Chapter 28

When Colin Creevy appeared at the potions class door, full of his usual beans despite the drab surroundings, Harry suspected that, whatever his message, it concerned Harry. Snape's face turning sour and an appropriate shade of orange, quickly dissolved any lingering doubts.

"Potter." The giant crow spat, as somehow making his name sound like he had drunk something particularly vile. "It seems you have more important obligations than your education. Go with Creevey."

Deciding discretion was, in fact, the better part of valor, Harry began packing his potion implements without saying a word. Apparently this was not the correct course of action according to his professor.

"Leave it, Granger will dispose of your no doubt substandard drought. Get out!" The man pointed violently at the door, where Colin was doing his best to watch but also hide behind the frame. Some Gryffindor courage there. "Five points from Gryffindor for disturbing my class."

Harry rushed out before Snape decided to make anything worse, and pulled Colin along with him. "What is happening Colin?" Harry asked once they escaped the dungeons.

"I was in Transfiguration and the Headmaster himself, can you believe it, came in and talked to Professor McGonagall. Professor McGonagall then pulled me aside and told me to come here and get you. Told me not to let Professor Snape say no or give me any trouble. I should probably tell her that he took points right? That seems like something she meant for me to tell her." The third year wizard bounced along with his usual exuberance.

Harry had originally found Colin annoying, particularly given much of his attention and excitement seemed focused on Harry himself, which made little sense given he was a muggleborn wizard who had no idea who Harry was before attending Hogwarts. It had felt even less deserved than usual, as Colin's life had not been impacted by Voldemort. Two years later, well, Harry had a greater appreciation for the Creevey brothers, feeling more kinship to their wonder of the new world they had entered. Sometimes, however, those old feelings returned, generally when Colin wouldn't get to the point.

"-but really it's pretty amazing your name came out of the Goblet. Who else's would and I think you make a pretty good champion. Some Ravenclaws were talking and they said it's not that unusual for a younger student to be selected-"

"Colin! I appreciate all of that, really, but why have you come to get me?"

"Oh right, sorry." The boy grinned bashfully. "Tournament business up on the Transfiguration Corridor."

They were indeed almost at the Grand Staircase, which they would have to take to arrive at the Deputy Headmistress' domain. If there was tournament business, why had nobody told him? The lack of organisation by wizards was regularly galling, as though the convenience of magic had robbed them of common sense or the idea of a need for timeliness.

Colin guided him to one of the first few doors in the Transfiguration Corridor, between two large paintings, one of a wizard turning a peacock into a pot, while the other was, strangely, a peacock turning that same wizard into a pig. Below both paintings was the same inscription, The feuds of Miriam and Marius Willowbee.

"Thanks, Colin." Harry mumbled, then with a gulp and a futile moment trying to tame his hair, he pushed the door open.

Inside was a disused classroom with bare walls and all the tables pushed to one side. Both of the other champions were standing as far from each other as was possible in the room, Krum with a silent frown and Delacour inspecting her wand. They apparently had received more warning than he had.

Harry was about to find his own corner to wait in when a hand roughly grasped his robes and pulled him to the side. The hand was older and so skinny that her long manicured nails looked almost like talons. It reminded Harry strangely of his Aunt Petunia's hands.

"Here he is, Hogwarts' very own Boy-Who-Lived."

The woman looked to be in her early middle ages, though what that meant for a witch was anyone's guess. She had shot blonde hair tightly curled, but her prominent jaw drew the eye as it accentuated the cheshire grin that promised nothing pleasant. The older woman was sporting jeweled spectacles and robes made of garish and contrasting green leather and red fur.

"Rita Skeeter. At your service." She said, as though that was meant to mean something to him. "Daily Prophet, Me, Myself and I, I've no doubt you're a fan."

"I don't read the news." Harry retorted simply and moved back, forcing her hand away.

"Well, we can fix that, I should think, once you're in it. Come along, you're late for your interview and the public is just dying to meet you, the mysterious Boy-Who-Lived."

"We are here for interviews?" Harry asked dubiously.

"Of course! This tournament is followed the world over, so it's only natural that we give the world what they want. Don't you agree? And what they want right now is to get to know the Harry Potter." She flicked her impressively long green quill.

"Ah, right."

"Grand." She said promptly and dragged him reluctantly through another door into a tiny cupboard. The reporter flicked out a bright acid green quill from her leather handbag, the tip of which she gave a quick lick before setting it down on a piece of parchment next to her. With a tap of her wand the quill bounced to attention, ready to begin writing.

