magical country on his shoulders anymore. The downside though, outweighed the good. He would never see Viktor again. Never again will they chat together like the close friends they are, never again would they stand side-by-side at each others’ defence, never again would they share hugs like the one in the champions’ holding tent, never again…would they sleep together, cuddled in each other’s warmth, on a cold autumn night…

 

 

 

 

No.

 

No, it can’t.

 

It can’t end like this. Things can’t just end now.

 

Harry had to fight. He had to fight to the bitter end. If he was to die, at least he would die knowing he tried his best.

 

Sure, he would never see Viktor again, but it would be one less regret on his soul as he passed on in a fiery blaze of glory.

 

The Horntail was ready to strike, and so was he. She had fire, he had magic. It would have been a moot case, a dragon against an underage wizard would definitely see the dragon come out as the victor.

 

But like that strange connection he felt exactly three times until now, things veered itself into a completely different direction.

 

As the Horntail drew in her breath to release fire over her enemy, something inside Harry snapped. Something surged through his body, pure energy of an unknown sort expanded his magic like a supernova, until it appeared to completely control his actions.

 

For as the Horntail reared herself back to release the flames, Harry’s conscious mind took a backseat as a loud noise echoed around the arena.

 

Revered Mother! Calm yourself!

 


To Be Continued.


 

 

 

Chapter Text

…as the Horntail reared herself back to release the flames, Harry’s conscious mind took a backseat as a loud noise echoed around the arena.

 

Revered Mother! Calm yourself!

 


 

Absolute silence.

 

All eyes stared at Harry, who was breathing hard, seemingly unaware that he just commanded the Horntail to halt her flames. The spectators watched with a myriad of emotions – fear, confusion and disbelief. The Hogwarts staff mirrored the expressions of the crowd, as did Viktor and the three members of his clique. The handlers, on the other hand, were in a state of total shock, eyes as wide as dinner plates and jaws hanging open.

 

The Horntail was by no means shocked. She was surprised, definitely, and highly suspicious, that this perceived enemy of hers and her precious eggs could speak her language. She had to find out who exactly is this being before her.

 

You are fluent in our language, speaker. Who are you?

 

Of course, this came out as growls and low roars to the crowd. There were several screams, and a couple of thuds as a few individuals fainted on the spot.

 

Harry’s reaction was far less exaggerated, but surprise fit the bill right on target. To him, it was like the Horntail was speaking in English, almost like when he commanded that snake that Draco conjured during the duel in second-year to halt its attack on a Hufflepuff student.

 

Speaker, who are you?

 

Realizing the Horntail was addressing him, Harry quickly responded, “Revered Mother, I am Harry Potter.

 

Speaker Harry, what are your intentions towards my young and myself?

 

I mean you and your young no harm, Revered Mother.

 

And how do I know your word is trustworthy? You look no different from those humans who starved me, provoked me with those spells and ropes, and endangered the lives of my unborn young, dragging us from our home.”

 

Here, Harry played it to his advantage, “We are both victims of these foul, despicable examples of the human race, Revered Mother. You and your young were forcibly taken from your home and made prone to anger, and I was dragged into fighting against you for the sick purpose of entertainment for these bloodthirsty fools.

 

The Horntail scrutinized the boy, “If I were to take your word as truth, Speaker Harry, why were you forced to fight me and endanger my young?

 

Harry stared into the dragon’s blazing, yellow eyes, “Right now, these humans are holding a truly dangerous event, the Tri-Wizard Tournament. People have died before in tournaments like this. I had no intention of participating, as I am not of age and I don’t want an early death. But my name was put in without my consent or knowledge, and it was chosen, even when three participants had been chosen. I had no choice but to take part, lest I forfeit my magic.

 

Here the Horntail narrowed her eyes, but deep in his heart, Harry was certain that her outrage was not directed at him, but at the bastard who threw him into this mess into the first place.

 

Revered Mother, the tournament involves three tasks. The first task, right now, involves all four participants fighting dragons and procuring a golden egg from the real ones in the shortest time and with the least injuries.

 

Here, Harry pointed at the golden egg sitting amidst the real ones. The Horntail flared her nostrils at the sight of the imposter sitting among her young. She would deal with it later, for now, she would let Harry finish.

 

I had and have no intention of hurting you or your young, Revered Mother. I only wanted to collect the imposter egg, and get away from here. I don’t want to be here as much as you do. And I understand and relate with your anger at those monsters who dragged you here. I am angry too. I am angry at those who did not aid me, or stand by me at my most vulnerable. Please believe me, Revered Mother. I am at your mercy.

 

To the surprise of those watching, Harry crouched down, put his wand in front of him on the rocky ground, and went down on one knee as a gesture of submission, leaving him totally vulnerable to any attack. They were even more stunned that a wizard was showing reverence to a dragon, something that was completely unheard of in magical society.

 

Everyone held their breath, waiting with agonizing apprehension of the outcome. The Hogwarts staff, aurors, and handlers didn’t know whether to intervene or stay put. Viktor had to be held back by his three friends so that he didn’t jeopardize the tense standoff that could result in Harry being killed.

 

As for the Horntail, she had reached her decision.

 

She was angry, but not at Harry. Her senses found no deceit or lies in his words. Furthermore, Harry was still a child! Dragons treated their young with the utmost care, protection and love. The fact that these despicable humans threw a child into a deadly tournament for their own sick entertainment disgusted her. This child ought to be loved, not sent to die!

 

The Horntail was also furious at those adult humans who contaminated her nest with that golden imposter. She wanted it gone, away from her young. Harry can take it with him, as long as it went as far away from her eggs as possible.

 

The Horntail returned her gaze upon Harry, “I find no deception in your words, Speaker Harry. I praise your actions. You helped me come to my senses. You are not like those foul beasts that you call humans. A beautiful diamond among the darkest of coals.

 

I am honoured that you perceive me as such, Revered Mother,” Harry replied humbly, “But I did it because it was the right thing to do. For even though I denounce the people who brought both of us pain, the few friends I have sitting here today are innocent. They did no wrong, so they do not deserve your ire.

 

You are truly a good, noble being, Speaker Harry. Magic should reward you for your deeds today,” the Horntail appeared to smile, showing her sharp teeth that pulled a few more screams from the spectators. The handlers stepped forward at the ready, only to be met by a blast of fire in their path as a warning from the mother dragon. With any disturbance quelled, she continued to Harry, “Speaker Harry, the golden imposter is yours to take. It does not belong in my nest. It is yours now.”

 

To the surprise and shock of those watching, the Horntail lifted her tail, brought it over her nest, and gently pushed the golden egg from the pile. It bounced off the nest, and rolled towards Harry. Trembling slightly, Harry got up, and took the egg into his hands. He returned to the genial dragon, eyes shimmering with awe.

 

Revered Mother, words cannot describe your kindness and thoughtfulness. If you so allow me, may I know your name?”

 

Speaker Harry, you may call me Harcia.

 

Very well, Harcia. I thank you most humbly for entrusting this egg to me. May you live a long, peaceful life with your young bringing you happiness and joy to you and your clan.

 

You are most welcome, Speaker Harry. I wish you all the best with your completion of this vile tournament.”

 

The crowd was once again stunned when Harcia returned Harry’s bow with her own. Just as no wizard before has bowed to a dragon, no dragon in living memory has ever bowed to a wizard. The shock factor quickly went up another level, for when both dragon and human straightened up, the latter’s chest began to glow a bright yellow.

 

Harry blinked as the glow seemed to compress into the middle of his chest, before shooting out like a comet and striking Harcia in the chest too. Frantic whispers echoed from the crowd as both human and dragon were enveloped by the yellow glow. Even the handlers were absolutely befuddled to explain the current scene, save for one with red hair tied in a ponytail, whose eyes were wide and jaw slack with disbelief.

 

Then, as the yellow glow faded from Harry and Harcia faded away, there was a disturbance in the crowd. Indignant shouts, squeals and verbal curses echoed as someone appeared to plough their way the throngs of people. Before Harry could do anything else, that someone dashed straight towards him and bowled him over, the golden egg flying out of his arms and landing several paces away.

 

Harcia did what could be the dragon-equivalent of raising one’s eyebrow, eyeing the shaking figure of Viktor Krum as he literally squeezed the life out of Harry on the ground in his tightest, most desperate hug to date, with scrutinizing curiosity.

 

It took several moments for Harry to realize it was his Bulgarian friend who was close to suffocating him on the rocky ground.

 

“V-Viktor?”

 

“Y-You f-f-fucking bastard…”

 

That shut Harry up. Viktor never swore at him before.

 

“Huh…?”

 

“Vhat d-do you think y-you vere doing? Vere you trying to give me a heart attack?!”

 

Harry felt something moist trickle onto his shoulder.

 

“Viktor…a-are you crying?”

 

“Of fucking course I am crying!” Viktor yelled, loosening his hug enough to hover over his friend, allowing the smaller lad to see the tears running freely down his cheeks amidst an emotional, agonized expression, “I could have lost you!”

 

Harry raised his hands to wipe away his friend’s tears, “Don’t cry, Viktor. I’m fine. I even got the egg.”

 

“So vhat?! You could have killed yourself!” Viktor shouted, pulling Harry back into the suffocating hug, “Did you know how terrified I vas, seeing you svoop down towards the dragon, jump onto her and vrestling around vith her until she took you into the air?! And then that glow, vhat the hell vas that?!”

 

“She was blinded by her rage, Viktor, she didn’t know what she was doing. She was just trying to protect her eggs, but her fire was shooting everywhere. The handlers couldn’t stop her, so I had to at least try! And I have no clue what that glow was or what it did! But it didn’t kill me, at least!”

 

“But vhat if you did die?! How am I supposed to live vith that?! Merlin, Harry, fucking think about yourself for once!”

 

Having ranted all of his pent-up energy, frustration and fear out, Viktor appeared to slump slightly from the loss of adrenaline. His physical strength still kept Harry in the tight hug as he pressed his forehead into the smaller boy’s neck.

 

“J-Just…please…p-promise me, Harry, t-that you vill…never be s-so…reckless a-again. I can’t c-carry on vithout y-you.”

 

Harry felt Viktor’s tears trickle onto his robes again. Sighing, his arms wrapped around the weeping Bulgarian’s broad chest, returning the hug with a reassuring squeeze.

 

“I’m sorry for worrying you, Viktor. I promise I won’t be so reckless again…unless justified by the both of us.”

 

Despite the slight turnaround at the end, Harry’s promise satisfied and calmed Viktor’s nerves, allowing him to tighten the hug to the point that oxygen really started to get cut off from Harry’s lungs, not that the fourth-year was particular about that little fact yet. Harcia, though, seemed rather affected by it.

 

Speaker Harry, your face is turning blue. Is this human hurting you?

 

Since it was roars and growls that reached Viktor’s ears, the Bulgarian seeker shot up like he had been stung by a powerful stinging hex to the arse. He was in the movement of instinctually pushing Harry behind his back and drawing his wand on the dragon, when Harry’s hands grabbed his arm.

 

“Viktor, it’s okay. Let me do the talking.”

 

Viktor stared at Harry for a moment, and slowly relented, bringing up his empty hands to show the Horntail he was no threat. Harry speaking drove that message home.

 

Harcia, this is Viktor Krum. We met in the summer, and he is a wonderful person, one that I am forever grateful for being my friend. He and his four friends stood by me when everyone abandoned me when I was chosen to participate. Viktor is a good soul, Harcia, as you described it, a diamond amidst coals.

 

The Horntail visibly relaxed at the assurance that this Viktor Krum was no danger to Harry. She turned to face the Bulgarian seeker, who had stiffened.

 

Speaker Harry speaks highly of you, Viktor. I am pleased to hear that you were there for him all throughout this madness. You truly are a wonderful friend to Speaker Harry, and a friend of Speaker Harry’s, is a friend of mine.

 

A confused Viktor turned to Harry, “Vhat did she say?”

 

Here, Harry blushed a little, “Harcia is praising you for being a good friend to me, and that you are also her friend for that.”

 

Viktor felt like he had been hit by a bus at learning he was a friend of this terrifying dragon before him. But his manners held firm; taking a leaf from Harry’s book, he bowed respectfully to Harcia, “Thank you, great dragon. I am honoured to be regarded as your friend.”

 

Harry translated Viktor’s words to the Horntail, who appeared to smile beatifically and returned the bow. Meanwhile, the press had pushed their way to the front of the crowd, and camera flashes were going off as this unprecedented event was captured for tomorrow’s papers across Europe.

 

At the same time, Harry called for Viktor’s clique to join them on the arena. The four awed Durmstrang students were introduced to Harcia, and new friendships were forged. Then, Harcia’s jovial aura turned defensive, and somehow, Harry knew. Turning to where the Horntail was glaring, he noticed a certain redheaded handler gingerly approaching the group, with his co-handlers staring at him as if he had gone off his rocker.

 

Harry stepped forward, “Hello Charlie, what is it?”

 

The second-eldest Weasley son seemed genuinely intimidated, which was not a trait a dragon-handler would dare show in front of any dragon, let alone a Horntail.

 

“May…May I have a word with you, Harry?”

 

Viktor stepped forward next to Harry, “Vhat is it that you vant to speak about?”

 

“I-I just wanted to talk about the yellow glow earlier.”

 

That naturally piqued the Bulgarian seeker’s interest. He too wanted to know what in Merlin’s name was that yellow glow that shot out of his friend and connected him with Harcia. It was left to Harry to reassure the Horntail that Charlie was no threat to either of them. Harcia relented, but kept her gaze on Harry as he approached the redhead.

 

“You seem to know something about that?”

 

“I do, Harry, but it is described as merely a myth,” Charlie explained, “You see, there is this legend that the first human and dragon to meet underwent a similar experience that you and the Horntail had earlier gone through. It was written as the first-ever soul-bond between a human and a dragon.”

 

“A soul-bond? You mean like a familiar?” Harry asked.

 

“Something like that, only much deeper and intimate,” Charlie clarified, “The legend continues how the human was able to experience their bonded-dragon’s emotions, physical and mental states, as well as converse in the draconic language – the language of dragons. The human went on to become the first dragon-handler, passing on the knowledge to future generations. This soul-bond has been coveted by many a handler since, myself included. But it has never occurred once since the legend.”

 

Harry looked thoughtful, “I did feel Harcia’s anger had being forced here against her will and the danger posed on her young. I also felt her pain when she struck her right wing on the Astronomy tower during her rage-blinded flight. It felt like the Cruciatus curse on only my right side.”

 

Charlie was now staring dumbfounded at Harry, as with Viktor and his clique. Harcia, who had been watching the conversation in the background quietly, stepped over to Harry, the Durmstrang students clambering out of her way. Harry calmly turned around, while Charlie stiffened, his tanned skin paling.

 

Harcia addressed Harry, “The redheaded human’s story is no mere myth, it actually happened.

 

How do you know this, Harcia?” asked Harry.

 

It was my mother, who was the dragon that soul-bonded with that human many millennia ago. She told me when I was a little hatchling.”

 

Harry raised an eyebrow in interest, “Really? What did your mother see in this human?

 

The same traits I see in you today. You see, Speaker Harry, this human lived by the morals of nobility, justice, and goodness. Many millennia ago, as with a good number of humans today, dragons were hunted by your kind’s ancestors. But this human was not like her peers. She treasured the lives of all creatures and beasts. That day, one of her peers was about to kill my mother, when the human came to her rescue, and killed him to save her. The selfless act allowed magic to form the soul-bond between the noble human and my mother, and she went on to teach others about how to treat dragonkind with respect and love, through the knowledge shared between her and my mother.

 

That is really interesting, Harcia,” Harry nodded thoughtfully, “But I am curious, was there any physical mark of this soul-bond?

 

Yes there is, Speaker Harry,” the Horntail confirmed, “The soul-bond is passed from parent to hatchling. As I am her offspring, I inherited the mark, and the bond at the same time.” Here, she turned to the right, and curling her wing at her right shoulder. Harry noticed that several swirls with sharp ends in a lighter grey shade stood in contrast to her black scales, formed an intricate design that reminded him of those tribal tattoos he had seen in the muggle world, “My mother told me that one day, I would find my bonded, it was just a matter of when, and who.”

 

So, you are saying…?” the last part of Harry’s question went unsaid, but Harcia understood perfectly.

 

If I am right, you should have the mark on your right shoulder too.

 

Harry nodded slightly, when he noticed Charlie, Viktor and his clique were staring at him, confused.

 

Forgetting that they didn’t understand their conversation, Harry switched back to English, “Long story short, the mythical tale did happen. Her mother was the dragon in the story, and she inherited the bond as her offspring. The soul-bond is identified by the mark on her shoulder,” Harry pointed at the grey tattoo-like mark, “and according to her…”

 

Here, Harry rolled up the sleeve of his robes over his right arm. What was revealed made Charlie and the Durmstrang students gasp, which in turn got the press excited all over again.

 

For on Harry’s right shoulder, what was once blank skin now bore the exact same tattoo-like mark, jet-black instead of grey.

 

Harcia beamed, “I was right. We now share the bond. Our souls are at one with each other.

 

Charlie might not be able to understand the draconic language, but it didn’t matter any longer. The fabled and long sought-after soul-bond between human and dragon had shown itself on young Harry. It was the same Harry who reacted with surprise when he saw Charlie drop to his knees and bow deeply to him.

 

“C-Charlie? What are you doing?”

 

“You bear the mark of the most coveted bond between man and dragon,” the redhead replied, eyes facing down, “You are favoured by dragon-kind. You have access to their ways, knowledge and secrets by bearing the mark. I can only offer you my meagre skills in the hopes that you will be generous enough to impart the ways of the dragons for me to learn.”

 

By this stage, the crowd of onlookers, aurors and Hogwarts staff were left confused, whispering and asking one another. So many things had happened in such a short span of time, no one was quite sure how to make head or tail of it. The press, on the other hand, had no such qualms, greedily lapping up every single moment that would make one hell of a news day tomorrow.

 

Harry was also left unsure how to react. It had been one thing to find yourself bonded with the world’s most dangerous species of dragon, then to find yourself in front of a prostrating dragon-handler like as if he was Merlin himself did not help matters.

 

Seeing her bonded’s distress, Harcia stalked over to Harry.

 

Harry,” here the fourth-year turned, immediately noticing the drop of the ‘speaker’, “Do you trust this human?

 

Charlie might only be an acquaintance, but I know he treats every dragon as if they were his own children. He would never do anything that would see a dragon hurt on purpose. His soul is good one, too.

 

Then you have my blessing to impart whatever knowledge I share with you to him, at your own discretion.

 

Harry bowed, “Thank you, Harcia. Charlie would be over the moon.”

 

The fourth-year returned to the redhead, who had chosen to look up, “Charlie, what are the requirements of becoming a dragon-handler? I fear my current knowledge and physical strength are not up to par with what is expected to become one. I understand it was a rush decision, but can I trust that I could put my learning into your hands as a capable dragon-handler after I finish my education here?”

 

Poor Charlie looked like he was about to crumple to the ground and his soul ascend to heaven. That a dragon’s bonded human had granted him his dream of learning every single scrap of knowledge dragon-kind possessed was beyond his wildest dreams. And he wasn’t the only one benefitting from this. If Harry was serious about becoming a dragon-handler, things at the reserve, and maybe around the world, would no longer be the same.

 

It was only through sheer will that Charlie didn’t botch his response with his overflowing emotions, “I will be most honoured to be your mentor, Harry.”

 

Harry chuckled, pulling Charlie up to his feet. Viktor approached them, “Harry, are you really serious about becoming a dragon-handler?”

 

“It’s a very high possibility,” Harry replied, “For one thing, I’m soul-bonded to a dragon, Viktor. Second, this is a new world I’ve been exposed to, I would like to see it for myself. And third, it’s actually pretty exhilarating to fly on a dragon’s back without the threat of crashing into turrets or roofs.”

 

Viktor deadpanned Harry at the last point. Klaus decided to throw in a joke, “Hey Viktor, don’t tell me you are going to vrap Harry up in cushions, keep him in your trunk and toss the key into the lake?”

 

“I think I vill do that, Klaus, thanks for the suggestion.”

 

“C’mon Viktor, you wound me,” Harry pouted, which stabbed Viktor right in the cuteness.

 

The Bulgarian seeker sighed loudly, pinching his nose, before staring Charlie down with a stern look, “Vhen Harry comes to the reserve, I expect you to vatch over him and take good care of him. If I find even one scratch on him, I’m coming after you, Mister…”

 

“Weasley. Charles Weasley. Don’t worry, Krum, you have my word on that,” the redhead promised, once again feeling intimidated by the glare boring into him.

 

Viktor immediately took notice of the familiar family name, “And by the vay, your youngest brother is an absolute shite-hole.”

 

The intimidated nervousness vanished from Charlie’s aura, “W-What do you mean?”

 

“Vhat I mean is-”

 

“Harry!”

 

At the sound of the familiar, and extremely unwelcome voice, Harry lost his entire jovial aura in a blink of eye. Harcia felt the darkening of her bonded’s emotions, following Harry’s line of sight to see what was the cause.

