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In the Morning of the Magicians

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Amelia Bones sighed and rested her head against the cool cherry wood of her desk. There were some days where she really wished that she’d taken any other career path than this. Since Harry Potter had by fortune’s favour captured Peter Pettigrew, she’d had more sleepless nights and dates with a coffee maker and Pepper-Up Potion than she’d ever wanted in the short time she’d been Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.

First, immediately out of the gate following the man’s arrest, people within the Minister’s office (specifically a pink-clad nuisance) had tried to intervene and insist on Pettigrew being pushed through the veil for all the subterfuge and clearly being the guilty party in an assault and attempted murder—Amelia had pointedly refused on the grounds that Pettigrew’s potential guilt in mass murder had a very large amount of influence on other actions the Ministry had taken since the death of He Who Must Not Be Named, and thus needed to be taken into account in the inevitable review of convictions since then.

After some cajoling and things that may or may not be considered borderline torture, Pettigrew had, in tears, confessed his guilt in betraying James and Lily Potter over a decade ago, on top of his conspiracy to kidnap Harry Potter with the help of Bellatrix Lestrange—thereafter openly admitting that he had killed and imperioused numerous people in the process of the attempt.

The admission of his guilt in the deaths of the Potters had been grounds enough to exonerate Sirius Black, but the Minister’s office had at first put up quite a resistance—Sirius Black had escaped from prison and could therefore be consigned to Azkaban permanently just for the crime of escaping.

Amelia wouldn’t stand to see anything of the sort happen. Injustice in the name of ineptitude would not stand.

First, she convinced Minister Fudge to withdraw the “kiss-on-sight” order for Sirius Black. It had taken some cajoling, but she’d managed to pull it off by convincing him that by refusing to exonerate Black, he was setting himself up for a public relations fall when it inevitably got out as to all the circumstances around Black’s incarceration.

Once that executive directive had made it into the papers, Sirius Black had surrendered himself to the DMLE at her home in London. A brief questioning later, Amelia had uncovered a conspiracy within the DMLE and Ministry to liquidate the Death Eater population at Azkaban—and had presented these findings to Minister Fudge.

She was never able to determine who had authorized the executions, though she had ideas (side-eyeing the pink-clad Undersecretary to the Minister for Magic as she smugly stood in the corner of the room)—but Minister Fudge had been damn near horrified, and had quickly moved to ensure Sirius Black was properly exonerated, and declared a free man, with all his rights and titles and what have you restored by Ministry decree.

It ultimately was a fairly… shabby gesture of mercy and kindness for a man who had been illegally incarcerated for eleven years, but the Ministry was… always like that, really, so Amelia was at least satisfied that some semblance of justice would be demonstrated, even if she’d ended up nearly having to drag the Ministry kicking and screaming into admitting they were wrong.

Sirius Black’s trial took place during a late morning in early June, the spectator stands full of people, including Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts, Minerva McGonagall and her wife—though, one person she noted who was absent from the trial, was Harry Potter, the man’s godson.

She’d taken statements from Harry just after Hogwarts dismissed for the year, and had half-expected the young man to be present, but he wasn’t. She idly wondered if he was ill, or something.

But the trial itself was fascinating!

After being cross-examined, repeatedly put back and forth and on top again, Sirius had kept to his story, accusing the Ministry of trying to kill him without a trial, and never granting him proper rights as an accused.

He was exonerated in record time, but it had certainly started investigations—into potential impropriety of Albus Dumbledore, the actions of the late Minister Bagnold, and the actions of former DMLE head, her predecessor, Bartemius Crouch, Sr.

She had a feeling that this wasn’t even the start of the iceberg that would let loose a deluge that irrevocably changed some things within the Ministry, or fundamentally broke something that would never be healed. Time would tell.

While Sirius Black was being exonerated, Harry Potter was on a forced vacation.

And she wasn’t sure she was happy about it.

On the sunny shores of Toletania, young men with a taste for women, and perhaps even some young sapphic women enjoying the sun were paying close attention to two dark-haired girls walking the beach having animated conversations.

The taller willowier brunette was wearing a silver bikini, her sharp blue eyes playing on a very strong air of self-confidence, mixing well with her confident smirk. Nobody could tell if the smirk was malicious in intent, or simply cocky and self-assured.

The shorter of the two was raven-haired, and had bright, almost glowing emerald green eyes. Unlike her more confident counterpart, she was wearing a one-piece dark green swimsuit—she seemed much more controlled on top of that, but positively radiated happiness and warmth, like the sun on a perfect summer’s day.

These two girls were Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter.

“Draco, I don’t want to hear about what you and Weasley are up to,” Harry whined, pushing her friend, nearly causing the taller Slytherin to fall into the wet sand.

“Oh, like I don’t have to listen to you about Granger all the time?” Draco asked, raising one of her eyebrows. She took on a faux Scottish accent. “Oh, Draco! Hermione’s so beautiful, so graceful, so cute, I love her so much! I want to snog her until the end of time!”

“I don’t sound like that,” Harry said, her ears reddening. “And at least I don’t sound like I’ve had a silver rod up my arse since I was a wee sprog, you cunt,”

Draco snorted, before grinning. “But I’m not wrong, am I?” She said, sticking out her tongue at her cousin.

“Regardless,” She continued. “I’m so glad Mother insisted we come along with her to Toletania this year. She wouldn’t have let you say no, even if you’d wanted to,” She said, pivoting away from her ribbing in favour of more pleasant things.

“Well, with Hermione’s parents taking her on holiday to Bactria and making it clear they wanted to spend time with their daughter, and all the nonsense going on back home with Sirius, Peter and the Ministry… I guess I am sort of grateful to have some time off,” Harry said, happily.

“And you get to experiment with being a girl,” Draco said confidently.

“Right! Though, I’m sort of surprised you joined in so readily,” Harry said, running her eyes down her friend’s body. “Not that the bikini looks bad on you, really—just… I’m surprised?”

“Gender’s one of those things I couldn’t give a toss about, really,” Draco said, smiling. “Sometimes it’s an escape from being Lucius Malfoy’s perfect son, sometimes it’s to bond with Mother, sometimes it’s just for my own satisfaction. I’m not a picky person.”

“I totally get that,” Harry said.

Draco nodded. “Also, to be honest? It’s nice to have someone around this time. I was dreadfully bored last summer with Mother sending me out all day while she entertained paramours, flirting with boys was about the only thing I could do to not go spare.”

“Hmm, right, d’ya think she’ll leave your old man and marry someone else?” Harry asked.

“It’s possible?” Draco said, thinking. “She’s definitely not happy with Father, and to be honest, neither am I—but I couldn’t say if she’ll actually divorce him or not. I’ll play a large part in that. She’d never voluntarily let him retain custody of me long-term.”

“Yeesh,” Harry said, rubbing her neck. “That’s terrible. I’d have thought you’d spend the summer in England snogging Weasley.”

“Ronald and his family are on holiday in Egypt, they won some prize from the Daily Prophet,” Draco said idly, picking at her painted nails. “Ron promised to send me a postcard and snog me when he got home.”

“Funny, Hermione told me the same thing,” Harry said, snorting.

“Mmm,” Draco said. She suddenly smirked. “Hey, Harry—there’s a boutique not far from here that I like. Mind if we pop over and visit?”

“Sure, I’m following your lead, Dray,” Harry said, smiling at her cousin. “Lead on!”

The boutique in question had been a rather high-end clothing shop. Harry had given in to her baser impulses and allowed Draco to pull her around and have her try on a whole bunch of things of varying design, ranging from simplistic to complex.

Harry thoroughly enjoyed the attention, and enjoyed the way she looked. After some pleading from Draco, and the eventual bribe of some delightful parfaits, finally convinced to buy a few things, just for the future.

Rufus Scrimgeour popped into existence on the fringes of the Crouch family property, a group of Aurors standing with him. He reached into his robe pocket and pulled out the parchment. The contents of the parchment were a warrant for the detaining of Bartemius Crouch Sr. for questioning regarding his actions during the Death Eater War and subsequent criminal trials that were pursued after the fact.

Approaching the door, Rufus knocked repeatedly, waiting for a response.

Eventually, Barty arrived at the door, looking a bit deranged and frustrated. “Rufus,” He said, seeming surprised, any coarse words for the person knocking on his door dying on his lips.

“Barty, you’ve been ignoring summons from Director Bones, Minister Fudge and the Wizengamot. I’m here to bring you in for a deposition,” Rufus said, looking bashful at the idea of having to arrest an old colleague.

“Ah… yes, right,” Barty said, turning on heel and retreating into his house. Rufus and a couple aurors stepped through the door, and saw Barty frustratingly flinging papers around, a watery-eyed house elf standing around looking nervous and jittery, as usual.

“Barty, you seem worried. Is everything alright?” Rufus asked, raising his eyebrows and peering at his friend carefully.

“I’m not worried about anything—this is just a criminal waste of my time when the Triwizard Tournament—” Barty began, indignation in his voice.

“Right, look mate, we’re not going to put you in Azkaban, we just want to figure all this nonsense out—Sirius Black’s already walked free, but it’s raised a lot of questions about you and your actions during the Trials,” Rufus said to calm his friend down, though this seemed to have the opposite effect, as Barty’s face turned to an unpleasant shade of puce.

“I still don’t know how that murderer managed to convince everyone he was innocent—I swear to Merlin—” Barty said, again going on a tangential rant.

“With all due respect, Barty, we’ve got a tight schedule to keep, so if you’d mind…?” Rufus said, cutting the man off and furrowing his brow. He was getting impatient, and Barty was acting like a proper pillock. He had half a mind to just stun the bastard and drag him kicking and screaming to the Wizengamot, but he had to be diplomatic about it, because it looked bad for an Auror to be arresting a high ranking government official of high public stature.

As Barty turned toward him, the sound of thudding downstairs in the cellar caused raised eyebrows among the Aurors.

“Barty, have you got something in your cellar?” Rufus asked, raising an eyebrow again. Barty, already clammy and sweating, tried to avoid making eye contact. Rufus glanced at Kingsley Shacklebolt.

“Auror Shacklebolt. Take Auror Tonks and investigate that noise,” Rufus said plainly. “We’ll wait here for you,”

Kingsley and Nymphadora crossed the room towards the door to the cellar, and opened it. They both cast strong lumos spells, and descended the stairs. A few minutes later, a voice came up.

“Sir! There’s someone down here!” Nymphadora’s voice called back, and before Rufus could reach for his wand—

Stupefy!” Barty shouted, blasting Rufus back, before attempting to bolt from his house. Unfortunately, thinking ahead has never been one of Bartemius Crouch Sr.’s strongest traits, and he ended up getting bowled over by the aurors standing right outside the front door of the house, before being bound in magical restraints.

After helping Rufus up onto his feet, he proceeded back inside, rubbing the spot on his head where he’d most definitely develop a right goose egg.

“Right. Bartemius Crouch Sr., you’re under arrest for assaulting an Auror. Anything you say can and will be used against you before the Wizengamot,” Rufus said in a low growl before gesturing for them to take him away to the Ministry for processing, while Rufus headed back into the house and towards the cellar.

Descending the stairs, he found Kingsley and Nymphadora standing quietly, looking at someone inside of a cage.

“Barty had someone in a cage? What sort of depraved lunatic was this man?”

“It’s not just that sir—look,” Kingsley said, putting the lumos directly onto the person in question.

The haggard, pale and dishevelled face of Bartemius Crouch Jr. peered back, his eyes vacant and expressionless.

“Bloody hell,” Rufus muttered. “Heads’re gonna roll for this.”

“That’s underselling it,” Tonks muttered.

Harry slipped deeper into the bathtub, feeling quite confident in the waterproofing charm on the parchment. Hermione had a lot of things to say about her holiday in Bactria thus far, even this early, and went on and on about some of the sights and historical sites, but also some of the culture shock that came along with the natural confluence of the Hellenistic and Vedic worlds.

She also responded to Harry’s last letter, positively gushing with praise for the picture of herself that Harry had included. She hadn’t been quite daring enough to expose herself to Hermione (they were still taking things quite slow), but she didn’t see the harm in sharing the photograph Narcissa had taken of her before they’d gone out to a wixen opera.

It turns out Hermione really liked the sight of her girlfriend with a high bun and a gorgeous dress. Go figure.

After finishing the letter, Harry set the parchment aside and laid her head back. She didn’t have nearly as much to say as Hermione did about her holiday. So far it's just been her cavorting around al-Mariyah playing “rich girl on holiday”. Her mother and Hermione would both tell her she deserved some time off, given how much she had on her shoulders throughout the past three years, but still. It was a hard adjustment to deal with.

Eventually finishing her bath, she wrapped herself in a towel and padded into the bedroom she shared with Draco. The other teenager glanced up at her and frowned.

“Are you okay, Harry?”

“I’m okay, Dray,” Harry said, scratching her head. “I think it’s a bit of… not being overwhelmed.”

“What do you mean?” Draco asked, raising an eyebrow.

“For the first time in three years… I haven’t got any problems. No… dark lords to deal with, no questions about my identity, nothing like it. For one summer, I’m… just a girl named Harry. It’s… sort of unnerving, actually,”

“You’re stressed about not being stressed? Potter, are you daft or what?” Draco said, slack-jawed. “What’s wrong with just… taking time off and being you?”

“I’m not used to it, is all,” Harry said, rubbing her forehead. “I’d like to practice some of the material we’re set to learn next year, though—maybe then I’ll feel like I’m being productive.”

“Mm,” Draco said. “Alright, first thing tomorrow we’ll have Mother walk us through some advanced Charms. In the meantime, though, you’re sitting right here, eating some sweets, getting a facemask, and getting your nails painted.”

“Draco, I-”

“Shut up, Potter,” Draco said, shaking her head. “You’re on holiday. Act like it, would you?”

“By majority vote, this esteemed body finds you, Bartemius Crouch Sr., guilty of the following charges. Sustained use of the unforgivable curses, interference in the due process of law, and criminal conspiracy, the Wizengamot hereby sentences you to life imprisonment in Azkaban,” Fudge said, staring down at the one-time head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.

It was an unfortunate circumstance, Amelia thought, as she watched Bartemius Crouch Sr. lead away by Aurors. What an interesting change of circumstances.

Just a day prior, it had been publically accepted that Crouch Sr. had been a hero of the war, and Crouch Jr. had died in prison, miserable and guilty of torture—now, Crouch Jr. was healing in St. Mungo’s and had been granted a full pardon (with evidence of his involvement in the Death Eaters being very thin or non-existent, really), and Crouch Sr. was heading for a stay in Azkaban until his death.

Since the Dementors had been destroyed, Azkaban wasn’t nearly as miserable, but a life in the Northern Tower was not going to be something Crouch enjoyed.

But this raised an immediate issue, that being the planned Triwizard Tournament resurrection, as well as that of the continuing Quidditch World Cup. Both events fell under the jurisdiction of Bartemius Crouch Sr.’s department in the Ministry (along with Ludo Bagman’s department, of course)—with him gone, this would complicate matters significantly.

After the Wizengamot dismissed, she managed to corner Minister Fudge in the corridors just outside the courtrooms.

“Minister, what’s our plan now that the DIMC office is empty?” Amelia said, frowning. “We’ve got enough problems going on here without having to organize the Triwizard Tournament and Quidditch World Cup with no head of the DIMC.”

“What about that new lad in the DIMC office? His assistant, erm, Weatherby?” Fudge asked, looking contemplative. “I’m sure he’s capable of running the fort for now?”

“Weasley?” Amelia asked, raising her eyebrow. “He’s a bit young, isn’t he?”

“Oh, I’m sure he can do a fine job. Besides, it’ll just be temporary until we find a proper replacement,” Fudge said, waving his hand. “If he has any questions I’d be more than happy to field them. There’s other people who can help run the Triwizard Tournament as it is, I’m sure. There’s that bloke that Hogwarts just hired on for Defence Against the Dark Arts—the famous author, Gilderoy Lockhart. We’ll reach out to him and have him consult on the project,”

“Yes, but,” Amelia said, frowning.

“Tcha, it’ll be fine,” Fudge said, dismissing her concerns outright with a wave of his hands. “Keep up your investigations, Madam Bones. Keep in touch about any new developments. If you’ll excuse me, Dolores and I have a meeting with other department heads.”

Harry’s fourteenth birthday was largely uneventful—she’d spent the day with Draco and Narcissa window-shopping and being dragged to the salon of all things, and then they’d gone to a very nice restaurant for dinner, accompanied by Harry’s mothers and Sirius.

It had been a very pleasant experience, but it had passed in the blink of an eye, and now it was getting to be August once more.

Hogwarts was preparing for another term, this time the supplies list suspiciously included “dress robes” as some form of a requirement. 

Suddenly, Harry had understood why Narcissa had dragged him and Draco to the high street one morning before they took their dose of the Tiresian Tonic—she insisted on them both having high quality dress robes for both forms, with no concrete reason given as to why.

If she was implying Harry was going to come out publically about being transgender so soon, she was in for a rude awakening. Harry knew she was a girl, but she was still utterly terrified of coming out and being one full-time. She certainly felt like an impostor compared to Draco, whom navigated the concept with far more precision than she felt like she ever could.

That, and Harry had seen plenty of instances where smart, brilliant young women had been outright dismissed or snubbed because of the fact they were women. 

Misogyny was still a thing in the wixen world, and Narcissa’s horror tales of being groomed from a young age for marriage to a man much older than her had done nothing to assuage Harry’s fears of losing credibility and strength in the eyes of people.

But putting aside existential crises for now, Harry fully intended to interrogate her mother as soon as possible about the reasoning for the dress robes, and what Dumbledore was planning. She loved the old man like a grandfather, but he was a sneaky one.

Harry assumed that she’d probably know what was going on, given that her stature within the faculty, being Dumbledore’s deputy and all.

However, another important event that was set to take place as August waned on, was the final match of the Quidditch World Cup. Harry and Draco had been following it intently from the beaches of Toletania.

Harry and Draco had woken up one morning in the weeks prior to the match, and stumbled out of their shared bedroom, bleary-eyed and dishevelled, to find Minerva, Rolanda and Narcissa sharing a kettle of tea and having a rather intense conversation, Narcissa following along with the elder Transfiguration professor almost reverently, staring at the two with eyes gleaming with idolatry and admiration for the Scottish professor.

She noticed their presence, however, and craned her head with her usual smile.

“Girls! Come, please, join us,” She said and waved her hand.

Harry sat down in one of the plush chairs and accepted the offered cup of tea from her mother. Her mother always made tea just right. It was just a little sweet, but not so much as to hide the natural undertones. There was nothing better than a nice cup of tea at breakfast time.

“We were just waiting for you two sleepyheads to wake up,” Narcissa said with a smile. “We’ve been having a chat, and I know you two have been so wanting to go to the Quidditch World Cup finals in a fortnight...”

“...and how could we resist and say no to you two?” Minerva finished for Narcissa, before reaching into her robe pocket. A small set of tickets for the final match clapped onto the coffee table, and both Draco and Harry lit up and jumped to their feet sharing the most girlish, excited screams ever.

“Are you serious, Mum?! We’re going?!” Harry said, looking very much the part of an overly excited fourteen-year-old.

“Of course! And we’ll be sharing a tent with Miss Granger and Miss Parkinson,” Minerva said with a smile. “It took some cajoling to get Miss Granger’s parents to release their daughter from their Bactrian adventures a bit early, but they know how much you’ve missed her, and how much she’s missed you, so… small mercies, I suppose,”

Harry leapt in the air, hovering very briefly before landing on her feet. She blushed.

“I still have problems with accidental magic like that,” Harry said, sitting back down. “This is going to be so much fun!”

“I hope so, it’ll be fascinating to see Viktor Krum in action against Ireland,” Narcissa said. “That young man is quite talented.”

She seemed pleased, before blinking. “I also had a little idea I wanted to propose to your mothers. I know you’re not very fond of the press, Harry—you’re very particular about keeping your privacy, and since you’re already taking the Tiresian Tonic… I had this small idea,”

“You and Draco staying as young women until the end of summer,” Minerva said, adjusting her glasses. “It would also allow young Draco to avoid his father like a bad dragonpox outbreak. It is your choice if you wish to do this, but I can’t guarantee you’ll have such free access to the Tonic after the beginning of the school year. The Ministry regulates it quite strenuously, and it is immensely difficult to brew on your own.”

Harry and Draco looked at each other briefly.

“Well, I haven’t any objections,” Harry said with a grin. “I rather like being a lass. I’ll be right sore to go back to being a bloke.”

“You’ll always be a young lady, Harry—just… in a different form,” Minerva said, waving her hands. “If you know what I mean,”

“I know, Mum, just… it’s been interesting this summer. For the past few months I’ve been able to be… someone who isn’t the Master of Death, Heir of Slytherin, etcetera, etcetera, and then some—I’m just some rich girl on holiday. Lounging about on a beach with a big sun hat or getting a tan. It’s… unnervingly relaxing,” Harry said, rubbing the back of her neck.

Draco punched Harry in the shoulder. “I told you, you’re on holiday! Enjoy it and don’t be such an old woman.”

“Meanie,” Harry said, sticking her tongue out at Draco, who simply rolled her eyes in response.

“Well, don’t you look cute?” Draco said as she appraised Harry’s outfit as they made their way into the foyer of the summer house they’d been staying in as they prepared to leave for the Quidditch World Cup match site.

Harry blushed and stuck her hands into the pockets of her jeans. The Muggle world had been getting quite into the whole flannel scene, and so now Harry was wearing a flannel blouse and a pair of jeans she’d gotten from one of the Muggle clothing shops in al-Mariyah.

“Shut up, Dray,” She said, folding her arms and huffing, blushing all the while.

“Are you wearing makeup, Harry? Trying to preen and make yourself look good for the missus, I take it? So vain, Potter, so vain,” Draco said, smirking and giving Harry a wink.

“Says the girl wearing a push-up bra,” Harry retorted, pointing at Draco’s chest. “Are you trying to entice Ron into a quick shag in some bushes at the match? I thought you were in it for Quidditch, Malfoy.”

“No reason a girl can’t do both?” Draco offered, grinning ear to ear. “I definitely want to see the Quidditch match, but if I can pull it off, I actually would like to go for a round with Weasley, see if he’s as good at shagging as he is at chess. If I’ve only got a few days until I’m back to being a bloke again, I’m going to enjoy it while I can. Besides, it compliments my outfit, wouldn’t you agree?”

Seeing Draco wearing anything muggle would’ve caused Harry to double-take just a year ago, the young wix always seemed to favour intricate, very nice robes made to order, but now… Draco was wearing a very snug fitting black shirt made of stretchy material and a flannel skirt, looking very much the part of a high street fashionista.

Despite that though, her outfit was very functional, she was wearing the same pair of Muggle trainers that Harry was—just in a different colour. Both pairs were charmed to stay clean no matter the environment. No fashion was worth being rendered ineffectual in trying to navigate crowds at the Quidditch World Cup.

That, and well, Harry was well aware that Draco was… already quite aware of what a young man in the throes of pubescence would be interested in, and shoving a pair of breasts in front of him was certainly the way to grab one’s attention. Ron would probably be left drooling over himself at the sight of a leggy version of his boyfriend. Poor bastard.

Harry wasn’t jealous of Draco—not at all.

She was just rather perturbed that Draco was taking the whole “femininity” thing far better than she was. It wasn’t her fault, though—Draco was just having fun. She was the one being… she supposed rather unreasonable about it?

Well, not unreasonable. Just… a little overwhelmed by how easy it seemed to be for her friend, and how… unfamiliar but comfortable it was for her.

Harry growled to herself internally—would this impostor syndrome shite knock it off?!

Maybe Draco had some experience with this already, and she’d never known? Draco never did go into great detail about what she did while on holiday with her Mum last year—she could totally believe Draco doing this sort of thing.

It was fun. Who wouldn’t? Honestly?

A lot of people, but who cares? Being a girl is fun!

Narcissa had returned with a portkey shortly afterwards, indicating it would take them to one of the rendezvous locations for the portkeys to the actual arena. After being swept off, they were deposited on a hill, and were only there for a few minutes before they were once more swept off to the arena.

The arena grounds itself was teeming with wixen, and Narcissa, looking nothing like the pureblood Lady Malfoy (with her short, well-coiffed black hair, and Muggle attire), lead them through the crowds to their tent location. As they approached a large green tent, Dobby emerged from the entrance and bowed.

“Mistress, Dobby has set up the tent,” He said. “Is there anything further the Mistresses require of Dobby?”

“No, thank you, you’re dismissed,” Narcissa said with a smile. Dobby popped out of existence and Narcissa strolled in, Harry and Draco following behind her.

“Here you go, girls! All the amenities we could need for a short stay for the Quidditch match tomorrow,”

“Excellent,” Harry said, grinning. “I love these tents—one of the best parts of being a wix, honestly,”

“Fancy camping much, do you?” Draco asked.

“Of course I do,” Harry said, rolling her eyes. “I’ve always fancied the outdoors—but these sorts of tents really make it a much easier experience. I’ve seen Muggle tents before, they’re cramped and uncomfortable. These are nice.”

“Right,” Draco said. Glancing at her mother she said nonchalantly. “So, um, when d’ya think the Weasleys will arrive?”

“They’re slated for the spot next to us,” Narcissa said, jabbing her thumb to one side of the tent. “I think when I spoke to Minerva, she said she’d be ensuring the Weasley family arrives soon after us.”

The Weasley family was very nice, Hermione thought. She’d been picked up from Bactria by Harry’s mum after much pleading and begging, she’d been given permission to go to the Quidditch World Cup (not that she gave a toss about the sport itself, but any time to spend with Harry was more than welcome in her eyes).

They’d taken a portkey to The Burrow, the Weasley family home, where she’d gotten more than acquainted with the large bustling Weasley family. All but one of the immediate family was present—Charlie Weasley, their second son, had been unable to attend due to work obligations, but their eldest, Bill, was there.

Much to the surprise of Hermione, so were Fred and George’s significant others. Danielle Terrence was sitting at the family table, drinking tea when she spotted Hermione entering with Professor McGonagall.

“Professor,” Danielle said, blinking, before glancing at Hermione. “and Hermione. Hi! Uh,”

“Miss Terrence,” Minerva said with a smile. “So good to see you. I hope you’re not tormenting poor Mister Weasley too much,”

“Me? Torture him? Of course not,” She said with her own smile. “He’s in the loo right now but he’ll be back. What brings you two here?”

“We’re heading to the World Cup later,” Hermione said. “Professor McGonagall insisted that we catch a ride with you lot.”

“Not the worst idea ever,” Danielle said. “Is Potter going to be there?”

Hermione nodded, grinning. “Oh, yes. I should hope so,”

Molly Weasley descended the stairs and greeted the two of them, and Hermione felt that the Weasley family was very friendly and warm. As it was, everyone seemed to get along despite the shouting and cajoling. She greeted Ron when he landed at the foot of the stairs, and giggled when he jumped in fright of Professor McGonagall standing a few feet away.

After some cajoling and quarrelling among the Weasleys, the large family and friends made their way to the St. Ottery Catchpole portkey, which whisked them off to the grounds. As they crested the small hill overlooking the large arena grounds, Hermione took a deep breath of shock at the sight. Dozens of tents, and people milling about like it was the most normal thing ever.

“How do they hide all this?” she asked in a breath, glancing at Arthur Weasley.

“Rather strong notice-me-not charms and the like,” Arthur said with a smile. “Come on, then. We’ve got a nice spot for the tent, Minerva had it put on hold for us.”

As they made their way through the mass of people, Hermione kept her eyes out for the familiar glowing emerald of her girlfriend’s eyes. It would have been far too long since she last got to gaze into those beautiful things.

They eventually reached the appointed spot, and Hermione noticed the tent next to them was a rich green, and there was the sound of girls laughing from within. As they started setting up their tent, Hermione got so involved in participating and watching the patchwork tent go up that she barely noticed someone approaching her from behind.

She was briefly startled by someone tapping on her shoulder, and she turned around to come face to face with a beautiful pair of emerald green eyes.

“Well, hello there,” Harry crooned. Hermione took several moments to drink up every inch of her girlfriend. The Tiresian Tonic definitely agreed with Harry. Her natural beauty was only magnified by her fashion and makeup choices, and Hermione felt decidedly under-dressed in comparison.

“Earth to Hermione,” Harry said, waving her hands in front of Hermione’s face.

“Sorry,” Hermione said, blushing. “You’re just… beautiful,”

“Thank you,” Harry said, hugging her tightly and kissing her cheek. “I’ve missed you!”

“I missed you,” Hermione said. “I see Toletania’s been good on you.”

“Oh, like you wouldn’t believe…” Harry trailed off, and Hermione looked to see what Harry was staring at. She was watching a dark-haired girl with chilly blue eyes emerging from the tent, glancing around. Harry jerked her head, and the girl looked past Hermione. She smirked and began to walk towards the object of her focus.

Hermione raised an eyebrow, before Harry pulled her close.

Draco,” She whispered into Hermione’s ear and Hermione’s mouth fell open.

Ron Weasley was beyond excited. He was at the Quidditch World Cup! He never dreamed in a thousand years he’d get an opportunity to go to the Quidditch World Cup! That was the sort of thing the really rich and really lucky got to do, but this time the fortunes had turned for his dad and he’d gotten enough tickets not just for the family, but for Fred and George’s partners too—he knew he’d see Draco at least once, he’d likely be in the company of his father. Even if they couldn’t go about snogging, well, he’d still find time to talk to him and maybe snog a bit.

While he was ruminating on what he’d like to do when he finally saw his boyfriend, he felt a presence come up behind him and slip a pair of soft hands over his eyes.

“Guess who?” A soft, breathy voice crooned in his ear, making him shiver.

“Uh,” Ron started, before he felt someone kiss his neck. “Draco?!”

He whirled around. It was definitely Draco, but boy was this a different Draco. His boyfriend was a girlfriend right now and had huge… Merlin!

“My eyes are up here, lover boy,” Draco said dryly. “Not that I mind, really,”

“Draco, you…” Ron stammered, gesturing.

