"… which brings you up to date on the history of the Triwizard Tournament"

Harry sighed in annoyance as he stared up at the spires of the old castle. Albus had spent the past quarter of an hour filling him in on what his future likely had in store for him. It hadn't taken long for Sirius and Dobby to collect what was needed for Contingency Plan S3, and Albus transported the four of them to the gates of Hogwarts.

As Dobby and Sirius held a hushed, yet animated, conversation over a small pouch that sat innocuously on the ground, Harry leaned back into his conjured recliner and took a long calming breath.

"So, to clarify, I am not yet a contestant in this stupid contest?"

There was no question about whether Harry was entered, as the cord of magic linking him to the school was directly connected to the Great Hall where the idiotic cup was sitting.

Albus nodded from his own recliner, as his eyes roamed over the school's profile. "Yes, the names are not officially chosen for another 33 minutes. At that time, you will officially become a contestant. I would also recommend not publicly calling it a stupid contest, as it is a stupid contest with a long enough history to become a tradition with fan clubs around the world who annually hold Fantasy Triwizard Tournaments where they hypothetically pit past winners against other notable people alive and dead. And people don't like it when their stupid traditions' obvious stupidity is called out."

"But… there is a chance I won't be selected… right?"

"There is always a chance, but I doubt Tom would have left much room for that chance."

"And we're sure that this is one of Tom's schemes?"

Albus merely turned his head slightly to catch Harry's eyes and raised an eyebrow with an impressive amount of incredulity. Harry chuckled and spoke again. "Right, of course it's one of his schemes. And, OF COURSE, I am going to be selected."

The two fell into a brief silence, as Dobby shook his head fiercely at Sirius, before slapping the man's face and pointing at an object on the ground (they had spread the contents of the pouch on the grass about twenty feet from Albus and Harry). Sirius took the slap in stride, stared at the object, and nodded in understanding. As the two returned to their silent debate, Harry broke the silence.

"Alright. To sum up, I will be forced to participate in three activities, though you are unsure of the level of required participation outside of attendance. The three activities and corresponding dates were submitted to the Goblet, which then verified the organizers truly believed they were sporting activities a student could successfully perform. Once verified, the Goblet ignited and bound the organizers to setting up the activities. For the participants, to be selected, they must think of themselves as primarily being students and the Goblet must determine they are both the best candidate of the candidate pool and capable of completing the activities."

Albus nodded. "Indeed. And it came from a time when the rights of children were all but non-existent, so it does not require the names to be entered voluntarily. Alas, I do not know the punishment for non-participation, but there is research that suggests willful non-participation would result in lethal consequences. That punishment applies to the organizers as well. Theoretically, if you were not so attuned to your magic, you would have not felt the pull so strongly and would have gotten with little to no punishment for non-willful non-participation as you would have been ignorant of being selected."

Harry huffed loudly as he ran his hand through his hair. "Grand! And we can't just destroy the damned thing because the magical backlash is highly likely to kill all those it is bound to. DAMN IT! I can't believe it is so easy to magically enslave people."

"It's not."

Harry frowned in confusion as he converted his recliner into a straight back chair and floated it to face directly towards Albus. Albus kindly reciprocated, so the two were facing each other directly.

"Do I need to remind you that I have been ensnared with a slave binding for a contest I did not enter?"

"A VARIATION of a slave binding! And, yes, I believe I heard about that somewhere. You have also survived an unsurvivable curse and regularly use a form of transportation that you invented and only one other person in the world knows how to perform. The unusual happens around you with surprising regularity, so it would be a best practice for you to not assume something happening to you is something that would commonly happen to others. In this case though, let's assume I am wrong, and tell me what the consequences would be of it being easy to magically enslave others."

Harry groaned. "Albus, I am not in the mood for another one of these thought experiment lessons."

He calmly met Albus's piecing gaze, as the man stared at Harry over the top of his spectacles. Normally this would be when Harry capitulated to playing along with the lesson, but this time he was in not in a learning mood and held his ground.

After a minute of silence, Albus sighed deeply and conjured a circular wooden table. With a quick hand signal made towards Dobby, Harry found the table laden with an assortment of his favorite snacks and desserts which Dobby kept preserved in an expanded pouch that he always kept around his neck. With that, Dobby returned to plotting with Sirius by competing in an overly complicated variant of Rock Paper Scissors, though Harry could now see the quick concerned glances the duo would occasionally throw in his direction.

