Even if thirteen-year-old Harry Potter was stuck back at 4 Privet Drive, life was good for the young wizard. He'd found out he had a godfather who loved him, he had a werewolf pseudo-uncle and good friends. He was invited to go to the Quidditch World Cup at the end of the summer with the Weasleys. He was even allowed to stay in an actual room, instead of that cupboard under the stairs. He leaned back on his poor creaky bed and folded his fingers together behind his head. Life was good.
And then the front door exploded.
"Hello! Peeetuuunnnniiiaaaa-Chaaaaan! Where's my baby girl?" a young sounding voice called from downstairs.
Harry, not quite sure what to make of things, grabbed his wand and started making his way down the stairs. He might not have been allowed to cast spells underage, but it was always good to be prepared. What he saw was a young appearing woman with shocking red hair he recognized from his mother's photos, bright red eyes and an outfit consisting of black denim pants, knee-high boots, white gloves and gems the size of his fists at her shoulders, pinning on a cloak.
He was also about five inches taller than her.
"Uh, hello," he said, making sure to keep the wand trained on her.
"Who are you?" the woman demanded, her hands on her hips.
"Uh, Harry Potter," he said clumsily. Her expression grew warmer upon hearing his explanation, and she immediately pulled him into a frighteningly tight hug.
"Hi, Harry, I'm-"
"Mother?" Petunia Dursley asked in horror. "How did you find us-er- what I mean is, how have you been?"
"Petunia, you've been a very naughty girl, running away like that!" the woman said, shaking her head in dismay. "Honestly, one daughter runs away, and the other goes off and gets married to a wizard of all people! Sorry Harry, but your father was always a bit of a prick. I don't know how many times I had to set him on fire."
"My dad?" Harry said numbly, not quite grasping the situation. The woman grinned and pulled him into another hug.
"Hi, Harry, I'm Lina Inverse and I'm your Grandma!"
All sound seemed to cease with that statement as Harry's mind contemplated what was really going on.
"Yup!" she said, slipping an arm around his shoulder. It was slightly uncomfortable for her, seeing as he was a bit taller than her, even if he was short for his age. "I know! Why don't I take my grandkids for the summer? That way we can all get to know each other!"
And that was when Vernon Dursley finally managed to get himself upright out of the chair to waddle into the foyer.
"You!" demanded the rotund red-faced man with an accusing finger. Harry was amazed. Vernon's tone was one that was usually reserved for Harry alone. Harry's Grandmother paused for a moment to glare at the man before turning on her daughter.
"You had to really go against my wishes, didn't you? You could have been dating anyone, but you went and married a tub of lard with no redeeming qualities at all," Lina accused, keeping a weary eye on the portly creature that considered itself 'normal'. Petunia flushed slightly and took a step backwards. Harry got the distinct impression that his aunt was edging towards the back door.
"Why you tiny, little, puny freak!" Vernon demanded. The moment those words left his mouth, Petunia's face drained of all color.
"I'm not short! I'm extra petite!"
What happened next would be something Harry would remember for the rest of his very long life as one of his happiest memories. Harry watched as Lina Inverse, his beloved grandmother, blew up his uncle and nearly the rest of the house.
"Wait, does this mean I'm not a half-blood?" Harry asked absently.
Far to the north in Hogwarts, Albus Dumbledore looked up from his desk to the instruments that gauged the wards at 4 Privet Drive. It took him a moment to analyze the reason for their current activity, but when the information finally settled in, Dumbledore uttered a most accurate phrase.
"Oh, bloody packet of shite in Merlin's belt pouch," he intoned. "Well, I guess Borneo is nice this time of year."
On the other hand, the blood wards had never been stronger.
"Wait, so you're a sorceress - well known and feared on several worlds, and you and Grandpa Gorey-"
"Gourry Gabriev," his grandmother corrected sternly.
"Grandpa Gourry is a legendary swordsman?" Harry finished. His grandmother nodded, pleased.
"Harry, I'm glad you inherited mine and your mother's brains. It seems like Petunia just got her father's mind, blonde hair and stupidity," Lina said, ignoring the fact that her daughter was well within hearing range. Harry absently wondered if this had something to do with Aunt Petunia's attitude towards magic. "Your mother got my beauty, Gourry's height and friendly personality, my hair and, somehow, got green eyes. Still not sure where those came from. I always blamed Xellos."
"Oh, and she got my amazing magical ability, too," Lina added after a moment, as if magical ability was simply assumed.
"So, Aunt Petunia's a squib?"
"No! She's not a squid!" Lina said with more than a little horror, flashing back to a certain incident involving an octopus god.
"Oh, no, a squib is a person who is born in a magic family that doesn't have magic," Harry explained, feeling a little like Hermione at the moment.
"Oh, hell no! Petunia-chan's just incompetent. And she's got a horrid personality, I honestly don't know where she got it from," Lina said with an air of exasperated superiority. Harry wisely kept his suspicions of the maternal origin of Petunia's personality to himself.
"So where is Grandpa Gourry? Is he coming to visit?"
"Naw, he's so stupid that he forgot that we had kids," Lina explained. She scoffed at the disbelief evident on her grandson's face. "If you don't believe me, you'll understand when you meet him." She turned in surprise at hearing a noise on the stairway and Harry followed her gaze to the immature whale that was Dudley Dursley. "What is that?"
"Dudley, or Dudders, as its parents call it," Harry said with a little smirk that was oddly reminiscent of his grandmother.
"It looks like a pig in a wig," Lina exclaimed in horror. "Are you telling me, that's in my bloodline?"
Harry nodded solemnly.
"Hey, what happened to my room?" Dudders demanded. "And what's the freak on the couch doing here?"
Moments later, Dudley Dursley had the hardly-unique opportunity to feel one of Lina Inverse's patented Fireball spells.
"I love you. You're the best Grandma a boy could have."
It was later decided that Harry and Dudley would spend the summer with Lina, learning the family trade and what not. Vernon would have protested the choice, but no one could understand him through the bandages covering his entire body. He could have been healed by magic, but Lina didn't feel like putting in the effort.
Petunia was too afraid of her mother to even consider resisting.
