Disclaimer: If you recognize it, I don't own it.
Summary: This starts off during the Goblet of Fire, with two changes in the initial conditions. First, Hermione doesn't believe Harry when he tells her that he did not put his name in the Goblet. And second, Harry has an odd sort of friendship with Daphne Greengrass which has slowly grown since a chance meeting in their first year. Flashbacks will explain that a little more throughout the story. Enjoy.
As the sun began to set over Hogwarts, its most famous student was sitting outside by the shore of the lake contemplating the events of the previous few days. 'Well, this year has gone downhill a little earlier than normal,' Harry Potter thought with a sad smile.
The previous night his name had come out of the Goblet of Fire, despite the fact that he had never put it in. Thinking about the Weasley twins' unsuccessful attempt to enter the contest he wondered how such a thing was even possible. As bad as that night had been, today was even worse. No one, not even his best friends Ron and Hermione, believed him when he insisted that he had not put his name in the Goblet of Fire. Neville seemed to be the closest to believing him, and that was only because he responded with a confused look and a shrug saying "I don't know, Harry". A huge screaming match had broken out at lunch when Harry tried to talk to Ron and convince him to see it from his point of view, and as a result he doubted that he would be on speaking terms with his alleged 'best mate' for quite some time. That had also cost his house 20 points, courtesy of Professor Snape. Hermione didn't scream at him, but let it be plainly known that she didn't believe him either and was upset with him for breaking the rules so blatantly. So Harry was out here, trying to avoid them and rest of his classmates. But the sound of footsteps approaching told him that not everyone was trying to avoid him.
"Hello Potter" said a some what emotionless voice that was still quite pretty. Harry looked up from his thoughts to see Daphne Greengrass. At first he was a little surprised by her sudden appearance, but after a moment's thought realized it was entirely typical of their previous interactions with each other. Harry didn't think they were friends exactly, but it seemed like once every few months they would find themselves in long intense conversations, typically about the dangerous circumstances that Harry constantly found himself in. Other conversations were about her frustrations with the expectations placed on her as a member of one of the "elite pureblood families". It was odd in that there was usually very little small talk and at other times they barely even acknowledged each other. Harry reasoned that they were both amused about the secret "friendship" between a Gryffindor and a Slytherin. Not even Ron and Hermione were aware that Harry had ever talked to Daphne outside of class.
As Daphne sat down on the shore a few feet from him, Harry took the opportunity to really look at her again. She had grown up quite a bit from the first time the spoke during the winter break of their first year. Harry knew the blond haired Slytherin had a reputation for not only being one of the most beautiful girls in the school but also as unapproachable. She had few friends and didn't seem interested in making any more, another one of the reasons that Harry was intrigued by their odd friendship. For a few minutes neither of them spoke, but simply turned and watched the lake. Finally, Daphne broke the silence.
"Well Potter, I'm waiting." she said, looking at Harry expectantly.
"Waiting for what?" Harry answered with a confused look on his face.
"For you to tell me that you didn't put your name in the Goblet of Fire." she answered simply.
"But I didn't! Why won't anyone believe me?" Harry said loudly.
"Calm down. I believe you, Potter. Putting your name in the goblet like that just isn't your style. Now if you believed that doing something so reckless and stupid might help out those ignorant friends of yours, then I believe you would do it without hesitation. But for fame? No, that just isn't you." Daphne explained. Harry let out a sigh, happy that someone had finally believed him. "So I take it you can't just refuse to compete can you?"
"No, apparently the fact that I didn't put my name in doesn't matter. It is still a magically binding contract, and the penalty for breaking it would apparently be severe." Daphne nodded at his response, having expected it. Anyone who broke a contract like that would likely end up dead, or if they were really lucky they would spend the rest of their life as a squib.
"Well then I guess you compete. Did they tell you anything about what the tasks are going to be?"
