Chapter Thirty – Divided Points

Rita Skeeter's Exclusive Report: More Uproar Over Champions Harry Potter and Daphne Greengrass in the Triwizard Tournament

Dear readers,

Rita Skeeter, your favourite reporter with the famous quick quill, is back with an exclusive story from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry! This time we take a look at the latest developments in the Triwizard Tournament, which is causing quite a stir not only in Great Britain, but internationally as well. I'm sure you remember: it's been exactly two weeks since Harry Potter and Daphne Greengrass were chosen as the champions of Hogwarts by the legendary Goblet of Fire, against all the organisers' rules.

In an exclusive interview, I had the opportunity to meet the two champions in person and hear their side of the story. What I heard was beyond my wildest expectations.

The interview began promisingly enough, but it soon became clear that Potter and Greengrass were not going to be shy. Arrogance and haughtiness permeated every word that came out of their mouths.

With his famous lightning scar on his forehead and a smug smile on his lips, Harry Potter declared: "Rita, I want to make one thing clear from the outset. We are in this tournament to win. The prize money and the glory will be ours alone. All anyone else will be able to do is look at us in awe." It was clear from his voice how much he enjoyed basking in the glow of public attention.

Daphne Greengrass, a girl of captivating beauty but cool demeanour, who had hitherto remained in the background of the wizarding community, was in no way inferior to her co-champion. An equally haughty smile played around her graceful features, as if she had adopted the 'confidence' of Potter, with whom she is also romantically involved, as her own personal ambition. "It's almost a shame that the tournament is practically over before it has even begun," she told me. "Because nobody has a chance against us. Nobody will stop us. We will make history, and the world will bow down before us when we bring victory back to Hogwarts."

When I tried to ask critical questions about their apparent violation of the rules when they entered the tournament, I was met with arrogant laughter and condescending comments. Apparently, the two young champions were sure that it was the world's duty to cheer them on in awe.

"What do I care about any rules?" said Potter. "Rita, I don't let anyone, let alone any rules, tell me what I can and cannot do. I'm above the rules of ordinary people, I'm the Boy Who Lived! No one can tell me what to do."

"And neither me," Greengrass agreed, grasping Potter's hand possessively. "After all, I'm his beloved girlfriend. Harry and I are special and we will prove our superiority."

And even when I asked them what they thought of their fellow champions from the other schools, they just laughed.

"They'd better leave now if they want to avoid the embarrassment they're about to suffer," said Greengrass. "And they won't see a Galleon of the prize money either."

(At this point, dear readers, it should be noted that Miss Greengrass was disinherited by her parents two years ago in nebulous circumstances, and is therefore currently without income or assets and completely dependent on Harry Potter's gold. It is rumoured that this is the main reason why the pretty witch is so attached to him.)

The other wizarding schools were outraged by the condescending comments. Fleur Delacour, the champion of Beauxbatons, was visibly upset: "The Triwizard Tournament is supposed to be a symbol of cooperation and respect between the three schools. That's why adult wizards and witches should be competing against each other, not arrogant and rude children with no manners or education! I am shocked that there is not a much greater outcry from the British wizarding community like there is in my own country."

Viktor Krum, the famous Quidditch star and representative of Durmstrang, also commented on the events with disappointment. "I've been to many tournaments, but I've never seen such a brazen disregard for the rules. In Quidditch, these two would be banned for life for their cheating, so why is nothing being done here?"

Bulgarian Minister for Magic Oblansk agreed with this assessment. "The British Ministry of Magic promised us fair competition on an equal footing, a sign of cooperation and mutual respect. But I don't see any respect, only the well-known arrogance of the British towards other countries, and that after their utter failure at the World Cup and our understanding towards them, a mistake I now realise."

But it is not just on the international stage but also at Hogwarts that Potter and Greengrass' behaviour has caused anger and even concern. One student, who wished to remain anonymous, told me: "If you ask me, Black has done more to their heads than we realise. These two are not normal and I advise everyone to stay away from them. You never know what they'll do next to satisfy their greed for attention."

Journalists, including your own Rita Skeeter, repeatedly tried to get Dumbledore to comment on the behaviour of his two students. But the usually talkative headmaster was uncharacteristically silent, leading to much more speculation and questions.

One anonymous teacher commented: "Yes, it is very unusual for Dumbledore not to comment on such an important incident in his school. It almost seems as if he is ashamed of Potter and Greengrass's behaviour, or wants to hide something from the public."

Yes, Hogwarts is a melting pot of rumour, speculation and bold claims these days. Will Potter and Greengrass live up to their proud words or turn out to be mere posers? Is it true that Black's Confusion Charms have damaged their minds more than we previously realised? What will Dumbledore, the organisers and the Ministry do to ensure the tournament's integrity? And have we all overestimated the supposedly great magic of the Goblet of Fire, if even two thirteen-year-olds can trick it?

In any case, things remain exciting at Hogwarts. Your favourite reporter will be there to keep you up to date with the latest developments in the Triwizard Tournament.

Yours, Rita Skeeter

Daphne clicked her tongue as she watched the Daily Prophet burst into flames before her eyes. She and Harry were having breakfast at the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall. The smell of toast, fried bacon and freshly squeezed pumpkin juice filled the air – and now the smell of charred paper. Not everyone liked the smell.

"Hey," Ron complained from across the table. "Is this really necessary? Now I've got ashes on my scrambled eggs!"

"Yes, it is necessary," Daphne said. She clicked her tongue again contemptuously as she put her wand down. "We should never have talked to Skeeter. She gets everything wrong. She couldn't even get our ages right."

Harry had also put on a scowl. "And most of all, I wonder who that anonymous student and teacher was. Although I have an idea." He let out a cheerless laugh. "And maybe you should all really stay away from us before we do something to you to satisfy our greed for attention."

"Don't talk nonsense," Ron said. "Nobody believes a word of what that reporter writes. Dad says the last true word she put to paper was her name on her employment contract."

Hermione frowned as she looked around the hall. "I wouldn't be too sure about that. That nobody believes a word she says, I mean. Looks like you two are the talk of the school again."

Daphne could already feel the stares at her back and heard the whispers in which their names kept coming up. The voices sounded like the greedy screeching of vultures, or the hungry slurping of maggots in rotting flesh. She had nothing but contempt for such an attitude, such a testimony to an empty, unfulfilled life. But it was nothing new. She was used to it, as was Harry, and so they both ignored the whispers.

