Harry Potter and all characters, etc. belong to J. K. Rowling, not me.
Dumbledore Answers Harry – Chapter 31 – Bubble-head
When Harry got back to the castle, he found a party in Gryffindor tower, wherein Maxime, Crouch and Chekov were berated for giving him only nine out of ten when he'd gotten past two dragons. After some encouragement from the crowd, both Harry and Hermione opened the two golden eggs he'd acquired at the same time. The result was practically deafening as the screeching filled the Common Room until both eggs were closed.
"That's certainly odd," said Hermione while rubbing her ears.
"Really," said Harry sarcastically.
"Maybe you have to face a banshee," suggested Seamus.
"Or worse," said George.
"Percy singing," said Fred.
"The horror!" they proclaimed together with mock-terrified expressions.
Harry couldn't help but laugh at their antics. Hermione said, "Obviously, there's a secret to opening it. We'll have to spend some time…"
"In the library," said Ginny with a smirk, earning a quick glare from Hermione.
A few weeks later, Harry was getting discouraged about the eggs. All the time spent in the library researching hadn't accomplished anything. They'd studied about dragon eggs, screams, and gold (what the eggs were made of), but nothing helped.
When they'd heard about the Yule Ball coming up, Harry immediately asked his girlfriend to come with him, which she answered with a very deep kiss that made him forget what he'd asked her to do in the first place. He knew that Neville had asked Ginny to be his date, and that Ron had asked Lavender.
He, Hermione and Ginny were slightly ahead in their D.A.D.A. N.E.W.T. revising, and the dueling club was going well. Harry was also doing well in his other classes, but was glad that the only test he had to take at the end of the year would be his N.E.W.T. Ginny was jealous of that fact, but Hermione felt that Harry was being cheated by not being allowed to take the end-of-year exams. However, those tests were over six months away, so he didn't have to worry about them now.
Now, Harry's only concern was finding out why he, Hermione and Ginny had been summoned to Dumbledore's office. It was Sunday morning right after breakfast. He had an idea of why, but didn't want to get his hopes up. Besides, if it was what he thought, it would probably be dangerous.
"Good morning, sir," said Harry as they were seated.
"Good morning, all three of you. Would any of you care for a lemon drop?"
As usual, Harry and Hermione politely declined while Ginny took one. They all looked expectantly at the professor.
"The reason why I have summoned you three here is that I believe I have found the location of the final Horcrux," the headmaster said with a twinkle in his eyes.
"That's great," said Harry enthusiastically. "Where?"
"Inside Hogwarts itself," he answered excitedly. "I can't believe I didn't think of it before. Follow me." He walked out the door and down the stairs.
They followed him in silence through the seventh-floor corridor and down three flights of stairs until they were on the fourth floor. He then led them down that corridor, eventually encountering the statue of Boris the Bewildered, a lost-looking wizard with his gloves on the wrong hands. Dumbledore stopped at the fourth door to the left of it and said, "Pine fresh." As the door opened, the headmaster said, "Last night, I informed the prefects that this bathroom would be off-limits for the day."
"Bathroom?" asked Harry.
"The Prefect's Bathroom," said Hermione in awe as they walked into the room with a candle-filled chandelier, and everything made of white marble. Sunk into the middle of the floor was a swimming pool instead of a bathtub. About a hundred golden taps stood all around the pool's edges, each with a differently colored jewel set into its handle. On the wall was a single golden-framed painting of a blonde mermaid who was fast asleep on a rock, her long hair over her face.
Dumbledore walked up to the painting and said, "Ariel."
"Yes, Headmaster," came a squeaky voice from the painting, followed by a yawn.
"May I temporarily remove you while I inspect the wall behind you?"
"Of course, sir," she squeaked. "It's been a long time since I was moved. That handsome Head Boy did, though, a long time ago."
"Riddle," murmured Harry, "fifty years ago."
Dumbledore turned from the portrait while saying, "Tom's prefectship was his first taste of actual authority and power, which he craves more than anything. I believe he hid a Horcrux here simply because it's the only place in the school where prefects and heads are allowed but other students are not." Turning back to the painting, he said, "We must be careful. Everyone, get out of direct view of the painting before I levitate it. Be ready for anything."
They all complied as they got their wands out. With a flick of Dumbledore's wand, the painting floated away, and a green beam of light shot straight forward above the pool, hitting the wall on the other side. It was hard to see the wall behind the painting from where Harry was, but he couldn't tell the difference between that part of the wall and the rest. Albus performed a detection spell and declared, "There's nothing else behind the painting beside that protection. This is most puzzling."
