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


11. Chapter 11

Harry found himself with at least one Granger girl on his arm all night. Emma's terror at seeing a real live dragon up close and personal was magnified exponentially by the fact that her boy had to face the nightmare that came equipped with teeth, claws, wings, a wicked spiked tail and combustive halitosis.

His one complaint was in having to listen while discussions took place with Fleur on what style of dress was suitable for the ball they would be attending on Christmas Day, a small price to pay considering he got to spend the evening surrounded by his two favourite women on the planet.

Harry may have stolen his way into Emma's heart but she had totally captured his, he loved Mrs Weasley but had to admit her overbearing attitude and fixation for virtually stuffing food down his throat was a bit hard to take sometimes. Emma was more what he'd imagined his own mother would have been like, as shown in her treatment of both he and Hermione. She'd calmly listened as they'd explained their relationship and accepted him as Harry, the boy who loved her daughter.

He supposed that it shouldn't come as that much of a surprise, considering the only other person to treat him as just Harry was the daughter she raised.

Dan surprised himself by being comfortable standing chatting with the group he was in, Sirius, Remus, Barchoke, Amos Diggory and Professor Flitwick was quite an exotic mixture however you looked at it. Yet he was able not only to follow the conversation but actually contribute a few times as well, the subjects covered were certainly a bit different from the usual stuff discussed down the golf club. Though politicians seemed slightly more corrupt in the magical world, this may be in some measure owing to the availability of the media for purchase to the highest bidder. In his world a corrupt politician would signal a feeding frenzy as the press piranhas all fought for a piece of the offender's political carcass.

The Quibbler printing the truth was a phenomenon that was quickly gaining popularity in the magical world, being able to trust what you read was starting a revolution that was leaving other, less truthful publications gathering dust on the shelves.

Dan understood his wife not letting Harry out of her sight, sitting there helpless while the lad walked out to face a dragon had greatly affected him as well. Emma's comments comparing the event to the Roman Gladiator trials and the images of the emperor giving the 'thumb's up' or the fatal 'thumb's down' was not very far removed from judges awarding points and resonated with quite a number of the spectators.

Amos Diggory was beginning to bend under the friendly pressure of the group who were encouraging him to run for minister. Having witnessed the horrendous display of bigotry by Umbridge against Barchoke, Mrs Granger and Madame Maxine to name but a few, he was seeing the magical world through new eyes. His son's friendship with the other three champions had totally confused him, this was supposed to be a competition yet they all cheered for each other. Cedric's explanation had made him even prouder of his son and set him on the course to consider putting his name forward as minister.

"Dad, where would be the honour in winning if I let one of my fellow champions get hurt, or even worse. We all intend to do our best in the competition but feel promoting a spirit of co-operation is more important, the poster of the four champions has raised nearly ten times more for charity than the prize money on offer. It must be on almost every young witch or wizard's wall, and that was before we faced the dragons. The good we've already achieved far outweighs the 'eternal glory' promised for winning this tournament."

Filius was really enjoying himself at this large gathering with the only fly in the ointment being the fact that, although the other three houses were well represented, there wasn't a single Ravenclaw present. He couldn't fault Harry for that, rather his own house had badly let themselves down. The diminutive professor intended to rub their noses in it further by mentioning the magnificent library that was in this dwelling.

He couldn't think of a more fitting punishment for Ravenclaws than that Luna now had access to some of the rarest books in the world while her exhousemates did not. Indeed Harry had promised to let him read a charms book written by Rowena herself, letting that knowledge out might be considered too cruel, but then again maybe not. Perhaps it was the certainty that Filius knew he could never keep such a thing quiet, he would probably talk about nothing else for months!

When people started dancing to their CD player, Harry had a terrifying thought. "Emma, we're all invited to this ball and I've never danced in my life before, what am I going to do?"

"Don't panic Harry, we'll ask Fleur what dances you'll be expected to know and between Dan, Sirius and me we'll teach you what we can. Anything else then I'm sure either Fleur could tutor you both or Barchoke will hire an instructor."

