Does it help if I say that I'm really sorry?
If it does, then here goes: "I'm sorry it's been so very long since the last update. I truly am."
If it doesn't, then that's too bad, and you can suck it.
Anyways, a new chapter, so be merry and rejoice. Hopefully, there'll never be as large a gap between chapters as the one before this. Thank you for your continued support and hopefully you enjoy the next chapter.
"In fourth place, Miss Fleur Delacour!" Ludo Bagman shouted, as Fleur walked up the stage to receive handshakes from the judges as well as Fudge.
Harry held back a groan as he could feel his head throbbing. Honestly, twenty-four hours ago, he'd been duelling Voldemort in a battle to the death, and yet people still felt the need to drag him out of his well-earned hospital bed for this useless charade.
The elves had arranged for his Tournament outfit to be cleaned and patched up, but that didn't really help with making Harry look healthy when the bags under his eyes had their own bags and his left sleeve hung empty next to his body. Only Hedwig's calm presence on his shoulder added a small amount of grace to Harry's otherwise downright exhausted appearance.
Looking out into the crowd, Harry spotted Draco and Neville conversing softly near the back. He kind of wanted to talk to them, but he could hardly do that now when he needed all his energy to stay upright long enough to receive his awards, being a sack of Galleons and the Triwizard Cup itself, that last one had been added as a prize on the very last second.
That was probably Fudge's attempt at bribery. He probably thought that if he gave Harry the Cup, Harry wouldn't make any statements concerning Voldemort to the press. Unfortunately for Fudge, that wasn't going to work.
Anyways, Harry refocused as another smattering of applause meant that Krum had been called up to shake hands and smile for the camera. The Bulgarian had made third place after all. If it hadn't been for the Cup being placed closer to Max by Karkaroff, the Quidditch Star would probably have made second place so in a way, he did deserve some of Harry's respect.
Glancing back out to the crowd, Harry would've grinned if he had the energy when he noticed the Weasley twins sneaking around in the back busily whispering with Lee Jordan and Seamus Finnigan. Of course, the twins were absolutely ecstatic that their investor was about to receive a large cash prize, as they were hoping to get Harry to float them an extra loan so they'd be able to speed up production. Knowing them, they were probably planning something right now, there was a huge crowd of potential customers gathered in the Hall after all.
Next, Harry spotted his biological parents, as well was Remus and Sirius. The Weasley parents were also standing with them, as were Ron, Hermione and Rachel. Max was of course positioned like Harry, behind the stage so that they'd wouldn't be visible until their names were called. Max, like Harry, looked awful, due to his pale skin tone and slouched posture. And his eyes were bloodshot as well, so at least Harry wouldn't be the only one who wouldn't look to good on stage.
Harry still hadn't spoken with his parents, and he was fine with that. As long as Dumbledore handled them, Harry was perfectly content avoiding team Potter and focusing on more useful things.
Applause and cheers once again rung through the air, and Harry watched as Max stumbled up the stage to receive his share of handshakes and as he had to pose for the obligatory photographs.
As Max was allowed to leave the stage and mingle with the crowd, Bagman started the final introduction.
"And finally, after a hard-fought tournament in which he took the lead from the start, never to let go, ladies and gentlemen, please join me in applauding the winner of the Triwizard Tournament of 1995: Harry Potter!"
Loud applause and cheers broke out, and Harry stepped up the stage, waving to the crowd once before moving down the line to shake hands. First was the new Headmaster of Durmstrang, professor Arshavin, who gave Harry a firm shake and a grin as well as a mumbled, "Consider Durmstrang if Hogwarts ever proves too limited for you mister Potter."
Harry nodded politely before moving on to Madame Maxime, who merely gave a pained smile. Clearly, the French woman hadn't yet forgiven him for his words earlier in the year. That was okay, he'd meant every single one of them.
Third in line was Dumbledore, who gave Harry a proud smile as well an over-his-glasses twinkle. Shaking hands warmly, Harry didn't bother trying to hide his exhaustion to Dumbledore. The old warlock only gave a slight nod to acknowledge his awareness of Harry's exhaustion, but he obviously couldn't do anything about it right now.
