Disclaimer; JKRowlings Scholastic books and Warner Brothers films own Harry Potter and although I'm borrowing her characters and setting the plots of this story are my own and I make no money for writing it.
A/N: This chapter is going to contain a slightly altered version of The Third Task and the Graveyard and Priori Incantateum chapters from Goblet of Fire leaning heavily on cannon I will not be marking the true cannon versus my alterations as I normally would because it would be to many marks to flow well.
Remus and Sirius roused at the first sound coming from Harry's room in the tent. The night before they had heard Dobby pop Harry in but Harry hadn't come out of his room to speak with them.
Remus hoped that it had just been tiredness and not a lack of good news to impart that had caused Harry's unsociability.
Sirius was anxious to hear about Harry's first trip abroad.
The three met in the kitchen where Harry set to making blueberry muffins, and eggs for breakfast. Harry deliberately said nothing and tried to act sad. The Marauders both looked concerned and sad on his behalf.
"Well?" Remus impatiently asked when they sat down. After Harry had stayed silent throughout the making of breakfast he suspected the worst.
Using the saddest voice he could muster and fighting a smirk for all he was worth, Harry said, "I got in."
"Well at least you got a good trip out of it." Sirius said.
"That's too ba—You twerp!" Remus shouted.
Harry burst into raucous laughter.
"Wha—" Sirius took a few seconds longer to process. " Good one! Congratulations on your achievement, Pup!"
"It means we need to do some replanning though. Like we figured my potions and arithmancy almost kept me from making it, I barely edged out the other candidate for the last slot. My school grades were lower, but the Deputy Headmaster preferred my personality, I guess the other boy is a real prat, so he chose me over him. Now I just have to prove to him it was a good decision. There was also the issue that MMC doesn't start in the fall until September 15th. I got a work around for both issues which is I attend the Summer session that runs from July 30th until September 7th to improve both of those subjects, but to do that I have to be Reyjkavik, Iceland ready to go July 30th. Which means I lose a good portion of that European tour we talked about me doing. Also need to figure out where you two are going since you can't stay here in the Chamber. I'm still toying with buying a house for the two of you and Winky, instead of leaving you in the tent. I'll slip down the day after the third task we can finalize plans a bit, but for now I need to head upstairs or someone may notice I'm missing. You'd think it wouldn't matter since I'm doing the tournament and not testing but McGonagall and Dumbledore still want to know where I am most the time."
"Where have they thought you were while using the time turner?" Sirius asked.
"I told them I was using it in an unused part of the castle."
Sirius' barking laugh rang through the tent. "Good one, Pup!"
"Bonus points for honesty." Remus said with a smirk.
At noon Harry gave the time turner to the Unspeakable that came to claim it. The person seemed quite surprised that he had used all four thousand hours. Harry made a point to complain that the Ministry was chintzy because they hadn't seen fit to even give him a full six months worth of time.
Albus checked with the Unspeakable to see how much of the time turner's allotment of time sand had been used. He was slightly alarmed to find out Harry had used all of it he had not seen any of the usual evidence of usage.
Most often students who were issued one were worn to a thread in a matter of months. That Harry wasn't and had used the entire allotment made Dumbledore worry that he, himself, might have missed some dark ritual in the Restricted section that Harry might have found that would result in trouble down the road. He kicked himself for not keeping a closer eye on the boy. It was just he had been so busy this year. It did however explain how Harry had grown as much as he had in the course of the school year.
The Unspeakable was impressed that Harry had managed to use all of that time without the awareness from the teachers. Commenting, " He must have followed orders well if he used it all and no one was the wiser. Perhaps we should look into recruiting him, he might make a good Unspeakable."
That thought almost made Albus break out in hives. It was the last thing he wanted Harry to consider for a career. No Harry like his father before him would become an Auror. If he somehow miraculously survived defeating Voldemort.
Since Harry's friends were testing that day Harry revised the information he had studied to use in the third task. He went over the information his "uncles had given him about standard warding, traps, and obstacles and their counters. He read over all the creature information he knew, and went over the incantations on wand movements of every spell he could think of. After dinner he and Katie went for a walk down to the lake and back, before resuming their individual revisions in the common room.
Breakfast was a very noisy affair at the Gryffindor table on the morning of the third task. Post owls appeared, bringing Harry a good luck card from Sirius. It was only a piece of parchment folded over and bearing a paw print on it's front but Harry appreciated it all the same. It was useful for maintaining the fiction.
Hermione and the rest the Gryffindors headed off to the History of Magic exam when McGonagall came walking alongside the Gryffindor table towards him. "Potter, the champions are congregating in the chamber off the Hall after Breakfast," She said.
"But the task isn't until tonight!" Said Harry.
"I'm aware of that, Potter," she said. "The champions families are invited to watch the final task, you know. This is simply a chance for you to greet them."
"Hello? Orphan here. Please say you were not stupid enough to invite my miserable excuses of relatives."
"No," She seemed shocked he had said what he had then she processed her own answer and awkwardly said. " wait.."
"Phew, the last thing I want to see is them. So who's here? Uncle Remus perhaps?"
McGongall stopped jaw gaping for a moment. Then collected herself, "No, the Headmaster invited the Weasleys on your behalf."
"Really?" Harry couldn't keep the sarcasm from his voice. "So they're officially adopting me with his blessing?" He knew deep down that wasn't the case but wanted to make her squirm.
"Well, no, not to my knowledge. Albus, certainly hasn't said anything like that…"
"Well, then isn't it a trifle presumptuous of him to invite them on my behalf, and not the one of my honorary uncles who could actually attend? Or is it to just salt the wound of my lack of family?"
"Yes, but—" McGonagall frowned when she realized what she had said. Pursing her thin lips she said, "The Weasleys wish to support you. You could at least be grateful."
"Grateful?" Harry found himself counting to a hundred while he debated the wisdom of acting on his temper. His issue was not with the Weasleys being here per se it was with the Headmaster's manipulative ways. It was also with his Head of House's doglike devotion to the Headmaster, she ought to be a bloody bulldog not a cat…"I would be more grateful if they had asked to come rather than waiting for the Headmaster's invitation. I would be more grateful if the invitation had not been necessary at all, if I had been allowed to bow out of the travesty that is this be damned tournament, or if he had also included the one person I have come to view as family."
McGonagall's face got even more stiff, but Harry saw a flash of guilt cross her face.
Harry decided to twist the metaphorical knife. "Forget it, overlook it as usual; I know you will anyway. Just as you always have. I'll go, but only because I am fond of the Weasleys, and I doubt they are more than the Headmaster's unwitting pawns."
McGonagall frowned at him but then walked off.
Harry waited as the Great Hall cleared, Cedric stuck his head out.
"Harry, come on, they're waiting for you!"
Harry mentally congratulating himself on discombobulating his stoic Head of House and on his escape in the making, rose to his feet and made his way to the room. Cedric and his parents were just inside the door. Victor Krum was in a corner conversing with his dark haired mother and father in rapid Bulgarian. It was obvious where he'd gotten his nose from. Fleur and her family were on the opposite side of the room with little Gabrielle hanging onto her mother's hand. She waved to Harry, who waved back grinning. Then he came to the Wealseys standing in front of the fireplace. It was not all of them just Mrs. Weasley and Bill.
"Surprise!" Mrs. Weasley said excitedly as he smiled and walked over to them. "Thought we'd come watch you, Harry!" She looked him up and down, "My how much you've grown! New glasses! I like the haircut!"
"You all right?" Said Bill, grinning at Harry and shaking his hand. "Charlie wanted to come, but—"
"Earrings?! Harry, just when were you going to tell me you got earrings?!"
"I got them a couple months ago."
"I'm no longer alone!" Bill half crowed.
Harry noticed Fleur eyeing Bill with great interest over her mother's shoulder. He smirked it was obvious she found Bill's rebel side attractive.
"What possessed you?" Molly Weasley half shrieked. Drawing all eyes in the room to them.
Harry's eyes narrowed. "I got them pierced because I wanted to learn some other languages, Mrs. Weasley. These are just some plain ones that I use to keep my holes open."
"I'll let Charlie know he'll set you up with a set like mine. If I know him, they'll probably be from the offspring of that Horntail you did so fantastically against in the first task." Bill contributed.
"It's really sweet of you both to show up like this. When they said families I had a moment where I thought the Dursleys…"
"Hmm," said Mrs. Weasley pursing her lips. She had always refrained from criticizing the Dursleys in front of Harry, but her eyes flashed every time they were mentioned. She still wasn't happy about his getting his ears pierced but at least he'd had a better reason than Bill to get it done.
"It's great being back here," said Bill, looking around the chamber."Haven't seen this place for five years. Is that picture of the mad knight still around? Sir Cadogan?"
"And the Fat Lady?" Said Biil.
"She was here in my time," said Mrs. Weasley. "She gave me such a telling off one night when I got back to the dormitory at four in the morning—"
"What were you doing out of the dormitory at four in the morning?" Said Bill, surveying his mother with amazement.
"Your father and I had been for a nighttime stroll," she said, "He got caught by Apollyon Pringle—he was the caretaker in those days—you father's still got the marks."
Harry was thinking, too much information.
"Fancy giving us a tour, Harry? Said Bill.
"Yeah, okay," said Harry, and they made their way back toward the door into the Great Hall.
As they passed Amos Diggory, he looked around.
The man then proceeded to confirm Harry's initial impression from when they met at the World Cup. Harry was happy on Cedric's behalf that his father was proud of him, but honestly verbally attacking a fourteen almost fifteen year old. Insecure prideful blowhard.
Cedric was clearly embarrassed by his father's behavior, but Harry just ignored Amos Diggory. As he led the Weaselys from the room he asked about the rest of the family. By doing so he found out that Cornelius Fudge would be sitting in the other Judge's chair this evening. Great, not.
Over lunch it became apparent to Mrs. Weasley and Bill that Harry was no longer Ron's best friend. Harry sat between Hermione and Katie with Neville and the rest of the quidditch team sitting closer than Ron. Of all the Weasley offspring it was apparent that Harry was closest to the twins. Mrs. Weasley was confused by this, but it didn't seem to bother most of her children that much.
