In the end, Cedric managed to get passed everything Harry had admitted to (or at least decided to ignore it for now) and they got back to work on their strategies based on their strengths.
Cedric’s best subjects were Transfiguration and Potions. Potions however wasn’t something that would be effective against a dragon, however, leaving only Transfiguration as an option for him. Harry didn’t envy the boy in trying to come up with a strategy that used the subject against a dragon. That wouldn’t be an easy task as the Dragon’s hide would repel any attempt to transfigure the creature itself meaning he’d have to try another route.
Cedric was clearly frustrated by this, as he was wary about relying on hope that something he’d transfigured would keep the dragon distracted long enough to retrieve whatever it was they would need to retrieve.
If they needed to retrieve something. Neither boy was certain that was actually what they needed to do. Harry just hoped the threat of a pissed off werewolf and ex-auror/convict would keep the Ministry from making them actually making the Champions fight the dragon. It helped, Harry mused, that Sirius was also Lord Black and could easily make life hard for everyone involved if Harry got injured in this thing.
Sometimes it paid to be a minor with a rich and influential (if he wanted to be) godfather.
If only Sirius could get Harry out of participating altogether, the teen grumbled internally. Not that the man hadn’t been trying to whenever he wasn’t trying to find whoever had entered Harry in the first place. The man was still convinced that Crouch was a likely suspect, and Harry had to admit that his theory was pretty well thought out, but they needed to be sure before they acted. If Crouch had been the one to enter him, he had sure covered his tracks in the process because there wasn’t a single trace of who had entered him on the Goblet itself according to the Ministry.
They had found the runes used to bypass the protections carved onto the bottom of the Goblet’s base and confirmed that the age ward had remained untouched, meaning whoever had messed with it had been an adult. That officially ruled out Harry as aging potions wouldn’t have fooled the ward at all and Harry was definitely a minor.
It had also officially confirmed that Harry had been bound by the magic of the Goblet and had no choice other than participate.
What made it worse was that there was a way out of this entire thing. Harry and Gabriel had brain stormed together and had both agreed that it was their human soul that was bound by the Goblet’s magic. If they tried hard enough, they could partially mask their soul from the magic with Grace for just long enough for the magic binding him to break.
Unfortunately, Harry would have no way to explain that and demanding to have the Goblet reexamined would lead to suspicion on how he knew that he was no longer bound. It could also very well reveal why he was no longer bound by the Goblet. Explaining why the stupid thing no longer thought he was human or had a soul was not something Harry wanted to do. Plus, keeping it a secret from the rest of the world would be a fool’s errand.
So now Harry had to figure out a way to survive this thing without using anything that would be impossible for the average fourth year. So conjuring and advanced Transfiguration anything was definitely out.
′Eh, we can’t conjure anything other than rocks, anyways.′ Gabriel reminded him. ‘Our magic isn’t refined enough for anything else. And Cedric already has dibs on Transfiguration.’
‘True,’ Harry conceded before going back to brain storming. They needed to play to their strengths. So what were his best classes? He reached for a piece of parchment and started writing down everything he was taking and the grade he had received for each the year before.
Harry frowned at the list. His grade in Potions had always bugged him as he knew Snape was misjudging his work. Hermione nearly always got an EE on her essays in that class and the girl had always commented that Harry’s essays were just as good. Shaking his head at the obvious abuse of power Snape was pulling, Harry let the matter go. It wasn’t worth the fight and if he got Snape fired by complaining when the man was still being watched, the Slytherin’s would be out for blood.
Harry really didn’t need a fourth of his school trying to kill him on top of the yearly death threats, thanks.
“What’s that?” Cedric asked, noticing the frown on the other boys face.
“Classes and grades from last year,” he handed to parchment over. “I’m trying to figure out my strengths.”
Cedric quickly skimmed the paper. “Looks like Runes, Care, and Defense are your best classes. Defense would be useless, though, since dealing with dragons takes multiple people.”
Harry sighed. “That’s what I thought. Care and Runes, then.”
Cedric frowned, considering. “Runes would take a lot more knowledge than you would have at this level. You’re just starting Linking, right?”
