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Thank you to all of you who have continued to support my story, once again sorry for the long absence. Thank you to my amazing BETA KR1571AN

Chapter Forty-Nine

Dragons

"Severus, please, you have to do something!" Narcissa grasped her lover's robes, pleading. Her blue eyes were filled with desperation.

Severus sighed, taking her delicate hands gently into his own, "I wish I could, but there's nothing that I can do. Once a name is chosen by the Goblet, the individual is magically bound to compete."

Narcissa shook her head in disbelief, never would she have thought that Draco would do something so foolish. People have died in this Tournament. She wondered if he had done it as a joke, believing he never actually had a chance or perhaps someone had dared him, maybe the Potter boy. Then again, her son had also decided on a whim to go to Switzerland one weekend for no other reason than that he was bored and it sounded like fun.

The pureblooded witch let out a chocking sob, at the realization that there was no way to get her son out of this. Severus pulled her into his arms, soothing her the best that he could. "He will be okay, Crissa," he whispered into her hair, his large hand slowly rubbing soft circles against her back. "Draco is clever and resourceful - everything that makes up a true Slytherin. He will do fine."

"You'll watch after him, wont you?" She asked with a shaky breath.

"Of course darling. I will do everything in my power to protect him, I promise you."

Severus meant every word of his promise. He didn't care if he had to lie, cheat or even use dark magic; he would protect Draco at all costs. He could care less if he won the bloody thing; he just wanted him to make it out alive. Yes, he would watch after the Potter boy as well, just as he always had. After all, he had promised on Lily's grave, but Draco would always be his number one priority.

XXX

Draco found it somewhat ironic that the front page of the Daily Prophet declared, in large, bold, print, that four Champions had been chosen to compete in the Tri-Wizard Tournament, while the announcement that re-trials and, in some cases, first trials for convicted Death Eaters and sympathizers of the Dark Lord would begin the following Monday. He supposed that he shouldn't have been too surprised; the Prophet, by all accounts, was more of a tabloid than an actual newspaper. Folding it closed, he set it aside and instead decided to concentrate on his breakfast.

Glancing over at the Gryffindor table, he spotted Hermione talking softly to Harry. He also noticed Ron was glaring daggers at Harry, which Draco wasn't at all surprised to see. He knew Harry being entered in the Tournament had temporarily caused a rift in their friendship, but Weasley would get over it eventually. He hadn't spoken to Hermione since he was named a Champion the previous evening and as of yet, he wasn't exactly sure what her reaction would be, although he doubted that she would be exactly thrilled. She was worried enough about the possibility of Harry being in it; he could only imagine her concerns now that he was entered as well. As much as he hated to cause her grief, he had gone into it for the right reasons.

Glancing down the rest of the Gryffindor table, he noticed several stares and whispers while looking and pointing in his direction. In general, outside of his own house, much of the school still seemed to see him as some sort of demon spawn, like he was going suddenly go insane and start spouting Unforgivables left and right. He had no doubt being entered into the Tournament had only added to their suspicions.

Taking a final bite of his breakfast, Draco grabbed his rucksack and headed over to the Gryffindor table.

"Hey, guys," Draco greeted his friends with a smile.

Harry gave a small smile in return while Hermione sighed and, without a word, got up from the table and started to walk out of the Great Hall.

Draco gave Harry a curious look, to which the boy-who-lived just shrugged. With an annoyed grunt, Draco started after his best friend. "Hermione! Hey, Mione, wait up."

At first the Gryffindor ignored his pleas, but when he continued to follow her towards her first class she finally relented. "What Draco!"

Draco brow rose, surprised by her hostile tone. "Uh… I just wanted to talk."

Her eyes narrowed, her arms firmly crossed over her chest. "About what exactly? About how you stupidly entered a contest that you are completely under qualified to compete in, or the fact that you dragged not only Harry but another under aged girl along with you!"

She was upset and he understood why, but she was, in his mind, completely over reacting. He had confided in her the situation and that he had wanted to find a way to help Harry and he had done it, even if it hadn't turned out exactly the way that he had expected.

"Hey now!" Draco began, defensively, "I was trying to take Harry's place, not enter in alongside him. Not to mention the fact that when I entered the competition, I did it at the last possible moment, or close to it; so when I removed the age line I didn't expect anyone to put in their name afterwards. I expected Fleur's name to come out of the Goblet just like I told you!"

Hermione's angered expression slowly melted away, her bushy hair fell as her head drooped, her eyes suddenly focused on the stone floor in front of her feet. "I'm sorry," she whispered, "I didn't…. I shouldn't have presumed." Letting out a deep sigh, her head slowly rose, her eyes meeting those of her best friend. "I'm just scared. I don't want anyone getting hurt."

