AN: Standard disclaimer: Harry Potter and the associated rights belong to JK Rowling. I'm just playing with them!
Thanks to all my reviewers, favouriters and followers! My apologies for the length of time it took to get this chapter out, time just got away from me!
AN: Thanks to all who caught that I'd added Hermione in, that was an error! I have now amended it and re-uploaded the chapter!
Now, on with the story!
The week between the Prophet articles and the First Task seemed to fly by for Harry. Hagrid had indeed shown him the dragons, and he had seen Karkaroff lurking in the area while Hagrid was busy charming Madame Maxine. So, Fleur knew, and Victor knew, all Harry needed to do was tell Cedric about the dragons.
He had seized the chance to do so when the two Hogwarts students had escorted the two visiting students around Hogsmeade on the Saturday, and there had subsequently been a few study sessions between the friend groups in the Hogwarts library. Slowly the visiting students and the Hogwarts students were beginning to learn about one another's lives at school and in their countries.
Now, it was the morning of the First Task, and Harry was full of nerves. The First Task wouldn't start until after lunch, but Harry wasn't sure he could face breakfast, never mind lunch. Luckily, Severus had thought of this, and a vial of Stomach Soother was at his place setting when he and Neville arrived at the Great Hall. The Twins distracted him with plans for a prank on the rest of the Gryffindor Quidditch team, and Harry managed to eat a bowl of porridge and three slices of toast before the bell rang for classes to start.
After History of Magic, Harry and Neville had a free period, which they spent in the Room of Requirement. Draco and Pansy joined them, and although Draco and Harry had managed to clear the air between them in their meeting, the conversation was still stilted and uncomfortable but it did suffice to pass the time until lunch. Harry had been practising several spells during the week, and everyone had agreed that he just needed to relax now.
When the lunch bell rang, Harry switched onto autopilot, going down to the Great Hall and eating lunch without any real idea of what he was eating. After the announcement that the Task was about to begin, Neville and Lee accompanied him to the Champion's Tent, where Victor and Cedric were pacing up and down. Fleur was seated on a chair, and smiled up at Harry as he entered.
Ludo Bagman was bouncing around in excitement, and Harry noticed that Madame Maxine and Karkaroff did not seem impressed with the former Quidditch star's enthusiasm. On the table next to where Bagman was standing, there was a purple silk bag which was wriggling slightly, rather like his stomach was doing, and Harry wondered what was going on.
"Ah, Harry!" Boomed Bagman, spotting Harry and hurrying over to clasp him by the shoulder. The stares from the other judges make Bagman lose his beam, although he didn't remove his hand from Harry's shoulder. Harry politely wriggled out from underneath and made for the relative safety of Cedric's side.
"Well, now we're all here - time to fill you in!" said Bagman brightly, recollecting himself. "Once we know that the audience has assembled, I'm going to be offering each of you this bag" - he held up the small bag and shook it at them - "from which you will each select a small model of the thing you are about to face! There are different - er – varieties, you see. And I have to tell you something else too... ah, yes... your task is to collect the Golden Egg!"
Harry gulped, remembering the stories he had read about the dangers of dragon mothers protecting their eggs. He really hoped it wasn't as bad as what he was thinking about. There was a sudden rush of noise from outside the tent, footsteps and excited chattering showing that everyone was making their way to the arena. As the noise died away, Ludo Bagman caught the Champions' attention again.
Bagman offered the sack to Fleur with a flourish, proclaiming with a poorly hidden leer that it was to be ladies first. She reached into the bag, and barely stifled a squeak as whatever was wriggling in there brushed against her hand. The scale model that she drew out was a dragon, a Welsh Green which had a number 2 on the tag around it's neck. She stepped back, her face blank.
Victor was next, neatly circumventing Bagman's attempt to jump straight to Harry, pulling out the scarlet Chinese Fireball with the number 3 tag, and Cedric followed after him. Cedric's little dragon bore the number 1 tag, and was the Swedish Short-Snout, and Harry's heart wobbled. That meant that he would be facing the Hungarian Horntail, and indeed that was the last figurine in the bag, bearing the number 4 on it's tag.