Then came Bagman, who gave Harry a broad smile as he eagerly clampd Harry's hand between his two own, shaking energetically, "Simply amazing Mr. Potter, you were absolutely astonishing." The former beater said enthusiastically even as he kept pumping Harry's arm up and down. Bagman might've retired years ago, but he still had a lot of upper arm strength, as Harry discovered to his discomfort.
Finally wrenching his hand free from Bagman's grasp, Harry moved on to Fudge, who gave Harry a fake smile, before giving Harry a light handshake. The Minister had really sweaty hands, and his grip was clearly meant to be painfully tight. Fortunately, Fudge wasn't all that strong, and his squeeze didn't bother Harry all that much.
Fudge let go, and stepped back to the table on which both the prize money as well as the Triwizard Cup sat waiting for their rightful recipient.
Picking both up, one in each hand, the Minister turned back to Harry, handing over the sack of money first, which Harry put into his robes, before slowly presenting the Triwizard Cup, allowing the assembled press to take as many pictures as they could.
Taking the Cup by one of it's ears, Harry turned to the assembled crowd. Everybody fell silent as they waited for Harry to do something.
Harry waited a few more seconds, just facing the crowd without moving or speaking. This was his chance to make a statement heard by thousands. He could say something about Voldemort's return, he could tarnish the Potter reputation, he could publicly attack Fudge, there were so many options available to him!
Harry took a deep sigh. Then he raised the Cup in one hand, and the crowd broke out in loud applause and cheering.
"I believe we should discuss what happened in the graveyard Harry." Dumbledore spoke solemnly.
The two wizards were sitting in the Headmaster's office, where they'd both snuck off to as soon as they managed to sneak away from the celebrations still going on in the Great Hall. No small feat considering their roles in said celebrations.
"Really? I thought we were here to discuss the Cannons' chances against the Harpies!" Harry snarked from where he was barely managing to not fall out of his chair.
"I am aware that you are tired and upset Harry, but this can't wait. The sooner we can take care of everything, the sooner you can get to bed and get some well-deserved rest." Albus countered sharply, obviously in no mood to exchange idle pleasantries either.
"Fine. Let's get this over with then." Harry grumbled, struggling to sit upright in his chair.
Dumbledore sighed, "First and foremost, I want to stress that you performed admirably, I can think of only a few people who could hold off Voldemort long enough to escape, the youngest one of whom is over twice your age. That all of this took place immediately following the Third Task makes your achievement even more impressive."
Harry didn't respond, he merely waited for Dumbledore to cut to the chase.
"However, I do have one point of concern. The part where Voldemort used Legillimency on you... it has me concerned. Specifically, the part where he left some kind of mark in your mind. I would like to examine it in person if you'd let me." Albus spoke calmly, gazing at his slouching pupil.
"Very well, don't expect me to be any help though, I'm barely managing to stay awake, so actively exploring my mindscape really isn't an option, I don't want to accidentaly set something on fire and end up as a drooling dimwit." Harry muttered dryly whilst slowly taking out his wand and starting to make small multicoloured rings of smoke he stared at unthinkingly.
Dumbledore merely hummed, pulling his wand at Harry before softly intoning, "Legillimens!"
Albus appeared in the Ravenclaw Common Room, only where the small black mark Voldemort had left should have been, there was now an oozing stain, 10 feet across. This drew a frown from the old warlock, as he softly called, "Harry, I believe it would be good if you were here to see this."
Harry materialized in the same comfortable chair he'd sat in not that long ago, when it had been Lord Voldemort in his head, instead of Albus Dumbledore.
Glancing at the darkness, Harry frowned deeply. He stood up and moved to stand next to Dumbledore, "That's bad, right? As in, really, really, really bad?" Harry asked slowly even as he drew his wand.
"Yes, it is. That is a leach-rune. It will gradually suck out magic, feeding into Voldemort's own reserves. Not only will it help him regain his strength much faster than he normally would, it will also gradually decrease the amount of magic you have available at any one time, meaning you'll find yourself less capable of casting large amounts of spells as time wears on." Dumbledore explained.
"Very well, what can I do against it?" Harry asked with a frown, carefully analyzing the rune he'd never heard of before.
