Harry stumbled into the main hall of Hogwarts, deathly pale and slightly shaking, he moved as fast as he could to the dueling hall, careful to keep covered in his invisibility cloak before darting into the room, where Hermione and Daphne were waiting.
"Where have you been?" Hermione asks as she stirs her tea, looking Harry over with a critical eye, looking pleased that he was now dressed in a fairly nice collared shirt and blue jeans. "I assumed you'd have been here earlier with tomorrow being a sunday-"
"-the first task is Dragons." harry blurted out, making both girls drop their cups.
"C-could you...repeat that?" Daphne asked carefully, flicking her wand to clean up the tea and reassemble the cups.
"The first task. Is Dragons." Harry said again, looking agitated as he sat down on the dueling platform.
"Of all the imbecilic, stupid-" Hermione started to vent as she stood and began to pace, "are they complete morons, or are they just making a good show of it?"
"Dragons have never been used in the tournament." Daphne muttered worriedly, "how will we counter that?"
"We can't." Hermione seethed, "any spells I can think of are well beyond what a single wizard or witch can do, anad the ones we can do, are illegal."
"So it's hopeless." Harry said miserably.
"Nonsense, just because I don't know a spell doesn't mean we can't find one." Hermione says, "but it'll have to wait until tomorrow, since the library is already closed."
"Then if we aren't going to speak about what we just learned, then I guess i'll turn in." Daphne says, making her way to the door, muttering to herself as she goes.
"You'll be alright harry." Hermione says softly, looking at the depressed looking teen.
"Yeah, you're right…" he mutters, "if i can defeat the basilisk with a sword then a dragon will be no sweat right?"
Hermione blinked, "a basilisk?" she asked carefully.
"The most dangerous monster in existence, one that even Professor Hagrid wouldn't even go near."
"You killed one."
"With a sword."
"Sword of Gryffindor."
Hermione couldn't stifle the giggle that escaped her throat, trying in vain to cover it as Harry looked up. "You don't believe me?" he asks, slowly standing.
"I'm sorry Harry, but it just sounds rather...far fetched." she apologizes, "how could anyone besides a Magus take on a Basilisk and be none the worse for wear?"
"Well it wasn't easy." he said hotly, "what with Voldemort commanding it while Ginny was dying."
Hermione's eyes widened, "you're talking about our second year?" she asked carefully, "when the chamber of secrets had supposedly opened."
"It was opened alright." he grumbled, crossing his arms, "Should've destroyed the entrance when we were done-"
"-you expect me to believe you went into the chamber and killed a monster snake on your own?" she demanded to know.
"Well I wasn't alone!" he defended himself, "Fawks was with me."
"Fawks? The headmasters phoenix?"
"Yeah, it was thanks to him I didn't die." Harry says, rolling up his sleeve and showing her the scar where the Basilisk fang had pierced it.
Hermione's eyes widened as she grabbed Harry's arm and brought it closer to inspect it, ignoring his flustered sputtering as she ran her fingers along the disformed skin, "this is impossible…" she whispers, "No one can survive a basilisks venom-"
"-unless they have phoenix tears on hand." Harry says softly, making her look up at him.
"no...No i refuse to believe you were that close to death in Hogwarts!" she snaps, glaring at him as he sighs.
"I'll take you down there if you like," he says, "not tonight though!" he states quickly, "it's way too late and I have...other engagements to take care of before I turn in."
Hermione hesitated, then said, "tomorrow, after we study." she says, "and we bring Daphne and Draco."
"Fine." he says, 'Now...can you let go of my arm."
Hermione looks down at her hands, still gripping his arm, with a small 'eep!' she drops it and jumps back, "I...uh...well, it seems it's rather late!" she stumbles over her words as she quickly picks up her book bag, attempting to hide the blush on her face, "I better get to the Dungeons before someone comes by, goodnight!"
Harry watches her speed walk out of the room, chuckling quietly, "Goodnight Hermione…"
The next morning has Harry and Draco talking in hushed whispers in the common room.
"So, Sirius thinks Karkarov is the one who put your name in the Goblet?" draco asked quietly.
