Title: How A Slytherin Gets What They Want

Author: Captain Cranium

Description: Harry frowned. "Why are you trying to help me?" he asked. "Not that I don't appreciate it ... but I think most of Slytherin would enjoy seeing me end up as dragon food ..." One-Shot, First Task

"Dragons," whispered Harry. They were in the Magical Creatures section in the library, feverishly picking out any books that looked even slightly relevant. "How on earth am I supposed to get past a dragon, Hermione?"

His best friend didn't look up.

"We'll figure it out, Harry," she said, running her fingers down the index of Men Who Love Dragons and adding it to the pile in Harry's arms. "Sirius said there was a simple spell, wasn't there? We just have to find the spell ... oh, for the love of ... who needs a Fire Distinguisher spell? A spell to tell you whether something is a fire, indeed."

She put the next book back on the shelf with a very un-Hermione-like snort.

"But you didn't see those things," he persisted, following her as she moved further along. His arms were already straining from the weight of books he was carrying. "Fifty, maybe sixty feet tall. And the heat coming from those flames... I'm a dead man."

Hermione elbowed him suddenly. He gasped, the pile of books in his arms tottering on the verge of a fall. He opened his mouth to complain.

"We've got company," she said in a low voice before he could say anything.

He looked down and saw Daphne Greengrass, a Slytherin girl from their year, standing further down the aisle. She had a book in her hands, but she wasn't looking at it. She was looking at them with an amused look on her face. She shook her head and, with a toss of her raven hair, walked away from them.

"Great," said Harry with a groan. "Now the whole school is going to know that I'm getting roasted by a dragon in a week."

Hermione pursed her lips but didn't say anything. She added another book to Harry's arms and kept moving, and with the dragons on Harry's mind, he soon forgot about Daphne Greengrass.

Dinner that day was a fraught affair. Potter Stinks badges were everywhere. Harry and Ron had made eye contact when Ron walked in, and Ron abruptly changed direction and went to sit on the other end of the table from him, leaving Harry glaring miserably at his food. Hermione had come in after him and after looking hesitantly between him and Ron, she came to sit by Harry.

"It's okay, Hermione," he said. "You can sit with him."


"It's okay," he said, cutting her off. "You've spent all day in the library with me."

"Thanks, Harry." She gave him a grateful look and got up to go sit with Ron.

The rest of the dinner passed quietly. Neville came and sat with him, but the quiet boy didn't make any attempt at conversation. Harry appreciated his company though and the two boys ate their meal in silence. He was finishing up his treacle tart when Malfoy passed by them.

"Looking forward to dying, Potter?" he taunted. Crabbe and Goyle guffawed behind him.

"Shove it Malfoy," said Harry savagely. Malfoy looked like he wanted to say something more, but Professor Moody chose that moment to walk by, so he settled for giving Harry a dirty look before hurrying along. Crabbe and Goyle trailed after him, cracking their knuckles, and behind them was Daphne Greengrass. He raised an eyebrow seeing her there - he'd never seen her keep company with Malfoy before. As she locked eyes with him, she let a very tiny roll of parchment drop out of her sleeve. Without missing a step, she kept on walking.

Harry stared after her and wondered whether he should pick up the parchment or not. Curiosity got the better of him and he leaned forward to pick it up. The parchment felt very fine under his fingers. He undid the ribbon tying it up and opened the scroll, frowning as he read it.

"What do you know about Daphne Greengrass, Neville?" he asked.

The pudgy boy looked startled at being addressed.

"Oh, hmm, I know of her family," he said, scratching his head. "Her dad does business with Uncle Algie. They've been doing business together for decades now, and I think Uncle Algie likes him. I saw her around a bit growing up. She sorta just ignored me though, which was nice. Never teased me about being a squib or anything. Why d'you ask?"

"She asked me to meet her after dinner," said Harry. He read the note over once again. "On the seventh floor. Alone. She has some information that might be of interest. You think it could be a trap?"

Neville looked doubtful. "I don't think so. I mean, maybe. She's a Slytherin, I suppose. But she's not like Malfoy, I think."

They lapsed back into silence. Harry mulled over the note. Greengrass had overheard him panicking about dragons. Maybe she knew something that could help him. But why would she want to help him? She was a Slytherin, and almost all the Slytherins were wearing the Potter Stinks badges. He screwed his face, trying to think whether he had seen her wear one, but he couldn't remember. He wondered whether he should go meet her or not. But, as the memory of the roaring dragon and the heat of its flame reappeared in his mind, he decided he might as well. He was a Gryffindor after all. And if it turned out to be a trap, well ... he was going to be dragon food in a couple of days anyway.

He finished the last of his treacle tart and got up. The Great Hall was starting to empty. He saw Hermione sitting with Ron still. They were discussing something very animatedly. He wondered if he should tell her where he was going, but in that moment, Ron looked up and met his gaze. Harry averted his eyes.

"Hey, Neville ... just in case ... if I'm not back in the common room in an hour or two, let Hermione know where I am, okay?"

"Sure thing, Harry," said Neville absentmindedly, reaching for some custard.

With a sinking feeling that Neville was probably going to forget, Harry walked to the seventh floor.

He found Greengrass standing outside the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy.

"You took your time," she said crossly, looking him up and down.

Harry glared at her, trying to hide the fact that he was panting. He had had to jog up seven flights of stairs. "You said after dinner, didn't you? It's after dinner. You didn't say what time."

Her face softened. "I suppose you're right," she said. She gestured towards a door that stood next to the tapestry. "Shall we?"

He held the door open for her. "After you."