"The problem is also that she's not completely lying," Neville spoke up. He was sitting across from them with his girlfriend Susan. The young couple had begun to follow her and Harry's example and eat their meals together, sometimes at the Gryffindor table, sometimes at the Hufflepuff table. Daphne's – or Harry's – gaze must have been darker than she thought, because Neville flinched. But he didn't look away. "I mean, you openly admit that you manipulated the Goblet of Fire. So it's kind of true that you broke the rules. Don't worry, I don't think it's bad or anything, and I'm cheering you on, but you're kind of cheating..."

"That's also what my aunt wrote to me," Susan said. "She thinks you're both arrogant, pretentious cheats and predicts a criminal future for you. She has an eye for such things, she says."

At her words, Daphne crossed her arms and gave her a deliberately dark look this time. "I don't like your aunt, by the way, Bones."

"What a coincidence, neither do I."

Daphne nodded. Fair enough.

Neville seemed to want to smooth things over again. Conciliatingly, he said, "The gossip will die down when you show them what you're capable of. Knowing you and your magic, no one will deny then that you've earned your place as the best at Hogwarts."

This time both Harry and Daphne nodded. They didn't doubt it either, but it was still a step they had to take on the long road to their goal.

They exchanged a look. Yes, Daphne was sure that Harry was thinking exactly what she was thinking right now. It was true that they had only entered the tournament through manipulation – some would say cheating – but from now on they were going to prove their skills honestly.

And that was why they were not worried about the first task at hand. They knew that there had to be ways and means to get information about what they were up against and how to prepare for it, but what good would that do? Of course they wanted to win the tournament, but above all they wanted to win it honestly, with nothing but their talent, their strength and their determination. So that no one, really no one, would doubt their superiority.

But they seemed to be the only ones who thought so. For when the day of the first task arrived and they, along with the other champions, learned what awaited them, they were the only ones who were surprised...

"Dragons! In the first task of the Triwizard Tournament, ladies and gentlemen, you will face dragons!"

Bagman beamed into the circle, but there was no emotion on the faces of Delacour and Krum. In complete contrast to Daphne and Harry. They looked at each other with broad grins on their faces. Daphne felt a shiver of excitement run down her spine. Dragons! Real, proper dragons, like in the old legends and stories! They were going to fight dragons!

She hadn't hoped for this in her wildest dreams, but somehow it fit. It was definitely a task worthy of the Triwizard Tournament. After all, dragons were very difficult to kill, if the stories and books were to be believed.

And was this what Hagrid had wanted to show them a few days ago? They had cancelled, of course, preferring to train in the Room of Requirement, as they did every night – but perhaps they should have skipped training for one night if they could have seen real dragons!

"There will be a separate dragon for each of you," Bagman continued. "A mother dragon, to be exact. Your task will be to retrieve a Golden Egg from your dragon's nest. Of course, the mother dragon won't just give up one of her eggs, so you'll need to show courage, strength and ingenuity to be victorious. We, the judges, will then assess your performance and award you points from one to ten. Also, all the other students will be watching, so do your best!"

Okay, so no dragon killing after all, Daphne corrected herself mentally. Just get a golden egg. That should be easier. But somehow it was also a shame. Daphne Dragon Slayer. That would have been something.

"But what about these two?" said Delacour, pointing at Daphne and Harry without looking at them. "It would be most unfair for Hogwarts to get double points."

"Don't worry, Mademoiselle. To prevent this, Mr Potter's and Miss Greengrass's scores will be added together and then halved to ensure a fair comparison between the schools. As you can see, we've thought of everything! But let's not wait any longer, let's get started!" Bagman held up a purple silk bag. "In a moment, one by one, you will draw from this bag a model of the dragon you will face. And I'd say ladies first, and we'll start with the younger of the two ladies, of course."

With an expectant smile on his face, he handed the bag to Daphne as if he were a proud father who could hardly wait to see his children open their birthday presents.

Daphne reached in without hesitation and pulled out a tiny but immaculate model of a dark, spiky dragon, and she immediately recognised the type of dragon – a Hungarian Horntail! The miniature dragon wore the number "4" around its neck. It spread its wings as Daphne looked at it in fascination, showing its tiny fangs. It almost looked like a smile. The miniature dragon felt very warm in her hand, and she could feel the magic crackling on her skin.

"Ooh, this could be interesting," Bagman said excitedly. "You're going to be the finale, Miss Greengrass. A grand finale, I hope!"

Daphne wouldn't have thought it possible, but Bagman's words actually made her smile. A grand finale, yes, she hoped so too.

Then Bagman handed the bag to Fleur Delacour. The French student took out a model of a Welsh Green with the number "2". Again, she was not the least bit surprised.

Daphne was now sure that Delacour really must have known in advance what to expect from this task. No doubt her headmistress had informed her. She and Harry hadn't heard from Dumbledore, of course, but that wouldn't matter. They would just have to be their own light in the shadows – instead of being lit by the light of others. And they would shine brighter than anyone else!

Harry must have caught her thoughts, because he squeezed her hand gently as her miniature Horntail crawled over her free hand.

Next it was Krum's turn. There was no trace of surprise on his face either as he pulled a blue-grey Swedish Short-Snout with the number "1" around its neck. He didn't even bat an eyelid. Karkaroff must also have told him what to expect.

Daphne was a little curious to see how the two older students would do today with all their preparation and whether they would be able to keep up with Harry and her.

"Then it's just you, Harry," Bagman said. "Saving the best for last, eh?"

Her boyfriend rolled his eyes slightly as he reached into the bag. He pulled out a scarlet dragon that Daphne recognised as a Chinese Fireball. The miniature dragon had the number "3" around its neck.

"Beautiful, that's it!" said Bagman. "The numbers indicate the order in which you will compete. All right? Good. I must go now, because I'm going to commentate on the task. Mr Krum, you're up first. When you hear the whistle, just go out there, okay? The same goes for the others. Has everyone got that? Wonderful! See you soon then!"

With that, Bagman hurried out of the tent exit he had just pointed to. The four champions stayed behind. Delacour and Krum immediately turned their backs on them, but Daphne didn't care, and Harry seemed to feel the same way.

They grinned mischievously at each other. They had drawn the numbers '3' and '4', so they would start one after the other. And as the last of the four champions. Perhaps what Bagman had said was true after all. They had saved the best for last.

