Chapter Twenty-Nine – Runes of Pain

The heels of Daphne's boots clicked on the stone floor of the corridor as she walked towards the secret entrance to the Slytherin common room. A strange regret filled her that her steps led her back to this wretched place every day. How she wished that instead of returning here, she could have continued her... rendezvous with Harry, but her beloved, kind-hearted boyfriend had felt that he owed his friends an explanation for what had happened tonight. That they had been chosen as champions. And so he had made his way to his own common room, which, of course, had to be at the other end of the castle.

Daphne sighed as she gathered herself at the secret entrance. She brushed her hair out of her face, arched her back and raised her chin proudly. Only then did she say the password – Cor Serpentis – and enter the common room. A soft hiss accompanied her as the secret door closed behind her.

The Slytherin common room was bathed in a soft green light – and, of course, full of people.

In an instant, all conversations ceased, all heads turned towards her and a cold wind seemed to blow through the room. Daphne had long been accustomed to chilly receptions – in the case of her house, mostly characterised by mutual ignorance – but this seemed to take on a whole new quality. The atmosphere was palpably tense. Daphne could feel the eyes of everyone in the room on her, some angry, some suspicious.

Draco Malfoy, perched on one of the velvet-covered sofas, stood up with a sardonic smile. "Well, who have we here? Potter's faithful lapdog returns from his master." He glanced contemptuously over Daphne.

Some of the Slytherins giggled, especially Pansy and her friends, while others whispered to each other and looked at Daphne with disgust.

The feeling was mutual. Any remaining warmth from Harry's kisses vanished from Daphne's heart as she returned Draco's gaze.

"Master?" she said with a raised eyebrow. "Is this someone speaking from personal experience? Or your father's, perhaps?"

Draco's cheeks reddened a little, though he made a snide hand gesture that was probably meant to look casual. "No one with an ounce of decency or self-respect would ever get involved with a filthy half-blood like you, Greengrass. But we already know that. You throw yourself at him like a cheap whore and do everything he asks. To be honest, it's almost sad. In any case, it's pathetic and a warning to us all of what can happen if we forget our noble origins and the importance of the pure blood."

Draco shook his head exaggeratedly before his vile eyes focused on her again. "But today was a new low, even for you. Nothing better could be expected from Potter, but you even come from an old, respected pureblood family whose members, except for you, know their duties." For a moment, Draco's eyes slid to Astoria, who was standing next to Tracey and a few other girls by the fire. That look alone made Daphne want to scratch his ugly eyes out. "But it seems to me that you really are irretrievably lost now. You're nothing more than Potter's servant, his slave, his elf. He uses you as he pleases and you don't even realise it. Or worse, you don't care. You've fallen low, Greengrass, but the landing will be all the harder."

Now Draco was sounding like her own mother, Daphne thought. But while she could still feel at least a tiny, tiny bit of positive emotion towards her mother when she tried – even if it was only a kind of gratitude for bringing her into the world – she really felt nothing but disgust and hatred for Draco and everything he stood for.

Daphne clicked her tongue as she walked through the common room to the dormitories. The eyes of those present followed her, but no one stood in her way. "Come up with something new, Malfoy," she said boredly, "your childish tantrums are getting tiresome. Or should I write to your father and tell him to give you another spanking? Or your mother instead? Since we're talking about pathetic lapdogs."

"My mother would never humiliate herself the way you do! She knows how a proper witch should –"

"Oh, a proper witch," Daphne interrupted. She didn't turn to look at Draco, but she imagined his head turning Weasley red. A smile curved her lips. "Proper, but weak. Otherwise she would never have married and been in the thrall of such a pathetic wizard as Lucius Kissing-the-hem-of-his-Dark-Lord Malfoy."

"There's only one person in thrall here, and that's you with Potter! That's also why you helped him cheat his way into the Tournament today, so he could satisfy his greed for attention! You've shamed Hogwarts, Greengrass!"

Daphne laughed. "Oh, Draco, you have no idea. Maybe you missed it, but the Goblet of Fire threw out two names on that piece of parchment. Harry and I are both the champion of Hogwarts. And what you call greed for attention is nothing more than the imposing magnitude of what magic, in all its might, is capable of from the perspective of cockroaches like you. You have no idea what the two of us have achieved today. And what we will achieve in the future."

"I understand enough! I understand that I've been too lenient with you for far too long, Greengrass. I had hoped that you would see the error of your ways on your own, but you are a lost cause, I see that now. You leave me no choice. Then I'll just have to force you back onto the right path."

It had become deadly quiet in the room. So quiet you could have heard a pin drop – or the flick of a wand. And that was exactly what Daphne heard, even before the spell had left Draco's mouth.


Daphne spun around in a flash. With a deft flick of her wand, she blocked Draco's attack and hurled it at the ceiling, where it fizzled out with no effect. Daphne wasn't sure whether to feel anger at the attack or amusement at the incompetence with which it had been executed. It was so typical of Draco to announce his attack with a long speech instead of just striking. Then he might have had at least a tiny bit of a chance. A very, very tiny bit, but a tiny bit nonetheless.

But then, like a burning fuse finally reaching its target, Daphne suddenly realised something. The spell Draco had used – it had been a Confusion Charm! The bloody spell that had been the subject of the bloody lie that had destroyed both her and Harry's reputations. Draco had tried to cast a Confusion Charm on her, to do Morgana knows what to her!

A fiery heat gripped Daphne as if her blood was on fire. As if a burning fuse had actually found its target.

Daphne waved her wand in the air – and at the same moment, Draco was thrown against the wall. The stone shook from the force of the impact. Draco screamed in pain before sliding to the ground against the wall.