Just because he was a Gryffindor didn't mean he was stupid. He didn't want to walk in there and get hexed by a dozen Slytherins. She smirked at him as if she knew what he was thinking and walked inside. He followed, heart thudding, wand in hand, but when he went inside, all he saw was a large, hollow cavern with large boulders littered across it. And in front of them, looking singularly out of place, was a large red couch. There was no one else, nothing else. He stared around at the cavern.

"How?" he asked.

"Magic," she said with a grin and sat down on the couch. "I hope you don't mind if I sit. You can too, if you want." She patted the couch next to her.

Harry looked at her suspiciously. "I'll stand."

For a second, he thought he saw a look of hurt flash across her face.

"Suit yourself," she said with a shrug. "Anyway, I heard you talking to Granger about dragons. Is that the First Task?" He nodded, and she continued, "What's the task exactly? You have to defeat a dragon?"

"I have to get past it," said Harry. "I'm not sure what that means."

She nodded thoughtfully. "I think I can help you then. What do you know about dragons?"

Harry frowned. "Why are you trying to help me?" he asked. "Not that I don't appreciate it ... but I think most of Slytherin would enjoy seeing me end up as dragon food ..."

For the first time, he saw something like uncertainty cross her face.

"I don't know," she said, at last. "It was a why-not thing. I heard you and Granger talk, and I decided to offer. I like Care of Magical Creatures. It's a bit of a hobby for me. I've helped out Hagrid with a few things around the forest, which I'd appreciate if you didn't mention to anyone. Things would get difficult in Slytherin if people knew. And I've always wanted to talk to you. I've never had reason before ... and frankly, you're around Weasley all the time, and I don't want anything to do to him."

"What's wrong with Ron?" he asked hotly.

She raised an eyebrow. "Aren't you two fighting? In any case, it doesn't matter. There's plenty that's wrong with him, but more importantly, can you imagine how he'd react if I just came up and introduced myself?"

He winced. "Yeah, you're right about that."

"There are plenty of people who would've liked to get to know you who don't, because of him," she said, watching him carefully for a reaction. "I'm sure he's not ill-intentioned. It's probably just a habit from when he was your bodyguard in first year when things were a bit overwhelming for you. I heard you were Muggle raised." She sounded sympathetic. "I'm sure he means well, he's just a bit ... crude."

He took a moment to study her. She seemed honest. She had draped her legs across the couch and was leaning against the armrest in a casual posture. Her wand wasn't in sight.

"Done staring?" she teased.

He blushed and spluttered and took a step back, looking away.

"Just kidding," she said with a grin. "What do you think?"

"All right," he said slowly. "What do you want in return?"

She laughed. "We're not all transactional in Slytherin," she said in a teasing voice. "But tell you what, if it makes you feel better, you can give me a kiss if you survive. How about that? No payment without results."

He thought that if he turned any redder his face would explode. She laughed outright and sat up. Harry noticed that her face glowed as she laughed. Her eyes were filled with a genuine mirth he hadn't known Slytherins could experience. Neville was right - she didn't seem like Malfoy and his ilk.

"All right, dragons," she said, her face turning serious. "Tell me what you know."

He thought back to the four monstrosities he'd seen on the edge of the forest.

"I know they're reptiles," he said. "Fifty feet tall or so. They breathe fire and their hides are resistant to magic, so it's hard to take them down. They have sharp fangs, claws, and sometimes spikes on their backs and tails."

She sat up, interested. "Spikes? Do they have a Hungarian Horntail? Did you see it?"

He blushed, not liking to admit that he had cheated, and nodded.

"A real live Hungarian Horntail," she whispered, enraptured. "I can't believe they're risking bringing a Horntail all the way to Scotland. They're so endangered, there are like fifteen of them in the whole world, and they're all inbred. Makes them a bit mad, you know. Vicious creatures, they attack without reason. Not just for food or self-defense, but out of straight malice."

Harry turned a little green. Greengrass snapped back to attention.

"Right," she said, businesslike. "So you captured dragons as well as you can, in a nutshell. Dragons have three weaknesses ... Do you know any of them?"

She paused. He shook his head, feeling embarrassed. He was feeling embarrassed a lot during this conversation.

"Didn't your research with Granger turn up anything?" she asked, perplexed. "I thought Granger was good at looking things up."

"We were looking up spells," he said defensively. "Someone I know said there was a simple spell …"

"They were probably talking about the Conjunctivitis Curse," said Greengrass impatiently. "There's no point in …"

"Wait what curse?" He interrupted her rather frantically, having not caught the name. "That's exactly what I need." He pulled out a piece of parchment from his pocket and started fishing around for a quill.

"No, Potter," she said, folding her arms across her chest. "I'm not going to help you if you're being such a Gryffindor."

"But …"

"No buts," she said firmly. "We're going to do this properly. You can't just take the first solution you see and run with it. Honestly, this is why people say Gryffindors are stupid."

Harry wanted to protest, but be felt like it might be better to stay silent. It occurred to him that of Malfoy had said such a thing, they would've had their wands pointed at each other already, but Greengrass said it without malice and in such a matter-of-fact voice, that he barely felt offended. Indeed, she had already moved on.

"The first weakness is the dragon's eyes. They're just like any other animal's eyes, and that's what the Conjunctivitis Curse targets. Of course, you could cast a piercing hex or something to blind it, but then you'd permanently damage a valuable and endangered animal …"

Harry didn't think he'd have a problem with that if said valuable and endangered animal were trying to roast him alive, but Greengrass went on.

"And even if that wasn't a problem, not even the best duelling champions have aim that good, and a Conjunctivitis Curse is just easier - you just need to be in the general vicinity of the eyes."

