Disclaimer: Everything belongs to J.K. Rowling.
Magicks of the Arcane
Hogwarts - 3. November 1994
Up in the Gryffindor tower, Harry Potter woke with a start. He sweated, hair clinging to his skull like a second skin. That dream just now hadn't come from Tom Riddle, but had been quite horrific in its own way. Harry eased out a sigh as the content of the dream shifted to the back of his mind, where it would soon be forgotten, one bad dream among many.
The blurry curtains of his dorm mates' beds remained unruffled—he hadn't woken anyone then—and a quick Tempus showed Harry the time. He eyed the result with incredulity. Normal people slept at three-thirty in the morning, he knew that for a fact. But then again, being normal was overrated. At least that's what he told himself whenever he began feeling sorry. He's sure Sirius would agree.
Harry scrubbed over his face. Last week had been rough—spited by classmates, deserted by friends, hated by the foreign schools (both of them, actually, which was quite depressing.) Doubting his ability to fall sleep again, he reached over to the glasses on the table next to his bed.
Now able to see, he also took his wand, pointing it at himself and whispering, "Scourgify."
The spell took effect, and even with the low amount of power he put into it scrubbed him red and raw, from top to bottom. This probably wasn't the correct spell for personal hygiene, but at least the sweat was gone now. Unpleasant but necessary business, that.
He pulled his legs over the edge of his bed, careful to avoid the creaky floorboard a few inches to the right of his feet. For a moment, seeing a dark stain (chocolate, most likely) on the scarlet curtain of Ron's bed, Harry contemplated taking a whole box of his own Chocolate Frogs and smearing them all over it, too. Ron, that ruddy bastard, had broken off their friendship the second Harry left Dumbledore's side. Hermione had followed soon after, leaving him to face three schools alone.
It smarted more than he liked to admit. And though his counter-treatment might not be the most mature answer, he still felt satisfied. But, he thought, slipping into his robes, I should probably stop wallowing. There's just so much whining I can do before I've got to work.
Three days now Harry had been swimming in that self-pitying lake of his—suffused with righteous anger, of course, but even that faded with time. And time was exactly the one commodity he lacked right now. Besides skill and cunning and power, that was.
He'd manage though. He always did, after all.
From what little Harry knew, Charlie had mentioned he would spend some time at Hogwarts this year. The deduction from that was easy, but the deduction was also just half of the equation to victory. Which left one question for him to answer successfully: How does one defeat an overgrown lizard? Harry actually didn't know if the dragon was the first task, but the fact that they were using dragons at all was... concerning.
He mumbled some words, wove his wand, tapped both shoes once. Then followed up that dazzling spellwork with another incantation spoken just as lazily. Noise and scent thus eradicated, Harry left the tower. Complacency was a bad habit to fall into with people like Snape and Professor Moody around.
First shafts of sunlight broke through the kitchen windows already, when Harry's contemplating and semi-useful pondering neared its end. The tea Hogwarts' elves provided definitely made thinking easier, he found.
A last time he went over his memories, analyzing his encounters with Tom Riddle, the Headmaster, and magic itself. The tingling he felt when he cast a spell; the burning but pleasant sensation each time magic left his wand—three years after learning of magic, it still fascinated him as it did on the first day. A beautiful fact that made Riddle's use of magic very ugly.
However, after these three years and all that happened in-between, Harry had formulated a simple, personal theory about magic, and what power meant. To him, the issue split equally into three parts: Knowledge, raw magic, and creativity. Pure speculation, of course, but if it was like this, then Riddle's fear of Dumbledore made sense. Because even if Riddle had more raw magic at his disposal (which was debatable,) Dumbledore, having lived for over a century now, still outmatched him in the other two departments.
Old codger was well on his way to surviving the second one, actually.
The solution to Harry's current problems, then, was quite clear. Though it sounded much easier on paper.
Harry stared at the scrap of parchment next to his steaming cup of tea. Three points stood out among the random scribbles: amass knowledge; practice what you learn; let the creative part of your mind play with your new knowledge. Points branded into his mind, he crumpled the scrap. He rose from his seat, thanking the elves, and made his way over to the door out of the kitchens.
Had she known about it, Hermione would've scoffed at the plan, but Harry firmly believed that it's the simplicity which made it viable. And it's easy to remember, which was always a plus.
