Has been edited, just to fix up some spelling and grammar.

Thank you to TGolds for pointing out an issue with the display!

Thank you to HeartsGlow for pointing out an error!

...

When Harry woke up the next morning, it took him a moment to remember why he felt so miserable and anxious. Then the memory of the previous night rolled over him. He sat up and ripped back the curtains of his four-poster, intending to talk to Ron, to force Ron to believe him - only to find that Ron's curtains were shut and it was still ridiculously early.

He got up and got dressed into Dudley's cast-offs, ignoring the familiar feeling of shame and disgust at having to wear them under his school robes, and thought wistfully of one day having his own clothes, that were not so big they fell off him.

First, he wrote to Bill and Charlie. He'd met Ron's brothers over the summer at the Quidditch World Cup. He desperately hoped that they would believe him and not shun him as Ron had. They had been interesting to talk to, always seemed happy to share stories of their time at school, and of their jobs. He couldn't believe that they had been happy to talk to their kid brothers dorky friend. But they had, Bill had told him about curse breaking, the subjects he'd had to study to get there, and the training and study Gringotts had put him though.

"It was hard work, but brilliant and worth every minute. It's great fun," Bill had told him. And Harry wished anew that he had managed to talk his professors into letting him take Arithmancy and Runes as well. Bill had recommended some great book to him though, and Harry had already borrowed them from the library and was halfway through, if not finished most of them. And Charley always had a story about some creature or other, especially Norberta. They had both offered harry a lot of sound advice, it was really novel having an older not-horrible person to talk to and get advice from. They'd both told him to write to them any time. He hadn't felt brave enough before now, not wanting to waste their time, but he was pretty desperate now. He needed all the help he could get, and maybe if he got to them first, be for Ron, they would turn him away. The two letters were pretty similar:

"Dear Bill,

Sorry it's taken me so long to write before now.

I honestly was worried you'd think me wasting your time. I'm sure you have more important things to do than write to your brothers' friend. But something happened, and I'm pretty desperate for some advice.

If you haven't heard, Hogwarts is host to the Triwizard Tournament. Cedric Diggory is the Hogwarts champion, but last night after all three contestants were chosen, a fourth name came out. Mine.

I didn't do it. I didn't enter, I promise you! I want nothing to do with it but no one will believe me, not even Ron! (sorry, I know he's your brother.) I don't know what to do. I don't know how to get out of it and everyone says I have to compete as it's a binding magical contract. I don't even know what that is? I've never read about them, and I'm more well-read than people think. I was hoping that in your work for Gringotts you might know something about them? Or have any advice on where I could look? Please help. I don't know what to do, I don't know what the tasks are going to be, and I'm 3 years behind everyone else, and I'm desperate to learn as much as I can about everything, in the small hope of it helping me not die in this thing. Moody said that's why I was entered, so someone can kill me. Thoughts?

Thanks for the book recommendations, by the way, I'm most of the way through the last few, the ones on the Egyptian hieroglyphic's were fascinating, it was the only one in the library on Egyptian runes. Can you recommend any more? The history of the Pictograms and how their development changed their magical uses was fascinating, especially how they flowed through to the Muggles and the Rosetta Stone. Any other book recommendations? The first lot were brilliant. I actually have loads more to say about the others, (I made notes!) I'll tell you more about what I thought of them later if you like, (I did have a few questions about that Panama Ingot Curse one book mentioned) but I want to get these owls off fast, I'm writing to Charlie too. I don't really have many adults or anyone outside of school I can ask.

Sorry to bother you

Thanks in advance,

Harry

PS how'd the Romney Dig go? Any cool curses?"

"Dear Charlie,

Sorry it's taken me so long, to write before now.

I honestly was worried you'd think me wasting your time, I'm sure you have more important things to do than write to your brothers' friend. But something happened, and I'm pretty desperate for some advice.

If you haven't heard, Hogwarts is host to the TriWizard Tournament. Cedric Diggory is the Hogwarts champion, but last night after all three contestants were chosen, a fourth name came out. Mine.

I didn't do it, I didn't enter, I promise you, I want nothing to do with it. No one will believe me, even Ron (sorry) I don't know what to do. I don't know how to get out of it and everyone says I have to compete as it's a binding magical contract. I don't even know what that is? I've never even read about them, and I'm more well-read than people think. I've written to Bill to, maybe he knows about them, through Gringotts. I was hoping you had some advice on if not how to get out of it, then on not dying in it. You've worked with all sorts of dangerous creatures and situations. Any advice? Or book recommendations to help me stay alive? Please help. I don't know what to do, I don't know what the tasks are going to be, and I'm 3 years behind everyone else, and I'm desperate to learn as much as I can about everything, in the small hope of it helping me not die in this thing. Moody said that's why I was entered, so someone can kill me. Thoughts?

