The wonderful world of Harry Potter belongs to JK Rowling.

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Harry potter and the Trip to the Past

Chapter – 31

Dumbledore was flabbergasted and so were all of the Professors. Professor Sprout in particular was ashamed of the thoughts she had entertained for a brief while about the boy. It was clear as day that he had nothing to do with this. She turned to Dumbledore who, by then, had walked towards the Gryffindor table and had held out his hand for Harry's wand, which Hermione picked up handed it over to him. He then turned to address the School. "I'll bid goodnight to the students; I think we've had enough excitement and drama for tonight; Minerva, please take Mr. Bagman and Mr. Crouch along with Madame Maxine and Mr. Karkaroff to instruct the three Champions. I will inform Harry about the first Task. Thank you and goodnight." Dumbledore heaved a huge mental sigh and started for the Gryffindor dorms, where Hogwarts told him Harry was.

Harry in the meantime had slowed down into a swift walk once he left the Great Hall, his face schooled into a neutral expression. He hoped this dramatic behaviour would help everyone understand that something was seriously wrong about his name being called by the Goblet of Fire, instead of thinking Harry wanted more fame. That Harry had not placed his name in the Goblet. Last time this had made him one of the most unpopular students to walk the Halls of Hogwarts that year. He reached the Gryffindor Tower, gave the password to the Fat Lady, who questioned him excitedly about the Champions.

"Hogwarts Champion is Cedric Diggory." Harry bit out briefly, his face once again schooled to show anger and he stomped inside and threw himself in front of the fire, wondering who would come to talk to him. Dumbledore himself, or McGonagall, he guessed, to take him to the Headmaster. He did not turn, when the door of the Tower opened, but he was startled a second later, when Fawkes flamed into the room, and with a soft croon, settled into his lap.

Harry was shocked once again, but he had long stopped questioning the intelligent bird's actions. He stroked Fawkes softly and murmured to him, hoping, who ever entered the room would hear it as well. "I don't know what to do Fawkes. You tell me, someone placed my name into that damn Goblet, to compete with adult wizards; I know I'm good in my studies and in magic, but this is not what I want." Fawkes stared at Harry, before pecking him sharply, making Harry yelp in pain. "Ouch! Surely, you don't think I put my name into the Goblet somehow!" He said indignantly, pleading with his eyes, to the bird to play along with him.

Fawkes crooned softly and butted his head against Harry's shoulder. "Thanks Fawkes, you are brilliant as ever; I'm sorry to have doubted you." Harry hugged the bird softly, as Dumbledore walked into his view, smiling at Harry's interaction with Fawkes, but also looking very puzzled at Fawkes's behaviour towards this boy. He had never known Fawkes to behave like this with anyone.

"I did not place my name into the Goblet, Professor." Harry said angrily, standing up, the moment he apparently noticed Dumbledore, even as Fawkes flamed out with a loud trill. "I think Sirius was right. Maybe I should withdraw from here. Something or the other is trying to do me in, from the time I came here." He finished sadly, looking down.

Dumbledore sighed and sat down in front of Harry. "For what's its worth, Harry, I'm sorry. You are indeed right. Something or the other seems to happen to you each year." He fell silent and Harry stared moodily at the fire, hoping his acting would stand up to Dumbledore. A minute later Dumbledore continued. "Your name could have been placed there only by two ways, Harry. One an older student could have placed your name, or someone confounded the Goblet into entering your name under a different School. And if your name was the only name entered under that School, you would be automatically selected as Champion."

"Sir, this is the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Why should I compete, in this, making this a Four-Wizard Tournament, something that's not the purpose of the Tournament?"

Dumbledore smiled. "Alas, if only it was that simple. Harry, the Goblet is a magical artifact that once invoked, creates a magically binding contract. To refuse is to forfeit your magic. While, yes, I agree what happened to you was unfair, to punish your magic and yourself for something that's not your fault is also unfair," He paused for a second, "to you." He finished.

"What can I do Sir?" Harry asked him, his green eyes fixed determinedly on Dumbledore. "What else can I do?"

"Participate in the Tournament, Harry, to the best of your ability. Don't punish your wonderful gift of magic for something that's not your fault. Meanwhile I promise you, I'll do more than my best to find out who did this and punish them accordingly."

Harry was silent. Dumbledore urged him on.

"Don't give up your magic Harry."

Harry sighed and continued to stare at Dumbledore. "I'm scared Sir. People have died in this Tournament and I really did not want any part of this."

"I know." Dumbledore replied patiently. "However, if it might comfort you Harry, I can promise you that, while the tasks will be tough, especially for someone your age, none of the tasks will mean death or serious injury. I have ensured safeguards for every task and hopefully you'll come out unscathed." He stood up, and handed Harry his wand, which Harry took with an obvious show of reluctance. "The first task will test your bravery. You will be allowed your wand, and nothing else; it will take place on the twenty-fourth of November. Good luck." He looked at Harry, who had also stood up, for a second, smiled rather tiredly, then left the Gryffindor Common Room.

Dumbledore opened the door, and Harry saw all the Gryffindors gathered there, along with an anxious looking McGonagall, who straightened at whatever look Dumbledore gave her, and she waited until all the students had filed in, before coming inside. Harry meanwhile was still standing in the same place, marvelling at the changes that had happened since the last time. He hoped that he would see more changes the next day, when he would meet the students at large. He would know then, whether his tactic had been successful in diffusing what would have become a very horrible time for him the first time around.