Daphne gasped heavily as she tried to calm the flames inside her. She knew she couldn't lose control any more. She couldn't risk another half-year's detention with Dumbledore. That could jeopardise everything.

There was still silence in the common room, a look of disbelief as those present seemed to be processing what had happened – but suddenly screams pierced the air! The screams came from Crabbe and Goyle, who were lunging at Daphne with raised fists, as if they had forgotten they had wands.

Before they reached Daphne, she waved her wand again. Icy spikes shot out of the ground like cliffs, pinning Crabbe and Goyle to the wall, right where Draco lay on the floor, whimpering in pain. It almost looked like a Renaissance painting, if it wasn't so pathetic at the same time. And such pathetic wretches thought they were the pinnacle of wizardry. What a lousy joke.

With newfound determination, Daphne let her wand glide through the air, bright blue flames flickering around her. The heat was palpable, but the flames danced obediently in a perfect circle. With a fearless glint in her eye, Daphne turned to the assembled Slytherins, who stared at her with shocked faces.

"Anyone who dares to attack me or stand in my way will regret it," she announced in a calm but forceful voice. The room fell silent, broken only by the crackling of the blue flames and the groans of pain from Draco, Crabbe and Goyle. "I have no leisure to waste my time with childish arguments. But if you don't want to learn your lesson, that was just a taste of what's to come. Now, does anyone else have anything to say?"

Daphne glared at the assembled Slytherins. None of them dared to move or accept her challenge. Daphne sought her sister's gaze, but Astoria had lowered her head. Her body was shaking and her hand was clasped in Tracey's... but unlike Astoria, Tracey had not lowered her gaze. She was looking straight into Daphne's eyes, her forehead furrowed and an expression on her mask-like face that Daphne couldn't describe.

With one last look around, Daphne spun around and left the common room with her head held high. Behind her, the blue flames died out.

It was only when Daphne was halfway up the stairs to her dormitory that she heard murmurs and whispers behind her, which quickly grew louder. But she couldn't make out the words at this distance, and she didn't care. She just hoped that her housemates had finally learned their lesson, so that she would no longer have to worry about such trivialities. There were so many more important things to worry about.

Daphne reached her dormitory and closed the door behind her, completely silencing the sounds behind her. The only thing she could hear now was her own breathing and the beating of her heart in her chest. Suddenly Daphne felt tired. Her body felt heavy and numb. The last few days, the last night awake, the last few exciting hours, it had all taken a lot out of her. It was time to sleep.

With a few quick flicks of her wand, Daphne brushed her teeth, removed her make-up and swapped her school uniform for a nightdress. Then she activated the runes on her bed before falling heavily onto it. But, as always since her return to Hogwarts, the bed felt empty and cold after getting so used to sleeping in the same bed as Harry over the summer. But it was all to no avail. And her dreams were calling to her.

Daphne drew the curtains to her bed, snuggled into her duvet and was asleep within seconds.

For a moment, Harry felt a burning sensation inside him as he walked towards the Fat Lady's portal. A fiery simmer, as if a volcano were about to erupt in his heart. But the feeling vanished as quickly as it had come, and after a few moments the bond between him and Daphne had calmed down completely.

None of this surprised Harry. He had suspected that there would be a confrontation between his girlfriend and the other Slytherins – Malfoy in particular was simply too stupid to leave today's events without comment – but at the same time he had complete faith in Daphne that she would easily overcome anything her housemates would try. At that moment, Harry felt nothing but pride in his strong-willed and fearless partner. A proud crow in a pit of false snakes, that's what she was. Always had been.

Harry's feelings must have been reflected on his face, for the Fat Lady greeted him with an amused smile. "Well, someone seems pleased with themselves. You've caused quite a stir, you know. And the others are eagerly waiting for you, I can tell you that."

Harry nodded thoughtfully. He could already hear the music wafting over to him through the portal. Apparently the Gryffindors were throwing another one of their legendary parties, but this time not to celebrate winning a Quidditch match or the end of an exhausting exam period, but ... because of him. For what he had done with Daphne.

The thought made Harry both happy and uncomfortable. He might have expected a warmer welcome than Daphne had received in the Slytherin dungeons, but he still felt somehow alien among his housemates. As if he could laugh and have fun with them and be happy that Gryffindor had a champion, but they would never know the whole truth about him, his true motives for his deeds, the ones he had done and the ones he was about to do.

"No need to be nervous," the Fat Lady said with a gentle smile. "You're among friends here."

She clearly had a wrong impression of him, but Harry didn't feel like arguing with a portrait. So he nodded again, said the password and stepped through the portal into the Gryffindor common room.

The noise that greeted him almost knocked him off his feet. Someone called his name and then he was grabbed by dozens of pairs of hands. The whole of Gryffindor was screaming, clapping and whistling like mad at the sight of him. Someone shoved a bottle of Butterbeer into his hand.

"Harry, you brilliant bastard! You should have told us!" roared Fred, half annoyed, half impressed. "And how the hell did you do it?"

"Screw it!" rumbled Lee. "The important thing is that Harry is our champion! A real lion of Gryffindor!"

"And a handsome champion too." That was Parvati's voice, Harry thought, though he couldn't see her in the commotion.

More voices came from all around Harry.

"We'll show the other schools!"

"Harry will crush them!"

"But unfortunately the other champion is a Slytherin."

"Would you like something to eat, Harry? Peanuts, crisps? Or another butterbeer?"

"Oh, Greengrass only follows Harry, everyone knows that."

