Disclaimer: Standard stuff (I don't own anything, I won't be making profit, any resemblance to previously published content is purely coincidental, JK Rowling is the coolest, etc.). If I make any legal errors regarding copyrighted material, inform me and I will correct them immediately.
Harry Potter and the Unforgivable Tournament
"Now...those three curses—Avada Kedavra, Imperius, and Cruciatus—are known as the Unforgivable Curses. The use of any one of them on a fellow human being is enough to earn a life sentence in Azkaban. That's what you're up aga—Potter, do you have a question?"
"Yes, Professor Moody," Harry said. Moody's words had just made something click in his head. "You said it's illegal to use the Unforgivables against a person, right?"
"Yes, Potter, so as irritating as that ferret Malfoy is, don't go getting any ideas," the professor responded gruffly. Many of the students laughed (none harder or louder than Ron, of course), but Harry was too busy actually thinking. Hermione also had a thoughtful look on her face, but Harry knew that—despite her vaunted logic—she wouldn't take the thought to its logical conclusion. It was too messy, after all, for her to consider. Harry, on the other hand, was the one who always had to get his hands dirty.
"So what about other creatures?" Harry asked.
"Generally, no," Moody replied thoughtfully. "Unless there's some other law you're breaking, like poaching an endangered species. But if a wizard's life is in danger, all bets are off."
Harry nodded thoughtfully. "And will it work against everything? I mean, it clearly works against spiders, and it almost always works against people...would it also work against, say...a mountain troll? A cerberus? A basilisk? Acromantulas? Centaurs? Dementors?"
Moody's natural eye narrowed, and his artificial eye stopped spinning and focused directly on Harry. "That's an awfully specific list, Potter," he growled suspiciously.
"Yeah," Harry shot back bitterly. "It's an awfully specific list of creatures that have tried to kill me here at Hogwarts, actually. So you see, it'd be pretty helpful to know those curses, for the next time the bloody "safest place in Britain" gets attacked by a monster and I end up having to deal with it."
The classroom fell absolutely silent. Everyone had heard the rumors, of course, and some—like the mountain troll and the dementors—had even been verified, usually by inadvertent slips of the tongue from professors. The class collectively held its breath.
"Nothing that I know of can kill a dementor," Moody murmured, while grimly smiling in approval (it was a terrifying sight). "The best we can do is use patroni to herd them into cages, or else bargain with them using the souls of helpless people who can't fight back. Aside from that...yes, these curses should work as advertised on pretty much anything living, including magical creatures that are otherwise resistant to spells. Plants and constructs are where things get wonky, but plenty of magical plants can feel pain and think, so I would imagine they would all work on them. Constructs...well, the Killing Curse and the Cruciatus Curse are both very high-energy spells, so it's likely that they would at least do some damage; for the Imperius Curse, it would depend on whether the constructs are controlled by runic-arithmantic programming or directly from their conjurer's mind. If the former, no, but for the latter, probably yes, unless the conjurer's will is strong enough to throw off the curse."
"Good," Harry declared. "Then you can teach us."
"Well, Potter," Moody emphasized, "like I said, they all need a powerful bit of magic behind them, especially the Killing Curse. I doubt most fourth year students are even capable of casting it, even if they wanted to." He held up a hand to forestall the oncoming flood of objections. "That said, anyone who wants to try can meet with me during my office hours, and we'll see if you can pull it off. Satisfied, Potter?"
Harry nodded. This year, he might actually level the playing field.
That afternoon, once classes were over but before dinner, Harry walked to Moody's office alone; Ron and Hermione, who usually stood by his side for this sort of thing, were made uncomfortable by the prospect of knowing curses designed to kill, torture, and dominate other people. People had been avoiding him and whispering behind his back all day; apparently, there was such a dark stigma attached to the Unforgivable Curses that very few students wanted to try to learn them, lest it become known that they were dark lords in the making. Harry, though, had grown accustomed to people alternately loving, fearing, and reviling him, so he gave it no further thought—he'd rather be alive and thought to be "dark," than dead and known to be "light," and if these curses might help with that, then he'd put the same effort toward learning them as he had for the patronus.
"Come on in, Potter," Moody's voice called from inside, just as Harry raised a hand to knock. Apparently, his magical eye could see through the wood. Harry opened the door and entered, closing it behind him. "I've been expecting you."
"Has anyone else asked to learn the curses?" Harry asked. "Because it seems to me that anyone who doesn't want instruction from you is more suspicious than those who do, since they are probably learning those spells from their dark parents."
"Right you are, Potter," Moody growled. His magical eye, which had been focused on Harry, suddenly spun around to check his blind spots. "You ever thought of bein' an Auror? Could be you have the right sort of mindset for it. And if what I've been hearing is true, the power to go with it."
Harry shrugged; he honestly didn't know much about wizarding careers, having grown up with the Dursleys. He made a mental note to ask Hermione about the topic, certain that she would have a color-coded binder that she had made and stashed away in anticipation of that very question.
"So here's the deal, Potter," Moody continued. "Show me that you can do something that requires a lot of power, something that your yearmates and maybe even some of the older students can't do...and I'll take that as meaning you've got the power necessary to cast the Unforgivables."
Harry smiled inwardly; this test was practically being handed to him on a silver platter. Few people aside from Remus, Sirius, and Hermione knew how powerful his patronus was, and that was a spell that only a small percentage of adult wizards could pull off. He drew his wand and stepped back from Moody's desk.
"Expecto patronum!" Harry shouted. A brilliant—almost blinding, in the dim, enclosed space of the office—flash of silver-white light flared from the tip of Harry's wand, and resolved into a huge, incandescent stag, which proceeded to canter around the office, looking for threats. The glowing patronus cast moving shadows over Moody's craggy, scarred face, making him look even more terrifying than normal.
"How's that, professor?" Harry asked innocently, doing his best to keep the triumphant grin off his face.
"Not bad, Potter," Moody admitted. "Honestly, I didn't think you'd have it in you, but then again, your father was a powerful wizard and a great duelist...just like the hair, I guess, blood breeds true. A deal's a deal, and I have to say, I'm glad it's you who I'm teaching—I don't think many of your classmates are mature enough to handle the responsibility of knowing these curses."
Something about Moody's comment about blood and breeding seemed off to Harry, but then again, he was a fairly old man—perhaps attitudes had been more conservative in his day. Too pleased with his success to dwell on the thought any further, Harry dispelled the patronus and sat down. It was time for his real Defense Against the Dark Arts lessons to begin.
