Unofficial Portkey Archive

Always and Forever by Lorelover

Always and Forever


Always and Forever


Disclaimer: Harry Potter, and all the characters associated there with belong to JK Rowling, and Scholastic. Also, any similarities to any other work is unintentional. I make no profit from this story. I wrote it, just for fun.



Chapter 10

There Be Dragons


The week had gone by rather uneventfully, with only an occasional snide remark, usually from a Slytherin. Ron had been fairly quiet, and so had the twins. For Ron that was a good thing, however with the twins, it was usually a sign to be on the lookout for a prank.

Harry and Hermione had finished their morning workout and run, and had settled down to do some school work. By lunch, they were fairly well ahead so decided to take the rest of the day off and just relax.

Sitting in the Great Hall, Harry slowly nibbled away at his lunch, while Hermione sat across from him reading something for fun. Harry stared at her for a moment, `Something for fun, that could be anything from fiction to... advanced Arithmancy,' he thought with a smile.

Sensing his eyes on her, Hermione looked up, "What are you smiling about?"

"You…you love to read."

Hermione raised a brow and smirked, "And you're just figuring this out now?"

Harry shrugged, "No…I um…"

"Hey guys," Neville announced as he sat down next to Hermione, effectively saving Harry from his not so articulate answer.

Turning, Hermione greeted him, "Hello Neville, what have you been up to this morning?"

"Well…unlike you two, I slept in for a while, and kind of hung around the common room. Oh, and I had a nice little talk with Ginny."

Harry snorted.

"Ignore him," Hermione said, "what did she say?"

"Umm, that every muscle in her body was sore, and even though she still thinks you're both mental, she's going to keep at it for now."

"Got to give her credit," Hermione said looking at Harry.

"Yeah, I s'pose, but it's only been a week." Then looking back at Neville, Harry asked, "So, you've been in the common room all morning, or did you sleep in that late?"

"Pretty late yeah," Neville answered, "but actually, I spent the last hour helping Luna look for her shoes."

"She lost her shoes?" Hermione asked, a little surprised a girl Luna age would be so careless.

No, Nargles took them… and… ah," Neville started turning red, "that is… well Luna said it was Nargles," he finished quickly.

Hermione just raised a brow slightly and nodded, "Oh…" Automatically accepting Neville's explanation without further question since it involved Luna.

"Excuse me Miss Granger."

Hermione turned around to find her Head of House behind her. "Hello Professor," she answered with an easy smile.

While Hermione was busy with McGonagall, Harry leaned towards Neville, "Hey, I've been meaning to ask," he said, his voice low so only Neville would hear, "what's up with you and Luna? If you don't mind me asking?"

Neville turned red as he squirmed in his seat, "It's okay Harry. I…Ah. I think she's nice."

Harry nodded, "Ah, I see."

"It's not like that Harry, we're just friends. I mean…I like her and all, and she great to hang around with, but…"

"You're just friends…right."

"Right, exactly," Neville nodded.

Harry was about to add something else, when something McGonagall said caught his attention.

"I was wondering if I might have a word with you tonight after dinner?" McGonagall asked in a rather serious voice.

Hermione quickly racked her brain, but could find no apparent reason for a private meeting. "Yes, of course Professor. May I ask what this is about?"

McGonagall hated to alarm her, but she didn't want to give anything away. So with a gentle voice she said, "Miss Granger, I assure you, you're not in any trouble. However, I'm afraid it will be a delicate conversation, and I would rather have it in private."

Hermione was still a little concerned, but answered, "I understand ma'am."

McGonagall gave a slight tip of her head, "Thank you," then looking at Neville and Harry, "thank you for your patience gentlemen, good day."

Harry raised an eyebrow, "Gentlemen?"

"Obviously, she forgot who she was talking to," Neville said. Causing both him and Harry to burst out laughing.

Hermione rolled her eyes, then smiled, "You guys are terrible." Unfortunately, it only made them laugh harder.


"Good evening Miss Granger, please have a seat, and thank you for being so punctual."

Hermione sat down in a comfortable chair across from McGonagall, a small tea table between them. "Good evening professor," she said, growing more nervous by the second.

McGonagall sighed, "Miss Granger, I can see how upset you are, please try to calm yourself. This has more to do with Mr. Potter than you." It was the wrong thing to say, as Hermione went from mildly nervous, to visibly worried.

