Content Harry Potter
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Chapter 3, TheTriwizard Tournament

Harry woke to some unfamiliar sensations – a pressure against his side, a mass of brown hair in his face, and a stiff neck and a few cramps in his arms and legs. Eventually he worked out that he and Hermione had fallen asleep on the sofa, and stayed that way all night!

“Good morning,” he greeted her as he felt her begin to stir as well. Hermione’s eyes blinked a few times as she processed the same information he had, then she rolled her head and neck, trying to work out a kink of her own.

“Good morning,” she returned, then added, “Sleep well?”

“Well, I’m going to be sore and stiff for a while, but as far as the sleeping is concerned I have to say it went pretty well,” he decided as he checked the time. I think we slept for nearly eight hours.” Hermione considered this, then nodded her head in agreement.

A small smile crept onto her face. “That was the first time I’ve spent the night with a guy,” she revealed. “Not exactly the way I imagined it though.” Harry’s head snapped up, but then he grinned as he realized she was joking.

“First time spending the night or first time sleeping?” he challenged. Hermione shot him a slightly offended look, causing his face to flush as he quickly backpedaled. “Er … I guess that’s none of my business.”

She shrugged it off. “First time all the way round.” She eyed him expectantly.

“Oh, right,” he stammered as he realized she was looking for some reciprocity. “First time for me, too.”

“Well,” she concluded. “Next time let’s lie down first. It’ll probably be more comfortable that way.” Harry’s eyes went wide before he saw the sly smile on her face, and they both laughed heartily.

He groaned as he pulled himself to his feet, then offered her a hand up. After agreeing to meet in the Great Hall for breakfast in half an hour, she disappeared through the magical doorway into her own room. Harry stared after her for a few moments, trying to decide if they had been completely joking about the ‘next time’ comment. The idea certainly had some appeal to it.

-ooo-

The two friends spent that day touring the castle and grounds. Hermione wanted to see how the tunnel beneath the Whomping Willow was accessed, and check out the inside of the Shrieking Shack. Harry also showed her the new campus landmark that had been added since she’d been a student – the white marble tomb of Albus Dumbledore sitting on the shore of the lake.

She noticed that he didn’t treat it with the reverence one might expect and wondered what had happened to generate his apparent resentment toward the generally revered former headmaster. She didn’t ask about it just then, expecting that it would eventually come out as he continued his tales of his life after she’d left Britain.

While they were down by the lake, Harry asked if she was aware that there was a colony of merpeople in the lake. She shook her head.

“How did you find that out?” she wondered.

Harry stared out toward the middle of the dark surface. “It was for the second task of the Triwizard Tournament. We had to rescue someone from the bottom of the lake where they were being held hostage by the merpeople.” He shook his head. “I’ll tell you about it tonight.”

Back inside the castle Hermione spent some time sizing up the Muggle Studies classroom, then they went to the library. She found herself more and more dismayed at the enormity of her task given the scarcity of resources. Virtually all the muggle artifacts in the classroom were decades out of date, and the books in the library were even more so. And what they did have was not very accurate in the first place. She went to Madame Pince and inquired about updating the collection.

“Well, I don’t know,” the librarian balked. “We can order a few books, but I don’t have the budget to make wholesale revisions in our holdings. Surely the muggles haven’t changed that much in the past fifty years or so, have they?” Hermione bit back a retort that would have likely severely damaged the relationship she was trying to establish with the uptight librarian.

At this point Harry stepped up. “It’s my understanding that this is exactly what the headmistress expected to happen when she hired Hermione,” he declared. “Perhaps you should speak to her about authorizing the necessary expenditures.” Madame Pince immediately shrank back.

“Yes, Professor Potter,” she stammered. “I’m sure you’re correct.” She turned nervously to Hermione. “Why don’t you give me a list and I’ll see what I can do.” Hermione thanked her and led Harry out the door.

Once in the corridor she turned to him and raised a challenging eyebrow. “Yes, Professor Potter,” she mimicked. “Anything you say Professor Potter.” Harry rolled his eyes and shook his head. Then she smiled and leaned up and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. “Thank you. I appreciate all the help you can give me.”