Harry had thought that second year—when the entire school had been convinced that he was attacking and petrifying muggleborn students, just because he could speak to snakes—had been bad, but this year was rapidly turning out to be much worse. Ever since the Goblet of Fire had spit out his name on Halloween, virtually the entire school thought of him as an attention-seeking cheater; even worse, the staff were reinforcing this attitude by being much colder toward him (and in Snape's case, blatantly incorporating these accusations into his typical abuse). Despite the fact that all of the Hogwarts professors had agreed with Moody's and Dumbledore's assertion that this was some sort of assassination attempt, none made any move to put a stop to the rumors, pranks, and various cruelties towards Harry; this, of course, was seen by the student body as tacit approval (if not outright agreement) that Harry deserved to be punished. Thus, Harry's fourth year at Hogwarts was already extremely unpleasant, and showed no sign of getting any better.
It probably didn't help that Harry had already apparently hurt his reputation by wanting to learn the Unforgivable Curses from Moody; now, instead of just being a dirty cheater, he was a dirty cheater who was also a future Dark Lord. Ron had abandoned him in a fit of jealousy and rage, and Hermione had found it most expedient to put some distance between herself and Harry—never a particularly popular girl, she knew that her time at Hogwarts would quickly become absolutely intolerable if she was painted with the same brush as Harry.
When it came down to it, Harry was—once again—all alone at Hogwarts. It's going to be a long year.
Hundreds of faces stared down from the stands around the enclosure. Shouts, jeers, insults, cheers, fireworks...there was so much noise that Harry could barely tell whether they were on his side or the dragon's. It was immensely distracting.
The dragon, Harry, get your mind back on the dragon! Constant vigilance, idiot!
Harry forced his gaze down from the stands to the monstrous black Hungarian Horntail crouched over her nest. The dragon was about a hundred yards away—Harry was out of dragonbreath range for now, but once the Horntail decided he was a threat to her nest, it would be upon him almost faster than he could blink.
He raised his wand in preparation, and the dragon promptly decided that his continued existence was an insult that could no longer be borne. It moved—so fast, how is something that big so fast—toward him, scrabbling across the ground like a massive bat, walking on its powerful legs and pulling itself forward with the protruding bony claws at the "elbow" joints of its wings. The dragon opened its vast, fanged mouth, and Harry could see the back of its throat glowing as the beast's internal furnace prepared to incinerate him. Harry would only get one chance at this—if he failed, then he would die. Time slowed down, and Harry began to cast his spell.
Harry had originally found it strange, when Moody had claimed that the Unforgivables—especially the Killing Curse, and to a lesser extent the Cruciatus Curse—required the caster to summon forth a sufficient amount of hatred. He had to want to kill the target of his hatred, not just for the sake of whatever was happening in the moment, but for the sake of killing alone. He would need to want the target dead, specifically prefer that the target be dead rather than living as a point of fact, rather than necessarily for any other purpose. It hadn't made sense to Harry; Voldemort and the Death Eaters, along with hundreds or even thousands of other miscellaneous murderers over the years, had killed people all the time with Avada Kedavra. There was simply no way that they had known and hated each of their victims personally enough to cast that curse on them. Hell, Moody couldn't have hated those spiders he had used for the demonstration; they were just animals, and the kind of hatred Moody was talking about had to be deep and profound, not the sort of thing you could gather for a random critter.
Then, Harry realized that Moody had chosen his words very carefully. He had to want to kill the target of his hatred...not necessarily the target of the spell. Taken that way, Avada Kedavra required only that the caster hate somebody enough to want to kill them; that hatred could then be used to fuel the Killing Curse whenever the caster wanted. Still, few enough people had cause to generate that kind of hatred at any time during their lives...but Harry wasn't one of them.
As Harry leveled his wand directly at the charging dragon, he recalled the dementors, and what they made him hear: his mother's voice, as she begged Voldemort to kill her rather than Harry. Voldemort. Tom Marvolo Riddle.
And who had made that possible? Who turned on his friends, stabbed them in the back, and led their greatest enemy to their very door? Who had conspired to send Sirius to Azkaban for twelve years? Who had snatched away Harry's desperate hope of having a home of his own, a family of his own? Peter Pettigrew. Wormtail. Hate him hate him HATE HATE HATE him!
So when Harry dredged up all of his emotions for Tom Riddle and Peter Pettigrew, digging far deeper than he ever had—even during his successful practice sessions—he found that he had more than enough fuel for a Killing Curse.
"AVADA KEDAVRA!" Harry bellowed. A beam of emerald light erupted from Harry's wand, accompanied by the stench of decomposing flesh and a sound akin to a subway train roaring through a tunnel, and lanced across the rapidly-shrinking distance between Harry and the Horntail. The burst of energy struck the raging dragon directly in the chest.
The dragon's flaming roar instantly ceased, and the huge beast crashed to the ground limply, like a marionette that had had its strings cut. It was as though Harry had simply hit a switch and turned the dragon off. It was just...dead. The dragon's momentum carried it several more yards, until it slid to a halt about fifteen feet in front of Harry.
In the thunderous silence that followed, while the dust from the dragon's slide was still settling, Harry strode across the enclosure to the nest, completely unopposed. Nobody in the stands spoke a single word, until Harry picked up the golden egg. Then, Ludo Bagman—possibly trying to move the crowd past the awkwardness of watching their (albeit somewhat estranged) national hero shoot down a rare creature in cold blood with the ultimate spell for murderers—announced that Harry had retrieved his egg in less than a minute, much faster than all of the other champions. His false exuberance fell flat, though, and the crowd simply murmured and buzzed as Harry walked from the field. Harry didn't care; he was still alive, and for once, unhurt. He didn't bother sticking around for his scores, and simply made his way back to the castle before anyone could try to stop him.
In the wake of the first task, Harry became even more of a pariah at Hogwarts then ever before. The school and the public seemed to view Dumbledore's de facto condemnation of Harry's successful use of the Killing Curse in public—expressed by immediately scoring him with a zero for the first task, before Bagman could even prompt the judges for their scores—as proof positive that he was the next Dark Lord. Bagman and Maxime followed Dumbledore's lead, but ironically, Karkaroff and Crouch both scored him with full marks; the former as a way to poke at Dumbledore's reputation (making sure to be quoted in Rita's inflammatory article as saying "now Dumbledore himself has trained up two Dark Lords in a row; that's more than Durmstrang ever did"), and the latter because, as a stickler for the law and rules in general, Crouch had to admit that Harry was well within his rights to kill the dragon, even with the Killing Curse, and it was an indisputable fact that Harry had completed the task in much less time than the other competitors.