"Gryffindor, Gryffindor, Gryffindor!"

"Gosh, don't talk rubbish. Harry is as smitten with her as she is with him. Almost uncanny when you think about it."

"Here, Harry, put this on. You're our – hey, don't slap my hand away like that!"

Harry just managed to stop Lee from wrapping a huge Gryffindor banner around his body when he finally caught sight of Ron and Hermione at the edge of the crowd. His two friends were looking at him, their own bottles of Butterbeer in their hands. Unlike the others, they weren't shouting or clapping, but Hermione raised her hand to wave at him.

With great difficulty, Harry made his way through the crowd – someone kept patting him on the back or telling him how great they thought what he had done was, and Colin even almost blinded him when he suddenly stood in front of him with his camera flashing right in his face – but he finally reached his two friends.

"Hey," he said.

Ron nodded at him. "Hey."

Instead of greeting him, Hermione grabbed his hand and pulled him into the nearest corner. It was quieter there, at least a little, and for the moment the others seemed to respect their privacy.

"Harry," Hermione said, her voice sounding somewhat uncertain, cautious. "That earlier... you planned all that, didn't you? You and Daphne, I mean."

Harry nodded. "Yes. We put our names in the Goblet together. We didn't know if we'd be chosen, but we did."

"And how did you get past the Age Line?" asked Ron now. His voice also sounded somehow ... strange. Harry didn't know how to describe it. "With your cloak?"

"Daphne manipulated the Age Line. Also the Goblet of Fire, so it would think both of our names were one student. We explained it to Dumbledore and the others, so everyone will know soon."

"You're capable of such a thing?" Hermione asked, clearly impressed.

And at the same moment Ron asked, "Is that why you're telling us? Because everyone is going to know soon anyway?"

Harry decided to answer Ron's question. He looked at his friend, a little confused. "What do you mean?"

Ron sighed. He looked away. Harry didn't miss the way Hermione's hand took Ron's and squeezed it lightly.

"We just wish you had told us earlier," she said, "that we hadn't found out just then, along with everyone else."

"We couldn't risk our plan becoming known. That our plan would be thwarted –"

"Bloody hell, Harry, we're your friends!" Ron interrupted him. Now he looked at him again, his look stunned, almost pleading. "We are your friends. You can trust us. Or did you think we'd betray you if we knew?"

Harry searched for the right words. "We just thought..."

"You thought?" Hermione said. "You and Daphne? Or just Daphne?"

"We make all our decisions together," Harry replied. He took a deep breath. "Not telling you sooner wasn't a sign of mistrust towards you, okay? But it just wouldn't have been of any use and –"

"Are we only good when we're useful?" asked Ron. His voice was calm. He was looking Harry straight in the eye now. "Is that your idea of friendship?"

"That's not what I meant! Stop this nonsense. You know you're my friends, no doubt about it. The thing is..." Harry trailed off.

"That we're not as good friends as Daphne," Hermione finished for him. Her voice was also quite calm, perhaps filled with just a hint of sadness. "We don't want to make you feel guilty, Harry. Maybe... Maybe we just wanted to hear you say what we've known for a long time."

"That we're just second fiddle to you," Ron said. "Don't feel bad, Harry, I've known it all my life, but ... maybe it's good to see it so clearly today. With Daphne, you make plans, perform impressive magic and will no doubt become even more famous as you get older, and we're just the nice but boring Hermione and Ron to play a game of wizard chess with once in a while, chat with before class or at dinner, and share a packet of chocolate frogs when you've bought too many for yourself. But you know what, Harry?"

Harry just looked at him questioningly.

"We're still the same people who fought the troll with you. We know that Daphne doesn't really like us – no, Harry, we all know that's the truth, no need to argue – and we know that we probably also don't like her as much as you think she deserves."

This time Harry didn't protest. He knew it was true.

"Maybe our friendship peaked then," Ron continued. "Quite possibly. But it didn't have to be that way. It doesn't have to be like this."

"We're your friends," Hermione said. "And that means we're here for each other. But you have to be honest with us. No more lies. Please, no more lies, Harry. We can see that something is troubling you. Ever since last term. What is it, Harry? We want to help you so much, we want to be your friends, real friends, if you'd only let us. What's troubling you, Harry?"

He would like to tell them. Everything. The truth about Sirius' death, his hatred and anger towards Dumbledore and the Ministry. His determination, his will to get revenge and show them all, whatever the cost. But he also knew he couldn't. If they knew the truth, if they knew what he was up to, they would be disgusted with him. Or worse, they would try to stop him. Or... worst of all, they would want to support him. But he had already said that to Daphne when they had considered possible allies – the two of them deserved better.

And so Harry kept his mask on, which he showed to the whole world, except for one special person in his life. He shook his head. "Everything's fine " he lied. "Nothing's troubling me."

He could see it in their faces. As if something was breaking inside them at that moment. Ron's hand tightened a little in Hermione's as she tried to force herself to smile. She didn't succeed.

"Then why are you entering this tournament?" she asked. "What do you hope to gain from it?"

Harry's answer came like a wand shot. "We want to restore our reputation. The reputation that... we've lost over the last few months. We want to show everyone what we're capable of."

"That's it?" Hermione said in astonishment. "So this whole thing is just an ego trip for the two of you?" She tried to laugh, but it sounded as forced as her smile. She must have noticed herself, because after a few moments she fell silent. She took a quick sip from her bottle of Butterbeer, so quick that some of it spilled out of the corner of her mouth. Embarrassed, she wiped it away.

Harry tried to smile himself, hoping to do better than her. "Yes, exactly. It's just an ego trip for both of us."

