Disclaimer; JKRowlings Scholastic books and Warner Brothers films own Harry Potter and although I'm borrowing her characters and setting the plots of this story are my own and I make no money for writing it.
Harry pulled the curtains around his four poster in the Gryffindor fourth year dormitory. He'd had such high hopes for a normal year this year, but as usual Halloween had put paid to his hopes. Instead of getting to spend the year figuring out what girls he liked and how to interact with them as he'd wanted to do, he was now stuck in this Merlin be damned tournament. He sucked back the desire to cry, he wasn't a baby, but the events of the evening had finally convinced him that the magical world was every bit as treacherous for him as the normal world if not even more so.
Harry took deep calming breaths as he fought the tears that sought to rise. Despite the unmanly nature of crying, he found himself losing the battle just as the evening's overwhelming events had made him lose Ron's friendship. He hated Halloween. Harry finally gave in to the tears. This would be the last time he promised himself; he would allow himself this one last release.
His tears weren't just for his now ruined friendship with Ron. They weren't just a release of his fears although that was certainly part of it as well. In this moment Harry gave up on his dream of being normal, and he cried for the betrayal of trust he had experienced from a man he had loosely regarded as a mentor/grandfather figure. He cried for the other losses he had known: his parents, his childhood, his innocence, a normal life. He acknowledged for the first time that he was alone and could rely on no one else for anything that truly mattered. In years to come he would point to this moment as the one when he grew up.
The tears lasted for over an hour. Harry was very glad that he had mastered the art of crying silently as a young child. As his tears finally slowed Harry became aware of how irritated his eyes were so he crept quietly from his bed to go to the bathroom attached to the dorm, and gently washed his face with a cool washcloth, pressing it to his eyes to relieve the built up heat.
After fifteen minutes he looked into the mirror. Time to plan.
Planning required information. Information that he either didn't have or that was incomplete. Harry came to the inevitable conclusion that he had been exceptionally lazy and led. Two things he could no longer afford. Hindsight being twenty twenty Harry could easily see how Dumbledore had groomed him to be what he wanted: ignorant, blindly loyal to the old man's version the light, and a perfect puppet hero. First and second year he had no doubt performed exactly to the Headmaster's specifications. Third, well, hindsight on Sirius' situation over the summer while at the Dursley's had planted more than a few doubts as to just how honorable and good the Headmaster was, and now here he was being coerced into the bloody tournament. Harry didn't quite believe the your name came out so you must compete but he wasn't quite willing to risk his magic to fight it either. Unfortunately he seemed to be the only one with that opinion.
Harry knew little about the wizarding world, probably because Dumbledore wanted him ignorant and biddable. First by being raised muggle, second by having Hagrid show him around instead of an actual teacher like the other muggleborns got, and third by subtly encouraging Harry to be best friends with Ron, one of the laziest pureblood students in their year. The main reason Ron had passed each year was Hermione dragging his lazy arse into doing his schoolwork. Harry had been maneuvered via Hagrid and the Weasleys into Gryffindor because what else would a hero be?
Harry had been placed with the Dursleys and basically squashed mentally, emotionally, and physically because the Headmaster said so. That needed to change. The Sorting Hat implied he was smart and stated he was more than a little Slytherin. It was high time he used his snake side for more than speaking parseltongue; and started applying the brain he'd ignored having. He could no longer afford to be ignorant of anything, or lazy because this made four out of four years where in supposedly the safest place in Britain his life was once more on the line and he did not want to be the last of the Potter family. It was high time he broke old habits of not applying himself, and took a stand for his own benefit. If he could save others then he could bloody well save himself.
Harry idly wondered if his first friend his own age had been part of a set up, he suspected it was at least a partial one. Why else would Molly Weasley have been talking so loudly about the platform 9 and 3/4 despite the Statute of Secrecy? The Weasleys being as loyal as they were and Dumbledore being as controlling as he was. Harry being friends with the Weasleys meant built in spy on the Headmaster's hero network. One or two gently worded questions and the Headmaster would doubtless have a plethora of information about Harry and a few assurances from him that Harry exaggerated as young men were sometimes want to do and any real problems about the treatment he got from his relatives would be swept away from the Weasleys' minds. He sometimes half wondered if the Headmaster gave them money for their kid's schooling to encourage their thinking he was a great man because that didn't seem like much of a stretch in his mind, given the lengths the man went to control Harry.
Harry wondered where Hermione would fall in all this. He was confident that she was genuinely his friend, but he was equally certain that authority would trump friendship (again as it had last year over his Firebolt) if it came down to it. Hermione was just that sort of person. If she believed that he hadn't put his name in he would ask her help with the tournament, but he would keep the rest of his cards and his plans close to his vest. One thing was for damn sure though, this year would be the last time he danced to anyone else's tune.
"Hermione, I didn't enter myself."
"Of course you didn't."
"You believe me?"
"Of course. You, Harry James Potter, hate your fame there is no way you would enter a death defying contest for mere fame, and your family was reported to be well enough off that a thousand galleons is a drop in the bucket. If it meant saving a friend's life you might enter, but fame and fortune? No way, you're not that shallow."
"Wish Ron believed that.."
"He's just jealous."
"I know, but I also know that I don't think I will trust him again. He's acting like such an arse. He has so much that I would just about die to have, and all he sees is the stupid bloody Boy-Who-Lived shite. Why does he place so much value on stupid shite instead of seeing how bloody good he's got it."
"Here. I brought you some breakfast. This way you won't have to face everyone in the Great Hall this morning. I get you're frustrated, but could you tone down the language?" She handed him a stack of toast wrapped in a napkin."What are we going to do?"
"Still working on that. Reckon I'll be studying my arse off."
"You should write to your godfather and let him know."
"Better he hear it from you than find out from a newspaper, because you know as well as I do, this is going to make the papers."
"You're right, but since Sirius asks me to use a different owl than Hedwig. I think I should write to Crouch and Bagman first. Get them to give me a copy of the contract I'm being held to. While she takes those I'll use a common school owl for Padfoot."
"Finding out about the contract is a really good idea. Maybe I should dig into the history of the tournament see if I can get some ideas of what the tasks might be."
"While you're at it could you maybe find a way I could convince everyone I didn't enter myself."
"You write your letters. I'll head to the library.'
Harry gave Hermione a one armed hug. " Be there in a bit."
After she headed out the portrait hole. Harry returned to his dorm and pulled out several sheets of parchment. The letter to Sirius was both the easiest and the hardest. Easiest because he didn't have to structure it he was able to blurt out his thoughts on paper. Hardest because he didn't want his godfather to endanger himself because he was worried about Harry, so Harry had to control his fears. He also asked if Sirius knew a way he could convince everyone that he hadn't entered himself.
He was a bit surprised when Neville approached him. "What is it, Neville?"
"Are you going to be okay?"
"What do you mean?"
"Unlike most of Gryffindor I don't believe you entered yourself. You were too surprised when your name came out. I figure someone else, someone with bad intentions entered you. Are you going to be okay?"
'I don't know. Maybe. Maybe my Potter luck will hold for another year."
"Piss poor until, it's life and death when I pull some stunt and miraculously survive covered in glory."
"Ah. I'm not much of a wizard, but if there's anything I can do let me know."
"Thanks, Neville. You're a better friend than most."
The letters to Crouch and Bagman were harder because he wanted to word them formally enough to be taken seriously to get what he wanted. As he finished Bagman's letter it occurred to him that he might need additional books from Flourish and Blotts. He quickly wrote out a catalog request and added that to the pile of letters for Hedwig to take.
Harry headed to the owlery. As soon as his beloved owl was out of sight he approached a school owl with his letter to Sirius. Once the school owl was gone Harry headed to the library. He wished he had slept last night, but if wishes were fishes we'd all live in the sea he thought.
Most of the school took his entrance into the tournament very poorly. He got even more stares and whispers than usual, and more than once he was hexed behind his back. Classes weren't much better because except for Flitwick and Hagrid, the teachers seemed to blame him for being in the tournament. Trelawney had stepped up her predictions of his death and he fought the urge to hex her.
Harry thought of another potential source of help and wrote letter to Remus Lupin. He hoped that the werewolf was willing to help him. He made it a job offer because he didn't want the man to feel obligated to help and be in dire straits because he needed money. Harry knew Remus looked up to the Headmaster and owed him a lot but he hoped that Remus' connection to his father would trump whatever debts he felt he owed Dumbledore. If so he could get advice from one of the few adults who had actually ever done anything for him.
Harry knew he was stuck with the tournament, and considering the summertime dream he'd half forgotten it meant he was probably on some collision course with Tom again which was all in the "not good" category. Harry figured if he was a cat he was running out of lives in an all-fired hurry. Unfortunately he wasn't stupid enough to believe that too-many names Dumbledore knew nothing about it. That the old man refused to confide in Harry why Voldemort was after him, was reason enough for Harry to start looking elsewhere for his future.
Fortunately Hedwig was her usual swift self so only three days had passed since his name came from the Goblet when she brought him the contract. She had also been willing to set right back out with Remus' letter after he provided her with several owl treats and a stunned mouse.
Harry had not been idle those three days he had pulled all his books from first year and was revising every spell they contained. Part of his revision included thinking of at least five alternative ways the spells could be used. His spell repertoire might be the smallest of all the champions but he was going to make sure he got absolutely every nuance out of every single one.
Harry planned to do the same with all his spell books, but felt an overwhelming sense of doom. Nerves were making his appetite shrink so he struggled to eat most meals. On receiving a copy of the contract Harry immediately dropped working on his Transfiguration essay and read the contract instead. The sections that dealt with the specifics of the tasks had been redacted so he wouldn't know the particulars.
"Are you done yet, Harry?"
"No, Hermione, the contract came. I've been reading it instead."