The student body in general—and Hagrid in particular, who would not even look in Harry's direction—kept well away from him. Nobody would openly insult him to his face (as they were all terrified of him), but he was always aware of their stares, and knew that they whispered incessantly behind his back. Each morning, dozens or scores—and on one notable occasion, even hundreds—of owls dropped off letters to him, all either pledging allegiance to his "dark banner" (yes, someone actually used those absurd words) or—much more frequently, and typically anonymously—condemning him for being a dark wizard. Many of the letters were cursed, and Harry became a frequent guest of the hospital wing, since he was too stubborn to simply not open letters. Many other students, noticing Harry's plight and the fact that not a single Hogwarts professor stepped in to help protect Harry from his massive amount of hate mail, began to set up cruel "pranks" designed to injure and humiliate him. By the end of the second week after the first task, Harry simply stopped leaving the dorm except for classes, and took all of his meals in the kitchens.
The second week of December, though, brought Harry's determination to stay away from the other students to an end. McGonagall—who had turned quite cold toward Harry since the first task, presumably out of sympathy for Hagrid's love of dragons and her own distaste for so called "dark magic"—announced that there would be a Yule Ball as part of the Triwizard Tournament. Harry's immediate reaction of relief (after all, everyone else would be busy all night, and thus wouldn't have time to try to "prank" him) was crushed when McGonagall informed him privately after class that since he was "a champion, albeit only technically," (which stung, to say the least) he had to attend...and with a date, no less.
"But Professor," Harry practically cried out, his sudden desperation overcoming his frustration with the so-called disciplinarian's "blind-eye" policy toward the school's mob mentality against Harry. "Everyone in this school hates me—who am I going to go with?"
"That is not my problem, Mr. Potter," McGonagall replied stiffly. Her eyes were cold and unsympathetic, and her voice was devoid of any of the warmth or fondness with which she would have addressed him only a few months ago. "Perhaps you should have considered that, before you became a disgrace to your parents' sacrifice."
McGonagall's words hit Harry like a physical blow. The air rushed out of his lungs in a pained gasp, and his knees almost buckled. Looking at him, McGonagall suddenly saw a vulnerable young teenager, and one that she had just hurt very badly, and the stern professor immediately regretted her words. Before she could apologize or make any motion to mitigate the damage, however, Harry gathered his things and dashed out of the room. McGonagall had a terrible feeling that those words would come back to haunt her.
After the disaster of speaking to McGonagall, Harry began skipping every class except Defense Against the Dark Arts (the other students were too terrified of Moody to abuse Harry there, especially considering Harry's rapport with the scarred Auror) and Charms (Flitwick had always been at least neutral toward Harry, and—as a frequent target of bullies in his own youth, due to his height—would allow no bullying of any sort in his classroom). Potions had long ago become intolerable, History was a waste of time, Astronomy was just an opportunity for other students to gang up on him in the dark, Herbology provided other students with plant-based ammunition, and after McGonagall's words, Transfiguration was entirely out of the question. It was as he left Charms—which was now his only class of the day—on the last Wednesday of term that two of his outstanding problems were solved in one fell swoop, in what had to be the most bewildering fashion possible.
Harry was leaving Flitwick's class early (having likely aced the end-of-term test, not that he had studied; rather, his incessant solo spellcasting practice had dramatically improved his wandwork) and was moving quite quickly, in order to round a corner and don his invisibility cloak—as was his new protocol for walking through the halls—when he slammed into a small blond girl.
"I'm so sorry," he insisted, quickly helping the girl to her feet; the last thing his reputation needed was for him to get caught knocking down some cute little girl. He hadn't managed to get his cloak on in time, so he shoved it back into his bag, not wanting this mystery girl to know that he had a rare and valuable invisibility cloak.
"Oh, it's okay," the girl said in a detached, dreamy voice. "I've already forgiven you, Harry Potter, since you're doing such a wonderful job of keeping the bullies busy. Even the nargles are staying away. This term has been quite nice for me so far."
"What do you mean?" Harry wondered. "And who are you, exactly?"
"I just mean that since everyone hates you so much, the other children are busy being mean to you instead of me," she replied dreamily. "It makes for a nice change, you see; being ignored is much more fun that being hexed and laughed at. And I am Luna Lovegood, exactly."
"Oh," Harry said, unsure how to respond to that. Apparently, Luna felt that the "nargles" required no explanation. He looked more closely at the girl, and realized that he vaguely recognized her as one of Ginny Weasley's erstwhile acquaintances, which made her a third-year, and her robes identified her as a Ravenclaw. "Well, I'm glad to be of some use, I suppose."
"Yes, it is quite lovely," Luna agreed pleasantly. "I suppose it's only fair that I accompany you to the Yule Ball, to help repay your kindness."
"Kindness...Luna, I just knocked you over," Harry said, puzzled.
"Yes, but I think we both know that you did it from the goodness of your heart," Luna maintained, giving Harry an "I know what you're up to" sort of look, before continuing as though Harry had actually asked her to be his date. "I will wear pale blue. I suggest that you wear green, as it will bring out your eyes. You wouldn't know this, but they're actually quite nice to look at. It's rather sad that you have to see out of them...you're the only person in the world who will never get to see your eyes."
"Well, I have seen my eyes in a mirror," Harry pointed out.
Luna giggled, as though he had said something charming, before rapidly escalating into a full-blown (and surprisingly loud and deep, for such a tiny slip of a girl) belly-laugh. By the time she calmed down, she was wiping tears from her eyes.
"Oh Harry, that was so funny," she said, still giggling a little bit and looking at Harry like he had said something incredibly stupid but in an adorably ignorant sort of way. "We'll have a rather fun time at the ball. You'll see."
Once again, Harry wasn't quite sure how to respond. This time, however, Luna saved him from having to think of something to say.
"One more thing, Harry," Luna piped up cheerfully, looking back over her shoulder as she began to skip away. Her voice suddenly sounded more direct, more...sane. "The golden egg in your bag...stick it in the water."
Harry remained speechless. How did she know that he was carrying the egg in his bag? How did she know what to do with it? What the hell just happened?
