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: We are getting close to the end of Harry's fourth year, what do you think of it so far?


Chapter 20

Death Comes on Four Legs



Hermione had Dobby wake her well before the sun was up, this time she wanted to be in the stands before Harry broke camp. As Hermione started down the path that led to the viewing stands, a familiar voice called out.

"Bonjour Errmione!"

Hermione stopped and turned, then smiled as Gabrielle ran to catch up. "Well, you're up early."

"Oui, and you are too I theenk," the young girl said easily, "per'aps for ze same reason, no?"

Hermione laughed, she liked Gabrielle; she was smart and caught on quick.

They walked on together without saying anything for a ways before Gabrielle turned serious. "She eez a lot like you, my seester," she started, "she works vairy ard." Gabrielle looked down, "Sometimes, I theenk too ard."

Hermione looked sideways at Gabrielle, "What do you mean?"

"Our papa, he wanted a son, but e only as us. She eez always trying to prove somezing." Gabrielle said dejectedly, "to make im appy, and wen she fails, she feels teerible."

As they sat down in the stands, Hermione said quietly, "You know, up until very recently I used to kind of feel the same way, but for different reasons." Hermione smiled, "Harry got me to talk about it. I realized it's okay to work hard, but you should do it because you want to, not because you feel you have to for some reason."

Gabrielle nodded, "And now you don't mind if you fail?"

Hermione stared straight ahead deep in thought for a moment, "No, I don't think so, not anymore. Not if I know I've done my best, that's what's important." Hermione turned back to Gabrielle, "Harry helped me to realize something else; he said `You're not always in control of the situation, you do what you can, with what you got.' and now I understand that better."

Gabrielle thought that sounded reasonable. If you were trying to please someone else and failed, how would they know if you actually tried your best? They might think you were just trying to fool them. However, on the other hand; if you are only trying to please yourself, you'd know. After all, like they say; you can't fool yourself. "Do you zink you could talk to her?"

"I think it would be better if it was you who talked to her," Hermione said, "you know her better, and I don't even know your father at all." Hermione smiled, "Also, it's kind of personal, don't you think?"

"Oui, per'aps you are right."

They sat in silence as more and more students started to show up. Gabrielle liked talking to Hermione, but she knew the older witch preferred to be alone when watching the tasks. So, they agreed to talk more later, for now Gabrielle would sit with a new friend. After a brief hug, she said good-bye and left Hermione alone with her thoughts.


As Harry woke on the third day of the task, he wondered what surprises were in store for him today. `Best not to dwell on it, I suppose,' he thought. Getting up, he made a quick breakfast and then started to pack up camp. It really wasn't much of a camp, so it only took a few minutes. As he was putting the last of his stuff into his pack, he noticed Fleur across the clearing making ready to leave as well.

Fleur was putting the last of her things away also when she looked up. She noticed Harry was also up and getting ready to leave. She watched him for a moment, remembering last night. As she watched, she noticed something she hadn't noticed before, he had a slight limp. `I wonder if he is hurt,' she thought. Fleur may not have been very good at starting fires, but she was great with healing. Grabbing her kit, she stood up and started across the clearing towards Harry. About halfway there she called out, "Oi, Arry." After getting his attention, she waved him over.

Meeting him halfway, she stopped and asked, "Arry are you hurt?" While pointing to his leg.

Harry shrugged, "A little sore, that's all." Seeing the suspicious look on Fleur's face, Harry confessed, "Yesterday, I got bit by a wild pig. I cleaned the wound pretty good and bandaged it up… it should be okay."

Fleur wasn't having it, "Seet down Arry." As soon as Harry sat down, Fleur kneeled in front of him and pulled up his pant leg. Being careful not to hurt him, she slowly removed the bandage, "Arry eet eez starting to get…" she hesitated while trying to remember the right word, "infected." Fleur didn't wait for Harry to argue. Turning, she opened her kit and pulled out two large green and purple leaves. She mashed them up in the palm of her hand, and then added a small amount of water, making a paste. "I theenk zat zis will stop ze infection," Fleur said as she gently applied the paste to the wound before re-bandaging it. Fleur then pulled out two more leaves and gave them to Harry. "Tonight, before you sleep, clean ze wound and redo what I just did…oui?"

Harry nodded once, "Oui."

Fleur smiled, "Francais Arry? Per'aps you will survive after all."

Harry smiled back sheepishly, "I learned a little from a girl named Brigitte." Fleur just smiled.

A short while later, Harry buried his fire and slung his pack over his shoulder, and then called over to his distant camp mate, "Oy Fleur, I'm heading out, take care, and I'll see you at Hogwarts."

Fleur waved back, "Zank you Arry. Au revoir."

After walking only a short ways, Harry stopped and looked back… nothing, nothing but the forest. Was he wishfully hoping he'd see Fleur… maybe following him, he wondered? Considering how nice it was last night knowing someone was only a short distance away, he thought maybe he did. After another long look, Harry sighed and started walking again. He was alone, once more. Somehow it seemed, that the closer he got to Hogwarts, the darker the forest became.

