Can't Have It Both Ways

If you are forced to participate in a competition that's reserved for adults only, doesn't that mean you should be considered an adult? Harry gets some much needed help and advice before having some fun by allowing his marauder heritage out to play. H/Hr

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/5402315/1/Can-t-Have-It-Both-Ways

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10. Chapter 10

Hermione led Harry by the arm through the French doors and into her home, "Mum, Dad, it's us!"

They walked into the lounge where you could cut the atmosphere with a knife. Harry just assumed that the two strange females present were Hermione's Aunt Agnes and her daughter Brenda, he was not impressed. In fact his first impression was of his Aunt Petunia and Dudley, not good. Their mannerisms and the way Agnes unnecessarily fussed over the girl brought forth memories of Dudley getting his bow tie fixed while waiting on Aunt Marge. If Agnes started spouting baby-talk then Harry was sure he would throw up.

The girl was clearly spoilt rotten while her mother evidently thought the sun shone out of her daughter's backside. Harry and all the Grangers were dressed in casual clothes while this pair looked as if they'd spent the day in the beauty parlour, then got dressed in their best as if ready for a wild night out on the town. It was six o'clock on a Friday in Crawley for Merlin's sake. It was all so bloody fake but what really troubled Harry were the motives behind this display. Were they that stupid and shallow that they believed he would dump Hermione after his first glance at Brenda's unwelcome display of cleavage?

Harry hugged Emma then swapped with Hermione to shake Dan's hand before his betrothed handled the introductions, "Harry, this is my Aunt Agnes."

The woman came forward, clearly intending to hug him in a similar fashion to Emma but Harry had no intention of offering any encouragement whatsoever. He stuck his hand straight out in front of him, forcing her to either shake his hand or walk right into it.

Agnes shook it but wasn't pleased, her daughter pouted at the offered hand. "Shaking hands isn't the best way to get to know one another."

Harry shrugged his shoulders, "Fair enough." He turned his back on her to face Hermione, taking both her hands. "Will you show me where my room is love?"

She took him by the arm as they both headed out the lounge, "Back in a few minutes mum!" Hermione was seriously fighting to control her laughter at the expression on Brenda's face.

They had barely entered Harry's room when she spun him round, "You are bloody brilliant!" Hermione then proceeded to demonstrate just how brilliant she thought he was, both Harry's arms were around Hermione as they got fully into the kiss when there was a loud gasp from the doorway.

Hermione's first instinct was to pull away but Harry held her tight, finished the kiss and then spoke to the person now standing in the doorway. "Can we help you with something or do you always spy on young couples?"

Brenda was incensed at the snub, her mother had described the poster in great detail to her but she hadn't believed a word until seeing the item for herself today. She'd stared at that poster long and hard as those beautiful green eyes seemed to connect with her soul, making her feel all flushed. Here was someone worthy of her who would treat Brenda right. This person wouldn't give her a 'we had a good time but' phone call, the sincerity was there for anyone to see. Then in they walk, arm in arm as bold as brass and he refuses even to hug her, this lord whoever was going to get a piece of her mind.

The sight of her eager beaver cousin wrapped around this boy with their lips locked shocked Brenda to her core. Mother's idea that this is all some con was severely tested by that vision, could Hermione act that well and did they even know she was there? His comments stung like a whip but it would take more than that to tame Brenda, or deflect her from her course. "I just wanted to know why you snubbed me down there, just what lies has the chipmunk been telling you about me?"

Hermione was still in Harry's arms and he felt her cringe at the insult, his temper began to surface. "I have known Hermione for over three years and her honesty is one of her most endearing qualities. I have known you for about three minutes but you seem to think I owe you something and that it's alright to insult my girlfriend in my presence, something I will never allow. I offered you my hand in greeting and you refused it. The snub came from you, yet in some kind of delusional state I'm supposed to have slighted you and it's Hermione's fault?"

The continued sight of bucky beaver wrapped in this boy's arms was really getting on Brenda's tits, how could her cousin possibly pull a guy like this? She changed her angle of attack. "Hermione, you should be ashamed of yourself! I expected better from you, in his bedroom as well." The hypocrisy in those words never even scratched Brenda's thick skin though the jealousy did ring out in her voice, "Your parents would be so disappointed in you."

Harry wouldn't let that barb take hold, "I highly doubt it since we were doing nothing that could be considered inappropriate."

Brenda's smile was predatory now, "Ah, but who do you think Uncle Dan will believe? You or me?"