The relief on his face was obvious, "Thanks Emma, I just didn't want to let Hermione down by having to sit there all night like a lemon because I couldn't dance."

Hermione had been returning from starting the CD player and heard Harry's last comment, that he was more concerned about disappointing her than he was facing a Hungarian Horntail almost had her kissing him in front of everyone again. Her parents had made no mention of her sprint into the arena so she wasn't going to remind them as displays of affection didn't get much more public than that one earlier today.


Albus stepped out of the shower thinking that Harry couldn't have displayed his displeasure with him more publicly than that, he was suddenly sorry he'd cleaned out his ears as a howler from his brother solved the mystery of exactly where Harry and the dragon had flown off to.

He was dreading the next edition of the Quibbler as Harry was sure to feature heavily as he rode the dragon out of the arena, Albus was equally sure he would also feature though in nothing near as heroic a pose. He could now say from personal experience, it was impossible to strike any pose whatsoever when you were up to your armpits in dragon shit.


Dumbledore proved amazingly accurate in his prediction of the Quibbler's special tournament edition content, what he hadn't counted on was the quality of the photographs. Colin, with help from Hermione and Dan, had managed to fit a muggle lens mount onto the front of his magical camera. This allowed him to use a variety of lenses and get close-ups of the action that almost put the reader in the arena with each champion. Instead of the stick figures everyone was expecting you could actually see the determination in Cedric's eyes as he dashed for the golden egg while Harry and the dragon appeared to fly right out the page toward the reader. Combined with Luna's descriptions of the action and short interviews with each champion, this was another giant leap in the Quibbler's drive to become a respected publication. None of their competitors could come anywhere near this content or quality of images.

The old wizard caught a break when the article described how Madame Umbridge had insulted two official delegates and the mother of Lord Potter's betrothed before finding herself submerged in Dragon dung, Colin's picture ensured that this would be everyone's abiding memory of the hateful little woman, putting paid to any political ambition she might have had. Dumbledore and Karkaroff were left to appear as if they had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Gringotts offered Colin a deal for his picture of Harry riding the dragon, a deal that more than paid for the pensive and specialised camera equipment he'd purchased. Gringots in return now had giant posters of Harry Potter riding a dragon with their name emblazed across his chest. It was a massive wizarding relations coup and yet both parties thought they got the best of the deal. That was how the goblins liked to do business. Trust, honour and profit for all involved.


Karkaroff was sitting in his private quarters, alone and extremely angry. As if being covered in shit wasn't bad enough, he had to watch as his champion left with the rest of them for a party in that blasted Potter's place. When he'd tried to reprimand Victor the following day for his behaviour, Drumstrang's star pupil had practically dismissed him and swore to continue not only with his friendships but his visits with Potter as well. Igor was sipping vodka and wondering how he got into this situation when a wand pressed deeply into the nape off his neck, eclipsing all his previous worries in a flash.

"Good evening Igor, you're looking cleaner than the picture in the Quibbler suggested but I would say you're still in the shit! I'm here to extend an invitation from our master who can't wait to renew your acquaintance."

Igor felt his blood turn to ice with the thought of meeting the dark lord again, he recognised the voice behind him and began pleading for his life. "Wormtail, I'm of no use to our master, Potter has altered the castle wards so no one bearing our lord's mark can enter Hogwarts."

"Our Lord is well aware of this, his rage when discovering that Potter had displaced him as the heir of Slytherin knew no bounds. You can and do have access to the grounds and tournament venues, it is here that you can be of some use to our lord. This is also the only reason that you're still alive, you know what our master thinks of betrayers!"

Peter was not exaggerating about Tom's anger, his entire history being printed was exceedingly painful but Potter claiming the heir of Slytherin by right of conquest had almost been the death of the only target Voldemort had available. Peter was still having trouble keeping his arm steady enough to cover Igor which was one of the reasons his wand was digging into his former college's neck, his reflexes were still recovering from his marathon Cruciatus session and this was the only way to keep his wand pointed at the correct place.

Igor was crying now, "Please Peter, we both know I'm a dead man if I appear in front of the master, I can't go back."