"Well, isn't this cosy."

"It's a broom cupboard."

"Spent a lot of time in broom cupboards?" Harry chose not to rise to that obvious bait, though he could feel his face warming.

The quill started scratching and Harry's attention returned to it, observing the notation. An easily flustered teen of fourteen years, though you might be surprised by his age, appearing much younger.

"What is that?" Harry asked, frowning at the floating quill.

"A quick quotes quill, I hope you don't mind? Helps to keep our conversation more…natural."

An inquisitive boy overawed by even the simplest of magics, the youngest of champions trapped in a competition so far beyond him.

"Tell me, Harry, you don't mind if I call you Harry do you? Great, tell me then, how are you feeling about entering the Triwizard Tournament? Nervous, excited?" She leaned forward, clearly hoping for an answer that just wasn't coming. Harry wasn't even looking at the reporter, who reminded him more of a vulture than Neville's grandmother's hat. Instead the quill had his full attention.

"How does it work? Does it write whatever you are thinking? Or does it have some sort of sentience and ability to interpret?"

Easily distracted and lacking attention to the world around him, one wonders how or even why his name even came out of the goblet. Perhaps the other children were right and foul play is afoot.

"I'm not a cheat." Harry growled at the animated feather, growing incensed, the quill pricking just the right point. Skeeter perked up and put on what had to be the most insincere and patronising smile she could muster.

"Oh no? The other children all said that you had swindled your way in. Perhaps you might have something to say to that?"

Before Harry could muster the rebuttal building in his chest, however, the door exploded inward with such force that the reporter was sent tumbling to the ground with a shriek. Reacting quickly Harry plucked the quill and paper from the air, scrunching up the parchment and slipping it into a pocket. The quill he held on to. Sirius barged into the closet, looking as furious as Harry had ever seen him.

"What do you think you are doing, you cretinous woman?" His godfather demanded, wand brandished menacingly. Dumbledore stood behind him, patient as ever, though Harry noted with surprise he too had his wand out.

"Harry, step out please, Skeeter was explicitly told not to talk to you without me present."

Harry did as he was told, too surprised by the fury brewing in his Godfather to argue, not that he really cared to. The door closed behind him, leaving the reporter in a very tight spot, both literally and figuratively.

"I often wonder if a person's personality determines their animagus, or the reverse." Dumbledore noted behind him, Harry turned and spotted a fleeting smile from the old man. "Sirius can be quite protective of those close to him."

There was screaming from beyond the door, though thankfully no sounds of spell fire. He didn't need Sirius returning to prison.

"What are we doing here, sir?" Harry asked, waiting for SIrius to finish whatever tirade he was currently engaged in.

"Ah, you have my apologies Harry, there is much happening and in the busyness I seem to have neglected to inform you. This is the traditional weighing of the wands, where we will ensure you are sufficiently equipped to participate in the tournament. Like most traditions, it is mostly a formality."

"And if I am not equipped? I could exit the whole thing?" Harry asked hopefully. Harry would be loath to damage his holly wand, but needs must. Maybe he could just pretend to have lost it. Dumbledore chuckled softly and took off his spectacles, rubbing them clean on his robes.

"Unfortunately, it would just mean a trip to Diagon Alley with Garrick." Harry looked around and for the first time noticed old Ollivander standing near the entrance to the unused classroom. The wand maker noticed his attention and nodded in greeting with a small smile. Seemingly done, a huffing Sirius and frazzled and dazed Rita Skeeter exited the closet.

"You okay Harry?" He nodded at his godfather.

"She just asked some questions without really letting me answer." He shrugged. "I doubt she can write anything worse than what the students are saying." Sirius put a hand on his shoulder and gave it a quiet squeeze.

"We will meet tonight okay?" Sirius said, concern clear in his tone and Harry nodded again.

"Very good, now we are all here, let us proceed." The Headmaster had them all assemble, the Champions all in a line with all of the adults looking on. A photo was taken of the room and Rita sulked in the back.

Ollivander inspected the Durmstrang Champion's wand first. It was quite long and made of a pale wood, with a hand grip carved into it.

"More, robust, than I would normally make, dragon heartstring and hornbeam. Unyielding and rigid." The old man muttered, though loud enough for all to hear, as he spun the wand between his hands. "A Gregorovich make if I am not mistaken?"

