There's more than one binding in that contract

Summary: The binding contracts between the goblet and each champion are not the only ones in play.

Thank you to all who reviewed my previous one-shot, "Percy helps". I have updated my profile, describing some limitations in my writing that showed up in those reviews, and which are likely to continue for some time.

Legal Disclaimer anything you recognise in this story belongs to someone else, most likely to JK Rowling and/or her business partners. Any characters you don't recognise are mine. The specific plot in this fic may be mine; I say "may be" because fanfiction is vast, and one can never be sure there isn't a very similar one elsewhere. I'm not getting anything out of writing this.

Pet Peeve of the day: fics that spend a good portion of their words re-describing stuff we already read in canon. Come on guys, stop with the bloody world-building; just use the one the lady already built!

November 2, dinnertime in the Great Hall

It had been two days since his name had come out of that blasted goblet. Except for she herself, the whole school appeared to think he had somehow cheated his way in (or, like Neville, were staying out of it). The first morning, she had made up a quick breakfast platter for him, and they had gone to the lake and sat there, eating, but silent, until it was time to go to classes.

He was coming to the hall for meals now, but it was a challenge, and she knew, at the first sign of any serious trouble, he would once again stop, and go back to "Dobby meals".

Meanwhile, her efforts to find a copy of the official rules of the tournament were well and truly stymied. The library did not have any copies, even in the restricted section. Worse, Madam Pince had informed her - quietly - that they had been removed by the headmaster on October 30th. That was very troubling. Harry was already pissed off at Dumbledore; who knew what he would do if she told him this.

She recalled her conversation with Madam Pince. "Why were they removed, Madam Pince, do you know by any chance?"

The librarian had looked disturbed. Sighing, she had replied, "I did not think of asking when he did it, Ms Granger, but in light of what happened the following day, I am also wondering what the rationale was."

"Do you think it would help if Harry himself asked him for a copy of the rules?"

"I doubt it, Ms Granger. If he had a reason to remove the rule books, he will certainly make additional efforts to make sure they are not available, regardless of who asks."

Hermione had bid her a polite goodbye and left.

Now, as she waited for Harry at the entrance, with a worried frown on her young face, she felt someone come up behind her and stop. Turning around, she saw the French champion standing next to her.

"Bonjour Mme Delacour, comment allez-vous? Je m'appelle Hermione Granger", she greeted the older girl.

Fleur smiled. "Call me Fleur, s'il vous plaît", she said. "And your French is excellent".

"As is your English. And please call me Hermione!", smiled Hermione.

"Aah but my accent is not good".

The conversation flagged a bit at that point, but Fleur had come to her for a reason.

"Hermione, I wanted to ask you. I am ... not sure what ze vérité ... sorry, what the truth is. Did M. Potter put his name in, or did quelqu'un d'autre ... someone else? do it to him?"

"What do you think?" asked Hermione seriously.

Just then, Harry joined her. Giving him a smile, she motioned for him to wait a bit for this conversation to be over.

Fleur smiled and nodded at Harry, who - since his only prior interaction with her was being called a "leetle boy" and accused of lying - was understandably confused.

"Ze entier ... I mean entire school thinks he has. You are ze only one supporting him, so I come to you for ze answer. And Mr Potter, I am sorry for my comportement ... sorry ... behaviour? ... that day. I am now trying to ... how you say? have an open brain?"

"Open mind. And thank you for that Fleur. Too bad more of our own school don't do that. But speaking of... why would you value a vastly outnumbered, minority, opinion?"

"Ne jamais sous-estimer la stupidité des grands groupes", said Fleur, with a smile. "A quotation I heard somewhere".

"Never underestimate the stupidity of large groups", translated Hermione, for Harry's benefit. "The actual quotation is somewhat different, but this will do nicely for our situation!" she laughed.

"To answer your question, Ms Delacour", said Harry, "I did not put my name in. I have no idea who did, but I have a pretty good idea who is calling the shots".

"Calling ze shots?"

"Giving the orders", said Harry, while simultaneously, Hermione said "donner des instructions".

