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.

AN: I just want to say thank you for all the great reviews, they really help keep me motivated.



Chapter 19

Alone Without Magic


Hermione slowly cracked the door open, what she saw, made the smile on her face turn into a full-blown smirk. Harry, and all the rest the boys; Ron, Neville, Seamus, and Dean, were all still sound asleep. A couple were actually snoring. She had always found it ironic that there were protections in place to keep the boys from entering the girl's dorms, but she or any other girl for that matter could just walk right into the boy's rooms.

Hermione quietly stepped into the room. Looking around, she crinkled her nose at the sight. Clothing and school supplies were scattered everywhere, "Hmph, boys!" She mumbled. It wasn't the first time she'd seen the inside of Harry's dorm room, it had been a little messy those times as well. But this… this was a whole new level of sloppiness. The room looked as though a small bomb had gone off. Apparently, after last night's party, no one had cared where they had thrown their clothes while getting ready for bed.

Last night's party that was the second thing that Hermione found ironic; the Weasley twins had been born on April fool's day, April the first. It seemed that the two biggest pranksters since the Marauders, had taken their birthdate to heart and decided to use it as a template for the way they would live their lives.

Hermione had warned Harry and the rest of his dorm mates, that staying up to the wee hours of the morning was a bad idea. She had also warned them about sneaking in firewhisky as well. It had been the third party in a month. McGonagall had only allowed it because of the unusual situation with the Triwizard Tournament this year. However after last night's shenanigans, it would probably by the last for quite some time.

Later, after McGonagall had caught them and sent them all to bed, she decided she'd wake them early the next morning to teach them a lesson. Bright and early the following day as McGonagall made her way through the common room to administer said lesson, she ran into Hermione sitting on the couch reading. After a short discussion that left both grinning from ear to ear, she decided to let Hermione wake them after she had promised she'd do the job properly.

Raising her wand to her throat, she whispered, "Sonorus," then with her smirk firmly in place yelled, "Rise and shine you lazy bunch of layabouts! Did you think you were going to skive off all day?"

The effect was immediate, and quite hysterical to watch. Ron, seem to roll and jump at the same time, resulting in him landing face down on the floor. Neville, flinched away and fell into the space between his bed and the wall with his blankets falling on top of him covering him completely. Hermione wasn't sure, but she thought she heard Dean bang his head on his bed's canopy right before he let loose with a few colorful swearwords. By the time she turned to Seamus, all she saw was a nearly naked boy sitting on the edge of his bed, bent over with his hands covering his ears.

Hermione leaned back against the wall and slowly slid to the floor, laughing so hard she could hardly see through the tears.

"Bloody hell Hermione, have you gone barking mad," whined Ron, in a strangled voice. "What time is it anyway?"

Catching her breath, Hermione answered matter-of-factly, "Seven o'clock."

"What? Are you off your nut Hermione?"

Dean apparently agreed with him, "You have to ask? She's completely nutters."

It would seem, that four hours asleep after a hard night of partying wasn't enough. "Aw… Did I wake you too soon?" Hermione asked in a singsong voice.

Dean flopped back down, and rolled over with his pillow covering his head, while Seamus just shook his head in disbelief. Neville has started snoring again, obviously quite comfortable on the floor where he was.

Ron slowly got up and crawled back to his bed. "Don't get cheeky Hermione, now bugger off and leave us be," he said as he pulled the covers up over him, intent on joining his roommates in getting a couple more hours of sleep.

"Hey… Wait a minute," Hermione said suddenly as she turned her gaze on Harry's four-poster bed. He hadn't said a word, not even made a noise. "How come Harry…"

"Silencing Charm," was all Ron said, after cracking one eye open and seeing her staring at Harry's bed in disbelief.

`Silencing Charm… Why on earth?' She thought. Then, as her curiosity got the better of her, she made her way over to his bedside and pulled the hangings back a little so she could peek inside.

Harry was sleeping peacefully. There weren't any of the usual signs of worry marring his face. Hermione smiled, laying there without his glasses on, he looked so content, and… handsome. She wanted to touch him, to caress his face, but she didn't dare. He'd wake for sure. Perhaps she had been wrong, maybe the party had been a good idea after all. It certainly had been good for him; it gave him the distraction he so badly needed for a good night sleep.

Hermione gently closed his hangings and then tiptoed from the room. Thanks to Harry, the other boys had earned a reprieve. She'd let them sleep along with Harry. Hopefully, Professor McGonagall would agree with her reasoning. Little did she know, that she would soon discover just how bad a night Harry sometimes had.


The room was dark and musty from lack of use. Cobwebs hung in the corners; it was obvious its current inhabitants had no intention of staying. Even though there was a fire burning nearby, the room was bitter cold.

"Everything is set; you have neglected nothing?" A harsh voice hissed in the darkness.

An excited, yet somewhat nervous voice replied, "Yes Master, everything is, as you have asked."

"Good. I hope I'll not need to remind you of the price for failure."

A sort of tall, wiry man bowed low, "No Master." Without looking up, he hesitantly asked, "Master, forgive me, but would it not be safer to use someone else, must it be him?"

"Do you question my judgment," came a low treating reply, chilly and sinister. Slicing the air like a knife through flesh.