Guess what? I don't have to spend the summer with my aunt and uncle! My grandmother showed up and she's going to take me and Dudley to live with her for the summer. Did you know that mom wasn't a muggleborn? Ends up Gramma Lina is a sorceress and she's going to teach me sorcery over the summer. Since it doesn't require a wand, she says that the Ministry won't pick it up. Well, she actually said something about the Ministry forcibly inserting their decrees into their collective anus, but I cleaned it up a bit. She doesn't think much of the Ministry.
Gramma says that we aren't going to use wands. She doesn't have much respect for men who carry around little sticks. She said something about compensating for something, but I didn't understand what she meant, exactly. She's teaching me incantations, elemental magic, shamanistic magic and something she calls the Dragon Slave. She says she's going to teach me that last one later.
Sirius Black, a man who escaped the most horrid prison on the planet, looked up from the letter in fear. Harry was being trained by Lina Inverse. Harry was being trained by Lina Inverse.
He had to warn Snape. He might hate the guy, but there are some things worse than death, and he wouldn't wish Lina Inverse on anyone. Hell, he'd warn Voldemort if Lina was headed in his direction...well not really, but he'd at least make sure he and anyone he cared about weren't in the way.
He fretted about what to do when he suddenly noticed an old man with a long white beard and purple Bermuda shorts with gold filigree.
"Professor?" Sirius asked in surprise. "What are you doing in Borneo?"
"Lily's mother was at Privet Drive," the Hogwarts Headmaster said, looking older than his years.
"Oh, right," Sirius said. He held up the letter. "Just got the warning myself."
"Honestly, Dudley!" Lina said. "You're that big and you can't even lift a sword! How are you going to fight those orcs if you're this weak?"
Dudley looked up at his grandmother in horror, then glanced over at the orcs charging down the hills from their shadowy caves. In the past two days, he had experienced more pain that he had in the entire rest of his short life. He had been stabbed, blown up, skewered, burned, trapped in collapsing subterranean labs and, worse of all - forced to run. He knew his Daddy wouldn't have let this happen.
And then - to make things worse - his grandmother hadn't even gotten him a present for his birthday. That never happened. He was supposed to be up to 47 presents, but no, the freak got stuff, instead. New clothes, new books and even a few pieces of jewelry. It just wasn't fair.
"Well, Dudley, there's only one solution to this," Lina said with an air of finality. "You're going to have to get into shape. Now, go kill those orcs."
Tears of terror streaming down his face, Dudley got back up to his feet and dutifully charged the orcs, fearing his grandmother more than any number of demi-humans. He tackled the first one, knocking it backwards. This created a domino effect, knocking down the two behind it. Those knocked down some more and repeated this until thirty-seven out of the forty orcs were flailing on the ground.
At which point, Dudley got back up and cried loudly about his hurt finger. The whiny noise was just the right frequency and decibel to shake loose a number of boulders high on the hills, causing a small landslide that rumbled down the hills, covering the fallen orcs and stopping just short of Lina and Harry, who were deep in a conversation about magical theory.
Harry looked over to where his cousin was struggling to get out from under the boulders crushing his legs. Lina shrugged.
"Unorthodox approach, but effective," she admitted with a nod, then she looked up sharply at some movement headed away from them. "Dudley! You missed three!"
Dudley looked at his grandmother with a fear normally reserved for insurance adjusters and Inland Revenue auditors, which was, of course, perfectly reasonable considering who his grandmother was. Shivering with horror and attempting to block out the pain, Dudley hefted a boulder over his head and threw it, crushing the fleeing orcs like bowling pins.
Lina stroked her chin in thought for a moment.
"Hmm...I give it a four. He needs better presentation." She shrugged. "Okay, time to raid their caves and steal their stuff."
In late August, before the end of the summer holidays and just in time for the Quidditch World Cup, Lina brought her grandsons back to the newly repaired 4 Privet Drive.
Dudley was a changed boy. No longer was he the fat bully who'd terrorized the small community outside Surrey. In his place was a young warrior with about 0.75% body fat. He was stronger and his hair had grown out. He also had a healthy respect for mages that he had earned through hardship.
Later, Dudley would go on to compete in the Olympics, earning four gold medals for the UK in track and field events. He would be a celebrated athlete known all over the world for not only his physical accomplishments, but also his humanitarian work in breaking down bullying in schools and communities and making sure everyone had enough to eat. He would grow up, marry a fellow athlete and have twelve children, who would also excel in their Olympic events.
However, he would never, ever, speak again of the summer he turned fourteen.
"Harry!" Hermione said, pulling her friend into a hug tight enough to make his bones creak as he joined her and the Weasleys at the World Cup match. He returned it for a moment before she pulled back to get a look at the new Harry. While not as changed as his cousin, Harry had achieved greater muscle definition and looked very nice in the clothing his grandmother bought for him: Black form-fitting pants, a black cloak trimmed in red and gold, leather boots that went up to half calf and new rectangular glasses. His great-uncle Xellos had also given the boy a staff that completed the look.
"You look great!" Hermione exclaimed, still giving him elevator eyes. Ginny Weasley nodded silently in agreement as she took in the spectacle in front of her. Harry's new look brought words like "yummy" and "daaaaamn!" to mind, as well as other, more naughty thoughts. Harry was, of course, rather ignorant of the fact.
"Thanks," he said with a grin. "You look great, too. How was France?"
"The beaches were wonderful," she said, still looking him over. The Harry from the year before would have been getting self-conscious, but this Harry had spent the summer with his grandmother, which had helped greatly with his self-esteem.
"Children! There are Death Eaters messing with muggles! Get to safety!" Arthur Weasley said, ushering them back towards the tents.
"Don't worry, Mr. Weasley, I'll take care of it," Harry said with a smirk. Cupping both hands together, he intoned the following incantation: "Source of all power, crimson fire burning bright! Gather together in my hand and become an inferno... BURST FLARE!"
The Death eaters were still running around and prepared to retaliate, so Harry just lifted his hand again and spoke: "BURST RONDO!"