"Aah, and who is zat?"

Harry and Hermione looked uncomfortable. Sighing, Hermione replied. "That will take some time to explain, Fleur. If it's alright with you, we can meet after dinner and we can explain the whole story".

Harry smiled at her - he was thinking the same thing. It may be a good idea to have some other people knowing the truth, instead of sulking by himself.

7 pm or so

After dinner, however, he found Hermione did not seem to want him to join her and Fleur.

"Look Harry, first of all, I will be telling her all the stuff that happened over the last three years, in order to lay the foundation for her to even believe Voldemort might be behind this. Without that background, you know it's a pretty outlandish claim."

Harry nodded.

"And that will take a lot of time if we speak in English, so I plan to tell her everything in French. My French is much better than her English!"

"I see. I will not understand a word. Oh well, you go then, and I'll see you in an hour or so in the common room?"

She gave him a gentle hug, nodded, smiled, and left. Thank God I didn't have to pull out the "girl talk" excuse I had kept ready as a backup! she thought.

It only took about twenty minutes to tell Fleur the highlights. She skipped third year because that had nothing to do with Voldemort, so that saved some time. By the end of her narration, Fleur had figured out who she and Harry thought was behind this - it didn't take a genius!

Hermione nodded solemnly. Then she brought the conversation around to what she really wanted.

"Fleur, do you have a copy of the rule book for the tournament? It seems there isn't one in Hogwarts, and no one is interested in figuring out why."

"Certainement", said Fleur. "Let us walk down to our carriage, and I will give it to you".

Hermione looked at her watch. There was still quite a bit of time to go before curfew, so she nodded and they left.

When she finally got her hands on the book, however, she realised it was in French. D'uh - why would Fleur have one in English?

"I will have to help Harry understand this", she said. "He does not know French at all. That means I may have to keep it longer than I expected - is that OK for you?"

"No problem, Hermione. You can keep it, actually, because I can find another copy with one of the other students. Every student who was intending to compete was given a copy".

Hermione was impressed. Why did people say Hogwarts was the best magic school again?

Then Fleur thought of something. Taking the book back from Hermione, she opened it to the back of the title page. There, just under the colophon, were printed, in a large font and with a good amount of spacing between the words, the names of several languages, including English. The word "Français" was in bold.

Fleur took her wand, and tapped the word "English". Instantly, that word became bold, and the material on the page switched to English. Flipping through the rest of the book, it was clear that all of it was now in English.

"Wow!", breathed Hermione. "That must be a very powerful charm, to trans-"

"Non, non!" said Fleur. "Ze translation is already done. Ze book is storing all versions, and is only showing one language".

"Oh!" She felt foolish not to have thought of that.

Thanking the older girl profusely, she left.

9 pm or so

Later that evening, Harry and Hermione were sitting in a corner of the common room, poring over the rule book. Hermione did not tell him anything about Dumbledore's attempts to deny him the perusal of the official rules - time enough for that after the tournament was over - so she had merely stated that it seemed simpler to ask one of the other champions.

The book was not too big, only about seventy pages, divided into several sections. The first section, only a few pages, was about handling, storing, and maintaining the goblet when a competition was not scheduled.

The next was about preparing the goblet for use in a tournament.

At this point, Harry asked, "look can we skip to the part which describes a contestant's rights and obligations, and especially if there's anything about unwilling contestants?"

Hermione appeared to want to actually read through all the preceding sections (the two described so far were followed by: rules for inviting participation and for agreeing to participate, rules for the host country, rules for the visiting schools, rules for designing events, rules for judging events, and finally, rules for contestants).

It didn't seem like Harry would agree to go through all that, so she skipped to the last section, and they read it together.

The decided to skim it fast first, to get a feel for the material, then go back and read it slowly, concentrating on the details.

At the end of an hour, they had been through the ten pages at least three times, but they had found nothing that indicated any hope for Harry. He would have to go through the whole thing, and his only escape was death. Even a non-fatal but completely disabling accident was not - apparently - a valid excuse; the goblet's magic would strip Harry of his, if that happened.