"No Master! Of course not, I was only trying…"

The now cowering servant never got to finish before the other man… thing in the room whispered, "Crucio." He said it with a reverence, the word wrapped in adoration.

The servant fell to the floor screaming as his body contorted and twisted in pain.

Harry bolted awake as he screamed out, waking himself from the dream. He coughed as he sucked in air trying to breathe, while his head swam. Covered in sweat his gut roiled, and he thought he might get sick. Harry reached up and rubbed his forehead where his scar burned hot. Sitting in the darkness within the confines of his curtained bed, he took deep breaths and tried to slow his pounding heart. Fear still gripped him, and the night seemed to squeeze in around him, but slowly the images of the nightmare started to fade. Untangling his legs from the blankets twisted around them, he got out of bed. Harry was so cold he was shaking, yet soaked in a sticky sweat. Putting his glasses on, he made his way to the bathroom to wash up a little.

Feeling marginally better he started down to the common room, he knew he'd never be able to get back to sleep even though it was still dark out.

Hermione wasn't sure what woke her up, perhaps some innate sense that something wasn't right. Crookshanks was already awake, he stood and jumped off the bed and after only a couple of steps stopped and looked back with anticipation. He too, knew something was amiss. Even though the castle was quiet, something was out of place. The night felt wrong and Hermione needed to find out why. Slipping out of bed, Hermione pulled on her robe and followed Crookshanks out the door.

With the fire already lit, Hermione knew someone was up. She stood at the bottom of the stairs and watched as Crookshanks ran and jumped up on the couch and onto somebody's lap. Hermione smiled, it had to be Harry; Crookshanks just wasn't that friendly with anybody else. As she moved towards him, she remembered the hour.

"Harry?" she called quietly, "you alright?"

Harry looked up with an uneasy smile, "Yeah… just a bad dream."

Even in the dull light from the fire, Hermione could see it was more than just a bad dream. The soft firelight should have made his skin look warm and healthy, yet it didn't. Harry was deadly pale. Hermione went to him and sat closely at his side. She reached out and touched his forehead with the back of her hand. Harry didn't move, he didn't try to stop her. Hermione had done it all, like it was her right, and Harry easily conceded it to her.

He was cold and clammy, but mainly cold. She gathered him to her and then reached around behind them and pulled a blanket over them. "Oh Harry, what happened?" She'd wait until he was ready, before asking anymore.

Harry laid his head on her shoulder and snuggled in, he felt safe for the first time since waking. Hermione had come to him in the middle of the night when he had needed her the most. She hadn't been asked, nor did she know why, but she had come nevertheless. Harry reached his arm around her middle and gave her a gentle squeeze, "Thank you for being here."

Hermione's arm was around his shoulder, and she squeezed back to say you're welcome without speaking.

A short while later, Harry spoke again, "I dreamt of him again… he was… torturing someone."

Hermione turned her head and looked down at him, worried at what he might say next.

Harry sat up a little, "I woke up screaming… just like the man he was hurting. I… I just couldn't stay in bed."

Hermione cupped his face, "Oh Harry," she knew he sometimes had bad dreams, but she never realized the extent. Then remembering last week, she asked, "Wait, is that why you put up a Silencing Charm around your bed before you go to sleep… so you won't wake the others?" Harry just nodded. Hermione was upset and appalled. She was mad at herself for thinking that Harry had put it up so he could sleep without being bothered by the other boys. When in fact, he was only trying to keep from bothering them! Appalled, because it meant he had to suffer alone, that no one would know when he woke from a horrible nightmare. How many times had he woke up screaming, and nobody came to see how he was. Hermione told herself, she'd look into finding a way to help him in the future, but for now, he needed her here, and she had no intention of leaving.

As much as she hated the idea, Hermione couldn't think of anybody else who might be able to help or at least shed some light on the situation, "Harry, we should go see Dumbledore."

Harry slowly nodded, "Okay, but not yet. I just want to sit here with you for a while…"

Hermione pulled him back into her arms, "Sure, we'll go later."


It had been over a week since Harry's nightmare and their visit to see Dumbledore. Hermione still thought their headmaster was keeping something from them. He hadn't seemed at all surprised or worried, and had answered far too quickly. He told Harry again very casually, that he thought it was just the stress of the tournament making itself known. Hermione tried to reason out why he'd try to play down the importance of the dream. Could it not have been some kind of… vision?

Hermione had later discussed her concerns with Harry of course, but didn't push the issue to the point of making Harry worry. Now, with the task only a few days away, she couldn't help the feeling of anxiety that was starting to build. She also noticed, that her nagging little feeling that something was off; was again sitting in the bottom of her stomach.


Breakfast was a rather somber affair, not just for Harry, but for the entire Hall. For Harry, it was because today he would start the fifth task. For the rest of the Hall, it was probably because nobody really knew what to expect.

"Don't worry Harry, you've got the advantage," Ron said. With Harry's questioning look, Ron explained simply, "You were raised Muggle." Ron had been sitting with the group for a while now, occasionally accompanied by Lavender. The tension between him and the others was slowly fading, and even though Lavender and Hermione were polar opposites, they made an effort to get along as well. Lavender would often join Ron for meals, but occasionally, she would sit with Parvati a few spaces down. While neither had anything against Harry, they preferred their own brand of conversation, mainly gossip, instead of the usually more serious topics Hermione was normally known for going on about.

