A/N The obligatory author's note. I own none of the rights, nor make money, nor gain fame, glamor, or anything else but a lack of sleep from the Harry Potter universe.
Also, please note. This is a darker story with emotional pain, character death, revenge, and other issues. It is not a light-hearted story by any means.
A/N 3 Years later: I can't believe it's been that long. I just published chapter 24, and to come back and read the beginning . . . has my writing ever changed. I've thought about reworking the first few chapters, but I also like the idea of this story being snapshots of my progression in writing. With that said, the first six or so chapters are rocky, but there's still a charm in them, I think (or, at least, I hope). Nevertheless, I've been told that the writing takes a dramatic turn upward six or seven chapters in. So, be patient with it at the start and enjoy the story. I'm still enjoying writing it.
Mazes and Resurrections
A young wizard in a Hogwarts cloak walked across the lawn towards what was once the Quidditch pitch, taking comfort in the two best friends by his side. Their relationship had changed this year. He and Ron had some rough times in the beginning, but by the time they had pulled a young Veela out of the lake, it was ancient history and they had grown much closer.
Hermione, however, both amused and annoyed Harry to no end. He bit back a laugh, thinking about SPEW. She was dedicated and brilliant, if a bit touched in the head about certain issues. Of course, that amused him even more. What annoyed him however was the way she smiled every time Fleur would pass on a message from Gabrielle. He could still hear the light sarcasm—as if she was playfully trying to educate Fleur on something.
"Oh, look, Fleur's playing mail-owl again," or "Don't you find it odd that Gabrielle can't send an Owl to you?"
Of course, yesterday was even worse. "What are you going to do if your sister forgets to write?" she asked Fleur.
Harry still didn't understand why Hermione cackled as the blushing Veela walked away.
"You ready?" she asked, as if she sensed he was thinking about her.
Harry looked out over the green lawns towards the Maze for the third task, and beyond that to the setting sun in the distance. "Ready? I'm looking forward to it being over."
"After dragons and mermaids, I can't blame you," Ron agreed. "Who knows what you'll be facing tonight."
"Ronald!" Hermione said. "Don't fill his head with those types of thoughts!"
"Fill his head? What, you think he hasn't thought about it already?"
Hermione stuffed her hands in her pockets and rolled her eyes. "Well, I do know that if it was Quidditch you would've talked him to death about it."
Harry laughed. "Hey, Ron, maybe this summer I can come to the Burrow earlier and we can practice. Gryffindor needs a keeper next year."
"Brilliant! We can ask mum before she goes home tonight."
"Boys and Quidditch," Hermione mumbled. "Ever think about reading a book during the summer? Maybe studying ahead so you don't have to rely on someone else to correct your essays?"
"Where's the fun in that?" Ron asked.
Harry choked back another laugh.
Drawing closer to the pitch, he began to think about the task. All he had to do was get through the maze and find the cup. If an obstacle was too hard, he'd just backtrack and go a different way. How hard could that be?
The crowd noise shook him out of his thoughts. The stadium was bright with lights that turned the coming night into day and the clouds overhead glowed red from the remaining sunlight.
"It was nice of your mum and Bill to come visit me today," Harry said as he caught sight of a ginger-haired family in the distant stands.
"Dad is here too," Ron said. "He took the Floo into Professor McGonagall's office about an hour ago. Charlie tried to make it, but one his dragons got sick. It'd take a death in the family to get him home now."
They stopped at the tunnel entrance that led out to the field.
"Anyway, good luck Harry. Tomorrow's Sunday so we'll stay up tonight and plan the summer." Ron nodded to Hermione. "We might even invite her if she's lucky."
"Ron!" Hermione half-yelled, half-gushed.
Harry bit back another chuckle. How long before they finally got together?
She turned back to him and gave him a big hug. "Good luck!" she said. Then, with dancing eyes and a much quieter voice, "Oh look, it's Fleur, like I said, good luck!"
Harry caught Hermione's smile before she quickly turned her back to him and ushered Ron off to find his family. He shook his head, again humored and annoyed at the bushy-haired brat. At least, that's how he felt about her when she smirked at him like that.
