Chapter- 70- The First Task

*****Harry*****

The first task was less than a week away, and in this DA session, Harry was particularly excited. He was ready to try Legilimency, if someone still wanted to let him practice with them. Harry couldn't really do anything against his dad or Dora, but they were really good, and his dad had said that Harry had made great progress.

Enough people had gathered in their empty classroom early that Harry was about to go slip over and open up the sink.

"Hey, why do you always go open up the Chamber alone or with a few of your Gryffindor friends?" Michael Corner asked. "Isn't it a Slytherin chamber? And you're a Gryffindor, no matter who your father is. Why should you be the only one who gets to know the cool secret?"

Harry did not like Michael Corner. The boy was annoying. And it wasn't just because he had been hanging around Ginny a lot lately, when she wasn't with Draco, or Colin, or Neville. Ginny was too young to be around boys all the time, wasn't she? Though Hermione always- Harry was being stupid and couldn't really even complete his objection in his head. Ginny could talk to whoever she wanted, of course. It was a big-brother-like protectiveness, or something.

And now what was he supposed to do about Michael Corner?

Harry looked over at Ron and Hermione. Ron shrugged visibly. "You wouldn't be able to open it anyway," Ron shot back.

"Why? What makes you special?" Michael asked.

"You don't have to be rude about it," Ernie McMillan jumped in. "But Harry, we would all really like to know. Shouldn't the Slytherins know?" he asked, though no Slytherin had ever said anything about it. And none were saying so now.

It was better if he said something instead of them figuring it out. "You have to say the parseltongue word for "open" for it to open up. Anyone can learn to make the noise though. But I- am a parselmouth. My dad's not, but they say his great-grandfather was one," Harry explained. It was a lie he and his dad had discussed that they'd use if they needed to. It was amazing that it had gone on this long really, wish him under as much attention as he sometimes was.

It was quiet for what must have only been five seconds but felt like forever.

"That's really cool!" came a small voice. "It's like your patronus. That makes sense. I have a snake, could you really talk to her?" It was a blond little Slytherin girl, Draco's new seeker last year, so she'd be a third year now, Ginny's year, but she was tiny, even for a seeker.

"I'd love to," Harry answered, deciding that this girl, Murphy, whose first name Harry didn't know, was one of his new favourite people if this blew over well.

"Can we go see you open it then?" Ernie asked, interested again. The Hufflepuff boy was always eager in their Care of Magical Creatures class.

"Er, yeah, sure," Harry said, because he couldn't really see a reason why only he should get to, though his father probably wouldn't be thrilled with just anyone opening the Chamber. But, it's not like anyone could use it for something bad like Riddle had if half of the school knew how to go in after the person. And there was no more basilisk, which had been the main problem.

"Oh helloooo…" Myrtle greeted. "Not by yourself this time. Going to show others how it's done? Does that mean I can tell them? I always knew there was something strange about that sink. Ever since I died from seeing those basilisk eyes right over there," Myrtle explained to the growing and eagerly listening crowd. She liked the attention. "I helped them find where to open up that sink," you know," she bragged. Harry liked her better happy.

He didn't really mind Myrtle at all- except for that one time that she said that if Harry died, he'd be welcome to share her toilet. Harry wasn't sure really how the ghost thing worked, but if he did become a ghost, he'd do something cool like scouting out areas too dangerous for wizards to go in, helping the aurors or something- not hanging around in a loo. But Myrtle seemed happier lately, and spent time with some of the other ghosts and wasn't always in her toilet anymore, so that was good, probably- though the ghost seemed to enjoy talking about death a lot.

"Open," Harry said when half the crowd was still looking at Myrtle. They gasped when he hissed though, and the sink started opening. It was pretty impressive, Harry supposed.

"There, just like that, see that hole big enough for a basilisk now," Myrtle went on.

Harry stepped back and was relieved when the students started going down. Now that it was clean, and none of these students had seen how filthy it had been, everyone enjoyed sliding down. Up became more of a problem as their group grew and a smaller percent was members of quidditch teams- since a lot of other students didn't have brooms- but they managed.

"Harry," Cedric nudged and pointed to the door.

Harry had not been expecting that.

