Ok, I've decided to write just one more chapter in honour of my twenty-first birthday. ^^ That and because I've gotten some reviews saying it's evil of me to just leave the story hanging without even describing the first Task. So hopefully, I've remedied that.

Truth be told, I'm still undeniably attached to the story and my characters. Hopefully, in the far, far future when free time is no longer a luxury, I will find the urge to continue writing this particular story. In the meantime, I'm hanging on to the story, even though it has been suggested that I put it up for adoption.

Chapter Thirty-One: Hogwarts Year Five – Dragon

Pushing himself to his feet, Harry strode towards the through the entrance of the tent. Then, he was walking past the trees, through a gap in an enclosure. The enclosure was fenced with thick planks of wood, surrounded by stands from which hundreds of faces were starting down at him. And right at the other end of the enclosure across from the gap through which Harry had entered sat the Hungarian Horntail. She was crouched low over her clutch of eggs, her wings half-furled, her reptilian yellow eyes, so like a snake's, upon him. She was a monstrous, scaly, black lizard, thrashing her spiked tail, which left yard-long gouge marks in the hard ground, but she was majestically, dangerously beautiful. Much like how the Killing Curse could be, deadly yet sleek and beautiful in all its green glory.

Harry allowed his lips to curve into a predatory smirk. Oh, but he would show her, her and all the others present today, just how much more dangerous he was.

Harry spotted the golden egg easily enough – it was nestled with its cement-coloured companions, safely clutched between the Horntail's front legs. With a flick of his wrist, Harry released his wand from the wand holster and pointed it at the Horntail in one smooth, fluid motion. Quick as lightning, he darted sideways in a zigzag pattern, gathered his will and snapped off four identical spells – one at each limb of the Horntail.

The bright blue-coloured spells hit the front and back legs of the dragon in sequential order. They were highly charged spells into which Harry had poured a large amount of his power. Left back leg, left front leg, right front leg, then right back leg. As soon as they impacted upon the dragon's tough, scaly flesh, frost, white and powdery, begun to cluster around the area of impact. As the frost spread around the limb, extended from first one small patch to another and eventually encircling each leg in its cold, snowy grip, it started to harden into solid, shimmering transparent, multi-faceted crystals of solid ice.

"Great Scott! He's subdued the dragon using an Ice-spell!" yelled Bagman. "Are you watching this, dragon-handlers?" The crowd shrieked and gasped at that, although Harry was certain that the majority of them did not know what an ice-spell was.

Harry smirked. Dragons were extremely difficult to subdue, due to the ancient magic that was imbued into their thick hides – none but the most powerful spells were able to penetrate that hide. The problem was, while Harry was capable of pulling off some of those spells, it would take time – time which the dragon could possibly attack him. So, Harry had to find a way to first temporarily bind the dragon…hence the beyond-NEWT level Ice-creating spell that conjured ice out of thin air to freeze its limbs in place. Normally, chains or manacles would be a logical move; unfortunately, conjured chains or manacles would not hold a dragon. Yet, there was something about ice that opposed the fiery nature of magical creatures like dragons, hence it worked better than other substances.

Harry inched closer to the dragon, warily watching as it snarled and hissed at him. Then suddenly, it opened its mouth and out of it came a great spiral stream of orange-red flames, aimed right at Harry…

Only, when the flame reached the spot Harry had been at moments before, Harry was already rolling to his feet five feet away. Thank Merlin for those practice duels with Aunt Bella…I swear I'll never complain about her making me dodge curses again.

"Golly, that was close! By Merlin's hat, our youngest champion certainly can run, can't he?" Bagman shouted cheerfully at the crowd, even as Harry gritted his teeth and tuned out the man.

