Was late, stuff happened (lotta stuff). I am sorry for being late.

Many thanks to Neolyph for providing an opinion on the chapter and giving good suggestions for making it better!


33

First Task

November twenty-fourth, the day of the First Task. One could say that the atmosphere in the old castle of Hogwarts was almost electric, and not necessarily because the First Task of the Triwizard Tournament was to be held. Certainly, it did play a part in the overall tense air surrounding pretty much every student, local or foreign, but it was hardly the main reason for it. In fact, at that point, the Tournament was almost an afterthought when compared to the recent events.

First of all, Ivy Potter, the daughter of one of the most prominent English Lords, had very nearly been raped, which, in itself, only served to prove the French and Bulgarian students right when they said that Hogwarts had fallen from grace. And of course, given their pride, the British wizards did not take that well, even if they could hardly refute the accusation since neither Beauxbatons nor Durmstrang had seen cases of attempted rape for several decades, the punishments in both schools being expulsion and immediate imprisonment. This lead to some very tense standoffs between local Purebloods and foreign students, standoffs that more than once had degenerated in exchange of spells, though so far nobody had been significantly injured. Still, the relations between the foreign students and the British were at an all-time low.

Secondly, there was the matter of the prized British Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore himself, allowing the would-be rapist to roam free in the castle after he had admitted to his actions, something that both Karkaroff and Madame Maxime had pointed out as irresponsible and highly dangerous. They had both threatened the aged wizard to tighten his security, lest he find himself with an international incident in his hands. When the old man had tried to placate them, both of them had firmly reminded him that their students, should they find themselves in a situation requiring them to defend themselves, had been given free reign to curse as they wished, which had not pleased the headmaster. Yet despite all his insistence that Hogwarts' security was up to the task of keeping their students safe, it was blatantly clear to both foreign schools that either the man was blind to the happenings in his school, or, more worryingly, had a very strange notion of "safe".

And thirdly, of course, there was the matter of the fourth Champion, Harry James Minaka-Peverell, since it had come out after the brutal slaughtering of the Bole family's male representatives, that the Boy-Who-Lived had refused his birthright and had preferred to claim the Lordship of a family long thought dead. At first, plenty had been willing to believe that while powerful, he was a cocky youth with a bark worse than his bite. That had been thoroughly disproven with the way his wife, and wasn't that strange that a fourteen-years old was already married, had killed off two wizards known to be quite competent in their own right. The way that neither had seemed particularly shocked or even uneasy at the gruesome torture inflicted on the Boles had shown quite clearly that he was not a pushover. It had also become abundantly clear that threatening, or insulting, his lady friends in any way was a bad idea, and now even the most vicious of his detractors avoided speaking ill of his companions. They might hate him, but they weren't suicidal to the point of risking their lives simply to insult him.

As it was, after what had happened with the Boles, most students actively avoided Harry's group, in fear that they would be killed off, not that any of the foreigners tried to disprove that notion. They much preferred their current, relative peace, to the nosy masses from when they had arrived in Britain. If they had to exploit the death of people who had tried to enslave Akitsu to their will to be given some space, then so be it. And with Dumbledore still trying to do damage control, his reputation having surprisingly suffered more from the fact that he was gay than from the fact he had left a potential rapist walk around unsupervised, they could finally enjoy their stay for the first time since they had arrived.

Of course, Dumbledore regularly tried to convince Harry to meet with him alone, apparently trying to chastise him for allowing Akitsu to kill off Caius and Lucian, but he was easily dealt with, simply by reminding the man that the more he tried to meet with Harry alone, the more the rumors of his apparent pedophilia would be given credence. After all, for any who weren't aware of the Prophecy, or the fact that Dumbledore wanted to control its' outcome, it did look as if the old man wanted to meet with a teenager, alone, after said teenager had explicitly told him he wanted nothing to do with the headmaster.

The morning of the day of the First Task saw Harry leisurely strolling down to the tent where the Champions would be told of the contents of the Task, though the Fourth Champion had a very good idea of what it entailed, and he was quite sure that he wasn't the only one. It was hardly his fault that he liked to take night strolls from time to time, and giant bouts of flame being shot from the Forbidden Forest did warrant an investigation. The fact that he had also seen Maxime, with the Care for Magical Creatures teacher enthusiastically explaining the Task to her was the reason he was quite sure that the little part-Veela would know of what the Task entailed. As for Krum, Harry hadn't missed Karkaroff slinking back to his ship when he was walking back to the castle. In fact, the only one whom he wasn't sure was aware of the contents of the Task was the Hogwarts Champion, not that he cared. It wasn't his job to babysit the girl, especially given that in her case, the participation was voluntary. Let her see what she got herself into and decided whether or not she liked it.

He wasn't worried, after all he had already dealt with Dragons before, during one of his missions as a Hitwizard. He was quite sure that in this case, he wouldn't be allowed to kill the Dragon, or would get penalty points for doing so, but quite frankly, if he had to, he would kill it. If the morons behind the Tournament didn't like that, it wasn't his problem. He wasn't about to take unnecessary risks just to please a group of people moronic enough to resurrect a Tournament famous for its' death tool and failed to put proper security measures around the selection. It was lucky he was who he was, otherwise his odds of surviving would have been next to nil, no matter what people thought about the Boy-Who-Lived.

He entered the tent for the Champions alone, his Sekirei, along with Hermione, Mutsu, and Ivy, having taken their seats in the stands. Speaking of his little student, she seemed to be growing into the proximity with Mutsu, and it was clear that she appreciated the fact that her Sekirei was someone who could hold intelligent conversations with her, while also being extremely handsome. Ivy was also often hovering around the pair whenever she wasn't around Akitsu, much to the displeasure of the Potters, who unfortunately had very little grounds to complain, given that both parents had distanced themselves from her. The fact that Akitsu had been the one to rescue her when she was about to be raped also prevented them from forcing their daughter to spend time with them, since while their parenting skills left much to be desired, they could at least understand that their daughter felt safe around the Ice Sekirei.

Of course, his thoughts just had to be interrupted by the moronic Ministry worker.

"Ah, Harry, welcome, welcome!" grinned Bagman, the overweight man jovially gesturing for him to come closer.

It was with vindictive pleasure that he ignored the idiot and took a good look at his "competition".

As expected, Krum and the French girl, Fleur, looked like they were aware of the Task, the former looking even glummer than usual, occasionally glaring at Bagman whenever the man laughed in his obnoxiously loud habit, while the latter looked very pale, and was waving her wand while muttering under her breath, no doubt reviewing her plan for the Task. The Hogwarts Champion, Angelina if he remembered well, looked stressed out of her mind as well, but from what he could tell, it was more because she had no idea of what she was going to face than because she was aware that they were going to face dragons. Nesting mothers, at that. How someone could be stupid enough to come up with such a thing had likely never been in the vicinity of a dragon, for while most breeds were reasonably aggressive, nesting mother dragons would indiscriminately attack anything that approached them, even other dragons. How four teenagers, three of whom had yet to get their NEWTS, should manage to finish the Task alive and not burnt to a crisp, while not even being aware of what they would face, was anyone's guess. He suspected that the Task had been chosen mostly to be impressive.

While he waited, he noticed Rita Skeeter making a beeline for him, the woman giving him a large hug, as she wore the widest grin he had ever seen.

"Harry darling, thank you sooo much for the information you gave me! The Prophet had to reprint the edition with my article four times with how much it sold, and the sales have gone through the roof with everything you've uncovered! By the way, nice job with the Boles, they were always nasty little pieces of shit."

He returned the grin, his mood having lifted a bit at the reminder of the fact he had quite literally kicked the anthill by revealing Voldemort's past to the public, which in his opinion, was something Dumbledore should have done the moment he had become a Dark Lord. It would have been nowhere near as easy for him to create his following if the Purebloods had been aware of his origins, and even revealing it in the middle of the war would have seen his troops dropping in number almost immediately. Why the man had never done so, he would never know, and frankly he didn't care much. What he did care about, however, was that by giving Rita the information, he had massively indebted her to him, enough so that she would likely avoid been too harsh on his Sekirei or him in her articles. After all, what kind of journalist intentionally pissed off their sources?

"You're very welcome, Rita. Let's hope that this Task gives you some worthwhile material as well."

He sincerely doubted he wouldn't make the front page, especially if he killed the dragon, but quite frankly he was sure that if he asked her, she'd be able to make it seem like a logical conclusion to the Task, while also criticizing the Tournament officials.

The perks of having the media on your side…

Honestly, it was a good thing Takami had taught him how to deal with the media, and how useful having them on your side could be. Most of the time, simply having the media willing to help you instead of the person on the other side was enough to deal with them, since they shaped the masses' opinion on whatever subject was in contention. And since Magical Britain was still stuck in the Victorian Era, that meant that they had a lot less media, and that having them on your side was imperative if one wished to be more than a punching bag for the opinion.

"Oh, I don't doubt you'll show us something amazing, Harry, or should I say, Lord Peverell?" purred Rita, before scowling at Bagman, the rotund man having appeared next to her, his face set in a large, jovial grin.

"Alright, everyone gather 'round, gather 'round!" called the man, uncaring that he was basically yelling in their ears, and making both Harry and Rita scowl in annoyance.

"I see your intelligence is still the same as before, Ludo," sneered the reporter, before waving towards Harry and moving to a corner of the tent, followed by her photograph. It didn't stop her from muttering about idiots and Bludgers lowering already abysmal intelligence.

By the time the last Champion had gathered next to the annoyingly smiling Bagman, the tension in the air was almost palpable. Uncaring, or, more likely, unaware of the heavy feeling in the air, the man continued:

"Alright, everyone! Welcome to the First Task of the Triwizard Tournament! The first task is designed to test your daring, courage in the face of the unknown is an important quality in a wizard.

Now remember: the goal of the Task is to get the golden egg."

Producing a leather pouch, the man then held it open.