"I don't understand ma'am, if this is about Harry... has he done something..."

"Miss Granger, goodness, how can I help you, help him, if you will not calm down?" McGonagall said cryptically.

Hermione took a deep breath, "I'm sorry Professor, it's just... please, go ahead."

"What do you know of the third task?" McGonagall really didn't think any of the students would know anything, but with Harry and his friends, one never knew.

"Nothing, just like the last task. We assumed they'd keep it secret, until the very last moment."

The we part didn't go unnoticed, as McGonagall poured two cups of tea, and offered one to Hermione. "What I'm about to tell you must remain a complete secret. You cannot tell anyone, except Mr. Potter, and even then, you must ask for his word of confidence as well. Do I have your word?"

Hermione studied the face of her favorite professor. She had seen that look before. It was the look McGonagall wore, when she didn't think Harry would pass the last gate of the second task. "It's bad, isn't it?" She asked distantly.

"I only found out myself this morning, after breakfast..."

"How bad!" Hermione interrupted.

McGonagall hesitated, but didn't chastise her student for her rudeness, "Bad... quite frankly, I don't know how it could be worse." Noticing the deepening fear in Hermione's eyes, she went on before she could interrupt again. "I had to take a magical oath, we all did, so as not to warn the champions. I can't tell Mr. Potter or you what the third task is, but because the oath was poorly worded... I can recommend some things to work on. That is why I asked to speak with you. I wouldn't even have been able to say this much to Mr. Potter directly. And I think he's going to need all the help he can get, so naturally, I thought of you.

Hermione smiled briefly before the gravity of the situation returned. Turning serious again, she stated frankly, "You have my word. Now what can I do to help?"

McGonagall spent the next hour telling Hermione the characteristics of the spells and charms that she thought Harry should try to learn. In the end, all Hermione knew for sure was that Harry was up against something powerful, that it was probably spell resistant, and had something to do with the fire. And because McGonagall also felt the situation was serious enough, she gave both her and Harry unrestricted access to the library, and they could skip any classes they felt necessary.

With their meeting concluded, Hermione was half way to the door, ready to leave, when she stopped. She didn't turn around, she just stood there staring blankly ahead, debating rather or not, she really wanted to ask one last question. The very question, that had been bothering her for some time now.

McGonagall watched and waited patiently. Knowing her student well, she knew Hermione now knew just how dangerous the Triwizard Tournament really was, the next task in particular. She was also fairly certain what Hermione was struggling with. Part of her hoped, she would just say goodnight and leave, without asking.



"How many?

"How many…" McGonagall hesitated.

"Professor Dumbledore said, `That students had died…' but I can't find any records in the library."

McGonagall briefly considered pleading ignorant. `No,' she thought, `she deserves the truth.' "I'm not surprised you couldn't… it's not a particularly bright spot in our history." Sitting down, she closed her eyes and said in a flat, quiet voice, "Too many…Far too many. In nearly every Tournament, one or more, lost their lives…while looking for eternal glory. Sadly, the only thing eternal… was their death."

After a long moment of silence, Hermione took a shuddering breath, and said, "Thank you Professor… for being honest. Goodnight," and left, without ever turning around.


Hermione thought about going straight to the library after her meeting with McGonagall, but decided it was already getting late, and she knew Harry would be waiting up for her. She also knew, that she was both too tired and upset, to get any real work done.

Stepping through the portrait hole, Hermione spotted Harry sound asleep on the couch with an open book in his lap. She smiled at the sight, `He's trying so hard.' She gently sat down next to him and touched his arm, "Harry," she called softly.

A moment later, one eye cracked open, slowly followed by the other. "Hey, you're back. How did it go? Everything all right?" He asked.

"Yeah, I'm fine. You, on the other hand are obviously tired, you shouldn't have waited up."

Harry was awake enough now to tell she was holding something back. After studying her for a moment, he said, "Hermione, you knew I would wait up," smiling, he added, "just as you would for me." Then setting up a little straighter he asked more seriously, "Tell me, what's wrong?"

Hermione smiled while shaking her head, "I should know by now, I can't keep anything from you."

Harry gave a nod, "That's right, now spill."

"McGonagall knows about the third task." That got Harry's attention. Speaking softly but in a serious tone Hermione went on, "She can't talk to you about it at all, but she was able to tell me a few things."