"Not a thing. I will probably just end up hoping to luck my way out of another bad situation. Seems to be my lot in life." Harry answered with a small laugh. Daphne caught the genuine laugh at the end of his statement, realizing that his depressed mood was starting to lift a little. "Do you know what pisses me off the most about this though? That my two 'best friends' don't believe me. What's wrong with them? I mean, you figured it out and I would think that by now they would know me better than you. No offense to you, of course."
"None taken. They will probably come around eventually. Well, Granger will at least. Weasley strikes me as a jealous idiot so I wouldn't hold my breath on that one."
"I don't think I am going to worry about it. I just have too much else to think about right now. Like how in the hell I am going to get through three tasks set up to test the skills of wizards three years older than me."
Daphne nodded her head in agreement with his decision. "A wise choice, Potter. I knew you had it in you. Any idea how you are going to prepare?"
"It would be a whole lot easier if I knew what I was preparing for. I guess I will just start going through the defense and charms books for this year and the next few, trying to learn all the spells I can so that the other might not have too much of an advantage." Harry said with a sigh.
"I'm a little bit surprised you hadn't done that already. Don't give me that 'what are you talking about' look, you know exactly what I mean. You've somehow managed to get yourself into life threatening situations every single year that we've been here. I swear Potter, don't make me be the only one trying to keep you alive." Daphne answered with a smile and a small shake of her head.
Harry laughed and said "Yes but if you didn't that would mean there wasn't anyone in Gryffindor worth talking to, wouldn't it?"
"Too true." she said, softly laughing with him. And for a few minutes they just sat there silently, each enjoying the other's company while staring out over the Black Lake as the sun finally set. Eventually, Daphne turned back to him and said "It is getting dark, I'm going to head in. What about you?" she asked as she stood up and brushed the dirt off of her school robes.
"I think I will sit out here for a few more minutes."
"Suit yourself." Daphne responded as she turned to walk away.
"Hey, Greengrass." Harry said prompting Daphne to turn back towards him. "Thanks. I guess I needed someone to knock some sense into me." Daphne smiled at his thanks and answered, "Your welcome." Harry watched her take a few steps back towards the castle before she stopped and turned around again looking like there was something she wanted to say.
"You know, if you want some help preparing for the tournament I will be around." Daphne said with an uncertain look on her face.
"I'll remember that. Whatever it is I'll be doing, I would appreciate the help." Harry said with a grin on his face. Daphne didn't answer, just nodded in acceptance and continued walking back to the castle. Harry watched her go, feeling as if her offer of help had really been an offer of friendship. And he was glad to have at least one friend who wanted to be around him.
That night Harry's dreams were thankfully not about a large old house containing Wormtail and Voldemort, but were instead about the first time Harry had truly met Daphne. The dream started with an eleven year old Harry staring at the Mirror of Erised. He had sat there looking at it for hours, trying to figure out what it all meant. Eventually Dumbledore had found him staring at the mirror and ended his obsession with it, but that night still lay in the future during this memory. Finally deciding it was time for him to get back to his room, young Harry picked himself up and walked out the door. He was so lost in his own thoughts he never stopped to put his invisibility cloak back on or to make sure no one was watching him.
"You've been looking at the mirror all night, haven't you?" a voice softly spoke from the shadows, startling Harry. His first instinct was to run, but he doubted the person meant him any actual harm and he was already caught anyway. So he walked towards where the voice had come from and found a girl he recognized as a first year Slytherin sitting on a bench watching him. He tried to recall her name, but could not.
"Hi, I'm Harry Potter." he finally answered.
"I know. I'm Daphne Greengrass, and you didn't answer my question." she reminded him.
"You already know I've been looking at the mirror. You've tried it too, haven't you? What did you see?" asked Harry excitedly.
"That's an extremely personal question to ask someone you just met." Seeing his confused face, Daphne asked "You do know what the mirror does, don't you? It shows you what you want the most, so basically you just asked me what do I want more than anything else in the world." Harry seemed to think about this for a few moments, and then nodded in agreement.
"I see my parents." Daphne sighed at Harry's willingness to give up extremely personal information. Very un-Slytherin. "But something has been bothering me. I can't remember what they look like and I've never seen a picture of them, so I wonder if that is what they actually look like or is it just my imagination." Harry sat down on the bench next to Daphne, obviously this question had been annoying him for quite some time.