"Maybe I don't need to put in my best. What if I do the bare minimum, without risking myself in any way?", asked Harry.

Hermione pointed to a section that covered that also. A contestant was expected to put in his best effort, otherwise magic would judge him.

Harry fell back on the sofa, with a deep sigh. By this time, the common room had cleared completely - they were the only two present.

Harry let go of his emotions. Giving in to his bitterness, he started speaking in a quiet, flat, voice.

"I suppose I should be happy if I die in this. Until I came to Hogwarts, I've never really had a life. Facing death three times a year was not what I expected from a so-called school, but apparently I am not meant to live much longer".

Hermione hurled herself onto him, burying her face in his shoulder, but she had no clue what to say. It seemed as if Harry was stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place, in the worst way possible.

Harry extricated himself from her gently. "You know what I thought at the beginning of the year? I thought I would finally have one year of normalcy, and do the normal things a boy of my age does. I thought I'd be able to tell y- a girl that I liked her, and ask if she would like to go to Hogsmeade with me. I guess there's no point now - what girl would go out with someone who's doomed to lose his magic or die trying to keep it?"

With that, he left the common room. Shoulders bent, head hung, he looked the epitome of misery.

And with good reason, thought Hermione. Wiping her eyes, she called for Dobby, and asked for a hot chocolate with some pepper-up added to it.

(She had started thinking about the elves, and had started knitting hats to leave around. But after the second such hat, Dobby had visited her, and given her a stern talking to. In his broken English, he had told her to respect the elves' culture and life-style, as for most of them it was voluntary and in any case they needed the magic or they would die. Of course, Hermione was smart enough to read between the lines and guess Dobby's own status, but she did not call him out on it, nor did she tell Harry).

"What is being the problem, Missy Mione?", asked Dobby, when he came back with the cup, and had handed it to her. "Why is Missy being sad?"

Taking a few sips, Hermione explained the problem, especially the horrible ending that awaited Harry unless he had tremendous luck in all three events.

Hobby was horrified. Harry's death or loss of magic were disasters of the same magnitude for him - he would lose his magic. Sure, he could ask to bond with Hermione, but he had not gone against his then master just for anyone, he had done it for the great master Harry Potter, who had defeated you-know-who even while a baby! After being bonded to him, (even if his master did not know this!), anyone else would pale in comparison.

"Don't worry, Dobby, I will find some way to deal with this", said Hermione. "If I need anything, I will ask you", she said, more to make him feel good than with any real hope or need.

2 am or so, the next morning

Several hours later - after two more cups of hot chocolate laced with pepper-up, she had found something. Because when the third cup was asked for, Dobby had offered up his thoughts: "Missy Mione, we is being needs to gets the whole tour- tour- games cancelled", he had said.

Until now, she had been looking at ways to get Harry out of the competition. She had not been focusing on anything else. But hearing what Dobby had said, she now looked through the entire book, looking specifically for passages that said "if such-and-such happens, the tournament is deemed cancelled".

She found several such situations enumerated, at least one in each section. For example, section 3 (rules for inviting participation and agreeing to participate), had this:

Section 3.4.7: Invitations to other schools to participate must be sent out simultaneously, or, if not simultaneously, with at most a three-day gap between them. If one school receives the invitation more than three days before the other, the tournament is deemed cancelled.

There were several more like that, but none of them were of any use to her.

Concentrating on the last three sections, she went carefully over the rules again.

Nothing. Well, almost nothing - there was one situation, but that had some serious side-effects - side-effects that could be considered far too extreme, and if she were caught, would almost certainly get her sent to Azkaban.

But were they really too extreme? Dumbledore had actively prevented Harry from finding the rulebook - the fact that he had had it removed the evening prior to the selection was very suspicious. He appeared to be gambling with Harry's life or magic instead of helping Harry get out of the mess. What gave him the right to play with other people's lives?

And this was over and above all his prior transgressions, starting from putting him with the Dursleys and allowing Sirius to be jailed without a trial, to bringing in the philosopher's stone when he knew it would bring danger to the school.