'Well I finished that research on the tournament itself. Once you've finished your transfiguration essay I'll tell you what I've found."
Harry resisted the urge to yell at her. He loved her, really he did but he would never be able to see her as anything but a sister. She was too controlling, bossy and nagging. The nagging reminded him of his aunt. Her soprano voice also had a shrill tone to it that always bothered him. He was currently expected to live according to her schedule, which he hated because while she found studying relaxing he did not. However, he was ninety percent sure that without her help he would die in this effing tournament so he did what he did when he was with his relatives. Stuffed down his irritation with her and did as he was told.
He closed the contract as soon as he finished his first reading of it and picked up his quill to finish working on his transfiguration assignment. Once he got the remaining required six inches plus one inch extra to satisfy Hermione, he handed it to her for proofing. Saying, "Spill, I know you can talk and read at the same time. So tell me what you found out."
"I find it really hard to believe people thought bringing the tournament back was a good thing. Historically it has been used to establish bragging rights between the three big European schools. Hogwarts won the last one, actually it's won the majority of them, not without cost though. Three quarters of the contestants have either died or gotten some sort of permanent injury. A couple times the creatures being used even got loose and killed spectators. Sherman Peabody the wizard who won the last tournament died six months afterwards due to injuries sustained in the tournament. He lived like a king for five months, but ran through his winnings and couldn't afford the potion that kept his injuries from killing him. That's actually what has happened to fair number of the so called winners.
"Ugh. I'm so glad you weren't stupid enough to enter yourself. It's a good thing there was an age line or Ron would've, never mind that the claims of eternal fame are definitely pure hype. I bet I'm the only one who can name the last champion and that's only because I've looked it up. "Supposedly this time the tournament is safer. But after looking at the tasks of the past and the things we've faced before here at school I shudder to think what still might fall in to acceptable risk. This is real bread and circuses stuff, Harry.
"The tournament has four required elements and a fifth that is not technically required but still expected. The first and easiest required is the weighing of the wands. It should take place in a few more days. The champions wands are examined and checked to be sure they are in good working order, so you might want to clean and polish yours. Then towards the end of November the first task is done. That task has usually involved class five or higher creatures sometimes it's been retrieving a clue from their care, other times it's involved subduing the creature. The expected yet not officially required task has historically been a Yule ball. Champions are expected to start the ball by leading off the dancing. You'll have to get a date. The second official task is usually late February. That is usually retrieving something from an difficult and dangerous environment within a specified time limit. The final task is usually some sort of timed obstacle course that includes lots of creatures and spell traps.
"By the way your essay is better organized than normal."
"I don't have time to rewrite it so I thought about it more before writing it down."
"Professor McGonagall will probably give it a low E. If you rewrite it in the second and third sections and add examples you could probably get an O."
"No. I need to finish my revising of first year. I do not have time to rewrite that essay; an E will be fine."
"I'm just saying-"
"Hermione, I know that you are all about the grade. But I-" Harry cut himself off before saying something that would damage their friendship. "I'm more worried about surviving." Thanks for the information about the tasks. I'm heading back to the dorm for my broom. I need to think."
Thankfully Hermione understood he needed to blow off some steam and dropped it.
Half an hour later Harry finished the last of the conditioning workout Oliver had the team doing last year, and he felt a little better. He decided then and there to do the workout at least every other day. Being fit would doubtlessly prove a boon in the tournament and the stress relief his mini-workout had given him made him determined to continue it in the future. He let himself soar high above the pitch and just be letting the almost bitterly cold winds pull at his hair and nip at his ears, nose and cheeks. He stayed that way for ten minutes and watched the sunset before beginning to think again.
Harry had to compete, he wasn't willing to give up his magic. He had had less time to study magic than his competitors, plus they were all magical raised. He only had three years and a couple months worth of knowledge. That could be both a hindrance and a boon. Hindrance because he might not know things that would help him but boon because he would think of things from a different angle, from outside of the box that wizards and witches grew up in. Not that his relatives had let him accumulate much in the way of experiences but he knew for a fact he approached life differently than his friends did because he hadn't been raised normally. It was time to take the lemons life had given him and make some lemonade.
Harry reflected on what he would likely need to be competitive. He would need knowledge. To gain knowledge he would need access to information and time to study. He could probably argue and get access to the restricted section of the library since the rest of the competitors were all NEWT students and already had such access. Something else the older students would also have is freedom to leave the school outside of class, since they were all of age. A non advertised perk of being of age that he had learned about from Oliver last year. Harry might not be able to get the leave at any time, but he could probably argue successfully for a trip or two that went farther afield than Hogsmeade. His biggest limitation though came back to time how would he get time enough to maintain his present classes and still study far enough ahead to not die in the tournament. If only…
The epiphany hit Harry hard enough that he tumbled through the air as he lost control of his broom for a moment. Time, he had been thinking of time as a constant, but it didn't have to be. He would have to marshal his arguments carefully and he would have to plan things carefully as well no sense in repeating the mistakes Hermione made.
"Mr. Potter, what brings you to my office."
"I want to get a time turner as soon as possible. If I'm expected to compete in this bloody tournament I need a time turner."
"Preposterous." The single word answer held a wealth of his Head of House's Scottish burr.
"Not any more preposterous than giving one to a thirteen, okay, fourteen year old girl for the simple reason of allowing her to take every class. I at least have the reason I need more time to learn everything I can, so I don't die. I swear, Professor, I will be completely responsible with it. I'm thinking I will stay out of sight by using an unused room in the castle. Please, please, Professor, for my parents sake, for the sacrifice they made, will you at least ask if I can get one?"
Guilt flashed across her face for a second before she schooled it back to her normal stoic expression. "I'll speak with the Headmaster. Is there anything else? Blood perhaps?"
"Two things more."
"Access for myself and Hermione to the Restricted Section like the NEWT students have, and the leave like the seventh years have to leave campus when class isn't in session. It is just so I can be on level ground with the other champions."
"I'll speak with the Headmaster."
"Thank you, Professor."
"Minerva tells me you want a time turner, a pass to the restricted section of the library and the right to leave the castle."
"That is what I've asked for, since by tournament regulation teachers are not allowed to assist me and the other champions have years of experience, access to the restricted section, and leave to be away from the castle when not in class. I'm just trying to level the playing field."
"I will talk to my contact at the Ministry for a time turner; it will take a few days. Are you sure, my boy? Time magic is stressful at best. Also I'm not very keen on the idea of you using the restricted section but you are correct that the other champions have access so I will grant you and the sensible Miss Granger access. On the subject of leave for you however, that is one place I cannot be moved. You are not of age and your wand still bears the trace, I cannot allow it."
"I'm positive I want the time turner. I get that you have concerns with me not being at the school, but what if I need something for the tournament and I can't get it in Hogsmeade."
"How about I allow three trips anywhere and you are escorted by a professor?"
"Up to five trips and Remus Lupin escorts me."
Dumbledore considered for a moment then conceded. "I think that would be acceptable, I'm glad we could come to an agreement. I'm sorry this year will be so strenuous for you."
"Yeah, well it is what it is. Thank you for getting a time turner for me."
"Is there any progress on finding out who entered me?"
"I'm afraid not."
"A Time Turner?!" Harry, that's a horrible idea. You saw me last year. Mum and Dad gave me hell when I got home because I lost twenty pounds and it took three weeks of sleeping most of fifteen hours a day before I got rid of the circles and bags. No I'll just-"
"Hermione I've already asked for it an hour ago. Demanded it really, and I'm not going to be stupid with it."
"I was not stupid with it! And wouldn't using a time turner count as getting help from the teachers?"
"You didn't plan for extra meals or extra sleep. That's why you got worn to a thread and I wasn't saying you were stupid. Hermione, you are probably the smartest person I know. I am just saying that you're not perfect and everyone makes mistakes. I'm getting a time turner for an approved purpose: more time to study. I just plan to repeat more time so I can eat and sleep and exercise in addition to studying. It would count as help from the teachers if that time was being spent In extra classes or getting one on one tutoring from them, but I'm not. I'm getting extra time to learn the spells I need for the tournament on my own. Time that Cedric, the stuck-up Mademoiselle Delacour, and Krum already got courtesy of being older. I'm not like you and able to learn spells practically overnight. I need the time and the time turner is the only way I'll bloody well get it. Time turner or not I'm still going to need your help."
Hermione bit her lip and was quiet for a moment before conceding, "I guess that's true."
Harry felt he had several of his ducks falling into line but there was a key piece to his plan that he intended to have in place by the weighing of the wands tomorrow. He hoped the little elf was listening and willing to be hired. "Dobby!"
"The Great and Kind Harry Potter sir has called for Dobby?
"Dobby, I was kind of hoping I could hire you, and could you just call me Harry. The Great and Kind Harry Potter sir is just too much."
Dobby looked downcast for a second then asked, 'Is Harry sir needing an elf for just one thing or is he needing for many?"
"Many. Definitely many."
"Dobby would happily do anything for Gr- Harry sir."
"How much should I pay you?"
"Dobby would prefer a bond." The look the elf gave Harry while making the request was filled with trepidatious hope. "Dobby knows since he got clothes and be disgraced he not worthy to be Grea-Harry Sir's elf but Dobby wishes it more than anything. Dobby likes being paid and wearing clothes but a bond with Harry Sir would be even be even better."
Harry was stunned. He must have missed something. "How about you have a seat we can talk about it. I'm not really in favor of slavery you know. Now explain to me why you want a bond more than a job and being paid."
"House elves is having very strong magics, hard to controls. Bonds helps bind and bank the magic so elves' magic not burns out as quickly. Works help use it too. Without bond and works magics burns us up. A bonded elf lives long, long time three to four hundred years. An unbonded elf lives maybe fifty years. It's why elves only have elflings with permission from Masters."
