Title: Trailbreaking

Author: Knife Hand

Feedback: Constructive feedback appreciated, flames unappreciated

Spoilers: Nothing Specific, general for first few books.

Rating: R

Disclaimer: I do not own Hermione, or Luna, or Ginny, or Cho, or... I would buy them all but I am broke.

Summary: Angered at his unwilling selection as a TriWizard Champion, Harry and Hermione begin their own research in an attempt to take control of their own lives, with some… interesting consequences AU fic with some, from a certain perspective, extreme OOCness to come.

The fire crackled in the Gryffindor Common room. It was late on a reasonably ordinary evening, well as ordinary as things ever got at Hogwarts. Only two people were still up. Hermione Jean Granger, Bookworm, Know-it-all and, unquestionably the most intelligent person in the entire castle, including Headmaster Dumbledore and Harry James Potter, "The Boy Who Lived", abused nephew and a recently announced, unwilling participant in the Triwizard Tournament.

Earlier there had been a blazing row between Harry and Ron Weasley, their now former friend, who had believed that Harry had entered himself in the tournament for the glory. All in all a fairly normal evening at Hogwarts, but that was all about to change.

"I hate them all." Harry growled.

Those four words forever altered the future of that particular reality as they caused the arrival of one of the most feared events in human history. The Cold Rage. Unlike every other form of anger, which burns hot and then eventually burns out, The Cold Rage is calm, calculating and can not be stopped. Every time it had been achieved the world has changed. It has built empires through bloody conquest, toppled nations and tyrants in red soaked uprisings. It has risen ordinary men to become the most revered or feared names in history. One Muggle with the Cold Rage will shake the foundations of the world, but when two of the brightest and most powerful young magic users both achieve it at the same time, the Multiverse is shaken to the core.

The Multiverse, while not sentient, still has some kind of awareness, and it realised the instant that the Cold Rage was achieved. While it could do nothing for that reality, events happened in the ninety other realities where those four words were likely to be spoken. In most cases it was averted simply, by a flare in the fireplace, the rattle of a window or a student coming to the common room for a drink. In four realities however, those words were so close to being said that something drastic had to be done.

In one the Multiverse forced Hermione to kiss Harry. In that reality they would officially start dating two days later, late in Sixth year they would marry and after the defeat of Voldermort they would lead the Ministry of Magic, with Hermione as Minister and Harry as Head of Magical Law Enforcement, in a string of sweeping reforms that would guarantee equal rights for Half Bloods and Mugleborn and within twenty years humanity, both magical and muggle would stretch forth from the earth and take their place among the Stars.

In a second reality there was a magical explosion in the Gryffindor Common Room fireplace, caused by a Zonko's product left too near the flames, which killed both Harry and Hermione. With no one in the Wizarding World to oppose him, in this reality Voldermort quickly rose to power and eventually launched an open war on the Muggle World. Five years later 90% of the world was uninhabitable radioactive wasteland thanks to the Nuclear Weapons that some countries had launched in a panic when Vampires, Werewolves and Giants were overrunning their cites. In the end only a few isolated areas, like parts of Alaska, Australia and New Zealand were the only habitable places for the few thousand surviving humans. Unable to sustain a viable population, soon the human race died out in that reality.

In the third reality Hermione started convulsing, causing Harry to rush her down to the Infirmary, where she died two hours later. Without Hermione's guiding influence Harry willingly became Dumbledore's weapon to use against Voldermort. In the final battle Harry willingly took a killing curse and died, taking with him the last severed piece of Voldermort's soul and allowing Dumbledore to Kill the Dark Lord. Afterwards the Wizarding World never changed and two centuries later were left stranded on Earth while the Muggles all flung themselves out to meet the wonders and horrors waiting in the stars.

In the fourth reality, a small blood vessel in Harry's Brain, weakened by repeated blows to the head and being slammed into walls by his uncle, gave way and Harry simply keeled over dead from a stroke. Hermione swore to do whatever it took to defeat Voldermort. Eventually she killed the Dark Lord, using methods that Dumbledore and others disapproved of. She then disappeared for several years before returning as a Dark Queen and ruthlessly ruling over the Magical World for several hundred years.