Albus Dumbledore sat quietly at the head of the table in the staff meeting room. Surrounding him were his longtime friends and allies, the top witches and wizards in their respective fields—all pointing fingers at each other and bickering like the teenagers they instructed. While Albus was certain that Harry Potter had not been a "Dark Lord in training" when he demanded to be taught the Unforgivable Curses, suffering continued abuse from his classmates, the media, and what appeared to be the entire country via letter-writing might very well push the boy in that direction. For what must have been the thousandth time that term, Albus cursed his decision to keep Harry at arm's length since "the incident" in Alastor's first class with the boy. Now, of course, it was far too late—events had snowballed so far that he, the rest of the staff, and the students at Hogwarts would never regain Harry's trust. It is entirely possible that Tom might return, only to find his position as Dark Lord of Great Britain already usurped by the very boy he had tried to murder, all because the very people that Harry saved turned on him. Talk about irony.
"Albus, there must be something that we can do," Minerva pleaded, turning her attention to him. "The boy skips every class except for Charms and Defense, he only really talks to Alastor...you know I respect the man, but even you can't deny that he has had a negative influence on Harry this year...I just don't know what to do!"
"I'm sitting right bloody here, Minerva," Alastor snorted derisively. "But anyway, I would advise not calling him a disgrace to his parents' sacrifice. Oh, wait...I suppose that's half the reason we're in here to begin with!"
Minerva's face paled, and Albus's head spun toward her, his face a mask of cold fury. "You...you actually said that to a student? To a child?!"
"Apologizing to me will solve nothing, Minerva," Albus snapped furiously, barely containing his anger at the uncharacteristically narrow-minded, short-sighted stupidity of his deputy. "The problem is not that Harry Potter is skipping classes. The problem is that we have allowed this school to become a such a hostile environment to the boy that sooner or later, he will rise to everyone's expectations and become the Dark Lord that they are practically begging him to be! And unlike Lord Voldemort, Harry Potter will actually have plenty of excellent reasons to destroy our community!"
For the first time, Harry would actually have preferred to be back at Number 4 Privet Drive for the Christmas holidays. Hogwarts had, if possible, grown even more hostile toward him after the announcement of the Yule Ball—apparently, it reminded people that they would have to spend an entire night in his company. He was grateful that Luna, though apparently insane, had had the sense not to tell anyone that she was to be his date; Harry was certain that if that fact became known, she would be bullied out of the school entirely. It was almost a surprise that it still wasn't known; the famous Hogwarts rumor mill, led by Lavender "Gossip Queen" Brown, had spearheaded a massive effort to find out who Harry was taking to the ball. Even the press had gotten in on the hunt; Luna herself had (hilariously) published an article in The Quibbler suggesting that Harry was taking Rita Skeeter.
Finally, Christmas arrived. Harry had, in recent years, become accustomed to a small pile of heartfelt gifts from his friends. This year, however, he awoke to another massive pile of hate mail in cursed envelopes. For once, he didn't bother trying to open any of them—he simply burned the whole lot. As the tears running down his face glinted in the light cast by the flickering flames, he reflected that Hogwarts might not be the place for him.
As the pile burned, Hedwig returned from her most recent journey. She hooted softly as she touched down on Harry's shoulder, and he tossed her a large owl treat (which she deftly caught in her beak) before removing the letter from her leg and allowing her to flutter over to her perch. The letter contained pretty much what he expected, and it managed to give him a little hope, as well.
Sirius and Remus had been out of the country for the last few months, trying (and failing) to hunt down Wormtail. They had returned less than a week ago, and were shocked to find out how Hogwarts and the public had turned on Harry. Both men were acutely familiar with the feeling, and while Remus had gentle words of encouragement, Sirius was practically in a blind rage. In his eyes, Dumbledore and the staff had failed yet again to protect the son of James Potter, both from the Triwizard Tournament and from the abuse of virtually the entire British magical community.
"NO MORE!" Sirius had written, apparently so angry that the letters were barely legible. "AT THE END OF THE YEAR, WE'LL GET YOU OUT OF THERE! IF THEY DON'T WANT YOU, THEY CAN ALL BLOODY BURN IN HELL!"
Harry chuckled, and his spirits lifted somewhat. He agreed with Sirius—Hogwarts may have been his first home, but Sirius and Remus were more than happy to give him a new one, and one where he wouldn't be hated as a villain all the time. If I survive this year, I'm never coming back to this place.
Ludo Bagman's whistle blew, and three of the four champions dove into the freezing lake. Harry, though, simply walked to the edge of the water and poked at the surface with the tip of his wand.
"Bassos cacophonous," he muttered. The surface of the water shook as a long, low, foghorn-like bass note reverberated through the lake. Even the spectators were briefly distracted from their jeers and insults for a few seconds as the stands were rattled by the sound waves.
Harry grinned to himself, remembering how he had come up with this plan. While he and Luna danced at the Yule Ball—steadfastly ignoring the stares and whispers of the other partygoers—they had discussed the upcoming second task.
"You should really figure out what to do, Harry," Luna said dreamily, appearing entirely unconcerned. "Seeing as how you'll be rescuing me from the bottom of the lake, and all."
Harry was shocked. After taking Luna's advice about the egg, he had quickly come to the conclusion that he would need to retrieve something from the lake...but a person? That was insane!
"Oh my god, Luna," Harry hissed. "I can't even swim! What the hell am I supposed to do?"
"You silly boy," Luna replied gently, smiling indulgently, like Harry was worried about something completely ridiculous. "Why should you go into the lake, when there's already a perfectly good squid?" Luna refused to speak any more on the topic, and the two continued to dance. As she had predicted, it had actually been a rather fun night.
Harry had gone down to the lake every morning for the last month. Each time, he had cast the Bass Noisemaker spell into the lake, and then given the giant squid—which was apparently actually a Greater Freshwater Kraken, according to Luna—a wheelbarrow full of roasted pork. Dobby had proven to be a very helpful ally in the kitchens.
Moments after Harry cast the spell, the Greater Freshwater Kraken—known to Hogwarts students as "Big Richard the Giant Squid"—surfaced, expecting another wheelbarrow filled with delicious, piping-hot meat, straight from the Hogwarts kitchens. This time, however, Harry had other plans. He raised his wand and fortified all of his willpower.