As Harry walked on, he couldn't help but think; that the brief encounter with Fleur now only made him feel lonelier. It had somehow reminded him, of just how alone, and far from home he was. Harry told himself, that it had only been barely three days, and that he wasn't really that far from Hogwarts. That it was just the forest playing with his emotions, but it was hard to shake the feeling.

He missed Hermione. Even though she too, really wasn't that far away, it felt like she was half-way around the world. The fact that she was waiting for him helped, but he still felt terribly alone, and isolated. Harry knew the forest could be treacherous, and that it was home to numerous animals; many of which were dangerous.

Perhaps that's why he felt the way he did; it was the forest. It stood between him and the one person he wanted to be with more than anything.

Hermione had always been there for him, especially when times were difficult. She was his rock in a raging river. His anchor that kept him from being swept away in the current of chaos that was sometimes his life. He knew too, that sometimes their roles were reversed. Sometimes, he was her shelter in the storm.

They were good for each other like that, and Harry realized now more than ever, just how much that meant. He realized that he not only needed her, but that he needed her to need him. It gave him a greater purpose in life, one that he hoped would never change.

Harry thought about how they had recently started signing their letters, `Always and Forever'; always trusting, friends forever, and smiled, it seemed so appropriate, now more than ever.


Sitting alone in the stands watching Harry's progress, Hermione jumped as Ron sat down heavily, right next to her.

"Sorry," Ron said, knowing he had startled her, "how's he doing?"

Hermione looked at Ron, then the viewing board, and finally, she let her gaze drift to the forest. "He's okay for now… At least nothing's chasing him, which is a good thing because it looks like his leg is still bothering him."

Ron stared at Hermione while she in turn continued to stare out at the forest, seemingly indifferent to his scrutiny. As Ron studied Hermione from only a couple of feet away, it was obvious even to him that she was more than just a little worried for their mutual friend. Her face was tightly drawn, and her eyes held a look that was far away. Her body was rigid and radiated tension. Ron turned and followed her gaze to the forest, it did look foreboding, evil even, and he briefly wondered if she'd be just as worried if it was him out there instead of Harry; he doubted it.

"He'll be all right Hermione," Ron offered softly.

Hermione turned her head sharply and stared directly into Ron's eyes, "Really Ron? Are you so sure?"

The sheer intensity from the look in her eyes and the tone of her voice caused Ron to flinch, "Well yeah… It's Harry, he has to be." Hermione just turned back to the forest to continue her vigil without saying another word. Ron also returned his gaze to the forest, and for the second time since the tournament had started, he was glad he wasn't Harry.


It was still early, only about ten o'clock, when Harry's good fortune took a turn for the worst. He had stopped for a moment to take a drink of water and to check his map when he heard a yelp like call off in the distance. Harry thought it sounded sort of familiar, but couldn't quite recall what kind of animal made such a sound. He stood quiet and strained his ears, trying to hear more. Harry thought the call had come from in front of him maybe a bit to the south. Rechecking the map and his compass, he decided to veer a little more north in hopes of avoiding the creature, just in case.

Fleur and Harry had decided on deliberately taking two different routes to keep from running into each other again. He knew this slight course change would take him a little closer to her route, but he still felt confident he'd stay far enough south to avoid her. The only problem was, he was now heading for some rougher terrain.

As the ground turned rugged, walking became more difficult. However, despite the challenging path, the forest was starting to open up a little. The trees and under-brush were thinning out, which also let in more light. The biggest problem with the terrain, was that the high and low spots created ledges and overhangs; perfect for an animal to jump down from, ambush style. Harry stayed clear of those areas the best he could and kept a wary eye on the high ground.

Harry walked on cautiously keeping a sharp lookout, the forest had gone quiet again. Less than an hour later and he heard the unmistakable sound of a wolf howl. It was close, very close. Harry stopped and brought his spear up, ready for a fight. Against one wolf, Harry figured he had a fair chance of fighting him off. However, wolves often ran in packs, and against several, Harry knew he'd be in trouble.

A split second after finishing his last thought, a large dark grey wolf ran out into the open and after spotting Harry, skidded to a stop. It stood gracefully about twenty feet away and stared at Harry. The wolf looked to be as surprised as he was at the encounter. A moment later, an ear ticked backwards towards the way it came, quickly followed by its head. Then just as quickly, turned back to Harry if only for a second, before bolting off. For whatever reason, it had no interest in lingering, and paid the boy with the spear no further regard.

Harry watched him go, wondering what could have spooked him so bad. His answer came just as he was about to move on. Harry heard the yelp again, this time it was much louder… and much closer. Harry froze, being able to hear more clearly, he now knew exactly what it was. Harry looked down at his spear, `How in the bloody hell am I supposed to fight that, with a pointy stick,' he thought sarcastically.