Unfortunately, Harry could not repeat his Ice-creating spell at the dragon's snout. It was the source of dragon's fire, a magical flame that had roughly the same magical properties as Gubraithian fire – any attempt to freeze it would not go well for the caster. But Harry had to get closer to the dragon…yes, maybe that'd work. He started running in another zigzag pattern, putting all the agility and speed he had picked up in his private dueling lessons and field experience into a sprint in the general direction of the dragon. Two times the dragon turned its head and spurted fire aimed at him – both times, it missed.

As Harry ran, he also used all the willpower he had at his disposal, and all his Occlumency skills to compartmentalize his mind, so that he used all the leftover parts not involved in dodging to trace out runic patterns. A stroke here, a circle there…The rune for Cold. The rune for Energy. And last but not least, a rune that would widen the conduit for his magic to flow into the spell. Then, twenty feet away from the Horntail, Harry came to a sudden halt.

Before the Horntail could react, Harry waved his wand in a complicated series of swishes and jabs – he dared not deviate from the set forms for this spell – aimed at the dragon and shouted three words, "Gelidus Gelu Tempestas" Power soared in his blood and veins, bubbling and gurgling, viscous and sweet…flowing, flowing like tall, gushing waterfall, into the spell. The resulting drain of his magical power left Harry slightly weak-headed but almost immediately, he could feel the effect. The temperature of the air in a twenty feet radius around the Horntail, plummeted drastically. Flecks of white frost could be seen on the dragon's leathery hide, even as swirling snow condensed out of the air within the radius of the spell.

"By Merlin's long white beard! What in the world is that spell?" Bagman's voice was wondering, awed. The crowd was silent for a small moment, then they broke out into chattering speculations and then… "I've just been informed by Mr. Crouch here that our youngest Champion has just used a powerful weather-changing spell to put the dragon to sleep! A powerful spell, folks…" Loud, excited cheers from the crowd drowned out Bagman's voice...after all, there were only a select handful of magically powerful and skilled wizards who were able to pull off this kind of flashy, magically-draining spell…which was exactly what Harry wanted his audience to think of his capabilities.

Taking some time to recover, Harry watched as the intense cold did its job on the dragon – which was despite being a great huge beast, was nevertheless a relative of snakes. And if there was one thing Harry knew about snakes after years of watching Nagini and Nuit, it was that they were prone to prolonged sleep in cold weather. Harry did not stop to watch the dragon blink sleepily. Instead, pushing aside his weakness, he stealthily crept across the floor covered with her real eggs, making his way steadily towards the golden egg, using all the prowling skills he had picked up after a few summers of raids.

Closer and closer Harry crept…then, the Horntail gave a rumbling snore and a jet of fire shot out in its sleep. Harry had a split second to make a decision – grab the egg or dodge the flame? In the end, his stubbornness and need for control asserted itself – there was no way he would let a dragon dictate his actions, not when he was so close to victory. Harry lunged at the egg, grabbed it, and rolled…over the bumpy, real eggs of the dragon, which thanks to their granite-solid shell, held up even under his weight. The jet of fire missed him by inches.

Walking to the centre of the enclosure, ignoring the still slumbering dragon, Harry pumped his fist into the air, with the egg tucked under his other arm, to the enthusiastic cheers of the crowd.

"Look at that!" Bagman was shouting himself hoarse. "Will you look at that! Our youngest champion is quickest to get his egg! Without a scratch and with one powerful spell too!"

Harry smirked widely as dragon-keepers rushed forward to subdue the Horntail…only to shiver in cold as they hit the radius of his spell. "It'd wear off in another five minutes, if you'd like to wait." Harry called out to the dragon-keepers. One of them, a stocky, muscular young man with shocking red hair – whom Harry deduced to be Charlie Weasley – smiled, shook his head and remarked wryly, "You've done in one spell what it normally takes five Stunners from dragon-handlers to do. I can hardly believe it."