 

What looked like half of Gryffindor house had burst from the crowd and were now running towards them. Leading the pack, much to Harry’s disgust, was Ron and Hermione, his former “friends” who turned their backs on him when his name came out of the goblet a month ago.

 

Harry steeled his face shut, and raised his wand warningly at the approaching traitors. Viktor and his four friends also raised their wands in solidarity with the fourth champion, effectively halting the advancing Gryffindors. Gasps echoed from the watching spectators, and the press cameras went flashing again at this new potential story.

 

“Whoa! Mate! Calm down will you?” Ron held his hands up.

 

“What do you want, Weasley?” Harry growled, Charlie noticing that something was off seeing the fourth-year address his friend of four years by his family name.

 

“We wanted to congratulate you Harry!” Ron beamed, seemingly forgetting the wands pointed at him, “What you did with that dragon was so awesome!”

 

“Really? Not going to apologize for your betrayal?”

 

“Huh?”

 

“I’m surprised you’re pulling off the ignorant act. I certainly remembered a certain bad-tempered, foul-mouthed, jealous redhead rallying the entirety of the house to believe I cheated to put my name into the goblet, and then decide to exile me from Gryffindor?”

 

Despite not using a Sonorus charm, the silence of the arena amplified Harry’s voice for all to hear. Another round of gasps travelled through the crowd. The reporters were frantically scribbling Harry’s words down, eager for the potential bombshell this story would become. Charlie was staring at his youngest brother in disbelief.

 

“Eh…yeah…about that mate, after seeing the dragon, we realized that someone really wanted to off you by putting your name in without your knowledge,” Ron tried to brush it off.

 

“Wow Weasley, took you that long to figure it out?” Harry sneered, glare intensifying, “So, are you going to apologise?”

 

“For what mate?” Ron had the audacity to act confused, “It’s all in the past! I’d say let bygones be bygones. We’re best mates, aren’t we? We are the Golden Trio, after all.”

 

The rest of the Gryffindors were nodding along with what Ron was saying. That made Viktor’s glare turned absolutely bloodthirsty, his anger erupting like a volcano. He was about to cast another bone-breaking hex at the redhead’s jaw, but Harry beat him to it with his own spell.

 

“The Golden Trio, is dead.”

 

A powerful Confringo shot out of Harry’s wand, striking the ground just inches from Ron’s feet. The resulting explosion knocked Ron, Hermione and the front row of Gryffindors to the ground, those behind quickly stumbling back, shrieking in horror. More gasps left the stunned onlookers, the cameras flashing like crazy.

 

A cloud of dust and grit was kicked up, sending those caught in it coughing and wheezing. As the dust cleared, Ron stared at Harry with total shock.

 

“What the bloody hell?! What was that for?!”

“Shut your mouth, Weasley,” Harry growled, shattering Ron’s jaw with the customary bone-breaking hex.

 

A gurgled scream echoed painfully from the redhead, blood seeping from his mouth as he tried to hold his jaw together.

 

“You are unbelievable, Weasley,” Harry snarled, stepping towards his traitorous housemates, “You didn’t even apologise for your actions, and you expect things to go back to what they were before? Let me get this in your fucking skull, you fucking arsewipe, you, Granger and I, are done!”

 

The onlookers watched, spellbound, as Harry verbally tore his former friends apart, “You and Granger betrayed me at my most vulnerable, throwing our years of friendship away just because of your fucking jealousy and lack of brains! You, Weasley, even dared to drag my parents’ memory through the mud! If you think I can just forgive you for all that you’ve done, you are dead wrong, you motherfucking douchebag!”

 

Harry didn’t care if his liberal use of profanity resulted in some onlookers fainting, he inwardly relished the flash of emotions that marred Ron’s bloody face – outrage, horror, pain. The last one he exacerbated by firing a stinging hex on the redhead’s shattered jaw, pulling another pain-filled scream.

 

“You all turned your backs on me thanks to Weasley’s attitude. Now, you’ll see me turn my back on you fucking arselickers. I would say it was nice knowing all of you, but I would be lying to myself. So I will say this, fuck off and die!”

 

Harry threw a parting shot in the raising his middle finger at the lions, those raised by muggles or understanding muggle culture recoiling at the offensive gesture.

 

As Harry turned away to pick up his forgotten golden egg, Fred and George stepped out of the crowd. They didn’t need to intervene since Harry had no trouble destroying Ron and the Gryffindors. But they couldn’t go without giving their imbecilic younger brother their own verbal bashing.

 

“See what you’ve…”

 

“done now, Ronniekins.”

 

“You acting like a right dick…”

 

“…has come back to wallop you on your arse.”

 

“We agree with Harry…”

 

“…you are a motherfucking douchebag…”

 

“And therefore deserve this,” both twins finished, drawing their wands and simultaneously firing two more stinging hexes at their brother, one on the forehead and the other at the chest.

 

Leaving Ron in agony, the twins joined Charlie and the Durmstrang students, as Harry returned with his golden egg.

 

“Mighty good show you pulled there Harry,” said Fred.

 

“You’ve got balls the size of quaffles, riding that dragon! Do you think she’ll let us fly on her back too?” asked George.

 

“Let me clear that with Harcia,” Harry grinned, turning to the Horntail and introducing the twins to her.

 

The small group then left the Gryffindors to marinade in their shame, bringing Harcia out of the arena back to the enclosure where the other dragons were kept until their return to the reserve. The crowd parted for them, cameras flashing as they went. Meanwhile, sitting innocently on the stands watching the entire proceedings, was Luna, a gentle smile gracing her lips.

 

“Harry really has a lot of surprises up his sleeve. I wonder what’s next?”

 


 

To Be Continued.


 

 

Chapter Text

It was no secret that the next morning’s newspapers would arrive to wizarding homes all over Europe bursting with the tales of the events at the arena in Hogwarts. It was also no secret that the status quo, politically and socially, was going to be blown apart by said events. But for now, life carried on, though already drastically altered.

 

After leaving the arena behind them, Harry and company brought Harcia back to the temporary enclosure where she would be held until their departure the next morning. Harry promised a rather downtrodden Horntail that they will meet again soon.

 

As they left the enclosure after bidding Charlie and Harcia farewell, Nicolae turned to Harry.

 

“Harry, where will you stay when you become a dragon-handler?”

 

“Well, I have three options.”

 

“Three?” Uliana asked.

 

“Yep, first is the reserve,” Harry counted his finger. “If for whatever reason that is not possible, I can crash at your place Nicolae, since you’re from Romania, or I can just stay with Viktor. Bulgaria is just south of Romania, and international portkey travel, no matter how much I hate the feeling, shouldn’t take that long.”

 

Harry sounded absolutely nonchalant when saying this. Viktor, though, wasn’t feeling so calm. The thought of him and Harry living together sent his heart squealing loudly and allowing a blush to spread across his face.

 

Harry appeared oblivious to Viktor’s predicament, but his clique certainly wasn’t. Even the Bulgarian seeker’s famous death-glare did nothing to stop the snickering and gentle ribbing whispered so that Harry wouldn’t hear.

 

They returned to the medical tent to retrieve Viktor’s egg that he left behind. Madam Pomfrey was beside herself with worry after personally witnessing Harry hurl himself onto Harcia’s back and fly into the sky, and insisted on giving the fourth-year a full medical scan for any injuries. Apart from some minor cuts and bruising, Harry was fine, which prevented another stay in the hospital wing, much to his relief.

 

After being dismissed by Madam Pomfrey, who could still be heard muttering about the insanity that is dragons being brought to Hogwarts as they left, the group were joined by the Weasley twins and Luna outside the tent. They trooped back to the Durmstrang ship for some much needed rest before dinner together in the Room of Requirement.

 

But it seemed that any rest they could get was not to be.

 

The entire Durmstrang delegation were on the top deck. Seeing the group step on board triggered a deafening chorus of cheers, clapping and whistles. Harry and Viktor found themselves swarmed by the students, shouts of congrats reaching their ears and hearty slaps delivered onto their backs.

 

What surprised Harry was that he was being congratulated. Even though Viktor was their champion, the Durmstrang students still treated him to a hero’s welcome. Harry thought it was due to his death-defying stunts with Harcia, but in reality, the Durmstrang students treated fair competitors with honour and respect, and they truly believed that Harry did a marvellous job procuring his golden egg. Taming a ferocious Horntail was an added bonus.

 

Harry and company were dragged below deck to a large room, where a party awaited them. Platters of food sat at a large table against a wall, as well as bottles of butterbeer and what looked like vodka.

 

The room was quickly filled with noise and chatter as the food and drinks were heartily attacked. Harry found himself a large audience – Viktor and his friends, the Weasley twins and Luna included – all wanting to hear the tale of riding a raging Horntail into the sky and not getting himself killed.

 

Harry spared no detail. With the aid of translation charms, he had his audience raptured, retelling wrestling Harcia and trying to steer her in the air. There was a loud ‘thud’ as one of the students, a big, surly-looking male, keeled backwards and fainted when Harry recounted nearly losing his footing when Harcia’s tail destroyed a turret roof. Viktor had gone deathly pale hearing the entire experience, and it took another tight hug with Harry to settle his frantic heart and to reassure himself that his friend was still alive.

 

One could literally feel the respect rise in the room. Harry’s aspiration to become a dragon-handler was met with nods of approval and offers to loan him books on dragons and dragon-handling. The conversation then drifted off for a short while after Harry’s storytelling ended, allowing the fourth-year to get some much-needed food into his system and chat with his friends.

 

Suddenly, someone called in accented English, “Potter! Krum! Can ve see the golden eggs?”

 

The two eggs, which had been sitting innocently at a quiet corner of the room, were brought forth to admiring eyes. Suddenly, Harry realized he didn’t know what the egg was for.

 

“Does anyone here know what is the egg for?”

 

“Bagman said earlier that the egg contains the clue to the second task,” Anastazja replied.

 

Harry noticed that the top part of the egg could be opened. Without a thought, he unclicked the hatch, and opened it.

 

Big mistake.

 

What could only be described as an infernal noise from the depths of hell, mixed with the ear-splitting wails of banshees, screams of children and animals howling, blasted the room. Harry dropped the egg as if it was burning hot. Moans and shouts of pain echoed, ears hurriedly plugged and those not fast enough on the floor reeling with ringing eardrums. Barely heard over the unholy din, the room’s portholes shattered with a tinkle, along with more than a few beverage bottles.

 

“Shut it!” Fred shouted, “Somebody shut that Merlin-forsaken thing!”

 

Luna, who appeared to be merely annoyed by the ear-splitting screams than in agony, was the first to the egg. She peeked into the egg, before clamping it shut with a shrug.

 

With the sudden cutting of the noise, sighs of relief came from all parts. Those on the floor slowly picked themselves up, eardrums still ringing.

 

“That…vas absolutely dreadful,” Klaus muttered, eyes wide.

 

His sentiments were shared by every single person in the room. Harry was just recovering from nearly going deaf when an important question blinked into his thoughts.

 

“Luna, did you see if there was anything inside the egg that might be the clue?”

 

“No Harry, it was empty,” the dreamy blonde shook her head, before turning thoughtful, “Although, I could have missed something, since it was a quick peek. Maybe I should I check aga-”

 

Her innocent offer was quickly rebuffed by shouts of the many different lingual forms of the word “NO!”

 


 

 

Meanwhile, back in Hogwarts castle, a different set of screams were going off. These screams, though, didn’t sound like they were dragged from the fiery pits of hell. They sounded more like the harsh bellows from a certain Scottish head-of-house, Professor McGonagall.

 

If Harry had torn the Gryffindors to shreds in the arena, the outraged transfiguration professor pretty much obliterated what was left of them.

 

Having heard Harry’s diatribe, a disbelieving McGonagall assembled her entire house (save for Ron, who was lifted away on a stretcher by Madam Pomfrey to the hospital wing) into the common room, and demanded answers.

 

The growing look of absolute, scathing fury on the professor’s face cowed everyone, no one wanting to set off the explosion that was their head-of-house by admitting that they wrongfully exiled one of their own. In the end, it was one of the portraits who spilled the beans, and unleashed McGonagall’s wrath on the defenceless lions.

 

“I AM ASHAMED OF ALL OF YOU! YOU ARE A DISGRACE TO GRYFFINDOR! I CANNOT BELIEVE THAT YOU LOT WOULD EVEN DARE TO BEHAVE IN SUCH AN OUTRAGEOUS, DESPECABLE MANNER! KICKING ONE OF YOUR OWN OUT OF THE HOUSE, ON BASELESS ACCUSATIONS FURTHERMORE, IS ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTING!”

 

The Gryffindors definitely felt disgusting, at themselves. They expected no forgiveness from McGonagall once the secret was out. But that did nothing to ease the verbal blows raining down hard on their already ruined spirits. And the professor was nowhere near done.

 

“ALL OF YOU WILL BE SERVING DETENTIONS UNDER ME FOR THE NEXT MONTH! AND I DON’T CARE THAT GRYFFINDOR’S HOUSE POINTS ARE IN THE NEGATIVE, FOR YOUR ATROCIOUS BEHAVIOUR, 50 POINTS ARE TAKEN FROM EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU! AND YOU CAN FORGET ABOUT ANY HOGSMEADE TRIPS THIS YEAR!”

 

In the Great Hall, Gryffindor’s hourglass shot down even deeper into the red, even further than Slytherin, into territory never before seen in Hogwarts history. By the time the crash had stopped, the house of lions were several thousands below negative.

 

“IT IS A MIRACLE THAT MR. POTTER WAS NOT KILLED OUT THERE TODAY. IF HE HAD, MERLIN FORBID, THERE WILL BE NO FORGIVENESS FOR ANYONE OF YOU!”

 

It went unsaid, although everyone knew without a doubt, that even though Harry had survived, there would be no forgiveness for them from him. And it seemed that earning McGonagall’s forgiveness would take years to reconcile.

 

The Scottish professor’s screams finally abated, but her anger did not. Unable to even glance at her charges for a moment longer, she stormed out of the common room, leaving the lions to stew in their remorse and self-pity.

 


 

At the same time, someone else was stewing in their thoughts. But this person was far from being self-piteous or remorseful. In fact, he was…worried?

 

That person, a certain Albus too-many-middle-names Dumbledore, slightly hunched over his desk in his repaired office. Fingers interlocked and pressed lightly against his lips, the headmaster brooded over the events of that day, growing increasingly unsettled with each passing second.

 

He had planned meticulously for this particular year. Dumbledore knew that dark times were rapidly approaching, through his meetings with his death eater spy, Snape. The Dark Mark was getting clearer, albeit only minutely. Dumbledore had long known Voldemort hadn’t really died that Halloween night in 1981, but it was only his findings over the summer holidays that proved conclusively that the Dark Lord was set to return this very school-year. After all, he knew someone on Voldemort’s side had tampered with the goblet to make Harry’s name appear. And it was what he wanted, it was a small part of his plan for the greater good of magical Britain.

 

Everything had gone accordingly so far. Dumbledore had been instrumental in manipulating Harry’s life ever since he left the boy at the doorstep of the Dursleys’ home. He had known the Dursleys were prejudiced against magic, deliberately letting Harry suffer years of neglect and abuse to make him compliant and vulnerable, seeking out anyone who would treat him nicely.

 

Dumbledore took on the role, adopting a grandfatherly persona to appear as Harry’s saviour from a years of systematic abuse in an attempt to erode his independence and self-will. Harry was meant to be groomed to love the Light, despise the Dark, and to fight the Dark Lord upon his return. His social circle was carefully manipulated so that only those with fervent standings in the Light side would be his friends, and all Dark-sided individuals kept away as enemies.

 

It had worked initially. Harry found his first friend in Ronald Weasley, dim-witted but fanatically ensconced in the Light and hating all that was Dark. Dumbledore orchestrated the events of the past three years, setting the obstacles towards the fight with a Voldemort-possessed Quirrell, leaving Harry to fight the basilisk and destroy Tom Riddle’s horcrux, and preventing Sirius Black from taking Harry into his custody through manipulation, lies and controlling the strings from behind the scenes.

 

But the summer of this year, saw the first crack in the foundations of Dumbledore’s meticulous plan for Harry’s role in defeating Voldemort and ensuring a Light-sided magical Britain through the fourth-year succeeding him as the leader of the Light.

 

Harry had become friends with Bulgaria’s seeker, Krum. And the two had been inseparable ever since. Dumbledore had been surprised to see how close they’ve become back in October, seeing how tightly they embraced one another after the delegations had arrived.

 

And from there, more cracks appeared.

 

Dumbledore watched with growing horror as Harry slowly, but surely, slipped away from his grasp. From the moment his name came out of the goblet, things started going downhill.

 

What should have been a plan to have Harry become reliant and vulnerable by taking advantage of Ronald’s jealousy and stupidity resulted in the redhead suffering serious injuries and several days in the hospital wing. What should have been a desperate Harry struggling through the ostracising by his housemates and schoolmates saw him team up with Krum and destroy anyone who got in their way, the Potter Stinks badges a stark indication.

 

The only good thing from this period was Harry taking the advice from Dumbledore’s old friend, Moody, to use his Firebolt in the first task, only for the Horntail to ruin everything by breaking free of her restraints and going on a rampage. The aurors reported a total of 57 killed either in the stampede or burnt to a crisp by the dragon’s flames, and over two hundred injured. To make an already dire situation worse, about half of the casualties, both dead and injured, came from mainland Europe to watch the tournament.

 

Dumbledore knew full well the repercussions headed his way. Once the story breaks, people will be calling for his blood, for restarting the tournament in the first place and the reason why dozens of families have lost someone dear to them and will have caskets or urns delivered to their doors. He would be branded as the scapegoat by the international community, and who knows how far he would fall by the time the political and social fallout had ended.

 

There was nothing he could do to stop this incoming storm. He could only hope, after all this, that he would at least maintain his position of headmaster of Hogwarts.

 


 

Harry, on the other hand, had no such troubling thoughts occupying his head. After nearly losing his hearing thanks to the egg, Harry and Viktor decided unanimously to put everything about the tournament aside for the time being. After all, they had another three months or so before the second task, now was a time for that much-needed rest.

 

The next day, though, was clearly not as peaceful as Harry would have liked. Although it initially had to do with the seismic things that were happening in Europe as news of the chaos during the first task reached wizarding families across the continent, and rumours that Dumbledore had been summoned by the International Confederation of Wizards to answer for the tragedy the day before, it came from somewhere more local, in the very castle he still roamed during daylight hours.

 

He still avoided the Great Hall for meals, but he could not avoid any encounters he had with his schoolmates in lessons or in any part of the school.

 

There was no need for the drawing of wands this time round. These encounters were a mixed bag of congratulations and apologies of varying degrees of sincerity, mainly pertaining to the badges and the ostracising prior to the first task.

 

Harry responded with a stoic, icy-cold voice. There was to be no forgiveness to be dished out. Any congratulations and attempts at conversation were ignored. No more was he going to let them take advantage of his goodwill that they so definitely did not deserve.

 

The entirety of Gryffindor house was also ignored by Harry. Any word uttered, no matter the context, was snubbed. Harry simply pretended they didn’t exist. Not even Hermione was spared the ice-cold treatment, brushed aside like dandruff on one’s shoulder.

 

But there was one other person Harry would have loved to chat with but haven’t been able to do so since this entire mess that was the tournament. In fact, Harry had completely forgotten about him until it quite literally busted the door in his memory and kicked him into realising…

 

“Shite! Sirius!”

 

It happened in Viktor’s cabin, the night after the first task. The Bulgarian seeker watched Harry questioningly as the fourth-year dove for his trunk, pulling out a sheet of parchment before rushing for the desk.

 

“Harry, vhat’s got your knickers all tvisted?”

 

“I need to write a letter,” Harry replied only half-attentively, “Merlin, I hope Sirius is okay…”

 

“Vho’s Sirius?”

 

It was that question that made Harry freeze. It dawned on him that he had never let Viktor in on about his godfather.

 

“Viktor, could you ward the door and put up the privacy charms, this is a secret that cannot leave this room.”

 

The seeker complied, hearing how serious his friend sounded. Once the spells had been cast, Viktor turned back to Harry, expecting a response.

 

“Viktor, when I tell you who he is, I beg you to let me finish first, then questions later, okay?”

 

Viktor nodded.

 


 

“…so he’s actually innocent?”

Harry spent the next twenty minutes giving Viktor a rundown of his godfather’s backstory, how he had been framed for the murder of twelve muggles, thrown into Azkaban without a trial, how they almost managed to prove his innocence, and how Sirius is now on the run with a “dementor’s-kiss-on-sight” target on his head.

 

“Yes, the real culprit was Peter Pettigrew,” Harry explained, “He got away last year before we could prove Sirius’ innocence, all down to bad timing and luck. That was when I also had to face off those hundred dementors.”

 

Viktor felt naturally overwhelmed. There was just so many things in Harry’s story that made his heart drop into his stomach. He could only imagine the trauma his friend went through. One dementor was bad enough, a hundred swarming towards you might as well mean the end of the world.

 

“So vhere is he now?”