"Oh, Mione," Draco didn't hesitated to open his arms, Hermione quickly melted into them. "It will be okay. I already know what lies ahead, and how to handle it. Harry and I will be fine, really." He then placed a soft kiss atop her head.

"What are you going to tell Harry?" She asked.

"The truth," Draco replied slowly releasing Hermione from his embrace. "Tonight, after dinner, in the Room of Requirement."

"You'll tell him about the dragon and show him a way to defeat it, wont you?"

"Of course I will. We will get through this Hermione. Together, we can overcome anything."

XXX

"I just find it peculiar, Albus," Moody said as he shifted in his seat before slowly rising from it. "The Potter boy is chosen as a Champion, even though he swears that he didn't enter it. And I'm telling you, I have no doubt that the boy is being truthful - you could see the panic in his eyes when he was told there was no way out of it." Albus hummed as he stroked his long, silver beard. "Then there's also the fact that the age line was tampered with. I thought you said that the security measures you set up were above any student's ability?" he grumbled.

"They were."

Moody sighed, his magical eye shifting towards the door while his normal one went back to the Headmaster. "You and I both know that the attack at the Quidditch World Cup is only the beginning. Whoever is behind tampering with the Goblet is not expecting the Potter boy to survive."

Albus sighed but nodded in agreement, "That is my fear."

"Then there's the issue with the Malfoy boy. I know you said that he was nothing like his father, and I'm inclined to agree, which makes the situation all the more grave for him."

"Grave? I don't see why, the boy has inclined himself to the light."

"He has indeed. However, most of the wizarding population still sees him as nothing more than a clone of his father. Then there is the fact that any followers of You-Know-Who will automatically expect Draco to follow in his father's footsteps. What do you think their reaction will be when they find out that he does not agree with their ideals?"

"Oh, I see your point."

"Good. I have already offered my services to him."

"Services?" Albus asked.

"I mentioned to him that, considering the majority of the school's attitude toward him and his family at the moment, it might be wise for him to be adequately prepared to defend himself."

"I see."

"I would, of course, be willing to extend that offer to Potter as well."

"Hmm," Albus Dumbledore sighed, running his thumb and forefinger over his old, tired, eyes. "The Champions are not supposed to have any outside help, Alastor."

Moody gave a snorted laugh, "I'm not going to be giving them any clues Albus, just brushing them up on defensive skills. You know as well as I do that none of your students are up to par in the subject of defense due to the mostly abysmal individuals that you have been hiring to teach the subject."

Albus chuckled as he rose from his seat. "Very well Alastor, just mind what you teach them, will you, nothing too advanced. We don't want them draining their core trying to do spells that they can't yet handle."

"You don't have to worry about that, Albus. My goal is to make sure they can adequately defend themselves. I'm not trying to train them to be Aurors."

XXX

Draco had pulled Harry aside just before Charms and said that he had something really important to tell him and to meet him near the Room of Requirement after dinner. Once there, alongside Hermione, Harry had been completely flabbergasted with what his Slytherin friend confided in him: that he had a vision about the Tournament, that he had seen his name drawn from the cup and that he had attempted, unsuccessfully, to take Harry's place. Then there was the fact that he knew exactly what each of the tasks entailed, which he explained to him in detail, (leaving out the part about Voldemort returning). At first, this knowledge gave Harry a slight glimmer of hope in the cursed situation; that was until Draco told him exactly what it was they had to face.

"Dragons!" Harry groaned as he ran his hand through his messy mop of black hair.

"I know it sounds scary, but we'll get through it Harry, I promise," Draco said, doing his best to reassure his good friend.

Harry shook his head, her face scrunching in frustration "You should have told me before hand," he hissed. "You shouldn't have had to get involved it this. You could have… damn it Draco!" Harry yelled running his hands down his tired face.

Draco sighed, taking a step closer to his friend, "I'm sorry, Harry. Maybe you're right and perhaps I should have told you before, but I didn't want to make you worry."

"No, you thought you'd just go ahead and put yourself in danger instead. Well bloody hell. I may not have parents to worry about me, but I sure as hell bet your mum's freaking out, not to mention Snape."

Draco agreed with a small nod, knowing he had a point; still, he felt that he could handle the situation better than an emotionally abused fourteen year old who was already facing a difficult and uncertain future fraught with peril.