Obviously, the numbers dictated the order in which the Champions would be facing their dragons, and Harry gulped, tuning out Bagman and the man's incessant babbling in favour of going over his plan. The Twins had determined that his Parseltongue would only be useful if he had drawn the Chinese Fireball, since that species was closest to snakes out of the four options brought from the Romanian Dragon Reserve. However, he had drawn the Horntail, so attempting to speak to the dragon was not an option. Instead, Harry would be flying against the dragon, hoping to use his Snitch-Seeking skills to spot and obtain the Golden Egg.
Coming out of his thoughts, Harry noticed Ludo Bagman trying to catch his eye, although the ex-Quidditch player was called away before he could manage to corner Harry. Harry was relieved, as Nagnok had warned him that Bagman was in debt to the Goblins, and presumably was hoping to gain insider information to use in betting on the Tournament.
Just then a whistle blew, the signal for the first Champion to enter the arena. Cedric's face was a greenish hue as he ducked under the tent flap, and Harry only managed to grunt incomprehensibly at the Hufflepuff in lieu of actually wishing him good luck. Thankfully, Cedric seemed to understand Harry's point, and nodded at him shakily.
The next few moments were tense under the canvas shelter, punctuated only by gasps, groans and finally a roar of triumph from the crowd interspersed with growls and roars from the Swedish Short-Snout. Bagman's commentary was excited but less than clear as to what was going on. Cedric had obviously managed to get his Egg, however, as Bagman announced that the scores would be shown.
A pause ratcheted the tension up, before the whistle blew again signalling Fleur's opponent was ready. Harry didn't even try to speak this time, just nodding and smiling faintly at the composed but nervous part-Veela. Again, the crowd's reaction and the dragon's flaming noises were the only guide to the actions in the arena, with Bagman again more confusing than helpful to the remaining contestants.
During the fight, as the audience oohed and aahed and Bagman shouted "Nearly!" and "Wow!" and "Ooh, I don't think she wanted to do that!", Harry and Victor were silent. The Bulgarian was still pacing, clenching one fist absent-mindedly, and Harry thought he could hear the boy mumbling to himself.
At last there was a huge roar from the crowd, and the waiting duo knew that Fleur must have been successful. After a pause when Fleur's scores were being shown, Bagman announced "Now, the Bulgarian Champion, Victor Krum!" and Victor slouched out, with a nod thrown in Harry's direction.
Left alone, Harry's heart sank to his knees. He'd never signed up for this, he didn't want to be here! He was torn between squaring his shoulders and marching out into the arena, or sneaking out of the back of the tent and running away. He wasn't sure that the plan he and his friends had come up with would work, but he didn't want to let them, Severus, Sirius and Remus down. He and his friends had pondered many spells and actions against the dragon, but Harry really didn't want to harm such a beautiful and magnificent creature. He had eventually decided to go with his natural talent of flying, something that Professor Moody had reminded him of a couple of weeks before the First Task. Harry knew the Summoning Spell to obtain his broom and hoped the flame-protection spells that Sirius, Remus and Severus had cast on his broom would cope.
Harry barely registered Victor's fight, his thoughts consuming him completely. It was only the cheering that brought him back to the present, and he drew in a deep breath as Bagman announced him. Standing up slowly, he walked towards the arena.
Stepping out into the arena, Harry gazed around at the high rocks and mountainous terrain that was visible. A roaring could be heard from around the corner and Harry stepped cautiously forward. At the other end of the arena sat the biggest dragon that Harry had ever seen. Crouched low over her eggs in their nest, her head swinging low and her tail gouging immense lines in the surrounding rocks, she was a magnificent and imposing creature.
The noise of the crowd drew Harry's attention, yet he was unsure whether they were cheering or booing him. He couldn't see any faces from his position, but he knew that Sirius and Remus, and Severus, and his friends were up there rooting for him.
