Disclaimer: Harry Potter is Rowling's toy, I'm just playing with it.
Warning: Less than morally-acceptable scenarios.
Beta: Chosen, but this is the un-edited version until beta can finish editing this. :)
Her fingers stung and she let out a soft hiss, holding her hands to her chest. She sat, crisscross, on her bed with Tom sitting next to her. His eyes were fixated on her fingers, while she tried to even out her breathing. Normally after this, she would just be angry—be spiteful—but something kept her anger in check. That something was a man named Sirius Black.
This was the very last summer she would ever see of the Dursleys—the very last week she would hear their voices—and very, very soon she would be living with her Godfather. Her real guardian. That fact alone, kept her anger to a low, knowing it was the last time she would have to deal with any of it, ever again.
"Let me see," Tom said softly, holding out his long, pale hands.
Harry let out a soft breath, holding them out. "It's not that bad. I've had worse. I had just forgotten…"
"They're broken," Tom observed.
"Yes," Harry agreed, looking at the swollen, mangled fingers. "I know; it wouldn't be the first time. I'll have Dobby wrap them for me when he comes back with the medication."
Tom glanced away, giving a soft hum. "Have you gotten the shipment in for Moratorium?"
Moratorium gave Tom an amused smile, ignoring the pain in Harry's fingers. "Of course I have. Everything is going rather smoothly—almost too smoothly, if you ask me. The reserves are still progressing and the breeders are still preparing the last of everything. Once everything is set, I will have the eggs brought in and my all natural, completely legal, magical reserve, will be up and running. I've also been able to sway a large majority of the Ministry's fools in my favor. Even Lucius does not hold as much favor as I do, now."
Tom's lips twitched and he gave a ghost of a smile. "Undoubtedly. And what of your new guild?"
Moratorium's eyes shown with dark mirth and he smirked. "A thieves guild. It will take much longer to train and… develop than the others. After all, it's one thing to kill someone, quite another to steal from them right under their noses without killing them. It takes a natural talent… talent that is hard to find. However, Marwyn already has some leads."
"It will be difficult to keep such greedy people in check," Tom remarked.
Moratorium chuckled. "Not really. After all, I intend to have their guild stationed very close to my assassin's guild, and my assassin's will take precedence over them, they will watch them."
"Speaking of that guild…"
"I will be meeting with them and scouting out the talent either next summer, or at the end of this year," Moratorium replied.
Tom gave a small nod. "I am anxious to see what kind of talent you have managed to develop."
"As am I."
"What are the rest of your plans for the year?"
Moratorium gave Tom a sly smile. "Isn't it obvious? I may have England's Ministry under my control, but that's not nearly enough. My brothels, casinos, resorts, bars, and sports are all over the world, Riddle. I need to ensure that none of the governments will not stand in my way when I begin to take a more… radical… approach on things."
"The list," Tom realized, his eyes widening.
"The list," Moratorium agreed, smiling coldly. "The list of all those annoying officials who hold sway in their government that might give me pause. I intend to put my assassins to use—the list of every official who cannot be swayed to my cause, or used, will be used as a test for my tools to see if they can… survive… working for me. Should this list be completed without a hitch, I will personally meet with them and everything should go smoothly. Should a single hiccup occur, the person responsible will undoubtedly be dealt with accordingly. It wouldn't do to tip anyone else off about… my presence. I already have enough people sniffing around where they shouldn't be sniffing."
"At least you don't have Dumbledore breathing down your neck," Tom muttered.
"Because I don't really pose that much of a threat to him for the moment," Moratorium dismissed. "As far as he's concerned, Moratorium is simply a very greedy man—one that can be swayed with money. We'll see if his opinion changes once the list takes into play…"
Tom gave a humorless chuckle.
Harry smiled at Dobby, while Dobby held out his hands to wrap Harry's. He looked appalled and disgusted and he muttered crossly, "Hurt! Misses Potter! Unbelievable—not right, no, no, not right at all! Dobby does not like the big man. He does not like him at all."
When Dobby was finished and Harry had taken her medication, she gave a large yawn.
"You should get some rest," Tom observed.
Harry gave a tired yawn. "You're right… after all… in just two days… I'll be out of this hellhole."
Everything that belonged to Harry was packed into a single trunk—the exception being her owl, that was currently already at Sirius's loft in London. She stood outside of the house, her trunk set up beside her, as she anxiously waited.
She did not have to wait long, for Sirius appeared before her in a sharp crack, grinning widely. His entire face lit up when he saw her—and she noticed that Lupin was right behind him.
Lupin, was, sadly, no longer teaching at Hogwarts. However, because Harry was very fond him, and Sirius was, as well, Harry and Sirius pooled their money together and hired their friend as Harry's private tutor. Lupin had wanted to decline at first, but Harry insisted upon it and he eventually caved when she pointed out her addiction to danger and how trouble seemed to find her. The pay was another thing he argued about, but Sirius and Harry were very firm in their belief. Harry had enough money to burn and Sirius's fortune wasn't anything to sniff at, either.
What did Lupin exactly teach Harry, one might ask? Well, it wasn't just Harry he was teaching, either.
He was teaching The Shadows, as well. Well, The Shadows weren't their actual name (they were still voting on it), but The Shadows, were indeed the order Harry had requested the previous year. Her friends hadn't been reluctant in joining—in fact, they seemed very interested. Especially when Harry mentioned she would only tutor those in the order. The order comprised of Ron, Draco, Hermione, Neville, George, Fred and Harry. The purpose of the order still remains a mystery to the members—even Harry wasn't sure what to make of it—but they were sure it would be revealed to them in time.
One thing they were all being taught by Lupin was… the Animagus form. Another thing to take note… they did not plan on registering, and Lupin's tutoring was done very privately. For while Lupin did not hold an Animagus form, he did learn how to teach others in making one by seeing James and Sirius learn their form.
Hermione was, of course, horrified at the very idea of doing something so illegal, but Draco was swift to point out how helpful and good it was to not have on registered. If it weren't for Sirius not registering, he and Harry would undoubtedly still be separated. It took the better part of the rest of the year and summer before Hermione finally relented. Lupin had already sent out basic instructions on what to do to everyone in the group, and the real training would begin in the school year. There were other passages into the school that even Dumbledore wouldn't know about—mostly through the Chamber of Secrets—but the Marauders made sure to keep at least some hidden from the map, just in case… Harry had loaned out her Invisibility Cloak to Lupin so he could move undetected in the castle, and while Lupin seemed slightly annoyed at the idea of having to sneak about, his inner Marauder seemed just as accepting of the idea.
On the nights that Lupin would not be teaching them—he would only be teaching them the Animagus transformation (once a month, but it would be an all-day thing), Harry would be instructing them.
Now what Lupin privately taught Harry, would be up to Lupin. Whatever he thought necessary.
"Padfoot! Moony!" Harry exclaimed, hurling herself into Sirius's arms and squeezing him tightly—but was careful not to actually use her fingers.
Sirius hugged Harry just as tightly back. "I haven't been able to see you all summer. Are you all packed?"
"'Course!" Harry exclaimed, releasing Sirius to hug Lupin just as tightly—and he hugged her just as tightly, too.
"Did your homework, Harry?" Lupin asked, smiling.
Harry grinned back. "How could I not? The sooner I get it done, the sooner I can get started on becoming an Animagus."
"Right you are. Ah—is that everything?"
"Mm-hmm. Are we stopping by the Vault today or…?"
"I thought we'd have a go at it tomorrow," Sirius replied, wrapping an arm around Harry's shoulders as Lupin levitated the suitcase over to them.
Sirius's loft was relatively empty—after all, he technically just bought it a couple weeks ago, and had been exchanging letters and pictures to Harry of what type of furniture they wanted. They had some picked out, but Harry wanted a few things from the Potter Vault brought along—a fair few books, a gorgeous desk and chair, some artifacts, portraits of her Grandparents and Great Grandparents and so on—things that she felt belonged in a home. Sirius mentioned some things that of James that he wanted to keep—momentous, mostly, and Harry was perfectly fine with that. Harry offered Lupin the same thing, and he had declined for the moment, but Harry was planning on asking him later.
Harry nodded her head, still smiling. "Alright. I'm ready whenever you are!"
And in another crack, they were gone.
Harry blinked her eyes, clearing away the dizziness after the trip was completed. "Urk. Hate tagging along for that."
"Yeah," Lupin agreed, nodding sympathetically towards her. "I remember my first time. Dreadful."
"Welp! Grab your suitcase and take it up to your room. I'll see if the rest of the furniture is here," Sirius declared—this would his first night living in the home, as well. He wandered off to the living room and Harry hesitated, silently summoning her suitcase to follow her.
She was getting to be a natural when it came to summoning and banishing magic—it was the only spells she could do wandlessly and soundlessly. However Tom refused to let her hear the end of it of how he could do all sorts of fancy things, as well. The prat.
It was then that Lupin noticed she didn't use her wand, and before he could congratulate her, his eyes fell on her hands.
His brow furrowed and he frowned. "Harry? What happened to your fingers?"
"Oh. They're broken," Harry replied. "I was going to wait and have Madam Pomfrey fix them when I got back to school."
"Wait… wait? How can you…?" Lupin gave Harry a glare, holding out his wand. "Let me see them. This wouldn't be the first time I've had to mend things, what with the way your father and Sirius roughhoused at Hogwarts constantly.
Harry held out her fingers and Lupin's wand glowed a dull blue before Harry felt the sharp pain and heard some rather sickening cracks as her bones were instantly repaired.
"It's going to be very fragile, so try not to use them much tonight before the magic settles in," Lupin instructed her, his brow still furrowed and he gave her a puzzled look. "… You hardly reacted to the mending. Mostly people at least yelp. How did you break them anyway?"
"Door slamming," Harry answered vaguely. "Say, can you show me how to do that? Looks awfully useful."
"Maybe. We'll see," Lupin allowed, still giving her a puzzled look. "How did a door slam into your hands?"
"It was slammed closed, and my fingers were still there. I really should have been paying attention. If I was, my fingers wouldn't be broken," Harry replied truthfully, but still not giving Lupin the full truth. She knew enough about lying to know that truth had to be mixed in in some way. By simply omitting what she needed to be paying attention to, and who exactly slammed the door and why, she allowed Lupin to draw his own conclusions.
"Ah. I didn't take you for the oblivious sort," Lupin remarked.
"Neither did I."
"Everything's here!" Sirius declared, entering the front room once again. "Well, mostly everything. The rest will be arriving tomorrow, and by the time we have all that we want from the vault, we'll be good to go."
Harry beamed, pleased for the change in subject. "Brilliant! What's for lunch?"
Lupin chuckled while Sirius said, "Whatever you want!"
"Hmm… really? Anything?"
"Well, so long as it's edible for everyone," Lupin amended.
Harry woke with a start in her bed, her breath coming in short gasps and her scar stinging like crazy. Tom was sitting at the edge of her, his eyes glazed over and his posture stiff. While Tom could not sleep—not in a normal sense—he was able to drift off into a meditative state and allow his mind to wander, which seemed to be the same as sleeping for him. Harry had watched him do it numerous times—as he had done it many times in class when bored enough—but what he was in… was different.
Hesitantly, Harry reached out a hand to him, her fingers brushing over his ghostly form and her scar still hurting. Tom's gaze snapped back into focus and he stared at her.
"The dream. With Peter," Harry said, her voice quiet.
Peter Pettigrew had been tried and sentenced to life in Azkaban. On the very day he was off to the prison, he managed to escape custody. No one had seen or heard from him since.
"Yes," Tom replied, his voice just as quiet. "… What… That voice… that wasn't…? That couldn't have been me…"
Harry kept her gaze even, staring at him. Tom looked away, a frown marring his face. "… Impossible. To need to rely on such a weak creature as Peter… No… Something must be wrong."
"I suppose time will tell," Harry answered.
Tom nodded his head absently, lost in thought. "Yes… yes…"
"I know we haven't talked about it… but… our connection… do you know anything about it?"
Tom glanced back at her, her gaze thoughtful and somber. "I have my suspicions, but I will not divulge them to you."
Harry nodded her head, consenting. The fact that he answered her question at all and did not lie, spoke volumes in how far Harry had come in earning his favor and trust. She could be patient with her questions, with her answers. After all, it would be well worth the wait. A couple more moments of silenced passed between the two before Harry shook her head, clearing the mental afterimages of the dream. She then crawled out of bed and got dressed for the day. After all, today was the day of the World Quidditch Cup.
She padded barefoot down the long hallway, heading towards the kitchen. When she got there, she saw Dobby was already making breakfast. Her mouth watered at the scents and she took a seat at the table.
It wasn't long until Sirius came in, groggy, yet excited. Harry had come to realize that Sirius wasn't much of a morning person—preferring to take his sweet time waking up—but, at that morning, he was excited and rearing to go.
Due to his… time away from the real world (as Sirius liked to call it, trying his damnest to completely erase the fact that he was in Azkaban for most of his adult life)… and his association with the public's darling… the Ministry had been very anxious to keep Sirius happy. Along with the paid therapy sessions, and the nice monthly salary for the time Sirius remained unemployed, they also sent little gifts. One of those gifts just so happened to be four tickets to the Quidditch World Cup—excellent tickets, at that! Sirius, Harry and Lupin were all going together, along with one of Harry's friends.
Harry originally asked Neville—as Draco and Ron were already going and Hermione wasn't really into Quidditch, as much as Neville. However, Neville and his Grandmother had already made plans the day of the Cup, much to his disappointment. Harry promised to allow him to look through a Pensieve the moment he could and he felt a little better. Harry then pondered which of her other friends would care to join her.
No, scratch that, she pondered which of her other friends would want desperately to go? And there was only one person Harry knew who was so obsessed with Quidditch, he'd be devastated if he couldn't go to the Cup, one way or the other. So, Harry ended up inviting Oliver Wood (much to his absolute delight… the seats really were phenomenal). Oliver was set to meet the trio at a nearby Portkey, later on that morning.
There was a small crackling sound as the Floo in the front room was used and Lupin stepped into the kitchen, smiling faintly.
"Good morning, Moony," Harry greeted as Dobby set down the plates of breakfast.
"Good morning, Harry," Lupin replied, taking a seat while Sirius let out a large yawn.
Comfortable silence fell across the table for a brief moment and then—
"My God, I love bacon," Sirius exclaimed before proceeding to wolf down nearly half the plate of bacon.
Harry snorted in amusement and Lupin looked mildly displeased. "Table manners, Padfoot…"
"Screw manners! We're all family here."
"That doesn't mean you need to act uncivilized. You're a guardian now, you need to set an example for your ward," Lupin declared.
Harry grinned wickedly. "Oh, yes. Because I'm such an impressionable child and I am such a troubled one, at that."
"You're troubled alright," Lupin muttered. "I've never seen someone with such little regard for their own life and such an unhealthy obsession with danger."
Sirius frowned at that. "It's not that bad, is it? I mean, she's perfectly alive and healthy right now, so clearly she's doing something right."
Harry preened. "Exactly!"
"Harry," Lupin said, pinning her with a stern gaze. Harry wilted, looking stubbornly away. "From just what I've seen, I'm amazed that the only trouble you got into in your first year was Voldemort, and your second year, the Chambers. And you're lucky in your third year that Padfoot actually wasn't out to get you. Sneaking out against the rules? The rules are there for your own safety."
"Padfoot," Harry whined, turning to her guardian, "rules are for breaking, right?"
"Always. Unless they're mine. Then they are meant to be followed to the letter," Sirius agreed. Lupin gave him a sharp look and Sirius had the grace to look sheepish. "I… mean… you really should obey the school rules. They, uh… are set for your safety… and stuff…"
"But you didn't when you were my age," Harry pointed out, perfectly reasonably.
"He was an idiot at your age, something you and I both know you aren't," Lupin also pointed out, just as reasonable.
Tom tried to cover up a snicker with a cough.
"Then I just won't get caught," Harry said, and Sirius nodded his head, but frowned when Lupin shot him another glare.
Sirius threw his hands up in the air in exasperation. "I can't win!"
"Yes, you can, just side with me. I always win," Harry said, grinning even more widely.
Lupin gave her a dry look. "And how's your Patronus coming along?"
Harry flushed. "… I got an animal last time."
Lupin actually gave her a smile. "That's wonderful. Do you want me to see if I can find you a Dementor to practice on?"
"Where would you get a Dementor for her to practice on?" Tom asked incredulously, but was ignored.
"Back to the topic at hand, though… there was a difference when we broke the rules and when you break them," Lupin said patiently, as if speaking to a small child. "We broke them for rather trivial things, making sure not to place anyone or ourselves in harm's way. Or, well, intending to. You break them specifically to put yourself in harm's way."
Harry gave a sigh before her eyes lit up. "Wait… so it's okay if I break the rules for pranking or other things of the like… but not okay for dangerous—risky things?"
"Yes," Sirius said firmly and returned Lupin's glare with one of his own. "It's a compromise! We have to start somewhere. If, Harry, you manage not to break any rules that put yourself in harm's way for a single semester—just one!—I'll allow you to get whatever pet you want, that can live in this house without crushing everything when it walks."
You mean, if so long as I break the rules and don't get caught, Harry thought smugly.
"And I will be buying truth serum at Christmas for you," Sirius finished and Harry gave a small cry of annoyance.
"… Any pet?"
"So long as it fits in the house."
"… One semester?"
"If you can make it the entire year, which I don't think you will, as you're far too addicted to danger right now—I suppose we will have to work on that—you can have any pet."
Harry considered her options.
"You won't make it," Tom told her.
_Oooh, but I really, really want another one._
"You really won't make it," Tom informed her, confident in his statement.
_I've got to try. Maybe if I find something distracting enough… A challenge, perhaps?_
"It's a deal," Harry declared, holding out her hand across the table. Sirius shook it gladly and smirked in satisfaction. Lupin looked a little displeased, but seemed content enough to allow the matter to rest for the moment.
"Oh," Harry said, recalling something. "Fred and George want to know more of your stories as the Marauders. I told them you would be delighted to tell them at least one at the Quidditch Cup."
"Always happy to help a fellow mischief maker," Sirius said, beaming at the prospect of being able to tell another one of his grand tales, even Lupin looked a little pleased.
"Even if they won't be able to hold up to the Marauder's title," Lupin murmured.
Harry's ears perked. "What? No. Fred and George are the masters at pranking—and I myself am nothing to sniff at when I get started. I did tell you about my first prank, right?"
"No? What's this? My little Pronglet has actually had her first prank?" Sirius demanded, his eyes lighting up while Lupin gave a laugh.
"It was good, Harry," Lupin allowed, "but it was just one prank and you didn't even get House points deducted."
"That's because the teachers love me. Well, except Snape."
"A mark of a true Marauder, a troublemaker, but loved anyway," Sirius said approvingly. "But if it really was just one and you still didn't get points deducted, Pronglet…"
Harry pursed her lips, a glint in her eyes. "The twins and I can be just as mischievous as the Marauders."
The two adults in the room laughed.
"We can be… and we will be," Harry declared. "We will cause ten times more mayhem and chaos this year, than the Marauders did in their best year!"
Lupin and Sirius exchanged amused glances and Sirius smirked. "Is that a challenge, Pronglet?"
"It is! Tell me the exact amount of detentions you had, points deducted and pranks pulled. We'll beat your score, guaranteed."
"Challenge accepted," Sirius declared. "But what's a little challenge without a wager? If you manage to defeat us in this… we'll show you how to adjust the Marauder's map, and we'll tell you all the other secret tunnel's locations, and we'll announce you three the next generation of Marauders."
"And if you win?" Harry challenged.
Sirius gave a nasty smile. "Then the three of you have to be at the receiving end of our pranks for the entire summer next year—and not once can you rebuttal."
"Hello, Oliver!" Harry greeted as she, Sirius and Lupin arrived on the scene. The soon-to-be seventh-year gave Harry a wide grin, rushing to her and hugging her tightly.
"… Thank you. Seriously. Thank you."
Harry patted his back, used to his emotional state when it came to Quidditch. Sirius, however, who not well-acquainted with Oliver, simply cleared his throat, pulled his Goddaughter out of his arms, and gave Oliver a bright smile that didn't look anywhere near as bright as it did that morning.
Harry's brow furrowed in confusion, but Oliver seemed oblivious to Sirius, too excited for the Quidditch Cup.
"… Right," Lupin said slowly, trying hard not to smirk in amusement. "Shall we get going?"
"Right away, Professor!" Oliver exclaimed, beaming.
"Ah, I'm not a Professor anymore, Wood, please just call me Lupin."
Oliver, still grinning, nodded in consent and the quartet was off to the game.
"Ron said they'd be over here," Harry said, tugging Sirius behind her with Oliver and Lupin trailing behind them. The entire field was crowded with tents and booths and children running about and laughter was filled in the air and everything was so very bright and cheerful, the good mood was starting to brighten even Tom.
It didn't take long for the quartet to reach the Weasley tent and while Lupin and Sirius started setting up their tent next to their's, Oliver and Harry slipped into the Weasley tent.
Soon arms were thrown around Harry's shoulders as Hermione hugged her tightly, and soon enough Ginny was joining her, too. Harry smiled, content, as she pulled back and saw the twins greet Oliver happily. Ron wandered over, grinning.
"Looking forward to the game?" Ron asked.
"Have you seen the Bulgarin tents? Or the Ireland ones?" Hermione asked.
"Not yet. Want to show me?"
"Right this way!" Ron exclaimed.
"Oh! Wait. I need to talk to the twins for a moment," Harry said, hurrying over to the twins and dragging them away from an anxious Oliver. She guided them into a secluded corner before casting a muffling spell around them.
The twins exchanged curious glances.
"What's the matter, Harrykins?"
"We've been experimenting with—"
"—potions all summer long. Mum's—"
"—right mad at us about the store. We haven't—"
"—told her about your investment, though—"
Harry waved her hand in a dismissive manner. "That's not important. What is important is this little wager…"
Harry explained what she had agreed to that morning. The twins were grinning widely.
"Sounds wicked," they chorused.
Harry nodded her head. "I thought so, too. I was thinking, seeing how we're going to win and everything, we might as well start thinking up our new Marauder's names."
"Based on our Animagus form?" Fred asked.
Harry nodded her head again. "Correct. I already know what mine is. Padfoot bought the potion for me to find out. I already have your potions in my bag—go ahead and help yourselves to them."
The steps to becoming an Animgus were rather simple, yet complex. It really just depended on the level of skill the witch or wizard possessed, and how easily they were able to comprehend the steps. In the beginning, a potion was needed to be taken. The potion would allow the witch or wizard to slip into a deep meditative state where they would see what their form was—or at least a very, very blurred form. Repetitive meditation afterwards was required to make the form clearer and clearer. That's usually the longest part, sometimes taking up to years. However, Harry had a step ahead in her training with Occlumency, which allowed her to delve deeper in her mind with more ease and see her form with more clarity. After the form is discovered, it's a matter of making the connection—which can be just as long as finding it. The ways of making a connection differ for each form.
For Sirius, he explained he just needed to prove his loyalty to his friends—the same level of loyalty a dog would hold for its master or family. He wasn't sure what Harry's father or Peter had to demonstrate, only that it was an association for the symbolism of their Animagus form. Harry had a good idea what to do for her connection, but it would take time. After all, Sirius couldn't prove his loyalty in a single event—he had to do it repetitively for months.
Once the connection was made, an innate ability would be given to the witch or wizard and everything else came with ease. The transformation was as natural and comfortable as changing into comfy, warm clothes after a long, cold day.
"Brilliant!" George said, smirking. "So have you decided on a name?"
Harry smirked. "I'm thinking about it."
Walking around the campus, Harry encountered more and more of her fellow students, and the majority of them seemed to want to introduce Harry to their parents—it was rather tiresome after a while—but she, Hermione and Ron seemed to be content with everything. After passing by a stand that sold some sort of magnifying glasses that also could pause and rewind things in slow motion (they were called Omnioculars), she had bought enough for everyone.
When lunch came around, everyone gathered around for Molly's excellent cooking and along came Ludo Bagman who conversed with Arthur for a while.
"I still haven't decided which team I want to root for," Sirius commented while eating lunch.
"I think I'll be cheering for Ireland," Lupin replied.
"Same," Harry agreed.
"I'm not rooting for either. I just want a good match," Oliver declared. "Now if England had made it through, then that's something to root for…"
"Are you wanting to join England's team after Hogwarts, Oliver?" Harry asked, tilting her head curiously. Oliver nodded his head, grinning.
"'Course I do."
Sirius nodded his head, in a grudgingly approving way. "… Well, that's a good goal."
Harry gave a thoughtful hum. "They could use a new Keeper. No offense to the current one, but she sucks."
"Harry!" Lupin exclaimed. "That's not very nice."
"But it's true," Sirius pointed out. "I saw your games last year; you'd make a much better Keeper."
Oliver seemed to beam. "Really? I'd love to give it a try, but…"
Harry gave a thoughtful hum. "I haven't actually decided what to do when I get out of Hogwarts. I think I want to do something with Quidditch—there's just something nice about it—"
"That's because it's another dangerous sport that suits adrenaline junkies, like yourself, just fine, especially if you're a Seeker," Lupin interjected.
"—but I kind of want to do something a bit more, you know? I almost want to say auror, but frankly I don't want to step a toe in politics," Harry finished.
"You've got talent," Oliver told Harry firmly. "Best Seeker in the world, far as I'm concerned.
"Who is?" Ron asked, having just left his conversation with Hermione and entered the current one.
"Harry," Oliver said just as Harry said, "Me, of course."
Ron shrugged. "I dunno… Krum's amazing. If it was between the two of you… Sorry, mate, I'd choose Krum."
Harry's eyes narrowed into slits and Hermione and the twins shook their heads.
"—believe you just—"
"—said the most stupidest—"
"—thing to say to—"
"—our very spiteful Harrykins—"
"You will regret saying that this, year, Ronald," Harry promised him, smiling sweetly while the twins snickered and Sirius and Lupin exchanged glances.
Ron looked mildly worried. "Why?"
"You will see," Harry assured him, still smiling. "This year… Well, this year is going to be a very special year."
The twins outright laughed at that.
When it came time for the match to begin, Sirius had grabbed Harry and Apparated the two of them to their seats. It wasn't long afterwards that Oliver and Lupin Apparated behind them and the four them took their seats. Sirius had made sure that their seats were next to the Weasley family's seats, as well, so the four of them only had to wait for the rest of them to show up.
"Everyone got their Omnioculars?" Lupin asked softly, glancing at the trio. Harry and Oliver held up there's, but Sirius had to frown thoughtfully for a moment or two before reaching remembering where he left his.
"Be right back," Sirius said, Disapparating.
Lupin gave a sigh, rolling his eyes and Harry snickered. "Sometimes I wonder how he remembers to get dressed…"
"Sometimes he doesn't," Harry confessed. "Dobby and I usually have to remind him."
"Why'd you guys go and leave us like that?" Ron asked, though there was no annoyance in his voice—as the match would be starting very soon—as he climbed up the stairs and took a seat behind Harry. Hermione was right behind him and she took a seat next to him with the rest of the Weasley family.
"Because we didn't want to walk?" Harry offered as Sirius appeared, grinning triumphantly and holding up his Omnioculars.
"Oh, it says here that the team mascots will precede the match," Hermione read aloud from her program.
"Always worth watching," Lupin said, smiling. "National teams bring creatures from their native land to put on a bit of a show."
"I wonder what they'll bring," Ron wondered.
"Ah! Miss Potter… h—hello, there."
Harry looked up to see Fudge heading nervously towards them. Ever since Harry had… expressed her… annoyance… with him… he had been rather nervous around her. Still, he was persistent in wanting to remain in a positive light with her—especially when it became clear that she was not a very nice person to have pissed off, so he rushed over to her, completely ignoring Percy who looked most anxious to greet him.
"Hello, Minister," Harry replied, smiling humorlessly.
"Mr. Black," Fudge greeted, dipping his head in Sirius's direction who simply waved him off, too entertained by his Omnioculars to deal with a politician. Harry couldn't really blame him.
"Minister, I would like to introduce you to my dear friends," Harry purred and Fudge stumbled over himself to thrust his hand in the first person that Harry introduced him to.
"This is Oliver Wood, an exceptional Keeper. Far better than the one England currently has," Harry said while Oliver and Fudge shook hands.
Fudge gave a nervous smile. "Anyone is better than she is, Miss Potter."
"I couldn't agree more!" Harry exclaimed, smiling as a master would when a pet did an amusing trick. "This is Remus Lupin, he was my favorite professor at Hogwarts and is very dear. This is Hermione Granger, brightest witch I know. This is Ronald Weasley, a natural with Wizard Chess, surprisingly, and this is Fred and George Weasley—they're my… partners in crime… oh, and I suppose this is Percy Weasley. He's new at the Ministry. Treat him well, won't you? He's just graduated and he used to be my favorite Prefect."
Percy was blushing as bright as can be when Fudge shook his hand, beaming at Percy. Percy shot Harry a very grateful look and Harry finished introducing Fudge to the rest of the family—although he needed no introductions to Molly or Arthur, Harry wanted to emphasize how very much the Weasley family belonged to her—er… she meant… how… very much… Oh, hell with it—and she would be very displeased if they were displeased.
"Pleasure, pleasure," Fudge said, looking around nervously before relaxing minutely when he saw a familiar face. "Ah! Lucius!"
Harry leaned around Fudge, spotting the Malfoy family. She grinned at Draco who grinned back.
"Fudge," Lucius said smoothly, holding out his hand as he reached the Minister. "How are you? I don't think you've met my wife, Narcissa? Or our son, Draco?"
"Who is another good friend of mine," Harry interjected, smiling sweetly as Fudge gave another nervous laugh before frantically trying to shake Draco's hand.
"Quit taunting our Minister," Lupin whispered, scolding Harry. "You're going to give him a nervous break-down. You know he's still terrified of you."
"Oh, but it's so much fun," Harry whined, completely ignoring the Malfoys and Fudge.
"There is something seriously wrong with you," Hermione sighed.
"In a good sense," Sirius added, winking at Harry. Harry beamed and preened, positively pleased her Godfather was taking her side.
"You're going to spoil her," Lupin muttered.
"Oh would you just relax? Can't you at least let her have a nice night to enjoy herself? She's not going to be in any danger with us here."
"You don't know her like we do," Hermione interrupted.
"It's the Quidditch World Cup," Sirius emphasized. "Nothing's going to happen here—the security is too tight."
"That sounds like a challenge," Harry whispered.
"Don't even think about it," Lupin and Hermione snapped.
"Harry, can't you at least try to be normal for a night?" Ron asked.
It was then that there was a small tap on Harry's head and she looked up to see that Draco had taken a seat behind her. "What are you going on about? Harry, normal? Don't make me laugh, Weasley."
"Exactly! Normal is so boring, anyway. Who would want to be it?"
Draco snorted. "Have you met my mother and father, Harry?"
"Father, yes, mother, no."
Harry stood up from her seat, leaning over Hermione and Ron to smile politely at Narcissa. She had only seen pictures and heard about the woman from Draco, and she would imagine the woman was in the same position regarding Harry. Harry held out her hand and Narcissa took it politely, and reaching on the tip of her toes, Harry bent down to kiss the top of her hand. "A pleasure, Madam Malfoy."
She gave a thin smile. "A pleasure to you, as well, Miss Potter."
Harry gave a wink and dipped her head in Lucius's direction. "Misère Malfoy."
Harry then sat back in her seat. "There. I've met your family. Have you met my Godfather, Draco?"
"… Not officially."
"Padfoot, this is my friend, Draco," Harry said, pulling Sirius out of another bickering-fest with Lupin and Hermione.
Sirius scrutinized Draco. "… Hello, boy."
