Playing by the Rules

A/N Just to clarify, this is a side project and 'Proud Parents' is currently my main W.I.P. I also forgot a disclaimer - so here it is.

Disclaimer: I'm not Jo Rowling. I don't own Harry Potter or make any money from my writings here...

A/N2 Two Hundred and Eighty reviews in twenty-four hours - That's Insane! Thank you all so much, and no pressure on this chapter then lol

Chapter 2 - Judged

They didn't have too long to wait before four aurors arrived and immediately arrested Harry. His wand was confiscated as evidence while Harry's hands were roughly pulled behind his back and magical restraining cuffs were slapped onto his wrists. Hermione was on the receiving end of some scathing looks from the aurors before they portkeyed away with Harry. Not a word had been spoken.

They still didn't speak to Harry as he was thrown in what he assumed was a ministry cell, at least they removed the restraining cuffs before doing so. Then Harry was left alone with his thoughts.

His revelation that Dumbledore could have gotten him out of the tournament had gone about as well as they had planned. There's no way that news of that magnitude would be kept quiet. Since there was no chance to practice the Potter family magic spell, Harry thought that part had gone spectacularly well. The three lights that had left the tent bothered him though. He was certainly expecting one for Voldemort, possibly another for Pettigrew. The need for a third puzzled him however until realisation hit - someone else would have been needed to put his name in the cup.

That this other person could still be at Hogwarts worried Harry. Hermione was still there, and now very much alone. While pondering how he could protect her, Harry hit upon a possible solution.

"Dobby."

The little elf appeared, pulling his ears and clearly unhappy. "Dobby cannot help Harry Potter. Elves are forbidden to help anyone held by the Ministry. It is only because Dobby is a free elf he can visit his friend. Dobby can only visit, Dobby cannot help."

"Dobby, if I ask you to help someone else - someone not in a cell - could you do that?"

"Dobby needs to do what Headmaster says. Dobby knows Headmaster is very angry with Harry Potter. Dobby thinks it wont be long before Headmaster calls for Dobby and gives him orders not to help Harry Potter. If Headmaster does that, then Dobby might not be able to help who you ask for."

"What if you were my elf, would you like that?"

"Oh sir, that is Dobby's greatest wish. Dobby would then be able to help your friend, but not be able to visit if Harry Potter called. Dobby has a hard choice."

"I want you to protect Hermione, Dobby. She and you are my only friends, she's my girlfriend now. If you were my elf, could you do that?"

The little elf's enthusiastic nodding had his ears flapping like Dumbo trying to take off. "One last thing. Could you contact my godfather, Sirius Black? Tell him I'm fine, and not to do anything stupid."

Again Dobby was nodding, but this time he was crying too.

"Dobby fears he will not see Harry Potter again."

Putting his arm around the little elf, Harry spoke straight from the heart. "Dobby, I think we are going to be the best of friends for the rest of our lives."

A now smiling Dobby then placed Harry's hand on his head while telling him the words needed to complete the bond. The little elf then had to leave immediately, or risk setting off the alarm his unbounded state had previously avoided tripping.

-oOoOo-

Harry reckoned it was three days before he found himself being led from that cell. Not a word had been spoken to him in those three days but, unlike the Dursleys, they had at least fed him. His auror escorts led him into a room the nameplate said was Courtroom Ten. Calling it a room didn't do this justice though. It was more like an amphitheater, with the gods on high ready to pass down their judgement. Using that analogy, there were rather a lot of gods - and they were angry. There was also no doubt who that anger was directed at - one Harry James Potter.

The Cornelius Fudge who spoke to him today was a million miles away from the jovial Minister of Magic who had greeted Harry last summer at the Leaky Cauldron.

"Mister Potter, I assume you know why you have been brought here?"

"No, Sir."

This caused quite a ruckus until the Minister called for quiet and once more addressed Harry.

"How can you possibly say that? Surely you must know what you have done?"