"I don't want anyone to badger Mr. Potter tonight." She said in a clipped tone. "Potter" she nodded to him, and seeing his resigned look, gave him a brief smile and stepped out.

Harry turned to stare at his House, who were staring back at him, when pushing their way through were Hermione and Neville. Hermione had been crying, and Harry felt very bad, when he saw that, and Neville looked so worried, that Harry was reminded of the boy he had been the last time around.

"Harry!" Hermione sobbed, before throwing herself on him. "You are not leaving us, are you?" she hiccupped. Neville was tense and taut, as he waited for Harry to reply. Neville had not imagined that a situation would arise that Harry would contemplate leaving Hogwarts and his magic behind. He also never contemplated what Harry leaving Hogwarts would do to him. He had not realised how much confidence he drew from Harry, how much strength he took from the other boy. He shivered at the thought of losing his best friend, his hope, but he did not how to say what he felt. He looked at Harry anxiously.

"No!" Neville drew a shuddering breath at that. "Merlin Harry! I thought for a horrible moment, Dumbledore could not persuade you." He said in a shaken voice.

"He almost did not Nev; but Fawkes, the Professor's phoenix, flamed down and somehow he calmed me enough to listen to Dumbledore." Harry replied feeling a fraud and a bit ashamed of putting his best friends through so much worry. "I have to compete apparently; otherwise my magic would leave me, and that Dumbledore says I'd be unfair to myself, especially, since I did not place my name in the Goblet. But," he scowled heavily, "if I find out who did this,"

"We'll help you kill them Harry." one Twin finished his sentence for him in an unnaturally grim voice.

"Thanks." Harry said, shocked. The last time the Twins, and indeed everyone else had cheered him and had refused to believe his desperate proclamations that he had never placed his name into the Goblet; this time, his stunt, had made the whole House realise the danger he was in. That someone placed his name into the Goblet to harm him, and it was not Harry seeking more fame than he had.

"Well we know whoever placed your name into the Goblet did not do it for fun. This Tournament could get ugly and to make a fourteen year old compete, well, if we catch them..."

There was another shock for Harry, when Ron spoke up. "Yeah, Harry, while I know I wanted to get into the bloody Tournament and win a thousand Galleons, you always said that it was dangerous and that you wanted no part of it. If we get the person who did this, don't worry mate, Gryffindor will decimate them."

"Hear! Hear!" chorused his House, and Harry, Hermione and Neville walked up to his and Neville's dorm, with offers of help from his Housemates ringing in his ears. Harry was a little bewildered at the change. While he had hoped his stunt would diffuse the tense and rather horrible situation that had existed the last time around, he had, never in his wildest dreams imagined the response and the support he was getting now. For heaven's sake, Ron was sympathetic and Harry did not know how to react to that.

All three friends plonked on Harry's bed. "I was so scared Harry, when your name was thrown up by the Goblet." Hermione said. "I couldn't believe it. I knew straightaway that someone was planning to do you in."

Neville nodded. "The same thought went through my head as well." He hesitated for a second and then braved on. "Could Mr. Malfoy have done something?"

Harry frowned. "He very well could have." Harry smiled at Neville's obvious relief that Harry had not taken his suggestion in the wrong way. "I'm going to ask Draco about it, when we meet him next."

"Don't be too obvious about it, Harry." at Harry's inquiring look, she added, "That you are accusing Mr. Malfoy of this."

"Of course." Harry agreed and then scowled. "I can't imagine how someone got through, though." He told them what Dumbledore had surmised, "Who could have had the power to confound the Goblet to placing my name under a different School?"

"It must be a teacher or a seventh year." Hermione said pensively.

"A teacher?" Harry exclaimed. "Could it be Moody? He's creepy enough; he put us all through an Unforgivable as if it was a stunner." He paused pensively for a second. "I don't think it could be the Heads of House; they've been here a long time, as have Trelawney, Hagrid, Vector, Hooch and Sinistra. What about the Muggle Studies teacher? Do you know her?"

Hermione looked thoughtful. "I agree; not any of the Heads, and surely not the Muggle Studies teacher Harry. I've met her; she's very nice, though that doesn't say much. Moody is the new one and so by default, he could be the one who did something." She giggled suddenly. "Perhaps, Harry, he was under the Imperius; and he put your name when he was controlled."

Harry and Neville laughed and Neville added chortling, "Yeah, and the person who placed him under the Imperius thought it an irony to teach all students to recognize that curse through an Imperius controlled Moody."

Hermione laughed along with Neville, while Harry was dumbfounded for a second, before he laughed along with them. They could never guess, he thought, how close they had come to unravelling the mystery of his name placed in the Goblet.

"He's crazy and paranoid enough, but who knows, such paranoid people can make the silliest of mistakes."

"Seriously though, we must keep an eye out for danger." Hermione said, laughter now all but vanished from her face. "We have to be careful, and Harry; don't go anywhere alone, please."

Harry nodded. "We can ask Draco to keep his eyes and ears open about anyone in Slytherin who looks suspicious; it could be them in cahoots with Bellatrix."