"… Hello, Mr. Black."
"So you're a friend of my Goddaughter?"
"And you're certain you're a boy?"
"Then I'm going to have to give you the same speech that I gave to Ronald and Neville," Sirius told him.
Harry frowned. "What speech?"
"Don't worry about it," Lupin assured her while Ron went pale and gulped nervously. "It's just a Padfoot thing, besides, I'm certain Padfoot wouldn't be so stupid as to give the speech in front of all these witnesses and the boy's parents."
"… No," Sirius muttered, but gave Draco a warning look. "… We will be talking. You won't know when. You won't know where. But rest assured; I will have a talk with you."
Draco looked a little concerned as Sirius turned back around in his seat and happily went back to playing with his Omnioculars.
"How bad is it?" Draco whispered to Ron.
"… You don't want to know," Ron whispered back, giving Sirius a frightful look.
"I do," Harry said.
"Yes, well, he told me not to tell you and no offense Harry, but I'm more scared of him than I am of you," Ron informed Harry.
Hermione gave a groan and even Draco gave Ron an incredulous look while Harry's eyes narrowed.
"You will regret saying that," Harry promised him. "This year is going to be the worst year of your life."
"Which reminds me, I should probably have the same talk with, you, Oliver," Sirius muttered, glancing at a completely oblivious Oliver who was very much set on waiting for everything to start—
"It's starting!" Oliver exclaimed excitedly.
"Ladies and gentlemen… welcome! Welcome to the final of the four hundred and twenty-second Quidditch World Cup! And now… without further ado, allow me introduce… the Bulgarian National Team Mascots!"
The right-hand side of the stands, which was a solid block of scarlet, roared its approval.
It was then that that roughly a hundred Veela (those club meetings with Hagrid were damn helpful) started gliding out onto the field, just as music began and they started to dance—
Harry glared sourly at them, watching as every male in the compartment started leaning forward appreciatively. Well, not every male.
"Is this what it's like to be a girl and see Veela?" Tom asked—as he was immune to their charm due to not actually physically being there, and just a projection.
_Yes. Do you think I could get away with killing them all now?_ Harry asked, pulling out her wand and taking aim.
"Probably not. Too many witnesses. However, I don't think the females would complain…"
Harry glanced around and saw Narcissa and Hermione glaring at the Veela.
_... Worth it._
Just before Harry was about to do just that, the music stopped and Veela started leaving.
"Awww," Sirius whined. Harry slugged him in the shoulder.
"And now," roared Bagman, "kindly put your wands in the air… for the Irish National Team Mascots!"
In the next moment, what seemed like a great green and gold comet came rushing into the stadium, it lapped around the stadium before splitting into two smaller comets—each hurtling toward the main goal posts. A rainbow arced suddenly across the field, connecting the two comets. When the rainbow faded and the comets were reunited and merged, they had formed a great shimmering shamrock that soared high in the sky and something like golden rain seemed to be falling from it—
"Leprechauns," Lupin said appreciatively, ignoring the magic gold that rained down upon them.
When the mascots were finished and they had drifted down to their side, Bagman shouted, "And now, ladies and gentlemen, kindly welcome—the Bulgarian National Quidditch Team! I give you—Dimitrov!"
A scarlet—clad figure on a broomstick moving so fast he was actually blurred shot onto the field from the entrance below, and there was a roar of approval from the Bulgarian supports.
A second player zoomed out.
"Zograf! Levski! Vulchanov! Volkov! Aaaaaand—Krum!"
Harry squinted at Krum through her Omnioculars while Ron shouted, "That's him, that's him!"
Victor Krum was thin with very broad shoulders, dark-haired and pale with a large curved nose and thick black eyebrows.
"Humph! I don't see what's so great about him. I'm a way better Seeker than that chubby-grumpy," Harry muttered stubbornly. Lupin and Hermione patted Harry consolingly.
"And now, please greet—the Irish National Quidditch Team! Presenting—Connolly! Ryan! Troy! Mullet! Moran Quigley! Aaaand—Lynch!"
"And I'm even better than him," Harry grumbled, glaring sullenly at the professional Seeker. Once again, she was patted consolingly.
"You know what? Screw you guys. I will become a professional Seeker and prove to you all just how better I am!"
Even Sirius and Oliver patted Harry, then.
"I hate you all," Harry told them.
"Alright, so he's decent," Harry allowed after the match, in the tent as she readied for bed. Although, it wasn't really a tent, more like a mini-home inside a—you get the point.
"He's bloody brilliant—not as brilliant as you, of course, Pronglet," Sirius said quickly.
Harry gave a snort.
"I hope you were able to get a hold of his moves. Think you'll want to try them out when we get back to school?" Oliver asked, after he was already dressed in his pajamas. "I know I have a few I do…"
"Hell yeah, I do."
"Language," Lupin called as he reentered the tent, raising an eyebrow.
Harry gave a groan of annoyance. "Yes, yes…"
"Goodnight, Harry," Oliver called out, sitting on his bed, with parchment all around him—he himself wasn't going to bed, too hyped up with new strategies and plans—but Harry certainly was. She was still tired from her vivid dream earlier that day.
"Night, everyone," Harry yawned, crawling into her hammock.
_Good night, Tom._
"Sweet dreams," Tom replied, slipping off into his meditative state.
Harry was shaken away.
"Harry. Get up, get dressed. We need to go."
Harry blinked her eyes groggily open to see Lupin pulling her out of bed while Sirius guided Oliver out of the tent.
"No time. Let's go," Lupin said, pulling her outside while Harry summoned her cloak, wrapping it around her. When she stepped outside, her eyes lit up with understanding.
Panic. Mass Panic. Fires were lit everywhere and screams filled the air. Harry felt her stomach churn pleasantly and her heart beat faster and her eyes lit up anxiously. She took a step towards the fires—they seemed rather far away. It was then that her eyes sttled on a group of wizards who were tightly packed and moving together with wands pointed straight upwards. Harry squinted at them and saw as more wizards started to join them and they lifted—
"Death Eaters," Sirius snarled quietly.
"No, Padfoot," Lupin said sternly. "Think of Harry. We have to get her out of here."
"… They're openly torturing the Muggles," Tom observed, his brow furrowed. "But this is a strictly family-magical domain… Purebloods take their families here, as well, and their children should not be… That's irrational. That's pointless. There's no need for…"
"… Right. Pronglet, let's go. We're getting you out of here."
"No, we should stay and fight," Harry said quickly, drawing out her wand.
"What about our agreement?"
"But—but that only applies when school starts—"
"Oliver, grab Harry, get her out of here," Sirius said quickly, thrusting Harry in Oliver's arms.
"But what about my friends?" Harry asked, glancing at the Weasley's tent.
"We've got them," Lupin said sternly. "Go."
"Let's go," Oliver said, tugging Harry along. Harry frowned in annoyance, glancing up at Oliver while he pulled her away. "Once we're far away and out of the wards, I can Apparate us someplace safe."
Harry grudgingly allowed herself to be taken away from the scene. At least, for the moment. She did want to get Oliver out of there, but the only way to do that was for him to Apparate and something told Harry that he wouldn't do that unless she was Apparating with him.
Oliver had taken Harry into the trees before stopping, frowning and looking back towards the screams.
"… The Gryffindor side of me really doesn't like this," Oliver muttered.
"… You can always say I knocked out, because I will soon enough," Harry told him.
"I can't just allow you to put yourself in danger," Oliver reasoned, still squinting at the danger.
"I will knock you out on the count of three. The only reason I'm giving you warning is because I quite like you. Then I'll just have Dobby take you back to our place where you'll be safe and sound."
Oliver gave Harry a dry look. "No, you won't. If that's how it is, then I guess I'll just have to go help you, now won't I? At least keep someone watching your back."
Harry beamed. "Brilliant. Let's go!"
Harry then turned on her heels and sprinted back to the campgrounds, her wand flung out and her spirits high. That was, until a black dog tackled her into the ground.
"Damn it! So close!"
That was all she had left to say before the two of them had Disapparated away.
She glared at Sirius when they reached their home. Sirius just wagged his tail, quite pleased with himself before transforming back into a human. "The Death Eaters have all gone, the Ministry was just cleaning everything up, after the Dark Mark appeared in the sky. I didn't really want to stick around for questioning so I thought I'd double back…"
Lupin then appeared in another crack, Oliver right next to him. "… You may use our floo, Mr. Wood. I'm sure your family is anxious to know you're alright."
"Right, thanks, Pr—er—Mr. Lupin."
Lupin waved his hand in a dismissive manner while Oliver headed away.
"Where's everyone else? Hermione? Ron? Fred? George?"
"Everyone's fine," Lupin assured her. "They had actually already left by the time we came out—they thought we were gone, too."
Harry nodded her head and Sirius cleared his throat, raising an eyebrow at her. "You were running back into the fray, weren't you?"
"I plead the Fifth."
"We aren't in America," Lupin said dryly.
Harry shrugged, having the grace to look sheepishly away. "The wager doesn't start 'til school."
"We'll let it slide this once," Sirius allowed, "because we didn't specify when it started and frankly, I'm too irritated that the Death Eaters escaped to deal with this. Go on and head to bed, Pronglet. Lupin, do you want to use our guest bedroom?"
"No, thank you. I'll go ahead and head back home now," Lupin said, heading away. "Good night, Harry. Good night, Padfoot."
"Night, Moony," Harry sighed before turning away and heading up to bed.
As Harry began packing her school supplies—she had Dobby pick everything up for her—she frowned when a certain cloth caught her attention. She stared it for a long moment before picking up the school list and peering at it.
"Dress robes?" Tom asked shrewdly, eyeing the cloth.
"Apparently," Harry replied, unfolding it and holding it up for light. "… Not bad. Not bad at all."
"It looks… short."
"That's because it's made so I could still run in it. Dobby knows how much I adore being able to maneuver," Harry pointed out. "Not to mention it really does seem trouble absolutely adores me, so it's probably for the best. Then again, considering your timeline, I suppose it is naughty to you, isn't it?"
"Heaven forbid a girl shows her ankles or knees!" Harry snickered, enjoying Tom's uncomfortable expression.
"Harry," called Sirius from below, "are you packed, yet? We'll miss the train at this rate."
"Yes," Harry responded, stowing away the rest of her supplies and shrinking her case down to pocket size before stuffing it into her Hogwarts robes.
"Anyway… back to our discussion… so the Death Eaters fled at the sight of the Dark Mark?"
_Correct, that's what Ron's telling me, anyway. Hermione's right mad about some elf named Winky. Apparently the Ministry is accusing her of making the Dark Mark. Her master, Crouch, disowned her immediately and Hermione's real furious about the whole thing. She asked me if I could take the elf in, if I had the chance. I don't see why not, Moratorium could use an elf and while Dobby does a fine job at managing for both myself and Moratorium, I have to be careful no one sees him with Moratorium. With this elf, however, I can just use her exclusively for Moratorium and Dobby exclusively for myself._
"Seems reasonable," Tom said. "… And was anyone killed?"
_Ron says that Arthur says no, and that Rita's just being nasty. Not surprising. Lockhart's told me all about Rita—nasty piece of work, but I've already got blackmail on her from Moratorium. And if worse comes to worse, Moratorium will just take her out._
"Quite," Tom said.
"Ready?" Sirius asked as Harry reached him.
Harry grinned up at him. "Always."
The two Apparated away.
Fred, George and Harry exclusively shared a cart as they plotted what to do for the year. They had locked the doors and enchanted it so no one could hear or see what they were doing inside. Harry had pulled out a block of wood from her pack, transfiguring it into a thin rectangular piece of wood and enchanting it to float like a makeshift table for them. She then pulled out the Map, along with numerous notes.
"Here's the number of detentions they were given in their seventh year," Harry said.
"Seventh? Blimey, that's going to be tough to beat," Fred whistled. "That's the pulling-out-all-stops year."
"Yes, well, we'll just have to make our seventh year in comparison to this year even better," George dismissed.
"Why are they talking normally and not interrupting each other?" Tom asked.
_Because this is serious business._
"Here's a list of ideas I've had in order of what would probably cause the biggest punishments," Harry said, presenting her list. "I'm no expert by any means, though."
Fred nodded his head absently, scanning through the list. "You do realize we'll have to make sure that we don't get caught for any of these? It's amazing they were able to get off so lightly because they were only caught doing the lesser ones—well, only able to have the lesser ones traced back to them."
"That's right," George chimed in, looking at the list thoughtfully. "If we want to beat them, we'll have to make sure they can't trace it back to us in anyway whatsoevers. We'll have to leave…"
"Personas," Harry said, her eyes twinkling. "We'll have to leave personas. A mark to each of our Animagus form, a mark to there being three new Marauders."
"Speaking of forms… your name?"
Harry grinned, whispering her name quietly.
Their eyes widened and they exchanged grins.
"Fits you perfectly, I'm not surprised, clever little Harrykins," Fred said approvingly.
"Indeed, indeed. Now, let's see… Call me…"
And with that, the three friends pooled together on exactly what to do.
Harry slid into the Great Hall, a mischievous spark in her eye as she slid into the empty seat next to Hermione. Hermione shot her a strange look.
"Where have you been?" Hermione whispered fiercely.
"… Taking care of business."
Harry was shivering slightly in her soaking wet cloak, huddling a bit closer to Hermione than usual for warmth. Hermione was in no better position and was shivering just as much. Fred and George were seated across them, Angelina, Alicia and Katie to their left and Ron on their right. Oliver sat next Harry and Neville sat next to Hermione. Colin was sitting next to Neville, anxiously awaiting his brother's Sorting.
Finally, at long last, the doors swung wide open and McGonagall lead the shivering first years into the Great Hall. They filed up front where McGonagall stood before them. The Sorting Hat was set upon a wooden stool, and sung its song.
When the song was complete, McGonagall cleared her throat, unrolling a large scroll of parchment.
"When I call your name, you will put on the hat and sit on the stool," she told the first years. "When the hat announces your House, you will go to the appropriate table."
A boy walked forward, clearly nervous as McGonagall lifted the hat from the stool and he sat down. However, just as she sat the hat down on the boy's head, there was a puff of smoke to all eyes and when it cleared, the Sorting Hat was gone, and in its place was a perfect image of Fawkes. The illusion of Fawkes tilted its head, and students and professors slowly stood up from their tables, curious of what was transpiring—while McGonagall remained oblivious to it all, as she appeared to be holding the illusion—Fawkes by the throat.
It was then that there was a soft cry and the real Fawkes swooped in from the Great Hall's doors and McGonagall glanced up from her parchment, baffled to what Fawkes was doing. Fawkes then swooped down, grabbed the illusion—Fawkes (really the Sorting Hat) with one clawed talon, dropping a slip of parchment with the other and then flew out of the Great Hall with the Sorting Hat (that looked like a second Fawkes).
Pure silence fell across the Hall, while Dumbledore gave a curious frown.
McGonagall glanced up at Dumbledore, her expression puzzled before she noticed the parchment. She bent down to pick it up, read it, and gave it to Dumbledore.
Dumbledore read it, giving a small hum.
"I see. I see. Not to worry, I'll fetch our Sorting Hat, then," Dumbledore said gently, smiling serenely as he left the Great Hall in search of his familiar and the hat.
McGonagall cleared her throat, ignoring the quiet snickerings of the students at the absurdity of it all.
"Wicked," Fred and George chorused, grinning.
"Most amusing," Harry agreed.
"Why'd Fawkes go and do that?" Neville wondered. "He's never done it before.
The trio glanced at each other.
"Who can say—"
"Who knows what goes on in that mind—"
It didn't take long for Dumbledore to return with the Sorting Hat—the illusion no longer there—and then the Sorting carried on, but the students were still snickering and whispering about the event and wondering exactly what the parchment had read. After the Sorting was done, the food was given and everyone ate with great gusto.
"So!" Dumbledore exclaimed, smiling gently, after everyone was finished eating. "Now that we are all fed and watered, I must once again ask for you attention while I give out a few notices.
"Mr. Filch, the caretaker, has asked me to tell you that the list of objects forbidden inside the castle this year has been extended to include Screaming Yo-yos, Fanged Frisbees, and Ever-Bashing Boomerangs. The full list comprises some four hundred and thirty—seven items, I believe, and can be viewed in Mr. Filch's office if anyone would like to check. As ever, I would like to remind you all that the forest on the grounds is out-of-bounds to students, as is the village of Hogsmead to all below third year. It is also my painful duty to inform you that the Inter-House Quidditch Cup will not take place this year."
"What?!" Oliver shrieked, his face horrified before he paled considerable. Harry's eyes narrowed in irritation and she saw the rest of the students around her were muttering their displeasure, or in shock.
"Oh, oh, dear… someone should help the Captain," Katie said worriedly.
Harry glanced back to see Oliver was in the middle of some sort of seizure. She raised her wand, sending out a quiet Stupefy to put him out of his misery.
"… That'll work," Alicia commented.
"This is due to an event that will be starting in October, and continuing throughout the school year, taking much of the teacher's time and energy—but I am sure you will all enjoy it immensely. I have great pleasure in announcing that this year at Hogwarts we will be hosting the Triwizard Tournament."
"You're joking!" Fred shouted very loudly.
Dumbledore chuckled. "I am not joking, Mr. Weasley, though now that you mention it, I did hear an excellent one over the summer about a troll, a hag, and a leprechaun who all go into a bar…"
McGonagall cleared her throat.
"Er—but maybe this is not the time… where was I? Oh, yes, the Triwizard Tournament… well, some of you will not know what this tournament involves, so I hope those that do will forgive me for giving a short explanation and allow their attention to wander freely," Dumbledore said.
"The Triwzard Tournament was first established some seven hundred years ago as a friendly competition between three of the largest European schools of wizardry: Hogwarts, Beauxbatons, and Durmstrang. A champion was selected to represent each school and each champion participated in three magical tasks. The schools take turns to host the tournament once every five years and it was generally agreed to be the most excellent way of establishing ties between young witches and wizards of different nationalities—until the death toll counted so high that the tournament was discontinued."
Harry perked up immediately and Hermione shot her a warning glare.
"Lupin told me about your wager," Hermione said lowly, "and asked me to keep an eye on you."
Harry gave a small whine. "Not fair."
"… We have worked hard over summer to ensure that this time, no champion will find himself or herself in mortal danger. The heads of the other schools will be arriving with their short—listed contenders in October, and the selection of the three champions will take place at Halloween. An impartial judge will decide which students are most worthy to compete for the Triwizard Cup, the glory of their school and a thousand Galleons as prize money. Eager though I know all of you will be… the heads of the participating schools, along with the Ministry of Magic, have agreed to impose an age restriction this year. Only students who are of age—seventeen or older—will be allowed to forward their names for consideration—"
Harry zoned out, frowning. "… This is horrible. This is a God-awful temptation. They knew this was happening at school and the very thought of it…"
Harry gave a small shudder.
Hermione and Ron patted her sympathetically.
"Cheer up, mate… at least you have Qui—oh, no, I guess you don't."
Harry gave a groan of disappointment, resting her head on the table. "… S'not fair."
Harry giggled with glee, adding the last of the finishing touches to her designated room—she was assigned the Potions, Charms, Runes, Deviation and DADA rooms. She had just finished DADA, before hurrying out of the room.
One of the beautiful, beautiful things about the Chamber, was that it lead to everywhere. Basileus was able to go to anywhere in the school, not only through the pipes (which were large enough for Harry to walk through), but also the passages—hidden stairwells, tunnels, shoots—and it was very convenient to have them. Not only was Harry, Fred and George able to slip through each room, undetected, but only they knew about it. Granted, Harry had to instruct Fred and George how to say open in Parseltongue so they could access them, but it was worth it.
She slipped back into the passageway before heading back in Gryffindor Tower, where she saw Fred stepping out another passageway, as well. He gave her a grin, his eyes sparkling.
"Brilliant," Fred whispered. Harry nodded her head excitedly and George stepped out of the same passageway Harry had been.
"Wicked," George whispered and the trio then headed up for bed.
After all, as far as all the portraits and students and ghosts and teachers were concerned—that's the only place they ever were.
Come the next morning, it was time for Transfiguration. Harry followed sedately beside Hermione, Neville and Ron, keeping her face a perfect mask of boredom, while inside she was most anxious to see what Fred had done with his room.
The door was closed—McGonagall was late, due to George's interference, of course. It was his job to make all the teachers late for their first class, so they wouldn't have time to clean everything up—and the students had gathered at the doors. It was a double class with Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs.
Just then, McGonagall came towards them, mild annoyance on her face and she gestured with her hands for the students to clear the way. As they did, she unlocked the door and opened it, stepping in three steps and stopping short, her eyes wide and her mouth hanging open. The students filed in after her, but most of them stopped short, as well.
Her entire classroom was covered in dirt and grass. Every table and desk and painting and chair—everything in the room that was not hanging from the ceiling in—was flipped upside down. The floors were littered with potted plants and vines hung from the ceiling—nearly every plant from the low—level greenhouse and Herbology classroom was inside the Transfiguration room, as planned. Just as everything in the Potions room would be in the Charms room, and everything in the Transfiguration room in the Potions room with everything in the Charms room in the Muggles Studies room and…
Well. You get the picture.
And there, covering the entire front wall was written Marauders — Next Generation. Underneath it was an outline of—well, the only reason Harry was able to recognize the animal was because she knew exactly whose mark that was—the top of a Hyena, and next to the outline was the name, Cackle.
Harry gave a slight inward nod of approval—seeing how this was the room Cackle had done, he marked it as his own. Harry had done the same to all of her rooms, and she knew George did the same for his.
After her initial shock, McGonagall's eyes narrowed into furious slits.
A shame I didn't have Potions today for first class. I would have loved to see Snape's face—oh, those poor first years, their first class at Hogwarts and what are they greeted with? Tsk, tsk.
"What a lovely shade of purple," Tom commented, and indeed McGonagall's face had taken a very lovely shade of purple.
"P-Professor?" Hermione squeaked hesitantly. "Should we… Do you want us to start cleaning this up?"
"This stuff looks like it belongs to Professor Sprout," Seamus pointed out.
McGonagall's eyes closed and she let out a slow breath, counting to ted. When she opened them, her eyes held a steely glint in them and they rested on Harry. "Miss Potter, a word in my office, if you would please…?"
Harry gave the perfect mask of confusion and shared puzzled glances with her friends before following behind McGonagall. "Everyone… the sooner we get this mess cleaned up… the more time you will have to work on your homework in class…"
As everyone got to work, McGonagall closed the door to her office and glowered. "I know damn well that your Godfather was a Marauder, Miss Potter. I also know that he would have liked nothing more than you to become one."
"Yep," Harry agreed, "but I actually didn't do this."
McGonagall blinked, hearing the sincere truth in her words, but would not back down. Her eyes narrowed further into slits and she gave Harry a look that if Harry wasn't such an adrenaline-junkie, she would have immediately backed down and spilled everything.
"Besides, I never left the Tower," Harry said, "you can ask the portraits. You can ask any of the portraits if they saw me through the halls."
McGonagall's lips were pursed and Harry was quite thankful she didn't know about the cloak. "We shall see about this, Miss Potter. However, if it turns out it is you…"
Harry gave the sweetest smile she could. "Even if it was, do you think I would be stupid enough as to allow myself to get caught?"
"Is that a confession, Miss Potter?"
"It's not," Harry assured her, "but I am merely pointing it out to you."
McGonagall gave a huff, but allowed Harry to leave her office. After all—she couldn't prove anything, now could she?
At least not through legal means. Shame truth serums are banned against students for teaching purposes. Oh well.
And Harry left the office with a wide, wide smile, pleased with her work.
It was just the beginning of that day. Each closet was filled to the brim with jinxed paper that would fly out at the person who opened it, the be bathroom public toilets were entirely clogged and the mirrors had writing all over it, and as people would start to find, random things were jinxed as well. Things like books, parchment, a single tile, a lamp, a candle, a broom… some were jinxed to shoot off a small firework that would explode with the Marauder's symbol (a very large and fancy M), along with the one who jinxed its symbol—a curved C, S or V. The teachers were right furious when they noticed that only they were the ones getting the jinxes that would explode with staining ink—hot pink, neon green, bright orange, as the jinxes were set only to stain when those of the age 20 or older touched them.
The students were torn between amusement and worry. Amusement in the pranks. Worried for their teacher's bad mood—especially Snape's.
While everyone was distracted by their night's work, Fred, George and Harry set to work during the day for their evening's final prank. One by one, they would take turns borrowing Harry's Invisibility Cloak and sneak away into the Great Hall (or kitchen) to add to the final prank of the day, bit by bit.
By the time dinner finally came, everyone was talking about the Marauders.
"I don't know," Hermione said dubiously. "The professors must be out of their mind with annoyance by now."
"I like them," Ron declared. "They're funny. Though, it wasn't all that much fun cleaning it—even though McGonagall was too furious to actually give out homework, which worked out rather well, I think."
"You should've seen what they did to the Potions classroom," Dennis—Colin's first year little brother—said, his eyes wide. "Professor Snape was so mad, his face turned this really funny shade or purple and he spoke in this really quiet voice the entire time. He was so mad, he actually didn't teach anything or talk to anyone!"
"Bloody brilliant," Neville breathed, his eyes. "I would have loved to have had his class then."
"I would have loved to see his expression," Harry sighed longingly.
"You and me both," Fred and George said as they sat down across from them.
Ron peered at his brothers. "So what do you guys think of all of this?"
"They probably are the Marauders, Ronald," Hermione muttered.
The twins gave longing sighs.
"We wish, but we—"
"—never left the Tower last night—"
"—ask all the portraits—"
"I know," Hermione grumbled, interrupting them. "I just don't understand. I was there when McGonagall questioned the Fat Lady, and the Fat Lady would never lie to her—none of the portraits saw anyone moving through the hallways last night and the only reason I'm not suspecting you, Harry, is because I would have heard you if you left the dormitory last night. I'm a very light sleeper, as you know."
"Unless she slipped you a small sleeping draught," Tom said.
Harry's lips twitched. "I know, 'Mione."
And just as the spread of food appeared before everyone—so too did a loud crack of sound before every light in the entire Great Hall went out and everyone was thrown into darkness. Screams and squeals of startlement echoed around, but before a professor could make a single move, the tapestries of each of the Houses, lit up—only they no longer represented the houses, and the colors that once held the winning House's colors, no longer held the red and gold of Gryffindor. On each tapestry was the Marauder's symbol, with each of the current trio's letter symbol surrounding it—one at the very bottom right of the M, one at the bottom left, and one at the center—top of the M. Each tapestry's symbol glowed a different color—orange, black or gold—and then there was another crack.
Everything was thrown into darkness again, only the entire front wall—behind the professors—lit up with the Marauder's symbol and in very neat handwriting underneath it read:
The next generation of Marauders has appeared, and we're using this year as our grand opening year.
Underneath that was the official symbol for each of the Marauder—their written out names and outline of their chosen Animagus.
It was there for only a few moments—long enough to be read and noticed, but not long enough for the professors to act—before the lights came on and everything was back to normal—well, except for one thing…
Hermione gave a squeak as she pointed up to the ceiling and there… charmed to levitate above everyone was water and everyone had, but a second to blink before that freezing cold water fell atop them.
It wasn't real, of course. Just an illusion, but it certainly felt like freezing cold water for a second or two.
And Harry and the twins, grinned through it all.
All week, the Marauders were all the students could talk about. Some were anxious for the next prank they would pull, others wary. Through it all, though, the professors scrutinized at each student—well, not all the professors, but the majority of them—and Filch and Snape were especially nasty. Nothing else of real note happened, though. It was Harry's first DADA class of the semester and she was most anxious—as the twins had told her it was quite the class to see.
The students had sat down in the desk when Moody entered the room.
"You can put those away," he growled, stumping over to his desk and sitting down, "those books. You won't need them."
They returned their books to their bags.
Moody took out a register, pushed his grizzled gray hair out of his face and began to call out names. His normal eye moved steadily down the list while his magical eye twirled around, fixing upon each student as they answered.
"Right then," he said when the last person had said present. "I've had a letter from Professor Lupin about this class. Seems you've had a pretty thorough grounding in tackling Dark creatures—you've covered Boggarts, Red Caps, Hinkypunks, Gindylows, Kapas and werewolves, right?"
There was a murmur of consent from the class.
"But you're behind—really behind—on dealing with curses. So I'm going to bring you up to speed on what wizards can do to each other. I've got one year to teach you how to deal with the Dark wizards. So—straight to it. Curses. They come in many strengths and forms. According the Ministry of Magic, I'm supposed to teach you countercurses and leave it at that, I'm not supposed to show you what illegal Dark curses look like until you're in your sixth year. You're not suppoed to be old enough to deal with them, but Professor Dumbledore's got a higher opinion of your nerves and I say the sooner you know what you're dealing with, the better. You need to be alert and watchful. You need to put that away, Miss Brown, when I'm talking.
Lavender jumped and blushed, putting away whatever it was she had out.
"So… do any of you know which curses are the most heavily punishable by wizarding law?"
Harry's hand shot up excitedly.
"… Miss Potter."
"Imperius, Cruciatus, Avada Kedavra. Imperius is a curse that grants complete and utter control over someone, Cruciatus is a torturing curse that inflicts the worst kind of pain on a person—but it doesn't leave any physical traces—and Avada Kedavra is the supposed killing curse," Harry answered promptly.
No one looked particularly surprised Harry Potter knew what the most dangerous curses were to the wizarding world.
"Well aren't you informed," Moody drawled dryly, pinning Harry with both his eyes.
Harry shrugged, unabashed. "Given how often I tend to be attacked, I thought it was best to do extra research into damn near anything that can hurt me."
"Clever, girl," Moody muttered, taking out his wand and pointing it at a spider caught in a jar. "Imperio!"
The spider leapt from the jar onto Moody's hand before leaping down and beginning to swing backwards and forwards. It did a backflip, breaking the thread and landing on the desk, where it began to cartwheel in circles. Moody jerked his wand and the spider rose onto two hind legs and started to tap dance.
Everyone was laughing—the exception of Hermione, Harry, Tom and Moody.
"Think it's funny, do you?" he snarled. "You'd like it, would you, if I did that to you?"
The laughter died almost instantly.
"Total control," Moody muttered quietly as the spider began to roll over and over. "The Imperius Curse can be fought, and I'll be teaching you how, but it takes real strength of character and not everyone's got it. Better to avoid being with it if you can. CONSTANT VIGILANCE!"
Everyone—save Tom and Harry—jumped.
"What was the next one? Right. Cruciatus," Moody grumbled turning back to the spider.
Harry's eyes widened and she cleared her throat before Moody could use it. Moody paused, turning back to her. She glanced over at Neville, who was white as a sheet and sweating, his eyes glued on the spider, and Moody followed her gaze, frowning.
"I think we all can guess what the Cruciatus Curse looks like," Harry said pointedly. "And if we can't, then we're idiots and deserve to be taken by surprise with it."
Moody eyed Neville another moment before giving a harrumph. "Fair enough, unless someone wants to see it?"
No one raised their hands.
"Right, then. Which leads us to the last one… Avada Kedavra!"
There was a flash of green light from the wand, and the spider stopped moving, dead.
"Not nice," Moody said calmly. "Not pleasant, and there's no countercurse. There's no blocking it. Only one known person has ever survived it and she's sitting in front of me."
Everyone's eyes fell on her and Harry ignored them, her eyes resting on the spider.
"Well, there's clearly some way to block it," she muttered.
"CONSTANT VIGILANCE! Now… those three curses are known as the Unforgivable Curses. The use of any one of them on a fellow human being is enough to earn a life sentence in Azkaban. That's what you're up against. That's what I've got to teach you to fight. You need preparing. You need arming, but most of all you need to practice constant, never—ceasing vigilance. Get your quills… copy this down…"
No one talked for the rest of the class and when it was over, Hermione placed a gentle hand on Neville's shoulder. Moratorium had discovered what had happened to Neville's parents, and eventually (last year, actually, the last day…) Neville told his friends what had happened.