"Da." The surly seeker responded, a man of many words. Ollivander gave the wand a swirl and a gout of flame sprung from the end and then disappeared, leaving behind a trail of smoke.

"Very good." He handed the wand back to Krum and then moved on to Delacour. The witch's wand was more delicate than her competition's, made of red-brown wood with intricate ball carvings above and below the grip.

"Most unusual. Rosewood and…" Ollivander commented, then strangely put his ear up the wand, as though listening to it. "The hair of a veela?"

"Oui monsieur. From ma granmozzer."She replied hauntingly, though Harry suspected maybe she anticipated a snide remark of some type. It truly would not surprise him if her sharp exterior was a result of the attention she received, or the bigotry seemingly endemic to wizards.

Perhaps to Fleur's surprise then, Ollivander simply smiled indulgently and, with a flourish of her wand, a bouquet appeared, a mix of red, white and blue flowers growing from its tip.

"Very good, temperamental but refined, with a penchant for charms I would wager." He gave the witch a small nod and moved on to Harry.

"Ah Mister Potter, yes it seems only yesterday you walked in my door. Holly, eleven inches, and a phoenix feather core, if my recollection serves." Harry drew his wand and held it out for the old wand maker, who took it almost gratefully. "Ah yes, I remember it well." He held Harry's wand to his ear, listening once more. "How much do you know of wands, Mister Potter?"

Harry scratched his head self consciously, keenly aware of the different treatment he was receiving at a public event. Yet again. "I have read a few books."

"Very good, so few do in this day and age. They look at wands and see a tool, or at best a cherished object." Ollivander inspected the wand closely, his spectacles travelling it's entire length. "And what did those books say of holly and phoenix feathers?"

Harry thought back on the books he had read last year as he tried to create his living wand. While the actual wand craft process had not ultimately held the key, it had helped him choose the type of tree, and he had, out of curiosity, read about his own wand. "Holly is meant to be protective, but also for those who will face danger. Phoenix feathers, on the other hand, due to their burnings and changing natures, are considered versatile but precocious."

"Just so, very well done. But do you know of the changing nature of wands, how their allegiance might be won or lost, how they adapt to their chosen?"

"Are you saying my wand has…changed its mind? It has been working as normal." He asked, growing panicked.

"Oh no, Mister Potter, quite the opposite. You are right on the precocious nature of phoenix feathers, but on holly, there is more you missed. Holly is most certainly for those inclined towards protecting, but it also serves as a guide and protector itself, for those on journeys of a more spiritual or internal nature. Might that ring a bell, perchance?"

"Garrick, perhaps it is time to assess Mister Potter's wand?" Dumbledore interrupted before Harry had a chance to answer. Olivander smiled sheepishly at the Headmaster and flicked Harry's wand, red and gold sparks jumping from it to skitter along the ground.

"Yes of course Albus, you know how I can be sometimes." He handed Harry back his wand, who took it gratefully. "Mister Potter's wand is in perfect working order, and might I add, is most impressed with him."

"I don't see how I am ever going to defeat a dragon, Sirius, this all seems a bit pointless frankly."

"Well, that's the Gryffindor spirit!" Sirius fake cheered him on. Harry glared at the man heatedly, and contemplated walking out. He had no interest sitting around and being mocked about his misgivings around entering single combat with one of the most dangerous creatures on the planet. "Sorry Harry, peace. Sometimes my mouth runs faster than my brain."

His godfather sat down next to him and shoved him lightly with his shoulder. "You know, Dumbledore once said something very wise, back when we were fighting You-Know-Who."

"He does that." Harry grumbled.

"Very deliberately, I'm sure." Sirius agreed. "People were despondent about how everything was going, we had lost a lot of good witches and wizards. I think Moody even lost his eye just before this." A pensive look overtook his godfather, and Harry wondered if it was memories overtook him or if it had triggered another melancholy that Harry had often caught him in.

"What did he say?" Harry prompted, partly as a distraction.

"Oh, well, everyone was complaining about how powerful You-Know-Who and his Death Eaters were, using dark magic, that it was like fighting with one arm tied behind our back." Harry thought that an odd saying for a wizard to use, given two arms were entirely unnecessary, but chose not to voice his thoughts.

"So Dumbledore said, power and fear are not what make a wizard, the powerful often overlook those they think beneath them and those who cause fear are often the most afraid. The greatest of wizards are those who overcome their fear, and find power in each other, and that a pinch of creativity never hurts."