Harry felt his stomach turn over. "I am so sorry Dobby I didn't know. I didn't mean to shorten your life."
"Dobby knows Gre-Harry sir was just trying to help Dobby when he gets him freed. It made Dobby very happy because Dobby prefers short happy life to long miserable, pain-filled life as Malfoy's bonded elf."
"I'll bond you since that is what you want, but there will be rules. Absolutely no calling me master; I prefer Harry, but I can live with Harry sir but absolutely nothing grander than that. I don't need my ego inflated. You are my friend as well as becoming my elf, and my friends call me Harry. You get two days off each week and a sickle a week to spend as you please. We can discuss what you wear, I prefer you be in clothing over a tea towel or a pillowcase. If I ever hand you clothes, I'm not dismissing you. I probably forgot, or am giving you something for you to wear yourself, or to put away for me. Most importantly no punishing yourself, if you do something wrong you tell me and we'll figure out a just punishment."
"Half day each month only and two knuts a month. And Harry sir can just leave clothes for Dobby to pick up."
"I'll put them in a basket or hamper. Half day each week and two sickles a month. You have to take good care of yourself and you get to explain this to Hermione so she doesn't kill me. No crying or carrying on if I say please and thank you, I'll be saying it often because everyone deserves to be appreciated not taken for granted. And if you ever change your mind about being bound you ask to be released."
"Harry Potter accepts." Harry was startled by a flash of pink light around himself and Dobby.
"What does Harry sir wish for Dobby to do?"
"Lots of things, but first I need you to clean up the Chamber of Secrets."
"How is Dobby to be getting there?"
"Follow me. Once you've been somewhere you can pop there right?"
"Can you pop people?"
"Yes, but not many."
"That's good. I know elves can hear their Master's call but could you hear someone else if they called?"
"Yes, if Dobby knews to listens fors them."
Ten minutes later they were in the caverns/pipes that lead to the Chamber of secrets and Dobby was looking like Christmas had come early. Then Dobby noticed the cave in. "Dobby bes not knowing hows to fix that, Harry sir." He frowned. Then his face brightened "But Hogwarts is having an old elf who does."
"Go for it then. Let me know when all this is clean and fixed and I'll get you into the Chamber of Secrets itself. Also under all that is a basilisk skin I don't know if that has a use but save it if you can. Can you please pop me back to Gryffindor? Curfew has just started and I don't want to be caught."
The next day turned into the worst of his entire Hogwarts career thus far. The day started with Harry failing completely to grasp summoning charms and getting extra homework. Then came double Potions with the Slytherins and whiny obnoxious Malfoy with those lame badges. Harry didn't really care about them saying support Cedric after all Diggory had actually volunteered for the insanity of this tournament and he could have lived with that easily enough but stupid, spoiled effing Malfoy had to take it that one step further and add Potter Stinks. Harry had lost it and went to hex Malfoy only for it to go wide and hit Goyle. Malfoy's shot had also missed and hit Hermione. Snape's following arseholery had resulted in Harry getting a bloody detention. Somewhere there should be a rule against teachers being bullies, but clearly Hogwarts didn't subscribe to that rule.
Harry got pulled from potions class for the weighing of the wands. Harry didn't mind much because he had the horrible suspicion that Snape intended to poison him by making him test his own potion. His patience was worn to a thin thread by Colin telling him there were photos being taken by the Daily Prophet. He could feel his magic starting to burn the way it had before he blew Aunt Marge up. Harry started taking deep breaths the last thing he needed was another bout of accidental magic.
*"Ah here he is! Champion number four! In you come, Harry, In you come…Nothing to worry about, it's Just the wand weighing ceremony, the rest of the judges will be here in a moment—"
"Wand weighing?" Harry repeated nervously.
"We have to check your wands are fully functional, no problems, you know, as they're your most important tools in the tasks ahead," said Bagman. "The expert's upstairs now with Dumbledore. And then there's going to be a little photo shoot. This is Rita Skeeter, " he added, gesturing towards the witch in magenta robes. "She's doing a small piece on the tournament for the Daily Prophet…"
"Maybe not that small, Ludo," said Rita Skeeter, her eyes on Harry.*
Harry's gut instincts said this woman was a crocodile just like her purse.
*"I wonder if I could have a little word with Harry before we start?" She said to Bagman, but still gazing fixedly at Harry. "The youngest champion, you know…to add a bit color?"
"Certainly!" cried Bagman. "That is—if Harry has no objections."*
Harry dodged the reporter's claw like hand reaching for his arm. "I object."
The resulting pout on the reporter's face reinforced Harry's decision, but brought added pressure In the form of a disapproving look from Bagman which was followed by a verbal censure. "Come now, Harry, how can the tournament promote international cooperation without each of the champions doing their part to communicate with the press."
"Maybe then she should speak with the champions who actually entered themselves and leave me alone."
"How sweet The-Boy-Who-Lived is shy! I don't bite, sugar! I just want to ask you a few questions."
Harry just moved closer to the other champions, hoping they would distract the reporter.
It didn't seem to work very well and her pout shifted to a frown. Thankfully before more could be said Dumbledore, Olivander, and the remaining tournament judges entered the room.
The wand weighing proceeded as expected. Harry was mildly surprised to learn that Fleur Delacour had a veela grandmother but wrote it off as not being important. After Harry's wand produced a fountain of wine and was pronounced in perfect condition he readied himself to leave.
*Thank you all, " said Dumbledore, standing at the judges table. "You may go back to your lessons now— or perhaps it would be quicker just to go down to dinner as they are about to end—"
Feeling that at last something had gone right today Harry got up to leave, but the man with the black camera jumped up and cleared his throat.
"Photos, Dumbldeore, photos!" cried Bagman excitedly. 'All the judges and champions, what do you think, Rita?"
"Er, yes, let's do those first," said Rita Skeeter, whose eyes were on Harry again. "And then perhaps some individual shots."
The photographs took a long time. Madame Maxime cast everybody in shadow whenever she stood, and the photographer couldn't stand far enough back to get her in the frame eventually she had to sit while everyone else stood around her. Karkaroff kept twirling his goatee around his finger to give it an extra curl; Krum, whom Harry thought would have been used to this sort of thing, skulked half hidden at the back of the group. The photographer seemed keenest to get Fleur at the front, but Rita Skeeter kept hurrying forward and dragging Harry into greater prominence. Then she insisted on separate shots of all the champions.*
Rita saved Harry's individual shot until last and tried to corner him again. Parchment and acid green quill to take notes at the ready. She asked about his parents. Harry tried to side step her but then noticed the quill writing *Tears fill those startling green eyes as our conversation turns to the parents he can barely remember.*
The temper he had barely kept in check all day flared. Harry was relieved that it merely attacked the reporter's parchment and quill. Both items flared brightly as if they were a small suns and turned instantly to ash in midair. Skeeter's mouth dropped open in shock.
"Ms. Skeeter, I have no patience for liars. If you ever put to press any lies about me, I will squash you like a bug. In your shoes I would also be very careful of any salacious speculation, or rumor mongering about me as well. You have now been warned, stay away from me. If I wish to speak to the press I will contact you, not the other way around. Clear?" Harry was a little surprised when he said the word bug she had gone somewhat bug eyed and at the end she seemed actually somewhat terrified, but he'd take it as an unexpected gift.
Harry went to dinner and ate alone because Hermione wasn't out of the infirmary yet. Harry returned to the tower torn between thinking of all the extra work on summoning charms and toying with ideas for the first task. Since it historically involved creatures he wondered if there was such a thing as a magical muzzle. In the tower the barn owl he had sent to Sirius was waiting for him. In some respects it was great to hear from Sirius but in others it wasn't helpful. What did his godfather mean make a public oath?
Sunday The Daily Prophet article about the tournament had come out and to Harry's relief it hadn't said much about him. Just that he had mysteriously been entered despite being underage.
On the Monday after the weighing of the wands, Harry made his way to the Headmaster's office. He really hoped the time turner was waiting for him. If not he would probably have to give reverse manipulation a try on a man who he acknowledged was a master at the art.
"Harry, what brings you to my office."
"My time turner? Where is it? You said it would take a few days I've waited a week. I need to start having that extra time studying."
"My boy these things take time and frankly your pictures in the paper haven't helped."
"Excuses, Headmaster? I'm disappointed beyond belief. I believed that you were the most powerful and influential wizard in Britain but this makes twice, no three times, that you have led me to believe one thing and then delivered the opposite.
"Obviously you're not the wizard I believed you to be and as such I'm no longer comfortable with the liberties you take with my name implying that we are close and have a trusting mentor/disciple relationship. Perhaps it would be better if you called me Mr. Potter; as you call your other students by an honorific and their surname.
"I mean, you tell everyone Hogwarts is the safest place in Britain but this year makes the fourth year out of four that my life has been put in danger just being here, and strangely many of those troubles lead back to decisions you made. I've asked for an explanation as to why Voldemort and his followers are after me, but you have refused to give me a straight answer. If you don't trust me, I frankly don't see why I should trust you.
"It is my life I am most concerned with, and if anything it has been demonstrated you feel the opposite. I asked you for one thing; something I already know for a fact you've done for another student for a much less important reason, something that may very well save my life in this deathtrap tournament you have helped force me into and you are dragging your feet. Why?
"Is it you wish to kill me off, Headmaster?"
Harry wondered if he unintentionally nailed it when the Headmaster actually paled and had a dropped jaw for a moment.