Hermione, Ron and Harry exchanged glances and Harry gave a slow nod. Even though the curse had not been performed, the mention of it was enough to set Neville on edge. Ron and Hermione guided Neville out of the classroom, while Harry excused herself to stay a couple moments behind.
When the classroom was devoid of the other students, Harry turned to Moody.
"Will you be teaching us about the other curses? The ones that we actually can block?" Harry asked curiously. "And the other ones we cannot?"
"Yes," Moody replied shortly.
"Good, good… oh, and thank you for not performing the second curse in class today," Harry said, turning away. "… I look forward to this year, Professor Moody."
"And… I think I've got it!" Harry exclaimed, beaming down at her wand. Basileus let out a gentle hiss, nuzzling Harry affectionately.
"Well done, missstresss. With that ssspell, you can sssummon me anywhere and disssmisss me, asss well."
"Thank you for instructing me, precious one," Harry told her favorite pet.
Basileus let out a soft hiss. "Alwaysss happy to help, missstresss."
Harry gave a small snort of annoyance when Lupin addressed for everyone to begin slipping off into their meditative states. The Shadows—currently deciding on a name, still—were all seated in the Room of Requirement, everyone slipping off into a meditative state to find their Animagus forms.
Harry's eyes closed and she evened out her breathing, just as she would do when practicing her Occlumency. The world slowly dissolved around her and soon, she was in her own mind.
Well, sort of. Everything was a haze of gray, a fog wrapped around—the only thing of color were the leaves and grass that seemed to grow up out of the ground. Even the trees themselves were just shades of gray. It wasn't the first time Harry had been here—each Animagus form seemed to have its own environment to be met in—and Harry doubted it would be her last.
There was the soft padding of footsteps and Harry glanced back to see Moratorium stepping into view, dipping his head in a greeting manner. He smiled humorlessly at Harry, his eyes dancing with dark mirth as he offered her his arm. Harry took his arm with a quiet thank you, and together the two began to walk into the forest.
"What a waste you're making with your allies," Moratorium said. "You have gathered around you witches and wizards with the potential to be great—yet you do nothing about it."
"What can I do?" Harry retorted. "I don't want them to get in the way of your plans—that's far too risky, but I don't exactly want to side with Voldewhore or Dumbledore."
Moratorium gave a small hum. "I suppose there really isn't much you can do. Harry Potter must remain in the good light for she is a good girl, so it is inevitable that she will follow Dumbledore's shadow."
Harry eyed Moratorium. "That was the original plan, yes, but… I don't think he really trusts me enough to name me his heir, or to really apprentice me in any way."
"That's because he's too shrewd for his own good," Moratorium said patiently. "He doesn't know about your past—that much is certain—and he doesn't know our connection, but he feels something is off. He knows you didn't give him the real diary, and because of that, you lost his trust. He's watching you."
"I don't intend to keep him in the dark forever. Shattering his trust entirely is far too detrimental to our plans at this point. You know what I plan to do, and why I could not give him the real diary—could not tell him of our plans, because I wasn't even sure they would work. I would have rather dealt with the mess on my own. Besides… I couldn't trust him at the time. He was… he was one of them."
Moratorium's eyes grew darker—although, not by anger. In a quiet voice he said, "It was he who placed us there in the first place, and he who left us there. You and I both know any magical family would have adopted us in an instant and again… again for a third time… a third chance… we lost our happiness due to the selfish views of another."
The two stopped walking, Harry's eyes trailing downcast. "I know, but he meant well. How was he to know, anyway? Rationally speaking, he had no reason to worry—none at all. It doesn't matter now. What's done is done. You will rise as Moratorium and take the world a thunder, and I must do my best to repair what has been broken between Dumbledore and myself."
"Do not be too trustworthy, precious one," Moratorium whispered, slowly stepping away and into the gray shadows. "You've seen what happens to those with great power… when they come to trust another."
"My friends have yet to let me down, Moratorium," Harry said just as softly when Moratorium had left.
Harry let out a soft breath and she glanced behind her. Green eyes that matched her own met hers and a thick, rusty-red tail flicked.
"Hello, again, V," Harry greeted.
The creature before Harry seemed to grin.
Some weeks later, in DADA, Moody then told everyone it was time they started practicing throwing of the Imperius Curse.
"But—but it's illegal," Hermione had stuttered uncertainly.
"If you don't want to find out in a nice, safely controlled environment, then you can find out the hard way on your own and get out," Moody growled, gesturing to the door. Blushing in embarrassment, Hermione didn't argue again.
Moody beckoned students forward in turn and put the Imperius Curse upon them. Harry watched, vaguely interested as one by one, his classmates did the most peculiar things. Not one of them seemed to be able to fight it off.
"Potter," Moody snapped, "you're next."
Harry moved forward in the middle of the classroom, into a space that Moody had cleared of desks. Moody raised his wand and pointed at Harry, casting the spell.
Harry felt a very strong jab at her Occlumency shields and she gave a startled gasp in pain, clutching her head and clearing away the sort of muddled fogginess that had drifted over her. The pain resided and she blinked away the last of the fog.
"Occlumency?" Moody asked, staring at her.
Harry shrugged. "I don't want anyone reading my mind."
"That's one way to fight off Imperius, but you're shields aren't quite strong enough to brush it off entirely, but enough to cause resistance to the magic, so it comes off as an attack. Still, very good, Potter. Very good indeed, but it's just as best to get practice without your mental shields. There will come a time when you won't be able to hold your shields quite so easily, Potter."
Harry hesitated, but dropped her shields and it was then that she felt the most wonderful tranquil feeling ever.
Jump on the desk.
Harry felt so calm and relaxed and when a little voice purred in her ear to just do such a simple—
You aren't seriously considering it, Moratorium drawled.
Jump on the desk, the voice purred.
No. No. You will not.
Harry hesitated, confused. The voice was so nice and she wanted to obey it willingly, but Moratorium really didn't like the voice—he was getting irritated. She was going to have to choose between the nice voice and Moratorium.
I'm sorry, Harry told the voice, but Moratorium is far more frightening than you when he's displeased. I will not jump on the desk.
Harry blinked and she felt the tranquility drop away.
"Well done! Look at that, you lot… Potter fought it! And beat it. We'll try that again, Potter, the rest of you pay attention—watch her eyes, that's where you see it—very good, very good indeed, Potter. They'll have trouble controlling you!"
Harry gave a contented hum as she walked Colin to his Potion's class—he was wanting to question Harry about a few things and Harry obliged him. When she reached the class, she caught Professor Snape's eye, and had to resist not smiling.
His dark eyes glittered with annoyance, and he kept his mouth shut—because the Marauders had struck again, aiming directly for the Potion's teacher. Harry had gotten the idea from seeing Dudley breathe in helium at one of his birthday parties. All she had to do was slip a little mixture in his morning coffee and viola. Helium-voiced Professor Snape.
His voice had made the change while he was in the middle of lecturing his seventh year class, a mixture of Gryffindor and Hufflepuff. Oliver had retold the tale to Harry with great gusto, a pleased smile on his face and Harry was quite pleased Snape hadn't figured out who V in the Marauders was.
He wasn't the only one gifted with the Marauders recently, though. Why, just that morning, Ron's food was suddenly carried off by hundreds of spiders. He had freaked out and started hyperventilating. He has yet to eat anything that hadn't been thoroughly examined for spiders and he made sure to eat it very quickly. However, Harry would make sure it wasn't the last time the spiders carried off Ron's food.
Krum better than her, indeed! That kind of remark just should have been better left unsaid.
Days passed on, every three days The Shadows—er, whatever the hell the name of the Order is—met in the Room of Requirement and Harry instructed them for roughly an hour or two in their free time. Once a month, Lupin would sneak in and teach them for an entire day on Animagi. Harry would occasionally floo back home on the weekends to receive one-on-one instructions, and during the night, she and the twins would set to work on the following day's pranks. Placing that atop of all the extra homework and assignments the students were being assigned (in preparations for the O.W.L.s next year)… well…
It left her very tired and as the day approached for the other two schools, very on edge.
The day the schools were supposed to arrive, Harry made a very silly mistake of falling asleep at the table, snoring softly on her school books. That evening's dinner was rather anxious to be on the way—as it would mean the schools had arrived. Hermione, who would have normally not allowed Harry to sleep at the table, let her friend sleep through Dumbledore's speech that evening.
Harry gave a quiet snort, smiling in amusement in her dream. Ron idly poked her shoulder, but she remained asleep.
"Blimey, she's really asleep," Ron remarked. "Despite how loud everyone else is being."
"Oh, she'll wake up for some things, but the rest of the time she's the deepest sleeper I know," Hermione said, smirking.
"Wake up for what?" George asked curiously.
"Well, she was the first on the scene when Ron thought Sirius was attacking him," Neville pointed out.
"That's true," Fred said, glancing at Harry. "The moment she smells danger, she's up and ready to go."
"Kind of odd, actually, now that I think about it," Hermione murmured softly to herself. "She mentioned that she trained herself to wake up in a very specific way—attacking the nearest person or sending off a Stupefy, but she didn't attack us… Well, unless she wakes up naturally or gently…"
Everyone at the table exchanged glances.
"One of the first years, er, second year now—"
"—says she actually knocked him out with a spell."
"That sounds about right," Hermione said.
And it was then, just then, that the doors the Great Hall slammed open with a loud crack and first year witches and wizards squealed and screamed in startlement, which, naturally woke Harry and in a flash, Harry's wand was out and she shot a Stupefy at the nearest thing—which just so happened to be the Durmstrang headmaster, Karkaroff.
The spell was strong enough to send him flying back where he landed on his back, unconscious. The students that were following behind him, holding up a bravado of intimidation, all haltered, and stared dumbfounded at their headmaster.
Harry blinked groggily. "… Uh…"
"Detention, Miss Potter," McGonagall sighed. "Fifty point deduction for attacking a guest."
"Twenty points awarded for knocking the shite out of Karkaroff and another twenty points awarded for reacting quickly and efficiently to what you viewed as a threat," Moody growled, seeming quite pleased to see Karkaroff being out-bested by a student.
"Professor Moody! We do not encourage such behavior—"
Moody shrugged, nonplussed.
The Durmstrang students were still staring at their headmaster, unsure of what to do.
"Professor Flitwick, if you would please take Karkaroff to the Hospital Wing… Durmstrang, I would like to welcome you to Hogwarts. Please excuse our student, Miss Potter, for her suddenness," Dumbledore said kindly, moving to guide the Durmstrang students to the Slytherin table. "I'm quite certain your headmaster will be revived soon and join us very shortly."
Unable to do anything else, the Durmstrang students took a seat at the Sytherin table, while Harry was still rubbing the sleep out of her eyes.
"… What happened?" Harry asked, her voice quiet.
"You knocked out a headmaster," Neville said.
"… How much in trouble am I in? No, wait, it doesn't matter. Because it was worth it. I regret nothing."
"You just got a total of ten points deducted and one detention," Ron said.
"Oh. Wow, seriously? I really regret nothing now."
Hermione gave Harry a glare. "You should. Honestly, Harry, a headmaster? Really?"
Harry shrugged. "I heard screams. Creepy dude was walking in. Whaddya think I would do?"
Harry gave her a blank look. "Did you honestly think that for a moment?"
Hermione huffed, turning away in exasperation.
It was then that a very tall lady—like, Hagrid tall—stepped into the Great Hall, trailing behind her were some very pretty—
Hermione grabbed her wand, narrowing her eyes warningly. "You get this back after dinner."
"That's not fair," Harry grumbled, before she noticed that not all of them were girls and she gave an appreciative grin. "On second thought, keep it. I have far more attractive eye-candies to oggle at."
A couple of the boys had noticed Harry smiling at them and they grinned and winked back. Harry blushed, not used to having that sort of attention on her.
"Oh, brother," Tom muttered, scowling at the boys who were still winking and smiling at Harry—and more and more started to join in.
_It pays to be a well-known and well-liked celebrity._
Neville and Hermione exchanged equally amused expressions while Dumbledore greeted the only other conscious Headmaster. Ron, on the other hand, was far too busy staring atViktor Krum—who was a Durmstrang student—but Krum was too busy staring at Harry (probably because she KO'd his Headmaster… he wasn't the only Durmstrang student staring) to notice Ron (and all of his other apparent fans) staring at him.
"I think this is going to be a brilliant year," Harry declared, still blushing brightly when she finally dragged her eyes away from the very attractive males and back to Dumbledore who was addressing everyone.
"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, ghosts and—most particularly—guests," said Dumbledore, smiling serenely at the foreign students. "I have great pleasure in welcoming you all to Hogwarts. I hope and trust that your stay here will be both comfortable and enjoyable. The tournament will be officially opened at the end of the feast. I now invite you all to eat, drink and make yourselves at home!"
He sat down and the food appeared on the table.
"Done goggling at the pretty boys, Harrykins?" Fred teased, and Harry grinned wickedly in return.
"No. I doubt I will ever be done, dear Freddykins. In fact, I believe now is a perfect time to start… expanding my collection of friends," Harry declared, standing up from her seat and heading to the Ravenclaw table. She took a seat next to the boys who were undeniably flirting with her. She smiled at them, holding out her hand. "Harriet. Harriet Potter, but I prefer to go by Harry."
The boy before her was a pretty as can be—with warm chocolate brown hair and light blue eyes—he smiled serenely at her, taking her hand. "'Ello, 'Arriet, it iz a pleasure to meet you. I 'ope you do not mind if I call you by 'Arriet, it iz a very pretty name. You may call me Delano."
"Not at all, and it's a pleasure to meet you, Delano," Harry sighed, still smiling.
"Hello, 'Arriet," said a girl with long silvery-blond hair who was also very pretty.
Harry turned back, giving the girl a grin. "Hello, and you are…?"
"Fleur, you may call me Fleur," she said, her eyes dancing with amusement. "I 'ave 'eard much about you, 'Arriet."
"Good things, I hope…?"
Fleur laughed, a light and carefree sound that reminded Harry vaguely of bells. As she peered closer at the girl, she noticed there was a sort of inhuman beauty about her. A half-breed of some sort, maybe? Hagrid was half Giant, so it wasn't so far-fetched. Maybe Veela?
"But of course!" Fleur laughed.
"Why are you letting them call you Harriet?" Tom asked.
_Because they asked nicely. Most people just call me Harry and be done with it._
"You're just doing this because of hormones," Tom accused.
_Oh? Like you're so asexual, then?_
The dinner was rather pleasant, Harry didn't really grow fonder of Delano—he still looked incredible, but he was just eye-candy, no real interest beneath looks, sadly. Oh, what a waste—but she did grow fond of Fleur, the only other foreign person at the table that was sighing and bemoaning the temperature in Hogwarts and seemed to actually want to have a conversation.
"The moment has come," Dumbledore said, beaming, "for the Triwizard Tournament to begin. I would like to say a few words of explanation before we bring in the casket just to clarify the procedure that we will be following this year. But first, let me introduce, for those who do not know them, Mr. Bartemius Crouch, Head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation and Mr. Ludo Bagman, Head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports. Mr. Bagman and Mr. Crouch have worked tirelessly over the last few months in arrangements for the Triqizard Tournament and they will be joining myself, Professor Karkaroff, and Madam Maxime on the panel that will judge the champion's efforts. The casket, then, if you please, Mr. Filch."
Filch carried in a wooden chest encrusted with jewels—it looked really old.
"The instructions for the tasks of the champions will face this year have already been examined by Mr. Crouch and Mr. Bagman and they will have made the necessary arrangements for each challenge. There will be three tasks, spaced throughout the school year and they will test the champions in many different ways. As you know, three champions compete in the tournament, one from each participating school. They will be marked on how well they perform and each of the Tournament tasks and the champion with the highest points collected will win the Triwizard Cup. The champions will be chosen by an impartial judge: the Goblet of Fire."
Dumbledore then took out his wand and tapped three times upon the top of the casket. The lid creaked open and Dumbledore reached out and pulled out a stone cup that was dancing with blue-white flames up to the brim.
"Anyone who wishes to submit themselves as champions must write their name and the school clearly upon a slip of parchment and drop it into the goblet. They have twenty-four hours. Tomorrow night, Halloween, the goblet will return the names of the three it has chosen. To ensure that no underage students yields to temptation, I will be drawing an Age Line around the Goblet of Fire once it has been placed in the entrance hall. Nobody under the age of seventeen will be able to cross that line. Finally I wish to impress upon any of you wanting to compete to not enter the tournament lightly. There is a reason it was canceled in the first place and the moment your name is chosen from the Goblet, you are bound in a magical contract and must compete in the tournament until the very end, or until you are incapable of competing any longer."
"Such a cheerful speech," Harry snickered.
"I'm surprised you aren't trying to enter your name," Tom remarked as Harry continued to give Basileus a good scrubbing—the snake had managed to get some dirt in between some scales and it was starting to bother him so Harry offered to clean it out for him.
"I was tempted—horrendously, so—but…" Harry trailed off, shaking her head. She dropped her voice to a low whisper, "I don't really want to think how Padfoot would react. I mean… I just got him as my guardian… I don't… I don't want to do anything to make him think twice about taking me in."
"I don't blame you," Tom said softly, "… you missed a spot."
"Oh. Thank you."
"Who do you think will be chosen?" Harry asked, squashed in between Fred and George who had their arms slung around her. She had a clean parchment spread out in all their laps—the parchment was enchanted so the writing would only be revealed to her, Fred and George. It was a plan for the next major prank.
"I hope Angelina," George said absently, making a few markings on the parchment, his brow furrowed. "Are we sure we want to target the P's? They're awfully nice."
"All the reason. They won't suspect it. Besides, you know how they are—they'll probably feel left out if they're the only ones who aren't," Fred snickered.
"Too true," Harry agreed, adding in a bit more details.
"Well, the goblet is almost ready to make its decision. I estimate it requires one more minute. Now when the champions' names are called, I would like to ask them to please come up to the top of the Hall, walking along the staff table and go through into the next chamber where they will be receiving their first instructions," Dumbledore said.
"Do you have the charm for the C's?" Harry asked George.
"Got it all figured out."
"Oh there you are," Neville said, with Hermione trialing in behind him. The two of them had to stay late in the library—Hermione was helping Neville with his Potions homework. "They didn't start calling out the names, yet, right?"
"Not yet," Ron answered while Neville took a seat next to him.
"I can't wait. You don't mind if I take pictures, right Harry?" Colin asked excitedly.
"Go right ahead, dear," Harry answered absently, frowning thoughtfully at the parchment.
"I'm really excited about this. I hope a Gryffindor is chosen for champion," Ginny said.
The Marauders all gave a murmur of agreement while Fred scribbled down some new ideas.
George nodded his head appreciatively. "Brilliant, that one, Gred."
"Thank you, Forge."
"Here it is!"
Harry actually glanced up in time to see the goblet turn red as sparks flew out of it. In the next instance, a spew of flames shot into the air, and a charred piece of parchment fluttered out of it—silence filled the room. Dumbledore caught the parchment and held it at arm's length. "The champion for Durmstrang will be Viktor Krum."
"No surprises there!" yelled Ron as a storm of applause took over the Hall. Harry gave a disdainful snort while Krum rose up from the Slytherin table and moved towards Dumbledore before disappearing into the next chamber.
A second piece of parchment shot out of it, propelled by the flames. "The champion for Beauxbatons is Fleur Delacour!"
"Hell yeah!" Harry cheered, using her magic to propel her voice over the cheering. Fleur's eyes caught her and she gave a bright smile. Fleur returned the smile with one of her own and she gracefully went into the next chamber.
"Oh, look, they're all disappointed," Hermione pointed out, gesturing to the crying Beauxbatons.
_Ew. He's actually sobbing over not being chosen? So. Not. Eye-Candy._
Tom smirked. "What did you expect? He is a Beauxbatons student."
_Aw. Were you jealous? Don't worry, you'll always be my number one eye-candy._
"Go to hell."
_I'll save you a seat._
"The Hogwarts champion," Dumbledore called out, drawing Harry's attention to him again, "is Cedric Diggory!"
_Same one I saved from Dementors?_
Harry eyed Cedric as he went into the next chamber before dismissing him from her mind and focusing on the plans in her lap.
"Excellent!" Dumbledore said happily. "Well, we now have our three champions. I am sure I can count upon all of you, including the remaining students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang, to give your champions every ounce of support you can muster. By cheering your champion on you will contribute in a very real—"
The fire in the goblet had turned red again and once more sparks flew out of it. In a long tongue of flame, another parchment was shot into the air. Automatically, it appeared, Dumbledore reached out a long hand and seized the parchment. He held it out and stared at the name upon it and for a long while he stared at it.
Harry blinked, looking up from her parchment. "What?"
There was no applause, no cheering, no hoo-rahs or hoo-rays. There was silence and in that silence, Harry processed exactly what just happened.
"You didn't put your name in the Goblet," Tom said blankly, as if he too were shocked. "You didn't put your name in the Goblet which means someone else did, and the only reason someone would do something so dangerous—"
_Is if they wanted me in the danger. If they wanted me to die._
"You can't let them know they're on to you," Tom said quickly, "the fact they were able to get a fourth person in this tournament—with this Goblet—means they're not to be messed with."
_Moony is going to murder me._
Harry forced a taunting grin on her face, placing the parchment away and sauntering up to the front of the room.
_I can't let just anyone know I didn't put my name in it. If they believe me, and they get involved… I don't know who to suspect. I can't protect them. I can't…_
"Then be very careful who you allow to know the truth," Tom advised. "This is going to be a difficult tournament to get you through alive."
She reached Dumbledore and stared him straight in the eye. She was never one to use Legilimency—she didn't care to know what others were thinking—but she practiced it just as well with her Occlumency. Very carefully she brushed Dumbledore's mind with Legilimency, not wanting to take information, but wanting to give. It was a more gentle form of Legilimency—not a mind reading, but a mind giving. It was usually only used between two very trusted people, as the person giving the information, had to drop all of their Occlumency guards to give the information, and the person receiving, had to lower theirs some, as well.
Dumbledore's eyes twinkled and he allowed her to carry the message through.
"I didn't do it. Someone placed my name in the Goblet without my consent. I'm willing to take Veritaserum to prove it, but please, don't let anyone else know I didn't."
Dumbledore said, gently, "We will discuss this later, Harry."
Harry nodded, still holding up a triumphant façade as she went on to the next room.
Her façade dropped the moment she entered the room, replacing it with a blank look as she carefully thought through the scenarios. She ignored the curious glances of the other champions, choosing to take a seat in a plush chair and curl up, her brow furrowed in concentration.
Possible, but given the utter lack of reactions and sneers and smirks present… I'll have to go back in a Pensieve and take a closer look at everyone's reactions.
Dark Slut follower?
Possible, again, but the has=been isn't directly involved, or else my scar would tip me off. Must either be a devoted fanatic or—but if that was the case, they would have tried to off me off before. Must be new, then. New professor, or student. Students new would include first-years, the foreign students and Professor Moody.
"'Arriet? Vat are you doing here? Do ze vant us back?"
Bagman strolled in, his eyes lit with awe. "Astounding! Astounding!"
Prank? A jest?
This falls back into a jealous student—actually, addressing that: the person would have to be very powerful to trick something as old and powerful as the Goblet of Fire. The thing was created by some of the most powerful witches and wizards in history, it would take more than a mere first-year to do something so complex as trick it. Or maybe not so complex—perhaps there's a simple way that just requires a bit of creativity?
"… the fourth Triwizard champion!"
"Oh, vairy funny joke, Meester Bagman."
Adding a school, perhaps?
That would do it. Creating a fake—no, no, it couldn't be fake. The Goblet was set to only acknowledge real schools, no amount of tampering with it would change that. However, adjusting the Goblet to acknowledge not just three schools, but four and the only placing my name as the only option for the fourth school—
"… age restriction was only imposed this year as an extra safety measure, and as her name's come out of the goblet… I mean, I don't think there can be any ducking out at this stage… the contract—"
Which school, then?
Does it matter? No, no, don't address that. Address that at a later date. Motives, motives… Still, this would require a seventh-year or higher at least to pull off. Why would someone want to do it, though? For a joke, it's not a very funny one. Too risky. It must be for some darker motives and the only motive I can think of is Dark Slut related.
Who indeed? It would have to be someone who either has a very influential family member who was a fanatic, or is a fanatic themselves. But all the true fanatics—the one that would go through such great lengths—should be in Azkaban. After all, they were the ones who showed true dedication to the has-been. The only reason Lucius gave away the diary, was because he wanted to stir things up and discourage Muggle-borns. It wasn't really an act of loyalty to him. It was just… it was just wanting mayhem.
And the person who did this singled out me.
Correct. The person who did this singled me out and wanted me. This was a direct act—and in consideration of the Dark Mark summoning… Hermione said the Death Eaters fled at the sight of the Dark Mark and Moony explained that the Dark Mark was the symbol that proved Voldewhore had made his move—or that he was going to. I'm willing to bet all my money that whoever made that Dark Mark, put my name in that Goblet. Whoever did this—whoever did this is clearing the way for the has-been because they believe, they truly believe (or else they would not have moved—they've waited so long, they would only strike when they could strike) Voldewhore will be making his move.
Harry let out a slow breath, her eyes fluttering closed. The door behind them opened again and a large group of people came in: Dumbledore, Mr. Crouch, Karkaroff, Maxime, McGonagall, and Snape.
"Madame Maxime!" said Fleur at once, striding over to her headmistress. "Zey are saying zat ziss little girl—no offense, 'Arriet—is to compete also!"
Moratorium doesn't have all the key players swayed to his side, yet. There are still fanatics who believe in him. I suppose that's a given, considering the… belief he chose to ratify everyone behind. It's a belief that has been there for centuries and more than likely won't fade away when he does. Damn Tom for being clever about that. Damn Voldewhore for still being (in)sane enough to cling to that belief.
Now it was just a matter of finding out who set off the Mark.
"… rather like to know that myself, Dumbledore," said Karkaroff. "Two Hogwarts champions? I don't remember anyone telling me the host school is allowed two champions—or have I not read the rules carefully enough?"
Lupin said only true Death Eaters knew how—a true Death Eater would not divulge the information to just a mere child—a mere student. The right to being a Death Eater, was more than likely some kind of sacred act in their eyes. Based on what I knew of Tom, he would make a grand scheme of it—dramatic, imposing, undeniable. By breaking that act—by giving away a secret, they were disrespecting him. And the person that summoned that mark, the person that was willing to wait over a decade… that person would not disrespect him in such a manner.
Which eliminated all of the students.
"It's no one's fault, but Potter's, Karkaroff," said Snape softly, his black eyes glittering with malice. "Don't go blaming Dumbledore for Potter's determination to break the rules. She has been crossing the line ever since she arrived here—"
"Thank you, Severus," said Dumbledore firmly.
That it did. Which would mean it had to be an adult. Someone who was a Death Eater themselves… they wouldn't have lied or cheated their way out of Azkaban. If they were ever caught or accused of being a Death Eater, they would have embraced it wholeheartedly—it would be too disrespectful not to. The person was a true fanatic, a true servant. So either they were never caught—their cover never blown—and they continued to masquerade as someone else to be a good… spy, perhaps?... tool for the Dark Slut.
True. Or they were caught and just escaped.
There would have been something in the papers if they just escaped. They could have escaped and—no, no, that would have been in the papers, too. Even if they escaped while I was still a child, I would have heard about them by now. Which could only mean…
Possible. Definitely possible. Faked a death and escaped? The papers wouldn't have written about a Death Eater's death in Azkaban—as far as the public and they were concerned, Death Eaters were supposed to die in Azkaban and it was only natural. It would be like commenting on the weather—unimportant and dull.
But if they faked a death, then surely someone would have realized and recognized a dead person walking around?
There are ways to hide appearance. Many ways. They could have changed it so drastically—they could have taken over someone else's life for all I knew. It didn't have to be someone new in my life. They could just be someone patient, faked a death very early on and took over someone else's life and all this time they were—
Scar? Wouldn't the scar work?
Only for Voldemort. Only for him. Death Eaters? Not so much.
There was a clearing of throat, and Harry blinked her eyes into focus, noticing all eyes were on her—and they had been for quite some time, as she realized that she was no longer filtering out background noise.
"I'm sorry. I was… thinking," Harry said carefully, her eyes meeting Dumbledore's.
"I asked: Did you put your name into the Goblet of Fire, Harry?" Dumbledore repeated calmly.
Harry kept her gaze leveled with Dumbledore's, she forced a smirk on her face. "You know my answer to that, Professor."
Dumbledore eyed Harry another moment before nodding slowly, accepting this. Harry turned away, her thoughts drifting back.
"I don't believe this," Moody growled. "How in the hell did she get it in, then? Something's not right, here."
Was it possible that perhaps the Map would notice anyone? Maybe I could glance through it and look for names that should and shouldn't be there.
"She could not have crossed the Age Line."
"Dumbly-dorr must 'ave made a mistake wiz ze line," said Maxime, shrugging.
"Bull shit," Harry snapped, her eyes flashing as she gave Maxime a disdainful glare. "That is the most ludicrous thing I have ever heard. Professor Dumbledore make a mistake when it comes to magic? Are you insane, you old hag?"
"Harry," Dumbledore reprimanded gently, "please, your temper. We don't want another person cowering in fear at the sight of you."
"Cowering in fear?" Snape sneered.
"If she bends as easily as Fudge, she's not fit to be a headmistress," Harry dismissed, frustration at not knowing the answer making her temper short. Her eyes narrowed into slits. "Madam Maxime, I assure you that Professor Dumbledore did not make a mistake. The very idea is insulting and I ask that you please use your head for just a brief moment before you speak."
Maxime was glowering darkly at Harry, but Harry dismissed her, back to thinking.
"Harry, I know what you're trying to do, and I would ask that for the moment, you give us your undivided attention," Dumbledore said, his eyes twinkling.
Harry had the grace to look sheepish, if a bit annoyed at having her thought process interrupted again.
"For what, though? You obviously don't need me for the moment. It's not like I'll be blabbering to such a large group of people… willingly," Harry pointed out blandly.
"Too true, too true. However, until the time you and I can discuss privately in my office…"
"I understand, Professor," Harry said softly. "What else do you need me for?"
"Surely she cannot compete," McGonagall murmured, glancing at Bagman and Crouch. "There must be some way out of this…"
Crouch shook his head. "I'm afraid not. The rules are quite plain."
Moody growled, "Of course they are."
"How this situation arose, we do not know," said Dumbledore, addressing everyone. "It seems to me, however, that we have no choice, but to accept it. Both Cedric and Harry have been chosen to compete in the Tournament. This, therefore, they will do…"
"Ah, but Dumbly-dorr—"
"My dear Madame Maxime, if you have an alternative, I would be delighted to hear it."
He waited, but Maxime said nothing, only glowering.
"Well, shall we crack on, then?" Bagman asked, rubbing his hands together and smiling around the room. "Got to give our champions their instructions, haven't we? Barty, want to do the honors?"
Crouch glanced at Bagman absently. "Yes… instructions… Yes, the first task… The first task is designed to test your daring, so we are not going to be telling you what it is. Courage in the face of the unknown is an important quality in a wizard… very important… The first task will take place on November the twenty-fourth, in front of the other students and the panel of judges. The champions are not permitted to ask for or accept help of any kind from their teachers to complete the tasks in the tournament. The champions will face the first challenge armed only with their wands. They will receive information about the second task when the first task is over, owing to the demanding and time-consuming nature of the tournament, the champions are exempted from end-of-year tests."