Back in the common room, the words still hung in the air, with neither realising the far reaching effects.

"I will help. We will do this our way." Hermione replied, her voice calm yet hard.

Silence descended for a few minutes, then they headed up to bed. There was a lot to do in the morning.

"Well, isn't this cosy?" Rita Skeeter said, escorting Harry inside the small room.

"It's a broom closet." Harry replied, his voice cold.

"You don't mind if I use a Quick-Quotes quill?" the reporter asked.

"Yes, I do mind." Harry replied.

"Yes, yes." Rita replied, not really listening.

"You entered into one of the most high-profile and dangerous contests in the magical world at such a young age. So, is it a pathological need for attention or a simple death wish?"

The floating Quick-Quotes quill was scratching on the parchment, which annoyed the hell out of Harry. Suddenly the quill burst into flames, followed closely by the parchment.

"I said no Quick-Quotes quill. I will not be strung up in public opinion for your gratification" Harry said, storming out.

"The bitch is trying to set me up." He growled as he passed Cedric, Fleur and Victor.

"If the Daily Prophet is going to do a smear campaign on you, you need to counter it." Hermione said.

Harry and Hermione were sitting in the Great Hall during a packed meal, but the may as well have been alone. A large space was open around them at the Gryffindor table.

"How am I supposed to counter the Daily Prophet?" Harry asked.

"The Quibbler." Hermione responded. "It's a fringe paper, but it is known not to be under the Ministry's control, unlike the Daily Prophet."

"How do I contact to Quibbler?"

"Ravenclaw table. The Third Year with the long blonde hair. Seventh from the foot of the table on our side. See her?" Hermione asked, getting a nod from Harry. "Luna Lovegood. Everyone calls her Loony. She is the daughter of the editor."

A few minutes later, Harry rose from his chair and made his way over to the Ravenclaw table, his movements masked by the general chaos of the hall

"Luna Lovegood?" Harry asked quietly, confirming he was talking to the right person.

"Harry Potter. What can I do for you?" Luna replied, her voice always soft and ethereal.

Harry knelt down beside the blonde and whispered in her ear.

"The Daily Prophet is trying to screw me over. I would like to offer the Quibbler an exclusive interview. On my terms only. Please pass this request on to your father." Harry said, before returning to the Gryffindor table.

A Freaking Dragon! Harry and Hermione spent weeks researching magical law, spells, potions, arcane arts, ritual magic. Anything they could think of that could possibly give Harry an advantage, either in the Tournament or against the uncaring adults. They had also spent a number of nights huddled close together under Harry's invisibility cloak sneaking around the castle trying to find out what the first task was. Eventually this recon had led them to Hagrid acting oddly.

The half-giant gamekeeper was walking along in the evening heading into the forbidden forest dressed in a tacky suit and holding a massive wild flower. Hagrid had met up with Madam Maxime, the Beauxbaton's Headmistress, and half-giant, and they had gone to see the Dragons, with Harry and Hermione following closely behind.

"Let's review what we know about Dragons." Hermione said.

They were back in the common room, alone in the late night. The fire was slowly dying and Harry and Hermione were sitting closely together on the couch. There were still a number of weeks left till the first task.

"They're big, they fly and they breathe fire?" Harry said sarcastically.

"Very funny." Hermione replied, deadpan. "Seriously. Most dragons are fairly magically resistant. It takes very powerful spells to have any effect. Their fire is not magical though, it is chemical. Two chemicals, produced in glads in the neck, are squirted out of ducts on either side of the mouth. About two inches past the mouth the two chemicals mix and ignite. It's a bit like napalm."

"What about their flying abilities?" Harry asked.

"Depends on the species but most are quite nimble and fast in the air. If you are considering trying to use your broom, you may have a chance but not a good one. A portion of their magical abilities goes into weight and drag minimisation while in the air."