Hermione turned slightly and looked at Ron, he didn't understand, how could he when he couldn't see past the surface. Even though he claimed to know Harry, Hermione knew different, deep down at a subconscious level, Ron still saw Harry as the boy who lived. He saw Harry's fame, and fortune. He saw a Hogwarts champion basking in the spotlight. He didn't see what she saw; a boy who never knew the love of his parents. A shy young man who would trade all his fame and fortune to just be… normal and have a family. Yes, Harry would do that in a heartbeat, Hermione was sure of it. Where Ron saw a champion with eternal glory, Hermione saw an unwilling participant, risking his life without a choice. No, Ron most certainly didn't understand.

Hermione's thoughts were interrupted by a gasp from the students around her. Harry… Hermione quickly turned to study the board, and then jumped to her feet, "That can't be," she whispered to herself unbelievably. Looking around quickly to find a professor, Hermione spotted McGonagall having a heated discussion with the Headmaster while pointing to the board. `Apparently, she has similar feelings,' thought Hermione. She raced down from the stands to join them, hoping to get some more information.

"… Yes I know how dangerous they are, and no, I don't know what it is doing in the forest." Dumbledore said pleadingly, trying to calm his deputy. Dumbledore caught Hermione marching over out of the corner of his eye, turning, he held up both hands to forestall the rising storm. "Ladies please… I don't know how this happened, but I will find out. Now if you would please calm down."

Hermione shook her head, "Calm down, what about Harry, how is he supposed to defend himself against that abomination? You must know how vicious they are."

"They are not native to the forest Albus," McGonagall added angrily, it's not right, you need to intercede immediately."

Dumbledore sighed, "No, it is certainly not fair, but I'm afraid I cannot interfere."

"What, why not?" Hermione nearly screamed.

"The rules of the tournament clearly state; that the champions have to deal with `whatever' they encounter alone." Dumbledore slowly shook his head before going on, "I'm afraid that if I interfere… Harry's magic could be jeopardized."

Hermione balled her fists in rage, and for a moment McGonagall thought that she might actually attack the headmaster. "This is so… Idiotic, it's beyond imagination."

Dumbledore nodded sadly an agreement. "Let's not give up on Harry just yet. He has always proven resourceful, and don't forget he has an emergency Portkey."

Hermione couldn't believe it, they were not going to do anything. Dumbledore was just going to wait and see. He was going to leave Harry to his own devices.

She couldn't bear standing next to the man she once greatly admired any longer, so Hermione walked away, never taking her eyes off the board. "Come on Harry, use the Portkey." She didn't care if he ended up being disqualified from the task with no points. `At least he would still be alive and in one piece,' she thought.


"Come on think," Harry said to himself, "what do I know about the Chimera…?" Harry was scared, and growing more nervous by the second. He had never actually seen a real one, but from Hagrid's class, he had learned a little about them. Hagrid had told them how vicious they were, and had played an audio recording of their howl from a crystal because it was so unusual, hoping the students would recognize it if they ever heard one in the future. Harry never thought the future would come so soon. Hagrid had also shown them pictures; the head and front legs were that of a large cat, about the size of a lion. The hindquarters were that of a large goat and it had a short, thick snake for a tail. It was the head that Harry mostly remembered; large and wide, kind of oval-shaped… And full of very sharp teeth.

It was very close, and Harry knew he could not out run it. He also knew that with its powerful front legs, it could climb exceptionally well, so he couldn't use a tree to escape this time. He'd have to face it… but how.

Harry's heart was racing and sweat formed on his forehead despite the cool morning air. `If only I could disable it, slow it down somehow… trap it,' Harry thought desperately. Suddenly, an idea came to him. Dropping down to his knees, he pulled off his pack and quickly found the length of rope he'd been carrying. After tying one end to a tree, he then fashioned a noose out of the other end. Loosely tying the noose to the end of his spear, Harry stood up. It was a dangerous plan, a long shot really, but Harry thought that if he could get close enough to the chimera, he might just be over to get the noose around its neck. Hopefully, that would hold it long enough for him to get away.

No sooner had Harry finished that thought than there was a loud crash in front of him, as the chimera jumped through the thicket and landed only a few feet in front of him. The pictures hadn't done it justice. The chimera was easily seven or eight feet long, and stood at least four feet high at the shoulders. However what Harry found most discomforting, was the size of its head; almost twice the size of a Quaffle, it was disproportionately large for its body. As Harry stared at the 4 inch long teeth, his hopes of snaring this monstrous creature vanished like a wisp of smoke in the wind.

Testing its prey, the chimera stepped cautiously forward and growled. A low rumbling guttural sound that slowly increased in pitch to a loud yowl. It was easily the most terrifying thing Harry had ever heard. Harry cautiously stepped back.

The chimera quickly stepped forward and reached out with its right front paw and swiped at him. Harry nearly fell as he stumbled back. Again it advanced, this time Harry stepped sideways and tried to force the noose over its head. The chimera reacted with lightning fast reflexes and swatted it away. The noose fell harmlessly to the ground. In that instant, Harry realized how foolish his plan had been, especially considering he had no idea what to do next.