"It's either him or Hermione and we already know she didn't do it." Harry mutters grimly.
"Yes, she's too besotted with you to even try." Draco drawled, grinning as Harry glared at him. "Did he give any suggestions on how to handle the dragon?"
'He was going to, but Ron interrupted." Harry said in frustration.
He sighed, "I'm guessing that's why he's in a foul mood today." he mutters, looking over to where Ron was glaring at a chess set, no one sitting across from him.
"I'm assuming…" he sighs and looks at his watch, "Hermione wants to go down to the chamber of secrets…'
Draco shifted uncomfortably, "can I go down as well?" he asks quietly.
Harry blinked in surprise. "I was going to ask you, but I didn't think you'd want to…"
"...that scaly beast petrified me for most of our second term in second year." he mutters, "I want to give it a few good kicks."
Harry smiled sadly, "alright...we'll go after dinner." he said as they stood and walked out.
Hermione stared at the second floor girls bathroom, "you must be joking." She drawled, staring at Harry, now clad in some of his old clothes, standing next to Draco, who was wearing the robes he had worn during herbology.
"You two may want to change out of those robes." Harry warned, "the entrance...isn't pleasant."
Daphne and Hermione shared a look before they stepped into the bathroom,Daphne pulling some old robes from her bag, they changed quickly then called the boys in. "So, where's the magical entrance to the chamber of secrets?" Daphne drawled.
Harry took a deep breath and took a step towards the sink, staring at the small snake etched into its side as he spoke *Open* he hissed in parseltongue.
Daphne let out a surprised gasp as the sink suddenly fell away, revealing a black passageway, "Merlin…" she whispered as Hermione stepped forward.
"There's no steps…" she muttered, looking at Harry as he shrugged.
"Last time I just-" he stepped off the ledge and plummeted into the dark tunnel as Hermione screamed.
"Always one for dramatics." Draco sighed, looking slightly pale, "well ladies, allons-y!" And with that draco stepped off into the tunnel with a jaunty salute.
"They're mad." Hermione whispered as Daphne stepped forward.
"Mad and still alive." Daphne said in surprise, "listen."
Hermione leaned forward and could barely pick up on a conversation.
"Harry, nice to see you old chap, how have you been?"
"All honesty? Fairly good, the bones and dampness tend to put a damper on things but all in all, not bad."
Hermione rolled her eyes and looked at Daphne, "well, we've come this far." She said hesitantly.
"Lets jump together, I do not want to stay up here on my own while waiting for you to reach the bottom." Daphne said, holding her hand out.
Hermione nodded and took her hand, then together they jumped down, the sink replacing itself a few seconds after they had gone and a few minutes before McGonagall had swept into the room, looking around with narrowed eyes before slowly walking back out.
The trip down the tunnel was terrifying, and the end would have been worse had Draco and Harry not been there to help.
Daphne had somehow landed on her feet, and had stumbled for a few feet before Draco steadied her.
Hermione had shot out of the tunnel like a rocket and would've hit the far wall had Harry not caught her.
"Alright there Malfoy?" Harry asked in amusement, carefully letting her go as she got her feet from under her.
"Next time try and ask for stairs." She said tartly as she looked around in distaste, "this is the chamber of secrets? I'm not impressed."
"Technically this is just the hallway," he said, motioning towards a cave in which a small opening had been made at the top, "through there is the chamber."
"Don't think any of us but Daphne are going to fit through there." Draco said conversationally.
Harry looks at it for a while, then raises his wand, "Reducto!" he called, the spell shooting forward and blowing more rubble off the top, he cast the spell twice more before nodding. Now the passage was big enough for at least one person to walk through if they crouched a bit. "Follow me ladies, the tour waits for no one!"
"He's lucky that didn't just collapse the roof." Hermione muttered as she followed.
"Cheerful isn't she?" Draco asked Daphne quietly.
"Always," she sighed in exasperation as they reach the other side, immediately Daphne jumped back with a scream as she sees-
"-is this it?" Hermione asked quietly, nudging the snakeskin with her shoe.