Ginny's jealousy over Harry's obvious closeness with Katie Bell also bothered Molly, but she had long accepted that it was quite possible that she and Ginny would not get their fondest wish. Sighing inwardly she mostly let go of the dream of having this sweet boy as a son-in-law.
Molly had to remind herself that Harry wasn't one of her children, as much as she wished it was so. After lunch the older Weaselys and Harry whiled away the afternoon walking around Hogwarts. Mrs. Weasley gently pried the story of the year out of Harry.
Harry told Mrs. Weasley part of the story of his school year. He didn't go into great detail. he explained how he and Ron had had a falling out over his surprise entrance into the tournament. How he'd found himself in the absence of family having to step up and make adult choices for his own well being, and that Ron having a loving supportive family had not been ready to do the same when they had made up over the worst of the disagreement. "We're just in different places Mrs. Weasley no harm, no foul just different places is all. We're still friends, just not best friends."
"Well, it's a shame because you've been a good friend to him, to our whole family really, but friendship can't be forced. Is there anything we can do for you?" Mrs. Weasley asked.
"Not really, I've studied very hard this year. I'm as ready as I can be for what I think is coming tonight, but I've got no way of knowing if it's enough."
"Well you must be doing something right since you're leading heading into tonight." Bill said encouragingly.
A half an hour before dinner Harry returned to the dorm and got into the base of his non school quidditch robes that he planned to wear for the task and his basilisk hide waistcoat. He pulled his school robe over it so it would not draw attention during dinner. He'd have Dobby bring the outer robe to the task, since he didn't intend to visually identify himself as a Hogwarts student during the task.
Dinner had many courses. Finally the champions were told to make their way down to the Quidditch pitch. Hermione hugged Harry for luck and Katie kissed him. Harry nodded to the remainder of his friends and to Bill and Mrs. Weasley.
As at previous tasks Ludo Bagman checked on Harry. "Feeling alright, Harry? Confident?"
As previously Harry gave him a drop dead look. The Quidditch pitch was nigh unrecognizable with the twenty foot high hedges making the maze. They were led to a gap the entrance to the maze. It looked dark and creepy. Harry just wished tonight were over so he could climb in bed. He exchanged his school robe for the outer portion of his flying robes.
Dobby whispered, "Good luck, Harry Potter sir. Be careful."
"Thanks, Dobby, you're the best." Harry was glad he'd eaten lightly at the feast. His stomach was churning with nerves.
Five minutes later the stands had begun to fill; the air was full of excited voices and the rumbling of feet as the hundreds of students filed into their seats. The sky was a deep clear blue now and the first stars were beginning to appear. Hagrid, Professor Moody, Professor McGonangall, and Professor Flitwick came walking into the stadium and approached Bagman and the champions. They were wearing large red luminous stars on their hats, all except Hagrid, who had it on his moleskin vest.
"We are going to be patrolling the outside of the maze," said Professor McGonagall to the champions. "If you get into difficulty, and wish to be rescued, send red sparks into the air and one of us will come and get you, do you understand?"
The champions nodded.
"Off you go then," Bagman said to the four patrollers.
"Good luck, Harry," Hagrid whispered, and the four of them walked away in different directions to station themselves around the maze.
Bagman now pointed his wand at his throat, muttered, "Sonorous," and his magically magnified voice echoed into the stands.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, the third and final task of the Triwizard Tournament is about to begin! Let me remind you how the points currently stand. In first place with eighty six points is Harry Potter. In a close second is Cedric Diggory with eighty-five points is Cedric Diggory both of them from Hogwarts School. In third place with eighty points is Victor Krum of Duramstrang Institute! And in forth place is Miss Fleur Delacour of Beauxbatons Academy!"
"So on my whistle Harry!" said Bagman. He gave a short blast on his whistle.
Harry started forward he, would have a minute lead on Cedric two minutes on Krum and three on Fleur. As the dim light of the maze overtook him he cast a soft red lumos wordlessly. He didn't want a bright light that would interfere with his night vision but he wanted a tiny bit more light to see by. He jogged slightly not wanting to waste time, but wanting to allow himself time to take in his surroundings. He had just reached the first fork when Bagman's whistle told him Cedric was starting. Harry went left. Harry had reached a second fork when he heard the whistle a second time. Point me. The wand spun around once pointed towards his right. That way was north and he knew he needed to head to the north west for the center of the maze the best he could do was take the left fork and head right again as soon as possible.
The path ahead was empty too, and when Harry reached a right turn he took it hearing the final whistle, he again found his way unblocked. Harry felt a chill crawl its way up his spine. This was too easy. He gingerly resumed his path forward forcing himself into a hyper alert state. Then he heard movement behind him he whipped around only for the light from his wand to illuminate a shaken Cedric and the sleeve of his robe was smoking.
"Hagrid's Blast-Ended Skrewts!" he hissed. "They're enormous—I only just got away!" Cedric then dove off down another path.
Harry anxious to avoid the Skrewt's moved off pretty quickly as well. Then as he turned a corner he saw a dementor gliding toward him. Twelve foot tall, its face hidden by its hood, its rotting scabbed hands outstretched, it advanced, sensing its way blindly towards him. Harry could hear its rattling breath; he felt clammy coldness stealing over him, but knew what he had to do…
He summoned the happiest thought he could and concentrated with all his might on the thought of getting through the maze and celebrating his freedom with his friends, raised his wand and cried "Expecto Patronum!"
The allerion that he still had not named flew from the end of his wand towards the dementor, which fell back and tripped over the hem of its robes… Harry had never seen a dementor stumble and realized this was a boggart. For the first time he wondered why when he faced a boggart he had never been confronted by water, then it occurred to him water had no definitive form it was too shapeless for a boggart to turn into so that obviously settled on his second worst fear dementors. A wordless "Riddikulus!" Had the shapeshifter exploding in a whip of smoke.
Left, right, Left again twice he found himself facing dead ends. He did the four points spell again and found that he was going too far east. He turned back took a right turn and saw an odd golden mist floating ahead of him.
He did a quick spell to double check that it was just gravity reversing mist, a common obstacle wizards made Sirius had told him about. As he stepped into the mist he heard a shrill scream. Harry stepped quickly forward rather than let fear hold him in place. "Fleur?! He shouted wondering what had happened to the beautiful girl when she didn't respond.
He stopped at a junction of two paths and looked for some sign of the French champion. he was sure it had been her who screamed. What had she met? Was she alright? There was no sign of red sparks—did that mean she had gotten herself out of trouble, or was she in such trouble she couldn't reach her wand? Harry took the right fork with a feeling of increasing unease, that small voice inside said one champion down.
He met nothing for ten minutes and that small voice inside told him that a, he was being observed and b, whatever or whoever it was was mostly clearing a path for him. Which kind of pissed him off he wasn't some stupid shrinking violet that needed help to get through a challenge like this maze.
He rounded another corner to find himself facing a Blast-Ended Skrewt. Damnit jinxed myself.
"Ignis Verberaque!" Harry hoped this spell cut through the chitin on these monsters the way it did through most things he had tried it against. Hagrid might get upset with Harry for killing this beastie, but Harry wouldn't feel a second's remorse. Unfortunately he had to wait until it was close before he could use it.
Harry was pleased to see it cut through but moments later his pleasure diminished as it seemed like flames from within the creature seemed to be repairing the damage from his whip. Harry decided to put out the flames. "Aquamenti!" Harry cringed as it made a horrible high pitched shriek then scuttled away. Hagrid must have breed some sort of fire based creature into those monsters for them to have that reaction to water. Harry took a left hand path only to come to another dead end. Dead end, dead end. He fought the urge to snarl, and did another four point spell trying to find a path that would take him northwest. Finding one he hurried along when he heard something from a path parallel to his own that made him stop dead.
"What are you doing?" Yelled Cedric's voice. "What the hell d' you think you're doing?" And the Harry heard Krum's voice, "Crucio!"
The air was suddenly full of Cedric's yells. Horrified Harry cast his flame whip again and attacked the hedge. the whip cut through the hedge like a box cutter through a box. Harry then used one of mum's early creations that acted like a force field shield to push behind and forced the hole he'd cut out of the way and stepped through the hole. He could see Cedric jerking and twisting on the ground with Krum standing over him. "Stupefy!"
Krum hit the ground. Motionless, facedown in the grass. That set off Harry's alarm bells He hadn't been subtle coming through the hedges. Victor had more situational awareness than that, unless he had been bespelled.
Harry walked purposefully towards Cedric. "Are you alright?" He reached down and offered Cedric a hand up.
"Yeah," panted Cedric. "Yeah…i don't believe it…he crept up behind me…I heard him. I turned around, and he had his wand on me…"
Cedric took Harry's hand and got up. He was still shaking. He and Harry looked down at Krum.
"I wonder… It doesn't exactly seem in character for him does it?"
Cedric paused looking at Harry, "What do you mean?"
"Victor may be from Duramstrang, and fiercely competitive, but he's got principles and this is against them. I mean life in Azkaban for a mere tournament? Plus he didn't seem at all aware of me as I came through the hedge…"
"You've gotten to know him better than I have, but yeah I kinda have to agree. Imperious ya think?"
"Maybe. Did you hear Fleur scream earlier?"
"Yeah," said Cedric. "You don't think Krum got her too?"
"If he was cursed… it's certainly possible."
"Should we leave him here?"
"No," said Harry. "I reckon we should send up red sparks. Someone'll come and collect him…otherwise one of Hagrid's beasts might come eat him."
"Pardon me for saying, at the moment I wouldn't really care?"
"Don't blame you. That spell hurt as much as they say?"
"Fucking hell, yeah." Cedric raised his wand and shot a shower of sparks to mark the spot where Krum lay.
The two boys stood looking at each other. Then. Cedric said, "Well…I s'pose we'd better go on.
"Yeah, s'pose so."
They then proceeded up the path to the next intersection where Harry went left and Cedric went right.
Harry continued to use the four point spell, making sure he was moving in the correct direction. He ran into a few dead ends but the increasing darkness had him sure he was closing in on the center of the maze.