He watched them walk along the back of the stands, but in the light of the setting sun, he couldn't help notice the Forbidden Forest in the distance –more than one memory came to mind of their exploits there.
"'Ello, 'Arry. Ready for the last task?" Fleur Delacour asked as she walked by.
"I'm ready for it to be over, more than anything else. How's Gabrielle doing?" Harry asked, pulling himself back to the present.
Fleur shrugged. "Not so well. They 'ad to go back to France."
"Why? What's wrong?" he asked, deeply concerned for the girl two years younger than him. He couldn't help feeling a brother-like protectiveness toward her ever since that fateful day in the Black Lake; a feeling that only grew stronger thanks to Fleur.
"She'll be okay, but I'd be careful next time I saw 'er, no?" Fleur teased as they walked through the tunnel to the field. "Gabrielle's Veela 'eritage is emerging and my sister likes you."
Harry felt a spark of indignation at the look Fleur was giving him. It was too close to the way she looked at him the night his name came out of the Goblet of Fire.
"They are saying that this little boy is to compete also!"
"Little boy," he whispered to himself.
"What was that, 'Arry?" Fleur asked.
He shook his head as they stepped out of the tunnel. Before them, expanding from one side of the stadium to the other, sat the maze. The hedges had grown impossibly high over the last few weeks, not to mention thick. To their right, half way down the pitch, stood Cedric and Krum with Mr. Bagman. Harry and Fleur started towards them.
"Don't worry, I'll protect you," Fleur whispered in Harry's ear.
Harry stopped dead on the spot, his heart pounding as his anger flared. After the first two tasks and the rumors of his past encounters that she had assuredly heard, why in the bloody hell would he need her protection?
He didn't realize his thoughts and emotions were playing across his face.
"From my sister, 'Arry. I was only joking," Fleur clarified.
Before he could say anymore, they arrived at the starting point. Harry felt Mr. Bagman's arm on his shoulder and shook it off before he could separate Harry from the other Champions.
"Isn't time to start?" Harry asked.
"Yes, I guess it is, isn't it!" the ex-Quidditch player answered, exuding a lot more cheer than Harry felt.
A moment later, Ludo Bagman's voice boomed across the stadium. "The time has come to begin!"
The crowd roared its approval, but Harry tuned it all out, now trying to concentrate on the task before him and settle his nerves. He stood side-by-side with Cedric at the entrance to the maze. The whistle blew and they entered together.
As soon as they crossed the invisible line separating the outside of the maze from the entry path, the crowd noise ceased. Twenty feet further, Cedric broke the silence as they jogged. "Would you have preferred this, or chasing a Snitch for the last task?"
"This," Harry answered quickly. "Don't you remember what Krum did to that Irish Seeker?"
Cedric chuckled. They came to the end of the entrance path and he turned to Harry. "Good luck."
"You too," Harry replied before going to his left and following the path a few feet, then turning to his right at the next opening.
A few minutes later, Harry figured he had passed the center by twenty yards or more, so he took the next right and tried to loop around; hoping to find an opening that would let him into what he thought was the inner-part of the maze.
After ten minutes and whispering "point me" more times than he could count, Harry came to an opening on his left and stepped through it, facing another set of hedges that magically thinned out before him. Looking through them, he saw into the next path and through that into another one. The hedges on the other side of that path were thicker and taller, which meant the cup was just beyond them.
In the back of Harry's mind, a warning flashed. There was no way he should have been able to get this close to the cup without encountering much more than a Boggart and a specialized Repelling Charm.
Unfortunately, Harry was too intent on it being over to hear his own warning.
Turning to his left again, he ran up a path and was about to make a right when he heard Cedric screaming in pain.
There wasn't even a moment's hesitation as Harry ran towards Cedric's voice, making his way through the maze as fast as possible.
Cedric screamed again and Harry stopped and backtracked a few yards.
He had to be on the other side of the hedge.
A few small branches and leaves fell to the ground, but the hole wasn't big enough for Harry to step through it.