Harry had been in Hogwarts' library on numerous occasions, but he had never taken the time to really appreciate how truly enormous it was. There was so much knowledge stacked between those walls, so many books he'd probably never read crammed into the wooden shelves. It made his head spin, though he hadn't decided just yet if it's a good spinning or a bad one.
Still, walking through the Charms section was amazing. Terrifying, too, but mostly amazing. There were books looking fresh out of the printing press, bound essays of promising students, magazines from national and international sources, old and untitled volumes. They all mingled in the shelves like a happy family of multiple generations.
Harry wandered for a while, having no direct goal and hoping his luck would kick in eventually. He saw books about Potions and Herbology, Arithmancy and Ancient Runes, Divination and Astronomy. One Transfiguration tome held exercises absurd enough that Harry closed it after a furtive skimming.
At last, he stopped in front of the section for Care of Magical Creatures. He sent an appreciative look at the restricted part of the library which was just on the other side, tempting him, but then he returned his attention to the books about beasties.
"Dragons," he murmured, trailing his index finger over the spine of a book. Then, for good measure, he said "Dragon" again, and continued mouthing the word as he paced up and down the shelf.
What could kill or subdue beasts as mythical as dragons? Harry had a passable handle on offensive spells, but he doubted a Stupefy would even bother the lizard. No, he needed another method to keep himself alive. Transfiguration maybe? Any spells in that department? And what would happen once he escaped the fire? Maybe chains to hold the dragon down, but wouldn't any spell bounce off the magic resistant scales?
His lack of knowledge was disturbing. Not surprising, of course, but a mite uncomfortable nonetheless. Quite sad, actually, that he could only rely on his rather reasonable level of raw magic—something he had felt the first time when he produced a Patronus strong enough to drive away a few dozen Dementors.
But knowledge was something he could improve on. And, Harry thought with a grin, the Chinese always say it's about balance. In three weeks' time, he'd face whatever the triumvirate of rotten fate ladies deemed appropriate. Until then he'd do everything humanly possible to prepare himself.
Hogwarts - 11. November 1994
A week went by, and Harry Potter, first and last of his name, remained friendless. Partly out of his own interest, for the most part though, because people were stupid, teenagers especially (he didn't excluded himself from that statement,) and life at a boarding school sucked as a social outcast. The only good thing coming out of this week had been the discovery that Hogwarts' corridors were positively brimming with magic.
He had devoted a lot of the week toward certain fields of magic, however, spending the mornings reading up on dragons, and using the evenings to practice every spell that could possibly heighten his chance of survival. The result of all this hassle was a rough plan, an outline really. He knew no plan survived contact with the enemy, but there were some good ideas swimming in his head now, and he could expand on them, adapting as necessary.
Currently, his breath came in shallow gasps. He braced himself on his knees, staring at the opposite wall of the deserted classroom he started occupying for his personal purpose.
"One more time," he said, flicking his wand and ending the pattern with a circle above his head. "Agumenti Scutum Tholus!"
A fountain of water erupted from the tip of his wand, cascading around him and shaping into a tight dome—his first line of defense against the fire, a spell he found in a book named 'The Journeyman's Guide Vol. 8.' Should Harry ever come across Edmund Clitherow, the author, he'd thank him profusely, maybe even with a few groveling bows.
The drain of the spell was quite insane though, and as the seconds trickled by, Harry noticed himself approaching his limit. He looked at the transfigured hourglass standing on a windowsill and groaned. Twenty seconds, he thought. That's all. That's all I managed. Great work, Potter. You get your own cheerleading squad now. Twenty seconds is pathetic.
He stabbed his wand forward, initiating the next incantation (and what a queer incantation it was.) But there was still quite a way to go before he'd be satisfied.
"I beseech thee, Magic," he said, voice booming through the room, "grant me thy power. I ask for thee, Mother Earth, nurturing us all—Radix Catena, Fugere Ist Terra!"
The result came about in an instant, large roots breaking through Hogwarts' stone foundation and entangling a desk Harry had transfigured into something resembling a dragon earlier. And with enough imagination and a few potion fumes it might even look like one.
Exhaustion dragging him to one knee like an anchor, it became Harry's deepest, most fervent wish that this stuff would become easier with time and practice. Two spells still remained. He jabbed his wand toward a pebble on the floor, drops of sweat rolling down his neck. "Mutare permagnus Excubitor!"