“Decided to do something a bit different this time, yeah?” Draco said, taking her boyfriend’s hand in her own. “I hope you’re not disappointed?”

“Me? Disappointed? Why the bloody hell would I be disappointed?”

“Just the answer I wanted to hear,” Draco said, before grasping Ron’s head and kissing him deeply. “Merlin, I’ve missed your lips, Ron Weasley. Want to go see if those trees over there are private?”

“You’ve not got to tell me twice,” Ron said, before being yanked away by Draco as they ran off towards the nearby woods.

While Ron and Draco went off to shag, probably, Harry was perfectly content to sit and talk with Hermione, enjoying the fact her girlfriend was staring at her like she was an angel. That was something she could most certainly get used to.

She blinked as she noticed Danielle.

“Is that Dani?” Harry asked, and Hermione nodded in response.

“Yeah, Fred invited her to come along with us,” Hermione said. “Cedric’s around here also, somewhere,”

Danielle had noticed them and had walked over, squinting at Harry the entire time. Realization flooded her face as she got close enough to see Harry’s eyes.

“Bloody hell, that is you, isn’t it, Potter?” She asked with a gasp.

“Oh that’s right, you… don’t know yet, do you? Uh, I’m a girl,” Harry said with a sheepish grin. “Trying it out for a bit with Tiresian Tonic, I think it suits me quite well, wouldn’t you agree?”

“You look like you stepped off the cover of Witch Weekly,” Danielle said with a snort. “Now I see why you’re so eager to jump her bones, Hermione.”

“Well, not quite as ready to jump her bones as Draco is to jump Ronald’s. They ran off into the forest not too long ago to do… whatever it is they wanted to do,” Hermione said, glancing at the trees in the distance.

“I’m sure they’ll have a great time with that,” Dani said with a shake of her head. “Well, don’t get into any trouble, you two,”

“We won’t,” Harry said with a smile.

Chapter Text

“Hey, Harry,” Pansy said as she approached. “Where’s Draco?”

“In the woods over there, shagging Weasley,” Harry said, gesturing to the treeline Draco and Ron had run off to. “I wager she won’t be back for a good twenty minutes or so,”

“A bit overeager, wasn’t she?” Pansy said, shaking her head. “Draco’s never been one of those to do things by half-measures. I guess I shouldn’t be so shocked—anyway, how was Toletania?”

“Oh, it was relaxing like you wouldn’t believe. For a beautiful two months I was on holiday as nothing more than a rich heiress, loitering about the beachside town like a spoiled princess. It was to die for. I’m not sure I’d want to do that all the time, but many once in a while going off and not doing anything for a month…”

“I’m glad to hear you finally got that stick taken out of your arse, Potter,” Pansy said, grinning. “Looking to replace it with something?”

“Pansy!” Hermione nearly shrieked, slapping the other girl on the shoulder. “Mind your business!”

“Look, if I can’t presently tease Weasley and Draco over their relationship, I’m going to tease you two about yours because you’re too cute for this universe,” Pansy said, rolling her eyes. “Take it as a compliment, I promise, it is one. Who d’ya think’s gonna win the match?”

“I think Viktor Krum’ll probably win it for Bulgaria, he’s a proper good player,” Harry said. “It’s what’s made Bulgaria such a tour de force in the cup. They’re usually not this good—they’ve been disqualified by Slezania or Masovia every cup for at least the last two or three—having Krum on the team has really made them the best in show.”

“The Irish team’s gone undefeated, though,” Pansy said. “They’re not exactly pushovers, are they?”

“No, they’re not, but have you seen the Bulgarian beaters? They’re right nasty blokes, from what I’ve heard. Last match against Langobardia during the semis? They put six of the poor bastards in hospital.”

“Was it six? I thought it was five,” Pansy said with a raised eyebrow.

“They found the sixth one had gotten a concussion from a Bludger—got put in hospital after the game,” Harry said.

“Yikes,” Pansy said, shaking her head.

The first day of their stay on the campgrounds had been most fascinating beyond that though—Draco and Ron had come back from their woodland shag and had been thoroughly teased by Pansy and some of the Weasleys for their doe-eyed staring at one another over mealtimes after the fact.

The following morning, the day of the match, and the campgrounds were even more densely packed than Harry had expected. People from all over the globe seemed to be showing up in force for the final match. It really put into perspective just how many magical people there were on Earth.

Before the sun had come up, Harry had gone on a brisk walk around the campgrounds and had heard at least three dozen languages.

She’d first seen a group of Macedonian wizards congregating in a small mass. Their combined campgrounds had been decorated in the familiar blue-and-yellow solar flag of Macedon and the tricolour of Bulgaria. In the spirit of supporting Bulgaria, they had been doing an early morning ritual of good luck by offering food provisions to their Gods. 

It was fascinating to watch, but Harry had moved on to see other things.

A group of kids around Harry’s age were gathered underneath a large banner reading ‘Queen Lili’uokalani Institute of Magic’, listening to a young witch a little older than Harry telling a story reverently in her own language. Harry couldn’t understand a single word of it--but it certainly seemed full of vigor and energy. The rapt attention her fellow students were giving her were also quite intense, and Harry felt like despite the language barrier, she just wanted to sit and listen to it anyway, enjoying the rhythmic intonation and lilt in the story-teller’s voice.

She saw a handful of Toletanians, and heard the familiar Arabic-derived language being used quite harshly and loudly as the father of the family argued with a Ministry official over the legality of his children puttering around on training brooms in open air, risking potential discover by the sole Muggles who lived in the area.

She smiled to herself—the Quidditch World Cup was, as the name put it, genuinely a global event, and it actually warmed her heart that so many people could live in peace and equality for a short period of time in such a dense space. As she continued her circuit around the campgrounds, she heard the familiar language of Yamatai, a language she had been learning on and off since first year.

Diverting her attention toward it, she noticed a family of Yamatai sitting around a simmering camp stove. They were chattering away, with the red-haired girl teasing an older woman with a smirk on her face.

For some reason, Harry couldn’t bear to tear herself away from their presence. After a few moments, one of the older women’s eyes flickered over to her and a smile crossed her face. She beckoned Harry over.

Harry approached, looking down. “I’m sorry for intruding,” She said in the very fragile Yamatai she’d learned.

“It’s quite alright,” the woman said, this time in English. “We always believe in hospitality.” 

She smiled at Harry with a dazzling smile. “Have you eaten yet, child? We’ve got plenty to share. Ranma’s an excellent cook.”

“You’re just bein’ sweet about it, Ma,” The woman named Ranma said, glaring at her mother good-naturedly.

“My name is Yumiko Saotome,” The older woman said, shaking Harry’s hand. “What’s yours?”

“Harry Potter,” Harry said with a shy smile of her own.

Yumiko nodded. “This is my daughter, Ranma,” She said, gesturing to the redhead across the camp stove. She then snaked an arm around the waist of the woman next to her. “And this is my lovely wife, Kaori.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you all,” Harry said with a smile.

“C’mon, Harry Potter,” Ranma said before waving her hand and conjuring a chair up. “We insist you join us.”

Harry got to know this strange family from Japan quite quickly. Kaori and Yumiko had been friends for a very long time and had been married for close to seven years now; and Ranma had been from Yumiko’s first marriage. The topic of Yumiko’s first wife had been dodged like a Killing Curse as everyone seemed to darken at the mention of the person in question.

Harry knew better than to pry, and let the matter drop. Something did seem quite familiar about them, though. She wasn’t sure why, though. Ranma had a very bright pair of glowing aqua eyes, and Yumiko had a pair of slate eyes that seemed to glow as well. Each time Harry stared them in the eyes, it felt like she was looking into the sun.

The conversation had carried on for long enough where a bleary-eyed blue-haired woman popped out from the tent in front of them and plopped down next to Ranma, yawning. A cup of tea appeared in front of her and she accepted it graciously, planting a kiss on Ranma’s cheek.

“Harry, I’d like for you to meet my wife, Akane,” Ranma said, grinning. “Love of my life, and all that sappy nonsense,”

“You’re such a Casanova, Ranma,” Akane said, rolling her eyes and punching her wife in the arm. “It’s definitely not your skills in flirting that made me love you, that much is for sure.”

“How are the kids?” Ranma asked, eyebrow raised.

“They’re still dead asleep, Great-Grandmother seemed to know just the trick to get them to quiet down.”

“Of course she did, that old crone would be able to put an entire nation to sleep with magic,” Ranma said wryly, before a wooden stave fell swiftly upon the redhead’s head, causing her to rub her head in annoyance. “Ow, I had a feeling she’d heard that,”

“Of course I did,” a wry, old woman said, giving Ranma a side-eye. “You’re lucky I like you so much, Ranma.”

“You don’t just like me, you loooove me, you old bat,” Ranma said.

“Hmpf,” the woman said, sniffing. “Arrogant whelp.”

“Oh, uh, Great-Grandmother, this is Harry Potter. Harry Potter, this is Great-Grandmother, Elder Cologne of the Joketsuzoku.”

“Joketsuzoku? You mean that tribe of witches out in the heart of Cathay?” Harry asked, blinking. She’d ended up checking out and reading A History of East Asian Magic at Hogwarts and had learned a bit about the supposed ‘Much-Feared Amazons of the East’.

“The very same,” Cologne said with a grin. “Harry Potter, is it? I must say, your… fame has spread quite far. We’ve heard many tales about the young wix who survived a direct killing curse.”

“Aw, bloody hell. I’d have hoped you wouldn’t have known about that,” Harry said, rubbing her forehead. “I don’t like the publicity involved with it.”

“I don’t intend to start a fracas over it, child,” Cologne said. “It’s quite a pleasure to meet you, either way.”

Harry had gotten even more stories about the particular ward of Edo the Saotome family came from, along with some of their adventures with the Joketsuzoku Elder. Something about a flying ox beast, a girl with age mushrooms, and a brief war between a magical tribe of people and the Joketsuzoku that ended with a mountain being destroyed.

Once she’d been fed, she’d been forced to promise to keep in contact with them, as they quite liked her and felt a strange connection, and then she was sent on her way to meet up with her family. When she arrived back at camp, she saw a concerned Hermione waiting for her.

“Harry! There you are, I’ve been worried sick!” She exclaimed. “You left this morning without saying anything!”

“Sorry, my dear,” Harry said, kissing her girlfriend’s cheek. “I just wanted to walk around and sample the culture. There’s so many people here from all over the world, it’s insane. I ran into this family of Yematai and… it was weird, I felt this strange… magnetism toward them. They were interesting as all get out, though. It was like staring at distilled, unrefined chaos magic.”

“Oh, chaos magic! How fascinating!” Hermione said, brightening up.

“And they were doing magic without wands,” Harry said. “I’ve never thought that was possible before now, really weird.”

“Some cultures are like that, from what I’ve read,” Hermione said. “It’s not terribly common in Europe, though.”

By the evening time, the campgrounds had become an insatiable well of excitement, with thousands of people thronging about, many of them salesmen trying to pawn their collective baubles off on an unsuspecting public.

Harry had been fascinated enough to buy two pairs of Omnioculars, one for herself and one for her girlfriend. Draco had done much the same for herself and Ron, though Ron had turned red-eared and started to protest, before being silenced by a swift kiss from Draco.

“I’d have thought you’d fancied the idea of being spoiled by your lover,” Draco said, purring into Ron’s ear; Ron’s annoyed red-faced attitude disintegrated and he melted like putty. 

By the end of it, everyone’s money bags were just a tinge lighter—and everyone felt a little more in the festive spirit. The Weasley family were decked out head-to-toe in the colors of Ireland, while Harry, Draco and their group had either foregone the ostentatious display of favoritism, or had small Ireland and Bulgaria decorations on them.

A great gong rang out across the field, signaling that everyone should begin to file into the arena for the game. Narcissa, Minerva, Rolanda, Harry, Hermione and Draco had middle of the stack seats, not quite the “commentator nosebleeds” of the Weasley family, nor was it the Minister’s private box that Draco’s father would attend, given his stature as a close advisor to the Minister for Magic.

Draco had caught sight of her father and nearly froze up in shock, only to be tugged along by Harry, who whispered placations into her ear. “Don’t worry,” Harry said with a murmur. “He can’t do anything to you here.”

Draco had relaxed some and had hugged Harry tightly. “I don’t know why I’ve become so afraid of him,”

“Your mum isn’t even 30 yet, and he’s… much older than that,” Harry said quietly. “Your old man’s… pretty fucking evil, if I might speak so openly, Dray.”

Draco lowered her head in shame, and Harry nudged her sharply. “You’re not your father, Malfoy. Quit it—you’re your own person now, and you’ll be a damn good one if you keep your eyes on the goal.”

“Thanks, Harry,” Draco said quietly. “You’re my best friend,”

“And you mine, you tramp,” Harry said serenely, smirking as Draco gaped at her.

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests… welcome!’ The voice of Ludo Bagman, the Head of the Games Committee for the Ministry, echoed out over the stadium.”Welcome to the final of the four hundred and twenty-second Quidditch World Cup!"

The spectators roared in anticipation, flags and national anthems surged up in swells of nationalistic pride, and Harry felt a little overwhelmed by the whole thing, but deeply enraptured.

The huge blackboard in the stadium which had been displaying advertising the entire time, was wiped clear of its last message, advertising Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavor Beans, in favor of the scoreboard—now reading BULGARIA: ZERO, EIRE: ZERO.

“And now, without further ado,” Bagman’s voice carried. “The Bulgarian team mascots!”

Harry watched in wonder as suddenly, groups of women… or something close to women, emerged onto the field. Harry felt a sudden change in the mood in the stadium, and could see various men being nearly cloistered off the railings of their seats as they tried their best to get to the beautiful women.

“What the devil is going on?” Harry asked, and Draco quirked her mouth.

“They’re Veela,” She said, annoyed. “They make men go gaga and lose their minds, basically. It’s kind of their thing, allure magic.”

“Well that’s pants,” Harry said intently. “Guess they had no effect on us since we’re lasses right now, but what if we’d still been blokes?”

“Eh,” Draco said. “I wouldn’t worry about it much, right? I doubt it’d have much of an effect on us regardless.”

Immediately after the Veela had finished their little dance routine and nearly killed the entire male population of the stadium, the Irish mascots had taken the field—this one was a great green and gold comet that hurtled through the stadium, filling the sky with fireworks galore, and then soon after, gold began to rain from the sky into the open air arena seating.

“Leprechaun gold,” Draco said, taking one in her hand. Examining it closely, Harry noticed that it was very much not a Galleon—the face on the cover bore a stereotypical leprechaun (she idly wondered if the Ulsterians and Dyflinners took offense to the stereotype) and had something written in Irish Gaelic.

“It’ll be gone by morning,” Draco said, flipping the coin back onto the floor. “Utterly worthless, really.”

Harry got great use out of the Omnioculars as the teams took to the field, getting nice freeze-frame looks at each player taking the field on their gleaming Firebolts.

The match itself was a heated back and forth with no holds barred. Intense gameplay that made Harry quaver a bit—the sort of play they had at Hogwarts seemed like a slow training match compared to this. She most certainly knew she did not want to go into the professionals later in life. That was only for the daring and the criminally insane.

The thing Harry had wanted to see the most finally happened while Ireland had a thirty-ten lead. Viktor Krum and his Irish competitor, Lynch, had gone into a freefall dive in the middle of the pitch, hurtling towards the Earth at a breakneck pace.

“He’s doing it—the Wronski feint!” Draco said, slapping Harry’s arm.

“Yes, I see it, Draco,” Harry said, batting away her friend’s arm.

“They’re going to crash!” Hermione exclaimed, looking mortified.

“Half-right,” Harry murmured, as Viktor Krum, ever the excellent Seeker, pulled out of the dive and spiralled off at the last second, leaving Lynch to collide with the Earth at a bone-shattering speed. A groan rose from the Irish fans, and a whistle echoed across the pitch.

It’s a time-out!" Bagman said.”Trained mediwizards are now attending to Aidan Lynch..."

The match continued after Lynch had been examined and his bones repaired. Shaking it off with a remarkable sort of thing that Harry only ever saw in wix (and what a shame it was that Muggles couldn’t just shake off injuries like that!), and continued playing.

The match carried on for some time longer, before Lynch and Krum got into another furious diving match, this time it seemed a lot less like a feint and more like... yes, Harry spotted the little golden snitch fluttering around directly in the path of both Seekers. Krum’s hand closed around it, and he looked quite reserved as he slowed to a stop.

Roars rose up from the crowd, before the realities of the scoreboard above their heads became clear. Eire had beaten Bulgaria by ten points. The deafening roar from the Irish fans had been unbelievable, though Krum seemed in good spirits about the whole thing, shaking Lynch’s hand.

Harry thought the match had gone quite well. Things seemed to be going quite well. Maybe she’d keep that up through the school term, and not have any serious annoyances this year.

...

Oh.

How wrong she’d been.

She’d been roused in the middle of the night by a panicked Arthur Weasley, who had told them to get outside quickly, forgetting anything else and moving now.

Being back in her male form was kind of a gross change, but she had very little time to process that complex set of emotions.

Harry had emerged into the field to find absolute chaos, fires burning, and the sight of people marching through the trampled tents, their heads covered by black hoods and their faces covered by brass masks. Harry winced as she saw the two Muggle caretakers of the field they’d been staying on being tortured by Death Eaters.

Harry had taken a natural leadership of leading the younger people and Narcissa out into the woods, away from the Death Eaters. With a strong talent in defensive magic, she felt more than confident she’d be able to keep at least one Death Eater from getting any advantage over her.

She hoped.

Really. That was all she had going for her right now.

She was finally put to task when one of the masked Death Eaters had somehow blundered across them, or had followed them—or something.

She’d picked up the man before he’d entered the clearing, and so before the masked man could even get the first syllables of the Killing Curse on his tongue, and before Draco, Hermione, Narcissa or Pansy could get their wands up, Harry had unleashed a rather vicious set of curses, sending the man flying backwards into a nearby tree, and collapsing in a limp pile of robes.

Narcissa closed her eyes and shook her head as she approached the man. Nudging him once to see if he was unconscious, she reached down and plucked away the mask from his face. Lucius Malfoy was clear as day behind the mask, a bit of blood trickling from his mouth from where he’d likely bitten his tongue.

“Oh, bloody fuck,” Draco said, looking sick.

“Lucius, you dumb bastard,” Narcissa said, grimacing.

Just then, a group of Aurors emerged from the trees, wands brandished.

“Wands where we can see ’em, now!”

Harry squinted and noticed the Auror in question who was brandishing their wand at them aggressively was none other than Nymphadora Tonks.

“Wotcher, Tonks,” Harry said dryly. “Seems you lot are just a bit late,”

Tonks glanced down at the unconscious Malfoy patriarch and raised an eyebrow. “I should say so—who knocked the, erm, Death Eater out?”

Harry wiggled her wand in the air. “There’s an exemption in the Underage Use of Magic Statute that permits the use of magic in self-defence.” She said, with a slight, sheepish grin.

“D’ya think he’ll get off with the Imperious defence again?” Tonks asked as she waved her wand and picked the now unconscious Malfoy up off the ground. “Seems a bit shady he’s been nicked twice doing Death Eatery things.”

“No, I assure you, my husband will be fully cooperative with the Ministry in their investigations,” Narcissa said dryly, rubbing her eyes in annoyance.

“Right, then. The situation is mostly under control now,” Tonks said. “We’ll be heading back to the Ministry now, you lot are safe to go back, just be vigilant. Just... ignore the giant fucking snake,”

“Right,” Narcissa said before glancing at Harry who shrugged.

The trek back to the campgrounds was done in silence. Harry was totally unsure how Draco and Narcissa were taking the realization that Lucius had gone back to his Dark Lord without hesitation. She knew that the Death Eater attack would be the epicentre of a public relations scandal for days or weeks to come.

At the campgrounds, they’d realized what Tonks meant by ‘giant fucking snake’. The Death Eater calling card was lingering over the campgrounds, and Harry grimaced—did she say a public relations scandal? She meant a public relations MELTDOWN.

After all was said and done, the Weasleys plus Danielle and Cedric had retreated back to the Burrow via Portkey, while Narcissa, Minerva, Rolanda and Harry apparate everyone in their party back to the McGonagall-Hooch Cottage in Scotland.

“I can’t believe I let Albus talk me into letting you learn to apparate at 13,” Minerva said as they landed outside the edge of their property. Harry only gave her mother an apologetic glance as they approached the front door.

Sirius was still on a mandatory ‘mental health’ retreat organized by St. Mungo’s, and wouldn’t return from Persea for another six or seven weeks. Harry missed her godfather terribly, but understood it was for the best when it came to his mental health and condition—so the house was pretty much empty for the moment save for when Minerva and Rolanda were present. 

Harry was quite pleased to be home again. She enjoyed her stay at the Malfoy Estate in Toletania, but nothing beat the rustic quality of the homestead.

They entered the house and claimed seats in the sitting room and looked at each other expectantly.

“So, what now?” Harry asked, and Narcissa folded her hands and shrugged.

“I divorce Lucius on the grounds that he’s a criminal, seize his fortune and everything he holds dear, ensure he’s locked away in Azkaban for the rest of his natural life, and then maybe find a new man.”

“That’s my Mother,” Draco said dryly. “Always making the easiest choices.”

“Oh, like you enjoy your father’s presence, Draco,” Narcissa said, rolling her eyes. “Do you want to become a Death Eater?”

“No! Of course not,” Draco said shaking his head violently. “You’re right, Father’s a monster.”

“I was trained from childhood to be his wife, of course he’s a monster,” Narcissa said coldly, giving her son a side-eye, and Draco blanched, his mother had a strong point. She... wasn’t even thirty yet, and here he was about to turn fourteen.

Gross.

...

It had been quickly decided that all the youngsters would stay with Minerva and Rolanda until the first of September—Hermione’s parents had graciously permitted it as they wouldn’t be back in England until later in September; Pansy’s parents agreed, as part of their effort to insulate their daughter from the growing Death Eater sympathy in the pureblood community, and it was true to form that Draco and Narcissa, for now, had nowhere else to go.

The four teenagers had ended up bunking all-together in Harry’s room, while Narcissa slept on the fold-out couch in the living room. It wasn’t an entirely unpleasant experience.

Regardless of her sleeping conditions, Narcissa had gone to the Ministry and Gringotts the very next day (once Lucius’ arrest was well-publicized and emblazoned across the front-page of the Daily Prophet) and had demanded an immediate beginning to the process of divorce. 

What that meant was that Lucius would forfeit his wealth to his wife for violations of their marriage agreement, and the fact that she was still expected to provide for his heir since he was no longer capable of it (looking at most certainly, a criminal conviction).

Gringotts had frozen the Malfoy vaults immediately, but had refused to give her control until such a time that Lucius was convicted by the Wizengamot (one of those frustrating control bylaws in the treatises they signed with the Ministry ages ago)—but the Ministry had most certainly allowed her to begin the process on the grounds of failure to fulfil a contract of betrothal (as rare as those were these days, really); while pending further rulings on the outcome of Lucius’ trial.

It was grating to be stopped up, but she’d accepted it.

She also decided to step back into her role as a member of the House of Black. She sent off multiple letters to Sirius from his court-mandated ‘mental wellness’ stay asking for his blessing to step into the role of Family Steward, and granting her written authorization to assume that position.

She’d also explained in her letter what she intended to do right away.

Sirius, beside himself with amusement at Narcissa’s swift return to form, agreed whole-heartedly.

By the time Harry and Draco set off for Hogwarts, their extended family had changed a bit. 

The Black family had seized the Lestrange vaults (under Bylaw 67-331 of the Magical Relations Act of 1731, wherein persons convicted under the Charter of the Ministry for Magic could have their fortunes seized by the parent dynasty of their cadet branch)—The specific law in question had been written in a time where noble marriages, political alliances and aristocratic favours had been in-trend, but it had been rarely used by the 1990s. 

It had fallen so far out of favor that Sirius Black’s much publicized arrest hadn’t even twigged the slightest thought to invoke the law to fatten the Malfoy or Ministry coffers. That, and nobody would have been able to pull out the requisite documentation to prove the person in question was a convicted criminal, given the little documentation there existed.

But with Bellatrix Lestrange (and the late Rodolphus and Rabastan) being documented convicted criminals and professed Death Eaters, the Ministry and Gringotts had approved the move, and the Lestrange Vault was seized by the Black family. 

All of those associated with her were then posthumously or concurrently evicted from the family line, restoring the family to “purity” in a manner of speaking.

She privately reinstated the Tonks family into the Black family on her cousin’s behalf, entirely on the premise that it was the proper thing to do, and that Andromeda deserved right to access the family vaults should she need them. That and it would spit in the eye of the people in the family who had long looked down on Muggle interlopers and Muggleborns.

She wasn’t able to do much else with the Black family accounts, but it was a fantastic start. 

She couldn’t yet drop her married name (and she wasn’t sure Draco would want to drop his surname in favour of Black) until the divorce was finalized, but at the rate the Ministry was going in order to rectify a lot of the oversights during the last war, she was sure Lucius would be condemned to prison by All Hallow’s Eve.

She looked forward to that with intense anticipation.

...

Harry looked at the owl that had landed on her window-sill. Accepting the parchment from it and offering it some treats in payment, she opened the script and noticed it was from the Weasley twins.

Harry,

We know you’re quite the progressive Slytherin. Cunning to boot, and very ambitious. We were wondering if you would be willing to meet with two young businessmen looking for a proper patron to help us spread mischief and mayhem to all sorts of new generations.

Regards,
Messrs. Frederick and George Weasley

Harry raised her eyebrow. What sort of tosh did the Weasley twins think they were sending her? She sighed and penned a quick response.

August 31st; meet me at the Rosedale Café in Wulver’s Hollow. I’ll listen to your proposals. -HP

The day before the start of the term, Harry sat down in the familiar Rosedale Café in her hometown and flipped through the menu idly. She’d been here at least a hundred times in her younger years.

“I know you’re not looking through that,” An older woman said, and Harry flashed the matron a grin.

“Of course not, Bess. You know what I like,” Harry said with a pleased smile on her face.

“You’ve been comin’ here since you was a wee sprog, of course I know what you like,” Bess said. “Meetin’ someone?”

“Yeah, two blokes from school—I guess they’ve got a business proposition for me,” Harry said with a shrug. “I’ll hear ’em out, I guess. Worst I can say is no, right?”

“Right!” Bess said with a grin. “Be back in two shakes with your meal, Harry.”

“Thanks,” Harry said idly as she checked to make sure she had the five galleons to pay for her meal.

Suddenly, the two red-haired Weasley boys entered the diner and spotted Harry. Sitting down across from her, they both looked quite uncomfortable and unprepared.

“You both said you had something to propose to me?”

“Right, yes,” Fred said, sheepishly grinning. “My dear brother and I have been thinking about it for a long time and we really want to get a business started. Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes! The finest purveyors of joke products on the planet!”

“What makes you better than Zonko’s?” Harry asked, glancing at Fred with a curious look.

“Zonko’s went industrial,” George replied for his brother. “They’ve got no innovation left in their bones, they mostly crank out the same products they’ve been making since our parents went to Hogwarts. We’re working on new products, like these crèmes we’ve got in development that’ll make you sprout canary feathers all over your body.”

“And a whole bunch of other things, really,” Fred contributed.

The better part of two hours was spent with George and Fred elaborating on what they had in mind for their nascent business. A mail-order business was a good start, and Harry felt that Dumbledore would have very little problem with them doing it, given he seemed quite happy to enjoy their pranks.

“I’d tell you to talk to Mum first, but she’d probably have a fit over it,” Harry said. “How much money were you looking to get from me, exactly?”

“About a hundred galleons,” Fred said. “We bet on the World Cup final with Ludo Bagman, but he paid us in leprechaun gold and it all vanished. We lost our savings and the like. We didn’t tell Mum because she’d never let us live it down,”

“A hundred? That’s it?” Harry asked, raising one of her eyebrows.

That’s it, he says,” Fred said, looking bewildered. “Merlin’s saggy left ball.”

“I... was left a lot of money by my parents, okay?” Harry said with a frown. She always felt self-conscious about how much money she had. 

“Either way, you two are my favourite Gryffindors, so I’ll sign up,” She said. “I’ll have Dobby bring you the hundred Galleons, okay?”

“You’re so nice, Harry,” Fred and George said together, with a grin.

“Well thank you. I try to be, but you know sometimes I’m filled with the compulsion to kill Gryffindors,” Harry said dryly, earning laughs from the two twins.

“You show immense restraint, then,” Fred said with a smirk.

Chapter Text

Harry sat down with her friends and let out a suffering sigh.

“Mum told me everything,” She said, glancing at Draco, Pansy and Hermione. 

“It’s the Triwizard Tournament. This competition between Hogwarts, Beauxbatons and Durmstrang for money and glory…” She spoke mockingly. “It hasn’t been held since 1792 because of the fact that students keep dying in it, but the Ministry for Magic has basically stood on Dumbledore and Mum’s toes to make them comply with its revival.”

“Are they daft?” Draco asked, looking outraged. “Someone’s going to get hurt!”

“Or worse, killed,” Hermione said, grimacing herself.

“Mum assured me they’re putting in strict age limitations, you’ve got to be seventeen years of age or older at the end of the term to qualify,” Harry said, though entirely unconvinced. “But something tells me that won’t be entirely true. I’d say it’s just the pessimist in me but let’s face it, I’m naught for three on bad things happening to me while at Hogwarts.”

“What do you mean?” Hermione said, looking nervously at her girlfriend.

“That somebody’s going to get one past all the professors and shove my name into the running,” Harry said, plainly. “I’m hoping not but you know…”

“Let’s hope not because I cannot be held liable for Dark Arts I may practice from that point on,” Draco said with a raised eyebrow, hugging his legs. “You’ve got to have a moment’s peace, aye?”

“So the most important part, really,” Harry continued shaking her head. “There’s going to be a Yule Ball for the Triwizard Tournament. With dancing and all that sort of thing. Apparently there’s going to be mandatory dancing lessons with Head of House, and all sorts of other nonsense to go along with it.”

“Dancing lessons? With Professor Snape?” Draco asked, looking gobsmacked.