Turning to face the dragon, Harry took a deep breath and raised his wand. "Accio Firebolt!" he said clearly, and waited. There was a faint whooshing sound, and as it got louder, Harry turned to see his broomstick speeding towards him. It slowed as it reached him, and Harry slung a leg over it. Pushing off from the ground Harry turned to face the dragon, and flew.
Spiralling up into the air, Harry watched as the dragon twisted her neck to keep an eye on him, then crouched low over his broomstick and swooped down. Several feet beyond the Horntail's fire range, Harry passed over her, and then returned in the same path a couple more times. Each time, the Horntail moved further from the nest, and Harry seized his chance on his fourth pass to swoop low over the nest and Accio the egg. Clutching the Golden Egg to his chest, he flew fast into the sky and away, only to hear the snap of chains. Glancing back over his shoulder, he saw the dragon unfettered, gaining on him. Harry gripped tightly with his knees, and swung back towards the stadium. Locating Sirius and Remus (in the Teachers' Stand, next to Severus – hopefully they were able to fool Dumbledore into believing they were uncomfortable there) Harry swooped to within a few feet, and dropped the Egg which Remus caught and quickly hid from the dragon under an Obscuring Charm. Then he spiralled upwards again, and drew the dragon towards the school and away from the spectators in the stadium. Swinging around the towers and battlements of the castle, Harry narrowly avoided being singed by the dragon, and ducked away towards the Forbidden Forest. He could see there a few forms on broomsticks, and prominently amongst them was the flaming-red hair of Charlie Weasley. Harry sped towards them, leading the dragon to where Charlie indicated her eggs had been placed after being retrieved from the arena. Luckily, as Harry passed the nest, one of Charlie's co-workers shot a Disillusion spell towards him, confusing the dragon long enough that she settled down on her eggs, and was further pacified by the appearance of a large sheep.
Removing the Disillusion charm, Harry waved to the dragon keepers, and flew back to the arena. Dismounting from his broom, Harry saw Professor McGonagall, gesturing him over and seeming somewhat shaken.
"To the First Aid Tent, please, Mr Potter. Madam Pomfrey will need to check you over before you obtain your scores. Excellent flying, Potter, by the way."
Harry nodded at his Head of House distantly, still wary of how she had not spoken to him regarding the Tournament or his inclusion, and went to the tent she had indicated. Professor Moody was standing outside, and nodded to him.
"That's it, Potter, play to your strengths."
Inside the tent, Madam Pomfrey was muttering about the dangers inherent in bringing dragons to the school, and the mutterings only grew in volume as she bustled Harry to a curtained bed. Glancing over him, she breathed in sharply, then sighed in relief as she realised he had no injuries.
"Well, thank Merlin for that, Mr Potter! At least I don't have to patch one of you up!"
She bustled away, and Harry heard her speaking to Cedric behind another curtain. Harry drew in a deep breath, and stood up. Before he could make his way to the entrance of the tent, the tent flap lifted and Neville appeared.
"Well done Harry! Here's your egg, they wouldn't let Professor Lupin through to give it to you." Neville was breathing heavily, having obviously rushed to get to the tent, and Harry gestured for him to take a seat before placing the egg on the table. Neville nodded his thanks, drew in a few breaths and then straightened.
"Just to warn you, Hermione and Ron are headed this way, presumably to see you. Thought you'd want to be prepared. I'll check on the other Champions for you, if you want?"
Harry nodded. "Thanks for the warning, Nev, and yeah, if you could offer my sympathies for any injuries, and congratulations for them acquiring their eggs? Cheers."
Standing defiantly, Harry took courage from the presence of both Professors McGonagall and Moody outside the tent, as Ron and Hermione entered it. He was half-turned from them, lifting a glass of water to his lips as they drew closer, and refrained from facing them until after he had swallowed and returned the glass to the bedside table.
Hermione, Harry noticed, was looking somewhat subdued and nervous, whereas Ron appeared to be exactly the same as he had been before Halloween, if seemingly shocked by the events in the arena. Internally, Harry sneered, and waited to see what they would say.