Once Harry took a delicious bite of treacle tart, Albus began speaking.

"Alright, Harry, we'll skip the thought experiment this time. I apologize for misjudging your stress levels just now. To answer your concern, the simple response is that if it were easy to magically enslave others, we would all be slaves already."

Harry frowned around his bite of tart but waited patiently for Albus to continue.

"You have a good soul, Harry. It's what drives so many of your acts of kindness and your forgiving nature, and the world is a better place for it. However, that sometimes leaves you with a blind spot when it comes to understanding the attraction of forcing people to follow your will. The oldest spoken histories make it clear that people have enslaved others since we first became capable of it. And attempting to use magic as a shortcut to enslavement is equally as old of a human endeavor. Forget about Dark Lords for the moment, can you imagine every politician in the world would pass up the opportunity to magically ensure the people followed their will? Or every employer in the world would refuse to magically ensure their underlings remained loyal? Returning to Tom, do you think he would be willing to split his soul, but decide enslaving his followers or even his 11-year-old nemesis was a bridge too far?"

Harry shook his head. "I suppose that makes sense, but there are still ways to do it. I mean, there is the Goblet, and house elves…"

Albus nodded sadly. "The Goblet is notable because it is the only known artifact in the world that comes even close to performing magical enslavement. Even then, the binding dissolves at the end of the third activity and it requires that the activities be sporting events. Additionally, there are no notes available for recreating its magic, which likely means it was invented through another enchanter beating their own unique path through the unexplored forests of magic. Hundreds of years of research, and no one has even come close to creating another Goblet. As for house elves…"

Albus looked over fondly at Dobby before continuing.

"Socks… that's all it took. A pair of socks, and the slave binding was broken for our friend Dobby. Magic always comes with a cost. Sometimes it is just a bit of energy and concentration, sometimes it is ingredients for a potion, sometimes it is painful experimentation, sometimes it is the sacrifice of a life, sometimes… well, there is always a cost. If you want to bind someone to your will, where they must follow your every command, then the normal cost is that the binding is brittle and incredibly easy to break. The only keeping the House Elves bound is the many generations of brain washing. If you want to use the Imperius, you can control a person, but the cost is that it can be broken with sufficient will power or sufficient sense of self and it becomes easier to break as the commands diverge more extremely from the person's own desires."

Harry leaned forward with interest. "Really? Do you think I could break the Imperius?"

Albus shrugged noncommittally. "Possibly. I know some people that will allow us to train you legally if you would care to. However, it is likely you could break it, as I am aware of cases where some exceptional non-magical people have thrown off the curse. One such case resulted in the intended victim ending the lives of the two Death Eaters who tried to control him to commit some very… unpleasant actions upon his wife and children."

Harry's eyes widened in shock. "How did he manage that?"

"Well… never underestimate the loyalty a man has to his family, and especially never assume that man is not a top enforcer for one of the most notorious criminal enterprises in London. It is a fascinating story, but perhaps we should move on…"

Albus took a sip of tea that Dobby had poured without Harry's notice.

"The closest anyone has come to replicating the effects of the Goblet is considered a prank. It is a 'contract' that becomes popular every decade or so at Hogwarts. The creator applies terms to the contract, along with punishments, and then if someone signs the contract and breaks the terms, the

contract breaker is immediately punished. It quickly fades in popularity, because someone will contact a curse breaker and discover that you can undetectably break the binding to the contract with two simple spells. Additionally, when people discover the contract creator pays a price many times greater than the punishment, all interest immediately disappears."

Harry leaned forward in fascination. "What sort of price would they pay?"

"Since they attempted to force someone to perform something against their will, their magic curses their minds to work against their own will. As an example, using the wildly inaccurate House stereotypes, a Gryffindor might find their courage failing them and they won't pursue their heart's desire. A Slytherin might find themselves overlooking even the most obvious schemes of their enemies. A Ravenclaw might find themselves turning down rare and invaluable knowledge for the most nonsensical reasons. A Hufflepuff might find themselves unthinkingly betraying their most treasured friendship. Keep in mind, that is when the punishment is a relatively minor curse like causing a rash or a case of indigestion. Luckily the contract can't have a more severe punishment, as it would destroy the parchment before the contract was even finished, and those with the knowledge of enchanting or alchemy know enough about the magical blowback to avoid trying. As an interesting sidenote, some people have put forth the idea that your parents somehow tricked Tom into a magical contract where they exchanged their lives for yours."