Hermione and Neville did not point the obvious that Draco could well be that person and for that Harry was thankful. "I'm meeting Draco tomorrow night, so we'll know if anyone from Slytherin has got to do with this."

Chatting for some more time, Hermione and Neville left for their beds, relieved that Harry was not going anywhere that evening. Harry, after a quick check through the Map for Barty Crouch Jr and Moody, went to bed after a satisfying performance, though he still felt bad he had put his best friends through so much. He knew Draco would be feeling just as terrible as Neville had about the fact he was leaving; Draco was at the crossroads and he was taking small steps towards the right side and he would be devastated if Harry left him in the lurch at this time. Harry got ready for bed, when he heard the unmistakable sounds of an owl tapping his window. He got up from his bed, and opened the window, to see a small school owl with a note tied to its leg. Harry used his wand to untie the note, levitate it to his desk beside his bed, before he ran the note through a few charms. When the note appeared clean, Harry took it in his hand and opened it.

Harry,

Are you alright? Not leaving are you? Is our meeting on for tomorrow night? I'll try and find out anything I can before tomorrow; don't come alone, in fact don't go anywhere alone Harry; bring Granger and Longbottom with you.

Take care,

Draco.

Harry's eyes softened as he read between the lines, and he took out a piece of parchment to write Draco, just as a low "Harry" sounded next to his curtains, before they were parted and Neville's face appeared. "I heard the tapping at the window Harry. Alright there?"

"Come on in Nev. See this." He held out Draco's note and watched Neville's face as he read it twice. "I've never been so relieved Harry. You know I've had my reservations about him; me and Hermione, but this note only shows his concern. I'm sorry Harry..."

Harry cut him off. "Don't say sorry. You and Hermione were watching my back and were thinking for my good. Don't apologise for that Nev. You went with what you had of the elder Malfoys and Merlin knows they don't smell of roses and Draco was a little snot when we first met him. I'm the one who's truly blessed Nev. With you and Hermione first and now Draco, I'm slowly getting confident I can pull this Tournament thing off."

"You will Harry." Neville promised him, making Harry feel like a fraud and then bidding Harry goodnight once again he left to sleep, relieved and cheered about Draco. Harry too, went to bed, after writing a short note reassuring Draco. They had met Draco a few times; Hermione and Neville; they were always polite, but Harry knew they still had their suspicions and were very cautious around him, even when they were outwardly friendly. He knew Draco had picked up on something, but he had his own problems and so did not give his fullest attention to these two, as he would have done otherwise. Now, Harry was sure, Neville and Hermione would understand that Draco was a friend. Harry sighed, tired by all that had happened and he still had to face Sirius in the morning. He knew Sirius and Remus would come to Hogwarts the moment they opened the Daily Prophet and read about his forced participation.

The next morning Harry woke up early, and finishing his morning ablutions, walked down to see Neville waiting for him. They sat down in the Common Room and waited for Hermione, who came down soon after. They walked together to the Great Hall, and Harry told her about Draco's note, and showed it to her. She smiled when she read the note Draco had written, relief showing openly in her pretty face. "I'm so glad to read this Harry." she said. "I wonder what news Draco will have for us tonight." Discussing all the possibilities, the three Gryffindors walked down to the Great Hall for their breakfast, Harry hoping that this time, no one would be openly antagonistic against him; if they did, he thought he would offer an oath on his magic.

The Great Hall fell silent as Harry entered and Harry stopped for a moment, deciding he would have to give a magical oath for him to be believed after all, when Cedric stood up from the Hufflepuff Table and smiled at him. "We are with you Harry. Hufflepuff will keep its eyes open for the idiot who placed your name into the Goblet, don't you worry."

Harry gaped for a second, before he beamed at Cedric. "Thanks Cedric. This shows what a Champion you are. I am willing to offer a magical oath that I did not place my name in the Goblet by any means, and I'm terribly happy you believe me."

"No need for an oath Harry. I believe you and so does Hufflepuff."

Harry smiled and with a wave, walked over to the Gryffindor Table.

"You know we believe you as well Harry?" a seventh year asked him.

"Thanks Logan. It means a lot to me." Harry smiled as everyone in Gryffindor nodded with the seventh year.

He heaved a huge sigh. "I was so scared to come down today Hermione. I didn't know how everyone would see it, especially Hufflepuff, whose moment of rightful glory I took away, even though it was not my fault."

"Of course it wasn't your fault Harry." Hermione said determinedly. "It was the fault of whoever put your name in the Goblet and I'll be keeping a close watch on Moody for one."

"Me too." Neville said when Ron butted in. "I believe you Harry, but I really wish someone had put my name into the bloody Goblet." He moaned.

"Or mine." Said one Twin, grinning.

"Or mine." Added the other Twin.

"You are all nutters, you know that don't you?" Harry asked laughing.

"Of course not Harry. A thousand galleons!" all three of them chorused, before laughing along with Harry, when the doors of the Great Hall burst open and two figures wildly ran in.

Sirius and Remus were furious, and they created such a scene in the Great Hall that they, thereby unknowingly furthered the opinion that Harry had nothing to do with the Goblet.

"This is it!" shouted Sirius, when Harry had barely begun his breakfast. "I'm withdrawing Harry James Potter from Hogwarts, effective immediately."