Harry thought about Ron's comment, and then said, "Yeah, a little I suppose."

"You got a dark forest in Little Whinging Harry?" Neville asked laughingly.

Harry smirked, "No... but there are some dark creatures there."

"Really Harry?" Asked Luna.

"Yep... Dudley and his gang."

Hermione chuckled, "Really Harry. Mean, nasty, rude, and stupid, but I don't think they're dark."

"Right, I get that mixed up sometimes." Harry joked.

Hermione bumped shoulders with him and smiled before turning serious. "It's almost time Harry, how are you doing?" She asked hesitantly.

Harry turned and gave her his full attention. "Seriously... nervous... and scared," he added softly.

"You'll do fine Harry, you're well prepared," was all she could say. She didn't dare tell him how worried and scared she was for him. He would only worry more about her, and right now, he didn't need anything else to worry about.

"Good morning everyone," Dumbledore began, "a quick reminder, champions you must be down at the viewing stands and ready to leave no later than eleven thirty... I hope you had a good breakfast. As for anyone else, after they have departed you may remain in the stands and follow along as they begin their task, or you may return here for lunch." Dumbledore paused and took a sip of water, "Do try to remember, this will be a long event," he stole a glance at the Gryffindor table, then continued, "I strongly recommend you do not make a vigil out of it in the stands."

Ginny turned and looked at Hermione and thought, `Good advice, but I'll bet she'll do it anyway.'


Hermione stood next Harry, inside the small tent set up by the entrance to the maze. Unlike the dragon task, this time she would not be turned away. After Dumbledore and Percy finished giving the champions some last-minute instructions, Hermione pulled Harry aside.

Almost as nervous as Harry, Hermione started, "You're well prepared Harry, you can do this. Move quickly, but keep your eyes open and watch for any sign of trouble." Harry nodded. "And Harry, use the Portkey if you have to. I don't care if you lose points, it's not worth… oh Harry don't try and be a hero… okay?"

Harry nodded again, this time with a smile, "I won't… I promise." Then Harry pulled Hermione close and wrapped his arms around her. "I'll be okay… really."

"Who knows how far away you'll be, how long you'll be gone," Hermione said quietly.

"I'll be back as soon as I can," Harry said honestly, "after all, I've got you to come back to… right?"


"Champions, please follow me so we may begin," Dumbledore announced.

Hermione stood on her tip-toes and gave Harry a kiss good-bye, "I'll be here when you return."


"Champions you will be scored not only on how fast you return, but more importantly, on how well you deal with any problems you may encounter along the way." Dumbledore peered over the top of his glasses at each of the champions in turn, to make sure they understood that it was not just a race. "Very well, at the sound of the cannon blast, you may activate your Portkey."


Before the sound of the cannon blast had finished reverberating through the stands, Viktor and Fleur had vanished, Cedric quickly followed. Harry turned to survey the stands, seeking out one individual in particular. He found her sitting in the front row near the center of the stands. He locked eyes with Hermione, and after a second, she gave him a small nervous nod. Harry nodded back, and then activated his Portkey and a second later, he too disappeared in a swirl of color.

Hermione's nerves had been building all morning, but the instant Harry flashed away, they exploded into overdrive. She just couldn't help but feel, that she should be there with him. That together they were stronger, smarter, they were a team, `And a good one,' she thought.


Harry landed flat on his back, deep in the Forbidden Forest. `Great,' he thought, `I am no better at Portkey travel, than floo travel.' Standing up, Harry took in his surroundings. Nothing looked familiar, not that he expected it too. The only part that he found familiar with the part of the forest he'd seen in the past, was how dark and eerie it was. Harry figured he had about four hours of daylight, and since he didn't have a torch or a wand for light, traveling after dark would be foolish and dangerous. He would go as far as he could, and then stop and make camp before nightfall.

Harry knew the forest lay mostly to the east and northeast of Hogwarts, so because of that he knew he had to head in a westerly direction to get back. The problem was, there were several large areas that he wanted to avoid. Not knowing his starting position, he had no choice but to proceed west until he found a reliable landmark. For now, he would move with caution; he certainly did want to stumble upon a nest of Acromantula. Harry double-checked his pack to make sure he had everything, and then after getting a bearing from his compass, he started out. Every so often, he would stop and take a close look around for anything that might tell him where he was at, then he would recheck his compass to make sure he was still on course. Harry reasoned he would continue on like this until he had about a half-hour of light left, then he'd stop and make camp for the night.

Hermione turned her gaze away from the forest to look at a billboard size viewing screen that now showed the location of all four champions. Harry had landed in a fairly flat, but otherwise dense part of the forest. Fleur was in a similar area several kilometers to his north. Viktor and Cedric were in a more hilly part, far to the south. She watched as he started west. Knowing the map as well as him, she knew he'd be okay for a while. The first thing he would run into if he continued in a straight line, would be a marsh full of quicksand. `At least he'll see that coming,' she thought.

Three hours later, Harry pushed through some thick brush and stepped out into a clearing. Ahead of him stretching out as far as he could see, lay a marsh. Harry pulled out his map and study it a moment. There were only two marshes on it, both in the middle half of the map. After a little thought, he decided to turn north to go around the marsh. This gave him a slightly better chance of figuring out just which marsh it was that he was going around. Also, if it happened to be the more northern marsh, going to the south would definitely the longest of all possible combinations.