-ooo-

That night when Hermione came to his room to hear the next episode of his life, she was wearing a dressing gown. Harry stared thoughtfully at her for a moment, trying to work out all the possible implications of her attire. He noticed that she was wearing pajama bottoms under her dressing gown, and decided to go along with whatever she was planning. Accordingly, he briefly excused himself and changed into a tee shirt and a pair of pajama pants of his own, and rejoined her.

“OK,” he began as they made themselves comfortable on his sofa. “I think the last letter I wrote you was at the beginning of fourth year, right?” Hermione nodded in affirmation. “So I already told you about what happened at the Quidditch World Cup. In fact, that was what prompted that letter,” he recalled. “While we were wandering around the campsite I saw a group of witches with a banner saying Salem Witches Institute . It reminded me that I hadn’t written to you all summer.”

He paused, trying to remember the details of what he’d written. “So I told you about the Death Eater riot, and the Dark Mark being cast, and how when we got back to Hogwarts we were told about the Triwizard Tournament. At that point everything was fine. Then it all fell apart the night – ironically, it was Halloween again – that the champions were selected. They did it by having students put their names into the Goblet of Fire. Then that evening at dinner the Goblet made the selection by shooting out sparks and the name came flying out.” He shook his head. “After Cedric Diggory, Viktor Krum, and Fleur Delacour were selected and everyone thought it was settled, suddenly my name came out. Things really got crazy after that.”

Hermione moved closer and took his hand. She had a feeling this was going to be the pattern each evening they got together like this. “Do you know how that happened?”

“Yeah, a Death Eater named Barty Crouch, Jr. was impersonating our Defense professor that year, who was supposed to be Mad Eye Moody,” Harry revealed grimly. “He entered my name under a fictitious school, and then managed to confound the Cup into selecting four names. Since I was the only entrant from that school, I was certain to be selected. Then I was summoned into a back room with the other champions and the heads of their schools and told it was a binding magical contract and I had no choice but to compete or I’d lose my magic.”

“How is that possible?!” Hermione protested. “They would have needed your real signature at the least. And we know that magic is intent based.”

“Well, the man in charge of the whole thing was Barty Crouch, Sr.” Harry explained. “He was the one who made the ruling, and we found out later that his son had him under the Imperius curse. No one questioned it at the time, and I certainly didn’t know any better.” He gave a sarcastic laugh. “That guy, the fake Moody I mean, really had a lot of nerve. He basically told us right then and there how he’d done it. I still remember him saying, ‘Maybe someone’s hoping Potter is going to die.’”

Hermione shook her head in dismay. “Why?” she wondered. “And why you?”

“Why, because I’m Harry Potter, of course,” he retorted with more than a touch of sarcasm. She responded with a sharp elbow to his ribs, eliciting an apologetic wince. “OK, seriously, it was all a plot by Voldemort to capture me and use me in a ceremony to bring him back to life. That happened at the end of the Third Task. Crouch, Jr. secretly did stuff all year to make sure I’d win, and he turned the Championship Cup trophy into a portkey. But that all came later. And why me specifically was because he’d been obsessed with me since before I was born, because of a prophecy. But I didn’t find out about that until the end of the next year”

“OK, we can hold off on that part,” Hermione allowed. “What happened next?”

“Like I said yesterday, no one believed that I hadn’t somehow figured out a way to enter my name,” he sighed. “Not Ron, not Fred and George, no one. They were all celebrating like it was a big Gryffindor victory and congratulating me. Finally I gave up trying to convince anyone and went to bed.”

By now Hermione was snuggled up against his side again, and he had his arm across her shoulders. She gave his arm a squeeze of support and empathy.

“Then, the next morning …”

-oooOOOooo-

Harry dressed and went down into the common room, to smatters ofapplause from the few Gryfindors present. The prospect of going down into the Great Hall and enduring more of the same was not a pleasant one. But before he could make up his mind whether to go though with it, Colin Creevy came running up to him.

“McGonagall wants to see you in her office,” he blurted out, just managing to overcome his hero worship long enough to deliver the message. Harry nodded and climbed out of the portrait hole and made his way down to see his Head of House.