Hermione said, "It can't be for no reason. He didn't just set random death traps everywhere. That was a killing curse that hit…the other wall." She turned her attention to the other side of the room, where a new hole had just been formed. She then performed a dark magic detection spell on that spot, and what looked like a purple flame shot straight at her.
"Hermione!" Harry screamed. She moved a little, but got caught in the shoulder. She fell to the floor unconscious. Harry ran to her while Dumbledore began shooting spells at the hole. "Don't be dead," Harry muttered as he checked her for a pulse, and was greatly relieved that there was one. "Thank God!" Then he tried reviving her. Nothing he did seemed to help his girlfriend.
He didn't see what spells Dumbledore had to do to get past the trap, but apparently he had, because when he looked up, he saw that the wall where the purple flame had come from now had some of the plaster removed, and an opening was there, which had what appeared to be Hufflepuff's cup on it. Dumbledore looked at him. "Mr. Potter, might I suggest you levitate Miss Granger to the hospital wing whilst Miss Weasley and I deal with this Horcrux? We shall join you shortly."
Harry realized that Ginny was also a fire elemental, and should be able to destroy the cup the same way she'd destroyed Ravenclaw's quill. He pointed his wand at his girlfriend. "Wingardium Leviosa."
After Madam Pomfrey performed a diagnostic spell on Hermione, she was able to determine what spell she'd been hit with, which was fortunately weaker than it would've been if cast by an actual witch or wizard, but it still did enough damage to keep her in the hospital wing until that Friday morning, taking ten potions a day. Harry had quite a chore keeping her stocked up with books so she wouldn't get too bored in the Hospital Wing. Fortunately, (from her point of view) she got out just in time to take the end-of-term exams.
On Christmas day, Harry awoke to find many presents on his bed, which he happily opened, finding that he'd gotten a good haul – mostly defensive books or devices, including a wand holster that could attach to his leg or arm from Sirius. He got a bottle of cologne from Hermione, along with instructions to wear some to the Ball. For his part, he'd gotten Hermione a new pair of earrings. He found out that Sirius had gotten Hermione the same kind of wand holster he'd received.
Harry spent the whole day with Hermione, kissing and talking, until she left to get ready for the dance far earlier than he thought she'd have to. However, he was definitely not disappointed with how she looked when she came down the stairs. She was wearing a periwinkle blue dress with her hair in a French braid. "Y-you look beautiful," he managed to say after staring at her for about ten seconds.
"Thank you," she said with a grin. "You look quite handsome, and you smell very good with that cologne. Shall we go?"
Harry was amazed at how different the Great Hall looked as they entered for the Yule Ball. It was hardly recognizable. As he and Hermione made their way up to the Champion's table, he commented, "I'm glad they didn't make me take two dates here," earning a small slap on the arm.
They found that Viktor Krum had brought one of the Ravenclaw seventh-year girls, Mindy Runkle, who was in the dueling club. She was a moderately pretty girl who got good grades and did exceptionally well in the club Harry ran. Percy Weasley was there as well, but did not speak to Harry or Hermione. Obviously, he still blamed Harry for the fact that he hadn't been Head Boy, and was consequently making less money at the Ministry than he would have. However, engaging in small talk with Hermione, Viktor and Mindy was distracting enough to stop Harry from bursting into tears over the fact that Percy didn't like him.
Before long, the Weird Sisters began the music, and the champions had to start off the dancing. Harry sighed as he faced the inevitable, glad that he had learned how to dance at Sirius' wedding.
Hermione looked in his eyes for about a second before a frown appeared on her face. "You don't really want to dance, do you?" she whispered.
He denied it. "No, I…"
"You have to dance this once. Then we can…"
"Hermione," he whispered, "Maybe I don't like dancing much, but I know that you do. We'll dance as much as you want tonight." He grinned at her. "Consider it a Christmas present." She smiled back at her boyfriend and allowed him to lead her around the floor. He did enjoy having his arms around her, but didn't really liked dancing. However, it was obvious that Hermione did enjoy it, so he decided that he'd do his best to keep her happy. The next song was a fast one, and Harry liked it better than the slow ballad that the first song had been.
After several songs, they finally stopped dancing when Hermione said, "Harry, I think you've earned a break from the dance floor. Thank you for dancing with me for so long. I know you didn't enjoy it as much as me." Leaning closer to his ear so she could whisper, she said, "And later I'll thank you properly for it, not to mention wearing that cologne for me."
"I understand," she said before giving him a quick kiss with a smirk. "Everybody enjoys different things. I just want to say that it means a lot to me that you're willing to dance just for me."