"But you'd also like to take the prize money and the boundless glory and honour that Dumbledore promised the winner, eh?" Ron tried to joke. He gave him a forced grin.

Harry felt like he was in a theatre where they were the actors, but maybe that was just the way life was. Most of the time, anyway. And so he returned Ron's grin. "Yeah, the glory thing doesn't sound bad either."

It sounded like a dream, he added mentally. A nice dream, but unfortunately nothing more than that. Nothing more than a dream...

At the same time, in the Slytherin dungeons, Daphne was also dreaming. It was one of her favourite dreams.

In her dream, she was lying in the soft grass under a magnificent tree with a lush crown, but her head was not on the grass, but on Harry's lap. He was stroking her hair gently and reading to her from her favourite book: The Adventures of Morgana Le Fay, the Most Powerful Witch of the Middle Ages. And they had reached one of her favourite parts, the final confrontation between Morgana and Merlin.

Merlin, with his long white beard and sparkling eyes, pierced her with an intense gaze. "Morgana," he began in a deep, resonant voice – Harry managed to imitate Merlin's voice surprisingly well – "your hubris knows no bounds. You play with powers you don't understand. So many people have already fallen victim to your arrogance!"

Morgana, dressed in a dark, shimmering robe, laughed mockingly. "Merlin, Merlin," she breathed, a piercing coldness in her voice. "Always the guardian of supposed order. Your time is over and you will see that the future belongs to me."

Her rival raised his staff. The gleam in his eyes grew stronger. "You may be powerful, but the power you seek will consume you. Your heart is corrupted by greed and ambition."

Undeterred, Morgana took a step forward and slid her fingers along the edge of her own staff. "Greed and ambition are the wheels of power, Merlin. You, trapped in the past, cannot understand this. The world is moving on and I will shape it as I please."

At the same moment, they both raised their staffs. A huge blue beam shot out of Merlin's staff and an equally huge but green one from Morgana's. Their spells collided with a thunderous crash. The forest shook and the birds flew from the trees in fright. The spells shot into the sky.

"You're playing with fire!" Merlin shouted. "You will not control the powers you summon, you will be controlled by them! Does the whole world have to lie in ruins for you to realise that?"

Morgana laughed again, a cold, cynical laugh. "Controlled? No, Merlin. I will not be controlled by anything. Not by you, not by the king, not by the gods. This world will see what I am capable of. For I am –"

"Greengrass!" a voice suddenly interrupted Daphne's dream. And it wasn't Harry's voice.

Daphne blinked, confused and still a little sleepy, and it took her a moment to realise where she was – in her bed in the Slytherin dormitory. Too late, she noticed the magical aura approaching her bed, reaching for the curtain and breaking through the invisible barrier.

The next moment, the stranger's body collapsed. Horrible screams filled the air.

"Aaaarghhh, Aaaarrrrrghhhhhh, Aaaarrrrrrrrghhhhhhhh!"

At the same moment, Daphne felt a breath of life power flow through the magic, directly into her heart. It felt warm and somehow sweet, like sipping a hot chocolate. A dreamy smile crossed Daphne's face.

"Aaaaaarrrrrghhhh, Aaaaaaarrrrrrrrrghhhhhhh!"

But then Daphne's mind cleared. She jumped out of bed, pulled the curtain aside and saw her classmate Tracey writhing on the floor in pain, screaming.

"You stupid girl!" yelled Daphne. She finished the spell and began to pull Tracey away from the bed and into the centre of the room. "You stupid, stupid girl! Is there nothing left of your brain but mush after all that bootlicking and arse kissing? And I always thought you were one of the smarter ones around here, and yet you're the dumbest one of all!"

Daphne continued to curse incessantly as Tracey lay on the floor, panting heavily and drenched in sweat. It was only slowly that the colour began to return to her face. All the while she was blinking madly as her eyes wandered aimlessly around the room. Only after a few minutes did her gaze clear. Her brown eyes were fixed on Daphne.

"G-Greengrass?" she stuttered.

"You know, I always thought it would be Pansy. That she'd be stupid enough to try it one day."


"I never thought it would be you, unless you were ordered to. That's it, isn't it? Pansy or Draco, or both? They told you to do it in the hope that you would succeed, didn't they? And even if you failed, you wouldn't be much of a loss to them. But how could you think that you –"

"Greengrass!" Tracey shouted now. Slowly she picked herself up from the ground. Her body was still shaking a little, but she didn't seem to notice. Her eyes were fixed on Daphne.

Daphne returned the look. "Great, you know my name. So your brain hasn't turned to mush yet."

Tracey was still looking at her, and again there was an expression on her face that Daphne couldn't interpret. Was she thinking about how to report her to the teachers? Such an inversion of perpetrator and victim would fit in well with this wretched bunch. Maybe she'd better erase Tracey's memory of all this before she told anyone else...

Daphne's fingers were already closing around her wand as Tracey continued to speak.

"What... what was that?" she asked hesitantly. "That... that just now? What was that?" The trembling was gone from her voice, replaced by genuine... Curiosity?

Daphne's own curiosity was aroused. She had learned a great deal about her reclusive classmate over the past few years, but there was still so much that remained a mystery to her. So she decided to take this opportunity to find out a little more about her. Who knew when such knowledge might come in handy.

Still holding her wand, Daphne returned Tracey's questioning look. With her free hand, she pointed to her bed, or more precisely, to a line of tiny runes that had been carved into the wooden frame and completely encircled the bed. They were hard runes, straight lines and strong corners, and they looked a little like they had been carved into the wood with claws and beaks – an artistic licence Daphne had taken. And the hard look of the runes reflected their ruthless purpose.