Harry and Hermione kept talking early into the next morning. Sitting in the corner, unread by the pair, sat a copy of the Daily Prophet's profiles on the Tournament Champions. The talented and charming Cedric Diggory. The beautiful and graceful Fleur Delacour. The tough and skilful Victor Krum. The violent and paranoid Harry Potter who refused to give press interviews.

Harry and Hermione were sitting at breakfast on a Monday morning, a gap of vacant table around them, when post arrived. A brown owl dropped a note in front of Harry before taking off, not even waiting for a scrap. Harry opened the nondescript letter and read it through, giving a grunt before passing the note to Hermione.

Dear Harry Potter.

Your offer of an exclusive interview for the Quibbler has been accepted by the editor. I have been authorised to conduct the interview this Friday evening, in order to meet the deadline for the next issue but not compromise the secrecy you have requested, and am authorised to comply with any request, but have limits to financial recompense.

Should you accept these terms then destroy the note in red flames, if you agree to the interview but not the time then use blue flames. If the interview is withdrawn then please destroy in green flames.

Hoping Wrackspurts do not intercept this message.

Luna Lovegood

Probationary Educational Reporter

The Quibbler.

Harry took the letter back and looked at Hermione who nodded. Harry immolated the note in red flames.

"Potter." Professor McGonagall yelled.

"Sorry Professor. But wouldn't you do the same if someone sent you naked pictures of Malfoy."

"HEY!" Draco almost squealed.

"I was thinking about what you said about a Dragon's Fire." Harry said.

It was another late night in the common room and again they are alone. In three days Harry had the interview with Luna and in about a week and a half was the first task.

"What about it?" Hermione replied, looking up from her book.

"You said it was chemical. Would that mean that a kinetic shield would work?"

They spent a few hours discussing and researching the properties of different shielding spells. Eventually they settled on one particular spell that they considered diverse enough for the challenge.

"Considering my experience with Miss Skeeter, I hope you are not offended that I brought along a friend." Harry said, sitting down for the interview with Luna in an empty classroom in one of the more remote areas of the castle.

"Of course not, Mister Potter." Luna said, with a graceful nod to Hermione, trying with all her might to be professional and not compromise the story.

"Before we begin, I believe we should talk terms." Hermione interjected.

"As I indicated, financial recompense is limited. I am authorised up to eight hundred Galleons." Luna said, stopping when Harry held up his hand.

"I am not interested in money, I have plenty of that." Harry replied. "Here are my conditions for this interview. Firstly, there will be no speculations on my mental health in this article. Secondly, there will be no reference or comparisons to, what I am told is an extensive collection of, 'The-Boy-Who-Lived' fiction storied that have been written about me by the Magical press and exploitative authors."

"Very Well. Although I must admit the one about you defeating an entire Goblin tribe was quite entertaining. Having met you I would almost believe you were capable of it, even at age six." Luna replied. "If you wish, it will not be mentioned in the article."

"Rule Three." Hermione added, "Harry and I have final review of the article before it goes to print."

"Agreed. Apart from the financial limit I was ordered to agree to any request in order to secure this interview." Luna said.

"And if I asked you to perform the interview naked?" Harry asked.

"Harry, what are you doing?" Hermione whispered.

"Testing to see how much she is willing to support us." Harry whispered back. "We may have uses for her beyond this interview."

Harry shot Luna a questioning look, to which the Ravenclaw girl simply stood and removed her clothes. Sitting back down completely naked in the drafty classroom.

"Fire away." Harry said, once Luna had reclaimed her quill and parchment.

"First question. What do you consider to be the single most defining moment of your life so far?"

"Easy. Halloween of my first year at Hogwarts. It was the day I first became fiends with Hermione." Harry replied.

"I would think battling a Mountain Troll is up there on memorable moments." Hermione added. "I sure as hell remember it."

"You really battled a Troll as a first year?" Luna asked. "I though that was a Hogwarts Urban Legend. Like the Weasley Twins managing to charm every suit of armour in the castle to kick Professor Snape in the arse."

"The Troll incident is a matter of School record, as are the relevant point adjustments." Harry replied. "I hadn't heard that one about the Twins. If anyone could do it though, it would be those two."