"Really, though the theory breaks down quickly under scrutiny. After all, it is not like your parents would be the first people to sacrifice their lives for a loved one, and yet your survival remains unique. No one knows the numbers, but researchers believe it would take over a dozen people tricking Tom into taking their lives in exchange for yours, and that… huh…"

As Albus paused in deep thought, Harry's patience quickly faded (for some reason, the death of his parents was not a subject he found lent itself to patience on his part). "WHAT!?"

Albus startled slightly. "My apologies, Harry. I had never accounted for Horcruxes in those discussions. No one really knows how much of one's soul goes into those foul artifacts. Additionally, the Horcruxes might assure that the breaking of the contract would just be bodily destruction and not death. What if Tom's Horcruxes decreased the amount of soul in his body and provided a loophole to prevent a death penalty, which was just enough to let him be tricked into creating a contract that was actually magically enforceable. One where he agreed to exchange your parents' lives for yours, took their lives, and then was punished when he tried to blatantly violate his side of the contract?"

Harry could barely breath as he responded (vaguely he glimpsed Dobby and Sirius listening in equal shock). "Is that what happened?"

Albus stared out into space for another moment before shaking his head slowly, as if to clear his head. "I honestly don't know. It is possible, or it could be something your mother did, or just a combination of dozens of coincidences that led to the perfect storm to create a one-of-a-kind magical backlash. Your survival will likely remain a mystery long after we are all gone. However, I can say with complete confidence that your parents loved you utterly and would have gladly sacrificed themselves a hundred times over to give you even the longest of shots at life. No matter what twist of magic allowed you to live, your parents would just be grateful that the twist happened."

As Harry wiped a tear from his cheek, Albus stood and disappeared the conjured furniture while Dobby stored the food.

"Come on, we should start walking up to the castle."

As the four neared the front doors of the castle, Harry spoke up once again.

"What about magical vows?"

Albus narrowed his eyes in confusion and took a few moments to respond in confusion. "Similar to how people make vows on their lives and magic in the Boy Who Lived books?"

"… yeah"

Albus chuckled. "They don't exist, as far as I am aware. A Dark Lord or, even worse, a politician would immediately abuse such a thing to ensure that their subordinates and enemies were given the choice between death or a magical vow of obedience. I know of at least four individuals who betrayed Tom, and that wouldn't have happened if they had all made those one-sided magical vows. There is the Unbreakable Vow, but that is a two-sided vow that is primarily made between comrades in arms and is considered one of the greatest shows of trust."

"How does that one work?"

"The theory is simple. Two people make a vow. If the vow is broken, the penalty is death. For casting, you have the two vow makers and a binder. The vow makers speak out loud what they are vowing, and the binder is there to stabilize the magic and ensure that it settles properly. While you can be ordered to make the vow, the magic will only settle if you make the vow with the one who you believe is ordering you. So, Tom would have had to personally make the vow with each of his followers for them to be under the sway of an Unbreakable Vow with him."

As they opened the front door, Harry felt an odd mixture of nostalgia and trepidation as Dobby and Sirius hurried ahead of them to the Great Hall. To get over his nerves, he focused on the conversation at hand. "But… all Tom would have to do is make the vow be that neither of them will betray him, as he won't betray himself. If his follower betrays him, then the follower dies."

Albus smiled as he waved at the portraits and suits of armor, which waved back happily. "What did I say would happen if the vow is broken?"

"That the person would die… well, you said that the penalty is death. But that is pretty much the… it's not the same, is it? 'if the vow is broken, the penalty is death' is a weird way of saying that if you break the vow, then you die. And you also called it a sign of trust, when I could only imagine doing it with someone I don't trust. Unless… magic has a cost… so… do both people die?"

Albus nodded with a proud twinkle in his eye. "To be fair, that warning is written in bold in the books that teach the required spells."

Harry shrugged. "Huh… I can see why Tom would avoid that. Well, at least I don't have to worry about magical enslavement."

With that, the tendril of magic glowed a bright magenta (to those able to see such things) and Harry felt a sharp tug towards the doors of the Great Hall.

"Well, I wouldn't have to worry if I wasn't me."

The pair then walked forward into the Great Hall as Harry spoke out loud. "Hi everyone! Albus says that there is some sort of magic binding pulling me into Hogwarts. Does anyone know anything about that?"

