Harry Potter sat staring at the wall of the Hospital Wing, absently patting the coarse fur of the giant black dog curled at his side. It was only the second night since the living nightmare that had been the Final Task of the Tri-Wizard Tournament and the resurrection of the most feared Dark Wizard of all time.
Harry's right arm twinged a bit where he'd been cut by Wormtail, and Harry flexed his fingers reflexively at the momentary pain. The dog eyed Harry mournfully, and gave the slightest whine of sorrow. Harry either didn't hear it, or was too lost in his own thoughts to respond to it. He just kept absentmindedly continue to stroke the dog's black coat.
Harry had been left with an overwhelming amount of questions as to what was going to happen. He had witnessed first hand the adamant denial by Cornelius Fudge that it simply could not be true. There was no way that Lord Voldemort could have come back from the dead. People do not come back from the dead. Especially the single most feared wizard in all of history.
It just wasn't possible.
Except that they lived in a world of magic, and Voldemort had not truly died.
Harry hoped that Fudge was just in denial, and that once the shock wore off, the Minister would begin taking steps to stop what Harry feared would be another war. In the meantime, it actually made Harry feel a bit of comfort to know that Dumbledore took the threat seriously, and had immediately dispatched people to begin organizing.
Harry tore his steely gaze from the wall to look at the dog who was still watching him carefully. Dumbledore had asked Sirius to set off and notify certain individuals, but Harry had protested. He had begged for Sirius to remain with him.
Both Dumbledore and Sirius looked as if they were going to try to convince him that he would be ok, but thankfully, Hermione had chosen that moment to speak up in defense of her best friend.
"Sirius, you need to stay with Harry. He needs his family right now. And while we're as good as family to him, you are the closest thing to a father that he has. Right now, there is nothing more important than Harry's well being."
Silence reigned for several moments, broken only by Mrs. Weasley's mumblings. Harry guessed she had been trying to figure out how it was Sirius Black, wanted mass murderer, was the closest thing to a father Harry had. In the end, Dumbledore wisely agreed with Hermione's assessment, and decide it was probably best if he himself contacted certain individuals.
"Besides, I can likely do it much faster than you could, Sirius."
It was agreed that Sirius should remain in his animagus form while in the school, as it would not do for anyone to catch a glimpse of a wanted fugitive, especially given the events of the past day.
Harry had been surrounded by his friends all day, but they had barely spoken. He loved them all, but he desperately wished to be alone, and was extremely thankful when they had all finally gone to dinner that night.
The worst part of it all had been his meeting with Mr. and Mrs. Diggory that morning. Mr. Diggory looked so horrible, and broken, that Harry had tears in his eyes before anyone spoke. Harry felt a heavy guilt in his heart because he had told Cedric to take the cup with him. It should have been a Hogwarts victory, the two of them standing together, united for their school. Instead, it had been a sentencing. Cedric had died only moments after they had won the Tournament for their school.
Worse still was that neither of the Diggorys seemed to blame him for the loss of their only child. In fact, they thanked him for returning Cedric's body to them so they might be able to say goodbye, and bury him properly. Harry had even tried to offer the thousand galleon prize money, but the Diggorys refused.
Harry felt the sting of tears again as he remembered that horrible instant when Cedric's life was extinguished like a candle.
The door to the infirmary opened, and Harry wiped at his eyes, not wishing to let anyone see him so vulnerable. A girl approached him, and Harry thought a first it might be Ginny Weasley. Certainly in the dark, it was hard to make out much. The girl was about Ginny's height, with her hair tied back in a ponytail, but when she finally reached his bedside, it couldn't have been more obvious that this was not Ginny. In fact, this girl wasn't even in Gryffindor.
The girl had dark hair, and soft brown eyes. Her skin was the color of cream, with a faintest smattering of freckles on her nose. But the thing that actually disturbed Harry was the silver and green insignia on her robes. This girl was a Slytherin.
The dog next to Harry began growling low, which caused the girl to step back, holding up her hands defensively.
"Very protective dog you got there, Harry." the girl said cautiously. "I'm not here to make trouble, I swear."
Harry patted Sirius' head reassuringly and regarded the girl for a moment. The Slytherin took a seat in the chair that Molly Weasley had barely left in the past day.
"I just needed to see for myself that you were ok. I knew that I'd never be allowed with all your friends around you. When I saw them all at dinner, I figured it was my best chance."
"Why do you care? Don't all Slytherins hate me or something?" Harry asked, not bothering to hide the venom in his voice. The girl looked as if she had expected it.
"Not all of us hate you, Harry. You actually have more than a few supporters there. We're just not vocal about it." She smiled.
"Why are you so interested in how I am?"
"That's kind of complicated, and more than a little embarrassing." The girl said. Harry couldn't see in the dark, but had the feeling the girl was blushing. Sirius inclined his head and gave a low whine.