"Expulso!" The hedge shook with the impact of the curse, opening a larger hole, but it still wasn't big enough. It took Harry two more attempts before he was able to step through it. He found Cedric lying on the ground, his skin white and glistening with sweat, his eyes wide in horror.
A creature that Harry vaguely remembered as a Porlock stood at Cedric's feet. The shaggy, three-foot tall, cloven-hoofed creature stared down at the Champion on the ground, waiting.
Cedric shook his head and tried to sit up, but the Porlock opened its mouth, emitting a piercing sound. Cedric screamed, turned white, and fell back to the ground.
"Stupefy!" Harry cried out. The spell hit it and deflected off without any noticeable effect.
"Flipendo!" Again, there was no effect.
Cedric stirred and raised his head, coming to. Once again, the Porlock opened its mouth.
"Incarcerous!" Harry cried, desperate to do something. The ropes wrapped tightly around the creature, covering its body and mouth, effectively muffling whatever sound it was making. Harry stepped closer and reached down to help Cedric up. Back on his feet, the two of them turned and ran the opposite direction.
"What was that?" Harry asked as they ran down a long pathway.
"I'd kiss a Skrewt if you could tell me," Cedric answered. "Every time it'd make that noise my entire body felt like it was being torn apart."
They turned a corner, then another corner, losing themselves further into the maze.
Finally Harry stopped. "You know what curse that sounds like, don't you?"
"What are you thinking?"
"The Cruciatus Curse."
"I don't know, I've never experienced it." Cedric answered, adjusting his robes and wiping off the dirt. "It's painful enough, but I've never heard of the Cruciatus knocking people out before. It's more like the Cruciatus is a copy of that thing."
Harry inspected his wand, not wanting to meet Cedric's eyes as his thoughts fell into place. "Maybe you're right."
"Maybe it wasn't an accident that it was you and not me that happened upon the Porlock."
"What are you gobbing on about?" Cedric asked.
"How many creatures and impediments have you come up against?"
"I'd have to say, six or so. It's about what I—"
"A Boggart and a Repelling Charm," Harry said. "Outside of that, I've had none."
The two boys looked at each other silently, the task forgotten.
Cedric broke the silence after a few moments, his voice contemplative. "Probably half the creatures were dark. It surprised me the first couple times."
"The only surprise for me was the hedges thinning so I could see the inner hedge around the cup is on. Why would you have it so hard, and I so easy?"
Cedric took a deep breath, finally making the connection. "You didn't put your name in the Goblet, did you?" he asked.
"That means you've spent the whole year looking behind your back, again."
"Glad you finally realized it," Harry said a bit sarcastically.
"I guess I deserved that."
"Yeah, well, maybe next time someone will believe me."
"Probably deserved that, as well," Cedric said as he looked up and down the path they were on. "So, I guess that means you're a target, right?"
Harry couldn't help but smile. "Some things never change."
"Oh, but they do." The Hufflepuff Champion contradicted him. "Whoever it is, set you up so that Weasley and Granger can't be with you. Someone wants you alone."
Harry thought about it for a few seconds before Cedric continued. "I don't think I'm going to allow it to happen. We're going to stick together and get you out safely."
"Don't worry about it," Harry protested. "I can handle it myself."
"Look, I know you defeated a basilisk, a Defense Against the Dark Arts professor who was possessed by Voldemort, and even, if the rumor is true, saved a Hippogriff named Buckbeak; but you didn't do any of it on your own."
"How did you know about Buck—?"
"So you did save Buckbeak!"
"That one was as much a guess as anything else, but you and the Weasleys aren't the only ones who have the ability to find out things around here. Nothing stays a secret at this school for too long."
Harry grunted his amusement as the older Champion continued. "Look, I care more about us living than winning this tournament and two wands are better than one. What do you say?"
Harry thought about for couple seconds. "Fine, but if we find the cup, you can take it. I just want it to be over."
Cedric chuckled. "We'll argue about that if we find the cup."