The pebble grew in size, became larger and larger, and with each new inch Harry sensed his magic bringing life to a crude stone soldier that looked remarkably like one of the terracotta guards he had read about years ago in a book from Dudley (discard, like every other book Dudley ever possessed.)
One spell left, he thought. But by now he had to fight tooth and nail to keep himself conscious. His wand danced in circular movement. "Animatus Bellatorius," he pressed through clenched teeth.
The last thing he saw was his transfigured warrior charging the wooden desk-dragon with a rough sword of stone. Then Harry fell to the side. The Chinese didn't only have sayings about balance after all, but also about sacks of rice toppling over.
Or so he thought.
Hogwarts - 12. November 1994
Have I, or have I not overexerted myself this time? Harry wondered in dry amusement as he opened his eyes to the sterile white of the hospital wing. A pointless question, of course. Much more interesting was how long he'd been out of it—a whole day would be bad but manageable, as it still left enough time to prepare for the task. A week, however, could end up spelling certain consequences he disliked: being maimed, in pain, burned, stabbed, magicked to a far-away country, transfigured into a frog, teleported above the ocean and falling in just the same, being levitated over a cliff—
"I see you're awake, Mr. Potter," came the voice of Madam Pomfrey. The squat witch exited her office, carrying charts in her hand. "I had hoped that this time you would stay out of my wing for some months at least," she said, shaking her head so that a few gray curls escaped her white headpiece. "Clearly, I was mistaken." She put the charts in a cabinet, chattering away. "This tournament will make it impossible for me to work."
Irritated from the tournament? Now that was a sentiment Harry could share. He found himself being, at once, comfortable and in a most peculiar union of mind with Madam Pomfrey.
"How long was I—"
"You were brought in yesterday," said Madam Pomfrey, tracing spells in the air above him. They sparkled, at times, an indecent red. Harry hoped that didn't mean anything too bad. "I wonder," Madam Pomfrey continued, "if I really want to know what you did to yourself. The symptoms speak clearly, however. You suffered a bout of extreme magical fatigue."
Uh-oh. "And, uh, what does that mean?"
She paused in her casting, looking at him with the lines of her face assembling into a mask of graveness. Outside, a blackcap was warbling. "Another first year spell could have sundered your ability to cast magic, Mr. Potter."
That fit the feeling he'd had after slumping down in that room rather nicely. Though he couldn't help the light paling he was surely going through at the moment. He reached out to his magic, that force inside him, at times like a calm lake, at times like a pot of boiling water. The tingly sensation was still there.
Which meant, in essence, that everything worked out in the end, and that he could now leave the hospital wing.
"Do not even think about leaving this bed."
Harry concluded that he must be extraordinarily easy to read. "I, um, that is—"
"Harry," came another voice from the entrance of the hospital wing. "I see that you have finally escaped Morpheus."
The headmaster, one Albus Dumbledore with a lot of names in-between, strode into the wing, silvery beard safely tucked into his belt. He smiled an easy smile as he put a calming hand on Madam Pomfrey's shoulder, trying to give the woman some of his serenity-juju.
"Splendid care as always, my dear," said Dumbledore. "Could you give us a moment, please? Mr. Potter and I have something to discuss."
It was phrased like a question. It sounded like a question. It was, however, anything but. Madam Pomfrey huffed, for a moment looked like she'd refuse even, but then relented at last and gave them their privacy.
Harry looked up at the headmaster. Dumbledore was pretty tall for an old man. "Professor?"
"I hope you appreciate how close you came to leaving the mortal world behind yesterday," said Dumbledore.
"I, uh, could have died from that? I thought it was about my magic, not my life..."
"The contract," Dumbledore said, "is a magical bond, my boy. And without your magic to bind and uphold that bond, the contract could have had unknown and most likely violent reactions." There was a certain intensity in Dumbledore's blue eyes. "Knocking on Death's door seems quite the opposite of what you hoped to achieve, I believe."
Now, those were words that put things in perspective. Harry's mouth was dry. "Who found me?"
"Why, Harry, I did!" Dumbledore smiled jovially and the tense atmosphere shuffled out of the room as though ashamed of itself. "The castle alerted me of incredible magic being released in one of the unused classrooms. Naturally, I had to investigate. And so it came, that evening, that—and imagine my surprise, my boy—yes, it came that I found you, unconscious on the floor and guarded by a most vicious fellow."