"We also both know I'm a dead man if I don't take you back, like you Igor I'm a selfish bastard who will do anything to save his own skin. You either come with me or die where you sit and I'll return with your body, those are the only choices our master has made available to you." If nothing else Igor would at least share in the burden of punishment that their master liked to dispense. He held out the portkey, still with his wand embedded into Igor's neck as the crying man slowly held out his hand to touch the book.


Luna was fighting to control her emotions, she was barely getting used to having friends so Emma Granger fussing over her as she tried on dresses for the French Christmas ball was almost a dream come true. Unlike Harry, Luna had plenty of memories of her mother but this was something they'd never gotten to do. Luna Lovegood was not only going to her first ball but had a date as well.

She and Colin had been working closely on the Quibbler and would definitely consider each other friends. When he asked if she would be his date for the ball, Luna could only nod and smile as the lonely little girl crawled even further out her protective shell.

The lilac ballgown she had just put on sparkled as the lights reflected off it. Luna didn't need a mirror to know this was the one, the expressions on Emma's, Fleur's and Hermione's faces told her everything she needed to know. Luna almost floated from the positive emotions being generated inside the room.

"Luna, Colin's eyes will pop out of his head when he sees you in that gown, stunning doesn't begin to do it or you justice!"

"Oh well I better not choose this one then Hermione, otherwise Colin won't be able to take his photographs if his eyes are rolling along the floor!"

The serious way she made that declaration had the three women fooled until Luna had an attack of the giggles and they realised she'd been joking. "Luna Lovegood, you have been spending way too much time with Sirius and Remus." Hermione couldn't keep a straight face as she said this and all four ladies burst into fits of laughter, still that was one dress down and only three more to find.

The gentlemen had a much easier time of it, their tuxedos were all being made to measure with Dan, Harry and Colin only needing to tell the tailor what colour their date's would be wearing to add some matching accents. Cedric and Victor were also there but since neither intended taking a date they didn't need that alteration, both had promised Fleur they would be on her arm and dance with her all night if she wanted.

Walking with the pureblood champions along Oxford Street, then down Regent Street (keeping Harry out of Hamleys was an achievement) to Piccadilly Circus was an eye-opener for both wizards. Cedric and Victor had witnessed the spectacle of a hundred thousand wizards who'd attended the Quidditch World Cup and thought that was amazing but Central London on a Saturday blew their minds. Dan told them that Oxford Street alone could see a quarter of a million shoppers before noon on a pre-Christmas Saturday, the idea that seven and a half million people lived in London was beyond their comprehension.

With the numbers of people, vast array of different shops and festive lighting hanging everywhere, both Victor and Cedric were suffering from sensory overload. Luckily Barchoke had made a reservation for the party at the Ritz, a five-minute walk yet a world away from the hustle and bustle of Piccadilly Circus. They had plenty of time to relax and enjoy their coffee before being joined by the ladies for dinner, Barchoke had again come through with a box in the Royal Albert Hall for a 'Carols by Candlelight' concert, featuring a full orchestra and three different choirs. Harry and Barchoke had pulled out all the stops to make this day special for his friends.


That Saturday was also a special day in Privet Drive, for the first time in many years Vernon Dursley couldn't finish his breakfast. The reason was the Surry Comet that was lying on the table in front of him, The Comet was read by everyone who lived on Privet Drive which was why the large man was unable to eat while his wife sat wringing her hands and glancing toward the windows in fear.

The front page story, with picture, was of a local boy who was buying twelve thousand pounds worth of toys from Hamleys for children residing in a Bulgarian orphanage. The boy in question attends an exclusive Scottish boarding school for the gifted and is now only spotted in Little Whining during the summer months. When asked why he was making this gesture, the answer this reporter received showed that the true spirit of Christmas is not only alive and well but breathes in the body of this young man.

"I am an orphan whose parents were murdered when I was a toddler, I understand what it's like to be alone and unloved. A friend of mine helps at this orphanage so we are going there on Christmas Eve to deliver these toys to the children. My parents were very wealthy and this money has now passed to me, I intend to set up a charitable trust to help children in the same position as I was."