"No, Sir. After completing the first task of the tournament, I was portkeyed out of the champions tent by four aurors and thrown in a cell. No one said anything to me then, or until now. The plaque on the wall said this is a courtroom. Am I being charged with something? Shouldn't I at least know about those charges beforehand? Don't I have anyone here to represent me?"

This proved a step too far for a toad-faced witch, a pink cardigan clearly visible under her robes. "The nerve of you, boy. Are you trying to deny deliberately setting a dragon on spectators - an action that caused three deaths."

Harry's "Yes" stunned the entire room, causing the witch to come back at him. "Don't stand there and lie, boy. There are hundreds of witches and wizards who saw exactly what you did."

While she was clearly loosing her cool, Harry calmly gave his answer.

"I didn't deliberately send the dragon there, I was aiming for the Forbidden Forest."

It was a witch with a cooler head, and wearing a monocle, who then asked the next questions. "Mister Potter, are you aware of the power required to move a dragon that distance? Also, even if you possessed sufficient power, your portkey wouldn't have been able to pass through Hogwarts wards - which end before reaching the Forbidden Forest."

It was a calm and very polite Harry who gave his answer. "No, Ma'am, I wasn't aware of any of that. I'm only fourteen and yet was forced to face a dragon, my options were severely limited. That was my first ever attempt at creating a portkey. I figured getting the dragon out of there was my safest option to complete the task. If the portkey didn't work, I'd hoped the dragon wouldn't roast me alive for hitting it with a tiny rubber ball."

There was a lot of truth in what Harry just said. He simply didn't mention seeing Lucius in that particular stand made his mind up which part of the Forbidden Forest Harry would aim for. He'd hoped that particular stand would end up between him and the dragon. The horntail landing on top of the structure was just pure luck, whether good or bad depended on your point of view - and where you were sitting.

The witch smiled at him before asking Harry if he had a plan B.

"It was suggested to me that I should try and outfly the dragon. The only way to do that would have been to summon my broom, that's a charm I haven't been taught yet. Krum is a world class seeker, and Cedric beat me to the snitch last year - can I ask if any of them tried that strategy?"

This left the witch with the monocle shaking her head. "Mister Potter, whoever suggested that to you was not a friend. I can't think how attempting that would have been anything other than suicide, and no - none of the other champions were stupid enough to attempt that method. I also investigated a rumour that you claimed the original rules allowed for your disqualification before the tournament started. I found that rumour to be true..."

Toad-face didn't like the direction things were now taking and rudely interrupted, intending to get back to the heart of the matter. "I don't care what is said here. The facts of the matter is that - due to this boy's actions - two entire wards at St Mungo's were full of injured witches and wizards - and three deaths were recorded. That one of those deaths was Lucius Malfoy just compounds the issue. That this chamber, nay, magical Britain lost a wizard of such caliber because this upstart cheated his way into a competition he clearly couldn't handle is a travesty. Someone has to pay for that travesty, and that someone is standing right there. We need to put a stop to this before Potter gets around to blaming the Ministry for his failings..."

"Yes."

"Yes, you accept the blame?"

"No. I'm saying yes, it's the Ministry's fault."

The shrill cackle coming from the toad-faced witch left Harry with the impression Margaret Hamilton in the Wizard of Oz movie wasn't really trying. Then again, while not green, Harry was sure here was a real wicked witch. Still maintaining his calm, Harry explained his reasoning.

"The rules of the Tri-Wizard Tournament state that the champions are allowed to use any means at their disposal to complete the task. The safety of any judges or spectators is solely the responsibility of the tournament organisers. Hence, the Ministry of Magic is at fault. I wasn't the one who placed spectators so close to the action. I wasn't the one who erected a barrier that could be so easily bypassed by a simple portkey. What we have here is the Ministry looking for a scapegoat to cover up their own failings."

When there were a few nods of agreement amongst those in the chamber, Harry's words were like a red rag to a bull for toad-face. "I've heard enough from this liar. I say we vote on his punishment now."

"Hem, hem - excuse me. Was I found guilty before I stepped into this chamber? I only ask because, unless I missed it, no verdict has been reached."