"I'll do anything for you," he declared, looking her in the eyes, with a smile that made her go weak at the knees.
She kissed him again and then smirked. "Since you'll do anything for me, why don't you get us drinks while I find us a table?"
"Sure," he said, chuckling slightly, and headed toward the small table set up with the punch bowl. He noticed that the Beauxbatons student that had glared at him a few times the day the schools arrived was standing near the table. He appeared to be in a good mood. Harry quickly fixed himself a cup and took a drink, and then ladled out another glass of punch.
"Hello," said the French student. "My name is Jean-Luc LaForge." He reached out his right hand, leaving his left near the table.
Caught off guard, Harry shook it automatically, leaving Hermione's cup on the table near Jean-Luc's left hand. "Er, hi. My name is…"
"Zer iz no need for your introduction. Everybody knowz your name. I vould like to zay that it iz an honor to meet you, Harry Potter."
"Er, thanks. I need to get back to my date. It was, um, good meeting you," he said as he took off, remembering to grab his girlfriend's drink off the table.
"Ze pleasure waz all mine."
Harry found his girlfriend sitting at a table with Neville, Ginny, Ron and Lavender. "Hi, everyone," he said before sitting next to Hermione. He then handed her the glass of punch he'd gotten her, which she took gratefully, immediately drinking deeply from it.
The music started again while Hermione was swallowing, and Lavender said, "Won-won, let's dance again," and practically dragged her boyfriend out of his seat.
Neville turned to Ginny. "Would you like to dance?"
She smiled at him. "Sure." They left the table.
Harry turned to Hermione, whose eyes looked slightly spaced out. Before he could say anything, Mr. LaForge was standing behind her saying, "Miss Granger, would you do me ze honor of zharing thiz dance?"
Harry's mouth opened and shut in surprise. Before he could say anything, his girlfriend was walking off with another bloke, who was putting his arm around her waist. He frowned. He didn't know if he'd get in trouble with Hermione for this or not, but he didn't like the way that guy was holding her. He accidentally smashed the glass he was holding when he saw Hermione kiss Jean-Luc on the cheek while laughing with her dance partner. He stood up as he watched in horror while his girlfriend began practically dragging that bloke off the dance floor and out of the Great Hall.
Harry began walking fast as a look of anger and hurt came across his face. He thought to himself, "If she doesn't like me anymore, she could at least admit it and break up! Not act like a…" He shook his head. "That's not like Hermione. Something is wrong." He followed the 'happy couple' down a flight of stairs, trying to catch up without running and being stopped by a teacher. The bloke was grinning ear-to-ear as he let her lead him toward the dungeons, where Harry knew one of their favorite broom closets was located.
He was on the staircase when he remembered the spaced-out look in Hermione's eyes after she'd taken that drink, and further remembered that the bloke had been near her drink a few minutes before. His face was turning red as he came to the only conclusion that made any sense. Hermione had been given a love potion. Jean-Luc LaForge was about to get hurt.
Harry's anger only doubled as he watched his girlfriend open up their broom closet and step inside, still holding that French…bloke's hand. He whipped his wand out without consciously deciding to, and summoned Jean-Luc straight at him.
"Harry, stop!" shouted Hermione. "I love him! It's over between us. Don't…"
At that moment, Harry wasn't listening to his girlfriend. He was putting his wand away and clenching his fist. When Mr. LaForge got close enough from being summoned, Harry punched him in the face with everything he had. He fell backwards with a broken nose and blood everywhere.
"Harry, how could you!" Hermione shouted. He glanced up to see her reaching for the wand that had been on her thigh holster – the only place she could put it without interfering with her robes.
Harry didn't let himself enjoy the view, however, as he quickly drew his wand and said, "Sorry. Petrificus Totalus." She fell to the floor just as Harry felt LaForge pull him to the ground. Harry pulled back his right hand and rammed his fist in Jean-Luc's face again. This time, a metal flask fell out of his pocket. The container burst open and the contents, a thick liquid, were spilled all over the floor.
"Stop this minute!" shouted Professor W. P. Mathews, who'd been teaching Potions ever since Snape had been fired. The two stopped fighting and looked at the tall, thin man with blonde hair and beard, who was pointing his wand at them. "You," he said, pointing at LaForge. "What were you doing with a flask of Polyjuice potion?"
Harry looked at his opponent with even more contempt as he began stuttering, "Zat's not poly…"
"I know Polyjuice when I see it! Get up! You, too, Mr. Potter." He then flicked his wand toward Hermione, who immediately got up.