Harry looked confused, "I don't understand, why you but not me?"

"She had to take an oath not to tell you anything, but apparently it was poorly worded, enough so, that she was able to give me some hints. A loophole, so to speak."

"So... what's it about?"

Hermione rung her hands, "I don't know exactly, she couldn't tell me. All she was able to do, was give me some advice on what to help you study."

Harry nodded again, but was starting to get frustrated with all the security. Looking up he noticed her worrying her lower lip, and she looked to be near tears. His frustration quickly turned to concern, and he turned more towards her, "Hermione, what's wrong?"

Seeing his concern for her, she lost control and pulled him into her arms. "Oh Harry," she sobbed, "she said it's bad, really bad... I'm so scared for you. She gave me lots of hints, but... but I don't know where to start. If I mess this up... I'll…"

"You won't mess anything up. Besides, it's not your responsibility, remember?"

Pulling back a little to look into his eyes, Hermione voiced her concern, "Harry, students have died in this... Tournament."

"That was a long time ago."

"But it still happened, and it was only a long time ago because the last Tournament was a long time ago." Then looking down she continued in a near whisper, "I can't let that happen."

Even though she didn't say she was talking about him, Harry knew she was. Ducking his own head down and looked up into her eyes he asked, "I? What happened to we?" When Hermione returned a weak smile, he went on, "We'll… figured this out, and just like before, with your help, we'll get through this.

Hermione raised her head, and after taking a deep breath, nodded.

"But I want you to remember something. This Tournament wasn't your idea. You... didn't get me into this. So regardless of what happens... you are not responsible... okay?"

Hermione wanted to object, but she knew he was right, "Okay."

Harry smiled, "Good," while giving her hand a squeeze. "Now, it's late and I'll bet you are as knackered as me. Let's call it a night and turn in, we can talk about this tomorrow."


The following day a calmer Hermione explained everything to Harry. They spent most of the day in the library looking up spells, trying to determine what he should try to learn. They considered both the complexity and the length of time available to them, to narrow down the long list. Even with all the uncertainty, the two of them managed to stay calm, mostly by keeping busy. Hermione was glad Harry wasn't in a panic, that would have only made matters worse. How he was able to stay focused was a mystery to her, and if she was honest with herself, she'd have to admit it was his influence that kept her own panic at bay. Little did she know, all that was about to change all too soon.

After their Monday morning workout and run, Harry and Hermione decided to skip their Herbology class, giving them the entire morning off. They headed down to the lake to start practicing some of the new spells they had found. Just before lunch, their impromptu practice was interrupted.


Both stopped what they were doing, and looked over. Standing about twenty feet away up the bank was Ron. Between being so busy, and Ron not speaking with them, they'd hardly seen him, except for classes. Hermione couldn't help but notice the tension rise. It didn't help that Harry never took his eyes off Ron as he watched him with growing suspicion. Although he was with Dean, Ron looked nervous, as if he wasn't sure this was a good idea. As soon as he had her attention, he waved Hermione over.

Hermione raised a brow then looked back at Harry, "Be right back." Wondering what this was all about, she wasted no time and quickly walked over to Ron. "Well?" Her look made it clear he'd better get to the point.

Ron spoke softly, almost in a whisper, as if, what he had to say was a secret, "Tell Harry, Hagrid wants to see him."

Hermione stared at Ron in disbelief. He wanted her to deliver a message to Harry! The same Harry who just happened to be standing right behind her. "Unbelievable," she grumbled, then turned around and walked the short distance back to Harry.

Now it was Harry's turn to raise a brow. Between the smirk on Ron's face and the scowl on Hermione's, Harry couldn't wait to hear what she had to say.

Hermione stopped in front of him and looked down while pinching the bridge of her nose. A second later after a sigh, she said, "Ron said…" emphasizing said, as she glanced over her shoulder at the red head in question, "Hagrid wants to see you."

Harry's other brow went up, "That's it?" Then seeing Hermione start to chew on her lip, he added, "sorry." Stepping around Hermione, he addressed Ron directly with a glare, "That's it?" Getting no reply he when on, "That's all he said! When Ron? Now? After class? When does he want to see me? Is it important?"

Ron glared back, but didn't say a word. Turning his attention to Hermione, he started to wave her over again.