Victor Krum looked strange, holding his Firebolt and standing outside of a Hogwarts girls loo. So they did get to keep their national competition brooms, or he had another one for personal use, Harry noted.

"You allow your Hogwarts competition to join. Vat about me?" he asked.

"Er- I don't see why not," Harry said. They'd never turned anyone down before.

"Because your father not trust my headmaster. But he vastes his time. Karkaroff is furious you are take part. Dis es truth."

"I'll- tell him that," Harry said.

"It vould not make difference, I tink," the young man smiled. He looked less imposing than Harry had seen before.

"Go ahead down. Anyone is welcome," Harry said.

The session started like any other, putting cushions along the ground that had disappeared since last time- Harry didn't really know enough about magic to explain it. He did wonder if it was worth it to just invest in some cushions, but the conjuring was good practice. Then Harry made sure that all the students were in pairs or groups and knew what they wanted to work on. Then he planned on going to find Ron, Hermione, and some of the more advanced students, to see who wanted to try Occlumency.

"Ve- vill duel, yes?" Krum said, suddenly standing next to Harry.

"Huh? Oh, you don't have a partner then. You could- probably work with some of the seventh years if you wanted to, like Cedric," Harry offered. Though maybe he liked the idea after Krum suggested it.

"I vant to duel you. You lead group, yes?"

"It's just people that practices whatever they want, really. I don't do much more than anyone else," Harry said.

"Lie. You are leader. I see," Krum said. "Now ve duel?"

"Er- yeah, we can duel just- nothing lethal, you know?" Harry said, feeling foolish, but wanting to make sure that Krum knew that what was going on was just friendly practice. He didn't want to have something miscommunicated.

"Durmstrang students not all dark. I do not use- how you say, no-block spells?" Krum said with a frown.

"Er- we call them the Unforgivables, if that's what you mean. Yeah, that's a good rule. But- no blasting, cutting, or anything like that at neck level or above, general rule. Nothing that Hermione can't fix, because she's decent at some healing. Or Milly- she's a house elf- if we really need help. And you have to make sure nothing hits anyone else," Harry explained. That was getting harder when there were more of them.

Krum nodded and walked several paces away deliberately, and assumed a dueling stance that Harry hadn't seen before. It made sense that people from different places would have their own style. They must be starting then.

Harry threw up a shield first. Victor Krum didn't strike him as being defensive, but maybe he was wrong.

Krum didn't cast a spell. He just stared at Harry.

STUPEFY, Harry tried. He probably wouldn't expect a fourth year to cast silently, but he, his dad, and sometimes Dora had been working on it.

Krum still blocked it easily and finally sent his spell in return, something that Harry didn't recognize but didn't let hit him. And Krum sent a stunner quickly after, which Harry blocked as well.

A few more spells traded, some Harry recognized, others he didn't. It wasn't like dueling his father or Dora. He didn't move much or make Harry move, but he was still good. Fast with reflexes that made him an elite seeker. Sometimes Harry shouted a protego aloud because he couldn't think fast enough, even though it should be faster without.

And those eyes. He stared into Harry's eyes so directly that it made Harry want to-

Legilimens, Harry thought.

He tried to just see the surface thoughts, what moves Krum was planning the moment before. But instead, Harry saw people who had to be Krum's parents, giving him kisses good-bye, Krum reading a worried letter from home. Feeling lonely with too many girls following him around.

It was too distracting. Harry wasn't ready for this yet. He hadn't known it would feel like that. Harry threw out a stunner, the only thing he could think of, just hoping it would stop.

Victor Krum crashed to the ground. Apparently, he had been more disoriented by it than Harry.

Then Harry noticed the gasp and clapping from the crowd- crowd? Apparently, dozens of students, maybe a hundred, had been watching, though not from close enough that Harry noticed them earlier.

"Sorry I- didn't mean to do that, really, I just- I was just supposed to see what you were planning next," Harry apologized quickly and quietly.

"Vat was dat?" Victor asked, rising to his feet easily when Harry dropped his spell. He didn't even acknowledge the other people around him. Harry guessed that after playing professional quidditch, this didn't feel like much.

"Legilimency to er- see into your mind, but I didn't mean it to happen like that, I swear," Harry said. It was reckless and invasive, and he should have only practiced with someone who gave him permission.