Harry's eyes caught some movement ahead of him he willed more light from his dimly lit wand He recognized the pacing creature as a sphinx from his Monster book of Monsters. He hesitantly moved forward.
The great creature turned and faced him. He gave a respectful half bow.
Then it spoke in a deep hoarse voice. "You are very near your goal. The quickest way is past me."
"So…Will you please move aside." Harry suspected the answer would be no.
"No," she said, continuing to pace. "Not unless you can answer my riddle. Answer on your first guess—I let you pass. Answer wrongly—I attack. Remain silent— I will let you walk away unscathed."
Harry sighed rubbed his forehead. Hermione had taken his education in puzzles seriously as she had the rest of the tournament preparations she helped him with. He had to at least try. Worst came to worst and he could walk away one thing was for certain there would be no wild guessing because the sphinx had a powerful looking body with what looked like razor sharp claws.
"Okay," he said. "Can I hear the riddle?"
The sphinx sat down on her hind legs, in the very middle of the path, and recited:
"First think of the person who lives in disguise,
who deals in secrets and tells naught but lies.
Next, tell me what's always the last thing to mend,
the middle of middle and the end of the end?
And finally give me the sound often heard
During the search of a hard-to-find word.
Now string them together, and answer me this,
Which creature would you be unwilling to kiss?"
The sphinx was congenial enough to recite the riddle again slower and Harry reasoned his way through it. Harry gave his answer and was thrilled that she let him by. He had a choice of paths ahead and did a point me spell again it pointed him to the right hand one. He knew he was close and couldn't resist moving at a swift jog.
He could see light ahead.
The Tri-wizard cup was gleaming on a plinth a hundred yards away. Suddenly a dark figure hurtled out onto the path mere feet in front of him.
Cedric was now ahead of him to get there first. Harry was torn between wanting to make a race of it because of competitive spirit and wanting to laugh since he didn't really care who won.
Then Harry noticed something immense over a hedge to his left, moving quickly along a path that intersected his own; it was moving so fast Cedric was about to run into it, and Cedric, his eyes on the cup, had not seen it—
"Cedric!" Harry bellowed. "On your left!"
Cedric looked around just in time to hurl himself past the thing and avoiding colliding with it, but in his haste he tripped. Harry saw Cedric's wand fly out of his hand as a gigantic spider stepped into the path and began to bear down upon Cedric.
"Stupefy!" Harry yelled: the spell hit the spider's gigantic, hairy body, but for all the good it did, he might as well have thrown a stone at it; the spider jerked, scuttled around, and ran at Harry instead.
"Ignis Verberaque!" Harry stood his ground until the spider got close, and snapped his flame whip at the head of the thing. He was pleased that it cut through, and that the head with it's eight shiny black eyes and razor sharp pincers tumbled to the side. That was until he realized something that big doesn't stop that quickly and he wound up pinned beneath it's body and was getting dripped on by the ichor of it's dying body.
Great. Just great. Guess Cedric wins the tournament. Harry was okay with that thought he had given the tournament his best and he had survived intact. Which doubtless would annoy the person who entered him, in that moment Harry felt a chill run down his back.
The person who had set me on this course had taken steps that I would be the person to take the cup. It's a bloody trap. Given they were willing to use unforgivables to that end something tells me that party crashers to that plan are likely going to die. Oh fuck, Cedric, I'm sorry.
"Harry! Are you all right? Did it fall on you?" Cedric was grateful to the younger student for saving him from the spider.
"As a matter of fact, it did." Came a grunt.
"Are okay? I mean are you hurt?"
"I'm not sure. I know I'm pinned, but I think I'm okay."
Cedric looked longingly towards the Triwizard Cup. He thought briefly of going over and taking it. His conscience screamed at him. This was the second time tonight that Harry had come to his rescue and the younger student had been the leader throughout the tournament. Harry had warned him about the first task and figured out the second on his own. He knew in that moment what he had to do if he was going to be able to look at himself in the mirror in the morning.
"Give me a second. If I levitate it a bit do you think you can get out? I've never levitated anything this big before."
"I think so."
Cedric felt more at ease with himself when he got a decent look at the younger boy. Harry had grown a lot this year but he still had a half finished look. Harry was a mess his flying robes were filthy, with numerous small tears. "You okay?"
"I've been better, but I've also been worse. Bruises, maybe a cracked rib or two. I think there's something in the spider's blood that is making me nauseous, but that might just be the smell. I'm really glad that you didn't just leave me under that thing and take the Cup. Not that you don't deserve to win, because you totally do. But while I was pinned under that thing it occurred to me. The Cup is a trap, or rather it's the bait in a trap."
"What? That sounds crazy."
"Does it? I mean think about it, Cedric. What do most people know about me? Especially when it comes to sports?"
"And to win the tournament?"
"You have to take the cup."
" Right, now think about earlier. Fleur knocked out early judging by her scream. Krum imperioused. That takes him out. Which of us did he attack?"
"Me," Cedric paused, "leaving you to take the Cup."
"How many monsters and obstacles not counting the maze itself did you run into?"
"A dozen. What about you?"
"That spider was monster number four. And only one true spell trap."
"You're right." Cedric swallowed hard on the bile that rose in his throat. "It sounds like the Cup is a trap meant for you. What do you think would happen if I took it?" He asked out of morbid curiosity.
"I suspect they would kill you outright. I suspect they have some purpose in mind for me, followed by some sort of summary execution, or else why go through all this?"
"So are you going to take it?"
"I think so."
"But you said they intend to kill you."
"Why? Why would you do that?"
"Because I'm damned hard to kill for one. Two, I bet they're counting on me being stupid and blind to their plan. I have a plan; it's called counter strike. Three,the only way this tournament ends is if one of us takes the bloody thing. I like you too much to let you do it; especially since I suspect you would be considered a party crasher, and I already know whoever is behind this, they don't play nice. I'd rather not attend your funeral, Cedric."
"But you're only fourteen!"
"That hasn't stopped me before."
"Let me come with you!"
"Cedric, I need you to call in the calvary."
"Why do I need to call in horse mounted fighters?"
Harry face palmed for a second. Then picked up his head, "It's a muggle expression, I mean call in aurors for backup."
"Oh, good idea!"
Harry keeping his wand in hand, walked to the cup. "If I'm wrong I'll tell them we should be co-champions and split the winnings with you. Hogwarts victory right?"
"Right, If you die I'll find a way to resurrect you and kill you myself rather than live with the guilt for letting you do this."
Harry smiled. "Sounds like a plan." He grasped the cup.
As he disappeared, Cedric shouted, "Wait where am I supposed to bring the aurors?!"
As the hedges melted away, all the spectators gazed about looking to see which of the two Hogwarts students was the champion.
Cedric charged towards the judges. "Where's Harry? Shouldn't he be with you or was his guess right and the Cup was a trap?"
Albus was both concerned for Harry missing status, and smug because Tom was acting predictably. If this proved to be the time Harry failed, well, that would free both of them of the constraints of prophecy so someone else could take a shot at controlling the situation.
Cedric looked around and latched on to Minister Fudge. "Minister Fudge, Harry thought that Aurors should be called in because we believed Victor Krum was imperioused, and he crucioed me. Harry rescued me that time and again when we were almost to the cup. Then he pointed out that whoever entered him seemed to want him to have the Cup. He really thought aurors should be called in."
"Where is he?" Fudge asked.
"Gone! Harry was taken away by port-key! The Cup was a port-key!" Cedric yelled.
"We knew that."
"But is Harry where he's supposed to be? Call for the aurors, Harry is probably in deep trouble!"
Fudge gave a signal to Dawlish to summon Amelia Bones, Something was off about all this, he may not like the woman but she was excellent at getting to the bottom of things.
Harry felt his feet slam into the ground. Bloody port-keys. He looked around. Overgrown graveyard. Fan-freaking-tastic. He squinted through the darkness looking for any sign of movement. Then he spotted a figure. Figuring it would be better to stun first and ask questions later he fired, "Stupefy!" The figure dropped to the ground whatever it had been carrying also fell. Harry moved closer to get a better look.
When Harry was finally close enough to get a good look. Whatever it was the figure had been carrying rolled over and hissed, "CRUCIO!"
Harry was overwhelmed by pain. Every nerve was screaming and it was only seconds before he was following suit.
After what seemed like hours, but was probably only minutes, Harry came back to himself. Every inch of him hurt. What he heard however drove him back to full awareness quickly.
"Enervate, Wormtail, get up you useless nitwit! I need you to do the ritual. Now!"
"I'm so sorry, My Lord."
That was Pettigrew's voice. This was Harry's chance to capture the traitor and prove Padfoot's innocence, but to do that Harry had to ignore his pain filled body and move. Harry flexed his right hand. Good his wand was still in his hand. He aimed for Pettigrew. "Stupefy!" Harry forced himself to roll to the side so he was half sheltered by a tombstone.
"So, you have more strength than I assumed." Came a hissy sounding voice. "Good when I take your blood it will give me the strength to be even better than before."
"You know what they say about assumptions don't you Tommy? Or should I call you Morty? I almost didn't recognize you, you're looking rather small at the moment, luckily you still have that evil vibe thing going."
"You adolescent twat! Crucio!"
Harry dodged that one, having no desire to feel it again."I should have realized you were manipulating things. So how did you do it?" Harry tried to sound somewhat admiring and he hoped Morty was in a mood to brag a bit. He really needed a few minutes to rest and collect himself. He wanted out of this alive and with Pettigrew as a prisoner, but he suspected that goal was going to be on par with getting into MMC.
"Does it matter, Potter?"
"Well, I was curious. Why did you do it then?"
"Because I want to kill you, you are the one prophesied to defeat me after all, as to how, one of my faithful entered your name under Dumbledore's very nose."
"Yeah, kinda knew that, not that the old shyster made much of an effort. Prophecy, huh? What do you know about this so called prophecy?"
"Dumbledore's seer made it during her interview. My potions prodigy overheard it and brought it to me, he wanted to be in my inner circle you see. I just had to wait and see which of Dumbledore's order had children as July ended. It was only the Longbottoms and your parents. Longbottom was born the day before you so you were more of a match to the prophecy. You and your Mudblood mother did this to me and I will have my revenge! Crucio!"