"There have been a lot of stories making the rounds, all of them horrible, and I just couldn't take it anymore. I had to know."
"Look, if you came to hear about what happened…" Harry began, getting more irritated, but the girl stopped him quickly.
"I don't want to know." She said firmly. "Whatever happened in that maze was truly horrid, I have no doubt, and I'm sure you're going to be haunted by it for a long time. I don't want to make you relive it. As I said, I just needed to see for myself that you were okay."
Harry stared at her for a long time. She began to fidget under his rather unnerving gaze.
"You hang out with Parkinson, right? You're Greengrass."
"Daphne will be fine." the girl said, a bit softly.
"But I don't understand…" Harry said, rubbing at his temples.
"I guess there really is no avoiding it." Daphne sighed. She seemed to be steeling herself before heaving a long sigh. "Ok, I've kind of liked you for about a year and a half now. I don't mean the legend, or whatever they call you. I like Harry, the boy who struggles to get a potion right because our teacher is a bit unfair to him. The boy who looks so bored in History class, or sticks up for the Care of Magical Creatures professor, even when he's more than a little disturbed by the bizarre creatures himself. I like the real Harry, and I've been wanting to get to know him for a really long time."
"So why didn't you talk to me before?"
"Because I'm a coward." Daphne shrugged. "I said before that you have supporters in Slytherin, but there aren't many, and the ones who do try to keep it quiet. It's better for everyone that way. But not just that, you are rather unapproachable. You just put out this aura that tends to keep people away. You're kind of scary sometimes."
"But you're not afraid tonight?" Harry asked.
"I'm terrified, to be honest." Daphne admitted.
"But you still came."
"I had to. I had to see with my own eyes that you were…"
"Okay. I am. Or rather, I think I will be." Harry sighed, settling back into his pillows a bit. "I don't think you're a coward, either."
"You don't even know me." Daphne pointed out, but Harry pressed on.
"Everyone gets afraid. It's how we deal with that fear that makes us brave or cowardly."
"Huh." Daphne said, looking impressed. "That's very wise. I never thought about it that way. Well, I should let you get your rest."
Daphne stood up, and began to leave, but stopped when she got to the end of his bed.
"Next year, do you think we might spend some time together? You know, to get to know one another?"
The great black dog raised it's head, cocking its ears inquisitively. It looked between the two teens expectantly.
Harry stared at the shadowy silhouette of the girl, who was waiting expectantly. It was the great black dog who actually made up Harry's mind. Sirius rose from the bed, and trotted lightly over the girl, nudging her hand with his muzzle. He gave the girl a little lick on her palm, and went right back to his spot on Harry's bed. The girl looked a bit questioningly at Harry who had a small smile on his face.
"Yeah. That'd be okay."
The girl smiled and then left, leaving Harry alone with his dog. His animagus godfather gave him a rather pointed look.
"Oh shut up." Harry said. Harry swore he saw the dog smile before dropping his bed back on his front paws.
Just as Daphne Greengrass left the infirmary, Hermione and Ron, followed by a very worried Mrs. Weasley appeared. Ron looked rather upset about something, though Harry never found our what it was, as Mrs. Weasley promptly began looking him over and fussing over him.
Harry was allowed to return to Gryffindor tower the very next day. Before he was released, Sirius took a few moments to let him know that it was okay to feel horrible over everything that happened, but he should not feel guilty.
"There is only one person to blame for all that happened, and that is not you." Sirius said as he gripped his godson's shoulders, and forced Harry to look in his eyes.
"I know that you think it was your fault that Cedric was even there, but you had no idea what was going to happen. You were led into a trap, and it's that simple."
Harry nodded, taking his godfather's words to heart. Deep down he knew that he was not to blame, but there was still a deep sense of shame about what had transpired.
"Do not bottle any of this up." Sirius advised. "Talk to your friends about it, or you can write me if you want. If you bottle it up, then it may end up consuming you. If you don't feel comfortable talking to Ron or Hermione, there's always that pretty little Slytherin girl." Sirius winked.
Harry gave a wry look to his godfather, but promised he would talk to someone if he needed to.
After Sirius left, Harry was met by his friends, and together, the three of them journeyed up to Gryffindor tower. Everyone they passed along the way abruptly averted their eyes, which troubled Harry until Hermione explained it.
"Dumbledore told everyone to leave you alone. No one's really allowed to ask you any questions about it all." She said when a group of Hufflepuffs past them, quickly looking away.
When they got back to the common room, Harry left his friends and went to his dorm, where he lay on his bed. School would be letting out in a day, and Harry began anticipating his return to the Dursleys.