"Well then, Ladies first! Miss Delacour?"

The French Champion, still pale, nodded and put her hand in the bag. With the way the pouch moved, Harry almost expected her to yelp and withdraw her hand, but alas it seemed that whatever was inside was not made to hurt them. Nonetheless, she soon withdrew her hand, showing it held a miniature figurine of a snarling dragon, Bagman beaming at the sight.

"Ah, Miss Delacour, you will be facing the Common Welsh Green!" smiled Ludo, before showing the bag to the Hogwarts Champion, who had frozen, all color having drained from her chocolate-colored skin as she stared at the miniature green ball of aggressiveness prowling around her counterpart's open palm.

"Dragons?" she squeaked, "We have to face dragons?"

"Nesting mothers, yes," drawled Harry, not surprised when her head snapped around to look at him in horror.

"WHAT?!"

"He said that we have to get the golden egg, which means that it'll likely be hidden in a real clutch of dragon eggs. That and I don't think there would be much of a show if the Task was something as easy as summoning the egg from a nest. Not to mention that the few mentions I've seen of the Tournament did speak of the Champions having to face dangerous magical creatures."

While it was certainly cruel of him to keep on speaking to the obviously terrified girl in such a bland tone, he felt that while he owed her nothing, he could at least warn her to try and gather more information for the next Task, if she managed to complete the first one, that is. That and it wasn't exactly fair to her to be the only one trying not to cheat, when the foreign schools had no such compunctions. He may not like her, it didn't mean he couldn't even the playing field by warning her a bit:

"You were also the only one unaware of what the Task entailed, I'm afraid. Maxime was told by the groundskeeper, who, in his clear infatuation for her, seemed to believe it was a good idea to show her the dragons to impress his belle. I believe that Karkaroff, being the opportunistic man he is, decided to follow them in the hopes that he'd learn about the Task, because I noticed him not far behind the pair of lovebirds while our Romeo was explaining things."

The girl's face, which had been pale before, now grew angry as she glared at the foreign school heads, who in turn were glaring at him, which he shrugged off with practiced ease. Takami, while a Muggle, was a magnitude more terrifying than either of the irate magic users, and he'd seen her angry a lot in his life.

"And 'ow were you aware of ze contents of ze Task? You are accusing us of cheating, w'en you did ze same!" glowered Madame Maxime, stepping forwards and straightening to her full, and impressive height.

All she got in return was a deadpan stare. She had nothing on a pissed off Karasuba or Miya Asama.

"Well see, I was taking a nightly stroll one night, and saw giant plumes of flame erupting over the Forbidden Forest. As there is no recorded creature able to spit fire currently inhabiting the Forest at this point I time, I investigated and found out about the Task. So yes, I did see the dragons and hear the explanations about the Task. Was it premeditated? No, because quite frankly I would have preferred to have a surprise, but well, I saw what I saw.

And since you and Karkaroff were there, it was plenty obvious that you'd tell your respective Champions, because let's face it: despite the fact that this Tournament is supposed to be about fair play, all that our respective governments hope is that their Champion will win, and if cheating has to happen for that, I'm sure they'll be more than happy to look the other way."

"Why didn't you tell me, then?" asked Angelina, who looked at him with betrayed eyes.

"Do tell me when it became my job to look after you, especially when you chose to volunteer as Champion?" he deadpanned, "As cruel as this may sound to you, I don't care the least bit about if you live, die, or finish mauled by your dragon. You chose to volunteer as Champion because you believed you had what it took, so now deal with the consequences of your choice. If you want to complain, I'd suggest the people who organized the Tournament, or the foreign Headmaster and Headmistress, since they apparently consider cheating acceptable."

He inwardly grinned at the way Karkaroff was almost snarling in anger, his hand moving for his wand, only to stop as he remembered he couldn't quite curse him lest he wished to cause an international incident. Harry also noticed Rita grinning like a loon as she jotted down notes frantically, and he was quite sure that her article about the Task would be as memorable as it was acid when it came to the foreign schools' officials. Well, good for her, at least. He didn't much care either way, but it did somewhat anger him that only one of the Champions didn't know about the Task before it started. Since he was from neither of the three schools, he had much less reason to cheat, since he preferred a nice challenge, knowing that was already unfairly advantaged compared to the other Champions.

"Well then, now that we have determined that this competition is just a pissing contest for our respective governments to brag about their Champions and schools, and that anything goes so long as actual results are shown, perhaps we could go back to drawing our dragons?" he drawled.

He could see his words had some effect on the Champions, and while the Headmistress and Headmaster were glaring at him, he cared more about the teenagers than he did the adults. He didn't expect a miracle, but he hoped that they'd at least try to play fair, regardless of what the head of their schools wanted. Competitions were everyone cheated were boring, after all. How were you supposed to prove who was better when everyone was trying to get one over everyone else?

As it turned out, the draw left him with the Hungarian Horntail, the most vicious and aggressive breed, even when it wasn't a nesting mother. Given the somewhat smug looks given to him by the foreign Champions, they believed that he had bitten off more than he could chew. He did nothing to disabuse them of the notion, since given his personal power and skill, it was more than fair that he had to fight the worst breed. While the first time he had to face one alone, he had faced the breed before, with his Sekirei, and dealt with them easily enough. Of course, back then he had the benefit of being able to go all out without fearing the political nightmare he would get if word got out he was basically a God compared to the puny British wizards, as well as the help of his Sekirei. Oh, he still believed he'd win the Task easily enough, but it would certainly be more of a challenge than before. Though far less than what his competitors would have to go through.

At least he had the benefit of training daily against women with strength and reflexes well beyond humans', as well as having experience with dealing with dragons before. He highly doubted any of the other Champions were as fit as he was, were used to reaction speeds counted in nanoseconds, or had ever had to face an angry dragon before. Not to mention, that for all that they were older than him, they had yet to pass their NEWTs, while he had had his own for three years already, while also pulverizing the world record for the highest grades overall. And he had his Goblin-made sword with him, so he shouldn't have any trouble dicing the annoying reptile to bits if it came to that. He wasn't about to enter the Task with only a wand, after all, that would be stupid…

-Break-

"Excuse me?" he growled, glaring at a rather nervous-looking Bagman.

"I'm afraid, Harry, that you can't take your sword with you, it's against the rules…You're only supposed to use a wand…" explained the Ministry official, his voice on the edge of hysterical, but then again, he was facing The Mask, or at least the preliminary stages of it, which, combined with his pitifully meager intellect, was almost enough to have him wet himself.

"That is true. Now my boy, hand this sword over, you will get it back at the end of the Task," ordered Bartemius Crouch, the man moving an expecting hand towards Harry.

Oh, how he wanted to punch the smug bastard and the quivering idiot, but unfortunately, they were protected by the same diplomatic immunity than he was. He hated politics for a reason, after all. But if those idiots thought he would allow them to even touch something that belonged to him, they were out of their minds. There was no way he would let anything belonging to him in their hands, who knew what kind of spells they could put on any object he let out of his sight? It was why he bothered to Portkey to Japan to fetch his and his Sekirei's spare clothes, while leaving the dirty ones with the Zashiki-Warashi.

"Well, boy? I am waiting," scowled Crouch.

The man was obviously not used to be disobeyed, and while not arrogant in the same sense as most Purebloods, who expected everyone to bend over for them, he still clearly expected to be obeyed when he spoke. Too bad he had never had to deal with Harry Peverell before.

As if on cue, the flap of the tent opened, Akitsu walking in and dutifully moving to stand behind him. He had to refrain from braining Bagman when the man's eyes followed the movement of her breasts, but he swore that once the Tournament was over, the fool would find himself in deep, deep trouble. If he remembered well, the Goblins had said was indebted to them…

"Ah, Akitsu," he smiled, handing her the sword under the enraged gaze of the Ministry official, "Can you keep it with you? I'll get it after the Task, alright?"

The brunette gave a vigorous nod, and gently cradled the sheathed sword to her bosom, making it sink deep between the soft mounds, much to Bagman's appreciation if his gaze was any indication. Then the man started hopping around and yelling in pain, Harry having taken pleasure in crushing his foot under his boot.

"Stop staring at my wife, Bagman, or I'll make sure to ask you for a nice duel, and I highly doubt you'll prove as challenging as the Boles," he growled. He could understand some looks to Akitsu, after all a man had to be gay not to want to ogle her, however there was a line between simple appreciation and downright ogling. Not to mention that he loathed the bumbling fool, so he wasn't likely to let such a thing slide.

The man whimpered as a dark aura surrounded Harry, and immediately looked elsewhere. It's like training a dog, Harry mused, though I'm pretty sure that some dogs are smarter than this idiot.

"One moment, Lord Peverell. As a delegate from the Ministry itself, I demand that you relinquish your sword to me, and not to your wife," scowled Crouch, the man looking quite displeased, "Fail to comply and I shall demand an inquiry from the Ministry about this blade. Dark artifacts are prohibited for use during the Tournament, and your refusal to allow me near if highly suspicious!"

"Oh, fuck off. I'm not allowing you anywhere near it because it was a gift from some good friends who would be highly offended if I handed it over the moment the Ministry asked for it, that and frankly, I have good reason to not trust those associated with the Tournament since one of them is highly likely to be the reason I'm even involved into this mess.

The Task is going to start anyway, you really want to lose your time here?" he rolled his eyes.

Crouch, still clearly displeased, stormed out of the tent, leaving the flap flutter loudly as Harry shook his head in consternation. Clearly, competent Ministry workers were rare, and those few who weren't also stuck-up pricks were clearly a rarity.

Shaking his head, he turned to look at Akitsu.

"Take care of it, alright?"

"Ah…Yes," sleepily nodded the brunette, before fidgeting a bit, "Take…care of yourself, Harry-sama. Be careful."