 

“I don’t know, we never ask for his safety,” Harry replied, “I used to write to him quite regularly, but when the tournament happened, there was just so many things going on, and I completely forgot about him. Merlin…he must be so worried…”

 

“I vould be,” Viktor remarked, “I vould be losing my shit if I heard my godson vas forced to vrestle a Horntail back to sanity.”

 

“I know, that’s why I need to write to him now,” Harry returned to the blank parchment, “to at least let him know that I’m fine.”

 

Soon, the sound of conversation turned to the scratching of a quill upon parchment. As Harry thought about what to write to his godfather, Viktor fell into deep thought. Several minutes passed, and Viktor was suddenly hit by a brainwave.

 

“Harry?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Vhat time does Gringotts close?”

 


 

One hell of a lot of planning and a long letter sent by Velia later, Harry and Viktor were waiting next to the gangplank leading up to the Durmstrang ship for the arrival of their contact. Everyone else had already gone to bed or were in the process of doing so. The November chill had definitely set in, thank Merlin for warming charms, and considerate seeker friends loaning a fur coat as an extra measure.

 

Harry casted a tempus charm.

 

“It’s almost half past ten, I hope he gets here on time.”

 

Viktor silently nodded, it was no secret how anxious the both of them were. If this plan fails, not only will Sirius get the Dementor’s Kiss, but Boy-Who-Lived and Seeker of Bulgaria or not, they will be thrown into Azkaban for harbouring a fugitive.

 

Their plan had been to get Sirius out of the country with help from the goblins to the continent where he could get a proper trial and be exonerated for his false conviction. Now though, the plan rested on whether Sirius could get into Hogwarts without being spotted, where Harry and Viktor could then get him safely to Gringotts.

 

Half-past ten had been their agreed meeting time. But as time slowly ticked past, and no sign of his godfather anywhere, Harry was getting worried.

 

That is, until the sound of rustling foliage reached his ears.

 

It was rather hard to see in the moonless night, but thanks to the remaining glows of torches from the castle, Harry was able to spot a shape emerge from the bushes outside the Forbidden Forest, and slowly pad its way over towards the lake, trying to blend in with the darkness.

 

Harry lit up a faint Lumos at the tip of his wand. He waved it slightly, to catch the shape’s attention. The shape paused, then moving towards their direction. As it neared, the faint light on Harry’s wand finally revealed the features of this four-legged shape approaching them.

 

A large, black dog.

 

The dog came to a stop in front of them, eyes shining with barely repressed excitement.

 

“Hey Sirius,” Harry whispered, “Glad to see you made it safely.”

 

The dog leapt into the air, morphing into a man who had seen far better days. Once fully reverted back into human form, Sirius pulled Harry into a tight hug.

 

“Oh Merlin, Harry,” the man rasped, “It’s so good to see you again in person.”

 

“It’s good to see you too, Sirius.”

 

Sirius released his godson from his grasp, turning to face Viktor.

 

“And you’re Viktor Krum, I take it?”

 

“Yes Lord Black, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

 

Sirius chuckled, “Call me Sirius, the Lord title makes me sound old.”

 

The banter aside, the man had some heartfelt things to say, “Viktor, I can’t thank you enough for looking after my godson.”

 

“I have him to thank too. He saved my life at the Vorld Cup.”

 

“Yes, I heard about that,” Sirius nodded, “Great job catching the snitch by the way.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

Sirius turned to Harry, “And you…I should kick your arse for nearly giving this old mutt a heart attack hearing that you wrestled with an insane Horntail, flew on said dragon’s back while destroying parts of Hogwarts, and soul-bonding with her just as she was about to finish you off while taking part in a deadly tournament. You didn’t even write!”

 

“Sorry about that, there was a lot of shite happening then,” Harry scratched his cheek, “And soul-bonding with Harcia was something I didn’t expect to happen. Call it Gryffindor nobleness, but I was just trying to ensure people didn’t die.”

 

“Probably would have been more than the 57 that died if you didn’t,” Sirius conceded.

 

“Yes, that, and the fact that Viktor’s friends were in the stands. One of them broke his arm during the stampede. They are close as friends to me as they are with him, and I couldn’t just not try to prevent their untimely ends.”

 

Harry may have spoken what he thought was right at that time, but his words squeezed Viktor’s heart, making his stomach go all fuzzy hearing such noble words from his friend.

 

But sentimentalities aside, they had a mission to do.

 

“Harry, Sirius, ve need to get to the edge of the vards.”

 

Their mission was now a go.

 


 

Thank Merlin for Harry’s invisibility cloak. Using it as cover for all three of them ensured they remained hidden as they carefully inched their way outside of the Hogwarts wards. Once they felt the anti-apparition protections pass over them and fall away behind them, they were in the clear, for the moment.

 

Harry tucked away the cloak into his robes, and nodded his readiness for the next part of the plan.

 

First, Sirius spun on his heel and apparated away to the entrance of Gringotts. Once he was gone, Harry gripped Viktor’s arm tightly and braced himself for what would be an unpleasant experience.

 

It was definitely far from enjoyable, apparating across the country to Diagon Alley in London. The only good side of it was that it was relatively short. Still, that didn’t stop Harry from nearly puking up his dinner once he and Viktor landed at the steps of Gringotts, Sirius by his side trying to help him settle his nausea.

 

“I think magical travel really hates me…”

 

“You just need practice, Harry,” said Viktor.

 

Once Harry’s stomach had settled, the third stage of the plan was in motion. Checking to ensure no one would spot them in the open, Harry took out his invisibility cloak and threw it over Sirius, hiding him from view. They climbed the steps, pausing to bow respectfully to the goblin warriors standing guard at the bank entrance. The goblins appeared surprised to be treated with such respect, but they nodded back before returning to their rigid, steely vigilance for any troublemakers.

 

Forty-five minutes to closing time, the bank was virtually devoid of magical folk. Only the goblin tellers were still at their desks, scribbling away at accounts books or passing scrolls to other goblins who went in and out of the main hall.

 

With that, Harry, Viktor and an invisible Sirius made a beeline for a random teller, who barely acknowledged them as they approached the desk.

 

“Yes?”

 

“Good evening, master teller,” Harry greeted, “May your gold forever flow and your enemies’ heads roll in their blood.”

 

The teller stopped writing, looking up to make eye-contact with the emerald-green eyes and famous lightning-bolt scar of arguably the first wizard to treat him according to goblin custom.

 

“Ah, Mr. Harry Potter, a very good evening to you too,” the goblin put down his quill, “How may Gringotts be of service to you at this admittedly late hour?”

 

“May I check to see if accounts manager Griphook is available? We need to have an urgent audience with him,” asked Harry.

 

“May I enquire the purpose of this last-minute meeting?” asked the teller.

 

Harry turned to Viktor, who nodded affirmatively.

 

“It’s with regards to my godfather, Lord Sirius Black.”

 

On cue, Sirius pulled off the invisibility cloak, revealing himself to the bank. Other tellers who had been half-listening in on the conversation were now staring at them, their work temporarily forgotten.

 

The teller dealing with Harry and company stared with eyebrows raised. But he regained his composure fairly quickly.

 

“Very well, I will call for Griphook. Please wait right here, Mr. Potter.”

 


 

 

Thanks in part to goblin efficiency, Harry, Viktor and Sirius found themselves with the Potter accounts manager Griphook in his office, served hot tea and explaining the plan to the interested goblin.

 

“I see,” Griphook mused, “So you require Gringott’s expertise in creating an international portkey that would allow Lord Black to escape British soil and get the trial he never had?”

 

“Yes, Master Griphook, that is our intention,” Harry replied, firm in tone.

 

Inwardly though, Harry was nervous. Although Gringotts and the goblin nation were sovereign territory which the Ministry had no rights to lord over lest they wish to start another goblin rebellion, Harry still didn’t know if the goblins would be willing to help a wanted fugitive escape the country and bring the ire of the Ministry down upon their shoulders.

 

His worries were quickly dashed with Griphook laughing.

 

“Oh this is priceless! I can expect Fudge to blow his top because this!”

 

“So you’re…willing to help?” asked Harry tentatively asked.

 

“Of course we are, Mr. Potter,” Griphook smiled maliciously, “If it means pulling the rug out from Fudge’s feet, or irritating the Ministry in general, Gringotts will always be willing to work with you, given the right price, that is.”

 

Relief washed over Harry and company.

 

“So how does France sound like, Master Griphook? Do you think it is a safe country for Sirius to escape to?”

 

“Any country that isn’t Britain would be safe, Mr. Potter,” the goblin corrected, “Thanks in part to Grindelwald’s reign of terror, mainland Europe has always been strict when it comes to criminal justice.”

 

“And since Britain vasn’t affected by Grindelvald’s tyranny, they have not adapted or changed as the rest of the continent had,” Viktor added.

 

“Precisely,” Griphook nodded, “So, Mr. Potter, I believe we can work something out on this, for the right price, I presume?”

 

“For my godfather, even if I had to give the entire Potter fortune, I would gladly do so,” Harry replied resolutely.

 

As Griphook and Harry got down to business, Viktor turned to Sirius, “Your godson is really something.”

 

“I know, that’s why I’m so proud of him,” Sirius replied, “And he’s someone you should never let go of.”

 

Viktor wholeheartedly agreed with that.

 


 

 

The portkey to the French Ministry of Magic in Paris was made in no time at all. Before leaving, Sirius shared one last hug with Harry, promising to return once he had been cleared of all charges. With a final glance at the two seekers and Griphook, Sirius grabbed the portkey, a rusty, old tinned sardine can, and disappeared with a ‘pop’.

 

“You two should head back to Hogwarts,” Griphook stated, “It would be most dreadful if you were caught out of bed.”

 

“We will, thank you so much, Master Griphook, for your help,” Harry bowed respectfully.

 

“Think nothing of it, see it as Gringotts’ desire to further humiliate Dumbledore and the Ministry alongside the Boy-Who-Lived with his escapades with the Horntail,” Griphook chuckled.

 

The two seekers were shown out of the bank, and once back in Diagon Alley, disapparated together back to Hogwarts.

 


 

 

The next morning, as expected, all hell broke loose. The Daily Prophet had broken the news that Sirius Black, murderer of muggles and follower of You-Know-Who, had escaped Britain and fled to France the night before through portkey.

 

The newspaper wrote that upon arrival at the French Ministry of Magic, Black willingly gave himself up. Upon questioning, he revealed he was never given a trial for his perceived crimes. The French Ministry then “interfered with the internal affairs of wizarding Britain”, as the newspaper called it, by holding an emergency meeting of the country’s delegates and deciding that Black was to be given a proper trial with Veritaserum administered. The trial saw Black given the truth serum, and subsequently declared innocent of all charges.

 

The Prophet also reported that the French ignored all demands of the British Ministry for the immediate repatriation of Black, even going as far as to release a statement, stating,  “Due in part to the severe miscarriage of justice committed by the British Ministry of Magic thirteen years ago, and their incompetence in the organising of the Triwizard Tournament at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry that saw nine of our citizens coming home in urns or coffins, we hereby declare that no further contact between our two ministries will be established beyond an unofficial level until our counterparts across the channel have cleaned up their act and began functioning as a proper government to the magical people of Britain.”

 

To throw salt into the open wound, the French Ministry also granted Black political asylum, awarding him French citizenship in exchange for renouncing his British citizenship. He could enter Britain’s borders as a French citizen, and the British Ministry will have no power over him, lest they wish to start an international incident.

 

As Harry and his friends celebrated, Dumbledore was being attacked on all fronts. Just the day before, he was forced to attending a hearing at the ICW for what had happened during the first task. Every European country had at least one of their own citizens coming back dead due in part to the disaster. Their people had been outraged, demanding the blood of the one responsible.

 

That perceived guilt fell on Dumbledore’s shoulders. Upon unanimous vote, the ICW stripped him of his title of Supreme Mugwump, and banished him from any position of power in the ICW for the rest of his life.

 

Dumbledore came back to Britain a beaten man, only for more blows to come following the story of Sirius Black being declared innocent by the French. That very morning the story broke; he was summoned to the Ministry.

 

The old wizard found himself being stared down by the entire Wizengamot and an irate Fudge. The disaster of the first task and Black’s flight to France has made magical Britain the scourge of wizarding Europe. Like before with the ICW, people were looking for someone to blame, and Dumbledore found the target placed firmly on him.

 

It was another unanimous vote that saw the end of Dumbledore’s political career.

 

“Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore,” Minister Fudge proclaimed, “This Wizengamot has voted in favour of stripping you of your position as Chief Warlock. A vote to decide your successor will be held at a to-be-determined date. So mote it be.”

 

Fudge banged his gavel down, hammering the final nail in the coffin that was Dumbledore’s influence and power. He now only had the position of Hogwarts headmaster to his name, but for how long more, he didn’t know. Dumbledore knew, as he left the Ministry a mere shadow of the man he once was, that if the board of directors would have their way, he would be out of Hogwarts in the blink of an eye.

 

No, he thought to himself. He couldn’t afford to lose any more power now. The Greater Good of the country hung by a thread. He still needed to call the shots in Hogwarts, but he needed something to show that he was still a competent headmaster.

 

As he flooed back into his office, Dumbledore had a brainwave. If he played what few cards he had left right, this should save his position as headmaster.

 


To Be Continued.


 

 

Chapter Text

November keeled off the stage of 1994, giving way for December. With the new month, came even more frigid temperatures, snow, ice, flushed noses and cheeks from the cold.

 

Harry had spent the first week of the month doing a number of things – namely trying to figure out the clue to the second task from the egg without destroying his eardrums, spending time with his friends, and teaching Luna various offensive and defensive spells to use against any tormentors trying to heckle her.

 

The second and third items were a success in Harry’s mind. It was nice to spend many an hour with Viktor and his friends, the twins and Luna in between classes in the Room of Requirement. Plus, Luna has come along well with the spell-work, a prime example being when she blasted two Ravenclaw fifth-years straight into a suit of armour, before the impact caused a tapestry to fall onto them, extending their hospital stay to a week.

 

The first item, though, was not as successful. No matter what tactic or spell, the egg kept its secret. If only it could keep its infernal screaming whenever it was opened. Harry would have blasted the egg with a Bombarda Maxima if he could, if it weren’t for the fact that he would send the Durmstrang ship to the bottom of the lake.

 

Thankfully, something else happened that temporarily allowed Harry to forget his troubles with the egg. Something that both had him wanting to hex people to next Sunday, and paving the way for something bigger.

 


 

Harry had Transfiguration that afternoon, and Viktor tagged along as per usual. This time, Viktor’s clique accompanied the pair, having nothing better to do that day, and wanting to act as a second barrier against unwanted hecklers.

 

The group reached the classroom, only to notice something odd.

 

All the desks and chairs were gone, leaving behind a bare room. Professor McGonagall was off to one end of the room, fiddling with a large gramophone. Hearing the door open, she looked up.

 

“Ah, Mr. Potter, you’re early,” the Scottish professor remarked.

 

“What’s going on, Professor McGonagall?” Harry asked, “What happened to the classroom?”

 

“All in due time, Mr. Potter, once everyone else arrives,” McGonagall replied, approaching the group, “In the mean time…”

 

The Transfiguration professor came to a stop in front of Harry, Viktor instinctively tightening his grip on his friend’s shoulder. Harry noticed that his otherwise stern professor’s strict expression had softened a little.

 

“I never got to congratulate you for your impressive performance during the First Task, Mr. Potter,” McGonagall began, “It was an entirely foolish, but brave move of you to try wrestling the Horntail down before it killed all of us.”

 

Viktor and his friends eyed Harry, waiting for his reaction. Harry had previously scorned off any congratulations from his schoolmates, and they half-expected him to do the same to his head-of-house who had shown no support for him during that trying time before the First Task.

 

They were therefore somewhat surprised when Harry gave his reply.

 

“Thank you, Professor McGonagall. What I did then was merely what I thought right.”

 

The professor nodded slowly.

 

“Is there anything else, professor?” Harry asked.

 

“Yes, there is. Mr. Potter, I believe I owe you a very overdue apology.”

 

Viktor raised an eyebrow, and so too did his clique. Harry stayed impassively neutral, simply waiting for her explanation.

 

“My behaviour between the moment your name came out of the goblet and the First Task was abhorrent,” McGonagall continued, “I did not come to your aid at all during what must have been a difficult time for you. I was blind to my house’s atrocious behaviour, merely believing the headmaster in waiting out the “emotional tsunami”, as he called it. It was only your admonishment of Mr. Weasley and the others in the arena that made see what I had ignored. Let me assure you that I have punished my house severely for their transgressions. But I have no excuse for my own failings, so I humbly apologize for that.”

 

The room was silent for a moment, until Harry muttered, “Professor…”

 

“Also, I must apologize for my failing back in your first year, when you came to me to warn about Professor Quirrel trying to steal the Philosopher’s Stone for You-Know-Who. I had rebuffed your warning, believing you were telling tales. But what happened that year showed my ineptitude as your head of house to a student trying to prevent a catastrophe from raining down on us. And for that, I also humbly apologize for my error.”

 

Harry looked like he wanted to interrupt, but McGonagall wasn’t done yet.

 

“I have seen you rebuff all manner of apologies from your housemates and schoolmates in the aftermath of the First Task. I find your actions completely reasonable and quite expected. I also expect that I won’t be earning your forgiveness for quite a while. However, it was still my moral duty to apologize for my errors as your head-of-house and professor. Forgiven or not, that is what is expected of me. Your decision to forgive or not is only yours to make.”

 

McGonagall nodded, before turning away towards the gramophone.

 

“Professor.”

 

She stopped, and turned back around. Harry had stepped forward, looking serious.

 

“I accept your apology, and I forgive you.”

 

The watching Durmstrang students all raised an eyebrow at Harry’s unusual move. McGonagall, on the other hand, let a small smile grace her lips.

 

“Thank you, Mr. Potter. My old heart is relieved by your graciousness.”

 

She nodded to Harry, before addressing the group as a whole, “You may talk amongst yourselves until the other students arrive, but keep the volume at an acceptable level, please.”

 

The group nodded, and McGonagall returned to the gramophone. Harry felt himself dragged to one corner of the room by Viktor.

 

“Vhat vas that about?” the seeker asked.

 

“Yeah Harry, I thought you were just going to brush her aside like you did with everyone else,” Uliana remarked.

 

“I know,” the fourth-year replied, “But Professor McGonagall was like Diggory.”

 

“Vhat do you mean?” asked Klaus.

 

“She made mistakes on her part,” Harry continued, “Like Diggory, those mistakes did her a disservice. I saw her as another bystander, not doing anything wrong to me personally, but not intervening as what she should have done as a member of staff. And I personally felt her apology was the most genuine I’ve heard. Furthermore…”

 

Harry glanced at his head-of-house, still working with the gramophone.

 

“…she is like the grandmother I never had. Before Hogwarts, I never really had family to call my own ever since my parents died to save me. For all of her strict and no-nonsense demeanour, she cares deep down. But she isn’t perfect, she still made and will continue to make mistakes in her life. And I can’t bring myself to truly hate the first person I would count as family. That is why I forgave her.”

 

A moment of silence followed Harry’s speech, broken by Nicolae with a playful groan.

 

“Geez Harry, you’re too kind-hearted for your own good, you know?”

 

“What do you mean?” Harry tilted his hand slightly, “I still hate the rest of Gryffindor house, except for Fred and George. I’m kind-hearted to people who deserve it.”

 

The group shared a laugh at Harry’s apparent confusion. Viktor, though, felt uncomfortable deep down.

 

Hearing that Harry had no one to consider family before coming to Hogwarts was not brought up once at all throughout their entire friendship, not even in the letters they sent to one another after the World Cup. Viktor felt decidedly unsettled hearing this, and filed away this bit of information for future investigation.

 

It was also at that moment that the rest of the fourth-year Gryffindors arrived. Right on cue, Viktor and his friends shifted around to block Harry from being spotted by his traitorous housemates.

 

Like Harry before them, the general consensus was confusion over the vanished desks and chairs. McGonagall, now back in her strict persona, clapped her hands for silence.

 

“Now, since that everyone is now here, we can begin.”

 

“Professor, what happened to the desks and chairs?” Parvati Patil asked.

 

“I was getting to that, Ms. Patil,” McGonagall replied primly, “I have an announcement to make, so listen up. And that includes our Durmstrang friends as well.”

 

Silence swept the room.

 

“On the 25th of this month, Hogwarts will be hosting the Yule Ball, as per tradition of every Triwizard Tournament held before this one. It is a formal event, so dress robes are an absolute must, and you all are expected to attend. And the reason why the desks and chairs have been moved, as you have already noticed, is that we will need the extra space for today’s lesson. This is because, the Yule Ball, will be a dance.”

 

This pronouncement sent a wave of chatter through the students. Many of the girls looked and sounded excited at the prospect of a dance, while most of the boys were groaning or staring horrified at McGonagall. Viktor glanced at Harry, who appeared deceivingly calm. McGonagall clapped her hands again for silence. The noise faded.

 

“Now, as this will be a dance, today’s lesson will be focused on ensuring that Gryffindor house does not further tarnish its image to the rest of the school and our foreign friends by appearing as a babbling, bumbling band of baboons who show no skill for dancing at all.”