"It was an experiment of sorts," Daphne said, "I put them up a few days ago. An attempt to protect my belongings."

And myself, she added mentally. After all, she was living in a snake pit.

Tracey's gaze followed her hand and her eyes widened slightly as she recognised the tiny runes. "So that... that's what did it. The pain... and the feeling of something being sucked out of me..."

Daphne decided not to reply. She watched curiously as Tracey rose from the floor. She took cautious steps towards Daphne's bed, held out her hand and –

"I wouldn't do that if I were you. Unless you want a repeat performance."

Tracey dropped her hand. She turned back to Daphne. Again there was a look on her face that Daphne didn't quite understand. "And... that's how you protect your bed? No one ... no one can get near you when you're ... sleeping in your bed?"

Now Daphne knew what her classmate was getting at. She frowned.

"Can ... can you teach me?" Tracey asked. Again her voice trembled slightly, but this time not in pain.

For a few moments Daphne just looked at the other girl. Yes, she was sure now. What she saw in Tracey's face was hope. And so she shook her head. "That's a power you can't handle, Davis."

"I won't tell anyone, I promise. I –"

"No. I don't want your promise. Your promise is worthless. You need a certain strength, a certain respect for yourself to master this magic, and you have neither. I've seen more than enough of that in recent years. Get over your self-imposed blindness before you try to look into the sun."

Tracey's jaw quivered. Her hands clenched into fists. "I am strong!" she hissed, "Strong enough! Stronger than the oth–"

"Oh, I don't doubt that at all," Daphne said. "That you're stronger than Pansy and Millicent, I mean. But a rat is also stronger than a cockroach, but that doesn't really make the rat strong. You're not strong, Tracey, otherwise you wouldn't let them do this to you at home."

"W-what do you mean?"

"I'm not as blind as others." Daphne stood in front of the other girl and pointed to her neck. "I've seen the marks, or rather how you try to hide them, after every summer. I've seen your looks, your Boggart, your tears on the train ride home after our first year. Who is it? Your father? He beats you, doesn't he? Or does he do even worse things to you? Is that why you want to be able to protect your own bed?"

There was a change in Tracey now. Her face hardened. She raised her arms as if to push Daphne away, but she only held them in front of her. "Stay out of my life, Greengrass! It's none of your business!"

Daphne crossed her arms, a satisfied feeling inside her. "So I'm right. You are being abused at home."

Again Tracey's jaw quivered, but she didn't argue. It would have been pointless anyway. Daphne was sure she was right, and Tracey had to know it too.

"But then why don't you do something about it?" Daphne asked next. "You're a witch, aren't you? You have magic you can use."

She looked at Tracey, but the other girl had lowered her eyes. Her shoulders shook. "You have no idea," she said softly. So softly that Daphne almost didn't hear her.

"Are you just going to take it? Are you just going to let yourself be used like a piece of meat? Don't you want revenge?"

Tracey was silent. Her body was still shaking, she kept her eyes down and not a word came out of her mouth. If anything, Daphne had the feeling that her classmate was struggling not to burst into tears.

Daphne sighed. Maybe she really should stop judging other witches by her own standards. It already hadn't worked with Hermione and Ginny.

"Look," she said in a more conciliatory tone. "I'm sorry for what you have to put up with. You don't deserve it. Nobody does. And I can imagine that it's all very difficult for you. A home is supposed to be a refuge, a safe haven, and it wasn't for you."

Just like it wasn't for me, Daphne added in her thoughts. But at least my parents never did something like that to me.

She continued. "And then you had the misfortune of being sorted into Slytherin as a half-blood. But you're not helpless, you know? Even if you don't want to fight back with magic, there are other ways. You can go to the Aurors. Either through an owl or through Susan Bones from Hufflepuff, for example. Her aunt is the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement."

And an absolute bitch.

"Maybe she can help you if... the people doing this to you are breaking the law. But you have to take this step, you can't hide anymore. Because if you don't, you'll be a victim forever."

Daphne didn't know if her words had reached Tracey. A few moments passed and Tracey just stared at the floor. Then suddenly she lifted her head. She straightened her back. The familiar mask was back on her face, as if she was once again ready to laugh at Pansy's stupid jokes, to admire Draco, and to betray the girl she really was. The sight hurt Daphne more than she thought it would. This was the future – and in Tracey's case, the present – she had always feared.

"I apologise for disturbing your sleep, Greengrass," Tracey said in a cool voice. "I won't bother you any further and I'll rejoin the others in the common room."

With that, Tracey walked towards the door. She had her hand on the doorknob when Daphne stopped her.

"Davis, wait," she said, "I have one last question for you: When you woke me up, what did you want? What did you want from me?"

Tracey stopped. She didn't turn to face Daphne, but she didn't leave the room either. Instead, she said, "Did you and Potter really manipulate the Goblet of Fire?"

"I have manipulated the Goblet."

"You're a powerful witch, aren't you? Really powerful, I mean. More than just gifted and top of the class. Pansy and Draco can't even begin to compete with that – you're not saying anything?"

"Why would I confirm the obvious truth?" Daphne's eyes bored into the back of Tracey's head. What she wouldn't give to be able to read her mind right now, but a Legilimency attack carried too much danger. "But what did you want from me?"

"I ... I'm not sure myself," Tracey said. "You ... you've certainly made me think, Greengrass. And don't worry, I won't tell anyone what happened here. You can put your wand away..."