"So why can't ..."

She held up her hand to silence him.

"The second weakness is its mouth. But this one, you can't do much with, because if it's opening its mouth, it's probably breathing fire at you, and the only thing you can do is get away. You won't have time to cast a spell or anything. You could, in theory, cast a spell that affects the surroundings of the dragon so that its magical resistance wouldn't kick in - maybe a specialized Incarcerous to bind its mouth shut. Of course, you'll make it angry, but it's going to be angry anyway. And there's always a risk that the dragon will be too strong for ropes. Some of them have incredible jaw strength."

Harry, by now, had found his quill, and he scribbled that down. "Got it. Conjunctivitis, Incarcerous. What else?"

She seemed pleased that he was taking notes and she sat up a bit straighter.

"All right, so the third weakness, you already alluded to - you said that dragons are reptiles. What does that mean?"

"Err... they're mean, scaly. Kind of ugly," he scrunched up his face. She nodded at him encouragingly. "Oh! They're cold blooded!"

She gave him a big smile and he grinned back at her, feeling pleased with himself. "Oh wait," he said. "But that doesn't make any sense. They literally breathe fire ... doesn't that mess with their body temperature?"

She shook her head. "No, think about it. The fact that they breathe fire is a side effect of the fact that they need to create fire in order to regulate their body temperature. They create fire to stay warm, and they breathe fire to keep their eggs warm or to scare off enemies and catch prey. That's why you often find dragons on mountain-tops and remote places where you won't find many other reptiles - at least not big ones."

"I see," he said slowly. "But if they can regulate their body temperature, how can I take advantage of that?"

She stood up.

"That's what we're going to check," she said cheerfully. "You can make it colder, which is a great way to make a dragon lethargic, because then they're spending more energy warming up and less energy fighting you or breathing fire at you. But it's going to need a bit of powerful magic, so let's see if you're capable of it."

"How?" he asked, perplexed. He wasn't an especially powerful wizard, he knew. Maybe he was a bit talented at Defense, but that was it. His grades bore witness to that.

She walked over to the closest of the large boulders and beckoned him over.

"Cast a Banishing Charm on this boulder," she said, standing off to the side. "You remember that, don't you? We learned it last year."

He looked at the boulder dubiously. It was twice the height of Uncle Vernon and four times as wide.

"This is a huge boulder," he said.

"Exactly," she said with a nod. "It's big, so we can tell how much power you can put into a spell by seeing how far you can push it."

He pulled out his wand, feeling self-conscious. Greengrass was tapping her foot impatiently, and he thought she looked a mite too eager ... but he pushed those thoughts from his head. She was helping him and that's what mattered. For a second, he imagined what Ron might think - him, alone in a random room on the Seventh Floor, with a Slytherin girl. He snickered.

"What?" asked Greengrass, confused.

"Nothing," he said. He eyed the boulder one more time, flicked his wand and cast, "Depulso!"

The boulder moved maybe a foot. He looked over at Greengrass, and saw that she was frowning. His heart dropped.

"That's not very good at all," she said. She pulled out her wand. "Depulso!"

It moved a solid six feet.

Harry stared at her. Was she six times as powerful as him?

"You have the incantation right," she said. "And your wand movement wasn't perfect, but it was good enough. Is the wand your own?"

"Yeah, it's mine." His fingers closed around it reflexively.

"What were you thinking about when you cast the spell?" she asked.

He shrugged. "Dunno, I guess I just wanted the spell to work."

She was silent for a moment, staring at him contemplatively. He fidgeted.

"Have you studied any Magical Theory?" she asked at last. "Do you know where magic comes from, how it works?"

He felt dumber by the minute. "No," he said, his voice a bit defensive. "I'm not that good at theory, I do better on practicals ..."

"Not the theory we learn in class," she interrupted him. "I mean, that's all well and good, but the theory behind Magic itself. They used to teach an introductory class back when my parents were in school, but they scrapped it ... my Father says it's because Dumbledore didn't want people getting ideas about Dark Magic or something ridiculous like that. You should look into it when you have time," she held her hand up to stave off an interruption. "But in the meanwhile it's important for you to know that the level of Magic a wizard is able to perform comes from two things. The first is obviously their raw magical power - the more powerful the wizard, the more powerful the spell. The second is technique. Professor Flitwick, for example, has such excellent technique that he's one of the best wizards of our time. You should watch his wand movements sometimes - it's a work of art."

She paused, and he took the chance to ask a question.

"You said my wand movement was fine. Does that mean I don't have enough power?"

She shook her head. "I don't think that's it," she said. "You can perform the Patronus, can't you? I heard that you could, and that's a spell that requires a decent amount of power to perform."

"But then what is it?" he asked, frustrated. He felt like they were going around in circles.

"Technique isn't just wandwork. When you do a spell, the spell is created by intent - you've intended to do something or the other. But how much power your magical core sends into the spell - that is driven by emotion. How badly it is that you want the effect of that spell to happen? That's what derives the strength of the spell."

Understanding dawned on his face. "I think I see what you mean. It's like the happy memory with the Patronus. The more emotion you feel, the stronger the spell is."

She bit her lip. "Almost," she said. "But that's a good enough understanding for now. Try the spell again. Try and feel the magic within you. Concentrate on your emotions. You need to want the magic to come out."

He looked at the boulder speculatively. Raising his wand, he concentrated, focusing inwards on his magic. He thought about how badly he wanted the his Banishing Charm to work, he concentrated on the exultation he would feel if it succeeded, how happy it would make him.

"Depulso!" he heard himself say, and he was aware of his hand making the correct movements, though he wasn't aware of himself directing it.