He smiled. He loved knowing that the beautiful woman cared for him. Even being her Ashikabi, he still greatly enjoyed the times she was outspoken in her affection of him, as she was the only one of his three Sekirei to have those gentle words for him. Karasuba wouldn't know how to be caring even if she had an illustrated manual to it, while Homura, despite being his Sekirei, was still keeping him at an arm's length. She did show she cared, but it was with worried glances and covert things, instead of open demonstrations like Akitsu. He actually hoped to solve that situation sometime in the near future, as while he didn't really intend to bed Homura if she didn't want to, he still wanted a closer relationship with her.

A soft feeling on his lips brought him out of his musings, the Ice Sekirei gently pecking him on the lips before leaving the tent, their bond filling with love and affection and helping him relax, despite the envious stares of the other Champions.

Then a canon blast was heard, and tension returned full force.

-Break-

Harry, unlike the other Champions, wasn't overly worried at the prospect of the Task, which allowed him to meditate and center himself before his turn, while the others nervously paced, and flinched whenever there was a loud sound, be it a dragon's roar, the crowd making noise, or another canon blast, signaling another Champion's turn.

He had offered some advice to the Hogwarts' Champion, mostly because the girl was irritating him, being so worried, but also because he wanted her to have a fighting chance. He had no love for her, but it wasn't fair for her either to be the only one without any time to prepare for the Task. When she had asked why he had even bothered, he had just shrugged. He despised the British, mostly because so far, all those he had seen were either idiots or people he had personal bad blood with, but the girl was polite, and even if she was a bit brash, she wasn't a bad person. The fact that she would likely tell her friends would also earn him some brownie points with the students, who at the moment were terrified of him and likely considered him as a budding Dark Lord.

He didn't bother trying to keep track how long each individual Champion took to complete, or fail, the Task, as quite frankly he cared very little for the results, since he had insured that the Hogwarts Champion had a plan and was on even terms with the other Champions when it came to preparation. While his pride demanded he do his best, trying to simply outdo the other competitors was not only stupid, but would take his focus from the most important part: completing the Task. It was the kind of thing that in the current situation could make the difference between ending your turn alive and unharmed, and being confined to a bed for the remainder of your life. One of the first rules of any kind of combat situation, and this was clearly such, was to not fill your mind with unnecessary thoughts.

When his turn finally came, the canon blast could be heard and mismatched eyes narrowed in determination.

-Break-

Lily Potter was not quite sure what to do at the moment. She was worried for her son first and foremost, of course, but she was also quite bothered by the seating arrangements. After what had nearly happened to Ivy, she had decided that it was high time she took a more active role in her daughter's life instead of keeping a distance like she had done previously, even if her willingness to get closer to the teen was hampered by an unexpected obstacle.

Turning her head to the side, she could see Sirius staring at the odd group surrounding his twin with glassy eyes, especially the buxom brunette Akitsu. How that woman could live with herself while clothed in garments that wouldn't be out of place worn by a street whore, she'd never know. James was sitting right next to their son, occasionally glancing at the group as well, though in his case it wasn't the teenage hormones making him do so, but rather wariness. They knew two out of three of their son's companions could kill, and more to the point, were almost certain that they and Harry were in fact the very same group of mercenaries that had saved her children and her during the World Cup, even if they didn't know how to breach the subject.

She also noted that Hermione Granger and her "bodyguard" Mutsu, were seated right next to the group, and seemed to be talking quietly with Ivy, well mostly Hermione, while Mutsu seemed to add his own words to the conversation every now and then. She'd have to ask the girl what was going on, as her "bodyguard" seemed entirely too at ease around her to be someone she just met. It seemed that like everything and everyone linked to Harry, she was a mystery as well.

Honestly, she didn't know what to think of the fact that everyone associated with her son seemed to have secrets hidden behind more secrets. She wanted to get to know Harry, but it was clear that he was less than interested in the prospect, and getting too nosy would do her more harm than good. But Merlin damn it, she wanted to know about her son's life! How was she supposed to ever be able to look at him in the eye if she didn't even know the slightest bit about how he was raised? So far all that she knew was that he had been badly abused at the Dursleys, but everything after that was a mystery.

"Still looking at them, Lily?" asked Remus Lupin, the man being seated right next to her.

He and Sirius had come to the Task in the hopes of meeting Harry, having refrained from showing themselves at Hogwarts so far because of the tension existing between Harry and his family. They knew very well that Harry was downright hostile to them, and had preferred to avoid confronting him, since it would only make things worse if even more people tried to get close to him without his agreement. But now that the First Task was there, they wouldn't miss the chance to see their pup in action.

Though in Sirius' case, it was also to ogle the three women his Godson had shown up with.

She sighed.

"Yes, Remus. It pains me to admit it, but they have been better to Ivy in the time she has known them that James and I have been for her in the last two years. She's almost glued to Akitsu, and whenever she isn't with them, she is with Granger and her bodyguard."

""Bodyguard", eh?" grinned Sirius, "Methinks he does a lot of "body-guarding" with his charge, if how close they are's any indication…"

"Sirius! She's only fourteen!" scowled Lily, though she couldn't refrain the small twinge of pain in her heart at the knowledge that her son was without a doubt indulging in sex with his companions despite being even younger than her. It hurt all the more to know that she would never be able to tease him for it, would never be able to laugh at his cutely blushing face the first time he introduced a girl to them, or would have the opportunity to put the fear of God into the girl her son brought home.

"Eh, at fourteen I was already up to the double digits in conquests, Lily, it isn't like teenagers don't know what sex is," grinned the Lord Black, "Besides, she's rather developed for a girl her age, and she's supposed to be scary smart. It's always the smart ones you have to look out for, right Lily?"

She rolled her eyes. Honestly, she had learnt to stop getting riled up by his teasing years ago. It wasn't like she could deny that as a teenager she had been rather curious, even if she had only gotten to actual sex in her late teens. It wasn't like she was a prude either, she had four children after all.

"But seriously, if I could, I'd congratulate the pup on getting those women," continued Sirius, "Hell, even the one that reminds me of dear cousin Bellatrix is gorgeous, even if I wouldn't go anywhere near her. I may be a Gryffindor, I'd still like to keep my balls. But the brunette one, Akitsu right? Holy shit man! Do you see her rack?"

She rolled her eyes once more. Men. Show some cleavage and they become drooling idiots. At least Harry seemed to be able to do more than ogle the breasts of his wife. That bombshell was still among the sorest points of her barely existent relationship with her estranged son. She could tolerate a lot of things, but she had trouble accepting that he was married at only fourteen, it was something even the Purebloods, for all their backwards traditions, didn't do. Write up marriage contracts, that they did, but the wedding was never before both parties were legally of age.

But Harry is of age, her traitorous brain reminded her. Of age or not of age, Harry was her son, and even if he hadn't been, she would have had trouble accepting that a teen who had barely entered puberty, even if his looks belonged to someone a good three years older, was married. She could accept people wishing to marry young, after all she'd married James when she was barely out of Hogwarts, and had her first child barely a year later, but there was a difference between being married at seventeen and being married at fourteen. Especially since she didn't know when they had married.

Calm down Lily, it isn't as if they can have been married for long. It isn't like he married her when he was barely eleven…

-Break-

Ivy was wringing her hands worriedly, seated as she was next to Akitsu, with Homura sat on the other side. She had gotten to know the two women, and out of the three females her brother spent time around, they were certainly those she could interact the best with. Karasuba didn't like her, and the feeling was mutual. The grey-haired woman seemed to find her annoying, while Ivy was terrified of her, since she had come to learn that under the permanently grinning, and oftentimes menacing young woman, hid a monster the likes of which she had never seen. She had no idea if her intuition was correct, but she was willing to risk betting her entire allowance that the woman was a bigger monster than even Voldemort, albeit one who didn't torture people with undue cause. Nonetheless, she highly suspected that to the older woman, the lives of anyone outside of Harry's and his other companion's, had no value at all.

Yeah, she'd stick with the silent bombshell who saved her and the withdrawn bookworm any day.

It worried her greatly that instead of the two women she hung out with, Karasuba seemed to be the one out of the three that had the most influence on him, followed closely by Akitsu. Homura seemed…distant with him, albeit she was sure the woman cared about her brother, but it was as if she didn't know how to approach Harry. She only hoped that the violent woman had trained him well, as she was about to watch her brother face a dragon.

While they were nowhere near close yet, mostly because her brother seemed to suffer from extreme misanthropy and was apparently paranoid to the point of making their new DADA teacher, Mad-Eye Moody, proud, she had gotten the impression that neither Harry nor his companions were worried about the Task. Well, Homura and Akitsu were, just nowhere near the level she would expect from people as close to her brother as they were. It was as if the notion of a fourteen-years old wizard, no matter how skilled, having to face one of the most dangerous creatures on Earth, was something they acknowledged as dangerous, but not extremely so. The notion boggled her mind, for even Dumbledore, or Voldemort, for all their fabled power, couldn't take on dragons and win. Of course, Harry only had to retrieve a golden egg, not subdue the dragon, but nesting mothers were not to be underestimated, especially when their clutches were seen as in danger.

Homura, Akitsu, Karasuba, Hermione, and even Mutsu, seemed to think that her brother would be fine.

But would he really?

-Break-

Karasuba was rather impatient, growling as she waited, seated next to her fellow Sekirei, Hermione, and Harry's sister. The three "official" Champions had been pathetic, fumbling around and all but oozing fear, even if Krum's case at least, it was hidden behind a mask of furrowed determination. None of them had tried to fight the dragons, the closest to it being once again Krum, who had used a curse to blind his dragon while he retrieved the egg. The French girl had put the giant reptile to sleep, while the Hogwarts' Champion had used a broom, flying around the arena to goad the dragon into pursuing her before swooping in and taking her egg. It was disappointing that so far the most serious injury were light burns and a gash on the arm, but with her Ashikabi coming up, she was confident that some actual violence would soon be on-stage. Too bad he hadn't been allowed to take his sword though, but she knew that if he had a need for it, he could summon it to his side in a heartbeat, so she wasn't too worried.