“Oh, it’ll be delightfully awkward, but I want you to imagine for just a moment, Ron Weasley being forced to dance with my mother in a very slow, traditional dance,” Harry said, voice deadly serious.

“Oh, Merlin’s left tit, I’d pay to see that,” Draco wheezed.

“Right. But here’s the worst part of it all,” Harry said, frowning. “Quidditch is cancelled.”

“WHAT?!” Draco squawked. “They can’t cancel Quidditch! What a bunch of-”

“Apparently, one of the tasks is supposed to take place on the Quidditch pitch, and it requires months of intricate work before it’d be ready,” Harry said, frowning. “I’m a bit put off they basically put the Quidditch season on ice for an entire year, but that’s fine, whatever,”

Even Pansy and Hermione, neither of whom particularly enjoyed playing the sport themselves, looked a bit put off at the sudden cancellation of a pastime that had decades of tradition.

The following morning had been a bit of a fracas to get off to Platform Nine and Three-Quarters and onto the train to Hogwarts. Once they’d sorted themselves out and had made it there, and once they had found an empty compartment, Harry, Hermione, Draco and Pansy dumped themselves into it. Just before eleven, as the train was preparing to depart, the Weasley family finally boarded the train.

Ron arrived and squeezed into the compartment, which enlarged itself just enough to fit the newcomer, and the redhead dropped next to Draco, snaking his arms around his boyfriend.

As the train set off for Scotland, there were a few other friends who checked in. Neville poked his head in and seemed in quite good spirits, Daphne poked her head in, as did Astoria, Theodore and Blaise.

Fred and George Weasley (plus their paramours) had also dropped by, and the twins had presented Harry with an order form stamped with Special Request in shining blue ink at the top.

“Specifically for you and you alone, dear Harry,” Fred said with a grin. “Complements of Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes.”

“Are you two still on that? I thought Mum would’ve put the fear of Mordred in you two with all the shouting,” Ron said, before he turned to his friends. “They bet all their savings with Ludo Bagman, and Mum went absolutely bonkers when she heard about it, poor Dad got caught in the middle of it,”

Ron turned towards his brothers. “How the ruddy hell’d you two get the money for it?” He asked.

“We found a wise investor,” Fred said with a smile. “A cunning, ambitious snake with a long lineage of mischief in their family,”

George gave Harry a grin. “Sirius told us all about the Marauders,” He said, gushing. “I can’t believe they actually had kids! And one of ’em’s Harry Potter! Bleeding hell, we were surprised, too; Mum was going to kill Sirius after he was done telling us some stories of his pranks. What legends, they are,”

Harry gave George a lopsided grin. She did agree—all the Marauders were quite cool… except for the one bloke who betrayed his friends and got them killed, may he rot in jail forever that rat-faced cunt…

She focused herself back on the here and now, as Fred and George left to return to their compartment they shared with Lee Jordan. Danielle and Cedric went the other direction, heading to the Prefect’s Compartment.

Eventually, they arrived at Hogsmeade, and the older students climbed into the thestral-drawn carriages that would lead them up to the castle. Harry’s mind was a little preoccupied with the growing mess of anxiety in her stomach, and it wasn’t helped by the clammy, cold dampness that stuck around her as the rain came down in buckets.

She always loved Hogwarts as a little kid, but now, with three years of nonsense behind her, it just represented this existential dread that someone was trying to kill her, to remove the last obstacle to a fascist dictatorship.

She really needed to get more hobbies, or something.

Harry was amused, but not quite amused enough to not want to commit murder. Peeves had thought it funny to start lobbing water balloons at people, and Harry had witnessed her mother chasing down the poltergeist like she was a priest preparing to perform an exorcism.

The older students settled down in the warm and toasty Great Hall, where Dumbledore had wisely set up charms to dry the students as they passed the threshold. Harry went from feeling like a drowned rat to feeling like she’d just come out of a hot oven. In fact, her clothes sort of smelled like a bakery now. That was an interesting side-effect of the charm. She’d have to ask Dumbledore a bit about that later.

Harry glanced up at the slightly-emptier Staff Table and noticed a new face.

“Yep, there’s Gilderoy Lockhart alright,” Harry said, shaking her head. “Am I wrong for not believing half of the things he’s done in his bloody books? Seems awfully adventurous for a dandy.”

“Right?” Blaise said, leaning in. “My mum said that he’s a liar and a scoundrel, and that only the basest, vainest of sorts actually believe the shite that’s wrote in ’em. Perhaps Dumbledore’s hired him to actually let the curse do its thing,”

“You mean kill the poor bastard? I wouldn’t want that. He might be a pillock and a fraud, but he doesn’t deserve to die,

In fact, Lockhart’s usual over-excited exuberance was just a bit tempered by a pale, clammy disposition. He looked rather sick, actually. Harry shrugged, it was that time of the year, and all, and so she dismissed it.

After a rather droll and unexciting sort of sorting ceremony (Harry hardly ever cared these days, though she had noted that the number of first-generation wix that had joined Slytherin was… at an all-time high thanks to her and Hermione’s presence. Snape had even told her so directly, saying it was a very strange sort of thing to start happening right after they arrived)

She watched Ron nearly coat Neville in Yorkshire pudding and the subsequent backhanding over the head he’d gotten from George for it. Ron had glanced at Draco very briefly, who was locked in a conversation with Theodore, and had wiped his mouth and ducked down, eating much more cleanly.

The feast dragged on for a bit, and Harry enjoyed the mélange of things in front of her, choosing a rather thick and juicy steak and some sides that complemented it quite well, followed up by some chocolate gateau afterwards. Once it was done, the plates cleared and Dumbledore rose to his feet.

“As usual, I have a few start-of-term announcements,” Dumbledore said with a smile. “First order of business—we are welcoming Mister Gilderoy Lockhart, esteemed author, to serve as our Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher this school term,”

Gilderoy stood up and gave a gleaming smile to the audience, though it didn’t seem to land as solidly, given the pale and sweaty complexion he had right now.

“Secondly, Mister Filch, our caretaker, has requested of me to tell you that the list of objects forbidden inside the castle has been extended to include Screaming Yo-Yos, Fanged Frisbees, and Ever-Bashing Boomerangs. The full list comprises some four-hundred and thirty-seven items, and can be viewed at your leisure in Mister Filch’s office,” He said, and his lips twitched in amusement.

“As well,” He continued. “I would remind all students that the Forbidden Forest is, as the name implies, forbidden to all students who do not wish to die a most violent death—and that the village of Hogsmeade is forbidden to all students below third-year. As well, I regret to inform you that this year, the inter-house Quidditch Cup, will not take place.”

The Great Hall erupted into loud murmurs and protestations, filling the quiet air with a din of dissatisfaction. Dumbledore waved his hands for quiet. “This is due to an event that will be starting in October, and continuing through the remainder of the school year—taking up much of the teacher’s time and energy. I have been assured you will enjoy it immensely. I have the great pleasure that this year at Hogwarts, we will be hosting the Triwizard Tournament.”

“You’re JOKING!” Fred Weasley shouted, standing up and looking shocked. He seemed cowed by the glare Minerva gave him, and sunk back into his seat.

“The Triwizard Tournament, yes, ahem,” Dumbledore began. “A friendly competition between three European schools of magic—Beauxbatons, Durmstrang and Hogwarts. One champion each has always been selected from these schools, and they compete with one another for the right to fame and glory, and a rather sizable prize.”

Letting that sink in and getting people’s hopes up, Dumbledore went in for the kill.

“It was originally on a five-year cycle, but was cancelled in the late 18th century due to the high death toll,” Dumbledore finished, looking quite pleased with himself, as many students who looked intrigued drooped.

Harry could tell Dumbledore was unhappy with being forced to comply, and had opposed reviving the tournament quite voraciously—he was usually not as succinct and scathing in his remarks.

“The selection of the three champions will be on Halloween,” Dumbledore said, briefly making eye contact with Harry that lingered for a moment longer than she felt entirely comfortable with, before looking out at the crowds. “We will be placing an age restriction on entrance into the tournament. That is to say, you must be seventeen years of age or older upon the completion of this school year to qualify,”

There was murmuring, before everything quieted down again.

“The delegations from the other two schools will be arriving in October, and remaining with us until the end of the Tournament in June. I know that you will all extend Hogwarts hospitality to them while they are here, and give your whole-hearted support to the Hogwarts champion when he or she is selected. Now, it is late, and I encourage you to sleep well and prepare for your lessons in the morning. Bedtime!”

As they went down into the Slytherin dungeons, Harry shook her head. “Why on Earth anybody would want to compete in such a death-trap is beyond me,” She said, looking bewildered.

“Some people really fancy the fame and fortune thing, Harry,” Draco said. “Not everyone’s a humble servant of the divines like you are, Miss Girl-Who-Lived,”

“Shut it, Malfoy,” Harry murmured.

When they arrived, Harry made her way to her dorm, only to find that it had changed… slightly. It looked more like a fancier version of a Hogwarts dorm room, but with two queen-sized beds. She noticed Hermione’s trunk sitting at the foot of one of them.

“Uh?” Harry asked nobody in particular.

“I was just about to ask the same thing,” Hermione said, causing Harry to whirl around.

“Those House-Elves have such a funny sense of humour,” Hermione said, frowning as she sat down on her bed. “I guess we’re bunking together?”

“I suppose we are,” Harry said, shrugging. Unclipping her belt, she tossed her trousers off into the nearby hamper. It wasn’t that big of a deal, they’d already spent plenty of time sleeping in the same bedroom as it was.

“I’m okay with it if you are,” Hermione said as she pulled her blouse off and set it inside the hamper. “You’re not the world’s worst roommate, and I suppose we both are mature enough to-”

“It’s fine by me,” Harry said, cutting her off. “This doesn’t create an expectation that we’ve got to… y’know, be together sexually. Just ’cause Ron and Draco have gone and done it, doesn’t mean we’ve got to. I’m perfectly happy taking this slow with you and just enjoying your presence and plenty of cuddling.”

Hermione smiled at her girlfriend warmly. “You’re such a sweetheart, Harry,” She said, hugging her closely.

“Thanks,” Harry replied, grinning.

Once they’d cleared that whole thing up, Harry had very little on her mind other than sleep as she brushed her teeth, changed into one of her nightshirts, and crashed into her blankets like a meteorite.

“G’night, Hermione,” Harry murmured into her pillow.

“Good night, Harry,” Hermione said from her bed. “Love you.”

“Love you too,” Harry murmured in response.

The first proper day of the term was a Friday. 

At breakfast, she put it all of her anxieties to one side when the Daily Prophet arrived, continuing the ever evolving chronicle of the impending trial of Lucius Malfoy. It was painful to watch Draco have to go through it with his father being so publicly humiliated and put on trial for high crimes, particularly whenever a snide comment had gotten thrown at him over it.

Harry noticed the author of the article and raised an eyebrow. “Bartemius Crouch, Jr? What happened to Rita Skeeter? I thought that she was the chief correspondent?” She asked.

“Rita Skeeter disappeared over summer, without a trace,” Blaise said, looking a bit haunted. For some of the Slytherins, it was entirely known what organization or group of people had that sort of MO--and most of their parents happened to be members of the organization.

“Nobody knows what happened to her, but then Barty Crouch Jr. was found in his old man’s cellar being under Imperious. Crouch Sr. got filed off to Azkaban and Barty got set free, ended up joining the Daily Prophet not long after,” Blaise said, shrugging.

Professor Snape descended from his perch at the Staff Table to disseminate the schedules, and Harry had noted that her usual two hours weekly with Professor Dumbledore would continue, but that Fridays would be bookended by two hours of Defence Against the Dark Arts, and two hours of Potions. Not the most ideal schedule, but she figured she could survive two days a week of Professor Lockhart.

She found she was incredibly wrong.

Professor Lockhart had been a pompous windbag the entire time, forcing them to take a quiz about him and his many accomplishments, including such nonsense questions as “What gift would you give Gilderoy Lockhart” and “what is his favourite colour”. Utter tosh, and Harry felt like burning the quiz right there in the classroom, but she didn’t want to give him the satisfaction.

She hated the man already with his glory-hound behaviour, a far cry from her own invested effort in humility. He had tried a few times to offer her “help” in building her brand recognition and a few other things, to which she had smoothly declined.

After a disastrous two-hour lesson in which Lockhart failed to demonstrate even the most fundamental iota of knowledge as a Defence Against the Dark Arts professor, Harry trudged her way up to the Headmaster’s office, feeling utterly gutted.

“Lemon sherbet,” Harry muttered, before passing by the gargoyles and climbing the stairs to the office.

“Ah, good morning, Harry,” Dumbledore said with a smile. “How has the first day of the term been going for you?”

“Terribly. Professor Lockhart is a moron,” Harry said in annoyance. “Did you know he gave us a quiz that was full of useless information that’ll get nobody nowhere on their bloody OWLs?”

Dumbledore nodded, shaking his head. “I must apologize, Harry. Things have gotten quite out of control this summer. He was the only applicant we had for the Defence job, Remus refused to return for another year, citing that he had gotten lucky and didn’t want to be exposed as a werewolf—if I hadn’t gotten someone, the Ministry would’ve likely stuck whatever stooge they wanted here, and I simply cannot allow that without some resistance,” He said, rubbing his eyes. “To make matters worse, I was trying to talk the Ministry out of this Triwizard nonsense, and failed at that as well.”

Dumbledore leaned back and sighed. “I’m glad we set an age limit—though I would never expect you to sign up for it anyway.”

“No thanks, Headmaster. I’ve been nearly killed three years running, don’t want to add ‘joining dangerous tournament’ to the list. I was hoping this year’d be calm and peaceful, but I’m startin’ to think that’s not what’s gonna happen,” Harry said, rubbing the back of her neck.

Dumbledore sighed. “Moving to more pleasant things—how has your nonverbal casting been going? I understand you got into a bit of a scrape with Lucius Malfoy at the Quidditch World Cup.”

“Oh, aye, right, the pillock ambushed me, Draco, Hermione, Pansy and Draco’s mum in the forest. Before he could fire a killing curse at me, I blasted him into a tree.”

Dumbledore cracked a wry smile and seemed pleased. “You’re doing so well, Harry. I can only imagine the sort of things you’d get up to with your proper wand and not this substitute.”

“It’s mostly behaving itself now,” Harry said, glancing at her wand. “It’s a little resistant sometimes, but it seems to do what I need it to do.”

“That’s all we could have hoped for,” Dumbledore said. “Now, if you’d please, I would like you to demonstrate your wandless casting for me.”

Harry nodded and went through the processes. She silently set a nearby stool on fire, extinguished it, slashed it into pieces, and then repaired it, seamlessly without saying a word. She peered at the Headmaster expectantly and the old man had a grin the size of a football pitch on his face.

“Very good, Harry! Dear girl, if I didn’t think it’d get me committed, I’d offer you the job as Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. You’d probably do a better job than Gilderoy Lockhart.”

“Maybe when I’m an adult,” Harry said, jokingly. “In the meantime, Professor, I’m going to sit down with Hermione and think of some solutions we can do to... avoid the pitfalls of having a professor who’s more interested in his appearance and fame than actually doing his bloody job.”

...

“Now, normally, we would not discuss the foulest of magic, curses, until next year... but I have been granted special permission by the Headmaster to discuss the matter with you all today,” Gilderoy Lockhart said, strolling to the front of the classroom, flashing his usual pompous smile.

He waved his wand and Unforgivable Curses appeared on the blackboard in perfectly formed cursive. 

“There are three curses that earn you a lifetime visit to Azkaban,” Lockhart said, looking pensively at the classroom. “Can anybody tell me who they are?”

“The Imperious curse,” said one student. Lockhart nodded, and drew a small jar out of his robes. Setting the jar on the table and opening it, he allowed a tarantula the size of his palm to crawl out. Setting it down onto the table, he pointed his wand at it.

Imperio,” He murmured. 

The spider became rigid, and Lockhart walked them through just how powerful the Imperious curse was—able to directly influence the actions of individuals without any sort of resistive power, and that taking away someone’s free will was a terrible crime. Harry remembered her experience with being under that curse well, back during her first year at Hogwarts.

It was… hard to explain. It was sublime, yet… utterly terrifying at the same time.

“The Cruciatus curse?” another person offered, and Lockhart nodded again, this time gravely.

“Oh yes,” Lockhart said. “The Cruciatus curse is a nasty one—it takes quite a bit of intent and force to do it, I can’t demonstrate it to you for that very reason, but suffice it to say it is the easiest way to commit an act of torture without requiring physical assistance... and then there is one more, anybody care to provide it?”

Harry raised her hand, her heart beating a little heavier in her chest than it had been a few minutes ago. “The Killing Curse, sir?”

“Indeed, Mister Potter,” Lockhart said, nodding. “Suppose you know all about that one, don’t you? Yes, the Killing Curse is as its name describes.”

He waved his wand and pointed it at the spider, still under the influence of his Imperious. “Avada Kedavra.

A sharp bolt of green… something, almost electricity, shot from Lockhart’s wand, and the spider collapsed into a dead heap, not even uttering a noise of pain as it died. Harry felt a little sick at the sight, to be completely honest.

“There’s no counter-curse, no cure, nothing like that. Only one person is known to have survived it, and he’s sitting right here,” Lockhart said, gesturing to Harry, who wanted to shrink into her seat and disappear.

But she couldn’t stop staring at the spider. She had... never given much thought to the Killing Curse. She’d known of it, and that it had been used against her parents, but... seeing something dying by it was a different story. Had her parents also died so uselessly, collapsing into a heap on the ground?

It made her shiver with anguish.

...

“Do you wish to discuss what happened on Tuesday, Harry?” Professor Dumbledore asked as Harry sat down in his office. Harry blinked and recalled the events of Tuesday afternoon and tensed some.

“It wasn’t pleasant, no,” Harry said. “It made me... think about my parents—my biological parents.”

“I know it must have been very unpleasant for you,” Dumbledore said quietly. “But I asked Gilderoy to go over the topic with you because... I feel like it is something you should be aware of. Harry, you are the Master of Death, and you will one day be reunited with the Elder Wand. At such a time, it may press upon you the urgency to commit the foulest of acts, and you must learn to resist that temptation.”

“You mean I might go on a murder spree?” Harry asked, eyebrow raised.

“Not even a spree, you just may do something you’ll genuinely regret if you allow the Elder Wand to dictate to you what your feelings are. It is a wand that is soaked in the blood of too many that have come before you.”

“Right,” Harry said. “And we want to be sure that I won’t simply be another grim statistic in the long line of people who thought they were undefeatable with the Elder Wand—the strongest example being Lord Moldyshorts himself?”

“Precisely, Harry!” Dumbledore said, brightening considerably. “But even if you must resist the urge to use such spells, there will perhaps be a time you may be forced to use them for whatever reason. Death Eaters are... well, I made the mistake in the last war to preach for restraint and not using force as a resort to force, and many innocent people died, including your parents. If I had been a little more forceful, a little less forgiving...”

“It’s not bad to be forgiving, Professor—but it’s awfully hard to forgive murderous lunatics, innit?” Harry said, looking a bit put-off by the idea of forgiving her parents’ murderer or Lucius Malfoy.

“I suppose you’re right. I just want you to be able to feel no regrets if you have to do something like...” Dumbledore said, trailing off.

“Fight a Death Eater head-on and kill the bastard?” Harry asked, grimacing. “Yeah, I get what you mean, sir.”

...

As September waned on, Harry found herself being pressed upon by all her professors to keep up the work she had been doing. Dumbledore had wanted her to continue her Occlumency and Legilimency lessons with a great emphasis on resisting attacks, as he felt that with the Death Eater attacks, and some members returning to the Death Eater faithful (including Lucius, whose “Imperious defence” back in 1981 had been the subject of many papers and public scorn) that the time before Voldemort’s return was growing short.

On the twenty-third of October, the school was abuzz with excitement, the foreign delegation would be arriving on October 30th. Lessons would be closed a half-hour early, and the students would return their belongings to their dorms and assemble in front of the castle to greet the delegations.

That week had been interesting in that the Entrance Hall went from its usual dingy appearance to look like Hogwarts had been opened that very year with how the picture frames and stones glistened with no grime and no dust.

The teachers seemed to be very stressed out, as Harry’s mother had torn into Neville Longbottom after he’d accidentally transfigured his own ears into a cactus.

The evening of October 30th, Harry was corralled into the lines of students to greet the Beauxbatons and Durmstrang delegations. The Beauxbatons delegation had arrived on some opulent, over-sized horse-drawn carriage. She’d seen the Headmistress of Beauxbatons, a tall giantess of a woman named Madame Maxime, who radiated the stiff air of an aristocrat.

Harry already didn’t like her very much. Which was a shame.

The students themselves were predominantly girls, and wore these rather beautiful light blue uniforms. They looked less utilitarian than the rather mundane looking Hogwarts uniform (which Harry noted resembled basically any Muggle boarding school’s typical uniform), but far more... aesthetically pleasing.

Madame Maxime had gone on about her horses and single-malt whiskey, talking nonsense about Hagrid like he wasn’t able to take care of them.

Then the Durmstrang group had arrived, this time on a very large wooden ship that looked like something out of that one movie about the Taino pirate crew marauding the high seas against the Aztec and the Creek Empires. Harry spotted a certain Bulgarian seeker in the mass of students arriving, and went slack-jawed.

“Is that Viktor Krum?” She whispered to Draco, who blinked in surprise, before his jaw went slack as well.

...

Once everyone had been reconvened in the Great Hall, the foreign delegations had broken up among most of the tables. All the Beauxbatons students seemed to congregate around the Ravenclaw table, looking glum and miserable in what Harry assumed was a far cry from their sunny villas and arrogant, haughty Frankish castle.

And the Durmstrang students had sat down with the Slytherins. Harry didn’t mind it completely, but there were too many big brutes like Vincent and Greg lounging about, though Viktor Krum did squeeze his way into sitting near Draco, Hermione, Harry, and Pansy.

As Dumbledore began talking and welcoming the Beauxbatons students and the Durmstrang students, some of the Beauxbatons girls had been derisive laughs.

“What a bunch of arrogant tarts,” Harry said to herself, shooting daggers at one of them who had covered her laugh with her scarf.

“I know, right? Nobody asked them to stay,” Hermione said, sniffing airily.

“What’s with you lot?” Blaise asked, looking at Hermione and Harry. “You two look like you’re about to go kill some of those girls from Beauxbatons.”

“They’re stuck-up,” Harry said, folding her arms. “Oh look at us, we’re so dainty and feminine and we come from France, ooh-la-la.”

“Sounds like jealousy,” Blaise said with a grin, earning a slap around the head.

“I’m not jealous, you knob. They’re making fun of Hogwarts ’cause it’s in Scotland and it’s cloudy and not a French villa. They’re insulting me, my home and my people.”

“Alright, alright, jeez,” Blaise said, shrinking away from the annoyed Potter.

The food spread tonight was even more diverse than usual—including foreign fare. She loaded her plate with a spread of things and felt quite content to eat, while utterly ignoring the prats from France.

Harry tuned out most of the speech that followed, something about Percival Weasley, the interim head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation, and Ludo Bagman, chief of Magical Games and Sports, something something. Harry didn’t particularly care about the Triwizard Tournament. She’d just as soon not have anything to do with it in the slightest.

Dumbledore explained that there’d be three tasks, and said the champions would be chosen by the Goblet of Fire, and that they’d have twenty-four hours to submit their names before the Goblet would choose, and to act quickly. And that, of course, you had to be seventeen before the end of the term to apply at all.

The next morning, Harry was down in the Great Hall early again, but only drinking apple juice and having a light breakfast. The food at Hogwarts was going to kill her if she wasn’t careful.

Draco was already there, writing something. He looked up as Harry sat down, a goblet of apple juice in her hand.

“Anybody signed up yet?” Harry asked.

“Yeah, all the Durmstrangs’ve signed up, a couple Beauxbatons. I haven’t seen any Hogwarts students sign up, though.”

Harry did watch Fred and George Weasley each submit their candidacy that morning, along with Cedric Diggory, Danielle Terrence, and a few other students either 16 or 17 years of age. Harry shook her head.

“Are they all daft? Brain blasted?” Harry asked as she watched. “Why would they want to endanger their lives for fame and fortune? I’ll tell you, Draco, it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, aye?”

“I know, Harry,” Draco said quietly. “It’s just that for some, it’s the thrill of the chase. They desperately want it so they can feel like they amounted to something. If Neville could apply, I’m sure his Grandmother would have forced him into it.”

“She wouldn’t... alright, maybe she would.”

“Ron would’ve applied too, if he was old enough,” Draco pointed out. “I would’ve killed him afterwards, but he would’ve tried.”

Harry looked bewildered at the concept.

Just then, she watched Madame Maxime and her students go through the process of subsequently submitting every name that hadn’t. For Durmstrang and Beauxbatons, it was a matter of institutional honour. For Hogwarts, it was the thrill of the game.

Harry really did hate these people. Hated them so deeply because they trifled in things they ought not to trifle in. They were arrogant and so full of self-confidence, glory-seeking and haughty in their methods.

It made her want to puke.

...

That evening, the Great Hall was packed with people once more, and everyone was holding their breath feeling quite excited for the drawing of the names. Harry was beginning to feel the onset of acid indigestion as her anxieties mounted. She was a pretty smart girl, and she’d spent most of her life being tutored in logic by Professor Snape, her mother, Lala, and most of the teaching staff at Hogwarts.

Therefore, she formed her own thoughts immediately:

Halloween was a time of great suffering for her. She had lost her parents as an infant, she had been forced (by her own moral compass, mind you) to rescue Ron Weasley from a troll at age 11. She had borne witness to the love of her life being petrified by Fatimah at age 12, and she had been forced to stand aside and wait for news after George Weasley had nearly been stabbed to death by Peter Pettigrew at age 13.

The chances of her getting through tonight without something bad happening to her was unlikely. She most definitely thought she was going to puke. Ugh.

Once the food had been done away with (Harry had eaten very little. She’d had another goblet’s worth of apple juice and some dinner rolls, but had refused to eat anything else that would upset her precarious stomach.)

The Goblet of Fire had turned a rich red colour in the final moments of the meal, and now the room was rapt with attention.

“The Goblet should require just one more minute before it makes its decisions,” Dumbledore said, proudly. “When the champions’ names are called, I would ask them to please come up to the top of the Hall, walk along the staff table, and go through to the next chamber. There, they shall receive their instructions.”

He waved his wand and all the candles except those inside of the carved pumpkins were extinguished, making the Goblet of Fire the focus of everyone’s attention, the rest of the room plunged into semi-darkness.

The Goblet grew bright before it the flames exploded outwards, ejecting a scrap of paper. Dumbledore plucked it out of the sky and read it.

“The champion for Durmstrang,” He read loudly and clearly. “Will be Viktor Krum.”

A storm of applause from Hogwarts and Durmstrang rose up, and Viktor stood up from the Slytherin table and made his way to the room in question. The Goblet began to flame again, before ejecting another piece of paper.

“The champion for Beauxbatons...” Dumbledore read out. “Is Fleur Delacour!”

Two of the girls who hadn’t been chosen were sobbing loudly as Fleur stood up and proudly strode her way to the room where the Champions would be meeting. The goblet flared once again, ejecting the final champion.

“The Hogwarts champion,” Dumbledore pronounced. “Is Cho Chang!”

Cho Chang, Harry’s friend, stood up and grinned. Harry clapped loudly for her, she was quite proud, actually. The sixth year was very hard working, and if anybody would represent Hogwarts, she was definitely the worthiest competitor.

“Excellent,” Dumbledore said as the Goblet percolated. “We now have our three champions. I am sure that I can count upon all of you, including the remaining students from each of our foreign counterparts, to give your champions every ounce of support you can muster. By cheering your champion on, you will contribute in a very real—”

The room fell dead as the Goblet turned blood red again. Harry’s nausea returned in spades, and she felt like she was going to be sick.

Sparks were shooting out of it before it flared again, ejecting one final scrap of paper. Dumbledore took it into his hand, his eyes closed. Mouthing something silently, he opened it up and stared at it. His eyes widened.

He cleared his throat, and pronounced the name clear as a bell.

“Harry Potter.”

Chapter Text

Stay calm, Harry. Stay calm. Stay calm. Stay calm.

Repeating the mantra to herself, Harry managed to find her footing as she stood up from the Slytherin table. The number of eyes on her was making her break out into a profuse sweat. Glancing up towards the head table, she noticed that Dumbledore was ashen faced, looking like he’d just had the wind taken out of his sails.

Her mother was staring at the back of Dumbledore’s head, looking a most violent shade of puce. The intensity of her stare was something Harry hadn’t ever seen on her face in her whole life.

As she walked the distance, Dumbledore placed a hand on her shoulder. “Go on, we’ll be there momentarily,”

She proceeded through the room, trying her best to ignore the deafening silence. As she walked, her mortification and horror was slowly morphing into sheer anger and fury, burning within her like a raging inferno. 

Someone had put her name into the Goblet without her permission.

She wanted to commit murder now, even more than when she had run across Lucius Malfoy in the forest during the World Cup. Anger welling up in her as she entered the back room, her slamming the door had drawn the attention of Cho, Viktor and Fleur.

“What is it?” She asked in her thick Frankish accent, laden with contempt for the intruder. “Do they want us back out there?”

“No,” Harry said, gritting her teeth. Cho obviously noticed Harry’s strained response and quickly crossed the room.

“Harry, what’s wrong? What happened?” Cho asked, frowning.

Just as Harry was beginning to respond, the door burst open, and many people flooded in. Professor Dumbledore, Harry’s mothers, Maxime, Karkaroff, Snape, Percy Weasley and Ludo Bagman.

“What’s going on, Headmaster?” Cho asked, looking at Professor Dumbledore.

The Hogwarts Headmaster sighed deeply.

“It seems the Goblet of Fire has chosen a fourth champion,” Dumbledore said dryly. “Harry’s name has been drawn from the goblet.”

“You cannot be serious!” Fleur snapped, folding her arms. “This little child is supposed to compete with us?”