"IMPERIO," Harry roared. The air between Harry's wand and Big Richard's massive head distorted, and Big Richard's huge exposed eye suddenly clouded over. Harry felt the Imperius Curse forge a link between his mind and the kraken's, and he began to project his own will, smothering that of the nearly-mindless, instinct-driven creature.
SWIM TO THE MERFOLK VILLAGE, Harry thought as loudly as possible. RETRIEVE THE HUMANS WITH YOUR TENTACLES. HARM NOTHING. HARM NOTHING!
Big Richard suddenly submerged with a huge splash, and the surface of the lake continued to be disturbed as the kraken turned around and dove down toward the center of the lake. And now I wait.
As the minutes rolled by, Harry determinedly stared out over the lake, forcing himself to ignore the catcalls of the crowd and the low murmur from the judges' table. Within ten minutes, though, an eruption of water and a substantial bow wave announced Big Richard's return. Dozens of oozing wounds were visible on the kraken's body, and several spears and tridents were still stuck in the creature's hide. I guess the merfolk put up a fight.
Abruptly, the kraken spun around, and thrust forward four of its many tentacles. Wrapped in each was a tournament hostage; Harry hadn't been certain whether the kraken would be able to discern one from the other, so he had forced it to retrieve all of them. Within moments, the four hostages—who were slowly coming out of some sort of enchanted sleep—were deposited on the shore next to Harry. A casual wave of his wand freed the beast from the Imperius Curse. With a painfully high screech, Big Richard disappeared beneath the surface, probably to exact revenge upon the merfolk who had hurt it in their desperate (but doomed) defense of the hostages. Harry was not inclined to help them out; they had agreed to be a part of this ridiculous tournament, so they could reap the consequences.
Harry levitated the four shivering, semi-conscious hostages over to Madam Pomfrey's tent. He recognized Luna, Hermione, and Cho Chang; the fourth was a tiny blond girl who shared many of Fleur's features.
As Pomfrey bustled over, Harry heard Luna call out to him.
"Thank you, Harry Potter, for a most clever and expeditious rescue!" Suddenly, her typically dreamy tone shifted to a harsh, lower register. "Remember, champion, that the tournament ends at the Cup!"
Bewildered, but vowing to remember the strange girl's words (something in her tone had reminded Harry of Trelawney's prophecy about Wormtail's escape), Harry disappeared beneath his father's invisibility cloak and began to make his way back up to the school. He was certain that everyone would take his use of the Imperius Curse as a reinforcement of his "Dark Lord training program," and he wanted nothing to do with anyone there anyway.
"I was wondering when you would finally decide to poke your nose in, sir. How goes your investigation into who put my name into the Goblet of Fire? I seem to recall you being quite convinced that someone was trying to kill me...though I guess that's pretty normal for me at Hogwarts. But I'm sure it'll all work out, so there's no need to put in any real effort, right?"
Albus barely suppressed a wince. It did seem that Harry always managed to find himself in mortal danger at Hogwarts.
"Harry," the headmaster replied, "that isn't quite what I called you here to discuss."
"Oh," Harry sniped, letting sarcasm drip from his words like venom from a basilisk's fang. "What, then? Your inaction in the face of the massive campaign to smear my name in the press? Your inaction in the face of the whole school turning on me yet again? Or maybe your inaction in the face of your own bloody staff turning a blind eye to the abuse, and taking the opportunity to get in a few digs of their own? Are any of those things what you called me here to discuss? Sir?!"
Albus flinched. This was not going very well. He had hoped that Harry would eventually come to him for help; since that hadn't happened—likely because, as it was now quite clear, the boy thought that Albus was complicit in his horrible experience this year—the headmaster had been forced to send Fawkes with a written request to meet in his office. He realized that in his previous hesitation to act, he might truly have been partly at fault. This was not going to be easy...but it was right, and Albus's conscience compelled him to act.
"Harry," Albus said, forging forward as gently as possible. "I wanted to discuss your use of the Unforgivable Curses during this tourn—ah..."
The door slammed shut a moment after Harry stormed from the room.
Albus sighed. That had not gone very well at all.
At the blast of Ludo Bagman's whistle, Harry and Viktor Krum strode purposefully into the maze, wands ablaze with wide-area lumos spells.
Since Harry had received twenty points (ten from Karkaroff and ten from Percy Weasley, who was acting in Crouch's stead and was desperately trying to emulate his boss's by-the-book judgment) on the second task, and the other champions had all failed (receiving zero points for the second task) due to Harry having rescued all of the hostages before they had a chance, Harry was actually tied for first place with Krum, with forty points. Cedric Diggory, with thirty-eight points, would follow them into the maze, and Fleur Delacour would bring up the rear.
At the first fork, Harry turned left, while Krum turned right. He sped up to a brisk jog, and quickly became anxious—it seemed that his chosen path was completely deserted. It was almost like the maze itself was trying to lull him into a false sense of security.
In an instant, Harry's fears were vindicated. With a sizzling hiss, a huge Blast-Ended Skrewt shot around a corner, propelled by flames from its backside. Its gaping, segmented maw clicked, its serrated, scissor-like pincers clacked, and its long, scorpion-like tail twitched, and black, viscous venom dripped ominously from the razor-sharp stinger.
Harry saw no reason to give the beast a chance to use any of its devastating natural weapons against him. In the time it took to raise his wand, he forced to the surface all of his rage and hatred towards Tom Riddle and Peter Fucking Pettigrew.
Just as the skrewt aligned itself to blast off directly at Harry, the brilliant emerald bolt of energy struck its thick, chitinous carapace. Like the dragon, it simply dropped dead, like a toy whose batteries had run out.
Harry exhaled, trying to calm his nerves, before continuing onward. Moments later, Harry turned another corner, only to find himself face to face with a dementor.
His Quidditch-honed reflexes had his wand pointed at the tall, gaunt soul-sucking wraith in an instant. A heartbeat later, the incandescent silver-white stag of Harry's corporeal patronus slammed into the dementor...and proceeded to trample it into a bloody mess. After a few seconds of confusion, Harry realized that it must have been a boggart. Not anymore, though. A moment later, the patronus ran out of energy and dissipated in a shower of silver-white sparks.
Harry stepped carefully around the splattered black ichor surrounding the corpse of what still appeared to be a dementor, and continued forward. After several dead ends and wrong turns, Harry found his path blocked by an odd golden mist.
"Finite incantatem!" he called, waving his wand at the mist. It disappeared completely. With a shrug, Harry continued onward.