A crash brought him back to reality. The boulder was gone from in front of him, and there was a mound of rubble where it had crashed into the back wall of the cavern. Greengrass was staring at him open-mouthed with a look of fear and awe and ... was that hunger? He blinked and her face was passive again.

"Well," she deadpanned. "You've definitely got power."

He felt dizzy and he stuck his hand out to stabilize himself, but before he could fall, she had caught him and was guiding him to the couch.

"Rest," she instructed. "It will take some time for your magic to regenerate all the energy."

Dimly, he was aware of her calling a house-elf and forcing a chocolate bar into his hands. Chocolate? He hadn't run into any dementors. He tried to tell her, but she forced him to take several bites. Within a few minutes he started feeling better.

"I feel like I got run over by the Hogwarts Express," he said with a groan, rubbing his forehead. She offered him a goblet of pumpkin juice and he gratefully took it, downing it in one go.

"Your body's just not used to channeling that much magic," she said, breaking off another piece of chocolate and handing it to him. "You're magically very powerful. Maybe not as powerful as Dumbledore or the Dark Lord, but you're pretty high up. Honestly, Potter, you should try more in class. You come off as a slightly above average wizard at best."

He opened his mouth to tell her that he had had to be average - he had learned to keep his grades down to keep Uncle Vernon's ire off of him, and that it was just a habit at this point, but then he closed it. She wouldn't understand.

"All right," he said, once the shakiness of his limbs had subsided. "What does this mean? I'm guessing this means I can do whatever powerful charm you mentioned?"

She chuckled. "I think you can handle it. But you've got to practice, get your body used to large amounts of magic flowing through you. You've got what, a week until the task? I think we can get you to the point where you can cast the charm at least once, you can get past the dragon." She paused. "That's all you have to do right? Get past a dragon to get to some kind of goal? Not steal its treasure or something?"

"That's what it sounded like."

She looked happy, pleased with herself. It was strange to him, to see a Slytherin on his side. She was the only person in the whole school helping him besides Hermione. It was a sobering thought. Everyone else in Gryffindor had abandoned him - they knew people died in the Triwizard Tournament. No one else had offered to help. With some sadness, he recalled the little speech McGonagall had given them before their sorting - about their house being like their family. Harry felt like he had lost his family twice over.

Greengrass, meanwhile, kept talking. "We'll start practicing the spell tomorrow. I'll help you. We can meet after dinner. That dragon won't know what's coming." She laughed suddenly. "Oh Merlin, I can't wait to see Malfoy's face."

He gave her a weak smile, touched by her confidence in him. And despite himself, he started to feel a bit better about the First Task. At least he had a plan now.

Greengrass had insisted he not tell Hermione that she was helping him. She was afraid it would get out, that someone in Slytherin would find out. They left dinner at different times, and then left the Cavern Room, as Harry called it, at different times so that they wouldn't get caught together. He had once gone to the room when she wasn't there, but he hadn't been able to find it. There was nothing but a blank wall next to Barnabas the Barmy. The Marauder's Map was no help either. It was as if the room only existed when Greengrass was with him.

There was of course, no putting off Hermione, so he had her help him with the Conjunctivitis Curse. She wasn't terribly happy that his only plan (as far as she knew) was to cast the Conjunctivitis Curse on the dragon and hope he could sneak past while it was distracted, but she wasn't able to come up with a better plan either. He felt guilty about his deception but Greengrass was insistent. He hoped Hermione would understand.

One thing odd did happen to him - the day before the First Task, Professor Moody took him aside and asked him about his preparation for the Task, advising him to "play to his strengths". Instantly suspicious, he thanked the professor and beat a hasty retreat. When he asked Greengrass later, she swore she hadn't breathed a word to anyone, let alone to Professor Moody.

"But why would he use the word 'strength'?" asked Harry.

Greengrass shrugged. "Maybe he was just trying to help. Don't be so suspicious, Potter, it doesn't suit you. Leave that to us Slytherins."

They were in the Cavern Room again, the night before the Task. Harry had successfully cast his charm and he had a pretty good idea of how much power to put into it without tiring himself too much. He had to take Greengrass's word for the efficacy of the spell. If it didn't work … well, at least he knew the Conjunctivitis Curse.

"I noticed you mastered the Summoning Charm pretty quickly in Flitwick's class," she commented idly.

He chuckled. Had she been watching him?

"Fishing for compliments, Greengrass?" he teased.

She turned the lightest shade of pink.

He grinned at her and continued. "But more seriously, you did help a lot. I never noticed how I was using magic until you pointed it out, but now that I have, I can't stop noticing it. And every time I see it, it becomes a little clearer, a little less fuzzier."

"What do you mean?" she asked curiously.

"It's like ... a week ago, when we first started, I had this vague idea that stronger emotion would mean stronger magic," he said, tapping his chin thoughtfully. "But now, now I can feel my magic inside me. I can choose how much I want to use for a spell, how much I want to let out, at what rate I want to let it out. It's made my spell control so much better, and it's made learning spells so much easier. I think it's also given me better control of my emotions."

Greengrass nodded. "That makes sense. You've picked up on it much faster that most people. It's sad that Dumbledore doesn't allow this stuff to be taught at Hogwarts."

The way she said it made Harry do a double-take. He vaguely recalled reading about how Dark Magic was addicting - and the way he was using magic now was certainly exhilarating. Could he be using Dark Magic? He didn't think so - the spells he was using could hardly be called Dark Magic.

He stretched out his wand and whispered a quiet "Depulso."