Harry sat with that for a moment, unsure what the message actually was in that. He could see how it might help when fighting a war against wizards. But this was him, alone, against a bloody dragon. "Sirius, with all due respect, I haven't the foggiest what you are trying to tell me." His godfather broke out in his barking uproarious laughter.

"What, ha, what I am saying is let people help you where they can, and let's come up with something inventive."

"It still seems impossible, I'm a fourth year, and a dragon is the first task."

"If it helps, within his capacity to say anything, the Headmaster was able to assure me that you aren't going to have to outright defeat a dragon. Instead you probably have to get past it, or if it's a test of bravery, maybe just last longer than the others." Sirius slapped his knee and stood up, pulling Harry with him. "Right, enough moping for us both, your wand Harry, lets get to work."

Harry drew his wand and looked expectantly at his godfather, who coughed awkwardly.

"Right, well, I guess the first thing you need to know about dragons is they do have some weaknesses."

Ruling Runes and Enchanting Enchantments by Cornelius Burbosa the XIV (published 1899 by Black Books)

The curious thing about runes, if one might use such a narrow and unspecific name, is the capacity for implementation to be either very broad, or with great specificity. The power behind runes is not reflected in the length, complexity or type of runes, but rather in how well they are arranged to suit their purpose and how narrow that purpose is.

The arrangement is important, because, like languages generally, the way runes are positioned provides the definition and efficiency of the use of magic available to them. A conditional rune being affixed tither or hither a function rune may not materially alter the outcome, but it may cause inefficiency in directing the magic's path. Shorter arrangements are, if well conceived, more efficient and less prone to malfunction or leakage.

The purpose, similarly, can increase the efficiency of the runes and how they utilise the magic available to them, devoting and concentrating it in a better manner towards its intended purpose. However this usually increases the length of the arrangement, thus creating a fine balance in any creation.

The materials used in creating an object also dictates the magic available to that object, how it is used and how well a purpose is achieved. Though they may be destabilising, magically active materials are most desirable, as it may increase the strength of an arrangement. While some metals and other materials are also more desirable for their absorption, storage or their capacity for channelling.

All three of these elements must be combined appropriately for the greatest success in enchanting. Consider, for a moment, the use of storage charms and runes. An item such as a bag, sack or pouch, might be made to contain any number of physical objects, however one would never dream to attempt to contain magically dense, active or volatile compounds or substances in such items. The materials are inefficient and inappropriate to doing so, requiring more magic's or complex arrangements to compensate. Additional considerations such as durability or preventing leakage must be considered, lengthening the arrangements and so weakening them, likely causing either fault or only a limited ability to store the desired compound.

So, a few days before the first task of the 1994 Triwizard Tournament, the champion for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, sat down and began carving the most specific runes he could think of.

Harry and Hermione sat in the Great Hall in a tense awkward silence the day of the first task. The rest of the school was humming with excitement, making the knot in his stomach only grow.

"It'll be okay Harry, you've faced down worse things with less preparation." He looked at her incredulously.

"That's not reassuring Hermione, I almost died on all of those occasions." She blanched slightly and pushed away her food, which she hadn't actually taken a bite of anyway.

"I'm sorry, I just, well, you're a wonderful wizard Harry. Truly. The Goblet wasn't wrong to choose you, however that might have come about."

"Unless it did so as it's only choice." He muttered petulantly. He appreciated her trying to cheer him up, but it still felt like he was marching if not to his death, then to grievous injury. There wasn't much cheer to be found.

"Well, it's your chance to shut everyone here up." She said, trying and failing to smile at him.

The last month at Hogwarts had been one of his worst, comparable with second year after he accidentally exposed himself as a parseltongue. The Slytherins, with a strange lack of cunning, had become outright hostile and bullying, particularly the upper year champion hopefuls. Which Malfoy naturally took much glee in. While almost everyone else thought him something of a cheat and actively ignored or disdained him.

The only saving grace had been Hermione and Neville. They had kept him company in the face of the student body and often invited him on their library and greenhouse visits.

His time with Daphne also helped to keep the feeling of loneliness at bay, even if it remained a secret and unfortunately rare. Together they continued to prepare for the task, finding what they could on dragons, tales of wizards beating them and practicing curses and charms. None of it ever really felt enough, however, and as the task approached Harry's mood steadily declined.

The student body began to filter from the Great Hall, eventually leaving Harry and Hermione almost alone.