With that, Tracey pushed the door handle down and left the dormitory. Behind her, the door slammed shut with a loud bang before silence returned to the room.

Left behind was Daphne. She sighed. She was still tired, perhaps more so than before, and a headache had come on top of it. It pounded against her temples like little hammers. This was probably what she got for trying to act like a good person. It was no doubt Harry's bloody influence on her, and the influence of the bond that bound them both.

What she wouldn't give to have a rabbit or another Kreacher in front of her now, just to let off some steam, Daphne thought wistfully. But unfortunately, that would also mean a lot of danger. And she was too tired to make the long journey to the Room of Requirement.

We really do live in a cruel and hard world, she thought as she lay back in her bed. To survive in it, you have to be even crueler and harder yourself...

If Harry had hoped that the other houses would welcome his and Daphne's selection as champions of Hogwarts as enthusiastically, or at least as favourably, as the Gryffindors, he was proved wrong in the days after Halloween. It wasn't that they were met with dislike or hostility – perhaps with the exception of most of the Slytherins – it was more a general mood of... perplexity. Yes, that was the best way Harry could describe it.

People were perplexed. They didn't know how to react to the new situation. Harry could feel the eyes of his schoolmates on him everywhere, whether it was in the Great Hall, in the corridors or in class. People stared at him as if he were a complicated puzzle to be deciphered. They whispered about him and pointed their fingers at him when he thought he couldn't see them. And Daphne was no different.

More than once they were approached by other students, and even by a teacher or two, and asked if they had really manipulated Dumbledore's Age Line and the Goblet of Fire to put their names in it – and each time they answered without hesitation. Why wouldn't they? They were proud of what they had achieved.

The other students at Hogwarts didn't seem to know whether to think it was good or bad that they had two champions. Whether they should wish them luck and success for the tasks ahead, or just wait and see how the two confident fourth years would do. Occasionally, Harry overheard some of the students discussing heatedly how it was possible that the two of them, who had so easily fallen victim to Sirius Black's Confusion Charms not so long ago, were suddenly capable of such magical feats. However, it was sometimes pointed out that the two of them had been the best in their year for years, and had even transformed a school corridor into a winter wonderland last year, so it wasn't quite as simple as that.

Yes, in the days following Halloween, the students of Hogwarts were preoccupied with a number of questions, and it seemed that they had yet to figure out how to deal with their two young champions. This was in stark contrast to the other two schools.

While the students of Beauxbatons and Durmstrang celebrated and cheered their own champions at every opportunity, they reacted to Harry and Daphne with clear dislike and contempt. Fleur Delacour's friends snorted contemptuously whenever they saw them, and Harry learnt a lot of French insults. Or at least he suspected they were insults. Gamin arrogant and Imposteur certainly didn't sound like nice words.

The Durmstrang students, on the other hand, had made it their life's work, whenever they saw Harry or Daphne, to loudly discuss how Krum would crush them in the Tournament and that they had only made it into the Tournament because Dumbledore had become so old and frail. Or that the two of them had bribed someone. Such a thing would never have happened in a respectable school.

Harry couldn't wait to see their faces when they realised how wrong they were.

But the one who reacted most negatively to their selection as champions was Snape. Not only did he punish Daphne with weeks of detention for her actions in the Slytherin common room, but his malice towards them reached new heights. In their very first Potions lesson after Halloween, he stood up at the table where Harry and Daphne had sat together since their second year.

"Well, well, well," said the Potions Master, his voice as greasy as his hair, "our two glory-seeking champions. Broken any rules or caused any international scandals today?" He bared his teeth in a grotesque distortion of a smile. "I hope you can refrain from throwing pieces of parchment with your names on them anywhere for at least an hour, unless you want your potions to blow up – although that would at least get you back in the press, so perhaps that's what you're after?"

The Slytherins at the tables across the room burst out laughing, while the Gryffindors made stony faces. Ron and Hermione gave them encouraging looks from the next table, while Neville made himself very small behind his cauldron, as if to prevent Snape from seeing him. All the new confidence Susan had instilled in him seemed to evaporate in the presence of the dreaded Potions Master.

"Perhaps that's why I'd better separate you two," Snape continued. "Before you give each other any bad ideas. Besides, surely two students as brilliant as you think you are can help those less blessed with your knowledge, can't you? Potter, you're going to work with Longbottom from now on – and make sure he doesn't slip under his desk any more, or we'll have to put a leash and water bowl there. Greengrass, you work with Davis. What are you waiting for? Get on with it!"

Harry had nothing against Neville and they worked well together, but he was glad when Colin Creevey knocked on the door just over halfway through the lesson and called him and Daphne out of class. Apparently their wands were to be weighed for the tasks ahead, whatever that meant.

And so, shortly afterwards, Harry and Daphne found themselves in a small classroom on the first floor that they had never been in before. Most of the desks had been pushed back against the wall to make room in the middle, but three had been pushed together to form a sort of long table, covered with a long velvet cloth. Behind these tables were five chairs, and in one of them was Ludo Bagman, talking to a witch in magenta robes, jewelled glasses and an ugly crocodile-skin bag. Harry had never seen her before. Behind the strange witch stood a man with a camera in his hand, which sometimes smoldered a little.

Viktor Krum stood in a corner, frowning as usual and not talking to anyone. Fleur Delacour stood at the window, staring off into the distance, her long silver hair shimmering in the sunlight. She didn't look at Harry and Daphne when they came in.

Bagman, on the other hand, jumped to his feet when he saw them and came towards them happily. "Ah, there they are! Our champions number three and four!"

"Actually, only champion number three," Daphne said, but Bagman didn't seem to hear her.