He was conscious of the magic inside him swelling, responding to his wand movements. He slowed it down, focusing his intention on exactly how much he wanted to move to move the boulder - maybe a foot - and allowing only as much magic to trickle out of his body as was necessary. His precise wand movements allowed him to channel the magic efficiently, and he felt a thrill of pleasure, as the magic left his body. Magic was so beautiful! The boulder creaked and groaned and moved, by almost exactly one foot.

Greengrass nodded approvingly. "Was that what you had in mind? Excellent. Such control is rare in most students, even Sixth or Seventh Years. Such control and such power? Almost unheard of. Looks like I'll be collecting my payment after all."

He gave her an exasperated look and she laughed, a light tinkling laugh that lit up her whole face. It was kind of cute, he thought, before quickly suppressing his thoughts. Merlin! This was Greengrass, after all.

If he had had any doubts about Greengrass's confidence in him, they were gone the next day, the morning of the First Task. Over breakfast, among the many rumours flying around about the First Task, Harry heard one that made his ears prick up. Apparently Daphne Greengrass had bet Draco Malfoy a hundred galleons that Harry Potter would beat the First Task. He almost choked on his bacon when he overhead Lavendar Brown telling Parvati Patil about it - with a significant glance aimed at him. He had no doubt that Parvati already knew, and that the rumour was being repeated for his benefit.

They had History of Magic first, but they had that with the Hufflepuffs, who spent most of it glaring at Harry. They had Charms with the Slytherins after, and when Harry saw that Greengrass was lingering behind, he took the opportunity to bend down and pretend to tie his shoelace.

"Go on," he said to Hermione, who had slowed down, motioning towards Ron's retreating back.

"I'll catch you at lunch," she said, and hurried on.

Once the corridor was empty, Greengrass sidled up to him.

"I just wanted to wish you good luck," she said. "I probably won't get a chance later. You'll do great."

He stood up. "Did you really bet Malfoy a hundred galleons?" he asked, a note of disbelief in his voice. A hundred galleons was a lot of money, even for rich Purebloods like Malfoy.

She let out a tinkling laugh. "Of course I did. I trained you myself," she said, winking at him. "He was going off in the common room about how you were sure to be dead tomorrow, so I got up and told him to shut up or put his money where his mouth is. You should've seen his face when I put down a hundred galleons." She chuckled.

He blinked. "That means a lot," he said honestly.

She saw that he was serious and her face took on a somber expression. She hesitated for a moment, and then reached her hand out and took his..

"You'll do great," she repeated. Leaning forward, she kissed him on the cheek. Harry was so shocked that he couldn't even move. She smiled at him - and it wasn't the impish smile she usually gave him when she was teasing him, but a real, honest-to-God, gentle smile. With one last squeeze of his hand, she was gone.

He didn't know how long he stood there. No one had kissed him before, that he could remember. He was sure his mother would have, but he didn't remember that. Aunt Petunia had never shown him any affection. The only other girl in his life was Hermione, and she had never ... he shook his head.

He walked to the Great Hall in a daze, and sat down next to Hermione for lunch. She had saved him a spot, and she seemed more nervous than him. She barely touched her food, and exhorted him to eat. He tried, mechanically eating some soup and swallowing some bread that Hermione buttered for him. In what seemed like a second, or part of a second, lunch was over, and Professor McGonagall was rushing towards him to take him down to the dragons' enclosure.

The other three Champions were already there. Bagman was there too, holding a purple silk sack, and he explained the task to them.

"A golden egg," said Harry stupidly. "But I thought ..." Cedric shot him a look and he fell silent. He wasn't supposed to know what the task was. He racked his brain, trying to think of what he knew about nesting dragons. Any nesting mother was protective, he knew, fingering lightly his own scar, but was there anything special about dragon mothers? They didn't just have to get past the dragon, they had to steal an egg. He exhaled. Merlin, he hoped the spell Greengrass had taught him worked.

Fleur pulled out the Welsh Green and Krum took out the Chinese Fireball. With dawning horror, Harry watched as Cedric got the Swedish Short-Snout, and that left ... he pulled out the Hungarian Horntail. He stared with morbid fascination at the miniature dragon swinging its spike-covered tail around, with a mean expression on its face and the number four around its neck.

Cedric left the tent first, followed by Fleur. Harry sat with Krum, both in opposite corners of the tent, both trying desperately to drown out Bagman's commentary and the roar of the crowd and the screaming of the dragons.

Soon, it was Krum's turn and Harry's gut wrenched as the gruff Bulgarian walked out of the tent. The crowd roared as Krum walked into the enclosure. Inside the Champions' Tent, Harry sat down and set his Horntail on the floor.

"Wingardium Leviosa," he whispered, with a swish and a flick, allowing a small trickle of magic to leave his core. The Horntail squeaked indignantly as it rose into the air against its will. Harry closed his eyes and concentrated, focusing on the feeling of magic leaving his core, travelling through his arm and via his wand into the figurine. The noise of the crowd and Bagman's voice melted away and a sense of peace overcame him.

"HARRY POTTER!" Bagman's voice jerked him out of his meditation and he jerked up. Grabbing the figurine and stuffing it into his robe pocket, he ran out of the tent and into the enclosure.

His heart thudded as he walked into the enclosure. A great white ring that shimmered with magic - probably designed to protect the audience - surrounded the field, and on the far side of that ring, in front of a small gate, was the dragon. Next to it was a clutch of eggs, giant eggs that looked like they were made of concrete, and nestled on top them was a single, golden egg.