A sea of staring faces and utter silence was the response.


The silence did not last long as Harry forced himself to not roll out of the way as a gaggle of smiling students surged towards him, with a certain bushy haired witch leading the pack (followed by a gaggle of redheads). Even still, he quickly cast some cushioning spells on his clothes to prepare for the imminent impact. In his peripheral vision, he could see Sirius and Dobby had snuck into the room several minutes earlier.

With several thuds (which would have been quite jarring without the cushioning charms), Harry found himself being hugged fiercely by his friends and patted on the back and shoulders by what felt like all the student body. Meanwhile, Albus walked forward to examine the wooden cup filled with blue-white flames.

"It's so wonderful to see you, Harry!"

"HARRY! Can you sign the picture I have of you with Professor Lockhart!?"

"You never get a break, do you?"

Harry struggled to differentiate between the different voices, but could not focus any of the questions, as everyone was speaking at once. Eventually, one voice made itself through the happy exclamations of welcome (Harry supposed he would have to thank Gilderoy for forcing him to regularly respond to all his fan mail, even those fans who were students at Hogwarts who had treated him with suspicion during Second Year).

"I don't know why you are all so happy to see this cheater!"

The students silenced as if hit with a spell (Harry knew they weren't as he was still looking at magic around him), while a certain hook-nosed professor sat at the head table and smirked in malicious delight.

A red headed girl wearing a yellow tie sighed as she responded to the curly haired boy. "Justin…"

"What!? You know he's a cheat Susan! How else would he know to show up right after the Goblet spit out his name? Can't let Hufflepuff have any of the honor, eh Potter?"

"Finch-Fletchley, you don't know what you're talking about!" spoke a familiar voice.

Harry was pleased to see the number of people who seemed to agree with Justin was exceedingly small (he would have to really talk up Lockhart when he attended the man's wedding to Rita next year, his letter writing was really paying off). He then looked over at Terrence Smythe, as the older boy stepped forward (followed by a happy looking Luna).

"You're only saying that Smythe because Potter…"

Justin trailed off as he noticed the looks on the faces of his housemates. Terrence responded immediately. "Just because… what? Just because… he decided to write weekly letters to my little brother who was dying? Just because… he refused to give up on Marcus when everyone else, including his family, had written his survival off as a lost cause? Just because… in the coming years I can look forward to coming back to visit my little brother at the Three Broomsticks instead of at his grave? Is that why?"

Justin quailed under the harsh looks directed at him from most of the student body.

Terrence took a deep breath. "Finch-Fletchley… Justin… you do have a point. Harry is an honorary member of my family now, and so I am far from impartial. So… Harry… I know you would like to keep this quiet, but… what were you doing this morning?"

Harry looked to Terrence, just barely keeping himself from shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot. With a small sigh he responded. "I was at Saint Mungo's… reading to the children who were there for treatment, or they had family being cared for."

Harry pointedly ignored the sighs of delight and looks of desire coming from a portion of the student body, though there were certain people whose obvious desire was far from unwelcome.

"And where are you going tomorrow?"

Harry smiled slightly, grateful that Terrence didn't try to reveal Harry's annual visit to Godric's Hollow. "Albus has some friends among the merfolk in Australia, so I'll be learning mermish and visiting some of the nature preserves… yes Luna, I will send you pictures."

Luna beamed, as some of her fellow Ravenclaws whispered amongst themselves in response. Terrence smiled apologetically to Harry and then turned to Justin.

"So, Justin, do you really think that Harry would rather spend his winter here in Scotland by the Black Lake, or at the sunny beaches of Australia?"

Justin's eyes stayed firmly fixed upon the ground. Harry stepped forward and put his hand on Justin's shoulder, forcing the boy to look up in surprise.

"Justin, I get it. I really do. Hufflepuff gets an unfair reputation, despite producing some of the most amazing witches and wizards in history. And now, your house is given a chance to show everyone what you already know about it, and someone decides to mar the day by dragging me into what should be your House's moment. I don't know who got my name to come out, but I am just as mad as all of you. Believe me, Albus and I are doing everything we can to make sure this gets fixed, and I can leave you all to celebrate your real champion. So… no hard feelings?"