Hermione couldn't believe how immaturely Ron was acting. She put her hands on her hips, and stomped her foot on the ground. Then with a huff she shouted, "I'm not an owl Ron!"

"Fine!" Ron yelled back, then stormed off with a smirking Dean following close behind.

Suddenly, Hermione felt bad, she had chased Ron away before he had given Harry any answers. Slowly, she turned around expecting to see him fuming. Instead, she got a surprise, "What are you smiling about?"

"Obviously you're not an owl," joked Harry, "you hate to fly!" Seeing her smile he finished, "Break almost over, and we have him for our next class anyway. I guess if it was really important, Hagrid would have come himself…right?"

Relived, Hermione nodded, "Right."


It turned out, Hagrid had been just as vague, Meet me at midnight, and bring your cloak, was he had said. It was now almost one in the morning, and Hermione had to fight to stay awake. `I should have gone with him,' she thought, `you never know what…' The sound of the portrait hole closing broke her thoughts. A moment later Harry appeared out of thin air as he removed his cloak. Hermione could tell immediately something was wrong, very wrong. He was just standing there staring at nothing, pale as a ghost.

"Harry?" she asked cautiously. When he didn't respond, she jumped up and hurried over to him. Touching his arm, she tried again, Harry?" she said softly.

"Dragons!" Harry said in a detached voice, "the third task is dragons."

Hermione's hand flew to her mouth as she let out a horrified gasp. Eyes wide in shock, all she could say was, "Oh Harry!" Both stood in stunned silence for what seemed like hours. Finally, Hermione realized she needed to be strong for him, and forced herself to calm down. A few minutes later after leading him over to the couch by the fireplace, she had managed to calm Harry down as well.

"Harry, are you sure its dragons? I mean, could they be for something else?"

"No, they're for the third task," Harry said, "Hagrid said so. Don't know how they're involved exactly, but one way or another, we'll… I'll have to go up against one."

"There's more than one?"

"Yeah, they're four, one for each of us."

Hermione joined Harry in staring into the fire. Uneasiness filled the air, like a building static charge before a thunderclap. The mere thought of being near a dragon, brought on a cold sweat. Now all the hints and clues McGonagall had given her made sense. Now she knew why McGonagall had tried to help in the first place. Dragons… it was surreal, and unbelievable at the same time.

Hermione had to fight for control, as an overwhelming feeling of anxiety threatened to take over. She couldn't help but think of Harry. How her feeling must pale in comparison to his. If she was in a near panic, he must be feeling some sort of mortal terror. She wasn't going to add to his alarm. `Not here, not now, and certainly, not in front of him,' she thought, with more courage than she felt.

After promising to help him as much as she could tomorrow, they both turned in for the night. Once finally alone in her bed with the curtain closed and a silencing spell in place, Hermione allowed her mask to drop, and she cried herself to sleep.

Settling down in his bed, Harry stared at the canopy. He couldn't help but think how foolish he'd been to think he could actually compete with the older students. `A dragon,' he had no idea where to even begin. `Thank Merlin for Hermione…' Harry's thoughts turned in a new direction. `She's going to worry herself sick.' Harry vowed to himself; to try and not let that happen. He'd put on a brave face, even if he thought it was useless. Rolling over, Harry closed his eyes, tomorrow was sure to be a long day.


The next day at lunch, as Hermione sat anxiously waiting for Harry to join her, she thought back to Neville's comments in the Three Broomsticks a while back. Hermione wondered what Neville would say when he found out. Dragons…never in her wildest imagination, did Hermione think Dumbledore would allow any of his students to get anywhere near a dragon. She had always held him in high regards. Now, Hermione was beginning to think maybe, she had put too much faith in him. Dumbledore didn't know it, but he was quickly losing her trust.

Spotting Harry entering the Hall, she started fixing a plate for him. The first thing she noticed as he sat down next to her, was that he didn't look as lost as he did last night. The second, was his smile.

"Well, how did your meeting with Professor Moody go?" she asked while sliding his plate in front of him, "Some good news maybe?"

Harry looked at the plate, a chicken sandwich on wheat bread with just a pinch of pepper, and some chips…just the way he liked it. Looking up at Hermione he said, "Thanks,"

before taking a bit. Then after swallowing, "You know, he's not as scary up close, once you get to know him."

Hermione nodded, "Hmm."