"I-I would nev-" Albus coughed as if to clear his throat, "never. I'm sorry that you feel as if I would do such a thing. I will push harder for it to arrive very soon. "
Wednesday Harry found a spell in one of the previously used Care of Magical Creatures text books (from at least fifty years ago) for a muzzling spell so he set himself to learn it before the 24th maybe he wouldn't be much good in the tournament but at least he could keep himself from dying in the jaws of some creature. He was still struggling with the summoning spell and felt like an idiot because of it. It had never taken him this long to learn any spell, save the patronus spell.
He found out what Dumbledore had meant about his pictures in the paper, the Slytherins gave him crap about being justly embarrassed by his appearance. He found out from his classmates it was because in the photo he was trying to exit the frame in most every photo and when dragged into view was inclined to give the viewers a two fingered salute while looking disgruntled. Since publicity was not something Harry wanted and he wasn't feeling much in favor of the magical world since being forced into the tournament, he actually found it kind of funny. The teachers did not; they found excuses to take points and Harry found himself getting censuring looks from all the adults and Hermione.
Dumbledore still hadn't come through with a time turner and Harry was starting to get seriously pissed about it. He also still hadn't heard back from Remus. Harry was looking forward to talking to Sirius and found it ironic that his on the run godfather was proving more reliable than his werewolf pseudo uncle, who was free.
Harry also knew his teenage hormones were kicking in, because despite his stress over the tournament he couldn't help but notice every pretty girl that crossed his path in a most embarrassing fashion thankfully robes hid a lot. During the day his mind was mostly in control he didn't have to work to hard to control his body all he had to do was remind himself of how the various girls had treated him over the years. He also reminded himself that he was hardly the sort of male specimen that the girls noticed; he was too runty, scarred, and he wore glasses. Definitely nerdy not at all like Cedric, not to mention what girl would want to deal with all the crap he had to deal with. He did take advantage of his hormones to generate some stress release in his bed at night, it never seemed to take long and he did sleep a bit better.
Harry wished he had a dad he could go to for advice on girls, but he frequently reminded himself just how useless wishing was. Nevertheless he found himself unintentionally spending time thinking of the older Gryffindor girls and the some of the girls of Beauxbatons, and how he found Cho Chang of Ravenclaw attractive, which made concentrating on tournament preparation and getting his schoolwork done more difficult.
Hermione had not had any real luck finding a way he could prove himself to the school. The only things she found as proof of truthfulness had been using memories in something called a pensieve and veritaserum in courts of law which didn't apply to what he wanted to do. The references for oaths she found were unbreakable vows and oaths of office which didn't help Harry either.
The morning of the seventeenth Hedwig finally reappeared with a letter from Remus.
Sorry I've been slow getting back to you. Things have been a little chaotic for me. I wasn't too sure about taking you up on the job offer, The problem with the offer isn't your fault, it's more a matter of my pride taking offense. But if I'm honest, it is needed if I'm to be available to help you. You also mentioned wanting some sort of promise to keep your secrets are you looking for a wizarding oath? Which I'm fine with, or an unbreakable vow? Which I would want to thoroughly clarify before making.
I won't be able to get to Hogsmeade before the twenty second partly because of the moon but also the fact you won't be allowed outside of school without an adult so I don't know what you want to do. I promise my next letter won't be as slow as this one was.
Take care. Remus.
P.S. I'm no longer your professor so it's Remus or Moony, no exceptions.
Upon reading Remus' letter Harry figured there was some wizarding nuance about an oath that he was missing because of his upbringing. In years past he would have asked Ron, but that was now out so he figured Neville would know. The question was how to phrase it so Neville would understand what he was asking and why. Harry jotted a quick note back to Remus telling him he should just show up for the first task, Harry hoped to speak with him afterwards assuming he survived.
Dobby had the Chamber clean. Through Dobby Harry had managed to negotiate the sale of the dead basilisk in the Chamber to the goblins Harry sold them everything but the venom and the skins and hide. He didn't sell those three things because a, the only people he could think of that would buy the venom probably had bad intentions and he didn't want to be responsible for the uses they might put it to, and b, he figured the shed skins and hide could be useful for armor the same as dragon hide was. Harry was far from disappointed when Dobby came back with a key to a vault holding a little over three quarters of a million galleons a few gallons of venom and a receipt from a tanner who was curing the hide and showed an interest in negotiating a price for some of the skin and hide. Harry instructed Dobby to set up the Chamber with four sleeping areas, (one for Dobby) a dueling area complete with some dueling dummies and a study area. He was toying with adding a kitchen and bathing area as well. He advised Dobby to make it as comfortable as possible using up to a fifth of the basilisk money. Dobby cheerfully headed off to do Harry's bidding.
The morning of the nineteenth Harry was excused from his first class to meet with an Unspeakable that brought him a time turner that had an allotment of 4000 hours and gave him the do's and don'ts of using it. Harry was relieved and used his repeat days of the nineteenth and twentieth to work on the muzzling spell.
The twenty first was a Hogsmeade day and as much as Harry wanted to stay put, Hermione convinced him he needed to get out of the castle for a break. Most of the school were sporting the support Cedric Diggory badges and made sure to flash the other message when he was around. Harry was just glad he'd nipped Skeeter's spin on the tournament article before it went to press or he was sure things would have been even worse.
Harry also got an inkling that Hermione was trying to get him to make up with Ron so they could be the golden trio again. As much as Harry missed Ron, and he did, he wasn't going to make up with Ron without some serious groveling on the redhead's part and a couple promises he doubted the red head would make let alone keep. Harry did give in to his bushy haired friend and agreed to go for butterbeers at the Three Broomsticks on the condition he was allowed to be under his dad's cloak.
*"I look like such an idiot, sitting here on my own," Hermione muttered. "Lucky I brought something to do."
And she pulled out a notebook in which she had been keeping a record of S.P.E.W. members. Harry saw his and Ron's name at the top of a very short list. It seemed a long time ago that they had sat making up those predictions together, and Hermione had turned up and appointed them secretary and treasurer.
"You know, maybe, I should try and get some of the villagers involved in S.P.E.W.," Hermione said thoughtfully, looking around the pub.*
"Umm, Hermione, don't you think that maybe we should, umm, I don't know. Like maybe talk to some house elves make sure that they want-"
"Want what? Their freedom?"
"I'm just saying it's a little presumptuous assuming they want the same things that we as humans want. They aren't human." Harry had a sudden flash of how to get Hermione to pause in her efforts that would actually harm elves. "Besides if you keep trying to free the elves you might wind up expelled from Hogwarts."
"What? *For wanting elves to have decent wages and working conditions?"*
"No. For interfering with the way the school functions. Look I agree that elves deserve decent care, but what if the bond is some form of symbiosis and they actually need it to live? You don't know anything about them other than they serve wizards without being paid wages and some of them are mistreated. Your heart is in the right place, but we don't have enough information and making assumptions will more than likely make things worse not better. Slow down, check things out, don't be a hard headed Gryffindor that went off half cocked."
"I thought you were a better person than that, Harry Potter," Hermione hissed. "Fine I'll do this without your help." She looked around. "There's Hagrid, I bet if I talk to him…"
Harry was looking around and wishing he could be like the other kids. If only his name hadn't come out of the goblet. He saw Cho and felt a small twist inside, his heart reacting to his attraction. He also saw Cedric who looked as he usually did since his name came out of the Goblet, happy and excited. The other Hogwarts champion was enjoying the attention generated by the tournament. Despite being under his cloak Harry lifted a hand to wave at Hagrid out of habit.
Although Hagrid couldn't see him, Hagrid wasn't alone and the next few minutes were enough to tell Harry the curse on the DADA job and it's effects on him as a Potter were alive and well. Harry debated the wisdom of following Hagrid's request that he meet him that evening but decided he would even if it made his planned fireside chat with his godfather difficult. Harry spent the rest of his day outside the castle controlling a desire to have hysterics.
At dinner Harry sat next to Neville partly because Hermione was angry with him and was sitting with Ron and partly to ask him about oaths and vows. "Neville, I have a question that I hope you can answer. Um…Guess blunt is best. What role does a oath or a vow play in the establishment of truth?"
"If I wanted to establish that I didn't enter myself using an oath how would I go about it?"
"Didn't your magical guardian teach you this? I mean with your family's position this should have been given at the beginning of your social education.
Harry inhaled sharply. Screwed over again, he seriously was beginning to hate Dumbledore. "Neville, my innocent Godfather, was who was supposed to be my guardian, would have, but to date I've barely spent an hour with the man."
"I'll tell you who if you promise not to react."
Neville's eyes went wide, but he held to his promise.
"I found out last year that he was framed by someone else, but certain people have denied him a fair trial so he hasn't been able to be there for me. That however does not excuse the person, if there is one, who was appointed to fulfill that role when Sirius was put in prison. Assuming there was someone, which I'm uncertain of. I was raised by my mum's muggle sister, magic hating bigots that she and the rest of her family are. I knew absolutely nothing of Hogwarts or my parents until Hagrid brought me my letter and took me shopping before first year. I suspect I was raised in deliberate ignorance of "my place", and in, shall we say discomfort, so I would regard the wizarding world as a haven and the person who brought me back to it highly."
Neville blew out a shocked breath. "Ron never told you anything?"
"I don't think the Weasleys place much emphasis on stuff like that for all they're purebloods." Harry gave that answer since that was what he hoped was true, despite his anger at Ron and the family's seeming naiveté in Dumbledore's plots he was fond of the Weasleys.
Neville rolled his eyes. "I suppose that's true. I learned all of this from three books I got from Gran when I was eight and able to read them. I could send for them so you could read them."
"That would be great, but can you give me just a quick and dirty run down on an oath."
"Harry, you need to be careful because if you make an oath and break it it can ruin you socially not to mention the penalty called for in the oath. Vows are even worse."
"I understand, but I still want to know how to give an oath."
"Quick and dirty, huh? To establish you didn't enter yourself I assume."