Harry ducked away again.
"What Dumbledore's little pet not so enamored with the Light?"
"Dumbledore's version? No, not really." Harry wanted to keep Tom talking it mean he wasn't being cursed. "You know, you and I both got shafted by him. He may claim to be light but the man is practically the uncrowned King of Magical Britain and while he talks a good talk the lazy arse thinks nothing of risking other people's necks in the name of his greater good. All this leads me to doubt his so called goodness. I figure he's mostly talking out his arse. He talks about the choice between what is easy and what is right and all, but from what I see he chooses the easy path most times."
"You could always join me.. I can always use strong wizards willing to answer my bidding."
"Nyah. Even if I agreed with your goals, which I don't. Bombarda! I could never quite agree with your methods. Plus there's the fact that you and Dumbledore are equally responsible for my misery while growing up. You've tried to kill me too many times, I could never trust you."
"Reducto!"Harry found himself diving away from his shelter as Tom's spell crumbled his meager protection of a tombstone to dust.
"You're a powerful little thing aren't you!" Harry said to the construct. From what he knew of magical constructs Morty shouldn't be able to be casting like this.
"This construct may lack physical strength, but I have a broad and deep pool of power at my disposal. My followers see to that."
Harry thought for a moment how that could be accomplished as he looked for more cover. "The marks?"
"Bravo. I'm surprised you figured it out. Seeing as Dumbledore doesn't believe in teaching about dark magic and according to Peter you're not much of a student."
"I find that it's all a matter of motivation. I decided that personal survival was motivation enough for me to get off my arse this year." Another spell again drove Harry out of the dubious cover he had found. Harry dodged one spell, only to be hit by a second.
"Imperio. Wake Pettigrew and let him tie you up."
Harry felt the gentle wave of Voldemort's imperious wash over him. Then smirked and said, "Nice try. Guess your man at Hogwarts didn't tell you I'm immune to that one."
Harry raised a shield for that one. He guessed Morty was pretty pissed when it broke through a shield he knew could hold against most spells, either that or Harry was still weaker than he thought from his earlier bout of the torture curse. The weakened spell slashed viciously across his chest and left shoulder. His basilisk hide waistcoat absorbed it, though he gained a few gashes across the top of his arms where the waistcoat didn't cover. "Ouch. Expelliarmus!"
"How did that not open you wide?"
"My waistcoat took most of it."
"Dumbledore supplied you with dragon hide did he?"
"Hell No!" Harry fired off one of the spell chains Remus had taught him and was disappointed, but not surprised when Voldemort blocked them all. Maybe some distraction was in order. "My armor is made of Basilisk skin. You know, the one that used to live in the Chamber of Secrets."
Harry's eyes met Voldemort's and he felt his opponent try to overrun his mind. He countered the assault by force feeding the probe the memory of the recent crucio. The probe immediately withdrew. "You can dish it out but you can't take it?" Harry asked incredulously.
"Impertinent brat!~Nagini, bind him!"~
Harry dodged sideways and attempted to reducto the head of the snake that came seemingly out of nowhere to attack him. His first spell missed and he cast, "Capistrum serpent!" To his relief the snake's head was now muzzled, and it was distracted. She looked too big to be
affected by a basic cutting charm so Harry borrowed the cutting spell Morty had tried to use on him. "Sectumsempra!" He felt a second's relief as the head rolled away from the snake's body. The relief was replaced by a mix of terror and pain when Morty's next spell hit his left lower leg and he felt the bones break in multiple places. He needed to take that wand away from Morty's construct. It might not stop him but it would at least slow him down.
"How dare you kill her, you guttersnipe! Crucio!"
Harry's disarming curse collided with Voldemort's spell. Suddenly a golden thread connected their two wands. Harry tightened his hand around his wand to compensate for the increasing vibration coming from his wand and noticed Morty doing the same.
Then Harry found himself and Morty lifted from the ground by an unseen force and floating across the graveyard to an area free of graves. The thread connecting their wands splintered and arced in all directions around them until they were enclosed in a great glowing golden weblike dome. Then came the sound of phoenix song. Taking heart at the song, Harry heard a voice from inside telling him to not let the connection break. Then beads started to form on the string of light between them. Harry willed the beads towards Morty.
Voldemort seemed to realized that this was bad and tried to will them towards Harry but no matter how much energy he pulled from his far away followers the beads continued to move towards him. He blamed it on this body being a construct. As the bead entered the tip of his wand both he and Potter were treated to a regurgitation of the spells he had cast in the reverse order that he had cast them.
After several spells, a gray ghost emerged that reminded Harry of the man he'd only seen in a dream last summer.
"He was a real wizard then?" The old man said, his eyes on Voldemort. "Killed me, that one did… You fight him, boy…"
But already another head was emerging, and this head, gray and smoky as a statue was a woman's. Harry, shaky now fought to keep his wand still, saw her drop to the ground and straighten as the man had.
The shadow of Bertha Jorkins surveyed the battle before her with wide eyes. "Don't let go now!" She cried. "Don't let him get you, Harry—don't let go!"
A third head emerged from the wand and this time Harry recognized the figure. He looked into the ghostly face of his mother.
"Your father is coming…" she said quietly " Hold on for your father…it will be all right..hold on…"
And he came…first his head, then his body…tall and untidy-haired like Harry, the smoky shadowy form of James Potter blossomed from the end of Voldemort's wand, fell to the ground and straightened like his wife. He walked close to Harry, looking down at him, and he spoke in the same distant echoing voice as the others, but quietly so that Voldemort, his face now livid with fear as his victims prowled around him, could not hear…
"When the connection is broken, we will only linger for moments…but it will give you time …go for the port-key it will take you back to Hogwarts… Do you understand, Harry?"
Harry nodded because he understood but he had no intention of doing so immediately.
Right now it was just him and Morty and if he could get the wand away from Morty it was still one on one. His left leg was almost useless but almost was not the same as completely. Harry knew from past broken bones he could still use his toes to maintain balance and he could probably coax one good kick from his left leg. He started to creep his way towards Morty in tiny hops on his good leg.
Their wands were almost touching and the heat he could feel coming from his wand was incredibly hot. Morty had backed up a step or two when Harry first started forward but then took it as a challenge and also moved toward Harry. Finally in range.
Harry snapped out his left leg in a driving kick to the construct's chin and was pleased to see the childlike head snap back in shock and have the body follow it. The creature flew backwards, hit the dome, then fell forward in the sort of boneless way only someone unconscious can do. The thread holding the dome faded.
Harry was also falling, but after a moment of screaming pain and a behind the eyelids flash first of white, then black followed by white again, then pain subsided enough that he finished his intent. "Expelliarmus! Incarcerous!" He took at deep breath and snatched Morty's wand as it came to his hand. It felt good there, but that didn't stop Harry from snapping it. He looked at Morty. Blindfolded, gagged, and hogtied, he sure looked like he was trussed up tighter than a Christmas goose. The figure seemed stunned. Harry didn't think he'd killed him. Size wise the construct was the size of a toddler.
Harry supposed he could have killed it by kicking it, but given his leg was broken at the time he doubted it. He bubbled the creature with sensory deprivation charms. That should keep it from being able to do anything. Now to finish this little debacle.
"Accio, Peter Pettigrew." Harry smirked as he heard a couple of thuds as Pettigrew's unconscious body floated towards him and collided with tombstones on the way to where he lay on the ground.
Apparently being bashed against tombstones had started to wake the man up. Harry cast "Expelliarmus" and "Incarcerous" before dropping him. Then holding Peter's wand in his left hand looked thoughtful for a second before he cast a strong diffindo at Peter's left foot. Peter came completely awake with a shriek of pain.
"Ferula." Harry cast at Peter's new now stump. "Hello, Peter, so nice of you to join us. I'm sorry about the pain but the last time I was nice to you, you ran off and left Sirius holding the bag again, and went running off to your master who really the world is better off without. I decided it would be a lot harder for you to run again if you were minus a foot. Sorry. Now you are going to tell me what I want to know in as much detail as I ask for or I'll shorten your leg even more."
"You won't do that, you're Dumbledore's protege."
"Diffindo. Ferulla. You were saying?" Harry said politely over Petter's screams at losing another six inches.
Peter's screams gradually subsided to sobs. "I'll tell you, I'll tell you."
"Who is Voldemort's man in Hogwarts? Who is it that took over Alastor Moody's place?"
"Barty Crouch Jr." "According to the history books he died in Azakaban."
"His father got him out to fulfill his mother's dying request. It was her that died there. He had been imprisoned at home by his father."
Harry considered. That explained a few things about Crouch Senior. "And you and Voldemort found this out how?"
"Bertha Jorkins. She also told us about the tournament."
"Did Dumbledore know?"
"I don't know, not at first. He and Moody have been friends a long time; he has to suspect by now."
"What about Snape? Was he Voldemort's potions prodigy that Tom mentioned?"
"So the plan for tonight?"
"I was to resurrect my Lord fully to a new body."
"Bone of the father unknowingly given, you will renew your son. Flesh of the servant, willingly given you will revive your master. Blood of the enemy forcibly taken you will resurrect your foe." Petigrew recited by rote sobbing between each stanza.
"I see. Accio Bones Tom Riddle." Harry waited until the skeleton of Tom's father was before him.
Peter shrieked, "Don't!" as Harry said, "Evanesco bones."
"Sorry, Peter, if Tommy boy wants to come back he's going to have to find another method. Now, I think we've been here long enough that the calvary should have arrived. So how am I going to take you and Morty back with me?"
Harry levitated Morty to Pettigrew and tied them together. He then floated both of them to himself and used Peters bindings to pull himself to standing.
"Oh I should probably see about clean up here. Wouldn't want the muggles to find your foot or that bit of leg I cut off, now would we. Evanesco Peter Pettigrew appendage parts."
Peter's howls of misery grew.
Harry smiled then he wrapped the rope holding his prisoners around his left arm and said, "Accio Cup!"
There was a sudden yelp followed by a groan and a rather rude explicative.