He rushed in, wand in his hand, in an attacking pose, with Remus looking equally angry, backing him, wand in his hand as well. Sirius looked at the Gryffindor Table and ran to Harry. "Harry!" he shouted again, before examining him closely, even as Dumbledore came down to once again explain. "Are you ok?"

"I'm fine Sirius." Harry started, even as Sirius leapt over the Gryffindor Table and hugged him hard.

"I'm really fine Sirius." Harry said smiling, before he frowned anxiously. "I did not put my name..."

"Of course you did not!" Sirius exclaimed. "If you did, you would have told me and everyone else you did it Harry. I don't know who's doing this, but whoever it is does NOT have anything good in mind."

"I quite agree." Remus said, "That's why we're removing you from here. Every year," Remus sighed angrily, "every single year, something or the other has happened, but this is way too dangerous Harry."

"Sirius, Remus," started Dumbledore who had by then joined them, as had McGonagall, but was rudely interrupted by Sirius. "I'm sorry Albus, but this time I'll not listen to you."

"Harry must compete." McGonagall said abruptly.

"Harry need not!" Sirius exploded and would have continued in the same tone, which was loud and rude, but was stopped once again by McGonagall.

"He will need to Sirius, unless you want his magic to leave him." She snapped.

Sirius froze, before he turned to look at McGonagall, absolute fury on his face. "What did you say? He hissed. "Lose his magic?" he asked, his eyes filling with an unholy rage; his wand now directly pointed at McGonagall. Suddenly, there was an uncomfortable breeze, and plates, glasses, spoons, knives and forks started rattling; Harry gaped, amazed to see this bout of uncontrollable magic and then he gasped when he noticed Remus's wand backing Sirius and pointing at McGonagall as well; who, in return, had her own wand in her hand, though to Harry's surprise, she kept it pointing down, rather than back at Remus and Sirius.

"Calm down!" Dumbledore said sharply to Sirius and Remus. "There will be no wand waving here; no fighting. We are all friends, colleagues. Put your wands down." He finished with a roar, power leaking off him in waves.

Remus was still staring at McGonagall, his eyes deeply amber, face in a snarl, and Sirius, hardly recognisable in his outrage, slowly lowered their wands almost unconsciously obeying the pure command in Dumbledore's voice. Harry noticed that both Sirius and Remus were still tightly clenching their wands as though, ready to go on the offensive at any moment. The Great Hall was silent, as everyone in there watched with amazement and not a bit of awe, as two people, outsiders, took on none other than Dumbledore and McGonagall. Harry chanced a look at the Staff Table, and he saw Snape, Flitwick, Sprout and Vector, all standing, their wands at the ready, and suddenly Harry wanted to laugh badly. This seemed so surreal to him, so outrageous to the point of being ridiculous and yet he dared not say a word, lest he started Sirius or Remus off to do something silly, like actually casting a spell at Dumbledore or McGonagall. They would probably be transfigured into flobberworms for the rest of their lives.

Dumbledore sighed. "Yesterday, someone with a lot of power to confound the Goblet, somehow placed Harry's name into it, and made the Goblet choose Harry's name as the fourth champion. You know very well, that if Harry refuses to compete, he would lose his magic, as the names placed inside the Goblet and those chosen by it, are magically bound."

Sirius and Remus were silent for a long moment; then, "Minerva, I'm sorry. I lost myself for a minute." Remus said softly, his eyes still amber, but his face no longer reflecting his anger. Sirius muttered an apology as well, though he was not looking repentant in the least.

McGonagall's lips were pressed so tight that they almost disappeared, but she shook her head reluctantly. "I know Remus. You were worried; though," her eyes lightened a bit, as she gave a small nearly invisible smile, "How on earth did you both think you could take me on, with Albus backing me up, I don't know!"

"I was not thinking Minerva, and neither was Sirius." Remus replied with a wry smile. "The moment you said Harry would lose his magic we stopped thinking. I've never felt so furious in my life." He shrugged.

"How to deal with this Albus?" Sirius was still clutching Harry tightly with one hand, broke in, in a defeated voice. "What to do now? Harry is smart, but he can't compete with adult witches and wizards in a competition that's known to kill competitors."

"We'll work it all out. Come to my office and we'll let the students eat their breakfast in peace, though," his eyes twinkled, "I'm quite sure they'll want to discuss this drama." He turned to face the Hall at large. "Since you lost quite a bit of time this morning, your first classes have been cancelled, and your day will begin from your second class. Thank you. Let Harry be here Sirius; he's among friends and he does need to go to his classes in a while."

Sirius looked reluctant, but then he hugged Harry tightly, and stepped aside for Remus to do the same and with a "Be careful Harry; we'll talk later", both of them walked away with Dumbledore and McGonagall. A huge sigh went around the Hall, before excited, but hushed conversations cropped up all over the four Tables. Harry sat down, and heaved a huge sigh himself, before attending to his breakfast, which remained warm; ah the benefits of magic, Harry thought as he started to inhale his food. All this had made him terribly hungry.