Toad-face was now smiling at him when she next spoke. Harry thought that was more frightening than her snarling. "Of course you're guilty. We're only here to decide what punishment fits your crimes."

With not a witch or wizard seemingly prepared to stand up and object to that, Harry had only one more card left to play.

"An ancient and powerful magical artefact placed me in this tournament, and I faced life-changing consequences if I didn't compete in the tasks. The rules say that punishment transfers to anyone who deliberately prevents me from competing in any of the tasks."

Holding up a slim pamphlet, a smiling toad-face was sure she'd trumped his argument. "Having read through this, I don't see that rule anywhere."

"If you're reading the Ministry's version then the first rule is that no one under the age of seventeen can compete. If that is the official rules of the tournament, how do you explain me being forced - by the Ministry - to compete? Those are either the rules to be followed to the letter, or they're basically just a piece of nonsense the Ministry made up. Which is it, because you can't have it both ways."

The smile this time contained no mirth whatsoever. This wasn't an amphibian smile, rather that maniacal grin of a shark who smells blood in the water. "We're the Ministry of Magic, boy. We can have it any which way we choose."

That this comment generated quite a bit of laugher within the chamber meant the writing was on the walls for Harry. He decided to go down fighting. "Yes, I've heard of what passes for justice at the Ministry of Magic. My innocent godfather was thrown into Azkaban without even a trial, while the real criminal was awarded an Order of Merlin. I hope you're all proud of what you achieve in this chamber. Just remember, Magic is the ultimate judge and jury. You don't want to be found wanting."

Harry could see he'd made a few stop and think with that, but no where near enough people to affect the outcome. He stood proudly to accept whatever punishment they handed down. Harry wouldn't give these bastards the satisfaction of seeing their punishment affected him. At least that would give him a small victory over toad-face. It would seem that tiny achievement was all he had left.

As Harry was being led along the corridor after learning his fate, he found Dumbledore was standing waiting on him. "Harry, they wouldn't let me in the chamber - in any capacity. I'm sorry I couldn't do more..."

For what was probably the last time, Harry cut off the headmaster. "You've done enough, Dumbledore. You've done more than enough."

-oOoOo-

Becca Thompson was seriously starting to get on Harry's tits - he just couldn't get peace from the girl. Harry got that being the new kid who'd transferred into the school, he would attract a bit of attention. Becca though had focused in on him since day one.

She'd given him a Valentine's card and, for the last ten bloody days, wouldn't accept Harry's protestations that this didn't make them a couple. He had now resorted to hiding in the library. For some reason he couldn't quite understand, Harry drew comfort from being surrounded by books. That, and he was sure Becca would never look in here for him.

Harry's plan of getting a new haircut that didn't hide the scar on his forehead, from the car crash that also affected his memory, didn't put her off either. Harry swore he would never understand how girls' minds worked as stalker Becca simply took this as another sure sign Harry must fancy her.

All thoughts of Becca, and anything else, were blasted from his mind as the most intense pain Harry had ever experienced hit with no warning. He couldn't control the screams that strained the muscles in his throat, and also reverberated around the entire High School.

Making a noise in any school library will always see the culprits endure the wrath of the librarian. Someone screaming in pain saw Cathy running to try and help. After twenty nine years of working at this job, Cathy McIntyre was certain she'd seen it all. She'd witnessed children in the throws of every type of seizures before, but never one where the teenager glowed as he thrashed about on the floor. When that same thrashing and still glowing teenager began to float three feet above the ground, Cathy had to admit this was something completely different. When that very same teenager then vanished right in front of her eyes, Cathy was now the one on the floor - she fainted.

-oOoOo-

Harry hit the unforgiving ground with a bone-jarring thump. He heard what sounded like a drumstick drop on the same stone floor next to him. Glancing around, Harry spotted a large cup with flames shooting out of it. On seeing that, Harry's memories, knowledge and magic flooded back into his body. Not only that, Harry was sure he suddenly had an awful lot extra of the last two. Needing to know where he was, and exactly what was happening here, Harry called for the one person he knew would have the answers. "Dobby."