The cries of the audience faded into the background. Dimly, he was aware of Bagman shouting out an introduction. His heart thudded painfully as he took one step and then another, crossing over the ward line. The dragon stared straight at him, its horrid, spiked tail sweeping across the ground, creating gouge marks that were a foot deep. Smoke leaked out of its mouth as it crouched next to its eggs, looking ready to pounce.

Harry walked closer to the dragon, wand in hand. The dragon kept its eyes on him. Then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a stream of fire came out at him. He dove behind a large boulder as the crowd oohed.

"Good," said Harry to himself. "Now you know the range of its breath."

When the stream subsided, he stepped out again, taking a few steps back. The dragon looks displeased at his survival, and made as if to take a step forward before shuffling closer to its nest. It didn't want to leave the eggs unprotected.

Harry pointed his wand at the dragon. It snarled back at him.

"Articum Nix," he said, softly, clearly. In perfect control of the magic flowing through his body, he had no need to shout. A blue beam shot out of his wand and dispersed as it approached the dragon, sending sparkly bits of dust into the air. The dragon growled and moved its body to protect its eggs.

Within moments it become obvious that the bits of dust were snow. Within a growing radius of the nest, the temperature dropped and snow started gathering on the ground. The dragon howled accusingly at Harry and hurled fire at him, but he was too far away. The fire dissipated before it came close, and as the temperature dropped, its range decreased. The dragon howled, and howled again piteously, pacing back and forth in front of its nest, glaring at Harry. At last, it could hold itself up no longer, and it sat down. It tried breathing fire once more, but more smoke than flame came out of its mouth. With one last moan, it curled itself up protectively around its nest and went to sleep. Hibernation.

The crowd was silent. Whereas before Harry could barely hear himself think, now he could hear his footsteps as he cautiously approached the dragon. The snowfall had ceased, leaving maybe an inch or two of snow on the ground, but the temperature was still deathly cold. He cast a warming charm on himself as the air misted around him.

The dragon's bulk prevented him from seeing the eggs, so he went around it. But no matter where he went, the dragon's body was there, between him and the eggs. Its chest rose and fell as it breathed heavily, letting out steam from its nostrils. Harry groaned. There was no way around it. He had to climb the dragon.

He chose what seemed like the shortest point and grasped one of the foot long spikes on the beast's tail and pulled himself over. Climbing onto its body and standing up shakily on its moving stomach, he was aware, suddenly, that if the dragon so much as moved or sneezed or coughed, he was likely to fall and break a leg. Possibly die. He was over the body now he could see the egg. All he had to do was climb down, grab it, when suddenly, Hermione's voice echoed in his head.

"Are you a wizard or not?"

He grinned, and pointed his wand at the egg. "Wingardium Leviosa."

Slowly the egg levitated up from the nest and he leaned forward on his tiptoes to grab it, when a loud, deafening bang sounded from somewhere within the audience.

"Try not to die, Potter," shouted a voice that sounded suspiciously like Malfoy. The crowd gasped in outrage.

Acting on instinct, Harry jumped and grabbed the golden egg midair. The dragon's jaws closed where he had been standing moments earlier. He landed in a crouch and scrambled to his feet and ran, not looking behind.

An angry shriek sounded closer that he thought and he ducked to the ground. The dragon's horrible spiked tail swerved over his head, an elongated spike missing him by inches. The golden egg rolled away from his grasp. The dragon's eyes followed it, and Harry seized the moment.

"Oculis Malum," he cried. In his panic, he poured his power into the Conjunctivitis Curse - perhaps too much power, because those beady yellow eyes turned red and burst in a spray of blood. Oops, he thought. Greengrass was going to be upset. The dragon howled. Such a vicious, horrible, earth-shattering howl that he was forced to plug his ears. He ran for the egg, but the dragon, sensing movement, darted towards it and he was forced to swerve, running in the opposite direction and taking refuge behind a boulder far away from the nest.

"Breathe," he whispered to himself, sinking to the ground. He gave himself a few second to calm his heartbeat before sticking his head out. The dragon had found the egg and was rolling it back to its nest. A thought struck him. "Accio Golden Egg."

He paused with baited breath, for a second thinking that the Summoning Charm might work, that he might survive, but the egg didn't so much as twitch. The dragon picked it up in its jaws and deposited it back on top of its nest. He groaned. That would've been too easy. The egg was back in the nest. He was back at square one.

Racking his brain, he tried to remember what Greengrass had told him about dragons. They had bad hearing and above average eye-sight - for a reptile at least. Their eyesight was as good as human's at least. With a sinking feeling he watched as the dragon turned towards him, its bleeding eye sockets pointed at him, and started moving towards him. Could it smell him? It moved sluggishly, slowed down by the still freezing temperatures. Another Conjunctivitis Curse would do no good, and he hardly thought an Expelliarmus - the only other useful spell he knew - would affect the beast. He needed a distraction.

Stepping outside, he fired a spell at the other side of the field. "Depulso!"

One of the smaller boulders flew into the air and impacted the ward line with a thud. The dragon didn't even notice. Right, thought Harry. No sight and bad hearing. But then how could it see him?

The dragon was getting close. If he needed to run, he needed to do it now.

He ran. Maybe if he ran around the dragon, he would be able to grab the egg and reach the exit. He looked over his shoulder. The dragon had sensed his movement ... how, his mind screamed at him, but he had no answer. It was lumbering towards him, faster now, and it was then he noticed that his feet were slapping against slush on the ground and not against snow. It was getting warmer. The dragon was moving faster.

His mind panicked. He could make the exit, but he didn't think he could get the egg and make the exit. Maybe he should just give up, he thought desperately. Malfoy's gloating face floated in front of his eyes. He thought of Greengrass and her bet with Malfoy. He tried to push those thoughts away. Better to be embarrassed than to be dragon dinner, he thought. And maybe he could reimburse Greengrass ... he stuffed his wand into his pocket and was about to make for the exit when something scratched his hand. It was the dragon figurine.