"I can't believe you actually did it." Tracey Davis was sitting on her bed in the Slytherin fourth year girls dorm. Her best friend, Daphne Green grass was finishing packing her trunk in preparation for returning home the next day.
Daphne was a very pretty girl will straight dark brown hair, and soft brown eyes. She was slim, and lithe with a developing dancer's figure.
"It's been two days, Tracey." Daphne sighed. "Get over it."
"But you actually talked to him." Tracey said, waving her hands for effect. "You talked to Harry Potter."
"Yes!" Daphne said, turning to face her friend. "I talked to him, and he was very nice and hopefully next year I'll talk to him more."
"So what are you going to do?" Tracey asked.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, Now you've made contact. What comes next? How much time are you going to allow to pass before you snog him senseless?" Tracey asked, a very mischievous smile on her face.
"OH MY GOD!" Daphne shrieked turning to stare incredulously at her friend. "I don't even know what I'm going to say to him when I see him next. It took me a year just to talk to him once, and you've got me snogging him like we're star crossed lovers already."
"Maybe you are." Tracey shrugged, smiling suggestively.
"And maybe we're not. I want to take this slow. I want to get to know him. The real him. Right now, I have to let him see past the fact I'm in Slytherin. Then we'll see."
"But you'd like to snog him."
At this, Daphne couldn't help the small smile that appeared, which made Tracey laugh hysterically.
The final day of term went by just as it had for many, many years. All over the castle, students said goodbye to friends, fearing they might not get a chance on the train. Packing their trunks, or just wandering around the grounds.
In the afternoon, Harry and his friends went down to Hagrid's hut to visit, and bid him goodbye for the year. During their visit, Hagrid praised Harry for his efforts in the tournament, and what happened in the graveyard. Harry's mood darkened a bit until Hagrid compared him with his father.
"Yeh did as much as your father woulda done, and I can think of no higher praise then that."
The memory of seeing the shadows of his parents spirits gave Harry a very warm feeling in his chest.
The Great Hall was filled once again with all the students from Hogwarts and both Beauxbatons and Durmstrang for the leaving feast. The feast had begun earlier then normal, as at the end, both of the visiting schools were scheduled to leave.
Dumbledore ended the feast with a very heart felt speech about the importance of unity and friendships, and gave a warning of dark times ahead. Unfortunately for everyone, his speech was far to vague for many to understand, and the message behind it went unheeded.
There were many goodbyes that night, as the visiting schools bid farewell to the new friends they had made. Viktor Krum made a point in asking Hermione to write to him The Bulgarian seeker then came to Harry and bowed low.
"You vere forced into this tournament, and even though you vere not ready for it, you showed everyone what we can accomplish if we truly vish it."
"It was fixed, the entire thing." Harry said mildly.
"Be that as it may, no one helped you once the tasks began, and yet you still managed to come out ahead each time."
"I was just lucky." Harry tried again, but Krum wouldn't have any of it.
"Some of it vas luck, and yes, some of it may have been made to guarantee your success. Yet, no one could have outflown that dragon. None of us spared a second thought for the other hostages under the lake. And none of us vould have tried to share the victory. You are a truly great vizard, and I vould be honored to call you my friend, Harry Potter."
Krum held out a hand, which Harry took gratefully. Krum gave a great smile and bowed once again.
"Should you ever need my help, you need but ask. I shall also be telling my coaches to be watching your progress. Good seekers are hard to find."
Krum gave a wave and made his way to the Durmstrang ship. Harry barely had a moment to reflect on what Krum had said when he was suddenly engulfed in a strong embrace.
"He spoke true." Fleur Delacour said as she held Harry tightly. She kissed each of his cheeks before releasing him and holding him at arms length. Her eyes were shining with tears as she spoke to him.
"My one regret for this year has been not getting to know you or Cedric better. It was not until I nearly lost my sister that I realized how ridiculous this tournament was, but you reminded me of what was truly important. Family, and friends. I thank you for all you have taught me."
Fleur released him, and her sister, Gabrielle took Harry by the arms and kissed him gently upon each cheek. Smiling, the two Frenchwomen followed their schoolmates to the waiting carriage for their own departure.
Harry felt strange as he watch the Beauxbatons carriage take to the air, and the Durmstrang ship disappear into the depths of the black lake. He had not taken the opportunity to get to know the other champions, and that was what the tournament was supposed to have been about all along. Even though he had won, Harry knew now that no one had been victorious. They had all failed.
Harry looked all about him as the Hogwarts students began making their way back into the castle fore their last night. A familiar looking girl in Slytherin robes caught his eye, and gave a small smile. Harry returned the smile with a small nod of his head. Perhaps it was possible to learn from his mistake, and reach out to other people. He knew that he now had an opportunity, and He made up his mind to not allow this one to slip through his fingers.
Harry started walking towards the girl, whose eyes were beginning to widen, when Ron stepped in his path, with Hermione at his side.