Amelia whipped around ten seconds ago no one had been behind her. She hated having anyone behind her. Her mind was just absorbing that a very much worse for wear teenage boy was flopped on the ground there along with the missing Cup and two figures, one of them child sized, heavily bound in ropes. Amelia Bones turned to Alastor Moody and snarled, "Just how in the name of Merlin did all this happen of your watch!? Dumbledore, I long ago wrote you off as mostly senile, but you Mad-eye how could you let this happen?"
"Simple that's not Mad-eye." She was startled when the boy swiftly and suddenly raised his wand and cast "Stupefy!"
Harry cast the stunning spell past her hitting Moody just as he was raising his wand with a green glow to the back of the woman in front of him.
She burst out, "What the bloody fuck?"
"Put your wand away, boy." Ordered one of the aurors standing in the group.
"Yeah, right. Almost die tonight, multiple times. I capture the main conspirators of this fiasco and some big headed auror orders me to put away my wand when I just saved his boss from what was probably a killing curse to the back. Up yours, arsehat."
"Harry Potter?" Amelia wished to confirm the identity of the boy.
"Yeah, Bones right? Have a couple prisoners for you. The man is Peter Pettigrew and given he's the arsehat that gave Voldemort my parents' address in Godric's Hollow and led to their deaths I'd appreciate it if you make sure he stands trial."
"But I thought Black?"
"Sirius? No my sworn godfather wasn't the secret keeper he was just the decoy and idiot who went after the one who gave it away without backup. Note Pettigrew's missing finger, he cut it off himself to frame Sirius. Peter, here is a rat animagus. He spent much of the last thirteen years as a rat. Hiding from his fellow death eaters who think he led Voldemort into a trap. But also hiding from those on the other side who might ask inconvenient questions and figure out he's a death eater. When my friends and my godfather uncovered him last year he did what he does best, run away and hide. If the Minister had been reasonable last year, my godfather might have gotten a trial and been cleared, but he chose to listen to Snape, a man who is too immature to give up a grudge against a man who has been dead for over a decade, not to mention being a Death Eater, and the man who pointed Morty at my parents in the first place."
"Now see here, Potter, there was no evidence." Fudge blustered.
Harry ignored the Minister. "But back to Peter here. He found what is left of Tom Marvolo Riddle. AKA Voldemort and they also ran across Bertha Jorkins. They found out from her that Crouch Senior had rescued his son from Azkaban as a last request of his wife and was keeping him prisoner at home. They came up with a plan for freeing Crouch Jr. and then using the tournament to capture me. They intended to fully resurrect Voldemort."
"You're lying. You-Know-Who is dead." Fudge stuttered.
"Shut up, stupid. Right now what there is of Morty is a magical construct that bears strong resemblance to a exceptionally ugly toddler. It is currently trussed tighter than a Christmas goose and strapped to his servant in a sensory deprivation cocoon. He's not dead, you jackasses, and all the wishing in the world won't make it so! I've fought the blighter three out of the last four years and frankly it pisses me off. Because you incompetent idiots did nothing to rip his power base up by the roots the first bloody time he was knocked down I, a fourteen year old boy, have been forced to stop him not once not twice, but four freaking times. I'm handing him to you gift wrapped this time. So do your goddamn job and protect the wizarding world!"
"Now, Harry—" Dumbledore began.
"Shut the fuck up, Dumbledore! You're level of competence is on par with the Minister's!"
A brief flash of red light and a moment later the platform was silent. Dumbledore tucked his wand away. "I'm sorry everyone, clearly the poor boy was overwrought from everything he has been through this evening. He's also clearly in need of medical attention. We can hopefully get our answers later when he is calmer, hopefully politer and more willing to listen."
"Indeed," sniffed the offended Minister.
Bones sensed the two men were trying to create some sort of cover up but she had seen enough to know that there was a lot to dig into. "Stop it, both of you. The DMLE will take this from here. We have enough in Mr. Potter's preliminary statement that neither of you may be involved in the investigation because there will doubtless be a trial in front of the Wizengamot. Shacklebolt, Scrimegeour, Robards take those two," she pointed to Harry's prisoners, "Put them in separate cells highest security at the Ministry. Take the Moody look alike too, just in case Potter is right. Trainee Tonks and Danvers hand me Moody's flask." She opened it and sniffed. "As I thought, go search Moody's quarters in the castle. It's polyjuice so Moody is likely still alive. I'd like to keep him that way. Dumbledore if you're so concerned for your student perhaps you should be taking him to the infirmary instead of standing here."
Harry awoke. Dumbledore had stunned him, that son-of-a-bitch had stunned him. He took stock he was still shaky and had painful flares from his nerve endings. Probably leftover from Morty's crucio. His arm was healed or at least he could see that it had been wrapped and probably had some sticky salve under the bandage and it didn't hurt. He needed the loo. His leg wasn't hurting but it looked like he was in need of a dose of skelegrow. He was also all alone.
That fact made Harry very nervous. Dumbledore had stunned him to keep him quiet. He wouldn't put it past the man to try and coerce an oath of secrecy out of him or cast an obliviate to shut him up permanently. Harry needed to get out of here. Fortunately he had the means to do so.
"Harry Potter sir is awake!"
"Yeah and I want you to get me out of here."
"But sir is hurt."
"Then after you take me to the Chamber you can fetch Healer Grimes. I'd rather be treated by him than Poppy Pomfrey anyway."
"If Sir is sure…"
"Positive. Besides I desperately need to talk to Remus which isn't going to happen if Dumbledore has his way."
Dobby took Harry's hand and popped his master directly to the bed in the master bedroom in the tent. "I goes for Healer now."
Stephen Grimes had gone to bed with the expectation of being called sometime during the night. He knew Harry was facing the third task and had planned accordingly pre-packing a treatment bag with everything he could think of needing to treat everything from common spell damage to broken bones, burns to creature bites. when Harry's elf popped in he woke up rubbed his face and asked, "What time is it?"
"It is being four in the morning Master Healer sir."
"How bad is Harry?"
"A few minutes after arriving back at Hogwarts Master is being stunned by Headmaster and taken to infirmary. Mediwitch is not finishing treating master before being pulled away to treat professor who was not professor. So master is missing bones in left leg. Master also has other injuries but is more angry than hurt."
Stephen cast a switching spell exchanging his pajamas for a set of healer robes, grabbed the bag he'd packed before going to bed and said, "Okay let's go."
On his arrival in the tent with Dobby's intentions announced aloud, Harry's room was immediately invaded.
"What happened?" Remus immediately asked
"Pettigrew is now in Ministry custody. I turned him, Morty's construct, and the Death Eater impersonating Mad-eye Moody over to the head of DMLE. I was opening my mouth to ram home a few truths up various people's arses, and Dumbledore stunned me. I woke up alone partly healed in the infirmary and figured with Dumbledore being spell happy I'd better get the hell out of there.
"Before that I went through the maze in the task stopped an imperioused Victor from torturing Cedric. Ran into a Boggart, one of Hagrid's Skrewets, a sphinx and a acromantula. Oh, and anti-gravity mist. Thanks for telling me about that, Padfoot. Killing the acromantula saw me pinned under it's body and would have seen Cedric champion. Since I got there saving him, his sense of fair play kicked in and my common sense kicked in and I realized that the Cup was most likely a trap for me."
"AND YOU STILL TOOK THE CUP! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING, CUB!"
"I knew it was a trap so when I took it. I was prepared." "Harry, I know you're the best in your year at Defense, but this was Voldemort do you have any idea how many people, good people including your parents, He has killed?!" Sirius said.
"Yes, I do. I also know I seem to be the only person who ever seems to face him and get anywhere. I sprang the trap on myself so Cedric wouldn't get caught by it, but only after I asked him to call for aurors which he did. That's why I was able to turn Peter, Morty, and Barty Crouch Junior over to the Head of the DMLE when I got back."
"You're hurt! Not just a little, you've got enough pain that even this far from the full moon I can smell it!"
"He's right, pup, I can smell it to."
Dobby's pop into the room with Stephen Grimes coincided with the beginning of Harry's announcement. "Yeah, well Voldemort's crucio does that."
"Cruciatus?" The incredulous word spring from Stephen's throat. "What the hell kind of tournament had Dumbledore planned that the champions faced a bloody unforgivable. Wait Voldemort? "I thought he was dead?"
"Not quite. Hi, Stephen. My leg got throughly broken by a curse after I killed Morty's familiar. I then proceeded to use my leg to kick him in the chin. Needless to say I'm sure I did lots of damage to my leg. Pomfrey has vanished the bones, but I've yet to have skelegrow. My basilisk armor took a rather nasty cutting curse, Sectumsempra, it gashed my left arm a over mostly I suspect. Morty tried to imperious me, ordered me to wake Peter after I stunned him and allow myself to be tied up.' Harry gave a dark chuckle. "Can you imagine? Anyway that didn't go so well for him; I'm immune. Before that I got the torture curse I'm not sure how long, I've been shaking and having flares of pain since. It's probably what woke me up after Dumbledore's stunner between the eyes. Plus earlier I sorta had a couple hundred pound spider fall on me and took an unwilling bath in arcomantula blood that made me nauseous and a little itchy, but that might just be from the dried blood and the smell of it when wet. Is that everything? Oh, and my bladder and bowels are screaming they'd really like me to find a loo. But with no leg bones in my left leg it's a bit of an issue."
Harry was amused that each of the three adults chose a different aspect of what he said to focus on.
"Sectumsempra?" Asked Stephen.
"You kicked him in the chin?" Asked Remus.
"You killed his familiar?" Asked Sirius.
"Yes. Stephen, loo?"
"Oh, right." Stephen cast the spells that emptied the bladder and rectum. That seemed to be all the prompting he needed to shift to healer mode and start Harry down the road to healing completely.
"Did Pomfrey do the right thing vanishing the bones in my leg?"
"Given what the diagnostic showed was used on you, definitely. It's a nasty version of a bone breaker. Sometimes the bones have to be vanished a few times or they turn septic. When we saw it in the first war some of the junior healers just healed the bones later those people died of infection. Where were you specifically hit?"
"Just below my knee."