"Yep." Harry answered popping the p.
"I'm thinking lunch before the task. That's when it should deliver the most punch."
"An oath on your magic, your life or both would be best. I'll help you word it. You'll need to pick a spell to perform afterwards. I would recommend your most showy spell although most people just use lumos."
"Patronus it is then. Prongs will be impossible to miss."
Harry followed Hagrid that evening and discovered what awaited him in the first task. The only thing that kept him from hyperventilating was the need to get back to Gryffindor to speak to Sirius. Harry informed his godfather about the dragons. Sirius speculated that Karkaroff was the one to put Harry in the tournament which Harry supposed was possible, Harry did not put forth his own speculation that Moody might well have done it on the Headmaster's behest since he knew it sounded ridiculous. It was just between Dumbledore's track record and that conversation in his office Harry quietly in the back corner of his mind couldn't help but wonder. The longer they had talked the better he felt and Harry didn't know if it had gone on longer if he'd have confided in his godfather or not. He had felt heartened by his chat with his godfather and wished it had gone longer but Ron, the bloody git had to interrupt and Sirius fled before he could mention the spell he thought could help Harry with the task.
All in all, the twenty-first was traumatic enough with the discovery that yet again it seemed the DADA professor might intend him to die and the Headmaster intended to let him have his shot that Harry opted not to repeat the day. Not to mention Hermione was out of sorts with him regarding the S.P.E.W. thing at the Three Broomsticks. Never mind Harry had only suggested that she needed more information before going ahead. Harry just hoped she'd still help him figure out what the hell he was going to do about facing a bloody dragon.
The twenty-second (both times, once under the cloak) was spent in the library desperately searching for information that just wasn't there although Harry reflected if dragons were on his OWLs for Care of Magical Creatures he would likely get an O.
Monday morning the twenty third, Harry felt exhausted because he had barely slept but as he looked around the Great Hall he came to the conclusion that he would rather be here and struggling than with the Durselys and safe. He felt reassured by the thought even though it made him wonder about his sanity.
As Harry saw Cedric leave the Hufflepuff table at breakfast it occurred to him Cedric didn't know about the dragons. Fleur had probably been told by Madam Maxime. Karkaroff knew too, which meant given he was a low down Death Eater and likely to cheat that Krum probably did as well. But no one had communicated that to Cedric. Harry's sense of fair play reared its head.
*"Hermione, I'll see you in the greenhouses," Harry said, coming to his decision as he watched Cedric leaving the Hall, "Go go I'll catch you up."
"Harry you'll be late, the bell's about to ring—"
"I'll catch you up, okay?"*
Catching up to Cedric and telling him about the first task wound up taking even longer than Harry had initially thought because Harry was found out by Moody. Harry played it cool despite his reservations about the Defense Professor, and in the end he was glad he did because the man gave him a suggestion that actually gave him a strategy for dealing with his dragon. Harry immediately blew off classes and headed to the Chamber to work on his summoning charm. He worked on it fourteen hours straight and was only marginally closer. He had Dobby bring him a bunch of food and then exhausted slept ten hours before turning back to attend classes and recruiting Hermione to help him get over whatever his problem was and learn the summoning spell.
At two o'clock the morning of the task, Harry and Hermione were finally confident in his ability to summon things and headed to bed.
The next morning Harry could barely eat breakfast he didn't know if he was more nervous about the task or about the statement he planned to make at noon. He suspected the Headmaster would be furious and try to stop his oath but he suspected there would be enough outsiders in the castle that if he was quick enough he would be heard. He ignored the taunts of his peers and went over his planned speech in his head. Time did not seem to flow evenly that morning but when he walked into lunch he gathered himself and approached the head table. The school was full. In addition to all the teachers and students from all the schools there were the tournament judges, there were other adult guests including the reporter from the weighing of the wands.
Harry set off the firecracker spell Dumbledore had used Halloween first year to gather everyone's attention and then cast sonorus on himself to be sure everyone could hear.
"I'm glad everyone is here. I just wanted to make a small statement before the first task kicks off."
"Mr. Potter what are you doing?" McGonagall hissed.
"I decided I needed to voice my opinion; since everyone else in this castle has over the last month. Despite having been told repeatedly that it is more important to do what is right than what is easy, I feel I have been surrounded by those that prefer the easy path. There have been a precious few who have willingly supported me and I wish to thank them. It may be my last chance. Thank you both. I also wanted to make something crystal clear. I, Harry James Potter, swear on my life and my magic that I did not knowingly, nor willingly enter the Tri-Wizard Tournament, nor did I ask anyone to do so on my behalf. I am participating only because I have been told to not do so is to forfeit my magic. So mote it be. Expecto Patronum." Prongs clattered the length of the Great Hall.
Harry turned and faced the head table. "So at this time I will give the traditional salute of those forced to risk their lives for the amusement of others: we who are about to die salute you." Harry accompanied his verbal salute with two fingered salutes. The he cancelled the sonorus, and turned sharply in an about face fashion before the first person responded.
Neville at the Gryffindor table only paused a moment before he started clapping and was swiftly joined by Hermione who was then followed by most of the rest the Gryffindors and by a lone Hufflepuff. Cedric also joined in the applause. Harry didn't stay to eat or watch the reactions. As he left the hall he summoned Dobby who he asked to bring him to wherever the champions were supposed to meet then to bring him a very light lunch because he needed to eat something but anything heavy wouldn't suit.
Albus couldn't contain his wince when Harry cut loose in the Great Hall. In one respect the boy's timing was flawless. In another it could not have been worse. Albus was going to be putting out quite a few fires in the next few days thanks to Harry's little spiel.
Minerva was first shocked Harry had ignored her, but as his speech went on she realized that deep down she had believed he had entered himself because it was just the sort of thing James would have done. Now she knew he didn't, and that meant she had left one of her favorite if troublesome, cubs floundering for a month, only aiding him when he had blackmailed her into it. It left her feeing incredibly guilty.
Snape at first thought it was just Potter being a braggart again, but later as he watched Potter face a dragon the words would sink in and it would finally dawn on him that Harry was Lily's son and he would never look at the boy in quite the same way again. It did not however stop him from continuing to hate the living proof that Lily loved James Potter.
Moody just smirked inwardly, so the brat was aware of his own mortality. All the better for the ritual to revive his master.
The remaining teachers present who taught him except Flitwick and Hagrid were shocked and in retrospect more than a little ashamed that they had harassed the boy in their classes and done nothing about the bullying Mr. Potter had received in the halls or in class as a consequence of his entrance in the tournament.
Flitwick was getting over his excitement at seeing such a young student cast such a marvelous patronus.
Hagrid was absent. Why eat in the Great Hall when there were dragons close by to gaze at.
The non Gryffindor students were divided most felt embarrassed that they had been so mean spirited to a fellow student caught up in major events beyond his control. A few were jealous of the opportunity for wealth and fame Harry had gotten by being in the tournament and were derisive that he had the nerve to complain about it. The remainder either didn't care, or hated Harry Potter and his ability to sway public opinion and were mad that he had done just that.
Harry was joined in the champions tent forty minutes later by the other champions and Ludo Bagman who carried a sack. Harry thought the man ridiculous; wearing his old, ill fitting Whimborne Wasps quidditch robes. As Bagman gave them their instructions Harry noticed that neither Fleur nor Krum were surprised. He had been right. They could hear the chatter of the students as they passed the tent but to Harry's ears they seemed oddly subdued considering how excited the school had been just yesterday.
Harry wasn't particularly surprised that he drew the Hungarian Horntail and shrugged it off as Potter Luck at its finest. Bagman attempted to talk to Harry, but stuttered to a halt a few moments later as Harry gave him the sort of look you give something you scrape off your shoe. A few minutes later the first whistle blew and the task had begun.
While he waited Harry envisioned himself performing the task flawlessly according to his plan. Summon his broom that was sitting next to the open window in the Gryffindor dorm so he would have speed and maneuverability. Cast the muzzling spell keeping the perfect image of a metal and dragon hide muzzle that would prevent the dragon from either biting or breathing fire at him in mind, lure her away from her eggs then dive for the golden egg as if it were a snitch.
Harry tried not to listen to the commentary of the other champions and just focus on his own plan. He didn't succeed entirely. He knew that each of them had been successful and had survived. As his own whistle blew he told himself, "Here's to following their example."
The stands were oddly silent as he walked out. Too many faces staring at him. Deep breath, "Accio Firebolt!" Harry stood nervously just inside the arena and waited. The Horntail was eyeing him from next to her eggs and he could tell if he moved towards her she intended to breath fire at him as soon as he was in range. She blew a short warning blast in his direction and even this far away he could feel the heat. Then he heard it, the sweet sound of his trusted broom traveling through the air. Moments later he swung aboard and soared into the air.
"Capistrum draconis!" When Harry had found the capistrum spell in a section about training crups it had suggested adding some identifier for the creature to be muzzled, this time he did so with great pleasure. What happened next surprised him.
The mother dragon freaked out. Her attention went from him and her eggs to the thing on her face. First she tried to back out if it not realizing it was strapped to her head. She whipped her head back and forth trying to shake it off. When she smashed against the wall protecting the judges and spectators stands and Harry felt a moment's amusement.
Harry took immediate advantage of her distraction to go for the eggs. He had just grabbed the golden egg when he realized that he and the eggs were in imminent danger. The mother dragon was flinging herself to the ground trying to be rid of the muzzle. Harry figured he could get clear but cast "Protego totaleum" the strongest shield he knew of at the eggs so she wouldn't smash them on accident. His timing was off slightly and the dragon's spiked tail caught him at the hip and ripped down through his robes and trousers along his thigh as he flew away. It hurt, but the buldger that broke his arm second year had hurt worse. Once he was out of the dragon's range again he canceled the muzzling spell and then a few seconds later let the protego drop as well since the Horntail's attention was returning to the well being of her eggs.