Harry merely shrugged as the dragon-handlers roused the docile Horntail and led it out of the enclosure. Then, it was time to receive his scores. With the Horntail gone, Harry could now see clearly the stands draped in gold where the judges sat. Lifting his eyes, Harry saw the first judge, Maxime, raise her wand into the air. A long, silvery ribbon shot out of it, which twisted itself into a large figure eight. A product of biasness, Harry mused, since he had not actually done anything that could result in points being taken off. He had not been injured, nor had any eggs been crushed.

Next, Crouch, who was probably the polyjuiced Barty Crouch Jr., shot a number ten into the air. Harry mentally shook his head; he could just imagine Barty's chuckle of joy. Then came Dumbledore, who in line with keeping up appearances of being a fair, impartial judge of moral righteousness, gave Harry the mark he truly deserved – ten.

Bagman, on the other hand, shot a figure nine up into the air. Harry eyed the ex-Quidditch player with narrowed eyes. Since Bagman did not strike him as the overly strict type, given his commentary on the task, Harry deduced that Bagman was trying to subtly decrease the number of points Harry received. He could not do it too obviously either, since he had all but proclaimed Harry's prowess during his commentary. So, he had taken one point off – nothing anyone would call him for, given that Maxime had given Harry only eight. I will find out the reason behind his actions…

Last of all, Karkaroff. Harry almost did not bother to watch, since the ten that came out of his wand was expected. Something that Harry had counted upon…which brought his score to a total of forty-seven. Harry allowed himself a small, contented smirk. Then, he delivered an elegantly executed half-bow in the direction of the judges before exiting from the enclosure.

Harry was confident that he had the highest score, something confirmed later by Francis, who recited the rest of the scores with suppressed excitement. "Fitzroy got forty-five. He performed the Conjunctivitis Curse. Judges were impressed but they all took points off for the scratch the dragon put on his shoulder, 'cept for Maxime, 'cos she's his Headmistress." Harry had nodded briefly, before inquiring after Diggory. Emlen had shrugged slightly, showing that he was unimpressed by the Hogwarts' Champion performance. "It was a neat bit of Transfiguration, but Diggory was careless. The Short-Snout sort of mauled his leg, and he even got a burn on his face…they gave him forty points. Bagman gave him ten, or he wouldn't even have gotten that much." Harry had narrowed his eyes – it appeared that Bagman indeed had some ulterior motive.

That Halloween was one to remember. Thrilled by the victory of one of their own, the normally decorous Slytherins all let their guard down slightly and deigned to show some of their delight. There was a decidedly festive mood at the Slytherin table at the Halloween feast, as many offered their sincere congratulations to Harry. Draco had a smirk plastered onto his face for the entire feast and even laughed at a joke that Theo cracked – Harry did not know whether to be more surprised at the fact that Theo had cracked a joke or that Draco had laughed at one. Later on, back at the Slytherin common room, Daphne had thrown a victory party for Harry, complete with flashing lights (caused by Dr Filibuster's fireworks and magical strobe lights), loud music, smuggled bottles of Firewhisky, Butterbeer and mountains of Honeydukes' cakes and sweets, which all Slytherins, Durmstrang students and a select few Ravenclaws attended. She even allowed her mask to slip slightly and was more reminiscent of her true exuberant self for most of that evening.

Caught up in the excitement of the moment and more than slightly inebriated by all the Firewhisky that he had allowed himself to imbibe, Harry cornered Daphne near the fireplace. All along, he had always thought of her as a younger sister, to be protected and coddled, but this year, somehow, his feelings for her had changed. He stared into her beautiful long-lashed bluish-grey eyes and her delicate face haloed by golden hair for long moments…A slight flush seemed to appear on her fair cheeks…so soft and smooth…Harry could not resist the sight…he allowed himself to give in to temptation and planted a kiss on her cheek. All the while, he was wondering about what her reaction would be like…To his surprise, she did not slap him or push him away, or even glare at him. Instead, the flush on her cheeks deepened and her eyes sparkled. "Harrison…" Daphne breathed as her lips parted slightly.