The Weasleys and Hermione looked on in amazement as Harry's spell sent the black-robed and masked wizards flying into the air, the flames making them look like burning voodoo dolls.
"Harry! That's wandless magic!" Arthur said. "What about the Decree Against Underage Sorcery?"
"Gramma Lina says it doesn't matter and that the Ministry can stuff it," Harry said with a shrug.
"Blimey! Har- where'd you learn that?" Ron asked, food dribbling out of his mouth, he was so surprised.
Harry smirked a little. "Ends up people were lying when they said I was a half-blood. My Grandmother's a sorceress."
Hermione grabbed him by the arms and pulled him close in a grip so tight it stopped blood flow to his extremities. "TEACH ME!"
"Uh, okay?" Harry said quietly with a wide-eyed expression of surprise. "Could you let me go? I can't feel my fingers."
"Oh, okay," Hermione said, loosening her grip, but not letting go.
"Is everyone okay?" an auror asked as she ran over. "Where are the Death Eaters?"
Harry pointed to the stupid masked people who were still running around on fire. "They're the ones on fire. Don't they know to stop-drop-and-roll?"
On the Hogwarts Express:
"Hey Potty!" sneered Malfoy. "Still hanging around with a mudbl-"
"When my fath-"
"Harry," Hermione chided quietly. "I think that was one too many."
Harry shrugged. "He was still moving."
Ron, Ginny and Neville just started clapping.
"What do you mean I have to compete?" Harry asked. "I didn't put my name in the goblet!"
"It's a magically binding contract," Ludo Bagman said sadly. He was secretly pleased that the Boy-Who-Lived was competing. Maybe he could place a few bets.
"Fine," Harry said, a moment before he encased the offending man in a crystal of ice. The other contestants and their administrators looked on in wide-eyed horror.
"What?" Harry asked. "He deserved it!"
"Dragons?" Harry asked. He had just arrived for the first event. The other four were fully prepared "We're fighting Dragons?"
"Iz zee leetle boi scared?" the French beauty asked. Harry just gave her a LOOK ™ and that seemed to shut her up. She was still a little miffed that her Veela aura wasn't affecting him.
"No," Harry said. "I was just hoping for a challenge."
The others in the room looked at the boy in horror. Maybe those books telling of him killing a dragon at age three were true. Could that be possible?
"Huh," Harry said as he pulled his dragon out. "Hungarian Horntail."
The tiny dragon statue went to bite him, then took a cautious sniff and immediately began trying to fly away. After that, Harry had the damnedest time holding onto the thing.
Severus Snape sat down in the first rows to observe the events. He was required to be there, even if he'd rather be spending his valuable time researching potions, rather than watching dolts annoy dragons. Glancing down, he noticed a familiar shade of red hair sitting eagerly on the edge of her seat. For a moment his heart pained, thinking of Lily and everything that happened. Then he noticed a tall blond man sitting next to the short redhead. She turned to explain something and for the first time that day, Severus Snape got a good look at the woman's profile.
To say that he paled was an insult to pale. His expression was to pale what the universe was to vast.
'Hmm... Borneo is supposed to have an excellent Potions convention,' he mused to himself. Perhaps he should go there to prepare. It was only in eleven months, after all, and it never hurts to be early.
Harry listened as the crowd cheered and booed for the other contestants. Being last, he wasn't allowed to see what tactics the others had used, so as to not give him an unfair advantage.
"Harry," Dumbledore said quietly. Dumbledore was looking pretty good with a deep tan. It seemed his summer holiday agreed with him. "It's your turn."
Harry nodded, ran a hand through his messy dark hair and stepped out into the light of the arena. The Hungarian Horntail dragon was crouched dangerously over the eggs.
He stepped onto the sand, feeling the hot autumn sun reflect back up to his face.
"HARRY! KICK ITS ASS!" screamed a familiar voice. Harry glanced up to see his grandmother's smiling face in the front row. He smiled and waved to her and got an idea. He knew exactly what to do.
"Accio Gramma Lina's Cloak!"
Lina looked up in surprise as her cloak detached from her shoulders and flew into Harry's waiting hand. Calmly, with purpose and no visible fear, Harry walked directly to the dragon's snout while it was inhaling for a breath of hot air.
The dragon stopped as it caught a half remembered scent. Harry walked closer until he was directly under the Horntail's snout. Using a simple levitation spell, Harry sent the cloak right into its left nostril.
The dragon's eyes bugged out, growing to three times their normal size. In horror, it ran backwards, forgetting that it could fly, and crashed through the human filled stands, seeking only escape.
Harry grinned, strode forward, picked up the golden egg from the unharmed nest and gallantly returned the cloak to his grandmother.
"To the Dragon-Spooker!" he said, presenting it like a holy relic.
"Harry James Potter!" his grandmother growled, snatching the cloak from his hands and pinning it to her shoulders. "You know I hate that nickname!"
"It worked, didn't it?"
Hermione's sorcery was coming along quite well. Fireballs were second nature to her by now, the brightest witch of her age having mastered them in the first week. Freeze arrows were like breathing. Levitation spells were done with a word and a flick of the wrist. Soon, she was working on other magics, with a talent for shamanistic magic primarily, but equally skilled in the other forms. Together, she and Harry went through the books his grandmother had given him to further his studies.
"Harry? What's Ragna Blade?" she asked, looking up from one volume from Lina's personal library.
"Oh, that's a Black Magic spell that can cut through anything, including extra-dimensional spaces," Harry said, barely looking up from the treatise on Earth Magic he had been reading.
"Black magic? Is it a dark spell?" Hermione asked, suddenly a lot more hesitant.
"Oh no! Gramma Lina says Dark magic is for wusses," Harry said with a shake of his head. "She claims the Unforgivables are nothing more than a weak wizard's delusions of grandeur. She says a spell that can only hit one person at a time isn't worth the breath it takes to cast it."
"Hmm..." Hermione said, pinching her lip in thought. "So are Black magic spells worse?"
"I dunno," Harry said as he leaned back in the chair. "Gramma Lina said that it's all intent more than a 'this is evil'/'this is good' issue. She said Black magic spells call on powerful beings for power, while dark magic are still self-powered."