Harry snapped just a bit, and wheeled around on her feet and glared daggers at the French girl. “Keep running your mouth, ya fuckin’ slag, I’ll come over there and show you what this little Scottish child can do with a wand,” Harry said, wand in hand.

“What is the meaning of this nonsense, Headmaster?” Maxime said with a deep frown. “Why did the boy’s name come out of the Goblet? We cannot permit two Hogwarts champions! It is totally unfair!”

“I agree; I don’t remember two champions for the hosting school being specified in the rule. We were also under the impression there was an Age Line. If we had known ahead of time, I would have brought far more candidates,” Karkaroff said angrily.

“Harry,” Dumbledore said, ignoring the jibes from the foreign delegation. He fixed his gaze on the irritated Scottish girl and looked at her levelly.

“Did you put your name in the Goblet of Fire?” He asked calmly, his voice and demeanour as placid as a lake.

“No,” Harry grit out, glaring at Dumbledore. “Why on Earth would I want that?”

“The boy is obviously lying,” Maxime said with a snort of contempt. “Clearly the brat paid one of the older students to submit his name for it, he’s obviously a glory-hound seeking attention.”

“I would advise you to temper your tongue, Madame,” Professor Snape said, glaring at her with a frigid expression. “Lest you not only offend Hogwarts as an institution, but Mister Potter’s own parents as well,” He glanced at Minerva McGonagall, who looked like she was going to start a full-on brawl with the Beauxbatons Headmistress.

“As well as offending me.” He continued haughtily. “I will not stand here and have you insult one of my Slytherins. Perhaps instead of fighting like children, we could ask our two Ministry officials what course of action shall be done here?”

“It’s quite obvious, isn’t it?” Percy Weasley said with a sniff. “Once a name has been drawn from the Goblet, the participant in question is bound to compete. It constitutes a binding magical contract. Harry will simply have to participate.”

“Then we will resubmit all the names of the students who wish to compete, from all years, and redraw until each school has two candidates!” Karkaroff said tersely.

“It don’t work like that, mate,” Ludo Bagman said dismissively. “I checked, the Goblet of Fire’s gone out, and ’sides, Potter’s name ain’t even under Hogwarts,”

“Ludo Bagman is right, Harry was entered under a fourth school, specifically, ‘the school of Slytherin’,” Dumbledore said, glancing back at Karkaroff.

“In which Durmstrang will not compete! After all the meetings, negotiations, compromises, I will not be made a fool of by some brat! I have half a mind to leave now!” Karkaroff protested, face turning a most delightful shade of violet.

The adults began to scream and shout at each other, their words lost in the din of profanities and foreign languages before Harry raised her wand to her throat and silently cast a Sonorus.

THAT IS ENOUGH!” Harry screeched, her voice rattling the walls and causing some of the glass fixtures on the wall to pop loose, shattering against the floor. Everyone stopped and stared at her with wide-eyes, with the exception of Dumbledore, Snape and her mother.

Snape’s black eyes were glittering with pride, her mother had a faint look of praise tempered with a satisfied smirk settling on her lips, and Dumbledore’s eyes were sparkling with amusement.

She tapped her wand against her throat again, cancelling the spell.

“Instead of bickering and giving each other the fucking run around like a bunch of sprogs,” She drew each word out, imitating her mother’s more professional methods of speaking despite her free use of profanity. “Perhaps we could try being a bit more civil for a moment while we figure this nonsense out, aye?”

She cast a glance around the room, her head raised, judging each and every person intently.

“First and foremost,” She continued. “Do any of you genuinely think I care one bloody fucking iota about glory to consider participating in a foolish death match? I’ve nearly died more than twice per year I’ve attended Hogwarts. I’ve got enough of an inheritance from my dead parents where I don’t need the prize money—and I’m already in the fucking history books as the sole survivor of the Killing Curse and the vanquisher of Voldemort. Why would I want fame? I don’t need it; I’ve got plenty enough to last me a lifetime, and then some.

She snapped her fingers when Maxime went to rebut, interrupting the Beauxbatons headmistress. “Cho is the Hogwarts champion,” She said, glaring at Maxime with full intensity. “If I am required to compete, then I will, but I will not do so under the Hogwarts banner.”

She leaned back and gave the room the best ‘Slytherin glare’ she could. Draco and Pansy had been teaching it to her for months, and Snape’s lips twitched when she turned it on. She felt a brief surge of pride from him as the temperature in the room dropped.

Percy cleared his throat, and stepped in between everyone, clearly trying to defuse the tension. 

“Now that we’ve... moved on, let us discuss the first task. It will be held on the 24th of November. You four,” He gestured at the Champions. “Will not be getting any assistance from teachers to complete the tasks. You are required to figure it out on your own, and you will only be permitted your wands when you confront the first task. Due to the consuming nature of the tournament, you shall be exempted from all end-of-year exams.”

“Does that include my DADA OWL, Professor Dumbledore?” Harry asked, glancing at her headmaster. “I am scheduled to sit it this year,”

“We will work with the Ministry on that, I hope,” Dumbledore said, glancing at Percy. 

Percy nodded and appraised Harry carefully.

“I’ll have the Department of Examinations contact you,” He said, giving Harry a ghost of a smile before closing the folder he had in his hands.

The foreign delegations left the room, leaving only the Hogwarts staff and two students behind. Harry sagged against the wall and rubbed her eyes, feeling incredibly irritated.

“I didn’t want this, Cho. I was happy when you’d been chosen. Of everyone at Hogwarts, I thought you’d do a fantastic job.”

“I know you didn’t, Harry,” Cho said, coming over to the younger student. “You’ve been through more in the last three years than anybody else has. We’ll be competing against each other, but that doesn’t mean we’ve got to hate each other.”

“You’ll likely be pulled along by your classmates when they decide to excommunicate me,” Harry said glumly.

“I’ll put whoever’s got some nasty opinions in hospital, and I’m sure your friends in Slytherin will too. If we’ve got to shame and put fear into these people to make them realize you’re an innocent victim, then I will,” Cho said, giving Harry a mischievous grin.

Cho took a deep breath before grinning. “By the way, nice job calling Fleur a slag. She’s been such a snot the entire time we’ve been here, and it’s only been a few minutes.” She said.

“Thanks,” Harry said, smiling. “She’s been getting on my nerves all night. All of them have. They think they’re so much better than us.

Cho placed a comforting hand on Harry’s shoulder before sweeping off to go make her way back to Ravenclaw Tower.

Harry let out a theatrical sigh, removed her glasses and rubbed her eyes again. She glanced behind her at the two professors, holding their gaze briefly.

The last burning resolve in her chest collapsed, and the emotions burst forth like rushing water from a dam. Harry started to cry, her frame shaking with heavy, racking sobs. Minerva wrapped Harry up in her arms and pulled her close.

“Why is it always me?” Harry sobbed into her mother’s robe, shaking her head in disbelief.

“I wish I knew, my sweet girl,” Minerva said, trying her best to soothe Harry. She kissed the top of Harry’s head. “You’re such a brave young woman, Harry. Have I ever told you that?”

“I’m scared, Mum,” Harry said, looking terribly maudlin and frayed.

“I know you’re scared, but... I think you can do this,” Minerva said with a smile. “You’re so brave, so strong, so cunning. In these three short years you’ve been at Hogwarts, you’ve been so good at getting out of the toughest scrapes. You outwitted Quirinus, tamed a basilisk, and helped catch a murderer. You are more capable than you’re willing to give yourself credit for, my dear.”

Harry nodded slowly before hugging her tighter. “Thanks, Mum,” She whispered.

“It’s my pleasure, dear,” Minerva said quietly. “And should anybody decide to start trouble, please tell one of us. Now, let’s get you back to your dorm.”

The walk back to the Slytherin dorm was quiet, and Harry sighed to herself. She had known something was going to go wrong. Every year had to have some catches or gotchas to put her on her toes, and make her deal with some unnecessary shit.

She uttered the Arabic phrase to enter the common room and was greeted by a roar of people. At the front of the group were Pansy, Draco and Hermione—all of whom were giving Harry their warmest smiles. Harry noticed the room was decked out for a party, of all things.

“Wait, everyone,” Harry said, looking around. “I didn’t do this on purpose? I didn’t want to be a champion, I wanted to spend the year doing... nothing of substance. I thought this tournament would mean I got to take a break.”

“We all kind of figured that, Potter,” Daphne Greengrass said with a shrug. “You’re the least ambitious Slytherin ever. But that doesn’t mean we’re not gonna close ranks around you and support you.”

Harry’s frown split into an ear-to-ear grin, and Draco pressed a butterbeer in her hand.

“Enjoy yourself, Potter—stress and anxiety are a thing for tomorrow,” He said, with a shrug. “You’re in the snake pit, and we’re not going to turn away from you,” Draco said soothingly, hugging his friend.

“You’re the fucking best, Dray,” Harry said, punching her best friend in the arm.

The party carried on for a few hours longer, before Harry made her way back to her shared bedroom, feeling the fatigue of the day and the frustration settling in and making her bones feel weary. She slipped into a nice hot shower, and let her anxieties and worries about the competitions melt away, before stepping out. She tossed on her favourite nightgown, before gliding her way to bed.

Once she’d settled into bed, she felt Hermione slipping in behind her, cuddling close, and Harry smiled.

Maybe it wasn’t all bad.

...

Things hadn’t yet escalated to the point of drawing wands, but she’d definitely been shoulder-checked in hallways, and been subjected to the scorn and mockery of “Cho Rules!” and “Support Cho!”. Zacharias Smith and Justin Finch-Fletchley had started distributing buttons that frequently derided Harry as a glory-hound and flashed supportive messages for Cho in alternation with some rather rude words about Harry.

The response to those buttons hadn’t gone over well, with professors coming down like the wrath of God on people who walked around with them. It certainly gave the impression of growing polarisation at Hogwarts, given that most of the detentions now had at least a dozen or more Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws cleaning cauldrons or chalkboards sans magic, and only seemed to intensify the growing anger.

While Harry herself hadn’t gotten into any physical scrapes, some of her friends had. Ron Weasley had defended her honour in the Gryffindor common room and had gotten into a fist fight with Seamus Finnegan, earning both of them a week’s detentions after one of the prefects had broken their fight up.

Ron had walked away with only a few bruises—Seamus’ nose had been busted right open, earning him a trip to the hospital wing.

Fred and George Weasley had stepped up their prank campaigns—they had abandoned their long-standing policy of using Slytherins as the guinea pigs for their new products and instead focused their efforts on Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs who had earned their ire, as well as “ignorant Gryffindors” in their own words.

Cedric was deeply involved in the mayhem as well, giving them pointers on which Hufflepuffs were off-limits and which ones deserved some come-uppance.

Harry’s most surprising defender, out of everyone at Hogwarts that could’ve come to her side, was Cho.

Cho had been utterly unsympathetic to her fellow Ravenclaws and their indignation and hostility towards Harry. 

She made clear from the very beginning she harboured no ill-will or blame for Harry, and that anybody who wanted to cause a problem with Harry would have to duel her first. It had caused some friction in the common rooms from what Harry understood, but Cho was much like Harry in that she was stubborn, and quite clever with a wand.

Nobody ended up taking Cho up on her offer, because they weren’t completely daft and touched in the head given Cho’s fierceness and her status as the top student in the Duelling Club.

Harry, though, always the one to seek a diplomatic solution first, opted to spend less and less time outside with her fellow students, and more time in the Chamber, talking to Fatimah and/or studying.

Her conversations and private lessons with Dumbledore had hit quite a skid as well—with her now being a Champion, Dumbledore had a long list of things he could not teach her or help her with now, but instead gave her advice on where to start looking for solutions and allowing her to self-study to build her knowledge base.

Their conversations instead had revolved around wixen sociology and political science, such as the weakened state of the Wizengamot, fragility of the Ministry for Magic, and the conditions that allowed Voldemort and Grindelwald to rise within a generation of each other. Harry was quickly coming to the opinion that the Ministry for Magic was a house of cards, ready to be blown down by the first stiff wind that blew into it.

Harry felt glad she’d had Dobby purchase the standard textbooks for fifth, sixth- and seventh-year Defence students, and dove into those for ways she could start dealing with the potential problems she faced.

She didn’t think the Triwizard Tournament would rely too much on brute force, but instead challenge her logically.

A couple weeks before the Task, on a Friday, Harry had been summoned from her Potions class to some Triwizard Tournament related nonsense. Snape had given her a reassuring grimace and had permitted her departure gracefully.

She followed Colin Creevey up the flights of stairs to a small room where the other three champions were already waiting around.

Viktor Krum looked like he’d eaten something foul—he seemed to be doing that a lot lately, a far-cry from his debonair, almost majestic sort of look during the World Cup. 

Fleur looked snotty and haughty (as usual), and Cho looked pensive and frayed at the seams. Harry frowned. Maybe she’d talk to Cho later, see if she was alright.

“Ah, here he is,” Harry heard Ludo Bagman say, seizing her by the hand and dragging her over to the other three champions. “Come on, Harry, it’s time for the Wand Weighing ceremony, and the judges will be here in just a moment,”

“Wand weighing?” Harry asked, eyebrow raised. “Why’ve they got to do that?”

“Just to make sure they’re functional,” Bagman said in an attempt to placate her. “The expert’s upstairs now with Dumbledore, and then there’ll be a small photo shoot.”

Bagman gestured to the man sitting in a chair nearby. “This is Barty Crouch, he’s with the Daily Prophet. He’s been assigned to cover all the thrilling details.”

“Well, I’ll certainly do my best, Ludo,” Barty said, giving Ludo a toothy grin. He leaned back in his chair, and Harry did his best to ignore him, though she couldn’t shake the feeling she was being watched.

Her ruminations on why she was feeling so unnerved came to a sudden end as she felt Dumbledore’s presence approaching. The grand Headmaster stepped into the room, accompanied by the frail presence of Garrick Ollivander.

“May I introduce Mr. Ollivander to all of you,” Dumbledore said with a smile. “He will be performing the ceremony this afternoon.”

Ollivander went to Fleur first, his pale eyes staring, unmoving, into hers. “Madame Delacour, may I see your wand first, please?”

She handed him her wand and he observed it carefully.

“Mmm, yes,” He said with a nod. “Nine and one-half inches, inflexible, rosewood, containing... ah...”

“Veela hair, from my Grandmother,” Fleur finished with a sniff.

That didn’t surprise Harry one iota. Of course, the soggy French tart was part-Veela. It went a long way to explain why her very presence seemed to make Harry want to start slinging curses. She’d briefly studied Veelas after the World Cup—where they were able to seduce men with their very presence, their presence fostered intense jealousy, resentment and hatred in women.

It was actually rather nice to know that veelas had that effect on her.

“I’ve never used Veela hair in my wands, I have found them far too temperamental, but if it works for you, then all the better,” He said, pale eyes flickering up to Fleur.

He cast the wand away from everyone.

Orchideus!

A bouquet of flowers sprang from the tip, and he plucked them, observing them before tossing them aside. “Your wand works as expected,”

He handed it back to her and moved down the line.

“Miss Chang,” He said to Cho. He looked at her wand as she handed it over. “Ah, yes, this is one of my mine, isn’t it? Yes, yes, I remember this one well...”

He breathed deep. “Ten inches, blackthorn with a unicorn hair core... an excellent choice for someone as wild-hearted as you,”

He whipped the wand and sent a series of smoke rings flowing through the room and nodded with satisfaction. He handed the wand back to Cho and moved down the line.

“Mister Krum, if you please,” Ollivander instructed, his pale eyes fixing on the Bulgarian seeker. As Krum handed his wand over, Ollivander brightened some.

“Gregorovitch does his craft well,” He hummed. “Hornbeam and dragon heart-string? My, my, quite a combination.”

He waved Krum’s wand and it backfired like a gun, birds flocking out of it en masse, through the window and into the sunlight.

“Good, good,” Ollivander said with a grin, before handing the wand back. Ollivander’s pale eyes then fell upon Harry. “And of course, Mister Potter,”

Harry silently handed her wand over to Ollivander, who breathed deep in reverence.

“Ah yes, I remember this wand. A very custom one... truly not the one you’re intended to wield, now is it, Mister Potter? No, there is another wand that calls your name louder than this one ever could, but it will suffice... Ten inches, rigorous... rowan, with a thestral core,”

Quite a few people seemed in disbelief at the marriage of a rowan wand with a thestral hair core, including the reporter Barty, who was scribbling, his quill making a loud scratching noise against the notepad he had in his hands.

Ollivander spent far too long observing it, seeming to almost revel in the power that hummed through it. He then opened his eyes and cast it silently, a fountain of wine coming from it before he nodded in approval.

“Your wand is still as impeccable as could be expected, Mister Potter.”

Before Dumbledore could dismiss them, they got boxed into photographs, and Barty made sure to get plenty of photos of the assembled Champions, as well as individual shots. Harry did her best to seem as utterly unenthused as she could, if for no other reason than to spoil the Daily Prophet’s desperate desires to paint her as an excitable young competitor.

The article had been pretty focused, and she found she rather liked Barty’s methods of reporting—he was quite objective, even if he did sort of jazz up her part of things, given the sheer sex appeal of a fourteen-year-old being forced to compete in a blood tournament. But you know, magic!

Harry received a letter at breakfast one morning, and opened it with a raised eyebrow. It was a request from Hagrid to meet him at midnight down at his hut. To come alone and tell nobody of it. Harry had folded it up, stuck it in her robes, before heading to class. After classes, she clued Hermione, Draco and Pansy into it while they were sitting in the Chamber of Secrets.

“Hagrid’s asked me to come down to his hut tonight at midnight, for something,” Harry said.

“Maybe he’s got information about the first task. Delacour and Krum seem like they already are aware of what they need to do—they’re walking around looking like confidence personified,” Draco said, shrugging.

“It wouldn’t surprise me they’re cheating—it would just like those bastards,” Pansy said, folding her arms.

“Yeah, doesn’t surprise me either,” Harry said with a sigh. “I’ll have to go alone, but I’ll take my invisibility cloak and the like, and my wand, and be sure to protect myself.”

And so, Harry did.

She went down to Hagrid’s hut around midnight, wearing her invisibility cloak. She had been delayed slightly, but still arrived within minutes of when she was supposed to. She knocked on the door and it popped open, revealing Hagrid.

“Harry?” He said quietly, and Harry dropped the hood of the cloak and looked at Hagrid expectantly.

“Ah, good, you’re here, come on,” He said, closing his door behind him, slinging his umbrella behind his back. “There’s something I wanna show ya,”

Hagrid lead Harry deep into the Forbidden Forest, before motioning for her to stop. Harry threw her cloak’s hood back on and peered out at the clearing. She could see Charlie Weasley waving his arms and barking orders at people. It was then that she saw it.

Dragons.

“Oh, bloody hell,” She whispered. “They’re having us fight dragons?”

“Something like that,” Hagrid said quietly. “Madame Maxime told me what she’d found out over drinks, and then I done told Dumbledore—who told me to tell ya. You’re going to be tryin’ to take something out from under one of them beasties.”

“Does Cho know?” Harry asked, grimacing. Hagrid shook his head, and Harry nodded. It was up to her to tell Cho. She knew she’d have to find her and let her know as soon as possible.

Harry finally got a good look at the four dragons, and Hagrid quickly explained each one. The largest and most dangerous was the Chrobatian Horntail, there was also a Common Welsh Green, Khalkha Fireball, and a Geatish Short-Snout. All four looked terribly ferocious and Harry knew she didn’t want to face down any of them, but she knew at least one was marked for her.

It made her feel nauseous.

...

The following morning, she saw Cho seated at the Ravenclaw table, and decided to brave the glares and sneers of the assembled groups and approached her to inform her of the coming task. She couldn’t do it so publicly, not with Fleur sitting only a few yards down the line.

“Cho,” Harry said, looking serious. “Can I talk to you for a minute?”

“Don’t, Cho,” one of her friends said, giving Harry a scathing look. “No help for traitors.” The girl’s voice was dripping with scorn and loathing, and Harry resisted every urge to tell her to go shove it up her arse.

“Shut up,” Cho said, irritably, beating Harry to the rebuke. “I’ve already told you I have no interest in ostracizing a fourteen-year-old. I’m not a bully, get it through your skull,” Cho finished icily, rising to her feet. She nodded to Harry and followed the Slytherin out of the Great Hall and down one of the corridors towards the dungeons.

Once they’d put some distance between themselves and any eavesdroppers, Harry pivoted around and sighed.

“So,” Harry began quietly, voice only slightly above a low whisper. “I found out what the First Task is—and apparently the other two already know.”

“What!?” Cho said in shock, her eyes widening. “What is it!?”

“Dragons, it’s going to be bleedin’ dragons.” Harry said, grimacing. “We’re going to be trying to take something away from a dragon. Hagrid didn’t know all the details, but he heard it from Madame Maxime.”

“Those... bastards! They’re cheating!” She said, frustrated. “And you’re already up to your eyeballs in scorn and ridicule. This whole thing is awful. Why on Earth did anybody agree to bringing back this madhouse of a contest? You know, I did some readin’, do you know how many people’ve bloody died from it?”

“I know, right?” Harry said, snorting. “Right nonsense. I don’t know what we’re going to have to do exactly, but please be careful, alright? I’d hate myself if you got hurt or killed.”

“I will, Harry... but you should be careful too, you’re... only fourteen, you know?” Cho said, finishing with an open-ended question, looking remorseful and quite upset at the concept of someone Harry’s age facing a dragon.

“I know,” Harry said, shaking her head to push away the negative thoughts. “I’ll survive. I’ve survived two murder attempts in three years, I think... I can do this.”

She hoped she sounded convinced, because she most certainly wasn’t.

Cho smiled and hugged Harry.

“Good luck, regardless.” She said before heading back to the Great Hall.

...

Beyond the terribly complex things, like bleeding dragons, Harry had been trying to keep up with her other classes. Charms had presented some difficulties when her wand had reared its ugly head with resisting her again. The Summoning Charm was dead-useful, but she was getting no favours from the bloody wand in her hand.

She’d barely made the mark to not get buried in homework from Flitwick, but she’d been in a right sour mood afterwards, going into the Chamber of Secrets and practicing it until she’d tired herself out. Fatimah had been whispering words of encouragement and trying to get her to calm down, but Harry had gotten frustrated and started crying against one of the marble statues. She ended up falling asleep that night in the Chamber, Fatimah coiled around her like the protective guardian she was.

She also spent quite a bit of time hanging around the library, studying as much as she could about some of her ideas for how to confront dragons. The study of dragons was well documented—they were resistant to spell-work, capable of breathing fire, capable of flight, and incredibly dangerous. Something she did find out, however, thanks to some of the deep analysis of the history of dragons, was that they shared a common ancestor with common serpents.

A seedling was planted in Harry’s head—was she able to communicate with dragons using Parseltongue? It was possible, but... at the same time, that was not the only thing she wanted to rely on. She began formulating a number of ideas that would help her deal with the dragon in case she needed to.

The Parseltongue idea aside, she’d decided that she could use the Summoning Charm on her broom and use it to lead the dragon on a wild goose chase until she could sweep down and grab the object from the nest.

Alternatively, she could try to temporarily disorient the dragon to give her enough time to grab whatever they wanted her to grab and retreat. She didn’t fancy the idea of harming an innocent animal being used for sport in a tournament like this, so she decided that would be the absolute last resort.

The morning of the task, Harry was full of nerves. Hermione had been trying to get her to have a full night’s rest, but Harry had been up and down pacing their room and feeling like utter death. She was confident she’d figure it out and do a crack job with it, but the fear that she’d be killed by a dragon still lingered in her mind.

And it was a perfectly reasonable fear to have, god damnit! She was 14 and going to face down a fully-grown dragon!

I was eleven and faced down a fully-grown mountain troll. How is this much different?

The troll only had a club. The dragon’s got FIRE. Am I daft?!

I was able to hold my own against a fully-grown man until I could retreat to safety. Just calm down and think rationally. What would Hermione do? What would Draco do?

Huh. Harry guessed that’d work.

She had to think about this rationally.

It made no sense to get so worked up until the Task started, and then maybe she could figure something out that would do justice enough to keep her alive. She had initially been thinking to just do the bare minimum to get by in the Tournament, but Draco had thoroughly disabused her of such notions.

...

“No, you’re going to blast their doors off,” Draco proclaimed, staring Harry down with firm intent after she’d made the general impression that she was going to intentionally throw the competition.

“You’re a Slytherin, Harry. You’re going to do your best and make them regret looking down upon you,” Draco said, as certainly as he would say ‘the sun is bright’.

“But Draco-” Harry said, grimacing. “I don’t want it. The fame, glory, whatever—it’s all meaningless to me, why not let them have it?”

“Those things don’t matter!” Draco had proclaimed loudly. “Make them regret the day they underestimated you, Potter! Stand up and show that you’re not a pushover, and that you won’t take it.”

Harry had found that even Snape and her mother had agreed with such sentiments. Snape had told her he expected her to uphold the honour of Slytherin house and perform to the best of her ability, which he knew was plentiful.

“If you’re anything close to the sort of young woman your mother was, you will strike fear into the hearts of those who put you into this stupid competition.”

Minerva had said that the circumstances were unfortunate, but that she shouldn’t let them walk over her.

She held a particular disdain for both schools after they had said such unpleasant and colourful things about her daughter, and she desperately wanted to see Harry utterly decimate Durmstrang and Beauxbatons.

“I’m not going to intentionally compete to beat Cho, though,” Harry said, folding her arms. “She’s the real Champion.”

“Be that as it may, daughter—do not go for what is easy. Do or do not, there is no try.” Minerva said, folding her arms in return. “You’re more than capable of performing in this tournament. Albus has been building you up for years, you’ll smash them and show them what Scotland, and what our family stands for.”

Harry grinned at her mother.

...

Harry thought about the similarities between herself and the other Champions.

Harry was also a seeker. A skilled one at that.

So was Krum.

They’d both pulled off the dangerous and difficult Wronksi Feint. They were both sharp-eyed and were good at evasive manoeuvres. She could do anything he could, she thought. The only advantage he had was the fact that Durmstrang had a reputation for being a little quicker to dabble in the Dark Arts. She didn't have any experience with that, her methodologies being mostly by-the-book.

She was a talented witch with a litany of spells and things in her repository.

Like Fleur.

But unlike the French tart, she’d learned long ago that she needed to stay humble and not assume things would go her way. Down that path leads arrogance and defeat.

She just needed to win. Easier said than done, but she knew she could do it. She knew that if she kept alert, and didn’t let her guard down, or assume it was easy, she could do it.

She steeled herself one last time and took in a deep breath. She was ready.

Chapter Text

It was around mid-day when she was sitting at lunch trying to control her nausea that Professor Snape gathered her up and escorted her down to the grounds for the event.

She entered the purple tent and found the other three champions already waiting (why did they always get her LAST!?). It was a stark contrast from the last time they’d seen them. Fleur was looking utterly pallid, sitting on a low stool with an expression on her face that said something along the lines of ‘oh no what have I gotten myself into’.

Viktor was even more surly than usual and was biting at his nails in a nervous fashion, and Cho was pacing back and forth, looking frayed and worried. Cho gave her a wry smile when she noticed the Slytherin entering the room.

“Now that we’re all here,” Bagman said excitedly, with Bartemius Crouch by his side. “We can begin. Time to fill you in on what you’ll be doing.”

He pulled a sack out of his robes. “I’ll be offering each of you this bag, and you’ll select a small model of the thing you are about to face. There are four different varieties, you see, and erm, yes. Right! Your task... is to collect a golden egg!”

Harry blinked. They were going to take an egg from a dragon. How barbaric.

After hearing the sounds of hundreds of people passing by heading to the stands, Harry stretched her arms and didn't say anything as Bagman approached Fleur.

“Ladies first, Miss Delacour,” He said, offering the bag to her. She reached her dainty hand in and pulled out a writhing, living model of a Welsh Green. ‘2’ had been printed on a tag around its neck, glimmering slightly in the lighting. Fleur showed minimal surprise, but Harry could tell she’d been informed ahead of time.

He went to Krum next. Krum reached in and pulled out the Khalkha Fireball. It had the number ‘3’ marked on it. He didn’t even blink, he just continued to stare off at nothing, only slightly inclining his head in acknowledgement to Ludo Bagman.

Cho reached in and pulled out the blueish-grey Geatish Short-Snout, grimacing to herself. The number one was printed on the tag around its neck. Harry herself felt like she was about to scream her head off.

There was only one dragon left.

Of course. Of course, she got it. The most dangerous and hostile of ALL the dragons.

Fuckers.

She reached her hand into the bag and plucked out the writhing miniature Chrobatian Horntail, glaring at the thing which had a tag marked ‘4’ around its neck. The small creature writhed until she placed it in her palm. It stared up at her expectantly, and she gently stroked its ceramic ridges and it seemed content.

She placed it inside the pocket of her armoured outfit, and she could feel it settling down contently. It was a very strange feeling. She knew the small dragon in her pocket wasn’t alive in the classical sense, but no holds had been barred in animating it.

Harry sat in the tent and waited. Cho had taken some time to get her egg, but the deafening roar of the crowd meant she’d put on one hell of a show.

Fleur had gone next, and Harry felt a bit sorry as she watched her leave the tent nearly trembling. Maybe she’d try to be a little friendlier to Fleur next time they saw each other. There was no sense in them hating each other when they would be bonding in the fires of... whatever death trap these lunatics had set them up for.

She could hear Bagman’s commentary, and made the assumption that Fleur was making a right mess of herself out there. Her applause and response from the crowd had been much more subdued, and she figured it due to either her being very sloppy, or simply because it wasn’t the same home-field advantage that Cho had.

Krum had left the tent, leaving Harry by herself. The shriek from the Fireball hadn’t made her heart feel any better, but she knew that Krum had done well, and the crowd responded in turn.

It was finally her time.

She stood up and made her way outside the tent. Hundreds of people had stacked the stands, and as soon as she appeared, the crowd had gone from cheering to a large mixture of jeers and cheers.

She could tell that the Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws were leading the jeering, while the Gryffindors and Slytherins were cheering for her.