The chimera growled again as it circled Harry, who could only stand ready and brace himself for attack. Once more, it swiped at him as Harry desperately tried to block the razor-sharp claws with his spear, only to have it batted down. Harry maneuvered himself close a large rock, and as soon as an opportunity presented itself, Harry jumped up. Hoping that the advantage of high ground would discourage the chimera, Harry yelled out, "AHHHH!" while swinging his spear wildly at it.

The brazen act only gave the chimera an idea of its own. It backed off, only to circle around to some even taller rocks. Two leaps later, and it was the chimera that commanded the high ground. Harry quickly jumped back down and ran out of reach of the jumping cat.

Harry was beginning to tire, while the chimera showed no sign of giving up; as several different versions of this routine repeated itself.

Harry needed a break, and he knew it was only coming if he made it happen. The next time the chimera lashed out, instead of trying to block, Harry moved his spear in a circular motion around the outstretched claw to avoid having it battered away. He was dangerously close, but now there was nothing between the chimera's chest and the tip of his spear.

Harry lunged forward catching the big cat off guard, and striking it in the chest, just below the neck. The chimera howled in pain and reared up on his hindquarters. Harry pushed as hard as he could, hoping to topple the huge animal. The chimera staggered backwards like a drunken sailor but didn't fall. Bending its head down, the catlike creature bit down on Harry's spear snapping it in half. Harry had been leaning into the cat with all his weight and nearly lost his balance and fell forward, but managed to catch himself at the last second. The chimera came down on all fours and started advancing on him again, growling with anger. Harry held what was left of his spear out in front of him, ready to defend himself as best he could. The chimera jumped at him and Harry swung, knocking away one paw, but the other caught him across the stomach leaving four deep gashes that immediately started oozing blood. Harry fell back losing his spear, while the chimera closed in on him. Harry reached for the only weapon he had left, his knife. Harry was certain it wouldn't be of much good against such a strong predator, but he wasn't going down without a fight. Harry was so focused on the advancing creature that his mind was blank, except for the thought of how menacing the chimera looked as it moved in for the kill.

Just before the chimera reached him, it jerked to a stop. During the earlier struggle, while the chimera was staggering backwards, it had inadvertently managed to get its left rear leg tangled in the noose. Harry blinked, and then snapped out of his fear induced haze. Taking advantage of his sudden good luck, Harry jumped to his feet and grabbed his pack, which thankfully was lying nearby. With one last look at the snarling cat, Harry turned and started to run.


Back at Hogwarts, Hermione watched in utter horror as the chimera approached to within a couple of feet of Harry. One final lunge and it would be over; it would clamp its massive jaws around his throat and… It stopped! The rope! Harry was getting away! Breathing rapidly while her heart pounded, Hermione collapsed to the ground in a heap where she had stood. All around her the rest of the spectators took a collective breath. Her world spun, voices were nothing more than a mixture of tones, as she fought to remain conscious. Relieved beyond belief that Harry had narrowly escaped. She was both happy and angry at him. Happy he was alive and yet angry he hadn't used the port key.


Harry had been running hard for about twenty minutes, but needing to catch his breath, he finally stopped. Bent over with his hands on his knees, Harry slowly managed to get his breathing under control. He was about to sit down and tend to his wounds, when he heard the yowl of the chimera again. It was loose, and probably on his trail. After a quick check of his compass, Harry started running again. He needed to find a way to lose the chimera, because he knew he'd never survive another encounter.

A few short minutes later, Harry noticed he was starting to feel strange. Like he was coming down with the flu or something. He was starting to get dizzy, and his vision would get blurry for a moment before snapping back into focus. Harry pushed on, he couldn't stop, couldn't dwell on how he felt. The muscles in his legs burned and he labored for air. His energy was leaving him, and he was losing feeling in his extremities.

Then he remembered, "Shite," he said to himself. The claws of the chimera contained a toxin. He was feeling the effects of being slowly poisoned. Harry slowed down and try to clear his head and catch his breath. He was in trouble and he knew it. `Think! Why can't I think straight,' he wondered? His mind was slowly shutting down, dulled by the pain and the toxin. Another yowl… It was getting closer. `No time to think, got to move, got to run!' Harry was having trouble just moving now, he kept tripping and stumbling, but he pressed on. Oblivious to the cuts and scrapes from trashing through the woods, Harry tried to ignore the nausea swirling in his stomach. He had to, the chimera was almost on him again. Harry's ability to continue to run defied explanation; it seemed he moved by his sheer will alone.

Harry suddenly broke out into the open, only to find he was on the edge of a cliff. A moment later, the chimera jumped out right behind him. Harry turned to face the beast and unconsciously took a step backwards. Harry found himself falling, but his mind was too clouded over to care.