She glared at Harry. "Professor Mathews, Harry started attacking my new boyfriend because he's jealous! Look, he even broke poor Jean-Luc's nose. He should be expelled!"
Harry said as calmly as he could, "I think Jean-Luc slipped her a love potion, sir."
"That's ridiculous," huffed Hermione while crossing her arms. "I am in love with Jean-Luc. He doesn't need to…"
"Since whoever this is had Polyjuice on them, I tend to believe your suspicions, however, a simple spell will confirm it." Mathews pointed his wand at Hermione.
"Stop!" she said before glowing green for a moment.
"That confirms it," said the professor as he pointed his wand back to Jean-Luc. By this time, Harry was also pointing his wand at him as well. The captive was trembling in fear. "Miss Granger, you have been given a love potion."
"Maybe Harry gave it to me, trying to win me away from my true love, Jean-Luc." Harry could see laughter in his teacher's eyes. "Why haven't you taken him to the hospital wing yet? He's hurt."
"Of course," said Mathews. "March to the hospital wing," he said coldly to the prisoner, who complied.
When they arrived at Madam Pomfrey's domain, she immediately asked, "What's happened? Have these students been fighting?"
Before she could do anything else, Jean-Luc's skin started bubbling over as he reshaped into a different man. He was shorter but his robes were tighter. He had a bald patch on his head, and, although it was hard to tell since it was broken, a pointed nose. The most unusual aspect of this character was that he had a silver right hand.
"Wormtail," Harry hissed. "I see your master gave you a new hand."
"I don't care what you look like or what your name is," declared Hermione loudly. "I love you."
Harry closed his fist, ready to punch the trembling Pettigrew again.
"Mr. Potter, stop!" said Professor Mathews, who was now holding a vial of potion. "This'll cure Miss Granger, so she won't be…"
"If it'll take away the last vestiges of the potion Harry's been using on me, then I'll drink it," she said, taking the container from the Potions Master and downing it in one gulp.
For a moment, her eyes were out of focus, and then she blinked. Harry watched realization and then horror come across her face, as it turned very red. With a soft, trembling voice, she said, "I-I'm s-sorry, Harry," and then turned to the still bleeding Pettigrew. "YOU FILTHY, STINKING, RAT!" she screamed before punching his jaw and kicking him in the crotch. She then ran outside, and Harry heard her beginning to sob.
He turned to the rat, who was now on the floor, and picked him up by the hair he had left. "Why did you have to bother her," he hissed quietly.
"Sh-she was pretty, and I th-thought that I d-deserved…"
"DESERVED!? I'll give you what you deserve you…"
"Harry!" interupted Professor Dumbledore, who'd just arrived with McGonagall. "Aurors are on their way, and I have some questions for Mr. Pettigrew."
"Then ask them," snarled Harry, still glaring at the traitor in his hands. "I'll make sure he answers." At this moment, a clear, yellowish liquid came dripping out from under the prisoner's robe as he trembled in fear.
"Alas," said Dumbledore calmly, while others in the room were chuckling at Wormtail's loss of bladder control. "As I'd like our prisoner to survive his interrogation, I believe it would be best if you left the room. Besides, I believe that Miss Granger may need to speak with you."
"Fine," Harry said, and dropped the rat back on the floor; his face landed in the puddle. "You'd better not lose him."
"Do not worry," said Albus. "I shall insure that he cannot escape." He then pointed his wand at Wormtail, who glowed pink for a moment. "Now he cannot change form. However, if he proves uncooperative, we shall call you back to assist us." Pettigrew started trembling even more.
Harry knew that it was a bluff, but thought it might be a helpful one. "In that case, I hope he doesn't answer your questions," he said before walking off to look for his girlfriend.
Hermione Granger had never been more embarrassed in her life. This was supposed to be a great night – a romantic night for her and Harry. Instead, she'd almost dragged that…that rat into a broom closet to…" She shuddered as she thought about what could have happened. Tears were freely falling from her eyes as her feet carried her further away from the hospital wing. She was actually surprised to find herself outside the door to the bathroom where a troll had once attacked her, before Harry jumped on its back to save her. She opened the door and entered because she'd always thought it was a good place to cry.
Harry had been all over the castle. He'd checked the library, the Room of Requirement and even had a second-year Gryffindor girl he met in their common room go up into Hermione's dorm (He does not have the Marauder's Map in this story) to see if she were there. He was getting desperate by this time. He thought of a long shot, but didn't know any other place to try, so he started walking toward the location where he'd first become friends with the most important person in his life.
As he approached the door, he heard sobbing and couldn't help the small smile in his face that he had located her. He knocked on the door. "Hermione, is that you?"