Oh. Harry was pleased to learn that his transfiguration had lasted this long even after he fell unconscious. Then the implications registered fully. "I'm sorry, Professor, I—"
"It has been a long time," Dumbledore said, "since someone challenged me to an open duel—in my own school no less." He patted Harry's leg. "Not to worry, however. It was a most refreshing occurrence."
Harry sat upright in his bed, leaning against the backboard, and feeling a mite of heat creeping up his face. He couldn't quite decide whether Dumbledore actually forgave him, or was out to shame him right now. If the latter, then Harry had to congratulate the man. He managed that admirably.
"Harry," said Dumbledore, and there it was again, the pressure, the intensity, the apprehension. "I have a good guess as to what kind of magic you used," he said, "and, more importantly, why you used it. But I implore you, my boy, be very careful in the future. There is a reason—a good one at that—for magic like this to be taught once you have left the school and entered the appropriate guild."
"But, Professor," Harry started, "I need them! I need those spells. Without them I won't have a chance in the tournament!" If the headmaster forbade him to use those spells, he'd have to start his research again, and time didn't allow for that.
"Calm yourself, my boy," Dumbledore said. "I have no intention of prohibiting your newfound knowledge. All I ask is that you consider how to train with it. Putting such advanced spells into one chain might prove, for the moment at least, a bit too much for you.
Harry faced the blanket. Sound advice, he thought, but how am I going to learn them that way before the lizard gets me? A question, a man like Dumbledore might be able to answer, so he asked just that. "How can I master them before the dragon kills me?"
Dumbledore leaned forward, intrigued. "I wonder where you got the idea about dragons. A most peculiar comment—but no matter, no matter. As to your other question," he chortled, "mastering them will take a few years at the least, my boy. If you only want to learn them, however, may I advise you to split the chain?"
Dumbledore folded his hands in his lap, glancing at the ceiling, then back to Harry. "When I was much younger—a time with no beard if you can imagine—I fought with much the same problem. In the end, and for training purposes, I decided to use but one spell an hour, in order for my magic to grow accustomed to the exertion."
"But I haven't got that kind of time," said Harry.
Dumbledore remained unperturbed, pulling a watch out of his robes and briefly glancing at it. "You will manage, Harry, I am sure. Besides, did you know that Muggle scientists found out that overtraining is just as dangerous as no training at all?" Dumbledore rose from his seat. "Now," he said, "I'm afraid I have to cut this conversation short. There are some documents which still need to be read." He walked toward the exit. "And please remember, in a week's time the weighing of the wands will take place."
Harry blinked, but Dumbledore had already vanished.
Hogwarts - 22. November
Harry sat across Dumbledore in a comfy armchair, a table standing to their side with two cups of tea and a few butter scones. Fawkes's perch was empty.
"What can I do for you, Harry?" asked Dumbledore, staring at him over the rim of his half-moon spectacles. "There were no complications with your spells, I hope?"
"No, Professor," said Harry. "Everything went well. Thank you again for your advice.
"Then something else must ail you," Dumbledore said, stroking his beard. "Why else would you visit an old man in his dusty chambers."
The cogs are spinning, Harry thought. And because they're always spinning, he seems so unsurprised at everything that happens. Albus Dumbledore simply connected the dots sooner than anyone else.
At last though, Dumbledore prompted him to speak up. "Answers," he said, "can only be given if a question is asked."
Forward it was. "Is there a way to leave the castle? I mean, I had, uh, an idea," Harry explained. "But I need to visit Madame Malkins for it."
The grandfather clock at the wall kept ticking away, and Harry jolted a bit when a panel opened, and a miniature version of Fawkes flew out, squawking several times—each squawk an hour—before combusting in fiery sparks.
Dumbledore chuckled. "A rather ingenious enchantment, wouldn't you say? Professor Flitwick gifted it to me many years ago—much to the embarrassment of Fawkes, of course. Now," he continued, "back to your original question. It is possible, of course, for a student to leave the grounds mid-term if the reason is explained sufficiently. Your explanation, my boy, left much to be desired, however. But—and you are in luck indeed—I have to visit her myself, so I can make an exception this once. If you wish to accompany an old man like me, then be my guest."