The elf appeared, clearly injured and being carried by Winky. It was the little female elf who spoke, Dobby's condition not allowing him to do so at the moment. He was barely conscious.

"When they bound Harry Potter's magic, Dobby quickly started to get weaker. Dobby still followed his orders and tried to stop them taking Miss Mion. This is what they did to Dobby, and Miss Mion is at the bottom of the lake - waiting on you to rescue her."

Placing his hand on Dobby's head, Harry renewed their bond - with Dobby instantly looking a good bit better. "Harry Potter has come. They took Miss Mion so the goblet wouldn't judge them. Since the goblet is lit again, Dobby thinks they have been judged anyway. Stupid wizards not know what they dealing with, goblet is terribly powerful. It has returned Harry Potter to Hogwarts, and returned his magic too. Harry Potter has one hour to save his Miss Mion - less now."

Harry's temper knew no bounds, but he also understood a cool head would help Hermione far more. Once they were together again, then his temper could be unleashed on those who deserved it. The look of longing on Winky's face however meant Harry could spare a moment. "Winky, do you want to take my bond too?"

She took one glance at Dobby and enthusiastically nodded her consent. This proved another outlet for some of Harry's excess magic as he placed his hand on Winky's head. Seconds later she was a Potter elf, and ready to do her duty. Grabbing Harry by the leg, she popped him away.

-oOoOo-

When the canon fired and all three champions had entered the lake, the nervous spectators were left looking around wondering what they were supposed to be watching now. The first screams of surprise alerted everyone that something had just changed. Throughout the new stands, a few adult witches and wizards had dropped to the ground and begun to thrash about. There were people with wands drawn, looking around to detect the source of these attacks but none could be found. After a few minutes, their shaking subsided yet all were left unconscious. As if that wasn't enough excitement, it was only minutes later that a spectator stood and screamed 'LOOK'. All eyes turned in the direction the wizard was pointing

Harry Potter was racing toward the dock as if the hounds of hell were on his heels. While the other three champions all had sported swim ware, Harry's jeans, jumper and trainers ensemble looked particularly unsuited for a dip into the Black Lake.

Running at full tilt, Harry didn't even break stride as he reached the water. With a feat of transfiguration McGonagall would have been proud to perform, Harry leapt off the dock and had transfigured himself into a dolphin by the time he'd hit the water. As an animal superbly adapted to the environment Harry now found himself in, he shot towards the faint sound of singing like an arrow fired from a bow.

All the inhabitants of the lake recognised a powerful mage was now swimming amongst them. A mage on a mission that would probably prove fatal for anything trying to interfere with him accomplishing whatever those aims were. An enraged dolphin Harry was allowed an unhindered passage to the mere village.

When he spotted Hermione floating there, anchored by some kelp wrapped around her left ankle, Harry's heart went out to his girlfriend. The bags under her eyes told him she hadn't been sleeping, and her prominent cheek bones were an indication that Hermione probably hadn't been eating properly either. Harry still thought she was the most beautiful sight he'd ever see.

The dolphin's sharp teeth made short work of the kelp restraint and then Harry got under Hermione and pushed toward the surface. The instant her head broke through the water, Hermione woke. Finding herself in the middle of the Black Lake, wearing her housecoat too, she immediately clung on to the nearest thing. That nearest thing just so happened to be a dolphin that had a particular shade of green eyes.

Not sure if she was dreaming, Hermione asked the stupid question anyway. "Harry?"

The dolphin excitedly chattering away whilst nodding its head in a clear indication of 'yes' saw a crying Hermione cling to the creature that had just saved her. As the pair rapidly approached the shore, Harry ended the transfiguration, emerging from the water carrying a crying Hermione bridal fashion.

"They wouldn't even let me change, and injured Dobby when he tried to stop them - we need to find him..."

"Shush, love. I've already taken care of Dobby. Now it's time to take care of you. What's been happening while I was away?"