The sound of 'Uncle Dan's' voice coming from directly behind her shocked the girl but not as much as his words. "Actually Brenda, that would be Harry. Sorry but I assumed I didn't have to call you Lord Potter in my own house?" Dan's wink signalled to them both that he'd heard more of the confrontation than just that last bit and there would be no trouble coming their way from him. His next comment reinforced that belief as Dan twisted the knife in his meddlesome and jealous niece. "You two better freshen up as dinner is about to hit the table, how was the journey down from the castle?"

Harry played right along, "You know we always travel in style Dan, and I only use the 'Lord' thing when I need to!"

"Castle?" croaked Brenda.

Hermione had the loving support of the two most important men in her life so it was time to begin laying past ghosts of torment to rest. "Yes Brenda, my school is a castle. Well, that should more accurately be Harry's school since he owns it. Ready to go down to dinner love?"

As they passed Brenda, her calculator eyes were clearly doing a number on Harry and the figures were adding up rather nicely.

At the table Harry needed no prompting to find himself bracketed by his favourite Granger girls for dinner, much to the consternation of the two women left on the other side of the table.

Agnes couldn't even wait until she'd finished her starter before beginning Hermione's interrogation. "So dear, you'll have to tell me how…Bloody Hell! Hermione Jane Granger, what's that on your finger?"

Hermione had reached for her wine glass, knowing full well they couldn't miss her beautiful betrothal ring. "What this? Oh Harry gave it to me."

Agnes turned on her brother. "Daniel, what have you got to say about this boy giving your daughter an obviously hideously expensive ring?"

Dan was enjoying this almost as much as Emma was, that bitch Brenda calling his Hermione a chipmunk meant the gloves were off today. "Well, since he also put a quarter of a million pounds in her bank account, I figured he could afford it!"

Emma once more wished for a camera, she would have to speak with Colin about how taking pictures from your memory worked because she would give a year's salary to have a permanent reminder of this. Emma had seen nail varnish on sale called envy green and she would swear both Agnes and Brenda's faces matched the shade exactly.

The smirk on Emma's face couldn't be hidden so Agnes took the only option available to her. "Well, since it would appear you have bewitched the three of them, what have you got to say for yourself young man?" All three Grangers almost choked at her turn of phrase but Harry wasn't troubled by her glare.

"Nothing!"

Agnes was spluttering while Brenda stared daggers at him, "What do you mean nothing? You are a very rude boy!"

"It was not my intention to be rude, I have nothing to say for myself, hence my answer. Hermione's mother and father know me and I have answered any question they have asked of me, I have no intention of being interrogated by you or anyone else."

"I think I'm entitled to ask what your intentions are towards my only niece."

Harry was quickly coming to dislike this woman so gave her an answer he could be certain was not the one she was searching for. "My intentions towards Hermione are signified by that ring she wears. It's an old Potter family promise ring that's part of a set of three. On her birthday she gets the next one and I speak to Dan about completing the set."

Hermione's scream of "YESSSS!" was right in Harry's ear as she now had him in a death grip, both of them were in danger of toppling backwards off their chairs until Emma grabbed them both in her arms. Halting their backward motion while celebrating right along with them.

Brenda was confused, "What just happened?"

Agnes was not amused, "Hermione is getting engaged on her birthday!"

"What! She'll only be sixteen, how can she get engaged?"

Harry supplied the answer. "In Scotland you can marry at sixteen but Potter family tradition usually means we'll wait until she's seventeen."

"Nineteenth September on my Seventeenth birthday works for me! Write it in your diary Brenda."

Even though Hermione's words couldn't be faulted, her 'Write it in your diary Brenda' was said with such emotion and feeling that Dan had to do a double take. It had somehow sounded exactly like 'Stick that up your arse Brenda!' Dan would not have reprimanded Hermione even if she had said it, some retribution for Brenda was long overdue. Dan was learning that with Harry by her side, Hermione apparently could stand up to anything. He now understood that his daughter carried out the same function for Harry, these two were really good together.

Agnes stared at her brother, "And you're ok with this?"

Dan actually had tears in his eyes, "I just wish I had some good champagne in the house, it's not every day a father gets to see his daughter proposed too."

She then pushed it too far by demanding of Harry, "Just what do your parents think of this madness?"

Hermione almost went for her wand, this was one of the happiest moments of her life and nobody was going to spoil it, or upset Harry. Only her mother who was still hugging her daughter prevented Hermione cursing Aunt Agnes.

"I have no idea what my parents think as they were killed when I was just a toddler. How could they fail to love Hermione, my godfather thinks she's the greatest and will be very happy for us. Dan I think you should check the fridge, I'm sure there's some champagne in there."

Emma was biting her lip to stop herself laughing as Dobby had silently appeared behind the other three. The little elf was wearing the biggest smile she'd ever seen while signalling to Harry that the bottles in his hand would find their way into the kitchen. Emma so wished she could hire a house elf!