“Good morning, Mr. Potter,” the Assistant Headmistress greeted him, peering at him over her spectacles. “Help yourself to some cakes.” Harry thanked her and picked up two of the pastries, appreciative of the fact that he would be able to avoid the Great Hall until at least lunchtime.

“We find ourselves in yet another difficulty,” she informed him unnecessarily. “The rules of the Tournament are quite specific in that you may not receive any assistance from any Hogwarts staff member. “I’m afraid we will need to discontinue your private instruction.”

Harry nodded glumly. Just when he’d thought things couldn’t get any worse …

“There is nothing however, that says that you may not receive assistance from a non-staff member,” she continued, a small smirk playing out across her face. “Say, for instance, an employee?” She clapped her hands sharply, and a second later a familiar figure popped into the room.

“Dobby?” Harry blurted out in surprise.

“It is Dobby, Sir, it is!” squealed the small elf as he bounced in excitement.

“Dobby , what are you doing here?” Harry wondered.

“Dobby has come to work at Hogwarts, Sir!” came the eager reply. “But Mistress McGonagall tells Dobby another plan.” Harry turned a questioning look at the aforementioned professor.

“I thought you might wish to hire Dobby yourself,” McGonagall revealed. “Then he couldn’t possibly be considered a member of Hogwarts staff. But he could still work here, and any information he happens to hear …” She let the implication hover. Harry quickly worked out what she was suggesting. Anyone who wanted to pass information to him merely needed to mention it in the presence of the house elf.

“And Dobby has the perfect place for Harry Potter Sir to practice his magic spells,” the enthusiastic elf announced happily. “It is known by us as the Come and Go Room, sir, or else as the Room of Requirement.”

-oooOOOooo-

“The Room of Requirement?” Hermione asked, her interest aroused by this unfamiliar location. “What’s that?”

“It’s simply brilliant,” Harry assured her, then launched into a description of the magically alterable space. “I’ll show it to you tomorrow,” he promised after he’d finished. “You could use it for your Muggle Studies class. If you can imagine a particular muggle scene or event it can recreate it.”

“So anyway, what with the invisibility cloak, the time turner, Dobby, and the Room, I spent a lot of time alone, away from the other students for the next few months,” he told her. “I decided the most important thing was to train as hard as I could. And when I found out what the First Task was going to be …” He paused and shook his head, with a slight sense of disbelief, even all these years later. “Dragons. We had to go up against dragons!”

Now it was Hermione’s turn to shake her head in disbelief, as Harry described how Hagrid had surreptitiously shown him the dragons to be used in the task (probably at McGonagall’s suggestion, he reckoned) and then how the fake Moody had pulled him aside after he’d tipped off Cedric, and indirectly suggested that he make use of his flying skills to meet the challenge.

He’d been surprised that Moody had intervened so directly and mentioned it to McGonagall. And the next time the one-eyed ex-Auror had a suggestion for him, he’d passed it through Dobby. In hindsight, he wondered if he should have been more suspicious, but Hermione reassured him that with all the stress he was under there was no way he could have been expected to worry about the intentions of his benefactors.

Hermione listened with admiration as he related how he’d lured the Hungarian Horntail off her nest with his dives and feints, until finally he’d been able to swoop down and grab the egg. Hermione noted approvingly that he’d not even needed to cast a spell on the dragon, neither harming it nor damaging its eggs as Krum had. She was incensed, however, at the biased scoring by the Durmstrang headmaster that nevertheless gave the Bulgarian champion the same point total, putting them into a tie for first.

Harry gave her arm a squeeze to show his appreciation for her indignation on his behalf. Then he noted with a touch of resentment how all his housemates and many other Hogwarts students had quickly changed their opinions of him and proclaimed their support, now that he’d proven himself and was in the lead, most notably Ron. He’d gone along with the celebration in Gryffindor Tower, but some annoyance lingered, as he’d wished they’d shown more faith in him when he’d really needed it.

“If I’d been there I’d have given them a piece of my mind!” Hermione declared hotly. “Especially Ron. He should have known you better than that!” Harry shrugged, but smiled, envisioning how she might have berated their other friend for his attitude.