"He asked what I was good at…flying, I told him." Harry laughed, "He said I should use my broom."

"But you're not allowed a broom Harry."

"That's what I said." Then pulling out his wand and wiggling his eyebrows, Harry asked, "Think you could teach me the Summoning Charm?"

Hermione's eye lit up with the possibilities, "Oh…yes of course, and I'm sure you can learn it in time."

Harry turned serious, "It's a long way Hermione, do you really think so?"

"Well we'll just have to start practicing to find out, won't we?"

As they continued to eat lunch, and talk about the possible limits of the charm, Cedric came in. Hermione noticed he looked a little disturbed, and as he walked past their table, he gave Harry a small nod. After he'd gone, she turned to Harry and asked, "Any idea what that was all about?"

Harry laughed, "Remember me… last night? I ran into Cedric in the court yard on my way here…I told him about the third task." After taking another bit he went on, "Madam Maxime was there when I found out, so I figure she would have told Fleur by now, and I am willing to bet Karkaroff has also told Viktor." Harry looked at her for a second, "You know Hagrid can't keep a secret."

Hermione looked back at Cedric; he did look quite unsettled. Turning back to Harry, she silently watched him eat as she considered his actions, `I shouldn't be so surprised, it's his nature. He doesn't care about winning the Tournament, he just wants things to be fair.'


Two days later a frustrated Harry sat down to dinner with his friends. He and Hermione had been practicing spells, mainly the Summoning Charm, all day. So far, the best Harry had been able to do, was to call his broom from across the room. Hermione had been just as frustrated, not at Harry, but at herself for not being able to help Harry improve.

Ginny nudged Neville to get his attention, and then ticked her head towards the distraught couple. They both knew that Harry and Hermione had been working especially hard the last couple of days, obviously, it wasn't going very well. She really wanted to go over and help somehow, but she didn't even know half the spells they were working on, let alone why. They had told her, that they had made a promise not to say anything to anyone. Besides, what could she offer that Hermione couldn't, except maybe flying, and she was sure Harry didn't need any help there.

Neville racked his brain, trying to come up with something to cheer them up. However, before anything came to mind, the Headmaster stood to make an announcement.

"It would seem that no matter how hard we try, Hogwarts is unable to keep anything from her students. If you have recently heard a rumor that involves dragons, then there is a very good chance it is true." Dumbledore paused to let the murmurs die down, "Alas, rumors can lead to all sorts of problems, so in an effort to avoid any such things, we have decided to tell you about the third task. This Saturday, our four champions will each face their very own dragon. Hidden within her clutch of eggs will be a fake. The champion's task will be to retrieve this fake, a golden egg, for it will contain the clues necessary to complete the fourth task. This must be done without harm to the dragon, or the real eggs."

Hermione was furious and made no effort to keep her voice down, "He's worried about the dragon getting hurt, about the eggs? What about the champions? This has got to be the most insane, asinine thing I've ever heard of!"

Harry wasn't sure whether or not Dumbledore heard her, but it did seem to give him pause. After Hermione's scathing outburst, Dumbledore turned and seem to be talking directly to him. "It may seem an impossible task, but as the Muggles like to say, `Where there's a will, there's a way.'" Dumbledore glanced around, then continued in a knowing voice, "Magic is all about will... and intent. However, that is not always enough. You must believe... believe that your intent, can accomplish your will." As he finished his last sentence, he again looked over at Harry. "I feel that with this news, nothing of significance will be accomplished in class tomorrow. Therefore, classes are canceled. I hope you will all use the extra time to your best advantage," finally, with his trademark eye twinkle in full force he concluded, "I hope that satisfies your curiosity, because that's all I have for tonight."

Hermione was still mad when she felt Harry grab her hand.

"Come on, I think I know what I'm doing wrong," and with that he pulled her from the Hall.

After hearing the unbelievable news, Luna abandoned her house table to join Neville. She hoped to offer Harry some comfort. Unfortunately, Harry and Hermione were already leaving as she sat down next to Neville and Ginny. Luna glanced at them both, but said nothing, since she didn't have any idea, what to say.

Ginny it seemed, wasn't quite so at lose for words, "Merlin's hairy bits… a bloody dragon?"