"Things like Ruby-Eyed Shabranigdo or the Lord of Nightmares," he replied calmly. "She just taught me to cast them, but didn't really give me the history. She did say there was also Celestial Magic that called on Celestial beings instead."
"Why didn't she include any of them?" Hermione inquired.
"She said her friend Amelia would be taking a break and would teach me next summer," Harry replied. "So what do you think about the egg?"
"It's a hint to the next task, right?"
Hermione paused in thought once more. "Maybe it needs to be hatched?"
"And since first year, we know dragon eggs hatch in fire..." Harry continued, trailing off as they both sported identical grins.
"Practice does make perfect, after all," Hermione said with a perhaps overly eager grin.
"Let's take it outside," Harry suggested.
"Hmm..." Hermione said. "Nothing's happening."
"Maybe we need to use a more powerful spell?" Harry suggested.
"Well, it did take time for Norbert to hatch," Hermione said. "Maybe we should just give it more time?"
"Sounds good to me."
Five hours later:
"Uh, Professor Dumbledore?" Harry said worriedly, after knocking on the gargoyle. After a moment it swung open and allowed entrance. The headmaster's back was to the door as Harry slipped in quietly.
"Ah, Harry, what can I do for you?" Albus Dumbledore asked. Harry held up the warped and horridly misshapen egg. "WHAT DID YOU DO TO THE EGG?"
"Used logic?" Harry said with a questioning eyebrow. He shrugged. "We thought that since it was an egg, it should be hatched."
"IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE CHARMED AGAINST DAMAGE!" Dumbledore exclaimed at high volume and pitch as he gazed at the horrid monstrosity the hint had become. "What spells did you use?"
"Burst Flare and Fireball?" Harry said sheepishly.
"Did...d-did your grandmother teach you those spells?" the Headmaster asked in a quiet, terrified voice. Harry nodded in confirmation.
Albus took a deep breath and rested a grandfatherly hand on the boy's shoulder.
"Harry, I must caution you about using those... techniques... that your grandmother taught you," the headmaster said slowly.
"Why? They work really well against acromantulas and trolls," Harry argued.
"What? Where did you encounter those?" Dumbledore asked as he glanced at his liquor cabinet quickly.
"Well, hypothetically speaking, someone - not me of course - may have been exploring and cleaning up the Forbidden Forest with the Centaurs," Harry said with an air of "innocence". He waved to vaguely gesture towards the wooded area in question. "Not that I had anything to do with it, of course. In totally unrelated news, acromantulas are quickly becoming an endangered species in the British Isles."
"Oh, quite right, of course," the Headmaster agreed with a slightly manic edge to his words. "I-I'll talk with Mr. Bagman about getting you another egg."
The second event was just about to take place. After six more eggs, Mr. Bagman and the three headmasters decided to just tell Harry the clue. Hermione had wisely divined the riddle's solution and the contestants arrived at the proper time on the proper day.
"Okay, now for this event, you have, as you know, one hour to complete the task," Ludo Bagman announced. "You will have to retrieve something that you will - OH DEAR LORD!"
Heads turned to see the surface of Black Lake bulge as if something was pressing up from below. It grew like some kind of demonic pregnancy, bulging to term before their very eyes until the pressured lake water exploded into the air, turning into vapor and then into snow.
"Quick Harry! Merpeople have some great stuff! Let's take it before they wake back up!"
Harry smiled, shedding a tear of joy at his grandmother's enthusiasm. She definitely was the person he would miss most of all.
And then they stole the Merpeople's stuff.
"Zeeze iz naught right!" the half-giant headmistress of Beaubatons argued. "Eet iz in dairect veeolashun of ze rulez!"
"ppft!" Lina said with a roll of her eyes. "Please. If the rules are stupid they shouldn't be rules."
"I must also protest!" the Durmstrang Headmaster argued. "This is a time honored tradition! We cannot allow some short upstart from some unknown bloodline with a complete disregard for propriety and society to spread chaos like-wait! What is she chanting?"
"-By the power you and I possess: DRAGON SLAVE!"
That effectively resolved any debate on the subject.
"Due to some.. inconsistenciesin how thecontestants competed in the Second Task, we have decided to have an alternate second event," Dumbledore announced. "As such, instead of a Hogsmeade weekend, we will be having the next event. It will be a snowball fight. And many other students will be allowed to assist. It will show the leadership abilities of each contestant."
"YAY!" said the majority of the student body.
"Each contestant will lead a group of students against the others; they will have a month to train and work up tactics. We will be using the Quidditch pitch for the battle. Students not chosen for a team will work with the professors and headmasters in creating 'battlefield' conditions," Dumbledore continued. "The rules are this: if you get hit in the torso and chest, you are considered 'killed;' if you are hit in a limb, you are considered 'wounded' and by the magic of the battle, you will not be allowed to use that limb. You may only use non-offensive spells. Anyone casting dueling offensive spells will be immediately barred from participating and suffer additional sanctions, depending on which school you attend. Other than that, anything goes."
He took a drink from his cup to wet his throat.
"A side loses when their Champion Commander is 'killed' and that side will then assist the staff in making battlefield conditions," Dumbledore. "Acting as the head observer will be our own Professor Moody. He and his group will determine game 'death'."
"Constant Vigilance!" he intoned before taking a swig from his flask. "I'll be keeping an eye on you all."
For some reason, that caused shivers up people's spines. It might have been the way his eye spun when he said it.
"Ladies and Gentlemen," Harry said in the Gryffindor common room. The entire house was in attendance as well as a number of Ravenclaws (Padma Patil and Luna Lovegood among others) and three Slytherins (Blaise Zabini, and Daphne and Astoria Greengrass). The latter students were "nominated" by professor Moody. "This means war!"
"First of all, anyone who wants to drop out to study for OWLs or NEWTs speak up now," Harry said, pausing to see if anyone was going to drop out. No one did.
"This is going to be a hard battle," he continued. "We're fighting against four other armies. You might think that it's only three, but remember all those battlefield conditions! We'll be fighting them as well. Now, I want to know people's strengths. Line up in groups of Transfiguration, Charms and Defense for specialty. We'll also have another group we'll call rangers, who have no one specialty."