"Go away!" he heard his girlfriend's voice from the other side of the door.
"I'm coming in, so cover up if you're not decent." He slowly opened the door, giving her time to do just that. "I'm inside now," he called out before looking around for her. She didn't respond, but he could still hear her sobs coming from inside a stall. He could also see her feet dangling above the floor. "If you don't answer, I'll be opening that door."
"Harry, I'm sorry. G-go away. I need to be alone. I…"
"You feel bad about…"
"BAD? Bad is far too small a word for what happened. I feel humiliated, disgraced, mortified, embarrassed, used…"
"It wasn't your fault, Hermione!" he half-shouted at her. With a much softer voice, he added, "It was mine."
"Yours?" she repeated.
"Yes. I'm the one who got you that bloody drink. I should've paid more attention. I understand if you're mad and want to…"
"It wasn't your fault, Harry. You just…"
"And it wasn't yours, either. Please come out."
She opened the door, revealing her red eyes with tear-lines running down her cheeks. Harry immediately hugged her, and she embraced him back. After a few minutes, she finally said, "I guess we should both be more careful."
"Maybe we should start carrying flasks like Mad-Eye does," Harry suggested, earning a small giggle from Hermione. "What do you say we go back to the party?"
"I, I don't know…"
"Nobody knows what happened. If you dry your face, then no one will know you were crying. I promise that I'll dance every song they play for the rest of the night with you."
After a few seconds, she finally said, "Alright."
They returned to the dance, and enjoyed the rest of the evening. Dumbledore later revealed that Pettigrew admitted to having placed Harry's name into the goblet of fire, and that he'd killed the real Jean-Luc LaForge in France before the Beauxbatons students left for the tournament. However, when Dumbledore asked him what else he'd done, Wormtail opened his mouth to speak, and started choking as if he were being strangled. Despite Pomfrey and Dumbledore's efforts, he went into a type of magical coma that no one could bring him out of before he could answer the question. He was placed under guard in the secure ward of St. Mungo's hospital, where they were told that he might be able to change into a rat if he woke up (Dumbledore's spell wouldn't last forever), so they made sure that no rat would be able to escape.
A few days after term started up again, Harry and Hermione were walking together hand-in-hand. "Have you made any progress on your eggs?" she asked.
He shook his head. "No. You know I'd tell you if I had. I just don't have a clue how that screaming is supposed to tell me anything."
"I don't know, either. I guess the best thing to do is practice every defensive spell we know. We should get Ginny, too. We don't know how many opponents they'll make you face."
Shrugging his shoulders, Harry said, "I suppose so. I suppose I should practice my idea for defeating Voldemort. I can't imagine the second task being worse than that."
And so, they got Ginny and went over Harry's defense strategy, including everything he knew about the bubble-head charm, which he suspected Riddle might modify to compensate for his breathing problem. The Boy-Who-Lived knew how to cast it (in case he found himself in a situation with no air) and how to remove it. He also knew a lot of powerful hexes and jinxes. He figured that if he had to, he could always use his elemental powers, but he would only do that to save his life – not to win the tournament. He really wanted those to be a secret.
As much as he tried, Harry could not figure out what the egg clue was supposed to mean, and before he knew it, it was the night before the second task of the tournament. The trio was studying in the Common Room, and Harry was getting very nervous about the next day. The portrait hole opened, revealing Professor McGonagall. She walked straight up to them with a neutral expression on her face, and said without emotion, "I need to speak with Miss Granger and Miss Weasley in private, and I'd suggest you get on to bed, Mr. Potter. You have a long day ahead of you."
Reluctantly, Harry complied and went to bed, deciding to ask the girls what McGonagall had wanted to speak to them about in the morning. However, when he got up, he couldn't find them. At breakfast, he went up to his head of house at the staff table and asked, "Do you know where Hermione and Ginny are?"
With a slightly vacant expression, she said, "They will be the hostages you have to rescue."
His eyes widened. "Hostages?!" he repeated loudly. This seemed to clear up McGonagall's expression.
"Yes, hostages," she said, "and you will not raise your voice to me again, Mr. Potter, unless you wish to have a detention."
"I'm sorry, Professor," he said, "but I was surprised. They're hostages?"
"Yes. They are what we feel you will sorely miss."
He now had a puzzled expression. "Sorely miss?"
"Surely you figured out the egg clue," she said, looking at him in horror.
Looking down in shame, he answered, "No, Professor."
McGonagall's eyes took on a vacant expression again, but Harry didn't notice as he was still looking down. "You were supposed to open the eggs underwater."
He looked up at her. "What? How would I figure that out?"