Just as he predicted, about a half-hour later the light began to fade. Harry quickly found a place to camp and started to collect some wood for a fire. While he was at it, he kept an eye out for a long straight piece he could fashion into a weapon of sorts. Harry reasoned he'd have time for that after he ate, and before he turned in for the night.

The idea of spending the night in the Forbidden Forest was bad enough, but doing it alone was downright terrifying. `How is it bloke supposed to sleep,' he thought. Harry was sure that if Hermione were here, that she would figure out some clever way to do it safely. Harry thought more about Hermione, and wondered if she was watching. `Of course she is,' he thought, `she'll be worrying about whether I'll make a mistake, or forget something…' Harry's thoughts were interrupted by another. `Maybe I can make the detection runes work!' Later, as Harry drifted off to sleep, he couldn't help but think that even alone, way out here in the forest, Hermione had still managed to help him.

Hermione smiled as she watched Harry activate the last rune with a drop of his blood. He had made good time, and had chosen the best route possible so far. He was considerably better off than the other three. And now, it looked like he'd be able to sleep safely through the night. Hermione decided to turn in herself. If she hurried, she still might make it in time to get something to eat before dinner was over. She figured it was bound to be a long day tomorrow, so she wanted to get to bed early tonight.


Draco watched as Hermione came in late for dinner. She had missed lunch and he was beginning to think she would also miss dinner as well. `I wouldn't be surprised, if she had slept out there,' he thought. As soon as she sat down, several others hurried over to get the latest news, Draco noticed. Ginny, Luna, and Neville were the only other ones who had stayed through lunch, and up until dinner. Most of the others in Harry's year had left for lunch, and then returned for a little while before leaving again. Draco had also noticed, that not a single Slytherin had stayed to watch Viktor. He briefly wondered how many would have stayed to watch, if it had been him instead.


"So, he got the rune sequence working?" Asked Ginny.

"Yes, and on the first try," beamed Hermione, obviously very proud of him.

"Well, he had a good teacher now didn't he," said Neville, as if they'd all forgotten who had taught him.

"Still, all alone with no wand for protection," Ginny grimaced.

"After he finished setting up the wards, he made himself some sort of spear out of… a tree branch, I think," Hermione added.

"How'd the others do?" asked Alicia from a couple of seats down.

Hermione smirked, and answered her in a knowing tone, "Viktor's doing vell… I mean well."

Alicia had the decency to blush slightly. "Touché Hermione." `That girl has one heck of a memory,' she thought, referring to her teasing about biting Harry.

"Viktor is moving fast, but unfortunately he made a bad turn. It's going to slow him down a little." Hermione then went on about the others, "Cedric and Fleur are also doing alright for now. Cedric decided to climb down a cliff instead of going around, and Fleur decided to try and hack her away through a thorny thicket."

"And how about you Hermione, how are you doing?" Asked Luna as she joined them by sitting next to Neville.

`Leave it to Luna,' thought Hermione, before she answered, "I'm fine... for now."


Harry woke the next morning just before dawn as a small electric shock rippled through him. Harry sat up, and looked around. The circle of runes he had drawn the night before, was slowly fading away now that their last job was complete.

Digging into his pack, Harry pulled out a couple of ration bars, and one of his canteens. It wasn't much of a breakfast, but it would have to do for now he thought. Only a few minutes later and Harry was already on the move again. When he reached the northern edge of the marsh, he continued to follow the edge around towards the west. Even though he couldn't remember their name, Harry knew that a large dangerous lizard, similar to the Ashwinder, lived in the southern marsh. Both were known for starting small fires in the marsh and in the grasses that grew around the edges, from their flammable secretions. Therefore he knew from the map, that if he didn't run into any burnt areas; that he would be north of the northern most marsh. However, if he did, then he was north of the southern most marsh.


Hermione walked into the empty Hall, she was almost an hour early for breakfast. She hoped however, that she still might be able to get something to eat. No sooner had she sat down, than a bowl of cereal appeared. It was followed closely by a bowl of fruit, some toast, and a cup of coffee. `Coffee?' She thought, then it came to her, "Dobby," she called softly.


"Yous called Dobby Miss Grangy?" he asked in his usual excited way.

"Yes Dobby, I did. I wanted to thank you for getting me something to eat so early, and to ask a favor."

"A favor? For Mr. Potter sir's Miss Grangy?" Dobby asked, getting even more excited, "of course, anything."

Hermione smiled at the reference to belonging to Mr. Potter. Then seeing how excited he was getting, she briefly wondered if Dobby drank coffee too, as she sipped some of her own; if so, it appeared as though he'd already had too much. "Dobby, I was wondering if you could make me a lunch, so I could stay out at the viewing stands and keep an eye on Harry?"

"Dobby can most certainly do that," he said while bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet.

"Thank you Dobby, that's wonderful," Hermione said, "and Dobby, maybe if you have time, you could join me, and we could watch Harry's progress together for a little while."

Dobby stops bouncing and started to tear up, "Dobby would like that Miss Grangy."