Harry turned to Hermione. "Sorry love, that was not the way I intended to ask you. Sirius explained the significance behind the rings to me the night we got dragged apart for 'chats' and he really does love you. I'm positive my mum and dad would have as well. You seem to be hearing things today rather than us discussing them but that's purely due to circumstances and timing."

"What else happened Harry?" Emma asked.

"Oh they were trying to push a Christmas Ball onto us and we had to reveal our plans before I wanted to."

"You must come to our Christmas Party, everyone will be there!" Agnes spoke as if that statement brooked no argument and their decision was already made for them.

Harry wondered if Agnes was adopted but then thought of his mother's sister, apparently siblings could be so different. "Everyone might be there but we won't, our holidays are already organised and all that remains is to inform Emma and Dan that they are most definitely invited too!"

The thought of spending Christmas with Harry and Hermione AND missing Agnes's dreadful party meant Emma's answer was always going to be a resounding yes. They knew what they were escaping but, with Agnes sitting there and for the sake of manners she thought she better at least ask what they were letting themselves in for. "What are the plans Harry?"

"We're all invited to Victor's in Bulgaria for Christmas Eve with a visit to the orphanage a must. Christmas Day everyone's staying with Fleur and there's a French Government Ball involved, Boxing Day will see us visiting Cedric. After that you're all in my capable hands which will involve lying on a beach, soaking in some sun."

Emma paled, "You want us to go onto a beach with Fleur Delacour?"

Harry glanced at Dan for guidance but he could only shrug in answer, when his wife was in a bikini his eyes weren't wandering anywhere else. "Yes, Hermione and her are becoming good friends, I don't see the problem Emma?"

"Is there something wrong with this girl Fleur?" Brenda didn't come right out and say it but her accusation was that there must be if she hung out with Hermione.

Emma's eyes bored into her niece, "Oh there's nothing wrong with Fleur and that's the problem. If you combined Kim Basinger and Jodie Foster you might come close, she's the most beautiful girl I've ever laid eyes on!"

Harry and Dan behaved like clones of each other as they shook their heads and rolled their eyes in perfect unison at Emma's proclamation, both also wisely decided to leave the subject alone, for now.

"Dan, I know you wanted to treat us this weekend but I insist on paying in Hamleys. I intend to buy a lot of toys for the kids in Bulgaria…"

Harry was interrupted by the sound of Brenda's chair crashing backward, hitting the floor as she shot to her feet and began shouting. "Ok, too far there! You can switch off the cameras and come out because I'm on to you. I thought you people at Candid Camera were better than this? Bulgarian orphans, French Balls, beaches in December and worst of all, the chipmunk having beautiful friends while getting engaged to a handsome, and of course, rich lord. Please? Just how stupid do you think we are? Get those bloody cameras switched off and show yourselves NOW!"

There followed a silence that seemed to last a lifetime, it was eventually broken by Dan but his voice was so low, cold and menacing it was almost unrecognisable. "Agnes, if you don't get this spoilt, arrogant little bitch out of my house very quickly then I promise you she's likely to be in serious trouble." The first boil was already starting to appear on Brenda's nose, "We will not be at your party but rather attending a ball in…" He looked to Harry for the destination.

"Paris."

"Attending a ball in Paris, do not return to this house until both of you are ready to sincerely apologise to our daughter and her intended. We have nothing further to say to each other."

Agnes merely nodded and stood but Brenda wasn't finished, "Mother you said yourself it was probably a con, surely you don't buy the chipmunk and him…"

The slap ended any more words leaving Brenda's mouth, her mother had actually hit her. "Home – Now!" The mortified mother dragged her still shocked daughter out the front door, straight into their car.

The remaining silence was broken by Hermione. "How Many?"

"Oh…lots."

"How long?"

"Well…at least until you forgive her."

"Thank you Harry."

The loud pop signified that Dan had found the bottles Dobby had brought, as they toasted the pending engagement their dinner appeared on the table.

"Hermione are you sure we couldn't hire a house elf? Salary can be whatever they want!" Both teens could see Emma was serious.

-oOoOo-

Dan lay in bed with Emma wrapped in his arms, she'd just fallen asleep yet was still smiling from the weekend they'd just had. After the Brenda debacle was over, they had gone on to spend a very pleasant Friday night. Saturday proved to be a day full of revelations. Emma and Hermione had fun getting Harry a full new wardrobe, apart from his school uniform the lad had very little and didn't want Dan to pay for them, he of course ignored this.