As the canon blew, signaling it was her Ashikabi's turn, she leant forward, a greedy smile on her lips.

Come on, Harry-chan, show me a good time…

-Break-

Come on, Harry-chan, show me a good time…

Harry chuckled as he walked towards the arena, shaking his head ruefully. Apparently his first Sekirei was disappointed with the other Champions' performance and wanted him to show her something more impressive than people hiding and running, something for which she had a particular disdain for. Of course, being as powerful as she was, she had no need to hide and run, only to dodge when came the necessity to do so, and she expected the same of others. She had a particularly bad tolerance to cowards, and would gleefully make them suffer more than their more courageous brethren who stood their ground even when knowing they had no hope to win.

With a flourish of his wrist, his wand was in his hand, ready to be used, as he arrived at the flap delimiting the tent from the arena. Without so much as a breath he stepped forward, entering the stage of the Task. He immediately took cover behind the closest rock, using it as cover while he observed his surroundings. As he did so, he had to refrain from groaning at the fact that the seating area for the crowd was made of wood, of all things, despite the fact that there was a fire-breathing giant lizard trapped inside the arena with him.

The area was large, probably the size of a football pitch, and made of rocky formations surrounding a slightly more elevated area, where the dragoness and her eggs were. His obstacle was certainly impressive, coiled as she was around her nest, baleful amber eyes staring around with primordial intelligence and hate. Not that he couldn't understand. To be forced to be nothing more than a distraction to a bunch of puny wizards while her eggs were threatened certainly was a good way to make the Horntail angry.

She was an impressive specimen, he noted, as she rearranged herself around her clutch, showing more of her body. It was a good fifty feet long, all of it made of corded muscle covered by dark scales, with great claws at the tip of her wings and feet, carving deep gashes in the rock forming her bed. A great many spikes protruded around her neck, giving her something resembling a deadly, spiky mane, while the leathery tail, on the other side of her body, ended with a spike-covered mace, which he could tell was incredibly dangerous if the way it had pulverized a large formation simply by scratching it was any indication. All in all, the dragoness was a natural-made killing machine, born of millennia of evolution, an apex predator for whom humans were little more than a snack.

Yet instead of fear, he felt euphoria. Unlike the pathetic people seated in the stands, he lived for danger, for the rush of adrenaline, for the chance to prove himself against a very real threat to his life. Progress was only made through conflict, and only by testing his limits would he evolve forward, becoming stronger, more experienced. Instead of avoiding danger like most people would, he reveled in it, in the opportunity for death, it made his blood boil and heartbeat quicken, it sent pleasant tingles of anticipation through his spine.

He would crush the dragon. Screw getting the egg and leaving her aside, and if the judges weren't happy, he'd tell them exactly what he thought of their opinion after they forced him in the same area as a nesting mother dragon. But to face the threat, he would need either to show his full power, which was off the table at the moment, lest he wanted Dumb-as-a-door-Dumbledore to start poking his nose where it didn't belong, so instead, he would have to use his sword. The Goblins would be ecstatic that he slew a dragon with nothing but their sword, and the meat would certainly be something they appreciated.

With a grin, he waved his wand towards the very distinctive spot of white in the crow, knowing that only Akitsu wore white among the sea of spectators, summoning his sword to him. Yet, instead of the pull he should have felt, what he felt was a lurching feeling as the air seemed to grow thicker and stiller, as if he was drowning in syrup. Clutching his wand tighter, he was about to try the spell again, when a roar rocked the entire arena, the air shaking at the loudness of the bestial sound.

Still behind his rock, he leant to the side to see what was going on, only to hastily retreat as a wave of fire melted the rock, his life only saved by his quick reflexes as he dove in the opposite direction. A glance towards his temporary shelter revealed that it had been partially turned to lava, yellow-red volcanic fluid dripping from what was left of his former hiding spot.

And in the middle of the arena, stood aggressively in front of her nest, was the dragoness, her eyes fixed on him with nothing but hate and hunger, her maw already opening again as a bright light showed she was about to turn him to cinders.

-Break-

The crowd gasped in shock as a shimmering barrier appeared over the arena, the judges immediately jumping to their feet, right as an enraged nesting dragon crawled forward, eager to kill the fourth Champion. Those among the closest to the arena hastily moved back, not wanting to be close to something that clearly wasn't planned for the Task, while those further away could only watch on in morbid curiosity as the Fourth Champion had to defend himself against a furious mother dragon of the most dangerous breed of the already deadly species.

The Hungarian Horntail was indeed known as the nightmare of dragon handlers, with skin possessing a resistance to magic outstripping almost all other known creatures, an innate viciousness that made it dangerous to even be close to, and a body with more natural weapons than any other breed of dragon, and only being surpassed by two other creatures, the Basilisk and the Nundu, both of which were thankfully exceedingly rare.

While the crowd watched, and the judges cast spell after spell to identify what kind of ward had been erected, the dragon handlers were doing their best to enter the arena and calm the enraged mother, though whatever ward had been erected prevented them from entering and helping the Champion. It seemed that whoever had created the barrier had done so specifically with the intention of leaving Harry Peverell at the mercy of a nesting mother dragon artificially stirred into a murderous rage.

The Potters seemed among the most riled up, as while Sirius Potter sat in his spot in shock, both James and Lily had their wands out and were casting at full speed at the barrier, both elder Potters livid with shock and fright for the life of their son. Unfortunately, despite the fact that neither witch or wizard were anything to scoff at in terms of power or spell repertoire, it seemed that the ward was completely resistant to anything thrown at it, making their efforts moot.

In another spot of the stands, the three "travelling companions" of the Champion were sitting, none of the three looking too worried, although those who knew them well enough would notice the unnaturally large grin on Karasuba's face, the tensing of Akitsu, or the subtle raise in temperature around Homura, all signs to their agitation. Even if all three Sekirei had all faith in the ability of their Ashikabi to survive, the fact that their bond had become full of static and the obvious absence of spells being flung around by the temperamental wizard a rather good indicator that he couldn't use magic. The three were also aware that even if it was likely he could shatter the ward through sheer power, he wouldn't do so for doing so would put him, and by extension them, under far too much scrutiny. He was already standing out enough by having his NEWTs at fourteen and being a Lord to a House thought long dead without the need to show his power, which, for the sheeple of Britain, would only label him as a Dark Lord.

Eventually, Dumbledore ceased his casting, his face grave, as he convened in hushed whispers with the other judges, before casting a Patronus, whispering his message to it, and sending it on its way. He then turned to address the crowd, casting the Canonball charm to get their attention:

"SILENCE! Thank you. Due to unforeseen circumstances, I am afraid that we must cancel-"

"DUMBLEDORE!" roared an irate Lily Potter, marching towards the judges' stand, the crowd parting obligingly in front of the fuming redhead, most perfectly aware that it was wiser to stand aside than to provoke her ire in the current situation.

"WHY AREN'T YOU BRINGING DOWN THESE WARDS?! MY SON IS CURRENTLY TRAPPED WITH AN ANGRY NESTING MOTHER! YOU CAN MAKE YOUR BLOODY ANNOUNCEMENTS LATER! HARRY'S LIFE IS AT STAKE HERE! OR IS THE FUCKING HEADMASTER TOO BLOODY BUSY LISTENING TO HIS OWN VOICE THAT HE'D ABANDON SOMEONE TO BE MAULED BY A DRAGON?!"

At this point, the berth Lily Potter was given had widened considerably, most being far too afraid of the murderous witch, whose hand was clenched around her wand so tightly the wood was creaking slightly, while sparks were shooting out of it and lighting small fires all over the stands. It was a reminder that for all that she was nice, Lily Potter was not a weak witch, nor was she someone to anger. She was quite patient, but when her patience ran out, even Hell was preferable to what she would unleash on those who crossed her.

"She eez right, Dumbleedore. Less talking and more casting," remarked Olympe Maxime, the headmistress already waving her wand at the wards and casting all sorts of obscure spells, while glancing at the angry mother glaring at the British colleague, "Don't worry, 'e called ze Aurors wiz zat Patronus. 'Opefully eet will not be too late to save your son."

A cry of shock drew their attention back to the arena.

-Break-

Harry was not a happy camper at the moment, as he dodged another flame, that melted his most recent hiding spot. At the moment, he was trying to think of what he could do, as he was quite limited in his possibilities. If he had had his sword, he could have killed the dragon easily. Any questions that would have been asked would have been redirected to the Goblins, who would preen that one of their creations had been used to kill a nesting mother dragon who was on a murderous rampage and also empowered by wards.

Ah, yes, the wards. Whoever had created them had made sure to stack the odds against him. He'd taken the time to probe them with his magic, while he had been stuck against, since he couldn't cast due to the wards, and he'd been quite impressed by how badly whoever had ordered them wanted to kill him. He'd gotten that they prevented him from using magic, that had been obvious after a few failed spells, but they also functioned as a barrier to prevent anyone from helping him or him from leaving the arena, and also targeted the dragon, making it irrationally angry while also focusing the anger on him. Basically, they took out his ability to defend himself using magic while also pitting him against a dragon in an arena made to give him a disadvantage.

He also "couldn't" use his full power, unless absolutely necessary of course. While he liked his peace and didn't want to be questioned, he wasn't going to let himself and his Sekirei die by voluntarily handicapping himself. However, he'd rather avoid questions about shattering wards, especially since the power required to do so was outside of the realm of what a single wizard should be able to muster. The British would never leave him alone afterwards, if he showed his true power. With the way they thought, they'd have him labeled a Dark Lord before the day was out, and then they'd try arresting him, keyword being try. He'd defend himself, and then he'd end with a full nation of arrogant pricks vying for his death. And the problem with proud people, was that they were too stubborn to know when to quit.