Even though it was slow going, Harry was making progress. The tall canopy of trees blocked out most of the sunlight making it hard to see, and the thick undergrowth made walking difficult. However, aside from that, everything else was going good; except for a brief encounter with an angry owl that he inadvertently disturbed. Even though it was still fairly early, Harry hadn't had any real problems. It was actually rather peaceful, quiet even. Harry stopped suddenly with that last thought in mind. Quiet... too quiet. He was in a forest, the notorious Dark Forest no less; where was all the sounds of the forest, he thought.

Harry slowly turned on the spot in a full circle, scanning the area around him. Even with his senses now on full alert, he saw nothing, heard nothing... not a thing. Nothing moved, nothing made a noise; it was as if the entire forest was holding its breath. Harry suddenly felt the urge to run as a small twinge of panic made itself felt. Resisting the urge to blindly start thrashing through the brush, Harry took a breath and slowly started walking again. He moved quietly, but as quickly as he could. His head was on a constant swivel, searching for the first sign of danger. He now moved with a different purpose; he needed to get out of the dense undergrowth, and into more open space. Harry pushed on, and he slowly managed to rein in all but one of his emotions. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't shake the feeling of being watched.


Even though it was late April, Hermione knew it would be quite cold at this early hour, and so had brought a blanket with her. Sitting down in the stands, she wrapped it snugly around herself looking up at the viewing board, she was a little surprised to see that Harry was already up and moving. A while later, as she watched, she noticed something odd. Looking more closely, it became obvious, someone or something was following Harry, just off his right, moving parallel with him.


Harry finally came to the large open area. He moved quickly towards the center to give himself a clear view in all directions. The marsh was still to the south of him, but as far as he could tell, there were no signs of any fires, or that the area had ever been burnt. "Well, I guess that means I'm north of the most northern marsh," Harry told himself out loud. However, talking out loud only reminded him how quiet the forest was.

Out of reflex, Harry grasped his makeshift spear tighter, and again turned on the spot looking for any signs of trouble. As he turned, he thought he saw something move, just to the north of him, right at the edge of the clearing. Harry made note of the spot, but tried to act as if he hadn't seen anything. He was getting tired of being the mouse in this game. Harry decided it was time to find out what was following him. He turned and continued on, as if nothing was wrong. Reaching the edge of the clearing, he walked openly on for a short distance until he reached a large tree. Harry quickly ducked out of sight, then on hands and knees he crawled back a short ways off to the side of his original path and waited. He hoped, that if something was stalking him, it would come by close enough for him to spot it. Looking down at his spear, he also hoped that whatever it was, he'd be able to handle it without magic.


In the stands, Hermione watched with curiosity and a bit of growing concern. The board would not tell her anything more about what was following Harry. She assumed once he knew, the board would tell her.

"Excuse me Meess Granger, may I sit?" a small French girl asked, while gesturing to the spot next to Hermione.

Hermione recognized the young girl as Fleur's sister; they'd met briefly before the last task, but hadn't really had a chance to talk. Even though Gabrielle was a few years younger, they both had been hostages in the lake task. As scared as she had been, she could only imagine what it must've been like for her; being both younger, and then not being rescued. Only now realizing it, Hermione felt a sort of kinship with her. Like with Fleur, Hermione now felt a growing need to be friends with the young witch.

It looked as though it was going to be a long day, and the thought of some company, at least for a little while sounded nice.

Hermione smiled, "Of course Gabrielle, and please, call me Hermione."

"Zank you… Eermione."

Hermione turned slightly, so as to more easily talk to the shy girl. "So, how are you and your sister getting on?"

Gabrielle looked down as she answered softly, "I am doing well… And zanks to you, now so is my seester. Zat eez why I came to you… to say Zank you for talking to eer."

"You don't have to thank me for that," Hermione said, as she took a quick glance at the forest, "I know what it's like to worry about someone you care a great deal about."

Gabrielle nodded, `Yes she would know,' she thought.

"You are the only one from your year, here at Hogwarts?"

Gabrielle nodded again, "Yes… Because of my seester."

Hermione had seen her sitting alone many times, and now wondered why she had not done something about it sooner. There were times when she sat with her sister, or with other first-years from Hogwarts, but Hermione knew all too well how hard it was to make friends when you were younger, or… different. "Gabrielle, would you like to join me and my friends for meals sometime?"

Gabrielle's head snapped up, "But… I am only in ze first-year!"

"Yes, and your sister is in the seventh-year, yet she still sets with us sometimes." At her dumbfounded look, Hermione went on, "We don't care how old you are, or what year you are in. We only care about… Who you are." Hermione smiled and took hold of one of her hands, "And if you want to, I'd like us to be friends as well."

A moment later, Gabrielle surprised Hermione by grabbing her in a fierce hug. "Yes, I would like zat."

Hermione could hear the emotion in her voice, and a few seconds later after she pulled away. Said, "Good."


It didn't take long for Harry to confirm his suspicions. Only a few minutes after starting his stakeout, Harry caught some movement to his left. A moment later, a large semitransparent ghostly looking dog glided into view. `Great,' Harry thought, `a Spectral Hound.' Thanks to Hagrid's classes and his love for unusual and dangerous creatures, Harry actually knew a little about the hound. They were kind of a three-way cross between a dementor, a Bogart, and a regular ghost. It could sense your fear, like a Bogart, and then amplify it. Then it would feed off your panic and anxiety, like a dementor.