It was a vaguely even split for the first three groups, but the last group was smaller and rather strange. Hermione Granger, Luna Lovegood, Ginny Weasley, Neville Longbottom, Blaise Zabini and Ron Weasley, the Weasley Twins, the Patil Twins, The Chasers Alicia, Angelina and Katie, and four other upperclassmen stood together, not quite sure what to make of their group. Well, Ron was glaring at Zabini who was doing his best to pretend he wasn't in the Gryffindor Common Room.
"Transmutors! You'll be working on making some tools I've gathered out of available material. It should help us deal out some long-range damage. Here's a list of spells I want you to work on," Harry commanded, handing the 7th year prefect a small scroll. "Working on those should help improve your class work as well. Charmers? You'll be working on adjusting the battlefield to our needs. Here's your list. Defenders? You'll be doing a little of both, as well as being in charge of our primary offense. I'll also want a few of you working on protecting our group. Here's your list.
"One last thing," he said before the meeting split up. "You'll all need to know the snowball charm. I don't want to see any of our people being disqualified for illegal offensive spells, even if other sides do. Is that clear?"
"Dismissed!" He waited for the others to split up before turning to Harry's Rangers. "Great, now, we're going to be a little different. You're going to be split up into spies, snipers and my bodyguards. But you're all my advisers."
"How is this going to work?" Zabini asked. "I can understand you trusting your Griffs, but me? I'm a liability."
"Well, we need to keep me alive as long as possible," Harry replied. "And you're going to be a bonus to that. We need your cunning. Unlike certain other members of your house, you've actually got cunning and the intelligence to use it. Slytherin House is siding mostly with Viktor; Ravenclaw with Fleur; and Hufflepuff's entirely with Cedric. I want you to think up ways to break through our plans. Figure out the holes. Think like a Slytherin, and we'll try to fill them."
"I can do that," Zabini nodded. "It might be a pleasant challenge."
"Great!" Harry shook his hand before turning to the Weasley Twins. "I want you two to help make things tougher for our position to be taken. Take control of the battlefield and protect us. You can't use pranks that harm or affect the others directly, but no one said anything about affecting the field of battle itself."
"-Just the thing-"
"-That you want," one finished.
Both threw their hands in the air with identical grins: "Portable swamp!"
"I like it!" Harry grinned back. He turned to the Patil Twins. "Padma, Parvati? I want you as profilers."
"Profilers? What's that?" Parvati asked, more than a little confused.
"Let's face it, you're one of the biggest gossips in the school," Harry said indelicately. He held up a hand to forestall argument. "I don't mean that as an insult! I want the gossip. I want you and your sister to make descriptions of the heavy hitters on the other sides. I want to know their strengths and weaknesses. We're going to exploit them."
"Blimey!" Zabini said, listening in. "Why aren't you in Slytherin?"
"My friends were already in Gryffindor and I didn't want to be in the same house as the ferret," Harry admitted honestly.
"I can understand your reasoning," Zabini agreed. "I don't want to be in there with him either."
"Ron!" the boy in question stood up straight like an enlisted soldier caught goofing off by an officer. Harry grinned. "I want battle plans. Figure out what attacks we should be using."
"How do I do that?"
"Think of it as a chessboard where every person is a piece and every piece can go anywhere," Harry told him. Ron seemed to ponder it a moment before nodding in agreement. Harry gave him a clap on the back before turning to the Chasers. "Your job is going to be a little different, ladies. You all know the summoning charm?" All three nodded. "We'll you're going to summon your brooms and rain death from above."
"Basically, you want us to be chasers," Alicia said with a smirk.
"Exactly, but using snow balls instead," Harry agreed. The girls shared a look and shrugged.
"We can do that," they agreed, with each giving a quick nod.
Time passed, with all teams working hard to ensure that their Champion would succeed. Finally, the day had come.
The Quidditch pitch was modified and covered by deep layers of snow, the lower levels packed solidly enough to ensure some steady footing. Four basic starting areas were made up of the four corners of the pitch, giving a nearly level playing field. There was a small copse of evergreens in the middle with a series of thorny hedgerows spaced throughout the pitch. Three large "hills" were evenly spaced along the middle.
"Now, I want you all to remember these rules: ONE! I don't want to see anyone casting anything but snow hexes at other players," Moody began. "TWO! No physical contact! If you wanna make snowballs by hand, that's fine. THREE! The Game ends when one Champion remains! Any questions?"
Harry raised his hand.
"The spell-casting rules are only against opponents, right? We can still change the landscape and cast other non-offensive spells, right? No curses or hexes, but shield spells and the like?" Harry asked.
"I'll allow that, but I don't want anybody seriously injured," Moody agreed.
The other students looked on in horror at the smug looks Harry Potter's inner circle were sporting. They'd forgotten about the Weasley Twins.
It was then that two things happened: the other three teams decided to team up against Harry's Hooligans (as Dean Thomas had named the primarily Gryffindor Team); and Harry realized that he was against almost the entire school at once.
When the whistle blew, the Slytherins immediately ignored Krum's commands and started hexing the Hooligans' position. Harry's Transmutors, having anticipated such an action, did what they had been trained to do: They made a series of snow cannons such as one would see on a ski slope. About half the younger years of Slytherin fell in the first wave. The Hooligans' losses were minimal, but it gave them enough time to get up the walls of the Instant Fortress the Twins had made, something similar to their portable swamp. The walls were thick, but made of clear ice. There were "wand" slots big enough for a wand to fit through, but which blocked most other damage. McGonagall was mightily impressed by her students, half tempted to give them points despite her present situation. She heard the other professors gasp as attackers fell by the score. In tune with the magic, those hit turned a bright, neon pink, signifying that they had to leave the field.
More than one spectator was scandalized as "dead" Slytherins stood in front of their "living" fellows, preventing the snowballs from hitting. Moody seemed to be of two minds: on one hand, it was a violation of the rules, as they were no longer members of their previous team; however, in real battlefields, people could be used as shields. He eventually ruled against doing so, and counted those behind the "killed" students as also having been wounded.