They walked back up the path, tracing their steps. Harry led, pointing his wand and illuminating the way. It seemed but a few minutes later they heard Fleur screaming.
The two young wizards raced to the end of their path, weaving back and forth through the paths until they found Fleur, levitating four feet in the air. A spell had laid dormant on the ground, waiting for someone to walk over it.
Harry reached out to take her hand, but a nasty shock lit up his body and hurtled him backwards.
Cedric pointed his wand at Fleur. "Finite Incantatem."
The Beauxbatons Champion dropped unceremoniously to the ground with a thud. Cedric knelt to make sure she was okay.
"Quelle était cette?"
"Excusez-moi?" Harry asked. It was the only French he knew.
"What was zhat?" Fleur interpreted.
"I think the more important question is," Cedric began, looking at Harry, "how many things like this have you come across?"
"Five or six, I think, why do you ask? You have had the same, no?"
"I haven't," Harry answered in a small voice. He was sick to his stomach at the thought of the three Champions enduring the dark spells and creatures on his account. "I haven't come across anything worse than a Boggart and I walked through this very spot twenty minutes ago."
"What is the meaning of this?" Fleur looked from Harry to Cedric, then back to Harry.
"I think it means we stick together," Cedric said. "Someone is trying to get Harry to the middle of the maze, alone. With the number of dark creatures I've seen, I doubt it's so he can get another article in The Daily Prophet."
Harry shot Cedric a dirty look, Cedric winked and smirked back at him.
"'Arry, you said you were just 'ere?"
She thought for a few more seconds before asking, "But who would be after you? You're just—"
"A leetle boy?" Harry spat out, cutting her off and mocking her accent. He rolled his eyes and walked up the path to the next break in the hedges. He waited there, keeping an eye out for anything coming towards them, but he could still hear their conversation.
"I didn't mean it like that—only 'e's fourteen. Who would want to 'arm a fourteen year old boy?" Fleur asked, sounding defensive.
"I would never call him that," Cedric contradicted. "That 'boy' has gone up against more dark magic his first two years here than half the Wizarding world did during the war with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Harry's pulled off some amazing feats. Your sister was the second life he saved in the last two years and the much easier one to save at that."
Fleur's eyes narrowed. "Stop teasing, Cedric. I know 'e saved my sister, but. . . ." Her voice faded out.
"And you were there, no?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.
"No, I wasn't, but—"
"Then anything could 'ave happened. After the lake, I believe 'Arry would risk himself for anyone, but stories get carried away sometimes, no?"
"They don't with him, he downplays just about everything. Come, walk with me."
Harry turned around as they approached him.
"Thank you for helping me," Fleur began.
"It's not a big deal," he mumbled.
She glanced at Cedric. "I still thank you. Cedric says that you've fought dark creatures before?"
Harry flashed Cedric a "Why did you tell her" look, not realizing he was confirming Cedric's words to Fleur.
"Then it's true? So, are they after you again?"
"All I know is that I didn't put my name in the Goblet last fall and now, the paths are being cleared for me to get to the cup while you all are dealing with dark spells and creatures that most definitely would not have been approved by Dumbledore."
"Madame Maxime would not 'ave approved them either. I think you're right Cedric, we must stay together and find zhe exit."
Cedric shook his head. "The exit'll be blocked. I think our best bet is to find Krum and all four of us forfeit."
"Non, the magic will not allow that, remember? We must finish the tournament."
"Then let's find Krum and be finished," Harry interjected. He raised his wand and whispered Lumos, then took the lead as the three of them continued through the maze.
Five minutes later, the three of them were staring at Victor Krum, who had them at wand point, but instead of cursing them, he fell to his knees.
"Nein! I vill not! I vill not!" After a few more moments, Krum shouted out again. "Nein!"
He fell to the ground, gasping for breath.
"Krum?" Cedric called out, his wand raised, now standing in front of Harry and Fleur.
"I tink, Imperious Curse. Wanted me look for you and Veela."
Harry felt his insides knot up.
"Is someone after the two of you?" Krum asked, before turning to Harry. "Or is someone trying to get you alone?"