Soon after, a loud whistle sounded and Krum left the tent. Moments later, they heard the roar of the crowd, accompanied by the mighty, booming roar of a creature – a dragon.

And it was at that moment that a light suddenly dawned on Daphne. Their opponents were dragons! And dragons had a very specific part of their body, a very specific organ that could help her and Harry with another of their objectives...

Her boyfriend must have been thinking the same thing she was, or he must have caught her thoughts – or she his, sometimes it wasn't so easy to tell – because suddenly his eyes sparkled too, a golden glint in his green irises. An expectant smile played around his lips, their band vibrating with anticipation and nervous tension.

He gave her a brief nod as more sounds reached them from outside. The voices and clapping of the audience, cheers, applause and shouts of "Krum, Krum, Krum". So their fellow champion had entered the enclosure and was now face to face with the living example of his model.

Daphne would have liked to run out herself to confront the dragon and claim her prize. But she knew that wasn't possible. Not only because she was only fourth in line, but also because no one was allowed to know what they were up to. They would have to practice secrecy. And patience. Damned, annoying, excruciating patience...

They couldn't see what was going on, but Bagman's comments, which occasionally filtered into the tent through the shouts of the crowd and the roar of the Swedish Short-Snout, gave them enough of an idea. Apparently, Krum had decided to use a Conjunctivitis Curse to blind the dragon in order to get past him to the Golden Egg. Not a bad idea, Daphne had to admit, even if the blind dragon did seem to trample a few eggs in his rage and pain. But at least Krum had succeeded. This was followed by thunderous applause from the audience and a loud whistle announcing the next champion.

This was Fleur Delacour. And for the first time, the French student's cheating composure seemed to leave her as her shoulders shook noticeably as she stepped out of the tent, wand in hand. Daphne giggled softly, but loud enough for Delacour to hear.

From Bagman's comments, they could tell that Delacour was obviously taking a different path from Krum. She was trying to put her dragon into a sleepy trance, but apparently she had burned her skirt in a burst of flame from the dragon. Even Daphne felt a little sorry for the audience's gleeful laughter that followed. But in the end, Delacour succeeded. Applause broke out ... and then, for the third time, a whistle.

Now it was Harry's turn.

But before he could take a step, Daphne intercepted him, standing boldly in his path. With a playful smirk, she put her arms around his neck, declaring, "You're not going anywhere without a kiss for luck, mister."

With that, she pressed her lips to his. It was a firm kiss that scratched at a much deeper passion, but as much as Daphne would have liked to indulge those feelings, she knew there was no time. So she shifted the angle of her kiss slightly and bit her lower lip. Her teeth cut deep. Warm blood oozed from her lip.

She pressed even tighter against Harry and her heart rejoiced as she felt him suck on her lip. She couldn't help but smile happily at the thought of him tasting and swallowing her blood. And she felt an overwhelming sense of happiness from Harry as well, so she was not alone in her feelings.

Then Harry bit his lips as well. Dark blood oozed from the wound, but Daphne only saw it for a moment before she kissed him deeply to absorb his blood. A comforting warmth gripped her heart as she tasted it, delicious as ever. The taste clouded her mind. She swallowed and the taste of Harry's magic raced through her body as if it were setting her veins on fire.

When they broke away, their lips stained with the crimson evidence of their kiss, they shared a knowing smile, a silent acknowledgment of the destiny they wielded together.

"Show them, Harry," Daphne whispered, her voice tinged with anticipation, "show them the power they're up against."

Harry licked his lips one last time as he walked towards the entrance to the arena. He could still feel the warmth of Daphne's lips on his, as well as the warmth in his heart. It would never leave him, he knew, not as long as they had each other. And now, for the task that lay ahead of them, they carried a part of each other as well...

Hundreds of faces looked down at him from the stands as he entered the arena. He didn't even try to recognise individual faces, for his gaze had found another target.

At the far end of the arena, perched on her clutch of eggs, her wings half retracted, her gaze wary over the crowd, stood the Chinese Fireball. With her gleaming scarlet armour and lion-like face surrounded by a ring of golden spikes, she looked rather magnificent, Harry thought, though not what he generally imagined a dragon to look like. He was disappointed for a moment.

Then he noticed something else, and his disappointment grew even greater. A thick iron chain was wrapped around the dragon's right hind leg, tying her to the ground. Now the organisers were making it almost too easy for the champions, Harry thought. This was supposed to be the first task of the famous tournament that promised boundless glory and honour to its winner? To fight an opponent in chains?

Harry was sure that if Daphne saw this now, she would click her tongue in disdain.

"And here is our youngest champion, ladies and gentlemen!" Bagman's voice echoed through the arena. "Yes, you heard right! Mr Potter is about two weeks younger than his team-mate, with whom he is the official champion of Hogwarts, making him the youngest champion of the Triwizard Tournament in over four hundred years!"

Bagman's words drew a few boos from the stands, especially from the Slytherins and students from Durmstrang and Beauxbatons, but the Gryffindors cheered all the louder. Harry could hear his name being called. He couldn't help it... It felt good to be cheered on like that by his schoolmates. The last time he had experienced this was at his last Quidditch match for Gryffindor at the beginning of his second year.

But he also remembered all the laughter and mockery after Sirius' death, and the memory darkened his mood.

Determined, Harry stepped forward, straight towards the Chinese Fireball. "You're supposed to be a dragon?" he said mockingly. "If you ask me, you look more like a pussycat. A weak little pussycat. And do you know what I do to weak little pussycats?"

The Chinese Fireball stood up on her hind legs and made herself as big as she could, as if to prove to the whole world that she was not a weak little pussycat. She opened her mouth and roared. Her roar shook the whole arena, it was so loud and for a moment Harry felt goose bumps on his neck. Then the dragon spat fire at him.

A huge, glowing ball of fire shot towards Harry, but he made a quick movement with his wand and created a gust of wind in front of him. The gust caught the fireball and hurled it towards the stands. The spectators ducked their heads in shock, but it wasn't necessary. Harry had aimed so well that no one was hit... well, almost. For Hagrid was standing at the top of the stands, towering over everyone else, and his fur hat was now quite singed.

"Ooh, someone's playing with fire," cried Bagman's voice. "Wonderful wind spell, but Potter will have to come up with something better to get past the dragon."