"I don't know, but if I had to guess I would say that they probably looked like what you see in the mirror. Even if you can't really remember them, I am sure the knowledge is still somewhere in your head. The mirror has to be reading your mind somehow to know what you want, right?" she reasoned.
"I guess so. I always knew that what I was seeing wasn't real, but it just feels hard to look away, you know?" Harry said.
"Yes, I do. I'm not going to tell anyone that you've been looking at the mirror this whole time, but I am not going to look at it anymore and if you know what's good for you you won't either. It's like looking at the mirror is addicting, and the more you do it the more you want it." Harry knew she was right, but also knew that he would most likely be back the next night if for nothing more than a peak. But he promised himself that he would use it less, now worried that the mirror might be some type of evil artifact. Part of his mind argued that the mirror didn't feel evil and there was certainly nothing evil about the images it showed, but the worry remained. Trying to shake that thought, his attention turned towards the pretty girl sitting next to him. He knew next to nothing about her, other than the fact that she was in Slytherin and they had a few classes together.
"I'm surprised you're even bothering to talk to me about this, me being a Gryffindor and you a Slytherin. Aren't you guys supposed to hate our guts?" he asked a little bit sarcastically.
"I don't care too much for the house rivalry nonsense. Seems like a big waste of time. Sure, I'll cheer for Slytherin during Quidditch but that's as far as I am willing to go. But don't you change Potter, watching you and Weasley's little feud against Malfoy is very entertaining." Daphne laughed as she said. Harry shrugged his shoulders at that, wondering if the rest of the school felt that way about him and Draco. The blond little punk just brought out the worst in him.
"Glad you're enjoying the show, I guess." Harry answered. "Although, the best entertainment still comes from the Weasley twins."
"Don't remind me." Daphne groaned. "In November they somehow managed to turn my hair bright blue. Allegedly a third year girl in my house was the intended target and I just got in the way. They apologized, but ran off before I could demand they turn it back. It lasted two whole days!" Harry laughed, that sounded like something they would do. He wondered briefly if he would have made friends with Daphne if he had been sorted into Slytherin like the Sorting Hat wanted. He didn't remember her hanging out with Malfoy's group of friends, so that was definitely a point in her favor. Eventually he decided that it would indeed have been possible, one thing of many that would have been different if he had not become a Gryffindor.
A few minutes later Harry yawned and said "It's late, I'm going to bed now. It was nice talking to you."
"Good night, Potter." she told him as he got up and started walking back towards his room while she continued sitting on the bench. Watching as the dream ended, Harry noted that Daphne had never called him Harry. It was always Potter. And he had taken her lead and always called her Greengrass. 'Strange...' he thought as his sleep cycle shifted and his memories of first year slipped from his consciousness.
The next morning Harry was up early, hoping that he could make it to breakfast and finish before Ron made it there. The night before Ron had made sure that Harry overheard all of the insults and accusations he had made about Harry while talking to Seamus during a game of chess. Harry had eventually gotten so frustrated with Ron's behavior that he slammed his book shut and hastily walked out of the common room towards their dorms and was in bed with the curtains drawn by the time Ron finally made it back to the room an hour later. Harry also wasn't particularly happy with Hermione, who had witnessed the entire scene and yet had said nothing about it. She just sat there pretending to read with an odd expression on her face. He had expected her to say something, anything, but in the end she had just tried to act like there was nothing out of the ordinary going on.
Harry got to the Great Hall early enough to be one of the first people there. The only other Gryffindors there were a small group of seventh years frantically going over notes for an up coming test. Harry had heard talk about how difficult the NEWT year was, and for a moment was thankful that he was not in their place. Then he chuckled, remembering just what his current situation was. Making his way to a seat towards the middle of the long table, Harry sat down and began his breakfast. About ten minutes later Harry noticed Neville coming into the Great Hall and smiled when he sat down at the table across from him.