The picture showed the unmistakable face of Harry Potter shaking the hand of Hamleys store manager in front of a mountain of wrapped parcels outside the Granger's home. When the store had heard the eventual destination of their products, a hefty discount and free wrapping was provided for this great cause, and source of excellent free publicity.

The entire neighbourhood couldn't fail to recognise their nephew from the Comet's front page and the Dursleys were aware it wouldn't be long before they had to answer questions on the stories concerning Harry that clearly couldn't be true. By no stretch of the imagination could St. Brutus' Secure Centre for Incurably Criminal Boys be called an exclusive Scottish school for the gifted. Lies were being told and the picture of the boy giving thousands to charity pointed a powerful finger at the Dursleys being the perpetrators.

Petunia had visions of having to move to avoid the scandal, knowing she would be the main topic of the gossip mongers until something juicier came along. Her husband was more focused on the little shit's wealth, and how to get his hands on it. What neither could know, or even suspect was that this was nothing more than phase one of 'operation payback'.

Sirius and Remus were intent on making them pay for their treatment of Harry but Emma Granger was vicious when defending her cubs and insisted on drawing out their agony. They were going to pay a piece at a time for the way they treated Harry and when they had nothing left, then she would unleash the marauders on them. Sirius and Remus were happy their earlier opinion had been validated, don't mess with Emma Granger but they were even happier she wasn't mad at them.

The Dursley's woes were only just beginning and continuing with the payback theme, Emma also made sure copies of the paper made their way into Agnes and Brenda's hands.


In the lead-up to Christmas the ministerial election dominated the front pages as Hogwarts quietly sailed along. Sirius was making a difference in Slytherin as they quickly realised what type of behaviour would no longer be tolerated, being sent to their head of house wasn't the soft option it used to be. Points also had to be earned but with better teachers now in the castle, even the older snakes could see the benefits, especially the ones with exams coming up this year.

That Potter was the Heir of Slytherin yet refused to close down their house without them having a chance to change went a long way to creating the required new atmosphere, that and his friendship with Daphne, Tracy and Millicent. The three girls were constant visitors to the Potter abode and spearheading the movement for changing their house's reputation to one Slytherins could be proud of.

Minerva sat in the headmistress office only when she wasn't teaching, the school was becoming just that, a school. No giant three-headed dogs, Basilisks, Dementors or death eaters in any guises, just a school offering it's students an education which pleased Minerva McGonagall no end.

Things in the Potter residence were also verging on normal, busy but as normal as things ever got for Harry Potter. Classes in the castle, tutors in their home, practicing with the other champions and dancing in the evenings. Without a doubt it was the happiest Harry, Hermione and Luna had been at Hogwarts.

The only time trouble popped its ugly head up it was clobbered quicker than a gopher with a mallet in Hermione's favourite amusement game, hit it! The Prophet was getting desperate so when Amos Diggory decided to stand for Minister of Magic with Arthur Weasley as his running mate the Prophet tried to attack them through the Tri-Wizard Champions. The basis of their entire story was how could people be expected to take a man seriously as a candidate for minister when his own son wouldn't attend a ministry function, instead choosing to attend an event organised by the French ministry.

The next issue of the Quibbler had a picture of Amos and Arthur with their arms around Cedric and Harry, that picture buried the Prophet's story before Luna's interview erected the headstone.

Harry explained exactly what happened, "Madam Umbridge turned up at Hogwarts and announced to us how the champions would be spending their Christmas, without considering we may have made other plans. I've met Mr Diggory on a few occasions and we will all be spending Boxing Day at his house, the Weasleys are probably my favourite magical family and I usually spend at least part of my summer holidays being made very welcome in their home. To suggest any snub from me and my fellow champions is so far from the truth to be ludicrous."

Cedric reiterated Harry's sentiments with his own opinion, "This tournament was conceived with the sole purpose of promoting closer relations between the three schools, as a champion I see that as my main objective and am looking forward to visiting Victor and Fleur's homes before introducing them to mine. I consider myself an ambassador for Hogwarts and intend to represent the school to the best of my abilities, both in the arena and to the world outside."