Thanks for the book recommendations, by the way, I'm most of the way through the last few. I enjoyed reading about the baby dragons, it was especially interesting how their growth and development are affected by whether they grew up orphaned or with their own kind. It was fascinating. Any other book recommendations?

That first lot were brilliant. I actually have loads more to say about them, (I made notes!) I'll tell you more about what I thought of them later if you want, (I did have a few questions about that Hebridean Black one book mentioned) but I want to get these owls off fast. I don't really have many adults or anyone outside of school I can ask.

Sorry to bother you

Thanks in advance,

Harry

PS I meant to ask, has Norberta laid her eggs yet?"

With those written, he also writes a quick note to Sirius, and after some hesitation, Professor Lupin. He may not have made any effort to contact Harry since he left, but Lupin was still a friend of his parents and had been a brilliant teacher, maybe he could offer help, after all, he wasn't their teacher any longer.

He stopped by at Professor McGonagall's office and knocked on the way back from the Owlery.

She opened the door, bleary eyes, but fully dressed.

"What do you want Potter?"

"I need to make up for 3 years of bad marks and catch up to the seventh years so this thing sons kill me."

"It's too early for this Potter. You'll be fine, and we can't offer you any help anyway, you know this. Visit the library for a change, and maybe get Miss Granger to do some revision with you."

Harry sighed disappointment swelling, but thanked her and left.

The castle was still quiet so he pulled his invisibility cloak out of his pocket and went outside. It was cool out. If he was going to survive he needed to be in shape, he was skinny as a rake and had hardly any muscle despite his previous quidditch playing. He started out going for a run along the edge of the lake, where the Durmstrang ship was moored, reflected blackly in the water. It was a chilly morning, but by the time he got around a good bit of the lake, he was a punting, aching, ball of sweat but he felt better. His head was clearer and he knew what he had to do. Sod the teachers, sod Ron, he needed to study and learn and get smarter, no-one was going to help him (well maybe Hermione) and he may as well get used to it because it had always been him against the world. So he would study and train hard. But first, he needed a shower and breakfast.

Harmony met him outside the portrait hole after his shower.

"Hello," she said, holding up a stack of toast, which she was carrying in a napkin. "I brought you this... Want to go for a walk?"

"Thanks," said Harry gratefully, a slight weight lifting off his shoulders when she didn't immediately reject him.

They went downstairs, crossed the entrance hall quickly without looking in at the Great Hall, and were soon striding across the lawn along the edge of the forest. Past where the Beauxbatons carriage was, its blue and gold gilding glinting in the weak Scottish Sun. They munching their toast, as Harry told Hermione exactly what had happened after he had left the Gryffindor table the night before. To his immense relief, Hermione accepted his story without question.

"Well, of course, I knew you hadn't entered yourself," she said when he'd finished telling her about the scene in the chamber off the Hall. "The look on your face when Dumbledore read out your name! But the question is, who did put it in? Because Moody's right Harry... I don't think any student could have done it. . . they'd never be able to fool the Goblet, or get over Dumbledore's -"

"I know, its last year all over again, but have you seen Ron?" Harry interrupted. Hermione hesitated.

"Erm. . . yes. . . he was at breakfast," she said.

"Does he still think I entered myself?"

"Well. . . no, I don't think so . . . not really," said Hermione awkwardly.

"What's that supposed to mean, 'not really'?"

"Oh Harry, isn't it obvious?" Hermione said despairingly. "He's jealous!"

Harry sighed, I thought so"Jealous? But seriously, he could use his brain, what there to be Jealous of? He wants to make a prat of himself in front of the whole school, does he? And end up died"

"Look," said Hermione patiently, "it's always you who gets all the attention, you know it is. I know it's not your fault," she added quickly. "I know you don't ask for it... but - well - you know, Ron's got all those brothers to compete against at home, and you're his best friend, and you're really famous - he's always shunted to one side whenever people see you, and he puts up with it, and he never mentions it, but I suppose this is just one time too many. . .