Better, Harry thought. I'll show you something better.

Oh yes, he would show them something better. Something much, much better. Something they had never seen before. He would show them all. All those who had laughed at him would lose their laughter!

Harry's wand flashed through the air again, like a conductor's baton – or an executioner's sword.

Stab, stab, stab, stab, stab, stab, stab!

Harry's insides trembled with magic. An iron, bloody taste settled on his tongue, and then – dozens of iron stakes appeared out of nowhere. They shot through the air and buried themselves in the Chinese Fireball's body.

The air shook violently. Harry was sure the red dragon had let out a scream, but he couldn't hear it. It must have been at a frequency that human ears could not detect.

The dragon contorted her body in agony. Stakes fell one by one from her trembling flesh. They toppled to the ground, piercing the earth. At the same time, huge amounts of blood gushed from the dragon's wounds. The flesh blood pooled on the ground like red puddles.

Then Harry swung his wand mercilessly once more.

The ground shook. There was a roar – and suddenly the ground opened up. Two huge claws of earth, stone and iron shot out. Then, like the hands of a long-nailed witch, they split into four and reached for the Chinese Fireball. When they did, they snatched her wings up their bases, much like an innocent child would do to a small animal. Their pointed tips dug into her draconic flesh as they pinned her to the ground.

Another violent jolt ripped through the air, the echo of an inaudible scream. Blood gushed from the dragon's wounds, soaking the ground. A powerful stream of life power shot through Harry's body, from his wand, down his arm and straight into his heart. It was the richest prey he had ever taken, much, much richer than rats, rabbits or boars, even than Kreacher... had Daphne felt the same when the basilisk's life power had flowed through her? So wonderful and electrified?

The claws around the dragon froze, as if they had heard the scream. They were done moving. And their purpose was finished. For the dragon was pinned to the ground, the claws like chains around her body. She could move no more, neither claws nor wings, neither jaws nor tail.

The magic within Harry ebbed, as did the mood in the stands. It had gone completely silent. No sound, no laughter, no murmur filled the air as Harry walked past the defenceless dragon into the nest and took the Golden Egg. It felt pleasantly cool in his hands.

It was only now that Harry realised how hot he had become. His hair was sticking to his face and his heart was beating as fast as if he had run from the dungeons up to the Astronomy Tower. He felt tired, but it was a pleasant tiredness.

He had done it. He had the Golden Egg.

With that one thought, Harry lifted the egg triumphantly into the air – and this time the arena responded. Loud, thunderous cheers erupted. People were shouting, clapping, stomping, jumping and whistling as if Hogwarts had already won the tournament. He recognised Ron and Hermione shouting something at him, Neville standing next to Susan giving him both thumbs up, Ginny, Parvati, Dean and Seamus and many others. Only the Slytherins didn't lift a finger, but who cared about their envy, Harry thought with a grin.

"Look at that!" Bagman's voice echoed across the arena. "Look at that! What a magnificent performance! And this makes our youngest champion the fastest to the Golden Egg! Potter won't win any animal rights prizes, but he doesn't look like he minds."

If only he knew, Harry thought. He tucked the Golden Egg under his arm and walked past the still defenceless dragon to the other exit of the arena.

There was another tent, this time with a large red cross of two wands on it. When Harry entered the tent, there were also several beds and screens, like in the hospital wing of Hogwarts, although they didn't seem to be needed. Krum and Delacour stood in different corners of the tent, not looking at him, but their postures were quite tense. At the entrance to the tent stood Madam Pomfrey, nodding approvingly at him, and Professor McGonagall.

"You never cease to amaze me, Mr Potter," his Head of House said, and only someone who had had her as a teacher for as long as Harry had could have recognised the resigned astonishment in her voice. "Ex-nihilo conjurations and terrestrial transformations on this scale! Quite impressive. I shudder to think what your girlfriend will come up with to keep up with you. But let's look at your points first."

Harry turned around. From the tent entrance he had a perfect view of the stand where the judges had risen. He saw the first judge – Madame Maxime – raise her wand. A long silver thread shot out of the tip and twisted into a large nine.

Fudge was next. He, too, shot the nine into the air. Dumbledore did the same. From a distance, Harry couldn't see his headmaster's face, but he wondered if he was pleased that his student had achieved such a feat.

It doesn't matter, Harry told himself. It doesn't matter what he thinks. The moment will come when he will hate me anyway. Just like I hate him.

He took several deep breaths as he continued to watch the points being awarded. Ludo Bagman gave ten – the Hogwarts students, with the exception of the Slytherins, burst into thunderous applause – and Karkaroff finally gave four, which led to loud protests.

But Harry was satisfied. He had scored forty-one points, more than Delacour and Krum, if the scowls on their faces were anything to go by. Now all that remained was for Daphne to complete her task and they would lead the field after the first task.

"And now our confident young witch with the cold demeanour, as you could read in the press," Bagman called out. A whistle blew. "Miss Greengrass, please!"

Daphne saw it as soon as she entered the arena – her beloved boyfriend must have put on quite a show. She saw it in the crowd, who were still talking excitedly to each other, in the whole atmosphere of excitement and wonder that had turned the arena into a veritable beehive of activity. But she also saw it in the bloodstains and the deep furrows in the earth, felt it in the magic in the air, and she had also felt it in the powerful flow of life power that had suddenly reached her in the tent.

People's heads turned towards her. Some pointed at her, others continued to whisper excitedly to their neighbours. Daphne heard her own name several times in the scraps of words that came her way. But she didn't pay attention, her gaze fixed on the other side of the arena.

There, a huge black beast crouched over a clutch of eggs. Her scales gleamed in the pale sunlight, almost as dark as a crow's feathers. Her claws, as sharp as a crow's, dug deep into the ground. And her tail was full of long, thick spines, probably more dangerous than the beak of even the most vicious crow. It was the Hungarian Horntail – a truly imposing animal, Daphne had to admit.

But a heavy iron chain was wrapped around the dragon's right hind leg, binding her to the ground and making her a slave to the wizardry. Daphne clicked her tongue in disdain.

Her eyes slid past the dragon to her nest – and there she recognised the Golden Egg! It was right in the middle of the nest, just below the mother dragon.