It was Harry's face in Hamleys that almost broke the Granger's hearts. Even Dan got a little excited entering one of the largest and finest toy stores in the world but you could be forgiven for thinking Harry had come through the looking glass. With wide eyes he went on a buying spree that saw him spend thousands on each of the six floors, arranging for everything to be delivered to Crawley from where Dobby would collect it.

It was only when Emma asked him if he wasn't going a little overboard that the truth came out. "Emma, Hermione gave me a box of chocolate frogs when I was eleven and that was amongst the first presents I ever received. My relatives sent me fifty pence as a joke because they knew I couldn't spend it. I thought it was normal to get nothing because I was different, I was an orphan. The choice between having gold sitting in my vault or putting smiles on kid's faces at Christmas is not a difficult one for me to make."

Emma swore she wouldn't cry, instead redoubled her efforts in helping Harry spend some of that gold, she recognised that to Harry, making people happy was its own reward and she knew of no one more deserving than this boy who loved her daughter.

Dan was glad they'd taken the train, had they gone by car then a detour to number four Privet Drive would have been unavoidable. His wife hated with a passion anyone who was cruel to children. The way she had accepted Harry into their family meant the Dursleys would have been treated to Emma erupting over their treatment of 'her' boy.

Dobby had been quietly removing their purchases all day so there was no dragging bags from shop to shop, Harry pulled a fast one by arranging through Barchoke for theatre tickets which the little guy eagerly delivered.

He shyly handed them to Dan, "I've no idea what this is but hope you like it!"

Squeals of delight from Emma and Hermione confirmed Barchoke knew what he was doing before Dan expressed his worry about getting home at night.

"Dad, you're wearing a portkey on your finger, getting home will be no problem!"

So it was less that twenty minutes after the fantastic show finished, four very happy but very tired people were sitting in the Granger's kitchen enjoying their hot chocolate as much as each other's company. Dan may not be entirely comfortable with the displays of affection Hermione was wont to show Harry but he had to admit his daughter was a brighter, happier person with Harry in her life.

Next weekend they would be going to Hogwarts as Harry had to compete in the tournament, they would also get a chance to talk to the other three champions about their trip at Christmas. It was exciting times in the Granger household and both parents were delighted to be part of their daughter's magical life. Putting an eleven-year-old Hermione onto a train bound for Scotland with only letters to tide them over until they saw her again at the holidays was one of the hardest decisions they'd ever made. Seeing Hermione so happy was making their choice look like the right one.

The most obvious cloud on the horizon was this tournament. Harry wouldn't tell them what the task entailed, only that he had a plan. If anything happened to Harry it would be Dumbledore who needed a plan, an escape plan from the vengeful Granger girls.

-oOoOo-

Ron had a plan and, to be fair, it was a good plan. In any chess game if you were unsure, the general reply was to move a pawn so that's exactly what Ron was doing, using a pawn. After classes on Monday he pulled his pawn aside. "Ginny I need you to do me a favour." The look in her eyes clearly said Ron was all out of favours with his sister. "Well actually, the favour is not for me but Harry."

Ron could see he had her full attention now, "When chatting to Dumbledore last Friday in potions I managed to finesse what the first task will be out of him. If I tell you, will you make sure Harry gets the information?"

Her long red hair went everywhere with the speed and ferocity she was nodding her head.

Ron took a deep breath. "It's dragons Ginny, Charlie is bringing four dragons for the champions to face."

Ginny had her mouth open ready to scream when Ron's hand suddenly covered it, "Ginny, we need to keep this quiet. You shouting 'dragons' at the top of your voice isn't keeping it quiet."

She glared at him though gave a slight nod of understanding."If I take my hand away will you promise not to hex me?"

Ginny continued to glare at him, "Ok I'll just have to take my chances." Ron removed his hand and himself off down the corridor as quickly as his long legs would carry him. He needn't have bothered, Ginny was too shocked even to think of a spell, far less cast one. She headed straight for Harry's place.

She found him with Hermione and Luna in their library, Hermione spotted her agitated state immediately. "Ginny what's the problem? Come over and sit with us so we can talk about it."

The red head flopped onto a couch, "I've just had a conversation with Ron, apparently Dumbledore let slip what the first task is…"

"Ginny please stop there," Harry said, "We all know Dumbledore never let anything 'slip' in his life. Every move is calculated and this one is intended to have me beholden to him. There is also the fact that Ron accused me of cheating yet is now trying to help me cheat. I will step out there with the same information as the other three champions and hope my plan works, please thank Ron for me but I don't want anything to do with Dumbledore."

Ginny was staring at him in disbelief, "You don't want me to tell you?"

"No Ginny, this has nothing to do with Ron, I just don't want anything from Dumbledore."

She looked to Hermione for help but found none. "Harry's right Ginny, we don't even take potions lessons in the castle anymore to avoid contact with the old goat."