Jumping to the side, he thanked every deity in existence that he was used to sparring with Karasuba using her Norito. At the very least it had honed his senses and reflexes to the point that he could avoid most hits subconsciously, merely by reacting to sound and the to the shifts in the air. Because no matter how terrifying a murderous dragon was, Karasuba when she was in the mood for a good fight was a hundred times worse. The Black Sekirei was faster, so much so that it had required him to develop almost a sixth sense to avoid getting cut up, and she was also a lot better at not telegraphing her next attack.

The dragon was not very good at that. Not only did it only attack with either its claws, its fire breath, or its tail, it was apparently incapable of forming the slightest plan of attack, resorting to indiscriminately smashing every last one of his hiding places. And yes, he was hiding, because at the moment he was a bit busy trying to figure out how he could survive aside from doing so. It wasn't like he could just stun or immobilize the damn thing after all. He had also foregone fetching the Golden Egg, even if he had had more than one occasion to do so, but unlike most wizards or witches in his situation, he'd rather stay alive instead of let his greed get the better of him. Hiding and avoiding the dragon was hard enough with his hands free, never mind the nightmare it would have become with a shiny paperweight in his hands.

A woosh of displaced air had him summersaulting back, avoiding the tail that smashed where he had been standing the previous two seconds.

Now how can I deal with this bitch?

He couldn't use magic, and he didn't have his sword. He could try throwing rocks at the dragon, as stupid as it sounded, but he was quite sure that even the power he could give them with his inhuman strength would not be enough to seriously injure the dragon. He estimated that with any luck, he could likely cause some damage to the reptile, but it would most likely end up worsening its anger.

Seriously, it was almost cheating! While Harry was perfectly confident in his skills, he wasn't a born killing machine, his body wasn't nearly as armored, or had the same natural weapons that…Oh. Oooooooh…There was something he could do, in fact. It relied on him being able to channel magic through his body, of course, but he'd already confirmed that he could do so while avoiding the dragon's attacks, using it to speed up his reaction time.

Well then, it was time to stop being on the defensive and start going on the offensive…

He'd never been very good at playing defense anyway.

-Break-

The crow could only gasp and scream as the Boy-Who-Lived avoided the dragon's attacks gracefully, dodging and jumping in ways that had tails, claws, and fire, come perilously close to killing, or at the very least, maiming him. Yet it never reached, and the amazed spectators could only watch as a fourteen years old wizard gave a XXXXX-class creature a run for its money and avoided everything it threw at him with the grace of a professional dancer.

Witches and wizards of all ages could only gape at the fact that he was staying alive without using any apparent magic whatsoever, relying instead on physical skills to dodge, avoid, and anticipate the attacks coming his way. It went against everything most of those raised in a magical household were taught, against everything their minds could conceive. They had grown up around magic, knew at their deepest level that it could be used for almost anything, from the simplest house chores to feats of magical engineering that could transcend the eras, Hogwarts being a prime example of the exploits that could be accomplished for those who delved deep enough in Magic's secrets. The castle was over a thousand years old, having stood before the Founders took possession of it, and having been turned into the premiere school of witchcraft of the British Isles around the tenth century. And yet it still stood tall and proud, despite the attacks of Dark Lords who coveted the location, it stood tall despite the elements, it stood tall despite all. And as such, with magic being such a profound part of themselves, the first reaction of magicals was to resort to magic to solve their problems. It would never come to their mind to train their bodies, aside from those whose work demanded that they be in peak physical condition.

And yet, despite the fact that they could barely believe it, someone had survived being trapped with an enraged nesting mother dragon, using nothing but pure physical skill. If he survived until he could be freed, it would be the talk of the country, that he'd managed to survive a face off with a dragon without using a single spell.

Amazed mutterings made way to cheers as the crowd watched Harry dance around the dragon's attacks, although more than a few were confused as to why he had yet to go for the egg if he was so proficient with keeping himself alive against the creature. If any of those who were present had been in his place, they would have made for the egg immediately, since it was the objective of the Task. Even if they couldn't have left the arena, they wouldn't take the risk of possibly failing the Task and would try to secure their success as soon as possible.

They unfortunately failed to realize that the egg would only have slowed them down and drastically increased the odds of them finishing as dragon fodder.

-Break-

Karasuba watched her Ashikabi defy Death again and again, weaving around the enraged dragon with the ease borne from habit, avoiding strikes that would have, should have crushed him with uncanny ease. Of course, she, along with Akitsu and Homura knew how their Ashikabi had gotten so proficient dodging, as they had been the ones who sparred with him, drew his potential out, sharpened his skills by pitting him against enemies who were faster, stronger than him. Harry might have been a Pillar, and thus physically stronger than the average Sekirei, it meant very little when they fought using their Noritos and he refrained from using his. It was a brutal way of training, one that left him bloodied, torn, and exhausted, but it was the only way to further sharpen his skills now that he was on par with them. He had only grown to be as strong as he currently was because Karasuba had sparred with him while he was still human and had pushed him to his limits, forcing him to either break them or break himself trying to. He hadn't broken yet, so it wasn't likely it would happen anytime soon.

Her only regret at the moment was that he had to keep up his charade of being a regular wizard. The wards over the arena weren't tied to the local ley lines, probably because if that had been the case it would have been easy to analyze them afterwards, but that meant that they weren't strong enough to contain Harry should he use his full power, even without his Norito. Unfortunately, she reluctantly agreed that having an entire nation of bigoted idiots vying for their death wasn't the optimal course of actions, which meant that he would have to make do without using his magic and without a weapon to boot.

She grinned as she saw him subtly straighten himself. She knew him, had spent countless hours observing him, and was aware of what most of his little tells meant, and this one was for when he had taken an important decision and was about to go through with it.

Show me, Harry-chan, show me a good time…

-Break-

Dumbledore scowled as Lily watched him like a hawk, he, along with Madame Maxime and Karkaroff, trying to breach the wards currently imprisoning young Harry with the Horntail. He did not appreciate the way the redhead kept glowering at him, as if it was somehow his fault that her son had ended up in the current situation. He had done his best to ensure the Champions' safety, but there was only so much he could do without having to go through the Ministry, and that was something he would rather avoid.

The fact that he was not trying his hardest breaching the wards had nothing to do with Lily's stare, however, as he was hoping to see more of Harry's skills. While he was aware that the boy couldn't use his magic due to the wards, the way he would eventually deal with his situation would likely give him important clues on how he thought, clues that might prove invaluable in securing the boy's loyalty. If he had to allow him to be slightly roughed up, then so be it, it was for the Greater Good after all. He just had to keep the façade up until he had gotten what he wanted, and then he would step in, hopefully gathering some goodwill from Harry.

Harry Potter had to be loyal to him, or they were all doomed.

-Break-

Harry yelped as a blast of flames nearly got him, only just avoiding being hit by jumping back. In the last minute, the dragon had gotten even more aggressive if that was even possible, intentionally targeting the area around him instead of just him, which made avoiding its attacks all the more difficult. Avoiding something aimed at him was one thing, avoiding lava, rocky debris and shockwaves was another. He already had several gashes, fortunately not too deep, all over his body, due to some sharp stones that had gazed him when the dragon's tail had pulverized the rock he had been hiding behind.

No choice then…

With a growl, he leapt back, landing on all fours, and glared at the dragon, yellow eyes full of hate glaring right back as it snarled at him, the giant reptile hunching over and opening its maw to show a mouth full of sharp teeth, some of them with rotting meat stuck between them, as it bellowed a challenge at him.

"ROOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRR!"

Distracted by the roar, he did not see the tail coming his way until it was too late. Well, too late to avoid, that is. Too bad that he didn't necessarily have to avoid it.

With a roar, he flooded his body with as much magic as he could manage, boosting his already superhuman physical skills to levels that could only be matched by perhaps two people on the planet, his hands stopping the tail before it could send him flying. The shock rattled his bones, and a normal human would have seen their skeleton shatter like glass, trying to stop what was the equivalent to a truck launched at terminal velocity, it only had him skidding a few meters back, hissing as his skin rippled under the power of the hit. It was only his superior body, boon of his Sekirei side, and the magic he had flooded his body with, that prevented his arm from snapping like a twig.

That's going to bruise

-Break-

The crowd screamed as they watched the dragon's tail descend on the Boy-Who-Lived, ready to see their hero sent flying or splattered into a crimson stain, parents shielding their children's eyes to prevent them from seeing the gruesome spectacle, and several people in the stands, including the Potters, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, and Dumbledore, watched on as Harry was about to be killed.

They had not expected him to roar in defiance and catch the appendage, skidding a few feet back instead of being launched into the walls of the arena. Dragons were very strong, enough so that whatever chains were used to bind them had to be specially crafted and enchanted to prevent them from being simply shattered or melted. Goblins, who used dragons to guard their high-security vaults, often insisted on how hard it was to contain the dragons they used, breeds which were known as less aggressive and physically powerful than Horntails.

There was a sudden lull, as incredulity spread through the crowd, none able to believe that a wizard, no matter how powerful, could be strong enough to simply catch a dragon's tail, disbelieving whispers leaving way to incredulous cheers. Not many cared to know how Harry could have done what he did at the moment, since they had mainly come for the entertainment of seeing teenagers facing off XXXXX-class creatures, but some of the more suspicious people could already be heard muttering about Dark Rituals and unnatural magic.

Wizards, for all their "superiority", were so used to do everything and anything using magic, that the very thought of fighting, or using their bodies for anything other than living their life, was anathema to them. It was an ingrained idea, one that was almost beaten into the head of the Purebloods, and the Muggleborn and HalfBloods picked it up quite quickly after being introduced to magic, at least in Europe, where the schooling had very little physically-intensive classes. Where other countries, such as China, Japan, and others, included classes that mixed the practice of magic with physical activity, Europeans magic users were almost subconsciously conditioned to see such activities as "beneath" themselves. So to see a teenager do what none of them would have had the idea of, and something that would have seen normal magic users reduced to a smear on the wall, immediately raised alert flags in the head of those who were not intently focused on the Task itself.