“OK, enough about that,” she decided. “Tell me more about the Yule Ball.”

Harry grimaced, but complied. “Well, once I found out from McGonagall that I had to attend, with a partner, I first decided that I wanted to ask Cho Chang.”

“Who was she?” Hermione queried.

“A Ravenclaw a year ahead of us,” Harry answered, then quickly continued before she could ask the obvious follow-up. “She was a quidditch player, their seeker.” His face reddened slightly. “I’d noticed her the year before when we played them.” Hermione caught his embarrassment and grinned.

“Oh, so not only were you consorting with an opposing player,” she teased, “but an older woman to boot.” Harry shot her a dirty look but it quickly dissolved into a self-effacing grin. “So, what happened?” she prompted.

“I waited too long to get up the nerve to ask her,” he recalled. “So she already had a date – Cedric Diggory, in fact. When I got back to the common room feeling pretty dejected, Ginny walked over, to console me I guess, and I thought, hey, she’s a girl, I can ask her.”

“I hope you didn’t say that to her!” Hermione interrupted in a disapproving tone. Harry rolled his eyes.

“No, of course not,” he protested. “Who do you think I am, Ron?”

Hermione giggled. “That does sound more like something he would do,” she acknowledged.

“Anyway,” Harry continued. “Ginny blushed like crazy, then stuttered and stammered for a while. I tried to calm her down by saying I figured we could just go as friends, but she still had sort of a dazed look when she finally managed to say yes.” He scowled at the memory.

“What’s wrong?” Hermione wondered why that scene should have been so upsetting.

“I found out later that Neville had already asked her,” he revealed. “She told him she’d think about it, and I suspect she was waiting until she heard I had a date. It might not even have been a coincidence that she was waiting right there when I came back from asking Cho.” He shook his head. “So Neville was miffed at me for quite a while after that.”

Hermione commiserated with him, understanding how unfair that would seem to him. And then there was Ron, whose relationship with Harry had still been shaky even though he’d admitted after the first task that he’d been in the wrong. Now he was the big brother, suspicious of Harry’s intentions toward his baby sister even though Harry assured him that they were just going as friends.

“As for the Ball itself, it was pretty uncomfortable and I was glad when it finally ended,” Harry concluded. “Ginny was so excited I thought she might pass out at times, especially when we had to do the first dance. But then I’d glance at Ron and see him glaring at me. Awkward doesn’t begin to describe it. At the end I just said goodnight to Ginny at the foot of the stairs – I realize now that she was probably pretty disappointed.”

Hermione sighed and leaned her head against his shoulder. “I’m sorry,” she consoled him. “It sounds like you were going to be in trouble no matter what you did.”

“Oh, it got even worse after the Second Task,” Harry informed her.

He then went on to the next part of his fourth year tale, telling her how the clue in the egg (which Cedric had tipped him off about) revealed that they needed to retrieve something precious to them from the bottom of the lake. How Dobby had procured him some gillyweed to enable him to breathe under water after overhearing McGonagall and the fake Moody talking about it. How he’d reached the mermaid village first to find four girls tied to a statue – Ginny, Cho, Fleur’s sister Gabrielle, and the girl Krum had taken to the Yule Ball. And how he’d waited for the other champions to show up to rescue their hostages, not wanting any of them to be left behind, and had finally brought up both Ginny and Gabrielle.

“That’s my noble Harry Potter,” Hermione teased after he’d explained that he’d taken seriously the part of the clue that said that after an hour the hostage would be lost. Both of them noticed the possessive ‘my’ that she’d used, but neither of them decided to comment on it. Each, however, decided the implication was not unpleasant.

“And Ginny was considered the person most precious to you,” Hermione pointed out. “That must have had her over the moon!”

“Yeah, except she was none too happy when Fleur kissed me,” Harry revealed. Hermione leaned back and shot a look up at him, raising an eyebrow. “No, no, not like that!” Harry corrected quickly. “On the cheeks. You know, the way the French do. She was grateful to me for saving her sister.”

“But I bet you enjoyed it nevertheless,” Hermione persisted playfully when she noticed how flustered he was.