"And Pomfrey banished the femur as well. Good. It's better to start with a fresh set of bones; sometimes the spell lingers a while or moves to nearby bones and infects the new bones that's probably why she was waiting to give you the skelegrow a waiting period usually decreases the risks. I'd like to wait until twelve hours have passed before giving you the potion. I'm also going to have to check it frequently for the next two weeks. Now where did the sectumsempra hit you?"
"It was aimed at my chest. My waistcoat protected me, but it did slice my left arm a little."
"You're lucky you have an arm. That's how Moody lost his leg in the war. A death eater used that spell on his leg. It not only is hard to treat but the wounds can re-open. Dittany and no spell trace.. Pomfrey did really good treating that one. I'll give you some more dittany incase it breaks open again.
That is one hallmark of that particular curse that I hate. If it amputates a limb it usually makes reattachment impossible and impairs attachment of normal magical prosthetics. Magical prosthetics are a lot like normal limbs and allow completely normal use. Sadly the nonmagical prosthetics available in the magical world are years behind their muggle counterparts.
"Dumbledore stunned you?"
"Yeah, I was pretty pissed and pretty mouthy. I was spouting off and I might have said a few things that either he didn't want people to know or maybe he just took offense at my criticism. Stunners don't do real damage though, right?
"Mostly true. They can amplify damage that's already there though. His stunner would have kept most people out of it for twelve hours. Your power level is high enough that when added to your distrust of him and the pain stimulus from the rest of the damage you came out it early.
"You mentioned Acromantula. If there was damage from it falling on you Pomfrey must have fixed it, as for the blood. It can be nauseating when wet and like a very low grade itching powder when dry. A shower or a bath should help with that, but I prefer you remain stationary because moving you around could endanger the arteries in your left leg so, leniter ipse lotus. Strangely the blood is valuable for beauty treatment potions did you know that? Is that better?"
"No, I didn't know that and yes. Thank you, I no longer itch."
"Now what is left is the cruciatus. I didn't remotely anticipate that spell and I don't have the proper potion. The shop I work with doesn't open for four more hours and the nerve restoring and calming potion for cruciatus takes seven hours to brew. It will be eleven hours before I can treat that. Are you okay with waiting fifteen hours before the skelegrow? That will give you time to have two doses of anti-cruciatius potion fully on board. I think it will reduce the risks of the bones growing back diseased by reducing the amount of dark magic affecting your system."
"Then I'll deal with the delay. If it means reducing the risks of having to take Skelegrow more than once I'd rather wait."
"Okay then. I'm done."
"Thank you, Stephen." Remus said. "Now, Cub, I suggest to take us through your evening starting with when you entered the maze and while you tell us the events I suggest that you also explain your thought process so there's a snowball's chance I won't just strangle you for risking yourself."
"If I'm to do that I'll have to start much earlier in the day." Harry did he started with the previous morning's breakfast. He wanted Remus, Sirius and Stephen aware of Albus' machinations. When he got to why he took the Cup he acknowledged that some of why he took it was frustration at being treated like a pawn instead of a reasoning thinking person. He had wanted to catch the person/s responsible and as he explained his tactics the older men were forced to acknowledge he had used sound tactics.
As he described the battle with Morty's construct and the golden dome. Both Remus and Sirius were stunned as Harry described the encounter with the shades of his parents.
As he finished it was almost time for the start of Stephen's work day and so he left promising to contact his brewer and to summon Dobby when the potion was done. He also had instructed Remus on the bladder and bowel emptying spell since it would be safer if Harry stayed put in bed.
Harry's short night began to catch up with him and he dozed off.
Sirius stroked his hand through Harry's tousled hair. "James and Lily would be so blown away. Harry is so…"
"He is impressive, but he scares me, Padfoot, such disregard for himself is… both heroic and frightening. It speaks of…"
"Abuse. I fucked up, and our puppy was abused. I'm not good for him, you know. I try but the dementors fucked me up badly. Somehow I doubt I was that well wrapped to begin with after my upbringing. I mean what sort of sixteen year old thinks sending another sixteen year old to a see a werewolf at the full moon is a prank, even if I thought he already knew what you were. I never did apologize to you for that. I should have. I can't really teach Harry how to be an adult because he's already more mature than me. What's worse is I seem to only be able to keep myself in the here and now for an hour at a time."
"Not true, you've been together most of the last eight hours."
"If I am, it's because of the two of you. Remy, did Albus set us up as kids? I mean if he's willing to do this to Harry now, did he do it to us then?"
"Yes, I think so, but I'm not sure to what degree."
"I wonder if Britain will go the way of Atlantis. Right now it seems like it might. I'll stay with pup. You should get some rest." Sirius shifted to Padfoot and jumped up next to Harry. Remus followed his suggestion.
Dobby, seeing them settle and knowing Winky would keep an eye on things, took initiative and went and collected everything that was Harry's from his dorm. He also visited the room that had stored all of Harry's old mail. He collected the letters that Harry sir's Wolfie had sent years ago that he had found over just the last few days. Most of the mail in this room would never matter to his master, but he knew that these old letters and cards would. They would also help keep Harry in bed until he was better. Dobby pondered, he would likely have to get a trunk for the rest of the mail.
Dobby considered how he used to think Headmaster Whiskers was a good man because he opposed the Malfoys. He now knew better and he couldn't wait to leave this castle. He was confused however why a phoenix didn't see that the way the Headmaster treated the people who trusted him was wrong. Maybe the bird only looked at motivations and not the actions that followed, The Headmaster intended good, but didn't see that his actions were bad. Hopefully Master Harry leaving would make to old man see where he was going wrong.
Hermione was the first person to notice that Harry was missing. She had refused to leave the pitch until she knew what had happened to Harry unlike most the students that had been shepherded away by the teachers. When Cedric called for the aurors. She had seen Harry's horrible landing on the return port-key trip and had recognized Pettigrew.
Hermione thoroughly disagreed with the Headmaster stunning Harry. Yes, Harry had been upset and he wasn't being respectful or polite but he had been kidnapped and hurt. He had a point as a fourteen year old it wasn't his job to be the Hero, even if he was a good one. She had read the contract and knew the Headmaster could have overturned the Goblet's selection. So she wasn't in disagreement with many of the things Harry was saying, just with how he was saying it.
She had shadowed Harry and the Headmaster to the infirmary and had seen Pomfrey diagnose Harry and vanish his leg bones. She had also seen the treatment interrupted by the aurors who had found the real Mad-eye Moody. Pomfrey had told the aurors that Harry was likely to be out all night due to the Headmaster's stunner so Hermione had gone to bed.
Planning to be back in the infirmary when Harry awoke, she had gotten up early and come to the infirmary. Harry's usual bed, the one he'd been occupying last night, was empty. She walked over to Pomfrey's office and knocked softly. There was no answer. She knocked harder, but there was still no answer.
"Hogwarts house elf?"
"Is Miss needing something?"
"Um. I need to see Madame Pomfrey…did she send anyone to St. Mungo's?"
"Madame Poppy is taking Professor sir to Hospital."
"Hogwarts champion's father took him to Hospital."
"So where's Harry?"
The elf looked at the bed Harry had been put in last night. "I is not knowing Miss."
Hermione felt her heart sink and covered her face with her hands for a moment. What have you done now, Harry? Hermione turned around she'd better inform McGonagall.
Minerva McGonagall was very surprised when her favorite student woke her and told her Harry Potter was missing, after he had apparently been left by himself in the hospital wing.
When Minerva had left the wing last night, it had been in disgust that the Headmaster wasn't approving a trip to St. Mungo's for Harry after his ordeal. The man claimed to be Harry's magical guardian but refused to act in the boy's best interest. She wondered what happened after she left. She was just arriving in the infirmary to begin her investigation when Poppy returned.
"Where's Mr. Potter?" They both asked at the same time.
"Gone apparently." Hermione answered.
"Gone? How could he leave? He didn't have bones in one leg when I left."
"Yes, and wasn't that responsible of you? Leaving when you had an incapacitated patient on your ward?"
"Miss Granger!" Both women were shocked Hermione Granger was usually the epitome of respect towards adults.
Hermione said nothing. She was worried about her best friend.
Poppy Pomfrey knew how close Miss Granger was to Mr. Potter and vice versa. she scolded herself for stressing the girl more. "Albus promised to watch over him."
Hermione let out a wordless grumble the last person Harry would have wanted watching over him was the Headmaster. She didn't know why, Harry never said, but she was sure Harry wouldn't like the fact the Headmaster was assigned to watch over him. She took a deep breath, "Then where are they?"
"Don't worry, Miss Granger, I shall be finding that out for myself." McGonagall's voice was heavy with irritation and her Scottish brogue. Indicating she had more than a few questions for the Headmaster herself.
Hermione followed her Head of House hoping that by doing so she would get some answers.
As they left Poppy Pomfrey inwardly mused, I bet Harry made his way to whatever Healer he's been seeing this year.
An hour later both Herminone and her Head of House were steaming mad. Albus had been called to the Ministry by Fudge and had forgotten to ask anyone to watch over Harry before leaving. Hermione couldn't help but reflect that in Harry's shoes she too might have done a runner. She prayed that Harry had done a runner, and had not been kidnapped by Voldemort's minions while incapacitated.
She was slightly reassured on he return to the dorm when Ron asked if she knew why Harry's belongings had been removed from the dorm. If Harry had been kidnapped his belongs would have been ignored.
Harry woke up. Padfoot was asleep and laying on his bed at his feet. He was surprised to see Hedwig on a perch across the room. He still felt shaky and sore, but he was hungry and needed Remus to cast the bladder spell again. "Padfoot."
His godfather remained snoozing. Harry used one of the many pillows Dobby had supplied this bed with to wake his dog father.
"Wha…What? Do you need something, Pup?" Sirius asked on completing his change from dog to human.
"Yeah, food, a pain relief potion, and that loo spell again."
"Oh, one more thing Padfoot. I don't now about you, but I think the Headmaster has earned a bit of a comeuppance. So I think I'd like a little help in the coming up with an appropriate prank, or four."
Sirius' eyes took on an excited gleam. "Can do, Pup!" He left the room to tell Winky to make some food and to collect Remus from his room.