Harry groaned loudly before nodding. “You’re right. I mean, I’m a bit ahead but not enough to know how to take down a dragon.”
Cedric nodded, thoughtful. “This is likely way they put up the age ward. You just don’t have enough magical knowledge for this. How you managed to survive your adventures is already a miracle.”
Harry perked. “That’s just it,” he grinned at Cedric’s questioning look. “During each and every one of those times, I worked with what I had. We’re only allowed our wands, right?”
“Yes,” Cedric nodded. “Why do I get the feeling like I’m not going to like your plan?”
“Because you’re really going to hate my plan,” Harry grinned.
The Hufflepuff let out a resigned sigh. “How did I get dragged into this insanity?”
November 24th came with a flurry of excitement from the entire Wizarding World. Reporters and students crowded in the stands, all of them fighting to get a decent seat as the dragon handlers wrestled the first of the dragons into the modified Quidditch pitch.
Harry could even see Sirius and Remus among the other families of the champions. His godfather was scowling heavily at everyone and everything while Remus growled every time the woman next to him who greatly resembled Fleur made a comment. Harry winced at the uncertain looks coming from everyone in their vicinity. He was probably lucky that Molly Weasley wasn’t up there next to them. Those people really didn’t deserve to face all three unhappy adults at once.
Cedric saw where he was looking and hissed in sympathy. “They do not look happy,” he commented diplomatically.
Harry, Fleur, and Krum all gave him unimpressed looks. “More like Sirius looks ready to unleash the fury of Black Family onto whoever so much as mentions the dragons,” Harry groaned. “And Remus looks ready to let Mooney have a go at anyone who looks at him wrong.”
“Yes,” Krum nodded in agreement. “The volf is not happy.”
“Mother eez doing ’er best to keep him calm,” Fleur observed, amused. “Zey must be very worried.”
Harry nodded absently, noting the civil attitude that the two foreigners had suddenly adopted towards him. “They certainly have been…” Harry paused, trying to think of a neutral term to describe how either man was reacting to his participation.
“Absolutely barmy?” Cedric offered, grinning. “Off their rockers?”
“Pretty much,” Harry admitted. “They’ve been digging into anyone and everyone that might have entered me. I almost feel bad for whoever it is when they get a hold of them.”
“Well isn’t this a sight!” A familiar female voice spoke up. The four champions turned to see Rita Skeeter standing at the tent entrance. “All four champions, chatting like old friends!”
Krum grimaced and Fleur made a face at the sight of the woman though it disappeared before Skeeter noticed. Cedric smiled became strained.
Harry, though, just smiled kindly. “Hello, Ms. Skeeter.”
Rita flashed a bright smile at him. “Rita, please dear!”
“Rita then!” Harry chirped, ignoring the incredulous looks from his fellow champions. “I wasn’t aware you would be writing an article on the first task.”
“Yes, it is a bit far from my normal topics. Yet this is no ordinary event! An exception had to be made, of course. And I just had to see how the champions were doing before the events started!” Rita eyed them like a shark and Harry almost pointed out that it was probably against the rules for her to be here though he reframed. As far as Rita knew, he was a shy fourth year boy that was exceedingly polite.
He wanted to keep it that way, thanks. He’d read her past articles on people who’d offended her. At the same time, he really didn’t feel like dealing with her at the moment.
Thankfully, Bagman came to the rescue. “I say,” the man exclaimed when he walked in to see her. “What are you doing back here? No reporter in the tent, how many times do I have to tell you! Interviews are for after the task!” He quickly ushered the woman out.
Shaking his head, Bagman turned to them. “Now then! As you all likely know, each of you will be assigned a dragon.”
“The one outside pretty much gave it away,” Cedric muttered just loud enough for the other champions to hear. Krum snorted.
“Each Dragon has been given a golden egg to guard. The eggs hold the clue to the next Task which will take place on February 24th! To complete the Task, you must retrieve this egg. Points will be rewarded on how efficiency of your strategy and the method used. Points will be taken on how much damage you sustain. Points will be taken if you damage any of the other eggs.” Bagman clapped his hands together. “Any questions?”