Harry shook his head, "this is it's skin, probably shed it before we had come down here before…" he walked past it and continued on, his movements more jerky as he reached a giant vault door, "one more time then…" he focused and hissed *Open.* The door swung open to reveal the impressive statue of Slytherin, as well as the snakes that flanked the walkway.
"I present to you, the Chamber of Secrets." Harry said as his friends flanked his side, Hermione's eyes drew over to the carcass of the Basilisk, her eyes widening, slowly she climbed down and walked towards it, hand shaking as she reached a hand out.
The skin hadn't rotted yet, speaking more of it's magic then the status it had been left in, it's eyes that had petrified so many people had burst, the signs of claw marks in the soft tissue surrounding; and at the top of it's head was a puncture wound, "It's...a narrow wound…" she said in surprise.
"Probably wider in the mouth." Harry reasoned, "I did stab it through its mouth and into its brain."
Draco snorted, making everyone look at him, "sorry." he coughed, clearing his throat, "it's just...you really couldn't figure out a better way to fight this thing then 'sharp pointy stick?"
"Oi! Sharp pointy sword thank you very much." Harry defended as Hermione looked into its mouth and at the rows of sharp teeth.
"Amazing…" she whispered, looking over them until freezing when she found one missing, slowly she looked to Harry again, "you actually almost died…" she whispered.
Harry smiled tightly, "yeah...not fun, feeling basilisk venom run through your veins, I'd liken it to molten lead being forced through the veins...very unpleasant."
Hermione stared at him flabbergasted, "you...how can...how can you be dismissive!" she shouted at him, "You almost died down here-"
"-it's not the first time and it won't be the last." he said abruptly, refusing to look anyone in the eye, "just...tell me when you've had your fill." he muttered, walking back towards the entrance.
Daphne looked at Malfoy, who didn't go after his friend and instead walked over to the basilisk and began kicking it.
"Aren't you going to go talk to him?" Daphne asked.
Draco shook his head, "trying to talk to him when he's like this won't produce anything other than a headache for the person who goes." he says.
"What does he mean?"
Draco looked at Hermione, the young heiress hadn't looked away from the entrance since Harry had walked through it, she was pale and shaky, and there were unshed tears in her eyes, "what does he mean, 'it's not the first time'?"
Draco sighed, "i'd assume it has something to do with first year and Professor Quirrel, it's true that he faced him, but what a lot of people don't know is that Quirrel had almost killed him...until Harry killed him first…"
"-I don't know, and I don't want to know." He said abruptly, shooting her a look, "either way, that's what I assume...but…" he hesitates before his shoulders slump and he continues, "but Harry hasn't exactly had the most easy of upbringings, and no, I can't go into more details. He hasn't even told me or Ron anything other than his aunt and uncle are...abhorring."
Hermione took off, walking as fast as she could on the slick marble as she went towards the exit, Daphne and Draco shared a look before turning back to the Basilisk, "How much do you think this would cost if it was rendered down?"
"More than anything you or I could imagine."
Hermione had to go all the way back to the pipes to find Harry, he was standing in front of the main one, hands in his pockets, eyes narrowed at the old metal, she stopped to watch him, taking in every detail she could about him.
It wasn't the first time she had done this. And before she would always note how scrawny, or knobbly kneed he was; but this time she looked closer, seeing new details that she never had before, the scars that poked out from the collar of his shirt, how even with his newly gained muscles he was still too scrawny. The shaking in his hands.
"Harry?" she called softly.
The boy didn't turn around, "done already?" He asked quietly, "I was hoping to figure out how to get back up before you all came back."
"Harry, what did you mean when you said 'not the first time'?" she asked.
"First year professor quirrel-"
"Draco told us about that." she said, cutting him off, "but he thinks you're talking about something else…"
Harry didn't answer, instead he kept his concentration on the pipes, he hissed again and this time old rusted metal stairs sprouted out around the rim of the pipe, spiraling up. "Guess we jumped for no reason." he muttered faintly.
"Harry please." Hermione pleaded.
"It's not nothing." she snapped, her voice echoing off the walls, "near-death is never nothing." she continued softly, "and to have faced it before Hogwarts-"
"-i'm not talking about this with you," he said sharply.