"The point is that the merpeople in the Black lake are holding hostages for each champion," she whispered. "You'll have one hour to swim to their village and rescue the girls."
Harry's jaw dropped. His mind raced, looking for a solution to the problem. "The bubble-head charm," he muttered with relief a few seconds later.
"Excellent idea," she said. "You do know the charm, right?"
"Then I suggest you go back to the common room to get more appropriate attire before the task."
"Thanks," he said and hurried back to the Gryffindor table, grabbing a slice of toast and gulping down some pumpkin juice. He then took all the shortcuts he knew to get to Gryffindor tower so he could put on a pair of swimming trunks and a sleeveless t-shirt. He decided to put his wand holster on his right leg. He was very glad that he'd been able to use the pool at Potter Manor for the last few years so he could properly swim, and also that he hadn't needed glasses since he'd corrected his vision. He put a school robe on over his other clothes and hurried down to the lake, knowing that the task was about to begin.
He arrived at the lake to find the other two champions there already. Krum said, "At least they are only making you rescue two hostages and not going back into the lake a second time."
"Yeah," he agreed before Bagman announced that it was time to begin.
Harry shed his robe as he stepped out of his shoes. He then grabbed his wand and performed the bubble-head charm, creating a bubble of air around his face. He put the wand back in its holster and dove into the water, noticing that Fleur had done the same thing, but Krum was already gone.
The first thing he noticed was that the water was absolutely freezing as he swam deeper into the lake. The second thing was how awesome it was to be able to stay underwater without running out of air, and made a mental note to do this the next time he went swimming at home. When he thought he was deep enough, he started moving toward the center of the lake in search of the mer-village. In the corner of his eye, he noticed that Fleur was swimming faster than him, and got an idea.
Closing his eyes for a moment as he used his metamorph powers, he changed his hands and feet to make them webbed, and began to move a lot faster. He noticed grindylows among the weeds at the bottom of the lake as he continued moving gracefully, despite the cold that he was slowly getting used to. He heard a weird sound behind him and turned to see Fleur being attacked by about a dozen of those water demons. Without thinking about it, he pulled out his wand and shot a spell at the largest portion of the group, separating all but two of them from their victim, who quickly disposed of them before smiling at Harry and swimming off.
Unfortunately, this also had the affect of provoking the grindylows, who were now after Harry. He began swimming as quickly as possible, and used his air element to keep them away from him, forming a huge bubble between them that they couldn't penetrate. As he continued hurrying, he wondered if he could replicate the bubble-head charm with that element.
He found the village in time to see Krum with a shark's head trying to figure out how to loosen the rope tied around the girl he'd taken to the Yule Ball. Next to her was a little girl that looked like a younger version of Fleur, and next to the little girl were Hermione and Ginny. All of the hostages seemed to be in an enchanted sleep, and there were mermen guarding them, yet they weren't bothering Viktor. Harry approached his hostages and took a glance at Krum, who was now swimming toward the bottom. Harry figured he was looking for a rock to break the ropes with. Seeing that the coast was clear, he used his air element to create a small pocket of air around a bit of each rope, and then used his fire element to burn that section of rope, freeing them. He put his arms around both waists, and prepared to swim upward, when he felt a familiar tugging sensation behind his navel. He didn't notice that the other two champions were watching him disappear.
Dripping wet, his hands and feet still webbed, and a bubble-head charm still over his head, Harry looked around. He quickly morphed his hands and feet back to normal, hoping it wouldn't be noticed as he watched Hermione and Ginny wake up on either side of him.
"Harry," said Hermione, looking around, "where are we?"
"I don't know. I grabbed both of you and we were portkeyed away." They were in a large, empty room with a high ceiling. All the walls had been painted black. Even the tile that they were now standing on was black, and Harry missed his shoes. "I'm freezing," he said as he used his fire element to warm them all up just enough. He pulled out his wand and took off the bubble-head charm. The others tried to pull out their wands.
"It's gone!" Ginny declared. "My wand is gone!"
"Mine, too!" said Hermione. "And I know I had it on me."
"McGonagall!" said both girls together.
"What about McGonagall?" asked Harry, now concerned.
"She was acting strangely last night," said Hermione.
"Like she'd been Imperius'd or something," added Ginny.
"How right you are," hissed a voice from the only door in the room, which had now opened. Harry would recognize that voice, as well as the red eyes and snake-like appearance of Voldemort. Harry was glad to see a few scars on his face from their last encounter. He was holding his wand and was followed by twenty masked Death Eaters, all with their wands at the ready. "I am glad that Wormtail was able to bewitch your head of house before his…indiscretion. It is a pity that he didn't get to enjoy a mudblood for the only thing they're good for. Isn't that right, Harry?"