Being mostly a ghost, Harry knew the real danger wasn't physical, but mental. If it got in your head and started playing with your fears, you could easily become disoriented and confused. That in turn could lead you to do something stupid or dangerous.

Harry knew the best defense against the creature was Occlumency, but he didn't know how to perform it. It was after all a very advanced subject, and certainly not taught to fourth-years. Just thinking about it, Harry was beginning to panic. `I've got to calm down. Stay focused,' Harry thought.

When Harry looked up again, the Hound was looking right at them. "Shite," Harry said out loud, startled. He quickly turned and started to run. He had only taking a few steps and already could feel the creature trying to read his thoughts. It was looking for what he feared. Try and focus Harry reminded himself. Harry slowed, `No, it can't hurt me, think of something nice… like flying, ignore it and move on,' he thought, as he forced his breathing to return to normal.

For the next couple of hours, they continued their game of cat and mouse. The Hound would disappear for a while and then out of nowhere it would rush out and try to surprise Harry. Each time the Hound got bolder, but Harry managed to control his emotions well. He was getting so used to it after a while, that he found he wasn't worrying about it hardly at all anymore. The Hound must've noticed as well, and finally gave up the chase.


Harry stopped around noon for a quick bite to eat, he knew he needed to keep up his energy levels; who knew what his next surprise would be, `Probably not just another ghost,' he thought. Unfortunately, he didn't have to wait long. About an hour later, he thought he heard something behind him again. `Well I doubt it's the Hound… It's making way too much noise, maybe…' Harry's thoughts were rudely interrupted by a loud crash. Then, he saw it. "Oh, you've got to be kidding me!" Harry said unbelievably to himself, as he turned and started to run.

Chasing after him, about one hundred feet back, was the biggest boar Harry had ever seen. This one looked to weigh about four-hundred pounds and stood over three feet at the shoulders. The part that concerned him though, were the four inch long tusks growing out of its lower jaw. They weren't especially fast, but they were extremely vicious. Harry knew he was no match for the animal armed with only a spear. His only choice was to run, and maybe get to someplace the wild pig couldn't follow.


Up in the stands, Hermione and Gabrielle kept watch on their respective concerns. Gabrielle watched her sister fight off a rather nasty swarm of bats, while Hermione watched Harry deal with the Spectral Hound, both were proud of the outcomes.

Lunch time brought another surprise for Gabrielle. She was just about ready to get up and head for the castle to eat, when a soft pop to her right caught her attention. Standing there with a large basket stood a very excited house-elf.

"Dobby, you remembered," beamed Hermione.

"Of course Miss Grangy, Dobby not be forgetting," he said, as if it was the most ridiculous thing he'd heard all week. Then, after a sideways glance at Gabrielle, he added, "And Dobby be bringing enough for yous friend as well."

Gabrielle looked at Hermione with some trepidation, she'd only just met this unique girl and didn't want to assume or take anything for granted.

Hermione laughed at Dobby's enthusiasm, "Thank you Dobby, how thoughtful." Then turning to Gabrielle, she said politely, "Please, stay and join us."

Gabrielle looked around, they were alone for the most part. Then, she realized who Hermione had met by `us'. Both eyebrows shot up in surprise, "Oh!" Was all she could manage to say. Finally, she nodded okay and slowly sat down to lunch with Hermione, and a… house-elf.

By the end of lunch, Gabrielle had learned that Hermione wasn't the only one concerned for Harry's safety. It was clearly obvious, that the little elf named Dobby cared a great deal about him as well. She had never given house-elves much thought before now, they were just servants after all. However, after watching Hermione treat him not only as a friend, but as an equal as well, and seeing firsthand how Dobby had responded, Gabrielle thought maybe she had underestimated their feelings, and their ability to care. She would definitely think more about it later.

Hermione saw the thoughtful look on her young friend's face, and knew she would be answering more than a few questions about Dobby later.

Glancing back up at the viewing board, Hermione's cheerful look turned to concern… Harry was being chased… again.


Harry was running as fast as he could, but the dense undergrowth was slowing him down. Like running through knee-deep water, every step was an effort. The boar with his thick hide, seem to glide through the brush, and was closing fast. With only a few feet separating his backside from the boar's tusks, Harry finally saw an escape. Just ahead, was a large tree that had fallen down across his path, one end stuck in the upper branches of another tree. It's sort of formed an elevated bridge, starting several feet above the ground and sloping upward. Harry thought, that if he could just jump up and grab hold he might be able to climb to safety.

`Almost there,' Harry thought. He could hear the labored snorts of the boar behind him, and knew it was almost on him, but he didn't dare look back. Finally there, he jumped up and caught hold. A split second later as he struggled to pull himself up, he felt a sharp pain lance through his right calf. The boar, seem to squeal in delight as it ran on under him.

Harry managed to pull himself up the rest of the way, and sat straddling the tree. Looking down, he saw a small gash on the back of his right leg. The wound itself wasn't all that bad, but considering what had caused it, Harry began to worry about it getting infected. Getting up on his hands and knees, Harry crawled further up the tree to a place where the trunk branched. There, he could sit more comfortably and wait the boar out, and also take a better look at his leg.