 

McGonagall said this with a pointed stare at her house, the fact that Harry did not come under her line of vision did not go unnoticed by anyone in the room. 

 

“Now, I want you all to pair up,” the Scottish professor continued, “Mr. Weasley, you will be with me.”

 

Ron looked decidedly aghast to be McGonagall’s dance partner, as did many of the boys when the girls excitedly approached them. A few of the more daring ones even headed towards Harry and the Durmstrang students, though mostly Harry and Viktor, for the experience of dancing with a Triwizard champion, even though they weren’t in any of the seekers’ good books.

 

Viktor’s friends immediately paired up, Klaus with Uliana, and Nicolae with Anastazja. For Harry, the thought of Viktor dancing with anyone who wasn’t him was simply unfathomable to even visualize. Likewise, Viktor thought the same of Harry dancing with someone who wasn’t him.

 

And so, it was the two seekers who turned to one another at the same time, in front of four girls who were an arm’s length away, and spoke in sync…

 

“Harry/Viktor, vill/will you be my dance partner?”

 

Both seekers started. The girls had also stopped in their tracks, not expecting the pair to disregard their requests before they even had a chance to open their mouths. Both seekers flushed, Viktor slightly less so than Harry. It was also Viktor who asked again, offering his hand to Harry.

 

“Sorry…vill you dance vith me, Harry?”

 

 

 

 

“Okay.”

 

Harry shyly took Viktor’s bigger hand into his. His blush echoed the squealing noises his heart was inwardly making at the contact of the rough skin of Viktor’s fingers, feeling the years of arduous training on a broomstick. The girls went away, dejected at the lost opportunity.

 

“Will you lead me?” asked Harry, “I’m no good at dancing.”

 

“I vill,” Viktor replied, his other hand resting on Harry’s waist, which unknowingly sent shivers through the shorter male’s nerves, “Don’t think about anything else, just focus on me.”

 

That last sentence may or may not have held some underlying possessiveness in them, but Harry paid it no heed. He rested his free hand on Viktor’s shoulder, feeling the hard muscle under the uniform. Harry barely heard the music, a classic waltz, slowly begin from the gramophone.

 

“Now,” said McGonagall, “On three.”

 

She counted them off, and the dancing began. Harry immediately tried to focus all of his attention on Viktor as they took the first steps to the opening bars of the music. Even so, he could still hear all manner of noise coming from around the room. Shouts and squeals of pain from feet being stepped on, people tripping, and even the thud of a pair falling to the floor in a tangle of robes.

 

It was this incomplete immersion that saw Harry accidentally step on Viktor’s foot.

 

“Sorry,” Harry muttered.

 

“It’s okay,” Viktor whispered lowly, “Just forget about everything else. Focus on me.”

 

The Bulgarian seeker added to his words by pulling Harry closer, until nothing but half an inch of space separated them. Harry felt his partner’s warmth radiating from his magic, enveloping like a cloud. He let out a slightly shaky sigh, eyes closing as he immersed himself completely in Viktor’s aura, everything else, from his housemates’ blunders to the room itself, fading away.

 

It was just him and Viktor, dancing together. He was wrapped Viktor’s warmth. And Viktor was holding him. That was all that mattered.

 

Harry honestly didn’t notice his feet take on a steady rhythm and movement in time with Viktor. He didn’t notice being led in a professional waltz, their magic intertwining with their steps. He simply funnelled his consciousness into Viktor’s touch. He trusted Viktor, and he put his safety and dignity into the seeker’s hands wholeheartedly.

 

So, it was with a bare subconscious that Harry stepped, glided and spun with Viktor on the dance floor with fluid grace like water and flighty touch like wind brushing past one’s cheek. Harry didn’t care that his robes billowed with each spin. He didn’t care that everyone else, including McGonagall and Viktor’s friends, had stopped dancing and were watching him and Viktor. And he didn’t care that their audience had stepped back to give them a bigger space to dance. He was in Viktor’s arms, that was all that he cared.

 

Though, he couldn’t help but squeal quietly as Viktor lifted him up, and spun him in the air a total of three times throughout the song.

 

Finally, the final bars of the music echoed. Harry felt Viktor’s hands pull away from him, signalling the end of the dance. As the music faded away, both seekers placed a hand over their hearts, and bowed to one another.

 

Several beats of silence followed as they straightened back up. Harry was breathing hard, the assertion of effort from dancing not quite stabilised just yet. He was just getting his breaths steady when the sound of clapping reached his ears.

 

McGonagall was applauding the pair, eyes alight with impressed awe as she approached them. The other Gryffindor students were staring with slack jaws, while Viktor’s friends had knowing smiles.

 

“Marvellous! Simply excellent! I have never seen a more beautiful waltz in my years of teaching!”

 

“T-Thank you, Professor,” Harry scratched his cheek bashfully, unused to such high praise from his usually strict head-of-house, Viktor nodding after him.

 

“That was exquisite!” McGonagall smiled, “I never realized that you had such experience with dancing, Mr. Potter.”

 

“I…don’t, actually,” Harry admitted, “That was my first time dancing.”

 

McGonagall looked even more impressed, “Well, you certainly have a gift for the dance floor, Mr. Potter. You and Mr. Krum looked absolutely captivating together. I definitely see you having no trouble at all during the ball!”

 

She smiled again, Harry accepting it with another word of thanks. Then, the smile dropped from McGonagall’s face, as she turned to her house.

 

“On the other hand, with the exception of our Durmstrang friends, the rest of you still need more practice. We will try the waltz again, and I expect everyone to take this seriously!”

 

Ignoring the groans from the tired students, she returned to Harry and the Durmstrang students.

 

“Since you lot seem to not require any more teaching; you are dismissed first. But I do advise you to keep practicing until the ball.”

 

“We will. Thank you, professor,” Harry nodded.

 

“Very well, you may take your leave now,” said McGonagall, “Oh, Misters Potter and Krum, may I have a quick word with the both of you before you go?”

 

Viktor nodded to his friends, telling them to go ahead first. The four left the classroom, while the Gryffindors tried to get the gist of dancing. McGonagall led Harry and Viktor to a quiet corner away from the movement.

 

“What’s the matter, professor?” asked Harry.

 

McGonagall got straight to the point, “As champions, the both of you will be expected to open the Yule Ball with the first dance. As such, you would be required to find a date each by the time of the ball.”

 

“Does it matter vho ve bring?” Viktor queried.

 

“It doesn’t matter, Mr. Krum,” McGonagall shook her head, “You are free to ask any student from Hogwarts, Beauxbatons, or even your own school, if you wish.”

 

“Ve understand,” both Viktor and Harry nodded, “Is there anything else?”

 

“That is all, you may go now.”

 

Both seekers bade the Scottish professor farewell, and departed from the classroom together, ignoring the longing looks from the Gryffindors.

 

The door closing behind them, Harry and Viktor made their way up to the seventh floor where their friends were waiting in the Room of Requirement.

 

“See? I told you, Harry. If you don’t think about messing up, you von’t mess up.”

 

“You’re right, Viktor.”

 

 

 

 

“Viktor?”

 

“Hm?”

“Will you be my date for the Yule Ball?”

 

Viktor halted, taken slightly aback by the sudden question. Harry stopped at his side, awaiting his response.

 

“Unsubtle, much?”

 

“Yes,” Harry deadpanned, “But what’s your answer?”

 

 

 

 

“Okay.”

 

Harry beamed.

 

“But a bit sudden, don’t you think?” Viktor quipped.

 

Here, Harry turned serious.

 

“I’d rather stake my claim now, rather than risk someone else try to steal you away later on. I can guarantee that once word spreads about bringing someone as a date to the ball, we are going to be asked out left, right and centre. I barely tolerate the Hogwarts students now, and Merlin knows how far they’ll go to try and snag us as a date.”

 

Unknowingly, Harry had let his jealous, possessive side mould into his words. Either way, it squeezed Viktor’s heart.

 

“That’s interesting, because I vas about to ask you out to the ball, a little bit later, but still ask you.”

 

“Oh?”

 

“Yes, I vas annoyed by those girls too. But I figured it vould be far too quick to simply throw the question at you.”

 

“Why not? This isn’t some sappy romance story where the couple-to-be dance around each other, afraid of asking the other out because of their fear of unrequited affection and rejection. If there’s anything I’ve learnt in my fours years here in this shithole, is that you get straight to the point, no stalling or faltering. Get your point across and make it clear, no room for loopholes.”

 

Viktor stared at Harry, before relaxing into a smile.

 

“You’re really something, aren’t you, Harry?”

Harry shrugged, “Eh, when your life has been danger ever since you were one, you learn a few things along the way.”

 

Viktor nodded, and the pair fell into a companionable silence as they continued their walk to the seventh floor. Although things were quiet, Viktor was inwardly contemplating.

 

He still didn’t like the reminders that Harry would never have a peaceful life staying in Hogwarts, or Britain for that matter. That, and added with the fact that he had no one who he considered family up until he started school in Hogwarts, left a deeply troubled churn in Viktor’s stomach.

 

He needed to do something about it.

 

Viktor glanced down his side, subtly eyeing Harry’s hand as it swung back and forth slightly with his walking. He remembered the last time he tried to reach for the shorter male’s hand, by the lake under the willow tree. He was so close, only to be interrupted by the roars of the dragons.

 

Now, he had the perfect chance. And he was going to take it.

 

Slowly, Viktor inched a bit closer to Harry, who was still gazing ahead. His hand slowly reached outwards, towards Harry’s smaller one. Three inches, then two, then one.

 

Suddenly, Viktor felt a spike of nervousness hit him. He didn’t know where it came from, but it planted doubts in his mind. No, he couldn’t have that, not when he had such a perfect chance. Viktor inwardly debated, trying to suppress his nerves from making him chicken out. Fine, a compromise then. He would test the waters, and see how Harry reacts.

 

His hand closed the final inch, the skin on his pinkie finger barely skimming over Harry’s own. The fourth-year didn’t react at all. Viktor took this as a good sign, slowly wrapping his pinkie around Harry’s to see if he would react.

 

This time, Harry did react, but in a way that squeezed Viktor’s heart and threatened to make it explode in a cloud of fluffiness.

 

Harry wrapped his own pinkie around Viktor’s, squeezing it slightly to let him know that he was aware of what was going on. Then, Harry manoeuvred his hand, adding a little pressure as he pushed his hand into Viktor’s palm. The older seeker was taken a bit by surprise, allowing Harry to lace their fingers together and properly hold his hand.

 

Harry grinned with barely-contained squeals at his achievement, especially as Viktor recovered from his surprise and squeezed his hand, while also trying not to destroy his stoic image with squeals of his own.

 

And that was how the two seekers arrived at the Room of Requirement, hand-in-hand, to the knowing smiles of their four friends, plus Klaus’ good-natured jibe of, “You two, are so vhipped for each other.”

 


 

The days leading up to the Yule Ball whittled away. And true to Harry’s prediction, he and Viktor were asked out by virtually the entire female student population of Hogwarts. The Hogwarts boys, after a while, had taken to glaring at the two whenever a female student asked either one of them out.

 

But the boys needn’t have tired their facial muscles out.

 

Every request was coldly rebuffed from both seekers, plainly stating in harsh tones that they both had a date each, and walked away leaving a disheartened girl behind. After a few days, no one asked them anymore, and as Christmas approached, Viktor and Harry took great delight in watching those who hadn’t already gotten dates for the ball scramble about in a mad hurry to find someone to go with them, or be seen as a social disgrace by going alone.

 

One particular student, a certain Ron Weasley, had Viktor chortling and Harry rolling about laughing uncontrollably for quite a while after the incident happened. The youngest Weasley son had made a complete fool of himself in a messy attempt to ask Fleur Delacour to the Yule Ball, an attempt that was doomed to failure right from the start. Ron had botched his words and his sentences had slurred due to Fleur’s veela charm, painting him as an incomprehensible fool who had no control of his hormones. Fleur certainly thought of the redhead in such a manner, not even deigning to reject him verbally, simply sniffing contemptuously at him before walking off.

 

Harry and Viktor were left with painful stitches for laughing too hard from that pensieve-worthy moment.

 

Finally, the day of the ball came upon the land. Despite being one of the four to open the ball with the first dance, Harry was far from nervous. Once the issue of constant harassment from the female students of Hogwarts had been dealt with, he and Viktor had dutifully taken McGonagall’s advice and practiced their dancing in the Room of Requirement, the room providing them with music to set the tone.

 

If anything, he was excited for the ball, even if Viktor was the only reason for his excitement in the first place.

 

Now, he was in their shared cabin, standing in front of a mirror, adjusting the bow-tie of his bottle-green dress robes he had purchased earlier in the school year, as requested by the school list. Viktor was the bathroom, freshening up before he was to escort Harry to the ball.

 

But it seemed, that no matter how much Harry fiddled with the bow-tie, it just didn’t appear to look good on him. In fact, the robes as a whole didn’t appear to suit him at all. They resembled his school robes, perhaps made of a slightly higher grade of material, but that was it. A groan of frustration died halfway out of his mouth when he heard a ‘pop’ and a familiar voice.

 

“Master Harry Potter!”

 

“Dobby? What are you doing here?”

 

“Dobby is be wanting to help Master Harry Potter sir get ready for the Yule Ball,” the house-elf bounced excitedly, “Dobby is be sensing Master Harry Potter is not quite satisfied with his robes.”

 

“Yes, Dobby,” Harry nodded, turning back to the mirror, “I can’t seem to shake the feeling that this bow-tie isn’t cooperating with me.”

 

“It certainly isn’t, Master Harry Potter, sir,” Dobby nodded gravely, “May Dobby speak his mind?”

 

“Go right ahead.”

 

“Dobby is thinking the robes don’t suit the great Harry Potter sir.”

 

“Oh?” Harry raised an eyebrow, “I was just thinking about that. What do you think, Dobby?”

 

The elf thought for a moment, “Dobby can help. The Great Harry Potter need not do anything, leave everything to lowly Dobby.”

 

Harry nodded. The house-elf closed his eyes, raised his knobbly hands, and started muttering in a language Harry wasn’t familiar with.

 

Small balls of light floated from Dobby’s fingers, and fluttered over towards the fourth-year. Harry watched with great interest as the balls danced and wove around him like butterflies to a flower. Glittering sparkles rained from the balls, falling over his dress robes like snowflakes. The magic swirled around him, compelling him to turn in a circle with it.

 

His attention, though, was quickly turned to what the magic was doing to his robes. He couldn’t see the bottle-green colour anymore; his robes were completely shrouded by the light. Harry could feel the material shifting and changing under the magic, his robes seeming to blossom outwards as he spun. His arms suddenly seemed free of the touch of material, pooling at his shoulders.

 

The lights sparkled for a second more, before Dobby closed his hands, and they disappeared with a twinkling flourish. Harry could only gape at what the magic had done to his robes.

 

He was dressed in a ball gown.

 

It was a sight to behold. Made of layers of gossamer fabric in the shades of a bright, emerald-green and subtle, shimmering white, the skirt seemed to float and flutter with every movement he made. The fabric was soft and delicate, adorned with thousands of glittering crystals that sparkled under the light. The bodice piece was a plain, emerald colour, while the bertha collar made of ruffled chiffon were made of a lighter, paler green, secured in place to the bodice piece by a teardrop-shaped emerald.

 

Harry couldn’t do any more that stare slack-jawed. He took a tentative step forward, feeling something odd about it. He lifted up the skirt, until his feet were visible under the soft fabric.

 

He was wearing high-heeled slippers, made of crystal. They too sparkled under the light, and Harry could only wonder how he didn’t feel the slightest discomfort wearing them.

 

“Does Master Harry Potter like Dobby’s work?”

 

Harry could only stare at the elf, gaping like a dead fish. The prolonged silence worried Dobby.

 

“Is…Master Harry Potter not satisfied…with Dobby’s work?”

 

Harry finally found his voice.

 

“Dobby, it’s amazing! I love it!”

 

All visible worry melted from the elf’s face, replaced with relief. Harry admired his gown, eyes shining.

 

“Thank you so much, Dobby! Have I told you you are the best house-elf ever?”

 

Here, it was as if Merlin had appeared to Dobby and presented him with clothes. The elf burst into happy tears, appearing to kowtow at Harry’s feet.

 

“Master Harry Potter is the greatest wizard in the whole wide world! He thanks lowly Dobby and praises him for good work! Master Harry Potter is far too kind!”

 

By this stage, Harry had already gotten used to Dobby’s prostrating, chuckling good-naturedly.

 

“Harry? Vhat is going on? I heard -”

 

Both Harry and Dobby turned towards Viktor, who was standing at the bathroom doorway, eyes wide and jaw hanging open. Harry took a quick glance at his date’s outfit, a blood-red shirt tied at the waist with a belt with the Durmstrang crest on the buckle, a matching fur-lined cape attached to his torso by a leather strap, draping over his left side, brown breeches and shiny, black leather boots, before returning to his shocked expression. Several moments of silence passed, and Viktor showed no inclination of snapping out of his stupor. The only sign that he was still alive were his eyes roaming up and down Harry’s form repeatedly.

 

It was also Harry who broke the uneasy silence, shyly showing off the gown, “So…do you like it? Dobby made it for me. We both agreed the dress robes didn’t suit me well.”

 

That seemed to snap Viktor out of his simulated petrification. He wordlessly crossed the distance between him and Harry, and quite unexpectedly, wrapped his arms around his date in a tight hug, eyes still staring forward.

 

“Viktor?”

 

“Harry…can ve not attend the ball?”

 

Harry started at this.

 

“Eh?”

 

Viktor tightened his hug.

 

“I don’t vant anyone else seeing you in this masterpiece. Only I can see it. No one else…”

 

Harry couldn’t stop the chuckle from escaping his lips, as he returned the hug.

 

“Viktor, you’re being silly. You know we have no other choice in this.”

 

All that his date did in response was to tighten his hug further, and Harry could have sworn he heard a literal growl escape from the taller seeker. Harry sighed in mock exasperation, muttering back to Viktor.

 

“How about this? I won’t dance with anyone but you. I am only yours.”

 

That took out the wind from Viktor’s sails relatively quickly, and also sped up his heartbeat.

 

“Okay.”

 

Harry smiled, and they pulled away, breaking the hug. Viktor offered his arm to him.

 

“Shall ve go?”

 

“We shall.”

 

Harry took Viktor’s arm, and after thanking Dobby one last time, they left the cabin together, Viktor opening the door for Harry to step out first, before departing himself, closing the door behind them.

 

Dobby, on the other hand, wiped away a stray happy tear, before snapping his fingers, and disappearing with a ‘pop’.

 


 

The walk to the Entrance Hall where they were supposed to gather before doors opened was peaceful enough. With such an event like the Yule Ball taking place, no student would be stupid enough to still be roaming on the grounds. But when they reached the Entrance Hall, that was when the cold walls had to come up.

 

The hall had been full of excited chatter from students, dressed in all manner of robes, all milling about waiting for the doors to open. But the moment Harry and Viktor stepped into the hall, all chatter ceased, as heads turned towards them, eyes widened, and jaws fell open.

 

Harry knew that most of them were staring at him because of his gown. But it didn’t affect him in the slightest. There was no love lost between him and these inconsequential plebeians who idolized him one moment, and repulsed him the next. Like how Velia regarded the owls in the Owlery, Harry didn’t even deign to give the other students his attention, staring ahead with ice-like dignity, ignoring the looks of surprise, jealousy and envy that came at him.

 

They came to a stop at where the other champions, Cedric and Fleur, were standing. Cedric had Ravenclaw seeker, Cho Chang, as his date, while Fleur had Roger Davies, who looked like he was going to collapse with a dazed-eyed, drooling grin at his good fortune. Again, Harry didn’t deign to acknowledge them, save for Cedric, whom he gave a small nod to.

 

The Hufflepuff champion looked like he wanted to speak further to Harry when McGonagall appeared.

 

“Ah, good, you’re all-”

 

McGonagall cut herself off doing a double take at Harry, who appeared unfazed by her surprised look.

 

“Professor, is there something wrong? Is my gown not appropriate?”

 

“N-No, Mr. Potter,” McGonagall steadied her voice, “Not at all. I was taken by surprise. I was under the presumption that you bought a set of dress robes?”

 

“I did,” Harry replied, “But it didn’t look good on me, so a house-elf helped me on that.”

 

That reason alone seemed good enough for the transfiguration professor, who merely nodded. In the meantime, the other students were allowed to enter the Great Hall. It was another minute or two before the champions and their dates made their entrance, amidst applause from the gathered students.

 

Harry took a moment to absorb his surroundings. The Great Hall had been given an “ice-palace”-like makeover. The entire structure of the hall, even the floor, appeared to have been transfigured into something that resembled ice. A snow-like substance fell from the enchanted ceiling, but didn’t leave any trace when they fell onto Harry’s gown. Three large, richly-decorated Christmas trees, the largest in the middle, stood proud at the back of the hall. The four house tables were gone, replaced with smaller circular ones that fit up to ten people each running along the sides of the hall. A larger table, made for fourteen, stood in front of the Christmas trees, was the only one not completely occupied.

