Title: Keep it Simple
Author name: Ruskbyte
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author's Note: A sort of prequel to Leviathan Rising. Harry got through the first task of the Triwizard Tournament thanks to some good, general advice. But what if 'Moody' had given Harry some different advice?
Keep it Simple
"So... got any ideas how you're going to get past your dragon yet?
Harry looked at the scarred and weathered face of this year's Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. Professor Alastor "Mad-eye" Moody had only minutes ago overheard Harry informing the first Hogwarts Champion, Cedric Diggory, of the exact nature of the task facing them the next day.
The ex-Auror's magical eye was firmly fixed upon the young wizard as he expectantly waited for Harry to reply. Licking his lips nervously, mostly because he was aware that by informing Cedric about the presence of the Dragons Harry had broken practically all of the rules governing the Triwizard Tournament, he answered simply.
"Well, I'm not going to tell you. I don't show favouritism," Moody declared gruffly. The professor swivelled in his seat and regarded the vague and nebulous figures drifting about in his Foe-Glass. He seemed to consider the situation for a while --it was only a matter of seconds, but felt like aeons to Harry-- lifting one gnarled hand up to finger his grizzled chin.
Finally he turned back to Harry, both eyes boring into Harry's, and said, "I'm just going to give you two pieces of good, general advice. And the first bit is - always keep things simple. Use what you already know to get what you need and leave it at that. No need to get fancy or anything."
"How can something simple stop a dragon?" Harry asked, blurting out the question before he could stop himself.
"Who said anything about stopping the damned things?" growled Moody, his magical eye waggling back and forth in what Harry thought was a disapproving manner.
Harry tried to concentrate, but found that he simply couldn't grasp the concept of holding off a dragon with something simple. Certainly he had been told earlier by Sirius, before Ron had interrupted them, of a simple spell that could fend off dragons. But he didn't know which spell that was and couldn't believe that anything he already knew would be much help.
He blinked several times, refraining from shaking his head, and said, "But I don't know anything that can stop a full grown dragon! I can barely even get a Summoning Charm right!"
"That's right," said Moody, staring so intently at Harry with both eyes --the magical one was scarcely even moving-- that Harry felt that he had just missed something. The ex-Auror settled back in his chair, shifting his wooden leg into a more comfortable position, and continued to say, "My second piece of general advice is that sometimes, just sometimes, if you can't fight fire with fire - fight it with ice."
Harry looked at the man blankly, completely mystified by his words.
"Come on, lad..." Moody whispered, seeming to be urging Harry on to the answer that was eluding him. "Put them together... it's not that difficult..."
And it clicked.
Harry reached greenhouse three ten minutes later, scarcely pausing to mutter a quick apology to Professor Sprout, before rushing up to the one person he knew would be able to help him.
"Hermione," whispered Harry breathlessly, "Hermione - I need you to help me."
"What d'you think I've been trying to do, Harry?" she whispered in reply, peering at him anxiously from over the top of the Flutterby Bush she was trimming.
Harry nervously, and as unobtrusively as he could manage, glanced around them. After making sure that nobody was close enough to overhear, he leaned in close and told Hermione in a hushed voice what he needed.
"Hermione, I need to learn how to do a Summoning Charm properly by tomorrow afternoon."
"Oh, I'm not sure that was wise!"
Harry thought he was going to be sick. He had never in all of his fourteen years felt so utterly and completely sick to his stomach with anticipation. Compared to right now, his Sorting had been a summer day picnic. Compared to right now, his first Quidditch match had been a walk in the park. Compared to right now, everything else paled into insignificance.
And that bumbling idiot Ludo Bagman was not helping!
"Oh... nearly! Careful now... good Lord, I thought she'd had it then!"
Gritting his teeth and focusing intently on the tips of his shoes, studiously ignoring the last remaining champion other than himself. The minutes seemed to drag by with agonizing slowness before a roar erupted from the crowd, signalling that the Beauxbatons' champion Fleur Delacour had retrieved her egg from the dragon.
A few more minutes passed, probably while Fleur's score was being displayed and tallied. There was more clapping and cheering and then the shrill cry of the start whistle.
"And here comes Mr Krum!" announced Bagman, sounding far too eager about this entire mess than Harry was happy with. Apparently his effusiveness did nothing to encourage Victor Krum, the Durmstrang champion, who shuffled out of the waiting tent looking very half-hearted about it.
Again time seemed to stretch on into infinity, occasionally interspersed by enthusiastic cries from the crowd, roaring shrieks from the dragon and more asinine observations from Bagman.
"Very daring! That's some nerve he's showing - and - yes, he's got the egg!"
"Oh God," muttered Harry upon hearing this, knowing that it was now his turn. He glanced down at the tiny model dragon he was holding in his hand. A perfect replica of the considerably larger monster he would soon be facing. The worst of the lot; a Hungarian Horntail.