Several feet down the table, Ron stared at his sister. For the first time since Harry's name had come out of the cup, Ron wasn't laughing at Harry's situation. Ron knew a bit about dragons from his brother Charlie, and thinking about them took the color from his face. "Bloody hell," Ron said with a shaky voice.


Ignoring the rules, Hermione had made her way down to the champion's tent and to Harry. One look at him, and she was glad she came. Harry was pacing back and forth, and looked quite pale. He was on the edge, `who wouldn't be,' she thought. That's when she realized, he must have been hiding his feelings. He had been worried about her.

Throwing caution to the wind, Hermione pulled the tent flap further open and slipped in. Harry noticed her, just as she reached him and pulled him into a tight embrace.

Harry closed his eyes and hugged her back. He noticed with a smile, that it was getting easier and easier hold her. It only lasted a few seconds, before a camera flash startled them and they broke apart. It had been enough however to settle his nerves somewhat, and with just a brief look, he told her so. The look she returned, told him just as much, `You can do this.' Harry smiled and finally said, "I'll be careful," acknowledging her unspoken request.


Hermione sat in the stands scared to death. She prayed, that the hug she had just shared with Harry in the champion's tent would not be the last. She had wanted to stay; damn Dumbledore for chasing her away. Nobody there could help him like she could. He needed her…only she, and she alone could help him focus, help him relax. And now as she looked down, into this barren pit, Hermione realized that she needed him too.

It sat and waited, chained to a large rock in the center of a deep enclosure. Angry, and powerful, this great beast feared nothing, daring anyone, or anything to challenge it. Somehow, upon seeing a dragon for the first time, made it all the more real. She had read about them of course, but no amount of printed words could prepare you for the real thing. The beast was huge and terrifying. It had claws three times the size of a lions and teeth to match. Its tail was a weapon in its own right, as it thrashed around flinging large rocks and scarring the ground. Large hard scales protected its body, and of course... it could spew fire. It was the most deadly thing Hermione had ever seen. She honestly had no idea how Harry was going to be able to cope with this. Hermione was sure, that if she had to face one of these horrific animals, she'd be frozen in fear. She had recently read that the only thing more dangerous, more aggressive than a dragon, was a mother dragon protecting her clutch. McGonagall had been right all along, she thought, they couldn't have made this more dangerous if they tried.

She had watched in fear as the first three champions faced their dragon. Each had been successful and that gave her hope, but none had escaped the task unharmed. They had all used a different approach, bold, simple, and one relied on trickery. So far, Viktor was the least injured, he appeared to have only a few minor bumps and bruises; although you couldn't say the same for his dragon or the eggs. Cedric was the worst off, it was quite obvious that he had sustained some very nasty burns. Although, he had managed to retrieve his egg, he had to be carried out of the pit. Fleur left bleeding, and favoring her right leg.

Naturally, Harry had drawn the most dangerous dragon of the lot, so when the cannon blast signaled for the last champion to start, Hermione felt her panic spike. Suddenly she wanted to jump up and yell, Stop! Cease this madness! But it was already too late... Harry had entered the enclosure. Hermione had never felt fear like this before. A cold and ruthless paralyzing fear, it griped her to the bone. It terrorized her senses and froze her in place, making her watch with an nauseating level of dread and anxiety, as Harry stood ready to do combat with the unimaginable.

Harry's plan was simple, yet daring. Flying, it was one of his greatest skills, Hermione hoped it would be enough. "Accio Firebolt," she heard him yell. If he was patient, he might just pull this off. He might get through this in one piece. `No,' she corrected herself, `he will get through this.' A moment later and Harry was on his broom and the task began in earnest. The crowd cheered, and for the briefest of moments, Hermione couldn't have been prouder of Harry. Then all too soon, the fear was back. Back with a vengeance.

When the Horntail broke her chains, and took flight, Hermione's screams became frantic. This monster was a natural flyer, and it was after Harry. It wasn't just annoyed with him, it was obsessed with him. It wanted to kill the boy who dared to taunt her with his broom.

Harry had been teasing… testing the Horntail, looking for an opening, any sign of weakness he might exploit. Pulling up from another low pass, he vaguely heard a scream, `Hermione.' Looking back over his shoulder, he saw the reason for her frightful cry. The beast was lose. It was climbing, and heading right for him.