No, this is wrong. Gathering all his willpower, Harry pushed himself away. No, he would not do or say anything that he might regret later – that Daphne might regret later. None of them can mean anything to me…he reminded himself. I merely use and discard them…He would not hurt Daphne that way. She meant more to him than any other girl; she was no Steffi or Amelia. ""Thanks for organizing this, my dear. Come, let's rejoin the party." Extending a hand, he flashed his most charming smile at the girl. With a dazed look still in her eyes, Daphne acquiesced and allowed herself to be led back to the main part of the Common Room.

The next day, Harry woke up with a pounding hangover. Sweet Merlin, now I remember why I rarely drink…Groaning, he forced himself to concentrate long enough to unlock and summon a vial of hangover cure potion from his trunk. After waiting for the potion to take effect, he opened the hangings of his bed.

Only to pause, slightly surprised, by the sight of the Withers twins standing motionless by the side of his bed. While Harry had accepted their presence as his bodyguards, he had made it clear that he valued his privacy too. He had left a standing order that he did not require their service while he was in the Slytherin dungeons. Hence their current actions, in full formal bodyguard positions, made Harry raise an eyebrow.

With a small bow, Septimus answered the unspoken question quietly, "We thought it best to remain on guard given your inebriated state, my prince." Harry narrowed his eyes. Was Septimus criticizing his actions? With a subtle brush against the older male's mind, Harry relaxed. He could perceive only concern and a sense of responsibility on Septimus' part for Harry's well-being. "Be rest assured, Septimus, I am always protected." Harry replied curtly, even though he had to admit, if only to himself, that he appreciated the twins' sense of duty.

The following weeks after the first task, Harry found the Hogwarts students generally divided into two groups – those that were resentful of the Durmstrang champion doing so well, and those that were awed by his performance. If Harry had not been a celebrity before in the social scene amongst the students, he certainly was one now. And he milked it for what it was worth, charming the female upper-years from all Houses with his polite words and charisma – the softest and easiest target by far.

Slowly and gradually, Harry planted the seeds of temptation amongst those students most receptive to the seductive nature of power. By the day after the first task, Harry had Daphne spread the news about the spell that he had used to get past the dragon; that it was one that only a powerful wizard could pull off. By presenting himself as such, he drew those who wanted a piece of that power close. Padma Patil, Anthony Goldstein, Su Li and Stephen Cornfoot were the most susceptible, after his Slytherins.

But then, Harry had Draco on hand to keep the Slytherins in line. Since the talk he had had with Draco, the latter had seemed to thrown himself into his work as Harry's second-in-command with utmost abandon. And he was cautious too, to show Harry the deference and respect as was proper, acting like how a subordinate should. Unfortunately, in doing so, it felt like Harry had lost a best friend. For no longer was there the easy camaradie and understanding that had existed for years between them. Father always said that I would soon realize I could not afford to have any friends…was he right about this, as he is with most things? Unfortunately, there did not seem to appear to be anything Harry could do about it, not if he did not wish to undo the impact he had made on Draco with his little talk. So Harry pushed the matter to the back of his mind, and focused on other things.

Such as his revenge on Fred and George Weasley, as well as Ronald Weasley and Martin Potter. While Harry had no doubt that it was the Weasley's twins spell that had turned him into a Gryffindor monster of a mascot, Daphne had confirmed his suspicions that it was the youngest male Weasley and the Potter brat that had instigated the prank.

Sunday morning found the Ronald Weasley and Martin Potter magically tied up upside down in the Great Hall, wearing nothing but their briefs, their skin from neck down transformed into shiny green scales like those of a snake. Any student who saw them laughed uproariously, even their fellow Gryffindors – Harry had woven a small compulsion charm into the prank to discourage anyone from helping the two. By the time the staff had managed to get the two down from their position, the two boys were flushed bright red with humiliation.