Inspiration struck him. He pulled out the figurine. "Engorgio!"

He poured power into the spell as it grew and grew and grew until it was the size of the original Horntail. The Horntail screeched to a halt, sensing the figurine. It forgot about Harry and hurled itself at the new threat that was standing next to its nest and its precious eggs. The figurine tried to defend itself, but it had no magic except for some basic movement charms, and it was torn apart in second - but those seconds were exactly what Harry needed. Racing for the mountain of eggs he scrambled to the top, grabbed the golden egg and was about to bolt for the exit when the dragon roared.

He turned around and saw that the engorged figurine was spread in seven different pieces across the ground. The dragon was hurtling towards him, its spiked tail waving menacingly behind it, it's mouth opening. He heard screams from the crowd, movement in the stands, but he knew hat it would be too late for anyone to help.

He saw the flame start to form in the dragon's mouth and desperately, he cried out the only spell he could think of. "Aguamenti!"

A powerful stream of water shot out of his wand, but it wasn't enough. He willed all his power into it, every last bit that he had, concentrating with all his will, desiring with all his power to put out the flame, and it grew. It grew from a stream to something that would come out of a fire hydrant, to a full-blown geyser. His wand shook and heated from the sheet amount of magical power being pumped through it, until it was almost too hot to hold.

Any other animal, faced with such magnificent force, would have run away, but the dragon was a mother and its eggs were in danger. It struggled, it persevered, and inch by inch, foot by foot, it gained on Harry. He knew that he couldn't move, he couldn't end the spell, because if he did, the dragon would catch him in seconds. He felt his magic draining, he knew that he had maybe seconds left before he would run out of magical power and be as helpless as he was the day Greengrass had first taught him how to control his power.

In one last desperate move, without ending the Water spell, he cast the Freezing Charm. "Glacius!"

The torrent of water froze, starting with his wand, all the way to and around the dragon, encasing it firmly in a block of ice. The dragon howled and struggled and tried to breathe fire, but it was stuck, well and truly stuck.

Harry took a deep breath and climbed off the nest of eggs. His hand shook and his knees quivered but he forced himself to keep walking, head bowed, one step at a time. Behind him, the dragon howled, and around him the crowd was dead silent. Then someone cheered - was it the Weasley twins? - someone else picked up, and before he knew it, the entire audience was on its feet, clapping, shouting, cheering.

"POTTER! POTTER! POTTER!" chanted a cordon of scarlet and gold.

"Magnificent!" boomed the voice of Ludo Bagman above them all. "What a show! What power! What finesse! The youngest champion, ladies and gentlemen! Amazing, simply amazing!"

The judges - Harry noticed them for the first time - clapped politely, and he thought he saw Dumbledore smile at him. Somewhere behind him, there was a group of seated Slytherins, and in the middle of them was Draco Malfoy, looking as if he had swallowed a lemon sherbet.

Harry tuned them all out. He left the enclosure as the dragon handlers ran in to subdue the Horntail. He saw a flash of red hair beside him, and he was dimly aware of someone grabbing his arm and dragging him somewhere - he didn't know where. It was McGonagall. Her face was ashen. "You scared me half to death, Potter. Half to death," she was muttering as she took him to the hospital tent.

The tent was divided into four cubicles. Madam Pomfrey fussed over him, muttering under her breath about dragons and insane tournaments, when Hermione followed in, followed closely by Ron. She flung her arms around him.

"I can't believe you did that, you prat," she sobbed into his shoulder. "You almost died."

He patted her on the back awkwardly. "It's all right, Hermione," he said. "I'm all right. Right, Madam Pomfrey?"

"He does seem okay," admitted the Nurse. "Just a bit of magical exhaustion. No surprise, considering he just went toe to toe with a dragon! A Hungarian Horntail, no less! Vicious creatures, worst of all the dragon breeds." She handed him a potion. "Here drink this. It's Pepper-Up Potion. It will make you feel better, but you need a good night's rest. And don't do any magic for the rest of the day, or I'll keep you in a bed for a week."

And with that threat she bustled away to check on Cedric.

"Where did you learn that weather spell?" asked Hermione, taking the empty vial from him. "I don't think we've covered that yet. I've read about it before, it's a Sixth Year spell, and it's supposedly really hard! Not many people manage to learn it."

"Er..." he hesitated, not wanting to betray Greengrass's confidence.

"I taught it to him," said a voice behind them. Greengrass walked into the hospital tent as if she owned it. He couldn't help but notice that she looked a bit shaken. Had she been worried for him? His heart warmed. "Good job, Potter. I can't wait to rub it in Malfoy's face. He was the bugger who woke the dragon up when you were about to get the egg. Bloody cheater."

"What're you doing here?" Ron seemed to have found his voice.

Greengrass sized him up for a moment. "No," she said slowly. "The question is what are you doing here? I helped him get past that dragon, while you were off spouting about how he cheated his way into the tournament."

Ron opened his mouth and closed it. He looked at Harry for support, but Harry said nothing. Greengrass had gotten him through the Task. He wasn't about to offend her to make Ron feel better. Seeing that he was outnumbered, he turned around and stormed off. Hermione looked like she might burst into tears.

"It's okay Hermione," said Harry softly. "I'll talk to him later. Thank you both for your help. I couldn't have done it without either of you. Sorry I couldn't tell you about Greengrass, Hermione, she ... er ..."