"He's done it! The youngest champion has completed the task in the shortest time and with only four spells!"
Harry ignored the rest of the commentary in the interest of getting out of there. The handlers had rushed into the arena to subdue the dragon. Charlie Weasley paused long enough to say, "Thanks for protecting the eggs, Harry. I'm glad we didn't lose another batch. Where on earth did you get that muzzling spell?"
"In an old Care of Magical Creatures book I'll send the title to you later. I need to get checked."
*McGonagall bustled up. "That was excellent Potter! You'll need to see Madame Pomfrey before the judges give out your score…Over there she's had to mop up Diggory already…"
"Yeh did it Harry! said Hagrid hoarsely. "Yeh did it! An' against the Horntail an' all, and yeh know Charlie said that was the wors'—"
"Thanks, Hagrid," said Harry loudly, so Hagrid wouldn't blunder on and reveal that he had shown Harry the dragons beforehand.*
Harry saw a happy looking Moody come up and rather than accept congratulations from the man he suspected entered him in this travesty Harry asked McGonagall, "Which way to Pomfrey my leg hurts."
For once his Head of House made herself immediately useful and showed him directly to the first aid station. Poppy helped him shed his torn quidditch trousers and gave him a sheet to preserve his modesty. The she poured a purple potion over his hip and thigh and let it work a few minutes before casting a spell that closed the wound. "Sit here, Potter, for five minutes then you may go collect your scores. Do try and take it easy for the rest of the day."
Harry used a sticking charm to make sure the sheet ensuring his modesty stayed in place, he knew that Skeeter woman was around and the last thing he wanted was for her to get a picture of him showing more than anyone had seen since he was eight. Jittery though his adrenaline was making him, Harry did as he was told by Poppy. He bounced his unhurt leg and tapped his fingers on the exam table while he waited. Hermione burst into the tent trailed by Ron.
"You were great, Harry! Where and when did you find that muzzling spell that was brilliant! Talk about distractions."
"A little more than two weeks ago. Once you said the first task usually involved creatures I thought about how do you keep an animal from biting you and how muggles use muzzles. So I hunted for a spell like that, and then worked like crazy to master it. I figure it might also help with the final task since didn't you say there are usually creatures with that one too?"
"That was really smart, and yes I did. You were amazing!"
"Ron, what brings you here?"
*"Harry," he said, very seriously, "whoever put your name in the goblet—I—I reckon they're trying to do you in!"
"Just realized that did you?"* Harry felt a twinge in his heart. Part of him wanted to immediately forgive Ron and go back to the way things used to be, but that was no longer possible because Harry was no longer an oblivious child that believed in the good of others, he had two powerful wizards after his hide and Ron's childish nature was a weakness he could not afford: both as a distraction and as a security concern. He could see his friend struggling to apologize and part of him wanted to let him off the hook, but his Slytherin side warned him therein lay a most dangerous hook. Harry had proven to everyone he had not entered himself. Apologies especially half hearted ones would only hurt him in the long run. Harry needed to surround himself with those that were strong enough to buck the dangerous currents that swirled around him and though he held Ron as a dear friend, strength and maturity were not things Ron had a lot of, he was too tied up in his insecurities.
"I forgive you, but I can't— we can't go back to the way things were. I can't afford to. Things will have to change, Ron. You will have to change, grow up and focus on what is really important, let some childish things go. Perhaps you should think about if you're truly ready and willing to do that. If not, that's okay. We can still have the occasional chess match or quidditch game, we can be friends just.. maybe not best friends."
Hermione's, "Harry!," was half scolding, half shocked.
Ron looked searchingly into Harry's eyes. Then he gave a reluctant nod and said, "They'll be putting up your scores soon."
"I'm supposed to sit for a few more minutes and the truth is I don't really care about my score. I survived that's all I cared about. Besides I need an elf to bring me new trousers from my trunk, the ones I was wearing have had it. If I hadn't held my robes closed I'd have been flashing everyone on the way here."
Dobby popped next to him a minute later with new trousers and a fresh robe. "Harry sir was best of all wizards and witch. I'll mend those other clothes."
"Thanks, Dobby, I appreciate it."
The elf blushed then popped away taking Harry's damaged robes as he went.
Hermione frowned at Harry but didn't say anything.
Harry gave her a pointed look, and after a minute she turned and left so he could dress.
Harry went and heard his scores, Dumbledore, Maxime, and Crouch all gave him nines, Bagman gave him a ten, and Karkaroff gave him a five. Those scores apparently put him in the lead. He listened as Bagman gave them instructions for the second task and mentally put it aside to think about later. Leaving the first task arena Harry figured Gryffindor would be wanting to celebrate his success but his heart wasn't in it, and debated what to do.
"Your dad, would be bursting his buttons."
Harry whipped towards the voice. "Remus!"
"Your mum, on the other hand would probably check you from head to toe for injuries, give you a head slap, demand what you were thinking and only after all that allow that the magic you chose to use was damned impressive." He accepted the hug Harry was bestowing on him. "As for me, Moony was terrified for his cub but the wizard in me is amazed. I don't know how anyone could have done what you just did any better. Padfoot is going to demand the memory the next time he and I are in a room together with a pensieve, then he'll be insufferably proud for at least a month."
"You think so?"
"I know so."
Harry gave a mega watt smile. "Let's go chat; away from all this hoopla. I found a room the Marauders never found."
"Yes, way and I'll prove it. Of course I only found it because I can speak to snakes…"
"That's right you did mention last year you had an ability that was considered dark. Well lead on McDuff."
Harry had done some searching as part of planning to use the chamber as a base while waiting for the time turner and had found another entrance off the stairway to the dungeon, one leading to the forbidden forest and another to the fifth floor, but he found the slide from Myrtle's bathroom the most fun and especially since the elves had cleaned everything up and added a mattress loaded with cushioning charms at the bottom.
Harry was very glad that Myrtle was elsewhere as he led Remus to the bathroom. He enjoyed the trepidatious look on Remus' face as he eyed the entrance to the slide. "See you at the bottom!"
As he reached the bottom he heard a whoop of enjoyment/ excitement from the man behind him. He smiled again and quickly hopped out of the way.
"That was fun!" Remus hooted as he hopped to his feet. "Where the heck are we?"
"This is the passage that leads to…" Harry lead the way to the actual Chamber of Secrets. "Slytherin's Chamber of Secrets and if Snape knew you were down here he would be green with envy."
"What about Slytherin's monster?"
"Dumbledore didn't tell you? I slew that beast at the end of second year."
"What was it?"
"What?" Remus looked confused for a second then asked, "My hearing must be wonky because did you just say you, twelve year old you, slew a centuries old basilisk? I gotta sit down I'm feeling like I'm gonna faint."
Harry smirked and said, "Hold on a minute and I'll show you my base. ~Open.~ Welcome to the Chamber of Secrets, as far as I can tell Salazar had an enormous ego and was obsessive about snakes hence the decor. Lucky for us I managed to get the best house elf in the world who came up with a perfect solution." He pointed to a wizarding tent set up to one side. "My base!"
Harry had been very surprised when Dobby had shown him the tent. It was definitely of wizard make, while the outside had the clean simple lines of a muggle made canvas pole tent with a tent stove. The inside featured a two story floor plan with the upper story having a master bedroom with a full bath including a jacuzzi tub, a walk-in closet and sitting room, and four other bedrooms with jack and jill configurations for bath rooms between them. The lower floor had a large open conversation pit around a fire pit with a suspended chimney from the two story ceiling, a dining area for twelve, and. although he wasn't sure why, a huge kitchen in an open concept configuration but it also had a large pantry, powder room, large library/study and a small bedroom with a small bathroom for Dobby off a laundry room/ butlers pantry.
Dobby had chosen warm colors mostly browns and creams with occasional touches of either crimson, forest green, or marine blue (depending on the room) to decorate the place and he had chosen cream porcelain and gold fixtures. Harry definitely preferred Dobby's taste in decor to Aunt Petunia's. It was warm and very comfortable without being fussy or overdone.
Harry half wished Dobby's taste extended to clothing but it didn't. After Dobby's third eye searing attempt at a uniform Harry had given the little elf a few guidelines as to how he wanted the Potters presented. Dobby got charcoal trousers and a solid color shirt of his choosing. Dobby choose seven different bright colors. Dobby also got a black waistcoat with the Potter crest on it to wear over the shirt.
Harry had been surprised to learn he had a crest.
Dobby could wear whatever socks he wished and got black leather trainers. Harry also suggested that Dobby get a small chef's apron that could be any wild colored fabric Dobby liked as long as one of the colors in the apron matched the color of the shirt of the day. Dobby was allowed to wear the apron in the castle but if he left the castle to run an errand for Harry the apron had to stay behind. During his off hours he could wear anything he wanted. Harry figured that was as good as it would get on the subject of Dobby's clothes.
Harry showed Remus into the tent and waited for his reaction.
"This is…How can you afford this? Did you wipe out your trust vault?"
"Thanks a lot." Harry replied in an offended tone. "For your information this was paid for out of my basilisk proceeds. I killed it so by law, I get the proceeds. I had Dobby sell all of it but the venom and the skins and hide. He got a shite load of money. He bought the tent and everything inside it and a couple of auror training dummies. He got his uniforms, but most of the money is still at Gringotts."
"Does Albus know?"
"No, and I want it to stay that way. I don't trust him as I once did. He's failed me a few too many times in various ways."
"But he's the Leader of the Light."