Harry could see the suspicion in Justin's eyes, so he knew that he hadn't won over the boy. But, Gilderoy had taught him that it was always better to publicly give your social enemies a graceful exit over forcing them into a corner. They will likely still be your enemy, but you can win over onlookers who are on the fence about you. Indeed, several of the suspicious looks in the crowd had turned to ones of support. Still, the tension left the crowd as Justin stiffly shook Harry's hand.

Of course, the moment of peace quickly ended as another familiar silky voice was heard, full of barely concealed malice.

"I see that your much welcomed exit from these hallowed halls of learning has done nothing to tame your out-of-control ego, Potter. Your head has grown nearly as large as that of your father."

Harry looked up at the sneering face of Severus Snape, rolled his eyes, and then caught Albus's eye. Albus shook his head slowly in exasperation before turning back to the Goblet and then speaking. "Contingency Plan S3 is approved".

"Harry" Sirius spoke up from the wall where he was standing at, grinning like a kid at Christmas, catching Snape by surprise. "The possibility of a Snape successfully avoiding insulting a Potter unprovoked is approximately 3,720 to 1".

With a smirk, seeing Dobby snapping his fingers and nodding, Harry responded. "Never tell me the odds!"

"It seems Azkaban has scrambled your wits, Black. Not that you ever… what!?"

Snape's insults died on his lips as he moved his hand to his throat reflexively. Said hand paused in its movement as soon as the man's eyes caught sight of it. He was clearly absorbed, as he did not respond to the growing surge of quiet chuckling coming from the student body.

Granted, Snape's response made sense. As his voice had taken on the distinctive tone and cadence of a famously beloved golden droid. His skin had also taken on a golden mechanical tone (though Harry knew that the man's right leg was silver from the knee down, as Albus insisted it was a crucial detail), and his movements had become downright robotic. The man lifted his head, with eyes now glowing golden as he stared directly at Harry.

"R2D2! What have you… no! R2D2… Not R2D2… R2D2!"

Harry looked behind him in confusion and looked back. "Are you talking to me, Professor? I'm Harry Potter, remember?"

Harry was impressed that Snape somehow managed to convey murderous rage with the voice of C3PO. "You know I am trying to say R2D2, R2D2! How are you making me say R2D2 instead?"

A tired voice made itself known from a grizzled and scarred older man who was standing next to Albus. "Professor Snape, a wise man knows when he has been bested, so choose the wise course of action and make your way to Madam Pomphrey."

"Headmaster, I insist that R2D2…"

"Professor, that wasn't a suggestion. Go! Now!"

As soon as Snape3PO was fully out of earshot, the barely contained laughter filled the Great Hall.

"How did you do it, Harry-kins?"

Harry turned to the terrifying trio of Fred, George, and Hermione. He smiled. "It helps having an alchemist around to figure out the trickier magic. Of course, this means that notorious Gredmione, Herforgione, and Fremiorge will need to up their game if they want to top that prank."

The twins turned to Hermione, who had a mad glint in her eyes. They turned back to Harry and spoke in properly creepy unison. "Challenge accepted!"

"I will assume I misheard that" spoke Headmaster Kettleburn as he and Albus walked over to Harry. The man turned to the student body, and with a quick sonorous charm his voice filled the hall. "Students, return to your seats!"

Reluctantly the students followed the command, after the headmaster glared at the stragglers. The man canceled the sonorous charm and turned to Harry.

"Can I assume my professor will be back to normal before classes in the morning?"

Harry nodded amiably.

"Terrific. Can I also assume you do not intend to attend any classes during your time back in the school, specifically in Defense Against the Dark Arts?"

Harry's eyebrows rose in shock but nodded just the same.

"Wonderful. Then, I will enjoy the time I have before listening to what is likely to be a complaint session of an unbearable length. Potter, good luck. Albus, once again, damn you for foisting this job off on me. I should have just retired."

With that, the headmaster stalked off. Albus turned to Harry.

"I have completed my investigation, and I am afraid that you are indeed bond by the Goblet. Once again, I highly recommend that you just participate instead of… no, I see your mind is made up. Just remember that magical artifacts are not people. Treat it like it is a Screeching Fleshrender. I have only fought one magical artifact in my life and that was… well, it is a long story that you have no interest in at the moment. Just… don't play around."

Harry nodded as Albus stared at him with a look full of worry. With a return nod, Albus turned to the room's occupants.

"I need this half of the room to be cleared, would everyone please leave or make their way to the head table?"