Slipping his backpack off, Harry sat it in front of him and pulled out his first-aid kit. Harry used a little water from his canteen to wash the wound the best he could before applying an antiseptic bandage to it. "That will have to do for now," Harry said to himself, "now, if Mr. Piggy would just go away," after a quick look around Harry added, "I'd hate to spend the night up here with no fire or shelter." A moment later, it started to rain. "Perfect," Harry muttered.


With Harry out of danger for the time being, Hermione checked the progress of the other champions. Viktor was just about out of the marsh, and was finally starting to make some time. Cedric, look to be having a rather hard time as he tried to deal was some kind of three-headed goat; at least it looked like a goat, Hermione thought.

Checking on Fleur, Hermione noticed that, like Harry, she too had stopped and was now nursing some wounds. A glance at Gabrielle told her that the young girl was also relieved. "Well, it looks like we can relax for a bit," Hermione said, while letting out a long breath.

"Oui," was all Gabrielle said. It was again obvious just how concerned she had been for her older sister.

Dobby, who had been sitting between them, stood and faced Hermione. "Dobby thinks that Harry Potter is safe now, so Dobby must go. Have much work to do." Then turning to Gabrielle, he added, "Dobby is happy he is making friends with yous." And after a soft pop, he was gone.

Staring at the spot where Dobby had stood moments before, Gabrielle said, "Ee's not… Well e's not what I expected."

Hermione glanced sideways at her, "Dobby?"

Gabrielle looked up and nodded, "Oui."

"Do you know many house-elves?"

This time, the young witch shook her head no.

"Well Dobby is a bit different," Hermione smiled, "he's a free elf."

Gabrielle knew that free elves were extremely rare, and her face showed her surprise, "Oh!" A few seconds later she asked, "Ow did zat appen?"

Hermione smile grew as she gave her one-word answer, "Harry."

Somehow Gabriel thought, she had already known, "Ah."


Apparently, the wild boar didn't like the rain any more than Harry. After about a half hour it decided that one skinny boy up a tree just wasn't worth waiting around in the rain for, and trotted off in the direction it had originally come.

Harry waited a few more minutes to be sure it was gone for good, then climbed down. After checking his map and compass, Harry resumed his trek. He figured he still had about an hour or so before he'd start looking for a place to make camp for the night, and he wanted to put as much distance between him and the boar as possible before settling in for the night.


Fleur was miserable, and starting to get quite irritated. Even though she considered herself rather tough for a girl, that didn't mean she liked being cold and soaking wet. It rained a little last night too, and she never did get dry. Now, her clothes were soaked through and through, and her hair was plastered to her head. Rain ran down her face and dripped from the tip of her nose and the bottom of her chin. She would try again tonight to make a fire, `Maybe ee will get lucky,' she thought miserably.


Harry had come to a small clearing, where several trees had fallen down, `Plenty of firewood here,' he thought. Near the edge of the clearing was a large boulder, it would help provide good shelter for the night, and the only other animal he'd seen, was a small snake that had darted across his path a ways back. Harry had taken to talking to himself and so said, "Well, it'll be dark soon, and I probably won't find a better place than this."

Harry sat his pack down near the boulder and got to work making camp. He gathered several medium-size tree branches and leaned them up against the boulder to make a sort of frame. Then he draped his plastic tarp over it to give him shelter from the rain. Next he gathered some smaller branches he could burn and set about starting a fire. Lastly, Harry set up the detection runes Hermione had taught him. Finally able to relax, Harry sat back and started making himself some dinner.


Fleur decided to stop deluding herself, she wasn't going to have a fire tonight either. Everything was wet, so even if she knew how, she didn't think she could start one. Before she had started this task, she thought the process would be simple enough, and so didn't give it much thought. She now realized how wrong she had been. Fleur continued to walk, hoping she'd find someplace that might at least offer some sort of shelter.

It was almost completely dark with Fleur decided to stop. Cold and wet she reasoned the only way she would survive the night was if she wrapped herself up tight in the plastic sheet that was given to her, at the very least it would help her to conserve what little body heat she had left and keep the rain off her face. As she turns slightly to slip her pack off, she spotted it. Off in the distance, towards the south was a light. But not just any light, it was the unmistakable light of a fire. Even though she was exhausted, Fleur was drawn to the fire like a moth to a flame. She didn't know who or what had made the fire, but she was going to find out.

After stumbling through the darkness for nearly a half an hour, Fleur reached a small clearing. Next to a large rock, burned a bright warm inviting fire. Fleur cautiously started forward, but had only taken a few steps when all manner of commotion broke loose. A loud wailing sound screeched through the still night air, and on both sides of her, strange-looking marks lit up brightly, instantly giving away her position. Fleur instinctively dropped into a fighting stance and pulled her knife, ready to face her attacker.


Gabrielle grabbed Hermione's hand in panic, as both watched and waited with growing concern. They had watched the scene play out that led to this confrontation, and knew that neither Harry nor Fleur were aware of the other's presence. Now they could only hope that in the poor light, one of them would recognize the other before someone got hurt.


Harry was impressed that the rune sequence had worked so well, while at the same time he started to worry about what had set it off in the first place. Grabbing his spear, he jumped to his feet and moved into the shadows. Peering into the darkness, Harry could barely make out something on the edge of the clearing lit only by the glowing runes.