How ironic—a historical rivalry steeped in a thousand years of hostility and arguments over Might Makes Right, and wixen blood purity, put aside to support the Heir of Slytherin in this, her darkest hour.

She gave the crowd the trademark ‘Slytherin smirk’ as she strode out into the field. The sight of the Horntail, crouched low over her nest of eggs, wings half-furled and the putrid, yellow eyes upon her. The eyes reminded her strongly of Fatimah, and that gave Harry the confidence she needed to put into act her first idea.

Harry continued her approach slowly, not breaking eye contact with the dragon. Finally, she opened her mouth.

I mean you no harm,” Harry’s sibilant hiss flowed forth. The crowd, still in the midst of their jeering and cheering had stopped dead in their tracks, a silence falling over the arena as the sounds of her speaking in Parseltongue washed over them.

"I speak to you now in peace. I am a Truthspeaker," Harry said, thinking back to Fatimah—snakes could not tell lies. To speak Parseltongue, one had a duty… to speak the truth.

The dragon looked at Harry intently, before it flicked its tongue at her. It was clear that it would not respond, but looked at her intently, acknowledging that she had spoken to it, and that it understood. The intelligence behind those beautiful golden eyes made Harry shiver involuntarily. What were they doing to these poor creatures?

I do not seek to harm your younglings,” Harry said, hissing smoothly. She didn’t notice the few in the crowd who had once served the Dark Lord closing their eyes and shuddering—from Karkaroff, Snape, to Bartemius Crouch Jr.

The dragon bowed its head once, and Harry continued her approach, gently resting a hand on the dragon’s nose. The warmth of the scales was astonishing. Harry gently stroked the dragon, taking create care to allow the dragon time to ensure she was not a threat.

The dragon let out a snuff, a billow of smoke flowing across Harry and past her. An indication that she was listening to her proposition.

"I want the golden egg. That is all I want from you," Harry said, gesturing to the eggs.

The dragon glanced at her, and then down at the one egg that was different than the others. It stood up and sniffed the egg briefly before pushing it away from the other eggs. It fixed Harry with another long, unyielding look before it settled down protectively over its real eggs. Harry scooped the golden egg up in her arms and bowed to the dragon deferentially.

Thank you.” She said finally, before turning and walking away to a safe distance.

The crowd was dead silent, and everyone looked at her like she’d grown a second head.

Suddenly, the Slytherins roared with excitement, while the Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws looked like they were annoyed that she’d walked away without nary a scratch. The Gryffindors were clapping amicably, all of them a little shocked at how she’d just subdued a Chrobatian Horntail.

“In a surprising set of events that can very hardly be explained by anybody,” Bagman’s voice carried over the crowd. “The youngest champion was the quickest to retrieve his egg!”

Professor Snape had been the first to her, looking rather subdued.

“That was the most Gryffindor thing I’ve ever seen you do in four years here, Potter,” Snape said, resting his hand on her shoulder. “But I know for certain that will never be forgotten.”

“Thanks, Professor,” Harry said quietly, smiling at him. “That was sort of the point, I think,”

“You’re welcome,” Snape said, looking at her stoically. “Now, go see Madam Pomfrey before the judges give you your score. She’s already had to mop up Miss Chang from out here, I doubt she’d be happy if I let you walk away without seeing her first.”

Harry made her way to the medical tent, and saw his favourite healer looking beside herself at the three champions sitting on the cots, looking like death warmed over.

“Dragons!” Madam Pomfrey said, looking irritated. “I can’t believe they did dragons. Really. Last year they had dementors, this year it’s dragons. I’m about this close to retiring...” She trailed off, and Harry gave her a look.

“You’ve been saying that since I was eight,” She said matter-of-factly. “But you won’t have to do anything for me, Aunt Poppy. I’ve not got any injuries, I... didn’t really fight it,”

“What do you mean, you did not fight it?” Fleur asked, eyes wide.

Harry closed her eyes and leaned back. “I’m a Parseltongue. I can speak to serpents. The eyes of that dragon were very similar to the eyes of a snake, and I... thought perhaps I could communicate with it that way; It turns out that yes, dragons can understand Parseltongue. They just can’t speak it back to you.”

The other three champions looked at Harry incredulously, but Viktor looked the most interested. He knew what Parseltongue was and was staring at the Slytherin girl with eyes the size of dinner plates. Metaphorical dinner plates, of course.

Hermione burst into the tent, followed by Draco and Pansy.

Hermione said nothing and simply wrapped Harry up in a vice-like hug, placing her head on Harry’s shoulder. She said nothing, but the vibrating brunet next to her was practically shaking with excitement.

“You really are the bloody heir of bloody Slytherin, aren’t you, Potter?” Draco practically exploded. “And yet you’re still the most Gryffindor Slytherin I’ve ever met. Bloody speaking Parseltongue to a bloody dragon,” 

He looked quite confounded at the whole thing.

“It worked, didn’t it?” Harry said, grinning.

“You did amazing, you were so brilliant,” Hermione said, looking into Harry’s green eyes. “I’m proud of you, love.”

They walked back to the arena to get Harry’s score, with Draco explaining in great detail each of the competitor’s runs. 

Cho had tried using duelling magic against the dragon to at least distract it long enough to steal the egg but had gotten roughed up in the process when the dragon had noticed her encroaching on the eggs-- dragon scale was resistant to spellfire, and Cho hadn’t quite given that proper thought.

Fleur had tried charming it into a trance but had gotten her skirt set on fire by the dragon accidentally shooting fire while snoring; Krum had gone straight for the eye, managing to grab the egg but destroying half the real ones in the process.

Harry stared at the judges’ panel intently, her jaw tight. She was trying her hardest to channel a mixture of her mother and the ‘Slytherin look’.

“They’ll grade you out of ten points,” Draco whispered in her ear.

Madame Maxime had fixed her with a very long and awkward stare in return, before she nodded minutely. Raising her wand, a fine mist emerged from it, forming into a silvery figure eight.

Percy Weasley was next, he gave her a solid 9. His face betrayed nothing other than he seemed markedly impressed, if not a little nauseous after witnessing Harry speak Parseltongue.

Dumbledore was next, giving her a ten. His eyes were glittering with pride, and Harry felt a small knock on her Occlumency shields—Dumbledore’s way of saying ‘good job’.

Bagman also gave her a ten, giving her a strong grin, like she was putting on fairly good dinner theatre.

Karkaroff... he was looking at very strangely, intently, like he wasn’t sure what he was looking at. When he finally got around to granting her score, he gave her a five?

Harry shot him a dark look, and he flinched some. Harry smirked at that—she was finally getting around to developing an imposing presence around people she didn’t particularly like.

Sighing internally, she started tabulating her score. With all five judges scores’ combined, that came out to forty-two points. She glanced at Hermione who was doing the math in her head as well. Hermione’s eyes widened, and she turned to Harry.

“You’re in first place, Harry!” She said suddenly. “You’re leading by two points over Krum!”

“Bloody hell,” Harry murmured, rubbing her head. She hadn’t quite expected taking the lead like this. Now, the question she had for herself was—can you keep it?

Draco and Pansy returned to the stands while Hermione followed her back to the medical tent. 

She saw Cho, Fleur and Krum looking all a bit melancholic and felt a little... pang of sympathy. This was what they’d wanted, and she’d... come in and taken the thunder away. She hadn’t wanted to, but she was not the sort of girl to leave things in half-measures.

“Well done, all of you,” Bagman said, pushing past Hermione and grinning. “You’ve got a nice long break ahead of you—the second task will be taking place at half-past nine AM on the twenty-fourth of February. But in the meantime, you know all those golden eggs you’re carrying? You’ll need to solve the clue that’s inside the egg. Have fun!”

Before Harry could turn to leave, she felt someone tug on his arm. Turning, he found Fleur standing in front of him.

“I... am sorry for misjudging you, Harry Potter. You are... quite talented,” She said quietly. “I look forward to meeting you in the Second Task.”

Harry looked the girl straight in the eye and bowed her head in respect. “Thank you. I look forward to seeing you in the next task as well, Fleur. Don’t be a stranger,”

Harry and Hermione adjourned to the castle—Harry felt like she could use a bath and maybe some alone time with her girlfriend. She most certainly was not in the mood for anything else. She’d worry about the egg tomorrow.

When she got to her quarters, she placed the egg inside her trunk, locked it, and immediately adjourned to the bathroom to soak. She’d had quite enough nonsense for one bloody day.

...

Not long after the First Task had been finished and done away with—at the end of one of their Thursday morning Transfiguration classes, Harry had been boredly doodling in the margins of one of her parchments when her mother cleared her throat.

“If I may have your attention, there is something I wish to say to you all,” She said crisply. “As you know, the Yule Ball is approaching—it is a traditional part of the Triwizard Tournament, and an opportunity for us to socialise with our foreign guests. Now, the ball itself will only be open to fourth years and above; though, you may invite a younger student if you should so wish.”

She quirked her mouth. “Dress robes will be worn, and the ball will start at eight o’clock on Christmas Day, finishing at midnight in the Great Hall. Now then,” Professor McGonagall continued, looking around the room. “The Yule Ball is a great chance for us to let our hair down, so to speak,”

Harry found that amusing—her mother would never be caught dead in public with her hair down. Sure, she sometimes had it down at home when she wasn’t doing anything in particular, but she had it up in the trademark bun in her hair when she was doing anything else other than spending time around the house.

“But that does not mean,” She said firmly, “that will be relaxing the standards of behaviour we expect from Hogwarts students. I will be most displeased if a student from their respective house embarrasses the school in any way, shape or form; and I can only imagine Professor Snape will feel just as I do,”

When Minerva had finished explaining and the students had begun to file out of the room in a hurry, now laden with concern over who they were going to take to the Yule Ball, Harry pivoted in her chair and flashed her most charming smile at Hermione.

“My dearest Hermione, the love of my life, the light of my universe, the sun and the moon and the stars—would you do me the kindest honour and be my date to the Yule Ball?” Harry asked, batting her eyelashes at Hermione, who started giggling loudly.

“It certainly took you long enough to ask me! A whole two seconds! I’m starting to think you don’t love me anymore,” Hermione said haughtily, leaning on her posh upbringing to sound much like the upper-class English girl she was. “I would be most happy to accept your proposition, Master Potter.”

Harry grinned at her knowingly.

Minerva rolled her eyes at her daughter. “That was the corniest thing I’ve ever heard in my life,” She said, shaking her head. “The two of you, out. Before you give me a cavity.”

Harry and Hermione both laughed as they left the room. Minerva cracked a small smile at their antics.

“I’m so glad I took her away from those blasted Muggles...” Minerva said, her smile changing into a grin as she shook her head and filed away her lesson plan.

...

Harry was surprised at how many people were going to stay over the holiday. Nearly every fourth-year and higher was—and it seemed that ‘Yule Ball’ fever had hit a fever pitch, with everybody swept up in it. Harry and Hermione had been taken rather quickly—not that anybody was going to proposition them.

Harry was still very much a pariah, and Hermione was already well-known to be very loyal and loving towards Harry.

Instead of worrying about the Yule Ball (she had a date, she had really high-quality boutique-made dress robes from Toletania, and she was quite well-versed in dancing, thanks to her upbringing around two music-loving witches), Harry decided to focus more on the golden egg. The odd little object with hinges had sat dormant in her hands as she focused on it.

She had to think about it—the egg didn’t react to anything, not even Alohomora. So it clearly wasn’t locked or charmed to remain shut. She then decided to pick Hermione’s brain over it.

Her girlfriend had observed the egg closely, and then piped up with an idea. “Have you tried exposing it to elements? Like, it’s a dragon’s egg, so maybe you have to place it in a fire?” She had suggested.

And so Harry tried that. She took her egg into the Chamber of Secrets and had fashioned for herself a small elevated fire pit. After lighting the transfigured kindling and logs (thanks, Mum) with a simple fire spell, she then placed the egg into it and waited.

After about twenty minutes, she levitated the egg out of the fire and frowned. It was glowing red hot, but remained utterly inert. She then quickly submerged it in a cauldron of water to quickly cool it down. As she did, she noticed the egg beginning to crack open. She raised her eyebrow.

That was an interesting development—the egg subverted expectations. It was a facsimile of a dragon’s egg, but it reacted to being submerged in water, rather than fire. Reaching into the cauldron, Harry pulled the egg out, but the sound of ear-splitting shrieking caused her to drop it back into the water.

Rubbing her ears and hissing an apology to Fatimah (who glared at Harry from across the room for waking her up with such a racket), Harry gingerly closed the egg back up and hefted it up into her right hand. With her left, she banished the small fire pit and cauldron back to whence they’d come, and cleaning the area up.

Heading back to her bedroom, she shook her head in annoyance and resolved to figure it out as quickly as she could. She decided her first avenue would be to research underwater things. Clearly it had to be connected to that, right?

As the term rapidly drew towards a close, and the Yule Ball approached, the school’s fervour became even more crazed. Rumours that Dumbledore was importing alcohol into the school by the hundreds-of-barrels, and that he’d booked the Weird Sisters. Harry had heard them on the wireless enough times, but she was far from impressed. She vastly preferred the musical stylings of groups like Pink Floyd Sound, The Byrne Experience, and Smile. Sure, they’d all gotten their fame in the Muggle half of the world, but she knew at least some of them had to be wix.

Some of the teachers had long since given up trying to teach them anything—Professor Flitwick had gone off and let them play games in class, deciding there was nothing worth their distraction. The other professors hadn’t been nearly as generous. Lockhart had continued his self-fulfilling nonsense, further confirming to Harry that he was an utter pillock and a waste of a year of Defence Against the Dark Arts.

Professor Snape and Harry’s mother had been very ‘nose to the grindstone’, with Professor Snape slapping down a test on them on the last day of the term, telling them they would be testing poison antidotes.

Harry had buckled down for it with her usual studiousness, all the while thinking about the egg in the back of her mind. She’d done some limited research on aquatic creatures, but hadn’t really hit on anything that she clearly recognized. It was possible she just wasn’t looking in the right place. If she couldn’t figure anything out before the Yule Ball, she’d rope Hermione into helping.

Relations between Beauxbatons and Hogwarts had warmed considerably after Fleur and Harry had made nice with one another. Harry’s meal times had seen Beauxbatons students evenly dividing their attention between the Ravenclaw and Slytherin tables—whereas the Durmstrang students, whose relations with Hogwarts had continued to sour, had opted to either sit with the Hufflepuff table (most of whom were still overtly hostile to Harry, for reasons she didn’t understand, but didn’t care about), or not eat in the Great Hall at all, preferring to use their ship’s galley.

The decorations Hogwarts was putting up for the Yule holiday were quite beautiful, really. Icicles had been added to all the banisters of the grand staircase in the Entrance Hall, the usual set of trees in the Hall were bedecked with everything from holly berries to animated golden owls (Harry’s new little Horntail golem was a lot like that, she wondered if there was a similar transfiguration spell that had something to do with it), and the suits of armour were all bewitched to sing ditties of multiple origins. From things ranging from Silent Night all the way to The Allfather Comes.

Harry had pretty much nailed the antidote test, in her opinion—it had been downright easy. The antidote to most potions was just a simple bezoar. Snape had seemed quite pleased at her when he gave her full marks for her potion, and had shooed her out of his classroom while trying to not have a pleased smirk on his face.

Harry and Hermione had pretty much tuned out the romantic rumblings of the rest of their year as they spent much of the downtime staring at each other doe-eyed, or snogging in the privacy of their quarters, away from everyone and their drama as people tried to find last-minute dates to the Yule Ball.

One evening before they’d gone to bed, Harry had tried to get a sneak peek at Hermione’s dress robes, curious as to how they would look in comparison to her own. As she approached the fabric bag in their closet, she felt a sharp stinging on her bum and jumped.

“Ow!” She said, rubbing her arse before turning to see Hermione, wand pointed at her, a slight smirk on her face.

“No peeking, Miss Potter! You’ll have to wait and see what I’m wearing like everyone else, you naughty girl.” Hermione said, smirking.

“No fair, Hermione! You’ve seen my robes!” Harry protested.

“Yes, because your cousin insisted that if we were going to appear at a function, we should at least have a pair of dress robes that matched, and so I want you to wait before you see it. I promise, you’ll adore it,” Hermione said.

Harry folded her arms petulantly. “Meanie,” she said.

Hermione kissed Harry soundly on the lips, and placed her fingers underneath her chin. “You’re not mad at me, are you, darling?”

“Maybe a bit,” Harry said, pouting.

“Would some kissing make it better?” Hermione asked, and Harry blushed.

“Maybe,” Harry replied, putting her hands on her hips.

...

The start of the holidays would have been a much needed reprieve for everyone, except for the fact the Hogwarts professors had been relentless in dumping a bunch of homework on them. Harry had somehow become the headmistress of a large study group. Nearly everyone she knew to any extent in Gryffindor and Slytherin had come together to get their homework done so they could fully commit their attentions to the holiday at hand.

It was odd at first, seeing Ron Weasley being forced to study by his elder twin brothers, or to see Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle actually managing to get their Charms homework done with the help of Hermione and Draco. But to Harry it was immensely pleasant to watch. The Sorting Hat had told her that she could be the key to restoring the reputation of Slytherin in the eyes of many—and what better way than by mending the thousand-year rivalry between Godric and Salazar?

She passed Fred’s Herbology homework over to Neville and shook her head. It wouldn’t change overnight, a lot of Gryffindors still didn’t like Slytherin House much, but the Triwizard Tournament and the whole “Harry Potter is the Fourth Champion” stuff had really helped supercharge the détente between the two houses.

In the days which followed, her mind wandered away from the abstract and metaphysical to that which was physical. She had spent time in the Chamber speaking and listening to Fatimah and the stories she told of Salazar and what the old man had believed in. Not everything that Slytherin had stood for was on her agenda, but she could certainly see the man believed in justice, if not equality.

When Christmas Day had arrived proper, Harry had awoken to an assortment of Christmas gifts from her family and friends. Hermione had gotten Harry a small Muggle charm bracelet, decorated with a few trinkets she’d fashioned herself. A jewel, a snake, a dog, and lastly, a dragon—it took Harry a brief moment to realize that it was a catalogue of her first four years as a Hogwarts student.

She smiled to herself at how touching and sweet it had been.

She’d given Hermione a necklace with a golden snitch on it, to be a sort of… long-term reminder of her, given how much Harry liked snitches.

She’d gotten other things as well—candies of all sorts, some prank items from Fred and George Weasley, among other things. Her mother had gotten her an incredibly soft jumper. It was very much not unisex or masculine at all, Harry could tell it was solely intended for a young woman to wear, and she grinned to herself at how amazing her Mum was about her being her.

After a nice warm breakfast of soup, Harry and Hermione spent the day together in the Slytherin Common Room, enjoying the warmth and each other’s company. They had briefly sojourned outside in the mid-afternoon to watch the Weasleys have a snowball fight with each other, earning the laughter and mirth of a bunch of people.

At five o’clock, Hermione snatched her dress out of their closet and had disappeared upstairs with Pansy and Daphne. Harry smiled knowingly at her, before sighing to herself.

She wasn’t entirely enthused at the idea that she wouldn’t be able to attend the Ball in a dress. The idea was practically salivating-worthy, but she had to be in her stupid boy form to be presented as a Champion. No hiding in anonymity and skirts for her.

About an hour before the actual Ball was set to start, Harry had gone back to her quarters to change into her dress robes. Cousin Narcissa had been quite adamant in Harry wearing the finest of wixen robes, given her stature as a member of the House Black, and Heir of Slytherin. While it may not mean much to her personally, those two things could command quite a high respect from those wixen who still seemed to be possessed with obsessions about blood purity and nobility.

Looking at herself in the mirror, she grinned. Even for a masculine outfit, it was certainly very fine attire for her. The robes were a shimmering black, and the suit underneath was green, with soft pinstripes and a dark grey tie to give it that Slytherin flare. Even her cuff-links were snakes.

At this point, she should just change her surname to Slytherin, then. Christ on a bicycle.

“You look quite good, Madame,” the mirror said, and Harry rolled her eyes.

“Flattery gets you nowhere, but thank you,” Harry said.

Harry stepped out into the Common Room and waited quietly. Draco returned from his dorm, this time wearing the familiar pair of dress robes Narcissa had bought him in Toletania. He looked like a very fine vicar, but with a certain aristocratic air that accentuated his chocolate brown hair and sharp blue eyes.

“You look nice, Draco,” Harry said, grinning. “Your mother made the right choice,”

“I could say the same,” Draco said, observing Harry’s own dress robes. “Mother really wanted you to embody that Slytherin aesthetic, didn’t she?”

“Of course,” Harry said, rolling her eyes.

“Ahem,” A voice cleared her throat, and Harry turned and nearly fell over.

Hermione, on a normal day where she didn’t even try, was astoundingly beautiful. From her very small overbite that made her look adorable, to her freckles, to her wild and unyielding hair, Hermione was every part Harry’s favourite human being.

But now, with three hours of effort in taming herself, Hermione was heart-stopping. Her hair had been tamed, gone from bushy to sleek and shiny, twisted up into an elegant knot. The robes she wore were floaty and matched Harry’s own black and green combinations, creating her own elegant, Slytherin pride gorgeousness.

And she wasn’t slouching. Harry wasn’t daft, she’d known her girlfriend was quite blessed in the… development department, but the dress she’d gotten accentuated that particular feature well.

Draco’s elbow dug into hers. “Don’t be jealous, but I think Hermione’s got a bigger set than you do when you’re on the Tonic,”

Harry gave Draco a scathing look. She wasn’t jealous, not at all. Hermione deserved a nice pair of… God, she needed to stop being such a boy.

Though, Hermione did have nice breasts. Even though Harry felt a pang of wishing she had a pair nearly as nice.

Whatever. She was still a fourteen-year-old with a libido, and gender identity and dissociative problems. She could feel however she felt.

But the smile, was as radiant as the summer sun. Her overbite was still there just a bit, and she glided down the steps, interlocking her arm with Harry’s.

“You’re quite astounding, Miss Potter,” Hermione said in a low murmur. “Butch but in a good way.”

“And you’re as beautiful as even the finest force of nature, my sweet,” Harry said. “Shall we head up to the Great Hall?”

Harry, Hermione, Draco and Pansy (both of whom were lacking their dates at the moment) moved towards the Great Hall. Both stepped off to one side expectantly, while Harry and Hermione looked confused.

Just then, Harry caught sight of who was coming down the Grand Staircase, and rubbed her eyes in astonishment.

Descending the stairs were three redheaded girls. She knew for a fact the Weasley family only had one girl, Ginny—and she was clearly the youngest of the three girls.

So then who were the other two?!

The tallest of the three was wearing a set of pink dress robes, looking as confident and as smug as could be. Upon seeing Harry, she winked and flashed her a dazzling grin.

The average height girl had short hair in a pixie cut, and was very waifish. She was blushing heavily, and was wearing a black dress. She was wearing a small white jacket with it, and a pair of black gloves that covered up to her elbows. She looked a bit put off and nervous.

That girl, upon reaching the bottom of the stairs, glided over and gently looped her arm into Draco’s, blushing all the while. Ron.

The smug one wrapped her arms around Cedric, and kissed Cedric firmly on the lips. George.

“How on Earth did you lot get the Tiresian Tonic?” Harry asked, astonished at the two sex-flipped wix.

Ron gestured her dainty, glove-clad thumb at Fred, who was still a bloke, and was grinning like a maniac, his hand looped around Danielle’s waste. The Slytherin prefect looked amused, yet resigned to the Weasley family’s excess.

“This git knows how to brew it,” Ron said, eyes flickering over to her elder brother in annoyance. “Somehow, George and I got convinced to be members of the fairer sex for a night. Draco promised me a reward if I did it.”

“I rather like it,” Ginny said, looking quite pleased. “It’s nice to have sisters for once.”

Ron blushed again, and Draco wrapped his arms around her waist. “Come now—it can’t be that awful? I’ve done it before; it can be quite an experience if you just enjoy it for what it is. And you will have your reward, if you’re patient,”

“Sod off,” Ron said, closing her eyes and shivering. “I- I’m a bloke,”

“Mmm, if you say so, dear,” Draco said, gently nibbling at Ron’s neck.

“Maybe don’t molest your boyfriend here, Draco,” Harry said, raising her eyebrow. “Not that I’m sure he’d mind, given the fact he looks like he’s about to melt into a puddle in his dress, but Mum might rip your head off.”

Draco withdrew from feeling up Ron and looked a bit abashed, before patting Ron’s hand and guiding her through the doors into the Great Hall.

As Professor McGonagall summoned the Champions and their dates to line up in preparation to enter the room, Harry fell in line behind Fleur (who was escorting a seventh-year Ravenclaw), Krum (who was with Hannah Abbott) and Cho (who was with Cormac McLaggen).

Once everyone was in the Great Hall and seated, Harry could hear voices from within.

Introducing the Four Champions!” Dumbledore’s voice rumbled out.

As they walked through the door, the Great Hall broke out into applause. Harry was happy that Hermione was with her as they walked up to the grand table at the top of the hall where the judges were sitting. She admired the decorations on the wall, which reminded her much of an ice palace like in some of the stories she’d read as a little kid.

She noticed Neville and Pansy sitting together, as well as Ginny sitting with the Ravenclaw Anthony Goldstein.

Harry noticed that Karkaroff seemed put off by something, Bagman was enthusiastically clapping and looking like he’d just rolled around in stardust—Maxime was wearing a gown of lavender silk, looking the epitome of poshness. 

Percy was wearing dress robes, but was looking intently at someone in the crowd, Harry realized he was staring down his brothers-currently-sisters. Either out of envy, or out of anger. She wasn’t sure which.

She and Hermione sat next to Percy, and Fleur took her place across from them, with Krum sitting in between the two groups. Dumbledore picked up his menu and quickly ordered himself some rather large pork chops.

Harry raised her eyebrow and glanced at her menu. For once, the elves were doing things ‘made to order’ out of a select group of things. Harry cleared her throat and ordered herself something hearty but not too heavy. If she was going to be forced to dance, she didn’t want to get violently sick.

She largely tuned out the Beauxbatons and Durmstrang people boasting about their school’s amenities. Harry rather liked Hogwarts’ much ‘less grand’ sort of stature. They didn’t have custom ice sculptures year round, they didn’t have grand designs on things, but it was home, and it was warm like a hearth in the bleak midwinter.

Once all the meals had been finished, they disappeared before their very eyes, and the tables quickly cleared away as well. Harry had reflexively stood up and took Hermione’s hand. As the Weird Sisters took their place to begin playing, Harry reflexively strode out onto the floor with her girlfriend, joined by the other champions.

Harry wasn’t exactly bad at dancing. She wasn’t a professional, but she certainly knew the movements that would be expected of her in a formal dance. Her mother had been quite insistent to teach her at an early age how to lead. She didn’t think, after she transitioned, that would change much.

Hermione as well, seemed quite well-versed in traditional, stiff, unyielding dance they were performing, stepping through the motions almost automatically, acclimating quickly to slight mis-steps or errors in Harry’s leading.

Harry didn’t often forget that her girlfriend was upper-class in the other world. Her accent was perhaps the biggest give away, and, in fact, perhaps that was one of the largest differences between the two.

Harry had grown up away from big cities like Cadzow and Aberdeen, she’d grown up in the rural Highlands of Scotland, particularly close the thunderous winds of the North Sea, so she had a much more nasal, throaty Gaelic accent, much like her mother’s Caithness accent. In the moments she was allowing her mind to wander, speaking on topics in a very general sort of way, Harry sounded very much like a star-struck country girl—and in the times she was full of passion and anger, her accent would be impossible to decipher to most.

Hermione, on the other hand, sounded closer to what Harry may have sounded like had she grown up with her biological parents. She had very proper Englander English, particularly the sort of English used among the upper-class peoples in their capital, London.

Harry knew the dialect quite well, in fact—she’d spent the first six years of her life after her parents’ death living in London, surrounded by people she barely remembered. But she did remember how much her aunt and uncle tried to speak in that stiff accent, to give themselves the illusion of perceived class and status.

She’d even had the accent herself once she’d moved to Scotland, but it hadn’t lasted, due to her illiteracy. Her mother had taken so much time and effort to teach her to read and write properly that she’d simply taken to mimicking Minerva’s speech patterns to the point where it was nothing but natural to speak in the brogue she had.

It wasn’t that Harry didn’t like the way Hermione spoke, not at all—that dialect, despite Harry’s difficulties with it, was the dialect of royalty—and Hermione was most certainly a Queen, full of grace and love and so much that Harry couldn’t describe using mere words.

But the differences between them did taper off from there. Both girls highly valued knowledge, ambition and love—and loved each other. Harry wanted to compare it to binary stars, always in orbit about one another while being unique in their own special way.

Once their private song, accompanied by the loud tune of bagpipes had come to a close, the floor had opened to other dancers, and Harry allowed herself to be swept up in the music. She noticed many of her friends enjoying themselves as well, and grinned ear to ear. She’d avoided hob-knobbing with anybody from the Ministry or anybody in echelons of power. Draco would probably tell her she was being a right prat by avoiding it completely, but Harry’s first and only concern this evening was Hermione and her happiness. Everything else could take a long walk off a short pier and fuck right off.

Eventually they tired of dancing, and adjourned to the courtyard to enjoy each other’s company on the cool Christmas night. The court yard was full of young people being quite lovey-dovey with each other. As they walked down the path, Harry swore she saw Draco and Ron sequestered, being quite intimate with one another. She was more than certain that Ron was repaying Draco in spades for the World Cup experience.

Didn’t hurt that this was much higher risk of getting nicked by someone. She knew her cousin well, he lived for exhilarating things like that, provided it didn’t put him into danger.

Harry and Hermione had found themselves their own private corner and had snogged each other profusely. They would most certainly have marks on their necks and chests the following day, but Harry could not think of a single reason to give an idle shit about much of anything.

When they’d broken for air, Harry had felt such a strong stir of raw magnetism in her stomach. She’d looked at Hermione carefully, the other witch looking glassy-eyed and half-lidded. She came back to herself after a moment and took a deep breath.