"Good morning, Harry." Neville said casually as he began to eat. Harry dropped his fork and stared at him in confusion. Just yesterday Neville had been one of the people not sure what to think about Harry and his place in the Triwizard Tournament.
"Neville, do you still think I put my name in the Goblet of Fire?" Harry asked.
"You've always been nice to me, Harry. And I don't think you have ever lied to me, so if you say you didn't do it I believe you. I'm just sorry it took me so long to see it that way." Neville answered. Harry's smile got a lot bigger when he heard this, now thankful that he had a few friends who believed him.
"Thank you, Neville. That really means a lot to me." Harry responded sincerely. Neville just grinned at him as an answer and went back to eating his breakfast. When they started talking again the topics were of the normal sort that Harry had missed for the past two days: complaining about evil professors (like Snape, obviously), worrying about schoolwork, and Neville excitedly explaining a Herbology project he was working on for extra credit. Harry wasn't quite sure why Neville wanted extra credit in Herbology, he had the best grade in their entire year in that subject. Better even than Hermione's, whom seemed to have a perfect grasp of the theory but trouble working with the actual plants. Their conversation was interrupted by the sounds of an argument coming from the entrance to the Great Hall. Harry looked over to see Ron and Hermione practically yelling at each other, although it was hard to figure out what exactly they were fighting about. As they got closer it became clear that each one was blaming the other for making them late for breakfast. Harry laughed at the thought that in a small way it was his fault. He was usually the one to make sure Ron woke up on time and got Hermione to stop studying for the days classes so that they would be able to eat without being rushed. Harry took their entrance as a sign that it was time for him to leave, which he did after a quick good bye to Neville.
Thankfully neither of them saw Harry as he made his way out of the Great Hall and down towards the dungeon where his first class of the day, Potions, would be held. 'At least there is one thing around here I can count on,' Harry thought with a sarcastic grin, 'Snape's undying hatred for me. Yay.'
The next few days passed rather uneventfully. Other than Malfoy's random insults, the only person to really talk to Harry was Neville. Harry supposed he should be more upset than he was, but he had been an outcast at Hogwart's before and found it hard to care about the opinions of such fickle people. Once that week, he had passed Daphne in the hallway and she had sent a small smile his way. In his spare time he had taken to spending hours in the library looking for new spells and ways to make up for his youth and inexperience during the tournament. He had occasionally seen Hermione studying in the library, but he made no attempt to approach her and repair their battered friendship. She made no effort either, other than sending sad looks his way. Harry had decided he had done nothing wrong, and therefore the responsibility for making the first move towards fixing things should be made by one of them. The rest of his free time was spent in an empty and seemingly long abandoned classroom he had found on the third floor, not far from where the three headed dog had been kept in his first year. Here he could practice the spells he had taken notes on in the library without worrying about other people watching him. After a few days of this Harry was already able to perform almost all of the spells from this year's books in Defense Against the Dark Arts, Charms, and Transfigurations. He was confident that by sometime in the next week he would be able to start fifth year spells.
After a long night of practice, Harry made his way back to the Gryffindor common room, exhausted from the several hours of practice he had put himself through. His private training was going much better than he had expected it to. Despite his only slightly above average grades Harry had noticed that he was almost always one of the first people in his classes to master a new spell. The problem was that his excellence in the practical portion of the classes was negated by his subpar performance in the theoretical parts. Harry knew he wasn't stupid, he just didn't put forth the effort to do the written assignments that he should have. Part of him wanted to blame Ron (who was even lazier than he was) for that, but was aware that in the end it was his responsibility. Harry made a vow to himself to try harder from now on, because he knew that his life rested in his own hands and he needed to be prepared. He was so engrossed in these thoughts and his desire to crawl into bed and stay there for the next week or so that he didn't even hear his name being called until it was repeated, this time a little louder.
"Harry!" It was Ron, sitting on one of the large, comfortable chairs in front of the fireplace in the common room. "Can I talk to you for a minute?" Harry just stood there staring at him for a few seconds. 'Could Ron really be about to apologize for his behavior? Before even Hermione?' he thought. Harry nodded his head and walked over, sitting down in another chair near Ron's. Harry waited for his estranged friend to start while Ron looked nervous and uncomfortable, trying to figure out exactly what he was going to say.