"Thank you," said Harry, thinking that this went surprisingly well for once. For a moment he kept looking out for any "buts" coming his way, but none came and so he breathed more easily. Supervision had to be expected, he knew, but he didn't mind it this instance. And now that he could finish this business today, everything became much easier.
Dumbledore, clothed in lime green robes, tapped a quill with his wand. "I trust," he said, "that you remember how Portkeys work? Arthur Weasley told me that he took you and his family to the world cup with one."
"Nice to know that it hasn't always got to be a smelly boot," said Harry, gripping the lower half of the quill."
Dumbledore touched the upper half of the quill. The Portkey catapulted Harry through an influx of color, flung him past a kaleidoscope of blue and green, red and purple, yellow and orange. Then the trip ended already, and Dumbledore steadied Harry with a hearty laugh.
"It appears you need some experience still," Dumbledore said. "That was, by far, one of the worst exits I have seen in decades, my boy."
Harry was tempted to say something very rude, but kept the urge in check.
"Anyway," said Dumbledore, "let us not dawdle, Harry. Our favorite fashion mistress is waiting."
They ambled through Diagon Alley, garnering the attention of a lot of people they passed. The looks were a bit too much, Harry found, but the headmaster seemed unruffled. He passed through the crowds with an easy grace, nodding and smiling and, occasionally, even waving. Together (or rather, Harry behind) the duo passed the Apothecary and Ollivancers, before reaching Madam Malkins' shop.
The chime of a bell greeted them first, the friendly face of the seamstress afterward. She had her hair made up in a lazy bun that fit her, however, perfectly, a few strands escaped. Contrary to Dumbledore, she wore fashionable green robes, much like her profession dictated. Farther inside, in a corner, a boy stood bent over a working bench, studying a few parchments and nodding along as he read. He was dressed in a similar fashion, and was only a few years older than Harry.
"Albus," said Madam Malkins, "and Mr. Potter, what can I do for you?"
"Ramona, my dear," said Albus, twinkling eyes surveying the room. "It has been far too long. Why, I feel like I have not seen you in years! And do I see an apprentice there? Dervan Filleth, Hufflepuff of '87 if memory serves."
"You came by last week, Albus, and Dervan has worked here for close to two years now."
Dumbledore frowned for a moment in deep contemplation. Then his expression cleared. "Of course you are right, Ramona," he said. "Alas, the adage of old age. Anyway," he said, putting a hand on Harry's shoulder, "I am here for my order, and Mr. Potter as separate business I am not privy to."
"Business is always welcome," said Madam Malkins. "And your robe's finished as well."
Harry watched her, Ramona, walk behind the counter, from where she pulled out a tiny package, not much larger than the ruddy thing that had held the Philosopher's Stone. "There you go," Madam Malkins said, handing Dumbledore the package. "The price comes to a total of 300 Galleons, as was discussed."
For about a quarter of a second, Dumbledore looked like a man stuck in eternal suffering. Then he forked out the money. "The price for a fashionable appearance is high indeed," he said.
Harry clamped down on his own emotions in regard to this sentence. Madam Malkins fought the same problem.
"Now, Mr. Potter," said Madam Malkins as Dumbledore secured the package in his robes, "what can I do for you?"
Harry shot a furtive glance at Dumbledore, then said, "Can you tailor an armor for tomorrow evening?"
The apprentice in the background perked up and shuffled closer, inconspicuously, of course. Harry had no clue how long it took to design an armor in the Muggle world, but then again, this was Diagon Alley.
"For the tournament," stated Madam Malkins more to herself than to anyone in the room. "That will cost you a pretty Galleon, Mr. Potter," she said, turning back. "Armors aren't difficult to make, but if you want it by tomorrow, the process will take much of the night—any specifics in mind?"
"Well," Harry said, "not really, but I got the skin already. Can you work with basilisk hide?"
"I can do that, of course," she said a bit flustered. "The manufacturing is more difficult though compared to the usual dragon skin. It will cost you a lot more."
Dervan asked, "Where did you come across a basilisk?" but Madam Malkins was shaking her head, and her apprentice grew quiet. "Never mind then," said Dervan, returning to the bench.
"If you can get me the skin today, Mr. Potter, then I'll have your armor ready by tomorrow evening."