Wow, uh,” Hermione said, looking frazzled. “That... wow. Erm.”

Harry gently grasped Hermione’s hand and kissed it gently. “I think I’m ready if you are, Miss Granger.”

Hermione looked at Harry carefully and smiled. “Then shall we adjourn to our quarters, my lady?”

“Lead the way, dear,” Harry said, before the two rose to their feet and made their way back into the Entrance Hall. As they headed towards the Slytherin dungeons, Fred Weasley and Danielle were emerging from the dance floor, looking mirthful. Fred caught Harry’s eyes and grinned, before reaching into his pocket.

He approached Harry and pulled a small vial of a familiar potion out of his pocket, before handing it to Harry.

“I was told that you might find this useful,” He said quietly. “Happy Christmas, Harry.”

He and Danielle then adjourned up towards Gryffindor Tower. Harry glanced at Hermione and drew her lips into a cool smile.

“Come on, Hermione!” Harry exclaimed, grabbing her girlfriend’s hand and rushing down the corridor. After getting through the common room and into their shared bedroom, Harry smiled ear to ear and pulled the Tiresian Tonic out of her pocket.

It was a single dose—enough for one twenty-four-hour period.

She looked at Hermione, and Hermione gave her a beautiful smile and nodded her head affirmatively. Harry uncorked the bottle and downed it. The taste would never be that great, but what lay on the other side of this potion was well worth the small funk in her mouth after the fact.

She felt the change slowly spread across her body, and a blossoming feeling of happiness, wholeness and completeness surged across her. The form she should have had all along sliding into place like a glove.

All the discomfort in her chest evaporated, and once the change had completed, she grinned ear to ear at Hermione, her eyes tearing up slightly.

“What do you think, Hermione?” Harry asked carefully, loosening her tie and undoing some of the buttons of her outer shirt, having long discarded her robes.

Hermione looked at her with hungry eyes, and then reached and gently stroked Harry’s cheek with her thumb.

“I think you look fantastic,” She said, flashing a smile.

She then leaned in and kissed her girlfriend soundly on the lips. The kiss deepened almost immediately, as the two began to let their hands roam freely.

Chapter Text

The following morning, Harry had awoken and stretched, realizing that she still had plenty of time before the Tiresian Tonic would wear off—in fact, it amounted to nearly a full day of use left in it.

Deciding that the matter of the golden egg was firmly a “December 27” problem, Harry had decided to simply lay off for a day.

After lying in bed for a while, Hermione finally woke up, stretching happily and running her hands down Harry’s stomach.

“Good morning, love,” Hermione said in a low voice, holding Harry tighter. “Did you have as much fun as I did last night?”

“Of course,” Harry said, smiling at her girlfriend. “I was with you; how could it have been a bad night?”

Hermione kissed Harry on the lips and rolled out of bed and headed to the bathroom to freshen up, while Harry pulled herself out of bed, and decided to forego a bath this early in the morning. She really wanted something to eat.

She put on some of her more unisex-leaning clothing, taking some efforts to hide her currently-female form, but she wasn’t particularly worried  about it.

She knew that using the tonic would be harder and harder to hide as time went on, but with her voice only barely starting to crack and her being one of the shortest in fourth year, she figured she could get away with it today.

Besides, even if someone noticed—well, whatever. No skin off her nose.

After Hermione had gotten out of the shower and dressed to her satisfaction, they’d set off to the Great Hall.

“Your hair’s back to normal,” Harry observed as they walked together, and Hermione smiled some.

“I used too much of that Sleekeazy stuff,” Hermione said truthfully, shrugging. “It’s too much of a hassle to do on a daily basis.”

“I understand, I like your hair this way anyway,” Harry said, kissing her girlfriend on the cheek. For Harry, it was a bit of a pleasure to know that she and her girlfriend were nearly the exact same size and build. Harry might’ve had a bit more muscle given her active lifestyle, but it would make their lives so much easier later on when they could just... share clothing and the like.

Slow down there, Potter, her brain reprimanded her. Putting the cart before the bleedin’ horse, are we?

Harry dismissed the intrusive thoughts and went to enjoy breakfast regardless.

She noticed that the rigorous “House system” had been broken down for at least the holiday. The Weasleys left at Hogwarts were seated together, and Harry noticed that Draco, Pansy and Neville were seated there as well. Harry plopped down next to George Weasley, with Hermione seated to her left.

“Good morning,” Harry chirped.

“Hey, Harry,” George said. “How’re you doing this morning?”

“I had an amazing night last night,” She said, grinning ear to ear. “I imagine most of you did, am I right?”

Ron ducked as she blushed profusely, and George gave her a knowing look. Draco, on the other hand, was grinning.

“Did you and Granger finally... you know?” Draco asked.

“Yeah,” Harry said, grasping Hermione’s hand and looking into her eyes lovingly. “We were ready finally,”

“Well, congratulations, you two,” Draco said with a nod, smirking. “About time, really.”

“Hermione and I were perfectly content to wait as long as it took for us to be comfortable with it,” Harry said, shrugging. “I mean, we’re only fourteen, you know? Or well, I’m only fourteen. Hermione’s fifteen, but you know, semantics.”

Hermione giggled, and nudged Harry, who stuck out her tongue.

After a nice breakfast, their large party walked down to the Black Lake to enjoy the brief sunshine and the warmer air than the previous night. Ginny had accompanied them, wanting to spend as much time as possible with her two semi-sisters until the Tiresian Tonic wore off.

“Have you been working on that golden egg, Harry?” Hermione asked as they sat underneath one of the large trees by the shoreline. “You’ve only got until the end of February to solve it.”

“I’ve been working on it, actually. I just set it aside for a few days,” Harry said, running a hand through her hair. “It opens when submerged under a body of water, and shrieks when you take it back out while its open. I was doing research into aquatic species to maybe see if there’s some correlation there, but I was thinking about it—maybe the shrieking has more to do with the open air, rather than anything else?”

“It’s possible,” Hermione said, nodding. “And worth a look. I could do some searching in the library if you’d like?”

“Only if you want to, Hermione. I’m a Champion and have to figure this out. You’re not under an obligation if you’d rather do something for yourself,” Harry said fondly, hugging her.

“I insist,” Hermione said, smiling and kissing Harry’s cheek. “Two heads are better than one, you know.”

“I know,” Harry said, shaking her head. “I just can’t wait until all this nonsense is over and I can go back to living normally.”

“I totally understand,” Hermione said, scrunching her nose in annoyance as she thought about the Triwizard Tournament again.

...

Sinking into the tub as the hours before her body would inevitably turn back to its original form, she sighed theatrically and picked up the large egg and dropped it into the tub. Once it had opened, she stared at it briefly before holding her breath and submerging herself in the water. Suddenly, she could hear voices.

An angelic choir softly sang to her.

Come seek us where our voices sound,

We cannot sing above the ground-

Harry had to surface for air, taking large gasps as she got the hair out of her eyes. Okay—so that was useless. She now knew the only way to hear the hint was to be submerged in the water.

Harry reached for her wand sitting on the table next to the bathtub and transfigured the bar of soap on the tray in front of her into a snorkel and placed it over her mouth. Plunging her head underneath once again, she found she could still breathe, and still hear the choir.

-and while you’re searching ponder this:

We’ve taken what you’ll sorely miss

An hour long you’ll have to look,

An hour to recover what we took,

But past an hour; the prospect’s black,

Too late, it’s gone, it won’t come back.

The egg then went dormant, but didn’t close. Harry ruminated on what it had said, before surfacing and turning the snorkel back to soap. She continued to think. The second task was clearly going to be some kind of scavenger hunt. Given the trouble she had to go through to get much of anything, she guessed it was... probably aquatic based, more or less.

An hour long you’ll have to look, an hour to recover what we took—so she would have one hour to search and recover something that was important to her? What was the most important to her? Would they be limiting the search to simple inanimate objects or would the objects of affections be an important concept?

Harry felt the welling of a panic attack at the idea of someone kidnapping Hermione, but controlled herself before it could roll out of control. Perhaps she was wrong. Perhaps it was just... who knows.

Harry grimaced and climbed out of the tub, wrapping a towel around her chest and reaching into the tub to close the egg back up. She carried back with her into the bedroom and she placed it on top of the dresser after wiping the water off of it.

Hermione looked at her expectantly. “Well?”

“The task... I’ll have to search for something very important to me in a body of water, I’m going to guess the lake outside. I’ll have an hour.”

“Something very important to you? Like what?”

“A broomstick, perhaps? I think it might be… people. That’s just the sort of demented shite I could expect from the Ministry for Magic.”

Hermione tensed visibly. “You mean me?”

“You’re the most important person in my life, Hermione. My mothers are a close second but I doubt they’d kidnap Hogwarts staff members and subject them to it, particularly the Deputy Headmistress of all people,” Harry said, shrugging.

“Fair point,” Hermione said. “Well this is pants.”

“I’m hoping it isn’t you, of course, but... you know what I mean, right?” Harry asked, looking unsure.

“I do,” Hermione affirmed, frowning deeply. “I suppose we’ll know in February, then.”

“The question now is—how the bloody hell am I supposed to breathe? I mean, I suppose there’s always the Bubble-Head Charm, but there’s got to be other options. Transfiguration? Probably too risky to do without impeding myself in the process—I might ask Neville about if there’s anything in Herbology that might help. He’d probably know,”

“It’s worth a shot,” Hermione said with a nod. “We’ll focus on that until the day of the Task, and hopefully we can get you ready. You’re not going to be allowed anything other than a wand, are you?”

Harry nodded, and Hermione looked annoyed. “A Bubble-Head charm and a lot of vigilance might be your best ticket, Harry.”

“Perhaps,” Harry said, looking thoroughly displeased at such a limited range of options.

Winter continued to fly by even further. A new year had been rung in and celebrated by Harry and her friends, but her focus remained resolutely on the coming of the Second Task. She had taken to practicing a litany of spells (some successful and some not)—and had come to figure out what would be her best bet to surviving the whole lake debacle.

She had briefly thought about using Gillyweed, but after talking with Neville about it, had come to the realization that there were too many unknown factors involved, and that she would be taking a big risk if it wasn’t fresh enough and failed to hold for the full hour.

The evening before the task itself, Harry had been enjoying a nice dinner with her friends, when she felt the looming presence of a Potions professor behind her. Craning her head, she blinked at Snape’s rather sour-looking expression.

“Miss Granger,” Snape said, glancing down at Harry’s girlfriend. “I require your presence in my office at once,”

Hermione stood up. “Yes, sir,” She said, before placing a hand on Harry’s shoulder.

“I’ll be back tonight, Harry. Alright?” She said with a smile, gently running her hand down Harry’s cheek. Harry, however, only frowned at her retreating form, doubly so when she noticed Marietta Edgecombe and Hannah Abbott being led out of the Great Hall by their respective heads of house.

Once she’d returned to the Common Room, she pulled Crookshanks into her lap and quietly, and anxiously waited as patiently as she could for her girlfriend to return. One hour turned into two, which turned into many, and Harry was beginning to feel the pooling anxiety in her stomach, along with irritation and a prickling sickness. Had she been right on the nose in her first guess? Were they taking Hermione away from her for the task?

She didn’t get an iota of sleep that night. Every time she’d tried to lay down, she’d been plagued with anxiety and the very noticeable lack of Hermione sleeping next to her. Just after midnight, she gave up trying to sleep, and made her way up to the Astronomy Tour, where she sat and watched the stars, wrapped her invisibility cloak until the sun began to rise over the foggy horizons. She knew she’d pay for it later for not sleeping, but she was worried beyond belief.

She had been the first one down to the Lake that morning, and had quickly changed into the provided wetsuit. It was decorated in Slytherin green, fitting the specific colours given to each of the other champions—Krum was in Durmstrang maroon, Fleur was in Beauxbatons eggshell blue, and Cho was in Ravenclaw azure. It was amusing to her that such painful attention had been taken to so specific of a thing like swimsuits. She wondered, if she hadn’t been drawn from the Goblet, would Cho have been wearing all four colours of Hogwarts?

The image of Cho swimming in the lake wearing red, blue, green and yellow made her stifle a laugh as she stoically waited for the Event to begin.

When the time had finally come, Harry knew the water was going to be absolutely frigid, and clutched her wand tightly in her hand. She had been practicing warming charms and the like for weeks, including all night last night. It would probably strain her magic to keep both running at the same time, but she felt confident enough that she could get away with it.

Bagman had given some blustery words on behalf of the judges about good luck, and a few other things, soliciting rumblings and cheers from the crowd on behalf of their favourite competitors. Harry glanced at her competitors for a moment before staring dead ahead at the inky black waters of the lake in front of her. She was going to rescue her Hermione, and there was nary a force in Hell nor on Earth that would stop her!

When the whistle trilled, Harry didn’t jump in right away. She delayed herself a moment by waving her wand and applying the warming and bubblehead charms. Immediately afterwards, she dived into the water. It was still cold, but far more survivable than it otherwise would have been. As well, being able to breathe was a nice bonus as well.

The first thing she dealt with were a swarm of Grindylows. She didn’t like the bastards. The little aquatic demon spawn had tried to overwhelm her, but Harry had let off a litany of cutting curses, either slashing the little demons or forcing them to retreat. After managing to quickly dispatch the attack, Harry navigated the murky waters in search of her girlfriend.

As she approached some rocky outcroppings, she began to hear the siren’s song of merpeople in the distance.

“Hmpf,” Harry frowned, as she continued to move towards them. Over the outcroppings and down into a small valley, she saw a large village standing, only barely lit by the sun distant above the surface of the water. Dozens of merpeople were crowded around four distant figures, floating helplessly in the water.

The merpeople stared at her as she neared the village, and she gave a little involuntary shiver. They had sludgy grey skin, yellow eyes, and sharp, almost visceral teeth. Their stare was so unnerving.

Harry, gripped with growing panic and desperation to save Hermione, moved quickly to close the distance between herself and her girlfriend. As she arrived, she realized Hermione was bound to a large statue of a merman with thick ropes.

Pulling her wand out, she swiped it ferociously at the binds.

“Diffindo!” Harry commanded, her wand flaring but then quickly sputtering out. Her eyes widened in shock, before anger clouded her face.

“You bloody... useless... fucking wand!” Harry spat in anger. She began to slash at the binds angrily with her wand. “DIFFINDO! DIFFINDO! DIFFINDO! DIFFINDO!

Her face was turning redder by the moment, before she realized that her furor and anger was going nowhere—her wand insisted on remaining totally inert.

Looking around for an alternative solution, she spied some rocks sitting nearby, ones that looked quite sharp. Picking up one off the seafloor, she swam back over to Hermione’s binds and began to slash at them. After some hacking, she was eventually able to free Hermione. Slipping her girlfriend into a position she could pull her towards the shore while keeping her wand hand free, Harry set off immediately back towards where she’d come from.

However, the swarm of grindylows returned with a vengeance, and Harry’s anger, already ready to reach fever pitch, was leaving her not feeling particularly merciful. Snarling, Harry decided to cut loose. Gripping her wand and aiming it directly at the coming horde of grindylows, she grit her teeth and shouted as loud as she could.

“BOMBARDA MAXIMA!”

Her wand at last complied with her, even if only somewhat reluctantly, as the area in front of her exploded. She could tell that the crowds on the surface would have witnessed a tremendous geyser shoot out of the water. With the grindylows now no-longer in existence, Harry began to pull Hermione away and towards the shore at a more expedient pace.

Already, she was beginning to feel the onset of cramping in her legs and arms that accompanied magical exhaustion, and the throbbing pain in her left arm was informing her that she may have broken her arm from the sheer percussive backfire of the explosion.

Managing to reach the surface with Hermione clutched in her arms, the adrenaline in her body allowing her to ignore the shooting pains in her arms, she was able to take a few steps, looking out at the crowd and judges, before she summarily collapsed, and passed out.

...

When Harry awoke again, it was dark out, and she recognized that she had once again landed in hospital. She’d done pretty well with staying away from this place, but here she was—with an injury, again.

The second thing that hit her was the pain radiating from every part of her body. She let out a wheeze and clamped her eyes shut trying to not focus on the pain. It hurt so badly.

Her limbs felt like they were made of lead, her chest hurt, and her head felt like someone had just split it open with a pickaxe. Barely able to keep her eyes open, she quickly fell back asleep.

When she opened her eyes again, she noticed a lot of people standing around her. Once she had her glasses back, she realized it was Dumbledore, Snape, Madame Pomfrey, her mother, and Hermione. She blinked away the pain pooling behind her eyes and gave everyone a wan smile.

“Hullo,” She said. “Erm, good morning?”

“Harry!” Hermione said, hugging her but not squeezing too much. “We’ve been so worried; you’ve been out cold for three days!”

“Three days?” Harry said, looking stunned. That would explain why her mouth felt like she’d stuffed it with cotton.

“Madame Pomfrey says you hit critical magical exhaustion. What happened down there in the Lake?” Dumbledore asked, looking at her carefully.

“Grindylows tried to swarm me and Hermione,” Harry said simply. “I used a Bombarda Maxima on them and... my wand worked a little too well. It’s being funny right now.”

Dumbledore nodded, and stroked his beard. “Well, as long as you’re alright. That’s what truly matters—you took first place in the Task. Mister Krum came in second, Miss Chang in third, and Miss Delacour failed to finish.”

“She failed to finish? What happened to her sister?”

“We retrieved them both from the Lake and they’re doing just fine. They were here with you for a day before they were discharged by Madame Pomfrey.”

“Well... that’s good,” Harry said. “I’m still not happy they used human hostages for the task. I would like to question the wisdom of who decided that was an acceptable thing to do, but I won’t,”

“I assure you, Harry, I vehemently disagreed with them the entire time they planned this little charade. I would never intentionally put any student here in harm’s way if I could help it. All the students here are under my care, and I want to see them survive to finish Hogwarts, regardless of circumstance,” Dumbledore said, looking quite serious and grave.

“I know you wouldn’t put anybody in harm’s way intentionally, Professor. I’m just... bothered by it, is all,” Harry said, frowning. “It’s just... wrong, what they did.”

“I agree fully,” Hermione said. “I was downright terrified when Professor Snape told me what they were doing. I could have refused, but... I knew you’d be there for me Harry; I didn’t worry about it one bit. Honestly, you gave me a bit of a scare once they’d revived me and told me you’d passed out. I thought you’d died or something!”

“You’re too nice, love,” Harry said, gently taking Hermione’s hand in hers. “I love you.”

“Love you too,” Hermione said, kissing her forehead.

“Get some rest, Harry,” Dumbledore said. “You deserve it.”

...

Harry focused her efforts in the ensuing weeks on getting her DADA practicals up to snuff for her eventual OWL exam. She felt genuinely confident that she would be able to take care of pretty much anything thrown her way.

That was, until the hate mail started rolling in. Apparently, Crouch Jr. had to go on personal leave for a week due to the circumstances surrounding his father’s incarceration at Azkaban, and they had appointed some woman to fill in the gaps. It hadn’t been very long before she’d written this tremendous expose on Harry Potter’s personal love life, feeling that Barty, while reporting the events fairly and concisely, had left out the ‘human factor’.

The amount of hate mail that showed up at Hermione’s breakfast plate had made Harry upset. The fact she’d started getting howlers and jinxed letters had made Harry incandescent.

Ultimately, what had saved Harry’s rashers, and metaphorically, her sanity, was Draco Malfoy threatening the young woman on the Friday before she departed back to the Daily Prophet that if any further damaging information was published about Harry or Hermione, she’d be hearing from the Black family solicitor and then she’d have a real problem on her hands.

Harry found out that, yes, Sirius had indeed threatened to sue the Daily Prophet for damages if they continued to publish libellous information about Harry and Hermione’s relationship. It had been a very fussy week, at that point.

When Easter had come around, things had finally settled back to some modicum of normalcy. Harry still frequently got letters from her various extended family members: that being Sirius and Narcissa, really.

Narcissa was always in the mood to discuss her new abodes. In the reorganization of the Malfoy family following it’s effective dissolution (Draco had to sign some documents, she wrote, but she wanted to have a long discussion with him about it beforehand, so she was postponing it until summer; so she was merely Regent of the Family at the moment), she had abandoned the Malfoy Manor, leaving it utterly derelict, and had sold most of the family’s properties, except for the al-Mariyah estate, and had used the funds to purchase an old abandoned castle in Cambridge which she was renovating into her new permanent home.

She also described that she was staying, for now, with Andromeda, Ted and Nymphadora Tonks, who were apparently Harry’s cousins through some convoluted blood relationship. Her eyes sort of swam whenever it was explained to her, so she’d long since given up trying.

Sirius had talked about his getting accustomed to being a free man, and working tirelessly with the counselors and how he’d been so very sorry he’d missed all her tasks up to that point, but that he’d be at the very least present during the third task, so she’d need not worry about that. He’d described what it was like staying along the Tiber river, and that Rome had always captured his fancy as a boy.

As the months slowly waned, and the Third Task grew ever closer, Harry was summoned one muggy afternoon in the last week of May, held back by her mother at the end of Transfiguration.

“You are to go down to the Quidditch pitch tonight at nine o’clock,” Her mother said, looking at her properly. “Some nonsense about Ludo Bagman telling you what the third task will be.”

“Oh, joy,” Harry said, rubbing her eyes in annoyance.

At half-past eight, she’d left the Slytherin common room (albeit reluctantly), and had gone up to the Entrance Hall. Cho smiled at her as they walked down to the pitch together.

“What do you think it’s going to be?” Cho asked quietly. “I’ve heard it’s supposed to be some sort of underground challenge.”

“I wouldn’t know, but that doesn’t sound too bad,” Harry said, thinking about the Nifflers that Hagrid had taken them through in Care of Magical Creatures. She could always ask to borrow one of them buggers.

As they approached the Quidditch pitch, both Seekers gaped at what had been done.

“What’d they do the Quidditch pitch!” Cho shouted, looking horrified. “They’ve ruined it!”

“Are these… hedges?” Harry murmured, running her hand on the top of the stocky bushes.

“Hello there!” A voice said, and the two turned to see Ludo Bagman standing in the middle of the pitch with Krum and Fleur. The two Hogwarts champions made their way over, climbing over the hedges.

“What do you think?” Bagman asked happily. “Growing nicely, aren’t they? Give them a month, and Hagrid says they’ll be twenty-feet high!”

He looked at Harry and Cho, and their less than amused expressions. “Don’t worry, you two. You’ll have your Quidditch pitch back to normal before you know it. As soon as the task is done, we’ll clear all this out of here. Now, I imagine you can guess what we’re making here?”

Everyone just sort of fixed him with a half-lidded stare.

“Of course, a maze,” Bagman said. “A maze—the third task’s centered around that, you see. The Triwizard Cup will be placed in the centre of the maze; all you have to do is reach the end first. The champion who does it first gets full marks.”

“We simply have to get through a maze?” Fleur asked, looking incredulous.

“Well, there’ll be obstacles, of course,” Bagman said, happily. “Hagrid’s providing a whole number of creatures, there’ll be spells that require some breaking, all sorts of things like that. The Champion leading in points,” He nodded to Harry. “Will get to go first, followed by everyone else in sequential order.”

Harry was aware just how dangerous it would be, given that Hagrid would be the one providing creatures for it. She thought this was going to be a right pain in her neck and wished she could’ve just never gotten involved in this utter trite of a tournament to start with.

Harry made her way back up to the Castle without any sort of side-tracking. She just really didn’t want to be out and about, particularly with how rotten this year had gone for her. She was much happier by the fire, or in bed, with her girlfriend curled up with her. That was all she wanted and fuck this stupid tournament so much

She sighed. It had to get better, right?

...

In the weeks before the Third Task, Harry found herself once again locked in ‘philosophical back-and-forth’ with Dumbledore. The older man had deemed it time for her to open her eyes to more pressing matters relating to the Death Eaters, and the circumstances around the fateful Halloween that had left her orphaned, and the subsequent aftermath after she’d been taken to Number Four Privet Drive.

To that end, he had conjured up his pensieve—the very same device he and Harry had used in second year to review the memories of Dumbledore’s conversation with Armando Dippett after the death of Moaning Myrtle. Instead, Dumbledore conjured up a new memory from his collection, and sighed.

“Harry, these are a compilation of memories I thought you should see, to gain a better understanding of what circumstances took place after Voldemort’s fall,” Dumbledore said simply, before beckoning Harry to dip her head into the Pensive.

She found herself falling through the darkness before landing roughly on a bench, sandwiched between two versions of Dumbledore—the one she had just been speaking to, and one that looked close to a decade younger. It didn’t make a massive difference, though. Harry noted that this had to have taken place in the early 80s, when she was just a baby. It was no surprise to her that Dumbledore didn’t change much after the war.

“Take in your environment, Harry,” The modern Dumbledore murmured in her ear. Harry glanced around the room taking in the details. It was clearly subterranean, more of a dungeon than a proper room, only lit by some poorly designed torches, casting dim orange light around the room. No decorations adorned the walls, no windows either, simply rows upon rows of rising benches, all positioned they had a clear view of that chair with the chains on its arms.

Before Harry could really dwell much on the room itself, the double-doors at the far corner of it opened, and one man entered, accompanied by two Dementors. She fought back a grimace at the sight of them.

She had… effectively rendered the Dementors extinct. Certainly, they could come back—they were non-corporeal entities, but she’d damaged their numbers too severely for them to pose much of a threat. The man in between the two hooded creatures looked pale and was shaking violently, no doubt due to the sheer proximity involved.

It wasn’t until the man was properly shackled to the chair that Harry realized she was staring down at Igor Karkaroff. Unlike Dumbledore, Karkaroff looked much younger than he did now—his hair and goatee were jet black, though he lacked the fine furs he wore as Headmaster of Durmstrang, instead an Azkaban tunic and robes, thin and worn.

“Igor Karkaroff,” said a curt voice to Harry’s left, and she craned to look at the source. She only barely recognized the man as Bartemius Crouch, Sr.—she’d read in the papers that he’d been arrested and charged with a litany of crimes, and subsequently sentenced to Azkaban himself. The public odds on him surviving very long had been low.

The man was responsible for putting most of the people in the cells around him in Azkaban, after all.

“You have been brought from Azkaban to give evidence to the Ministry for Magic. You have given us to understand that you could have important information for us,” He finished, narrowing his eyes.

“I have, sir,” Karkaroff wheezed, voice dripping with terror. “I wish to be of use to the Ministry. I wish… to help. I—I know the Ministry is trying to round up the last of the Death Eaters, I am, uh, eager, to help in any way I can!”

Murmuring broke out among the benches.

“Filth,” the familiar voice of Mad-Eye Moody said, and Harry turned to see a much younger Moody sitting one row above the past version of Dumbledore. He still had both of his natural eyes—he’d not gotten his magical one yet, but he did have a chunk of his nose missing. Both of his eyes were fixated on Karkaroff, narrowed in intense hatred.

“Crouch is going to let him out,” Moody said in a low voice. “He’s made a deal. If he’s got enough names, he’ll walk free—I say let the bastard give us the names, then throw him to the Dementors.”

Past Dumbledore made a dissenting noise with his nose, looking at Moody disapprovingly.

“Ah, that’s right—you don’t like them buggers, do you?” Moody asked, eyebrow raised.

“No,” Dumbledore said irritably. “I’ve never liked the Ministry allying itself with those creatures.”

“I still don’t,” Modern Dumbledore interjected, with a shake of his head. “I have you to thank for finally ending such a sordid unholy alliance. It took some doing, but the Minister seemed to agree that the Dementors weren’t doing a very good job as prison guards, or in defending Hogwarts.”

“You say you have names for us, Karkaroff,” Crouch said suddenly, interrupting the quiet conversation in the galley. “Let us hear them, please,”

Harry rolled her eyes as Karkaroff continued to grovel and plea, and she could tell Barty Crouch was getting more and more annoyed at the delay in Karkaroff’s testimony, before slamming his gavel down.

“The names, Mr. Karkaroff. The names!” He said sternly.

“There was… ah, Antonin Dolohov,” Karkaroff said. “I—I saw him torture countless Muggles, and non-supporters of the Dark Lord.”

“We have already apprehended Dolohov,” Crouch said. “He was caught shortly after you were.”

“Indeed?” Karkaroff said, eyes widened. “Good!”

Harry doubted he thought it was good, given the way his eyes had widened and his breathing had hitched.

“Any others?” Crouch added, glaring at the man.

“Yes, uh, Rosier. Evan Rosier,” Karkaroff said hurriedly.

“Rosier is dead,” Crouch responded immediately. “He was found just after you were, he preferred to go down fighting rather than coming quietly, and was killed in the struggle,”

“Took bits of me with him,” Moody said, growling. Harry had always wondered where part of Moody’s nose had gone, that was… interesting to learn.

“Have you any more names, Mister Karkaroff?” Crouch said boredly. “Or are we done with this charade?”

“Yes! I have more!” Karkaroff pleaded. “Travers! He helped murder the McKinnons! Mulciber—he specialized in the Imperius Curse, forced countless people to do horrific things! Rookwood, he was a spy! Yes, Rookwood passed information to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named from within the Ministry itself!”

There was murmuring all around the room and Harry got the general impression that Karkaroff had hit the right nerve.

“Rookwood?” Crouch said, stroking his chin. “Augustus Rookwood of the Department of Mysteries?”

“The very same!” Karkaroff said, eagerly. “I believe he used a network of well-placed people within the Ministry and without to collect information!”

Crouch nodded, before shaking his head. “We’ve got Travers and Mulciber. If this is all, Karkaroff, you will be returned to Azkaban while we deliberate—”

“No!” Karkaroff cried. “Wait, I have more! I have more!”

Harry could tell, just barely, that Karkaroff was dripping sweat by the bucket load, his pale, pallid skin contrasting with the sharp black hair he had.

“Snape!” Karkaroff said panicking. “Severus Snape! He was a Death Eater!”

“Snape has been cleared by this council,” Crouch said suddenly. “He has been vouched for by Albus Dumbledore,”

“No!” Karkaroff shouted, straining at the bonds keeping him bound down. “I assure you, Severus Snape is a loyal Death Eater!”