Harry lay back against his pillows time to plan. He had three days until the train left. He would ride the train one last time because it would give him the opportunity to bid his friends goodbye. He would ask all of them to sit together so he wouldn't be terribly noticeable and he would leave the train on his broom thanks to the disillusionment spells Padfoot and Remus had taught him for the Passive Defense ICW OWL. He suddenly had an idea for a first prank it would be easy too.
Remus came in, "How you feeling, Cub?"
"Honestly? Pretty crappy."
Remus cast the spell that emptied Harry's bladder.
"That's a bit better thanks. How much longer until I get potioned?"
"Probably about two more hours before the crucatius potion is ready. That one is given in two hour intervals until the symptoms subside. Stephen said he'd give you skelegrow after you'd had two doses so about six until you have skelegrow on board. Sixteen hours or so until you have a working leg. Stephen will be back when it's time for the skelegrow."
Winky popped into the room with a huge tray piled high with food. She set the tray on the floor long enough to magically reposition Harry so he was sitting up a bit, and summon an actual lap tray. "Winky, knows Ma-Harry Potter sir prefers to cook his own food but hopes he finds this breakfast acceptable."
"I'm sure it will be fine, good even, Winky. Remus and Sirius have said your cooking is very good. I only cook because when cooking for myself, or for a appreciative audience, I find it relaxing." Harry assured her.
The house elf blushed at his praise.
The second elf popped in. "I is here, Harry sir."
"Both of you should eat with us. I want an elf's perspective."
The three humans and the male house elf dug into the female elf hesitated for a moment but followed suit after the men had dished up.
Harry gave a happy sigh after he finished his breakfast. "That was wonderful Winky I see why Remus and Sirius praise your skills in the kitchen."
She moved to gather up dishes.
"Don't leave yet, you're part of my family and as a family we need to make some decisions."
She hesitantly resumed her seat.
"Okay, Hard core planning time. Pettigrew is now in Ministry custody along with hard proof he's Voldemort's minion. I made it clear I expected the Ministry to cancel the kiss on sight order and see to giving you a trail, Padfoot. I need to play least in sight until July 30th when I board the Kobeyashi Maru in Reykjavik. The Dursleys only let me go on the really boring and free school field trips, so there's lots here in the UK I haven't seen. Stephen said he'd have to check me several times over the next couple weeks so I guess instead of bumming around all of Europe I'll mostly be staying in Britain. I still want to spend a week in France there's a couple Museums in Paris I want to see and I really want to go to Disneyland in France. So we need to plan that, we also need to figure out what you guys are doing.
"I'm kind of thinking if Sirius' kiss on sight order doesn't get rescinded and a trial isn't arranged in the next two weeks that I should give Rita Skeeter an interview. Unbury a few skeletons on Dumbledore and Fudge, but that is a last resort sort of option. I definitely want some sort of binding legal agreement for her to sign so she can't change my words.
"I am going to need to leave Hedwig with you guys, MMC doesn't allow animals even familiars due to international port quarantine laws. I hope you had success getting a hold of the vanishing cabinet type mail boxes?" "I did. We anchor the one that stays with me with your signature and you're good to go. I also renewed the post office box in London for a year. Sirius and I used your pensive so you're getting a birthday present that will help us keep in touch and we have those maps you asked us to make. Sirius said something about pranking the Headmaster?"
"I did. I'm pissed enough that I'd like to destroy his entire office, but a slightly cooler head has prevailed. First off I know he's going to try and trace me and he will probably try to use my friends to do it. SO before we leave school. I was thinking what if I send notes to all my friends."
"He'll want to read the notes." Sirius said.
"Exactly. But what if they were not notes, merely blank seemingly blank pieces of paper."
"Ooh good one." Sirius said.
"Take it one step further, Cub." Remus began to smile. "What if when hit with an upgraded revealing spell they became mini howlers. Taunting Albus then blowing a raspberry and tearing to shreds."
"I like it. Plus if my friends see I'm willing to taunt him, they'll know I'm okay. Do you think we could get that done by tomorrow morning?"
"That's one. I really want to do something in his office. He hides up there like a spider spinning his web. He practically has a hoard of books up there; knowledge he's unwilling to share…." Harry momentary frown began to smile. "I'd be willing to bet not all those books are his. What if we took them all, every book in his quarters. In their place we leave him a dozen pairs of thick woolen socks. We sort the books. Books that belong to him we set up on ransom with the goblins. He either has to buy eighty new brooms for the first years to learn on or he has to level the playing field for the Quidditch teams in other words buy the Hufflepuff, Gryffindor and Ravenclaw teams Nimbus 2001s. He gets to choose. In either case it will hurt his pocket book. Books that actually belong to Hogwarts come back to the school with a curse on them that if they leave the library they go blank until returned to the library, he won't be able to hoard that knowledge anymore. Books that are other people's get returned to their proper owners. That one would probably take awhile, but might actually teach him a lesson."
"I've got one, Pup, it's actually one I intended to pull if my parents forced home after my fifth year but they let me go home with James and his parents instead."
"What is it?"
"The portraits. All the old Headmasters and Headmistresses He's supposed to consult with them and get advice from them, right?"
"That's the theory, but I bet he hasn't listened to anyone but himself for a long, long time. He uses them to spy."
"I agree, Cub."
"SO the portraits who should be scolding Dumbledore into doing the right thing as Headmaster aren't doing their jobs. So how about we deface them just a bit. Put the Headmistresses in Red catsuits with Devil tails, horns, goatees and mustaches, and the Headmaster's in pink tutus and Marie Antoinette wigs."
Both Harry and Remus burst out laughing at that image.
Once Harry got his laughter under control, he said, "We also have to do something to his candy dish. He always offers those blasted Lemon Sherbets to everyone."
"Winky is thinking you three is being naughty and she wants nos parts of your shenanigans. She is not seeing why she needs staying when there is dishes needing doings."
You're right Winky we can finish this later. I thought you'd want to put your two cents in on what the three of you will be doing once school is out."
"I am willing to stay on as your steward, Harry."
"Good. I was hoping you would. I appreciated the financial increase that was in the report that you gave me when I got back from Switzerland."
"Would you be my steward too, Moony?"
"Once you're cleared, Padfoot. I have to have agreement from the goblins."
"I was never convicted. The goblin's don't give a shite, as far as they're concerned I'm Lord Black. Right, Now let's plan what we'll do to the Headmaster's candy dish right, James."
Remus and Harry looked at each other and winced. Sirius' grip had slipped again, probably from getting ramped up planning pranks. He had stayed together for quite awhile this time so perhaps he just needed more time.
"There's a clinic in Canada that has a program that might help Sirius. I was half thinking we'd go there once he's cleared."
"Okay, so you buy a house there, WInky takes care of you and we're good."
"I was thinking we lease a house there. When you're on school breaks either you visit us, or we visit you. Later after you've graduated we see where we wind up settling."
"Works for me. What about you Winky?"
"Winky bes going where Ma- Harry Potter sir bes telling her she goes and doing what she is being told."
"Are you okay with keeping Hedwig for me?" Harry asked Remus.
"As long as she's good with it."
"How about it, girl?"
Hedwig churred and glared at Harry.
Dobby anticipating his master's next request fetched some treats from Harry's trunk and handed them to him.
Hedwig was coaxed into coming for the treats, but she wasn't her normal careful self when taking them Harry was nipped several times and she flew back to the perch the second the treats were gone, perching with her back to him.
Harry felt bad. He loved Hedwig, but he couldn't take her with him. "Sorry, girl. I'll miss you, you know I will but…I can't take you with me. Maybe while I'm away you should find a mate and make some beautiful babies…" Harry trailed off as Hedwig rotated her head around and glared at him. "I'll let you stay with me until I go to Iceland, alright?"
Hedwig let out a sharp bark of displeasure and resumed ignoring Harry.
Remus fought the urge to grin Hedwig had Harry thoroughly wrapped around her talons, but this was one time she wouldn't get her way.
"So when are we doing this?" Sirius asked.
"Winky since we're returning to prank planning how about you go do the dishes." Remus suggested.
"I was thinking the leaving feast. We can hit Dumbledore's office. The notes can happen anytime between now and when the train leaves. For the candy dish I was think what if it made everything in it act like Bertie Botts Beans. I mean I know it's not super original but it would irritate him."
"Sounds like I wills be buying trunks. I was going to ask if I could buy one for the mails room. But it sounds like you's also needing one for the pranks on the tricksy Headmaster.
"And don't forget a dozen pairs of the most boring wooly socks you can find."
"It will act as a signature as to who is behind the prank. It comes from a white lie he told me first year."
"Dobby is also finding old letters and cards to Harry Potter sir from his Wolfie."
"Really?" Both Harry and Remus said.
Dobby handed them over and was pleased by the small smile on Harry's face.
A few hours later Harry was dozing and feeling a bit better the anti cruciatus potions had settled most of the painful spikes that occurred in his nerves. Stephen was due at any moment with the skelegrow for his leg. He had read all the early letters and cards from Remus and was all the more determined to hit Dumbledore where it hurt. Fortunately the old man's control freak tendencies gave him the perfect weapon.
Hermione, Ron, and the quidditch team were puzzled each and every one of them had received a note at breakfast the notes were blank. They were even more surprised when McGonagall came and collected all of them without explanation. The explanation came when in response to revealing spells the eight notes suddenly took on a howlers aspect sounding a bit like Harry.
"NAH-NAH-NA-NAH-NAH!" Followed by the noise of eight raspberries being blown.
The eight students from whom the notes had been taken plus one other, had briefly looked at each other then exited the Great Hall post haste. Fred and George had barely cleared the doors before they lost it, falling to the ground in their laughter. The laughter was contagious and even Neville, who had not received a note, was laughing despite feeling a tiny bit hurt that Harry hadn't included him.
Hermione was confident if Harry was pulling a prank, he was okay and felt considerable relief.
During the leaving feast there was considerable uproar when Harry wasn't there to collect his winnings, although Cedric was there and didn't hesitate to tell everyone what had happened in the maze. Fudge was steaming mad and didn't hesitate to say multiple bad things about Harry Potter, much to the amusement of Draco Malfoy.