Did he deserve any consideration, when balanced against her Harry (oh yes, she had not missed that he nearly said "you" and hastily switched it to "a girl") losing his magic or his life?

And what about the other two? Well Crouch had been the bastard who'd chucked Sirius into prison without a trial so that's fine too. (It was a good thing she did not know what else Crouch had done, or she may have elected to actually floo to the ministry and personally strangle him!)

She decided she needed to speak to Sirius.

Except... she did not know how to reach him. Looking despondent, she gathered up her things, preparing to make her way to bed and get at least a couple of hours sleep, when she noticed movement.

Dobby was still there. He had been looking for some good news, and at one point it did seem as if there was some, but now Missy Mione was again looking depressed.

"Missy Mione?"

"Oh Dobby, sorry I thought you had gone!"

"Did yous be finding anything good?"

Hermione sighed. "I'm not sure Dobby. I need to speak to Sirius Black. I'll have to owl him tomorrow."

"The great master Harry Potter's dogfather, Missy? Dobby bes knowing where he is being. Dobby cans take a letter".

"Hu- How? How do you know him? Actually, how can you find him? He's supposed to be in hiding!"

Dobby hung his head and shuffled about.

"Oh I see. He is considered part of Harry's family, right?"

Dobby did not say anything. (Oddly, this reminded Hermione of a news report she had one seen on TV, where some company, accused of something, had responded. She could just see, in her mind, that company executive saying to the TV reporter: "Dobby Enterprises Limited can neither confirm nor deny the statement. Dobby Enterprises Limited has no further comment on the matter. Thank you.")

Hermione wrote a few words on a parchment, asking if Sirius could get to a floo somewhere, and handed the note to Dobby, intending to tell him to give it tomorrow morning, at some decent hour.

Dobby, however, popped out instantly. After staring at the empty space in shock for a few seconds, Hermione shook her head and started gathering up her things again.

Dobby popped back in. He had a mirror in his hand.

November 24, 7 am, Department of games and sports, MoM

"Mr Bagman sir, my master being heard yous being wants money. My master bes has pro- pro- pro-po-sal to help yous".

"What? Who the devil are you or rather who's your master?"

"Master Potter being very rich, he can help".

Bagman's eyes lit up. "Where should I meet him? The first task starts in a few hours".

Dobby held out his hand. Bagman gripped it, and was popped away.

As soon as he landed, he was stunned from behind.

7:15 am, Department of international magical co-operation, MoM

"Crouch, we have a bit of a problem".

"Your goblin debtors catch up with you again, Bagman?", sneered Crouch.

"No. Potter's dead, but Albus is trying to hide the evidence in a muggle graveyard. You need to come with me right now; I have a portkey".

Sirius had learned long ago that the more outrageous the statement, the more likely people were to believe it. The magical world truly lacked common sense, as Lily always claimed.

And this was Crouch. The son-of-a-bitch was one of the four people responsible for his illegal incarceration, the others being Bagnold (dead), Dumbledore (being dealt with soon), and Fudge (his time would come!).

And in a way, this was the ultimate prank - Prongs would be so jealous!

8:30 am, Hogwarts headmaster's office

"Albus, we have a serious problem!"

"Good morning to you too, Bartemius", said Dumbledore with his patented smile. "What kind of problem?"

"Someone called Mundungus Fletcher has Bagman at wand point in his flat and is demanding that you need to come and resolve his gripe. Says he knows you."

"What? That does not make sense!"

Damn, is he not a wizard?

"This guy looks pretty shifty; he's probably a thief. Bagman is also a thief, except of a different class. Something must have happened - it should not take more than ten minutes, and I have a portkey."

Dumbledore, grumbling, nevertheless muttered a spell over it to enable it to work from within Hogwarts - he was the headmaster after all. Then they both grabbed it, while Crouch spoke the activation phrase.

11 am, Hogwarts grounds

Karkaroff and Maxime were puzzled. Dumbledore was nowhere to be seen. Neither was that unctuous fellow, Bagman, nor that arrogant Hitler-lookalike, Crouch.