“I have given evidence on this already,” The Dumbledore from the memory said, standing up to his full height. “Severus Snape was indeed a Death Eater, however. However, he re-joined our side before Lord Voldemort’s downfall and turned spy for us, at great personal risk. He is now no more a Death Eater than I am.”

Harry raised her eyebrow and gave Dumbledore a look. “Rather… strong declaration of loyalty, isn’t it?”

“I felt it a necessity,” Dumbledore said sagely.

Suddenly, the memory began to fade, before it popped back into existence. This time, Harry and Dumbledore were seated in a different seat, still on the highest bench, but now to the left-side of the elder Crouch. The atmosphere here was... palpably different. It seemed almost like a sporting event, with the low murmur and the cheerful attitudes across the crowd.

She briefly noticed a blonde witch in the galley opposite herself, wearing magenta robes and sucking on the end of an acid-green quill. Harry had seen a photograph of her in the news when they’d found her body. It was a young version of the late Rita Skeeter. Harry glanced around for more familiar faces—she noted the past version of Dumbledore was wearing a different set of robes, the elder Crouch was more tired and gaunt looking.

Harry wondered how long after the first memory this one took place.

The door in the corner opened, and Harry blinked in shock as Ludo Bagman entered the room. This was... clearly not the same Ludo Bagman she’d had the misfortune of interacting with, this was a much more fit version of him. His nose wasn’t broken, he had muscles and looked like the Quidditch athlete he’d been before he’d gone to seed.

He looked nervous as he sat down in the chained chair, and smiled as it didn’t bind him down, waving at the crowd which murmured in admiration.

“Ludo Bagman, you have been brought here in front of the Council of Magical Law to answer charges relating to the activities of the Death Eaters,” Crouch began, irritated. “We have heard evidence against you, and are about to reach our verdict. Do you have anything to add to your testimony before we pronounce judgement?”

Harry blinked in surprise. Bagman? A Death Eater? What a laughable concept...

“Only,” Bagman said, smiling awkwardly. “Well, I know I’ve been a bit of an idiot...”

Harry noticed a couple wix in the surrounding seats smiled indulgently, but this didn’t come anywhere close to the indignation she saw in Crouch’s face.

“Ludovic Bagman, you were caught passing information to Lord Voldemort’s supporters,” Crouch said, voice in a low growl. “For this, I suggest a term of imprisonment in Azkaban lasting no less than—”

An angry uproar from the galleys drowned out Crouch’s recommended sentencing. People were clearly displeased in the idea of sentencing a hero of British Quidditch to a prison sentence even if he had been somewhat involved in the Dark Lord’s reign of terror.

“I’ve told you, I had no idea!” Bagman called earnestly over the din, his round blue eyes widening in horror. “None at all! Old Rookwood was a friend of my dad’s... It never crossed my mind that he was in with You-Know-Who! I thought he was collecting information for our side, you know. And he kept talking to me about getting me a job in the Ministry later on, you know, once my Quidditch days are over. I can’t keep getting hit by Bludgers the rest of my life!”

There were titters of mirth from the crowd at that last comment.

“It will be put to the vote,” Crouch demurred. “The jury will please raise their hands... those in favour of imprisonment?”

Harry noted that not a single soul raised their hand against Bagman, and snorted in amusement. Even when dealing with people accused, and straight up admitting to aiding terrorist groups, popularity in the eyes of the public were the key to avoiding getting slapped with a prison sentence.

One of the witches in the jury stood up.

“Yes?” Crouch barked, glaring at the woman.

“We would just like to congratulate Mr. Bagman on his splendid performance for England in the Quidditch match against Ephesus last Saturday,” the witch said, breathlessly. The look on Mr. Crouch made Harry start laughing, as the crowd rung with applause and approval at Bagman’s performance in Quidditch.

After she stopped laughing, Harry fixed Dumbledore with a serious look. “People don’t take these sorts of things very seriously, do they?”

“It can depend entirely on the circumstances. Nobody wanted to convict a man like Ludo, given his popularity. It was far easier to send others to rot in prison instead.”

The dungeon dissolved once more, before being replaced by a much more sombre one. The mirth from the last memory was gone, now replaced by a cold, unyielding silence. The only break in the atmosphere was the sobbing of a frail, wispy-looking witch sitting next to the elder Crouch. She was clutching a handkerchief to her mouth and trembling violently. Glancing over at the elder Crouch, she noted that he was even more gaunt and pale, twitching all the while.

“Bring them in,” He said, stone-faced.

The door in the corner opened yet again, Six Dementors came in this time, accompanied by a group of four people. Harry’s eyes widened in recollection as she noticed one of the men in the group. It was... the reporter! Bartemius Crouch... Jr. The old man’s son.

Oh no.

She also recognized Cousin Narcissa’s insane sister, Bellatrix Lestrange—not just from the family resemblance but also from the wanted posters she’d seen since her escape from Azkaban. She assumed the other two men were fellows of hers, maybe husbands or lovers.

Crouch stood up, and Harry noted the twisted, unyielding face of pure hatred on his face.

“You have been brought here before the Council of Magical Law,” He pronounced clearly and loudly. “So that we may pass judgement on you for a crime so heinous...

“Father,” Barty Jr. croaked, looking pleadingly at his father. “Father, please.”

“...that we have rarely heard the like of it within this court,” Crouch said angrily, drowning out his son’s pleas. “We have heard the evidence against you. The four of you stand accused of capturing an Auror—Frank Longbottom, and subjecting him to the Cruciatus curse, believing him to have knowledge of the present whereabouts of your exiled master, He Who Must Not Be Named—”

“Father! I didn’t,” Crouch Jr. pleaded. “I didn’t, I swear it! Father! Don’t send me back to the Dementors...”

“You are further accused,” Mr. Crouch bellowed. “of using the Cruciatus Curse on Frank Longbottom’s wife, Alice, when he would no longer give you information. You planned to restore He Who Must Not Be Named to power, and to resume the lives of violence you presumably led while he was strong. I now ask the jury—”

Barty Jr. devolved into babbling cries of mercy and pleas of innocence, joined by the cacophony of his mother, presumably the witch by Crouch Sr.’s side, breaking down into sobs.

“I now ask the Jury,” Mr. Crouch shouted, “to raise their hands if they believe as I do, that their crimes deserve a life sentence in Azkaban.”

It was unanimous, Harry noted, and Barty’s pleas fell on deaf ears as he was dragged from the courtroom by the Dementors. Bellatrix Lestrange, however, stopped before she left and looked at Crouch through her demented, half-lidded eyes.

“The Dark Lord will rise again, Crouch! Throw us into Azkaban, we’ll wait! He will rise again and reward his faithful with the heads of our enemies!” She cackled.

Dumbledore sighed and placed his hand on Harry’s elbow, and they surged from the memory, landing back in Dumbledore’s office in present day.

“I don’t get it—if Barty Crouch Jr. was convicted of torturing Neville’s parents, then why is he walking free and considered some kind of hero?” Harry asked, looking confused.

“The court of public opinion, my dear girl,” Dumbledore said with a sigh, sitting at his desk and looking agitated. “The fact that Crouch Sr. broke his son out of Azkaban, condemning his wife to certain death, and used an unforgivable to keep him imprisoned underneath his house was more than enough to convince the public to put Crouch Sr. in jail, and once that happened... the debacle over Sirius’s imprisonment allowed for people to begin to remember that Barty had professed his innocence so strongly, and that Crouch Sr. had railroaded him in the process.”

“Good lord,” Harry said, rubbing her eyes. “What do you think about him, Professor?”

“I would say to be incredibly careful, Harry,” Dumbledore said firmly. “My trust is very hard to earn; the only reason Severus has kept it as long as he has is because everything he has done has been to the benefit of our efforts against Voldemort. I cannot say the same for Karkaroff, particularly after his attempts to broach the subject with Severus; and nor can I say the same about Barty Jr.”

Dumbledore folded his arms and looked weary. “I suspect Voldemort is growing in power, given the sort of things I’ve learned from Severus... I must once again urge you to be incredibly careful,” He said.

“I will, sir,” Harry said quietly.

Chapter Text

Harry had kept what she’d discovered during the conversation with Dumbledore, and their journey to the Pensieve to herself. As it was, during the days leading up to the tournament’s Third Task, she was largely left to her own devices as her friends and girlfriend were preoccupied with preparing for their finals, which she had been exempted from.

Hermione had tried to help her as much as possible, teaching her the Four-Point Spell that she’d picked up from a book, but otherwise hadn’t been able to do much that Harry hadn’t already known from her tutoring sessions and self-practices.

On the morning of the task, Harry was eating breakfast in the Great Hall, trying to eat light as so not to disturb her stomach (she swore, she had the stomach of a person thrice her age given how sensitive it was all the bleeding time), when Snape had descended upon her from the Staff Table.

“Mister Potter. You will report to the chamber off the Hall as soon as you’re done with breakfast,” He said.

Harry nearly choked and swallowed a painful bite of egg. “I thought the task wasn’t until tonight?”

“It isn’t until tonight, but there’s some... little ceremony where the champion’s families are invited to watch the final task. It’s rather pointless for you, given your mothers, but you are still required to attend anyway,” Snape said dryly.

“Right, I see,” Harry said, raising her eyebrow. “Thank you, sir,”

She finished her breakfast in the emptying Great Hall. Fleur got up and walked with Cho to the side chamber, and Krum slouched off to join them soon afterwards. Once she’d finished her breakfast, she got up and walked to the side chamber, opening the door.

Cho and her parents were just inside the door, Krum was over in a corner conversing in terse Bulgarian with his dark-haired parents, and Fleur was jabbering away in French with her mother, along with Gabrielle—Fleur’s little sister.

Minerva and Rolanda were seated by the fireplace, looking at the assembled group through half-lidded eyes. Minerva smiled at her daughter as she entered the room and beckoned for her to come over.

I’m sorry for such a pointless display,” Minerva began in Scottish Gaelic, soliciting a stifled laugh from Harry.

It’s quite alright, Mum,” Harry replied. “Fancying not being overheard?

Nobody else here is speaking English, why should we? We’re not English, we’re Scottish.” Minerva said, folding her arms petulantly.

Harry snorted and shook her head.

Harry enjoyed the morning with her mothers, it reminded her of her childhood, spending some of the off-periods walking the grounds, feeling free as a bird.

I’m sorry I haven’t been able to be here for most of your conquests, my dear,” Rolanda said quietly. “With the Quidditch season cancelled and my mother...

"I understand, Lala. It’s been rough for you dealing with that," Harry said, resting a gentle hand on his other mother’s arm.

Rolanda wrapped Harry in a tight hug, and Harry smiled brightly.

When they returned to the castle for lunch, Minerva and Rolanda had unnerved many Slytherins around them by sitting with Harry as they ate.

“Bleeding weird,” Draco had said. “The Head of Gryffindor House is sitting next to us.”

“I’ve found, Mister Malfoy, that over the last few terms, the historical rivalry between our houses has begun an inexorable decline, and I suppose we have nobody but Harry to thank for that,”

Draco bobbed his head, glancing behind his shoulder at Ron, who gave him a wink.

The afternoon had been spent in much the same way, but with Harry, Minerva and Rolanda having a deep conversation about what she’d discovered with Dumbledore, and her continued feeling of anxiety over... all sorts of things. As the evening approached, Harry’s nerves were shot. Once the sky had turned a dusky purple, Dumbledore rose and tapped his goblet.

“Ladies, gentlemen, esteemed guests—in five minutes’ time, I will be asking you to make your way down to the Quidditch pitch for the third, and final task of the Triwizard Tournament. Will the champions all please follow Mr. Bagman down there now?”

Harry stood up, glancing at everyone before her eyes fell upon Hermione. She pulled Hermione to her feet and grasped her shoulders.

“This is it,” Harry said quietly. “Do or die.”

“You’ll be fantastic, love,” Hermione whispered. “I just know it.”

“I love you, so very much,” Harry said, before kissing Hermione deeply.

“I know,” Hermione said, smiling and nudging Harry. “Now go on, kick some arse.”

Harry headed out of the Great Hall, brightly grinning, the three champions in her company. Cho glanced at her and gave her a reassuring pat.

When they arrived at the Quidditch pitch, it had been rendered utterly unrecognizable. There were now twenty-foot high hedges that ran all throughout it, creating an incorrigible maze. The passage beyond the entrance looked down right spooky, and Harry felt a prickling unease at the back of her skull.

Five minutes later, the stands began to fill with people. The champions were approached by Professors Hagrid, Lockhart, McGonagall and Flitwick, all wearing large, red, luminous stars on their hats, except for Hagrid, who had it on his moleskin waistcoat.

“We’ll be patrolling the outside perimeter,” Minerva said. “If you get into difficult, and wish to be rescued, send up red sparks, and one of us will come and get you. Understand?”

Everyone nodded.

“Then take your positions,” Bagman said, gesturing for them to get ready.

Soon, his booming voice filled the arena. “Ladies, gentleman, and esteemed guests. The third and final task is about to begin! Let me remind you how the points currently stand! In first place—Mister Harry Potter, of Hogwarts School! In second place—Mister Viktor Krum of Durmstrang! In third place—Miss Cho Chang, also of Hogwarts School! In fourth place—Miss Fleur Delacour, of Beauxbatons!”

“On my whistle, Harry,” Bagman proclaimed. “Three... two... one,”

As soon as she heard the shrill whistle, Harry burst forward into the maze. Casting a lumos, Harry took a left at the first fork. As she proceeded down this path, her wand lit, she heard the second whistle go off, indicating Krum had entered the maze.

Deciding to get some navigation, Harry cast the Four-Point spell, and quickly discerned her necessary path. The centre of the maze would be northwest of here. As she proceeded down the left fork and then a right pathway, she was beginning to get nervous at the sheer lack of obstacles in her path. Shouldn’t she be running into things like skrewts or something?

As she turned a corner, she came face to face with a tall, broad-chested, very male Harry Potter.

“Freak,” He said in a low baritone.

Harry shrieked loudly and screamed ’RIDDIKULUS’ at it, causing it to disintegrate with a loud bang. She surged past the boggart, only to run into a shimmering golden apparition—clearly some spell of some kind. Harry tried to cast a spell into it, but found it unmoving. Deciding to proceed forward, she quickly found the whole world spun the other way round, her feet dangling towards an unending sky.

“Oh, dear,” She murmured, before attempting to right herself. Immediately, the world righted herself, and she fell to the ground in a lump, groaning as she got up onto her feet again. That was... terrible.

Eventually, Harry began to make her way deeper into the maze, narrowly avoiding a sticky end at the hands of a Skrewt, before she came face to face with Viktor Krum, looking terrifyingly possessed. Harry had just the finest second when she realized Krum was raising his wand at her, and threw up a shield charm. Krum’s intended Cruciatus curse hit her shield, but she’d gotten better at controlling it, and only felt the slightest burn in her arms. Pushing forward, she lashed out a series of hexes and curses at Krum, knocking him out cold.

Sneering at the unconscious Bulgarian, Harry continued moving deeper into the maze, wondering where everybody had gone. She hadn’t noticed any red sparks, but... Krum was the first and only person she’d seen so far.

She came across a sphinx of all things, and had to sit and negotiate over the riddle she gave her. It was quite difficult, but Harry felt she’d gotten it quick enough—a spider, using some convoluted English language puzzle.

Once she’d gotten past the sphinx, she realized she was on the home stretch now, as the Triwizard Cup stood on a gleaming pedestal only a hundred yards away from her. Harry broke into a furious run, and found no competition as she neared the cup. She was... alone. How very strange.

She took a deep breath. Here it was. The Triwizard Cup. She had proven to everyone she wasn’t just some little fourth year brat. She had done it. Would it have been better for her to let someone else win it? Sure, but she... had to show that she knew what she was doing, and prove to everyone she was more than just the legacy of James and Lily Potter. And she thought she had.

Smiling to herself, she grabbed onto the cup, feeling the familiar tug of a portkey in her navel. Her world spun by in a howl of wind and colour, and Harry felt the world slip away in an instant.

...

Harry felt her feet slam into the ground, and the deafening silence made Harry’s smile falter. This wasn’t Hogwarts. Looking up, she glanced around and recognized nothing familiar. There weren’t any mountains on the immediate horizon—they were standing in an overgrown and pitch black graveyard, only the fuzzy outline of a small church was visible to her beyond a large yew tree to her right.

“What the fuck,” Harry said, before the prickling feeling of being watched came over her.

Suddenly, the spasms of a Cruciatus curse hit her square in the back, causing her to fall to the dirt, writhing in pain. Just as the pain receded, it started up again, Harry crying out in agony as she was dragged over to a marble headstone, and she got the smallest glimpse of it before she was pushed upon it facing away from the words.

Tom Riddle.

Harry’s heartbeat quickened as the woman in the hood began to tie her up. She realized exactly who it was under the hood.

“Ah, I was wondering when I’d get to meet you, Cousin Bellatrix,” Harry said murmuring, barely able to speak.

Bellatrix merely sneered at her before going back to what she was doing, assembling a stone cauldron, among other things, while Harry watched the writhing figure in the pile of robes hiss commands at Bellatrix.

Eventually, the water was sparkling and glowing, and Bellatrix’s lips curled in pleasure. “It is ready, my master,” She said, reverence in her voice.

Harry watched as Bellatrix lifted... what looked like a rotten cadaver out of the robes, it was dark, reddish black, and feeble looking, but there was no mistaking those familiar, gleaming red eyes—Lord Voldemort.

“Bone of the father,” Bellatrix began. “Unknowingly given, you will renew your son!”

She cast a bone into the cauldron, given the fact that the grave in front of her had recently been defiled, she assumed it belonged to Tom Riddle’s father. What was it with men with “Junior” in their name having Daddy issues?

“Flesh of the servant,” She said, her eyes gleaming. “Willingly given, you will revive your master,” She said, before severing her own hand, causing it to fall into the boiling cauldron. She then turned her eyes to Harry and approached with the dagger in her hand.

“Blood of the enemy,” Bellatrix said, eyes glittering madly. “Taken forcibly, you will resurrect your foe.”

Harry could do nothing to prevent it, she was tied too tightly, and she’d dropped her wand in the fracas, as Bellatrix sliced open her right arm, taking the blood into a glass vial and taking it over to the cauldron. Pouring it in, it turned a blinding white before the cauldron began to rumble and simmer.

In a few moments, a dark outline of something thin as a skeleton climbed out of it, and picked up the robes offered to Bellatrix.

He turned to face Harry, and Harry realized exactly what had happened.

Indeed, Lord Voldemort had risen once more.

Voldemort strolled idly over to where Harry had dropped her wand on the ground and picked it up, eyeing it curiously, before sticking it in his robes. Extending his hand to Bellatrix, she reached into her robes and extended a wand to him. Harry felt a strange... kinship to the wand, and her eyes widened in realization.

The Elder Wand.

Voldemort smiled and pressed the Elder Wand down into Bellatrix’s Dark Mark, causing her to hiss, both in half-orgasmic glee, and half-searing pain as she fell to her knees.

“Now, we shall see—who is truly loyal to me,” Voldemort said, half to himself as he turned towards Harry.

“You stand, Harry Potter, upon the remains of my late father,” He hissed softly. “A Muggle, and a fool, very much like your dear mother. But they had uses, did they not? Your mother died to defend you as a child, and I killed my father. See how useful he has proved himself in death,”

He began to laugh, shaking his head.

“You see that house there, Potter?” Voldemort said, gesturing at the mansion on the hill. “My father lived there. My mother, a witch who lived here, fell in love with him... but he abandoned her when she told him what she was. He didn’t like magic, not at all.”

He crossed in front of her and looked at her. “He left her, and returned to his Muggle parents before I was even born, Potter, and then she died giving birth to me. I was raised in a Muggle orphanage of all things, but I vowed to find him, I sought my revenge and got it against the man named Tom Riddle.”

He then laughed. “Look at me being sentimental, Harry! I must be getting quite daft in my old age, like Dumbledore. But look, Harry! Look! My true family returns at last!”

The air was filled with swishing cloaks, and Harry realized that a small legion of wizards was apparating into the graveyard, all wearing the same demented outfit from the attack on the World Cup.

One of them fell to his knees and crawled towards Voldemort, kissing the hem of his black robes, and many soon followed. 

Harry allowed herself resignation as she watched the court of a Mad King conduct itself in such a manner. She knew that he fully intended to kill her after this was all said and done, but she could feel the Elder Wand call to her, like a friend she’d never known she had.

Voldemort didn’t kill any of his faithful, but he bemoaned Peter Pettigrew and Lucius Malfoy’s incarceration in Azkaban, saying they would rejoin the faithful soon enough.

As the masks came off, Harry began to realize with growing nausea that all these people were the parents of her friends. Vincent’s father, Gregory’s father, Theodore’s father, and many other Slytherin parents stood before her, pledging their loyalty to a madman.

“I hear, Harry,” Voldemort began. “That you have gained quite the reputation... as the Heir of Slytherin. So I must ask, why do you stand so resolutely against me when you could have all the power you ever wanted? All the ambition? Why must you stand against me in this hour of triumph?”

Harry let out a weak laugh. “Salazar never believed in that sort of bile. He might not have liked Muggles, but he certainly didn’t condone the cold-blooded murder of them,”

She felt the sharp, burning pain again as Voldemort cast another Cruciatus. Her breathing became ragged as she stared at Voldemort through half-lidded eyes. She proceeded to mostly gloss over his long-winded explanation to his followers of his resurrection and saving by Pettigrew and Lestrange.

“With your abilities, your strength, your ambition, you could do so much more. Your wand, so close in build to mine… it is almost as if we are destined to be allies, Harry. You need not resist the appeal of power,” Voldemort said.

Harry spat at him, and he sent another wave of pain through her.

“Pity you are so blinded by Dumbledore to not see the truth. But now, we have been presented with the most... excellent opportunity,” Voldemort said, looking pleased. “With my two most loyal lieutenants at Hogwarts, and with that man Lockhart under his control, I will now have the opportunity to bring an end to Albus Dumbledore, and secure Hogwarts for ourselves!”

A pair of shears landed in Voldemort’s hand, and he shorn a large chunk of Harry’s hair off, looking at it eagerly.

“Is the Potion ready, Bellatrix?” He asked impatiently, and the woman nodded silently.

“Good, strip the boy of his clothes, and take this,” He handed the hair over, shaking his head. “Tie him up and lock him inside the tool-shed. Keep guard, and wait for my signal.”

Harry soon found herself stripped of all her clothes save for her boxers (thank god she’d decided not to wear a bra and knickers underneath her attire, wouldn’t that have been embarrassing) and locked inside of a tool-shed, all tied up. Harry was breathing quite raggedly, but she eventually got her breathing under control. 

This was... a problem, not to put too fine a point on it.

Now, she just needed to get herself untied, and escape. She’d lost her wand, no doubt Voldemort had taken it from her to keep up the illusion that he was her.

...

Albus Dumbledore was concerned. Harry Potter hadn’t shown up at the podium like he was supposed to--he’d never had much faith in the portkeys the Ministry had set up for the Triwiz, but this was getting ridiculous. As he ruminated on it, waiting patiently, there was a sudden flash of movement, and a young wizard was dumped onto the ground unceremoniously.

Dumbledore smiled and lead the round of applause, and announced that Harry had won the Triwizard Tournament, ordering everyone to head to the Great Hall for a festival and feast celebrating the Champion.

As they walked, Dumbledore walked alongside Harry, in the great thrall of people. “Where were you, Harry?”

Harry seemed tense, and gave Dumbledore a searching, dry look before shrugging. “The maze, sir,” He said, his voice low and tense.

“I see,” Dumbledore said, unable to dissuade the feeling in the back of his head that something was very off.

It wasn’t even anything conscious. When Harry spoke, or moved, or did anything, Albus, like many others, described it as staring into the sun. But Harry always seemed to embody the nourishing parts of the sun--the warmth, growth and renewal of the spring. Now… the young girl seemed to be the harsh parts of the sun. Scathing, bone-bleaching heat in the summer, relentless burning…

A trickling shiver went up his spine.

As they settled into the Great Hall, Dumbledore watched Harry very carefully, and the most disturbing thing about it was that when Hermione Granger had tried to congratulate her, Harry had simply pulled away from her suddenly, seeming almost disgusted, not even acknowledging her existence.

Dumbledore raised an eyebrow as soon as this happened. 

This... was most certainly not Harry Potter.

He then noticed there was a wand, tucked in Harry’s waistband, only just barely visible compared to the rowan wand in her hands. A wand that she shouldn’t have. The Elder Wand.

Something was very wrong.

Oh Merlin. Harry, where are you?

...

While Harry sat in the tool shed, recovering from the Cruciatus marathon she’d just endured, she’d begun to feel very warm all over, sweat pouring down her face in the otherwise cool shed. Suddenly, she felt something snap, and suffered a crashing wave of vertigo, causing her to fall over onto the cold stone floor. She continued to wriggle against her binds, and eventually felt them begin to weaken.

She looked at herself carefully. Something felt... different.

She decided she’d worry about it later. She was glad her apparition was still a secret, and immediately decided her best course of action was to jump to Hogsmeade. She decided to quickly apparate away from the graveyard, intending on landing in Hogsmeade’s centre, and she managed it, thanking God for such fortune.

Still feeling a bit winded, she began to make her way towards Hogwarts. But with each step she took, she began to feel more and more like herself again. She felt the sun raging inside of her, and the anger began to boil, first at a low simmer, then as a raging tumult.

Tom Riddle would pay in blood.

...

Dumbledore quietly watched as Ludo Bagman made public proclamations and congratulations to Harry, before inviting the young wix up to give a public speech about the whole affair.

Harry looked a bit put off, shaking his head furiously. Dumbledore leaned back in his chair and reached for his wand underneath the table as he felt a sudden shift in the air. The sudden change was palpable, and the entire room seemed to feel it, as Ludo’s awkward pivot to finish thanking everyone was interrupted as he swallowed his words. 

This was... something else. And it was coming.

Suddenly, the room began to rattle.

"DID YOU THINK YOU COULD TORTURE ME AND LOCK ME IN A CLOSET, TOM? THAT I WOULDN’T ESCAPE?" Harry’s thick Scottish accent carried from seemingly nowhere, bouncing off the walls harshly.

Suddenly, the door to the Great Hall opened, and Albus’ eyes widened in shock at the sight of Harry Potter, standing in just her boxers, at the front of the Hall, eyes blazing like the sun, full of anger, rage and righteousness.

"YOU ARE PLAYING A DANGEROUS GAME, TOM."

Harry’s voice was... almost holy, and carried like a thunderclap, and Albus shivered involuntarily at the power behind it.

The false Harry Potter stood up, trying to draw the Elder Wand. Suddenly, as if taking it from a mere child, the wand tugged from his grasp, and landed in the true Harry’s grasp.

The young wix only gave a half-lidded smile in response to the sudden power change. A wicked smirk crossed her face as she twirled it in her fingers, staring down her doppelgänger.

“Don’t just stand there! Bartemius! Severus! Do something!” Voldemort shouted, snarling at the two men on the side of the room.

Barty Crouch, Jr., stood up, sneering. “Gilderoy, kill the Mudblood. I’ll take care of the Headmaster. Severus, you take care of the boy.” He said, drawing his wand. He took direct aim at Dumbledore, and got the first syllable out before...

He gurgled. Albus watched as a slash through the intrepid reporter-but-Death Eater’s throat, no doubt from somebody’s wand began to grow with crimson blood. Barty, still gurgling, dropped his wand and collapsed to his knees, before expiring on the floor.

Harry’s defence against Gilderoy Lockhart’s Killing Curse was by throwing the Slytherin table at the man with a simple flick of her wand. Albus was... stunned at the logistics of it. It was more than he could have ever hoped for her.

Hermione had been spared an almost certain death, and Lockhart caught a whole bench table to the face, sending him spilling backwards, slamming into the stone wall behind him. Albus himself had to slightly duck out of the way to avoid getting a face full of table himself.

“Want to keep trying, Tommy?” Harry said, the Elder Wand gripped tightly in her hand, aimed at her doppelgänger. She felt him try to call the Elder Wand over to him, but she felt it respond with some rather coarse language. Voldemort’s eyes narrowed, and he drew her rowan wand.

Avada Kedavra!” Voldemort snarled, jabbing the rowan wand at Harry.

Harry flicked the wand and the Gryffindor table went flying at Voldemort. He managed to avoid getting hit by it, but the Killing Curse was rendered ineffective by the physical barrier. Not letting him get any time to readjust, she pushed forward.

Confringo!” Harry retorted, shooting a percussive force at Voldemort.

The impact shattered the rowan wand into wooden shards, and Voldemort got the full brunt of the percussive force of the spell work, slamming into the stonework behind him. Gritting his teeth, he quickly recovered, glaring at the young wix.

“You will die, Harry Potter,” He said.

“Not if you die first, Tom Riddle,” Harry spat, the man’s name sounding like a violent curse on her tongue.

Voldemort, already breathing heavily from the fact he was in a duel not long after being resurrected, quickly scanned the room and realized the odds weren’t great. Frowning, he glared at Severus Snape, who had a wand aimed at him.

“Severus... how unsurprising it is to see your betrayal. Sleep with one eye open,” the Dark Lord said, before turning into a shadow spectre and fleeing the Great Hall. Dumbledore closed his eyes and waited a minute before nodding.

“He has gone,” Dumbledore said finally, casting eyes across the crowds. “Professors, please escort all students to their dormitories at once.”

Dumbledore watched as Harry slowly ambled her way through the stunned crowd that was filing out of the Great Hall, approached Hermione, grabbed her head and looked her in the eyes very briefly, before unceremoniously passing out.

...

Harry felt like she’d been run flat by a lorry when she finally managed to open her eyes again. The light of the Hospital Wing was nearly blinding, but she managed to squint her way past it as she realized she was utterly alone, and not in the same general ward as she usually was.

As if on cue, one of the doors opened, and Madame Pomfrey entered, accompanied by Professor Dumbledore. Both looked quite troubled, and the healer immediately went to task scanning Harry over with numberless diagnostic spells while Dumbledore conjured up a seat in front of Harry’s bedside.