-Break-

Back to Harry, the teenage Pillar was hissing in pain. While physically he could go toe-to-toe with the dragon, his body was, at the moment at least, too fragile to allow for a fair fight between the two. It mattered little that he could match the predator blow for blow if all it did was break his body while the dragon was fine. It was the same as a human punching a rock: the human bones were weaker than the rock and the person would sooner break their hand than do much harm to the rock. A dragon's body was much the same way, even for a Sekirei: hard-packed muscle covered by a layer of scales able to resist even Fiendfyre would protect them pretty well from all but the worst hits, while Sekirei skin would tear after only a single hit.

It was at a time like this that someone without the single-minded determination, or rather, obsession with doing things their way would have switched tactics to something that would have seen them complete the task as fast as possible and then call for help. Unfortunately, Harry was the very picture of stubbornness, was vindictive, and held one hell of a grudge, without mentioning his determination to send a message to the masses of roaring idiocy cheering him on when he was risking his life without even having volunteered for it.

Again, a lesser wizard would have gone for a show of brute magical strength, overpowering a curse or another to blast the dragon to bits (if they had the power for it that is, which Harry definitively had), or used a strategy to incapacitate it in a way that would have the British in awe of their power/cunning.

Harry would do neither of those things. The opinion of the British mattered little to him, as the only people he could tolerate, much less like, were Hermione and his little sister, and then in the latter's case it was only barely.

Harry was powerful, yes, cunning, too, and also entirely too unconcerned with his well-being, something his childhood, and subsequent raising by Karasuba had come together to ingrain in his psyche. He was not suicidal, per se, but he had a frighteningly different notion of what "dangerous" was, compared to normal people. An average person would see an action that would likely result in a broken leg as dangerous, thrill seekers found situations where death was a possibility, dangerous, but Harry Potter Peverell only found situations where death was slow, and certain, dangerous.

What he was going to do was something he had a lot of practice with, never mind the fact that the very idea behind it would have been called suicidal by any certified healer.

Focusing inwards, he flooded his body with magic, visioning what he wanted. The familiar picture of a creature reminiscent of a cross between a large panther and a dragon, hovered at the edge of his vision. The creature was large, easily as tall as a man, and twice as long, with a body made of corded muscles giving it unparalleled physical prowess, covered in what appeared to be a cross between scales and spikes, black as night. He knew from experience that the "scales" reacted to the creature's humor, and that they could raise if it was angry or felt threatened. All in all, a creature perfect to run around the dragon, grab the egg, and stay alive until help could come.

That was not Harry's plan.

He growled as he felt his innards shift, moving and adapting to his new form, his skin growing the scaly spikes and his face morphing to a more feline one. A large, whip-like tail, covered in the same protective armor than the rest of his body, broke through his pants, easily able to cut a grown man in twain if he so wished. His hands grew claws, retaining their human-like shape, albeit now covered in the same scales as the remainder of his body. A simple grab of the rocky formation next to him to keep him upright as his feet broke through his shoes, the talon moving to give them the shape of hind legs, saw the rock powdered.

As Harry stood on his new, feline-like legs, he opened his maw and roared.

Where the dragon's roar had been deafening, Harry's was a weapon in and itself, the concussive force creating rings of displaced air as the dragon was pushed several feet back, righting itself by using its claws and roaring back in defiance. Reptilian eyes glared at him with nothing but hate and the intent to kill him.

He wouldn't have had it any other way.

"So, bitch…Show me what you've got," growled Harry, taking a stance.

-Break-

Hermione Granger, thanks to her tutor's extensive tutoring, could rightly say that she was familiar with many different types of magic, at least much more than what the average European magic user encountered in their life. She'd seen magic used to enhance the user's body, to raise the dead, to bend the elements to the user's whims. But what she was seeing, while presenting several similarities with types of magic she knew of, didn't match any. She was almost tempted to say that it was an Animagus, but the fact that the creature Harry had changed into was still humanoid seemed to prove against it. Unless…

"He didn't!" she gasped, her mind coming to the sole possible conclusion, before she whirled to look at the three Sekirei observing their Ashikabi, almost begging them to tell her she was wrong.

"Oh, that he did," purred Karasuba, looking exhilarated.

"But that's…"

The bushy-haired girl stopped herself from finishing her words. It was incredibly dangerous, yes, bordering on suicidal, but she could just see Harry doing it.

"What's going on?" asked a worried-looking Ivy, looking between the arena and Hermione, "What's Harry doing?"

"He's using a partial Animagus transformation," she almost growled. She didn't feel any romantic love towards her teacher, but she did look up to him, and worried about him when he pulled that kind of stunt, "Of all the idiotic, irresponsible…I am going to murder that idiot!"

"A partial transformation?" asked Ivy, looking confused, "Is that even possible?"

"In theory? Yes. In practice, even trying such a thing is downright suicidal!" growled the witch, before elaborating, her eyes never leaving the standoff between Harry and the dragon, "It isn't like changing into an Animagus form, rather, it's supposed to be impossible, and for very good reasons! The few people who tried it either died due to massive internal organ failure, since they were stuck with organs that couldn't support them, or died with their magic sucked out of them by the transformation, since unlike normal Animagus transformations, it needs to be maintained."

Needless to say, Ivy was horrified.

"B-but if it's so dangerous, why is Harry using it?"

"Because he's an insane maniac," growled Hermione, biting her nails, "He doesn't care about the risk of damage, he just wants to kill the dragon and prove everyone he's the top dog. And he knows enough about anatomy, and has the reserves, to succeed where everyone else failed. I wouldn't want to be the dragon right now. I have no idea what animal form he has, but if he's using it, he must be certain of his victory."

-Break-

Dumbledore analyzed the new development with critical eyes. Harry was showing a resourcefulness he had not expected from the boy, and it worried him. While his political prowess was one thing, his skill with magic was another entirely, and the mere fact that he would use a transformation that he couldn't was a point of concern to add to his already long list of concerns about the Boy-Who-Lived. The more he saw, the less he liked the Harry Potter the picture painted. He would have to take drastic measures to ensure that the boy accomplished his destiny, and once Tom was dealt with, he would have to seal his magic away, for the Greater Good. Leaving someone as skilled with magic, and with such an obvious grudge towards him and the people of Magical Britain, was tantamount to suicide, and he would not allow peace to be disturbed by someone who held a grudge against him.

-Break-

As the dragon roared and brought down it's claws, Harry smirked, bracing himself and catching the gigantic paw with absurd ease, the impact creating a crater beneath him, but otherwise leaving him entirely unharmed. Instead, he grabbed the claws and roared. The dragon was lifted off the ground. Reptilian eyes showed pure surprise, before it was sent flying into the barrier surrounding the arena.

Cracking his fingers, claws of obsidian darkness jutting from their tips, Harry smirked. His Animagus form was dead useful, and what versatility he didn't have when fully transformed was attained by mixing his human form with his animal one. Of course, before that, he had needed to extensively study both human and Sekirei anatomy, not to mention his animal form. The latter had required him to ask Akemi about what kind of feline it was, and the AI had dutifully forwarded him everything she had about that particular species, while gleefully running simulations to learn why his animal form was not an Earthling animal.

His form was a species called, in Sekirei language, meishi. They were one of the few species of predators that could legitimately be a threat to Sekirei, though their numbers had never been very high, in part due to their habitats. They tended to like volcanic areas, and the competition for these spots kept the species numbers in the low thousands at the very best. Even if some of them settled out of their preferred territories, they never were very far from volcanic activity, so the few areas that could house them were considered reserves. While not apex predators like Nundus or Basilisks, who could grow huge, the largest meishi recorded in Sekirei history was about the size of a large tiger. That is not to say that they weren't dangerous, in fact their rather small size compared to Nundus made them even deadlier. For one thing, tests conducted by Sekirei scientists had proven that while meishi weren't truly sentient, they were very, very close to it, and intelligent enough to possess problem-solving skills at roughly the same level than a Sekirei teenager (which was the equivalent to an intelligent human adult). That was without taking into account their speed, which was higher than even a Sekirei's, their almost impenetrable hide, and their sheer resistance to damage. Some members of the species had been recorded to keep fighting as if was nothing was wrong with their head half-chopped off.

And now, Harry had used a half-Animagus transformation to get the best traits of his animal form, while keeping his human-like arms and fingers. The dragon was dead, it just didn't know it yet.

With a roar, the giant, fire-breathing reptile leapt on him, claws ready to rend him into mincemeat, but they were caught before they could even scratch him, Harry smirking as he held them away from him with little difficulty. Karasuba hit harder than his foe, and she was far faster than a lumbering reptile with temper issues, which meant that he could easily hold its attack off, now that he was covered in the equivalent of the world's best armor. Meishi skin was recorded to be impervious to almost anything, from heat to cold, even Miya would have had trouble to fight one off by herself.

Enraged by the fact its attack had failed, the dragon roared again, the light signaling a jet of flame coming from its throat. Now, as resistant to heat as he was, Harry had no wish to check if his resistance covered dragon fire, so he released the claw, momentarily destabilizing his foe, and before it could recover, he had punched the dragon's head up, breaking some of its teeth, and while it wobbled, stunned from the impact, he hit it again, knocking it unconscious. It fell forwards with a loud thump, the multi-ton beast hitting the ground with a deafening sound, the ground shaking slightly as the great reptile stilled, completely unconscious.

Harry felt great. Not only had he finally finished the bloody Task the judges had set up, but he had also been able to vent on the dragon protecting its nest if only a little. There was something profoundly enjoyable in letting loose once in a while, and while he had not been going all out, the simple fact of boxing and fighting with his body instead of his magic felt nice, since few outside of his Sekirei could prove to be a challenge to him. A XXXXX-class beast like a dragon, though, especially one that had been made furious using magic, was definitively something even he had to watch out for, particularly when he wasn't able to use magic or had a blade available.