"Great," said Harry. He pulled a box out of his robes and enlarged it. Good thing he had come prepared to the headmaster's office. "This should be enough," he said, opening the box, which turned out to be a ratty trunk now.
"Plenty enough," Madam Malkins assured him. She did some quick calculations in a small notebook. "If you leave me the leftovers after the armor is finished, I'll account for it and the price will lessen considerably. Is there anything else you need?"
Harry nodded at her first statement, then considered the second.
"A cloak," he said at last.
"A cloak," Harry replied.
Madam Malkins decided to help him out of his misery and asked again, this time with more specifics. "A cloak made of what, Mr. Potter? Wool, cotton, Acromantula silk..."
"Well, um, Acromantula silk then. And a Hogwarts crest on the backside," Harry explained. Somehow he had thought this would be easier. "And Gryffindor colors if possible," he added.
Madam Malkins took quick measurements of him and wrote some numbers into another small note book. "No problem. I will have it delivered alongside your armor tomorrow; with owl post, of course. The price, however... The total will be around 800 galleons if I detract the amount of basilisk hide I'll buy from you. That's a steep price, especially for a student."
Harry sucked in a sharp breath. That was, indeed, a lot of money. Still, he needed the armor, and even if the cloak was only catering to his vanity, he had already gotten used to the equation that the Gryffindor cloak plus the basilisk armor would equal success, or at least survival.
"That's a lot of money," he said, suddenly understanding the headmaster's former expression much better—that came with the territory of paying your own bills. "But I'll get you the money."
"Very well," said Madam Malkins.
Dumbledore, in the meanwhile, pocketed his small watch. "If the business is concluded," he said, "then I suggest we leave now. Any longer, and our absence will disgruntle Professor McGonagall."
The two of them bade Madam Malkins farewell and returned to the castle via Portkey, where both sat down.
"An interesting trip," said Dumbledore, "would you not agree, Harry? I was not aware that you had revisited the Chamber of Secrets."
"Got the idea when I was still in the hospital wing," said Harry. "Hardest part was escaping Madam Pomfrey, really." He scratched his cheek, looking innocently through the office. "Had to read up on skinning snakes, too—didn't want to damage the basilisk, sir."
"Definitely a good idea," said Dumbledore. "Such precious resources have to be won through delicate work and care." He leaned back. "I have, of course, no objection toward your business. Nonetheless, if you have no further use of it, I ask you to salvage the head and bring it to Professor Snape. The ingredients he could extract from it would further his studies substantially, I believe."
There was a very immature feeling rising in Harry. "To Snape?"
"Professor Snape, my boy, and yes, to him. Surely you would not refuse, knowing that the studies of an esteemed Potioneer like him most often lead to revelations in the medical world."
Put like that, it sounded reasonable. Harry still didn't want to. He tried holding the headmaster's gaze, but Dumbledore was pretty adept at staring contests as Harry found out. He averted his eyes twenty seconds later. "Fine," he said, his voice indicating how he felt about this arrangement.
Dumbledore chuckled. He looked extraordinarily pleased. "After four years of getting to know you, Harry, I arrive at the conclusion that you do not differ that much from Severus in certain aspects."
Harry didn't comment on that, though he felt severely insulted. But if bringing that head to Snape made the headmaster happy, so be it. Dumbledore had helped him twice now in just as many weeks; he had earned himself a bit of gratitude.
"I am sure," Dumbledore continued, "that Fawkes has no objections to helping you in your foray into the chamber."
The phoenix agreed with a tune that made Harry almost forget about Snape—almost.
Hogwarts - 24. November 1994
Just as expected, Snape had cared nothing for Harry, even though Harry had come bearing gifts. After Harry had revealed that aside from the head every other part was already sold, Snape liked him even less, if possible. There had been a class of firsties in the dungeon. They had looked rightly disturbed by the smoldering glares Snape had hurled at everything in reach.
But what did Harry care for Snape? Nothing, that's what. He sat alone in the champions' tent, waiting for his turn to face a dragon, having picked the most vicious one a few minutes earlier. His luck, really. At least Madam Malkins had delivered, and Lord, she had delivered well. The armor being black with slight green shimmers still surprised him, but Madam Malkins had assured him it was a side result of the processing. Calling it armor as well, might be a bit too much. It was more of an assortment of various pieces secured to his normal attire with enchanted straps.