“That was some display, my dear,” Dumbledore said quietly. “How are you feeling this morning?”

“Like I’ve been flattened into a pancake multiple times over,” Harry mumbled. “What happened after I passed out?”

“Sheer pandemonium,” Dumbledore said simply. “A lot of things, truth be told. Naturally, given the nature of your confrontation with Tom in the Great Hall, the entire British wixen community knows by now, and the Ministry has gone into full-blown denial mode, accusing you of a very large litany of things. Nothing illegal, per se, but you have been accused of violating the terms of the Triwizard Tournament by using a seventh year student in Polyjuice to aid you.”

What.” Harry said.

“Oh, yes, quite. As of now, you and I are perhaps two of the most public enemies of the Ministry other than the Death Eaters,” Dumbledore said plainly. “The Triwizard Cup ended up not being awarded to a single soul. Turns out all three of the other competitors refused, accusing the Ministry of a slander job.”

“Do we have any people who believe us?” Harry said, tiredly.

“Just about every Auror and DMLE official from top to bottom,” Dumbledore said, looking quite pleased. “Most of the people who hate us are on the bureaucratic side. Really saves our metaphorical rashers, given the fact that only the DMLE can issue warrants for detaining, questioning or arrest.”

“Delightful,” Harry said, rubbing her eyes. “What about Lockhart?”

“He’ll be right as rain in a few days. Confessed rather straight-away to being Imperioused by Barty Crouch. Saved yourself and Professor Snape a visit to Azkaban. By the way,” Dumbledore said, drawing a wand from his robes. “I believe this does belong to you.”

Harry accepted the Elder Wand from the Headmaster, and looked at it carefully. It hummed with pleasure at being reunited with its mistress.

“It’s very odd, how loyal that wand is to you. When I picked it up, I could swear it was snarling at me,” Dumbledore said quietly. “I think it would take the force of Heaven and Earth combined to make that wand stop serving you, and you alone.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Harry said dryly.

Dumbledore nodded. “But there is something else... According to some of my intelligence assets, the Ministry is already planning to launch an education reform package over the summer, intending to eventually displace me as Headmaster. I believe, for the sake of your education, we suspend any further private meetings until we can agree the threat of the Ministry has been rendered... shall we say, nullified.”

“Until it falls to Voldemort, revolution, or I get fed up and hex someone off the face of the planet,” Harry said.

“Indeed,” Dumbledore said. “To be completely honest, you’ve done so well with all the things I’ve taught you until now, I could give you a list of things and I have no doubt you’d learn them in no time at all.”

“I’m not that good,” Harry said, blushing.

“Oh, but you are,” Dumbledore said, smiling. “Particularly with that wand there,”

Harry glanced at the Elder Wand again. Plucking petals off one of the flowers by her bedside, she waved her wand, and felt power course through her, making her shudder in pleasure. The petal turned, without fault, into what she wanted it to—it was now a rubber ball. She then cancelled the transfiguration, and set the petals down in her lap.

“It... feels good,” Harry said. “It doesn’t resist me.”

“It’s the wand you were always meant to carry, Harry,” Dumbledore said, shrugging his shoulders. “From the moment he marked you as his equal,” He tapped on her scar. “You were destined to carry that wand. It has long wanted for its true mistress.”

Dumbledore rose to his feet. “I assume you’d like to see Miss Granger? I’ve been quite serious in keeping the Ministry and anybody affiliated with it out of here while you’ve been recovering. Even the Ministry could not dispute you were hit with at least five Cruciatus curses, and tortured. They just deny it was Lord Voldemort, of course. They insist it was one of the Death Eaters-at-Large that never got captured.”

“Minimal fear to the public, minimal risk,” Harry murmured. “Morons, the lot of them.”

“I do not disagree, Harry,” Dumbledore said with a smile. “But there will be time over summer to begin organizing our own resistance to Tom, so that we may deal with his threat as quickly as possible, or at least go down trying.”

Harry nodded. “Sir, I’ve never mentioned how much I appreciate your honesty and candidness. I know you... could have very easily insisted on keeping me as ignorant as possible for my own safety.”

“I learned long ago, Harry,” Dumbledore said with a sigh. “That often times, one meets their destiny on the road to avoid it. If I had done that, it would have been a monumental misjudgement on my part. But I knew I could not spare you from the truth, given the tremendous power you possess.”

“I just want to be Harry,” Harry said with a sigh. “That’s all I want.”

“As much as we both wish it were the case, you haven’t been ‘Just Harry’ since that fateful Halloween. But with your friends and loved ones by your side, you’ll overcome all sorts of problems,” Dumbledore said. He stood up and made to leave the room. “I’ll send Miss Granger along, Harry. Do get some rest, you’ll need your strength in the time to come.”

And with that, Harry was alone again.

Chapter Text

To put in the mildest possible terms, Lord Voldemort was quite cross.

Despite the sheer numerological impossibility of it, he had failed in all but one of his objectives that he’d set out to do to coincide with his resurrection.

He had failed to incapacitate or otherwise dispose of Harry Potter as any sort of threat, he had failed to kill Albus Dumbledore, had failed to do any lasting damage to much of anything other than the reputation of Gilderoy Lockhart for that matter–

To make matters worse, Severus Snape had betrayed him outright in favour of that daft old man, taking one of his most trusted and loyal Death Eaters out permanently in the process.

He wouldn’t mourn Bartemius much, but he was such a loyal lieutenant, far more competent than some of the others who had the fortune to survive his long stay in the space between life and death– many of those loyal to him had succumbed to madness or were no more loyal to him than they were to their own coin purses. It would take some time for him to rebuild the fear his ranks had in him, to show that he wasn’t going anywhere, and that trying to outmatch him in a game of wits would be the last mistake anybody would ever make.

But all that wasn’t even factoring in other events that had transpired.

He had somehow lost the Elder Wand– Pettigrew had assured him so many times that the loyalty of the Elder Wand was not in question, and that the boy had been too young, too weak, to win allegiance from it that blasted Halloween night.

Pettigrew had been so very wrong, and the brat had managed to rip it from his grasp with an act of wandless magic. It infuriated Voldemort to no end to know he had lost one of the keys to his nearly unlimited power, being forced to do business with wands that merely did not have the same envigorating energy of the Elder Wand.

Making matters even worse was the fact that clearly, to him, Bellatrix and Pettigrew did not perform the resurrection ritual correctly.

Since he’d fled Hogwarts in a hurry to avoid a fight that would have inevitably led to his brand-new body being destroyed in a halycon of spellfire, he had begun to feel a distinct, very painful burning sensation underneath his skin, leaving him constantly feeling like he’d been set on fire.

He had tortured some of his followers in retribution for the litany of failures stemming from that night, and had ordered for soothing potions to be ready at all times.

They hadn’t objected, and had done as he’d bid. But he still didn’t like it much.

Being forced to take painkiller and soothing potions to mitigate the worst of the pain would impact him negatively over the long-term–it bothered him deeply to form such a deep reliance on it.

More so, it weakened his position of strength among his followers.

He couldn’t make sense of where it all went wrong– from his recollection, and from the information he’d tortured from Bellatrix, the ceremony had gone according to plan. Could Pettigrew have sabotaged it in a final act of loyalty to his dead friends?

Voldemort had to admit– he had been arrogant, near-sighted and foolish to assume killing Harry Potter would be a simple process. No. He would not make such mistakes again.

Harry Potter would pay– slowly and surely, and every moment of the boy’s suffering would be a sweet melody to Voldemort’s ears. And he had a very long time to be patient.

Harry Potter felt decidedly out of sorts, if she had to put a specific feeling to it. Since she’d escaped from the tool shed and stormed her way to Hogwarts, she’d been rapidly alternating with feeling this terrible heat beneath her skin and breaking out into terrible fits of vertigo.

She felt like she’d sweat at least a stone since she’d woken up, and she’d had to conjure up multiple glasses of water to keep herself from experiencing the awful taste of cotton mouth.

Each time she did, the Elder Wand seemed to hum in pleasure toward her. A few thoughts entered her mind– could wands gain sentience? Were they sentient by default? Mr. Ollivander had always seemed to imply that wands were to some degree intelligent, being able to decide whom was worthy to carry them around. She thought it had more to do with arithmetic harmonics, or something like that. It almost felt like this one certainly had some sentience, given how much it responded to her every action.

The door to her private medical room opened, and Harry put aside her curiosity and worries at the sight of Hermione.

“Harry!” She exclaimed, quickly rushing past Madame Pomfrey and arriving at Harry’s bedside. “I was so worried about you. Don’t you ever scare me like that again! You’ve ended up in here too many times this year!”

“I’m sorry,” Harry said quietly. “It’s not like I plan these things, Hermione,”

“I know, I… I don’t mean to snap at you,” Hermione said, sitting on the edge of Harry’s bed as Madame Pomfrey went about taking diagnostics on Harry. “Things have been tense around here since your little show in the Great Hall.”

“Professor Dumbledore’s told me a bit about what’s happened. The Ministry has effectively declared me a heretic and is looking to burn at the stake,” Harry said, looking quite annoyed.

“That’s not even the half of it, Harry,” Hermione said. “The school is going absolutely insane.”

“What do you mean?” Harry asked, looking concerned.

“After the Ministry published that piece about you in the Daily Prophet, the Hufflepuffs have gotten so insufferable, crowing all and all about how they were right about you being a cheater. Cedric got put in hospital after Zacharias Smith hexed him– Cho got jumped by Terry Huxley and two other Hufflepuff upper years but managed to hold them off until Professor Sprout and Snape intervened. I’ve had Cho, Draco, Ron and Danielle nearly attached to my hip since you’ve been unconscious.”

“So basically, Hufflepuff has decided to attack all the people I’m friends with? Is that it?”

“And those that are close to them, in fact,” Hermione said, shaking her head. “It’s taken painful lengths to keep the Slytherins from straight out massacring the Hufflepuffs– we’ve sort of gone into lockdown, as have the Gryffindors.”

“And the Ravenclaws?”

“I’m not sure,” Hermione said, looking pensive. “For the house who had the proper Hogwarts champion, they’re certainly ambivalent, I’ve heard smatterings of support for you, as well as some nasty things.”

“Why on earth are the Hufflepuffs so mad at me?” Harry asked, confused. “You’d think I’d killed one of them, or something.”

“I think it has something to do with their sense of loyalty,” Hermione said, pursing her lips. “A lot of them probably still think you either paid someone or intentionally entered yourself into the contest, and because you didn’t lay down and basically throw the competition to Cho, you’re being disloyal to Hogwarts.”

“Disloyal to… oh please,” Harry said, rolling her eyes. “Everything I’ve done the last four years has been for Hogwarts.”

“I know, Harry, but they don’t see it that way,” Hermione said, looking apologetic.

“Whatever,” Harry muttered under her breath. “I’m used to this sort of thing.”

She drew her wand out and showed it to Hermione, whose eyes widened at the sight of it.

“Is this the Elder Wand?” Hermione said, her voice low. “Like the one in that story?”

“As far as I can tell, yeah,” Harry said. “I don’t think there’s anything inherently superior about it over any other wand– it’s just very old. I might actually do some research into wandmaking to see if there’s something about this particular configuration that makes it more powerful than any other wand type.”

“I’ve read that wands made from Elder tree are difficult to produce and master, but are very powerful when you secure allegiance.”

“It… definitely does feel far more powerful than the Rowan one,” Harry said in a low murmur. “This wand doesn’t have any resistance to it, it’s very fluid and straightforward. I quite like it.”

“It was the wand you were always meant to carry, Harry,” Hermione said with a smile.

Once the intense sweating and the thirst died down, and her body had gone back to sorts, Harry was finally to be discharged from hospital. Once she’d changed into a clean outfit and robes, she’d emerged from the bathroom to see Professor Snape standing, waiting for her.

“Potter,” Snape said. “I will be escorting you back to the Slytherin dungeons.”

“Of course, Professor, I think I’ve got everything I need,” Harry said, looking around to make sure she’d left nothing behind. Tucking her wand inside her robes, she quickly followed behind the Potions professor as they left the hospital wing.

“I presume the Headmaster and Miss Granger have informed you just how precarious the situation here has become since your duel with the Dark Lord,” Snape said quietly. “The Headmaster asked me to escort you to your dorm as so to avoid any unpleasant situations– he also asked me to tell you to exercise great caution and weariness in the corridors. I hope that this nonsense settles itself once the term is over, but I have grave doubts.”

“So do I, I’m not nearly that lucky,” Harry joked. “Professor, are you worried now that… Voldemort is back?”

Snape recoiled slightly before straightening himself out. “Of course, I’m worried, Harry. But there comes a time in everyone’s life where they must do something difficult. This is my time, and I will accept the consequences of it.”

“But what if he tries to kill you?” Harry asked.

The silence she received did not make her feel any better.

Harry followed dutifully back to the Slytherin dungeons, and as they reached the entryway to the common room, Snape stopped her.

“Harry,” Snape said quietly. “Are you going to be alright?”

“I’ll be fine, sir,” Harry said, looking uncertain. “Him being back is… difficult to deal with, that much is true. But I have never been one to shirk away from an opportunity to do the right thing. Ambition in service of justice, and all that sort of thing. Let people feel their anger over having the safety ripped away. We’ll turn that into productive anger someday.”

Snape nodded, and turned on heel. “Take care of yourself, child.” He stalked down the corridor, and Harry turned to face the door to the Slytherin dungeons. Giving the password, she stepped through the entryway into the common room. As soon as she walked through the door, nearly everyone’s eyes were on her– she realized that the room was full of people with ashen, pallid faces. She frowned. These were her people, her Slytherins.

And it hit her.

There was more to being the Heiress of Slytherin than just a fancy title. There was… a duty to come with it.

The faces of all her fellow students made her heart hurt. Nobody in this room remembered the first war, the one that had left so many children orphaned–had left her orphaned.

The seventh years may have remembered some of it, but even they had only faint recollections in their youth. She had filled a void of power and promises where their parents, the Ministry, and Lord Voldemort had once solely occupied. The fire in her stomach roiled higher, burning bright like a dwarf star, and resolute determination settled in the pit of it as she straightened up and began to walk through the crowd.

They parted a way for her to reach the centre of the room like a metaphorical Moses. Climbing onto one of the low tables, she stood in the dead centre of the room and observed all her fellow Slytherins before sighing and folding her hands in front of her.

“I would like to tell you that it isn’t true, and that all of us can pretend that there isn’t something terrible on the horizon,” Harry said. “I would like to tell you that none of your parents bent the knee and pledged their undying loyalty to him. I would like to tell you all sorts of things that are not true– but I cannot. I am a speaker of truths, and I will not lie to those I consider family.”

“I intend to fight him with every ounce of my life,” Harry said, such a resolution causing murmuring to erupt in the crowds of Slytherins. “We may not always agree on the minutiae of blood politics, my fellow snakes, but do you see a future in the darkness that awaits us under his tyranny? Slavery, forced prostitution, and the endless terror? These are not the things that Salazar believed in.”

She closed her eyes and recalled the journals of Salazar Slytherin she’d found in the Chamber of Secrets’ library. The imam had spent much of his life fashioning a code of ethics– one that was perhaps morally dubious in many ways, but morally resonant and strong in others. He had, through his life, been a man of contradictions.

“The Egyptian faqih who taught an entire den of snakes those guiding principles he thought right,” She continued. “That peace, no matter how well-intended, is but a myth fashioned in the quiet of conflict. Power struggles will carry on regardless of war or peace, and we must do our part to facilitate justice in those times. Passion is what drives us to grow and change, and by marrying ambition with justice, we can achieve a wellspring of passion– and that passion will allow us to find the strength within and without to overcome our obstacles and build power. And once we have power, we can strike swiftly, bringing an end to our enemies. And once we have victory, we can smash the chains and free ourselves from that which holds us down.”

She permitted those words to sink in.

“We cannot permit Tom Riddle Jr. to so terribly corrupt what it means to be a Slytherin. We must show the world, and ourselves, that there is more to this den of snakes than just treachery and darkness. I pledge to you I will do everything in my power to see Slytherin restored to its proper place in the eyes of our community. You may disagree with my methods, but instead of seeing the name Slytherin condemned for a thousand millennia for brutality, evil, darkness and tyranny, I will stand against the racist brutes, and instead stand for equal justice for all.”

“Do you think you can win?” Tracey Davis asked, looking up at Harry with narrowed eyes.

“I do,” Harry said firmly. “Anything is possible with determination, Tracey.”

“And she won’t stand alone, either,” Draco said, entering the empty ring around Harry and raising his wand, the tip emitting a soft light. “I will not be like my father,” He said harshly, eyes narrowing.

Hermione followed suit. “And I will not be made a serf. I am power, I am victory, I will break the chains that bind me.”

“I will fight for my freedom, and the freedom of all who come after me,” Pansy proclaimed.

“For Astoria, for all the little girls in Britain,” Daphne said, raising her own wand.

Slowly but surely, every Slytherin in the room, for reasons of their own perhaps, raised their wand in support, standing firmly together in the face of what was to come.

“Together,” Harry said, her voice heavy with emotion, feeling a lump in the back of her throat. “We will defeat him together.”

“Together!” Came surging forth, a roaring echo.

“Mister Potter,” An unfamiliar bespectacled man greeted Harry as she entered the Headmaster’s office on the Thursday just prior to the end of the term. “A pleasure to meet you.”

“My name is Earnest Brimley, Head of the Department of Examinations and Certifications. I understand that you were expected to take your OWL in Defence Against the Dark Arts this year?” The man asked, curiously.

“Pleasure to meet you, Mister Brimley,” Harry said, shaking the man’s hand. “Yes, sir, I am.”

Earnest nodded. “Good. It’s quite a simple process, really,” He said. “I have already arranged an appointment to sit your OWL at the Ministry for Magic in London on the Thirty-First of July. You will only require your wand, everything else will be provided for you in the testing room. The OWL for Defence Against the Dark Arts involves twelve written questions primarily on matters pertaining to knowledge you would have learned in the last five years here at Hogwarts– and then there will be a practical component you will be expected to have some mastery of as well. Do you understand?”

“Yes, sir,” Harry said.

“Wonderful,” Earnest said, before drawing a slip of parchment from his briefcase and handing it to Harry. It was a simple notice of her appointment to attend her examinations in July.

She wasn’t very pleased at the idea of having to spend her birthday taking her DADA OWL, but she’d learned long ago to not expect people to give her much of a break when it came to basically anything.

The chill that had settled over Hogwarts hadn’t broken, and in fact, seemed to have gotten worse. The end-of-term feast was maudlin and lacking the usual light air it had in previous years. Ravenclaw had won the house cup for a change, which suited Harry just fine. Slytherin could benefit from some humility and managed expectations. She knew the sort of things that her snakes were capable of doing, and how often many of them… expected an easy ride on the principles of the content of their blood quantum.

Though she wasn’t trying to be completely uncharitable. All the houses suffered from a fatal lack of humility and had some very serious near-sightedness when it came to embodying the stereotype regurgitated by the Sorting Hat.

Gryffindors could grow to be more than just daring, foolish prats with an ego bigger than one could possibly fathom. Bravery ran deeper than just living in the heat of the moment, bravery went together with ambition in a lot of ways.

Fred and George Weasley came to mind as good examples of it. They were brave in their defiance of school policies, but their inspiration for their defiance came from their lofty ambition to be forever cemented in history as the biggest prank artists at Hogwarts, and from the investment she’d made, their ambition ran even deeper than that, aspiring to build a career around their handiwork.

Neville Longbottom was another good example of how the stereotypes weren’t always accurate. Her ex-boyfriend was a gentle giant, taking great care in all he did. He was brave for persisting despite his own self-doubts, while marrying that sort of great care and self-bravery with resolute duty and loyalty to his friends and family. It was a respectable thing, and something Harry had always admired in the lad.

Ron Weasley, too. Oh, he was rough around the edges and was a quintessential prat of a Gryffindor, but there was more to him than just a boy who stuffed his face and complained about studying. The boy was a veritable genius in chess, domineering everyone who dared challenge him to a game of wits. Just underneath that exterior of someone who barely tried, was a mind that would have done quite well in Ravenclaw, calculating, strategizing, and thinking of the best way to go from A to B in order to set up C and D.

On the note of defying expectations, however…

Slytherin House had been changing since she’d arrived at Hogwarts.

The filthy muck of blood purity had been, if not utterly stamped out with the force of God, then had at least been scoured back into the shadows where it belonged. Nobody could see fit to dispute the universality of power and magic when the Heiress of Slytherin was a half-blood, and the top-scoring student in the class was a first-generation wix.

Bringing well-regarded pureblood scions into the fold had done well to accelerate the cause, as had her natural profile as a polarising presence.

She still hated the attentions brought upon her due to the circumstances that led to her being orphaned, but she accepted that it was part of her life, and it was better to control it than to let it grow untethered and wild. Still, it didn’t mean she had to like it very much.

“When the term starts up again,” Draco said conspiratorially, looking at Harry intently. “We should really codify our plans. If we’re going to pledge ourselves to you rather than… him, then we should have a plan.”

“I agree,” Hermione injected primly. “It would be terribly unwise to not capitalise on such an opportunity.”

“Yes, I know,” Harry said quietly. “But we have to be careful. The last thing I need is to be accused of trying to become the next Dark Lord– as it is, forming a group of Slytherins into a gang is dangerously close to the proto-Death Eaters.”

“Nobody said you had to have a gang of enforcers, Harry,” Draco said. “But, perhaps the Knights of Slytherin can serve as an alliance of all sorts of things. A mutual benefit society.”

“If that’s the case, then I want Gryffindors involved as well,” Harry murmured. “Perhaps we could talk to Ron and Neville about organizing their own counterpart to our little mutual benefit society.”

“Yeah, that might work,” Draco said, before turning in his seat and tapping his boyfriend on the back. “Hey, lover boy.”

Ron turned and looked at his boyfriend as Draco leaned in to whisper. Ron’s eyes took on that calculating look he got when he was playing wixen chess, and a grin crossed his face.

“Consider it done, love,” Ron said with a grin. “Might take some time, though.”

“Do what you need to do, dear,” Draco said, gently running his nails down Ron’s jawline. “I’m a patient person.”

Ron gave him a half-lidded look before turning back to the Gryffindor table and nudging Neville, whispering to him the same thing Draco had just passed on. Neville’s face took on a conspiratorial look as well, and he raised an eyebrow in interest.

Gryffindor and Slytherin, unified in the pursuit of justice. What a sight.

Harry idly wondered what Godric and Salazar would think of it– not that she particularly cared what they would think. The time for their antiquated feud was nigh past, and it was time for her to get to work and carry on with the tradition her father had set so long ago– to cause as much mayhem as she could.

Harry, Hermione and Draco sat quietly in Harry’s mother’s office. They had been most displeased to learn they would be prevented from boarding the Hogwarts Express to return home, primarily because they were such high-value targets with tensions so high across the school. Their absence would do well to keep the peace, and any issues, the prefects and/or members of the Knights of Slytherin (as they’d taken to calling themselves) could handle.

Draco hadn’t been pleased, but had nearly forcibly extracted a promise from his boyfriend that he’d either come visit them in Scotland, or arrange for Draco to visit him down in Devon sometime over the summer holiday, because he most certainly wanted to see more of him before the term started.

Eventually, the Floo roared to life and Minerva stepped through the flames, dusting herself off as she crossed over to her desk.

“The Express has been seen off safely,” She said. “From what I’ve been told, Sirius and Rolanda have been quite busy at work improving upon the house.”

“Improving the house how, Mum?” Harry asked.

“Since we’ve had so many more people staying over lately, they talked me into some renovations to that effect,” Minerva said with a chuckle.

“Honestly, it sort of reminds me of when I was a wee lass, we used to have so many family members staying over in my father’s house, it was always humming with activity.”

She sighed wistfully. “For so long, it’s just been the three of us. Having more people around is… how it should be, really,” Minerva said, smiling.

A quick Floo trip later, and Harry managed to glide out of the fireplace into the familiar sitting room of her house.

Though, it was certainly a bit different. Magical remodelling was always a fascinating concept to her because it was so very trivial sometimes to make grand changes to houses, provided you had the funds to afford it, and that the physical dimensions on the outside didn’t always have to make exact sense with how it looked on the inside.

The living space was much larger now, the familiar old couch and loveseat now joined by other seating arrangements. Harry gave a low whistle as she looked around.

“Sirius and Lala did a fantastic job,” Harry murmured.

“Oh yes, they certainly did,” Minerva said with a smile.

A quick tour of the improvements led Harry to notice that the upstairs section of the house was larger as well, with more rooms than there had been before.

“Our quarters haven’t been changed, other than some small space expansion to fit with the new properties of the house,” Minerva said. “But we’ve added space for Draco, Sirius and Narcissa so they each have their own living space. There’s also a room for Miss Granger, should she desire separate accommodations when she is visiting, but something tells me I would have to place a hex on you both to keep you away from each other.”

Harry only grinned at her mother, and Hermione blushed furiously.

“That wasn’t necessary at all, ma’am, wow,” Hermione said. “I… thank you,”

Minerva smiled. “Consider it a home away from home. Once we’ve had lunch, I’ll escort you back home. I’ve already informed your parents that they will not have to wait for you at King’s Cross.”

When they arrived at the bottom of the stairs, the back door opened, and a much dirtier and toned Sirius Black stood in the doorway.

“Ah, pup, you’re back!” He said, grinning. “Like what I’ve done with the place?”

“It’s fantastic, Sirius, wow,” Harry said. “You and Lala did all of this?”

“With some help from the goblins, yeah. We had to split our attentions between here and Number Twelve, getting in shape. I loaned it to Dumbledore for… er,” He trailed off, looking uncertain.

“I’m aware of what you loaned it to him for,” Harry said idly, before grinning. “Where’s Lala at?”

“Watering the garden, actually,” Sirius said, jerking his thumb at the backdoor. “She’s been going spare with worry over all sorts of things, I’ve actually had to keep her preoccupied with things, so she doesn’t start going all funny on me.”

Minerva placed a hand on Sirius’ shoulder and bustled past him to go see her wife. Sirius then turned to face the three teens.

“Why don’t you lot go up to Harry’s room for a bit? I’ll let you know when lunch is ready,” He said, grinning and tousling Harry’s hair, much to the young girl’s displeasure.

The three teens adjourned upstairs, and Harry crash-landed on her bed, letting out a pleased noise at being home at last. Crookshanks wasted no time in climbing up and headbutting his mistress affectionately. She flipped over and the cat planted itself firmly on her belly, making her laugh a bit in amusement. She reached and gently stroked between his ears, causing the half-Kneazle to start purring loudly.

“At least we’re done with all that mess for the summer, right?” Draco said, smiling unevenly. “It’s at least two months where we’ve not got to worry about some plot, some conspiracy, nothing like that.”

“I wish it were that easy, I doubt it, though,” Harry said, closing her eyes. “Though, I do want to at least get some rest before things get worse. Sleep… sounds good actually…”

Draco and Hermione boggled at how quickly Harry had fallen asleep. Her breathing was even and uniform, but she had clearly already wandered off into the realm of dreams. Hermione smiled some and gently pushed Draco towards the door, the two making their way back into the corridor.

“We’ll wake her at lunch,” Hermione said, before returning downstairs, where Narcissa, Minerva and Sirius were seated, smiling and having an involved conversation.

“Mother!” Draco greeted, wrapping his mother in a hug.

“Draco,” Narcissa said, clutching her son tightly. “Minerva was just telling Sirius and I about what happened during the Third Task. Is it… is it true?”

“I saw it myself, Mother,” Draco said stoically, sitting in one of the chairs and tenting his fingers. “The victory feast was in full swing, and then there was this… surge of power. Like nothing I’ve ever felt before, and then Harry’s voice filled the room, angry. And then there she was, standing in the doorway, ready to commit murder. She and the Dark Lord duelled, and she somehow managed to not only get his wand but drove him off in the process.”

Narcissa grimaced. “Did she mention anything about your father at the Dark Lord’s resurrection?” She asked carefully.

“No,” Draco said. “After she gave this… powerful speech in the common room, she had private conversations with a few of the kids whose parents she knew were there when she was held hostage. But she told me she didn’t see Father.”

“Good. Good,” Narcissa said, rubbing her arms nervously. She had good reason to be terrified of her ex-husband, the man could only charitably be described as a murderous raving lunatic.

“But the power that rolled off Harry that night was utterly terrifying,” Draco said quietly, eyes distant. “She threw two entire tables at the Dark Lord and Professor Lockhart with barely a flick of her wand. I don’t know exactly… how she was able to do that, but she acted like it was nothing at all.”

Hermione folded her arms. “She’s the Heiress of Slytherin, Master of Death, and all these other things. I worry about her sometimes, like she’s only a few inches from snapping completely.”

“It’s a lot to put on a 14-year-old girl’s shoulders, that much is true,” Narcissa said. “But there’s not much we can do to keep her from all these things that have come together on her. Not unless we want to start meddling with time traveling which is a terrible crime against a lot of people. Who is to say that if we prevented all the events before now from coming to pass…” She left things unsaid.

Draco grimaced at the thought, and Hermione looked a bit nauseous about it.

“She’ll do just fine,” Sirius said, frowning. “Even if she does go a bit daft with all this responsibility and power, her other half here will probably keep her in line.”

Hermione blushed. “She doesn’t listen to me that much,”

“Eh, I’m with Cousin Sirius on this one,” Draco said. “If you asked Harry to do anything, she’d do it without hesitation. You’re just accustomed to being passive and letting Harry have her breathing space.”

“Should I be less passive, then?” Hermione retorted, looking displeased. “I thought everyone considered me a bossy know-it-all. I’ve been trying to be a bit less that in recent years, if you haven’t noticed.”

“Of course, we’ve noticed, Hermione, Merlin, I’m not trying to imply you’re doing something wrong or anything. Harry doesn’t need another Mum anyway, she’s full up on parental oversight– two actual Mothers, one Aunt who treats her like a daughter, and then her godfather.”

Hermione muttered under her breath and plopped on one of the free loveseats, looking quite cross.