"How did you figure that out?" Harry asked.
"I vatched your reactions the night you were chosen for the tournament. Someone has planned something for you, don't they?"
"That's what we think," Cedric answered, "and it's why we've decided to stay together. You with us?"
"Ja, I think it is good idea."
"I'll take lead," Harry said, swallowing the bile that was now rising in his throat. "The maze seems to respond to my presence."
A few minutes later, Fleur called out, "I see it. There's the cup!"
Harry saw it too, about the same time he heard the sharp intake of breath from the three other Champions. They had finally realized that the hedges really were thinning out for him.
The four of them walked to the end of the path, made a right, doubled back, and then made a left. One more turn and they were standing in front of the cup.
"Who should take it?" wondered Fleur. "I don't think I want it now."
"Harry," Krum and Cedric said at the same time.
"It vould be shock to those who thought they vould catch him," Krum explained.
"No," Harry protested, "We made it through the maze together, we should take it together."
"Are you sure?" Fleur asked.
"Yeah. Either that, or none of us are going to take it and we'll end up sitting here all night."
Cedric laughed, "Cheeky little Fourth Year aren't you? Well, if that's our only option to get out of here, then I think it's a smashing good plan."
They surrounded the cup and Harry ended up facing Fleur.
"Gabrielle will love that 'Arry is such a gentleman. I will 'ave to work 'ard to protect you."
She winked at Harry.
On cue, Harry blushed and the other Champions began to laugh. He joined in after a few moments and they all laughed harder than they'd laughed all year. A wave of relief washed over Harry. They had made it, safe.
"Ready for the tournament to be over?" Harry asked.
"Ever since seeing the dragon in the first task," Fleur answered.
They all reached for the cup together.
X ~ X ~ X ~ X
The darkness was overwhelming. Harry lay on the ground, barely able to see the Tri-Wizard cup that doubled as a Portkey. It sat on its side on the crest of a little hill on which they had landed. Fleur and Krum disappeared down the incline. Hopefully they were okay.
"I didn't see that coming," Cedric mumbled at Harry's side.
"Neither did I." Harry lifted his head and looked around, but he was too disoriented to notice anything out of the ordinary until a voice, high, cold, and straight out of Harry's nightmares, greeted him.
"Welcome, little Harry Potter. I've been waiting for you to complete my return."
Harry flipped over and pushed himself up off the ground, raising his wand to face Voldemort.
What he saw instead, was a bevy of Death Eaters standing between him and . . . that thing. Whatever it was, it wasn't human.
"Come now," the cold voice taunted, "let's not let such a thing as distaste in my appearance come between such old friends, shall we, Harry Potter? We have so much history together for one who was as young as you when we first met."
Harry instinctively circled away from the cup and the other three Champions, hoping they'd be smart enough to keep their heads down and not be spotted.
"Master," a small, frightened voice interrupted. "It is done. The wards are down."
Harry thought hard about cursing Wormtail on the spot. He didn't care about falling wards. Standing before him now, were the two beings most responsible for the death of his parents.
He seethed with rage.
"So much anger, little Harry Potter," chastised Voldemort with a mockery of paternal concern. "Be careful, or you might turn out. . ."—he paused, looking at all the Death Eaters standing around him, then grinned wickedly—". . . like me."
Sycophant laughter filled the night.
"BIND HIM!" Voldemort ordered.
Harry was hit with too many Incarcerous Spells to count. He fell over and rolled down the slight incline of the graveyard two or three times before coming to a stop. He was close enough that Cedric could hear him if he whispered, but he had to make it fast.
"Go, slide down to the bottom of the hill. Don't stay here for this."
Harry barely finished before he was picked up by a spell and thrown against a headstone.
"Don't you think it is appropriate, little Harry Potter, since you almost put me in the grave that my incarnation should happen in a grave yard?"
Harry didn't give him the dignity of a response.
Voldemort let out a small, private laugh that meant for only Harry and him before turning to the closest Death Eater. "Lucius, I believe it is time. Take your sister-in-law and exact the purging you've been wishing for."