The whistle sounded for the fourth time that afternoon, heralding Harry's departure from the safety of the tent and his entrance into the dragon's enclosure. Everything seemed to be both far away and right on top of him all at once, the colours bright yet subdued, the noises loud yet hushed...
Yes, when this was over, the first thing Harry was going to do was throw up.
Hundreds of faces stared down at him from the stands erected around the enclosure he had just entered. Shouts and screams and cheers and applause and jeers and boos and hisses blended into a cacophony of sounds that seemed to cause Harry's entire body to vibrate.
And there, on the far side of the enclosure, was the Horntail.
"Keep it simple, Harry," he whispered to himself, eyeing the massive beast that was crouched low over a clutch of eggs. Her massive wings were tucked close to her long and lizard-like body, her evil reptilian eyes fixed solely upon Harry.
He raised his wand.
An expectant silence settled over the crowd. Those who had been cheering him on fell quiet as they waited and watched to see how Harry would overcome this latest obstacle that life had thrown his way. Those who had been taunting him restrained themselves so they would not miss on moment of his imminent failure.
Aimed it at the Horntail.
The dragon watched him closely, her eyes narrowing as she followed his every motion. That monstrous spiked tail, which made the Horntail so much more dangerous, thrashed and scoured the ground behind her. The Horntail shifted her weight from one foot to the other, clearly waiting for him to make his move.
A little lower.
Harry sucked in a deep breath. Held it. He waited, extending the moment, the very essence of his being devoting itself into prayer for this to work. He let out the breath he had been holding and sucked in another, held it for a beat, and then shouted at the top of his lungs.
"Accio golden egg!"
There was a moment of utter, complete and total silence. It was as if the universe, or at least this part of it, had come to an abrupt and unexpected halt. Nothing seemed to happen, nor did anything seem likely to happen. Everything remained exactly the way it had been.
Then the golden egg, gleaming yellow amongst the leathery grey of its companions, lifted out of the nest it had been resting in. It seemed to hover, perhaps uncertainly, for a second or two before soaring through the air into Harry's outstretch and slightly trembling hands.
Naturally the crowd went crazy.
"Ha ha!!" yelled Bagman, sounding absolutely delighted. "Look at that! Will you look at that, witches and wizards! Our youngest champion is quickest to get his egg! Well, this is going to shorten the odds on Mr Potter!"
Hermione, sitting in the stands with Ron and a large group of other Gryffindors, was grinning like an idiot. Right then, however, she couldn't have cared less about it. He had done it. Harry had done it! Until that moment Hermione had not really understood Harry's plan, as he had not been particularly forthcoming with it. All she had known was that it had involved using the Summoning Charm.
And she had taught him how to do it.
Even from where she was sitting --standing really, since she had leapt to her feet with the rest of the spectators-- Hermione could see the slight look of disbelief on Harry's face. Clearly he had not been expecting his highly unorthodox, not to mention audacious, plan to work quite as smoothly as it just had.
He was holding the golden egg unsteadily in one hand, his wand in the other, and seemed at a bit of a loss as to what he should do next. A faint grin reached his lips, the closest thing to a smile Hermione had seen from him since Halloween, and he then turned to exit the enclosure as a dozen dragon handlers ran onto the field to subdue the Horntail.
It was then that Harry's plan encountered its first rough patch.
Seeing him steal one of her eggs, right out from under her snout, had evidently not endeared Harry to the Horntail. Truth be told the dragon looked exceedingly pissed off about the theft, particularly at the ease with which it had been executed. Abandoning her clutch of remaining eggs, clearly more eager for revenge and possibly reclaiming her lost property, the Horntail charged at Harry.
"Oh no, Harry! Look out!" Hermione screamed in terror, clutching at her face with her hands and digging her nails into her skin. Her voice, however, was lost amidst the hundreds of similar cries of alarm and hasty warnings.
Harry, not realizing that something was wrong, continued on his way - completely oblivious to the rampaging dragon bearing down on him. Too late he realized the danger, turning back to face the furious Horntail just as it breathed a thirty foot jet of flames. The fireball was upon Harry in an instant, before he even had a chance to move, engulfing him in a blaze that set a large area of surrounding grass on fire as well.
Naturally the crowd went crazy again.
Except for Hermione who, quite naturally, promptly became hysterical. She lost all ability to think coherently, only aware of screaming and begging and trying to pull herself free of those Gryffindors who had grabbed hold of her as she struggled to leap into the enclosure. Tears were streaming from her eyes in unrestrained torrents and struggling to breath, Hermione watched helplessly as the roaring flames began to dissipate.
