Chapter 12: The Third Task
AN: Dun dun dun! The Third Task is here! Join Harry as he faces perils unknown and dangers unheard of. As a side note, there were some misinterpretations of my AN from the last chapter – yes, I have jumped ship to Harry/Daphne, but Another Chance will continue to be H/G. I'm not that bad an author that I'll completely turn a pre-planned story on its head for my latest ship.
Previously, on Another Chance ...
Then, as she sat there, a small piece of information – something Harry had mentioned in passing – started nagging her. She scratched her head, trying to figure it out, and then, it hit her like a ton of bricks. Like a dart, she leapt off the couch and ran to the Quidditch Pitch as fast as her legs would take her.
Ginny made it to Harry just before Bagman's whistle sounded. He started at seeing her, and a look of rapturous joy had spread across his face. She grabbed his arm, to tell him what she had realized, but Bagman's whistle sounded.
"I love you," he whispered, and with that, he was off.
"HARRY! WAIT!" she bellowed, but it was too late. He was already in the maze, and Professor McGonagall grasped Ginny's arm and was gently but firmly leading her to the stands where Hermione and the rest of the Weasley family were cheering wildly. Ginny followed her in a daze, desperately hoping that Harry would notice his huge blunder and come out of his encounter with Voldemort alive.
Harry dashed into the maze, his spirits considerably higher than they had been a few minutes ago. He had not expected Ginny to make it to the Task before it started, and he had most certainly not expected her to forgive him that easily. His heart soared as he took a left on the first fork in the maze, and he felt as if he could take on anything the maze threw at him.
But as he went deeper and deeper into the maze, his euphoria started to fade. No dangers had cropped up as yet, and the hairs on the back of his neck were prickling. The old feeling of being watched returned, and knew Barty Crouch was making use of Mad-Eye's magical eye. Shaking himself out of his reverie, he did a quick Point Me Spell and took another left at the next fork.
He had only jogged down a few steps when he encountered the first of the magical creatures Hagrid had put in the maze. It was one of the few surviving Blast-Ended Skrewts. Harry noticed it was nearly ten feet long now. He whipped out his wand, and at the same time, the Skrewt saw him and snarled, charging towards him.
"Impedimenta!" he cried aiming for the Skrewt's soft underbelly, but as luck would have it, the monster's end exploded at exactly that moment and it was propelled several feet forward. Harry's spell flew past it harmlessly and he barely managed to sidestep its charge.
Harry was now within range of its stinger and it slashed down at him. He jumped backwards and, mustering every bit of magical power he had, he yelled, "Serpentsortia! Serpentsortia! Serpentsortia!"
Three monstrous snakes emerged from his wand, each as long as the Skrewt.
"Finish it!" he instructed in Parseltongue. The snakes turned and started circling the Skrewt. Harry hurried down past them, and the last thing he heard before he rounded the corner was an roar filled with pain as one of the snakes sank its teeth into the Skrewt's underbelly.
Soon, he came along the floating golden mist he had seen the past time. He walked through it unharmed, although he felt rather nauseous when his world turned upside down. He came across another fork, and as a flash of fire lit the path on the left, he hastily sped down the other route.
He had not gone on for long, when a cold, clammy feeling filled his insides. A dementor loomed in front of him and drew a chattering breath. The temperature of the surroundings dropped considerably, and Harry heard the distant screams of his mother as she tried to fend off Voldemort. He remembered this obstacle; it was a Boggart.
"Riddikulus!" he yelled, but nothing happened. Again, "Riddikulus! Riddikulus! Riddikulus!" Still nothing. Harry's mind whirled as the Boggart drew closer and his vision swam. And then, like a flash of lightning, an idea struck him. He thought back to the Yule Ball when Ginny had kissed him accidentally, concentrating on the scent of her hair and the feel of her lips against his own, and bellowed, "Expecto Patronum!"
Prongs emerged from the tip of Harry's wand, nearly three times its normal size and charged at the dementor. It screeched and fled, with Harry's patronus galloping ferociously after it. Harry shook his head and set down the path after them.
"First left, second right, right again, left," he murmured, rushing past hedges as he repeated the directions from the map he had made. He came to a screeching halt there, as he saw Cedric on the ground with one of the acromatulas from the forest hovering over him. "Stupefy!" he roared, effectively distracting the spider and allowing Cedric to roll out from under it.
"Run!" Harry bellowed, and Cedric didn't listen. He stood up gingerly and pointed his wand at the spider which was clicking its pincers angrily at Harry. The raven-haired boy rolled his eyes and cast a powerful, "Confringo!" at the ground near it. His aim was true and the Explosion Hex caused the spider to fly several feet above the hedges and land into one of the adjacent paths. Mud splattered on both Cedric and Harry, and the Hufflepuff stared at Harry open-mouthed.
"How did you do that?" he demanded. "That's a Seventh Year spell."
Harry shrugged. "Read it in a book."
He edged his way past the giant crater which had formed where his spell had struck and, wondering how Cedric had gotten ahead of him, he sped down the path and towards the centre of the maze. He was getting close to the Cup now. Behind him, he could hear Cedric's footsteps and he increased his speed. Suddenly, a loud scream pierced his ears – it was Fleur. He shivered. Crouch Jr must have put Krum under the Imperius Curse then.
Again, the temperature around him dropped and his insides turned to ice. Another dementor loomed in front of him, but this time Harry was sure it was a Boggart.