 

Dumbledore was already at his place at the head table, alongside Madame Maxime, Karkaroff, Bagman, and to Harry’s surprise, Percy Weasley. Crouch was nowhere in sight, but that little note did not last long for Harry to become concerned.

 

Harry and Viktor took seats the furthest away from Dumbledore and Karkaroff. The table had been set with expensive-looking cutlery and goblets, but for some reason, no plate. Harry had wondered how this was going to work, barely listening to Dumbledore’s opening speech. He only snapped out of his thoughts when Dumbledore called out.

 

“Pork chops!”

 

And almost instantly, a plate of pork chops appeared before the headmaster.

 

Harry blinked, before noticing a card standing in front of him. It was a menu, it seemed. There was a list of dishes available that night, from British to continental.

 

Harry scanned it quickly, deciding on a Gyuvech, and calling it out to him. He really was partial to Bulgarian cuisine.

 

Soon, everyone had ordered their food, and the hall echoed with chatter and laughter. Digging into his stew, Harry quietly observed the goings-on at his table.

 

Dumbledore and Madame Maxime were in polite conversation. Fleur appeared annoyed with Davies, who hadn’t snapped out of his drooling daze and had clumsily upset his goblet all over his robes when he tried to take a sip. McGonagall was making small talk with Percy, who appeared overly-proud that he was representing his employer, Crouch. Karkaroff was darting his eyes about the hall nervously, for what reason Harry couldn’t fathom. And Bagman was trying to butt his way into Cedric’s conversation with Cho, turning that side of the table extremely awkward.

 

His stew finished, Harry barely sat his cutlery down before everything, from plate to the fork to the goblet, all vanished. Since the others were still eating, Harry glanced out into the hall to observe his schoolmates.

 

Most seemed to be enjoying the ball so far, chatting with their friends over their food. Harry did catch some stares coming his way, mainly at his gown, and his date. Too bad for them, though, nobody was going to get near his date. And if they wanted to go all hater on his gown, they can fuck off. There was no room for hate in being fabulous.

 

Speaking of fabulous, Harry spotted a familiar figure who clearly didn’t have the label fit his choice of robes. Harry barely caught the undignified snort that threatened to escape his lips. Ron Weasley was a food-munching fashion disaster. His robes looked a century out of date, the color a hideously-faded maroon, and some parts looked moth-damaged. Even worse, he was eating like how he had always eaten, without any manners or decorum. That certainly didn’t help the dismal state of his robes, splotches of food raining like hailstones.

 

Harry noticed Hermione sitting next to him. He could guess that she was Ron’s date. And he could guess with great certainty that she wasn’t enjoying her time here. Her robes were a periwinkle blue, and it would have looked beautiful on her, if it wasn’t spoiled by the sour look on her face.

 

Finally, the last few stragglers finished their food. Dumbledore stood up, and casted a Sonorus on himself.

 

“Now that we have all eaten our fill, let us begin tonight’s festivities with our first dance! Champions! To the floor, please.”

 

Applause echoed throughout the hall. Harry stood up from his seat, taking Viktor’s offered arm. They joined their fellow champions on the dance floor, and got into position. Viktor gently took Harry’s waist, the shorter male resting his right hand on the seeker’s shoulder, his left in Viktor’s right hand.

 

Viktor leaned in to whisper into Harry’s ear, “Remember, forget about everything else. Just focus entirely on me.”

 

A sharp blush flashed over Harry’s cheeks, electric tingles running down his spine as he minutely shuddered. Robbed of his voice, Harry could only nod in response, as the music began to play.

 

Harry remembered their first practice in the classroom, and let all inhibitions go. He ignored the eyes watching him. He ignored his fellow champions. He ignored himself. Everything, was channeled into following Viktor’s lead, swaying, spinning and stepping to barely-heard music. Their magic intertwined and enveloped them, trying to forge an ever-closer intimacy as they danced in time with perfect synchronicity.

 

They weren’t the only ones dancing, but it felt like all attention was on them specifically. Many envious eyes were on Harry’s gown, and the crystal slippers that occasionally came into view when the fabric floating upwards. Every time Harry spun with the music, the skirts blossomed out and swirled like a meadow on a windy day, captivating everyone with beautiful shimmers.

 

At last, the music came to an end, and so too did the waltz. Harry and Viktor parted, hands on their hearts and bowing respectfully. Applause reached their ears, as those watching praised their efforts. The music picked up again, and more couples came forward to join in on the revelry.

 

Harry still had enough energy to survive a couple more dances, so he was a little surprised when Viktor took his hand and led him towards the doors.

 

“Where are we going?”

 

“Outside,” Viktor replied, “I vant some alone time vith you.”

 

Harry felt his heart squeeze again, as Viktor took him out of the Great Hall and into the grounds.

 


 

It was cold out on the grounds, but a powerful warming charm solved that issue. Harry and Viktor took to taking a leisurely stroll along the Black Lake, listening quietly to the sounds of the world around them, from the rippling waves of water, to the rustle of leaves blowing in the nighttime breeze.

 

There wasn’t a need for talking. After the noise from the Great Hall, silence was what they needed. Each other’s company more than made up for the lack of vocal interaction.

 

Harry felt…at ease. Tonight, he could forget everything about this Merlin-forsaken tournament. He could be content, he could experience, just for a single night, how normal life could be. From dancing, to taking a stroll, enjoying the company of someone close to him, all normal things people take for granted. But for Harry, it was a taste of what could have been, of what he deserved, but still was not given to him as it rightfully should have.

 

Though, Viktor had other ideas, concerning this vision of normalcy.

 

“Harry.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

Both came to a stop. Viktor took Harry’s hand into his.

 

“Vill you be my boyfriend?”

 

Harry started at the unexpected question, taking several moments for it to register. Inwardly, his heart burst into butterflies, screaming at him to say ‘yes’. Harry was inclined to, but he wanted to tease Viktor a little.

 

“Unsubtle, aren’t we, Viktor?”

 

“I’m merely following your vords,” the seeker replied, “But seriously…”

 

Harry released a startled breath, as Viktor got down onto one knee, still holding his hand.

 

“I realized, how much I have come to care for you, Harry. I vant to be able to protect you, to hold you close to hear your heartbeat, to keep you safe against danger. I vant to cherish you, adore you, and love you, Harry. I vant to be the one vho vill stand by your side against the vorld. Please, Harry, vill you be mine?”

 

Hearing such sweet words, Harry felt his throat burn with emotion and unshed tears glisten in his emerald eyes. He really only had one thing to say.

 

“I will be yours, Viktor. As you will be mine.”

 

One could see Viktor’s eyes light up at Harry’s acceptance. Getting up from the ground, Viktor pulled his new boyfriend into a tight hug, squeezing him with all the love he could dig up from his heart and soul. Harry returned the hug with equal vigor, his own heart ringing bells of celebration and joy.

 

Viktor loosened his hug a little, allowing Harry to take a step back and look up at him. The Bulgarian seeker slipped a hand through his boyfriend’s raven locks, trailing down to cup his cheek. Viktor leaned downwards, lips ghosting over Harry’s own before claiming them in a soft kiss – their first kiss.

 

Harry felt his insides melting. The kiss was gentle, sweet and languid. Their lips molded perfectly over each other, sealed together in their own embrace.

 

There was no need for rush, no burst of passion, no battle for one to claim dominance and make the other submit to their love. Those would come later, now was for the gentle cementation of their new relationship. Their first kiss, a symbol of a new beginning, echoed true for them. They had ascended to a new level of their bond, and Merlin, did it feel good!

 

Slowly, the kiss ended with their lips separating. They stood silently, breathing evenly, lost in each others’ eyes. Viktor pulled Harry close again, his baritone voice making Harry’s next breath short and shuddery.

 

“I love you so much, Harry.”

 

The fourth-year couldn’t stop the single tear from spilling out of his eyes and trailing down his cheeks.

 

“I love you too, Viktor…”

 

They stayed like that, locked in their tight embrace, savouring each others’ warmth and scent, for who knows how long. After a while though, it seemed that other couples had taken a leaf out of their book and come out for their own private rendezvous. Hearing their voices echo across the grounds, their serene solitude had been spoiled.

 

Viktor pulled away from Harry, “Ve should head back.”

 

“To the ball?”

 

Viktor shook his head, “No, ve should call it a night, and go back to our cabin.”

 

Even though he had shared the same cabin and bed with Viktor ever since his name came out of the goblet almost two months’ prior, the mere mention of “our cabin” made Harry’s already love-struck heart dance.

 

The fourth-year nodded. Pulling away, and taking each others’ hands, the couple slowly made their return to the Durmstrang ship. A few steps in though, Harry heard something crack underfoot.

 

“What…?”

 

“Vhat’s vrong?”

 

“Did I step on something…?”

 

Harry pulled his skirts up, checking his slipper with a Lumos.

 

“Oh gross…I stepped on a bug.”

 

Indeed, what looked like the crushed remains of a beetle was pressed into the soil, its body and wings broken and bloody, with some blood and one of it’s legs stuck on Harry’s slipper.

 

“Hang on, I got this.”

 

Viktor held his boyfriend steady as he used a Scourgify charm to clean off the blood and beetle leg from the slipper.

 

“Thanks, Viktor.”

 

“No vorries, Harry.”

 

With that settled, the couple continued on their way back to the ship, unaware of the beetle corpse glowing white faintly for a few moments, before fading away, never to be seen again.

 


 

 To Be Continued.


 

 

Chapter Text

The sun rising upon the land heralded the start of another wintery day, the grounds covered in a thin layer of snow that rained down from the heavens the night before, and the air still cold and biting whenever the wind passed through.

 

Harry and Viktor were sitting down to breakfast with their friends in the Room of Requirement, as had become routine. They chatted about what they had been up to the night before. Luna had just finished recounting about being asked to a dance with a male Beauxbatons student, when Dobby appeared with a ‘pop’, holding a copy of the day’s Daily Prophet in his knobbly hands.

 

“Newspaper for you, Master Harry Potter sir.”

 

“Thanks Dobby.”

 

The house-elf bowed deeply, before disappearing with another ‘pop’.

 

“So what’s on the news today, Harrykins?” Fred asked whilst chewing on a sausage.

 

Harry opened the papers and sifted through. He stopped at an article, eyebrows furrowing a little.

 

“That’s interesting…”

 

“Vhat is?” asked Klaus.

 

“Says here that Skeeter has been reported missing.”

 

That certainly got everyone’s attention.

 

“Skeeter? You mean that horrible woman with tacky clothing, stupid glasses and that poisonous quill of hers?” Uliana questioned.

 

“Yeah,” Harry nodded, “she was last seen yesterday evening in the Daily Prophet office, but no one’s seen her since. The Prophet’s just put a ‘missing persons’ alert here.”

 

Everyone glanced at each other.

 

“Maybe she got lost and somehow ended up in the continent?” Anastazja put forward.

 

“Kidnapped, maybe?” Nicolae suggested.

 

“Why would anyone want to kidnap her?” George raised an eyebrow.

 

“Good point,” Nicolae conceded.

 

“Perhaps she’s dead,” said Luna.

 

All eyes were immediately on the dreamy-eyed blonde.

 

“Dead?” Viktor was unsure if he heard her right.

 

“Yep, dead as a doornail,” Luna hummed offhandedly, buttering a scone.

 

“Not that I’m defending that bitch, but isn’t death a bit extreme?” asked Klaus.

 

“Not necessarily, it is still possible,” Luna pointed out, “Plus, there are many ways to dispose of or hide the body, especially with magic.”

 

“And she has made more than a few enemies of the people she slandered,” Harry added, “But what are the chances?”

 

No one knew it then, but they were very close to the truth indeed. Not that it particularly bothered them in the first place.

 

One less nuisance to deal with, after all.

 

Though, it appeared that Skeeter’s disappearance bothered the rest of the Hogwarts student populace. Everywhere Harry went, students were gossiping about the sneaky reporter, wondering what had happened and coming up with their own theories for her disappearance.

 

Even the staff appeared intrigued by the news, as the Weasley twins reported hearing Professor Sprout and Professor Flitwick discussing it in the hallways on their way to Potions class.

 

But missing reporters aside, Harry and Viktor had a more pressing concerns in the form of the golden egg that was their clue for the upcoming second task.

 

Until now, neither one had figured what the infernal screaming had to do with the task, other than giving them splitting headaches and ringing ears that threatened to spurt blood. Harry had come within inches of taking the egg, throwing it out into the Black Lake in frustration, and firing a Bombarda spell at it as it went.

 

Though it was highly likely that the Giant Squid wouldn’t appreciate that.

 

In the end, Harry needn’t have considered such an action for much longer. Help came from a rather unexpected source.

 


 

 

Charms class just ended for fourth-years, and Harry now had a free period before Transfiguration and later dinner. Having decided to make another pit-stop in the library (hopefully to find even an inkling of knowledge that would help them in their current predicament), Harry and Viktor were traversing through the hallways, hand-in-hand, when a vaguely familiar voice caught up with them.

 

“Potter! Wait up!”

 

The two lovers stopped, hands reaching for their wands on instinct.

 

“Oh, Diggory, it’s you.”

 

Harry relaxed his stance, as the Hufflepuff prefect and champion came to a stop before him, slightly out of breath. Viktor stayed ever-the-ready for any possible attacks on his boyfriend or himself.

 

“What is it?”

 

“I never got to thank you for warning me about the dragons,” Cedric replied, slightly wary of the critical eye he was on the receiving end from Viktor, “If not for that, I would have died.”

 

“Think nothing of it,” Harry replied coolly, “I was only doing what was right. Is there anything else? Viktor and I have places to be.”

 

“Actually, yes,” Cedric nodded, “You know the golden egg that was supposed to contain the clue to the second task? I figured it out.”

 

Both Harry and Viktor raised their eyebrows. While a small part of Harry was impressed that Cedric was able to find out how to crack the infernal screaming to find the clue, there was another more pressing question.

 

“And vhy are you telling us this?” Viktor asked for the both of them.

 

Cedric scratched his cheek, “I feel bad for the way my housemates treated you both, especially you, Potter. I know apologies mean little for what they’ve done, and you certainly won’t forgive them even if I asked. But at least, as my own apology for not doing anything to stop them, I want to tell you about how to get the clue for the second task.”

 

Harry scrutinised his fellow champion. He didn’t appear to be pulling a fast one on them. And besides, he and Viktor were more than capable of sending Cedric to the infirmary with several broken bones if he was fibbing to them.

 

“Very well, what do we have to do?”

 

Cedric released a breath, “Take a bath.”

 

 

 

 

What.

 

“Come again?” Viktor voiced their shared disbelief.

 

“You’ll need to take a bath to figure out the clue,” Cedric repeated innocently.

 

The prospect of sending the Hufflepuff champion to the infirmary with a broken jaw was growing more appealing with each passing second.

 

Harry however put a lid on the growing urge to wipe that innocent look from Cedric’s face. Maybe he was speaking the truth.

 

Furthermore, he wasn’t done yet.

 

“There’s a great place to take a bath here in Hogwarts – the Prefects’ Bath. Normally, as the name says, it’s only for prefects, but it’s located on the fifth floor, and the password is ‘Pine Fresh’, in case you two are interested.”

 

And that was that. Cedric bade the two seekers farewell and continued his way down the corridor. Harry and Viktor watched him go, before turning to one another.

 

“Bone-breaking hex to the jaw?” asked Viktor.

 

“We’ll check to see if he’s really telling the truth,” Harry replied, “If not, then it’s a bone-breaking hex to the jaw and knees.”

 


 

That evening, once night had fallen and the occupants of Hogwarts castle had retired to their beds, Harry and Viktor made their move.

 

Golden eggs in hand, the pair snuck their way through the quiet hallways under Harry’s Invisibility Cloak, deftly avoiding roaming prefects, professors, one hated caretaker, and said caretaker’s equally-hated cat, to reach the fifth floor. Checking once more that the corridor was empty of any surprises, they pushed the doors open and snuck into the room.

 

The Prefects’ Bathroom was huge, and it looked like it wouldn’t be out of place in a fancy mansion or even the Palace of Versailles if Harry was generous.

 

“It’s beautiful…” Harry breathed out.

 

“Ve don’t have anything like this in Durmstrang…” Viktor remarked, equally taken away.

 

The room itself was made out of marble – from the floors, walls and ceiling – and the windows at the other end of the room, providing the backdrop against the enormous bathtub (more akin to an octagonal swimming pool, Harry realised), were made of stained glass. The window in the centre had a moving image of a mermaid, sitting on a rock, weaving through her hair idly, clearly not noticing the two new visitors to her domain.

 

Torches were attached along very colonnaded pillar, but they were unlit, leaving the only source of light to come from the moon, shining through the stained-glass windows and casting a soft, nocturnal glow over the empty bathtub. Harry also noticed the sheer number of taps along the tub’s edge adjacent to the windows, leaving the edge of the tub facing them open.

 

A short flight of steps separated the bathtub from the foyer where the pair stood. To their left, a series of toilet stalls. And to their right, a table with folded towels stacked atop each other, six to a pile, and bottles of various kinds of shampoos, conditioners and body wash. On the wall between the table and the steps, were several hooks made of silver, obviously meant for clothes to be hung upon.

 

Harry approached the bathtub, peering inside. It was relatively shallow, about a metre and a half or so in depth if he had to estimate. Running along the edge jutting into the tub was a ledge meant for sitting, which reminded him of Jacuzzis those who had the means would have in their homes.

 

Putting his golden egg by the edge, Harry gingerly climbed into the tub. Walking along the seating ledge, he peered at the taps. They were made of gold, and had a different coloured gemstone encrusted on the spout. But there was no indication of what tap was used for what, or if there was a specific something that differentiated one tap from the other.

 

“Should we just go with one tap and see what comes out? I don’t think we’ll-”

 

Harry had just climbed out of the tub when his words died in his throat at the sight before him. Viktor was in the middle of stripping off his robes, facing away from him.

 

Harry swallowed, feeling his cheeks burn slightly as he gazed upon his boyfriend’s broad back, the chiselled muscles stretching and flexing as he worked his shirt off.

 

Viktor turned around, having only just realised Harry was speaking to him. In turn, the fourth-year was given the full show of the older seeker’s armour-plate pectoral muscles and washboard abs.

 

“Sorry, did you say something?”

 

Harry tugged at his collar, “I-I just wanted to s-say that we should t-try one t-tap first.”

 

The poor lad’s situation was not helped by the teasing grin that spread over his boyfriend’s lips.

 

“See something that you like?”

 

Harry felt like he was going to collapse into a pile of goo, exacerbated when Viktor bounced his pecs and winked mischievously.

 

“V-Very much so…” he replied shakily, face fully red.

 

Even though this wasn’t the first time he had seen Viktor shirtless or with barely any clothes on, seeing his boyfriend’s sculpted and Quidditch-trained body always made Harry’s mind spin and his composure slip. This time was no exception, especially with the subtle teasing added into the mix.

 

Harry heard Viktor chuckle, and found himself wrapped tight in a hug, squished by his boyfriend’s muscles.

 

“You’re so cute, you know that?”

 

Feeling Viktor’s large hands comb through his messy hair, Harry replied by burying his face into the older seeker’s chest in a half-hearted attempt to hide his blush.

 

Viktor loosened his embrace after a moment, prompting Harry to look upwards to him.

 

“I’ll go get the bath running first. You get changed out in the meantime, ‘kay?”

 

Harry nodded, and the pair separated.

 

Viktor went off to the side, kicking off his boots and stripping off his pants. Harry slowly fiddled with his robes, his attention focused on his boyfriend’s sturdy, muscled legs and firm butt. Only when Viktor got into the tub did Harry concentrate his efforts in taking off his clothes in earnest.

 

Viktor pondered which tap or two to open, before settling on one that had a ruby, and another with a sapphire. Turning the hot-water vial to the fullest on the ruby tap and the cold-water vial at half-strength on the sapphire tap, Viktor sat back as the water poured into the tub.

 

The water, while clear, produced scents, much to Viktor’s surprise. Immediately, the smells of temperate forests, moss, pinecones and spring water permeated through the room, and filled Viktor with a deep feeling of nostalgia. Memories of his childhood growing up in the forests outside of the capital, Sofia, by a lake, filled his mind. His favourite - flying over treetops of conifer and pine on his broom.

 

Yes, those were pleasant, happy times.

 

Viktor turned to check on Harry after the tub reached full volume, and just like that, all vestiges of happiness drained away. A deep, uneasy concern filled his heart at what he noticed.

 

Harry’s back was littered with scars.

 

And they weren’t tiny, superficial ones either. Some were large, jagged and criss-crossed over the skin in layers of craggy bumps.

 

An uncomfortable, even horrifying thought flashed in Viktor’s mind, something he hoped to Merlin was not true.

 

He barely registered Harry stepping over to the tub, soap bottles in one arm and his golden egg in the other. Putting everything down along the edge of the tub, he toed the water, before sliding in slowly with a relieved sigh.

 

Viktor swallowed uncomfortably, noticing the scars trickled into his boyfriend’s arms.