"What a year, mate. What do you thin they'll have in store for us next term?"
Harry could see Daphne Greengrass disappear into the castle, being swept on by the mass of students trying to return to their dormitories.
"Everything's going to change, isn't it?" Hermione asked worriedly as she stood next to Harry. Harry nodded slowly.
"Yeah, but that's life isn't it?" Harry began to smile for the first time in several days. "That's what it's all about isn't it?"
"Very prophetic." Hermione smiled softly. "I don't suppose it has to be bad, does it?"
"It is what you make it." Harry said. Hermione gave him a strong embrace. "You'll write me over the summer, right?"
"Don't I always?"
The Hogwarts express left on time from Hogsmeade station, and Harry and his friends were tucked into a compartment near the end of the train. Every so often, someone came by to wish them well over the summer. Two of those well wishers were two people that the trio had never spoken to before. At least not while together.
Daphne Greengrass and her best friend, Tracey Davis had come looking for Harry and his friends. Harry smiled when he saw Daphne and was about to ask her to join them when Ron began shouting.
"What do you snakes want?"
"Ron, don't be rude." Hermione hissed.
"We just wanted to tell you to have a good summer." Daphne said, wilting a bit under Ron's glare.
"Thank you." Harry said gently.
"You can go now." Ron spat, but the two girls just stood there. Hermione kept looking back and forth between Harry and the two Slytherins, a look of inquisitiveness on her face. Harry simply stared at the darker haired of the two girls, a tiny smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
"I'll se you next year then." the girl said, giving a tiny wave, and she and her friend turned and left. Ron continued staring at the place where they had been, while Harry went back to their chess game. Hermione couldn't stop herself.
"Why are those girls wishing you a good summer?"
Harry shrugged, not really wishing to discuss the subject, but now Ron had cottoned on.
"Yeah." He growled. "It is kind of strange that Slytherins would come here and not try and say something insulting, isn't it?"
"Maybe they understood what the tournament was really about, unlike the rest of us. Well, Hermione got it." Harry sighed. Harry saw the small proud smile appear on Hermione's face, while Ron looked confused.
Harry changed the subject before Ron could comment further.
"I'm a bit surprised." Harry started. I haven't seen a Rita Skeeter exclusive on the end of the tournament."
"And you won't." Hermione smiled brightly, though there was something maniacal in her eyes that gave Harry and Ron pause. She dug into her bag and pulled out a small jar with a few twigs and leaves and a very fat beetle.
"I caught her in the act of eavesdropping, or rather…'bugging'." Hermione looked triumphantly as she held out the jar for the boys to inspect. Hermione then went on to explain how she had figured out the wretched reporter was an unregistered animagus, and that was how she had been getting all those exclusives for her articles.
"I've made her a deal, that she is to not write anything for a whole year, and I'll keep her secret. Hopefully she'll learn to stop writing horrible lies about people. Otherwise, I'll make sure that she gets a long vacation at Azkaban."
"So clever, Granger." Drawled a familiar voice. The trio turned to find Draco, Crabbe, and Goyle standing in the doorway
"Get out, Malfoy." Harry said menacingly.
"Trying not to think about it, are we? Trying to bury the memory?" Draco smiled as he taunted Harry.
"I said, get out." Harry said, rising from his seat. Malfoy didn't look frightened, and kept on jeering Harry.
"I warned you on the day we met, Potter. I warned you not to associate with riffraff. Mudbloods and muggle-lovers. They're going to be the first to fall now that he's back. Well, maybe the second, seeing as Diggory was the first."
Draco began to laugh, but then he suddenly stiffened. Ron, Hermione and Harry had all drawn their wands. Draco made to draw his own, when there was several bangs and bright lights.
Draco and his cronies fell to the floor in a heap, and Fred and George, along with Lee Jordan poked their heads in.
"We saw these gits heading this way, and figured they were up to something." Fred smiled. With Ron and Harry's help, the Weasley twins rolled the three Slytherins out into the corridor before joining the trio in the compartment, where they indulged in several hands of Exploding Snap. During the game, the twins told them about the bets made with Ludo Bagman, and all the problems they had trying to collect on that bet. During the story, Harry was struck with an idea.
When the train arrived back in London, and everyone began debarking, Harry managed to take Fred and George aside.
"I want you two to take this, and put it towards your shop. I don't want it, and I know you can put it to good use."
The twins tried to refuse, but Harry threaten to dump it in the street. The twins, after several moments of contemplation, finally agreed, and with one final stipulation, Harry handed over the fat sack of galleons.
Harry gave hugs to Mrs. Weasley and Hermione, who kissed his cheek before following his Uncle Vernon to the car and making the journey to Privet Drive for what promised to be a very boring summer.