"There's something at least," Harry couldn't help but mutter irritably, then diving back into her thoughts until everyone, but her and Dumbledore remained.
Dumbledore eyed her carefully. "Shall we adjourn to my office, then, Harry?"
"Yes… Yes I believe we should."
Harry let out a slow breath, before she then explained her entire thought process to Dumbledore. Dumbledore sat at his desk, his eyes holding a very contemplative light and when she finished, he nodded his head.
Harry had begun pacing in Dumbledore's office, her irritation and frustration at the situation causing her to be restless.
"I do not find fault in your logic," Dumbledore confessed. "However, I am unsure to what you are so upset about."
"This is different!" Harry exclaimed, her voice raising as she continued to pace furious in Dumbledore's office. "All those other years—I knew who to suspect—who to avoid—who to watch out for—and if I didn't, it didn't matter because I only had to worry about myself. This is—this is different. This year is so very different. I don't know who to suspect, who to warn them away from. If I told them the truth and they believed me, they would look into it, even if I didn't want them to. And this is reality. It's not some happy story—people who stick their noses in places where others don't want their noses to be stuck in, they die, Professor. I can't—I can't just—"
Harry stopped short, a pained expression on her face.
"There's something else," Dumbledore prodded, his eyes resting on Harry.
Harry gave a long sigh, falling back onto the plush chair behind her. Her eyes were trailed downcast. "It's not just them, Professor. I have—I have family. I don't know what to do about Moony or Padfoot. I don't want them involved, I don't think I could bear it if I got them involved just to lo… to lose… one of them. On the other hand, I don't want them thinking I did this—I don't want them to be…"
Harry nodded slowly. "I don't know what to do about them."
"Well, we are in quite the predicament," Dumbledore agreed. "On one hand, we don't want just anyone investigating into the matter, it is more than likely more than what it appears to be and it would be very risky. On the other hand, Sirius and Remus are grown men and are quite capable of taking care of themselves. I think they would rather you tell them the truth, than you lie in order to protect them."
Harry glanced away. "… You're not just talking about those two, though, are you?"
Dumbledore gave her a kind smile.
Harry let out a slow breath. "Alright. Alright. I'll… I'll tell Moony and Padfoot the truth and… and maybe my friends. I don't… I don't know."
"With that being said, is there anything else you would like to discuss with me, Harry?"
Harry knew exactly what Dumbledore was hinting at. She gave a humorless smile. "Not yet, Professor. I promise, though, soon. I have a feeling… I have a feeling everything will come into play very soon."
Dumbledore continued to eye Harry a couple more moments before giving her a slow nod. "I understand. Will you keep me updated on finding out whoever did put your name in the goblet?"
"Yes," Harry answered truthfully. "I think consulting with you would be the best option in this point. I will keep you posted."
"Excellent! Lemon drop?"
"Yes, please, thank you."
"Would you to use my Floo? I believe Sirius and Remus would like to know exactly what's going on as soon as possible."
"Yes, thank you very much… do you… would you mind…?"
Dumbledore gave a bright smile. "I would be delighted in accompanying you, Harry."
Harry gave a relieved smile. "… Thank you. For everything."
Harry was leaning into Sirius, her entire body relaxed. Sirius was frowning, his face darkened, and Lupin looked less than pleased. Harry had explained the situation to the best of her ability, with Dumbledore stepping in to confirm a few things. When everything was said and done, they had sat in silence for a while, Sirius and Lupin digesting the information.
"Professor Dumbledore, do you want us to return to Hogwarts with you? For extra security for Harry's sake?" Lupin finally asked.
Dumbledore gave a thoughtful hum. "We don't want anyone thinking we need the extra security. However… seeing how Harry is under aged in this tournament and not of age, I see no reason to why her family cannot visit her regularly and attend each event."
"Good. I'm glad you gave the approval, because I would have snuck back in regardless," Sirius said, nodding his head. Dumbledore gave an amused laugh.
"I'm not surprised, Sirius," Dumbledore said. "Ah, but I must that you keep this information to yourselves, as Harry explained her reasoning."
Lupin's gaze caught Harry's and he asked, "Are you certain you only want us to know, Harry?"
Harry hesitated. "I—I am considering telling some of my closer friends. Hermione… Draco… Fred… George… Neville… maybe Ron. Ron's a bit of a wildcard—I don't think he's all too pleased with the situation regardless if I did or did not put my name in the Goblet."
"If you trust them, you should tell them," Lupin said firmly.
"With that being said," Dumbledore said swiftly, "I believe it's time for us to return. Are you ready, Harry?"
"Y—Yeah. I think I am."
Harry paused for a brief moment before wrapping her arms around Sirius and hugging him tightly. Before she left, she did the same to Lupin, squeezing him.
When Harry stepped into the Gryffindor Common Room, she was greeted to a party. Fred and George came and wrapped their arms around Harry's shoulder and Harry watched in bewilderment as confetti and sparklers went off in the room—it was way past curfew and she was astounded to see so many people up and about.
"We don't know—"
"—how you did it, Harrykins—"
"—but we gotta say, nice going!"
"To the Gryffindor champion!" Katie laughed, holding up a mug of butterbeer.
There was an echo of agreement from all around Harry and she had to snicker. However, it didn't take long before Hermione's furious glare caught her own and Harry remembered what she had said she would do. While everyone was cheering and laughing and playing some sort of silly game, Harry grabbed Neville, Ron, Hermione, Fred and George and dragged them to a dark, secluded corner, before casting a muffling spell around them.
It didn't take long for Hermione to recognize the spell and the moment she did, she grabbed Harry by the front of her shirt. "Harriet James Potter! I cannot believe how utterly stupid you were. Putting your name in the Goblet? Breaking every rule Dumbledore said specifically not to break?! Why I oughtta—"
Harry gave her an annoyed look. "Do you mind if I say something first?"
Hermione flushed, but held her tongue.
"I. Did. Not. Do. It."
Blank stares met her and she sighed. "Look, I was with Basileus the entire night, last night. I didn't do it. I didn't plan on doing it—Padfoot and Moony would kill me. I told Dumbledore and he agrees with me that something's not right—he doesn't think I did it, either."
Ron gave her a glare. "Are we supposed to believe you? We know how much you would have loved to join this thing."
"I didn't do it," Harry said firmly. "If I did, don't you think I would be telling you guys? Or that I would have told Fred and George so they both could compete? Don't you think I would have wanted even more people to compete, after all, the more the merrier in this case."
"I don't believe you," Ron said, scowling.
Hermione and Neville, however, exchanged glances.
"… Who did put your name in the goblet, then, if it wasn't you?" Neville asked tentatively.
"Dumbledore's looking into it," Harry said quietly. "Padfoot and Moony will be coming up frequently for extra security. Whoever did it—whoever did it, does not want me to survive the tournament, most likely."
Fred and George frowned, along with Hermione and Neville. Ron, however, was still glaring at Harry.
"I can't believe you," Ron said, his voice low. "I don't know how you tricked Dumbledore into thinking—"
Harry's eyes widened with disbelief and she felt a small sting in her chest. "What? You think I'm lying to you? That I would go so far to deny this that I would lie to Dumbledore? Do you honestly believe that, Ron? Do you really think I would do that?"
"We know you wouldn't, Harrykins," the twins chorused.
"If you really did do it you'd be—"
"—up the wall about it—"
"—and telling us exactly how you did it—"
"—not to mention if you did do it—"
"—you would have told us."
Hermione gave a sigh. "Fred and George are right. It just wouldn't be you to lie about something like this. I—I'm sorry for yelling at you."
Harry held up her hands. "I understand why you did it, 'Mione. I'm not mad. However, you guys have to promise to not let anyone else know that I didn't do it."
"Why's that?" Neville asked, while Hermione's eyes widened with understanding.
"You don't want anyone else getting involved," Hermione realized, biting her bottom lip. "Whoever put your name in the goblet, more than likely would kill anyone else who gets involved if they found out."
"Exactly, which is why you guys need to keep on the down-low with the information, too," Harry confirmed.
Ron pursed his lips. "I get that… I get that it would seem really weird if you were lying about this, but Harry… I'm sorry, mate…"
Harry gazed at Ron, her expression unreadable. "I understand. I can't prove anything to you, so I won't try and sway you. All I ask is that you don't tell anyone what I told you tonight."
"I won't," Ron said quietly, turning away and leaving the group.
Fred and George glared at Ron's retreating back. "Jealous git."
"I'm sure he just needs some time to cool off, you know?" Neville guessed. "He'll come around."
Harry shook her head. "It doesn't matter. I need to take a look at my map, though, before I rejoin the party—" Harry stopped herself, noticing the grimace on Hermione's face. "… Hermione, is something wrong?"
Hermione gave Harry a pleading look. "You have to understand, Harry, I really didn't know you… you didn't do it. Professor Lupin told me that if you did anything that broke the wager, to go ahead and… act upon it before telling him. I—uh—well, I sort of told Crookshanks to hide the map and not give it back until the tournament was over."
Harry stared at her. The twins stared at her.
"You're joking, right?"
Hermione shook her head.
Harry stared at her before giving a sigh. "… Alright. Whatever. I'll just… think of another way to figure out who did it… shouldn't be that hard."
"In the meantime—"
"—I think it's time we rejoined the party!"
"Alright, so you've got her chair all charmed and ready to go?" Harry asked quietly to Fred. Fred gave her a grin and a thumbs up. The following night of the party, the Marauders were back in swing with a vengeance. The twins were still thoroughly upset at Ron for his petty jealousy, and swapped his wand for a fake wand, as well as hang dangling spiders all along his bed—they weren't real, just an illusion, but it was the thought that counted in that instant.
George and Harry had used Harry's invisibility cloak to sneak aboard the Durmstrang's ship to a.) swap all their wands with fake wands (their real wands would be found in the girl's loo under Myrtle's sweet, sweet care), b.) send a balding charm to half the students, and the other half a hair—growing charm—so half were balding and the other half sported long, long hair—long enough it could rival Dumbledore's!, c.) transfigure all their robes into little figurines of the Marauder's Animagus forms.
Meanwhile, Fred was targeting McGonagall—the aftereffects Harry would be able to see in class the next morning.
"I'm all set, how about you two?"
"'Course we are. Two devilishly good-looking people like us? How could we not have finished our part?"
"I agree Harry is quite nice, but I must disagree on your attractiveness—everyone knows I'm the better-looking twin."
"You're both gorgeous and all, but I think we can all agree, I'm the best looking one out of the three of us," Harry interjected.
"No, I think we can all agree I make the best eye-candy out of the four of us," Tom said slyly.
_... Damn. That you do._
Fred and George snorted in amusement.
"Alright, I'm going to head back to the dorms. Are you guys sure you can handle the rest of the randomly placed pranks for the night?"
"Go on, Harrykins," Fred said, motioning Harry away.
"We've got this."
Harry gave them both a wide grin. "'Kay. See you."
Harry gave both the twins full control of the cloak, before she slipped into one of the many tunnels connected to the Chambers. It didn't take her long before she reached the Gryffindor Common Room, and she stepped out, closing the entrance behind her and smiling, pleased with herself.
"Ah. So you three really are the new Marauders."
Harry froze, her eyes widening when she saw none other than Oliver sitting on the couch, flipping through a Quidditch Strategy book. He was sipping on some hot tea and dressed out in his pajamas.
"Don't worry, I won't tell—it's kind of obvious, though," Oliver assured her, looking back down at his book. "The only reason the professors haven't given you three detention is because they don't have any proof—and well know how much you love loopholes, so if they punished you without proof… I doubt they'd win in an argument against you."
Harry blushed, relaxing. "Thank you… I think. How's not being able to play Quidditch?"
"Horrible. McGonagall's been nice enough to let me use the field for solo-practicing. The field's actually been reserved towards the end of the year for the tournament, so I'll have to stop practicing then."
Harry frowned at that, moving to sit next to Oliver on the couch. "Why didn't you come and drag us down to practice with you?"
Oliver blinked in surprise. "Ah—the girls actually scolded me last year for dragging everyone into too much practice. I'd rather not be scolded by them, thank you."
"Still, I would have loved to practice Quidditch. I find it… therapeutic, believe it or not," Harry said. "And something tells me this year, I'll need the therapy. Besides, you don't need to worry about over-practicing with me. Trust me, I'll let you know if you've crossed the line."
Oliver gave a short laugh. "Well if that's how it is, I'll let you know next time I head down."
"Mind if I tell the boys? I'm sure they miss Quidditch just as much as you do."
"The more the merrier."
Surprisingly, Harry found herself blushing at Oliver's smile.
Harry stared at the group of Hufflepuffs that were snickering in front of her the next morning. There, front and center was there oh-so-clever badges. She continued to stare at the badges for another moment before looking up at them.
"Do you really want to start this?" Harry asked, her voice flat. "Do you really want to piss me off in such a way?"
Harry knew the Hufflepuffs weren't known for their brains—far from it, actually, if anything Snape's muttered about proved accurate—but she would have thought they had some self-preservation.
One of the Hufflepuffs, stuck their nose up in the air. "We're not scared of you."
Moratorium smiled at them and the Hufflepuffs stopped laughing. "Then I guess I'll just have to give you reason to be, then. Good day, you poor unfortunate wretches. It'll be the last one you have in a while."
And Moratorium and Harry strode away, plots of vengeance already blooming inside their heads.
"Oi, Harry," Draco said, moving away from his group to walk beside her. "Ignore the stupid badges, there's something else you need to know about."
Harry glanced at Draco. She had stolen him away after Gryffindor and Slytherin's first double since the whole goblet—incident and explained everything. Draco took it surprisingly well, commenting he actually wasn't all that surprised. When Harry questioned why, he mumbled something about being able to relate to her in the sense that while she didn't want to disappoint Sirius, he didn't want to disappoint Lucius.
"What is it?" Harry inquired.
Draco turned to face her, walking backgrounds in the process. "You said that whoever did this, most likely was a Death Eater, right? I don't know why you think that, but I trust your judgment. Father told me about there being two Death Eaters currently at Hogwarts that he knows about. One of them is Professor Snape, and the other is Karkaroff."
Harry's eyes widened. "Are you certain?"
"Positive," Draco confirmed. "Although, Dumbledore vouches for Snape—says he was his spy or something for Voldemort, but Father knows for a fact that when Snape joined, he was a true Death Eater."
"True Death Eater?" Tom asked curiously, frowning.
"True Death Eater?" Harry echoed.
"Right," Draco said, before dropping his voice down to a low. "Father told me that after a while… He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named started to… go down, if you know what I mean. He started Crucio'ing his most devoted followers—Purebloods, even—for no reason… because he liked it, actually."
"That's absurd lies," Tom hissed. "There would be no point in doing such a thing. It would prove detrimental in the long run—that would instill fear and fear breaks people!"
Harry, however, wasn't so surprised by Draco's information. "I'm guessing around that time, people started looking for a way out."
Draco nodded. "Father told me that a true Death Eater, was not a follower of You-Know-Who—but a follower of what You-Know-Who originally stood for."
"Your father was—is—a true Death Eater, isn't he?"
Draco shrugged, choosing silence as his answer. Harry nodded in understanding. "… I get it. Alright, so Snape was, maybe is, a true Death Eater, but I doubt it. What do you think made him switch sides? That's a pretty drastic thing to do, to change your entire beliefs, especially in such a risky way. Either something really big happened, or Snape never really turned."
"Father doesn't know what to think of Snape," Draco confessed. "Karkaroff, on the other hand, was a true Death Eater… until things got out of hand. He told me that the only reason he was released out of Azkaban was because he offered up the names of other Death Eaters."
"Not a true fanatic, then," Harry murmured.
"I guess not, but what about Snape? I don't… I mean… I don't really want to think he'd—"
"He's not the one I'm looking for," Harry dismissed. "He doesn't fit the profile well enough for my liking. I admit, I will keep an eye on him, but I truly believe Dumbledore would know if he was being deceived. At least, in the long-time running. I doubt there's a person in the world who could truly deceive Dumbledore for as long as Snape's been at Hogwarts."
Draco gave a nod. "Makes sense."
"Thank you for the information," Harry said.
Draco shrugged. "Whatever. Later, Harry."
"Bye, Draco," Harry murmured, her mind still processing the information.
"He had to be lying," Tom said quietly after Draco left. "I would never…"
_I know you wouldn't. Not normally. You're far too rational, so that makes me think that maybe something threw you off. You said you practiced in the Dark Arts. Know anything that may or may not have broken you? Anything risky? Dangerous?_
Tom's face went entirely blank and Harry knew there was, but she also knew he wouldn't be telling her.
Not yet, at least.
He's still in denial, Moratorium purred. But he'll see the truth for himself eventually and when that time comes, he'll break.
Oh, speaking of breaking…
Yes, yes… Lockhart. His purpose is nearly completed. He'll need to be cut. I'll make a note of it…
Harry sat down in Transfiguration after her talk with Draco, anxious to see the results of her work. Everyone was to bring in their familiars—if they had one—and given Harry's owl was currently away and her darling Basileus would not be… suitable… she was one of the few left without a familiar. That was quite alright, though.
McGonagall swept into the classroom.
"Enough chatter, students. You may begin picking off where you left off last class," McGonagall said. "Remember, a gentle swish followed by a steep swoop."
Hermione and Harry sat side by side in the classroom, Crookshanks sitting on their desk.
"Feel free to go first," Harry said.
Hermione smiled at Harry, lifting her wand up. Crookshanks gave a small meow—however to ears of McGonagall (and Harry as she modified the charms on the room so she could listen in, as well), he did not meow.
"What are you doing?" Crookshanks asked in a very annoyed tone, while Hermione waved her wand at him. "Stop that. I don't like being turned into a cup at your pleasure."
McGonagall did a double take, blinking her eyes as she noticed that Crookshanks wasn't the only cat she heard speaking.
"Why are you waving that thing at me?"
"Why are you doing this to me?"
"I hacked up a hairball in your socks, just for you."
"You're annoying. Go away."
"Why must you taunt me in such a barbaric manner? You are lucky I do not scratch your eyes out, you insufferable two-legs."
McGonagall blinked a few times, and Harry had to resist smirking. Instead, she asked in a very concerned voice, "Professor? Are you alright?"
McGonagall blinked at Harry. "… Yes. I'm fine. I just need to sit down and have some water, I suspect. Carry on."
As McGonagall moved to her desk, Harry had to applaud the twins on the charms. It was a simple charm they placed over on McGonagall's hat—and Harry's tie—to translate a meow from a cat into some selected sentences that the trio had managed to come up with. In this series of pranks, the trio was targeting McGonagall's Animagus form—a cat.
Just as McGonagall sat down in her chair, the illusion over it faded to reveal that the chair, was in fact, a litter box. McGonagall's eyes widened and she fell down into the clean litter, just as all eyes and attention snapped up to her. Then all around the walls of the transfiguration room—triggered to occur when the illusion dissolved—cat nip grew and McGonagall's eyes narrowed into furious slits. The final leaf of cat nip that grew exploded into a puff of smoke and a single parchment—reading, of course, the symbol of the trio—drifted down on a nearby student's desk.
"Marauders," McGonagall hissed, her eyes lit with fury.
Harry had to indeed applaud the twins on their work.
Harry followed Colin through Hogwarts later that day. Colin had interrupted Snape's Potions class, telling Snape that Harry was needed—all the champions were needed—and so Harry ended up following Colin to where she was needed. He had mentioned something about the Daily Prophet and Harry was rather grateful that Colin was the one that had got her—after all, he was her head media so anything that had to do with the media involved him automatically as far as she was concerned.
When they reached the right room, Harry pulled Colin in with her, reminding him of his job—she was paying him, after all.
It was a fairly small classroom with the majority of desks and chairs pushed off to the Krum was brooding in the corner, while Cedric and Fleur were having a polite conversation a little ways from him. Bagman noticed Harry and beamed, heading towards her.
"Ah, here she is! Champion number four! In you come, Harry, in you come… nothing to worry about, it's just the wand weighing ceremony, the rest of the judges will be here in a moment. The expert's upstairs now with Dumbledore and there's going to be a photo shoot. This is Rita Skeeter… she's doing a small piece on the tournament for the Daily Prophet…"
"Maybe not that small, Ludo," said Rita Skeeter, her eyes on Harry.
"Hello, Madam Skeeter, Professor Lockhart told me about you," Harry said smoothly. "This is my photographer, Colin Creevy. Any professional photographs involve myself will be taken by him and him alone, I hope you don't mind."
"I see no reason why not to comply," Rita said evenly. "I wonder if I could have a little word with Harry before we start? The youngest champion, you know… to add a bit of color?"
"Certainly! That is—if Harry has no objections?"
Harry gave Bagman a blank look.
"Lovely," purred Rita Skeeter and in a second, her scarlet—clawed fingers gripped Harry's upper arm and she steered her out of the room again and opened a nearby door.
"We don't want to be in there with all that noise. Let's see… ah, yes, this is nice and cozy." You don't mind, Harry, if I use a Quick—Quotes Quill?"
"Yes, I do, actually," Harry said swiftly and firmly, remembering her lessons from Lockhart. "I will have to ask you kindly not to use one."
Rita eyed Harry a moment before giving a slow nod. "How about a Swift—Notes Quill?"
Harry carefully thought through her lessons before nodding. "Acceptable."
The Quick-Quotes Quill was designed for more extravagant and dramatic notes—it personalized exactly what to write depending on the witch or wizard who enchanted it. Swift—Notes Quills were more like short-handed notes. It could add more details and elaborate more on certain areas, but it mostly stuck to facts and Harry had a feeling it was either that quill, or the Quick—Quotes.
"Testing… my name is Rita Skeeter. Ah, there we are. So, Harry, what made you decide to enter the Triwizard Tournament?"
Harry sat back, recalling every bit of the lessons with Lockhart. "Isn't it obvious, Madam Skeeter? I love the thrill. I know, I know… it's so wrong of me. I should know better—but the challenge, the excitement… all within reach…" Harry trailed off, morphing her face into that of distant longing. Rita leaned forward, her eyes dancing with undisguised excitement—after all, Harry was giving her nearly exactly what she wanted. "… It's such a rebellious thing for me to do, I know. But I can't help it. I feel… I feel like I need to do it, you know?"
"Why exactly do you think you need to do such a thing?" Rita asked.
"It was amazing I escaped life once," Harry sighed, managing to force her eyes to glisten with unshed tears—say what you damn well want about Lockhart, he knew what the press wanted. "But in the process I lost my own parents. Part of me… part of me feels like it should have been me instead of them—that it was my fault. But I know just taking my life would smear on their sacrifice—on everything they've done for me. It's so confusing, Madam Skeeter. I don't know what to do with myself."
Tom rolled his eyes. "You have got to be kidding me."
Harry sniffled, swallowing roughly and rubbing at her eyes. "I'm sorry—I know this must be uncomfortable for you. It's just… you seem like such a trusting woman… I feel like I can really talk to you, you know? I feel like I can really count on you to make sure… to make sure they understand."
Rita Skeeter positively preened at the compliment, doing her best to hide her excitement at a juicy story, in exchange for attempting to console Harry. "There now, believe it or not, I get that a lot. Feel free to tell me anything. I promise I'll make sure the readers understand everything."
"Oh? You promise? Oh, thank you, Madam Skeeter…"
Tom shook his head. "You're just… you have no shame."
_Sticks and stones, dear. Sticks and stones._
"How do you feel about the upcoming test?" Rita asked.
Harry gave a thoughtful frown. "Oh, oh gosh, Madam Skeeter, I'm torn between excitement and nerves. It's just another heart-pounding event for me, to be entirely honest."
"And what's your opinion on He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?"
Rita froze, her eyes widening. "Excuse me?"
Harry blinked, unabashed. "What? You didn't know about my nickname for him? I'm not shy about using it. Voldewhore. Because he's such a slut for power."
"I hate you," Tom told Harry.
"I also call him the Dark Slut," Harry added thoughtfully.
Rita blinked at Harry, completely and utterly speechless for a solid minute before her quill started working furiously. "Are you so confident in your abilities to face him, Harry? Do you really think so lowly of him? Aren't you scared in the slightest?"
"Confident? I suppose. I've technically already beat him twice," Harry said, frowning. "I'm assuming you heard about the incident during my first year."
"We were told that a professor had attacked you, are you saying he was influenced by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?"
"Wait… that's all you were told?" Harry said cautiously. "In that case, I don't think I should tell you any more about the incident. I'm sorry, Madam Skeeter, but it's not really my story to tell. You can ask Madam Bones about it, if you must. She knows the entire story."
And I'm still feeling a little spiteful about the whole Sirius incident, so I'll pass on the rapid reporter to her.
Rita nodded, seeming to accept this and make a mental note.
"And yes, I really think so lowly of him. At least… at least the one that I had met during my first year," Harry said slowly, surprisingly herself with her honesty in the answer. "I truly and utterly believe that he's fallen and I really, really doubt he'll ever be able to truly rise again. However, I'm not so arrogant as to say he never will. I have… I have come to understand just what kind of potential he has held—may still hold, in fact—and it actually wouldn't surprise me if he did return."
"Do you think he will?"
"I would be surprised if he did not return in some fashion; but I do not believe he will never be at the height of his powers again for numerous reasons: a.) his age b.) from what I've seen of him recently, there's no full recovery and c.) for one reason or another, his mind is fractured. He simply cannot do the things he did before."
Tom was staring sullenly at her.
Harry was still surprising herself with the honesty in her answers.
"That's… what I believe," Harry finished quietly. "Maybe I'm arrogant. Maybe I'm ignorant. I don't know. I don't care. All I know is this man took away my parents, took away their friends, took away my life. There is no way I would ever give him the satisfaction of my respect. If he wants me to call him by his taken name, he has to give me a damn good reason. And respect is earned, not given, just like fear. I do not fear him. Not in the way I should, I suppose."
"Why is that?" Rita asked, her voice surprisingly quiet. Harry hadn't quite realized it until she had spoken, but a sort of tense air had seemed to surround the two of them.
"How can do you instill fear in someone… who welcomes death like an old friend?" Harry whispered.
It was then that the door to their room—really, broom closet—opened and Dumbledore peered inside. "Miss Skeeter… if you would please…"
Rita cleared her throat. "No… No problems. I think I have everything I need. Miss Potter…" Rita Skeeter hesitated a brief moment before smiling. "It's been a pleasure."
Harry looked at her work, very pleased with herself. Every single person who had worn one of those insulting buttons, now were going to pay the price in the morning. It was a long nights for her, Fred, and George, but it was worth it. All the buttons were enchanted to mark the user's robes—that had been the first night's task. The second night and third night's task was to start setting up the … traps. The fourth and final night's task was set to spring the taps.
Every single user who had worn a button, was now dealing with a very sorry mess. For one thing, the buttons were re-charmed to say Harry Potter's Bitch and whenever a professor or prefect was nearby I Am A Sad, Sad Person. Secondly, each person who was not marked with a button, would find them and their clothing charmed with a nice repelling charm, as they would need it (it would protect them from the jinxes and curses set up for the people who were marked). For the fourth and final night, had all the little jinxes and charms and whatnot they had placed over the second and fourth night's other Houses's dormitories… were no longer dormant.
From the very moment the button-wearers stepped into the Common Room, they would be fired out with a flurry of jinxes and charms-their robes would turn an odd color, their hair would grow longer and they would burst out in boils or pimples, their hair would knot and tangle itself, or their clothes would start walking away from them…
"Revenge is so sweet," Harry sighed, rather content.
Fred wrapped an arm around her, smiling brightly. "Why yes, yes it is, V."
"Come, S, we better some sleep for the night."
"Right you are, V. Right you are."
Harry twitched, her nose crinkling in mild disdain as she watched Neville try and fail to sit still long enough to slip into his meditation. Lupin's lips quirked and he exchanged amused glances with Hermione. It was only the seven of them that meeting—Ron was the only other member missing, but he hadn't shown up since… Well, since he decided to be a jealous prat.
Harry and Hermione were the furthest in coming along with their Animagus forms. Harry suspected that she wouldn't have to wait too much longer for her to start really practicing—she suspected by Christmas, she'd be ready. The twins weren't far behind, and neither was Draco. Neville was flailing a bit, but Harry had faith he could make it all the way through.
_So what's your Animagus form?_
"I don't know. I never attempted to become one," Tom admitted.
_Well, in most cases a Patronus is usually what a wizard's Animagus form is—that's the case with me. Although, Hermione told me that her Patronus—an otter—is different from her Animagus form. Draco's told me the same thing about him._
"Well, my Patronus is a snake," Tom conceded.
_I'm not surprised._
"I'd be surprised if you were," Tom said. "I would imagine, too, given my blood… that my Animagus form would be some sort of snake, as well."
_Makes sense. Up for a game of Wizard Chess after this?_
"I suppose I could kick your arse…" Tom trailed off, smirking tauntingly.
_It's just a matter of time before I defeat you!_
"You keep telling yourself that," Tom said patronizingly.
"Alright, I think that's enough practicing for tonight," Lupin declared and groans of relief were his reply—sitting in such a position for a long time was very taxing and it was very nice to no longer have to sit in such a manner. "Oh, ah, Harry?"
Lupin gestured Harry over and Harry obliged, raising an eyebrow. Lupin bent down and whispered quietly, "Hagrid wishes to inform you that he would like to meet you at midnight tonight—meet him outside of his hut and make sure to bring your cloak. Understand, Harry?"
Harry silently followed Hagrid through the forest, her cloaked wrapped around her.
"So what is it you wanted me for?" Harry asked tiredly.
"Got summat ter show yeh," Hagrid said gruffly, excitement in his eyes. Harry wasn't quite, but she could have sworn that Hagrid was preening with excitement—his hair was combed back and he was holding a flower, even!
Harry pursed her lips, trailing behind Hagrid. It took a while of stumbling through the dark forest, before they came across someone.
Madam Maxime stepped out from behind a few trees, smiling serenely. "Wair is it you want to take me, 'Agrid?"
"Yeh'll enjoy this," said Hagrid, "worth seein', trust me. On'y—don' go tellin' anyone I showed yeh, right? Yeh're not s'posed ter know."
"Of course not," said Maxime, fluttering her eyelashes.
Harry and Tom rolled their eyes.
It wasn't long before the lake and Hogwarts field were out of sight and very faintly Harry could hear other voices. Men shouting up ahead only to be greeted by a defeaning roar.
Hagrid led the two around a clump of trees and came to a halt. Harry moved to stand next to them so she could see—
Harry's jaw dropped. Even Tom looked dumbstruck.
There were only four of them, and there were at least thirty wizards—seven or eight to each dragon—who were trying to control them, pulling on chains connected to the leather straps around their necks and legs.
"Keep back, Hagrid!" yelled a wizard near the fence. "They can shoot fire at a range of twenty feet, you know! I've seen this Horntail do forty."
"Is'n' it beautiful?" asked Hagrid softly, staring at the dragons with undisguised admiration.
"It's no good!" shouted another wizard. "Stunning Seplls on the count of three."
Harry watched as each dragon keeper pulled out a wand.
"Stupefy!" they shouted in unison and Harry was amazed that it took all of their combined efforts to knock only four of them out.
"All right, Hagrid? They should be okay now—we put them out with a Sleeping Draft on the way here, thought it would be better for htem to wake up in the dark and the quiet, but, like you saw, they weren't happy, not happy at all—"
"What breeds you got here, Charlie?" Hagrid asked, moving closer to the dragons with Maxime trialing behind him.
"This is a Hungarian Horntail," said Charlie. "There's a Common Welsh Green over there, the smaller one—a Swedish Short—Snout, that blue-gray—and a Chinese Fireball, that's the red."