"This is beyond you still Harry. The only proper way is to break into the rune chains and make them implode from the inside out by adding a destructive cluster to the main sequence. I do not believe we have studied this subject just yet." Dumbledore calmly told Harry, before stepping closer to the leach-rune, his wand lifted in preparation.
"I must warn you Harry, the process will be most unpleasant. It will be painful, you will be left magically exhausted, and you will probably be left unconscious for quite some time. However, it is the only way to prevent any lasting damage, and at least Tom won't be able to take any of the energy unleashed to help him recover." Dumbledore lectured, the tip of his wand glowing a light pink as he started slowly waving it in an intricate pattern.
"I understand Headmaster. Do what you must." Harry managed to get out, even as he felt his eyes closing.
"My apologies for being late gentlemen, I had some affairs to take care of." Harry spoke as he entered the his friends' compartment on the Hogwarts Express.
"Harry! We weren't expecting you anymore, I was starting to think I'd have to spend the entire train ride with only Neville to keep me company! Can you imagine how dreadfully boring that would have been!" Draco jested, even as Neville was helping Harry put his trunk away.
"Oh yes dreadfully boring indeed. You shouldn't expect me to contribute overly much however, I am absolutely exhausted still. I've only been awake for a few hours, and in that time Madame Pomfrey has force-fed me forty-two potions, forced me to eat three full plates of food, and drink two gallons of water. Then I had to pack my stuff, talk to Flitwick for a bit, pose for some pictures with the foreign students before they left and lug my trunk all the way from Hogwarts to the station with only one arm. Apparently, I'm severely magically exhausted and thus I couldn't even levitate it!" Harry ranted, clearly not happy about the state of events. He'd been unconscious for quite a bit longer than Dumbledore had expected after all.
Everything would be fine in the long run, but Harry had been told quite clearly that he wasn't to use any magic whatsoever for the next two weeks at the very least. After discussing the situation, Harry and Dumbledore had agreed that Harry would spend these two weeks with the Dursleys, after which Harry'd be moved to a location where he could start researching ways to regain his left arm.
"Poor man, you have it so hard, after all, you're obviously going to have to fight your father for lordship of your family in the next couple of days." Draco spoke ironically, his nerves clearly showing through in his voice.
Harry frowned, "The next couple of days? Are you not postponing until I can attend?"
"No, every day my father spends as head of the family is a day too much. Especially now that the Dark Lord has returned. I need to get control of the vaults and the manor as soon as possible." Draco explained, even as he started furiously tapping his left foot.
Neville shot Harry a look before bending down to start rummaging in his trunk, "Don't worry Draco, you just need to withstand Lucius' initial assault, which you've trained extensively for, after that the poision should start working and he'll start making mistakes. Everything will be fine as long as you keep your cool. And remember to send us both letters once you've done it."
Giving a reassuring nod, Harry spoke, "Yes, you're one of the most capable duellists Hogwarts has to offer Draco. You're strong and intelligent and you've learned a lot these past few months. Don't get cocky, be ready for everything, and don't be scared to add some environmental factors to the battlefield such as conjured animals and fire. And don't drop your wand. That's important as well."
Draco slowly nodded, and the tapping stopped, though he stayed tense, ready to react to the slightest provocation. Fortunately, Neville had finally succeeded in his search for an unknown item in his trunk.
Sitting upright again, Neville presented Draco with a cup of tea, which had a special lid on top to prevent from spilling.
"Drink that, it's got a calming effect." Neville said, casually shoving his trunk under his seat again.
As Draco started to sip from his tea, Neville continued to speak, "So Harry, are we going to get the full story anytime soon? You've spent more time in the hospital wing than out of it since the end of the Third Task, and you lost one of your arms! So what happened?"
Harry let out a sigh, "The short of it is this: The Cup was a Portkey. Max and I ended up getting knocked out and tied up in a graveyard. Max' blood was used to return Voldemort to a body. I faked interest in joining Him. After torturing Max to sell the act, I managed to get both of us out of there, losing my arm in the process. Arriving at Hogwarts I helped shut down the Fiendfyre even as the battle of the Forest was being waged. The fire had been started by Karkaroff to cause a distraction. Then you were there for my conversation with the minister in the hospital wing and nothing special happened at the awards ceremony. I had to recover for so long because of the injuries I sustained during my duel with Voldemort."