′Yeah,′ Gabriel piqued up. ‘Is your stupidity contagious?’
Harry wisely kept that quiet, snickering silently. None of the others spoke, though Cedric was looking very relieved. It was nice to know that they had been right in what the Task would be.
“Alright then!” Bagman held out a pouch. “Inside this pouch are enchanted models representing each dragon. The number on the model determines the order in which you perform the task. Ladies first!”
Fleur eyed the pouch before reluctantly putting her hand in. She pulled out a green dragon with the number two draped over it. The model stretched before curling in her hand. “Lucky! That’s the Common Welsh Green, very subdued. You’ll be going second.” Bagman observed. Harry really wished he would tone it down with the cheeriness.
“Right then, you next!” Bagman offered the pouch to Krum. The Quidditch star grimaced and reached in, pulling out a scarlet dragon with the number three on it. “That would be the Chinese Fireball-ouch!”
A flame had shot out of the pouch, hitting the man’s hand. Harry fought down a snicker. Krum did no such thing and snorted at the man’s pain.
“You next,” the man’s good mood faded a little bit as Cedric reached in to pull out a blue dragon. The number one stood out against its scales. “Swedish Short-Snout,” Bagman identified and looked a little queasy. His eyes fell on Harry. “That leaves the Hungarian Horntail…”
Harry reached into the pouch and pulled out said dragon. The number four was almost entirely unnecessary at this point. Bagman was giving Harry the most pitying look he could manage before he turned to leave.
Harry studied the model as it roared and clawed his hand. The scales were a dark black, only making the yellow eyes shine ever brighter against them. Bronze horns and spikes decorated the length of its body, digging a bit into his hand as it moved. ‘Can we keep it?’
Harry didn’t bother to answer and gently held out a finger from his opposite hand for the creature to sniff.
The dragon eyed the finger, flames threatening to burn him as it stepped forward a bit. Instead of attacking, though, the small model dragon sniffed the appendage before slowly nuzzling into it. Harry grinned and carefully stroked the spike on it.
“You would make friends with a dragon,” Cedric snorted, having watched the whole thing while he waited to be called. The Hufflepuff was even less surprised with his own enchanted model dragon abandoned him in favor of Harry’s hair. “I should have expected that,” he muttered.
“Nithhogr,” Harry decided after a moment of thought. “Nith, for short.”
The newly name Nithhogr nibbled a bit on his thumb before deciding to begin exploring his robe sleeve.
“You named it after the Norse dragon that devours the dead and tries to destroy the world tree?” Cedric asked in disbelief. Harry didn’t bother to explain. He wasn’t entirely sure where the name came from himself.
′I like it,′ Gabriel decided.
Nith turned and snarled at the Hufflepuff, flames lighting up her mouth. Cedric held up his hands in alarm, eyes wide as the dragon backed down and resumed her climbing on Harry’s robe. The blue dragon pulled a bit on his hair and Harry glanced at Cedric in askance. The Hufflepuff waved at him the go ahead. “Scylla?” he offered. The pulling stopped, the dragon seemingly satisfied
“Iz zis normal?” Fleur asked after a moment, watching Harry and his new additions in amusement.
“Very. He’s already got two pixies and a sentient book following him around, why not two enchanted dragon models?” Cedric shook his head. “At least I don’t have to worry about what to do with it anymore.”
“Don’t forget Hedwig,” Harry added as he observed Nith settle on his shoulder. “And Scylla’s a she.”
“His owl,” Cedric informed them all. Before more could be said, the beginning of the Task was announced. “It’s best if you don’t question it too much,” he advised the two bemused foreigners before exiting the tent.
Nith snarled a bit at Scylla when the other dragon peaked over at her. Scylla hissed back. “Be nice,” Harry scolded. The two settled, though Nith seemed more reluctant than Scylla.
“British vizard’s are…odd.” Krum decided.
“Very,” Fleur agreed.
Despite distracting himself from the Tournament with Scylla and Nith, Harry still couldn’t help but worry about his turn and his plan.