Harry hit the water hard, it knocked the wind out of him and he came up coughing, but he managed to get some air. Momentarily refreshed, his mind cleared if only for a few minutes. Harry swam to the far bank and pulled himself out. Crawling a short ways to the base of a tree he turned around and leaned his back against it. High above on the other side of the river, the chimera yowled in anger at losing its prey. It paced back and forth, looking for a way down. But the cliff was sheer and provided no footholds, even for an animal as agile as the chimera. Even if it had managed, the chimera like most cats, wasn't fond of the water. Deciding not to follow, it turned and headed back into the forest.

Harry pulled off his pack and quickly found the two healing leaves Fleur had given him, safely wrapped in plastic. Harry was starting to get dizzy again, so he hurriedly made the paste and rubbed it into the claw marks. Even being partially numb, the paste burned as if instead of his fingers, Harry was using a hot poker. Fortunately, the pain quickly started to fade as the medicine did its work. With barely enough to tend to his new wounds, his leg would have to go without. Next, he considered trying to start a fire, but with most of his other supplies wet, and his energy all but gone, he didn't think he'd be able to. Instead, he pulled out his blanket and wrapped himself in it. Leaning back against the tree while trying to get warm, Harry had only intended to rest for a short while; his last thoughts before his world went black, were of how worried Hermione must be.


Hermione didn't know how much longer she could go on watching this insanity. In less than an hour, Harry had been attacked twice, and then had fallen over 30 feet; luckily into a deep spot in the river. Now he lay unconscious with nothing but a thin blanket between him and the Dark Forest. She was startled from her thoughts as a gentle arm wrapped itself around her shoulder.

Hermione normally sat alone when she was watching the task. Sometimes a friend would sit with her for a short while, but they all knew she preferred to be alone. She had told them, that she'd be poor company, but most knew she just didn't want to be distracted. Ron had left right before the chimera showed up, and there had been no other friends in the stands at the time, except for Ginny. She had been watching Hermione for the last hour. Ginny had always considered Hermione to be one of the strongest women she knew, and that list included not only her mother, but witches like McGonagall and Madam Bones.

Seeing what the stress from worrying about Harry was doing to Hermione, Ginny had to wonder; did Hermione really think that Harry could die in this tournament? Ginny suddenly realized, that particular thought had never occurred to her. The thought that something as simple as the Triwizard Tournament could kill Harry, was ridiculous… `Wasn't it?' She thought. Next she had to wonder, what if she did believe that, would she have the same strength to continue on like Hermione? Ginny suddenly had a lot of questions about her feelings, but for now, she'd put them on hold, she had a friend who needed her.

"Hermione, come sit with me for a while, I have a blanket. You're going to get sick if you keep sitting here on the ground." It went unsaid, that even she sometimes needed help and shouldn't be alone.

Hermione turned to Ginny, and after a moment nodded yes, "Thanks Gin." Hermione didn't have to say anything more, she could see by the look on Ginny's face that she understood.


A short while later, McGonagall approached the pair, "Miss Granger, Miss Weasley." Both looked up.

"Hello Professor," Ginny acknowledged.

"You do know, that Mister Potter will be unconscious for a day or so?" McGonagall asked. "There is nothing to be gained by sitting here all that time."

"But what if…" Hermione started.

"Miss Granger, all the champions are watched around-the-clock, including Mister Potter. And I'm quite sure he will not wake until tomorrow at the earliest." Knowing what she would ask next, McGonagall added, "He is in a relatively safe spot, so I doubt he'll have any more visitors."

"Still you can't be sure."

"No, I cannot, but as I said, he will be watched." McGonagall sat down next to Hermione. "There is nothing you can do for him now… But when he returns, I'm sure he'll need a few days in the infirmary. I would very much like to be able to tell Poppy, that you are allowed to visit any time."

Hermione sat up straighter and gave McGonagall her full attention, "Yes, I would like that."

"Well then, you will have to eat properly and get the appropriate amount rest, because I will not allow you to jeopardize your health as well."

Hermione only had to think about it for a second, "I understand Professor."

Seeing that Hermione was going to cooperate, she turned to Ginny, "Miss Weasley, can I count on you to see to it that she does."

Ginny stood up pulling Hermione with her, "Yes Professor, of course."

After taking only two steps, Hermione stopped and turned back, "Professor if…"

"You'll be the first to know," McGonagall promised.

"Thank you Professor, but I was going to ask; If Harry was being watched, how come nobody helped him?"

"I can't say whether or not someone was about to help, and if so, why they waited… but I will find out."

Hermione knew there was nothing left to say for now, "Thank you Professor."


Harry woke slowly, as if his mind preferred the peaceful state of slumber it was in, rather than the harsh world of reality. Harry's mind wasn't the only part of his body protesting. His legs were cramped and his back was stiff from both yesterday's overexertion, and the way he had slept. Harry gingerly stretched and that's when he remembered the wound on his stomach as the skin pulled tight against the cuts with a sharp pain.

Harry lifted his shirt and examined the wound. It actually didn't look that bad; the cuts were tender and a little swollen, but otherwise okay. The healing leaves had apparently done a pretty good job of cleaning the wound and pulling out most of the toxins. At the moment, Harry's leg wound didn't feel too bad either, and since he was out of supplies anyway, he decided to leave it wrapped up. Harry hoped they would both be okay until he made it back.