"Silence!" the newly arrived James Potter cried out, glaring at the sniggering students around him, even as he went to the aid of his son. "When I find out who did this, he shall receive detention for the rest of the year!" Should I teach you how to spell 'Hypocrite', Potter? You certainly didn't jump to the defense of any other students your precious son pranked. Harry allowed a small smirk to curl his lips as he noticed James Potter glaring at him – it seemed the man had brains after all. Maybe the green scales were much too obvious…It was after all the House colour and symbol of Slytherin. No matter. He would not be able to find any evidence connecting Harry to the crime.

Albus Dumbledore clapped his hands twice cheerfully. "Now my dear Professors, does anyone has anything else to add?" Now that they had discussed the routine matters, the staff meeting was finally at the part which Albus loved the most – discussion about the students.

Tiny-statured Filius Flitwick cleared his throat twice. "Ahem…" He finally said with a huge beam on his face, in his squeaky voice. "I'm proud to say that my fifth-year Ravenclaws have shown quite an improvement in their school work!" He waved a piece of parchment excitably, showing just how pleased he was with that news. Albus waved a hand to indicate that Flitwick should continue…Ah, but he did so love hearing about the success of his students!

Flitwick then went on to outline the achievements of some of the fifth-years…Patil, Cornfoot, Li, Goldstein…they had apparently shown steady improvement in their work in many subjects. Beaming, Albus chalked down the recent improvement to the success of his staff and relaxed into his comfortable armchair as Sprout commented on her Hufflepuffs. Then, Minerva reported on her Gryffindors, with the usual complaints about the antics of the Ronald, Martin and the Weasley twins. So sharp were her remarks that James Potter, had a slight flush on his face on behalf of his son. It wasn't until Severus reported marked improvement in the school work of his fifth-year Slytherins that warning bells rang in Albus' mind. Fifth-years…why the sudden improvement in their aptitude for school work? Now, much as Albus was reluctant to attribute their success to anything other than the hard work of his staff, he was not a blind fool. No indeed, he was not, no matter what the Daily Prophet published in its criticism of him.

Irma Pince had long ago informed Albus of a study group that met thrice a week in her library, consisting of fifth-year Slytherins and Ravenclaws, led, of all people, by one Harrison Maximus Riddle. Albus, busy with the matters related to the Triwizard preparations for the First Task, had tucked that fact neatly into one corner of his well-organized mind and paid it no mind. But now that it was brought to his attention, Albus would make sure to keep an eye on things…and the boy who seemed to be at the centre of it all. It reminded him of one other student he had taught…fifty years ago…

Therefore, when, as part of his report on the exchange students, Severus was forced to mention Harrison Riddle, Albus gave the man the full weight of his attention. "Harrison Riddle's grades are…adequate." It was said with a pronounced sneer. Since that was a rather vague adjective, Albus prompted with a twinkle in his eye. "Do explain, Severus, my boy." A scowl flitted briefly across Severus' expression and his lips thinned. "His grades rank around an Exceeds Expectations." Albus was well aware that the twinkle in his eye grew more pronounced; he knew of Severus' dislike for Riddle and, factoring the biasness in grades, concluded that the boy was at least moderately talented at that subject.

"Ah, I see. Minerva, how does the boy in Transfiguration?" Albus was somewhat surprised to see a fond expression cross Minerva's face. Oh ho! It appeared as if Harrison Riddle had charmed Minerva. Not surprising really, for a charismatic boy like Riddle. Again, Albus was forcefully reminded of the other Riddle he had taught once upon a time…

"He's rather adept at the subject, Albus. A true natural. I haven't seen such talent since James, actually. I had expected him to have some problems with NEWT level coursework, considering that he's only a fifth-year, but he's one of my top students." The usually severe Transfiguration professor confessed her amazement with a rare smile. It was high praise indeed, from Minerva. Albus waited to see if any of his staff would have anything to say to that and sure enough…