That ended the ministerial race as a contest and now only the most die-hard Prophet readers believed anything that was written in that paper.


Emma and Dan arrived by portkey at Harry's home in the Hogwarts grounds, ready to begin their Christmas holidays. Emma was hoping she never had to return to normal methods of travel as the dentist was getting used to being pampered like this, they didn't even need to bring any luggage as Dobby retrieved anything they wanted before she and Dan had time to realise what they needed.

They would be spending the night here before heading off to Bulgaria in the morning. Both expected the place to be quiet since the Hogwarts express had left for London a few hours ago, but that apparently was the signal for an impromptu staff party under the pretence of 'visiting the library'.

With McGonagall and all four heads of house present, as well as a couple of female professors that Dan reckoned Sirius and Remus had invited, Dumbledore must have been one of the few professors left in the castle. After using him to try to force Harry and Hermione apart, Dan couldn't care less if the old bastard choked on his Christmas dinner.

Emma pulled Harry and Hermione to one side for a moment. "Agnes phoned to apologise and would like to meet with us sometime over the holidays, she and Brenda would like to personally say sorry to you both. I told her our itinerary was pretty full but I'll leave the final decision up to you both."

"After we leave here tomorrow our time is pretty much accounted for until the holidays over, our only free time would be tonight." Harry was looking at Hermione as he said this, it was her aunt and cousin and she was the one insulted, it would be her decision.

Hermione bit her lip a she thought it over. "Ok, tomorrow's Christmas Eve so I think we should give Brenda her present early. It must be costing her a fortune in make-up to cover all those giant zits on her face."

Harry kissed her cheek before replying. "I never said they would all be on her face love, poor little Brenda has probably had trouble sitting since that night as well."

Emma burst out laughing as Hermione rewarded her betrothed with a gentle returned kiss, "You are such a considerate and loving boyfriend Mr Potter that you leave me no option but to keep you around for good!"

Harry continued their banter in the same vein, "That's just fine with me Miss Granger as I have no intention of going anywhere without you."


Agnes answered the door and got a shock, "Dan, Emma, and you've brought Harry and Hermione along with you." This was spoken loud enough for her daughter to hear and vacate the living room to 'put her face on'. Since Brenda's confrontation with Hermione, her daughter had developed boils that had made her life a misery. Their doctor had suggested it might be a nervous disorder since none of his treatments had helped in the slightest, he recommended getting to the root of whatever caused them to appear in the first place.

For some reason Brenda got it into her head that a kiss from Harry could solve all her problems, getting her a new boyfriend in the process. Agnes wasn't convinced but thought her daughter's plan was harmless and, since it was Christmas, couldn't really fail.

They were all sitting chatting to Agnes about their upcoming adventures by the time Brenda made an appearance, she kept her head down as she spoke. "I would like to apologise Hermione for the cruel things I said about you, I was wrong and hope you can forgive me."

Hermione considered her response, "We can all say hateful things when we're angry or jealous but I would hate for that to ruin the relationship that we have so I forgive you."

Agnes visibly relaxed before entering host mode, "Brenda please bring us some drinks, could you give her a hand Harry?"

Harry had been manipulated by masters of the art and this was about as subtle an air raid, squeezing Hermione's hand he decided to play along. The next few minutes would decide whether Brenda's boils went for a vacation or stayed at home for Christmas.

Brenda busied herself about the kitchen, preparing drinks as she chattered away nonsensically. "So you really are going to visit a Romanian orphanage and do live in a castle, that must be wonderful. My young cousin is a very lucky girl to find someone as rich and wonderful as you."

Harry felt as if he was in some animated cartoon where she was keeping him occupied until the piano was hoisted into position above his head, he was tempted to look up and really should have.

Brenda then made her move and seemed to shepherd him into the required position before speaking in a breathless voice. "Oh Harry look, we're both standing under the mistletoe. A kiss under it could mean deep romance or lasting friendship. By tradition, a single man can't refuse to administer a kiss when he meets a young lady under it."