Bellatrix cackled with laughter, along with thirty Death Eaters who had walked out of Azkaban earlier in the evening when the Dementors changed allegiances, and many others that Harry couldn't see.
Most of them Disapparated with Lucius, leaving only ten Death Eaters with Voldemort. Two of them set about a cauldron that was boiling, stirring it and adding the finishing touches.
"My Lord, we are ready."
"After so many years," Voldemort mused, "and to think, I have the pleasure of Harry Potter's blood to make it happen."
Harry struggled desperately to remove the ropes that bound him. Twice he could see one of the other Champions trying to reach him, but Harry shook his head each time. Helping him would only betray their safety. If he were to escape, he'd do it alone rather than risk the lives of others.
Harry watched as Cedric began his rescue attempt, but Harry shook his head again. Cedric understood, but was not happy with the circumstances. He pulled himself over the crest and down the hill, leaving Harry alone.
A wand came up and a spell was cast. Harry gritted his teeth as the Death Eater cut his forearm. Blood flowed freely down over his wrist and hand. The Death Eater caught it in a vial and walked over to the cauldron.
After another stir, a second Death Eater lowered into the cauldron a small, grotesque Voldemort hissing in pain. The first Death Eater waited until his master was fully immersed, then turned the vial upside down and poured the blood in.
The contents of the cauldron turned red and began to froth and bubble violently. Distortions appeared everywhere Harry looked. The ground crumpled like a piece of paper. The trees in the distance folded in on themselves. Harry felt a pressure as if the very fabric of the universe was twisting, pulling, threatening to snap in its transition into another reality. Then he realized that was exactly what was happening.
Death had been cheated.
Voldemort rose, tall and strong. He levitated himself out of the cauldron and reached for his wand, which Wormtail handed to him.
"And now, Wormtail, for your reward."
A look of sheer joy and greed grew in Peter Pettigrew's eyes.
Wormtail fell to the ground, dead.
"I have no use for those who would betray their best friends. They can't be trusted," he mocked.
Harry looked on in absolute horror. He spared no feelings for Pettigrew, but was sickened by the ease with which Voldemort killed him.
"Now, what shall we do with you?" Voldemort taunted Harry. He waved his wand and the ropes fell off. Harry stood up and moved back towards the spot where he'd been bound and dropped his wand.
He almost made it when he saw Voldemort's hand move. Harry's survivor instincts kicked in and he dove to the ground, fetching his own wand and shouting a curse at Voldemort.
A streak of red light shot out of his wand, but the newly enfleshed Dark Lord fended it off easily.
"If you want to duel with me, little Harry Potter, then face me like a wizard and duel."
Harry stood up, but no sooner did he get to his feet then Voldemort hit him with the Cruciatus Curse.
Harry had just enough time to gain his breath before he was cursed again, and again, and again.
~ . ~ . ~
At the bottom of the hill, the other three Champions watched as the sky lit up with curses and cringed at the sound of Harry's voice rasping and growling, though he refused to scream.
"Ve must rescue him. I von't leave him to die."
"Oui, but 'ow?
"I have a plan," Cedric announced. "Spread out along this hill. On my signal, we rush to the top and engage from three different angles."
"That will probably get us all killed," Fleur said, but a couple of seconds later she conceded. "I can't think of anything else. Let's go get our fourth Champion."
Cedric smirked. "I may have to take back everything I said about the French."
"Why?" she asked. "I'm Veela, not French." Her silent laughter ended as she heard more curses slam into his body, followed by Harry growling in pain. She glanced up to see the colors dancing against the backdrop of the black sky, hoping that green had been left out of the macabre rainbow.
"Alright, can the two of you Apparate?"
"Good. As soon as I can get to Harry, I'll side-Apparate him back, but we can't Apparate into Hogwarts. Do you remember where the three of us met last fall, just beyond the school gates on the road to Hogsmeade? Apparate there."
"Sehr gut. I vill take the left side."
"Then I will take the right side."
They spread out below the hill and on Cedric's signal, raced up it.