As he walked forward, Harry heard a scream in the distance. That was Fleur. A moment later, he saw red sparks shoot into the sky from the east. Part of him wanted to go and help her—his "saving people thing," he supposed—but he ruthlessly crushed that instinct. That's the professors' job, not mine. Let them deal with something for once. I'm busy trying to stay alive myself.
Soon thereafter, Harry's wandlight illuminated a creature he recognized from his Monster Book of Monsters: a sphinx. Roughly the size of Fluffy (Hagrid's massive cerberus from Harry's first year), but with eyes that glittered with a dangerous intellect, the sphinx paced back and forth across the suddenly-wide path. Harry remembered the text from the book; the sphinx would no doubt demand that he answer a riddle, and then attack him with its huge claws. I don't have time for riddles, and I've had enough of Hagrid's bloody monsters. For the second time that night, Harry raised his wand and remembered Wormtail's simpering voice, begging Harry to spare his life.
Harry watched the light go out of the sphinx's eyes as its corpse thumped to the ground. That's getting easier and easier. Harry shrugged. He was doing what he had to do to survive; none of this would be necessary if not for Voldemort's plotting, Wormtail's opportunistic scheming, and Dumbledore's failures. I've killed before; this way is just a whole lot safer and easier.
Harry stepped around the dead sphinx and jogged down the path. Suddenly, Harry came into a clearing, roughly a hundred yards wide. The Triwizard Cup gleamed on an illuminated plinth at the other side. Harry broke into a sprint, dashing across the clearing. He was nearly there when he heard someone scream from behind him.
"NO!" someone bellowed in rage. Harry turned his head to see Cedric Diggory emerging into the clearing. Cedric had bloody scratches and scrapes all over his face and body, and now he was sprinting after Harry. "THAT TROPHY IS MINE!"
Harry turned back to the Cup. He was nearly there...Cedric was taller, had longer legs, was faster...but Harry was far too close for the older boy to ever catch up. Just as Harry was about to grab the Triwizard Cup, he turned back, and was shocked by a truly grisly scene.
Cedric had only gotten halfway across the clearing; while Harry had been running, focused on the Cup, so had Cedric...which had caused him to fail to notice the massive acromantula barreling toward him. The huge spider had slammed into Cedric, instantly knocking him unconscious. Cedric was in fairly good shape for a wizard, but no full-blooded human could ever hope to survive hand-to-hand combat against a spider the size of a station wagon; the fight was over before it had ever begun.
Harry had turned around just in time to watch the spider rip off the unconscious older boy's wand arm and swallow it whole. Cedric's right leg was lying in the grass, severed above the knee by the acromantula's huge pincers; his left leg was broken and mangled so badly that even with an instant's glance, Harry doubted that it could be saved even with magic. The older boy's formerly-handsome face was torn nearly in half, and his shattered jaw was hanging on by a few strands of muscle, while his left eye—or, rather, what remained of it—dripped down his face in a river of blood, vitreous fluid, and stringy nerves.
Harry raised his wand, thinking that if he could kill the acromantula, then it just might be possible to save Cedric's life...but just as he opened his mouth to speak the curse, he slammed into something hard, and fell to the grass, groaning in pain. In his distracted state (and in fairness, Cedric's condition was extremely distracting), Harry had forgotten that he was about to run into the Triwizard Cup's plinth. Harry's mind may have been distracted, but physics was not; his momentum carried him forward, and Harry crashed directly into the plinth. The Triwizard Cup teetered on the wooden plinth, and then fell off...directly onto Harry's chest.
Harry had but an instant to realize that he had just—albeit unceremoniously—won the Triwizard Tournament, before a familiar "hook behind the navel" sensation overtook him, and he was whisked away by a portkey.
As unceremoniously as he had won the Triwizard Tournament, Harry was slammed onto his back by the portkey.
"What the fuck!?" Harry gasped, still reeling from Cedric's brutal dismemberment and likely death. An instant later, his semi-scrambled brain caught up to current events, and his mind dredged up Luna's ominous, prophetic-sounding words. Remember, champion, that the tournament ends at the Cup! Whatever had just happened, the Triwizard Tournament was over; this portkey was something else entirely. Harry rolled over and sprang to his feet before taking a quick glance around.
The portkey had deposited him in what appeared to be a graveyard, enclosed by stone walls and a tall, spiked iron fence. In the dark, misty distance, he could see a large mansion on a hill. To his right, Harry saw a small chapel sitting beneath a large yew tree. As Harry's eyes became more accustomed to the darkness, he made out a figure drawing nearer, carrying some sort of bundle in his arms. There was something familiar about the robed figure, something...subservient...in its awkward, stumbling gait. WORMTAIL! Harry didn't know how he knew, but he knew, he knew! It was Wormtail! Harry's lips drew back in a feral snarl, and he snapped his wand up to target the figure's center of mass.
"CRU—" It took all of Harry's self-control to stop himself from casting the torture curse. He would need Wormtail's testimony to free Sirius, but it would do no good to have that same testimony condemn Harry to Azkaban for life.
Wormtail heard Harry's aborted curse, and raised his own wand, but he had never been a particularly good duelist, and Harry's wand was already aimed.
"STUPEFY!" Harry screamed, putting everything he had behind the spell. The dark, starless night was illuminated by a flash of scarlet as an expanding cone of crimson light enveloped Wormtail, knocking him unconscious and blasting him backward into a headstone.
Harry warily moved forward to investigate. Wormtail had dropped his wand where Harry's stunner had hit him, and Harry pocketed it; as he approached, Harry cast several incarcerous, petrificus totalis, and immobilis spells at both Wormtail and the bundle he had been carrying. Remembering Wormtail's craftiness, Harry searched his body; he ended up tossing aside a long, razor-sharp dagger and pocketing a thirteen-and-a-half-inch yew wand, which he recognized as Tom Riddle's from Ollivander's description back before Harry's first year.
"Whoa," Harry muttered, looking down at the bundle. Swaddled in the dark cloth was what appeared to be the ugliest baby Harry had ever seen. It was hairless, scaly, and reddish-black. Its face was flat and snakelike, and its glazed-over eyes were blood-red. The infamous lightning-bolt scar on Harry's forehead burned as he looked upon the "baby's" twisted form. Voldemort! This is Voldemort!