"I have heard of dis. It vas distracting," Krum said, though he did not seem upset. "Good-bye, Harry Potter."

"You- don't have to go," Harry said, though he could see why Krum would want to, when so many people were being nosy.

"I have to practice. I do not share tactics, especially with strong opponent."

He'd called Harry a strong opponent- and for good reason, really. "I just knew a weird trick. It wasn't anything that special," Harry brushed off- because that was polite, but he was proud of himself anyway. "If you- ever want to fly sometime, the quidditch pitch is yours. All the Hogwarts seekers are here if you- wanted to try," Harry found himself offering what he had wanted to try, all five seekers going for one snitch- or multiple snitches, whichever.

"You are seeker," he said, and Harry wasn't sure if it was a statement or a question.

"Yeah. And Cedric is too," he added.

Krum nodded.

"I vill see you at task," he said, retrieving his broom and walking towards the exit.

"What did you do?" Ron asked.

"Legilimency. Do you want to practice Occlumency?" Harry asked. Ron and Hermione already knew about his plans.

"Yeah!" Ron agreed.

Practice quieted down after that, most people working on spells they already knew, but Harry ended up trying Legilimency against a few people who wanted to try. Draco blocked him out entirely, but that just made Harry want to get better. He could tell that Hermione had been practicing Occlumency, even when she didn't have much to go off of, and no one else had any defenses at all. Harry hoped that his Occlumency was at least as good as Draco's. It wasn't fair, Harry was reminded, that people like he and Draco could do magic in the summers. But life wasn't fair in many ways.

"Krum really should have dueled you," Harry told Cedric as they ended up both near the back of the group.

"Why, so he'd win?" Diggory shot back.

"No, I didn't- I mean, you're really the Hogwarts champion," Harry said. He didn't want the older boy to resent him for the attention.

"Nah, it's fine," Cedric said. "You know, whoever confounded the goblet into thinking there was a fourth school or whatever, didn't really need to bother with more than entering your name. I think you would have been picked if the whole school was entered.

"I- I'm just a fourth year. I don't know enough," Harry objected. Though, he had had a lot of extra training- for a while now.

"Sure, Harry. Sure. People won't mind if you just take a compliment sometime. You know you've changed this whole school, right? Everyone was terrified of your dad four years ago- for good reason- and I'm no expert, but as far as I know, Slytherins and Gryffindors have hated each other for a thousand years, and you've brought a lot of them together."

"Then- thanks," Harry answered, though Dora was responsible for a lot of that too. Harry smiled and picked out two small first year girls to give a ride to the top of the slide. Maybe Krum really left early because he heard that people with brooms had to help others get back up. He would have been very popular.

*****Severus*****

Severus knew he was overly protective of Harry by most standards. But other parents did not have to cope in similar circumstances. And most parents didn't have the opportunity to follow their child's movements as easily as Severus could.

He had spent hours looking over that map, sometimes just watching the dot labeled "Harry" stay, unmoving in his bed in Gryffindor Tower. It was like watching the boy sleep, but weirder. But he hadn't seen anyone unexpected on the grounds- though he couldn't look at the damn map at all times- and Karkaroff had passed every test Severus had tried. The man had no Occlumency skills to speak of.

And yet, despite all efforts, Severus's son was once again in immediate danger- more urgently than the horcrux in his skull, which Severus was also no closer to solving. And there had been no miraculously found horcrux from Dobby, and no insight into any of the others.

And now Harry would enjoy a care-free visit to Hogsmeade, despite his increasingly soon encounter with a dragon. Though Harry was also more competent than any fourteen-year old, Severus had met- which was many. It didn't improve Severus's mood that Dora couldn't go to Hogsmeade with him that day.

Severus had never enjoyed Hogsmeade weekends much when he was in school. At first, he had gone with Lily, but even those days would be marred with some fight with her housemates. They had less to talk about than when they were nine years old. Or she would complain about his Slytherin "friends"- whom truthfully, he did not care much for either. In his later years, Severus only went if he needed anything from the town, and he couldn't have afforded much.

But recently, Severus had enjoyed watching Harry experience Hogsmeade, and consented to Dora dragging him around- watching her smile. On rare occasions, she giggled- a verb Severus had found appalling before it was Dora. He had more often experienced dry laughs- scoffs. Now he was lonely with the prospect of an afternoon apart.