"Great," said Harry bitterly. "Really great. Tell him from me I'll swap any time he wants. Tell him from me he's welcome to it... People gawping at me everywhere I go... just because my family was brutally murdered"

"I'm not telling him anything," Hermione said shortly. "Tell him yourself. It's the only way to sort this out."

"I'm not running around trying to make him grow up! I'm sick of it. I'm so sick of people stabbing me in the back." Harry said, so loudly that several owls in a nearby tree took flight in alarm. "Maybe he'll believe I'm not enjoying myself once I've got my neck broken or -"

"That's not funny," said Hermione quietly. "That's not funny at all."

She looked extremely anxious, "Harry, I've been thinking - you know what we've got to do, don't you? Straight away, the moment we get back to the castle?"

"Yeah, give Ron and the rest of the world a good kick up the -"

"Write to Sirius. You've got to tell him what's happened. He asked you to keep him posted on everything that's going on at Hogwarts. . . . It's almost as if he expected something like this to happen. I brought some parchment and a quill out with me -"

"I've already written to him,"

"Really? Well done," she said in surprise

"I'm not stupid you know," he said flatly, suddenly too tired to be angry or to lie.

Gods he was so tired...

"Well, that's not what I..." She stuttered.

"I know I don't do well in class, but I actually am pretty smart. Really. The Dursley just beat it into me not to do better than Dudley, and Dudley is stupid. So I had to be stupider so it wasn't taken out on my hide." Literally, he added mentally, "by the time I realised I could read here as much as I liked and to be as much of a nerd as I liked, and was allowed to get good marks if I wanted... Well, you were top of the class and enjoying it. Ron was picking on you for it, and nagging about skiving off all the time, and how much he hated books and studying. Then that one time I did try to do well, I really liked potions when I first came here, it was the class I was looking forward to most. But Snape was calling me a cheat and it was just safe to keep pretending to be stupid. But I'm not. I'm not stupid. I may not have your perfect memory, but I bet I could give you a run for your money if I bothered."

Hermione just looked at him, stumped.

"You mean to tell me, you've been deliberately getting bad marks?!" She shrieked

He winced but nodded.

"Because Ron is a prat and you were... you were scared of losing our friendship?" She continued, scandalised

He nodded, scuffing the toe of his too small shoes in the dirt, "you two were the first friends I ever had." He said kicking his foot abruptly as dirt got into his socks through the holes in his ratty shoes.

She looked torn between sad and happy, "you're my friend Harry, my first friend. I know what that's like Harry, that fear. But friends trust each other and are there for each other. I'm sorry you didn't feel comfortable letting your intelligence out. I'm sorry I didn't see it and wasn't a better friend. I'm sorry if I acted like you were stupid, or needed babying. Really, I didn't mean it that way. I admit I do get competitive when it comes to my marks but I would never choose school over my friendship with you. Truly." She said earnestly looking him in the eye. He squirmed, he'd heard about mind reading, but it was Hermione so he met her gaze, surely he could trust her.

"Let me in, let me get to know the real Harry, I've always wanted someone to study with and talk about books with and have long complex debates about whose theory is right only to find we were both wrong and come up with a better one," she said all in one long breath, much like she had on the train when they first met.

He laughs at that, "sounds nice, lord knows I'm going to have to study hard this year to make it out alive, it's for 7th years. And I know jack shit"

"Language Harry!"

He shrugged, "its not as if I've ever been any good at this magical world thing, no matter what I read it still doesn't make sense, it's so frustrating, I'm not stupid, really I'm not, but there's just so much that's confusing or doesn't make sense!"

"We'll work on it, I'll make a stuffy plan, we'll go back to basics, I know you still struggle with the theory and it's important. And we can go over some runes and Arithmancy, I know you were interested in it back in Second Year."

"I nicked you course book list at the start of 3rd year, I got my own copy, I've been self-studying, all of the classes except muggle studies, and they wouldn't let me drop Divination so..." He admitted.

"Oh! Brilliant Harry! I'll go over my notes with you. Maybe the professors will agree to let you do an independent study for it, give you the assignments and exams for it! And then mark them for you. I'll ask them." She paused, "would you like me to ask them, Harry?"

He is so relieved he hugged her. She was surprised, pleasantly so, she knew he hated being touched. But She hugged back gently so he didn't feel trapped. She was careful to let him go as soon as he started to squirm.

"Thanks, Hermione." He said, his voice a little wobbly.

"Anything Harry, you're my best friend."

"You too Hermione, you too."