Harry raised his wand, aching to cast the Killing Curse, when he once again stopped himself. If I capture their bloody Dark Lord for them, they'll have to accept me, Unforgivable Curses or not. Instead, Harry cast yet another series of Full Body Binds and Incarceration Charms. By the time he was done, Wormtail and Voldemort were wrapped in so many conjured ropes and bound by so many Full Body Binds that it would take an average wizard nearly a quarter of an hour to finite them free.
After tying his hostages together and grasping one of the conjured ropes, Harry turned to face the battered Triwizard Cup, which was lying in the grass a few dozen yards away. Hopefully, whoever had made the Cup into a portkey to this graveyard had not erased the original portkey, which would undoubtedly deposit the winner of the Triwizard Tournament in front of the judges.
"Accio cup!" Harry intoned. The Triwizard Cup sailed into his hand, and—as he had hoped—Harry felt the familiar "hook behind the navel" sensation of a portkey.
Harry slammed into the ground in front of the judges' table. Less than ten minutes had passed since the first portkey spell laced into the Cup had pulled him away to the graveyard; in that time, chaos had reigned at Hogwarts.
As Harry picked himself up ("accidentally" stepping on Wormtail's stomach) he saw Amos Diggory sobbing over what was left of his son's mutilated corpse. Apparently, the professors had not been able to intervene for another minute or so after Harry disappeared; in that time, the acromantula had injected a huge dose of its corrosive venom into Cedric's torso, liquefying most of his insides. By the time the professors had arrived, most of Cedric's internal organs had turned into a soupy mess and had been sucked up by the acromantula. The seventh-year "super Hufflepuff" (who, despite his supposed love of fair play, had not said a single word in Harry's defense all year) was about as dead as it was possible to be.
Glancing around, Harry could see professors frantically examining the plinth that had supported the Triwizard Cup (the hedge walls had been shrunk down to a few inches), most likely trying to figure out where Harry had gone. The crowd, at least, had noticed that he was back.
"Hey!" Harry called, shattering the shocked silence that followed his sudden reappearance. "I'm back! Someone get me some Veritaserum! I've got Voldemort trapped in a homunculus construct and a very not-dead Peter Pettigrew to interrogate!"
A brilliant green flash lit up the night, and Harry slumped to the ground.
Beneath the sickly green light, Alastor Moody cackled maniacally. His wand still smoked from the Killing Curse.
A half-dozen crimson stunners smashed into Alastor Moody. Albus Dumbledore's was first and brightest, and could have put down a giant.
WHAT?! Albus's mind raced. WHAT?! Possibilities spun through his head. WHAT?!
...There. It was simple: that was not Alastor Moody. Alastor Moody was his oldest friend and ally. Alastor Moody had stood with Albus against Gellert Grindelwald, and later against Tom Riddle. Alastor Moody would die with a twisted smile on his face before using any of the Unforgivable Curses, and would happily gut himself with a rusty spoon before ever casting the Dark Mark into the sky. Alastor Moody would never attack a child. He should have known, after the ferret incident with the Malfoy boy. That is not Alastor Moody!
The man who looked like Alastor Moody was not Alastor Moody. Cedric Diggory was dead, torn to bits by an acromantula. Viktor Krum was still shaking off the Imperius Curse, and would no doubt be in therapy for years to come. Fleur Delacour was lying in Saint Mungo's, twitching in agony from exposure to the Cruciatus Curse; only luck and timing had kept her from sharing the permanent care ward with Frank and Alice Longbottom. And Harry Potter was dead, killed by the Killing Curse, and all hope might well be lost.
Amid the screams of horror from the thousands of spectators, Harry Potter suddenly sat upright.
Harry's eyes snapped open, and he hissed in pain. There was so much light! So much noise! Then, in an instant, everything rushed back to him.
"WHAT?!" he yelped.
Three days later, Madam Pomfrey still wouldn't let Harry leave the hospital wing; despite finding nothing wrong with him, she still wanted to keep him there "for observation," even when Harry pointed out that Dumbledore had thrown him on a doorstep in the middle of the night after surviving a Killing Curse. He certainly hadn't rated any "observation" back in 1981, and he didn't see what was different about it now.
Harry had quickly tired of the interrogations by Dumbledore, the Aurors, Minister Fudge (who informed Harry that the one thousand galleon prize for winning the Triwizard Tournament had been deposited directly into his Gringotts account), the Delacours, and Amos Diggory; that, however, had not stopped them. Nobody felt the need to tell him anything, of course; everyone wanted answers, but nobody told him what was going on.
On the fourth day, Harry awoke to find Remus Lupin and Sirius Black sitting by his bed. The combined Veritaserum testimonies of Peter Pettigrew, Barty Crouch, Junior, and Tom Riddle's homunculus were enough to grant Sirius a pardon and a massive compensation payout. The two Marauders were also more than happy to fill Harry in on the details of the plot to kill him and resurrect Voldemort in one fell swoop. Apparently, Moody was actually Barty Crouch, Junior, who had killed his own father, and had been taking Polyjuice potion all year to impersonate Alastor Moody. He had entered Harry into the Triwizard Tournament, and turned the Cup into a portkey. Wormtail was supposed to perform some dark ritual using his own flesh, Harry's blood, and Riddle's father's bone. Harry's stunner and massive overkill with binding and incarceration spells had completely destroyed those plans.
Apparently, three days was sufficient time to change the entire political landscape of magical Britain; Minister Fudge even cozied up to Dumbledore, who used his position as Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot to protect the Minister from corruption charges, so long as he resigned immediately. Amelia Bones, the Director of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, succeeded Fudge, and happily threw the former Death Eaters into Azkaban (including the ever-slippery Lucius Malfoy) for life after one combined trial, by using Riddle's Veritaserum testimony.
Also based on Riddle's testimony, Aurors had been dispatched to several locations—including Hogwarts—to locate and destroy dark artifacts; Sirius, who had a fairly good background on such things (having been raised in the Black family), told Harry all there was to know about horcruxes. Dumbledore and two cloaked and hooded Unspeakables had come to examine Harry, to determine whether he was one such horcrux, only to find that he was "clean." Dumbledore mentioned that Crouch's Killing Curse must have dealt with it, and then swept off, unwilling to address Harry or even look him in the eyes.