It was the Zonko's window that caught his eye- and who was taking a product out of the window to sell to a customer. Severus found himself walking into the place.

"Mr. Weasley?" Severus asked Fred Weasley when the third year boy he had been helping had walked off. "When did you find the time for employment?" he asked.

"It's just on Hogsmeade weekends," Fred said quickly. "It's their busiest days. George is in the back, and so's Lee. It's some money and good for us to see how the business works," Fred said cheerfully for a teenage boy giving up Honeydukes and The Three Broomsticks."

"That is a very mature idea, Mr. Weasley. I will warn you to not show your employers any of your inventions, to keep your endeavours entirely separate, or you could be giving them rights to your ideas," Severus cautioned.

"I know. We've all read a few business books lately, especially Lee. We're thinking George and I will be co-owners and creators, and Lee will be our business manager until he breaks into the quidditch business. But I've got to get back to work, sir. A customer's ready at the register."

Responsible young men. Severus would not have imagined that of the first years whom he gave more detentions to than any other students in his time at the school.

*****Harry*****

Harry stared at the figurine of the Hungarian Horntail in his palm. Was this planned somehow, Harry getting the worst, most dangerous dragon? Harry remembered what his dad had said about the tasks maybe being set to be worst for Harry to get him killed. But there was nothing to do but to go out there and try. He'd be compelled to do it if he resisted, they said, and Harry wouldn't let that happen.

The task wasn't much different than they had thought, retrieving a golden egg from a nesting mother dragon. It had made him feel somewhat better that the seventeen-year-olds had looked worried. Fleur didn't seem to have her normal composure, and Krum was even quieter and surly looking than usual

Harry tried not to listen as he heard the crowd roar and some of the commentating for first Cedric, then Fluer, and finally Krum. It would probably be an advantage to go last if he wanted to analyze what the other contestants had done, but Harry didn't want to. He was better at making quick decisions when he really had to, though that was something he would never tell his father.

When the whistle finally blew for Harry to enter the enclosure, he just thought of it as a quidditch game. Noise was simply something to ignore, cheers for or against him. The mother dragon on the other side of the field being the only thing that really mattered.

It was a cruel task really. The dragon was just protecting her eggs, the gold one along with the others. If he could just talk with her, she'd probably understand, and roll the golden egg right to him. Instead, he was going to try to confuse her and take it by force. It didn't seem right. Maybe she would remember how much humans hurt her, taking her egg. If only he could talk to her.

But- maybe he could? He had never actually tried to talk to another reptile. Parseltongue didn't work on Hedwig, but surely dragons were pretty close to snakes, weren't they? Tom Riddle spoke to a basilisk.

"Sonorus," Harry whispered, duplicating the spell that Ludo Bagman was using right now, that Harry had heard him use at the Quidditch World Cup. He felt good about this.

"I won't hurt you. I jusst want the golden egg that the two-leggerss placed with your own younglings," Harry hissed.

Harry thought it would work right up until the giant Hungarian Horntail left her nest and charged at him.

Okay, maybe she didn't understand.

And maybe dragons liked to eat snakes.

"Conjuctivus!" Harry screamed. He hit the dragon directly in her wide, angry eyes. She screamed and halted, for the moment. Blinding the dragon was good, yes. They had very keen eyes that they relied on most to hunt, he had read. But getting past her would still be hard, and dangerous. She'd hear him, or smell him. And she'd get braver the closer he got to the nest.

Harry ran to the open space to the side, further from both the mother and her nest. Her head turned, back and forth, but she didn't charge again. She was a least a little used to humans, probably, if she was from where Charlie worked.

Harry tried silently summoning the golden egg, but it didn't work. He was sure he had done the charm right. Certain of it. So, they'd made the egg so that it couldn't be summoned. That made sense- it would be too easy, because anyone would know the summoning charm.

She started edging back towards her nest, carefully, unsure of her footing because she couldn't see.

She didn't want to accidentally step on her own eggs. Were those real dragon eggs? Were real, baby dragons like Norbert at risk if Harry messed up? Sure, he couldn't do any real damage to the giant, terrifying dragon, but what about the eggs?