"Then we're complete at last, and – ah, here come the others. Good day, gentlemen and lady."

At that moment, Professor Dumbledore, Professor Karkaroff, Madame Maxime and Cornelius Fudge entered the room, accompanied by none other than Mr Ollivander, the famous wand maker. Harry hadn't seen the man since the summer before his first year at Hogwarts, when he'd bought his wand from him, but the old wizard looked exactly the same. The same thin white hair, the same pale skin and the same slightly sinister eyes. But Mr Ollivander gave Harry a friendly nod as he entered, and Harry nodded back.

"Mr Krum and Miss Delacour," Dumbledore turned to the other two champions as he and his colleagues took their seats at the judges' table. "May I introduce Mr Ollivander? He will be checking your wands to ensure they are in good condition before the tournament. Harry, Daphne, you already know Mr Ollivander."

As he spoke, Dumbledore's eyes glanced briefly at Harry and Daphne, much more briefly than at Krum and Delacour. Apparently he was still upset that they had entered the tournament.

The strange witch and the photographer stood in a corner of the room, their faces attentive. Harry recognised a notebook in the woman's hands, a quill hovering over it, busily writing.

"Mademoiselle Delacour, could we have you first, please?" said Mr Ollivander, stepping into the empty space in the middle of the room between the champions and the judges. Fleur Delacour stepped forward and handed him her wand, made of light brown, almost reddish wood.

"Hmmm..." said Mr Ollivander. He rolled the wand between his fingers and examined it carefully. A few pink and silver sparks flew from the tip. "An interesting wand, though not unsuited to its bearer... Rosewood, very beautiful, but also inflexible. But – oh yes, this is interesting indeed. The core of the wand is ... a Veela hair?"

Delacour nodded and said in her thick French accent, "From my grandmother. She gave her hair to me and told me to take good care of the wand and –"

Next to Harry, Daphne let out a giggle. Delacour immediately turned to her with an angry face.

"And what do you find so funny?"

Daphne waved it off. "Nothing, nothing at all. I was just wondering what you do to take care of a hair wand. Combing it?"

Before Delacour could reply – her gaze was already piercing Daphne like a spear – Mr Ollivander continued. He hadn't taken his eyes off the wand for a moment and didn't seem to notice the exchange.

"Yes... quite unique," he said. "Personally, I've never used Veela hair myself, of course. I think it makes for rather unconventional wands ... and they're also very demanding to care for..."

Daphne giggled again and Harry chuckled softly too. Now Delacour's eyes were boring into him like deadly weapons. It looked like they were not going to be friends.

Next it was Krum's turn. The Bulgarian student shuffled over to Mr Ollivander, shoulders slumped, and handed him his wand. Then he put his hands in his pockets and waited, a frown on his face.

"He always looks so glum," Harry whispered to his girlfriend.

"He already knows he hasn't got a chance against us."

"Quiet back there!" barked Professor Karkaroff from the judges' table. "Show some respect!"

"Harry, Daphne, please behave yourselves," Dumbledore added calmly. "You represent Hogwarts."

The young couple put on innocent expressions and said nothing more. They watched as Mr Ollivander used Krum's wand to summon a small flock of birds before handing it back to Krum.

"Very well," said Mr Ollivander. "That leaves our youngest champions. Miss Greengrass, please."

Daphne walked up to Mr Ollivander, ignoring the scowl of a certain French student at her back. But Madame Maxime and Professor Karkaroff looked quite interested as Daphne presented her wand to Mr Ollivander.

"Oh, yes, that's one of mine," the wand maker said delightedly. "With all due respect, but... you can see the difference. Are you still as happy with your wand as you were then, Miss Greengrass?"

"More so every day," Daphne said.

"And you can be too. But maybe just for the record ... Ten inches, dragon heartstring, ebony. A very spirited wand, but also proud and elegant. Will we see elegant magic from you, Miss Greengrass?"

A genuine smile spread across Daphne's lips. "Yes. I hope so. I mean, yes, you will."

Harry nodded in agreement. He had not the slightest doubt about the elegance of Daphne's magic.

"It certainly won't fail because of the wand," Mr Ollivander said, letting golden rings of smoke float across the room from the top of the wand. He then handed the wand back to Daphne, whose fingers closed around it as quickly as they could. "It's fully functional. Now just... Mr Potter."

Harry now walked over to the wand maker himself. He and Daphne gave each other a quick smile as she moved back.

"Ahhhh, yes," Mr Ollivander said as he took Harry's wand and his pale eyes suddenly began to glow. "Yes, yes, yes. I remember your wand well too, Mr Potter. A unique wand. Eleven inches, holly, with a core of phoenix feather. And – ohhhh! The wand has already cast powerful magic, I can feel it ... Hmmm, it looks like my expectations that we could expect great things from you have been fulfilled, Mr Potter."

Harry felt a chill run down his spine as he remembered Ollivander's words.

"I think we must expect great things from you, Mr Potter ... After all, He Who Must Not Be Named did great things – terrible, yes, but great."

Mr Ollivander spent much more time on Harry's wand than the others. But eventually he let a fountain of wine bubble out of it and handed it back to Harry, saying it was still in perfect condition.

"Thank you all," Dumbledore said at the judges' table, standing up. "You may go back to you lessons now –"

"But Dumbledore," Bagman interrupted him excitedly. "We still have to take pictures. Of all the judges and champions. What do you think, Rita?"

Bagman turned to the unknown witch, who must have been Rita Skeeter, Harry guessed from her first name. His mood darkened.