Ginny sighed, "You may be right, I wish I didn't know because I won't sleep the rest of the week now with worry, and I'll say nothing."

Ron was again flummoxed by Harry's reply, it was like being given the answers to a test and deciding not to use them. At least Ginny said he wasn't angry with him over this, only Dumbledore, but it only added to his problem, when did his life get so complicated.

-oOoOo-

It was Thursday before Hagrid managed to get a hold of Harry as he left the cube. "Harry, Hermione, Wait up, I want a word with yeh." Only half the castle heard him.

He then lowered his voice to a mere shout, "There's somthin' I needs to tell yeh."

"This wouldn't be something that Dumbledore asked you to tell me would it?" asked Harry.

"Naw, Dumbledore even said not tae mention his name when I told yea, I shouldn'ta told yeh that!"

Harry and Hermione were laughing at their large friends attempt to be sneaky. Even apart from his size Hagrid could never be a spy, he was the worst liar and secret keeper in the world.

"Hagrid, not that I don't appreciate you wanting to help but I will not accept assistance from Dumbledore. The man crossed the line when he went after Hermione's parents."

They both saw the look of hurt in the large mans eyes so Harry tried to put Hagrid's mind at rest. "Hagrid please don't worry about me, I have a plan based on meeting my first friend and the first person I can remember buying me a present."

Hagrid's hugs made Molly's look as if she wasn't really trying, he walked away from the two crumpled teens, wiping his eyes and blowing his nose.

-oOoOo-

Dumbledore watched Ronald Weasley leave his class and his last chance to influence Harry walked out the door with him, when Hagrid informed Albus that Harry had seen right through his plan he was amazed. That turned out to be only the tip of the iceberg though as Hagrid didn't appreciate the position that he'd been placed in. Albus had mentioned 'helping Harry' which was all that was needed to get Hagrid on board, now the large man knew he had been used and was not best pleased.

Weasley had eventually figured out the blatant clues Albus gave him last week and again Harry refused his aid, it would appear a touch of 'softening up' was required before the second task.

-oOoOo-

Emma Granger was officially a nervous wreck, she was sitting in this stadium thing looking down into a quarry. She had no idea what was going to happen except that it involved three young people she was quickly becoming friends with and a boy who'd rapidly worked his way into her heart. Oh and it would be extremely dangerous with people having been maimed or killed in the past.

The judges arrived and sat in their own little stand, even though she was a muggle, Emma recognised all of them. Madame Maxine was unmistakable, as was Dumbledore sitting beside her, the witch in the cardigan could be no one else but Umbridge. That meant the fourth judge had to be Karkaroff because she was well acquainted with the figure on the other end. Ludo Bagman had been exposed in the Quibbler as having massive gambling debts, calling into question his honesty and impartiality as a judge since they couldn't be sure which contestant he had placed gold on. Harry had then lobbied to have a representative on the judging panel, for equality with the other champions, so Barchoke was now officiating. Umbridge's disgust at this decision was undisguised .

Emma noticed Hermione slip into the seat they had reserved beside them and pulled her daughter into a comforting hug, "How's Harry?"

"You know Harry mum, he ended up reassuring me! I'm just so worried about this, there are so many things that could go wrong but we just have to hope he's ok."

This is not what Emma wanted to hear. Hermione had been confident throughout but suddenly seemed worried, Sirius was on Hermione's other side but no help.

"They wouldn't tell us either but we have our suspicions, if we're right you'll soon understand why they wouldn't say anything." Remus was beside Sirius and nodding his agreement.

They were surrounded by the kids' friends and all the Gryffindors, Emma studied them closely. Ginny was pale and sickly - she knew. Colin was actually shaking – he knew. Luna appeared composed but the nib of her quill had been pressed so hard onto the parchment she was prepared to write on, it had pierced right through and the little blond girl hadn't even noticed – she knew.

Emma felt her husband's body go rigid beside her but his 'oh Fuck!' was the real clincher, Dan Granger very rarely swore.

She spun back round to see five men trying to lead the scariest thing she had ever seen into the arena. It was the size of two elephants yet had wings, vicious looking claws and teeth with flames coming out its mouth. Emma was getting her first close up view of a dragon.

Emma now understood why they hadn't been told, she would have had Harry on the first available plane out of the country, never to return. "Harry has to face that?" She asked her daughter, needing to have the obvious confirmed.

"No mum, each champion has to face their own dragon. If Harry's luck holds true to form he will get the biggest, meanest dragon known to man." Tears were rolling down her cheeks as she said this causing Emma to snap.