Slowly the whispers died down and Harry had another session with Sirius and Remus before they left Hogwarts, after their meeting with Dumbledore and McGonagall and Harry teased them a bit about almost attacking McGonagall of all people. Then, promising to be careful and never going anywhere alone, Harry saw them off the Hogwarts grounds with some relief. He could now try and get his life into some kind of normalcy and hopefully, with all the support he received, there would not be too much staring, whispering or nasty comments thrown around. Harry was still amazed at the changes, his simple but effective action the night his name came out had brought about. He wished he was clever to have done something like this the last time; this act had had the Professors firmly on his side, which in turn swayed the students, or was it that it was the students who had been shocked into believing him which in turn made the Professors believe too.

Harry, Hermione and Neville went that night to meet an anxious Draco, who had been unable to find anything. He told them, he had written to his father, fishing for information, though he and the others were doubtful Draco would receive anything in return. The note Draco sent, though, healed any awkwardness between him, Hermione and Neville, and Harry was glad for that.

"I tried asking around in Slytherin, but no one has any idea Harry; no one. I had to be discreet of course, but everyone was as stunned as me and all of you were. I mean, apart from the Dark Lord, who would do this? And He's not around now."

"Perhaps it was one of the kids of the Death Eaters, Draco. Maybe their father or mother had asked them to do this in revenge." Hermione said thinking furiously.

"I did think of that as well. In fact that was my first thought." He hesitated and then squared his shoulders. "I did not exempt any Death Eater Hermione. Not even," he swallowed, "my father. Which was why I asked around carefully if this was the case, but everyone was as baffled as me and couldn't think of anyone who could do this right under Dumbledore's nose, which was pretty daring of them if you ask me. Though many sympathisers do hope you'll get some." He scowled.

Harry surprised himself by hugging Draco hard. He knew how difficult it would have been for him to include his father, even as Hermione and Neville's mouths fell open. And Harry knew Draco had won both of them by that statement.

"Thanks Draco. I know how difficult it must have been to see everyone with suspicion, though, I'm quite sure your parents would not be a part of this, unless of course they were coerced by your Aunt. My suspicion is on her. I think she probably placed a student under the Imperius and had them do this."

"Or," Draco said bitterly, "She asked my father to use the curse on one of his Death Eater friend's child." His face suddenly blanched in horror. "Harry, you don't think he could have done something to me and made me do it?"

"Of course not!" Hermione was emphatic, before Harry could answer. "For one, you were in Moody's class and he threw the Imperius and cancelled it, and if you had that curse on, it would have been cancelled too at the time, which was before the Goblet was open. Also you would have never come tonight and neither would you have sent that note yesterday night, because your father does not know your friends with us."

Draco's face shone with relief and after chatting for some more time, the now four friends decided to meet next week, with hopefully more information. Harry had filled Draco with all he knew and then saying goodnight, they left for their common rooms for a well deserved rest.

The days sped by and Harry lived openly cautious, though still managing to land at least a detention a week, so that he could meet with Snape. Hermione and Neville were now firmly convinced Draco was alright, and they went out of their way to meet and chat up with Draco, perhaps Harry thought, to make up for all their suspicions of him. It certainly made Draco happier at a time he was confused, scared and unable to trust anyone in his house, which was slowly closing up, as the Dark Marks started getting brighter on the Death Eater's forearms. Draco had to be extremely careful when he met with Harry and by the time the first task rolled by, he and the other Slytherins were nearly openly hostile, with the common study sessions that had marked Harry's second year coming to a complete halt. The School was going back to the way Harry remembered of his time and while it frustrated Harry no end, he really could not do anything about it. So he kept his head down and tried to become as invisible as he could, thinking that he could do a lot more from behind the shadows at this time, than openly against such hostility.

The first task was on the 24th of November and that day dawned clear and cold. While there were no "Harry Stinks" badges from the Slytherins, there weren't many voices of support either. Harry shrugged it all off and armed with the knowledge it was dragons; Hagrid had once again come through and Harry had lost no time telling Cedric about it, before he, Hermione, Neville and Draco held furious study sessions about how to combat the dragon. Moody had once again cornered Harry and offered suggestions which Harry accepted, nodding at all the right places and then it was the day.

Harry picked the Hugarian Horntail once again, but he had decided to do things a little differently this time. While he could have fly circles around the Ridgeback, he wanted to see if he could do something else this time at least in this task, if not the other two. He had discussed using his broom against the Horntail, but seeing the dragon, he wondered if he could be a bit of a show off this time.

He waited patiently until he was called; he was last as he was last time too, the others judging by the shouts had gone the same way. He walked out calmly when it was his turn and looked at the fierce Horntail, which was glaring right back at him. He lifted his wand and whispered what appeared to be a 'Stupefy!" over and over again, very quickly, some 20 times; Harry really kept casting the Stupify, until the last time, he used a non verbal parseltongue spell meant to subdue dragons put them to sleep for a while, that he had found in the Black Library and put an adequate amount of power into it. The moment it hit the Horntail, she tucked her legs beneath her and closed her eyes falling into a slumber. Harry then walked slowly, but confidently to the enclosure, stepped carefully over the eggs, removed the golden egg and walked out to a roar of unbelievable cheer. He looked up to see Snape standing very close along with Sirius and Remus; he needed to check his eyes Harry thought with a bemused smile at the sight of three of them standing so close together, holding their wands high, prepared to attack the dragon at a moment's notice.

Sirius and Remus broke away at that moment, even as Snape lowered his wand, and ran towards him, hugging him tightly.