"Definitely. Let's start with some group photos," Skeeter said before turning her gaze to Harry. Her look was almost predatory. "And then maybe some individual shots."

The reporter gestured for the four students to stand in front of the row of windows, but the photographer didn't like that because it would mean taking pictures against the sun. So in the end they just stood in front of the empty wall.

"Wonderful," said Skeeter. "Potter and Greengrass, you'd better stand at the front because you're the youngest. And the other two behind you... and maybe you can put a hand on the shoulders of the two youngest, like older siblings proud of their little brother and sister. The readers would love it!"

Harry felt Krum's heavy hand on his right shoulder. For a moment, everything inside him tensed. And he didn't seem to be the only one who didn't like it, because Skeeter frowned.

"Oh, oh, oh, maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all. It looks too much like siblicide than a loving family, if you ask me. Hmmm, must be the competitive spirit, I guess ... okay, let's try something else."

Harry saw Delacour snatch her hand from Daphne's shoulder in a flash. Krum pulled his hand back as well.

In the end, the photographer just took a few pictures of the champions standing next to each other, not looking at one another. This was followed by pictures of the champions from each school with their headmasters – Skeeter had to tell Dumbledore to smile nicely – and finally a picture of all the champions and judges together, which Fudge clearly enjoyed. Then came the individual pictures.

They started with Delacour – and the photographer seemed like he couldn't get enough of her, and probably would have gone on for hours until Skeeter called the shots. Krum followed, looking surprisingly uncomfortable for his fame as he was photographed. Finally it was Harry and Daphne's turn. Together they posed for the camera, which Skeeter did not seem to like.

"No, no," the reporter said, waving her hand with thick glittering rings on it. "Individual pictures of the champions. We can get a picture of you two together later, but just you now, Potter, please? Greengrass, step aside, please."

"Not a chance," Harry said, taking Daphne's hand in his. Their fingers immediately intertwined. "You said we'd take individual pictures of the champions. Daphne and I are one champion. The Goblet of Fire gave our names together."

Bagman nodded at his words. "That's right, Rita. Officially, the two are considered one champion for the purposes of the tournament, strange as that may sound.

"But –"

Daphne clicked her tongue. "I thought you wanted to take photos. Go on then, take photos. We haven't got all day."

Her voice sounded slightly annoyed, but inside Harry could feel how much fun she was having. He stifled a giggle.

The photographer took a few pictures of them and then it was over. Harry sighed, squeezed Daphne's hand gently and was about to turn to leave the classroom when Skeeter stood in the doorway, a broad smile on her face, revealing several gold teeth – Harry counted three.

"Just a moment, please," she said, "I'd like to do some one-on-one interviews with the champions. There are a few questions that might interest our readers. And since you're both one champion" – her eyes bored into Harry and Daphne – "I'll start with you young rebels."

With that, Skeeter walked to one of the windows in the corridor and sat down on the stone bench in front of it. She motioned for them to join her.

Harry looked at Daphne. His girlfriend looked back at him and shrugged. And so they sat down beside the reporter.

Krum and Delacour were waiting in the classroom, arms crossed and scowling again, while the three headmasters, Bagman and Fudge were talking quietly. Harry could only assume that they were discussing the upcoming tasks of the tournament.

Rita Skeeter had placed her notebook on the bench next to her. Her self-scribbling quill flew over the pages again, writing several sentences before even the first word had been exchanged. Skeeter smiled at both of them, but especially at Harry.

"Thank you for your time. I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself properly. My name is –"

"We know who you are," Harry said.

"We read your article about us in the Daily Prophet," Daphne added. "Earlier this year."

Skeeter's smile flashed again, looking as fake as the jewels on her glasses. "Yes, it was quite an exciting story back then. So much uncertainty, rumour and speculation. I asked Dumbledore to interview you back then, but he was, er, not very cooperative. But what do you say now, a few months later, about those events?"

"Nothing," Harry said. "Enough has been said."

Something in his voice must have made it clear to Skeeter that she wasn't going to get anything out of this, and she immediately changed the subject. "Okay, of course, yes, I understand that you don't want to talk about it. It must have been very unpleasant to be the victim of such Confusion Charms. But there is another question that has been burning on my tongue all afternoon. Harry, I couldn't help but look at your forehead, forgive me, and somehow I always imagined your scar to be a little more present. Could it be that it has faded over time?"

Harry, who had not failed to notice that Skeeter was suddenly calling him by his first name, nodded once. "Yes, it has faded. And I'm very glad about that."

"Why?" Skeeter asked curiously, leaning forward slightly. Now she looked even more like a hungry predator. A predator ready to pounce on its prey. But Harry wasn't prey.

"Because I'm going to be famous for my own achievements." He looked at Daphne who nodded. "We both will. Not for what we did as babies or as heiresses to an old family. Not for what people say or write about us. Not for how people think we should behave, how we should live our lives and be controlled by the dictates of others. No, we will be famous for who we are, for what we have achieved, on our own, with our own abilities."

"Those are confident goals, you two," Skeeter said, and her voice had taken on something greedy, as if she had picked up a bloody scent. How fitting. "And you talked about the dictates of others you don't want to be controlled by, Harry. But you do realise that you're only fourteen, don't you? Still children in the eyes of the law. Of course, at that age you still have to be controlled by the dictates of others. What about your teachers, your headmaster, the tournament judges?"

This time it was Daphne who answered, and Harry immediately recognised the similarity in her words to a quote from her favourite book.

"You're wrong, Miss Skeeter. We will not be controlled by anything. Not by teachers, not by reporters, not by the gods. This world will see what we are capable of. For we are the future."