"Riddikulus!" he cried, and sure enough, the Boggart turned into a wisp of smoke. He heard Cedric swear under his breath and realized that the Hufflepuff was tailing him. He cast a Tripping Jinx on the floor and rushed ahead. Sure enough, he heard a dull thud as Cedric tripped and fell. Satisfied that he had lost him, Harry took another right, followed by a left, only to find himself face to face the same Sphinx he had seen in the previous timeline. This Sphinx recited the same riddle word for word and Harry quickly gave her the answer. She nodded, smiled, and stepped aside, letting him walk through.
He was almost there. Casting another Tripping Jinx in case Cedric was following him he hurried forward. He turned around the corner which should have led him to the Cup, but to his complete and utter surprise, Cedric was already there, racing towards it.
"No!" he shouted, but Cedric only sped up. Harry raced after him, but Cedric's legs were longer. There was no way he would be able to catch him on time. Desperately, he tried to think up a way to stall him. The acromatula that had attacked him in the previous timeline had already been taken care of. A rough memory formed in Harry's head, and then –
"Accio Triwizard Cup!" he bellowed. The Cup flew from its position and sailed over Cedric's head. The Hufflepuff gave a yell of frustration as Harry caught it, but Harry paid him no heed. The Portkey had taken effect and he felt a pull around his navel as he was transported to the Little Hangleton graveyard.
There was an eerie silence in the graveyard when Harry appeared there. There was a smell of something in the air – a rancid smell that Harry had smelt before only at places where the darkest of magic had been preformed. He had smelt it in the original timeline too, but at the time, he hadn't realized what it was.
"Hello?" he called out, hoping to alert Wormtail of his presence. There was the sound of gravel crunching, and a twig snapped somewhere in front of him. He pulled out his wand and edged forwards, waiting for the rat to disarm him, when, without warning, he felt something touch the back of his neck.
He jumped and whirled around, and to his complete and utter surprise, there stood Lucius Malfoy with his wand pointed at Harry's neck.
"Malfoy," Harry grit his teeth. "What are you doing here?"
"My my, Mr Potter," sneered the elder Malfoy, taking a step forward. "Didn't Dumbledore teach you any manners?"
Harry grit his teeth, and said nothing, the wheels in his head whirring. How had the timeline altered that much? What could he possibly have done that would have directed Malfoy towards Voldemort? But before he could deliberate much, a wordless stunner from Malfoy hit him and everything went black.
When he came to, his head was pounding. This had definitely not happened the first time around. Malfoy was standing over him, and he was bound to Tom Riddle's gravestone, as he had been the first time around. This gave him some small consolation – at least something was proceeding in the same manner. But then to his horror, Harry saw several cloaked figures – maybe six or so - behind Malfoy. He couldn't make out who they were, but they were clearly Death-Eaters. Malfoy must have cast a Renervate on him to waken him, Harry realized, and he was at the last part of the ritual.
"Blood of the enemy, forcibly taken, you will revive your foe!" chanted Malfoy. He was proceeding much more calmly than Wormtail had, but there was still a bead of sweat on his forehead as he slashed open Harry's left arm – a far deeper cut than Wormtail had made – letting his blood dribble into a vial. Harry winced, but did nothing. He was more focused on processing the changes to the timeline. He tried to block out his headache and think clearly, but the overwhelming feeling of ambient dark magic prevented him from doing so.
The presence of additional Death-Eaters was not too much of a blow, he decided, as long as Voldemort allowed the duel to happen. He knew the Dark Lord well enough to know that there was a high likelihood for that to happen – Voldemort would want to make an example of him.
Malfoy carried Harry's blood over to the simmering cauldron and poured it in. But to Harry's shock and horror, instead of turning a blinding white – as Harry remembered from his pensieve memories – the cauldron turned a vapid shade of green. Was this a different ritual? He held his breath and waited.
The cauldron shook once. It shook twice. There was utter silence in the graveyard – even the animals knew to stay away from the source of such dark magic. The smell – it was impossible to get used to so vile a smell – was still there. Harry's wand was conspicuous in its absence from his pocket. The cauldron shook again. By now the Death-Eaters were getting restless. Someone snarled out an order, and one of them, without taking his eyes off the cauldron, shuffled closer to Harry.
The grumbling from the Death-Eaters was getting louder. Finally a Death-Eater stepped forward, and tentatively touched the cauldron. With an almighty heave, the cauldron tipped over. Dark green liquid spewed over the ground ugly child's body that Harry remembered hosting Voldemort's spirit rolled out. The ritual hadn't worked. Harry's mind churned. What had gone wrong? Had the spirit died in the ritual that, as was becoming increasingly obvious, had been botched?
And then, as if to answer him, an unholy shriek that tore through the silence, a dark mass of vapour emanated from the body. The Death-Eater who had tipped over the cauldron turned around to flee, but before he had taken even a single step, the vapour shot towards him and he fell to his feet. When he stood up, shaking, his face was contorted. Even from his distance, Harry could see the red eyes that had haunted so many of his nightmares, and those slits for nostrils. Slowly, the figure raised its wand, and pointed it at Harry.
"The boy," it rasped. "Bring me the boy."
AN: Let me know what you think. Reviews and constructive criticism welcome, as always. On another note, the remainder of the story has been completed, up to and including the epilogue, so you needn't despair of my finishing it. Happy Spring, folks (or Fall, for folks down under)!