Emma was on her feet shouting at the judges. "Hail Caesar! We who are about to die salute you! Is this really how you people get your jollies? Watching teenagers put in situations where one wrong move could lead to their death. Lions not good enough for you lot? It has to be bloody dragons!"

Umbridge also shot to her feet. She had wanted her photo taken with the champions but all four had refused and the little shit with the camera said he only took photo's people wanted to see, now some crazy bitch was shouting at her. "Who is this woman?"

It was Albus who answered, "That is the mother of Mr Potter's betrothed."

A muggle? A muggle was shouting at her in front of all these people? "I am the acting minister of magic and you shouldn't even be here. There is no place for you in our world which is amply demonstrated by your outburst here today, apparently they are letting any filth in here now."

Emma was not for backing down. "It's quite easy to see that you are not a mother. Though, from where I'm standing, that's perfectly understandable and not necessarily a bad thing."

The resulting laughter throughout the stadium saw Umbridge reach for her wand, only to be faced with every Gryffindor's and those of quite a few others as well. "What type of school are you running here Dumbledore?"

"You forget madam, I am merely the potion's professor at Hogwarts. Headmistress McGonagall is the person to whom you would need to direct that question."

McGonagall wasn't hard to find, she was on her feet amongst the Gryffindors with her wand pointed right between Dolores Umbridge's eyes.

Not one wand backed Umbridge and the stand-off was broken by Barchoke, his baritone voice ringing out clear enough for most to hear. "There is no rule that says the judges must sit together so, if you will excuse me, I'll go and sit with the other filth!"

Madame Maxime also stood and proclaimed loudly in her accented English, "Sir, if you would offer a lady your arm I would be delighted to accompany you."

Albus looked on in amazement as a goblin led a half-giantess on his arm over to sit with the Gryffindors, the space beside Hagrid rapidly cleared allowing him and Olympe to sit together. The goblin was welcomed to a seat between Remus and Sirius as Ludo tried to get things back on track.

"Welcome everyone to the first task of the tri-wizard tournament, each champion will be tasked with retrieving a golden egg from amongst the clutch each dragon has in its nest. The draw was made earlier and Cedric Diggory will be first, facing a Welsh Green."

Emma watched Cedric's attempt through her fingers as the lad finally turned a large rock into a Labrador and snatched the egg as the dragon slaughtered the fake dog Cedric didn't escape unscathed though as the side of his face had a nasty burn.

She had no idea what score he was awarded as she watched the dragon being herded away and replaced with another one, she was desperate to discover who would be up next.

Fleur was next into the arena and Emma got to see first hand the effects of Veela allure. As she attempted to charm the dragon to sleep, most of the boys in the stands appeared ready to jump in there and offer themselves as willing sacrifices to allow her safe passage. She noticed Colin was unaffected but that might have been because Luna had her hand on his shoulder and continually speaking to the lad as he took his pictures. Fleur looked to have done it when a burst of flames set her skirt on fire, she calmly sprayed water on it from her wand. Emma would settle for Harry being as lucky.

Unfortunately she had to wait longer as Victor was next, he fired spells at his dragon's eyes that had it thrashing about blind while he dodged tail, teeth and claws to grab his egg.

Silence once more descended over the stadium as Hermione's prediction came true, it took eight dragon handlers to herd the meanest, most terrifying creature she had ever seen. Harry had, without question, drawn the worst dragon.

She almost passed out and only the fact that Hermione must be feeling worse than her kept the totally out of her depth dentist from running away screaming. The Granger girls clung to each other with Dan and Sirius offering support from either end, Harry entered wearing his skin tight Basilisk armour with Gringotts crest on the chest and 'Potter' across the shoulders. The shoulders were currently hidden by a large cloak similar to the one Hagrid wore, he poked his head around the rocky barrier that protected him from the Horntail and a blast of superheated flame shot in his direction.

He quickly retreated behind the barrier and the flames actually had the rocks glowing red hot, Harry used his wand to levitate one of the biggest towards him then put his plan into operation. Removing a frying pan from his cloak Harry placed it on the red hot rock before retrieving sausages from another pocket and throwing them into the pan. The entire stadium had gone so quiet with shock that the sausages could clearly be heard sizzling, that was until Barchoke began roaring with laughter at his champions disregard for the rules. Harry was taking part and that was all that was required, this was worthy of a goblin. Barchoke noticed that both Dumbledore and Umbridge looked as if they were trying to lay a golden dragon size egg while Karkaroff appeared smug that a rival to his champion was playing the fool.

The marauders thought it was the funniest thing they'd ever seen while Emma was doubled over with laughter, more in relief than anything else as Harry sat in safety while cooking his lunch.