"I asked him not to. Slytherin House politics, you understand," said Greengrass, as if that explained she smacked him lightly on the shoulder "I can't believe you blinded the Horntail, Potter! Do you even know how rare they are?"

"You've only mentioned it a hundred times," he muttered rubbing his shoulder. "I probably put a little too much power in that spell... Although I don't think I blinded it. It always came straight for me."

Greengrass touched his forehead. "You cast a warming charm on yourself," she said simply, taking out her wand to cancel it.

"Of course!" said Hermione, slapping her forehead. "It's a reptile."

"Yes," said Greengrass, giving Hermione an approving look. Hermione blushed. Harry still looked confused, so she added, "Many reptiles, including dragons, have heat sensors. It helps them find warm places and prey - and avoid other dragons. Especially when you lowered the temperature, you probably stuck out like a sore thumb, even if it had no eyes."

Harry groaned. "I should've just worn a sweater."

"Probably," said Greengrass with a grin, "but then we wouldn't have gotten to see that little display at the end. That was amazing, Potter. How many people have you seen freeze a dragon solid? Dumbledore could manage it, maybe. I can't think of anyone else."

They were interrupted by Professor McGonagall, who had hurried in to fetch Harry to get his score. She paused, surprised to see Greengrass there.

"I'll see you later then, Potter," whispered Greengrass in a low voice. Giving his hand a squeeze, she slipped out of the tent, leaving him to go with Hermione and McGonagall to get his scores.

At breakfast the next day, Harry's heart was full and glad. He had received the highest score in the First Task - edging out Krum by a point - and, more importantly, he had Ron back. The redhead sat by his side, filling his plate with bacon and talking about Quidditch, and Hermione sat across from them, alternately shooting them exasperated and affectionate looks. And except for on a handful of Slytherins, the Potter Stinks badges seemed to have vanished. Even the Slytherins were shooting him looks of awe, and there was a great deal of whispering and finger pointing going on among the non-Gryffindors. The Gryffindors, of course, had thrown a raucous party the night before. Fred and George had snuck in a few barrels of butterbeer, and Harry suspected that the punch-bowl in the corner where the Sixth and Seventh Years had been congregating had more than a touch of Firewhiskey in it.

"Look at that, boys," came Draco Malfoy's unpleasant voice behind them as they got up to head to Charms. "Potty and Weasel kissed and made up. What happened, Weasley? Did Potter almost dying make you want to kiss him? Too bad the dragon couldn't finish its job, Potter."

"Shut up, ferret," said Ron angrily, lunging for Malfoy, but Harry grabbed his arm.

"Too bad for you," said Harry easily. Crabbe and Goyle stood behind Malfoy, sniggering and cracking their knuckles. He wondered if they even realized they had wands. Further behind them, but within hearing range and watching intently, was Greengrass, with her friend Tracey Davis. "I heard you owe Greengrass a few galleons, Malfoy. Did you have to write to Daddy to bail you out again?"

Malfoy's face contorted and he went for his wand, but Harry had his out and pointed at Malfoy already.

"Careful, Malfoy." Greengrass pushed past Crabbe and Goyle and came to stand next to Harry. She pushed down his wand arm. "You don't want to have Potter freeze you into a block of ice, do you?"

Malfoy spluttered. "You ... you helped him. You ... Blood Traitor!"

Greengrass smiled. The whole Great Hall was silent. Even the Professors were watching the confrontation. "Yes," she said loudly. "Yes, I helped him. And he beat a Hungarian Horntail. One on one, Malfoy, I wasn't there for that bit. You can't even take a piss without Crabbe and Goyle."

Malfoy growled. Harry smirked at him. "My Father ..."

"Yes, yes," said Greengrass in a bored voice. "Make sure you tell your Father I expect my money by the end of the week. I'm sure your ... family honour ... will demand prompt payment for your debts. And now ..." she turned to face Harry. "As for your debt, Mr Potter ..."

"Wha ... oomph."

Before he knew it, she had grabbed him by the front of his robes and was kissing him. In front of the entire Great Hall, in front of the whole school. Harry's brain barely registered what was happening, and he barely had time to stabilize her by placing his hand on her side, when she pulled away.

There was silence, a pin drop silence. Fred - or was it George - let out a whoop and the Gryffindor table started cheering. Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw followed, and there were even some reluctant claps from the Slytherins. Dumbledore had a proud smile on his face. Snape looked disgusted. Ron looked as if he was going to say something, but Hermione placed her hand on his arm and silenced him. Malfoy looked as if someone had killed his pet owl. He was staring at them, slack-jawed.

Harry opened his mouth to say something, but he didn't know what to say. "Err ..."

"That, Potter," she whispered to him softly, sounding a bit breathless, "is how a Slytherin gets what they want." She straightened his tie. "You'll be taking me to Hogsmeade next trip. On a date. I expect to be impressed."

With a wink and another kiss on his cheek, she was gone, with Tracey Davis trailing after her.

He grabbed his bag and walked out after her, feeling like he was walking on a cloud. Not even Malfoy could spoil his mood any more. He licked his lips with a smile, savouring the tingling feeling Greengrass had left on them. Slytherins, he thought as he walked to Charms, weren't so bad. Especially when they came in the Daphne Greengrass flavour.

A/N: It's been a while! I wrote this out as an exercise to explore how Daphne might help Harry win the First Task, but in an original way (ie. not the Summoning Charm / Parseltongue tropes that make me want to claw my eyes out). I don't know if I'll write a sequel for the Second Task ... I might if inspiration strikes me. Sign up for alerts if you think you might be interested!

And as always, please review! I love getting feedback from you guys. :)