Ron Weasley was crouched atop the parapet and glanced about the field of battle. He was looking for the enemy commanders. Krum was nowhere to be found, having retreated when his forces betrayed their leader. Ron wasn't surprised at that action, as loyalty was not a Slytherin trait. Scanning the battlefield with his omnioculars, he spotted two blonde heads among the crowds. He pointed them out to the Gryffindor chasers, who summoned their brooms, disillusioned themselves and went on the offensive for assassination strikes.
Fleur Delacour didn't even notice the snowball that hit her in the back of the head. Her Ravenclaw support looked up in horror as their team turned bright pink, signifying their loss. Roger Davis demanded that the brooms be banned, but Moody stated that it wasn't against the rules. The first leader had fallen. In prime wizarding form, as soon as their leader fell, the entire side dutifully trudged off the field and gave up. Some muggleborns noted loudly that this was exactly what happened when people were being attacked by Death Eaters in the war, but they were ignored by pretty much everyone else.
Cedric Diggory was forward thinking enough to note that he was slated to be next on Harry's hit list, since Krum was nowhere to be seen. Silently, he cursed himself for not considering his own defenses, while at the same time, he was surprised that Fleur's primarily Ravenclaw team had ignored it as well. His estimation of Harry Potter went up considerably. Anyone who could manage his people that well deserved to be in this competition. He felt a hand on his arm. Looking down he saw Susan Bones giving him a serious look.
"Don't Worry, Cedric," Susan said. "As a Warrior of Justice, I'll protect you just like Auntie Amelia taught me."
Cedric nodded silently in confusion. A moment later, Susan was on the tops of trees, seeking out how best to deliver Justice. Unfortunately, this made her a perfect target and got hit shortly thereafter.
"Harry! We've succeeded in one assassination against the Beaubatons Champion," Ron called down from his perch on the fortress walls.
Harry nodded. "I think it's time."
Harry turned and pointed to his Transmutors. "Fire up the cannons," he commanded. Soon enough, giant balls of snow shot out of magical cannons, raining freezing artillery fire down on his opponents.
Up in the stands, adults looked on in horror at the ruthlessness the youngest Champion displayed. He was "slaughtering" his opponents by the dozens, and Moody wasn't doing anything to stop it. Some of the more active fighters in the last war nodded appreciatively, wishing they had been lead by someone like this in the war.
"Albus!" demanded the Durmstrang headmaster. "How can you allow this?"
"Now, now," Dumbledore said in his typical grandfatherly tone. "You know as well as I, that the other teams could have done this if they wanted to. Just because someone didn't think of something, doesn't mean it's against the rules."
"I agree," Ludo Bagman said. "This was a test of leadership. Harry Potter is leading well, as are the other contestants, although Ms. Delacour is most unfortunate. I think next time, we should randomize the teams."
"Whatever for?" McGonagall demanded. "The houses are an important part of Hogwarts life!"
"Yes, but we're watching one side out of four crush the competition," Bagman said. "It would have been much more even if that had been split."
"Why don't you jerks just shut up and watch my grandson kill them all?" Lina irritably demanded from behind them.
"Lina, you've got a grandson?" Gourry asked. Lina sighed, rolled up her pamphlet and wacked her husband on the back of the head. "Ow! What was that for?"
"He's your grandson, too!"
"Wait, wouldn't that mean we had kids? Who'd I have kids with? I don't remember having kids," Gourry asked, looking up in the sky as he stroked his chin in thought. That earned him another whack to the back of the head.
"This is what I get for marrying a dumbass," grumbled Lina under her breath. Ignoring the idiot she married, she cupped her hands to her mouth and yelled. "NO QUARTER, HARRY! KILL 'EM ALL!"
Harry grinned and flashed her a thumbs up from inside the fortress upon hearing those instructions. He turned and nodded to his redheaded Q's. The Weasley Twins grinned evilly, transfigured their clothing to pure white, pulled on their headless hats, pulled out their wands and prepared to go hunting. Their clothing shifted slightly, turning into the magical equivalent of gilly suits, breaking up the human form, to better disguise their opponents. Not quite invisibility, they allowed for similar effects. They stalked out a secret entrance and set up shop as snipers on a couple of nearby snowy knolls.
Now, during the preparation phase, the Patil Twins as profilers had made a list of dangerous witches and wizards -those who were known to have sufficient power and adaptability to cause some real problems for Harry's plans. Their faces and tactics had all been memorized by Harry's Rangers. Some were taken out by the disillusioned Chasers, but the Weasley Twins were doing well moping up the rest. Using transfigured snow into ice stands, they had perfect aim with their snowball spells, hitting targets at much longer range than thought possible by others. The names were magically knocked off the self updating list back in the ice fortress as opponents fell to the Twins' wands.
However, safety was an illusion.
No matter how well they were disguised and hidden, this was no protection against friendly fire. Fred "died" a moment before George, as giant balls of snowy artillery fire hit their position.
The phrases they uttered would have earned them several Howlers had their mother been close enough to hear.
Viktor Krum was not stupid. You didn't get to be in the Quidditch World Cup, a world renowned Seeker and a Tri-Wizard Champion by being stupid. He did, however, curse himself silently as he watched his forces betray him. If this is what Voldemort had for Death Eaters, his faith in the British Wizarding people sank quite low. If they had been cowed by people using this kind of tactic, they deserved anything they got.
However, he knew when it was time to retreat. Nodding to his fellow Durmstrang students, he led the retreat into the trees, where they quickly transfigured a mound into a bunker, quickly disillusioning the structure until it was a little more safe. They heard the Beaubatons army trample overhead and heard their moans as Fleur was assassinated.
Viktor decided to use a different tactic. Carefully transfiguring the ground, they started tunneling through the field of battle with the intent of coming up from below inside the Ice Fortress and taking Harry's Hooligans by surprise.
This would have worked well except for two things: they didn't have a good sense of direction under the ground, and the tunneling spell knocked up dirt into a mound above the tunnel. Any muggleborn with an eye for old Warner Brothers cartoons could tell that these students had taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque.
Viktor Krum popped up out of the ground right next to Cedric Diggory.