While a few people got up to move, most people stared back at Albus in confused interest. Albus shrugged and pulled out his wand.

With yelps of shock, every piece of furniture quickly floated over to the head table, including the students who sitting upon the benches. The furniture quickly merged and transfigured into a fully occupied set of bleachers. Those who hadn't been seated found themselves being flung firmly (but gently) into the awaiting benches. Within one minute, the only occupants of the Great Hall not seated in the bleachers were Albus, Harry, and the Goblet of Fire.

Albus squeezed Harry's shoulder. "Good luck, Harry. Remember, you need to make it surrender. Destroying it while you are bond to it will likely kill you."

Harry pulled out the Sword of Gryffindor as Albus walked to the wall next to the bleachers, wand at the ready.

"I am speaking to the Goblet of Fire. I am Harry James Potter, bound to the Goblet of Fire. I have been falsely selected for the Triwizard Tournament, and request I be released from my binding. Will you release me?"

The blue flames brightened, flashed green twice, before returning to their normal blue hue. As he was watching the magic around him, he could see the binding was unchanged.

"Very well… I gave it a shot. I am speaking to the Goblet of Fire. I am Harry Hames Potter, bound to the Goblet of Fire. As one who is bound to you, I now have the right to challenge for control of all the bindings held by the Goblet of Fire. Therefore, I am officially invoking that right. I challenge the Goblet of Fire for control of all the bindings it holds!"

The blue flames brightened once again and then turned to an intensely dark red. Without further warning, a wall of flame shot forth from the Goblet. The wall quickly expanded in width to 20 feet and stood from the floor to 6 feet tall.

"Oh shi…"

Harry summoned himself so strongly towards the ceiling that he had to flip upside down to avoid smashing headfirst into the rafters. As his feet landed on a rafter, the wall of flame crashed into the far wall of the Hall, leaving scorch marks in the stone. Sending off half a dozen curses at the Goblet, Harry was now flying across the room avoiding a volley of fireballs that impacted loudly into the ceiling and rafters (while scorch marks were left behind, no fires were starting, though he was unsure if that was due to the Goblet's magic or Hogwarts' wards). Another half dozen fireballs were sent to intersect with his spells.

After another two dozen spells, Harry stopped with his spells. From watching the magic of the Goblet, it was clear that the magical binding with the Goblet was using Harry's own magic to detect the spells and guide the defensive fireballs. This really was like his time with the Fleshrender, as his magic was once again useless for offensive purposes, so he focused on getting closer to his fiery opponent.

Inch by inch, Harry neared closer.

Another wall of flame flew up towards the ceiling, so he dodged down to the floor, which the Goblet seemed to predict, as he found another wall rushing to intersect with him as he hit the floor. In desperation, he transfigured a patch of floor into a protective wall of stone which he ducked behind. With a thundering crash the stone wall cracked from the combined heat and speed of the flame wall, but it held. He quickly abandoned the temporary shelter.

Slowly, he moved forward. The floor, ceiling, and walls were littered with scorched and cracked transfigured walls.

Six feet away, and the Goblet had learned a new trick. A ball of flame rushed towards Harry, who quickly zigged in the air out of the way. Then, like a Bludger, the ball changed course and rushed towards his undefended back. Sensing the danger with barely any time, he twisted in mid-air and the flat of his sword unintentionally smacked into the fireball as it narrowly missed. Much to Harry's surprise, the fireball stuck to the sword for a moment as the sword's magic seemed to draw in a portion of the fireball's magic. The absorption ended nearly as quickly as it started, and then the fireball was repelled away from the sword straight into the wall behind where Albus had been standing (luckily the man had dodged away in time).

Eyes opening in shock, Harry decided to do something possibly epic in the scope of its stupidity. Preparing to dodge, Harry stopped moving. Another scorching ball of flame zoomed straight towards his head. With a swing of his sword, he connected the flat against the ball. The ball ricocheted off the sword and slammed into the ceiling. With a wide grin, Harry zoomed forward.

Five feet away, and the balls of flame were being batted away with a skill that the Quidditch Beaters in the crowd appreciated.

Three feet away, Harry zoomed away from a wall of flame, and accidentally discovered that the edge of his sword would disrupt the magic of the flame wall and cause the wall to split around harry and zoom off to the walls on either side of him.