Krum, having spent his educational life in Durmstrang, had no issues about the use of a killing curse. Fleur, living in France and thus, under different laws, felt free to cast it as well. It was legal in Wizarding Europe when faced with a mortal threat. Cedric was a Hufflepuff and Harry was in danger. Loyalty knows no bounds, laws be damned. And the moment they could see over the hill, three Death Eaters were dead before they hit the ground.
Cedric came up closest to Harry and took aim on a second Death Eater as he ran towards the younger Champion, but Voldemort's wand sliced through the air. The green curse hit Cedric and he fell back down the hill, his eyes staring blankly at the night sky.
~ . ~ . ~
Harry raged and his magic magnified as he began firing curse after curse, his pain all but forgotten in his anger, but Voldemort continued to deflect his curses as the Death Eaters tried to engage the younger, faster Champions.
To his right, Fleur killed another Death Eater and was making her way over to Harry when Voldemort turned to cast the Killing Curse at her.
Harry saw it before it happened and in that moment, something broke loose from within. The first curse he could think of exploded from his wand.
Time slowed down as Harry watched his curse reach out and touch Voldemort, sending him to his knees. At the same moment, Harry realized two truths. One, when he really meant it, his spells were much more powerful; especially dark spells cast in hatred and anger. Two, as soon as this spell was over, Harry was going to die either instantly, or a very slow, very painful death for these two seconds of victory.
He quickly cast another curse, hoping to avoid the second truth completely.
But Voldemort was too fast. He had already recovered and cast his own curse.
The ground shook as the two curses collided, exploding in multiple colors and sound. Harry felt his wand jerk in his hand, pulling him forward and almost to the ground. He noticed however, that the same thing happened to Voldemort. Then he realized why; their wands had linked together somehow through cast curses. He could feel Voldemort's power vibrating through the wand, both feeding him and tearing at him, but he could also feel the power that he had pushed through his wand attacking Voldemort.
The streaks of color from both wands began to merge and fade, turning almost translucent. Another sound rent the air and from the middle of the golden beam that now attached the two wands, a second beam struck the ground and began to expand. Like a lake being fed from a waterfall, it expanded in the blink of an eye and everything in its way exploded outwards as it encountered rocks, headstones, and even small trees.
Streaks of light lanced through the air, arcing over them and meeting twenty feet above the ground, trapping them as their wands stayed connected. Harry grabbed his with both hands, and thrust his magic through it towards Voldemort, surging it into the golden beam that hummed louder and louder as they battled in the strange duel.
Voldemort's magic fought against the surge, attempting to push it back towards Harry's wand. A magical harmonic vibrated back though the golden beam from the amount of magic pushed into it, and both wands now shook violently.
~ . ~ . ~
Fleur could see the remaining five Death Eaters who were looking around, unsure what to do. She looked over at Krum and together, they agreed silently to take advantage of the Death Eater's confusion. Moving to the side of the golden dome that now entrapped Harry, Fleur took aim and hit one of them with a stunner. Krum did the same on the other side, leaving only three Death Eaters left.
Fleur knew she had endured too much over the last few hours to keep this battle up much longer, but she pushed the thoughts out of her mind and re-gripped her wand, looking for another opportunity, but also hoping for a little more time before she had to grab Harry and Apparate. She was physically closest to him and as spent as her core was, she was afraid she would splinch herself attempting it. Just a little more time was all she needed.
But then another Death Eater moved towards her and Fleur fired another curse, weakening herself even more.
~ . ~ . ~
Harry's wand was vibrating even harder now as he forced his magic down the golden beam, attacking Voldemort in a more intimate way than he had ever thought possible, a primitive form of magical dueling that saturated the very air with energy, discharging in lightning that struck out towards the tombstones, the trees, even the sky itself. Harry was able keep enough control over it to direct it away from Fleur and Krum.
He re-doubled his efforts to push his magic again, calling on the best and worst parts of his life, mixing them together and empowering his magic to drive it down the golden beam—and it worked. His surge overtook Voldemort's and a blinding light flashed, along with the most beautiful voice he had ever heard.