There was a moment of stunned silence when neither side did anything, simply stared at each other.
Cedric looked at Viktor and Krum looked at Diggory. Then some idiot first year Slytherin decided to try to make a sneak attack, breaking the momentary truce. Snowballs went flying. For the first time in the battle, a true firefight broke out like the spectators wanted. Krum popped back into the hole and Diggory made a hasty retreat. At a safe distance, both sides took stock of their remaining troops.
Krum has five followers left. Diggory had 42, but the core of his upperclassmen were "dead" on the field. He was leading an army of children against a fortress. Anyone who had underestimated Harry Potter wouldn't do it again. He had the smallest army, and yet he had decimated his opponents. He regretted not listening to Fitch-Finchly's talk about "force multipliers" and his advice from the boy's military father.
Then he ducked as another artillery blast hit not ten feet from him.
Draco Malfoy was not in Slytherin because he was cunning.
Nor was he in Slytherin because he was especially ambitious.
No, he was in Slytherin because he was a pureblooded supremacist with an ego slightly larger than the British Empire at the height of Queen Victoria's reign. He also had the unfortunate tendency to always believe he was right and to always feel his Head of House and his father would always protect him from attack.
That was, once again, an unfortunate mistake on his part.
So when Draco had the "cunning" idea that this battle was the perfect time to hex Harry Potter, few would be surprised that he made a mess of things.
His plan was simple: he would have the other Slytherins attack in force, and he would hex Potter in the battle. Preferably from the back. It seemed he forgot that he was not in command. But, then again, the facts had never interfered with a Malfoy's thought process. Draco Malfoy was "killed" in that first wave.
However, he was brought into make "battlefield conditions" so, he would still have his chance. Sneaking around the edges, as other "dead" students started making it snow or causing wind to blow through the "hills" of the Pitch, he managed to get back onto the pitch unseen. This was primarily because people were watching the Diggory/Krum battle. Malfoy even managed to sneak in the back side of the fortress, since the back side wasn't covered (that side being the edge of the boundaries).
He raised up his wand, grinned maniacally, and hit Harry Potter in the back with a bludgeoning hex. He cackled as Potter went down, causing almost 70 wands to point at him. His breath caught in his throat as he was hit by nearly as many stunning hexes.
Moody decided to ignore the Hooligan's infraction of the rules. There was nothing that said they couldn't hex a "dead" man, after all.
Draco didn't wake up for four days, even after being envenerated by several people. Of course, since the majority of the crowd had witnessed the event, they didn't try very hard. There wasn't a person without a skull and snake tattoo that didn't think Malfoy deserved more.
Lina Inverse was not amused.
Her grandson was just knocked out by a student who had cheated! Luckily, he was just unconscious and not dead. Had Harry been killed by the boy - well, let's just say that the British Wizarding population would have decreased significantly in a very short period of time.
As it was, Harry was being looked at by the healers, but the battle continued. It was all she could do to keep from running down there and finishing things. She did have to give Harry credit. While he might be keeping to the rules, he was making them work for him. There wasn't anything that said he couldn't do what he had done, so it was allowed. She was proud of him.
Now, if he would just wake up and kill everybody else.
Luna Lovegood looked down at the unconscious Harry Potter. He was surrounded by healers and they had already said that he would be okay, but he couldn't be removed from the field without losing his magic, unless a participant hit him with a snow spell.
Harry's Hooligans pretty much refused to give up that easily. She glanced at Hermione Granger, who was sending up as many people as possible to start summoning brooms to help the Chasers. Others were taking to the walls, to hit as many still living opponents as they could see. Others still were throwing out the Weasley Twins' portable swamps around the outside, creating a suitable swamp moat that was freezing into a slushy mess. No one was going to risk a sneak attack, when their leader was down.
That was when Luna decided that just once, even if she was a Ravenclaw, she'd act like a Gryffindor for a day.
Transfiguring her clothes much the same way the Weasley Twins had, she snuck out onto the battlefield. Tucking her wand behind her ear, she started chanting a spell her grandmother had taught her.
"Vu Raywa – Revised! Snow Dragon!" she called out, letting the spell fly from her hands and land with a puff in a snow covered knoll.
Ally and enemy alike looked on in horror as snow started to fly away from the surrounding area to form into a large draconic shape. Gasps were heard as it clamored to its feet, taking its first steps and causing the ground to shake with power. Breath caught in people's throats as it picked its head up, with little Luna Lovegood perched on its head.
Grinning triumphantly, Luna raised a hand to her mouth a let out a laugh that sent shivers through anyone in hearing range.
Lina's head whipped around and she stared in horror at the blonde version of Naga the White Serpent letting loose that all-to-familiar sound that passed for laughter.
"How in hell did Goldfish Poop reproduce?" she asked in confused horror.
Cedric Diggory peeked out of the trees where he and his troops had hidden. He looked up and saw a large snowy foot crash down on his position. An instant later, his remaining Hufflepuffs turned pink in defeat.
Viktor Krum saw the snow creation crush his Hogwarts opponent and immediately commanded that his five remaining supporters stop it. Snowballs flew at the blonde girl and she dodged them with a grace that few knew she had. Unfortunately, she was eventually hit and fell from the snow dragon's head.
However, this did not stop the spell as they expected.
Instead, the magical creation went berserk, charging right into the stands, causing mayhem and destruction.
Krum decided a quick surgical strike and assassination attempt was his best chance at winning. He looked back to the fortress and saw the Hooligans strike out into the field, sending snowballs in his general direction. Krum glanced once at his teammates and they nodded.
Krum disillusioned himself as his people ran off, creating a distraction. Luckily for him, they were all dressed similar to him, and so provided good doppelgangers. Hiding behind a tree, he allowed the Hooligans to pass and started making his way towards the fortress.
He then discovered the moat. Grimacing and casting an additional warming charm, he trudged forward through the slushy water and onto the dry land on the other side. He searched along the walls and, after a few minutes, found one of the secret doors that the Weasley Twins had incorporated into the fortress. He glanced back to the battlefield just in time to see his last supporter fall.
Viktor Krum was alone.