Everything taken care of and his head finally clear, he was ready to leave. Harry looked around, being early morning, it was still fairly dark. A low-hanging fog hugged the ground, and except for the sound of the river nearby; the forest was quiet. Listing to running water reminded Harry to refill his canteens, and to take care of some personal business. Then, after checking his map and compass he started out, with a little luck he might just make it home before nightfall.

On this side of the river the forest was far more open and even though the ground was uneven, Harry was making good time. If he bent or jumped the wrong way, his stomach would remind him of the four claw marks under his shirt, but otherwise they didn't bother him too much. His leg was a different story. Without being able to treat the wound a second time, the infection had apparently returned, and the pain was slowly getting worse. As the day wore on, Harry realized that if he didn't get to Hogwarts today, he might not make it at all.


After getting back to the castle and having dinner with Ginny, Hermione still had trouble falling asleep, even though she had been exhausted. Finally, sometime in the early morning she drifted off.

Hermione was dreaming, it wasn't a pleasant dream, nor was it a nightmare. It was like the kind of dream you have when you're full of anxiety. The type where you are trying to run but your legs feel like lead. She had to move, had to get away. Something was after her, grabbing her… shaking her.

Hermione bolted awake, and in an instant, had her wand pointed right between the eyes of… Ginny?

Ginny jumped back and landed on her bum, "Don't! …Merlin Hermione, it's me," she said holding up both her hands hoping not to get hexed.

Hermione quickly looked around the room and regained her bearings, then noticing the light and realizing it was late afternoon asked desperately, "Ginny, what time is it?"

"Almost three, that's why I woke you."

Hermione jumped out of bed and started throwing clothes on, "What about Harry, is he okay, is he awake?"

"Yeah he's fine, he's almost here," Ginny answered casually.

"What! Why didn't you wake me sooner?"

Confused, Ginny asked, "Why? Nothing's happened."

"He woke up, that's what happened," Hermione yelled as she ran out the door.


Hermione reached the viewing stands by the edge of the forest out of breath, but in record time. Looking around she scanned the area, it appeared that so far, only Fleur had made it back. Checking the board confirmed it, the other three were still in the forest. Viktor was near the edge, but far to the south, he probably wouldn't get here for at least a couple more hours. Cedric still had a long way to go, and he would probably be spending another night in the forest.

But the one Hermione really wanted to know about, was Harry. Sure enough, Ginny had been right. Harry was only a little ways from the border that separated the Dark Forest and Hogwarts. He was limping and obviously in some pain, but he was still walking. Harry would be here within the hour.

Hermione watched for a few more minutes and then decided that even though she was supposed to wait in the stands, she would meet him at the edge of the forest. `To hell with the rules,' she thought.


Harry grimaced as he took another step, his leg was killing him, but he was almost there. The forest was started to thin, and for the first time in four days, Harry felt the warmth of sunlight on his skin. A few minutes later and he could just start to make out Hogwarts through the trees. He had only taken a few more steps when he heard it… The sweetest sound, a voice he'd been waiting to hear for what seemed like forever.

Hermione had been pacing back and forth on the very edge of the line Dumbledore had drawn. She couldn't go past it without causing Harry to lose points. The snap of a twig caught her attention, looking up, she saw him through the trees, "Harry!" She yelled.

From out of nowhere the Headmaster was at her side. "I do believe it would be quite all right if you were to go and…" He never got a chance to finish, Hermione took off like a shot. Dumbledore just smiled.

Hermione slowed down just enough to keep from tackling Harry to the ground as she latched on to him. With her arms wrapped tightly around him, she whispered against his shoulder, "Harry." His name, one word; it contained all the pent up emotions of the last few days.

Harry hugged her back, "You… are a sight for sore eyes Hermione. Merlin, did I miss you."

Hermione nodded against his chest, "I missed you too."

Hermione helped Harry to the medical tent where Madam Pomfrey gave him a quick look over. A few spells and a couple of potions later, she told Hermione to take Harry to the infirmary for a shower and a hot meal. Then he was to go straight to bed, she'd be up later to check on him.


Hermione couldn't help him take a shower of course; he'd have to manage that on his own. However, as soon as he was out and dressed in his pajamas, Hermione helped him into bed and stayed close while he ate some dinner.

Harry could tell that even though she was exhausted, there was something on her mind. Lying back, he padded the spot next to him for her to sit, "Hermione, what's wrong?"

Without looking at him, she bit her lip. `What's wrong…? You almost died out there… You promised,' she wanted to yell… but she didn't. Hermione could see how worn out he was, "We'll talk later Harry, for now just get some rest."

Harry couldn't help but notice how tired she looked as well, and he knew the watching and the waiting was hard on her. "Yeah, okay… but I want you to get some rest too," Harry said, brokering no argument from her.