He felt a hand slip something into his robes, Potter colours of red and green in a Quidditch cut and layered with as many charms as Sirius could demand of whatever poor shop assistant had had to put up with him.

Harry turned and spotted his secret girlfriend leaving the hall with her sister, auburn hair put up in an intricate braid and school robes meticulously pressed as usual. Hermione had clearly noticed the exchange but said nothing.

"It's time Harry." She eventually said, looking very pale, her hand reaching out to him. "You'll do wonderfully, I just know it." Harry just nodded, trying to muster his own smile, and followed her out.

The Quidditch Pitch was as busy as Harry had ever seen it in his time at Hogwarts. From the outside it looked no different, the school colours on proud display, stands topped with waving flags, and towers for important attendees. There were differences, however, the goal posts were missing and a tent had been erected on the side of the stadium, outside which Sirius awaited him.

"How are you feeling, Harry?" He asked somberly, as Harry approached him. The man looked as pale and tense as when Harry first met him in the Forbidden Forest.

"As ready as I'll likely ever be." Harry replied, though he wasn't sure who he was trying to reassure, himself or his godfather, or if he was succeeding either way. "Did you bring it?"

"Of course, everything was set up just like we discussed." Sirius paused slightly. "Remus helped, just to make sure." Harry looked around, hoping to see the werewolf, but he was nowhere in sight. "He stayed with them to make sure everything went off without a hitch." Sirius answered his unasked question.

"Harry…I don't have any more advice than what we have been working on these last few weeks." His godfather clamped a hand on his shoulder. "Just know that you can do this, believe in yourself and I will see you after."

"Guess I better be off to slay a dragon." He tried to joke, and received a light punch to the chest from the tall man.

"You're going to knock their pointy hats off."

Harry left his godfather and entered the tent. It was already full, with the other champions and headmasters each finding their own corners. Dumbledore was talking quietly with Bagman and Barty Crouch. You could almost taste the tension in the room. Bagman was, unfortunately, the first to spot his entrance.

"Ah Harry! Wonderful, wonderful, everyone is here so we can get underway. We wouldn't want to leave them waiting too long, though building the tension certainly has its merits aye?" He grinned, jolly as can be, though it seemed nobody in the room appreciated his joviality.

Delacour looked ready to empty her stomach and her hands were trembling so much she was almost strangling her wand to try to still them. Krum looked pale also, and had been pacing with impatience. When Bagman had piped up his already intense frown only deepened.

"Now, what you, our champions, will be facing beyond will test your knowledge, your cunning, and most of all, your bravery." He held out a bag that had been hidden in his old Hornets Quidditch robe. "Gather round now."

All of the champions approached him, looking at the bag with trepidation.

"Ladies first, of course." Bagman held the bag open and shook it slightly. He probably thought he was being charming, yet came off mostly as just awkward. Fleur looked unimpressed but reached into the bag and withdrew a small green dragon. The model snapped at the air and shook its head. It had a small collar around its neck, a wooden token tied with rope. Harry would've maybe thought it cute if not for the circumstances and meaning.

"The Welsh Green! Very good, very good." Bagman cheered, then thrust the bag at Krum, who reached in and withdrew a red fiery looking creature, also with a collar. "The Chinese fireball, a spicy one indeed. And last but certainly not least."

The bag was then similarly put in front of Harry. He swallowed harshly and reached inside. Something bit him on the side of his finger, and he hissed in pain and grabbed at it. It was smooth to the touch and wiggled in his grasp.

It was a small blue dragon with silvery grey membranes, its scales reflected a silver in the light. Once free of the bag, the model dragon expelled a bright blue plume of flame. It had a collar with a number on it.

"Fantastic, the Swedish Short-Snout and first on the stage for our youngest champion!" Bagman gushed. He then returned the bag to his robes.

"As I am sure you have surmised, your first task for the Triwizard Tournament involves dragons."

He paused for effect but when he didn't quite get the reaction he was obviously seeking, the old showman continued. "Within the stadium you will find a golden egg, it will be your task to enter, retrieve this egg and escape the dragon within."

Another pause for effect. Nobody reacted. Harry wished the man would just get on with it.

"Fantastic, well Harry my boy, you're first up! Just wait for me to announce you!" With that the rotund man waddled off, along with Crouch. The Headmasters all stayed behind and had quiet words with their Champions. Dumbledore looked down at Harry, his slight twinkle in his eye ever present.