Harry groaned, but nodded sheepishly. “Well, she was wearing only a wet swimsuit at the time,” he protested. “And I told you she was part Veela, right? So yeah, I was a bit gobsmacked.” Hermione smiled and conceded his point, and settled her head back against his shoulder.

“But it’s understandable why Ginny would have been upset,” she pointed out.

“Ginny never did get along with Fleur,” Harry commented. “She still doesn’t. Even after Fleur married her brother.”

“What!” Hermione gasped. “Ron married a Veela!”

“No, no!” Harry broke in at once. “Not Ron. Her oldest brother, Bill. They actually met during the tournament, on the morning of the Third Task.”

“Oh.” Hermione took a deep breath as she settled back down. “I see.” She thought for a moment. “So there was never really any reason for Ginny to be jealous?” she asked with a touch of skepticism.

Harry shook his head. “It never occurred to me then that there could be any possibility of me getting together with Fleur,” he explained. “She was completely out of my league. Remember, I was only fourteen and she was seventeen at the time. And the first time she met me she referred to me as ‘zisleetle boy’”, he added with a wry chuckle. “So no, there wasn’t.” He then grinned at another thought. “Although Ron did embarrass himself by asking her to the Yule Ball. But he ran away without even waiting for her to turn him down. He always had trouble resisting her Veela allure. He’s learned to keep his distance now, whenever he runs into her at some family gathering.”

Hermione smiled as she tried to visualize that scene, then persevered with her question. “But it occurred to you later?”

Harry shook his head gently. “Not until after she and Bill were already engaged, so no, not really. It was more of a ‘what if’ sort of thought, as I got to know her better. She’s one of my best friends now, although I don’t see her that often. She was amazing during the war – really held it together when everything seemed to be falling apart.” He fell silent for a moment. “But that’s getting ahead of the story.”

“Yes, let’s get back to the tournament,” Hermione suggested. “Why don’t you move on to the Third Task.”

“Sure,” Harry agreed. “Not much else happened in between. I kept studying and training, using the time turner to get an extra four hours or more a day. Ginny was a problem. She started hanging around me all the time. People kept teasing me about having a girlfriend, and I kept explaining we were still just friends. But she would put on this ‘of course, that’s just what we’re telling everyone’ expression and making it look like we really were together. I even learned later that she was coming right out and saying it when I was out of earshot.” He sighed, and shot Hermione a thoughtful look.

“You know, that could have been you,” he observed.

Hermione was taken by surprise, and could only manage to stammer, “Wh … what?”

“Well, like I said before, you would have believed me from the beginning. So we probably would have spent a lot of time together, with you helping me out with everything, right?” Hermione nodded her firm agreement. “And I probably would have asked you to the Ball instead of Ginny. So you would probably have been my hostage for the Second Task, too. I mean, the clue said, ‘We’ve taken what you’ll sorely miss.’ That would surely have described you!”

Hermione could only nod. She really couldn’t fault his logic; it certainly seemed plausible. “So it would have been me everyone teased you about being together with instead of Ginny,” she concluded. Harry nodded. Suddenly both of the young professors thought the room felt warmer, but neither one of them mentioned it. “I expect I would have handled it better,” she asserted. “And since everyone would have been accustomed to me being around you all the time, your denials would have been more plausible.”

Harry almost countered that he might not have wanted to deny it in her case, but decided not to go there right then, and kept quiet. After a few moments he spoke up again.

“The Third Task is actually the really bad part of the story,” he cautioned. Hermione responded by snuggling up closer and taking his hand into hers.

“Go ahead,” she encouraged. “I’m not going anywhere.”

She sat spellbound as Harry solemnly related how the four champions had entered the maze needing to fight their way past magical obstacles both animate and inanimate. Added in, however, was the unexpected interference of the fake Moody, who Imperiused the Durmstrang champion, Krum, to attack and disable the other two contestants, leaving Harry a clear shot to the winner’s cup at the center of the maze. Harry had foiled this plan to some extent by rescuing his fellow Hogwart’s competitor, Cedric Diggory, resulting in a tie between the two of them for the title.