"I…" she bit her lip, she knew she was pushing a boundary, but she couldn't just shake this away. This worried feeling, "I can't just let this pass. Ignore it."
"You can, everyone else has." With that, Harry began up the steps.
"Harry I can't, in good conscience-"
"Drop it Malfoy." he spat, turning around, eyes burning with a cold fire.
"I can't! My father would never-"
"Your father is the reason I almost died down here." he said coldly, Hermione reeled back as if struck. Harry whirled back around and continued up the steps, guilt and anger warring inside his head and chest.
Hermione watched him, not moving from her spot until Daphne and Draco appeared, together the three made it up to the girls restroom. Harry was nowhere in sight.
"Draco," Hermione started quietly, making the pale haired boy look at her.
"I want you to tell me everything you can about Harry's first three years."
Narcissa Malfoy once again sat in her favorite parlor, cup of tea in her hand as she watched her husband pace and rant.
"-Now Nott is accusing me of turning traitor, me! Can you believe it?"
*sips tea* "Not at all dear." she said, with a roll of her eyes.
"I don't know what's going through that girls head, doesn't she know how this looks?"
"I'm sure she's just expanding her network." Narcissa hummed.
"No, I don't think so! I think this Potter boy has done something to blackmail her."
*sips tea* "oh he definitely has the resources for that." she said dryly, "Maybe he's bewitching her."
Lucius stopped pacing, looking at Narcissa in horror.
"Oh come now Lucius, I was kidding." she said with a roll of her eyes, "you have to accept that our daughter is her own person, not a mini version of you."
Lucius sighed, "I know, I'm just...worried."
"As any good father would be." she said as a house elf popped into existence beside her and handed her a letter. "Thank you tapsy." she says as the elf popped away while Lucius resumed his pacing.
Narcissa's eyes furrowed as she read her daughter's newest letter.
How do you help someone when they absolutely refuse to take your help? I've learned troubling news in regards to Harry, in his time here at Hogwarts, he has been subjected to no less than three life threatening situations. While this is shocking enough, I have reason to believe that Harry faces even worse challenges at his own home, I don't have much information, but I know what i've seen, and I know the way he reacts.
Mother, please, how can I help him? I don't like seeing him in such pain, and I can only shudder to think how he was able to face off against a basilisk without dying! Dumb luck is what I would equivicate it too. And what's worse is he talked about it with such an indifferent air about him, as if he didn't care that he had almost died.
I hope this letter finds you well, and I look forward to seeing your next letter.
Narcissa stared worriedly at the letter, calling for an elf and asking for some parchment.
Hermione sat in the stadium alongside Daphne and Draco, all three waiting for the tournament to start, it had been a week since their trip down to the Chamber of secrets.
A week, and Harry hadn't spoken to her once. Draco had apologized on his behalf, stating that while his temper ran hot, it was usually short lived.
"I'm sure once the guilt built up enough he'll come and apologize for what he said." Draco said, "though he won't tell you what you want to know."
Hermione sighed, "I don't care about what he said, I truly just want to know…" she trailed off with another sigh.
"Ah young love." Draco sighed, "So many pitfalls."
Hermione ignored him, and instead focused on the arena as Dumbledore announced the task. She barely paid attention as the other competitors went through their turns. She didn't take an interest until Harry stepped out, clad in the dueling robes she had gifted him, (a set of her fathers old ones, form-fitting and a deep red, rather dashing if she had a say in it) and she watched as he flew against a dragon and found the dragon lacking. She cheered with everyone else when he got the golden egg.
Then she screamed when it's spiked tail came around and knocked him out of the sky.
It was chaos as the dragon tamers charged in, forcing the dragon back as medics ran out to get harry. Working to gently move him away, the egg still tucked into his arm.
Quicker than anyone could react, Hermione was out of her seat and moving down the steps, Daphne and Draco on her tail as she sprinted to the medical tent, she ran past Krum, and Cedric who was covered in burn paste-when did that happen-to get to Harry's bedside.
She had to choke back a sob as she saw his state.