Cedric hadn’t liked his plan for the simple reason that there was no plan. Planning was all well and good on paper but when it came to putting it in practice? There were so many things that could go wrong and Harry didn’t have the luxury of being able to put his all into this. Not without broadcasting to the world that he was far from the average fourth year and Harry knew that such a thing would only bite him later.
At the same time, Harry couldn’t just do nothing and leave it at that. If he wanted to survive for the next task, he needed the clue in that egg. So he was going to do something really dangerous and wing it.
Gabriel was just as happy with this plan as Harry and Cedric. ‘There are so many ways that this is going to go wrong I can’t even point them all out,’ Gabriel grumbled. ‘If we die, I blame you.’
Harry ignored the obvious problem with that statement. ‘We aren’t going to die. We just need to get the egg and get out. Easy.’
It was anything other than easy. Harry grimaced as his turn finally came. Bracing himself, he turned to the exit of the tent and walked out into the arena.
The full sized Hungarian Horntail was much more intimidating than Nith, who was still perched on his shoulder. The mother dragon roared when she spotted him, baring her teeth as flames licked her snout. Harry barely had time to dive behind a rock before flames engulfed the area he’d been standing. The tent caught fire with the strength of them and the crowd screamed as it threatened to spread to the stands.
′Serves them right.′ Harry didn’t disagree. The mother roared again, angered that she had failed in frying him to a crisp.
Okay, so now what? Harry asked himself. Peeking from behind the rock, Harry surveyed the angered mother as she paced. Can’t move or she’ll roast us. Getting close putts those spikes and horns in striking distance and I really don’t want those to hit me.
The dragon roared again as her movement was stopped by a chain around her neck. Harry focused on it and allowed a small smirk to form. ‘That chain limits her movements,’ Gabriel mused. ‘She can reach her eggs and the surrounding area but she won’t be able to fly that well.’
And he knew just the spell to use first, “Accio Firebolt!” he called as the mother roared again. Harry quickly dove towards a new rock as the one he’d just left was set a flame. ‘That was close,’ he muttered internally.
′And here comes our Firebolt!′ Gabriel gleefully pointed out.
Distraction, Harry thought as the dragon noticed the new movement in the sky. He ignored Bagman as the man narrated what Harry was doing to the excited crowd. He needed something to catch her attention.
′Patronus!′ Gabriel suggested.
“Expecto Patronum!” Harry called and his wand lit up with light before it shot away, forming a winged ball of light. It quickly took off towards the dragon, catching her attention as she turned away from the incoming Firebolt.
“Incredible!” Bagman yelled. “Our fourth champion has cast a corporeal Patronus to distract the Horntail! It seems to be in the shape of a winged ball of light! I’ve never seen anything like it!”
Harry took off from his spot, lunging for his broom as it entered the arena. Without stopping his run, Harry swung himself on the broom and took off.
The angel Patronus was flying around the Horntail’s face, taunting it while keeping just out of reach. It wouldn’t be long before the mother gave up and noticed him so Harry sped towards the nest the instant he was in the air.
Sure enough, the mother noticed him a split second after his hand pulled the egg from the nest. With an angry roar, she swung her tail at him and Harry was just a second to slow to dodge it completely. The tip of the spike caught his broom and sent him flying towards the ground.
Harry gripped the handle of his broom with his free hand and threw open his wings, twisting in the air. His shoulder and back burst into pain as he pulled on the broom with all his might. His wings caught the air currents and the broom steadied beneath him as he quickly flew out of the arena. The dragon did make for another attack, eyeing him in speculation as he flew away. Harry didn’t bother to wonder at that, just glad that this was over.
′We are never doing that again.′
Harry agreed whole-heartedly.
“You are insane,” Cedric laughed when he landed next to the Hospital Tent. All champions were required to visit the nurse after the task, just in case. “That dragon nearly minced you!”
Harry grinned at him and shrugged. “Not the worst thing I’ve ever done,” he admitted, thinking of the basilisk fang that had gone through his arm. “I’ve got a few scratches from dodging the fire but that’s about it.”