Maxime had wandered away, moving closer to the dragons and gazing at them appreciatively. Harry moved closer to Hagrid, just in time to hear Charlie whisper, "What's she doing here? She's bound to tell her student—they aren't to know, you know."
"Jus' thought she'd like ter see 'em," Hagrid said. "Four… so it's one fer each o' the champions, is it? What've they gotta do—fight 'em?"
"Just get past them, I think," said Charlie. "We'll be on hand if things get nasty. They wanted nesting mothers, for some reason. Though I'll tell you something, I wouldn't want to get the Horntail—back end's just as nasty as the front, what with that tail."
Harry had heard enough.
_Nesting mothers? They want us to get past nesting mothers? More than likely they'll give them some eggs to make it really interesting… Wait. Past the mothers? Past the mothers specifically? Not past them in general, like from one location to the next? To get past a mother to reach something they would protect…. Nesting dragons… Oh my God…_
"You're going to have to steal a nesting dragon's egg," Tom said, his eyes wide with disbelief. "You're going to die. If you die, I die. I can't die. What are we going to do?"
_Let's keep calm. Hagrid gave us notice. We can plan now. Between the two of us, we're bound to figure something out._
Tom nodded, relaxing. "You're right. Let's head to the Chambers. Maybe Basileus has had some experience with dragons."
"… How's Harry?"
Harry's attention snapped back to Hagrid and Charlie.
"Just hope she's still fine after she's faced this lot," said Charlie grimly. "I didn't dare tell Mum what she's got to do for the first task; she's already having kittens about him…" Charlie mimicked Molly's anxious voice. "'How could they let her enter the tournament, she's much too young. I thought they were all safe, I thought there was going to be an age limit?' She was in floods after the Daily Prophet article about her. 'She so lost and confused! Oh, that poor baby, feeling so guilty. Bless her, I never knew!'"
The article was a funny thing. Despite the information Harry had given Rita, she didn't publish the bit about Harry's honesty regarding the Dark Slut. More than likely it would have been too risky for her life—and while she was an avid reporter, insulting the Dark Slut without being able to take care of yourself was a bit too risky.
That or she was saving it for another time.
Harry backed away then, heading back to the school and to the Chambers. It didn't take her long to reach the Chambers, or long to call Basileus and have Dobby bring her some hot tea.
She curled up in the study, Basileus at her feet after she explained everything there was to know about the Dragons.
"Dragonsss are tricky thingsss, missstress," hissed Basileus. "Nesssting mothersss are particularly viciousss. They have a ssstrong resssissstanccce to mossst ssspellsss and nesssting mothersss rely purely on animal insssstinctsss if they believe their young to be in danger."
"The best thing to do would be to just figure out a way to distract them maybe," Tom reasoned. Harry relayed his suggestion to Basileus.
"… Not even you would be able to move fassst enough. The only thing that could really dissstract them—unless you were given an idiot of a dragon to fight—would be if they either did not noticcce you in the beginning and ssso the dissstraccction is the only known threat, or the disssstraccction is considered a bigger threat."
"Why not just transfigure the thing?" Harry reasoned.
Tom gave Harry a very thoughtful look. "You do have a knack for transfiguration—almost as much as of a knack for summoning and banishing spells. Not to mention Anigamus is the highest form of transfiguration… if you've already come so far in it… I don't see why not."
"It will be difficult, young missstresss," Basileus hissed softly. "Dragonsss are magical creaturesss… you will not be able to get it on your fissst try, regardlesssssss of how adept you are. However… if you had sssome practiccce…"
"You aren't saying what I think you're saying, Basileus, are you?"
Basileus nuzzled Harry affectionately. "You are my missstresss and I will do whatever I can to enssssure your sssafety. I trussst you."
"I love you," Harry whispered, trying her best to hug Basileus—he was too big, but she be damned if she didn't try at least. "I seriously, seriously love you."
Tom smirked. "What's not to love about him? He was born, raised and trained by Sytherin for the sheer purpose of being the heir's familiar. And there is nothing a familiar wouldn't do for their master. Although, I suppose you two aren't familiars yet—not officially."
"What do you mean not officially? How do I make it official?"
"It's just a simple binding contract. Ask Basileus. However, by doing so, you do realize that when he dies, you'll lose a part of yourself in the process," Tom said, losing his smirk. "It's why I never made it official. Depending on how powerful the being is, the more is taken from you. For instance, if Fawkes were to somehow die—not reborn, but die—it's very likely that Dumbledore would become a Squib, simply because of how much power and raw magic that practically radiates from the creature. If Basileus were to die, I suspect you would lose some of your power, as well. Not as badly for Dumbledore, as Phoenixes is near immortal and Basiliks are not, but it will still be risky."
"Jeeze. What are the benefits?" I muttered.
"Tom… he isss telling you about the familiar contract…?" Basileus asked. "I can tell you more. If you choose to make a contract with me, when I die, you will not lose your magic, but the lifessspan that you currently hold will be cut in half."
"So, I'll die twice as fast as normal?" I summarized.
"Correct. I am not a being of pure magic, like Phoenixesss or Ssspiritsss, I am a mortal creature, like Dragonsss or Gryffinsss. A contract with me will not sssteal your magic, but your life. Because I am ssstill in my prime, if I die, you will only lossse half of your life. However, if I die in an old age, you will die with me. Or, well, you will not lassst long without me. The longessst I have ever heard of someone lasssting was two daysss."
"And if I die?"
"Then I will die," Basileus said in a voice that seemed to accept the fact and in Harry's ears… embrace it.
Harry pursed her lips, her brow furrowed. "Benefits?"
"You and I will be connected, sssomething of which I am told isss a wonderful experienccce. We will be able to sssee through each other'sss eyesss and share our power. We will never be able to not find one another—the binding isss too strong for any known barrier or hideaway. And… you will be the only living creature in the world who will be able to look me in the eye and have my gaze not affect you," Basileus replied.
"Worth it. Do you want to be my familiar?"
Basileus dipped his head. "It isss what I was born to do, heiresss…"
Harry beamed. "How soon can we make the contract?"
Basileus cocked his head. "The next full moon, I believe, will sufficcce."
"You know by now, all the other champions, but Cedric know," Neville told Harry the other day. The two were on their way to eat dinner, and Harry found herself frowning at Neville.
"That's… kind of no fun," Harry said, realizing. "I mean, sure his initial shock to finding out would be hilarious, but he's supposed to be the real Hogwarts champion, right? How awful would it look if everyone else, but him, knew about the dragons and had a plan? And oh God, I saved his life already! I can't just have him dying an embarrassment to this school. That idiot. How dare he not make the right connections."
Harry scowled furiously at the floor, muttering to herself about how awful it would appear that if she saved his life once—making it automatically worth saving—just for him to die a disgrace. That would mean she had wasted her time and effort last year and Harry just couldn't have that.
So when they entered the Great Hall, Harry found Cedric, raised her wand and silently summoned him.
It was very amusing to see him flying out of his seat towards her, a look of utter shock on his face. When he reached her, she grabbed him by his shirt and dragged him out of the Great Hall, out into the courtyard and shoed away some girls from a corner—thus making it secluded.
She turned to face him, placing both her hands on her hips and glaring at him. "You aren't allowed to die in the first task. I will not have my own near-death experience be wasted upon you if you're just going to turn around and die in a disgraceful manner. The first task is dragons, understand? You are to retrieve a dragon egg of sorts from a nesting mother dragon. They have one for each of us."
Cedric at first had glared right back at Harry, but at her words, the color drained away from his face. "Dragons? R-Really?"
"Really. Be prepared and don't die," Harry told him. "If you do die, I'll resurrect you as an Inferius just to kick your arse and kill you myself."
Cedric gave her a weak smile. "Got it. Don't die."
Harry nodded, pleased with his response. "Besides, this makes it fair and frankly the Gryffindor side of me quite likes having an even playing field. Makes things way more fun."
She then smiled sweetly and headed back to the Great Hall—ignoring the looks she was given—sat down, and had a very lovely meal.
After the meal, however, Moody instructed her into his office and that's where she found herself.
"… I heard what you did for Cedric. That was surprisingly noble of you," Moody said, taking a seat across from her, his eye rolling around.
"I wonder if he can see me," Tom remarked.
_Doubtful. The eye is meant to see through things. You aren't really here to be seen. You're just a projection—in a lot of ways, you're just like a figment of my imagination. The eye can't see another person's hallucination, because the hallucination is only anchored to the person, just like you are anchored to me. Not to mention if he could, he would have said or done something by now._
"Not really. I nearly died last year to save him, I don't want that to be wasted," Harry dismissed.
"So… got any ideas on how you're going to get past your dragon?"
"Of course," Harry snorted. "I talked it over with Basileus—that's my Basilisk, by the way—and I've just decided to transfigure it—and before you ask, yes I can pull it off."
Moody eyed Harry. "That would be incredibly impressive if you did. What if you don't?"
Harry gave Moody a bright smile. "Oh, but I will."
"And if you don't?"
"I will," Harry insisted, getting annoyed with his doubt. "Look, if you just came here to question me, save it. I don't need your help with this; I don't want your help."
Moody eyed Harry another moment before shrugging. "Alright, if you think you can handle it—"
"If I can handle Fudge and Bones just fine, I think I can handle a dragon," Harry said dryly, and she saw Moody's lips tug down.
"'Spose you can, then."
Harry entered the tent, her heart fluttering and she felt the first thrum of anxiety come over her. She really hoped she was the first one to go, she was very much looking forward to her bout with the dragon. Sirius had entered right along beside her, his eyes roaming around the tent. Fleur was sitting off the corner, looking paler than usual and when she caught Harry's eye, the two exchanged was looking broodier than normal and Cedric was pacing up and down.
"Harry! Good-o!" Bagman exclaimed, hurrying over to Harry. "Ah! Sirius, always a pleasure."
Sirius gave Bagman a winning smile. "Indeed."
"I take it you'll be joining the champions as they wait?" Bagman questioned.
"Due to the age of Harry and the circumstances, Dumbledore thought it would be best if I remained with Harry up to the event… you know… to keep her calm," Sirius said, somehow managing to make the statement completely serious. Harry was impressed. She knew how much he was snickering over his lines last night—after all, Harry didn't need calming down when it came to life-threatening situations.
Harry was the last person who needed to be calmed down.
Bagman gave a good-natured chuckle. "Well, then, now that we're all here, time to fill you in! When the audience has assembled, I'm going to be offering each of you this bag, from which you will select a small model of the thing you will be facing. There are different—er—varieties you see and I have to tell you something else, too… what was it…? Ah, yes, your task is to collect the golden egg!"
Called it, Harry thought triumphantly. Knew it was an egg of some sorts.
Sirius placed a hand on Harry's shoulder, doing his best to play out the role of a consoling guardian. When Bagman left, he and Harry exchanged smirks. However, his smirk wasn't quite as amused-filled as Harry's.
Harry could hear the audience as they gathered into the stadium. She frowned. "What's wrong, Padfoot?"
Sirius gave Harry an uncomfortable look. "Well… You know I know you're a smashing good witch, Pronglet, but… but that doesn't mean I feel all that comfortable sending you off into danger."
Harry patted Sirius reassuringly on the shoulder. "Don't worry Padfoot, everything will be alright. And again, don't call me Pronglet."
Sirius smirked. "Until you have proven yourself as your own Marauder, you will forever be in Prong's shadow."
"I hate you," Harry muttered.
In no time at all, the audience finished arriving and Bagman showed up again, holding out the bag. He offered it to Fleur and Harry. "Ladies first."
Fleur dipped her hand in the bag, pulling out a Welsh Green. Harry dipped her own hand in the bag, feeling around for a very specific dragon. Grinning once she found it, she pulled out her soon-to-be-transfigured Horntail. After Cedric andViktor finished pulling out their dragons, Bagman cleared his throat.
"Well there you are! You have each pulled out the dragon you will face, and the numbers refer to the order in which you are to take on the dragons, do you see?"
"Damn it, you mean I'm last?" Harry pouted.
Bagman gave a chuckle. "Now I'm going to leave you in a moment, because I'm commentating. Mr. Diggory, you're first, just go out into the enclosure when you hear a whistle, alright?"
Harry gave a small sigh, moving to take her seat on a nearby bench, while Sirius gave her a small kiss on her head before leaving the tent to take his seat in the audience.
"We have some time… want to play Wizard Chess?" Tom offered.
Harry gave a small nod, rummaging through her pocket and pulling out the small set she always carried around with her. She enlarged it and set it up.
_I'm going to win this time._
"No, you aren't," Tom said, smiling.
Harry shot Tom another annoyed glare—stupid prat, so smug just because he hasn't lost, yet…!—as she made her way through the tunnel and into the rocky field. She looked up at the hundreds of faces, her eyes resting on the group of her friends—Sirius, Lupin, Hermione, Draco, Neville, Luna, Ginny, Ron (surprisingly), and the Quidditch team.
She hopped up onto the nearest rock, finding herself staring at the Horntail. She raised an eyebrow as it—she—gave a low, throaty growl.
Harry raised her wand, suddenly very thankful for all the practice sessions she had with Basileus. She flicked her wand, being sure to make the precise movements. The tip of her wand glowed a dull red before the light shot out and enveloped the magical creature.
The real tricky thing about transfiguring such magical creatures was that you couldn't transfigure them right away. You had to transform them from one thing, to the next, to the next, to the next… but you had to do it all in rapid succession. Because of the strong magical core each creature possessed—it was the very same reason to why they made such good parts in wands—you had to transfigure it to its nearest affinity.
For dragons, Harry had to transfigure it to something of equal size, then something else of equality for it, then something else, and viola. However, she had to do it in such a way, it never really completed the first transfiguration—so to all eyes, the dragon would stay enveloped in that dull red light until the transfiguration was complete.
It was a strain on both Harry's magical affinity and her mind, to do such a feat. It required complete concentration, because a single mistake and the entire transfiguration was null and void and Harry would be left out of breath, and mentally tired, to face a very pissed off dragon.
Thanks to the practice, however, Harry felt more comfortable in doing the feat. She knew what to do, what creatures to turn it into, how fast she should act, how long she should wait, she knew the variables… it was just a matter of doing it all over again.
So, from a dragon, it was transfigured into an overly large black salamander, then to a black bear, from a bear it was transfigured into a panther, then the panther was finally transfigured into a tiny black kitten.
Harry's brow was dotted with sweat when the transfiguration was complete—in reality it was only one or two seconds, but the entire ordeal dragged on to minutes in Harry's mind. The crowd was stunned into silence until Harry walked over to the kitten, picked her up and patted her on the head.
Applause erupted all around Harry and Harry looked up to find McGonagall staring at her with a flabbergasted expression—something Harry would definitely treasure—while Harry went on her merry little way and grabbed the golden egg.
"That wasn't so bad," Harry commented.
Harry sauntered off back towards the tents, still holding onto the hissing kitten with one hand and the golden egg in another. Back in the tent, she was greeted with a tight hug from Lupin, then Sirius, and Hagrid and Moody were rushing over to her—McGonagall in tow.
"That was amazin', 'Arry!" Hagrid exclaimed while Harry gave him the kitten.
"You might want to get that back to Charlie. Whenever he's ready, I'll turn her back into a dragon."
"No need for that, Potter," McGonagall dismissed, beaming. "I had no idea you could perform such transfiguration… where did you learn to do such a thing?"
"My darling Basilisk, of course," Harry said while Sirius ruffled her hair. "Padfoot!"
Sirius, however, just laughed happily. "That was the quickest and cleanest—and completly one-sided—match I've seen! I'm very proud of you, Harry."
Harry's cheeks flamed and she felt very, very warm at that moment.
That was about when the rest of her friends started to show up. Hermione and Ginny—Harry was actually starting to get used to their actions—threw themselves at Harry, and Harry just patted them on the back. Draco gave Harry an appraisingly look while Neville just grinned brightly. Luna smiled serenely, content with just that while Fred and George—once Hermione and Ginny were done with their hugs—wrapped their arms around Harry's shoulders. Oliver gave her an approving look and the girls grinned brightly at her.
Ron gave Harry a small smile. "… Sorry, mate."
Harry eyed him another moment before shrugging. "Nothing to apologize for, Ron."
Ron grinned and the twins moved to ruffle his hair.
"So how did I do?" Harry asked. "What's my score?"
"You were the best one, by far," Sirius said immediately.
Draco nodded his head. "Diggory tried transfiguring some rock into a dog to distract the dragon; didn't work out too well because the dragon changed its mind half-way through."
"Fleur tried to put the dragon into some sort of trance," Ginny said. "It kind of worked, but then the dragon snorted and set her skirt on fire—she was able to put it out, but… you know."
"Krum knocked the dragon right in the eye with some sort of spell—only it trampled over half the eggs in agony, they took off points for that, not supposed to hurt the eggs," Ron added.
"Let's see…" Hermione said, her eyes moving away and towards the judges' table. Harry and the other's followed her gaze.
Bagman — 10
Crouch — 10
Dumbledore — 10
Maxime — 9
Karkaroff — 5
"Five?!" Harry squeaked. "Oh, hell no!"
"You're in first place, Harry," Ginny exclaimed.
"Damn straight I am—bastard Karkaroff—"
"Harry!" Lupin admonished. "Language."
"But he is," Harry insisted.
"Oh, let her have her fun," Sirius sighed. "She's just faced a dragon and kicked arse, for God's sake! If she wants to call that self-righteous git a bastard, let her."
"You're not helping," Lupin hissed, glaring at Sirius. "Harry is at a very influential stage in her life and encouraging such rude manners will do her no good—"
"They kind of fight like a married couple," Tom remarked.
"So while Fred and George are setting up for my, er, surprise party at passing the first test, I thought I would go ahead and see if I could figure out the supposed clue in the egg," Harry told Basileus, setting out the egg before him.
Tom drifted to sit next to her, pursing his lips.
"Very well, missstresss. I will sssee if I can be of ssserviccce," Basileus hissed, lowering his head, his eyes closed, as per normal, and his tongue flickering out.
Harry reached out her pale fingers, brushing them over the cool metallic egg before releasing the hatch. A horrible piercing sound filled the air and Harry immediately closed it, her ears ringing. Even Tom looked upset, however Basileus, looked very thoughtful.
"That isss a familiar sssound," Basileus said, mulling it over. "I have heard thossse voicccesss before… here at Hogwartsss…"
"I think I would have remembered hearing something like that," Tom and Harry said dryly.
The two exchanged sardonic looks.
Basileus gave a small grunt, his tail waving in annoyance. "Just a scarccce few timesss on the nightsss you allow me to hunt in the foressst, missstresss."
"It's a creature from the Forbidden Forest?" Harry guessed.
"Not the woodsss, exactly," Basileus hissed, still mulling over the sound. "… Ah… Ah!" Basileus straightened up, his tongue flickering out. "The lake. I heard the sssound from the lake. Try lissstening to the sssound underwater, missstresss."
Harry frowned thoughtfully. "I suppose I could sneak into the prefect's bathroom real quick—as the girl's bathroom only has showers. Alright, thank you, precious one."
"Alwaysss happy to help you, missstresss."
In most cases, Tom waited outside the bathroom, like a perfect gentlemen. Due to the nature of visit in this course, though, Tom followed behind Harry, nonplussed while Harry up out the bath and locked the door behind her. It wouldn't take her long, so she wasn't bothered about any short comings for any of the prefects. As the water filled, she pulled off her clothes—keeping her undergarments on—and setting them off to the side.
Harry was rather self-conscious of her appearance, especially given her… markings. It was why she never changed in front of any of the girls, why she refused to partake in swimming, no matter how persistent, and why she always made sure to take her showers after the girls had already gone to bed. She couldn't wear swimsuits, one-piece or otherwise, or else some or the markings would show, she couldn't even wear sleeveless shirts without having to put special make up on her arms and shoulders.
She didn't want anyone to see her markings—see those marks of shame. Especially after she had already built herself up to be someone so much stronger in their eyes. How could she explain that not once did she resist receiving them when she was younger? It was one of her greatest regrets—her docile nature in the beginning. She learned her lesson now, of course, but she would rather she didn't have to have that lesson burned into her very skin. She didn't want anyone to look at her like that, either. Give her those kinds of looks. She was above pity. Moratorium was above pity.
But most importantly, she didn't want them to pry. Because if they knew about those superficial markings—what else did Harry carry that they did not know?
Besides, it didn't matter now. They were gone from her life for good. It didn't do to dwell in the past.
Tom already knew about her scars, and he had seen firsthand, already, what they had done. Granted, he didn't see the worst of it firsthand, but he knew. He knew and he understood. It was okay if he knew. It was okay if he saw more than the marks on her back. It was alright.
Harry resisted a shudder when she felt Tom's gaze on her. She looked up and met his eyes, and noted how utterly blank his expression was.
She was grateful for it.
She stepped into the bath, pulling the egg down with her and pulling her Quidditch goggles over her eyes. She went down into the water and had to resist shuddering and ignore instant chilling fear that coursed in her stomach.
There was another reason she did not swim, another reason why she did not even take baths, only showers. Her fingers tightened around the egg and she had to consciously force her heart rate to slow down. She released the hatch over the egg and… listened.
"Come seek us where our voices sound,
We cannot sing above the ground,
And while you're searching ponder this:
We've taken what you'll sorely miss,
An hour long you'll have to look,
And to recover what we took,
But past an hour—the prospect's black,
Too late, it's gone, it won't come back."
Harry lurched above the water, breathing heavily. "… Tom?"
"There aren't… there aren't merpeople in the lake, are there?"
"I think it's safe to say there are."
"Right. Alright, so they're going to take what I'll—OHMYGODBASILEUS!"
Tom stared at Harry, while she frantically lurched-slashed-jumped out of the bath, slipping on the wet floor and falling on her butt. She wailed, "Oh my God! I have to hide him! Not my familiar!"
"I don't think they could even if they wanted to," Tom said dryly, placing a hand on Harry's shoulder in a calming gesture, even though she couldn't feel it.
Harry blinked up at Tom owlishly before blushing sheepishly. "… Oh, right. But then who else—OHMYGODBUCKBEAK!"
Tom placed his hand over his face. "It's not your pet Hippogriff, either. It's… well, it could either be a valuable object, or…"
"One of your friends?" Tom ventured. "Hermione? Ginny? Draco? Neville? Maybe even Sirius?"
"So, let me get this straight…" Harry trailed off. "For the second task they want me to go swimming in the lake with merpeople to go and rescue one of my friends that the merpeople—or judges—would have kidnapped and I only have an hour to do so?"
"That would be the best guess. That or it could be an object," Tom confirmed.
"I'm not swimming," Harry said immediately. "I can't… I can't swim. At all. Not even in the slightest manner."
"You've never learned how to swim?" Tom asked incredulously. Harry shifted uncomfortably.
"It's… it's a bit more than that," Harry muttered. "I just… I just don't have good memories involving my head underneath water."
Understanding dawned on Tom's face and he gave a sigh. "There's not enough time to deal with an issue like that. The second task is set in February…"
Harry chewed on her bottom lip, grabbing a towel and beginning to dry herself. "The rules… do you remember the rules, Tom?"
"Of course I do."
"Then correct me if I'm wrong… are all spells allowed in the tournament, well, except for the illegal ones?"
"Yes, but I don't see—" Tom stopped himself, his eyes widening. He gave Harry an appreciative smile. "You're a bloody genius, Harry."
Harry beamed. "I know. Now let's get to the party, I don't know about you, but I'm hungry."
Harry stretched out luxuriously on her back. Fred and George laid down on each side of her, and they had charmed a parchment to float above their heads while they looked at it. It was after the party and everyone else had gone to bed—the trio snuck down after their roommates were asleep.
"Alright, so I'll talk to the elves that night," George said.
"And I'll move in while you distract them," Fred added.
"Which leaves me to the compulsion charm," Harry concluded.
"You're certain Dobby will be up to the task?" George asked.
"Don't be ridiculous. Of course he will be. I even told him to write out a special message just for me."
Fred and George snorted.
The entirety of the Gryffindors were gathered in a large, spacious room. McGonagall eyed each and every one of them. Harry was leaning on Ginny, trying hard not to fall asleep. The boys were gathered at one end of the room, and the girls at the other.
"The Yule Ball has been a tradition of the Triwizard Tournament since its very beginning. On Christmas Eve night, we and our guests gather in the Hall for a night of well—mannered frivolity. As representatives of the hosting school, it is prudent that we put our best foot forward—and I mean this literally because the Yule Ball is in short… a dance."
Lavender Brown let out a shrill giggle and Parvatiy Patil nudged her hard in the ribs. Ginny rolled her eyes and Harry gave up on resisting the lull of sleep while Hermione merely raised her eyebrow.
"The House of Godric Gryffindor has commanded the respect of the wizarding world for nearly ten centuries. I will not have you besmirch that name in a single evening, which is why I have set this up. At the end of classes, three times a week, we will be having dance practice. For this dance… dress robes will be worn, and it is a chance for all of us to—er—let our hair down, but that does not mean that we will be relaxing the standards of behave—Miss Potter, quit snoring."
Harry gave a snort, blinking her eyes awake. "Forty-two."
"You especially should be paying attention as it is tradition for the champions and their partners to open up the dance," McGonagall said, her eyes narrowed.
"What?" Harry shrieked, her eyes wide.
"You heard me," McGonagall said. "You are expected to find your own partner—I trust you will find someone suitable."
"Is that going to be an issue, Miss Potter?"
"… Well, no, it's just… Oh, never mind…"
When that dreadful meeting was over, Harry stayed after, grabbing one other person, and deciding to get the entire thing over with. She waited until everyone was gone before finally talking to him.
"I want you to ask me to the ball," Harry said in a very firm voice.
Oliver blinked. "What? Seriously?"
Oliver shifted sheepishly. "I'm not complaining, but I am a bit surprised. Alright. Will you—"
"You can't just ask me now."
Harry shot him an annoyed look, blushing. "Because it's not right. I would—I would prefer you asked me in a proper manner, but if you really don't want to, then I suppose I could—"
"No, no," Oliver said quickly. "I get it. Sorry, I'm not used to—er—well, this sort of thing. Didn't really go to any of the dances before, but… but I want to make sure I at least do it right, 'specially with someone like you. So, just pretend I didn't say anything, alright? I'll, uh, I'll talk to you later, right?"
Harry, still blushing in embarrassment, nodded her head.
With that taken care of, Harry strolled away, ignoring the pleased and flattered fluttering in the pit of her stomach.
"Who's such a pretty Hippogriff? You are, yes, you are," Harry cooed at Buckbeak, who nipped affectionately at her. Harry caressed his large, feathery head, nuzzling him affectionately.
Hagrid watched her, amused, while he continued on feeding the other Hippogriffs.
Luna—who was accompanying Harry—looked up from her books. Luna and Harry hardly had time for interactions, seeing how they were in different year groups and different Houses. Ginny and Colin saw Luna more often than Harry did, but that was alright. At least the trio of them seemed to get along swimmingly.
"Harry, you don't seem concerned for the second task," Luna remarked.
"'Course not. I already have a plan figured out.
"I know. But every plan has its risks, aren't you concerned for those?"
"Don' be silly," Hagrid chimed in, laughing heartily. "Why, 'Arry's one of the toughes' gals I know."
Luna smiled serenely. "That's true. I'm sure no one will notice when the other champions show up in their own swimming wear, and you show up in your regular clothes."
Harry flushed, pursing her lips. "Well, they're just going to have to deal with it."
It couldn't have been more than a day later, did Harry found herself walking through the courtyard, Hermione and Ginny flanking her. She had already made a mental note to talk with Cedric about the second task—she seriously could not have him dying on her so soon, what an annoyance—and Ginny mentioned she had seen him in the courtyard, so she was taking her and Hermione there.
The courtyard, as always, was filled with students, despite how snow already covered the ground.
"There he is," Ginny said, pointing towards Cedric. Harry raised her wand in preparation of summoning him again, but there was a high keening sound that stopped her. She faltered, looking around to find two toy-sized brooms come racing towards her. Hermione and Ginny squeaked in surprise, moving away and the brooms circled Harry, spinning fast enough to move her hair. Suddenly, they exploded in a shower of sparks and Harry blinked in surprise to find that when the sparks touched the ground, bright red roses bloomed in their place.
The spectacle had already attracted everyone's attention in the courtyard, their eyes locking on Harry, and Harry found herself torn between blushing—as she had a feeling what this was—and feeling rather smug.
And there, a spotlight shone on her—not a real one, of course. Harry recognized it as the moonlight charm—it would only last a minute—that Flitwick had taught the class as a special request for Christmas last year. Still, Harry shifted underneath the surprisingly warm light and looked up in time to see Oliver flying towards her on his Quidditch broom. He stopped before her, standing upright on his broom as it lowered to the ground.
Whispers could be heard from the other students and Harry was quite certain Ginny and Hermione were giggling—along with a fair few others. Oliver gave a low bow, flourishing out a bouquet of roses and presenting them to a speechless Harry. Harry took them wordlessly, knowing full well that her face as bright as red as the roses.
"Will you, Harriet Potter, accompany me, Oliver Wood, to the Yule Ball?" Oliver asked, still bowing.
"Y-Yes," Harry managed, her face flaming. "Thank you."
Oliver grinned up at her, straightening his position, his cheeks a little red—though Harry couldn't tell from sheepish embarrassment or the cold. Harry knew Oliver wasn't one to be scared of a crowd—he was their Keeper, after all, and played in front of hundreds without batting an eyelash. "Thank you, Harry. See you then."
He then flew off on his broom, and Harry admitted that was her favorite part.
After all, it was against the rules to fly brooms on school grounds.
Hermione and Ginny rushed to her side the moment the charms faded, giggling.
"Congratulations, I knew you liked him," Hermione said immediately, beaming proudly at her friend. Harry blushed brightly.
"H-How could you possibly know that?"
"Because I know you," Hermione said.
"He seems like a very nice guy," Ginny added. "I'm very happy for you two, you look very good together."
Harry buried her face in her roses, her stomach and heart fluttering. "Sh-Shut up."
"Oh, gag me with me a spoon," Tom muttered.
It took a while before Harry was able to find Cedric again—after all, she was so pleasantly embarrassed from Oliver asking her out, she didn't notice Cedric and his crew leaving. However, when she did find him—surrounded by his friends… again—she wasted no time in using an Accio to summon him.
Cedric gave a startled shout when he was suddenly pulled away from his friends, around a corner, down a hall, and stopped right in front of Harry.
Cedric gave her a look. "Are you always going to do this?"
"Depends. Did you figure out the egg, yet?"
Cedric blushed. "Not yet."
"Listen to it underwater," Harry told him. "I don't think you can die in this challenge, so I won't tell you anything more. And if you do, I'll be sure to save your arse again."
"I can take care of—"
Harry gave him an unimpressed look.
Cedric fell silent, flushing. "Well… thanks… again."
Harry nodded, accepting his words. "No problem. Have a pleasant day, boy."
"You too, Harry…"
Ever since Oliver's rather impressive show, some girls refused to be asked out in any less of a manner. All over Hogwarts you could see extravagant showings and flourishes. However, in Harry's completely objective opinion, her way was the best way, naturally.
But that wasn't important. At that moment, Harry was completely focused on the people she had gathered in front of her.
"Alright. I've already explained what I want your memories for," Harry said, staring at Fred, George, Hooch, McGonagall, Katie, Alicia, and Angelina. "I've already written out my letters, now I just need to collect your guys' memories, if you'll let me."
They exchanged glances.
"What a silly thing to ask," Alicia giggled.
"We'd be delighted to help you in this," Hooch finished.
Harry breathed heavily as she sagged down. The runes that she had drawn under Basileus' instructions slowly dimmed down from their bright green. Basileus let out a long, tired breath, his entire body slack.