Two feet away, Harry was now walking towards the Goblet which seemed to be desperately trying to stop his advance. A solid column of flame rushed forward, like a demonic Hogwarts Express. The Sword of Gryffindor split the column straight down the middle, reminding some of Moses parting a Red Sea made of flame. Still, Harry carefully walked slowly forward, mercilessly towards the Goblet.

With one more step, Harry lowered his sword slowly, through the torrent of magical flame, and touched the point against the Goblet.

Everything stopped. The roar of flame ceased so instantly that the silence was deafening.

All that could be heard was Harry's deep breath and the soft sound of sizzling.

Only four individuals in the room knew of the basilisk venom embedded in the blade of the sword. And now, an ancient artifact designed to enslave people for sports events had joined those in know. Harry like to think the thing was aware enough to be afraid. As for everyone else, there was great confusion as to why the Goblet was sizzling with acrid smoke wafting up from the sword's point.

"Yield!" Harry spoke softly, regaining his breath.

The dark red flames seemed to still in indecision.

"YIELD!" Harry spoke more forcefully.

The flames darkened but remained frozen in indecision. The Goblet still holding on to its bindings.

Harry stared at the flames and felt his anger rising. In those flames, he saw the Dursleys as they demanded he do so many chores around the house, while trapping him in that god-forsaken cabinet under the stairs. He saw Hedwig starving in her padlocked cage as he starved behind the bars of his own window. He saw the smirking face of Severus Snape, as the man forced Harry to dance to the bitter man's tune knowing that Harry had no power to fight back. He saw every unjust punishment, every act of forced labor, every time he was forced into actions against his will. He saw Sirius, imprisoned by a corrupt government. He saw Dobby, enslaved and enduring the cruelty of the Malfoys. He saw Remus, forced into the corners of society due to being a victim of the werewolf curse. He saw Marcus, forced to languish in a hospital bed and constantly maintain emotional control at the risk of painful death to a mystery ailment. He saw Albus, trying to do right by Harry and forced to bend to the whims of the corrupt and cruel people in power, all for the off chance of finding a way for Harry to have even a speck of happiness. But they were now free! Harry, Albus, Hedwig, and Sirius were all free. Marcus and Remus were cured. His loved ones… his family were now free! Free from curses, free from prisons, free from control! This overhyped dish wanted to change that!? NO! He would fight first… he would die first before he allowed himself or any member of his family to be controlled again! He certainly wasn't going to be controlled by some stupid cup!

With the clarity of his righteous fury, he made his decision. Either the thimble of sparks yields or it dies! The potential backlash be damned.

Harry pressed the sword's point hard into the wood of the cup, creating a gouge into an artifact that many magical researchers would have sworn was defended by magic so strong that it could never even be scratched.

"YIELD!" Harry screamed with a fury that startled many.

A moment passed.


The dark red flames changed to a light purple, flashed eight times, and the flame went out.

Seeing the bindings no longer connecting to the Goblet, here lowered his sword and looked down at his chest, where seven bindings now connected to him.

Placing his hand on his chest, he let out a soft chuckle, which sounded loudly in the silence of the room.

Looking up at the shocked faces (and the proud faces of Albus, Sirius, and Dobby), Harry grinned apologetically. "Sorry, it tickles."

"… and now you are all caught up. I have talked with the tournament organizers and dissolved their bindings. That just leaves you three."

The three proper school champions stared at Harry in disbelief, and then looked at their respective headmasters and headmistress for verification. Receiving nods of confirmation, they all looked back at Harry.

Harry smiled broadly. "Right, who wants to go first?"

With a small laugh, Cedric Diggory stepped forward. "You know, I have heard rumors about you over the years, Harry, and I always thought they were massive exaggerations. Now, I am wondering if they were underselling your adventures. Though, I suspect it's better for my sanity if I stay ignorant about the truth in that regard. What do you need me to do?"

Harry chuckled happily. "First, what is your name?"

"Cedric Diggory"

"Alright, Cedric Diggory, do you promise to give the tournament your best effort?"

"Of course!"

"Great! I believe you and you have met the terms of the contract to my satisfaction. I now release you from the magical enforcement. And… there we go, it's dissolved. You are now only bound by your own honor and common sense. Good luck! Who is next?"

A surly looking teen stepped forward. "Vell, I am thinking me. I am Victor Krum."

"Hi Victor, do you promise to give the tournament your best effort?"


"I accept… and the binding is dissolved. Good luck!"

Victor put up his hand to stop Harry from moving on. "Vait! You vork vith Gilderoy Lockhart, am I right?"