Harry easily picked out Hagrid in the crowd and waved to him before removing a cake from another pocket in the cloak, the significance was not lost on the large wizard who clearly remembered their first meeting. Hagrid was sporting an immense grin but the large witch by his side might have had something to do with that as well.

Harry began levitating the cake towards Hagrid when the dragon's jaws snapped it out of the air, its growls once more silenced the stadium but Harry had understood every word.

"Puny two legs! First they drag us over here, then refuse to feed us and finally cook food right in front of us. Listen to your mother my children and learn your lessons well."

Harry wasn't sure what the hell was going on until Sal informed him that it wasn't only snakes Salazar could converse with, while wearing the ring that signified him as heir of Slytherin he could also talk to dragons.

Casting a sonorus charm, Harry gave Sal's suggestion a try. "Oh great mother, what ails you so?"

"Come forth and let me see thee wizard, though I warn I will attack if you try for my children."

Harry stepped out and strolled towards the dragon. "Great mother I wish you and your children no harm. Like you, I am not here of my own free will but rather forced to partake in this farce." He levitated his sausages towards the dragon's mouth, she accepted them gratefully but they were a mere morsel to the giant beast.

"The one with the long hairy face instructed that we not be fed so that we would defend our eggs more powerfully, he was in error and I really must eat soon."

Dumbledore's meddling was again hurting someone, it was time for some payback. "Great mother I will free you and lead the way to food, I will summon my broom and take you there."

"There is no need for a broom but we must have the chains removed."

You could have heard a pin drop in the arena as no one knew what to make of the scene that was playing out right in front of their eyes. Ludo Bagman had no words to describe the situation as the boy stood talking to the dragon, Harry switched to English and shouted to Hermione. "I'm fine love and won't be long."

His spell released the dragon's shackles and the great beast lowered her head as Harry removed his cloak and climbed behind her neck. She launched them into the air before spinning around once more, her vicious tail just missing Dumbledore and ripping the roof off the small judges stand. She breathed fire over her eggs, protecting them until her return. Unfortunately this also destroyed the golden one that Harry had made no attempt to collect, job done and they were away at speeds that made his Firebolt seem pedestrian.

Emma finally found her voice, "What the bloody hell just happened?"

Hermione was smiling at her mother, "Harry James Potter happened, now perhaps you'll understand. Dark lords, Basilisks, even dragons can't defeat my Harry. One look into those green eyes and the poor beast never had a chance."

"Oh girl, you got it bad." joked Lavender

Padma agreed, "You'll be announcing the date soon."

Harry was fine so Hermione was immensely relieved and very happy. "Already set, my seventeenth birthday!" The squeals of the girls only added to the total confusion that reigned inside the stadium.

Abe Dumbledore was in his bar when the ground shook. He looked out the front and saw nothing unusual, when he glanced out his back window Abe discovered he'd been pranked. Someone had covered his window in dragon hide.

He was just thinking how expensive a prank this was when he heard the terrified squeal, he opened the door to find that it also was covered in dragon skin. Another squeal and the skin actually moved, moved that is in the way a live dragon would move, straight into the air. Abe couldn't believe his eyes as the biggest bloody dragon he had ever seen shot out of his back yard, his gaze lowered to his now empty goat pen. A tearful Abe swore he would be having a few choice words with Albus.

Harry loved flying but this took the experience to a whole different level, he could now understand Hagrid's fascination with these creatures, they were astonishing. For all their speed they were almost totally silent and Harry could well imagine the first time their prey knew the dragon was even there was as the great jaws closed around it.

"Thank you for the kindness you have shown me and mine today, is there anyway I can repay you?"

"Well anything that embarrasses the one you call long hairy face is good so I'm happy with the way things worked out."

"Leave it to me young one." As the dragon started flying really low, the exhilaration had Harry wanting to scream for joy but he had a feeling the dragon wanted stealth.

Emma was searching all around for any sign of Harry when he and the dragon appeared behind Dumbledore and the other two judges. Emma was reminded of a Klingon bird of prey, only without the annoying sound effect as it seemed to materialise out of thin air. Just a pity it didn't have any photon torpedoes.

Harry was proven wrong, the first time the prey knew the dragon was there wasn't as the great jaws closed around them. By the time this dragon's prey knew she was there, all three of them were up to their armpits in dragon shit!

Dolores was trying to clear an area around her face so she could breathe when her beady little eyes noticed the boy with the camera clicking away, now the little bastard wants to take my picture! When that picture was published Umbridge would have difficulty getting herself a job as a cleaner at St Mungo's, far less elected minister.

Harry climbed off when the dragon touched down in the arena as the stadium erupted in applause. The dragon handlers just stood back as the dragon bowed to Harry and walked unaided back to her pen, the handlers tagging on behind with her eggs like bell boys carrying a great lady's luggage.