Harry smiled, "I believe you're correct so I must do my duty."

Brenda couldn't hide the small smile of triumph as she closed her eyes and tilted her head waiting for her kiss, and she waited, and she waited until Brenda heard the chipmunk sigh 'Oh Harry!" before opening her eyes. Not only was Harry gone but so was her very carefully placed mistletoe, this was quite a puzzle considering it took her fifteen minutes and required a pair of stepladders to hang it up there in the first place. Brenda had no idea what was going on but intended to find out.

She entered the living room to see the chipmunk, lip-locked and wrapped around Harry, under her mysteriously disappearing / reappearing mistletoe.

"Oh Brenda, you've forgotten the drinks," Emma smirked. "We probably don't have time anyway as we'll need to be leaving, we've a very busy day tomorrow."

Dan though added insult to injury. "Emma you know these two are going to be some while yet, I'll have that drink please Brenda."

Both parents could hazard a guess at what transpired in the kitchen so understood why the kids were putting on a display for the two now furious ladies, Emma had quite a strong feeling that her niece would be caking on the make-up for a little while longer. Anyone who thought that these two were anything but deeply in love with each other were delusional in the extreme, both Agnes and Brenda were lucky that the kids had kept their retribution at the level it was though any more attempts like 'help Brenda with the drinks' could see the whole thing escalate.

Emma was unaware that Harry had spelled the cooker not to work over the Christmas period, Agnes would have a wonderful time trying to prepare everything for her party with only the microwave available!


Victor was slightly embarrassed about introducing them into his home, having four bedrooms meant that all the guys were going to be in one room for the night while the three girls would also have to share. Harry tried to put his friend at ease, "Victor I was raised in a four bedroom house and my relatives had only one son yet I found myself stuck in a cupboard under the stairs for ten years, believe me when I say sharing with you guys for one night is no hardship!"

Victor's parents, Kalina and Marko really went out of their way to express Bulgarian hospitality and make them feel welcome, especially Dan and Emma with them being muggles experiencing their first Christmas in the magical world. Marko was very much the adult version of Victor in build, appearance and mannerisms, he even seemed to have the same trademark scowling expression that was transformed as soon as he smiled. Kalina was a dark haired beauty who would appear to be a good few years younger than Marko, her English was also a lot better than the male members of her family.

They all spent the day with Victor as he guided them around his childhood haunts and introduced the people of his village before returning for a wonderful meal cooked by Kalina, it was then time to wrap up warmly again and head for the orphanage.

You would need a heart of stone not to be moved by the spectacle of Marko Krum dressed as Santa, distributing parcels to every wide eyed orphan in the place. The orphanage governess had been reduced to tears when they arrived bearing all the gifts but had to be helped into a seat as Victor presented her with four thousand galleons.

They spent a few hours playing with the kids and their new toys. Harry though couldn't help but notice the children's adulation for Victor, he could have turned up without presents or Santa and they would still have been happy just with the fact that he was here. This was a revelation to Harry who hated his fame with a passion, to see Victor use his to put smiles on these children's faces opened possibilities he'd not thought of before.

Hermione came behind Harry with her arms around him and kissed his neck, "What's the matter love? You look very thoughtful there."

"It may be that I'm not used to seeing people using their fame or power for good, think about it, Voldemort, Dumbledore, Fudge, Malfoy and even Lockhart. They all had something they wanted yet here's Victor giving up his Christmas Eve to put smiles on the faces of these children for no other reason than to see those smiles. It's making me think that perhaps I should be doing more since I have resources Victor doesn't."

Emma had heard everything they had said and found herself hugging both of them, just when she didn't think her opinion of Harry couldn't get any higher, he goes and surprises her again. "Harry, Victor not only has a few years on you but parents who obviously keep his feet on the ground. That you can reach those conclusions at your age while having been raised by those horrible people speaks volumes for your character and leaves me in a state of total amazement."

Harry was blushing red now, "Thanks Emma, are you enjoying your holiday?"