Hell, even those vampires from when they had destroyed the crypt hadn't been that hard to deal with, since they didn't fight seriously until it was too late, and that they were entirely too weak, even as Elders, to challenge him. Now, a dragon on the other hand…One riled up into a blood rage too, now that was another matter entirely. He had initially thought about killing it, like Karasuba would no doubt would have appreciated, but in the end the dragon wasn't really at fault. It was a victim, like him, and while he tended to go berserk when presented with the opportunity of a good fight, something he had inherited from his "mother", he had been able to restrain himself and only mildly hurt the dragon. Sure, it would miss some teeth, but they'd regrow with time, and perhaps it would suffer from a concussion, but it was better than dying, and if the dragon handlers weren't happy, well frankly he'd just tell them that the next time he'd just kill the dragon.

Now all that was left was to wait for the wards to fall…

It was the faint whistling of displaced air, something he had learnt to recognize from days upon days of training with Karasuba, that warned him of the attack, and allowed him to dodge it, at the cost of a few hairs, as he jumped back a dozen feet. It was fortunate that the decision to dodge was instinctual, as the natural armor now covering his body might not have been enough to prevent him from being completely beheaded, since a glance revealed the offending sword deeply embedded into the ground.

Yet he did not have the time to observe his aggressor, as said foe swiftly drew the sword out of the rock, closing the distance between them in the blink of an eye, forcing him to dodge once more.

Landing, he was once more forced to evade, his adversary, a woman from what the brief glimpse he had been able to get had allowed him to see, was already attacking him again, becoming a blur as she ran over the surface of the arena. Only his experience with Karasuba allowed him to survive the first thirty seconds of her assault, as he faced a storm of unrelenting steel, carving everything in its path to pieces, even the few rocky formations left intact by his earlier match with the dragon.

It made him leery of parrying the blade, to be honest, as while, if he ever saw one of his limbs chopped off again, he could still ask Akemi to grow him another, it would still hurt tremendously, and while he didn't mind pain from training, he was not stupid as to deliberately harm himself if he wasn't sure to get something out of it.

Still, just because he could not parry did not mean he could not give back just as well, his claw-tipped fingers coming together to form a point, and he took a stance, ready to use his hand to cleave through his foe if need be. Of course, he'd prefer to get her alive, that way he'd use some Veritaserum to have her sing like a songbird and spill just who she was and who had hired her. Can't very well take your revenge if you didn't know who was responsible, and at the moment all he had were suspicions.

Soon, his earlier suspicion was proved true, as several cuts, some quite deep but none of them life-threatening, littered his arm and upper chest, although he was happy to say he was not the only one to have suffered, as he could see blood dripping from his opponent, though that was a glimpse at most, since the most time they had had so far between attacks had been a single second. The longest lull in their fight, had been only for one second. He had little doubt that for anyone save the Sekirei in the stands, they were nothing but twin blurs.

It was a match the likes of which he had only been in twice, both times when Karasuba decided to go all out and have some fun. It was the only two times he was reasonably certain the Black Sekirei had actively tried to kill him, and in the end both times had ended with him feeling like he'd run a marathon while carrying a mountain on his shoulders. That and he'd had to spend the following days in bed, with his other Sekirei fussing over him after suffering from several grievous wounds.

He had no idea who he was fighting, aside from the fact it was a woman, but he suspected that she was related to the Sekirei in some way, as he had never seen, or heard, anyone else being so fast and strong. He had no clue how whoever had set up the wards had managed to get their hands on a Sekirei, or blood related to them that they would have infused into someone, but he would be having words with Takami and Minaka later.

As he kept trading blows with his aggressor at speeds that left them little more than blurs, his enhanced vision tried to find the woman's face, only to find a featureless white helmet that appeared to cover her whole head. He caught a glimpse of dark robes as well, likely combat robes since the stuffy ones he had seen so far seemed more likely to hinder the woman that anything.

Then it was over. In the blink of an eye the woman had slashed her blade, planning to cut him in two, and instead of evading he moved forwards, his body moving on its own and before he knew it, he had run the woman through with his entire arm. Now yes, he had wanted to get her alive, but her last attack resembled one Karasuba had used in training with him, and he'd moved by instinct, his mind only catching up with what he was doing after he'd already obliterated her heart.

The shock was enough to make her drop her blade, and he let her body fall to the ground, flicking his wrist to clean the blood off, before crouching in front of the dying woman, a frown on his face as her reached from the helmet-like contraption she wore.

"Let's see who you are…"

Yet as his fingers inched closer to the helmet, a sudden sense of dread filled him. It was not something conscious, it was simply his mind picking up signals ignored by his conscious mind and giving him what could only be described as a bad feeling. And while others would brush off the message their mind was trying to convey, he had learnt that it was always better to listen to your instincts, and as such, he paused in his actions, extending his senses as much as he could, until he could pick every scent, see every detail, listen to every sound around him.

And with that, came a sudden realization.

He'd smelt the scent of that woman before.

Almost frantically, he took off her helmet, and his worst fears were proven right. His pupils narrowed to pinpricks, and he felt his heartbeat increase as his brain went into overdrive.

"H-hey H-harry…T-thank you for k-killing m-me…"

Staring back at him was Rin. Her eyes were getting glassy, and her smile was ruined by the blood leaking from her mouth, but he'd recognize the cat-girl anywhere. She was a complete mess. Her skin was clammy, her chin was covered in blood, and, of course, there was the fact that her heart had been completely obliterated.

"Rin?! What in Kami's-what-how?!"

His previous anger had vanished completely, as he grasped the hand of the dying yôkai. Rin may have tried to kill him, she was still someone he considered family. Sure, he had considered her nagging about opening up to people annoying, sure, he'd sometimes wished she'd annoy someone else.

But she was family.

And he'd just killed her.

Now, he didn't give two shits about pretty much anyone on the planet, though in some circumstances he might help some people if he felt they deserved it. But Rin, Rin had been among the very few people he cared about. She'd been with him almost as long as Karasuba had been. And annoying or not, she had been looking out for him, in her own way sure, but it was because she cared about him.

And he'd killed her.

His mind was in shambles. Half-formed thoughts battled each other, his usually great intelligence failing him.

How?

Why?!

"Why?!"

"D-don't r-remember…W-wanted to h-help…S-searched M-MBI…S-Searched…D-don't remember…"

Her eyes filled with tears, a trembling hand coming to cup his cheek and wipe out tears that he hadn't even realized were flowing from his eyes.

"S-sorry…S-so s-sorry…N-not your fault…"

She coughed, blood splattering the ground. Glassy eyes looked up at him, a wan smile stretching her lips as light steadily faded from her eyes. Yet even on the brink of death, he could feel her warmth, her concern for him, even when he had killed her, she told him it wasn't his fault.

"R-remember…N-n-not…your…faulttttt…"

The world grew silent as her hand slipped from his cheek, the only sound his mind could process being the blood rushing to his ears.

He couldn't think.

He couldn't move.

Why?

Why?!

Hadn't he suffered enough?!

He'd had probably one of the shittiest childhoods one could possibly have, barring sexual abuse, his own parents had abandoned him, he'd been abandoned by an entire society, he'd had to claw and fight for every scrap of happiness he could get, and now, now that he finally had started to live a nice life, not only was he forced to compete into a bogus Tournament because some idiots couldn't secure the damn near-omnipotent artifact that selected their Champions…And now this?

He was done.

Done.

He'd always been walking a fine line, between the part of him that wanted to lash out at the world indiscriminately, the part that wanted to crush everything and everyone, and the part that just wanted to live a nice, quiet life, but clearly a quiet life wasn't for him. If every time he took his eyes off the people he cared about they ended threatened, then he would make damn sure that there was nobody left to threaten them.

In the past month alone, Akitsu had almost been trapped into being the sex toy of a rich and inbred moron, and now Rin had somehow been forced to face him, and he'd killed her. What was next? Someone controlling his Sekirei and forcing them to fight him to the death?

You didn't fuck with Harry Minaka-Peverell-Ravenclaw-Slytherin. Whoever had not known that would learn their lesson, by paying with their blood and lives. He'd make their death public, and their suffering legendary enough that even the idea of threatening those he loved would never again cross people's minds.

He swore it.

-Break-

As soon as the wards were broken, the crowd cheered loudly, clapping and going wild. The Boy-Who-Lived had not only knocked a dragon unconscious barehanded, he'd also killed the assassin that had come for his head. And while it was bloody, none could say that it hadn't been a show unlike any other! Parents cheered, children, still a bit shaky from all the blood, cheered as well, imitating their parents.

The cheering abruptly came to a stop when an oppressive aura filled the entire arena. Those more sensitive to magic than average could tell that there was a sudden, and massive, buildup of ambient magic, and it came straight from the center of the arena, where Harry Potter stood. Wisps of darkness seemed to be seeping from the kneeling teenager, twitching and writhing unnaturally.

Slowly, the tendrils of darkness started to coalesce together, forming a shadowy form above the Boy-Who-Lived, a form that was gaining definition by the second. What at first had been a formless blob of shadow started to form the outlines of what appeared to be a face, or, as it gained definition, a mask. Had it been all, nobody would have cared, but the mask was not only terrifying, it also oozed malevolence and a thinly veiled bloodlust.

"What are you cheering for?"

Harry hadn't raised his voice, but in the sudden silence, his voice was heard everywhere in the arena. Many found the fact that he was cradling the body of the woman who had tried to kill him odd, but none dared vocalize their curiosity with the way the Boy-Who-Lived was oozing barely repressed rage.

He did not even turn to face the crowd, simply cradling the body of the woman and scooping up the golden egg, before stepping towards the exit of the arena, where the dragon handlers were rushing to check on the dragon and the real eggs, his last words accompanied by a sudden thickening of the sensation of barely repressed violence he was filling the air with.