"You were brilliant!" Sirius shouted, trembling; "Merlin, I was so worried; though I thought you were going to use your broom?"

"Yeah, but some time back, Hermione was telling me about how it takes some 15 stunners to subdue the dragon and I thought, if I got all of them close together I could do that with a lot less risk. Hermione and Neville had come running by then and Harry explained everything once again. Remus frowned though. "I thought you had to get all the stunners together?"

"Well I did. Almost all at once, didn't I? I tried to place the spells as close together as I could and luckily it worked. If it hadn't I would have summoned my broom."

They walked towards the tent and after reassuring Madam Pomfrey that he was not hurt, they walked out to hear the scores. Harry found he was placed in first place with Krum, and walked away from the dragons' enclosure with relief. The first task was over. Only two more to go, and maybe he could take down Voldemort and even some of his Death Eaters, starting with Barty Crouch Jr first.

The days after that slipped by and it was soon time for the Yule Ball for which Harry had been told by McGonagall to bring a date to, since he would be leading the Ball with the other three Champions. All his arguing that he was not an official Champion and that he wanted to go home for Mid-Winter fell on deaf ears, as McGonagall snapped at him.

"I'm sorry Potter, but why are you whining. You know you need to attend the Ball?" she snapped her patience beginning to disappear.

"Can I go alone?" he asked stubbornly.

"No." She snapped again. "Now, don't make a fuss and argue; I'm not going to agree. Bring a date to the Ball and behave. You represent both Hogwarts and Gryffindor. Understand? Now leave."

That was final and he grumbled to Snape in one of their detentions, who seemed equally unsympathetic.

"You are forty years old and you tell me you cannot avail yourself of a date for a single evening?" How ..." Snape paused quaintly for a moment before smirking, "Pathetic!"

Harry glared at the man, who smirked at him. "I am forty years old and that's why asking any child for a date sounds so wrong. They are all very nearly my daughter's age and if you can't understand that..." he began hotly, when Snape intervened smoothly.

"It's only for a single evening, for a few hours; you don't even have to dance or tell your partner she's your daughter's age. Good heavens Potter don't whine so. Get someone to go with you, if not as a date, then as a companion for a evening you cannot avoid. Now," he finished warningly, as he saw Harry about to start once again about how unfair everything was, "don't start again."

And that was that. Harry left the detention and slowly walked up, wondering what to do and who to ask, when his eyes fell on a small blonde girl humming to herself, walking barefoot in the cold and searching for something. Harry could not believe he had forgotten about Luna and he felt a surge of hot fury run through him as he saw her bare feet upon the cold stone.

"Hey!" he said cordially. "Aren't you cold?" he asked nodding at her feet.

Luna blinked, her protuberant eyes huge on her face. "Hello Harry Potter!" she said.

"Yes, I'm Harry Potter; what's your name? You know mine, but I don't know yours." He smiled.

Luna tilted her head and blinked again. "You don't?" she asked in surprise. "Well, my name's Luna Lovegood, Harry Potter."

"Hi Luna Lovegood." Harry grinned and lifted his wand. "Accio Luna's shoes and socks." He frowned as her shoes and a fair many pairs socks came flying towards him from various armours and behind some portraits. "In fact, Accio all Luna's things hidden away without her knowledge."

Books, quills, parchments, some garments, butterbeer bottle caps all came flying from everywhere and Harry scowled, furious at the thought, that Luna was being bullied. "How long has this been going on?" he snarled at her in anger, even as she sat down, bewildered at the thought someone had actually helped her to find her things, and that they were seriously angry on her behalf.

"Thank you." She said quietly, not knowing how to respond.

Harry frowned at her. "Tell me Luna. Has this been going on since you came? Which year are you in?"

Luna ignored his first question. "I'm in third year. Thank you Harry Potter. You're a nice man."

Harry was about to reply, when he froze at her words. Nice man! What did she mean? Did she know? She was always capable of seeing what others could not, but could she really see this? Harry was stunned and he stared at her, only to realise she was staring back at him.

After a few very uncomfortable moments, Harry squared his shoulders and asked her once again. "Who did this Luna? Tell me; I won't confront them I promise. Not openly." He grinned maliciously. "But we can prank them."

Luna smiled and thanked him once again, but did not say anything else. Harry looked at her frustrated, and then he sighed. "Ok, will you at least help me ward your things, so that no one will ever be able to handle them without your permission?"

"You know warding?" she asked brightly.

Harry cringed at his mistake. "Umm .. yeah, I do know some basic wards. I came across this wonderful book called the Self-Updating Book of Spells, and I started learning about warding and I've since then found it fascinating. But Luna," he hesitated, "I haven't told anyone else. So," he ran down.

"Don't worry Harry Potter. I won't say a word about anything." Luna replied easily, as she pulled on her socks and shoes; seeing that bought a surge of anger to Harry's face again.

"Come on; let's set up the Ravenclaw bullies." Harry grinned and conjured a bag for her and he placed all her things into them, and then helped her get up and waited expectantly for Luna to lead the way to Ravenclaw Tower.

She smiled at him, her eyes puzzled as stared at him for a long moment, as though she couldn't figure him out then, her eyes cleared and she led the way, holding on to Harry's hand all the way to Ravenclaw Tower.