This was her goal for this task. This was what she had to have. The Hungarian Horntail was really a minor matter, just as the dragons in the old stories were only a temporary obstacle for the brave knight on his way to the beautiful princess. She only had to get past the dragon to get to the Golden Egg – or the Golden Egg had to get past the dragon to get to her.

A smile spread across Daphne's lips. Oh yes, this would be her chance to shine. Why play by other people's rules when she could make her own? Once again, she would achieve something that no one had thought possible, that no one had even considered. Her heart began to pound with anticipation at the thought.

Daphne took a deep breath before aiming her wand at the dragon and her nest. She closed her eyes and felt the power within her... It was one of the easiest exercises of her life, easier than breathing. It was as if the power was calling to her, calling her to itself, and it was a call she was only too willing to answer. For the power within her was her power. The power was her.

She felt the magic pulsating within her, felt it growing stronger and stronger, penetrating and filling her, every cell, every vein, every vessel of her body. She felt warm, as if strong arms were wrapped around her.

But she didn't need the magic inside her, as wonderful as it felt. At a command from Daphne's mind, the magic poured out of her, from every pore of her body. Like long, thin, invisible fingers, the magic now moved towards the dragon and the clutch of eggs, invisible to all but herself.

Invisible to the spectators. To them, it must have looked as if she stood at the edge of the arena, wand raised, doing nothing. A buzz of voices reached her, some laughed at her, but nothing could be more indifferent to her. Why should she show the blind what colour was? They would soon see what a wonderful picture she was painting here – metaphorically speaking.

Daphne's magical fingers moved closer and closer to their target, and now Daphne could see with her magical senses what had been hidden from her real eyes. The Golden Egg was covered in a multitude of brightly shimmering filaments, like a fly in a spider's web from which there was no escape. Unless a determined knight came to rescue the fly from its plight.

Not even the dragon noticed when Daphne's magical fingers brushed past her. Her yellowish, suspicious eyes remained fixed on the rows of spectators, from whom mocking laughter grew louder and louder.

Her magic fingers reached the protections around the Golden Egg. Whereas the enchantment around the portrait of Sirius' mother in Grimmauld Place had felt cold, and the enchantment around the Goblet of Fire had felt deep, hot and ancient, this magic felt somehow... chilly and warm at the same time, without being cold or hot. It reminded Daphne most of Dumbledore's Age Line. Who knew, maybe her Headmaster had had a hand in this as well.

As if this thought were an added incentive, Daphne's own magical fingers began to pull at the strings of the weave with all the skill they had acquired by now. Yes, she had learned a lot since her first attempt. And so it was no problem for her to feel her way along bit by bit, pulling on one thread here and there, while holding or tightening another thread elsewhere, all in order to make progress bit by bit, thread by thread, knot by knot. Slowly but inexorably, the spider's web of magic threads began to unravel.

Daphne didn't know how much time had passed, losing a little sense of time each time she was caught up in the flow of magic, but eventually the Golden Egg lay bare before her. The spider's web was no longer attached to it. The fly was free to be saved – or eaten.

She opened her eyes.

From one moment to the next, Daphne was again bombarded by sounds and noises. Loud laughter and taunting shouts echoed off to her side, and over it all, the booming voice of Ludo Bagman.

"...very strange indeed. Perhaps someone should remind her of her task before she takes root there. But the Horntail really is a fearsome opponent, so many others would probably be scared too, let alone a fourteen-year-old girl who..."

Daphne's black wand sliced through the winter air as she thought victoriously: Accio Golden Egg.

And sure enough, the Golden Egg rose from its clutch and flew towards Daphne. The Horntail roared and reared up to catch it, but she was too slow, and the chain on her leg slowed her down. The egg flew past the dragon and straight into Daphne's outstretched hand. It felt pleasantly cool. A satisfied smile played on Daphne's lips.

She made an exaggerated mock bow to the stunned audience, then whirled around and headed for the exit of the arena, where she could already feel Harry waiting for her.

Loud murmurs erupted behind her.

Harry hugged her as soon as she passed the tent entrance. "That was amazing!" he exclaimed. "You are amazing, Daph! Have I ever told you that?"

His girlfriend just smiled at him. "Once or twice. But I can't hear it out of your mouth often enough."

With that, she kissed him on the mouth, not bloody, just warm and nice. Harry hugged her even tighter, running his hand through her smooth, silky hair. Her scent, a mixture of pine needles with a hint of lemongrass, reached his nose. Merlin, he loved this scent! He sighed contentedly, and Daphne also made sounds a little like a cat purring. Through their bond, Harry could sense how happy she was.

An amused chuckle sounded next to them. Reluctantly, the two teenagers pulled away to find Professor McGonagall's amused gaze fixed on them.

"That was very impressive indeed," their teacher said, her voice completely matter-of-fact and calm despite her mirth, perhaps tinged with just a hint of... admiration? "No one thought what you've achieved was possible, Miss Greengrass, absolutely no one. But let's see how many points you get for it."

Together they turned to watch the scoring. The judges had stood up in the stands.

Once again it was Madame Maxime's turn to be first. A long silver thread came out of the tip of her wand, forming the number ten.

Harry put his arm around Daphne and held her close. She cuddled up to him, beaming with pride and satisfaction.

Then came Fudge. But he only let the number six go up in the air. Harry tensed. What an idiot. It was frightening how little you needed to know about magic to become Minister for Magic.

It was Dumbledore's turn next. His white beard blew lightly in the wind as a glowing ten rose into the air above him. Again, Harry could not make out the details of his headmaster's face.

"I'm sure he was pleased that he's no longer the only one whose supposedly insurmountable enchantment has been overcome by you, Miss Greengrass," Professor McGonagall said. "I'm sure some Ministry wizards will have a lot to listen to from their bosses today."

"So he didn't cast the spell around the Golden Egg?" asked Daphne.

"No. He stayed out of it this time."

"That's unfortunate. I would have liked to... ah, never mind."

They watched as Ludo Bagman got up and awarded eight points. Then it was Karkaroff's turn, and if Harry thought the foreign headmaster had already embarrassed himself with his points, he was sadly mistaken. Only the number three shot out of Karkaroff's wand, the lowest score of the entire first task, as Professor McGonagall loudly complained.

Harry did the maths in his head and looked at Daphne to see that she was doing the same. She had a total of thirty-seven points. Together with his forty-one points, that made seventy-eight. Divided by two, that made thirty-nine points for both of them.