She had promised him, she'd leave and get some rest as soon as he was asleep. He had drifted off several hours ago, and as promised, she had left. However, after only a few hours of sleep, Hermione couldn't keep her eyes closed any longer, so now she was back. She sat by the side of Harry's bed and watched him sleep. She marked the passage of time, by the slow rhythmic rise and fall of his chest, and thought about why she was so reluctant to be anywhere else.

The task was over, Harry was safe - but he was still alone. Pomfrey had treated his wounds and he would recover - but he could have died. Each time she found a reason to go, a little voice gave her one to stay.

Harry's consciousness slowly stirred back to life. Cracking one eye open, the first thing he saw was his beautiful brown-haired girlfriend sitting by his side, staring at their joined hands. He gave them a weak squeeze.

Hermione looked up, "Hey, you're awake. How are you feeling?" She asked softly.

Harry smiled as he gingerly scooted back so he could sit up a little. Leaning back against the headboard he answered in a hoarse voice, "Not too bad actually, I'm feeling a lot better." Then with a scrutinizing glance he raised a brow and asked curiously, "You said you'd get some rest. Please tell me you haven't been here all this time."

Hermione sat up straighter trying not to look as tired as she felt. "No, of course not. You were out for quite a while, and I… Well I just couldn't sleep anymore."

"So you came back," Harry offered

Hermione looked down, "Yeah." After a short silence, she looked back up, "Harry you could have been killed trying to fight that chimera, what were you thinking… Why didn't you use the Portkey?" Hermione asked quietly, but it was clear from the inflection in her voice, she was upset.

Harry was surprised by the sudden change in her tone, and the look on her face. Had he upset her that much he wondered? `No, I acted like an idiot and scared her half to death,' he concluded. With a fair bit of effort, he managed to swing his legs down off the bed. Sitting on the edge, he patted the spot next to him, encouraging her to sit next to him. "Hermione… come'ere," he pleaded softly.

Hermione had been terrified, and his reckless actions had scared her. Now, she was mostly just mad and upset. Reluctantly, she stood up, then turned halfway around and sat down next to him a bit stiffly. Without looking at him, she asked again, "Why'd you do that Harry?"

Harry didn't have to see her face to know she was crying. The fact that it was his fault, made him feel terrible. Taking one of her small hands in his, he said gently, "Hermione, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you… Please don't cry." Harry knew she still wanted an answer. "I honestly never thought of fighting it. By the time I had figured out what it was, it was almost on top of me. I had only hoped to slow it down so that I could get away."

Hermione had turned and was now staring straight at him, listing to his every word very carefully.

"I tried to think of something else, but I never imagined anything, like having to face a chimera, and there was just so little time." Harry looked away, "When it jumped out at me… I… I went blank, I was almost frozen with fear." Harry took a deep breath and let it out slowly trying to calm himself. Just thinking about it, had his heart racing again.

Hermione suddenly felt guilty, after all, she hadn't been the one out there. "It's okay Harry, you don't have to go on."

Harry ran his free hand through his hair, "No, I need to talk about it… And you deserve to know."

Hermione wrapped her other hand around their already joined ones and squeezed.

"I'd had a plan… sort of, but as soon as I saw it… I knew it would never work," Harry started again. "It was huge, and… and its growl… I don't think I'll ever forget that sound." Harry whispered, then after a long detached moment, he sighed, "Anyway, I just started acting on instinct… I completely forgot about the Portkey. I was so focused… It had my…"

"You forgot?" Hermione asked, interrupting him.

Harry hung his head and nodded yes, "Stupid I know. You must be disappointed."

Hermione leaned into him, and laid her head on his shoulder. "Harry, when you had to face that dragon a while back, I was so scared, I was petrified; I don't think I could have even of told you my name I was so frightened, and I was up in the stands!" Hermione sniffed, "This was the second time you've had to face a… a real live monster. It's amazing you're still alive. I should have known you wouldn't have acted that recklessly, I'm sorry I doubted you Harry."

"Don't be sorry Hermione, I should have remembered the Portkey… and used it."

"I'm just glad you're back," Hermione said as the last of the tension left her and she settled into Harry's side.

Harry looked down at her, "And I'm glad you're here."

After a few minutes of quiet, Harry felt the air was too gloomy and decided a change of mood was required. "You remember that healing charm Alexi gave his demonstration on?" Harry asked.

Lifting her head to look at Harry, Hermione answered curiously, "Yes," one brow raised, wondering where this was going.

"With nothing left in my first-aid kit, I remember thinking, I wished I had learned that one."

"Yes, well hopefully you'll never need it again."

Harry nodded in agreement, then both just sat there quietly, content just to be together without any immediate worries. Harry still holding her hand, laced their fingers together. Hermione just smiled and closed her eyes, as she again laid her head back on Harry's shoulder. Harry turned his head slightly and gently rested his chin on the top of her head. It was just a simple act of comfort, but Hermione thought it was the sweetest thing. She loved this side of Harry. He was so caring and compassionate, and he didn't even know it.