"Bloody hell, Harry! That was amazing flying." Ron exclaimed, seemingly ignoring the fact that the last time he had spoken to Harry was to accuse him of cheating to enter the Tournament. Harry seethed inwardly, although he remained quiet, allowing Ron to dig his hole even deeper.
"But when the dragon took off after you, that was scary. I thought you might not make it!" Ron carried on blithely, missing or perhaps ignoring the charged atmosphere, and Hermione winced. Harry decided that enough was enough.
"What are you doing here, Ron? You made it very clear that we were no longer friends after Halloween, and you have been bad-mouthing me since. What has changed, except that you're missing your chance at some reflected glory?" The look on Ron's face was of mixed confusion and calculation. He had obviously expected Harry to simply accept him back, to forgive and forget without Ron having to issue an apology or explanation for his behaviour. Well, Harry may have done that in the past, but no more. Ron had shown his true colours, and Harry had no need for a fair-weather friend like that.
"But, I'm your best mate! Of course I'm gonna be by your side!" Ron regained enough of his wits to gasp, and Harry saw Hermione out of the corner of her eye, wincing again. She at least appeared to be more understanding than Ron, although she had had the benefit of Harry shouting at her by the lake.
Harry sighed, and turned away from the pair as Neville approached, speaking over his shoulder to Ron.
"You haven't been my friend since Halloween, when you accused me of something you should know by now I would never do. Please leave now, I have to collect my scores."
With Neville by his side, Harry made his way out of the tent and back into the arena, now empty and far less frightening than before. Glancing up, Harry saw that many of the crowd were cheering him, obviously his actions in the Task outweighing his supposed cheating.
Turning towards the judges' seating area at Bagman's Sonorus assisted throat clearing, Harry stood calmly beneath the excited murmurings of the crowd and waited to see his scores.
"Well, that was an excellent display of flying, and no wonder, since Mr Potter is the youngest member of a Hogwarts Quidditch team in over a century! And he caused no harm to the dragon he faced. He was also the quickest to get his egg, and so the scores are as follows."
Harry glanced away from Bagman, and towards the judges. Each in turn raised their wand, and spiralling silver ribbons twisted out to form numbers floating above them.
A score of eight came from Madame Maxine, and Dumbledore and Crouch both gave Harry nine, while Karkaroff's score of four clearly showed how he was still upset by the way Harry had been pushed into the Tournament. The final score came from Ludo Bagman himself, who gave Harry a ten.
Harry glanced sideways at Nev, who shrugged back. There was obviously something going on with Bagman, given how anxious he had been to speak to Harry before this first Task. Most likely it was to do with his gambling, as he was dodging the Weasley Twins regarding the leprechaun's gold he had settled the Quidditch World Cup bet with.
Bagman had given the crowd a chance to get their cheering under control, before he again applied Sonorus to his throat and spoke.
"This concludes the First Task of the Tri-Wizard Tournament, thank you very much for spectating ladies and gentlemen. Champions, if you could return to the tent, I have a few more words."
Neville offered Harry back his Golden Egg, which Harry had forgotten about in his exchange with Ron and then the excitement of his scores, and motioned towards the Teachers' box. Harry nodded, of course everyone would want to hear that he was fully unharmed.
Walking back towards the tent, Harry fell into step with the other three Champions coming out of the Medical tent, and congratulations were exchanged all round. Cedric had a thick orange paste plastered on the side of his face, where he had evidently been caught by dragon fire, but he grinned at Harry even so. Fleur and Victor didn't appear injured although Fleur's robe was singed slightly down one side, so Harry assumed they had completed the Task with minimal damage, which they corroborated.
They only had to wait a couple of minutes in the tent before Bagman came bouncing in, as excited and proud as though he were the one who had just defeated a dragon.