Making up his mind, Harry conjured a cushion next to him. Easy, he'd been conjuring cushions silently for a while now down in the Chamber of Secrets for their defense practices. Then came the hard part, the part that she might notice. Silently summoning the other eggs from the nest.

There was a small 'clink' that had the mother's full attention, running back towards her nest, but Harry had them all by then. Which was good, because she crashed right over it, and could have destroyed her eggs if any were left besides the gold one.

Now he needed to get far away from the real eggs and pick up the gold one himself. All without getting caught by an angry Hungarian horntail who was starting to breathe fire into the sky. The crowd was safe, weren't they? The sky. He needed to be faster than the dragon, which had seemed like such a problem, but he went faster than that dragon could fly at least a few times a week.

Accio firebolt, Harry thought as hard as he could. He'd never summoned anything that far away, much less silently. It wouldn't be easy, especially with the shut window in Gryffindor Tower, but at least it wasn't in the dungeon. If he wanted the magic to work enough, he could do it.

Harry could feel it as it happened, could feel the broom come right to him, and he swung his leg on, flying immediately to the other side of the field from the real eggs. He dimly noticed the roar of the crowd. They apparently liked what he was doing, and Ludo Bagman did especially, but Harry was good at tuning that out.

The crowd was just confusing the dragon more, breathing flames wildly, once forcing Harry to dodge, which he did easily. Being on a broom was still the best feeling Harry could think of.

"Over here," Harry screamed. He hadn't needed to have shouted so loudly, but he had forgotten that his voice was still magnified. But it got the point across.

She rose into the air straight towards him, really angry now. Did she think her eggs were gone or smashed?

But the kindest thing Harry could do for her was to make it be over quickly.

"Impedimenta," Harry said, hoping to slow her down some as he dodged her flames. And then her tail.

It was funny that the egg was golden, making him think of a snitch. Except that it was a lot easier to find. And really heavy, Harry thought as he hoisted it up and went higher into the air, hoping the dragon wouldn't follow. What did he do now?

But apparently, Harry had done all that he needed to do. When there was no fire following him, Harry glanced back to see half a dozen people surrounding the dragon now, one of them with red hair.

He'd done it. He'd used the spells that his father had taught him, and a last moment invention of his own, and Harry felt great about it. Harry wasn't really sure where to go, so he landed and walked back into the tent he had come from.

No one was there until Ron burst in from the other side, quickly followed by Hermione, Neville, and Harry's father.

"Harry, you were blo- really brilliant!" Ron shouted. "Even Karkaroff couldn't give you less than an eight, and he looked pretty sour doing it, when he gave Krum a ten, and Krum did basically the same thing you did but worse, because the dragon crushed some of the other eggs with his. And Krum didn't have the cool flying, didn't even think about flying even though he's this great seeker," Ron went on.

"You did very well, Harry," Hermione summarized.

"And you got tens from all the other judges, so you're in the lead by a few points," Neville added.

Wow, in the lead… Harry thought. With only two more tasks to go.

"If you excuse us, Harry needs to be looked over by Madame Pomfrey," Harry's dad said, ushering the others out.

"I'm fine, really," Harry said, but didn't mind when his dad brought him into a hug. It was a parent thing to be worried. That dragon was pretty scary.

He never did get looked over, but that didn't really matter. The other champions came in, Cedric with a torn sleeve and bandage on his arm, Fleur with a- half-burned skirt- Harry tried not to stare at her long legs. She had to be cold. Krum looked fine. Bagman told them a bit about the egg being theirs to keep and their clue for the next event, though Harry and his dad had a basic plan for the second task already, the clue would be helpful. And with it being close to December already, Harry was excited for some time to celebrate and a break before the next task.

"Harry," Krum said just when Harry was about to leave the tent and find his friends again. "I vill fly against you as you say. The Hogwarts seekers, but no crowd."

"Yeah, that sounds great," Harry agreed with a glance at Cedric who was nodding too. "We'll talk to the others then." Krum nodded and walked out first without another word. That was something else to look forward to.

A/N: I hoped you liked my version of the First Task. Please let me know! For those of you wondering how Harry could be in the tournament given some of my past changes… well, I can assure you that I know exactly why, and let me know when you think you've got part of it figured out.