Standing in Pomfrey's office doorway, McGonagall had watched the whole exchange from a distance. She couldn't help but think, that she was seeing Harry and Hermione for the first time. That this, was the real Harry and Hermione. The ones you rarely saw, and that most would never see, unguarded and open. A side they could only show to each other. She had known many young couples over the years, but none had ever shown the deep connection that Harry and Hermione shared so easily. Turning away, she smiled at the thought of what she was sure would become a very special relationship in the future.


"Good morning everyone, I hope you've all had a good rest." Dumbledore started.

Harry wondered if the Professor was referring to the champions in particular, now that they were all back.

"Now that the fifth task is over, we can get back doing some school work." Dumbledore smiled at the collective moan that rose up. "Not to worry, there is still one more task left, and with it, a break in the horrible drudgery of your day to day class work," Dumbledore laughed.

Harry laughed too, as he wondered what had put his headmaster in such a cheery mood.

"But before you scamper off to class… I thought you might like to hear the scores for your favorite champion." Dumbledore looked up with his brows raised, as if expecting an answer. Looking at a sea of expectant faces, Dumbledore smiled, "Ah, I thought as much… Very well. But first, I must ask you to please wait until we are finished before cheering for your champion of choice."

Dumbledore turned towards the Hufflepuff table, "Mr. Diggory, that lost compass cost you considerable time, however, aside from that, you handled yourself very well. I particularly liked the way you dealt with the snakes, well done sir. Mr. Diggory came in fourth for this task with thirty eight points, putting him in second place overall with one hundred and eighty points." Turning to the Durmstrang students, he when on, "Mr. Krum you gave me a bit of a scare when you decided to try and cross the marsh without magic. I'm glad you were able to make it back out with only a handful of injuries. Mr. Krum came in third with forty two points, which also puts him in third place overall with one hundred and seventy seven points."

Dumbledore paused as he looked at the Gryffindor table where both Harry and Fleur were sitting. "A difficult task or trial changes a person, usually for the better; does it not?"

Harry nodded slightly. In this particular case, he thought Dumbledore was spot on.

"Mr. Potter, you used excellent judgement, right up until you stopped thinking completely and nearly got yourself killed. However, considering what you were faced with, it is understandable. Mr. Potter, after a five point penalty for interacting with another champion, your final score for the task was forty five points for second place. This currently puts you in first place overall, with one hundred and eighty three points. Well done Mr. Potter." Dumbledore smiled, "Miss Delacour, I must say you surprised me… in a very good way. You faced a considerable number of challenges, yet you didn't let them slow you down. Even cold and wet, you pressed on… and it paid off. You used what you had very skillfully, and yet still found time to learn something new. Miss Delacour, you not only finished the task first, but came in first place with a score of fifty points, also after a five point deduction. Well done indeed. That gives you a final score of one hundred and seventy six points placing you in fourth place overall." Dumbledore stepped back and clapped along with the rest of the Hall. The noise rose quickly as both students and staff stood, and cheered.

Before the enthusiasm started to wane, Dumbledore approached the podium again with hands raised, calling for quiet. "Over the years, the Triwizard Tournament has gained a dark reputation. I had thought that enough had been done to change that. I was wrong. It seems there is much more that needs to change if it is to continue, but that is not what I want to talk about now." Dumbledore looked around the Great Hall slowly, studying the different groups. "I have seen not only students from different schools come together to both work and socialize, but I have seen our own house boundaries fall as well." Dumbledore paused a moment to let that sink in. "I cannot emphasize enough, how important that one single aspect is… if we as a society are to survive. So, if the Triwizard Tournament had taught us anything, it's that we can work together no matter who we are. A mere eight points separate all our champions; it would seem we are more alike than we care to think. Enjoy your time together, the last task and the end of the school year will be here before you it."


Harry had already been out of the infirmary for a couple of days, so as he sat down to breakfast the following Friday he felt pretty good; except for his leg, which was still a little tender.

Neville watched as Harry gently eased himself onto the bench. "Still a little sore?"

"Yeah, mostly in the morning," Harry answered, "Pomfrey said there was some muscle damage, and that takes the longest to heal." Harry smiled, "Should be fine by next week."

"Ginny thinks you're milking it, to get out of your morning run," Neville said with a smirk.

Harry laughed, "She did, did she?" Then after a quick look around he asked, "Where are they anyway?"

"Hermione started back running today, that's why Ginny made that joke," Neville answered, "Luna went with them."

Harry looked up surprised, "Luna started running?"

Now Neville laughed, "No, she just cheers them on; although to hear Ginny tell it, she's more like a Muggle drill instructor." Harry smiled as he pictured that in his head. "But we have talked about it… We'll see," Neville added with a shrug.

"So, everything set for tomorrow?" Harry asked.

Neville brightened, "Yeah, everything should work out just in time."

Harry smiled, tomorrow was going to be a great day.


AN: Chimera is also sometimes spelled Chimaera.



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