"Oh the taunting reached epidemic proportions, with the staff as usual standing back and doing nothing about it. I was pretty much ignoring the whole thing, the thought that you couldn't remember me hurt a lot more."

They were now sitting on the dock, Hermione resting in Harry's lap. Drying and then warming charms ensured the two teens were comfortable. That no one appeared ready to approach the teens suited both of them just fine.

"I'm here now, love. I remember you were my girlfriend. Has that changed?"

By way of an answer, Hermione kissed Harry so tenderly and with so much love - he would never have to ask that question again. Winky then appeared with mugs of hot chocolate and warm roast beef sandwiches. A good elf should be able to anticipate their master's wishes. Winky knew Miss Mion had not been eating properly, and also the first question her new master would ask.

"Dobby is recovering fine, he will be ready to start his duties tomorrow."

"That's great, Winky. Could you keep an eye on him for me? I don't want him to try and do too much, too soon. I'm responsible for both your welfare and I want to see you healthy and happy."

With a little bow and not hiding a massive smile, Winky popped away.

Sitting on Harry's knee, Hermione found herself ravenous. In an act reminiscent of their former red-headed friend, she attacked those sandwiches as if they would disappear unless scoffed immediately. Such was the shock of Harry's return, they were left in peace to partake of their impromptu picnic.

That changed when a bleeding and distraught Fleur was led from the water. Listening to her rant in French, Hermione filled Harry in on what was happening. "She got ambushed and had to be rescued. Fleur's hostage was her little sister, who appeared to be about nine."

Shaking his head at the stupidity of placing such a young child in danger, Harry never even contemplated trying to help. "Not our circus, not our monkeys love. There weren't exactly people tripping over themselves to help me - and you look as if you've had the worst of it these last few months."

Hermione spoke between bites, heaven forbid she would talk with her mouth full. "There was a Yule Ball." "Viktor asked me to attend as his date." "Me turning him down made the front page of the Daily Prophet." "I've saved some of the issues for you, you'll enjoy reading them..."

Just at that, Viktor started emerging from the water with his hostage - before a wave came from nowhere and washed him at least twenty yards back into the lake.

"Behave, Harry. I went home for the holidays - nearly didn't come back. I was beginning to think getting my memories wiped might be worth it."

As Cedric staggered from the water with Cho in his arms, he stopped dead in his tracks at spotting Harry.

"Cedric, you've done all the hard work. Don't stop now, Krum's right behind you." Another wave appeared and knocked the Bulgarian back again. "Ah well, seems like you have more time than I thought."

Cedric staggered forward and practically dumped Cho onto the dock before turning to the younger wizard. "Harry, what the hell..."

Toad-face was shuffling towards them, face like thunder and wand drawn. Harry wondered if it was unkind to suggest she might be quicker if she tried hopping.

"Potter, you will fix this - at once!"

As Hermione tried to rise from Harry's lap, strong arms held her in place.

"Don't worry, love. Her wand is now only dangerous if she pokes you in the eye with it."

"I'm warning you, Potter..."

"No, I warned you - I warned all of you. Your head was so full of your own importance, sitting next to the Minister of Magic, you thought you were above justice. You though you were justice, and now magic has judged you. How does it feel to know your world has ended? It would probably be a kindness to obliviate the lot of you, stop you remembering just what you've lost - due to your own stupidity."

What toad-face then lost was any sense of reason. Forgetting that the dock had soronus charms cast on it, and the entire stadium had been listening in to every word that had been spoken, toad-face cast the cruciatus curse at Harry and Hermione. There wasn't even a spark emitted from her wand.

The canon firing to signal the time was up startled everyone, and allowed Harry to stun the witch unnoticed, just as Viktor finally made it to the dock. Sitting there with Hermione on his knee and wrapped in her arms, Harry caught the Bulgarian staring daggers at him. "Oh, hard luck there, Viktor. Just missed out..." Harry didn't say 'again', he didn't need to. Everyone got the message. A cold shiver of fear ran up the spines of every single person watching who had spent the last few months taunting and berating one Miss Hermione Granger.