 

Meanwhile, seemingly oblivious to the other’s distress, Harry slipped his spectacles off, putting it to the side with his golden egg. He slid lower into the steaming water, submerging his head to encompass himself in the heat. Viktor watched the bubbles rise from his boyfriend’s nostrils, unable to shake the sight of seeing that many scars marring his back.

 

Harry resurfaced with a release of breath. Reaching over for the shampoo, he squirted a generous amount onto his palm. As he scrubbed his hair, working the shampoo into the follicles, he finally realised that Viktor had been staring at him for the past few minutes.

 

“Hm? Something wrong, Viktor?”

 

It was an innocent question, but Harry noticed the flurry of emotions in Viktor’s eyes. He became a little concerned.

 

“Harry…those scars on your back…”

 

Ah…

 

He understood now. Where this was going.

 

“…vhat happened?”

 

Harry released a breath. He sank into the water, letting the shampoo bubbles float off his head. He returned to the surface, accepting what he needed to reveal.

 

He trusted Viktor. And keeping silent would only make things worse.

 

“I don’t think I ever mentioned or brought this up in our letters, but ever since my parents were killed that night, I’ve always been under the care,” Viktor did not miss the deep sarcasm placed on that word, “of my muggle relatives. They…hated anything that was out of their version of ‘normality’, including magic.”

 

Viktor already knew where this was leading towards. And he felt his concern morph into the first vestiges of anger.

 

“They saw me as a freak, a monster, something to lock away in the cupboard under the stairs. Someone to force into servitude, to beat and abuse for showing even the slightest bit of accidental magic or not living up to their standards of normalcy,” Harry continued, voice almost devoid of emotion, “They told anyone who would listen that I was aberration, and turned them all against me. Everyday, up till I was eleven, I was beaten and demeaned, and even when I was physically broken, they still demanded I make dinner for them.”

 

Words couldn’t describe the murderous fury Viktor felt through his veins, threatening to explode with cataclysmic violence.

 

“When I received my Hogwarts acceptance letter, I thought salvation had come for me,” Harry continued, eyes facing down, “but year after year, my life was threatened and nearly lost. And what happens to me? I get sent back to my relatives for my “protection”, for the horrors to repeat themselves again and again.”

 

Viktor wanted to roar, scream, rage. Jump out of the tub and apparate to wherever Harry’s relatives live and give them a slow, torturous and agonising death. To punish them for marring the beauty before him. To make them wish for the reaper to come for them, when he would ensure that meeting would be a long time coming.

 

But no, as much as he wanted to, he must not. Not yet.

 

He was needed here. His boyfriend needed him. To be his pillar of support in a world full of dangers.

 

Harry felt strong hands pull him into a sculpted chest, equally-strong arms wrapping tightly around his lean frame. Viktor’s low, baritone voice reaching his ears, “Never again, vill this abuse continue. I vill make sure of that.”

 

“I don’t want you to get implicated in murder, Viktor…”

 

“Then you’re coming vith me. You’re going back to Durmstrang vith me as soon as this tournament is over.”

 

Harry’s heart fluttered, but reality was not far behind.

 

“That’s if I can survive the tournament.”

 

Viktor pulled away slightly, staring at Harry with a hard expression of determination and resolve.

 

“No ifs, you vill survive this tournament. And you vill be going back to Durmstrang vith me. I svore on my life that I vill be by your side throughout, and I vill renew my vow tonight. Nothing vill get betveen us, the love ve share vill triumph over vhatever tries to keep us apart.”

 

Harry felt his heart was going to explode. He had just one more concern though.

 

“But we haven’t found out what the clue to the second task is yet…”

 

Viktor threaded his hand through his boyfriend’s dripping locks.

 

“Let’s forget about that for now,” Viktor whispered, “I vant to make you feel my love.”

 

Not waiting for any further response, the Bulgarian seeker leaned in, and captured Harry’s lips in a soft kiss.

 

There they sat, locked in each other’s embrace. Lips moulded over one another, savouring the mix between soft and warm. Viktor pulled Harry even closer, trying to relish even more of his boyfriend’s taste. A squeal caught itself in Harry’s throat, feeling the hard, strong muscles squeezing him protectively.

 

There was no wild, frenzied movement, that would come later. Keeping their lips and embrace locked, Viktor gently pushed Harry against the edge of tub. To the side, the slight jolt of vibration knocked Harry’s golden egg from its rest. Falling to its side, the egg rolled into the water with a splash, the hatch opening on impact and sinking to the bottom of the tub.

 

Harry, hearing the splash, broke the kiss.

 

“Ah, my egg.”

 

Pulling away from Viktor’s hold, Harry got up from the ledge. Wading over, he took a breath, and lowered himself into the water to fetch it. He spent only a moment underwater before suddenly resurfacing, startling Viktor.

 

“Vhat’s vrong?”

 

“There’s voices under the water!”

 

“Vhat?”

 

“Voices, like singing…I think it’s coming from the egg!”

 

“Seriously?”

 

Harry grabbed Viktor’s hand, and pulled him underwater. Immersed in the water, Harry’s claims were made true by the choir of unearthly voices in song.

 

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 sorely miss

 

An hour long you’ll have to look

 

And to recover what we took

 

But past an hour – the prospect’s black

 

Too late, it’s gone, it won’t come back

 

Harry and Viktor resurfaced, the former with the egg in hand. Catching their breaths, Harry closed the hatch underwater, not wanting to let the unholy screams alert anyone to their location.

 

“Do you think it’s the clue?” Viktor asked, as Harry put the egg back by the tub’s edge.

 

“It has to be, the voices were clearly coming from the egg,” Harry replied.

 

The couple returned to their spots on the seating ledge.

 

“But vho, or vhat, vere the voices from?”

 

“I’m not sure,” Harry pondered, “the voices certainly aren’t human. But what kind of creature’s voice sounds like screams above water and regular words underwater?”

 

They sat in silence for several moments, thinking about the possibilities that awaited them in the second task.

 

“Obviously, this creature has human characteristics given vhat ve heard,” said Viktor.

 

“But a creature whose human characteristics only manifest underwater…” Harry added.

 

“So something that is human, but only in vater…” Viktor trailed off in realisation.

 

A beat of silence, and the couple turned to face another, “Merpeople.”

 

“Do you think there are merpeople in Hogvarts’ lake?”

 

“Yes, I remember that from Care of Magical Creatures,” Harry replied, “There’s a whole colony living under there.”

 

“Vell that solves one mystery, but the other thing – taken vhat ve’ll sorely miss?”

 

“And after an hour, it’s lost forever. The question is, what are they going to take from us?”

 

An uneasy silence fell upon the room.

 

“I didn’t take anything particularly valuable vith me from Durmstrang or home,” said Viktor.

 

“The only things I can think of are my Firebolt, the Invisibility Cloak, and the photo album of my parents,” Harry remarked, “But somehow, my gut is saying it would be too easy for the object to material possessions, given the nature of the tournament…”

 

Harry trailed off, suddenly struck with a horrifying realisation. The temperature of the room, despite the hot water, seemed to plummet at the same time.

 

“Fucking shite…”

 

“Vhat’s vrong?”

 

Harry turned to Viktor with a stricken look, “Viktor…I think they’re going to take the person that we’re closest to, and use them as the item we will sorely miss.”

 

 

 

 

“Come again?”

 

“The merpeople are going to kidnap the people we are closest to, and we have to rescue them within an hour,” Harry repeated, “Or else, they’ll die. We’ll lose them forever.”

 

There was a moment of silence, then a loud “FUCK!” reverberated throughout the room. The mermaid in the window was startled by the sudden cuss, tumbling off the rock she was sitting on into the stained-glass water.

 

Harry, on the other hand, took the outburst with little expressed emotion. He stood with his boyfriend on this outrage.

 

“They are out of their fucking minds!”

 

Harry inched closer to Viktor, placing a hand on his arm.

 

“I’m scared to think who will get taken.”

 

He could tell Viktor was in the same predicament. But at the same time, the Bulgarian seeker was also trying to calm himself and think rationally.

 

“So am I, but maybe…just maybe, they von’t be using our friends.”

 

Harry remained silent.

 

“The merpeople’s song didn’t specify humans. Maybe our most prized possessions? Like your Firebolt?”

 

“I really want to believe so, Viktor, I really do,” said Harry, “but I just know, given the nature of this tournament, that human hostages are more than likely. Our lives were threatened with the dragon; what’s stopping them from threatening the lives of our friends for the sake of entertainment?”

 

The couple sat in silence. No matter how much they tried to think otherwise, human hostages seemed to be the only likely possibility, as Harry said. Life and death have always played a part in previous tournaments; this one was no exception, no matter how gut-wrenching that fact was.

 

Harry couldn’t stand the silence any longer.

 

Scooting over, he lifted himself onto Viktor’s lap, straddling his boyfriend. Without needing words to understand his boyfriend’s need, Viktor wrapped his arms around him, pulling him into his chest.

 

They stayed like that for several moments, immersing themselves in the warmth of the water and their bodies. They needed the contact, the proximity, anything, to take their minds off the troubling uncertainties of the tournament, before they worked themselves into a right fix.

 

Harry let his boyfriend’s steady heartbeat soothe him, the still-hot water lapping against their embraced bodies.

 

Lifting his head off from Viktor’s chest, glancing up to meet his boyfriend’s eyes. The dark brown irises, hardened and forged by the years, glistening by the moonlight streaming through the windows and reflecting off the water, gazed back down at him.

 

Harry closed his eyes, and leaned upwards slightly. He needed Viktor’s love, now.

 

Viktor was more than happy to oblige, pressing his lips over Harry’s in another soft kiss.

 

It was short, and chaste. Yet it didn’t stay that way for long.

 

Viktor weaved his fingers through Harry’s locks, pushing slightly against his lips, deepening the kiss. Harry’s breath hitched when he felt Viktor’s tongue gently prod and swipe over his lower lip. Subconsciously opening his lips, Viktor slipped his tongue into Harry’s cavern, invading into new territory.

 

Harry’s mind went completely blank, unused to the new, unfamiliar sensation of having his tongue wrapped, blanketed, swiped against, held down, by another tongue. He didn’t know how to react, so he trusted himself with Viktor, letting his boyfriend lead him.

 

A few moments passed, and Viktor pulled away. A thin line of saliva connected them, before breaking and disappearing forever in the water.

 

Harry was left breathless.

 

He had little time to rest, however, as he was quickly swept up in another French kiss.

 

Viktor’s tongue invaded his cavern once again, but this time, he was ready. Rather than submitting to his boyfriend like the first time, he fought back. Viktor was momentarily surprised when his tongue was swiped and attacked at by Harry’s own, challenging him to a duel for control. As if saying with newfound coyness, “Catch me if you can, try to hold me down and make me submit to you”.

 

The older seeker growled. All worries of the tournament pushed aside, he was turned on.

 

Viktor pushed harder into the kiss, duelling straight on with Harry. Tongues clashed, danced over one another, trying to catch the other off guard, pin him down and claim the other as their own. Hands roamed freely over each other’s body, clawing and grabbing at one another as control slowly slipped away in the rough, frenzied battle of domination and love. Emotions became primal and animalistic, all restraint lost to the steam that begun to rise from the water as their intertwined magic began to glow.

 

Harry fought his best, but with oxygen slowly running low, his fight grew slower and laboured. Seeing his chance, Viktor dealt the final blow, pushing his tongue back into Harry’s cavern, forcing the latter’s tongue into a hold of submission.

 

The battle was over. Harry was now Viktor’s for the winning.

 

The previous frenzy of emotion mellowed into a slow tango. Viktor’s tongue wrapped around Harry’s, caressing, feeling, mapping out the territory that was now his.

 

Slowly, they pulled apart, the need for air taking priority. Harry was in a daze, eyes glazed over, still lost in the afterglow of the explosion of passion and lust. A little bit of drool trickled down from his lips down his chin, a small memento of the raw emotion and love they had so viciously shared.

 

Viktor cupped Harry’s cheek, thumb wiping away the bit of drool. The smaller lad leaned into his boyfriend’s touch, nuzzling the rough palm.

 

Viktor’s eyes darkened.

 

The older seeker pulled his lover close, and they shared another kiss, soft and chaste again. Pulling away, Viktor pressed small kisses along Harry’s jawline. Harry’s breath hitched, trembling under the slight licks and nibbles as Viktor kissed his way up to his ear, now red from his growing blush.

 

“I vill protect your purity,” the older seeker whispered into Harry’s ear before kissing the rim, sending a shudder down the younger’s spine, “yet…I vant to claim you as mine, only mine. I vant to mark you. Vill you let me?”

 

Harry mewled as Viktor nibbled his ear. Pulling away, Harry bared his neck to his boyfriend.

 

“Mark me, Viktor…make me yours.”

 

Viktor growled again.

 

Grasping Harry tightly, the older seeker dove into his neck, biting down hard.

 

The younger seeker moaned loudly, the rush of pleasure and slight pain searing through his nerves and throwing his mind into haywire. Viktor released his grip on his boyfriend’s neck, licking the teeth marks to soothe the sting.

 

He didn’t stop there. Viktor latched onto other spots on Harry’s neck – nibbling, biting, suckling on the sensitive skin – to paint his mark all over.

 

Harry was left a trembling, breathless mess, barely holding on with his brain in shutdown. Each hickey Viktor left set his nerve-endings on fire, catapulting him into the throes of rapture. Any more, and he might just melt into the water.

 

Viktor spared Harry that fate by pulling away, gazing upon his work. Hickeys of various shapes and sizes dotted and overlapped across the younger seeker’s neck and collarbone, accentuated by various teeth marks from rougher displays of love.

 

Add in kiss-swollen lips, emerald irises shimmering with unshed tears, and the moonlight glowing over his boyfriend’s lean form, and Viktor was treated to a Harry who looked very much like an angel, ravaged by love and lust.

 

“You’re so beautiful…” Viktor breathed, hands trailing over his boyfriend’s form, “so lustrous…and all mine…”

 

With half-lidded eyes, Harry leaned down to Viktor’s neck. Pressing his own kisses on the sensitive skin, Harry suckled on his boyfriend’s sweet spot. Animalistic growls rumbled from within the older seeker.

 

Harry pulled away, revealing his own love mark on the skin.

 

“I am yours,” he whispered in his boyfriend’s ear, “as you are mine.”

 

Another growl, and Harry is immediately swept into another strong, rough kiss.

 

Time had lost its meaning for the couple, as their love continued into the night. All thoughts and fears of the tournament lay forgotten, cast aside for needy kisses and more love marks and bites. Even if it was for a while, they let their love take centre-stage, amidst the coming storms and tribulations.

 


To Be Continued.


 

 

 

Chapter Text

“Potter…”

 

“Potter…”

 

“Potter…”

 

Harry shifted in the darkness that enveloped him. Someone seemed to be calling his name.

 

“Potter, wake up.”

 

The voice became louder, whoever it belonged to shaking his shoulder. Harry grimaced, sleep completely lost. Darkness was replaced with blurred light, as the fourth-year student opened his eyes into the new day. He was wrapped loosely in Viktor’s embrace, the older seeker still asleep.

 

Someone is crouching over the edge of the tub, who exactly Harry wasn’t sure thanks to his bad eyesight. Harry reached for his glasses and put them on.

 

“Oh…Diggory, it’s you. What’s up?”

 

“I…n-need to bathe…”

 

Now that he could see clearly, Harry wondered why the Hufflepuff champion was blushing hard and his words awkward and unsure. Then he noticed the older student’s eyes flitting down on his neck and collarbone.

 

Ah…now he understood what’s got Cedric’s knickers in a twist.

 

“If it makes you feel any better, I still have my virginity,” Harry deadpanned, “Viktor and I just got a bit carried away with marking each other.”

 

Cedric seemed to calm down slightly, but his blush did not fade.

 

Harry sighed, “Well, I guess I better wake Viktor up. I hope you don’t mind sharing the tub, Diggory, but I think the both of us need another bath.”

 


 

Viktor was woken up immediately after, and like Harry before, was initially dull to the world before a soft kiss from his smaller boyfriend kick-started the neurons in his brain. Sparing but a glance at Cedric, who had taken a place across from them in the tub, Viktor devoted his attention to getting himself and Harry ready for the day.

 

The air was both domestic and awkward. Awkward for Cedric, since he felt distinctly intrusive in the domestic aura that seemed to radiate from Viktor and Harry, indulging in the small pleasures of fingers rubbing shampoo into each other’s scalps and lathering soap on each other’s backs.

 

It was only when the three seekers went their separate ways did the air return to normal, not that Viktor or Harry noticed in the first place.

 

Their friends were already in the Room of Requirement, just tucking into breakfast when the couple finally showed up, hand-in-hand.

 

“Oh! There you two are,” Klaus spoke up, “You guys veren’t on the ship vhen ve voke up, vhere vere you?”

 

“Fell asleep in the bath,” Harry replied, sitting down with Viktor on a loveseat the room conjured for them.

 

“Bath?” Uliana raised an eyebrow, mid-chew on toast.

 

“Hogvarts’ Prefects’ Bath,” Viktor replied.

 

“That explains a lot,” Luna remarked, sipping her tea, “The fluttering rosehummers are wafting around you two quite a bit.”

 

“And from the looks of things,” Fred had a cheeky grin, elbowing his twin, “You two did more than just take a bath.”

 

“What do you mean?” Anastazja asked.

 

“They certainly left their mark on each other, dear brother of mine,” George giggled.

 

Viktor’s friends turned to the two seekers, scrutinising them for a moment. Nicolae was the first to discover what the twins were talking about. A blush spread across his cheeks.

 

“A-Are those hickeys?”

 

Indeed, several of the purplish-red love bites made during their passionate tryst the night before were clearly seen over the uncovered parts of their necks.

 

Klaus dropped his scone. Uliana dropped her teacup.

 

“D-Did…you…?”

 

“No, I’m still a virgin,” Harry replied calmly, “They are just kisses from the universe.”

 

“I’m his universe,” Viktor added, leaning over to nuzzle his boyfriend’s head.

 

The Durmstrang students visibly relaxed with that reassurance. Luna just smiled serenely, taking another sip of her tea.

 

“So vhy vere you two there anyvay?” asked Klaus.

 

“Diggory told us the bath would be the best place to learn the clue for the second task,” said Harry, mood turning serious in an instant.

 

“And did you two figure it out?” Anastazja asked.

 

“We did, and it was…” Harry trailed off.

 

“Unsettling,” Viktor finished for him.

 

“Why?” the twins asked together.

 

“The second task will be held at the Black Lake, where a colony of merpeople live,” Harry explained, “They will take something that we will sorely miss, and we have one hour to get them back. Otherwise, we’ll lose them forever.”

 

“And vhat ve think the merpeople vill be taking,” Viktor continued grimly, “are the people who are closest to us.”

 

Silence.

 

“C-Come again?” Nicolae got out.

 

“The person we are closest to will be taken as part of the second task. We have one hour to find them, or else they’ll die,” Harry repeated, hands trembling.

 

 

 

 

“Scheiße (1) …” Klaus cursed.

 

“Are you certain?” asked George.

 

“It’s the likeliest scenario,” Viktor nodded.

 

An uneasy silence befell upon the room. Even Luna had stopped drinking her tea, her eyes glinting with seriousness mixed with her original dreamy cloud.

 

“Who do you think is going to be taken?” Fred asked.

 

“For Viktor, I think it will be Nicolae,” Anastazja pointed out, “They were the first to meet during our first year.”

 

“Then Harry?”

 

“I…I don’t know,” the fourth-year replied, “If I had to guess, it will be either one of you two,” he gestured to the twins, “or Luna.”

 

The dreamy Ravenclaw, despite how serious she now was, remained unfazed, “Who gets chosen doesn’t matter, two of us will be taken anyway. The nargles tell me that we should be instead be focusing on how to get them back.”

 

Everyone agreed on that.

 

“Vhere is the second task going to be held again?” asked Klaus.

 

“Most probably the Black Lake,” Harry replied, “I think the hostages will be somehow kept underwater for the whole hour duration.”

 

“Then you two will need to find ways to breathe underwater long enough to retrieve them,” Uliana commented.

 

That was another problem that needed to be dealt with.

 

“Do you have anything, Viktor?” asked Fred.

 

“I could try self-transfiguration,” the older seeker considered, “Ve practiced that last year at Durmstrang.”

 

“But what about Harry?” George worried.

 

The heavy air seemed to weigh down even more. It was no doubt among those gathered that Harry was not to attempt the same dangerous tactic as his boyfriend. So many things could go wrong before he had even entered the water. But if that was out of the picture, what could he do?

 

There was a popping sound.

 

“Master Harry Potter sir!”

 

The twins jumped at Dobby’s sudden appearance beside the sofa they were sitting on.

 

“What is it, Dobby?” asked Harry.

 

“Dobby is be aware of Master Harry Potter’s sticky predicament for most foul tournament,” the house-elf hurried up to the fourth-year, “Dobby thinks he has the answer for Master Harry Potter’s troubles.”

 

“Really?” asked the lad hopefully.

 

“Yes, Master Harry Potter sir!” Dobby nodded, “Dobby be right back!”