"Listen mate, I know we got into a big fight about the Goblet of Fire but I was hoping we could put that behind us. You should see how unhappy Hermione's been. But I guess what I really meant to say was..."
'Here it comes,' Harry thought, 'Ron is actually going to apologize for one of his mistakes. Wow.'
"...I forgive you." Ron stated simply, as if that was what Harry should have been expecting to hear.
"You what?!" Harry yelled in shock.
"I forgive you." Ron answered, seemingly oblivious to Harry's rising anger. "I was mad that you found a way to put your name in the cup and didn't tell us. Then even more when you wouldn't just admit it to us, but I get it now. You're better off if you can convince people that you didn't break the rules." Harry stared at Ron, trying to convince himself not to curse Ron for his stupidity. Through it all, Ron grinned in the belief that he had done the right thing.
"Ron, I'm not going to tell you again. I did not put my name in the Goblet of Fire. I do not want to be in this tournament, and if they would let me quit I would in a heartbeat. I have been honest with you about this entire thing, and I have no reason to apologize. You are the one that should be asking for forgiveness." Harry said, raising his voice just a little.
"You are such a bloody liar!" Ron spat back. "We all know what you did, there is no use in denying it! You should have at least told your best friend how you did it, maybe I could have tried to enter too. But no, you've got to have it all for yourself, don't you? And here I was, trying to be the better man about the whole thing and you just throw it back in my face. Screw you, Harry!" With that Ron stormed off from the common room and into the bedroom, slamming the door as he went. Harry watched him go, wondering if he had just witnessed the end of his friendship with Ron Weasley. Even if not, he realized, they could never go back to the friendship they had before. That bridge had been burnt to a crisp. Having no desire to follow Ron up to the room, Harry moved to a couch and laid down deciding to nap for a bit and wait for Ron to fall asleep before he went to bed. Soon his tiredness won out over his anger and Harry drifted off to sleep. When morning came hours later and the earliest risers started waking they found him still asleep on the couch. Most of them just thought it was odd, but some of those that knew him better wondered what was wrong with Harry Potter.
The following days proceeded much like those before them, with the exception of Ron being even more of an ass than he had ever been. Harry thought Hermione still looked sad whenever she would sneak a glance at him. All of Gryffindor had become tired of the non-stop fights going on between Hermione and Ron. It seemed that without Harry there to act as a buffer between their personalities they clashed constantly. Harry thought the situation was a little sad, but he was glad that it gave the Gryffindors something to talk about other than him. The rest of the school still considered him to be the best topic for conversation however, although the glares that so many of them shot his way were easily ignored. Harry laughed at the fact that he had never seen the Hufflepuff's, Cedric Diggory's house, so angry.
Harry continued to train and within a week he had made it through almost half of the fifth year spells. Every night he pushed himself and his magic as hard as he could for as long as he could until he reached the point where he thought he would faint from exhaustion. With every passing day Harry felt himself getting stronger and able to put more power behind his spells. He had never read anything on the theory behind how a person's magical strength is determined, but he guessed that it must be something like physical strength. Only in this case instead of running or lifting weights to build muscle mass he was casting powerful spells to increase his available power. He enjoyed the feeling that his new found strength gave him, and on some level he finally understood why someone could become obsessed with gaining more.
His nervousness about the first task was seemingly always present. Harry had heard that people had died in the Triwizard Tournament before and he knew that he was already starting out with a disadvantage. Frequently he wished that he could just walk away from the tournament but he knew that was impossible. Another, smaller, part of him was actually quite excited about the tournament. Harry had always loved a challenge, especially when it was something he was not expected to do well in. That was part of the initial reason he adored Quidditch. He still enjoyed the sport, but was starting to realize that he liked the flying much more than the game itself. On days when he needed a break from his training he took his Firebolt to the unused Quidditch pitch and flew, letting the wind crash into him and for a moment forgetting all of his troubles. He supposed that if things were different he would have spent time with his friends, talking and laughing as his worries faded away. But without them, he needed something else.