"Now, just a quick few words. You've got a nice long break before the second task, which will take place at half past nine on the morning of February the twenty-fourth - but we're giving you something to think about in the meantime! If you look down at those golden eggs you're all holding, you will see that they open... see the hinges there? You need to solve the clue inside the egg - because it will tell you what the second task is, and enable you to prepare for it! All clear? Sure? Well, off you go, then!"
Harry exchanged rolled eyes with Cedric as they left the tent, before getting pounced on by Sirius and Remus with excited and relieved bear hugs. Sirius took the egg from Harry, and examined it as they walked back up to the castle. Before they had gone further than halfway, they were accosted by Rita Skeeter and her photographer, although she remained polite and respectful if overly flirty with Sirius.
"Might I have a quote from you, Mr Potter? About the First Task, and how you feel about whoever entered you now that you have faced a dragon?"
Harry glanced at Sirius and Remus who nodded thoughtfully, then turned to Rita. She didn't appear to be using her Quick Quotes Quill for this, so Harry trusted her not to misquote him.
"Well, I'm obviously pleased to have made it safely through the First Task, and offer my congratulation to the three True Champions for doing so also. Facing the dragon has made it clear to me that whoever entered me is hoping that I will be badly injured or worse during this Tournament, or that I will fail to complete a Task and lose my magic maybe. I can't say that either option is to my liking!"
Sirius interjected at this point, knowing that emphasizing Harry's age and lack of magical skills compared to the other Champions would only benefit them.
"Of course, as his Guardian I am very glad and relieved that Harry survived against such a dangerous creature as a nesting mother dragon, and even more so given his relative youth and inexperience compared to the three true Champions."
Rita nodded and thanked them, before spotting another target in Ludo Bagman and excusing herself. Harry sighed gratefully, still disliking the Prophet's ability to swing between his being the Saviour and a potential Dark Wizard at any given opportunity. At least Rita had been polite and her articles so far had shown Harry as he tended to be rather than some distorted image of the Boy-Who-Lived.
As they reached the entrance steps, Neville, Draco and Lee joined them, with beaming smiles.
"Of course, this means that you didn't just compete, Harry! Your score puts you level with Viktor, in first place, with Fleur in second, and Cedric last. Pretty good, hey?" Draco was the first to speak, sending the two adults a respectful nod.
Although Sirius and Remus had become used to the blond boy's assistance and occasional presence in Harry's planning meetings, the atmosphere between the three was still fraught with held-over worries and mistrust due to Draco's parentage. Harry had shown them in Severus' pensieve the memory of the meeting between the two boys, and this had alleviated a lot of the stress. Relations between the older Gryffindors and Slytherins were a lot friendlier after they had managed to talk out the spells and binds each had been under, and naturally their mutual like for and distress regarding Harry held a large part of ensuring they worked well together.
Actually, although Sirius refused to admit it to anyone but himself, he thought that if he, Severus and Remus had met on the train first year and made friends, they would probably have been closer than the Marauders, or Severus would have been the fourth member instead of Pettigrew. He would certainly have been more loyal to Lily and James!
Harry was just considering the same thing, that given everything he had heard about the Marauders from both Severus and the remaining Marauders, Severus would have fitted in well. He wondered whether, if he and his friends could achieve their Animagi forms, and Severus had one, perhaps they could reform the Marauders!
Just then, the Twins rushed up.
"Hey, Dumbledore just announced that there would be feasts in each Common Room, but we assumed that you wouldn't want that really Harry? So, we asked McGonagall, and she said that since your guardians are here, you could have a private feast in one of the unused classrooms. Dobby can get us some of the feast, maybe we can figure out the clue for the next task! What do you say?"
Harry nodded, and grinned up at Sirius and Remus. This would be the perfect time to ask about Animagi and the possibilities there. And, spending time with the people Harry considered to be his true family, that was the best part about this year so far, knowing that there were people on his side, people who wanted him for him.
And, while in the minds belonging to the eyes watching Harry plots were being hatched, amended, or hastily dispatched, Harry bounced happily alongside his godfathers towards a brighter future than he had once dreamed of for himself.