"… in a way, I suppose. Why?"

Victory grumbled in frustration. "He vill not accept me as a client. Vould you put in a good vord for me?"

Harry shrugged. "I could, but he can afford to be picky nowadays with his clients. But I'll write to his partner Slughorn and let him know. Just promise him some high quality Quidditch match tickets, and he'll be easily convinced to give you some training for dealing with the press. If you can handle a one-on-one interview with Rita Skeeter after that, you'll likely impress Gilderoy enough to bring you on as a client. I'll send the letter tonight. Sound good?"

Victor nodded stiffly. "Very. Thank you, Harry Potter!"

"You're welcome. I guess that leaves you, miss…"

A beautiful blonde teen stepped forward, and Harry did his best to stamp down on his raging hormones. "I am Fleur Delacour"

"Delacour… Do you know a Gabrielle Delacour?"

"Oui! Yes! She is mon sister"

Harry smiled as he silently thanked Albus for his time being immersed in the French language as he changed languages.

"Would you prefer to speak in French?"

Fleur smiled brightly (shut up, stupid hormones!) "You speak French?"

"I get by. Please, just don't talk too quickly or say anything too complex."

"Of course. How do you know Gabrielle?"

"She is apparently a fan of the Boy Who Lived books, and I have replied to a fair number of her letters."

Fleur's eyes widened in shock. "Those letters are really from you? I told her that it was just one of the employees at the Lockhart firm. She was quite upset."

Harry frowned. "Oh, is that why I haven't heard from her in a while? Give me a moment."

A couple minutes later, Harry walked back in the room, trailed by a third year Gryffindor holding a camera.

"Fleur, this is Collin Creevey. He is the resident photographer at Hogwarts. Let's take a picture together. Here is a quick letter I just wrote to Gabrielle telling her it is really me and I miss her letters. Once Collin develops the picture, he'll give it to you so that you can send the picture and my letter. No little girl should have her heart broken like that, not if I can help it."

With a grateful smile, and kiss to the cheek (and quickly tamping down some thoughts about said kiss), the picture was taken and soon the final binding was dissolved.

A relieved Harry Potter walked back into the Great Hall to see Albus casually holding the Sword of Gryffindor as he stood next to the Goblet of Fire and answered questions from the students in the still transfigured bleachers.

"All done, Albus!"

"What?" Albus swung around in what appeared to be a state of surprise. As he swung, his arm holding the sword angled up just enough so that its path had it slicing right through the unlit Goblet (which surely must have been an accident).

"Oh dear!" Albus exclaimed as he bent down to examine the larger portion of Goblet, while clearly forgetting he was still holding the sword as he accidentally stabbed the dead center of the remaining fragment and was unable to remove the sword until the exact moment when every speck of magic had been burned away from the artifact making it utterly irreparable.

Albus looked down remorsefully at the magical artifact that he had just destroyed (obviously completely by accident) and then looked up at the shocked Ministry representative.

"My apologies Ludo, but I am afraid Harry and I have a portkey to catch. You can take care of clearing up this mess, can't you? What am I saying, obviously you can, and I am sorry for implying otherwise. I have every confidence in you, and I appreciate your understanding in how accidents like this can happen, especially as we all become a little clumsier in our old age. It is a load off my mind that, as a Ministry official, you have officially ruled this as an accident. I will make sure Gilderoy, and Horrace hear of your understanding and compassionate nature regarding this most tragic of accidents."

Before Ludo could respond, Harry, Albus, Sirius, and Dobby were already out the front door and walking toward the front gates at a brisk rate.

Harry looked over at Albus with bemused fondness. "We have a portkey to catch? You're the one making the portkey!"

"And we have to catch it when I make it. It would be an awful waste of magic to not do so."

"You're a horrible liar, Albus."

"If you prefer, we could skip the beaches of Australia and stay here for several months sitting through a Ministry inquiry."

"… well, accidents happen"

A minute later, they reached the front gates and were outside of the wards of Hogwarts. Albus picked up a stick to make a portkey. Harry turned around to see the Ministry Representative running out of the front gates, waving frantically at the four of them. Well… the man probably just wanted to wish them a safe journey. That was certainly nice of him. Harry grabbed the stick, smiled, and waved a fond farewell back to the Ludo fellow as he felt the magic hook onto his navel.

Next stop… Australia.