The task was due to start right about now, but they could not very well start it if three of the five judges were not there.

Eventually, they gave up, and approached McGonagall.

"Minerva", said Olympe. "Do you know where Dumblydore has gone?"

"I, too, am puzzled", she said. "He did not indicate any delay on his part when we met at breakfast this morning."

"Madam Maxime, Professor McGonagall", said Karkaroff. "The task is supposed to have started two minutes ago. There is a grace period of ten minutes. If it does not start in the next eight minutes, the tournament will be deemed to be cancelled."

McGonagall shrugged. That was the least of her concerns. She looked around, and no one really seemed to be bothered by this pronouncement, except Moody. I wonder why, she thought, but did not follow up on it.

Precisely eight minutes later, McGonagall felt the Hogwarts wards shift to her.

She was, of course, a strong woman. But however strong she may have been, the shock of realising that her one-time teacher, and long-time friend and mentor, was now dead, was a tremendous shock to her. She cried out in dismay, and fell in a heap.

Amelia Bones, who was present in her official capacity as head of the DMLE, rushed over.

"Minerva, are you OK?"

"I am fine", she said. Then her voice dropped to a whisper. "But it looks like Alb- Albus- Albus is- dead!"

Amelia's eyebrows rose, and she quickly ushered McGonagall to one side while she took the scene in.

The place was in utter chaos. The four contestants were looking at each other, not knowing any of what was happening. The students were chattering among themselves. Some students were breaking away from the seating area and walking about. One bushy-haired student was off to one side, looking in a mirror and evidently trying to fix her hair - it must have been one of those charmed mirrors that tell you how you look, because she was clearly speaking to it.

Giving orders to one of her aurors to announce that the task was postponed due to logistics reasons, she and Minerva left the arena.

"I'll need a temporary office to handle this. I need to find out what happened to Crouch and Bagman, but I can't leave Hogwarts."

Minerva showed her to a suitable room in the castle, and left to take care of her suddenly increased responsibilities. Actually, she needed a drink.

As Amelia was settling down, a lynx patronus appeared at her side. "Crouch, Bagman, and Albus just appeared in ministry atrium; all have been stripped of their magic."

Aah, so he is not dead. And clearly this was something to do with the blasted tournament, she thought.

Harry came up to Hermione. "Hermione, I don't know what happened, but Karkaroff just told Viktor the tournament is postponed because Crouch, Bagman, and Dumbledore were unavoidably detained elsewhere. Bloody berks... I'll bet they are doing it to draw out the suspense!"

"We will need to ask Prof McGonagall, Harry", she said. "Let's go back to the castle."

"No one will tell us anything, Hermione, I am sure of it. But I am thinking maybe we should at least try the map. If they're in the castle, and we find them, then they'll listen to us!"

Hermione agreed, not realising the shock she would get!

11:30 am, temporary office of DMLE head, anteroom off Great Hall

Hermione was very worried. Sirius had assured her that everything had gone like clockwork, and that all three were now without magic, but the map showed Bartemius Crouch. How had he escaped Sirius and come here? Did the map work on squibs too? She had tried looking for Filch but she could not very well ask Harry, and besides, it was more important to contact Madam Bones, since she had overheard Susan telling her friends that her aunt was at the castle.

Amelia was still trying to figure out precisely what had happened. The only person who knew the rules backwards and forwards was currently a squib, and until she got to the ministry she could not interrogate him.

Her thoughts were derailed by a frantic knocking at the door. Waving a wand to open it, she saw the bushy-haired girl who was doing her hair earlier, and a young, underfed-looking boy who could only be Harry Potter.

"Come in, Mr. Potter, and Ms..."

"Granger, ma'am. Hermione Granger".

"What can I do for you?"

It took them a while to explain the map to Madam Bones, and to tell her that one of the people who was missing was currently in the DADA office, speaking on the floo to someone, judging by his position in the room.

This puzzled Amelia greatly, but she was not going to show it in front of these children. She excused herself for a moment, drew a privacy bubble around herself, and sent a message to Kingsley: "are you sure Crouch is there? Answer only yes or no - no details".