"I am sorry you find yourself once more in such a position in your time at Hogwarts, Harry." The old wizard frowned slightly, an unusual expression for the man, who was more prone to joviality or frivolity. Harry wasn't particularly interested in his apologies at this time, however, to really care.

"Any words of advice would be appreciated." Harry asked his Headmaster.

"I would hazard that you are quite well prepared for what awaits you, and little I might say in this moment which would change that. So instead, I will leave you with perhaps the greatest piece of advice I might give, learnt over many long years and mistakes, my own and others. There is a difference between power and strength, and the powerful tend to overlook the strength of those they think beneath them."

Harry watched the Headmaster of Hogwarts, one of the most revered wizards to ever live, dressed in his bright turquoise robes decorated with embroidered snitches, walk out of the tent and felt absolutely none-the-wiser for having spoken to him.

He only noticed then that Bagman had begun his introduction of the event and Harry. He caught mention of the Boy-Who-Lived, and tuned it out. Instead he looked to the other champions, who's own headmasters had left with Harry's.

In a strange moment of solidarity they both looked back and they shared an understanding of the enormity of what they each were about to attempt. A companionship born in struggle and danger. It was spoiled only by the small voice in the back of his mind reminding him that they had chosen this, he had not.

"HARRY POTTER!" Bagman called, to a great cheer from the crowd.

"Well, good luck I guess." He said to both of them. They nodded back solemnly and he turned towards the stadium. A short walk down a fabric tunnel brought him out into Hogwarts' Quidditch Pitch.

The crowd roared as he entered but he drowned them out. He wasn't sure he would ever get used to being before large crowds, but numerous quidditch matches had made him used to the nervous energy that accompanied being watched by so many. What he was not used to was the nervous energy that accompanied coming face to face with a dragon.

The blue monster sat near the middle of the stadium, which had been dug out and turned into a rocky bowl, with large stones likely intended as cover for him.

The dragon dwarfed them easily. She was larger than the basilisk, where the snake had been long, the inappropriately named Swedish Short-Snout equalled it but was also immense in every other way. It was as big as the Night Bus around the middle with blue shining scales, and wings as large as a plane's. In a strange way she reminded him of a cat, curled away from him, tensely coiled danger above her nest of eggs, ready to pounce should he approach.

She growled in a low rumble which caused the crowd to gasp, and Harry got his first look at her teeth, as large as a child. She roared then, in reaction likely to the crowds bustling, and it was so full of anger and fear that Harry shivered and forced himself not to run. In a clear warning display the dragon shot a burst of blue flame in the air. It reached nowhere near Harry, but the burning gust of wind was enough to snap him to his senses.

Harry took his wand out and jabbed it in the air towards the forest, screaming. "Accio Quidditch Chest!" It only took a moment for the wooden chest to appear. It was a new set of quidditch balls Sirius had bought at the same time as the hoops for Harry's birthday. It landed with a thump and the crowd went quiet again at the appearance of something from outside of the stadium.

Harry gave the trunk a kick and the lid flipped open, out shot two bludgers first, the metal iron balls spinning about him in angry circles. Following the menacing grey balls was a group of six snitches, buzzing about him like large metallic bees. Wasting only another moment to make sure the balls were operating as they were meant to, he took a step off the platform and down into the arena.

Instantly the dragon was on guard about the new intruder, and Harry made sure to move slowly. The longer it took to become hostile the better. He passed by the first boulder and circled around, keeping the blue beast in sight should its temperament change, and change it did. With a snarl and last roar of warning it spread its wings and lifted itself laboriously into the air, keeping close to the nest and Harry.

The reason for this became clear as it shot another jet of blinding blue flames, this time straight at Harry. He took a deep breath of hot air, it was now or never. With a wave of his wand a snitch flew out and intercepted the wave of fire. The snitch opened and as the dragon expelled its fire the snitch ate it, vacuuming the dragon flame into the small orb in its entirety in a tornado of heat. With a final crackle and slurp the last of the flame disappeared.

The snitch was shaking violently and Harry willed it away, towards the flying lizard. The dragon sensed teh threat and backed up, but not quickly enough, as the snitch reached it and exploded into a nova of bright blue flame.

Harry ran forward toward the nest, taking his opportunity while the beast was distracted. He moved up to the next rock just as the dragon returned, now on the ground, it once more breathed an immense stream of fire, covering the area Harry had just occupied. Harry scrambled quickly from the unbearable heat as an inferno gushed past the stone, his exposed cheek burning like it had been in the sun too long.