"That puts you both in second place," McGonagall said. Her voice sounded a little sour. "Mr Krum leads by one point, but you have five points more than Miss Delacour."

Harry nodded his thanks to his Head of House. Daphne, on the other hand, was clearly disappointed. Her shoulders had slumped slightly and her eyes had lost their sparkle. Even her black hair seemed to have lost some of its lustre, although that might have been due to the light. Still, Harry felt a pang in his heart to see his girlfriend so disappointed.

He squeezed her hand gently. "You were still amazing, Daph. Fudge and Karkaroff are just too stupid to realise what you've just done."

"Exactly," Professor McGonagall agreed. "Don't take it too much to heart. And take fifty points for, um..." She hesitated. "Oh, who cares. House points are overrated anyway. But my point is, for those who know a little more about magic, you, Miss Greengrass, have clearly shown today what a capable witch you already are, and I can't imagine where you'll be in just a few years." She looked at Harry. "That goes for you too, Mr Potter. That was magic from both of you that is far beyond your years, oh, what am I saying, far beyond the vast majority of wizards, regardless of age."

Whether it was Harry's words or McGonagall's, Daphne arched her back and raised her chin proudly. "Thank you, Professor. I appreciate the praise, especially coming from a witch as powerful as you."

"You two have long since surpassed me, I think, but it will be a pleasure to follow your progress."

Daphne didn't disagree, just gave her teacher a quick nod. Harry, too, had lost the desire to speak and was content with a nod.

Professor McGonagall must have noticed the depressed mood herself, because after another compliment and the advice not to worry too much about the score, she took her leave. But only a few seconds after the Transfiguration teacher had left the tent, two others poked their heads in.

"Hey, you two," Ron said, walking towards them. Hermione walked behind him. "That was... wow, I don't even know what to say. Harry, you took out a bloody dragon with nothing more than... what? Two flicks of your wand?" His friend looked at him, clearly astonished.

"I know. Next time I'll try to do it with just one."

Ron laughed as if he'd made a great joke. Harry was happy to let him believe it.

Hermione's face was at least as astonished, if not more so. She stared at Daphne. "How did you do that?" she breathed, "It's supposed to be impossible to summon the egg."

"Not to me," Daphne said flatly. But Harry saw the hint of a smile play around her lips.


Shortly afterwards, as the four of them walked back to the castle together, Daphne whispered to him so that only he could hear, "The Gryffindor witches really know how to lift my spirits today. First McGonagall and now Hermione. Who would have thought?"

Harry put his arm around her. "Yes, times do change and miracles do happen. First McGonagall and now Hermione – Daphne Greengrass actually praising other witches who aren't called Morgana or Circe. Who would have thought?"

"What can I say? Credit where credit is due."

"But especially to you."

"That's what you said."

"But you don't disagree."

Daphne just gave him a meaningful smile.

Harry was about to pause to brush one of her black strands out of her face – and perhaps kiss her deeply – when Ron's voice rang out in front of them. He and Hermione were standing just a few feet away from them, turning to face them.

"Hey, you two lovebirds. What's with the eggs, by the way? Bagman said earlier that if you open them, they contain clues for the second task."

Harry and Daphne exchanged looks. His girlfriend just shrugged, so he took the Golden Egg out of his bag. It still felt pleasantly cool in his hand, not cold, despite the early winter chill around them. He could almost feel the egg's magic crackling on his skin.

Now that he was holding it again, he couldn't help but feel a certain curiosity. Ron and Hermione, and even Daphne, watched curiously as well as he slid his fingernails into the groove that ran around the belly of the egg and opened it.

The egg was hollow and completely empty – but no sooner had Harry opened it than a terribly loud, bloodcurdling scream reached their ears. It was horrible, even worse than Uncle Vernon's singing in the shower. And not a word of the scream could be understood, if there were any words. Somehow the screeching reminded Harry of birds. Mad, rabid birds. Not noble crows.

"Close it! Close it!" Hermione cried, her hands pressed over her ears.

He closed the egg again. The silence that followed was balm to his ears.

"What the hell was that?" asked Ron. His face had gone pale. He shuddered. "That sounded terrible. Like someone was being tortured."

"It didn't sound like torture," Daphne said.

Harry nodded. It certainly hadn't been torture, that sounded different. But what else had it been? How had the clue to the next task been hidden in that horrible cacophony of what might have been rabid birds?

"We could do some research in the library, see if we can find anything about horrible noises," Hermione suggested. "Or we could ask Professor Lupin or Hagrid. If the first task was about a magical creature, the second might go in a similar direction."

"We can do that," Harry said. "But would you please leave me alone with my girlfriend for a moment before we go back to the common room?"

Ron laughed at his words, the way he often laughed now after their conversation on Halloween. It wasn't a fake laugh, but it wasn't one that came from the heart either. "Because you two are so rarely alone. But don't wait too long, Harry, or they'll have the party without you."

After Ron and Hermione had gone a little further, Harry turned back to Daphne. She had raised an eyebrow in question. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"

"Anything else would surprise me greatly," Harry said.

"So midnight tonight then?"

He nodded. "Tonight at a ghostly hour. Sounds good to me."

At midnight they would be chasing the ghosts of their own desires. He could hardly wait.

Later, when Harry stepped through the Fat Lady's portal with Ron and Hermione, all of Gryffindor was waiting for him. His classmates cheered, clapped and whistled until the walls shook. There were piles of cakes and jugs of pumpkin juice and butterbeer on every table and windowsill, red and gold garlands hung from the ceiling, and dozens of cardboard dragons flew through the air, spitting fire and trying to set each other on fire, occasionally raining soot and ashes down on the celebrating crowd. Not that anyone minded.

The atmosphere was exuberant and joyous. And Harry was surrounded by a veritable throng of admirers and congratulators, as it seemed that every single Gryffindor wanted to tell him to his face how great they thought he was.

"Harry, that was bloody amazing!" said Dean, slapping him on the back. "The way you made short work of that dragon like it was a naughty pet!"

"And where did you learn those spells anyway?" asked Seamus. "I'm sure I didn't read anything like that in my school books. It was really wicked stuff."

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Of course you read it in your books. It was just on a much higher level than the transformations and conjurations we've tried so far."

"Does that mean we'll be able to do the same as Harry one day?"

Hermione glanced at Harry for a moment. He smiled and nodded for her to continue if she wished.