She then spent more than five minutes looking at the map, on which nothing had changed. During these five minutes, Kingsley's answer had come back: "yes".

She told the two children to go back to their common rooms, and she would meet Crouch and see what was going on. (They tried to say they wanted to accompany her, but she wasn't having any of that.)

11:45 am, DADA office

Amelia was nothing if not cautious. During the six or seven minutes she had stared at the map, neither Crouch, nor Moody, had moved. She could see no situation in which her old mentor would stay in one place for so long - he was legendary in department meetings for his walking about the room during the meeting.

That could only mean he was injured. And if Crouch was keeping it quiet, there was foul play involved, even if Kingsley was mistaken. And if Kingsley was right - he rarely made mistakes anyway - there was definitely something very wrong.

She went in mob-handed. Blasting down the door in three massive reductos fired simultaneously by three of her best aurors, followed by seven aurors, and she herself, firing stunners in a precise pattern with no gap more than half a human body's width, they were guaranteed to subdue any and all in the room.

Despite all this, through the floo she saw what she thought was Peter Pettigrew. That cannot be, he's dead, she thought. Resolving to recheck her memories later using a pensieve, since the floo had abruptly shut down when they had attacked, she set about determining what happened here.

Just then, Moody morphed.

11:45 am, Riddle manor

Voldemort was angered beyond belief.


"Master, I will find-"

"You will not leave this place until I say so."

Voldemort thought hard about what he should do. The ritual was very specific - the "enemy" must live in mortal fear of his life for several months for best results. So that was out now; he would not settle for anything less. That left one avenue...

"Wormtail, call Lucius on the floo".

"Yes master".

Wormtail turned to the floo. He would need to hold his master up to see and be seen by Lucius, but first he would have to make the call - he could not do that while carrying the body his master was inhabiting.

A few minutes later, Lucius came on the line.

"Wormtail? So you finally showed your misera-"

"Lucius, shut up and listen. Your master is in need of your services."

Malfoy nearly had a heart attack. The voice was definitely his lord's, but the form? A muggle-looking baby? For a moment, his face reflected deep disgust at the shape his master was in - ugly, small, weak, having to be carried by Wormtail, probably even had to be clean- - Malfoy shuddered at his thoughts, thanking his stars that only Wormtail had seen the momentary break in his mask, before he had come into full view of his master.

No point taking chances. He schooled his features into a respectful and awed expression.

"Master? Is that really you? How may I serve you master?"

"Wormtail will give you the portkey co-ordinates to Riddle Manor. Bring your son, and the diary I left with you, and come here immediately."

One look at Malfoy's face told him something was wrong.

"Lucius", he hissed, "you do still have the diary do you not?"

Wormtail had heard enough, and quickly connected the dots with something he had heard in the Weasley household a few months before that bastard Black had escaped.

"Master, Lucius gave it to a first year girl, daughter of the blood traitor whose family I was living with. It possessed her, and she nearly died. They said that Potter rescued her from a basilisk, killing the basilisk, but I think that wa-"

He didn't say any more, looking at the fury on his master's face. It appeared that being the bearer of bad news was still not a good idea - who knew?

Lucius, meanwhile, had also realised he was in deep shit, and had shut down the floo. Normally, he would have tried to make nice with his master, but seeing him possessing a muggle baby had turned him off. And that manor he was living in looked distinctly muggle, too. Time to rethink some priorities.

That angered the dark lord even more, but he had only one avenue for his anger, causing Wormtail to almost piss himself. Again.

Perhaps if I carry him back to his bed... and it is time for his next meal, thought Wormtail. Nagini seemed to know, and had already appeared at her master's side.

Wormtail picked up the disfigured form. By a stroke of bad luck, looking at the ugly face up close recalled to him the expression Malfoy had bared for a fraction of a second, and he involuntarily mirrored the revulsion in his own face.

In full view of Voldemort!

Combined with Barty's failure, the loss of his diary, and Lucius's betrayal, this was too much for the dark lord. His wand was at his bed, but he needed more immediate gratification.