Finally, Harry was released from the hospital wing on the fifth day, and was promptly sent to the Ministry of Magic to attend the sentencing for Wormtail, Crouch, and Riddle, who had been tried separately from the other Death Eaters. After all three were (obviously) sentenced to death, Remus and Sirius were given the honor of throwing Wormtail through the Execution Arch. Alastor Moody threw Barty Crouch, Junior through. Finally, Harry was "voluntold" to do the same for Riddle—apparently, there was some prophecy that Dumbledore wanted to make sure got fulfilled, and it meant that Harry had to do the dirty work. Typical.
"Well, that was kind of anticlimactic," Harry commented lightly, after he tossed Riddle's unconscious pseudo-baby form through the Arch. After Riddle's forced Veritaserum testimony, the Unspeakables had put him into some sort of permanent stasis, just to make sure he couldn't escape before his execution.
"You sure you're okay, Harry?" Sirius asked, clearly concerned by Harry's apparent lack of conscience. "I mean, you did just kill someone."
"Nothing I haven't done before," Harry said with a shrug, ignoring Sirius's and Remus's shock—apparently, Dumbledore hadn't seen fit to tell them about Quirrell. "Plus, this wasn't murder, it was justice. I wish I had gotten a chance to really make the bastard regret everything he did, but in the end, I'll settle for watching him die. I hope you're not expecting me to feel bad about killing the thing that killed my parents."
"Fair enough," Sirius said, immediately understanding Harry's point of view. In the first war, he hadn't exactly shied away from taking the lives of Death Eaters, not the way that Dumbledore or Remus—ever fearful of his "beast within"—had, and he wasn't about to tell Harry off for doing to Riddle what he and Remus had done to the That Fucking Traitor only moments before. "What do you say we get out of here? I hear that Vegas is nice this time of year. Or maybe New York City?"
Harry had been exempted from his end-of-term exams due to his status as a Triwizard Champion, and he saw no reason to go back to Hogwarts to collect any of his things. The only things he owned that he truly cared about were his photo album, his Firebolt, and his invisibility cloak, and he had all of them in his muggle backpack already. Harry was more than ready to abandon magical Britain entirely.
"Let's get the hell out of this country. I never want to come back."
Albus Dumbledore looked out at the student tables and sighed. Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley had threatened and cajoled their housemates, and now there was a permanent empty seat at the Gryffindor table (Fred and George Weasley had helpfully ensured that anyone who sat in that seat would dearly regret it). The spot that Harry Potter had once habitually occupied...that is, before they all drove him away. At least a few have learned their lesson.
In the few months since Harry had won the Triwizard Tournament, delivered Tom "Lord Voldemort" Riddle, and fled the country, magical Britain had undergone a massive metamorphosis. Ironically, Harry would have felt much more comfortable in this new magical Britain; however, every attempt to contact the boy—even via Fawkes—had failed. Albus had learned at a recent ICW conference on education that Harry Potter was slated to attend the prestigious American Academy of Magic just outside of Washington, D.C.; it had been the subject of a great deal of self-satisfied gloating from the American ambassador to the ICW. Harry Potter, Sirius Black, and Remus Lupin had obtained political asylum and full American citizenship almost immediately after Harry dispatched Tom Riddle; it had been a sore point for the average magical Brit, but there was nothing they could do about it. Even Albus himself lacked sufficient sway to convince the American ICW delegate to put pressure on the American immigration system; the Americans—especially the magical ones, many of whom were old enough to remember the Gettysburg Address—were funny like that. All "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free;" they actually still believed in that sort of thing. It had given the Minister quite a headache, but in the end, Harry Potter had left magical Britain to its own devices and fate, and Albus honestly couldn't blame the boy.
Albus sighed again, and stood to address the students.
"Before we begin our banquet, I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak! Thank you."
Harry grinned happily. The buzzer had just sounded, and he was off to first period: "Trigonometry and Pre-Calculus," whatever that was. His first day at his new school was about to begin.
The American Academy of Magic was very different from Hogwarts. There were no "houses;" students worked for their own records, and everyone went home at the end of the day (a simple matter with Floos, portkeys, and apparition; Harry never really understood why Hogwarts was a boarding school—didn't parents want to see their children?). Roll was taken in "homeroom," and the day was split into several class periods. Harry would take courses in several magical disciplines, as well as math, science, English, and history (there were state requirements to meet, which were not waived for magical students). The best part was that nobody here cared who Harry Potter was, except that he had a cool accent and was way too scrawny to play on the "football" (not to be confused with actual football) team. For Harry, it was practically paradise.
"What are you so happy about, dude?" a fellow student asked. "We've got a whole 'nother year of this bullshit."
Harry laughed. For once, he was surrounded by normal teenagers, who were grumpy about school and didn't have to face mortal danger every other day.
"Not a bloody thing, mate," Harry said, still grinning (he had noticed that he sounded more British with a Capital B since coming to America). "I'm just glad I'm finally home."
Why did I write a one-shot while I should have been working on Harry Potter and the Labyrinth? Because my hard drive crashed and I lost chapters 4 and 5, which was extremely disheartening, so I wanted to go write something else instead of sitting there and trying in vain to recreate the exact wording that I had already lost. I mean, come on, what kind of asshat doesn't keep a copy of his work saved on Google or "in the cloud" or some shit? Answer: me.
I never understood why nobody—not even Hermione—asked about the when the Unforgivables could be used in Moody's class. I mean, people in real classes (especially classes like history and literature) talk about death and shit all the time—it's not like everyone (especially the muggleborns) in that class would be so horrified by the idea of the Unforvigables that they wouldn't want some actual fucking clarification. I mean, shooting someone with a gun is pretty awful, but there are definitely circumstances where it's not only allowed, but encouraged—I imagine that there are similar circumstances for the Unforgivables. JKR's language was precise—they're only illegal against humans. That seems to provide the "allowed" circumstance right there, so why don't any of the students confirm that in canon?
Why did I choose America for Harry to move to? A few reasons. One, it's one of the more notable English-speaking countries in the world; two, I've got a hard-on for the good 'ole US of A, and three, as they say, "You can move to France, but you'll never be French. You can move to Britian, but you'll never be English. You can move to Spain, but you'll never be Spanish. You can move to India, but you'll never be Indian. But anyone can move to America and become an American." The idea is that Harry never really felt at home in magical Britain, what with the Dursley-related abuse, the fickle press, the hero-worship, and all the haters...but America is the place where anyone can go and make their own home. It seemed appropriate to me that someone might be fleeing a bad situation in Europe and choose to start over in America. Then again, I've always had a huge, throbbing hard-on for the USA, so maybe I'm biased.