Several puncture wounds in his chest sluggishly bled as the medi-wizards worked on him, a deep gash had been opened up just under his eye, going from his nose down to his chin. In his right shoulder, one of the dragons spikes had broken off, deep in the base of his shoulder.
"You kids shouldn't be here!" one of them said as they ushered them out of the tent, "wait outside!"
"But he's our friend!" Draco started.
"And we need all the space we can get to keep him alive." he returned before sealing the tent shut.
"Alive…" Hermione whispered. A solitary tear trailing down her cheek.
Draco put an arm around her slowly guiding her away, "come on, lets go wait in the infirmary."
None of them paid any attention to Ron, who had seen his former best friend on the cot, as well as Hermione's reaction.
A few hours later.
Hermione sat beside Harry's bed, staring quietly at his gauze covered body. The healers had brought him in an hour after he had been injured, warning them that he would most likely be asleep for the rest of the day and well into the next.
"It was an intense wound." Charlie Weasley had told them as he set the tail spike on the bedside table, "lesser men have died from a strike like that, if he survives the night then we won't have anything to worry about..."
Draco had escorted Daphne back to the dungeons at curfew, giving Madam Pomfrey the stink eye for shooing the two off.
Hermione had refused to leave.
After forty minutes of trying the old matron simply sighed and told her to not be in the way. And Hermione had dutifully followed that order.
Now it was almost midnight and she was no closer to leaving then she had been before.
"Harry…" she mumbled quietly, "I know you probably can't hear me...but you better wake up...if you don't I won't forgive you…" she sniffled quietly, "i'm sorry I pushed the subject, I promise I won't do it again just...please...come back to me…"
Half of her expected him to open his eyes and speak back, the same carefree smile he had worn most days when they would prep back on his Visage.
But he didn't move, he barely even twitched, and it took everything in her to not break down crying.
Instead, she took his hand into hers, soft hands caressing rough callous, she held it tight and didn't let go, even when she fell asleep in her chair.
Sadly. She wasn't awake to notice how his hand softly squeezed hers.
Draco trudged into the Gryffindor common rooms, hands shoved in his pockets as he went towards the stairs.
"I've been a horrible friend."
The familiar, soft voice made Draco look over, Ron was sitting in front of the fire, no robe or jumper to ward off the cold as he stared at the dying embers.
"To Harry...and tk you...I've been...so horrible…" Ron whispered hoarsely, looking back at Draco, tears staining his cheeks and leaving his eyes red and puffy.
"Finally figured it out have you then?" Draco asked coldly.
"I...figured it out awhile ago actually…" he mumbled, looking back down into the fire, "I just...I was too stubborn to apologize and...and when I wanted to it was so close to the task and I didn't want to throw off his focus…" he sniffled slightly, "and now I might not get to…"
"He should wake up tomorrow." Draco said quietly, "you can go beg for his forgiveness then.
"I don't deserve it." He said bitterly.
Draco sighed, "in a way I get it." Draco said, making Ron lookup, "being overshadowed by everyone, feeling like people are only friends with you because of who you're friends with...but then I met you and Harry, and we got along swimmingly; sure, there were times where one of us got mad at the other…but we always figured it out pretty quickly you know? And we didn't totally abandon each other...but this was the first time one of us did, it hurt that you wouldn't believe Harry...believe me…" he sighed. "I'm not saying we're going to reject your apology, but it's not going to be easy either."
"I know…" Ron said, hesitating for a moment before continuing. "Malfoy...she's gotten closer to Harry hasn't she?"
Draco chuckled at that, "yeah, it's the one good thing that came about from all of this mess...they're getting closer."
"I wouldn't say good…" he mumbled, "she called you...that word."
"She apologized." Draco said. "To my face. Doesn't even call me Granger anymore, I think we changed her mind on some things."
Ron sighed, "let me guess, she still doesn't like me."
"She never has." Draco shrugged, "don't let that get you down."
"If she and Harry are as close as you say-"
"If Harry accepts your apology then you'll be fine, just don't do anything to piss off Hermione and you'll be golden." He yawned, "i'm going to bed...we can discuss more in the morning."
"Alright...goodnight Draco...and thanks."
Draco turned away from him, giving a small smile, "you're welcome."