 

The elf disapparated with another pop. Thirty seconds later, he reappeared, holding a jar filled with some liquid and something that looked decidedly disgusting.

 

“What is that, Dobby?” Harry asked.

 

“Gillyweed, Master Harry Potter sir!” Dobby held out the jar to him, “It is be help you with foul tournament!”

 

Harry took the jar, and grimaced. The Gillyweed looked like severed rat tails that have been left to rot for a few days, congealed into a ball, and then fermented in some kind of preservative that had lost its potency years prior. It was not a pleasant sight to look at.

 

“How does it work?” asked Anastazja.

 

A Herbology textbook appeared on Luna’s lap, courtesy of the room. She flipped to the bookmarked page.

 

“Gillyweed gives the person the ability to breathe underwater, as well as webbing on their hands and feet to help them swim,” she read aloud, “The effects last about an hour, and in order for it to work, one must ingest it whole.”

 

As soon as she had finished, the book disappeared.

 

Harry’s grimace worsened, and his face had taken on a slightly green shade.

 

“I have a strong feeling it will taste as disgusting as it looks,” he remarked, “But I don’t have a choice, do I?”

 

“Nope,” said Fred resolutely.

 

“Not unless you want your friend to die,” George continued.

 

“Terrible really, if that were –”

 

“– to happen.”

 

“Especially if –”

 

“– it was one of us.”

 

“Our shared connection –”

 

“– will be forever broken.”

 

“And the remaining twin will be doomed to bottomless misery for the rest of his life,” the twins finished together.

 

“Of course, we don’t want that to get to that point,” Harry reassured, “I just hope I don’t retch it up on the day itself. I have a strong feeling it tastes as bad as it looks.”

 


 

The days leading down to the second task trickled away with uneasy tension, even though Harry and his friends tried their best to carry on with their lives. It seemed that the cloud of uncertain gloom that hung over them was here to stay for the time being.

 

There was however, one brief window of joy in this storm of bleakness.

 

Harry received a letter from Sirius. His godfather was able to clear the way for Remus Lupin, Harry’s former Defence Against the Dark Arts professor and close family friend, to emigrate to France to join him.

 

The French had much less draconian laws on lycanthropy. The only condition werewolves were made to abide by there was to register with the ministry, so that they can receive their monthly dose of Wolfsbane potion for the full moon. Other than that little detail, they were treated the same as wizards and witches.

 

If everything was to go smoothly, Remus would be out of Britain by the end of the week. Another week after, and he would get his French citizenship.

 

Harry was delighted and relieved to hear such good news. He remembered Professor Lupin fondly, being the most competent DADA professor until Moody.

 

But such joy was only temporary. The uncertainty of imminent death came back with full force.

 

And it only got worse when the morning of the second task dawned upon Hogwarts.

 

When Harry and Viktor got ready to depart for the Durmstrang ship, they were met at the door by Viktor’s clique, with one noticeable absence.

 

“I was right,” Anastazja said grimly, “Nicolae was taken.”

 

Viktor trembled. Harry squeezed his hand to calm him.

 

“L-Let’s head to breakfast, shall ve?” Klaus offered, grasping at any attempt to stave off the doom that settled over them.

 

A short trip through the grounds and the castle later, the group arrived back at the Room of Requirement for a sombre breakfast. Food appeared as soon as they sat down, but no one had much of an appetite that morning.

 

“You two must eat something,” Uliana said to Harry and Viktor, “You need the energy to get them back.”

 

The older seeker stiffly nodded, reaching for a bread roll. Harry made no move at all.

 

Several minutes later, the door opened. All eyes turned as Luna entered.

 

“Good morning, everyone,” the third-year Ravenclaw smiled with a tinge of sadness, “Looks like the nargles didn’t put me at the bottom of the lake today.”

 

A chorus of gloomy “good mornings” came back. Luna skipped over to the group, sitting herself and helping herself to some toast.

 

“Since it’s not Luna,” Harry spoke up, “that means it’s one of the twins.”

 

“I can’t imagine how the other is feeling, knowing that it’s possible his brother could die,” Anastazja remarked.

 

“And how do you think ve feel?” Viktor asked sourly, “Two lives are in our hands.”

 

The Polish girl nodded, and the group fell silent.

 

The door opened.

 

“It must be Luna, George. Otherwise one of us will be at the bottom of the lake now.”

 

Everyone started at the new voice.

 

“But then how do you explain the rumours?”

 

All eyes turn. Harry made a noise of surprise.

 

“Fred? George?”

 

The Weasley twins stopped in their tracks. In perfect synchronicity, their eyes flitted over to Harry, then to the Durmstrang students, then to Luna.

 

“Luna? What -”

 

“- are you-”

 

“- doing here?”

 

“What do you mean?” the dreamy-eyed blonde tilted her head, “My being is here. Did the addled amplepomps hit you over the this morning? I was surprised they didn’t drag one of you into the lake in such a state.”

 

Confusion was quickly settling amongst the group.

 

“But if the tvins and Luna aren’t Harry’s hostage,” Klaus wondered, “Vho is?”

 

“Something isn’t right here,” Uliana shook her head, “Harry’s only Hogwarts friends are all accounted for. Didn’t the clue say the participant’s closest friend will be taken?”

 

“We’re just as clueless as you all,” George replied, “But we did hear something unusual last night.”

 

“And it vas?” Viktor asked.

 

“There was a rumour spreading through the traitorous Gryffindor house,” Fred explained, “that one of them was going to be chosen as Harry’s hostage.”

 

The confusion only deepened.

 

“But Harry hates all of them, except for you two!” Klaus interjected.

 

“It was only a rumour, but McGonagall seemed royally pissed for some reason,” George added, “Over what, we aren’t sure.”

 

Everyone glanced at each other. No one was quite sure what to make out of the new information given to them.

 

“No matter my hostage,” Harry spoke up after a few moments of silence, “I still need to do it. There’s no getting around it.”

 

With that, the fourth-year finally helped himself to the food, and so did everyone else.

 


 

Mid-morning came, and it was time for the champions to gather at the Black Lake. 

 

Bidding their friends farewell, Harry and Viktor trooped down towards the holding tent where they were supposed to assemble, stony-faced and hand-in-hand. Both had their wands, and Harry had the gillyweed jar in his pocket.

 

Entering the tent, they met up with Cedric, his robes loosely hanging over the one-piece swimsuit he was wearing underneath. The three seekers exchanged glances, but said nothing to one another. Harry and Viktor stepped away to one side of the tent, huddling close on a bench. Again, no words were spoken, they just sat in each other’s warmth to stave off the early Spring wind that drafted through the tent.

 

A short while later, the tent flaps opened again. Fleur stepped through. Harry took a quick glance at the French champion from his seat. She looked deathly pale, a stricken expression gracing her beautiful features. She seemed very on edge, furtively glancing about and trembling noticeably.

 

‘She must be worrying about what has been taken from her. Does she know who though?’ Harry wondered to himself.

 

His musings were interrupted by Viktor pulling him close. Fleur wasn’t the only one affected right now, clearly.

 

“We’ll get Nicolae back, I’m sure of it,” Harry put his most reassuring voice forward for his boyfriend.

 

Viktor said nothing, but his grip on Harry tightened.

 

A few more tense minutes passed, and a loud cannon blast shook the world outside.

 

“Champions, take your positions on the platform.”

 

This was followed by the rustling of robes being removed. Harry, wearing a pair of black knee-length swimming trunks, double-checked that his wand was in its holster on his leg, and gillyweed (he tried his best to ignore the slimy feeling) in hand. Viktor, decked in a similar pair of trunks, waited for him, letting Cedric and Fleur leave first.

 

Once ready, the two lovers stepped out of the tent together.

 

A barrage of noise greeted the champions on the starting platform. Thousands of spectators gathered in stands encircling the lake, cheering for their respective champion, waving flags or banners, and generally creating a noisy ruckus.

 

Harry could see where the Hogwarts students were sitting, knowing that the twins and Luna were amongst them. He tried to look out for any missing familiar faces in the crowd, hoping to narrow down the list of potential hostages.

 

“Welcome, champions and all, to the second task of the Triwizard Tournament!” Bagman’s voice echoed over the land, to the hurrah of more cheers and whistles.

 

Harry immediately stopped listening to the opening speech. He knew what was about to come. So he continued to scan the spectators. Near the bottom of the stands, was the press box ever at the ready to capture whatever action they could for the next day’s papers. He could also see the judges’ panel a bit further up the rows, with Dumbledore and the other heads of schools sitting in attendance. To his surprise, he spotted Percy Weasley sitting in place of Crouch Snr. At the back of his mind, he wondered what happened to the doddery fool. Crouch hadn’t been seen or involved with the tournament ever since the first task, as far as Harry knew.

 

Bagman was talking about the champions now, Fleur in particular. Harry grimaced at the suggestive and rather crude comments the man was making. His disgust was exacerbated by all those lecherous looks from the Hogwarts boys at the French champion’s figure and one-piece swimsuit.

 

“Harry.”

 

Again, the fourth-year’s ruminations were interrupted by Viktor getting his attention. Harry turned around, only to have his lips captured in a kiss by his boyfriend.

 

There was a split-second of silence, then the explosion of pandemonium.

 

Cedric merely glanced at the two lovers; the sight of them merely kissing not as dramatic as walking in on them sleeping in the prefects’ bath, covered in hickies and bite marks. Fleur was surprised at the unexpected intimacy, but wasn’t too bothered or shocked about it. She had seen many a same-sex couple in her time at Beauxbatons, so it wasn’t anything new. She was intrigued that two of her rival champions had become a couple, but considering how she always saw them together, and went to the Yule Ball as dates, it wasn’t really surprising.

 

But for the others, especially the Hogwarts students, it was a sight to behold. They were on their feet, shouting, pointing, freaking out and creating a huge confused ruckus. Both the press and Bagman were having a field day.

 

“I-I don’t believe it! The Seeker of Bulgaria and the Boy-Who-Lived are sharing a kiss! Who would have thought that there was something deeper between them since the Yule Ball?! Oh I can just hear the sounds of hearts shattering all over Europe!”

 

Harry paid no attention to the hullabaloo happening around him, or the fact that this little act would make headlines in magical Europe the next day. He merely focused on being embraced and kissed by his love.

 

All too soon, Viktor pulled away. The taller seeker pressed his forehead against Harry’s.

 

“Stay safe, vill you?”

 

“You too, Viktor.”

 

The couple pulled apart, just as order was restored.

 

“Now,” Bagman continued with undeterred gusto, “the champions have exactly one hour to retrieve their hostages. Let’s hope they can make it in time! Champions, your time starts…”

 

Harry immediately threw the gillyweed into his mouth. Fighting the instinct to gag and retch up the foul-tasting lump of disgusting abhorrence, he forced it down his throat, pushing it down into his stomach.

 

“...now!”

 

Harry dived headfirst into the lake, following closely by Cedric and Fleur, and then Viktor.

 

It was early spring, thus the lake water hadn’t had the time to warm up from the frigid temperatures of winter. Diving into the water felt like millions of knives stabbing into Harry’s skin. It didn’t help that the gillyweed hadn’t taken effect yet, so for a few agonising moments, Harry flailed about in the water, slowly drowning.

 

The water stung against his eyes, and he couldn’t see clearly. Everything was spinning, bubbles kicked up from his limbs clawing against the water only adding to the confusion.

 

For those few moments, Harry thought he was going to die.

 

Until, thank Merlin, the oxygen began to flow.

 

Harry felt the changes to his body right after. The sides of his neck opened in slits, fluttering in the water. Webbing formed between his fingers and toes, and his vision became crystal clear. The water warmed, no longer feeling like icicles stabbing through his body.

 

Harry calmed down his thundering heart. Once he was ready, he swam straight ahead, following the bubble trails left behind by his three fellow champions.

 

Harry immediately felt the urgency of the time limit hit him. Even with sharp vision, he could only see a few metres ahead of him. Beyond that, was just a blurry cloud of water. He needed to find his bearings quickly.

 

He swam closer to the lake bed, knowing that one way or another, trailing along it would lead to the merpeople colony. In the meantime, Harry hoped that going straight was the way forward. He didn’t want to swim around in circles and waste time - a life was in his hands.

 

The further he kicked, the more the surroundings continued to change and differ from before. One moment, he swam past what looked like jagged mounds of rocks with strange coral-like organisms growing on them. Schools of fish, some he recognised while others not, swam in all directions, towards, around or away from him. The fish often came with the change in surroundings, almost as if they were magically transitioning the waterscape. Occasionally, Harry would see something big moving in the distance, which he presumed was the Giant Squid. The enormous creature kept its distance, and so did Harry.

 

Some distance in, cutting through a forest of towering seaweed, Harry heard sounds coming towards him. Squeaky, high-pitched. Definitely not human.

 

From the seaweed, emerged an entire school of grindylows. Small, but dangerous.

 

And they were heading right for him.

 

Harry pulled out his wand, and focused his magic towards the tip. His voice would be garbled by the water, rendering verbal spell casting useless. 

 

‘Bombarda!’

 

A powerful explosion rocked the water. The grindylows closest to the explosion were blown apart into murky clouds of crimson and stray bits of flesh. Many of the survivors were startled and quickly fled. A few of the more bold ones made another attempt to attack again, only to be quickly blown to pieces by a second explosion from Harry’s wand.

 

He need not unleash the third. The remaining water demons quickly got the message and swam away, looking for other easier targets.

 

Left alone, Harry continued on his way.

 

A few minutes later, just as he passed another rock formation, Harry heard what sounded like a distant scream behind him. It sounded feminine, and garbled by the water.

 

Harry immediately guessed it was Fleur. She must have run into some trouble, what exactly he wasn’t sure. 

 

As much as his Gryffindor side wanted so badly to turn around and aid his fellow champion, his Slytherin side steered him forward. He had a task to complete, and a life to save.

 

Harry swam on for several more minutes. Then, up ahead, he got his first clue that he was near the colony.

 

A pair of shadows, half humanoid and half fish-like, were moving into the distance. 

 

Harry kicked faster to catch up with the merpeople.

 

Some way in, the surroundings changed again, opening into an underwater settlement.

 

Rock formations were carved into to form caves for a wide variety of purposes - dwellings, passageways, storage, among others, or used for some decorative reason. Marine plants and coral grew wildly and all over the place, as with the fish that swam freely through the colony, undisturbed by the merpeople that were moving about.

 

They spotted Harry right away as he entered their home, but made no move to attack or engage him. They just stared at him, with shining yellow eyes, as he passed by, especially the smaller ones whom he presumed to be children.

 

Seeing no sign of the hostages, Harry pressed deeper into the colony. Past some more rock formations and staring merpeople, the settlement opened into a large central square.

 

And there, smack in the middle of the square, tied to four large boulders by rope, were the four hostages.

 

Well, there were four initially. Two of the boulders were empty, cut ropes suspended languidly in the water. There were only two hostages left - a teenage boy and a young girl.

 

The boy didn’t look like Nicolae, Harry immediately surmised, meaning that Viktor had arrived before him, and managed to cut him free and return to the surface, much to the fourth-year’s relief. Cedric has also arrived before him too, since his likeliest hostage, Ravenclaw seeker Cho Chang and Yule Ball date, was no longer there, leaving him and Fleur to rescue their respective hostages.

 

Harry swam closer, and did a double take.

 

The teenage boy had distinctly red hair, and he had freckles. He was also wearing Gryffindor robes.

 

Harry nearly cursed out loud.

 

What in Merlin’s name?! His hostage was Ronald fucking Weasley ?!

 

Harry was both confused and outraged. The twins were right, but it was the traitorous Ronald Weasley, the one who turned the entirety of Gryffindor house against him when his name came out of the Goblet, and then tried to worm his way back into his good books after the First Task. 

 

How could it be him?! Harry had declared their friendship dead after he was banished from Gryffindor tower and after the First Task came to an end. He didn’t care for the stupid redhead, revelling in his misery thanks to the pranks the twins pulled on him, and his massive screw-up asking Fleur out to the Yule Ball. Who thought it was a good idea to choose him as Harry’s closest “friend” and therefore hostage?!

 

Harry quickly pulled himself together. Who chose the Weasel as his hostage was not important right now. What was important now was what his plan to do something about it.

 

The fourth-year didn’t need to lose any brain cells over his former friend. He wasn’t going to do anything with the Weasel. He’ll just leave the redhead down here to die.

 

Harry made to swim back to the surface and forfeit the task, but his eye fell on the young girl suspended next to Weasley.

 

She had a roundish, Cherubic-like face, and long platinum-blonde hair that floated like a cloud over her head thanks to the water. Harry was almost certain she was related to Fleur, possibly her younger sister. She couldn’t be any older than 10, or even 8 years in age. The girl was also wearing plain white silk pyjamas.

 

Her presence made Harry think. If she was related to Fleur, it meant she was quarter-Veela like her older sister. If he remembered his Care of Magical Creatures lessons correctly, Veelas have a natural affinity to fire, which makes water one of their weaknesses. Harry realised that the girl was in an especially vulnerable position, completely surrounded by water and marine predators. He didn’t want to imagine what the merpeople will do to her once the hour time limit is up.

 

Fleur would also be at a disadvantage. Harry wasn’t sure if she was able to overcome what troubled her back after he fought off the grindylow swarm. He had already been hanging around the colony for a while now; she should have arrived to rescue her sister by now. 

 

But there was no sign of the French champion.

 

Harry considered his options, nodding to himself.

 

He’ll leave Weasley behind, and save Fleur’s sister instead.

 

Harry swam towards the girl, and prepared his wand to cut the ropes.

 

Only to feel something sharp jab him.

 

He turned around, coming to face a merperson with a deadly-looking trident pointed straight at him. It did not look pleased with what he was doing.

 

It screeched at him, jerking its head towards Weasley.

 

Harry just gave it his middle finger, and went back to freeing the girl.

 

The merperson screeched again, rushing towards him with its trident.

 

Harry barely dodged the weapon, but his cheek was grazed. He snarled, this merperson was getting on his nerves.

 

Raising his wand, Harry slashed a ‘Diffindo’ at the offending creature. The spell took off the merperson’s hand that was holding the trident, greenish-bronze fluid seeping freely from the stump.

 

Not wasting another moment, Harry snatched the trident and fired another “Diffindo”. The amputated merperson met its end with its head being sliced clean off.

 

There was a small pause.

 

Then a mass echo of enraged screeching.

 

The merpeople watching charged towards Harry to avenge their fallen own.

 

Harry’s emerald eyes glinted. 

 

An explosion rocked the square. Harry watched indifferently as the corpses of several merpeople floated towards the surface, some whole, others partially or just limbs, heads or tails. Screeching hysterically, more merpeople surged forward to avenge their fallen.

 

Harry slashed his wand indiscriminately at the advancing army. “Diffindos” and “Bombardas” were unleashed like bullets, taking out more merpeople and sending their corpses to the surface. Some of the spells missed their targets, destroying any stone formation unlucky enough to be in the direct line of fire. 

 

Several of the sneakier merpeople advanced from behind the boulders holding the hostages, hoping to really use them as hostages to force Harry not to fire spells in their direction. 

 

Harry knew that, but didn’t hesitate.

 

With one sweeping motion, he skewered the advancing creatures like kebabs with the trident. More pointed “Diffindos” later, and there were only pieces of flesh left.

 

Harry didn’t know how long he had been fighting the merpeople, but he couldn’t keep it up forever. He still the time limit to fulfill, and perhaps worringly, he could start to feel the effects of the gillyweed beginning to recede.

 

With the next swarm of merpeople fast approaching, he unleashed the finishing spell.

 

‘Bombarda Maxima!’

 

An earth-shattering explosion, ten times stronger than a single regular “Bombarda”, rocked the square, destroying the remaining stone formations in front of it. The merpeople too close to the epicentre were eviscerated completely, the shockwave throwing the remainder (including Harry) backwards.

 

The explosion shrouded the entire square with bubbles and silt from the lake bottom, reducing visibility considerably. Having been pushed back into the boulder holding the girl, Harry got to work on this advantage.

 

He quickly cut the ropes, just as his vision began to blur. Grabbing the girl securely by the waist, Harry began kicking upwards towards the surface.

 

A few of the surviving merpeople tried to chase him, but he parted one last “Bombarda” at them to scare them off, and to propel himself higher.

 

The shimmering light on the surface was growing closer and closer, but his gills had all but vanished by now, as with the webbing on his toes. With fast dwindling oxygen straining his lungs, Harry made one last, desperate boost. 

 

Using his magic, he pushed himself upwards like a bullet released from a gun. The light rushed forwards to meet him, and then with a splash, he and the girl broke through the surface, just as a chime signalling the end of the hour time limit rang across the lake.

 

Harry took deep gulps of air to relieve his lungs, running his free hand through his face to wipe off the residual water from his eyes and nose.

 

Whatever spell the girl was under was broken. Now fully awake and only just feeling the sharp cold of the February lake, she panicked.

 

“Au secours! S’il vous plait! C'est froid! Au secours! S’il vous plait!” (2)

 

“Hey! Hey! Se calmer! Tout va bien! Se calmer!” (3)

 

Thank Merlin for those French lessons in muggle primary school before coming to Hogwarts.