It was his mother, instructing him of the only thing important in his life now; a command that he must not, cannot, allow the golden beam to break.
"I know. . . I know I mustn't," he gritted out.
The voice spoke again; this time accompanied by a sound he knew well, it was the phoenix song.
"Ta bien-aimée fleur a besoin de temps pour récupérer, You must keep the golden beam strong."
Harry didn't understand any of it except the last; and that, he understood well. He didn't know why, and yet he did. Deep down, he knew that somehow, his soul depended on him keeping this connection.
That left him with only one choice. He had to drive the surge forward. Harry thought he had poured all his magic into the battle, but now he found that he had an entirely different level to draw from as he began to chant to himself the words he had heard—Ta bien-aimée, Ta bien-aimée—the surge, which Voldemort had arrested in the golden beam, swelled again. Lightning still crackled in the air all around the dome, but Harry paid it no mind as he forced his renewed magic through the wand.
Louder, stronger, and now unaware, Harry repeated his mother's words, chanting it in time with the phoenix song, Ta bien-aimée fleur a besoin de temps. He gained strength from it, but also from the hatred that rose up against whatever was threatening the song.
Harry grew stronger, remembering that he had to mean it, remembering that his anger and hatred had empowered him before. The song and the chant faded out and with what felt like an explosion, Harry forced the surge to the tip of Voldemort's wand. It trembled for a moment . . . and then sank into the wand itself. The golden dome and beam discharged in one massive last burst of lightning, the concussive thunder shattering windows in the building on the other side of the graveyard and Voldemort, as if hit by a dragon in full flight, shot backwards over the heads of the Death Eaters.
X ~ X ~ X ~ X
Fleur and Krum cast curses at the nearest approaching Death Eaters, forcing them to back off from Harry. Fleur ran, crashing into him and wrapping him in her arms, twisting in the air as they fell to the ground.
They Apparated to the gravel road just outside of Hogwarts. Fleur let go and caught herself as Harry slid across the ground and into the grassy bank.
"'Arry!" she cried out as she rushed over to the unmoving body and kneeled down.
No, No! He can't be splinched. He can't be!
She discarded modesty and ran her hands across his body, making sure he was whole.
With some effort, she rolled him over, leaned down, her face inches from his.
"Please 'Arry, wake up."
After a few more seconds passed, his eyes snapped open and he sat up with a start, before looking at Fleur, closing his eyes again and lying back down with moan.
"'Arry, stay with me!" she whispered.
"I'm fine, Fleur," he finally whispered bask. "I just don't have any strength left."
He opened an eye and gave her a little smile.
Despite all that had happened, or maybe because of it, she found herself captivated, trying to make sense of the little boy she saw in front of her, the man who had just bettered the darkest wizard in two generations in the most powerful duel she'd ever seen.
Footsteps from behind brought her attention back to the moment. She stood up and spun around, her wand at the ready, searching the darkened roadway for the noise.
"Nein! It's me!" Krum announced.
Fleur lowered her wand and turned back to Harry, kneeling by his side again
"You okay, Fleur?"
"Never mind me, can you make it to the castle?"
"I guess so, though I think I need help up."
Krum walked over and gave him a hand. Fleur took the other one and they helped him to his feet, but as he stood and looked back towards the school, she saw his legs tremble and then collapse, unable to support his weight. His face lost all color, but the worst part was the eyes. They went blank.
"Scheiße," Krum said, his voice faint and scared.
Fleur glanced at him, but he wasn't looking at Harry.
She followed his gaze, looking above the thick forest that sat between the road and Hogwarts. There, hanging over the ancient castle, was the Dark Mark—the silence from the stadium, the lights of which lit up the sky to her right, was deafening.
A/N: Alright, because I'm tired of getting people saying, "But . . . but . . . Krum was Bulgarian!" Yes, I know he was, and still is. Trust the author to know what he's doing with his characters. There's a very specific reason he speaks German here, and the history behind the Bulgarian/German issue will become very important later in the story.