Hermione Granger was keeping things together in the wake of Harry's injury. She was promising pain to Malfoy under her breath a moment before she noticed wet foot prints trudging towards the room where the Healers were treating Harry.
"Invader!" she called out, a moment too late as a snowball seemed to fly from nowhere and hit the still unconscious Harry on the side of the head.
Viktor Krum was knocked unconscious as twenty-nine snowballs hit him an instant later.
Despite winning the Task, Viktor Krum was not very well liked in Gryffindor tower in the following months.
Four days later, Draco Malfoy woke up.
Before opening his eyes, he smirked, knowing he got Potter good. Then he opened his eyes and realized that he was staring at a dragon and he was chained to the floor.
He glanced to the side and saw a short woman with eyes as red as her hair smirking back.
A moment later, he realized she was Harry Potter's grandmother.
Draco Malfoy's screams attracted the attention of the several dragons occupying the lair.
Lucius Malfoy would spend months trying to find out what happened to his son, but even his considerable wealth wasn't doing much good. It would be six months after that when Charles Weasley would discover what looked like a human thigh bone in a large pile of Hungarian Horntail excrement. They would never get a positive ID.
The final task was a maze. A hedge maze.
Harry sighed as he watched Viktor Krum get a head start into the labyrinth.
He wasn't the only one who was upset with Krum taking first place. Harry had lost few of his Hooligans and was hit after being hexed, but Bagman had reluctantly agreed to the Durmstrang Headmaster's demands. As it ended up, Bagman owed him a lot of money.
Bagman made himself scarce a few moments later for fear of attacks. It was a wise decision.
Harry took a deep breath as he entered the maze. Then he took another deep breath and started burning down the hedge.
"Harry! What are you doing? You can't burn down the hedge!" Percy Weasley (Bagman's replacement) protested. Harry looked back with a confused look.
"You're supposed to head through and face the challenges!" Percy demanded.
"I didn't see anything against it in the rules," Harry said before casting another fireball at a hedge further in. He shrugged and chose to ignore the stuffy Weasley.
Soon, Harry encountered a sphinx.
"What has three legs in the morn-wait, why are you casting a spell?"
The Sphinx, encased in ice, fell over and shattered into a million pieces. Harry continued on.
Harry grinned as he encountered one of Hagrid's Blast ended skruts. Smirking slightly, he cast a levitation spell to pull it up and around, using its explosive rear end to continue burrowing his way into the center.
Harry reached the center before Cedric was even allowed in the maze. He reached down, listening to the sound of his grandparents cheering for him even over the snap and crackle of the burning vegetation, and grabbed the cup.
The next thing he heard was "Stupefy."
"Ah, at last he awakes," a hissing, familiar voice spoke. Harry looked up to see the snakish form of Voldemort standing before him, dangling Harry's wand in his scaly fingers.
"Voldemort!" Harry growled, pushing against the statue that held him hostage.
"You are brave," the dark wizard sneered. "Brave and foolish!"
Before Harry could retort, Tommy Riddle turned towards the traitor, Wormtail. "Give me your arm!" the snake man commanded. Harry watched as Wormtail howled as Voldemort jabbed his wand into the dark mark. A few short cracks shocked the strange stillness of the graveyard as wizards dressed in black robes and skull masks apparated in.
Harry watched as Voldemort ranted and whined about their lack of loyalty to him. Harry did his best not to smirk. He chose to spend the time breaking out of the statue that held him. He did, however, take close note of who was behind those masks. There were more than a few familiar faces.
However, he was not able to escape in time. Voldemort turned on him.
"Give him his wand, come on!" Voldemort snarled. "Go on, pick it up!"
Hesitantly, Harry grasped the holly wand and stood back up.
"I assume you've been taught to duel, Potter?" the dark wizard inquired with an air of self-importance. "First. we bow. Come now, Potter, the niceties must be observed. Dumbledore wouldn't want you to forget your manners would he?"
When he refused to comply, Harry's head was forced down by the power of Voldemort's spell. "I said, bow." Harry tried to refuse, but the snake wizard sneered. "That's better."
A moment later, Harry was wracked in pain as he fell the full force of the Cruciatus curse from a true master of the Unforgivable.
"Ah, 'At a boy Harry," the noseless snake wizard sneered as he towered over the boy. "Your parents would be proud. Especially your mudblood mother."
Apparently, Tom Riddle hadn't got the memo.
"I'm going to kill you, Harry Potter," he said, leaning down over the boy. "After tonight, no one will ever question my power. After tonight, if they speak of you - if they do - they will only speak about how you begged me to kill you, and how I, being a merciful lord, obliged."
"GET UP!" Voldemort commanded. Harry felt the man's magic pull Harry's body to its feet.
Then Harry did the smart thing and ran away.
"DON'T YOU RUN AWAY FROM ME!"
He dodged a suspicious green spell and made his way off into the fog.
"AFTER HIM, YOU FOOLS!" snarled the angry wizard. Harry stepped into the shadows of a towering gravestone and decided to take care of business.
"Hey, do you hear that?" Crabbe Sr. asked, cocking his head.
"Yeah," Goyle said. "Something about 'darkness'."
"And Twilight," Mulciber said. "I definitely heard 'Twilight' from over there."
The Death Eaters and their Lord started off in the direction from whence the voice came.
"'Blood that flows?'" Lucius said in confusion. "Is the fool praying?"
"His mother was a mudblood," sneered another Death Eater. "I think he is - he's saying something about power. He's praying for assistance! Ha!"
Voldemort sneered in amusement.
However, they were rather incorrect. Harry let loose the growing ball of power where the arrogant wizards were chatting.
As the dust settled, Harry watched as the now-concave graveyard. A once more bodiless Voldemort fluttered off in wraith form only to be picked off with a Rah Tilt spell Lina had taught him specifically.
Harry surveyed the former battlefield for survivors, spotting a three-legged rat frantically tripoding away.
An instant later, Wormtail was flying into his hand, wriggling in an attempt to escape, but still firmly trapped by the spell.
Harry glanced around and his heart sunk.
"Awe crap! I blew up the portkey!"