Neville frowned, "I never thought he'd actually do it you know? Return to life? Gather the Death Eaters again? And now Fudge is saying Voldemort only has a few followers when in truth there's about to be a war! This is all so screwed up. What are your plans Harry?"
"I'm going to continue my recovery at my aunt and uncle's, then I'm going to find a way to regain my arm, and then we'll see what the situation is. Dumbledore has started moving to get us ready for anything Voldemort might do, but right now my role is just that of an observer. When that changes, or when I need you, I will let you know." Harry spoke softly, determinedly gazing at Neville and Draco.
Getting only nods from his companions, Harry leant back to take a nap when the compartment door opened.
"Great, just what we needed." Draco muttered, which gave Harry a solid clue about the identity of the new arrivals.
Opening his eyes, Harry focused on Rachel, who was stood in the door to the compartment.
"Where're your friends Owens? Did they finally realize that they're a waste of our time? Because if they did, you might learn something from them." Draco spoke in his haughty tone.
Rachel flushed angrily, "Shut up Malfoy, nobody cares about your opinion so just keep it to yourself."
Turning to Harry, Rachel's glare softened, "I was wondering if we could talk for a second."
"Nobody's stopping you," Harry said, casually leaning back against his seat.
"I meant in private." Rachel stated with a slight glare.
"Can you give us a minute guys?" Harry muttered, unwilling to get up and follow Rachel.
Neville gave a calm nod, giving Draco a firm poke in the ribs when the latter grinned lecherously, "Sure thing, we'll go and catch up with Cedric. I want to see if he can teach me to conjure a claymore. You know, like the one he used against the Acromantulas, he actually bisected one of them with his!"
Neville and Draco got up and left without another word, closing the compartment door behind them.
"Are you alright?" Rachel asked anxiously, sitting down across from Harry.
"This is the first time since the Third Task when I'm out of the hospital wing. I fought Voldemort. Oh, and I lost my arm! Do you really think that's an intelligent question?" Harry asked moodily, glaring at Rachel.
"I'm sorry my politeness offended you Your Highness! If this is how you're going to act then I don't know why I even bothered to come and talk to you." Rachel angrily spoke, a frustrated flush blazing on her cheeks.
"Well then don't ask stupid questions." Harry retorted sharply.
"If you're going to be childish, I'm leaving." Rachel threatened hotly, glaring at Harry furiously.
"Right, because I'd be heartbroken about that. How about you get to the reason for your visit?" Harry sarcastically retorted.
"I just wanted to check in on you, I wasn't allowed to visit you in the hospital wing." Rachel mumbled, sudden shyness replacing the earlier fury.
Harry didn't have a retort for that, so he just remained silent.
"You promised you'd be careful and yet you lost an arm and Max won't even talk about what happened with Voldemort. All we know is from the statements of the Minister in the Prophet and from Dumbledore at breakfast this morning. And all they actually agreed on is that You-Know-Who is back! You didn't even have me on your visitors list for the hospital wing, where you've spent the past 4 days!" Rachel ranted, gradually growing louder and talking faster.
"Yes, well, I-" Harry tried to break in, but he didn't actually know what to say.
"It's not acceptable for you to just do that Potter! What if I'd needed help with my powers? You can't just cancel all contact like that because that's convenient for you! The very least you could have done was sending me a message to say you needed your rest and I'd be on my own for a few days. That's not too much to ask now is it?" Rachel angrily continued, standing up mid-rant only to sit down heavily again once she'd finished.
Harry let out a deep sigh, he'd had other priorities, but he didn't think that was what he needed to say right now.
"I'm... sorry?" Harry half-asked tentatively.
Rachel's angry flush flared up again, "You don't even know what you're apologising for do you? I don't know why I even bothered! You know what? Just forget it, you jerk!" And she stormed out, slamming the compartment door behind her, leaving a baffled Harry to stare after her.
"What just happened?" Harry asked the empty compartment, letting his head fall back in confusion.
"So, you did remember to owl your aunt and uncle to tell them you lost an arm, right?" Neville asked tentatively as the Hogwarts Express pulled into King's Cross.