"Don't lose your temper," Hermione whispered in Harry's ear. "The Horcruxes are gone so you can…"
"Stop whispering sweet nothings into your lover's ear, mudblood whore!" He flicked his wand slightly, and both girls were pushed to either side of the room, where four of Riddle's slaves grabbed each. "Just hold them, for now. Business first, fun later. No celebrations until after Potter dies," he said to his servants, who were looking at both girls like they were pieces of meat. "Now, Harry Potter and I shall duel, and I want no one to interfere as I prove once and for all, that I am the most powerful wizard alive." He then aimed his wand at Harry. "Crucio!" he shouted, and Harry quickly moved out of the way.
"Reducto!" he countered. Riddle dodged, but panted a bit.
"Avada Kedavra!" Harry ducked just in time. The green beam of light hit the wall.
For about five minutes, they kept shooting spells at each other and missing (with Death Eaters dodging just in time to avoid being hit), and Voldemort was panting hard. He put up a bubble-head charm and began to breath normally.
Harry pointed his wand at the bubble and caused it to collapse, angering Riddle.
"Crucio!" he shouted, finally hitting Harry in the chest. He fell to the floor, dropping his wand as the girls watched in horror. The Death Eaters were now laughing.
As Harry thrashed on the floor, he realized that it was now or never. He looked at Voldemort's wand hand and set in on fire.
"Ah!" he shouted for a moment as he dropped his wand. The fire began spreading as a look of realization came upon him "It was you, Potter. You were the elemental at the train. Now we'll duel for real." Suddenly wind blew at Voldemort, putting the fire out. The floor beneath Harry's bare feet turned into quicksand and he started running in place to keep from sinking. His wand was already below the surface when the Dark Lord began to rise above the floor, his black robe billowing in the wind he was creating.
'Cool!' thought Harry. 'I never realized I could do that with air.'
Theatrically, Voldemort pointed his hand at the Boy-Who-Lived. "And now, your pitiful life will be snuffed out by too much air.
Harry felt wind coming toward him, but countered with his own wind, at the same time making himself rise very clumsily from the floor.
"You control air as well?" asked Voldemort. "Impressive." He sent a burst of wind at Harry, who fell, but still managed to stay afloat. To everyone there, it looked like he was lying on a bed of air, using a trick some muggle magicians have done.
Hermione saw her chance and took it. The floor beneath every Death Eater in the room became quicksand. A moment later, Ginny lit all their wands on fire, causing them to drop their only weapons into the quicksand they were rapidly sinking into. Just as during the Hogwarts Express attack of fourteen months ago, Hermione didn't solidify the floor until only their heads were showing.
In the meantime, Harry was throwing fireballs at Tom, who was using the wind to blow them out, although he did get hit with a few that made a few extra scars on Riddle's ugly face. Harry was suddenly hit from behind with what felt like a Bludger, but turned out to be a chunk of the floor. He shook his head and sent more fire at his nemesis. During that distraction, Harry used the wind to get him closer to Voldemort. Close enough to punch him in the stomach hard.
The asthma-like condition in his foe immediately surfaced, and he was gasping for air even as his wind element blasted Harry away from him. He saw a bubble of air appear around Tom's head, and realized that he'd figured out how to use that element as a bubble-head charm. He focused on his own air control and stretched out that bubble, creating a vacuum inside it. He watched in disgust as Riddle gasped in horror, but knew what he had to do. He felt Voldemort try to eliminate the bubble, but Harry was concentrating much more at this moment. He kept stretching out the air pocket until finally, in a rather disgusting display, Tom Marvolo Riddle's head exploded.
Harry closed his eyes and barely stopped himself from retching at the sight. He lowered himself to the floor to see that Hermione and Ginny had taken out all the other Death Eaters, who were screaming profanities and threats at all of them until they realized that their master had been bested by a teenage boy. In unison, they all shut up as he glared at them.
He locked eyes with Hermione for a moment, and she nodded at him with a grim face. They all knew that now wasn't the time to celebrate. "Let's see if we can get my wand, Hermione," he said. She closed her eyes and concentrated as the area around where his wand had fallen became like quicksand again. Only this time, Hermione had the quicksand moving up and out for about five minutes until, finally, Harry's wand emerged. He caused a breeze to bring it to him safely before Hermione solidified the floor again.