"It's certainly possible in theory," she said thoughtfully. "Just as Crabbe and Goyle should theoretically be able to catch up with Professor Dumbledore eventually, given enough time, practice and determination. It would take a thousand years or so, and Dumbledore would have to become demented, but theoretically it would be possible."

A laugh went round the room as Seamus wore an offended expression. But he didn't seem to be entirely serious, for a moment later he joined in the others' laughter. Harry took a satisfied sip from his bottle of butterbeer as Parvati and Lavender joined them.

"Harry, you were just fantastic!" exclaimed Parvati enthusiastically. "I always knew you could do it!"

Lavender smiled at him too. "Yes, you were so brave out there, Harry. We could hardly stay in our seats!"

Harry felt a slight uneasiness as Parvati stepped even closer to him, looking at him admiringly. She played with a strand of his hair and leaned towards him as if to tell him a secret.

"I must confess, Harry," she began in a breathy tone that quickened his heartbeat. He felt her breath trail down his neck. "I must confess that I couldn't think of anything but you the whole time."

Harry's eyes widened in surprise. Did Parvati want to –

Before he could finish the thought, Parvati suddenly put her hand on his arm and smiled seductively at him. "Why don't we go outside where it's quieter and I'll show you how much I've been thinking about you."

This was too much for Harry. He jerked his arm up and pushed Parvati away from him. "What on earth?" he shouted. "What the hell are you doing, Parvati?"

It had grown quiet around them as people realised what had just happened. Several heads turned towards them.

Parvati staggered back before regaining her balance. Her eyes narrowed and an irritated expression crossed her face as she registered his rebuff. "Oh, come on, Harry," she said, her voice not so friendly now. "What's wrong with a bit of fun? You don't have to be so serious all the time."

Harry felt his confusion turn to anger. His eyes narrowed as well, and the warmth of the butterbeer inside him became an intense heat. "You know very well I'm with Daphne."

A fake laugh came from Parvati's mouth. She made a dismissive gesture with her hand. "Please, I'm much better looking than she is."

"In your dreams, perhaps."

Now Parvati's face turned angry and she clenched her hands into fists. The eyes of the entire common room were still on them. "You're blind, Harry Potter," she hissed. "Anyone here would agree that I'm a thousand times better catch than Greengrass. We all know she's nothing but a greedy gold-digger after your fame and your gold."

Harry had his wand in his hand even before he had made the conscious decision. The tip pointed at Parvati's face, whose eyes widened. Harry's insides felt like they were on fire. "If I were you, I'd be very careful what you say next."

The tension in the room was almost palpable. Parvati opened her mouth and at the same time Harry clutched his wand tighter, ready to defend Daphne against any further insults – but before the situation could escalate, Neville suddenly stepped forward and tried to defuse the situation.

"Hey guys, let's all just calm down, shall we?" he said in a calm, only slightly trembling voice, looking anxiously between Harry and Parvati. "I'm sure it was just a stupid misunderstanding."

"He's right, we should all keep a cool head," Ron agreed, standing with Hermione between Harry and Parvati. He pressed Harry's wand down and flinched when his hand touched the wood, as if he had touched a hot stove. "I'm sure Parvati just put it badly. We all know how much you love Daphne, Harry, and how protective you are when it comes to her."

He had spoken the last words to Parvati, who must have realised how close she was to burning her hands by playing with fire – or her face, her hair, her whole body. Then she would no longer be under the mad delusion that she looked better than Daphne, Harry thought. Anyway, Parvati lowered her eyes and turned around.

Lavender joined her and with quick steps the two girls left the common room and headed for their dormitory. The tension in the room slowly dissipated and the conversations began again. But Harry kept seeing people turning to him and whispering about him behind their backs.

He let out a sigh. He couldn't wait to get out of here. Couldn't it be midnight already?

It had taken longer than Harry would have liked, but curfew had finally come. When his housemates were finally asleep, he had snuck out under his Invisibility Cloak, and even now, as he sat by the lake, he was still wearing it. It was a glorious November night, the air was cool and clear, and not a cloud obscured the light of the stars and the moon as they shone peacefully on the earth. Their rays danced on the glistening surface of the lake, which looked like a liquid mirror of silver and white.

It was so bright, in fact, that he could read the parchment on his lap without casting a spell. He had read the text once before, in the Blacks' library at Grimmauld Place, but he wanted to recall it.

A mystery hidden deep in the shadows of wizarding history is the Impetus, an ancient and sinister form of blood magic, researched only by the most ambitious and ruthless wizards and witches. The Impetus acts as a catalyst within the mage's body, transforming the life power gained from the pain of others, or one's own, into even greater magical power. To achieve this effect, the Impetus must come from a being wholly imbued with magic. Some historical accounts claim that the eyes of a basilisk, the lungs of a dragon or the heart of a unicorn have been used as the source of an Impetus, but it is difficult to verify their veracity today. What is certain is that the price that ambitious wizards had to pay for such overwhelming power was always high and relentless...

The cry of a crow rang out above Harry's head. Moments later, a bird he was all too familiar with landed in front of him, with shimmering feathers and deep amber eyes. The contours of the crow lengthened, blurred and distorted, like wisps of smoke in the wind. Finally, it was no longer the crow standing before him, but Daphne.

Harry looked at her. The moonlight made her skin silvery, her dark hair even darker and her lips as seductive as fine wine. He liked the colour of the night on her. Then again, he liked her at any hour of the day.

"Good evening, my beloved," Daphne said, her eyes fixed directly on the spot where he sat invisible.

"You can see me?"

"Not see, but feel. In here." Daphne put her hand over her heart. "You'll never get away from me again."

Harry laughed. "That would have sounded really creepy coming from anyone else."

"And I'd never say that to anyone else."

Her words made Harry grin. He got up from his seat and took off his cloak. But instead of putting it away, he went over to Daphne and this time pulled the cloak over them both. From one moment to the next, they both disappeared from the visible world.

"I'm really excited, Harry," Daphne whispered to him. Her breath slid along his ear, leaving goose bumps behind... and unlike Parvati earlier, this time it was a pleasant feeling. More than pleasant.

He smiled again. "Let's go then."

They left the lake behind and walked towards the Forbidden Forest. They walked close together, for they were two people under a cloak that was meant for only one, but neither of them minded their physical closeness, on the contrary. It was only the slow steps they had to take that tested their patience.