"Maybe so, myself I kinda doubt the light part. His mistakes have cost me more than I was willing to pay and I'm no longer willingly blind to the mistakes he makes. He may be powerful, influential and old and I'll grant that for the general population on the surface his intentions are good, but as the muggles say the road to hell is paved with good intentions and he is still human. He can and has made mistakes. I'm tired of being the one that pays for them, especially when he keeps secrets involving me from me.
"There I go, spilling my guts before I even know if I can trust you."
"What do you mean "secrets involving me from me"?"
"Do you realize that the facts I have about mum and dad can be counted on my fingers and toes with a couple left over and I don't even know what my grandparents names were?"
Remus' jaw dropped. That was almost criminal, Harry was the Potter Heir. His mind spun looking for any kind of purchase. "Why don't you trust me?"
"One I know you are beholden to Dumbledore for your education. Two, where were you all those years? Sirius was in Azkaban he has an excuse, but where were you? I would have loved to know that someone out there cared even if it was only an occasional card or letter. My relatives might have treated me better too; if they thought someone on this side cared what they did to me. Three, you barely said anything that wasn't class related to me last year, except to scold me that time for not having high regard for my parents sacrifice; which was untrue. Four you endangered me, I forgive you because you were Moony not you at the time, but still it does not change the facts."
Remus frowned he had written Harry more than once. He had sent Christmas and birthday cards every year up until Harry was ten, and once he thought Harry was old enough to have learned to read he had sent letters once a month telling him stories of his parents for three years, he had stopped because he had never gotten a reply and assumed Harry didn't want contact with him as a werewolf. It was also the reason he had kept his distance last year. He had also written over the summer taking a chance and apologizing for what had happened that night at the shrieking shack. It was one reason he had been so torn as to what to do and taken so long to reply when Harry's letter had reached him. "Cub, do you have a mail ward on you?"
"A ward that prevents you from getting mail from anyone not on an pre-approved list."
Harry looked first startled, then calculating, and then pissed. "That would explain a helluva lot. I probably do and I only need one guess as to who put it there."
Remus didn't take long to catch Harry's meaning. Moony did as well and seemed to think he should pay a visit to the Headmaster during the full moon for daring to try and interfere in Moony's pack. "It seems to me, the Headmaster has been taking liberties. Perhaps we should indulge in a little mayhem to teach him his place." Remus' dark marauder side growled.
Harry's green eyes glittered behind his hideous glasses for a moment. "I should think that having his puppet totally sever all its strings will accomplish that. However we have to be careful about how we accomplish this goal, otherwise the Headmaster's many positions and his own rather formidable skills at manipulation would see us fail. You need the protection an oath to me can give you. So let's get that ironed out first."
Two hours later they still weren't satisfied. Harry wanted Remus to literally be unable to tell anyone anything about what he was having him do without Harry's express and explicit permission, but he didn't want to endanger Remus' magic or life in the process. Harry didn't know enough to know how it should be worded, he would have pulled Hermione in because of her cleverness but she wouldn't necessarily know that much more than he did. He really needed Neville for this. Harry decided to send a note with Dobby for Neville and Hermione, ask them if they were willing to leave the Gryffindor party he didn't doubt was going on to help them.
Ten minutes later Dobby popped both of them directly into the tent.
"Where have you been, Harry? Why didn't you come back to the dorm? And more importantly why did a house elf bring us here? You know how I feel about house elves."
"Later. I asked Dobby to bring you both here because Remus and I are stuck on how to word an agreement between us so he can, do business on my behalf without being able to talk about it to people who don't need to know but because of who I am will try to be nosy anyway. I want it to be totally binding but I don't want it to cost Remus his life or magic or anything like that."
Neville read through it, and got really thoughtful.
Hermione read it next and got a thoughtful frown on her face for about five minutes. "So if I understand what you two are trying to accomplish it's a secrecy oath. Professor Lupin needs to be able to act on your behalf in business transactions but he will be magically bound to not speak of what he's doing for you to anyone without your express permission and he can only say what things you tell him he can about your business."
"You two need to kiss."
Harry almost fell off his chair. "Hermione!?"
"I"m fond of Harry, but he's too young and the wrong gender for me to think that way, Miss Granger."
"Not that sort of kiss, K. I. S. S. Keep it Simple Stupid, it's an acronym. Not that I'm impugning your or Harry's intelligence, Professor, but this, " Hermione tapped a finger against the parchment they had used to make notes, "is making mountains out of molehills. You're trying to close loopholes only to create more. So simplify. Swear on magic that you will not talk about Harry beyond the general publicly already known stuff, or about the business you conduct on his behalf with anyone without Harry's express permission to speak with that person, and only about that which he has explicitly stated that you may."
Neville put in his opinion. "That's a really good idea, Hermione, one small problem though an oath wouldn't be strong enough, not really. Nothing against you, Professor, but for it to make it so magic stops him from saying something, to mute him, it would need to be a vow."
"But, Neville—" Harry tried to object.
"No, Harry, I think Mr. Longbottom has the right of it. Worst case scenario someone tries to force me to talk and I become mute. There are worse fates. Mr. Longbottom, will you be our binder?"
Five minutes later Remus felt relief he would be able to help his pack's cub without worrying that he may somehow unintentionally betray something.
Harry was equally relieved because he now had an adult to help.
That relief only lasted a second before Hermione said, "Harry James Potter! Where are we? And why do you seem to have a house elf servant? You know how I feel about slavery!"
Harry squeaked, "Dobby, you're up! It's time for you to explain to Hermione, remember our deal!"
"Harry sir's Grangey needs to calm down. Dobby willingly bonded to Harry sir at Dobby's own request. Miss doesn't understand what bond does for house elves. While free Dobby only live another thirty years. Bonded to Potter family I live another two hundred fifty to three hundred years. Bond keeps elves' magic from burning them up, thats why elves is not liking being free."
Hermione's jaw dropped.
"Besides Harry-sir drives very hard bargain, Dobby no gets to call him Master, Dobby gets two sickles every month, not two knuts like Dobby's wanted, four half days not working instead of one each month, but Dobby gets uniform, orders to take care of self, and punishments only for mistakes decided by Master. And if ever Dobby changes Dobby's mind he asks and Dobby gets released from bond. Dobby is happiest elf every with kindest Master in the world."
"That's a half day more off work Dobby, you called me Master twice."
Dobby's ears wilted, "Sorry, Harry sir."
"I forgive you but you still get a whole day off this week.
"Hermione, I tried to tell you last weekend house elves aren't human and they want other things. I'm hurt that you think I'm a terrible person who would take advantage of a fellow living creature that way. I started my bond with Dobby only after he explained what the bond does for the elves. When I initially called him I was just going to hire him to do a few jobs for me this year because of the tournament. I can't do everything myself and I need help so I asked Dobby.
"It's like I said Saturday your heart is in the right place. Elves deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, they deserve to not be abused as the Malfoy's did to Dobby. But one thing they don't deserve is one person deciding they need freedom without input from them, just because that is what she as a human wants."
Neville softly said, "He's right, Hermione. I joined spew not because I agreed with you, but because you can be rather intimidating. We have elves at home and Gran would have my guts for garters if I abused them. They do so much of the work that without them my family would be broke. We take the best care we can of them for that reason. Most families do."
"Oh." A very subdued Hermione acknowledged.
"I'll have Dobby pop you two back to Gryffindor and you can tell everyone I'll be up in a bit. If they ask where I've been you can tell them I've been talking to an old friend of my father's."
Dobby took Harry's hint and popped Neville and Hermione away.
Harry flung himself onto the very comfortable couch and stretched out.
"You look like you're making yourself awful comfortable there for someone heading back to the tower soon, Cub."
"Time for me to tell you the first secret of the year. I've got a time turner and I'm using it to repeat whole days. I've repeated five days so far. I didn't sleep well last night and the last thing I want at the moment is to deal with a typical Gryffindor party. So my intention is to stay here talk to you for a while and iron out what I want you to work on for me. Then sleep at least twelve hours, then jump back to about this time tomorrow. Tomorrow? Today? I'm still trying to figure that aspect of it out."
"A time turner… That's—"
"Brilliant I know. I was panicking because the other champions have three years experience on me and then I realized I was thinking of time as a constant. But last year, Hermione had one so she could take every class and she and I used it to save Sirius and Buckbeak at the suggestion of the Headmaster and I realized that time didn't have to be a constant. I argued for one and got it. I had to guilt trip both the Headmaster and McGonagall, but I think in the end it will be worth it.
"It's also part of the reason I set up the Chamber as my base. I can double my time down here without anyone being the wiser. You and I and Sirius, if he comes, can spend whole days together with no one knowing. Cool right?"
"So what role do I play in all this?""
"Officially, I got Dumbledore to approve me going off campus five times with you as my official escort, since all the other champions are—"
"Of age and able to come and go as they please outside of school hours."
"Remus, I know Dumbledore has the reputation of the Leader of the Light, and the only one You- Voldemort is afraid of but I'm not sure either of those statements are 100 percent true. the fact that Hogwarts is the so called safest place in Britain outside of maybe Gringotts, has not prevented annual attempts on my life. Usually due to said so called dead dork lord.
"First year the DADA teacher was possessed by his wraith and tried for the philosopher's stone that Dumbledore was hiding in the school. Morty tried to kill me my first quidditch match by cursing my broom. I actually owe my survival to Snape for countering the curse, and Hermione distracting both of them by setting fire to Snape's robes.
"Morty tried again during a detention in the forbidden forest where he was hunting unicorns to prolong his and Quirrell's life. Owe my survival that time to a centaur named Firenze. "Third time we met that year was face to face down in a chamber where Dumbledore had stashed the stone. The stone was supposedly safe behind a bunch of obstacles but three first years working together got past said obstacles in hindsight those obstacles seem more like a test for Dumbledore's puppet hero. A test I suspect I passed with flying colors.