But the cup had been a portkey.

Hermione listened in mounting horror as Harry continued in a far-off, subdued voice as he relived once again the terror of that night. Arriving at a mysterious graveyard. The incapacitating pain in his scar. The abrupt, horribly off-handed murder of Cedric. Being tied to the headstone of Voldemort’s father, whose bones were used in a dark ritual along with Pettigrew’s hand and Harry’s blood to restore the dark lord once more to bodily form. And being forced to watch everything, absolutely helpless.

“That was the worst part of the whole thing,” he explained in a grim tone of quiet fury. “Being so powerless to do anything about it, and knowing I was about to die. Being caught completely by surprise, even though I knew from the beginning that someone had gone to all this trouble for a reason. I became caught up in completing the damn tournament when I should have been focused on making sure whatever they were trying to do didn’t come off.”

He closed his eyes and grimaced, internally berating himself even all these years later. “I wasn’t wearing my time turner – I’d decided there would be no way I could use it in the maze. If I’d had it I could have escaped easily as soon as my hands were free!”

He opened his eyes again and turned to Hermione’s grief-stricken face. “After that I vowed that I’d never take it off again. And I didn’t, not until after the war was over.”

He leaned his head back and resumed his story. “He called all his old Death Eaters back and when they showed up he went into a long speech about how he’d survived and finally returned. Then he decided to make a big show of killing me. First he Crucioed me a couple of times, and tried to Imperio me, but it didn’t work.”

Hermione’s breath caught in her throat. At only fourteen, Harry had survived multiple Cruciatus curses from the most powerful wizard in the world, and even thrown off his Imperius ! How powerful was her best friend?

Harry ignored her and continued, and the tale grew even more astonishing. “He freed me, gave me back my wand, and I tried to fight back. But our wands connected and locked up! He was as surprised as I was. Dumbledore told me afterward that it was because our wands were brothers – they both had phoenix feather cores from Fawkes. That became important again later on when we faced each other the next time.”

By now Hermione’s jaw was permanently agape, and she could only nod, dumbfounded. “A weird thing happened then,” Harry observed (as if the preceding story hadn’t been weird?). “My wand somehow established dominance over his and forced it to play back some of its previous spells. I saw ghosts, or something, of the people he killed. Including Cedric and … my parents.”

Tears began to well up in Hermione’s eyes, but she paid them no heed. She pressed herself even more tightly against his side, coming close to climbing onto his lap, and was squeezing his arm so hard she might be cutting off his blood circulation.

Harry wrapped up his incredible story with his return to Hogwarts with Cedric’s body and the portkey, and the confusion that ensued, including his brief capture and interrogation by the fake Moody before the imposter was stopped by Dumbledore, McGonagall, and Snape. He ended on a bitter note as he described how Fudge had a dementor perform a Kiss on Crouch, Jr. before anyone else heard his testimony, then refused to believe that Voldemort was back, and stormed out of the hospital wing after tossing the one thousand Galleon prize on his bedside table.

By now both the young wizard and witch’s emotions were thoroughly spent. Hermione took a long look at the utterly drained expression on Harry’s face and finalized a plan she’d formulated earlier in the evening. She stood and extended a hand to him, and pulled him to his feet, ignoring his puzzled expression. Then she pulled out her wand and performed a quick transfiguration, enlarging and flattening the sofa, and adding two pillows a pair of sheets, and a blanket.

Satisfied with her work, she removed her dressing gown, revealing a tank top and pajama bottoms, laid it over a chair, and slipped beneath the sheets. Turning back the blanket, she looked up at him in clear invitation. Without giving it a second’s thought, he gratefully accepted.

That night was a turning point in Harry Potter’s life. For beneath the drama and the remarkable deeds of courage and cunning, Hermione Granger had caught an underlying theme. The events of that year had sent him down the path of isolation. As he began to rely more and more only on himself, he increasingly grew more aloof, shutting out his fellow students, and marginalizing his friendships. And now, he’d become the inevitable product of that process, the most famous wizard in the world, who everyone knew, but at the same time no one really knew.

She was firmly resolved to change that.

-xox-XOX-XOX-xox-

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