Fleur caught a glimpse of movement by the rock, but immediately lost sight of it in the dark. For several long minutes, no one moved, nothing made a sound. Fleur decided, it was up to her to make the first move, after all she was the one who had invaded the area. Since she had already set off the alarm, it only made sense that whoever was here already knew of her presence and so there was no reason to stay quiet any longer.

"Eello een ze camp," she called. Her next surprise, was who answered.

"Fleur?" Harry yelled back.

"Arry?" Fleur asked cautiously while starting to stand.

Harry moved out of the shadows and into the firelight. "Yeah, it's me. What in Merlin's name are you doing out there in the dark?"

"Freezing," Fleur answered honestly.


Two girls let out nervous sighs of relief when the board showed Harry and Fleur finally standing together by the fire.

"Can zey help each ozer?" Asked Gabrielle.

"Yes, but they will lose points," Hermione answered.


"Fleur, why didn't you make camp earlier?" Harry asked, "why would you wander around after dark? It's dangerous."

"I know," Fleur answered sheepishly, "I was about to stop…zen I saw your fire. I just wanted to get warm, I…"

"Fleur, why didn't you just start your own…" Harry stopped when the probable reason came to him. "Fleur… Are you having trouble starting a fire?"

Fleur hated to admit it, she thought herself so superior, so much better than him. However, the reality of things told a much different story. Harry was actually doing better than her overall, and this was just one more example. He had a nice dry place to sleep next to a warm cozy fire. She on the other hand, was soaking wet.

Fleur flopped to the ground on the verge of tears, but somehow managed to hold them back.

"Fleur?" Harry asked softly as he kneeled down next to her, ignoring the muddy ground.

Fleur turned and stared at Harry for a moment before whispering, "Eet eez so simple no? Starting a fire." Fleur looked away, "And yet… I cannot…"

"Actually, it's not so simple." At her surprised look, Harry explained, "Back at Hogwarts, before the task, I couldn't manage one without magic. Then Hermione remembered the char cloth, and we figured out how to use it. After that, it took a little while, but I finally managed one, and after a few times practicing it got a little easier."

"Ermione eez a smart girl," she said through a half smile.

"Yeah, she is." Harry could see the internal debate going on in Fleur's head and decided to make the decision for her. "Fleur, why don't you let me teach you? You can build your own fire on the other side of the clearing, and then in the morning, we will go our own way."

"You would do zat for moi?" Fleur asked with disbelief. They were after all, competitors in this task. Then she remembered the conversation the four of them had a few weeks back. Sure they had promised to help each other if one was in danger, but this was hardly life or death.

Harry laughed, "Sure. Can't have you sneaking up on my fire every night, can I?" Even though she was wet, tired, and embarrassed, Fleur laughed too. "All right, get your things, and I'll get some more wood and I meet you over there," Harry instructed. Harry had thought momentarily about just letting Fleur share his shelter, but then realized how that might look to anyone who would be watching.

With her own shelter built and everything collected, Harry began, "Okay, first you need to build the base." Harry showed her how to set the different size pieces of wood up to make the base so they'd catch fire more easily. The finished product looked a little like a cross between a log cabin and a tepee. Next he showed her how to make the kindling, and what he affectionately called, `the birds nest'; a small wad of fine dry grass that caught fire very easily.

"Okay, now hold your flint in one hand with a small piece of char cloth on the bottom edge of it, so it will catch the spark." Fleur did as she was told and then struck down on the flint with the steel striker. After the third try, she saw a small orange glow on the edge of the char cloth. "That's good, now quickly put the glowing char cloth into the bird's nest and wrap it up loosely… that's it… good, now blow on it gently." Again, Fleur followed his directions, and soon her nest was smoking. "Now, as soon as it catches fire, put it in the middle of your wood base."

A moment later, Fleur's little bird nest sprang to life catching fire. "Oyi," she yelped, but did as she had been told and quickly stuffed the small burning ball of twigs and grass into the center of her base. Soon the kindling was burning hot and it in turn, started the larger pieces on fire. Just ten minutes after she had started, Fleur had her own fire burning bright and hot.

Still wet, but in a far better mood, Fleur beamed at Harry, "Arry, I did eet."

Harry chuckled, "Yes you did."

Fleur turned back to the fire. What an amazing thing it was, she thought, yet she had taken it for granted. Without it, tonight would've have been long, cold, and dark. But it was more, far more than just light and heat that it gave her. Sitting by the fire, she somehow felt… safer, more relaxed. It boosted her spirits. It made the forest feel a little smaller and less foreboding. She no longer felt nearly so all alone. She wondered if Harry realized, just how wonderful a gift he had given her. Fleur stared at Harry for a moment thinking; that it was not only kind of him to help her, but that he was also patient as well. He had taught her the simple act of making a fire, without any of the arrogance she would have expected from another. `He would make a good teacher.' Without a second thought, she got up and walked over to him and pulled him into a tight hug, "Zank you Arry."


It would be a couple of days before Hermione and Gabrielle heard the full story; of how Fleur built her first fire, but for now both girls knew their respective champions were safe for the night.

"Well," Hermione started, "since we don't have our own fire, and my warming charms don't seem to be cutting it anymore, I suggest we returned to the castle for something warm to eat."

Gabrielle, who was already beginning to shiver from the cold night air, quickly agreed.



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