It was light; it was durable; it was good-looking. And if Harry ever came into a position where someone asked him what armor he'd be (if, in fact, wizards could become armors), he'd say, proudly and in a firm voice, "I'm a basilisk armor."
The cloak fit well, too, but that's hardly the important part of his attire. It had taken a while, but Dumbledore had even parted with the Sword of Gryffindor for the duration of the tournament. Now wasn't that grand? Harry liked to think he triumphed over Dumbledore in a sheer contest of wills. Delusional, of course, but thinking that Dumbledore let him win wasn't helpful in his quest to build some self-confidence and courage.
Madam Malkin had included a letter in the delivery, explaining that the hide was spell-resistant, true, but after the basilisk died, the only thing that still made it so was the magic imbued with it. Which meant that not only would anything over a low-powered curse cut through the armor in usual efficiency, but also that it'd loose it's power somewhere along the way and with continued use.
But who was he, Harry Potter, to care too much for little details like that? Right now, every bit of protection helped.
"And now, the last champion," boomed Bagman's voice from outside the tent. "Harry Potter, who will face the most dangerous breed this tournament has to offer: The Hungarian Horntail!"
Harry blinked, steeled his nerves, and walked out of the tent. There he came face to maw with the mythical creature that could, in the instant it took Ron to fart, roast him to a fine crisp.
He found the experience to be quite terrifying.
Yellow eyes, set in a leathery dark-brown head, glared at Harry from the other side of the arena. The dragon overtook the size of a classroom, and the putrid stench of sulfur lingered in the air.
Harry became acutely aware of his mortality. How easy, he thought, is it for that thing to smash me into a wall, leaving nothing but a smattering of red behind? The thought of facing the dragon actually made him shiver now. But there was no time anymore. Not for fear. Not for hesitation.
I really hope, Harry thought, that I prepared enough for you, ugly.
"Let us see," shouted Bagman, "how Mr. Potter stacks up against the other champions, who completed their tasks with a mixture of power, trickery, and subtle charms work."
The noise of the crowd grew deafening, and against his better instinct, Harry glanced up at the stands. It's risky to take his attention away from the Horntail, even for a second, but he had to know...
And seeing these people there celebrating made his blood pulse in his body like angry, erratic blows against a gong. His magic buzzed in response. There was doubt in these faces. So much doubt. A lot of giddiness, too, of course. And in some even anticipation.
That more than anything hardened his resolve to actually survive this encounter. Harry Potter indulged, at times, in spite and the pleasure of proving people wrong. He spat on the ground, his concentration moving back to the Horntail. They'd see, all of them. He didn't die that easily.
The Horntail had enough of the waiting game and roared. The sound sent a shiver through the whole arena. A lance of flame tickled the air, but Harry didn't back away. He had killed a basilisk at twelve. How hard could a dragon be at fourteen? Harry assessed the field, found himself surrounded by rocks, and was happy with that much at least, since they were useful in case his plan failed and he'd have to take cover.
Harry stalked up to the dragon, brandishing his wand. On the way forward he buried every bit of fear he still felt beneath a pile of courage and an even larger pile of insanity.
"Is Potter fighting the dragon head on? It looks like it, ladies and gentlemen. Insanity! What..."
Harry tried to blend out Bagman as best he could.
His wand moved at the same time as the Horntail inhaled.
"Agumenti Scutum Tholus."
The water shooting from Harry's wand coalesced into a dome around him. He put every bit of power into the spell he safely could spare without hurting his chances for the other spells. Flames crashed against his shield, clashing with the water. There was a sizzling in the air; smoke wafted up from the point of impact and all around Harry.
Cloaked in smoke, Harry could still hear that idiot Bagman shouting, and the crowd roaring. On to the next part, he thought.
"I beseech thee, Magic, grant me thy—"
He heard the sound of rocks crumbling and shaking, then a loud swoosh. Harry threw himself to the ground, the dragon's tail cleaving the air above him into pieces. He dived behind a boulder.
Harry's heart hammered a tattoo against his ribcage, and for a moment he gripped the chest piece of his armor, fearing the vicious beat might crack it open from inside. Then he calmed himself, somewhat. Still in the realm of anticipation, Potter, he thought. You can do this. Now stop playing around and get to it.