"Any particular reason why your friendship with Miss Granger is the most defining moment of your life?"

"Because she was the first person, since my parents died, who has really cared about me as a person."

Harry spent the next two hours talking about his life. The hatred of his relatives. The abuse he had suffered at the hands of his Uncle as well as his Cousin and his Cousin's friends. His confusion when he entered the Wizarding World at his fame. The embarrassment of that fame and the perceived pressure to do amazing things. Anger at the assumption that he not only wanted the fame he had but would actively seek out more fame by entering the tournament. The solace in the fact that Hermione had always stood by him, even when they disagreed she would not abandon him.

Luna listened, and made notes, with rapt attention, most of the time not even noticing that she was naked or the cold air that raised Goosebumps on her skin. By the end of the interview she had well over fifteen feet of notes, and a lot of material to form a profile on Harry Potter. Not 'The-Boy-Who-Lived' but the Orphan who had suffered through adversary, had fame thrust upon him and in the end wanted nothing more that to be average, although he admitted that would never happen, and to spend time with Hermione.

The fire burned around Harry, kept a bay only by the kinetic shield spell. Sweat dripped down his face but not from the fire, rather from the effort of holding the spell.

"Enough." Harry said and the fire instantly died, followed a second later by the collapse of the shield.

"That was better, Harry." Hermione said encouragingly.

"That was what? Nine seconds?" Harry asked, dejectedly.

"Eleven." Hermione responded.

"Eleven seconds, Hermione. And your average dragon can sustain their flame for a minimum of thirty seconds. I'm toast."

It was four days before the First Task and Harry was both angry at the situation and annoyed at himself that he could not do better with the spell. Of course the fact that the spell was so advanced that it was only taught in the third year of Auror training or to Hit Wizards and Unspeakables, and none of them were expected to maintain the shield for more than five seconds, was of no matter to Harry.

"Look, Harry." Hermione began. "I have been doing some research and I think there is a way we can greatly increase your power before the First Task."

"This doesn't involve sacrificing anyone does it?" Harry asked.

"I can guarantee that all participants will be alive at the end." Hermione responded.

"Fair enough. What do we need to do?"

"Harry, do you trust me?" Hermione asked nervously.

"Hermione. You are the only person in the entire world that I trust. Just tell me what needs to be done."

"Give me twenty-four hours? I just want to do a last check. Tomorrow night I will tell you what needs to be done and will have everything ready if you agree to perform the ritual. Agreed?" Hermione said, her face flushed red.

"Agreed." Harry responded simply.

That was all he needed. He had not been lying when he said she was the only one he trusted.

The next morning the new edition of the Quibbler had come out, and Harry had paid for every single staff member and student, including from the visiting schools, to receive a copy.

"Harry Potter, the one who endured. An interview with Hogwart's most known inhabitant by Special Correspondent Luna Lovegood." was the title of the article.

Harry did not really like the title but considering some of the alternatives, it was acceptable. "The Saint who walks amongst us." and "Hogwarts Most Eligible Bachelor. Or is he?" were among the headlines he and Hermione had vetoed.

The article did not mention Harry's involvement with the TriWizard Tournament, which was something Mr Lovegood had insisted upon.

"We don't want this article to be about fame or popularity. Let's keep it to the boy behind the title. The real Harry Potter." Mr Lovegood had said.

Silence descended upon the hall as everyone read about the beatings, the malnutrition, trips to the hospital to reset broken bones and the deliberate attempts to arouse Harry's curiosity in things best left alone, like the Philosophers Stone. The forced returns to a place he loathed by the Headmaster. All in all, the article was seven pages long and came as something of a bombshell to everyone.

When students started glancing between Harry and Professor Dumbledore Harry and Hermione stood and started out of the Great Hall.

"Mister Potter." The Headmaster called.

"Sorry Professor, but this puppet's strings have been cut and guess what? Turns out I am a real boy after all." Harry replied, not stopping as he walked out the main doors, Hermione at his side.