Harry figured Dumbledore would be watching the station tomorrow, so as soon as he, Dobby, Remus and Sirius finished pranking the Headmaster's office. He had Dobby pop him to the Express and slept in a compartment with a cushioning charm and his cloak. He awoke when engineer moved the train from the sideline track it was stored on to the main track at Hogsmeade station. He disillusioned himself, then using his broom floated up and stuck himself to the ceiling the hallway the second carriage figuring he would be safe enough there until the train left.
Neville's left out feeling melted away when the morning after the leaving feast Dobby appeared to him. "Harry Potter-sir asks that you get all his friends and Cedric Diggory into one of the expanding compartments of the train. He does not want the Headmaster to know. Are you willing to do this?"
Neville smiled, "I will I assume I'm welcome."
"Harry Potter sir was counting on it."
Neville's smile grew to near blinding levels.
During breakfast there was considerable commotion at the teacher's table. Neville sat close and tried to figure out what was going on. Apparently Harry was suspect number one in trashing the Headmaster's office. Neville wasn't sure how he felt about that, but he had to admit with the teachers focused on that it was pretty easy to pass on Harry's message about meeting up on the train to the others. Alicia, the sixth years girls prefect, explained to Neville what Harry meant by an expanding compartment. Apparently each carriage of the train had one compartment at the front of each carriage that had the ability to expand and seat twice the normal compartment's complement of students. She told him to steer everyone to the third carriage's expanding compartment.
Harry was amused as his now former Head of House searched the train. Presumably looking for him, but he hadn't gotten that O on his Passive Defense OWL for nothing he was not only disillusioned, but he had also silenced himself and completely masked his scent. He wouldn't be easily found by the Headmaster or his minions.
Finally the students began to arrive and Harry spotted Katie. He unshrunk and re- mounted his broom after cancelling his sticking charm; laying on it to stay close to the ceiling and followed her through the second carriage and watched as she entered the third carriage to enter the expandable compartment. To his amusement he noticed Hermione and Ron coming from the opposite end of the train. He was so lucky to have clever friends. They had thought to make it hard for the teacher's to keep eyes on all of them.
Finally the train started moving. Harry lowered himself, cancelled the silencing charm and slipped from the second carriage to the third and then into the enlarged compartment. His friends had been chatting and everyone save Ron and Hermione had looked up in confusion when the door opened and closed, but they saw no one.
As soon as the door was closed Hermione reached over and lowered the shade and cast a locking charm at the door.
"Hermione?" Said Katie.
"Don't worry, Katydid," Harry said using the nickname he had come up with for his girlfriend, "Hermione knows what she's about."
"Harry James Potter take off that cloak right now!"
Instead Harry cancelled his disillusionment spell. "Not using it, Mi."
Harry found himself in the grip of his best friend. After a minute he managed to whisper, "Mi need to breathe."
Hermione relinquished her hold only to be replaced b Katie. When Katie let go she didn't hesitate to punch him in the shoulder. Unfortunately she chose his left shoulder, and he couldn't quite stifle his yelp.
"Ouch, Katie! Leave off, I"m still healing. Speaking of which, I need to get off my bad leg, so can a guy get a seat here."
Fred and George instantly made room.
Harry sat down.
Cedric asked the question all of them wanted to. "What happened to you, Harry?"
"Well, remember how we concluded the Cup was a trap?"
"Wait! The cup was a trap? How'd you come up with that?" Ron asked.
Harry back tracked and told his friends everything about Voldemort's plan, about the third task, and about the graveyard, and the days since waking up in the infirmary; pausing only while the snack trolley was outside their compartment when he hid under his cloak.
They made an appreciative audience to Harry's storytelling. Hermione and Ron having experienced Harry's tendency to downplay his own role mentally ratcheted up the danger and the scary factors by an order of ten.
Over the course of the story Harry also subtly expressed his distrust of Dumbledore. Then he got to the part that was hardest for him, bidding his friends goodbye. "I…I wanted you together because I wanted you all to know I'm leaving."
"What?" Hermione said in confusion.
"I'm leaving, I won't be at Hogwarts next year."
"What about the student contract?" Neville asked.
"I don't know if Dumbledore didn't realize or if he was counting on me not realizing, but he cancelled it when he forced me to compete. If I'm enrolled elsewhere it can't take hold. My name was entered under a forth school remember?"
"So where will you be going?"
"I'd rather not say."
Hermione put a few things together that she hadn't before. "Oh, god they also made you an adult too, didn't they?"
"Don't you need your OWLS for that?" Asked the twins.
"Yes, and yes."
"How? I didn't see you when I tested," stated Kaitie.
"I didn't say I took them in Britain."
Cedric looked thoughtful for a moment then said, "You took the ICW OWLS? But you were here those are only done at the ICW buildings the closest one is in Switzerland and only at certain times." He paused, "And here I was thinking you'd had it easy with no end of year tests. I mean I and the other Champions had no choice but to take our NEWTS, but we got to claim the tournament as passing two NEWT practicals in a wanded subject but we don't have as many classes as the OWLS students do."
"I know. "
"The time turner," Hermione mused.
"Yep." Harry said turning to his best friend.
"Does the Headmaster know?" She asked.
"I haven't exactly stated it outright. I don't trust him, Mi."
"But-" came from several throats.
"I don't trust him. For all Hogwarts is the so called safest place in Britain, I have faced death in one form or another every stinking year. I want to live long enough to see my own grandchildren, at the rate the Headmaster is going I'd be lucky to hit seventeen. In my mind the most important aspect to being a Headmaster involves keeping your students safe. I've been anything and everything but safe. I've faced death or worse twelve times in the last four years. My luck has lasted so far, but I'm not hanging around to run through what luck I've got left.
"Look, you lot should be safe enough. At the end of the tournament I captured Morty's current entity, killed his snake, stopped his resurrection and turned him over to the DMLE. Hopefully that buys you and me all time to grow up. I'm just tired of being set up and feeling like Dumbledore is expecting me to go and be some sort of mythical hero or sacrificial lamb to save everyone. For all the training I've gotten it seems I'm expected to fight Morty blindfolded and with one hand tied behind my back. It doesn't feel good. It's actually terrifying, and no one has the right to expect it of me. Especially Dumbledore who has denied me my heritage and the safe and happy childhood which is what my parents sacrificed themselves for me to have.
"Dumbledore may claim it's for the greater good in some wise and mysterious tone, but honestly. Who died and appointed him God, to make life and death decisions for the rest of us. Given the way he props up the status quo insteadof making things fairer for muggleborns and half bloods or people like Remus, I do not approve of how he thinks things should be.
"Look it's getting late and I need to leave before we get all the way to London. I'm going to miss all of you. I promise I'll write.
"Last presents of a sort, Fred George this is for you use it to make the world laugh. Small word of advice though make sure everyone, even the victim, is laughing." Fred and George opened the sealed parchment and read it.
"It's not charity. I am investing in your dream because I know you'll be brilliant at it. That is the standard Potter Investment contract. Take that to Gringotts sign it in the presence of the Potter account manager and you'll get access to an investment vault with five thousand galleons and the keys to a premises I own in Diagon Alley. Moony assures me it will be suitable. First year is rent free. second and third are at a reduced rate, after that I expect normal rent. I am a ten percent partner in exchange for fronting the start up. If you can't make it a success in five years time I'm a monkey's uncle. End of discussion.
"Ron, this should allow you that keeper broom you want, good luck at becoming keeper next year." Harry tossed him a pouch.
"Thank you, Harry, I'm sorry I've been such a berk."
"Ron, I forgive you. I have all year. You were my first friend my own age, and you weren't ready to grow up yet. I get it. If I had had a choice I would likely have stayed a kid too, but I didn't. I respected your choice and was jealous as hell you got to make that one, just as I'm jealous of your family. You have it good mate so for my sake would you accept that fact and maybe appreciate it a bit are my friend. We're just not on the same page anymore, and it's okay. Enjoy the broom and help Gryffindor keep the Cup.
"Neville, sorry I wasn't aware of how great a person you are before this year and a small piece of advice. When I got my wand, Ollivander told me the wand chooses the wizard. If that's a legacy wand you use like I suspect; do yourself a favor take this pouch as several years back birthday and Christmas presents and get yourself your own wand.
The shy boy looked torn between protesting and being grateful but settled for a nod.
"Angelina, Alicia it's been great being on the quidditch team with you. Good luck with next years house Quidditch Cup. Sorry about no presents but I wasn't sure what would be appropriate.
"Cedric, I think you're one of the finest people I've ever met. It's been an honor competing against you."
"Likewise, Harry. Thank you for saving me, I owe you."
"No, don't say that because if it wasn't for me, you wouldn't have been in that much danger to begin with." Cedric extended his hand and both young men shook hands.
"Katydid, I… When we started dating this year it was as friends and I feel safe in saying we're still more friends than anything else. So, I hope this goodbye isn't breaking your heart. It has been a pleasure and an honor to be your boyfriend this year. Don't settle for less than the best man you can find because you deserve the best."
"You're right. We're still friends. You make a slightly better than average boyfriend, and the girl who gets you is going to be very lucky. Don't forget to wow her, Harry." Then they kissed.
"Hermione, sister of my heart, I will miss you horribly, but like Katie don't settle for less than the best because you deserve the best."
"I don't want you to go."
"I wish it wasn't necessary, but if I don't I think I'll die and I don't want that either."
Hermione's brown eyes were awash with tears. She nodded reluctantly.
Harry again found himself engulfed in a bone crushing hugs. This time it was from all of his friends.
"Bye, Harry stay safe." Hermione said finally releasing him.
Harry rose to his feet and swirled his father's cloak around himself, "Take care." He made his way through the remaining carriages of the train. On the back platform of the final carriage he once again disillusioned himself and his Firebolt then after tucking his wand away mounted his broom and allowed himself to gently float free of the Express before watching as it disappeared into the distance heading to London.
AN/My apologies to my many readers I have struggled with writer's block on many of my incomplete stories, as result I've only decided to publish finished works. this one is now complete and I hope you have enjoyed it. :D