"Mr. Riddle is a prodigy!" exclaimed Filius with an excited air. "He's unquestionably the top student in my NEWT Charms class! Did everyone notice the powerful Ice-creating spell he used at the First Task?" Albus twitched slightly. Did he notice it indeed…one could say that Albus would be hard-pressed not to notice it. Together with the runic magic he displayed and the sheer amount of power that he was able to put into the spell to subdue the dragon…Albus had been consulted with for the First Task; while he had pretty much expected the Transfiguration or Conjunctivitis curse that some of the other Champions had used, Harrison Riddle's choice of magic was something he had not foreseen. Or would have foreseen, not for all the lemon sherbets in the world. Yes, Harrison Riddle was undeniably a prodigy. The problem was, the boy was a prodigy in Slytherin from Durmstrang and Albus knew firsthand how prodigies from Slytherin and Durmstrang could turn into…Memories of a dark-haired, silvered-tongue Head Boy from fifty years ago and a blonde-hair, blue-eyed youth with a roguish, charismatic smile from even further back filled his head…

With a sigh, Albus let go of the past and focused on the present. Harrison Riddle. An enigma. Albus had done a little digging into the boy's background and found that the boy was a distant relatives of the Malfoy, with a father residing in Wizarding China. Rather convenient, for everyone knew how difficult it was to get any information from the Wizarding community in that country. Harrison Riddle's background hence remained more or less a mystery.

How deep had the boy delved into the Dark Arts by now? And there was no doubt that he knew the Dark Arts, for the boy was from Durmstrang Institute. Yet the boy's reaction upon meeting Fawkes was puzzling to say the least – he had not flinched or showed any sign of pain upon hearing the phoenix's song, as those who practised the Dark Arts were wont to do. Now, Albus rarely considered himself a prejudiced person but when a school had the same reputation that Durmstrang had, one had to be wary when its mysterious genius of a Headboy seemed to be extending his influence through Hogwarts. Thus, it was with a preoccupied air that Albus returned to the staff meeting.

Only to find James, his favourite student once-upon-a-time, angrily grumbling that Harrison Riddle, while talented in his class, was a disruptive presence. Something about a duel against Ronald that caused the latter to break out into screams. "Was Mr. Riddle using a dark spell or curse perchance?" Albus inquired mildly. As James met his eyes, Albus delved subtly into the man's head using his Legilimency skill as the younger man replied after a few moments of hesitation. "No, he was using a Tickling Charm actually…" Snorts of disbeliefs could be heard around the staff table, as Albus caught flashes of the memory as James spoke. Hmm, it was a puzzle indeed – it appeared as if James was right. Was the youngest male Weasley perhaps a tad sensitive then, to allow a Tickling Charm to affect him so?

"Ah, no harm was done then, James. It was probably an overpowered Tickling Charm. Perhaps a small bit of advice should be dispensed to Mr. Riddle. Severus, you should remind Mr. Riddle of the need to restrain himself in future." With a small twinkle, Albus dismissed the matter even as he resolved to ponder further later. There was just something about the boy's actions that Albus was uneasy about…

Voldemort, Dark Lord of Wizarding Britain, sneered mentally as he contemplated the man kneeling on the rug in front of him. "You are sure of your information, Barty?" Voldemort hissed, anger lancing through his words. Utilizing his Legilimency skills, he probed at the man's brains as before him, Barty Crouch Jr. bowed his head slightly as he replied, "Yes, my lord."