"Wait here!" She told him and placed her bag into his hands, and went inside and returned shortly with her trunk.

Harry took the trunk from her and led her to a small room not far from the Tower. Harry placed the trunk on the floor and placed her bag on top of the trunk and thought for a minute, before swept his wand over both. Turning to Luna he smiled, "There all done; just needs a drop of your blood to bind your things to you. Anyone else touching them without your permission will be surprised."

Luna silently nicked her finger with her wand and placed a drop of blood on her trunk and bag.

"What about my assignments Harry Potter? How will I hand them in? Won't the Professors be hexed too?" she giggled.

"Ah!" Harry grinned. "While that's a nice thought, anyone to whom you give any of your things will come to no harm; while anyone who thinks they can help themselves to your things, thinking it to be funny, will find themselves in quite a state. So don't worry about that. OK?"

She beamed at him and gave him a small hug. Harry was flustered for a second, before he hugged her back. "Thank you Harry Potter! Goodnight." She grinned as Harry made her trunk featherlight. As she was entering the Tower, he called out on an impulse.

"Hey Luna! Can I ask you something?"

"Sure. I'll come to the Yule Ball with you. As friends, of course. Goodnight."

She smiled at him once more and walked inside levitating her trunk.

Harry stood there stunned; he stared at her as she walked away, wondering to make sense of what had just happened. How on earth had she known he was going to ask her to the Ball? He had had no idea about it until a second before. Before he could ponder on that, he was caught by Snape, who had been prowling the corridors. Seeing Harry, he hissed angrily at him.

"What are you doing here?"

"Righting a wrong." Harry sighed. "I'm done for now and I'm going back to my dorm. You can give me a couple of detentions that you can spread out."

"Don't talk here; it's not safe." Snape hissed as he looked around cautiously. "Detention Potter!" his voice rose to his normal volume. "In fact make those three detentions for the half hour you have been outside wandering in the corridors. One for every ten minutes. What are you doing here?"

Harry rolled his eyes and was about to answer, when there was another sound; of uneven steps coming close to them.

"Who's here?" asked a gruff voice and both Harry and Snape turned to see the false Moody coming towards them, his wand held aloft.

"What are you doing here Snape? And with a student that too?" he snarled.

"I am patrolling the corridors and last time I checked the roster in the Staff Room, this area was mine. So, what are you doing here?" Snape snarled back, before his voice became smooth. "As you can see even with that one eye of yours, I've caught Potter breaking the rules as usual. I've just finished assigning him detention." He said voice filled with satisfaction. "Oh and before I forget Potter," he drawled rather nastily, "a point for every minute you've been out, which makes it," he cast a Tempus charm, "thirty two points."

"Come on Potter. No need to stand talking to a .. Snape." Moody's voice couldn't have been more obvious about what he thought of Snape. Harry glanced at Snape's face as it pinched in anger.

"A what Moody?" he hissed softly.

"I don't believe in you Snape, whatever Dumbledore may say." Moody replied. "I'll be watching you closely."

"Dumbledore trusts me and you may sure I'll take this to him." Snape snarled. "What are you waiting here for Potter?" he snapped at Harry. "Go on! Get back to your dorm."

"Come on boy, I'll escort you back." Moody's tone left room for no argument and Harry walked silently along with Moody, knowing Snape had his back. Snape indeed had Harry's back. He walked behind Harry quite obviously and Moody turned back to Snape and glared.

Snape glared back. "You refuse to trust me with him Moody," he hissed in fury; "I'll give you the same courtesy." Harry saw his opportunity and started walking to the Gryffindor Common Room. He heard their voices raised in anger and McGonagall's voice cutting across theirs suddenly, then there was only silence. Harry started running and banged into Hermione and Neville at the next corner.

"Ouch!" said three voices and then, Hermione hugged him in relief. "Where were you? We've been searching for you since curfew."

Harry hugged her and whispered, even as he pulled her and Neville towards their common room. "I have something to tell you, but first let's get to our common room before the Professors catch us."

The three of them hurtled towards Gryffindor Tower and once safely inside, Harry lost no time in telling Hermione and Neville about how he had found Luna, and how he helped her. "That was why I was late and it was my bad luck Snape caught me. He gave me three detentions and I lost thirty two points, but in the end I felt it was worth it."

Hermione nodded furious. "Of course it was. How dare the Ravenclaws bully her like that? She may be a tad crazy, but that's no reason to hide her things and make her walk barefoot in winter. She could have fallen ill."

Neville looked disturbed too. "You did the right thing Harry. Your detentions are worth it, though it would mean more time away from us and the points lost don't matter."

"That's what I thought." Harry said and the three friends fell into a comfortable silence before going off to their dorms for a well deserved sleep.

The next morning, Harry, Hermione and Neville walked down to the Great Hall and there, Harry excused himself from his friends and walked up to Ravenclaw Table where Luna was sitting alone, humming softly to herself. Harry noted with satisfaction that she was wearing shoes.

"Hey Luna! Good morning." He grinned at her.

"Good morning Harry Potter!" she smiled and started humming again, while the other Ravenclaws giggled at her apparently lunatic ways.

"Would you like to have breakfast with us Luna? You haven't started yet."