Harry gave an easy grin, "Of course I did Neville, I don't want either of them to have a heart attack when they see me."
"Then I'd suggest putting a bag over your head," Draco snarked at his friend.
"Very funny Draco, you only needed three years to come up with that one." Harry said dryly, as the Express came to a standstill and they moved to get off and onto Platform Nine and Three Quarters.
"So I'll owl you in a few days Harry, and if you need anything you're always welcome at Longbottom Manor. And I'll make sure to let you know the outcome of Draco's duel." Neville spoke to his friend, extending his calloused hand for a firm handshake, which Harry gave.
"Yes, enjoy your vacation and say hello to your grandmother for me, Draco, I expect you to behave at Longbottom Manor and good luck against Lucius." Harry spoke, looking from one to the other, before picking up his trunk and moving for the barrier to the Muggle world.
He spotted the extended Potter clan looking for Max, but Harry managed to evade their attention. He moved through the barrier only to almost run right into someone who'd been about to make the move in the reverse direction.
"Oh, hello, Harry, right?" The man in front of Harry asked.
Identifying the man in front of him as Greg Owens, Rachel's father, Harry had to suppress a groan. How horrible could a meeting be timed?
"Hello sir, nice to see you again, how have you been?" Harry asked politely, moving slightly out of the way so he wouldn't block the barrier to Platform Nine and Three Quarters.
"Quite well, thank you," Greg smiled, before his eyes fell on Harry's empty sleeve, "Oh my, what happened to you?"
Harry grimaced, "It's a long story sir, the short of it would be I was involved in an attempted murder, as well as in the resurrection of a so called Dark Lord. Ask your daughter for a few Daily Prophets to get a better view of the current political climate."
Greg nodded seriously, and was about to speak when Rachel and her mother, Julie, came out of the barrier behind Harry.
"Dad!" Rachel beamed, before barreling into her father, not even noticing Harry who stood just off to the side.
Julie didn't have the inattentiveness that came along with seeing your dad for the first time in months, which was how she did notice Harry.
"Hello Harry, how nice to see you again! How have you been dear?" The woman asked, even as she gave the unprepared Harry a quick hug.
"I could've been better, but I'm still alive, so at least I've got that going for me, which is nice," Harry spoke with an easy smile.
Julie blinked, not really knowing how to respond to that. Before she could continue her questioning though, Rachel spoke up, "Harry? What are you doing here?"
Harry turned around to face the girl who'd stormed out on him a few hours ago, "I happened to run into your dad, quite literally I might add, which led to us catching up. I strongly suggest getting your parents a subscription on the Daily Prophet, it's a good way for parents of Muggleborn students to stay posted on what's happening in the Wizarding world. But my Aunt and Uncle are waiting for me, I really should be off. Have a pleasant summer and I'll see you next year." Harry explained, nodding politely to Julie and Greg, before walking off to go look for his ride home.
He could feel Rachel's gaze burning into him as he walked away, but he really didn't want to talk about the sort-of-argument they'd had on the train.
There were other things to think about, and a whole school year to reflect on. He didn't need any drama right now when there were so many important things to think on.
He'd become Hogwarts Champion, won all three tasks and earned a lot of money by doing so. Rachel'd been tutored to the point where she was well in control of her element. Alliances had been made with Cedric Diggory and the Weasley Twins. Wizarding Britain had met Harry Potter as the prodigy of his age, the Hero of Hogwarts. He'd had to pay with an arm, a minor mental breakdown partway through the year, large periods of exhaustion and the resurrection of a Dark Lord. All in all, things could've been better, but things could've been worse as well.
He'd just have to see what next year and the summer would bring.
Done. After an incredibly long wait, this chapter is done. Tell me your opinions, and I hope you enjoyed.
I've been seriously considering stripping this story down and doing a significant rewrite, to the point where it'd almost be an entirely different story. Another option is ending this book and starting a new book for year 5. Finally, I might just continue this story in the format I've been using so far.
Thank you for all the support. I couldn't have come up with a new chapter without you guys.
Please leave a review and I hope you enjoyed,
Signing off, Peeves' best friend