"Whoever used those wards, heed my words. I don't know who you are, but I will find you, and I will kill you. There is no force on this God forsaken planet that will stop me."

With that, he vanished from the arena, leaving behind a shaking crowd, and uncomfortable judges.

-Break-

When he stepped in the medical tent, Harry was met with a large group of females waiting. His Sekirei were present, of course, but also Hermione, who knew who Rin was and had likely guessed how he felt, and Ivy, who had likely picked up from his Sekirei that he needed someone to talk to. Mutsu was absent, though he guessed that Hermione had likely either used him as a sentry to have some privacy after what had happened, or as a messenger to warn the teachers of where she would be.

He was almost immediately beset by a worried-looking nurse, who started to push him towards one of the beds, only to fail as his superhuman strength allowed him to stay rooted on the spot as he stared dully at the woman. While he was still in shock, which a part of him recognized, he didn't want to be healed by anyone with connections to Dumbledore. He didn't even understand why the school nurse was the one staffing the medical tent, given that the Task involved risks that deserved a more qualified professional. It reeked of Dumbledore's influence all over, and he had no wish to have her examine him. A cursory diagnostic charm might not give away anything of his status as a Pillar, but anything more invasive was guaranteed to pick it up, and he didn't want it known, especially not by the Headmaster, who would undoubtedly use it to pressure him.

"What are you doing?"

The matron, clearly unimpressed, huffed and put her hands on her hips, looking at him imperiously.

"Young man, you just faced a dragon and an assassin without anything more than a half-baked Animagus transformation and your bare hands. You will sit down and let me examine you, or Merlin help me I will tie you to the bed myself if I have to."

The air of authority the woman showed would have been enough to cower anyone, well anyone normal, and Harry was anything but normal. Not to mention that while in shock, he was still functional enough to recognize an order, one coming from a person he did not trust. Not to mention that the overly proud part of him, that Karasuba had copiously nurtured, was offended that someone would call his transformation "half-baked". He didn't do "half-baked". Combined with the fact that his knowledge of his own body was well-beyond that of a normal person, he could tell that the worse he suffered from were some cuts and some internal bruising, nothing that he couldn't fix himself by expanding some magic on it.

Which meant that he had no reason to allow himself to be examined, no matter how much the nurse insisted. Not when doing so would only bring trouble to him and his.

"Madam, thank you for your concern, but I am fine. And I am not, as I am sure you are thinking right now, "being a man" and trying to make myself look tougher by hiding my injuries. The only area where I am not fine is not one I can trust you with," he lifted the corpse in his hands a bit higher, "so kindly step aside so that I may continue what I was doing."

The long the matron gave him was one of puzzlement. Clearly, she did not entirely believe him, but he had been respectful when refusing her help, when she was likely used to teenagers trying to run from her instead of standing their ground. Nonetheless, she still peered at him intently, her eyes roaming over his body as if to check he wasn't lying, before huffing and crossing her arms in front of her chest.

"Very well. But I must insist that the moment you feel unwell, you see a certified Healer. Can I trust you on that?"

"You can," cut Homura, the Sekirei nodding respectfully at the woman, "If we notice anything wrong, we'll have him see a Healer, even if we have to drag him there."

"Ah…Yes," nodded Akitsu, the brunette staring intently at Harry.

With one last nod towards the group, the nurse then left, grumbling slightly under her breath about idiots refusing a medical check. While she did so, Hermione and his flock approaching him, his Sekirei, bare Karasuba, showing concern, while his student was biting her lip and glancing between him and Rin's corpse.

"Are…Are you going to be alright, sensei?" eventually asked the brunette, fidgeting under his blank stare, before he offered her a slight smile.

For all that he disliked British Magic users, Hermione was the exception to the rule, mostly because now that she had been broken out of her authority worship and had been taught (violently) to not push her opinions on others, she was actually quite nice to be around. The fact that she could have chosen to hate him, since he used her as a pawn in his scheme to get revenge on Dumbledore, but instead chose to respect him for what he had given her, was also a large point in her favor. And no matter how numb he was to things at the moment, he could freely admit that he was touched that the brunette was worried about him.

Few people were. Well, few that he liked.

"No immediately, but I will be. Thank you for your concern, but this is something I'll have to deal with on my own," he started, before feeling Homura glare at his back, "on our own, excuse me."

"Alright," nodded Hermione, before motioning for Mutsu to follow her, "Mutsu, let's give them some privacy. Ivy, could you come with me too, please? This is a moment for Harry and his family."

From the way the Slytherin witch frowned, it was clear that she wanted to object that she was family, but she eventually chose not to, though before following Hermione, she gave him a quick hug.

"I'm glad you're alright," she whispered, before speeding after the amused Ravenclaw.

Harry blinked a bit, unsure of how to feel about his biological sister showing concern for him. On one hand, he didn't know her all that well, and mostly didn't feel like getting to know her, but on the other hand, she had startling similarities with him, the Potters' neglect to outright handing him over to the Dursleys, the trauma of almost being raped in her case and his own from the torture of his relatives…It was like looking at a distorted image of himself, and he just couldn't bring himself to push her away. Kami knew he'd given everything himself to have someone to talk to, back when he was still a weak little boy.

Perhaps once things had calmed down a bit he should try to get to know her?

Shaking his head, he motioned for his Sekirei to follow him. He didn't even try to transfigure Rin's corpse to make it easier to carry, the cat-woman deserved better that to be made into some kind of pebble, especially when he could easily carry her body by himself. Sure, it would likely shock the people they'd come across, but frankly he didn't much care.

"Harry, mate, you okay?"

Blinking, he looked up to see Ronald Weasley, looking concerned, and standing at the entrance of the tent. The boy was pale, and looked rather unwilling to look directly at him, probably because of the rather large amount of blood that covered him, coming from Rin's corpse.

"What are you doing here, Weasley?" he sighed.

He couldn't even find it in itself to be angry anymore. He was just very, very tired, and wanted to get things done before he could take a nice hot bath, and then sleep in a nice bed with his Sekirei at his sides. And the redhead frankly didn't even deserve more than apathy at this point.

The boy chuckled nervously, scratching his cheek, looking anywhere but at him, and more than a little fidgety with the way his Sekirei were staring at him. Karasuba wasn't any different than usual, perhaps smiling a little wider, though Akitsu was staring at the redhead in a way that would have seen the teen self-combusting had it worked as she intended, and even Homura, usually the calmest of his Sekirei, was looking rather displeased at the newcomer.

"Eh, just wanted to make sure you were alright, you know, mate? I mean, it was really impressive and stuff, the way you knocked that dragon out, but you know, you just, well…you just killed someone. Can't be that easy, can it? So I thought I'd check on you."

Harry would perhaps have been touched at the attention if it had not been entirely unwelcome and likely something the redhead was doing on Dumbledore's orders. While he seemed genuine in his concern, the teenage Pillar couldn't help but distrust the boy. What he knew of him wasn't very flattering, coming mostly from Hermione, and his own interactions with the wizard hadn't disproved his low opinion either. So while he may be truly concerned, it was the reason Ronald was present that he didn't like.

"Thank you," he nodded blandly, "But I'll be fine. However, given that the tent is reserved to family and close friends, you should probably leave, otherwise you'll get in trouble."

"Eh? Oh, uh, right. Well…Thanks for not blowing me off, mate. And I hope things get better soon," mumbled the teenage wizard, before darting out of the tent.

'I am surprised, Harry, that was quite civil,' remarked Homura, using the bond as they walked out of the tent.

They dutifully ignored the few people present, mostly dragon handlers and Aurors who gave them a wide berth after getting a good look at what Harry was holding, though if he knew anything about law, he'd likely be getting a visit from the local law enforcement soon.

'Can't be bothered to care at the moment,' he replied, 'and frankly it's so obvious he's playing for Dumbledore that it's almost pitiful. Better keep him at arms' length as an acquaintance than have the old coot trying something else to pry.'

For a moment the link was silent, the group entering the castle and making their way to their quarters, before Homura once more "spoke" up.

'…Harry, once we are done with the arrangements for Rin's funeral, I'd like to have a word with you.'

'…Sure.'

It had been an exhausting day, and the next few ones weren't looking any better.


Harry isn't his usual angry and angsty self?

No, he's starting to wise up a little. And at the end he's too in shock to be able to muster enough anger at Pomfrey or Ron. He'll likely mellow out in the next chapters, though he's nowhere near getting soft. He's just going to come down from his high horse and start being a bit more likeable, since at the moment he's an angry prick, and he's starting to realize that perhaps he might be left a bit more space if he wasn't always pissing people off. Not to mention the coming chat with Homura, that should have lasting consequences for his behavior.

Eeh? Rin? Who was that?

Pretty much the third person, ever, to care about him. And while she pissed him off when she tried to have him make friends, she also spent a not-so inconsiderable part of her time around, making conversation with him, even if it's not really mentioned in the story. He saw her as a kind of annoying older sister, since the "mother" spot was taken by Karasuba, and the "aunt" was Takami. He also liked her more than Yume, since she was less about love everywhere and more about trying to have him connect with other people, not to mention she was clever enough to make intelligent arguments about it. Harry's exposure to Yume was the Sekirei trying to show him Love is everywhere, etc...So yeah, he liked Rin.

Eeh? Harry's in shock after killing Rin? I thought he'd killed plenty of people?

Sure, he did. Doesn't mean that he's not shocked he's killed someone he considered family. Just because a soldier kills in the line of duty and grows desensitized to it (in some case, not all I believe), doesn't mean that he'd just go and kill his own family. In Harry's case, he's also greatly attached to the few people he cares about, since the trauma from his childhood has him cling desperately to his bonds with the people who love him and whom he loves back. It made the impact of his action that much worse, even if he can rationalize he didn't know it was Rin before he killed her.