A large blue tail came down on the rock he had been hiding behind, crushing it in a sickening display of his own future. The tail came around again and Harry flicked his wand, one of the bludgers stretched impossibly, becoming a metallic dome that took the brunt of the attack, deflecting it to the side.

Realising the dragon would be turned away from him if it was using its tail he withdrew the bludger and sprinted forward, a glint of gold amongst the dragon eggs catching his eye.

There was a roar to the right as the dragon found him again, and Harry turned just in time to see the fire building in the great beast's throat. Harry sent another snitch and just as the previous time the blue flames were snuffed out and sent back at their maker.

Harry rushed the nest, sliding along the ground towards an outcropping of stone just as the beast charged recklessly at him. It jumped as it reached its nest, not wanting to damage its eggs. The dragon turned and took to the air in a small jump, swooping with claws extended, preparing to crash down upon him.

"Incarcerous." Harry screamed and ropes, thicker than his arm, sprung from his wand, catching and tangling themselves up with the dragon's left wing. It wasn't a clean bind, that would be impossible on a dragon, but it was enough of a nuisance that the wing couldn't keep it aloft and so close to the ground it turned and tumbled hard into the stadium. It had taken Harry weeks to get the ropes strong enough to annoy such a large creature, but Sirius had assured him that disrupting a dragon's flight was one of their greatest weaknesses. Naturally resistant to magic as they were, physical attacks were the best way to do so. Harry couldn't have been more relieved that his godfather had been right.

There was a roar of fury as Harry made it to the nest, but the flames were too far to reach him. Sitting amongst the dragon eggs was an out of place golden egg which Harry snatched up and made a break for it. He was halfway to the exit when the ground shook from behind him.

He dived to the left just in time as a giant head dived into the dirt, horrible jaws biting only stone.

For a moment the world came to a stand still as he came face to face with his foe, its silver eye as large as Harry's hand, stared at him with such malice and intent he could only stare back, frozen in place. Harry felt none of the same for the creature, however, instead he just felt a moment of sadness amidst the terror. They were both trapped in here against their will, forced to entertain a fickle crowd. The dragon cared not at all for the kinship he felt with it and turned towards him, as if in slow motion, a fresh gout of flame building in its throat.

Then the bludgers swooped in, colliding with its head and Harry rolled to his feet, egg still in hand. He was almost home, away from the terrifying creature when hot streaks of pain exploded across his back and he was sent tumbling towards the exit. The egg slipped from his grip and fell away from him.

He could feel where the dragon's claw had torn through his robes, cutting through all the protection charms Sirius had demanded. He couldn't move for a moment, too stunned to do anything. When he heard a voice, no, hundreds of voices, all rushing at him at once.


Another snitch flew to his aid, intercepting a burst of blue fire. Then a second as he caught his breath. One of the bludgers exploded, caught by a direct attack from the monster.

Harry pushed himself up, staggering as he stood. His back hurt so much and protested against the movement and the shifting of his robes.

The golden egg glinted in the light, as another font of flame rapidly disappeared, consumed by his poor brave snitch. He limped to it but movement caught his eye as the beast had noticed him moving. It was charging again, finally giving up on its fire.

Harry raised his wand, despair gripping him as he tried one last gamble. Pointing his wand at the ground Harry poured his desperate hope into his last defiance.

"Mutatio fingunt!" The tip of his wand lit up so brightly it was almost blinding, and the earth shook. Great pillars of stone erupted from the ground, pushing the dragon away and blocking its route to him. As they towered over the creature the pillars collapsed attempting to smother the beast, which roared in defiance as the dirt swallowed it whole.

Harry had no notion that the dragon would be held long and quickly scooped up the egg and limped through the entrance, where he collapsed to a roar of sound. Whether it was the dragon or the audience, he didn't know.

Well, it has been a long time between drinks. And I apologise for that, I have been distracted with other projects, lacking motivation and just somewhat stumped on this chapter, which caused its own struggle with motivation. I really had an issue with the Rita portion for some reason, and I am still not happy with it. But eventually I decided I need to just write the other parts of the chapter and then push through with it and move on. Regardless, I apologise and hope that this chapter being one of the longest was a reasonable apology. I also got to write out the dragon scene, which is one of those I had thought of near the inception of this story, though it played out a bit differently than I had intended.