The process of bonding a familiar with a witch, or wizard, was a long and uncomfortable one. If Harry could describe it, it would be like having a vaccuum stuck inside of you, sucking everything about you out, and once you became an empty shell, it went in reverse and started forcing foreign things into you.
It lasted nine hours exactly.
"Are you okay, precious one?" Harry asked, slowly turning her head and staring tiredly at Basileus.
Basileus turned his head and opened his eyes. Harry stared into his eyes for several heartbeats before he hissed softly, "I am now."
"You have beautiful eyes," Harry said.
"Ssso do you, missstresss."
Harry smiled weakly.
"Are you okay?" Tom asked, peering down at Harry.
"I am… tired. I don't think I have ever been... this tired, even from the Dementor attack. I am unsure if I'll be able to wake up... in time for class… Dobby!" Harry croaked.
In a snap, Dobby appeared, bowing lowly. "Yessus, Missus Potter?"
"Dear one, please… please inform Dumbledore… that I completed a familiar-bond with my Basilisk. He… he will understand."
"Does Missus Potter need anything from Dobby?" Dobby asked, his eyes wide with concern.
Harry smiled faintly. "A blanket… and position me next to Basileus… when I awake, I will be hungry… and I imagine Basileus will be, too… you know what we like."
"Right away, Missus Potter!" Dobby chirped, snapping his fingers. Immediately, Harry found herself propped up against Basileus, a blanket wrapped snugly around her. Her eyes drifted closed and she sagged.
"Sweet dreams, precious one."
"Pleasssant visssionsss, dear girl."
"Harry, oh thank goodness you're okay," Hermione said in a rush as Harry groggily entered the girls' dorm. It was late the following day, Harry had ended up sleeping throughout the rest of the night and a good chunk of the day, and only woke up and ate (ravenously so) before heading back up to the dorms.
"Of course I'm okay," Harry grouched. "I'm just tired."
"When you didn't come into class today—and you weren't in your bed this morning—I went to Dumbledore. He said that you were just tired…?"
"I have officially made my darling Basileus my familiar," Harry explained.
Hermione's brow furrowed. "Is the process difficult?"
"It's… not something I would want to repeat. Worth it, though. Extremely so. I can actually look in his eyes now," Harry said, a pleasant smile crawling on her face.
Hermione smiled in return. "I'm glad you're okay now, though."
Harry rubbed the back of her head. "Me, too. Ah, the Yule thing is coming up. Do you…?"
Hermione ducked her head, giggling. "Actually, yes. Krum."
"So long as you acknowledge I am the superior Seeker, I give you both my blessing."
Hermione laughed. "Alright. I'm biased, anyway…"
Harry patted her head. "Good. Now if you don't mind, I'd like to take a nice, long shower, and then go to bed."
The following day at the feast, Harry anxiously awaited for the food to arrive. The Marauder's next big plan involved a massive set up. At exactly six—two minutes after the food arrived—everyone would he compulsed to pour themselves some pumpkin juice and drink it all at once. At six-oh-one, everyone would be passed out in their food—there was a special repulsion charm on the food to make sure no one accidentally drowned in their food, too.
And about that time, Dobby would appear with many magic markers and draw special messages all over everyone's faces.
Harry sat in between Ron and Hermione, and when the food appeared and she took a drink of the charmed juice, she smirked.
She passed out happily.
"Ugh! I cannot believe those Marauders," Lavender Brown growled angrily as she tried to rub the magic marker off her cheeks. Harry and Hermione were on their beds, Hermione looking down into a handheld mirror as she tried to scrub her face. Lavender was mimicking Hermione's position, her own mirror larger, though.
Harry flipped through her book. "You have to admit it's clever though. Aren't you even a little bit curious how they managed to magic everything?"
"No," Lavender said crossly.
"I would be if I wasn't so crossed," Hermione bit out scathingly. "Is this stuff even removable?"
"It better be," Lavender snarled.
Harry chuckled. Lavender had lyrics to some random America rap song—Harry believed it was I Like Big Butts or something of the like scrawled on her face. Hermione had a book and a worm on both sides of her cheek. Harry had Basssilieusss'sss Missstresss scrawled across her face, and she was quite content with it. The marker was jinxed to disappear after three days—no sooner or later unless some serious effort was put into it.
"To hell with it," Hermione grumbled, throwing her mirror away. "Harry. Please tell me this goes away."
"Three days, 'Mione," Harry assured her.
Lavender groaned in exasperation. "I give up."
"Well… I don't suppose you've decided what to do with the second task."
"I have. I've got a plan already made," Harry said, looking up. "I'm very much looking forward to the task, truth be told."
"Of course you are," Tom muttered. "Adrenaline junkie."
Days went by, each uneventful and repetitive. The order met two more times—only Ron decided to join them, as well, and Lupin continued to privately instruct Harry in the Dark Arts. Soon, though, Christmas sprung around the corner and bright and early on Christmas morning, Harry flooed to her and Sirius's home (he had sent a letter to her, requesting her to come).
She stepped out of the floor, still wearing her pajamas, slippers and cap, and a little groggy-eyed. She could smell pancakes and appreciatively licked her lips. Heading into the kitchen, she found Sirius up—in his robes and slippers—along with Lupin—fully dressed for the day.
"Good morning, Pronglet," Sirius chirped, looking absolutely thrilled at Harry's appearance. Harry felt pleased at that, and a little confused. It was so odd to find an adult that genuinely looked forward to seeing Harry, and who sincerely wanted the best for her. "Although, from what I've been hearing, you're on your way to your own title."
Harry smirked. "Of course."
"And aside from the tournament, you haven't done anything reckless or endangering," Lupin added, raising an eyebrow at her.
"Nothing at all," Harry said. "Feel free to me with the truth serum."
"No need, Harry," Lupin assured her, smiling warmly. "I believe you. However, I do believe that merits a reward, as promised…"
Harry's eyes lit up.
"Oh, no," Tom said.
"That's right," Sirius said. "So, after breakfast and present-opening, the three of us will go wherever you need to find your animal."
Harry clapped her hands together, excitement burning through her. "I know exactly what I want."
"Excellent," Sirius said. "But first… breakfast!"
Harry grinned and took a seat, grabbing many pancakes for herself, some eggs, bacon and pouring warm syrup all over it.
"Yum," Harry sighed happily.
"That's disgusting," Tom sniffed.
Sirius laughed when Harry started shoveling food into her mouth. Lupin looked appalled. "See?! I told you, Sirius! I told you she would mimic your manners, and now look at her."
Harry swallowed the food. "I'm not mimicking Padfoot, though. I'm mimicking Fred, George, and Ron. And occasionally everyone else on the Quidditch team after Oliver makes us skip breakfast and practice throughout lunch, so we don't get to eat until dinner. It's madness, then. I've seen Alicia body tackle a first-year to the ground because he was going to get the last of the deserts."
Lupin looked horrified, while Sirius laughed. "And you say I'm a bad influence, Moony!"
"You are," Lupin insisted, but he still looked mildly appalled. "Harry, you really shouldn't behave like that. It's improper for a young lady."
Harry pouted. "You're being a stick in the mud. You're the girliest person at this table."
"Says the crossdresser," Tom muttered.
Sirius howled with laughter and Harry looked quite pleased with herself. "She's got you pegged, Moony."
"Who's side are you on?" Lupin grumbled.
"Pronglet's, 'course," Sirius said immediately. "Always."
"Oh, speaking of always, did I mention I officially have a familiar?"
"I don't believe you did," Lupin exclaimed, a smile brightening his features. "That's wonderful, Harry. Many congratulations. Who—er—what is your familiar?"
Harry returned his smile with one of her own. "Basileus, of course."
"Your Basilisk," Sirius said, blinking in surprise. "That's a very powerful creature, Pronglet."
"Indeed," Harry agreed, "and he's all mine."
Lupin reached over and ruffled her hair. "That's right. Now why don't we finish eating so you can open your presents?"
"Presents?" Harry echoed immediately, confusion coloring her voice.
"Of course!" Sirius blurted out. "We haven't been in your life for thirteen years—we had to really go all out."
Harry had to resist the urge to fidget uncomfortably. She understood it was normal for a child to receive Christmas presents from their family, and she logically knew that Sirius and Lupin were her family, but…
It was still strange. Foreign. Alien. Different.
The word family didn't seem to be associated with her. She had to reminder herself again and again that it did, though. That these two men were her family and they lo… loved her and wanted to be with her. How odd. It would stand to reason that of course she would have Christmas presents this year, but…
Harry managed a smile. "Right. My presents. I have some for you guys, too, so…"
They both looked surprised at that.
"You do?" Sirius asked incredulously.
"Of course! I always give presents to my friends and… and family."
Lupin and Sirius beamed.
Harry snuggled in her sweater that Lupin actually made for her ("Oh, God, he's such a mother hen," Tom had muttered when he saw the gift), and the matching mittens. She then turned around and grabbed Sirius's and Lupin's presents.
Lupin opened his first, frowning at the cloth. He took it out and his eyes widened with realization. "Harry, this is…"
"Transformative cloth, clothing that appears and disappears during a werewolf transformation, also sending numbing magic during the transformation to make it nearly painless—can also be charmed to sedate the werewolf when a certain amount of adrenaline enters their system, making the werewolf almost completely safe during transformation. I had them fitted into pajamas, complete with slippers."
Sirius gaped at the gift, as Lupin held it out. "Pronglet, Lily and James didn't even have enough money to afford this… how…?"
"I have made some wise investments," Harry dismissed. "It wasn't that expensive, and besides, it's the thought that counts."
"Harry, I don't think I can…"
"It's non-refundable," Harry put in mildly. "And I've already had it specially charmed to tranquilize you."
Lupin swallowed roughly. "... Thank you, Harry…"
Harry shrugged. "Open yours now, Padfoot."
Sirius hesitated a moment before opening his. It was a set. The latest, fastest broom, complete with a cleaning kit, a set of Quidditch balls, gear, and a specially made cloak to help ease the transition of an animagus.
"Pronglet, you're making us look like horrible gift-givers," Sirius whined.
"I can't help it if I'm superior at everything I do."
Tom rolled his eyes.
All bundled up (Lupin had forced Harry into numerous articles of clothing to keep her warm… Harry was starting to agree with Tom on his comment regarding Lupin being a mother hen) and warm, Harry followed Sirius and Lupin to the floo.
"So… what exactly do you want?" Sirius asked.
"You'll see. Hagrid knows a fellow, and agreed to… pick up the creature for us. We can meet Hagrid at the Leaky Cauldron."
"I see," Lupin said, a bit nervously. "... The animal is something that Hagrid had to get?"
"Mm-hmm. Hagrid suggested the creature to me, actually. He quite likes them and knows a whole bunch about them, too."
Sirius and Lupin exchanged nervous glances.
"Lead the way, Pronglet…"
"And his name shall be… Titan!"
"That's so unoriginal, Pronglet, considering how big these things get."
Harry glared at Sirius, shifting the tiny—about the size of three of her palms—canine in her lap. He was entirely black, very fuzzy and soft, and would not be growing a third head, like others of his family.
Yes. Harry got a baby Fluffy.
He wouldn't reach Fluffy's size for quite some time. By the time she graduated Hogwarts, he would roughly be the same size of her.
"Grea' pets, they are," Hagrid said, nodding his head as he looked down at the newly dubbed Titan. "Blind as can be fer their firs' year, 'ats why the firs' year is used teh imprint. Keep it close teh yeh, 'Arry. Well, you know wha' to do."
Harry nodded. Hagrid had already given her the basic know-how on how to care for the creature. Thankfully in the Hogwarts handbook, animals are permitted on the castle grounds if they are a.) familiars b.) used for school activities or c.) the wizard or witch is attempting to have them imprinted with them. She idly scratched behind his ear and Titan sneezed.
"It could be worse," Lupin sighed, crouching down to Titan's level. Titan sneezed again and both of his heads yawned. He curled up tighter in Harry's lap.
"Blind… so he won't accidentally be petrified by your familiar?" Sirius summarized.
Harry nodded. "I had to take into account animals that would live well enough with my darling Basileus. When Titan gets too big to carry around anymore, I'll have to keep him in the Chambers with Basileus, so I want an animal that will get along with him well enough. Hagrid suggested a breed like Fluffy because Fluffy's kind can actually be trained to accept any creature as part of their 'pack'. So long as I go through the correct process, Titan will accept Basileus as family—more than likely as an alpha. Also, I had to keep in mind that the new pet couldn't be Basileus's natural prey—those in the Hellhound family have tainted blood, automatically making them poisonous to eat, so Basileus won't even be tempted, or have to go against his nature."
"Smart," Lupin awarded.
"I certainly thought so," Harry agreed.
"Well…" Lupin trailed off, looking down at is watch. "It's about time you headed back to the school, though."
Sirius gave a petulant whine.
"There, there. We'll see her again," Lupin consoled, patting his chum on the shoulder.
Harry smiled. "Right. You'll both be there for the second task, won't you?"
"Wouldn't dream of being anywhere else, Pronglet," Sirius promised.
"... You got another pet," Hermione deadpanned, staring at Titan who was sleeping on Harry's bed.
Harry smirked, opening her bag and pulling out her dress. "Duh. I'll get another one at the end of the year, too."
Hermione rolled her eyes, before she peered at Harry's dress. "Is that what you're wearing?"
"Mm-hmm. Like it?"
"It suits you," Hermione giggled.
Harry's smirk slipped as she blushed.
"Do you want help?" Hermione offered.
"... I guess it wouldn't hurt…"
"Uch," Tom said, crinkling his nose. "I'm going down to the Chambers. Let me know when this whole fiasco is over."
Dressed and ready to go, Harry linked her arm through Hermione's, and the two headed out of the dorm room. Oliver was in the Gryffindor Common room, along with Ron, Neville, Ginny, the twins, Lavender, Alicia, Angelina, and—
"Who the hell let Draco in?" Harry asked incredulously, peering at her friend.
"I did," Neville said.
"I'm hiding from Pansy," Draco explained. "The girl's gone insane. She's talking about a wedding already."
"Congratulations," Hermione giggled.
"Shut up, Mudblood."
"Says the product of incest," Harry said dryly.
The Gryffindors snickered, while Draco glared at Harry, his cheeks flushed. "Oh, sod off."
Harry rolled her eyes, unlinking herself from Hermione and raising an eyebrow at Oliver. Oliver blushed, rubbing the back of his head sheepishly. He gave a low bow before procuring a small corsage and offering it to Harry.
"'Ittle Harrykins is growing up—"
"—better treat her well, Captain, else—"
"—she'll kick your arse," Fred finished, and the twins exchanged amused glances.
Harry snorted, taking the flower and slipping it on her wrist. "Well. Enough of that. Let's head down—we've got a ball to open."
"Yes, ma'am," Oliver said, grinning.
"Champions, over here," Professor McGonagall beckoned. Oliver and Harry broke away from their group (Draco was still hiding amongst them), heading over. Harry caught Hermione's eye, and the two girls exchanged smiles. Hermione looked beautiful, of course, as she was escorted by Krum who so didn't deserve her.
Better Seeker than Harry. Humph!
Fleur Delacour was being escorted by Roger Davies (the Ravenclaw Quidditch Captain, who was staring lovestruck at her), and Cedric escorted Cho Chang.
"Now get in lines in pairs and follow me, Champions," McGonagall said. She turned and entered the Great Hall, and everyone inside began to applaud as they entered. The group walked up towards a large round table at the top of the Hall, where the judges sat.
The Hall itself had been covered in sparkling silver frost with hundreds of garlands of mistletoe and ivy crossing the starry black ceiling. The House tables had disappeared; instead there were about a hundred smaller, lantern-lit ones, each seating about a dozen people.
Dumbledore was smiling happily as the Champions approached the top table, but Karkaroff glared sourly at Krum and Hermione, and even worsley at Harry (Harry made a mental note to make his life a hell for daring to glare at her friend). Bagman was clapping as enthusiastically as any of the students; Madame Maxime was applauding politely, and Mr. Crouch was nowhere to be found. Instead, the fifth seat was occupied by Percy.
When the Champions and their dates reached the table, Percy drew out the nearest empty chair beside him, and gave a pointed look at Harry. Harry's lips twitched in amusement and she sat down. Oliver pushed in her chair for her, and took a seat next to her.
"I've been promoted," Percy said before Harry could say anything else, practically brimming with pride. "I'm now Mr. Crouch's personal assistant, and I'm here representing him."
Harry picked up her menu, scanning it. "... Hmm… Pork chops, mashed potatoes and broccoli."
And as each Harry said each food, the food appeared on her plate. Oliver chose a similar meal, while Percy stuck to salad.
"If you get sauce over your dress robes, I am going to laugh at you," Harry informed Oliver as he looked down at his very saucy plate.
Oliver snickered. "But it wouldn't be nearly as bad as getting sauce on your dress robes."
"Or as funny," Harry said. "Because if that happened, it'd be a crime."
"Most definitely," Oliver said sardonically.
Harry's lips twitched and she fought back a smile, trying to keep her face completely serious. "Glad you understand."
When all the food had been consumed, Dumbledore stood up and asked hte students to do the same. Then, with a wave of his hand, all the tables zoomed back along the walls, leaving hte floor clear. He then conjured a raised platform into existence along the right wall. A set of drums, several guitars, a lute, a cello, and some bagpipes were set upon it.
The Weird Sisters (some famous wizard group) trooped up onto the stage to the wildly enthusiastic applause. They picked up their instruments, and lanterns on all other tables slowly went out.
"May I have this dance?" Oliver asked, bowing lowly and offering his hand. Harry took his offered hand, standing up from her chair and allowing Oliver to guide her to the brightly lit dance floor.
Upon reaching the floor, Oliver slid one arm around Harry's waist, while his other hand held Harry's hand tightly. Harry felt many eyes on her, and felt mildly uncomfortable. While she didn't mind attention, the circumstances in which she was receiving the attention was mildly embarrassing. Her cheeks flamed and she resisted the urge to look down at their feet.
Instead, she looked back up in Oliver's warm chocolate brown eyes.
Just like Quidditch, Harry. Oliver's the captain, and he's just calming you down before a big game, Harry told herself, slowly feeling her nerves die down.
The two revolved slowly on the spot, and after the first song ended, more students began to join the dance floor.
Into the fifth song of dancing, Harry deftly avoided Oliver stepping on her feet for the umpteenth time and Oliver winced sheepishly. "I think Quidditch is definitely easier."
"No joke. Do you have any idea how long we're supposed to be dancing anyway?" Harry asked, leading Oliver across the floor.
"Nope," Oliver said. "We can stop if you want, though."
"Hmm… If I don't like the next song too much, I'd suggest that we do. I may be graceful and magnificent, but I doubt even I could avoid your clumsy feet for so long," Harry said, a teasing tone in her voice.
Oliver's lips twitched and it seemed like he was trying not to smile. Instead, he tried looking hurt. "I'm wounded, Harry. How could you?"
Harry looked slightly guilty. "I'm sorry you have such fragile feelings."
He then stepped on her toes.
"Okay, yeah, we're done dancing," Harry laughed, pulling away from him. Oliver hung his head in mock shame, trailing behind her.
"I can't help it. Anywhere, but a broom, I've got two left feet," Oliver moped.
Harry's eyes sparkled with mischief. "Anywhere, but a broom, eh? Say, Oliver, wanna ditch?"
Harry shot past Oliver, laughing as she grabbed the Quaffle from his hands. She tossed the red ball into the goal post on the Quidditch Grounds. Oliver dove underneath Harry, reaching out and whipping around with his broom, hitting the ball back up in the air.
Harry pulled out her bat, swinging the bat as hard as she could. A resounding smack echoed the empty grounds, and the ball went flying… into the forest.
"Shit!" Harry laughed, accelerating her broom after the ball.
Oliver pulled his broom around, chasing after her and the ball.
Harry maneuvered through the branches and trees, the ball still flying ahead of her. Parts of her dress and hair snagged on the wily pieces of wood, but Harry pressed on. When she pulled out of the forest, she gripped tightly to the ball.
Oliver drifted over to her, his appearance mimicking her own with twigs sticking out of his hair and his clothes ripped in some parts. He stared at her a moment, then cracked a smile. "Did I mention you're beautiful?"
Harry stared at him, before she tossed her head back and laughed. "You choose now of all times to tell me that? After I've had my dress ripped apart by branches, the wind completely rape my hair, and I'm pretty sure I've got a brid's next living in the back of my hair. You have wonderful timing, Oliver."
Oliver blushed, embarrassed. "Sorry. Not too good with this sort of thing."
Harry waved him off. "Thank you, nonetheless. Now how about round two?"
Oliver grinned. "Bring it on."
"All done?" Tom asked dryly as Harry entered her bedroom in the Chamber. Titan looked up from the bed, barking happily, his voice high-pitched and carrying easily. Basileus was curled around the bed, resting on the warm, soft carpet. However, he lifted his massive head, his yellow eyes meeting Harry's.
"I am finished with the ball," Harry hissed softly, pulling off her dress. "How was your night?"
Tom gestured to the large stack of books that Harry had enchanted so he could read at his leisure. "Contentful. You look like you got thrown into a tree."
"The little one wasss very active. Dobby fed him and he hasss been asssleep since," Basileus informed Harry.
Harry finished changing out into her pajamas, before grabbing the blind puppy and picking him up. He wagged his tail furiously and both heads started licking her face. She grinned, kissing the top of each head. "Was he behaved for you, dear one?"
"He underssstood that I wasss in charge," Basileus said simply.
Harry nodded her head. "And to answer your question, Tom, I actually was thrown into a tree. Several times. Oliver and I ended up ditching the whole thing to play Quidditch. The twins joined us fifteen minutes in, along with their dates and Draco. Soon enough Hermione, Krum, some Durmstrang students, the rest of the Slytherin team, Fleur and her date, the Hufflepuff team… well, nearly everyone was outside playing a weird variation of Quidditch that I'm still not sure what the rules are for it. Then Snape showed up and kicked us all off to bed."
Yawning, Harry climbed into her bed, tucking Titan against her chest. Basileus rested his head back on the ground, letting out a soft hiss equivilant to a sigh. Tom stared at her for another moment, amusement dancing in his eyes. He then blinked, the amusement gone, and turned back to his book.
The lights went out in the Chamber.
Time passed by again, and anxiously, Harry awaited the second task. She was growing bored again, and that was just dreadful. Moratorium was being boring, too! And that was just sad. Then again, it wasn't really Moratorium's fault.
His assassins had been working swiftly, efficiently and well together. Each target had been eliminated in an unsuspicious manner, so there was nothing in their deaths in the obituary than just that—their deaths. No suspicions of foul play or anything.
Moratorium wanted to play it cautious—he didn't dare draw any more attention to him by erecting anything major in his plans. No, no, next year, he would be front and center, but this year… this was the year to wait.
Harry pouted petulantly at Moratorium, the two once again facing each other in that misty forest. Her animagus form was dancing in between the two, smiling at them both coyly.
"You need only to focus this year on yourself, Harry," Moratorium said, his voice silky smooth. "Then I will be dominating the majority of our time next year. By then, all of my serious political threats will be out of the way, and I would have successfully blackmailed the appropriate people."
"And what are you going to do about that bumbling buffoon?" Harry asked, frowning. "He's still holding a firm position."
"He will be dealt with, one way or another," Moratorium said vaguely. "Worry about yourself for now, dear child."
Harry sighed through her nose. "Yes, sir."
"Good girl," Moratorium praised. "Now, what have you found out regarding the latest idiot who's attempting to end us?"
Harry straightened up. "Nothing new in that regard. Hermione's tried convincing Crookshanks to hand over the map, but the familiar refuses to budge. I've had some of the lesser snakes near the castle searching the grounds in their free time, and none of the House Elves have found anything, either."
"Mn. Crookshanks is a clever one, it wouldn't surprise me if we didn't find the map until he deigns to give it to us," Moratorium said dismissively. "Then we must focus our attention on other means of finding out who this person is. When you have finished with your lesson, I wil send a letter to Marwyn, have him give me a list of all of the supposed Death Eaters that have died in Azkaban since your birth."
"That have died…?"
"Yes," Moratorium said. "Your thought process earlier… something rang out to me. I have a feeling that this Death Eater was supposed to have died long, long ago. And Harry… pay close attention to Crouch."
"Crouch?" Harry echoed.
"His eyes," Moratorium said, already turning and walking away. "For a supposedly hardened man, revered for his objective justice, his eyes mimic that of a weak man. Of a tool? I do not like such contradictions; they mean that I haven't been given all the information regarding him, and that is unacceptable."
When Moratorium disappeared, Harry let out a soft sigh, looking down at her animagus form.
The formed looked back up at her, and gave her a Cheshire grin.
Titan barked happily as he laid ontop of Harry's head. She, Ron, and Hermione were heading to the Three Broomsticks. Neville had homework to do, so he stayed behind and Draco said he'd meet them there, later.
"You know, Titan's actually growing on me," Hermione said fondly, reacing up and scratching the puppy's ears. Titan yipped again, licking Hermione's fingers and wiggling ontop of Harry's head. Harry adjusted her hat when he wiggled it out of place.
"Yeah," Ron agreed. "He's not at all like I thought he would be."
"Hagrid's been telling me loads of stories regarding him training and raising Fluffy," Harry was saying as the trio made their way through the snow. "I've learned quite a bit of what not to do with him. I'm really grateful for Hagrid. Which is one of the reasons why I wanted to talk to everyone soon. As you know, Hagrid's birthday was in December and while he certainly enjoyed his surprise birthday party and his gifts…" Harry trailed off. "... I wanted to get him something else. I wasn't able to make the appropriate connections until now, though, and even then, I'm not sure when it'll be finished."
"Harry, what are you saying?" Hermione asked softly.
"... Well, when I receive the package, I'll need your guys' help setting it up and keeping Hagrid away long enough to set it up…."
"Say no more," Ron declared. "'Course we'll help, Harry."
Harry beamed. "Thanks."
Titan yipped again, snorting and snuffling as the trio entered the Three Broomsticks.
"How odd. What's he doing here?" Hermione muttered, and Harry followed Hermione's gaze to find Ludo Bagman in a shadowy corner with a bunch of goblins. Bagman was talking very fast in a low voice to the goblibs, all of whom had their arms crossed and were looking rather displeased. But then, Bagman glanced over at the bar and saw Harry. He stood up immediately.
"In a moment, in a moment!" Harry heard him said brusquely to the goblins. He then hurried over to Harry, his boyish grin back in place.
"Harry!" Bagman exclaimed. "How are you? Been hoping to run into you. Everything going alright?"
"It's been well," Harry said evenly, taking the squirming Titan off her head and holding him in her arms instead.
"Wonder if I could have a quick word with you in private, Harry?" Bagman asked eagerly. "You couldn't give us a moment, you two, could you?"
"Er—okay," Ron said, frowning. Hermione and him exchanged glances before the two went off to find a table. Bagman led Harry along the bar to the furthest end.
"Well, I just thought I'd congratulate you again on your splendid performance against that Horntail, Harry. Really superb."
"But of course it was superb," Harry said modestly. "What are the goblins here for?"
"Er—well… They… er… they're looking for Barty Crouch."
Moratorium's interest piqued. He leaned forward, a coy smile on his face. "Now, why, pray tell, would they be looking for him here?"
"Er… actually…" Bagman shifted nervously. "He's sort of… stopped coming to work. Been absent for a couple of weeks now. Young Percy, his assistant, says he's ill. Apparently he's been sending instructions in by owl. But would you mind not mentioning that to anyone, Harry?"
"... Sending instructions by owl?" Tom asked incredulously.
_My, my, what a naughty situation._ Moratorium said. _Sick, indeed. Sick, or perhaps dead?_
Dead? Harry wondered.
"Dead?" Tom echoed.
_Can you think of a single illness a wizard could catch that left them unable to enter work, but still coherent enough to send instructions via owl? He must have had this since before the Ball… all this time and he hasn't gotten better? Come now, Tom. Surely I didn't overestimate your intelligence._
Tom gave Moratorium a dry look, recognizing the switch between Moratorium and Harry. "Don't be absurd, Moratorium. It's more or less why would someone want Crouch dead?"
_Why indeed? I have a feeling, though, it's related to his eyes._
"You mean why he had eyes like he was under Imperius?" Tom asked.
Moratorium froze, his eyes widening.
"... Because Rita Skeeter's still poking around everywhere she can, and I'm willing to bet she'd work up Barty's illness into something sinister. Probably say he's gone missing like Bertha Jorkins."
"... Have you heard anything about Bertha Jorkins?" Harry asked politely, giving Moratorium time to think.
_… Imperius? Did you say Imperius?_
"No," said Bagman, looking pained. "I've got people looking, of course… and it's all very strange. She definitely arrived in Albania, because she met her second cousin there. And then she left the cousin's house to go south and seen an aunt… and seems to have vanished without a trace en route. Blowed if I can see where she's got to… she doesn't seem the type to elope, for instance, but still… What are we doing, talking about goblins and Bertha Jorkins? I really wanted to ask you… but how are you getting on with your golden egg?"
"Of course I said Imperius," Tom said smoothly. "I've had enough experience watching those under the Curse from your DADA class, as well as my own… experiments in them, that I can recognize it well enough. It took me a while, I admit, and I only recently realized that he was under it… It was actually something Harry said that had me thinking. Harry told me that you didn't care too much for his eyes, and when I tried to recall his eyes… well, it clicked."
"I've already got the problem solved," Harry said confidently. "I'm looking forward to the next match, actually."
Bagman beamed. "Oh, that's wonderful! I knew you could do it, Harry."
_And you didn't mention this earlier...?_
"Don't tell me I overestimated your intelligence?" Tom asked mockingly.
Moratorium resisted the urge to turn around and glare at Tom. He chose instead, to cooly say, _Don't forget, if Harry dies, you die, too. And if I deem you a threat to us, I don't care how much potential you have, or how fond Harry has grown of you, I will end you._
Tom stilled, his eyes widening.
_Don't ever forget who's in charge. You've had your chance of greatness. You're lucky enough that Harry is willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, despite your reluctance to share knowledge regarding you're pathetic future-self._
Tom flushed angrily, his mouth working furiously, but no sound seemed to make it past his lips.
"Well then, I best dash, Harry. Good luck!" Bagman said, standing up. He moved to ruffle Harry's hair, and Harry had to consciously resist the urge to flinch away. Instead, she sat frozen, fighting the desire to smack his hand away. When he was done, the boyish man practically skipped away.
Harry looked over at Tom, finding his mouth firmly closed and he stubbornly looked away.
_Don't listen to Moratorium, Tom._ Harry said, squirming uncomfortably. She wasn't entirely sure what she was supposed to say. She didn't like seeing Tom so distressed, but she definitely didn't like Moratorium being upset.
_Listen to Moratorium, Tom._ Moratorium mocked.
"Thank you, Harry," Tom said pointedly, still looking rather annoyed. "But… Moratorium is right to an extent. I should have informed you the moment I knew. You have been very forthcoming with your information, as well as very… friendly."
He said the word friendly as though it was a strange and alien word. Harry wasn't sure how she felt with him saying that word. It was odd coming from his mouth, yet at the same time, Harry didn't really mind him saying—because he was referring to her when he said it. And for whatever reason, that seemed to please her. She blushed.
Moratorium noticed this, and pursed his lips. _So long as it doesn't happen again, I will not push the matter, and for the moment… I will not pursue what you are still hiding from us._
Tom bowed his head, not responding anymore.
Harry stood up from the bar, and headed over to Hermione, Ron and Draco. She slid in next to Draco, smiling. "Anything happen while I was… occupied?"
"Ron's an idiot, but that's nothing new," Draco sniffed. Ron glowered at him and Hermione rolled her eyes.