 

“Je t'ai eu. Se calmer, tout va bien.” (4)

 

The girl stopped struggling, staring at Harry as he began to swim back to the platform, wrapped securely in his arm, amidst excited cheers from the Durmstrang and Beauxbatons students.

 

“Qui êtes-vous?” she asked. (5)

 

“C’est sans importance,” Harry reassured her, “Revenons à ta sœur.” (6)

 

The cheers continued. A frantic Fleur, wrapped in towels, was already at the platform’s edge, reaching out for her sister. Her schoolmates were holding her back from toppling headfirst back into the frigid water. Viktor and his clique were close behind, towels in hand.

 

“Gabrielle! Gabrielle!”

 

Seeing her older sister, Gabrielle almost threw herself out of Harry’s arm to reach her. Harry kicked quicker, despite already being exhausted. Once close enough, he lifted the young girl out of the water into Fleur’s grasp. Viktor and Anastazja quickly pulled him out of the water onto the platform right after.

 

“Harry!”

 

“Quick, wrap him in the towels!”

 

The fourth-year shuddered in the cool air, as Klaus blanketed him in two towels. Viktor was immediately at his side, pulling him into a tight hug and rubbing his arms to warm him up.

 

“Harry, моя любов (7), are you alright?”

 

“I-I’m f-fine, V-Viktor…” Harry shivered.

 

There was a disturbance behind Viktor. Fleur pushed herself past the Bulgarian seeker, and got down to Harry’s level, Gabrielle in hand, wrapped in towels herself.

 

“Monsieur Potter, you saved ‘er. You saved my leetle seester, even though she wasn’t your ‘ostage.”

 

Harry got a good look at the French champion’s expression. The last time she addressed him on such close quarters, it was with disdain and contempt. Now, there was nothing but pure gratitude and relief.

 

“You saved ‘er life! Thank you! Thank you so much!”

 

Much to Harry’s surprise (and Viktor’s annoyance), Fleur pulled the fourth-year forward and kissed him twice on the cheeks. No sooner had she released him, Viktor pulled a stunned Harry back into his arms, possessive growls unheard over the cheers.

 

“Ah, Monsieur Potter, where ees your ‘ostage? You only returned with my seester.”

 

That snapped Harry back into attention. His expression turned impassive.

 

“I left him to die.”

 

That silenced the cheers. For Viktor and his clique, this wasn’t unexpected news. Fleur, on the other hand, thought something had gone wrong with her hearing.

 

“Quoi?” (8)

 

“I left him behind to perish. That’s what I did.”

 

Fleur was left dumbstruck. Gabrielle tilted her head in confusion.

 

“Que veux-tu dire?” (9)

 

Harry was about to switch French to explain to the young girl, when Dumbledore made his presence known on the platform.

 

“Harry, my boy, what is this that I am hearing from the merpeople that you left young Ronald behind, laid waste to the colony and murdered several dozen of their own?”

 

Eyes widened and eyebrows rose, save for a few. Fleur had an unreadable expression seeing the headmaster. Harry’s scowl grew substantially stormy, while Viktor remained resolute, determined to stand by his boyfriend always.

 

“And pray tell, Dumbledore, who’s idea was it to choose Ronald fucking Weasley as my hostage?”

 

The senile old goat had the nerve to twinkle his eyes, “Young Ronald was your first friend here in Hogwarts. I understand that you two had undergone a rough patch since the tournament started, but surely it’s only part and parcel of your friendship?”

 

Harry’s eyes started to flare as his anger rose, “Dumbledore, let me make this clear to you, since it has clear this hasn’t registered in your wrinkled peanut of a brain. My friendship with Weasley is dead! Ever since he turned on me alongside the rest of Gryffindor house since that motherfucking goblet spewed my name out! He means nothing to me now, a traitor who lets his pride and sense of entitlement override what little common sense he has! Why should I give a flying fuck about whether he lives or dies in this Merlin-forsaken tournament? Just as he is now dead to me, I can rest easier knowing that this traitor is now on his way to his next life!”

 

The headmaster was visibly shaken by such vitriol, “But Harry-”

 

“But nothing!” Harry interrupted vehemently, “You obviously have gone entirely senile to believe that Weasley is still my friend, after everything that has happened in this motherfucking tournament. You have done disservice after disservice to yourself and everyone in this motherfucking death trap that you call a school! Even after everything that has happened, you still think you are an all-knowing god whose way is the right way and force innocent people into pawns in your games regardless of the consequences!”

 

Harry took a breath, but his eyes remained dangerous, “You are so blind to reality, Dumbledore, that you don’t even realise your actions cross the line into illegality. I can’t help but notice that Gabrielle Delacour is in pyjamas when I rescued her. Surely you didn’t have an innocent girl with Veela ancestry kidnapped from her bedroom and tied to the bottom of a lake where she is exceptionally vulnerable to the water and the creatures that live there. Or am I wrong?”

 

Dumbledore hadn’t been able to account for that allegation, when Harry ducked. A fireball roared past and exploded on the headmaster’s long beard.

 

“Dumblydorr you monster! ‘ow dare you kidnap my leetle sister! You knew zat she is vulnerable underwater, and yet you endanger ‘er life! If not for Monsieur Potter, she would ‘ave died! ‘ow would you answer to zat?!”

 

Dumbledore raised his hands placatingly, though the look was sort of ruined by the charred remnants of his beard, “Miss Delacour, I assure you that the hostages were not in any real trouble.”

 

Harry cursed under his breath. Looks like Weasley got it lucky today. Fleur was undeterred.

 

“You weel pay for zhis, Dumblydorr. I swear on my grandmozzer’s memory, your maleecious actions weel be dealt with by the full extent of the French ministry! Just you wait!”

 

Harry raised an eyebrow, turning to Viktor for answers.

 

“Fleur’s father is the head of Magical Law in France. Her family vields immense power. Dumbledore is royally fucked,” the older seeker explained.

 

Not deigning to give a mortified Dumbledore a chance to explain his case, Fleur turned on her heel and stormed off, Gabrielle in hand, who turned back to wave at Harry as they headed into the champions’ tent. Harry eyed his headmaster, shaking his head contemptuously, as he was led away from the scene by Viktor and his friends.

 


To Be Continued.


 































































Chapter Text

The gathering for breakfast at the Room of Requirement was much more joyful after the conclusion of the Second Task. With the temporary reprieve from potential injury, maiming, drowning, or death, Harry and his friends were allowed to let their hair down until the arrival of the Third Task.

 

There was much discussion, chatter and laughter in the room as breakfast was consumed, especially about a certain bumbling (and now beardless) headmaster.

 

“...and he had an extremely weak chin,” Harry recounted as he sat comfortably on Viktor’s lap, held in place by his boyfriend’s arms, “I think that fireball Delacour threw at him destroyed the only thing that maintained his wise, grandfatherly image. Now he just looks like a stupid arsehole with a wrinkled, sagging face.”

 

More laughs.

 

“I don’t think I can take Dumberdore seriously after this,” Fred wheezed.

 

“Since when have we been taking him seriously?” George countered and starting another round of laughter.

 

Once everyone had settled down and taken another bite of food, Nicolae noticed something missing, “Say, where’s Luna?”

 

“Hey, you’re right,” Anastazja noted, “Shouldn’t she be here by now?”

 

“Maybe she overslept?” Klaus put forward.

 

At that same moment, the door to the room opened.

 

“...Wrackspurts tend to be really annoying creatures, Fleur. Adding to the fact that they are invisible and almost impossible to scope out, it is easy for them to infest someone’s brain, leading to bouts of confusion, dizziness, and episodes of negative thinking towards others.”

 

Luna stepped into the room, leading Fleur and her sister Gabrielle inside. The occupants all stood up, raising eyebrows at the French champion’s entrance, and how Luna got involved.

 

Fleur seemed to be surprised by the existence of the room, “Mon dieu! We don’t have anyzing like theese in Beauxbatons.”

 

“C’est très beau! (1)” Gabrielle agreed.

 

Luna turned to the staring group, “Oh, good morning everyone! My apologies for the late arrival, but Fleur Delacour and her sister were looking for you, Harry, so I brought them here. I would have come a little faster, but I was just explaining about Wrackspurts to them, and Gabrielle doesn’t know much English yet, so Fleur had to translate for her.”

 

Seeing her saviour, Gabrielle brightened, “Monsieur Potter!”

 

The little girl sprinted away from her sister’s side, barrelled into the surprises teen, hugging him tightly.

 

“Um...what…?”

 

Viktor shared his boyfriend’s confusion, overshadowing the slight growl threatening to escape his throat at the sight of a stranger hugging Harry.

 

Luna gently nudged Fleur, who approached Harry with just a hint of trepidation.

 

“Ms. Delacour, is there something you need of me?” Harry asked politely, maintaining a neutral tone.

 

“My behaviour towards you at ze start of ze tournament was unacceptable, Monsieur Potter,” Fleur got straight to the point, “Eet was wrong of me to assume you were nothzing but a leetle boy who wanted fame and glory. You are truly a capable weezard, and one weeth a noble heart who weel not hesitate to save ozzers. Eet was my mistake to see you otherwise, and I want to give you my sincerest apologies for ze slight against your character, and I beseech your forgiveness for my error.”

 

The French champion bowed respectfully, waiting for Harry’s response.

 

Everyone was watching the raven-haired teen now, wondering if he would forgive Fleur as he had done for McGonagall, or snub her in righteous vengeance.

 

Harry gave his answer a moment later, “I accept your apology, and I forgive you, Ms. Delacour. I understand that emotions were running high that night, and logical thinking was not on the forefront. I’m willing to bury the hatchet and start afresh with you, if that is acceptable?”

 

Fleur smiled, and she curtsied, “I too am weeling to let ze past stay behind us and start our relationship anew, and I thank you most humbly for your forgiveness. Also, I weesh for you to call me Fleur. I hope our new acquaintanceship can be forged on an informal note.”

 

“If that is the case, I request that you call me Harry likewise,” the raven-haired teen replied, “Now, why don’t you and Gabrielle join us for breakfast?”

 

Right on cue, the room conjured up another table, filled with plates of French pastries and croissants. Luna’s usual armchair was expanded to accommodate two more people.

 

Seeing how excited her sister was, Fleur saw no reason to refuse, “Zank you for accommodating us, Harry.”

 

“It’s no problem, Fleur.”

 

Gabrielle whooped in delight and jumped into the sofa next to Luna. Fleur took the remaining space, helping herself to a pastry with sugar coating and a strawberry on top. Harry returned to Viktor’s lap, his boyfriend’s arms wrapping around him again. He held in the warm shudder when Viktor’s lips breezed over his ear.

 

“Only you, Harry. Only you.”

 

Harry replied by nuzzling his boyfriend and giving him a quick kiss.

 

“Monsieur Potter?”

 

Harry to turned to Gabrielle, “Appelez-moi Harry (2), Gabrielle.”

 

The young girl nodded. Seeing the conversation starting, Fleur casted a translation charm so that the others could understand what was being said.

 

“Why is your neck dotted with red spots, Harry? Are you coming down with dragon-pox?”

 

All eyes turned to the fourth-year, who remained unfazed by the attention. The Weasley twins were stifling giggles, Luna smiled serenely, the Durmstrang students were indifferent, and Fleur was blushing slightly as she realised what those marks were. Viktor was just smug.

 

“It’s not dragon-pox, Gabrielle. They are just kiss marks.”

 

“Kiss...marks?”

 

“That’s right,” Harry nodded, “You’d notice I’m sitting in Viktor’s lap, and his arms are wrapped tight around me? Viktor and I are dating, and one of the things he likes to do to show his love for me is to kiss my neck, thus leaving the marks.”

 

He remembered getting those hickeys fondly. After the Second Task had concluded and the group had dinner in the Room of Requirement, he and Viktor retreated to their cabin on the Durmstrang ship for some alone time. Viktor had no restraint with loving him that night. In the hot bath they shared together, Viktor peppered him with sweet words and kisses, progressing into the younger’s neck and leaving him breathless and blushing from the gentle suckle and nips. The giving of love continued once the bath-water was drained. Harry remembered being carried bridal-style to the bed, where half the night was spent cuddling and spooning, Viktor deepening the hickeys and gently tickling him in the tummy.

 

All in all, a pleasant experience.

 

Gabrielle was listening with wide eyes with excitement sparkling in her irises, “That’s so sweet! Will I be able to try it too?”

 

“When you’re older, Gabrielle,” Fleur interjected firmly.

 

“Aww, but Harry and Viktor look so cute together!” the young girl pouted, “I wanna have a big, strong girl hug and kiss me too!”

 

So earnest in her words, Gabrielle failed to notice the others chuckling at her antics.

 

“Actually, that reminds me Harry,” Uliana spoke up once everyone calmed down, “You and Viktor kissed in front of all three European schools and at the very least the continent’s magical press yesterday.”

 

“And we hate to be the bearer of bad news, but as Bagman said, hearts are breaking all over Europe...”, Fred added.

 

And George continued, “You two know that people are not going to take this well, right?”

 

“Let them try,” Harry replied simply as Viktor tightened his grip around him, “They’ll face my wand if they get too close.”

 

“You get to hurt those who are mean to you, Harry?” Gabrielle gasped, excitement unabated, “Can you teach me?”

 

“Gabrielle!” came the horrified voice of her sister.

 


 

Short of training an eight-year-old witch with the first indication that she might swing for the female gender on the art of harming her enemies, the days leading down to the final task of the tournament fell into a routine for Harry - namely hanging out with his friends, attending lessons, spending time with Viktor, throwing booby-trapped packages and letters into a lit fireplace provided by the Room of Requirement, and casting incendios on a steady stream of Howlers that were mainly addressed to him from all over Europe.

 

Harry would describe the sound of the infernal pieces of hell screaming in agony whenever he blasted them with fire as soothing music to his ears. Viktor, of course, fell even more in love with his boyfriend over that. The rest of the group just counted their lucky stars that they weren’t the target of such streams of fire.

 

Of course, Gabrielle requested to be taught on such manners of dealing with annoying things (objects or people she didn’t specify). Fleur had to drag her sister away before things turned ugly.

 

On a different note, Sirius and Remus’ reaction to Harry’s relationship with Viktor becoming public was more positive. Harry received two letters from the men, the one from Sirius lauding the fact that he won the bet between him and Remus over whether or not his relationship with Viktor will be made public during the tournament or after it. Remus’ letter was more mellow, just a kind reminder to check all parcels and letters for curses or booby-traps. Viktor also received letters from the two men, merely a stern reminder to watch out and take care of Harry or else Sirius will brutalise him in his animagus form and Remus will turn him into a werewolf and spear his heart with a silver stake.

 

Viktor made a small note to remind himself to meet up with the two men whenever possible, so that he could swear an unbreakable oath to protect Harry at all costs. He’d much prefer to die by magic rather than the ways threatened against him if given the option.

 

There was more good news on Remus’ part. He had emigrated to France and was now in the process of getting his French citizenship. If everything was to go smoothly, he and Sirius would be able to return to Britain to watch Harry and Viktor participate in the final task.

 

But before that though, Sirius and Remus had a hearing to attend, namely that of Dumbledore, who had been summoned to stand trial before the country’s delegates for kidnapping the youngest daughter of the Head of Magical Law and the unlawfully endangering her life in the Triwizard Tournament. If it weren’t for the fact that he was a judge of the tournament, Dumbledore would have been removed from his remaining role of headmaster and then sentenced to prison straight away. As of now, the senile old goat was placed on bail to finish his duties before he was to be sentenced, a fate Dumbledore tried to prevent by playing all kinds of cards, but his efforts were ultimately  in vain against the steadfast French ministry.

 

So all in all, everything was going well.

 

Until something most utterly strange interrupted that peace.

 


 

On the night of the 24th of May, the champions were called down to the Quidditch pitch for instructions regarding the final task. Harry and Viktor arrived first, and to say they were horrified by what they saw would be the understatement of the century.

 

“This is sacrilegious! Blasphemy, you hear?!” Harry cried in fury.

 

“As a fellow seeker, I’m preordained to agree,” Viktor growled dangerously.

 

Where was once a pristinely-cut and mowed Quidditch pitch, was now mutilated by some sort of plant growing in large clumps that were already up to their knees. The clumps formed circular shapes, with what looked like paths in between the clumps.

 

When Cedric arrived, his shared outrage could be told from his increasingly-volatile trembling. For her part, Fleur was indifferent, not being much of a Quidditch-maniac as her male counterparts.

 

Once all the champions had gathered, Bagman appeared before them.

 

“Good evening to you all! I hope everyone’s doing well so far,” he got no response from that, “So now we are gathered at the Hogwarts Quidditch pitch, but you might notice that something is not quite right with it. Can anyone guess?”

 

Fleur immediately raised her hand, “Eet’s a maze, Monsieur Bagman.”

 

“That is correct, Ms. Delacour!” Bagman beamed, “The final task will involve each of you navigating a maze, facing all kinds of terrible obstacles - of what kind I won’t tell you - to reach the centre of the maze where the Triwizard Cup will be placed. The first one to touch the cup wins the tournament, so I hope everyone has expanded their spell arsenal, for you’ll need all you can to win!”

 

After that was some pointless drivel that Harry and Viktor honestly couldn’t be bothered with.

 

“Walk along the outside of the Forbidden Forest before bed?” Harry put forward.

 

“Sure,” Viktor nodded.

 


 

Unlike the horrors that awaited the foolish who dared to enter the Forbidden Forest (at nighttime, no less), walking along the perimetres of the forest was a past-time one would find enjoyable, especially if there was a breeze blowing through and the aroma of fresh water from the lake was particularly noticeable.

 

Harry and Viktor could attest to this, walking hand-in-hand near the edge of the forest. The sounds of nature at night, along with the starry sky and Hogwarts looming in the background provided such a peaceful setting that helped ease their minds temporarily away from the final task in the coming month or so.

 

Still, Harry had a few questions.

 

“What kind of obstacles do you think we’ll face, Viktor?”

 

“I have no clue, Harry,” the older seeker shrugged, “But I’m guessing there vill be magical creatures and plants.”

 

“So incendio for the plants and bombarda maxima for the creatures?” Harry asked.

 

“Vell...I vas thinking - ”

 

Viktor was cut off by leaves crunching, and what sounded like an incoherent human voice.

 

“What was that?” Harry hissed, flicking out his wand.

 

“A person?” Viktor too had his wand out.

 

Again, what made the situation increasingly-worrisome was that someone was apparently roaming the Forbidden Forest. If Harry knew anything from his memories of his first year, anyone roaming the forest at night was up to no good (especially if they had the face of Voldemort on the back of their head).

 

The voice was growing louder, and as words became coherent, the two seekers determined that whoever was speaking was either talking to someone else (which didn’t help the worrying feeling) or they were talking to themselves and acting rather off-centre about it.

 

“Weatherby, I need you to reschedule the meeting with the Bulgarian envoys...no no, before lunch, I don’t want to deal with those hooligans after they swung back too much alcohol with their food. Bertha Jorkins? Of course I don’t know where she went, I….”

 

Harry and Viktor did double-takes when the figure in question became visible under the moonlight.

 

“Minister Crouch?”

 

The doddery old fool looked a lot worse for the wear. His receding hair was uncombed and shaggy, stubble was growing at a significant rate from his chin, dirt smeared his wrinkled face and tattered robes so damaged that they were literally falling apart at the seams, and his eyes had a glass-over, crazed look in the faded irises.

 

Harry could only wonder what happened to the uppity idiot, when the man in question suddenly noticed him. Before either he or Viktor could react, Crouch rushed for him and grabbed his shoulders.

 

“Please! You must help! The Dark Lord...he is...rising again! Growing more powerful by the day! Bertha Jorkins...she is dead! Killed by him! You must go get Dumbledore, and quickly, before we are all doomed!”

 

One stunner from Viktor’s wand sent the raving-mad man to the ground, letting go of his boyfriend’s robes.

 

Harry took a moment to compose himself, “He’s gone completely bonkers. I’ll send a patronus to Madam Pomfrey and the headmaster.”

 

“You do that - ”

 

Viktor was suddenly cut off for the second time when an unfamiliar voice could be heard shouting an incantation. He had barely enough time to grab his boyfriend and throw them both away to the ground as an explosion rocked the earth, mixed with the sound of flesh bursting into liquid. Coughing and spluttering from the kicked-up dirt and dust, Viktor slowly peeled himself and Harry up.

 

“Are you okay?”

 

“I’m fine, Viktor. But Merlin’s sagging butt cheeks, what in the ever-loving fuck was that?!”

 

“Someone must have casted a Bombarda ,” Viktor concluded as he brushed the dirt from his boyfriend’s robes, “They must have been vatching us.”

 

Harry turned to the epicentre of the blast, “And whoever they were, they didn’t want Crouch to talk.”

 

Viktor turned to where his boyfriend was staring. On the blackened grass, were stray bits of bone, bloodied flesh, and pieces of fabric, literally all that was left of the head of magical law enforcement.

 

“I think I better get my patronus moving,” said Harry.

 

“You do that,” Viktor nodded.


To Be Continued.