"That son of a bitch," she finally managed to mutter after her eyes took in the sight which greeted her and everyone else. After her mind recovered sufficiently to process what Hermione was looking at, she added, "I'm going to kill him for scaring me like this."
There, standing in the centre of a scorched and blackened circle of grass, was Harry.
Alive and well.
By now the crowd was inured and did not go crazy.
At least not too much.
Harry, struggling not to giggle from the terrible tickling sensation had enveloped him, watched with a dangerous glint in his bright green eyes as the Hungarian Horntail seemed to stare at him in dumbstruck amazement.
His lips quirked up as he considered how simple it had been. Applying something he had already known to acquire the golden egg without having to confront the dragon. Then, again, using something he had already known to ensure his safety in case things got out of control.
If it worked for Wendelin the Weird, he thought, it definitely worked for me.
During the summer holiday between his second and third-years at Hogwarts, Harry had been assigned a perfectly boring History of Magic essay to write. "Witch Burning in the Fourteenth Century Was Completely Pointless - Discuss."
His research into writing this essay had introduced Harry to the basic Flame-Freezing Charm, which was well within the capabilities of the fourth-year student. Thanks to Professor Moody's good, general advice, Harry had recalled this little facet of his education and promptly put it to good use.
Of course, dragon fire was a little hotter than a simple Muggle pyre, but Harry had managed to emerge relatively unscathed. The only difference he had noticed was that the customary tickling feeling, which accompanied the spell when actually in the fire, had been considerably more pronounced than the mere "gentle tickling sensation" the books described.
Otherwise, everything had worked perfectly. He still had the egg. He still had all his digits, limbs and vital organs. In the meanwhile, taking advantage of the dragon's momentary surprise that Harry had not been burnt to a crisp, the dozen or so dragon handlers that had rushed into the enclosure took careful aim with their wands.
"Stupefy!" they shouted in unison, hitting the Horntail with enough Stunning Spells to fell the giant creature in spite of its magically resistant armour.
Breathing a deep sigh of relief, Harry turned away from the collapsed dragon and continued on his way to the enclosure's entrance. Professor McGonagall, Professor Moody and Hagrid were hurrying out to meet him, broad and delighted smiles on their faces.
"That was magnificent, Potter!" exclaimed Professor McGonagall, looking more delighted than he could remember having ever seen her.
"Yeh did it, Harry!" Hagrid boomed, his voice hoarse. "Yeh, did it! An' agains' the Horntail and' all, an' yeh know Charlie said that was the wors'-"
Harry smoothly and loudly interrupted his friend with a quick thank you, so that Hagrid would not accidentally let on that he had shown Harry the dragons earlier. He was about to say more, this time to Professor Moody - who was looking inordinately smug, when a brown and black blur tackled him to the ground with a resounding thump that rattled every bone in his body.
He had a brief, and not a little flustered, impression of glistening cinnamon coloured eyes before Hermione pushed off of him and smacked him over the head.
"You idiot!" she yelled at him, her voice choked and squeaky with emotion. Hermione glared at him for a moment before running her hands all over his body, checking him for injuries. "You stubborn, pigheaded, obstinate, great, amazing, brilliant, bloody stupid idiot! Don't you ever do that to me again!!"
"I'm sorry, Hermione," Harry apologised, catching her hands with his own and forestalling her almost frantic attempts to confirm his wellbeing. Holding her still for a moment, now that she had stopped hurling invectives at him, Harry could see the fear for him that still shone in her wide and anxious eyes.
His breath caught in his throat and suddenly, in something of a revelation, Harry realized that Hermione was not simply his friend. She was also (amazingly enough) a Girl. With capital letters.
Following hard on the heels of this discovery was the realization that Hermione was currently straddling his hips and evoking from Harry a reaction that would doubtless cause him to die of embarrassment when she noticed.
"I didn't mean to scare you," he told her, gently lifting Hermione off him as he rolled back onto his feet.
"You did," she told him, still managing to sound a little angry with him.
"Sorry," he repeated, suddenly understanding why people could sometimes feel the need to apologise profusely and repeatedly. Harry had always known, on some level, that he would do anything for his friend. Now he knew it as a fact, something he would not be able to stop himself from doing as much as he could stop his heart from beating.
Speaking of which...
"Hermione...?" he asked tentatively.
She looked at him, cheeks still flushed pink and stained with the trails of hysterical tears. Despite himself a sinking feeling formed in the pit of Harry's stomach, as he realised that he would never again be able to look at Hermione as simply a friend. She was now, and would remain, so much more than that. He smiled at the thought and said with all the sincerity and conviction that he had, "Thank you, Hermione. I couldn't have done it without you."
Sniffing back a fresh wave of tears, Hermione hugged herself to him and mumbled, "Just don't ever do that again, you big dummy."
"I won't," he promised her. "I won't."