"What did he want?" Hermione asked, swiftly changing the subject.
"This and that. Does it matter? Did someone order me something to drink?"
"Butterbeer," Ron said, looking smug. "I ordered for you. Told you she would want something, Hermione."
Hermione huffed. "I didn't deny it, Ronald. I was simply—" Hermione cut off when a familiar voice drifted into the air.
"... didn't seem very keen to talk to us, did he, Bozo? Now, why would that be, do you think? And what's he doing with a pack of goblins in tow anyway? Showing them the sights… what nonesense… he was always a bad liar. Reckon something's up? Think we should do a bit of digging? 'Disgraced Ex-Head of Magical Games and Sports, Ludo Bagman...' Snappy start to a sentence, Bozo—we just need to find a story to fit it—"
"How delightfully viscious," Harry drawled, smirking as Rita Skeeter stopped her mutterings. The reporter who had just entered the Three Broomsticks, glanced over at the quartet.
"Harry!" she exclaimed. "How lovely! Why don't you come and join—"
"Another time, madam," Harry said, looking pained. "I am afraid I am… so very anxious regarding the next task. I came down here with my dear, and most trusted friends to calm down. They're all such caring people, you see… did I hear you mention Bagman? The poor man, so worried about something going wrong in the tournament, he's a bit frazzled. I hope you'll be kind to him."
Rita's eyes danced with excitement as she eyed the group like a hungry predator. "Dear friends, eh? I don't believe I've had the pleasure of meeting them."
"This is Hermione Granger, a muggleborn witch. One of the brightest I know. This is Ronald Weasley, a regular wizard-chess champion, and this is Draco Malfoy, Slytherin's best fourth-year student in my most objective opinion," Harry cooed. "And this, beautiful creature in my lap is Titan. He's my latest pet that my kind, and caring godfather and uncle gave me for Christmas."
"Oh, I see, I see," Rita said, her quill moving furiously across her notepad.
"Yes, indeed," Moratorium said smoothly, taking momentary control. "Madam Skeeter, I was curious… were you able to drudge up any information regarding H—I mean, my first year at Hogwarts with Madam Bones?"
Rita's lips twitsted into an ugly, annoyed frowned. "No. She won't talk… I don't suppose you would?"
Moratorium looked scandalized. "Oh, I couldn't now, Madam. Please… I just came down here to relax. Perhaps another time? Please."
"Of course, of course. Anything for the public's darling," Rita cooed. "You're always welcome to talk to me."
"I know, and I will… believe me, I intend to tell you so much when I can," Moratorium promised.
With an excited giggle, Rita headed away from the group.
"... Wow," Draco said. "Those lessons with Lockhart really paid off."
Harry nodded her head. "I know. It's so obvious how to work the press. Each reporter is different, you see. With Rita, you just have to lay it on extra thick. She loves drama, so the more dramatic you make it, the better. She's one of the reasons Lockhart got so famous in the first place—his melodramatic personality gave her the perfect fuel for her articles."
"It's kind of nauseating see you work the press, though," Ron admitted. "... Please don't do it again in front of me."
Draco snorted and Hermione looked faintly amused. Harry just grinned. "Alright. I'll do my best."
At long last, the evening before the second task was about to begin. Harry sat beside Oliver on the couch, homework spread out across their laps and specially enchanted to float around them. Hermione and Ginny laid down on the stomachs, side by side, each reading their own books. Ron was in the middle of a game of Wizard Chess with George (Fred wanted to grab something from the kitchen real quick for everyone), and Neville was answering a long letter from his Grandmother.
Harry gave a yawn, momentarily resting her head on Oliver's shoulder. She had stayed up late the night before with Basileus, reviewing the plan. Titan was chewing on a large bone, growling occasionally with both of his heads.
"Oi, Oliver, 'Mione," Fred said, entering the room, bundles of food in his arms. "Professor McGonagall wants to see you two."
"Why? asked Hermione, surprised.
"Dunno… she was looking a bit grim. George and I will take you down to her office," Fred said, motioning to George. George stood up from his game, moving away and ruffling Ron's hair.
Harry frowned, mildly annoyed as her pillow stood up, stretching.
"Right, then. See you tomorrow, Harry," Oliver said, yawning.
"I'll clean up and take the books to your dorm," Harry replied when Oliver bent down to start picking up his homework.
Oliver grinned. "Thanks."
Hermione stood up uneasily, frowning. "... Lead the way, then."
Fred and George both gave a mocking bow before turning away and marching out of the Gryffindor Commons.
_Well. I guess it's fairly obvious who they're taking from me._ Harry thought, watching the two leave.
"Both Hermione and Oliver?" Tom asked, watching them leave, as well.
_No. I bet Hermione is for Krum. Oliver is mine, though. They're probably take all the Champion's escorts. If Krum doesn't manage to save Hermione, then I will, of course. However… while I don't think he's all that great of a Quidditch player, it's obvious he cares for Hermione… doesn't deserve her, but he'll definitely try to look out for her._
In the morning, Harry calmly walked beside Neville out to the lake. The two made their way to the wooden towers, that rested at the center of the lake, and already they were nearly filled with babbling students. Harry found Sirius easily enough, as he and Lupin were with the judges and other Champions. She said goodbey to Neville and headed towards the Champion section.
Sirius grabbed her in a hug, and Titan squirmed in Harry's arms. Harry placed the anxious puppy on the ground, where he barked and wagged his tail.
"Cute puppy. Don't worry, I'll be staying with you," Harry whispered to the creature, winking. Titan seemed to understand, because he looked beside himself with glee.
"How are you, Pronglet?" Sirius asked, smiling easily. "Nervous?"
"No. Never. Don't be absurd."
Lupin chuckled, reaching around Sirius and patting her head. "Of course, of course."
"Well, with everyone here, I suppose it's time to start," Bagman exclaimed, looking quite pleased. Pointing his wand at his throat, his voice boomed across the dark water and echoed around the towers. "Well, all our champions are ready for the second task, which will start on my whistle. They have precisely an hour to recover what has been taken from them. On the count of three, then."
Harry raised her wand. She noticed all the other contestants were in their swimsuits, while she was the only one still in her pajamas (why should she bother getting dressed for something that would only take a handful of minutes), a scarf wrapped around her, mittens worn on her hands and a hat placed firmly atop her head.
"One… two… three!"
"Serpentosia!" Harry cried out, waving her wand. Caught off guard by her strange spell, the other Champions faltered, looking at her wand.
The tip of her wand glowed a bright green before a large, very large, snake erupted from the end of it.
Basileus let out a feral cry, his voice ringing around the stands and causing total silence. He dove into the water, disappearing below the surface.
"Go, my familiar. Bring back Oliver to me, and kill anyone in your way," Harry cooed, wiggling her fingers in a goodbye manner.
Dumbledore cleared his throat, the only one present that didn't look thunderstruck, horrified, or had fainted. "I would prefer it if the merpeople were left unharmed, Harry."
Harry pouted. "Fine… but he is so allowed to defend himself."
Harry closed her eyes, concentrating on Basileus. Immediately, she could feel his presence and it was almost as if he were curled up around her, like he normally was in the Chambers.
Love, don't massacre the merpeople. Self-defense only, sweetheart.
Severing the connection, she happily looked around to find that the majority of people were still staring at her.
"What?" Harry asked, confused. "That's my familiar, Basileus. You didn't actually think I would be willing to swim in a lake in February? Honestly. Do you take me for some kind of idiot? No offense to the other Champions, of course."
"We can't all be geniuses," Cedric said dryly, still looking pale. "It's… not going to attack us, is it?"
"He," Harry corrected, annoyed. "Only if you attack him."
"Right," Cedric said, swallowing roughly.
"Because we obviously wan' to attack 'im," Fleur said, her voice shaky.
Krum stared at the water another moment before he shook his head and dove in.
"Finally, someone with balls in the competition," Harry muttered under her breath, staring at Cedric distastefully.
"... That's certainly a unique way of getting your treasure," Bagman said, looking torn between excitement and terror. It was an odd combination on his face to say the least.
"What can I say? I'm a unique person."
"Surely, that's not allowed," Karkaroff blustered.
Sirius's eyes narrowed. "Are you implying my goddaughter is cheating? How dare you!"
"Sirius, you don't know the rules, she very well could be," Lupin pointed out reasonably.
"I'm not," Harry piqued.
"I never doubted you for a second, unlike that traitorous Moony," Sirius whispered to her. Lupin glared at him and Harry giggled.
"Then I see no reason why she cannot use a spell to summon her familiar. There certainly wasn't anything in the rules, last I checked," Dumbledore said patiently.
"You do realize, Fleur, Cedric, that you're wasting time? Basileus already found Oliver and is on his way back," Harry put in mildly.
Fleur flushed and nodded her head. She looked thoroughly scared, but finally jumped in. Cedric hesitated another moment before following after her.
Not even ten seconds after they left, did Basileus pop back up. Oliver on top of his head, and the snake kept his eyes closed.
"For you, missstresss," Basileus hissed softly, lowering his head. Oliver spluttered and coughed, shivering.
Harry beamed, kissing Basileus's nose and taking Oliver's hand. Oliver stepped off the snake and looked around, bewildered.
Basileus dove back into the lake, disappearing below the surface and heading back to the Chambers.
"I think it's safe to say that Harry wins this challenge," Sirius said, grinning.
Oliver was still looking confused. "... What happened?"
Harry patted his arm. "I'll explain everything later. If that's it, can I go back to bed? I'm tired."
"Of course, Harry. Sweet dreams," Dumbledore said, clearly amused.
Harry beamed, wrapping an arm around Sirius and Lupin's arms. "Come on! I'll sleep back home. Assuming Professor Dumbledore doesn't mind…?"
"Of course not, Harry."
Of course, upon returning to Hogwarts, Harry was swamped with numerous people inquiring her sotry on Basileus. Not that she minded—she was delighted to tell people how wonderful and great Basileus was. Frankly, she was just content in knowing they weren't being so moronically scared about him. She could understand that summoning him wasn't what was expected, but it still seemed so obvious to her that she didn't even consider how the rest would feel. Oh, well.
"… So Padfoot and I just watched a movie while Lupin made lunch. I then crashed after eating and finishing the movie," Harry said, finishing her retailing of what her day went by. Hermione nodded her head, frowning slightly.
Neville smiled. "Well, I think it's great that Dumbledore is letting you spend time with your family after the challenges."
Hermione smiled at that. "That is nice. Ah… Are you going to be doing anything over the summer, Harry?"
"Uh… Aside from training Titan, and studying, I don't have any specific plans. Why?"
"My parents and I usually go on vacation over the summer—someplace out of the country, as you know," Hermione began, "and they said I could invite one friend, and I was hoping you would be willing to…?"
Harry blinked in surprise, her mouth hanging open for a couple of seconds before she recovered. "Really? You—You want to spend a vacation with me?"
"Of course," Hermione said.
"I wouldn't mind if you visited me and my Grandmother, either, Harry," Neville added. "She's picky about who comes over, but I'm sure she'd love you."
Harry blushed in embarrassment. "I… I would love to go on vacation with you, Hermione, and I'm sure I'd have loads of fun with you and your grandmother, Neville."
Both of Harry's friends smiled at that.
"Speaking of the summer…" Hermione trailed off, blushing scarlet. "Krum actually asked me to visit him."
"Do you want to?" Harry asked.
"I haven't decided. I told him I would think about it," Hermione admitted.
"It wouldn't hurt," Neville pointed out. "He must not get a lot of friends, always crowded away from the other students at his school by Karkaroff, or his celebrity status must make others shy to approach him. I know I wouldn't have been friends with Harry, if she hadn't initiated contact first."
Hermione nodded her head. "That's true… I think I will, then. Besides, he's awfully smart. He loves reading, too."
Harry pursed her lips. "While no one will ever be good enough for you in my completely objective opinion, I acknowledge that Krum isn't… the worst option to have as a friend, or… more."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "So glad to know I have your approval."
Harry smiled coyly and the trio entered the potions classroom. Ron hadn't joined them because he was still recovering from one of the Marauder's pranks (they had randomly set up jinxes to go off around the school at erratic times). Harry moved to sit up at the front of the classroom, placing her bags and books on the table. Hermione sat next to Draco in her usual spot, and Neville beside Harry.
Snape entered the room, his robes billowing behind him as he slammed the door shut. His black eyes glittered as he eyed each student blankly before his eyes settled on Harry and Neville.
"Oh, no. I won't have you sitting so close to my desk for this potion. Longbottom, go sit with Malfoy and Granger," Snape sneered. Neville blushed deeply and Harry's eyes narrowed warningly.
Annoyed, Harry set to work on the ingredients, mashing her scarab beetles into a fine dust.
"All this press attention seems to have inflated your already overlarge head, Potter," Snape said quietly, sitting down at his desk and looking up at her. He said the words quietly enough that even Harry had to strain to hear them—she doubted anyone else could.
"You might be laboring under the delusion that the entire Wizarding world is impressed with you, but I don't care how many times your picture appears in the papers. To me, Potter, you are nothing but a nasty little girl who considers rules to be beneath her," Snape went on, and Harry finally looked up, locking eyes with him. "So I give you a fair warning, Potter. Pint-sized celebrity or not, if I catch you breaking into my office and stealing my supplies one more time—"
"I haven't been anywhere near your office," Harry sneered.
"Don't lie to me," Snape hissed. "I don't know what you need the ingredients or potions for, but I swear—"
"You are a sad, pathetic man," Moratorium said, his voice silky smooth. Snape stilled, his eyes narrowing in confusion at the slightly different voice, and Moratorium's different posture. "Your distaste for Harry Potter is pitiful. I suggest you stop your harassment or things will not turn out well for you."
"Are you threatening me?" Snape asked, his voice low.
"I'm only stating facts," Moratorium returned, before looking back down to Harry's potion. He had better things to do than indulge the bitterness of a worthless man.
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" Tom asked, frowning.
_That his stolen ingredients aren't just some student using them for nefarious purposes?_
"Crouch under Imperius—probably dead now—Harry's name entering the Goblet, ingrediants being stolen from Snape's office… this can't all be a coincidence," Tom commented.
_You're right. But where's the connection? I can only hope Marwyn's list of supposedly dead Azkaban members has been completed by now. Something tells me our answer lies in one of those names._
Harry Potter finished her potion's class before she made an arupt departure, practically sprinting to the Chambers. Once there, Moratorium headed into his own private study. He finished changing into his attire and before using the two-way mirror to summon Marwyn and having him meet Moratorium at the Sinful Island.
Moratorium flooed directly to his private suit in the luxurious hotel, paying little heed to the gorgeous view and furniture that surrounded him. He moved towards the window that overlooked the island. He could see hundreds of witches, wizards and other magical creatures roaming about. While it was day at Hogwarts, it was night here.
There was a crackle of fire, signaling the floo in use.
Moratorium did not bother to turn around.
"It took a while, but here is your list," Marwyn said, moving towards Moratorium. Moratorium held out his left hand and Marwyn placed the parchment in it. Marwyn did not question why Moratorium needed the list, nor did he ask why Moratorium was in such a hurry for the list. It was not his place to question. It was his place to do.
Moratorium skimmed over the names. He did not like it when Harry was in actual danger. He especially did not like it when it was against an unseen enemy.
"And their bodies?" Moratorium inquired.
Marwyn blinked in surprise at the question before recovering. "… All buried in Azkaban."
Moratorium did not respond right away.
"I see. Your payment will be deposited in your vault, as per usual. I have another task for you, though. This weekend, make the connections. Do whatever needs to be done, but do not let anyone else know about this and if someone does find out, cut them loose. I want to see those bodies. All of them."
Again, Marwyn did not question. Instead, he began to think of how to go about completing this next task. "… I take it you will want me to personally escort you to these bodies?"
"Yes. Don't worry about digging them out. I'll take care of that," Moratorium murmured smoothly, finally turning around and adjusting his hat. "… Before I forget, how are my little assassins doing?"
"Well, as you probably know," Marwyn replied. "The one we discussed earlier certainly has promise… he's completed all of his targets already."
"So soon? My, my… And I haven't heard about the deaths of half of them."
"Because the world doesn't even know, yet," Marwyn said.
"Excellent," Moratorium purred.
Come the weekend, Harry Potter informed her friends she would be spending the weekend with her darling Basileus. She entered the Chambers, then informing Basileus that Moratorium had business and requesting him to watch over Titan.
After Moratorium finished dressing, he flood away to his suite. Marwyn was already there, a cloak wrapped firmly around him, with his hood pulled up. He held out a cloak for Moratorium and Moratorium took it, slipping into it.
"I have two brooms on loan to get us to the island," Marwyn said. "I can Apperate us to the edge of mainland from the island, and I have an inside lead that will take down the wards for a few hours, and yes, I have already taken precautions into… his silence."
Moratorium gave Marwyn a pleased smile. "Satisfactory. Let us be on our way, then."
The bodies were dumped in a mass grave. It only took a minor banishing spell to clear away what buried them. The Dementors floated about the two, Marwyn keeping a steady Patronus shield around them. Moratorium held up the list, recalling a face to each name from the research he had done into it himself.
He scanned the bodies, all laid side by side. His eyes settled upon a face that did not belong. It was an elder woman's corpse, the special enchantments and magic soaked into the island kept the bodies from decaying, so he could see the face quite clearly.
"That is not Barty Crouch Junior," Moratorium said, staring at the woman.
Marwyn frowned, looking at the body, as well. "… Who is that?"
"I don't know. However, I intend to find out."
"In the mean time, I guess we found our escaped Death Eater," Tom mused.
After Moratorium baded Marwyn good day, he secluded himself in his library in the Chambers. He was lost in his thoughts, trying to piece together all the information he had come across, and that Marwyn was able to give him.
"Junior was a known Death Eater," Moratorium mused out loud. Titan yawned at his feet. It was late, even Basileus was sound asleep. "And Crouch was revered as the current Enforcer, top of the knotch. However, when it was discovered about Junior… sent him off to Azkaban in a public try… shuffled about… lost his chance at being the Minister… mm…"
"The woman was his wife. Supposedly died from the stress and betray of her son and husband, or something equally ridiculous," Tom snorted. "Dying of heartbreak. Please."
Moratorium looked faintly amused at Tom. "Don't think too highly of love, do you?"
"I can understand love of magic. Love of pets. Perhaps love of comrades to some extent, but dying from it? Irrational. How could anyone be so stupid as to be hung up over something so transparent?" Tom sneered. "Idiots. All of them."
"Transparent, eh?" Moratorium mused.
"What? Do you disagree?" Tom asked skeptically.
"Do you believe in hate, Tom?"
"I believe," Moratorium said slowly, "that love and hate are very similar and that there is only a hair's width of a line between them. I believe that emotions can play a powerful role in motives, as well as defining people. However, I believe that those who succumb to their emotions, those that allow themselves to be ruled by them are weak, mindless, tools that deserve to be used."
Tom tilted his head. "I can respect that perspective."
Moratorium gave a thin smile. "Regardless of our options, though, it doesn't change the fact that a sick and dying mother was probably very foolish in her emotions. I theorize that she persuaded her husband with her final death wish (or some equally moronic nonsense) to swap herself and her son. I doubt Crouch would just let his son go free, though. No, no… he probably kept his son close, under his watch. The man clearly has ego if he was more concerned about his reputation than his family, so he obviously wouldn't allow anyone, save himself, to watch over him."
Tom nodded. "I can agree with that. But how could he have done that?"
"Perhaps he kept Junior locked away? It doesn't really matter how he managed… what matters now, though is that Junior is probably free. My money would be on that it was Junior who put Crouch under the Imperius, and killed him."
"For what end, though?" Tom asked. "… You've already established that only a devoted Death Eater would have conjured the mark, and only a devoted Death Eater would have placed Harry's name in the cup. I think it's safe to say that Junior fits the bill on both accounts."
Moratorium nodded. "I concur. But, how? And where is he now? The ingredients and potions missing from Snape's office… if I only knew what exactly was missing…"
The two young men fell into silence, both contemplating.
"Harry is on relative good terms with Dumbledore," Tom remarked.
Moratorium looked, his mind working through what Tom was implying. He smiled. "What a clever idea."
Tom returned his smile with one of his own.
As per Moratorium's instructions, the following day, Harry requested a private conference with Dumbledore. Dumbledore obliged her, and Harry soon found herself sitting across from the elderly man, sucking on a lemon drop.
"Is there something you wish to discuss with me, Harry?" Dumbledore asked, smiling serenely.
Harry nodded. "As you know, I've been looking extensively into who might have placed my name in the Goblet. I don't know who this person is currently running around as, or how they're able to be under the radar in the first place, but… but I have a strong feeling that they're related to Professor Snape's ingredients being stolen."
Dumbledore sat back in his chair, folding his hands across his lap as he thoughtfully chewed over Harry's information. "I, too, have reason to believe that. I knew it wasn't a student stealing the ingredients this time around, but I could not pinpoint who exactly it was. The ingredients and potions stolen all held one thing in common—Polyjuice."
Harry's eyes widened. "You mean…"
Dumbledore nodded his head gravely. "I'm afraid I do, Harry. I thank you, though, for coming to me with your thoughts. Do you have any suspicions as to who…?"
Harry ran her fingers through her hair.
"That opens up the entire body," Tom muttered, thinking along the same lines as Harry. "Not only has Junior been masquerading this entire year… they could be masquerading as anyone. Teacher… student… "
_We have to assume that Junior was only recently freed, otherwise he would have acted sooner, I would imagine._
"So… what? We look at all the people who have recently changed personalities evne the tiniest bit? Do you have any idea how many people are at this school?"
"Polyjuice can change everything superficially about a person," Harry said slowly, "but it can't change one thing: their magic. Magical signatures are as unique as a fingerprint, and each wand someone has is specially made for them. We need to look at everyone's wand that they've been using, make sure they're still combatable with it and that it's the wand made for them."
"I can have Flitwick do a Wand-Bonding Charm lesson—a charm to test the bond between a wand and its witch or wizard," Dumbledore mused. "It would eliminate the student body as suspects… or provide us with some."
"You would do that?" Harry asked, unable to keep the surprise out of her tone.
"Harry, you are a student at Hogwarts and you're in danger. There is very little I wouldn't do to ensure your safety," Dumbledore said patiently. "The same goes for all my students, and a fanatic Death Eater amongst us is a very serious threat, no matter how much fun you find it to be."
Harry had the decency to look sheepish. "Right. Okay."
"It will take time to run through the entire student body, and to ensure that they are who they really say they are," Dumbledore went on, "but I imagine it should be done before the third task. In the mean time, Harry, I suggest you tread carefully."
"Alright, so far we've been kicking arse as Marauders," Harry said quietly to Fred and George, the trio huddled together in the Gryffindor Commons. "But I was thinking that we should pull out our big-ass prank the night before the third challenge."
"What do you have in mind?" Fred asked curiously. "No, wait, you don't mean…?"
George grinned. "I think I know what she has in mind."
"Oh, Snicker and Cackle, I do believe we've officially reached the status in our relationship where we can read each other's mind."
The twins' grins widened.
Time seemed to fly by for Harry. One year group at a time was cleared. After the charms were performed, Dumbledore double checked each students' wand performed during the test with Ollivander's list. By the time the day before the final test, nearly all of the student body had been cleared.
"Alright, all the toilets have been moved to the roof," Fred said, marking off the check list.
"Breakfast was layered in magical laxatives—the kind that makes you feel like you're going to go, but you're actually not—and the students have eaten breakfast," George went on.
"I've got all the buckets charmed to be invisible and poised to rain colored water on every inch of the school," Harry said.
"Fireworks are set," Fred and George finished together.
"Then at exactly noon, it'll rain the colored water, triggering the laxatives and the fireworks. Fireworks go off all across Hogwarts, and in exactly ten minutes afterwards (long enough for everyone to realize that the toilets are missing), the laxative jinxes will wear off and everyone will be burping out bubbles that contain our signature inside," Harry summarized. "Excellent work, everyone."
"Indeed," George agreed. "And with that prank—and the fact we still haven't been caught, we would have officially beaten the Marauder's last year record."
"Damn we're awesome," Harry sighed. "I won't be able to experience the prank to its fullest—meeting about the third task and whatnot at noon—but I expect to be able to view it in a Pensieve."
"But, of course," Fred and George exclaimed.
Harry and Cedric traversed across the grounds, heading to the Quidditch field. Cedric looked a little nervous. "What d'you reckon its going to be? Fleur keeps going on about underground tunnels; she reckons we've got to find treasure."
Harry glanced over at Cedric. "Hell if know. Hell if I care. Rules are still rules for each of them, any spell allowed. I'm confident that if I can't handle it (which I doubt will ever be the case), Basileus will."
Cedric paled at the mention of her darling pet. "…Your, uh, your, uh… Basilisk?"
"My familiar, yes. Shame I can't bring Titan in. He's so adorable."
Cedric looked much more comfortable referring to the cuddly puppy, than Basileus (which was definitely weird in Harry's opinion). "Yeah. He is."
They walked down the lawn to the Quidditch stadium, turned through a gap in the stands, and walked out onto the field.
"Oh, poor Oliver," Harry said sympathetically, stopping short.
"What've they done to it?" Cedric asked, aghast.
"Hello there!" called a cheery voice.
Ludo Bagman stood in the middle of the field with Krum and Fleur. Harry and Cedric made their way towards them, moving around the hedges.
"Well, what d'you think?" asked Bagman happily as Cedric and Harry moved around the last hedge. "Growing nicely, aren't they? They'll grow even larger, but for the purpose of this task, twenty feet will do just fine. Now, I imagine you can guess what we've got here?"
"Maze," grunted Krum.
"That's right! A maze. The third task is really quite straightforward. The Triwizard Cup will be placed in the center of the maze. The first Champion to touch it will receive full marks."
"We seemply 'ave to get through the maze?" asked Fleur.
"There will be obstacles. Hagrid is providing a number of creatures… then there will be spells that must be broken… all that sort of thing, you know. Now, the Champion who is leading on points will get a head start into the maze. So, that'll be Miss Potter, Mr Diggory, then Mr. Krum… and then Miss Delacour. But you'll all be in with a fighting chance, depending how well you get past the obstacles. Should be fun, eh?"
"Very," Harry agreed.
"You are allowed any legal spell, as well as whatever you can carry inside—enchanted bags to have more space or anything of the like is prohibited, though," Bagman said, smiling.
"Oh, joy," Harry squealed.
"Well, if that's all—and no questions—it's time to head back up. Good luck, Champions."
Krum tapped on Harry's shoulder as she was about to leave. Harry turned back around, and Cedric (who had already started heading back), paused, frowning. Harry waved her hand in a dismissive manner, and Cedric shrugged and went back to the castle. Bagman looked like he wanted to stay, but at Harry's dismissive gesture, he left as well.
"Vill you valk with me?"
Harry nodded her head, curious. "Sure. I've been meaning to talk with you, anyway."
Harry and Krum left the stadium together, Harry leading—she was heading towards the lake.
"I vas vondering if you knew if Hermy-own-ninny vas interested in anyone," Krum finally asked.
Harry smiled in amusement and Tom gave a groan of annoyance.
"Oh for…" Tom trailed off.
"You don't need to worry in that department, Krum," Harry assured him. "However, you do need to worry about me. You see… I am quite fond of Hermione. I understand that you have become attached to her, and if you want to be with her, we need to get some things straight. One; you will never be good enough in my eyes for her. No one will, however, I may come to accept the fact that you are with her if you kiss my arse enough. Two; Hurt her, I murder you. Three; Be nice to her friends—all of them. Her friends mean a lot to her. Four; Don't you ever ask her to choose between her friends and you, and don't even think about making her choose between her studies and you.
"I have a Basilisk, and I am not afraid to introduce you to him," Harry finished. Throughout the entire thing, she kept her tone pleasant, conversational. As if she were remarking about the weather.
Krum nodded his head at each part, looking all too serious. "I understand. I vill do my best to comply."
"See that you do. I don't care about the age difference, or location. So long as she's happy and well-taken care of," Harry said, patting his shoulder.
Krum seemed a bit happier at that, and the two started to head back to the castle. "… You fly very vell. I vos vatching you and your escort with Hermy-own-ninny at the ball."
"… Thank you. You fly… above average," Harry managed.
Krum actually smiled at that. "Hermy-own-ninny told me you vere very proud of your skills. I see she vas not wrong."
Harry sniffed pointedly, but smiled in return anyway.
"Oh, gag me," Tom whined petulantly.
Sirius placed a rock in Harry's hands, folding her fingers over it. The two were in the Gryffindor Commons, the rest of the students having already headed down to the third task. The Champions and their families, however, were supposed to head down to the congregating in the chamber off the Hall after dinner. Lupin was just outside, waiting for the two to finish up whatever it was Sirius was trying to do.
"… A rock?" Harry asked incredulously.
"A Portkey," Sirius corrected. "Dumbledore told me that even when you got the cup, you had to wait around in the maze 'til one of the judges came and got you, Pronglet. I asked him if I could just give you a Portkey for you to activate and bring you back to the entrance, he said it was alright."
"Don't call me Pronglet," Harry grumbled. "We've won fair and square. I've given you all of our memories to look through in the Pensieve. Call me by my Marauder name."
Sirius's eyes twinkled. "Alright, alright…to activate it, it responds to your voice only, and the activation word is your new name."
Harry smiled. "If that's it, then, we should get going."
Sirius wrapped an arm around her shoulder, pulling her in for a hug. "… Be safe, V."
Harry, Sirius and Lupin walked across the Hall and opened the door into the chamber.
Cedric and his parents were just inside the Krum was over in a corner, conversing with his dark-haired mother and father in rapid Bulgarian. On the other side of the room, Fleur was jabbering away in French to her mother. Fleur's little sister, Gabrielle, was holding her mother's hands.
"Ah, it's always nice to be back here," Sirius said, looking around the chamber.
Lupin rolled his eyes, pulling Harry away from Sirius's arms to give her a hug himself. "You know what you're doing in the final task, don't you?"
"Of course. Winning."
"That's my girl," Sirius said proudly. "I've already got the perfect place to put your trophy."
"Excellent. I was worried about the placement of it," Harry said, grinning.
"And here I was worried she was going to get a swelled head," Lupin muttered under his breath.
"Oh. I don't know if I mentioned this or not, but Hermione was hoping to go on vacation with me—she offered for me to go with her and her parents on their vacation over the summer. I assumed it wasn't a problem…?"
Sirius frowned. "When exactly would it be?"
"Roughly two weeks after school ends."
"And how long?"
"Then it's not a problem," Sirius declared. "Moony and I have plans of our own over the summer with you."
Harry perked up. "Really?"
"Of course," Lupin said, smiling. "But is there anyone else you want to visit over the summer? Better tell us now before we schedule everything else."
"Oh. I was hoping to visit Neville, too. And Ron. Draco will be traveling the entire summer with his family, so he's not an option… and, um, maybe visit Oliver and Krum."
"Krum?" Sirius blinked.
Harry nodded. "Neville pointed out that Krum doesn't really have a lot of friends. I offered to visit him, too, so that way I could properly kick his arse at Quidditch."
"I guess he's okay. Oliver, however, is a whole other story, young lady…"
Harry shrugged. "Or he can visit. I don't care, I'd just rather not lose touch with him just because he's graduating this year."
"… I'll think about it," Sirius grumbled.
"… Ladies and gentlemen, the third and final task of the Triwizard Tournament is about to begin! Let me remind you how the points currently stand. In first place with ninety-five points is Miss Harry Potter!. Second place with eighty-five points is Mr. Cedric Diggory, then we have in third place with eighty points, Mr. Viktor Krum. And in fourth place, Miss Fleur Delacour. So… on my whistle, Harry, you head in."