"That time the protection mum left on me saved me. Quirrell literally couldn't touch me without burning up. I realized this and deliberately burned him up. Dumbledore said he would have died anyway because of the possession, maybe so, I don't know.
"I asked Dumbledore then why Morty seems so set on killing me but he wouldn't say. If you want to ask why I went after the stone I'll tell you I figured it out. The clues were there over the course of the year the only thing I got wrong was which teacher was connected to Morty, I thought it was Snape. Hermione hadn't realized Snape was countering Quirrrell cursing my broom. I went to McGonagall and she blew me off. I didn't want Morty to get the stone so I went after it myself. Like I said passed Dumbledore's little test flying colors. Morty had come back to Hogwarts under Dumbledore's nose and with what seems an awful lot like an invitation. Maybe Dumbledore was looking for confirmation of what he suspected, but that doesn't excuse him putting students at risk in my book.
"Second year wasn't on Dumbledore's head per se. If Dumbledore had stood up as the Leader of the Light at the end of the war and demanded veritaserum trials for everyone instead of letting Bagnold and Crouch do whatever including taking bribes it might not have happened. Lucius Malfoy wanting to discredit Mr. Weasley because of the Muggle Protection Act he was trying to get passed and slipped the cursed diary of one Tom Marvolo Riddle into the cauldron of Ginny Weasley. Ginny stupidly wrote in it and it wrote back.
"I don't really understand why, she should have known better but it's possible it had some sort of compulsion charm or something on it. Halloween Mrs. Norris was petrified, and a message the chamber had been opened appeared. I unfortunately was the person to first find it. After the first quidditch game of the year, Colin Creepy, sorry Creevy, got petrified. It came out I was a parselmouth, Ron and Hermione stood by me but most the school turned on me BWL or not. A month or so later Justin Finch-Fletchly of Hufflepuff and Nearly Headless NIck joined them. Then Ginny tried to get rid of the diary I found it and found out why Hagrid got expelled. I had been hearing creepy voices in the halls talking about killing but I could never see who was speaking. Hermione put the clues together and found out the creature involved in the library then she and Penelope Clearwater were petrified. Quidditch was cancelled. Shortly after that Fudge came and arrested Hagrid so the Ministry could be seen doing something. Lucius pressured the Board of Governors into suspending Dumbledore.
"Hagrid had suggested following the spiders if someone wanted answers about the creature, Dumbledore said as long as someone was loyal to him at Hogwarts he wouldn't really be gone. Ron and I followed the spiders. We found a huge nest of acromantulas in the forbidden forest and barely got out of there alive.
"Then Ginny disappeared and a message stating her bones will lie in the chamber forever appeared. I visited Hermione in the hospital wing and found a page she tore from the magical creature book so I knew what the creature was, I put together some other clues and realized where the entrance was so Ron and I collected Lockhart the DADA professor before you and headed to the chamber to save Ginny. That didn't go so well.
"Coward and inept don't begin to describe Lockhart. I cannot fathom why Dumbledore hired him at all. He tried to obliviate Ron and I to infancy, the one spell he is good at. But we had disarmed him and he was trying to use Ron's broken wand. It backfired. It also caused a ceiling collapse with me on one side and Ron and Lockhart on the other. Ron dug a way for us to get out while I went on to the Chamber.
"There I found out Tom Marvolo Riddle and Lord Voldemort are one and the same. I made some statement that showed loyalty to Dumbledore and Fawkes the Headmaster's Phoenix showed up. Tom had already summoned the Basilisk so I was running and trying to not look it in the eyes Fawkes took the eyes out and that helped a lot. Fawkes had also brought the Sorting Hat with him I don't really understand how but I managed to pull Gryffindor's sword from it. I used the sword to stab the snake in the mouth."
"How did you manage not to get bitten?"
"Oh I did get bitten. I just didn't die from the bite because Fawkes cried into it. But first I took the tooth out of my arm and used it to stab the diary thus ending Morty's second try at returning. Once again Dumbledore's golden boy performing up to specs.
"What troubles me about that year starts with how come Dumbledore wasn't aware something as dark as that diary had crossed the wards? Another is why didn't Dumbledore come with Fawkes, and why couldn't he figure out what the creature was he's been here at the school since the time when Myrtle was killed? Hermione figured it out and she knew stuff less than a year. Finally why he didn't get aurors in or send the students home for their safety?
"You were around for third year so you know about at least two of the three attempts dementors made. What I don't understand is why as Chief Warlock of the freaking WIzengamot, he couldn't order a stay of execution or a trial for Sirius."
"Three attempts you say? I knew of two of them. But Albus didn't say anything about a third attempt. I guess he only gave me part of the story of that last night."
"Yeah, he likes doing that, I've noticed. Well after you turned wolf and Sirius drove you off, we headed back to the school. Then it got cold. We heard Padfoot yelping so we went towards the sound." Harry shuddered remembering the horrible feeling. " Sirius was being surrounded and had just lost hold on his Padfoot form. I joined Sirius and tried to drive them off, but it didn't go too well. Then a patronus, the biggest, strongest one I had ever seen came and drove them off. I saw what I thought was Dad in the distance and I fainted. I came to in the hospital wing and Snape was telling the Minister all these bullshit lies saying we had been confounded and he had saved us from the dementors. Dumbledore suggested after he heard what Hermione and I had to say and Snape and the Minister left, that three turns ought to do it. Hermione and I took her time turner and jumped back long enough to save Buckbeak, to distract you in the forest, save ourselves, Sirius and Snape from the dementors, and help Sirius not get kissed by sending him and Buckbeak off together. Which in my mind is extremely fishy."
'And now the tournament."
"Yep. Attempts on my life numbers nine, ten, and eleven and possibly twelve given my luck which sucks. I hope the flip side of my luck holds. The thing is I've lost my blind trust of Dumbledore. I hate the way he makes me go back to the bloody effing Dursleys every year. They don't give a shite about me, never have never will, unless it's to make me miserable. That's what made last year so bad, I caught a glimpse of a life away from them then bam, right back in it. At least I was able to use the threat of my so called convict godfather to keep the worst of what they like to dish out at bay this year."
'But Albus has always said—"
"That I had a loving home? That I was well cared for?" Harry scoffed.
"He lied." Remus deadpanned as he realized.
"In spades. Petunia hates magic and anything connected to magic and her hatred has spilled over into irrational behavior where I am concerned. Vernon barely has braincells to rub together and he figures if Petunia hates me that much I must be lower than pond scum and treats me as such. I am effectively an abused house elf in that house. There may be wards that keep me safe from Death Eaters at that house, but that's the only thing they keep me safe from. Frankly I'd rather take my chances. Hell, I'd rather live life on the run with Sirius, at least then I'd get to see something of the world.
"Now I have read the tournament contract very carefully a couple times and done some cross checking. There are two loopholes created by my entrance to the tournament and I really want to take advantage of them, but I can't do it from here, hence my desire to hire you."
"What are these loopholes?"
"One, the tournament is designed for?"
"Three students from three schools to compete."
"What kind of students?"
"Umhm. And how many schools?"
"Yep. Either of those should have been enough to invalidate my selection, but the judges let it stand. Which means three headmasters, one of whom also is the Supreme Mugwumps of the ICW, and two ministry personnel have declared me of age. I want to find a way to make that adult status stick; so I don't go back to the Dursleys this year. Second each school is only allowed one student, Dumbledore hasn't realized that by letting the selection stand he has effectively made me not a Hogwarts student since Diggory was chosen as Hogwarts' champion as such he has effectively cancelled the standard student contract that keeps me here for my schooling. If I leave the country this summer and apply to a foreign school I can legally get away fro him and his let's see if we can get Harry killed machinations.
"The problem is I'm not sure what is required for emancipation in the magical world, and I don't have a clue about schools. I know in the muggle world finances are a part of what they look at when considering emancipation. I'm sure I have enough money, especially with what I got from the basilisk, but that information is in complete disarray. I have a couple specific tasks in mind but for the most part what I want you to work on first is finding out about schools preferably in English speaking countries and sorting out what I actually have. Over and above that I've ordered standard book of spells years five, six and seven. I will be working my way through them as quickly as I can, but if I run into trouble can I count on you for help?"
"You'll have it."
"Great in return. I offer: wolfsbane although you'll have to find a brewer, housing here in the tent in the chamber which is totally secure so you would even be safe here during the full moon. I'll make myself scarce that night. Unfortunately I can't vouch for Dobby's cooking. He and I have already agreed I'll cook, he'll do clean up but meals are included in your wages, as are general household tasks courtesy of Dobby of course. Dobby will also pop you anywhere you need to go or at least out of the chamber so you can go yourself. For salary I was thinking 200 galleons a month how does that sound?"
"I think you're overpaying me. A quarter of that would be considered very generous, more than I've made most of my life in fact."
"Eighty and not a Knut more. Cub, I'm used to getting by on fifteen to twenty galleons a month. If I accepted more I would feel like I was robbing someone I see as family and I don't want that on my conscience."
"Fine eighty it is."
"Good now about these specific tasks do you have a list?"
"Yes, first find me a healer that I can get a more comprehensive oath of secrecy from than a standard oath and make an appointment as soon as possible, if they could do a house call here that would be even better. Second, break the mail ward currently on me and replace it with one under my control. I wondered why I didn't get fan mail, now I know. That doesn't mean I want to deal with Mary Sue Fangirl. Its just I don't like the idea of giving up that much control to someone whose intentions I don't trust. For instance does Gringotts send out bank statements if so I never got one. Three, I want to visit Mum and Dad's graves I never have, and I think its overdue. Beyond that I think I already covered things.
Harry's stomach rumbled loudly. "My appetite finally woke up. Dinner?"