He peered around the boulder, quickly jabbing his wand toward a trashcan-sized stone on the ground, then jerked back as a wave of fire battered against the backside of his safety boulder.
"Screw you, Horntail," he whispered. "Screw you very much."
He heard the crunching of stone setting itself to move about, and grinned as his stone warrior took shape. He gambled a bit, running into the open and waving his wand at his new guardian. A moment later, the stone warrior readied itself to defends its master.
A torrent of flames marched on, a violent breath, trying to overcome Harry's shield. This time he could feel the heat press against him from the front, as if a giant's hand was pushing. The shield would probably hold against another attack. And he simply didn't have the power to recast it again after using this last charm.
Last shot, or I'm toast, he thought.
"I beseech thee, Magic, grant me thy power—"
The dome of water vanished as soon as the stream of fire ended, but Harry had no time to bother with it. He felt understandably reluctant to leave this world.
"—I ask for thee—"
The dragon's spiked tail crashed into Harry's guardian, obliterating the shield and pushing the warrior several feet back.
"—Mother Earth, nurturing us all."
The Horntail growled and lashed out with his tail for the second time. The guardian jumped into its path, shattering under the force of the impact. Dust and Debris flew around Harry as he pointed his wand at the dragon.
"Radix Catena; Fugere Est Terra!"
Harry roared as the magic took hold, surged from his arm into the wand, and from there toward the dragon. It could be heard throughout the whole arena and, amplified by the Sonorus charm on the place, probably even in Hogwarts.
Go, you piece of crap, he thought, pushing all of his will into the spell.
Titanic roots broke through the surface of the arena, crawling quickly up toward the open maw of the Horntail. In the back of the throat, Harry imagined he saw a spark. Then the creepers shut the maw tight. More roots came, winding around the tail and the wings, pulling them to the ground. A thrum went through the arena; a last push went out from Harry. The earth rumbled, and two roots—each as thick as a Scottish oak—wove around the Horntail's body, shackling the dragon with stupendous force.
Harry Potter was not too proud to admit that he relished in the sudden silence of the crowd. He looked toward the judge's box and found Dumbledore smiling, which was probably worth more than any kind of recognition he could get from all the other people in this place.
"Unbelievable, simply unbelievable," Bagman shouted, recovering at last. "In all my years I've never seen the likes! Potter didn't distract the Horntail to steal the egg! He immobilized it entirely!"
Around five-hundred people thundered in applause as Harry made his way to the golden egg. He took it, thrust it up once, then went toward the medical tent, where he knew a frantic Madam Pomfrey would wait on him.
"Mr. Potter," came the expected voice, "are you alright?"
"Let that be my concern."
Madam Pomfrey began her inspection and Harry wondered why she had asked him in the first place just to ignore him afterward. Sitting on a bed, he spied an uninjured Viktor Krum, whose eyes were narrowed to slits. Take that, you arrogant piece of shit, he thought, sending a grin that way.
Fleur and Cedric were resting on other beds and spotted several burns of different severity. For them, at least, he felt sorry. Harry remembered quite well the heat that went out from the fire, and he hadn't even been hit directly by it.
"Acceptable, Mr. Potter," said Madam Pomfrey at last. "Rest for the day and you'll be right as rain tomorrow. Now, go out and see how many points they'll award you, will you?"
When Harry reached the arena, he saw the judges rising from their seats. They pointed their wands skyward, shooting, one by one, a number from zero to ten in the air: A ten from Bagman and Dumbledore each; a nine from Madam Maxime; a ten from Crouch; a seven from Karkaroff.
Forty-six points in all. Not too shabby, considering Harry had done it for survival.
AN: That's the first chapter.
For those new to MotA—Welcome! This chapter is more polished than the following ones, which is owed to the fact that I worked on the edit roughly two years later. I hope you'll still continue to read though. As you progress, things get better and will hopefully convince you to stay tuned for the rest of it.
For those re-reading this—Welcome back! Same as above applies, though chances are if you're reading this a second time, I already hooked you sufficiently. For you, there's just the information that reworking a whole chapter from the beginning happened because I was bored, not because I seriously consider revamping the whole story. I made sure that I didn't cut out any important parts relevant for later chapters during the edit, so no worries there.
In the coming months, I'll start uploading the end to MotA, which is already written but needs some heavy editing. So, thanks again for your patience. Stay tuned!