She looked up at him, startled, before she beamed. "I would like that." She said softly. Harry glared at the Ravenclaw Table and satisfied to see many sheepish faces.

"Come on, then." He said and held his arm for her and led her to the Gryffindor Table, where she was greeted warmly by Hermione and Neville.

They had breakfast together, Hermione becoming more and more bemused at the magical creatures Luna talked about, while Harry and Neville were hard pressed to stop laughing at Hermione's expression. But Hermione did not snap at the younger girl and soon, after Harry asked her to join them for all meals, the three friends and Luna went to their respective classes.

Meanwhile at the Staff Table, the Professors had been watching closely. "What was all that about?" McGonagall asked confused. "I never knew Harry knew Miss Lovegood."

"I found Potter near the Ravenclaw Common Room yesterday night, and I must say it was rewarding." Snape smirked. "I assigned him three detentions and took thirty two points off him for being outside alone after curfew. Perhaps he was meeting with the Lovegood girl at the time." Snape finished in a satisfied tone and McGonagall glared at him, but was unable to say anything since Harry was clearly in the wrong; she had after all known about this last night, when she had happened to come across a furious Snape and an unrepentant Moody.

That evening, Harry met Snape after dinner for the first of his three detentions.

"Hey!" he called as soon as Snape had warded his office.

Snape glared at him at his familiarity. "What happened last night?" he asked ignoring Harry's greetings.

So, Harry explained about Luna, furious that her fellow Ravenclaws were treating her so poorly. "To hide her things so; they should be punished; well, they'll be. All they have to do is to try and take things from Luna again."

Snape was oddly silent as Harry told him about Luna and her bullying and how Harry had stood up for her and placed protective hexes for her. He nodded as Harry finished but didn't say a word.

"Oh," Harry said, "I have to go to my vault and get the Slytherin Locket."

Snape frowned. "Why?"

"I've an idea; I want to use the Locket to ask for Kreacher's help to retrieve the Hufflepuff Cup from Bellatrix's Vault. If he knows we completed the job his Master gave him, he may be more amenable to helping us with the Hufflepuff Cup."

Snape shook his head. "I don't think that'll work Potter and it's dangerous. Kreacher's loyalty is not with you."

"I agree; but I don't think Kreacher's complete loyalty is with the family he lives with either. His first loyalty is and would always be with Regulus. And we destroying the Locket, would gain us his loyalty; somewhat ambiguous I know, but still we'd have the upper hand instead of the Malfoys. I knew Kreacher, and while I was glad to get him out of the way when Sirius told me he had kicked him out, in the last timeline he was pretty helpful, and he would have been more so, if only I had known more about the Wizarding World and it's working and how to get him to help us in such a way it would have benefitted us and him. I could have made far better use of Kreacher and at the same time, given him a far better lifestyle than what he received once I was his Master."

Snape looked doubtful, as they argued the point to and fro, then he reluctantly nodded and looked at his watch. "Shall we go now?"

"Are you sure no one will find out if we're gone together; I could go and be back in about twenty minutes .."

"No Potter!" Snape said firmly. "You are not going out alone. That's not negotiable."

Harry looked at him for a minute and then he said, "I hope you will never reveal this; this comes under your oath as well."

Snape sneered. "I thought everything did."

"Yeah." Harry grinned and a second later he was rewarded by an undignified squeak from the Potions Master, when in Harry's place there was a lovely Phoenix.

Harry spread his wings and flew gracefully in the air and trilled softly, before flying down to his chair and changing back.

"That was one hell of a squeak, Snape. I never knew you did squeaks." Harry laughed as he sat down. Snape was still gaping at him to sneer in reply.

"I've never known anyone whose Animagus form is a Phoenix." He spluttered, his eyes still reflecting his shock. "Next you'll be telling me you have more than one form." Seeing Harry's expression he actually groaned. "Don't tell me you do."

In response Harry changed into the viper and then standing up he moved away from the chair and transformed into a stag.

Snape stared.

Harry laughed as he changed back once again and sat down. "No one knew about the Phoenix and Viper forms except Hermione, Ron and Ginny. I used them, especially the viper to sneak about."

Snape was still staring at him.

"Snape?" Harry called in amusement and then a bit more loudly. "Snape? Are you quite there?"

"Very funny." Snape glared at Harry.

"So as I was saying, if you'll cover for me, I'll be back in a few minutes with the Locket using the Phoenix form, and then we can Kreacher to negotiate."

Snape still looked reluctant, but then agreed. "I suppose you can go and return quicker than if we went the conventional way." He paused for a second, uneasy. "Potter, be very careful."

"I will be ." Harry said and then transforming into a Phoenix he flashed to a quiet point near Gringotts, walked inside, and was out in fifteen minutes and a second later he flashed to Snape's office and changed back. Snape was pacing the floor looking tense and he looked up in obvious relief when he saw the Phoenix. He strode to his chair as Harry changed back and removed the Locket.

"What next?" he asked tersely. "You were careful at Gringotts? And the Phoenix was the reason you went alone to retrieve the Stone alone?"

Harry nodded to Snape's last question and answered the first two. "I was very careful Snape and now we call for Kreacher."

Snape nodded and Harry took a deep breath. This must go properly for them to defeat Voldemort and without too many casualties.

"Kreacher!" he called firmly.

End of Chapter – 31