"Shite!" Harry yelled at no one, this wasn't part of the plan. Harry leaned forward, and tried to coax as much speed out of his Firebolt as possible. He'd have to come up with a new plan, now that he wasn't alone in the air anymore. And he thought, he'd better come up with it quickly.

The aerial battle between boy and beast seemed to last forever, both weary of the other. One taking more and greater chances, the other growing more angry by the second. There were several close calls, one so close, if left Harry with an injured shoulder. Blood ran down his arm, making it hard to keep a tight grip on the handle, but there was no giving up. Dragons didn't quit, they didn't accept surrender, or forfeit. It would only end when the boy was dead.

Then, suddenly, it was over. The Horntail in its haste to catch Harry, had made a mistake, and mistakes in the air usually ended badly. Harry had his golden egg. In pain and barely conscious from blood loss, Harry slowly make his way to the healer's tent. He refused to be carried out. He would not give them the satisfaction of saying he needed help. Hermione was the only one he gave that privilege to.

Hermione rushed from the stands, oblivious to the stares she received. Unaware of the small fingernail shaped cuts on her face, or the blood on her fingers. Unaware of the self inflicted injuries she had caused herself. Her face, like the rest of her body was numb. She raced to the healer's tent. The task was over. Harry had survived, but still, she needed to see him. She needed to touch him to be sure. It was the only way she would be able to finally put her fear to rest.

Entering the tent, Hermione stopped and looked around. They were all there, all four champions, but she was only seeking one. As soon as she spotted him, she called out, "Harry!" and ran to him. Once again, all was right in the world. He had danced with a dragon and survived; she held the proof in her arms.

Holding him gently, so as not to hurt him anymore, she cried into his chest, "Oh Harry… thank God…"

Still a little weak, but slowly gaining strength from the potions Madam Pomfrey had just given him, Harry wrapped his good arm around Hermione best he could. "Hey, what's with the tears? I'm okay, I made it… barely, but I'm still here."

Pulling back she looked at him through watery eyes and smiled for the first time all day and said, "You were brilliant Harry!"

"Thanks..." reaching up, he cupped her injured face with one hand, "Hermione, what happened?"

Madam Pomfrey knew immediately what had happened, "Let me see dear... oh just a scratch, I'll have you good as new in a tic."

Realizing what she had done, Hermione started to blush, till she noticed Harry's look had turned cold as he stared at someone over her shoulder.

Ron was standing stark still about ten feet behind Hermione with a sickly paled-green look about him.

"Harry," he said hoarsely, "you'd have to be a complete nutter to actually want to go through all this."

"You think so, do you?" said Harry seriously.

Madam Pomfrey had finished, so Hermione turned around and stood nervously between them, looking back and forth, from one to the other.

"I reckon that you, well that you've been telling the truth all along Harry," Ron said, "you're right, someone must be trying to do you in."

"You reckon hun… finally caught on?" Harry asked quickly. He was still angry, and the extra adrenaline pumping through his veins didn't help.

Ron knew he had been a royal git from the start. He also knew he needed to apologize properly if he was ever going to be able to call Harry his best mate again. He opened his mouth to try, but the words weren't there, "Harry... I... I..."

Harry realized Ron was trying. He also knew what he was trying to say. A month ago, he would have probably welcomed it; he might have even forgiven him, just for his efforts. Now he found himself thinking Ron's apology, just wasn't that important.

"Forget it," he said, letting Ron off the hook.

"Harry, it's just that..."

"I understand," Harry said knowingly, "it'll take time, let's see how it goes... okay?"

Ron nodded reluctantly, "Mates, at least?"

Harry smiled weakly, "Yeah... mates." Then with a hand on the small of her back, he coaxed Hermione forward, and they headed for the exit.

Hermione still felt the need to be physically close. They'd had a few close calls over the years, both she, and Harry, but mostly Harry. However, none had ever been this terrifyingly close. Harry had evaded death by the slimmest of margins. The only way to calm her trembling hand, was to hold on to his.

After a brief and unpleasant encounter with Rita Skeeter, they met up with Neville and a few other Gryffindors. Together with Harry in the middle still holding Hermione's hand, they set off for the Castle.


AN: Of all the task in JK's version, this was the one I liked the best. So with that in mind, I changed very little, mostly just points of view. I hope that also explains why the fight between Harry and his dragon was so short (I wasn't going to rewrite what JK wrote).

Let me know what you think, Thanks.




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