Harry could feel Daphne's heart beating fast and hard, as if it wanted to break out of her chest like a bird out of a cage. He could also feel himself getting more and more excited the closer they got to their destination. He could even feel the magical auras now, the immense life power in front of him, as clear as a beacon in the night, if you had eyes to see, for the four dragons were beings imbued with magic through and through.

But it was a while before they heard anything. Some distance ahead, men were shouting and screaming wildly, drowned out only by the bone-shattering roar of the dragons they had heard earlier in the day. Goose bumps ran down Harry's back again.

They rounded a last row of trees and then it appeared before them – a huge enclosure, fenced in with heavy wooden planks, containing the four dragons of the first task. Two of the dragons, the Swedish Short-Snout and the Welsh Green, lay comparatively still on the ground. Only their tails hit the ground irregularly, shaking it as they watched the other two dragons. The Hungarian Horntail roared as she clawed at the wooden planks with her claws and mouth in an attempt to destroy them, but the wood must have been magically strengthened to withstand the mighty dragon's fury, at least for now. The loudest roar, however, came from the Chinese Fireball, who crouched on the ground like a collapsed red mushroom, spewing cloud after cloud of fire into the air.

Several dozen wizards scurried around the enclosure like busy ants. Many of them whirled their wands around to reinforce the enclosure's defences, and the air crackled with magic that Harry could almost taste on his tongue. The wizards were keeping a good distance from the dragons, though, and when one of them got a moment too close, the Swedish Short-Snout snapped at him and almost bit his head off.

"Careful, Weasley," another called to the wizard, who quickly backed away. "They're not calming down at all."

"No wonder, after what they've been through today. Bloody Ministry bigwigs."

"And bloody champions. No scruples, no pity. The Chinese will kill us for what Potter did to the Fireball. It will take months for the wounds to fully heal..."

The voices faded, but the next wizards were already approaching from the other direction. Harry's eyes swept over the enclosure and the surrounding area, an uncomfortable feeling spreading through him as he realised the situation. And the bitter truth.

Beside him, Daphne drew her wand. She took a step forward and – Harry grabbed her arm.

"What are you doing?" he whispered.

"We need to get closer to them to get a lung. Our Impetus. We –"

"Do you have a plan?" He pointed to the enclosure. "There are dozens of witnesses. We'd have to take them all out at once. That's far too risky!"

Daphne froze. Her eyes swept over the lively scene before them, the commotion and the busy dragon tamers. "We could..."

"What, Daph? Kill them?" Harry breathed in heavily. He pushed her wand hand down as he wrapped the other around her waist to hold her close. "It's too dangerous, Daph. All our plans would be ruined if we failed. If we were caught."

Daphne bit her lips. Her disappointment was clearly visible, even more so than before after the task. But you could also see it rattling around in her head.

In the end, she seemed to have come to the same conclusion as him. She sighed and nodded slightly. "It would have been too nice..."

"We'll find another way, I'm sure."

"Because the eyes of a basilisk, the lungs of a dragon or the heart of a unicorn are so easy to find..."

"We'll find a way," Harry repeated. "We just have to be patient."

Daphne smiled at him mirthlessly. "Small steps, right? Even though I'd like nothing more than to sprint off and leave everyone behind."

He took her hand in his as they walked away from the enclosure and began the long walk back to the castle. This had been a bit of a flop, he thought. The whole day had been a flop. But they really had no other choice... here and now, they would have gained nothing by pursuing their goal in a foolish manner. They had only much, much to lose. And they had done that more than enough in the past. Never again.

Daphne intertwined her fingers with his.

They had been walking through the dark forest for a few minutes – the enclosure and the hustle and bustle long gone by now – when Harry suddenly caught sight of something. A rustling, followed by a movement in the undergrowth.

It was as if fate was making up for today's disappointments, he thought with a smile. He knew just how to lift his girlfriend's spirits. And his own, too.

Harry's wand hissed through the night as he thought: Stupefy.

A red flash lit up the darkness and shot into the undergrowth. There was a loud squeak, but only for a moment, then silence. Daphne had stopped beside him. She gave him a curious look.

Harry's wand whizzed through the air again and this time something moved. A large, fat boar flew out of the undergrowth towards them. It was stunned and unable to move. Only its eyes flickered with fear.

"Is that for me?" Daphne asked.

Harry nodded. "I think we could both use some live meat to blow off some steam. It's been a long day."

An affectionate expression spread across Daphne's pretty face. She leaned over and kissed him gently on the cheek. "Go on then, my selfless hero."

The gaze of the dead boar lying on the ground before them seemed to bore straight into Harry's as they stood in the Room of Requirement later. The animal's eyes were wide open, the yellowish whites distorted by the ugly red of burst veins, forever a testament to the horror and pain of its last moments in this world.

He looked away, panting heavily. Daphne beside him mirrored his heavy breathing, but a serene smile graced her lips. She delicately brushed a strand of hair from her sweaty face.

"That was ... intense," she said.

Harry managed a faint smile. "So you feel better now?"

"Definitely. It was liberating. But now that we've got that out of the way, there's something else you need to tell me, Mr Potter." She met his eyes, one of her dark brows raised in question. "What was going on earlier, when your feelings were so troubled? Before we met. I could feel it all the way to the dungeons."

Harry hesitated for a moment, but then he told her because he didn't want to keep any secrets from her. Not one. And so he told her about the party in the Gryffindor common room, about the congratulations and about how Parvati had tried to make a move on him. He told her how Parvati had insulted her and –

"And then you defended my honour?" Daphne asked.

He nodded. "Of course I did. Nobody... I mean, no one has the right to say that about you. I won't allow it."

Instead of responding, Daphne simply gave him a radiant smile that sent warmth coursing through Harry's veins. Then she closed the distance between them, her eyes now shimmering with a familiar greenish glow, like emerald dust dancing in a sunlit pond. Standing on tiptoe, she kissed him passionately, her fingers tangling in his hair as if she never wanted to let him go.


The next time Harry saw Parvati – at breakfast in the Great Hall the next morning – her skin was white as snow and she was trembling all over as she kept giving Daphne frightened looks.

At least she stayed away from him after that, but unfortunately the same couldn't be said for the other girls whose interest he seemed to have aroused with his performance in the first task. And things only got worse when the Yule Ball was announced shortly afterwards...