Harry, positioned at the far right of the maze, giggled. The tip of Harry's wand flickered red as fire began to dance at the end of it. A manic grin lit up her face, as the pyromaniac inside of her started to giggle with glee. She could only imagine the thrill of lighting the entire maze on fire and then having to traverse through it, barely able to see through the smoke, the danger only growing worse as the first obstacle reveals itself –
"Harry, please don't light the maze on fire," Dumbledore said gently.
Harry whined. "But—"
She gave another whine, extinguishing the fire. "… Fine."
"Three—two—one—" Bagman gave a short blast of his whistle, and the maze split apart, revealing an opening. Harry ducked inside the darkness, and the maze closed behind her.
Total silence wrapped around her.
She giggled. "Oh, I hope this'll be fun!"
Pulling out her shrunken broom, she grew it back to its normal size. She then hopped on it, and floated above the ground. She pulled out her wand, deciding which spell she wanted to use.
"Well… I have no other once I'm inside the maze except to not burn the maze down and to stay inside the maze… Then I guess… Diffindo will do just fine."
Then all too happily, Harry began slicing and dicing her way through the maze, making a direct, straight forward path. She avoided most obstacles by flying over them (but not flying over the actual maze, because there was a charm that prevented her from going over). She received very little trouble, and it only became a matter of time before she found the cup.
After destroying the last bit of hedges, Harry finally found the cup. It stood on a pedestal, in the center of a small clearing. She hopped off her broom, shrinking it down, and approached the cup. She took this time to savor the fact that she won (not that she had any doubts), despite the fact that she was the youngest of the group.
Her fingers stretched out and just before she grabbed the cup, there was a rustle.
She turned her head, raising an eyebrow.
Cedric stumbled out of the bushes, blinking in confusion. He stared at Harry a moment, then at the cup. "… Damn."
Harry laughed at that. "You were close, too. Oh, well. Come here, Cedric."
Cedric frowned, looking at her warily. "… Why?"
Harry rummaged through her pocket before presenting a stone. "I've got a Portkey out of here. I'll grab the cup and Portkey the both of us out. Unless you want to wait here…?"
"No, no, I'll go with you," Cedric said quickly. Harry held out her hand, the stone inside. Cedric placed his hand over hers, gripping the stone, and her hand. Harry then grabbed the cup and opened her mouth to say—
She and Cedric were sent hurtling away, the world around the spinning rapidly and Harry felt sick.
With a hard thump, the two hit the ground, and Harry popped back up, her eyes wide.
"You didn't use the Portkey, yet," Tom said, his eyes wide. "… Wait a minute… this place is…"
Harry's head snapped around. Cedric gave a groan, sitting up and rubbing his head. His eyes widened. "… Harry. Where are we?"
"No fucking clue," Harry said excitedly. "Oooo. Maybe there's more to the task than—"
"Get out of here, now," Tom snapped.
Harry stilled, her words dying. She looked at Tom, his face was pale and his eyes glittered anxiously and nervously. She pulled out her wand, and moved closer to Cedric. The rock was at his feet. Bending down, she picked up the Portkey. Cedric stood up, brushing off the dirt.
She grabbed Cedric's hand and shoved the rock inside of it. "Hold on to that. Don't let go of it for an instant. This isn't part of the task, get your wand out."
Cedric looked nervous at her harsh tone. He pulled out his wand.
"Stay behind me," Harry said, moving forward. Cedric waited a couple of heartbeats before he followed her.
"Harry, stop wasting time. Just use the Portkey," Tom said tersely.
_Not until I know what's going on._ Harry responded. _This could be our chance to learn about our Death Eater… this place… the trophy being a Portkey… it can't be a coincidence._
Tom fell silent for a moment. "… Just… Just be careful. This place is…"
As the duo moved across the graveyard, Harry could make out a figure drawing near. They were walking steadily toward them between the graves. Harry poised her wand, curiosity staying her immediate reaction of firing first. That, and it appeared the person was carrying a baby (or what she assumed to be baby). Moratorium whispered to her to keep her wand steady—never trust the eyes.
Then suddenly Harry's scar exploded with pain. She screamed, gripping her forehead and dropping her wand. Her knees buckled; she was on the ground and she couldn't see anything at all, her head felt like it was being ripped in two.
From far away, above her head, she heard a familiar high, cold voice say, "Kill the spare."
"Harry!" Tom snarled.
Moratorium shook his head, he could scarcely think from the pain, but he was still able to process what was about to happen. He hissed, "Vixen!"
And just as he hissed out the words, there was a blast of green light from the cloaked person. Cedric disappeared from view, the Portkey taking him away. The curse hit a gravestone, completely harmless.
"Render her unconscious."
Moratorium shook, and he struggled to remain coherent, he whispered,"Not while I'm around."
He stretched out his fingers to the cloaked figure, who had their wand pointed at him.
"Crucio," Moratorium snarled, and the figure dropped to the ground, crying out. The bundle fell away.
"I told you she was clever."
Moratorium's eyes widened at the familiar voice, and the conviction behind his curse faltered. No. It couldn't have been—
"Get down!" Tom exclaimed.
It was too late. The Stupefy slammed into Moratorium, and he sagged.
Harry blinked her eyes open, her scar still stinging, but nowhere near as bad as before. Immediately, she straightened, completely alert. There was a cauldron before her, mist pooling out of it. There was the same cloaked man from before, and to Harry's growing anger, she realized it was none other than Peter. He was still carrying that bundle, however it was not the bundle or Peter that held her attention.
It was Barty Crouch Junior. Or as Moratorium realized in his last moments, Moody.
"… You're awake," Tom said quietly. He was pale, and his eyes were glued to the bundle that Peter held.
_How long have I been out?_
"A little over a minute. They just summoned a cauldron, and transfigured the stone to hold you," Tom said softly.
Tom pointed to Junior. "He took it."
_Lovely. I'm too disoriented to properly summon it, so I'll need some time. Is anyone else around? I'd rather have anymore nasty surprises._
"Just Nagini, the snake."
The liquid in the cauldron seemed to heat very fast under the flames. The surface began not only to bubble, but to send out fiery sparks. The steam was thickening, blurring the outline of Peter.
The whole surface of the water was alight with sparks.
"It is ready, Master."
Moratorium almost smiled. _Well. It seems you'll get your chance to see your future self, Tom._
Tom did not respond, still staring at the thing in Peter's arms. Peter pulled open the bundle, and Harry felt sick looking at it. It was as though Peter flipped over a stone and revealed something ugly, slimy and blind—but worse, a hundred times worse. The thing Peter had been carrying had the shape of a crouched human child. It was hairless and scaly-looking, a dark, raw reddish black. Its arms and legs were thin and feeble, and its face—no child alive ever had face like that—flat and snakelike with gleaming red eyes.
The thing seemed almost helpless; it raised its thin arms, put them around Peter's neck and Peter lifted it. He then placed the thing inside the cauldron.
"That can't be…" Tom whispered, and Harry's eyes flickered toward him. Horror and revulsion was etched onto his face, and his eyes were brimmed with absolute disgust and loathing. "… disgusting. And so… so helpless… needing the care…. Needing someone like him to assist me… me! No… no that can't be me… That is not Voldemort!"
Tom… Harry thought softly.
Peter began speaking. His voice shook, he seemed frightened beyond his wits. He raised his wand, closed his eyes, and spoke to the night. "Bone of the father, unknowingly given, you will renew your son!"
The surface of the grave at her feet cracked. Morbidly fascinated, Harry watched as a fine trickle of dust rose into the air at Wormtail's command and fell softly in the cauldron. Peter started whimpering. He pulled a long, thin, shining silver dagger from inside his cloak. His voice broke into petrified sobs. "Flesh—of the servant—w-willingly given—you will—revive—your master."
He stretched out his right hand in front of him. He gripped the dagger tightly and swung it down. Harry felt vindictively pleased to hear him scream as he lost his hand. Peter gasped and moaned, and Junior (who still stood off to the side, watching the cauldron with growing excitement) looked at him briefly. Peter limped over to Harry, using the same dagger and sliced her arm.
"B-blood of the enemy… forcibly taken… you will resurrect your foe."
Peter dropped the bits of Harry's blood in the cauldron. Peter, his job done, dropped to his knees beside the cauldron, cradling his bloody stump of an arm.
The steam rose, obstructing Harry's view of the cauldron. However, faintly, she could begin to make out the faint outline of a man.
"Robe me," said the high, cold voice from behind the steam.
Harry watched as the steam slowly died down, and the man, cloaked in black, turned to look at her.
Harry looked at him, unimpressed. "Voldewhore."
"Child," Voldemort whispered, smiling in sadistic amusement.
"No," Tom whispered. He slowly sunk down to his knees, staring in horror at Voldemort. "No. I refuse… No."
Voldemort looked away from Harry, dismissing her for the moment, as he examined his new body. His hands were large, and his long, white fingers caressed his own chest, his arms, his face; the red eyes, whose pupils were slit, gleamed brightly through the darkness. He held up his hands and flexed his fingers, his expression rapt and exultant. He ignored Peter, who squirmed and whimpered and cried.
"My Lord," Barty Crouch Junior whispered, excitement clear in his eyes. He dropped to his knees, bowing lowly. Voldemort ignored him for the moment, still fascinated with his new body.
"My Lord…. You promised… you did promise…" Peter choked out.
"Hold out your arm," said Voldemort lazily.
"Oh, Master… thank you, Master…"
"The other arm, Wormtail."
Tom's eyes widened. "But… but even if he is pathetic… he still helped… why…?"
Voldemort smiled, mirthlessly, as he grabbed Peter's left arm. He forced the sleeve of his robes up past his elbow, and Harry noticed there was some sort of tattoo on it.
Barty Crouch Junior hurried forward, offering an unfamiliar wand to Voldemort. Voldemort took it carefully, before he jabbed it into the tattoo. Peter squirmed and whimpered, and Voldemort smiled. "There now… they will all have noticed it… and now, we shall see… now we shall know…"
The scar on Harry's forehead seared with a sharp pain, and she squirmed.
A look of cruel satisfaction on his face, Voldemort straightened up, and stared around the dark graveyard. "How many will be brave enough to return when they feel it? And how many will be foolish enough to stay away?"
"Brave… enough…? Foolish… enough?" Tom echoed. "… He doesn't mean… doesn't imply… They are people. Tools. They are worthless if they do not come willingly… he can't mean that they would be… that they would be scared of him. Scared of me. Fear is no way… I established that long ago. They have to willingly devote themselves to me. It's irrational any other way. That's not me. That's not me."
Harry did not respond.
Voldemort looked at Harry, eyeing her the way a predator would eye a fresh meal. "You stand, Harry, upon the remains of my late father."
Tom's eyes widened. "No. Monologuing? Revealing information about me to a known enemy? What? What the bloody hell…?!"
"A Muggle and a fool… very like your dear mother." Harry's eyes widened at the Muggle part, her eyes darting towards Tom's growing thunderous expression. "But they both had their uses, did they not? Your mother died to defend you as a child… and I killed my father, and see how useful he has proved himself, in death…"
Voldemort laughed again. "You see that house upon the hillside, Potter? My father lived there. My mother, a witch who lived here in this village, fell in love with him. But he abandoned her when she told him what she was… He didn't like magic, my father… He left her and returned to his Muggle parents before I was even born, Potter, and she died giving birth to me, leaving me to be raised in a Muggle orphanage… but I vowed to find him… I revenged myself upon him, that fool who gave me his name… Tom Riddle… "
Harry's eyes were glued on Tom's face. His lips were pursed, and his eyes flickered in between anger, loathing, disgust, horror…. and shame.
"Listen to me, reliving family history…" Voldemort said quietly, "why, I am growing quite sentimental… But look, Harry! My true family returns…"
The air was suddenly full of swishing cloaks. Between graves, behind the yew tree, in every shadowy space, wizards were Apparating. All of them were hooded and masked. And one by one they moved forward… slowly, cautiously, as though they could hardly believe their eyes. Voldemort stood in silence, waiting for them. Then one of the Death Eaters fell to his knees, crawled toward Voldemort, and kissed the hem of his black robes.
"Master… Master…" he murmured.
Tom looked as though someone had punched him in the gut, he was sickened, absolutely disgusted.
The Death Eaters behind him did the same; each of them approaching Voldemort on his knees and kissing his robes, before backing away and standing up, forming a silent circle, which enclosed Harry, Voldemort and Peter. Barty Crouch Junior stood just outside the circle, looking over it.
"Welcome, Death Eaters," said Voldemort quietly. "Thirteen years… thirteen years since we last met. Yet you answer my call as though it were yesterday… We are still united under the Dark Mark, then! Or are we?"
He smiled. "I smell guilt. There is a stench of guilt in the air."
A shiver ran around the circle, and it was quite clear that each member longed, but did not dare, to step away from him.
"They're terrified of him. Of me," Tom whispered.
"I see you all, whole and healthy, with your powers intact—such prompt appearances!—and I ask myself… why did this brand of wizards never come to the aid of their master, to whom they swore eternal loyalty?"
No one spoke.
"And I answer myself," Voldemort whispered, "they must have believed me broken, they thought I was gone. They slipped back among my enemies, and they pleaded innocence, and ignorance, and bewitchment… And then I ask myself, but how could they believe I would not rise again? They, who knew the steps I took, long ago, to guard myself against mortal death? They, who had seen proofs of the immensity of my power in the times when I was mightier than any wizard living? And I answer myself, perhaps they believed a still greater power could exist, one that could vanquish even Lord Voldemort… perhaps they now pay allegiance to another… perhaps that champion of commoners, of Mudbloods and Muggles, Albus Dumbledore?"
At the mention of Dumbledore, many muttered and shook their heads. Voldemort ignored them.
"It is a disappointment to me… I confess myself disappointed…"
One of the men suddenly flung himself forward, breaking the circle. Trembling from head to foot, he collapsed at Voldemort's feet.
"Master!" he shrieked. "Master, forgive me! Forgive us all!"
Voldemort began to laugh. He raised his wand.
"No!" Tom said vehemently, even as the Death Eater on the ground writhed and shrieked. "That's it! I've had enough of this! THAT IS NOT ME! I AM NOTHING LIKE THAT MONSTER!"
Tom whirled around, his eyes burning with such intensity, Harry was momentarily speechless. "Harry, Harry, get out of her. Get the fuck out of here right now. We need to have a discussion, you and I. A long one. I will not… I will not stand for this monstrosity."
Moratorium smiled at Tom. _But of course, Tom._
Harry gave a loud yawn, drawing everyone's attention to her. "Look, as fascinating as this reunion is, I really do have to return. You know. Winning the Triwizard Cup and all."
"Oh, how rude of me, keeping you waiting like this," Voldemort said dryly.
"It's quite alright. I forgive you, I know how these things can be."
Voldemort smiled cruelly.
"Challenge him," Tom said quietly. "To a duel. I… he won't be able to resist it. You… You have to survive. Get your broom out when you can and escape. You must live."
"I will not back down from a challenge," Harry said softly. Tom looked pained while Voldemort tilted his head.
"A challenge, Harry?" Voldemort murmured.
Harry locked eyes with him. "A duel. Between you and me. Right here. Right now."
Voldemort looked amused. "You think you can handle me, girl?"
"You think you can handle me, boy?" Harry retorted.
Voldemort chuckled, and the Death Eaters followed his action. "Very well, girl. Barty… untie her, and giver her back her wand."
Barty Crouch Junior approached Harry, raising his wand and relaxing the hold the stones had on Harry. He tossed Harry her wand, and she caught it deftly.
"You have been taught how to duel, Harriet Potter?" asked Voldemort softly, his red eyes glinting through the darkness.
"Of course, old man," Harry sniffed, moving towards him. She gracefully walked past Barty Crouch Junior, her head held high and extender her wand. Voldemort extended his, and the two wands touched briefly.
In the same instance, Voldemort dipped his head while Harry curtsied. Deciding not to turn her back on him, she merely walked three step backwards—and he did the same.
Allow me, Moratorium purred.
No, Harry returned. He is mine.
Moratorium smiled. Whatever you desire, dear.
"He's going to go for Crucio first," Tom said blankly, his eyes calculating.
Harry smiled at Voldemort, and then tossed her wand up in the air. Voldemort frowned, his eyes following the wand—he apparently dismissed her as a threat because she held no wand. She then threw her hands forward, silently casting the banishing spell.
Voldemort went flying backwards, slamming into a gravestone.
Harry caught her wand, twirling it around her fingers as she patiently waited for Voldemort to stand back up.
"He dismissed you," Tom muttered, disgusted. "In a bloody duel. He took his eyes off of you. Idiot."
Voldemort's face twisted into a snarl and he snapped his wand forward. Green light blazed out of the tip of it and Harry's wand glowed red. Voldemort cried out, "Avada Kedavra!" just as Harry shouted, "Diffindo!"
The two beams met in midair and suddenly Harry's wand was vibrating as though an electric charge was surging through it; her hands seized up around it; she couldn't have released it even if she wanted to. A narrow beam of light connected the two wands, neither red nor green, but a bright, deep gold. Harry, following the beam with her wide eyes, saw that Voldemort's long white fingers, too, were gripping a wand that was shaking and vibrating.
And then—Tom let out a small gasp at this—she felt her feet lift up from the ground. She and Voldemort were both being raised up into the air, their wands still connected by the tread of golden light. They glided away from the tombstone of Tom Riddle, and then came to rest on a patch of ground that was clear and free of graves… The Death Eaters were shouting; they were asking for instructions, and closing in, reforming the circle.
The golden thread connecting their wands splintered, though the wands remained connected, a thousand more beams arced high over Harry and Voldemort, crisscrossing all around them, until they were enclosed in a golden, dome-shaped web, a cage of light, beyond which the Death Eaters circled like jackals, their cries strangely muffled now…
"Do nothing!" Voldemort shrieked to the Death Eaters, and Harry could see his eyes were as wide as hers. "Do nothing unless I command you!"
And then an unearthly and beautiful sound filled the air… It was coming from every thread of light-spun web vibrating around Harry and Voldemort. It was a sound Harry recognized, though she had only heard it once—the phoenix song.
It was the most beautiful and welcoming thing she had ever heard in her life. She felt as though the song was inside of her, instead of just around him. It was a sound she connected with Dumbledore, and it was as though a friend were whispering in her ear…
Don't break the connection.
As the closest bead of light moved nearer to Harry's wand-tip, the wood beneath her fingers grew so hot, she thought it was on fire. The closer the bead moved, the harder Harry's wand vibrated. Beads were moving closer to Voldemort's wand, as well, and the moment one of the connected, his wand began to emit echoing screams of pain. Voldemort gaped as a dense, smoky hand flew out of the tip of it… a head emerged, quickly followed by by arms and torso… an old man Harry had only seen in a dream was no pushing himself out of the end of the wand. He floated out and moved to stand by Harry.
"He was a real wizard, then?" the old man said, his eyes on Voldemort. "Killed me, that one did… You fight him, girl…"
But already, yet another head was emerging… and this head, gray as a smoky statue, was a woman's… Harry, both arms shaking now as she fought to keep her wand still, saw her drop to the ground and straighten up like the other. The shadow of Bertha Jorkins surveyed the battle before her with wide eyes.
"Don't let go, now!" she cried. "Don't let him get you, Harry—don't let go!"
And another head slowly emerged, and Bertha and the old man circled the two. Harry gasped when she recognized the woman.
"Your father's coming," Harry's mother said quietly. "Hold on for your father… It will be alright… Hold on…"
Harry bit her bottom lip as she watched her father emerge, and her two parents moved to stand on either side of her.
"When the connection is broken," James Potter said quietly, his voice seeming distant to Harry's ears, like the others, "we will linger for only moments… but we will give you time… you must get to the Portkey, it will return you to Hogwarts… do you understand, Harry?"
"Yes," Harry whispered.
"Do it now," whispered her father's voice, "be ready to run… do it now…"
"Now," Tom said, and Harry pulled her wand upwards with an almighty wrench. The golden thread broke; the cage of light vanished, the song died, but the shadowy figures of Voldemort's victims did not disappear—they closed upon Voldemort, shielding Harry from his gaze.
"Accio Cup!" Harry shouted, pointing her wand upwards.
The cup clew out of nowhere and Harry grabbed it.
She heard Voldemort's scream of fury at the same moment that he felt the jerk behind her navel that meant the Portkey had worked—it was speeding her away in a whirl of wind and color.
Harry slammed into the ground, her face pressed into the grass. She gasped as she shot up, her eyes wild as she surveyed her surroundings. The students were nowhere in sight. In fact, the place looked deserted.
Harry shook her head. Cedric made it back, then. Probably told everyone what had happened… Dumbledore would have gotten the students to safety…
Harry ran her fingers through her hair, tucking away her wand.
Tom rested a hand on her shoulder, and though Harry knew logically she could not feel it, she couldn't help, but get goosebumps at the touch. He was looking at her with tired eyes. "I… I understand that you need to tell everyone you're safe now… and I… I understand what you meant about…"
Tom's face screwed up, and it looked like it pained him to admit the truth.
She lifted her hand and placed it over his. "It's okay. You don't need to say it."
Tom swallowed roughly, looking down and away. "… I can't… I… I used to think there was nothing worse than death, but… Seeing me like that… that I had become so broken…"
Tom shook his head. "We need to end him. It. We need to end it. And to do that… you and I… and Moratorium… are going to need to talk. There are things you should know. About me. About Voldemort. And about your scar."
"Whenever you're ready," Harry said gently.
Tom nodded, swallowing again. "I… thank you. I will need… I am going to the Chambers. Do you mind…?"
"I will leave you alone for however long you need, Tom."
Tom closed his eyes, letting out a long breath. "Good. Alright… Until next time, then, Harry."
Harry nodded her head, smiling. "Right. See you, Tom."
Harry flew to Hogwarts on her broom, flying straight up to the headmaster's office window. She tapped on the window, and saw that the office was empty. Fawkes, however, noticed her and opened the window with his beak. Harry gave him a grateful smile and gently flew in. She landed softly on the ground before she put her broom away.
Running her fingers over Fawkes's soft feathers, she kissed the top of his head before she then yawned. She sat down in a chair and looked over at Fawkes. "You're Dumbledore's familiar, so you should be able to let him know I'm here, right?"
Fawkes gave a small cry, dipping his head.
"Thought so. Then I'll just wait here."
Closing her eyes, Harry sat back in the chair, relaxing.
She wasn't quite sure how much time had passed, but it seemed like one second she was about to doze off, the next Sirius was ripping her out of the chair, swinging her around and hugging her tightly.
Squealing in surprise, Harry squirmed uncomfortably in his embrace. Sirius put her down, but refused to let go of her. "You're alright."
"Of course I am, Padfoot. Honestly, you didn't think the likes of Voldewhore was going to hurt me?"
"Sorry P—I mean… Vix," Sirius said, pulling back at looking at her.
"Are you… are you crying?"
"I have a bug in my eye," Sirius objected. Harry rolled her eyes, taking note that Lupin, Dumbledore, Fudge, and Bones were there.
"Harry," Lupin whispered, looking torn. Harry rolled her eyes and gestured to him. Lupin, taking the hint, moved forward and wrapped his arms around Sirius and Harry.
"You guys are so sentimental," Harry whined. "Is Cedric okay?"
"Cedric is fine, Harry, what we want to know, however, is what happened with you. And what do you mean Voldewhore?" Dumbledore asked, frowning.
Harry yawned. "Voldewhore's back."
Silence met her response.
"Don't be absurd," Fudge whispered.
Harry raised an eyebrow, pulling away from Sirius and Lupin and taking a step forward. She cracked her knuckles. "Are you calling me a liar, Fudge?"
Fudge whimpered, moving to stand behind Bones. Bones, however, gave Harry a very serious look. "Can you tell us what happened? Everything?"
"Sure. So, after Dumbledore said no to my brilliant f'ire idea, I decided to go the slice-and-dice approach…"
"You don't honestly believe her, do you, Dumbledore?" Fudge whispered, looking horrified.
Dumbledore glanced at Fudge. "I most certainly do, Minister."
"No… no… there has to be a mistake. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named can't be back. He's dead. He died thirteen years ago!" Fudge exclaimed.
Harry raised her wand at him. Lupin put her wand down. "Harry, please don't knock out the Minister."
"Don't hit him, either."
Fudge inched closer to the door.
"We found the real Moody in a trunk. Crookshanks returned the map to Hermione and she gave it to Sirius," Dumbledore said softly.
"That only means we had a Death Eater on the premises," Fudge hissed.
Harry waved her hand dismissively at him. "Whatever. Deny all you want. Leave if you can't handle it."
Not like you'll survive long anyway, Moratorium thought.
Harry inwardly smiled at that.
Fudge gave her a look, a cross between anger and terror before he fled.
"What do we do now?" Sirius asked, his arm wrapping around Harry's shoulder.
"Before anything, I would like a word with Dumbledore in private," Harry whispered. "And then… and then I would like to sleep."
"That seems acceptable to me," Dumbledore said. Sirius nodded slowly, hesitating a moment before kissing the top of Harry's head. He, Lupin, and Bones, exited the room. The door closed shut behind them.
Harry waited a moment or two before she smiled, slowly and lazily. "Professor Dumbledore, I have to tell you that I have not been entirely honest with you. There are things that you and I need to discuss, but not now. Over the summer, however, sounds nice, if that's alright with you."
Dumbledore's eyes twinkled. "That sounds delightful, Harry, and thank you… There is work to be done, however, now that Voldemort has returned. Come, Harry, I will escort you to Madam Pompfrey. You have earned a good rest."
"Damn straight I have."
After Harry had retold the events (the same version she told Dumbledore and the others… the one that doesn't involve Crucio, Tom and Moratorium) to her friends for what seemed like the hundredth time(it was the following day of the third task), Harry gave a groan of annoyance.
While it was amazing that she had won the Triwizard Tournament (youngest witch in history, ha!), it was already old news to her. She leaned on Oliver at the Gryffindor table, scowling at Ginny, who was making goo-goo faces at them.
"Grow up," Harry sneered. Ginny giggled again, though, smiling slyly.
"I bet you wish you could. This is your last year here, isn't it, Oliver?" Ginny asked teasingly.
Oliver gave a smile. "Yeah."
Harry sniffed pointedly, looking over at Draco who rolled his eyes. "Big deal. We only have a few more weeks of school left, anyway…"
"And I'm still excused from all tests," Harry sung smugly.
"Which is bollocks because you aren't even in the tournament anymore," Ron snorted.
"I'm just that amazing."
Someone cleared their throat behind Harry, and she turned around, raising an eyebrow. Cedric gave her a sheepish look. "… I just wanted to, you know… thank you for saving my life… again."
Harry frowned. "… Okay. You're welcome. Try not to die anymore. It's getting to be a bit troublesome."
"I'll try," Cedric promised, grinning.
"Although these few weeks are going to seem anticlimactic in comparison," Hermione commented when Cedric had left.
"I guess. Which reminds me, I better get ahold of Rita before Fudge does…" Harry trailed off. "Well, it'll be an interesting summer and next year, that's for sure."
"Voldewhore on the rise again… versus Harry Potter," Nevilled trailed off. "Voldewhore doesn't really stand a chance, does he?"
"Not even a little bit," Ron agreed.
"As if Harrykins—"
"—would be bested by—"
"– the Dark Slut."
"I am offended you would even suggest such a thing," Harry sniffed.
Draco smirked and Luna sat down next to him. "It'll be a very fun year next year, but I'm going to miss Harry."
"What are you talking about?" Hermione asked, frowning. "She's not going anywhere."
Luna only smiled serenely.
"Doesn't matter now. Let's just finish this year already," Harry said. "Although, before I forget… the package arrived today, everyone. You guys mind grabbing Hagrid while I take care of the package?"
"Sure thing, Harrykins," Fred and George echoed. Harry stood up, smiling at Oliver. When he smiled back, she blushed and hurried away.
"Now what's all the commotion?" Hagrid asked, entering his hut, then stopping dead. "'Arry… wha's 'at?"
In Harry's lap, was an egg. She sat in Hagrid's guest chair, papers in her hands and boxes of supplies next to her. Fred, George, Hermione, Ron, Neville, Ginny, Luna, and Draco all filed into the hut behind Hagrid.
"This, Hagrid, is our belated birthday present to you," Harry said, smiling.
"It's actually Harry's, we were just distracting you long enough for her to get this stuff inside," Hermione put in.
Hagrid's eyes was on the egg, though.
Harry held out the papers. "These are the official papers that allow you to raise your very own."
"Very own wha'?" Hagrid finally asked.
She smiled and held out the egg. "Don't you recognize it, Hagrid?"
Hagrid shook his head.
"Your very own dragon, dear friend."
After Harry bade Hagrid goodbye, she told her friends she was heading off to the Chambers. She moved quickly through the halls, but a hand on her shoulder stopped her before she entered the girl's bathroom.
The hallway was empty, except her… and Oliver. Oliver's eyes were lit with excitement, his cheeks flushed and he was grinning widely.
Harry blinked in surprise. "Something happen…?"
"I'm England's newest Keeper," Oliver exclaimed. "I just got a letter… they said… they said that if it wasn't for you and the team's… and Hooch's… you all sent your memories to them to look at with a Pensieve, but you… it was because of your letter that they even… that they even considered me in the first place."
Harry blushed. "Well, I was just…"
Oliver pulled her in for a hug. "Thank you, Harry. I don't know how to repay you, but—"
"Don't even worry about it," Harry said, her face feeling extremely warm. She pulled away, flushing. "I just… I just wanted you to be happy."
Oliver's expression softened. "… Thank you."
Oliver hesitated a moment before he bent down and kissed her forehead. "If you need anything, just let me know."
"'Course," Harry mumbled.
Tom walked beside Harry, the two in the Chambers the same evening Harry gave Hagrid his egg.
"I'm not ready to talk about it, but… but I promise I will be," Tom told her. Harry stretched, Titan trailing behind her and Basileus following behind them at a lazy pace.
"I will not hurry you, Tom," Harry repeated. She stopped before a large black marble wall before she pressed her palm against it. The wall moved aside, revealing the Hogwarts grounds.
"I know, but expect our talk soon," Tom said.
Harry nodded her head, a smile lighting up her face. "Ah, well. I've finished my Animagus training, along with the twins, Hermione, Draco and Neville. Ron, Ginny and Luna will be finished soon enough. But for now… for now I want to spend the evening with my precious ones."
And Harry ran forward, shifting. Basileus shot afterwards, and Titan sprinted behind her.
"Then let usss hunt, missstresss. I will show you and Titan the bessst placccesss," Basileus hissed softly.
Harry lifted her head, her ears flicking and she gave a Cheshire grin.
Tom smiled at her, looking more relaxed and amused than he had before. "A cunning fox. It suits you."
Harry winked at him.
In honor of the glorious Halloween, I pushed this chapter out like no tomorrow. So, next year will be mostly Moratorium's year—it'll be his time to shine, hence why Luna said she'd be missing Harry.
Kukuku, and now for stats... (not including A/N's)
Paragraphs: 2, 162
Phew. And next chapter is proooobably going to be longer.
Anyway, I have fanart for Harry/Moratorium. Links are on profile, or you can check out my (charredblossom16) favorites on deviantart. Or Saki-Hitsumi and Kaito-DreamMaster's galleries. Also drew fanart for Harry's dress during Yule Ball (in my gallery).
... Aaaaand that's it.
Reviews are love!
EDIT TO CLARIFY:
The bet was for the best pranksters to win. The best pranksters, how I define, are those that area capable of remaining anonymous - or at least no one can prove it's them. Because Fred, George and Harry were never caught like the original Marauders, that automatically makes them win the bet.
Harry's form is a fox (Vixen)
Fred's form is a hyena (Snicker)
George's form is a coyote (Cackle)