"You do have people that care about you, Harry," Hermione spoke up. "Your parents may be gone but Sirius and Remus are like Uncles to you, and then there's the Weasley's, and of course Draco and I. So don't you dare think otherwise. Yes. Draco was an idiot for not thinking his decision through properly and I have already had words with him about that, but you have to understand that he did what he did because he wanted to help you."

Harry sighed, his shoulders dropping.

"It's alright, Harry," Hermione said reassuringly placing a gently hand on the panicked teen's shoulder. "Draco has a plan."

Harry looked up to his Slytherin friend, who gave him kind smile in return. "There are a few different tactics we can use. One of which I saw in my visions and a few I came up with on my own, but ultimately you can decide which one you wish to use."

As Harry agreed to listen to what Draco had to say, a large, soft, cushioned chair suddenly appeared behind him and he quickly found himself sinking into it.

"Okay, what?"

"Well, one idea is that we can transfigure some sort of landscape, a bolder for example into an animal, which will divert the dragon long enough to retrieve the egg," Draco explained as he sat down in a loveseat that had suddenly appeared as well. Hermione instantly sat beside him.

It had been what Cedric Diggory had originally done in the first task; since he wasn't going to be competing this time around, it wasn't really like he was stealing his idea. Fleur had tried to use her Veela abilities to Charm the dragon which only somewhat worked; obviously he or Harry wouldn't be able to do that. Krum would be using Conjunctivitis Curse and he wasn't about to steal that idea - not that it was a good one to begin with.

"Okay, that's not bad," Harry said, "What else?"

"Well, there's a powerful sleeping charm, but it can be difficult to master on a beast as large as a dragon. Dragon tamers know it of course, so I suppose it could be done, with enough practice."

Draco had used the charm before - a few times on himself when he was having difficulties sleeping and several times on Astoria when he simply didn't want to deal with her. Astoria, however, was nothing like a dragon, at least not in size.

"We could also try a tripping jinx. It would cause the dragon to fall, hopefully giving us enough time to retrieve the golden egg. Then there's a freezing charm, it will render the Dragon motionless for a brief time."

Hermione listened with rapt attention as Draco went on for another fifteen minutes listing possible spells, jinxes and hexes that might work. Some seemed more probable than others, but she was sure that Harry truly appreciated the input. When he had finally finished, Draco apologized once again to Harry for keeping it from him, but he also promised to do everything that he could to get them both through the Tournament.

Harry would admit that he was still a little annoyed with Draco; he didn't like it when people kept things from him. However, he did understand that he had good motives and so he really couldn't stay mad with him. Besides, with Ron pissed at him, Draco and Hermione were all he had. Then again, as Hermione pointed out, he did have Sirius and Remus. Perhaps he should write them; he was sure that they probably already knew about his name being pulled from the Goblet. Perhaps they could offer some helpful advice as well.

XXX

Ron glared at Harry from across the room. He said something to Hermione who gave him a quick hug, before he left the Common Room. Where was he going at eight at night anyway? Ron wondered. He was still angry with his so-called best friend for entering the Tournament and not telling him. He wouldn't have snitched! Besides, if Harry had told Ron how he did it then Ron would have been able to enter as well. He could just imagine what he would do with all that gold! He'd buy some decent robes to start, and then maybe a new broom, top-of-the-line of course. But, there was no hope of that now. The already-famous Harry Potter would win and add the prize money to his already-overflowing pile of gold. Bloody jerk!

XXX

Hermione sighed at the sight of Ron's hateful stare towards Harry. Draco had said he was jealous and Hermione agreed that he was probably right. He also said that he would get over it eventually, and while she hoped Draco was correct in his assumption, she couldn't really count on it. Ron, while a good friend to Harry most of the time, still had a quick temper and the boy knew how to hold a grudge like no one's business! For Harry's sake, she hoped that he pulled his head out of his ass sooner rather than later.

Hermione headed up to her dorm room to get ready for bed. She had planned to come back down around 9:30 when Harry was due back. He and Draco were being given extra defense lessons by Professor Moody, which she thought was quite nice of the ex-Auror to offer, especially given their current situations. Professor Moody may have been a bit eccentric, but he certainly knew what he was doing and she had no doubt that he would be of great help to Harry and Draco.

XXX

A/N: Okay so I know its been forever and I'm super sorry about that. Life has been an uphill battle lately. Anyway. I already have half of the next chapter written and I hope to have it completed and posted by the end of the week. Also if you are wondering about my other story Second Start, I am working on that one as well and I also hope to have a chapter out by this weekend.

Next up Moody 'teaches', Narcissa talks to her son, a bit from Sirius and Remus and of course the first task.