Only the Keeper of the Hall of Prophecy and the subjects of the prophecy could retrieve that particular prophecy from the shelves of the Department of Mysteries – that was the information that Barty had given him. From his Legilimency, Voldemort also knew that Barty had gotten the information off a fellow Death Eater, Rookwood, who had been an Unspeakable before he had been discovered as a spy of the Dark Lord. Apparently, the man had only decided to do so recently, when it should have been the first thing he thought of when ordered to retrieve information about the Hall of Prophecy. Admittedly, Voldemort had ordered Barty to keep that a secret; nevertheless, Barty should have found a way to retrieve the information without alerting anyone of his mission

"Your incompetence astounds me, Barty. Because of your mistake, my plans will have to change. Crucio." With a casual flick of his wand, Voldemort flung the Unforgivable Curse at Barty, letting out all his anger and frustration at the setback. Voldemort had to have the prophecy…even though the centaurs spoke of a prophecy being 'no more', Voldemort was not certain as to which prophecy they referred to – he had to get his hands on the prophecy before he could determine the truth…about whether the content of that prophecy made fifteen years ago was still valid. Harry was now his precious son and heir, true, but Voldemort was still wary; he needed to know for certain what that prophecy said before he could have peace of mind.

But all that could wait a few moments more. Currently, Voldemort had the punishment of his Death Eater to attend to…To his credit, Barty did not scream or collapse to the ground, as many Death Eaters were wont to do, although he did let out a huge gasp of pain and many small whimpers. Voldemort's lips curled as he increased the power behind his Cruciatus…he wanted to hear Barty screaming; it was the least the man could do for causing him such an inconvenience.

Mid-Novemeber. Throwing a glance at the golden egg nested at his bedside table, Harry smirked. Other champions should be pondering upon the clue for the second task now, if they had not puzzled it out already. Within seconds of opening the egg for the first time, Harry had known that the noise was a message – after all, what was the point of giving the champions a screaming egg if the clue was not in the noise it made? From there, it had been simple to deduce that the noise might be a different language – Harry had then cast a high-level Translation spell at the egg. When the spell had not revealed any result however, Harry knew he had found his answer – the language spoken was not one meant to be heard on land. Thereafter, it had been the work of an hour to go through a few experiments to determine what type of language it was…and bingo, he found out that it was in Mermish.

After listening to the horrible poem, Harry had rolled his eyes and deduced most of the details. One, the second task was going to take place in the lake at Hogwarts, since there wasn't any other large body of water near the place, and two, he had to retrieve a hostage from the lake whilst dodging any possible obstacles. While the second was mere guesswork, knowing that Albus-too-many-names-Dumbledore had been involved in the planning process of the Triwizard Tournament, he thought it was quite logical – the man was known for his bleeding heart… what he thought the champions would 'sorely miss' would likely be their 'loved ones'…Harry shuddered. He was going to keep this thought to himself or no doubt he'd be facing another round of lectures from his father on the weakness of becoming attached...Harry had then penned a quick letter to Barty to ask for confirmation of his theory, which he had received rather quickly. Now, the only thing he had left was to figure out whom Dumbledore thought he would 'sorely miss' and which of the many spells and curses in his admittedly large repertoire he should utilize. And he had a couple of months to work things out…

With a start, Harry realized that he had been at Hogwarts for two months and counting. Somehow, the time that he spent at Hogwarts was much more enjoyable than he had expected. Compared to Durmstrang, the socio-political scene at Hogwarts was more of a challenge for Harry to navigate, what with the four Houses and the exchange students. Before he knew it, Harry had set plans upon plans in motion in order to deal with the situation. Luckily for Harry, he had very competent and capable subordinates…

Unfortunately, there was one subordinate whom he refused to have as a mere subordinate –proud and aristocratic Draco Malfoy. He had been putting it off for ages, but he could see that he would have to have a talk with Draco – the blonde had been somewhat withdrawn and reticent around Harry since the incident, but only in small ways. He spoke more formally, acted slightly more deferent and smirked a whole lot less. Not that it had affected his performance of his duties, no, Draco had, as always, been cunning, subtle and all-around exemplary in that regard. But Harry had to admit, if only to himself, that he cared for Draco. As a person, not only as what he could bring to Harry's plans. Which is the reason why Father always berates me about forming attachments…oh, the trouble they cause…But Draco was his best friend, and hence worth it to Harry.