"Thank you very much. Now, let's get out of here," he said as he walked toward the door. Just before opening it, he said, "This will confuse them until you two do the same thing to any other 'friends' we meet." He then morphed himself to look like Voldemort wearing tight trunks and a sleeveless t-shirt. He looked down at himself. "Can I borrow one of your robes?"
"Sure." Hermione took off her Gryffindor robe, revealing her jeans and a green jumper.
He opened the door and the dozen enemies in their immediately came to attention. One asked, "Is the pretender dead, my master?"
Harry grinned as all the wands in the room caught fire and the floor turned into quicksand. "He is." He then used his air element to cause the fire on two of the wands to go out as they sailed at the girls, so they would be able to perform regular spells.
The trio left those and the other twenty-six Death Eaters they found in that compound up to their necks in floor. When they walked out the door, Harry said, "I wish I'd found an extra pair of shoes."
"Do either of you have any idea where we are?" asked Ginny.
Harry shook his head while Hermione said, "No. Fortunately, I do still have a portkey necklace."
"Me, too," said Ginny.
"I left mine in my trunk," Harry said miserably. I didn't want to lose them in the lake."
"Understandable," said Hermione, supportively, although Harry could tell that she thought it was a bit foolish.
"I wish we could just apparate," Harry said.
"Well, we can't," said Hermione, "but we can floo from the house my portkey leads to."
Within minutes, the three teenagers, looking distinctly out-of-place, appeared at the Ministry atrium, having floo'd there from one of Harry's houses. He still wasn't wearing any shoes. They saw a group of 'Life Force' members running toward the apparition point when one of them shouted, "They're right here!"
All of them stopped and looked at the three teenagers, along with everyone else in that huge room. "It is him!" said another LF member. I can see his scar." He walked up to them. "We got a report that you three disappeared from the Triwizard Tournament. What happened?"
After telling them, Kingsley Shacklebolt, who'd been summoned there, taught Harry how to lead him in apparating, even when he wasn't performing the apparition itself. It was a rare variation of Side-Along Apparition. Once the auror had briefly checked out the place (and saw Voldemort's corpse), he apparated Harry back to the Ministry and created a portkey to bring several other officials to the spot.
Harry, Hermione and Ginny flooed to Hogwarts, where they learned that the two competing Headmasters insisted that Harry lose points because he was two hours late returning to the surface of the water. He received thirty points out of fifty for the task. McGonagall, who found the girls' wands in her quarters, tried to apologize for her part in the kidnapping, but Harry assured her that it wasn't her fault.
Epilogue: (more like a summary)
The rest of the school year passed without incident, aside from the awards ceremony that Harry, Hermione and Ginny had to attend to get their Orders of Merlin. Harry got first class while the girls got second class. They continued their N.E.W.T. studies in D.A.D.A., despite the fact that the prophecy was no longer hanging over Harry's head. The 3rd task came and went with no incident, and Harry managed to win the tournament.
After that, he, Hermione and Ginny took their DADA N.E.W.T. The tester commented that, "After defeating You-Know-Who, this test is only a formality." Harry didn't have to take any other final exams because he was in the tournament, but the girls both aced theirs.
With Voldemort gone, Dumbledore told Harry that he no longer had to stay with the Dursleys at all. This was probably the best news Harry had ever gotten.
The twins set up their shop almost immediately after the term ended, but were convinced to study for and take the N.E.W.T.s for the three subjects they had O.W.L.s in by Ginny.
Draco finally returned to Hogwarts for his fifth year, but he was taking all sixth-year classes since he'd managed to earn his O.W.L.s during that summer. He managed to properly gloat at Harry and Hermione about it, but it wasn't as hateful as it used to be. They never would exactly be friends, but they didn't have animosity like before. His mother moved back into Malfoy manor when Draco started attending Hogwarts.
Ron and Lavender broke up during the summer before their fifth year. Harry and Hermione married right after they finished Hogwarts. Neville and Ginny did a year later, after she finished.
Harry and Hermione had the careers you want them to have, and the children you want them to have, and they all lived happily ever after.
I hope you've enjoyed this story, and renew the challenge that I made long ago. Write an original story based off the premise of this one – Dumbledore answers the questions Harry asked at the end of his first year. I don't care what girl you pair him with. Let me know if you do, so that I can read it. You can even use the first scene of this story if you'd like, but the rest has to be original.
I hope you don't mind the careers and kids line. I've already written them having the careers and kids I'd like them to have in other stories, so I thought I'd leave it up to you. Maybe you can let me know what you'd choose for them in your reviews.
Please review. Thank you to those who have.
By the way, in this HBP (but not DH) compatible story, Harry's scar is not a Horcrux, and his mastery of occlumency allowed him to face Voldemort without pain.