"Nagini, bite him", he shouted, unmindful of how he would manage without Wormtail to tend him. Well he could always become a wraith and start over perhaps.

Wormtail was bent at the waist, his back to Nagini, picking up the ugly lump of flesh that was once a cute baby boy. At these words, he turned around, still crouched, and attempted to shield himself with whatever was at hand.

Which was the baby.

Nagini's fangs went right through the baby's chest with the force of a small hammer - in fact the puncture wounds were not far from the size of the claws of a claw-hammer. With a serpentine hiss of agony at being inadvertently forced to strike her own master, she reared back and hit Wormtail, but she knew he would live through that - most of her venom was now coursing through her master's body, leaving only a little for the second strike. Too little to kill the traitor, though it would lay him out for a while.

Voldemort died barely a couple of seconds later.

Worse, since one of his horcruxes had killed him, magic took it as a sign that Voldemort was committing suicide, and all his horcruxes died at the same time.

1 pm, Riddle manor

By the time Madam Bones had finished interrogating the fake Moody, sent the real one to the hospital wing, and tried to floo the address Barty Jr had given in his veritaserum questioning, she knew whoever was there would have flown the coop - at least no one answered.

(Minerva had tried to accost her, saying Harry Potter had collapsed with a heavily bleeding scar, but she had no time for that. Still, just before she left for Riddle manor, she asked Minerva how Potter was doing, and was relieved to hear he was much better, and for some reason the scar was almost gone now! It didn't make any difference to her; she was just being polite anyway.)

Eventually she, and six of her best, went to Riddle manor, using the directions "kindly" given by Barty Jr.

They found a human baby boy, disfigured beyond belief and dead, with two large puncture wounds on his chest. The perpetrator, a large snake, was not far to seek, though it was also dead - somehow her head appeared to have exploded.

And next to them, was a face she thought she had seen a couple of hours ago, but did not want to believe a fleeting image. Peter Pettigrew. Still breathing, albeit shallowly.

November 26th, lunchtime, Great Hall

Since two consecutive issues of the Prophet had declared him innocent, Sirius felt safe walking around openly. To be honest, the issue of the 25th was so chock full of sensational news you couldn't really be sure anyone had read all of it, or paid attention to one "mass murderer" being found actually innocent, so he had waited an extra day.

Harry and Hermione had just finished their lunch - neither of them were speaking to Ron anymore - and were walking out when they saw Sirius. Harry ran to him and flew into his hug, laughing and crying at the same time.

"Oh Sirius, you won't believe what happened!", he started. Sirius waved yesterday's paper at him, and said "try me", with a grin.

Laughing, they went out into the pale early winter sun. Classes were cancelled for the whole week anyway.

They all sat on a blanket - supplied by Dobby - enjoying the mild sun. Eventually, Harry dozed off, while Sirius and Hermione continued chatting.

"Of course, I obliviated all three just before I sent them to the ministry".

"I feel bad for Bagman; he was collateral damage".

"Me too, Hermione. But I have set him up with a lovely muggle home, and with a generous allowance, trickled out in small enough chunks that he cannot try to gamble it away. And as he himself said, the wizarding world had too many of his debtors, so he's very happy. Except for the 'trickle' part. And of course he has no clue why I am paying him, so I told him he foiled a plot by Fletcher to steal all the Black family silverware, so this is his reward!"

"That's a great idea, Sirius!"

Sirius preened. "I am a marauder, my dear girl!"

Half-asleep, Harry heard none of this conversation, or if he did hear snippets of it, he dismissed them as dreams.

Sleepily, he turned a little, making himself more comfortable. In a few minutes, he was fast asleep, lulled by the food in his belly, the sun on his face, and the warm lap of his new girlfriend under his head.

And the near-certainty that his life had completely turned around in the last couple of days.

AN: the "must live in mortal fear of his life for several months" idea is from some other fic, it's just that I don't remember which. If someone can tell me, I'd be happy to acknowledge and give credit!

Update 2017-11-19 Thanks to Astra Leo in the comments, I found that fic; it's "A Marauder's Plan" by CatsAreCool.