"Harry I feel privileged just to be here, my only problem will be getting out of here without taking a couple of these kids home with me." Dan had joined them and all three understood her words, if this was something they wanted to do though it wouldn't be here and now but after many, many hours of discussions by the whole family.

Cedric and Fleur also got to see their friend in a new light. This was not the Victor Krum portrayed in the newspapers, rather a personal view of the young man behind the professional Quidditch player's mask. Here he was amongst friends and let his guard down, Fleur couldn't help but think Victor would make a great father some day.

Marko had removed the red suit and white beard from his earlier performance and now stood with his arms around his beloved Kalina, Christmas to the Krums was all about Family and friends. Both had been impressed by their son's choice of friends and were delighted to see them over the festive season. Harry had already invited them to stay with him for the second task and made the travel arrangements, they were also looking forward to meeting Fleur and Cedric's parents as well. The revelation that Cedric was the son of the new British Minister for Magic didn't phase them in the slightest, their guests were so polite and well mannered that it was a pleasure to have them visit here.

Meeting the Grangers was also a pleasant experience for them. Instead of looking at the differences amongst the four adults, they had chosen to highlight the similarities as parents. Kalina was quick to notice that Emma already thought of herself as mother to both Harry and Hermione, her husband may be a little behind but was catching up fast and this holiday together would clinch the deal.

Colin was unobtrusively snapping pictures of the entire evening though most of them would be for sharing privately with the group, any that made the Quibbler would do so only with the consent of those involved. They had posed for one formal shot of the gold being handed over to the head of the orphanage by the champions but only after the emotionally overcome governess had a few cups of tea to calm down from the shock. Luna was there with her ever present notebook in her hand, Hermione had introduced her to the aptly named muggle reporter's pad and she now carried it everywhere.


Fifteen hundred miles away another wizard had a long white beard and was even wearing red tonight but there all similarities ended, the only Christmas spirit Albus Dumbledore was feeling came from the half empty brandy glass in his hand.

Albus was alone in his room and that's the way it looked like staying for the foreseeable future, with even his brother angry with him there was no one for Albus to pull a cracker with. The staffroom had been buzzing with tales of the party in Harry's dwelling yesterday and rumours of a fantastic library had been confirmed by Minerva and Filius, that he was not welcome there was as painful as his brother's howler.

These current set of circumstances could not be allowed to continue but he was unsure how to alter the situation that he was forced to admit was of his own making.

Albus Dumbledore had made a catastrophic mistake that set all the dominoes falling and he didn't know how to reverse the effect, involving the Grangers had backfired spectacularly with both Harry and Minerva refusing to forgive him for that act.

Swearing he hadn't been involved in Harry's name finding its way into the Goblet had gotten the young man back as at least an ally, only for him to walk straight into a confrontation that Albus had set-up.

The more Albus thought about it, the more it was doomed to failure from the start, instead of trying to get Miss Granger on board he'd alienated the biggest influence in Harry's life and neither one was the forgiving sort. The fact that he was still in the castle didn't really count for anything as both of them wanted nothing to do with Albus Dumbledore and even Hagrid was now avoiding being anywhere near him.

His friendship with the other champions assured that Harry would receive the clue for the second task and his betrothal to Miss Granger removed her as an option for his hostage, they judges may have to get creative in their choices. This also insured that once again Harry would refuse any help that came his way if it had its origins with Albus, leaving the old wizard with only one card left to play.

He would have to tell Harry about the prophecy and get him back under his tuition so Albus could prepare the young man to face his destiny, Miss Granger and everything else would have to take a back seat until that was accomplished.

The only problem Albus could foresee was that telling the entire truth went against everything he'd done for the past half a century but nothing less would bring about the changes he needed. It would take a lot more brandy and a strong New Year's Resolution before he would be ready to go that far, Albus would wait until after the tournament but could postpone it no longer than that.

Harry may not like it but Albus was sure the sensible young man would make the correct choice and once more place himself under his influence, with that decision made the old wizard finished his brandy and wished himself a Merry Christmas. Apparently no one else was going to do it.

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