Hermione of course reached him first and it was just as well she was wearing jeans, she launched herself at her betrothed and had both legs as well as her two arms around Harry who was now supporting her entire weight as she locked lips with him.

It would appear that as well as talking to snakes and dragons, Harry could also breathe through his ears as the kiss seemed to last an eternity. They only broke apart when Madam Pomfrey demanded she be allowed to check Harry was uninjured but his Basilisk armour was so resistant to magic she couldn't get a scan of him.

"Madam Pomfrey I can assure you that Harry is in perfect working order though you may need to have some calming drafts handy with the effect that suit is having on the girls."

"You would be receiving the first dose Miss Granger!" replied Poppy with a smile, Harry Potter avoiding a stay in the infirmary would always put a smile on her face.

They were joined by the other champions and Ludo Bagman, "Lord Potter you received a total of twenty points from two judges but, unfortunately your golden egg was destroyed so you will not have the clue for the next task."

Harry wasn't too bothered, considering the goblins made the eggs and placed the enchantment on them. He also had three people standing beside him with eggs who would gladly tell him the clue.

He could see Emma leaning on Dan and crying tears of relief while Sirius, Remus and Barchoke kept glancing over at the three judges cleaning themselves off and dissolving into fits of laughter. Luna and Colin were delighted and he would bet there was a special edition of the Quibbler planned. Ginny was in much the same state as Emma, having known all week what was coming, she was being comforted by Neville with the twins keeping a careful eye on the situation.

It was another Weasley though who cautiously approached Harry, "Lord Potter sir, what you just did has never been seen by a living soul. There hasn't been a dragon rider in over a millennium and one who can converse is even rarer. I'm authorised to offer you anything if you'll pay a visit to our reserve."

The tough looking red head in front of Harry appeared ready to get down on his knees and worship. "Ok Charlie, for a start it's Harry and I'm sorry but the earliest I could manage would be the summer."

"That would be fine..Harry."

"Ok well I'll let you know my plans through one of your family, would it be alright if Hagrid came as well? I know he'd love to see Norbert again."

"That would be brilliant! I'll wait for word and good luck with the rest of the tournament. I was dreading telling mum that we supplied the dragon that injured Harry Potter but I should have known better."

Karkaroff looked even more incensed when the four champions all left together with Hermione, arms around each other in delight that they had survived pretty much unscathed. Cedric had some of Pomfrey's burn remedy on his face, it would be pink for a few days but nothing permanent would remain.

In the stands a crying Cho Chang watched them leave and reflected on why she wasn't part of that group. She'd been bad mouthing Potter and Cedric had told her to stop, he'd since been proven correct. Then the whole loony thing had blown up in her face and she'd lost her prefect's badge, her nights of being on patrol with Cedric were gone too. When he started hanging about with Harry and she'd found out the Veela was there as well, Cho had lost it. She handed Cedric an ultimatum, stop going to Harry's or they were over. Now thanks to her insecurities and silly pride all she had left was a poster on her wall. It was easy to see how much Cedric had gained from training with the others by his performance today yet she had demanded he give all that up, she was a fool!

The group found Ron Weasley waiting on them as they headed back to Harry's place, "Eh Harry, can I have a word?"

The rest of the group moved to give them some space but Hermione stayed, her arm around Harry's waist. Ron thought this was as good as he was going to get, "Harry," he said very seriously, "I should have believed you when you told me you didn't enter your name in the goblet, I'm sorry."

Harry's eyes were boring into Ron, making the red head extremely nervous before he spoke. "Fair enough, apology accepted." Ron looked very relieved and happy but Harry wasn't finished, "Now all you have to do is explain why you fired a curse and have been continually sniping at your two best friends since Halloween."

Ron was speechless and just stood there with his mouth going like a cod finding itself lying on the beach, "When you have the answer come and speak to us again." They walked away and left the boy floundering.

"Do you think he'll figure it out?"

"He has to Hermione, we can't live our lives walking on eggshells every time he's near. I will grant you that things have been moving fast around us lately but everyone else has kept up. Things could never go back to the way they were but he could still be our friend."

Hermione squeezed him tighter, "I have no intention of letting things go back to the way they were, I'm very happy as we are."

Harry nodded in agreement, "I can't goof off any more Hermione, Voldemort wants me dead, for whatever reason Dumbledore appears determined to help him so I need to learn as much as I possibly can."

"No Harry, WE need to learn as much as we can!"

They all headed back to Harry's where there was going to be the mother of all parties, even Hermione needed some time off occasionally and was so emotionally wasted after today's events she doubted if she could study anyway.

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