He had more than a few scratches, he winced internally. He’d pulled his back when he’d righted himself and had dislocated his left shoulder when he’d twisted.
Madame Pomfrey, summoned by the mere mention of possible injuries, appeared from the tent’s entrance. She eyed him and sighed. “I should have known. What is it this time?”
Cedric laughed at Harry’s offended expression. “Just a scratch!” Harry protested. “Nothing that needs treatment!”
“I’ll be the judge of that,” she told him before dragging him into the tent where both Fleur and Krum were still being treated. Fleur’s skirt was a little singed but that seemed to be the only thing wrong with her and Krum didn’t seem to have any injuries at all. Both look up at him as he entered, Cedric following from behind.
“It’s just a scratch,” Harry protested again.
“Bah!” Pomfrey narrowed her eyes at him. “I know better than to trust your judgment of your own injuries, Mr. Potter. Don’t think I don’t remember how you tried to downplay your injuries in your second year! You’re lucky the Headmaster’s phoenix was around, less you have died!”
Harry winced, remembering the conversation he’d had with Hermione after the Chamber incident. Madame Pomfrey hadn’t been impressed by his lack of concern over the giant hole that had been put into his arm by the basilisk fang. “It wasn’t that bad,” Harry told her. It was a lie.
“That’s a lie and you know it, Mr. Potter,” she huffed at him. “Now sit. You’re not leaving this tent until I know you aren’t hiding a life threatening injury somewhere on your body. I wouldn’t put it past you.”
Harry sighed and resigned himself to her mercies as Cedric snickered at him from afar. Harry stuck his tongue out at the boy.
“Ah-hah!” the nurse said triumphantly. “I knew it!”
“It’s fine!” Harry protested again. His body screamed otherwise.
“It certainly is not!” Madam Pomfrey whacked his head with her wand. Harry glared at her in response. “You’ve pulled every muscle in your back and that arm is definitely dislocated!”
“That’s what you call fine?” the Hufflepuff seeker asked in shock. “Harry that is not fine! How are you even moving?!”
Harry didn’t answer as a potion was forced down his throat by the irked nurse. He coughed after he swallowed, glaring at her again to show that he had not appreciated that. The throbbing in his back thankfully died down. “I’m not bleeding to death, poisoned, having a seizure or in a coma. It’s fine.”
′It just hurts like a bitch,′ Gabriel agreed.
Cedric just groaned and Madam Pomfrey sighed in response. “Mr. Potter, that is not a good indicator of what is fine or not,” she rolled her eyes. “Now bite down onto this towel.”
Harry did as instructed and braced himself as she snapped his shoulder back in location. “Good,” she nodded taking the towel out of his mouth. “Now, if your back starts throbbing again I want you to come to me for a potion. You should be fine now. Keep that scratch clean, though.”
She added the last part with more amusement than necessary. Harry stuck his tongue out at her. He didn’t have time to do anything else as three concerned adults entered the Hospital Tent with urgency.
Sirius, Remus, and Charlie looked rather stressed and immediately darted over to him. “What were you thinking?!” Sirius roared, eyes wide. “You could have been killed!”
Harry winced at the yell. “I’m fine!” Now, at least.
“You had a dislocated shoulder and a pulled back,” Cedric corrected from where he was standing with his parents, watching the spectacle. Harry glared at him.
“That’s not fine, Harry!” Remus protested. “That is the opposite of fine!”
′So people keep telling us,′ Gabriel commented. ‘Personally, I don’t see the problem. It would have been healed by tomorrow and we could have fixed our shoulder by ourselves.’
“You’re lucky that the dragon didn’t go for you a second time!” Charlie added in. “Wait, why do you have miniature dragons in your hair?”
Everyone paused and focused on said dragons. “The Horntail’s Nithhoggr and the Short-Snout’s Scylla,” Harry informed them all, glad for the distraction. He’d forgotten the enchanted models were still there. “You both alright?” he asked them, concerned.
“Unbelievable,” Sirius moaned to Remus. “He’s more worried about the miniature dragons than he is for himself. James must be cackling at us from his grave.”