Today was one of Harry's flying days. The first task was a mere ten days away at this point the stress from the anticipation was starting to get to him. One of his favorite stress relievers was to fly high up into the air before diving straight down, going as fast and as close to the ground as he could before pulling up. On this occasion he took the time to stop at the top of his ascent and take a good look at Hogwarts, the place that he felt more at home at than anywhere else. The castle was easily visible, as were the Black Lake and the Forbidden Forest. However, Hagrid's home looked tiny from this high up. It was then that he noticed something new off in the distance. From this far off it appeared to be a quarry of some kind. 'Do they have mines at Hogwarts?' Harry wondered. Deciding to get a closer look, he sped off towards the structure.
The first thing he noticed as he got closer was the stands that were in the process of being built. They looked a lot like the ones surrounding the Quidditch pitch he had just left. The stands looked large enough to hold everyone in the school and then some.
"Of course! This is where the first task is going to be!" Harry said to himself. Then, realizing that as a Triwizard Champion he probably wasn't supposed to be here, he cast disillusionment charms on himself and his Firebolt so that he would hopefully not be noticed. The protection the charms provided was good enough for now, but he found himself wishing he had his invisibility cloak with him. Satisfied that he was as hidden as he could be, Harry flew closer to the arena as he now thought of it and tried to figure out what was going on. What he had thought was a mine or quarry was actually a huge stone pit. The bottom part was fairly level, except with the middle section raised a few feet. One side of the arena had a less severe slope, with a path leading up to a large tent. Harry took one last look at the pit and decided to inspect the tent, hoping that he would be able to find out more about the first task. His hopes were answered when he noticed a small group of people coming out of the tent and walking down to the arena. Harry recognized the person at the front of the group to be Ludo Bagman, head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports.
"Now, if you'll all follow me I will show you where our four champions will face their first challenge!" Bagman said as the group followed him down the path to the arena. Harry flew nearby, close enough so that he could hear every word being spoken. "Now, I'm not supposed to be telling anyone the details about the first task. But we're all friends here, no? I'm sure you can all keep a secret." Harry almost fell off his broom in shock at his good luck. The rest of the group also seemed interested, and gathered in closer to Bagman who looked quite pleased to be the center of attention. "As we speak, four dragons are being brought to Hogwart's. One for each of our champions!"
"Ludo! You can't seriously expect children to slay a dragon!" one member of the group yelled. Harry had to agree with him, he knew that bringing down a dragon was difficult for a group of fully trained wizards, let alone one teenager who would have had no idea what he was facing.
"No, no, not to worry." Bagman assured them. "They will not have to kill the beast, just to recover a golden egg that the dragon will be guarding. A clue pertaining to the second task will be placed in the egg. Each contest will be judged on if they were able to retrieve the egg, how long it took, and how they did it." Excited murmurs broke out from the crowd. Meanwhile, Harry looked back out towards the arena. He now realized what he had mistaken for a quarry was actually a man made dragon's nest. He had never seen a real one before so he had no idea on whether or not it was accurate, but he assumed so. The group of people continued down to the nest, clearly excited about the tournament. Harry followed them, hoping to gather more helpful information about the tournament but Bagman did not seem willing to talk about the other tasks.
"Alright everyone, let's head back to the tent where dinner shall be served. You will all have the chance to see this again, I promise. I have arranged for the Department to provide each of you with front row seats!" Bagman proclaimed to the delight of the group. Harry doubted that he could sneak into the tent unnoticed, even with the disillusionment charms, and that he might as well head back to the castle. As he flew back, Harry thought about the challenge to come.
'Dragons! They expect me to fight off a dragon long enough to steal something from its nest. How in the hell am I going to do that' he thought. 'I'm going to have to call in help getting ready for this one I guess.' he finally decided. Smiling, he wondered if Daphne had any idea what she was getting herself into when she offered to help him.