Chapter 71: Flash of Doom
The day of the third task finally arrives. I'm nervous. The last task almost seems like it was too easy. What horrible things does the universe have in store for me today?
"You alright there, Harry?" Susan Lawson asks me.
"That depends on your definition of 'alright'," I reply.
Lawson chuckles. "Well, you did a smashing job in the last two events. I'm sure you've got this one in the bag. Just keep your wits about you and put your skills to use. Go out there and show them what you're made of."
"I'll see what I can do," I say, giving her a grin and showing her more confidence than I feel. Inwardly, I'm having to wonder just how many deaths are ahead of me for today.
Ludo Bagman starts in with the announcements and details what will be happening in the third task. We'll be entering the maze at different times. Cedric will go first, then Viktor, then me, and then Fleur. I really should have gotten more points for the first task, but I'm not going to complain. At least I completed it alive.
Then, when my turn comes, I head into the maze. I wander around for a bit, trying to get my bearings and make a map of the maze in my head. After a short while, I come face to face - or face to something, anyway - with Hagrid's Blast-Ended Skrewts. They're enormous, and I can be thankful that not all of them survived.
Still, I grin gleefully. I've been waiting for this for a while. "Avada Kedavra!" A flash of green light, and one of the abominations of nature drops dead. Delightful! I'm caught up in the sheer pleasure of slaying the monstrosities that I don't realize at first that my robes are on fire. The surviving skrewts pile upon me, knocking my wand out of my hand and ripping me apart.
I wake up, and think myself an idiot. I have to wonder just how many of my deaths are the direct result of me being an idiot. I shake my head at myself. I go through the motions of today again, not even bothering to mention that death to my friends. Then, after dinner, I stand before the maze once more.
I head into the maze again when my turn comes, and make a point to avoid the skrewts this time. I turn around this way and that, and then I feel a sudden soul-numbing chill, and see a black-robed figure drifting toward me.
I focus hard upon the rainbow after the storm. "Expecto Patronum!" My silver duck flies out from the end of my wand straight at the monster's face. The Dementor stumbles back and trips over the hem of its robes. "Boggart," I mutter, chuckling in amusement at that. "Riddikulus!" The creature vanishes in a wisp of smoke.
I continue on, stumbling into several dead ends, and then spot ahead of me a strange golden mist. I frown a little, peering at it, wondering what it might do, when I hear a girl's scream from somewhere ahead. Sounds like Fleur has run into some sort of trouble.
To the Abyss with it. I don't care to see anyone die here today needlessly. I charge forward into the mist. As it touches me, the world suddenly seems to turn upside down. My feet leave the ground, and I go falling into the air. I panic for a moment, and then I suddenly think it's kind of like being underwater. I propel myself away with an Energy Stream Curse, vaguely pointing in the general direction I thought I heard Fleur's voice.
I don't see any sign of Fleur, but I soon overhear Cedric saying to someone, "What the hell do you think you're doing?"
Krum's voice shouts, "Crucio!"
Cedric's screams fill the air. Without pausing for a moment to think, I dash off in the direction of the sound. There I find Krum, standing over Cedric's twitching body.
"Stupefy!" I cast. My spell strikes Krum in the side, and he collapses unconscious. I rush up to Cedric's side. "Are you alright?"
"Yeah," Cedric says breathlessly, still shaking. "Yeah... I can't believe... I can't believe he did that..."
"Did you see any sign of Fleur?" I ask.
"I heard her a minute ago, but I didn't see her," Cedric says. "Do you think Krum got her too?"
"I don't know," I say. "I hope she's alright."
"Should we just leave him here?" Cedric wonders.
"He'll probably get eaten by a skrewt," I say.
"He'd deserve it," Cedric mutters, but he nonetheless shoots up red sparks to mark the spot and call someone to come get Viktor. "I suppose we'd better get on with it."
"Right," I say. We head off again in different directions.
Up ahead, I come across a sphinx. The body of a large, powerful lion, coupled with the head of a woman. "The quickest way to your goal is past me," says the sphinx. "You may pass if you answer my riddle. If you answer incorrectly, I will devour you. If you remain silent, I will let you walk away."
Ugh, riddles. "Fine, tell me your riddle, then."
"First think of the person who lives in disguise,
Who deals in secrets and tells naught but lies.
Next, tell me what's always the last thing to mend,
The middle of middle or end of the end?
And finally give me the sound often heard
During the search for a hard-to-find word.
Now string them together, and answer me this,
Which creature would you be unwilling to kiss?"
"Hmm..." I murmur thoughtfully. "A rogue... the heart? Um... A Dementor? No, that can't be it... well, I wouldn't really be unwilling to kiss anything else, if I had reason to..."
The sphinx looks at me. "You're really bad at this, aren't you. Is that your answer?"
"I know!" I say. "A demon lives in disguise when it's trying to lure people in. And uh, ment is the past tense of mend, right? And, er... Er!"
The sphinx puts her face in her paws. "That's a very... creative answer. But no." She lashes out at me, swiping at me with her claws and tearing me apart.
I wake, and rub my eyes. Well, that was obviously not the answer. And I'm starting to get tired now. It definitely doesn't help that the task is toward the end of the day. I think I'd best just sleep the day away.
I poke my head out of my curtains and say, "Hey, guys, I'm going to sleep some more. Can you make sure I'm up for dinner?"
"Sure," Blaise says.
I pull out another Dream Sweet and curl up for several more hours of sleep.
At dinner, I ask, "Hey, Hermione, you're good at riddles... Can you help me out with this one?" I repeat the one the sphinx gave me.
Hermione looks at me oddly. "Does this have anything to do with the upcoming task?"
"There's a sphinx in it," I say. "And she got cranky when I guessed 'Dementor'. But I couldn't think of anything else that I wouldn't want to kiss."
"It's a spider," Hermione says.
"You'd kiss a spider?" Draco asks. "You really are desperate."
"If I had reason to, I suppose..." I say.
"Did you get killed by the sphinx?" Neville asks.
I nod. "But at least now I know the answer should I run into her again."
"Don't mention it," Hermione mutters. "I suppose it doesn't say anywhere in the rules that you can't go back in time and ask your friends about it."
After dinner, I stand before the maze again, and head in at the appointed time. Avoid the skrewts, cast a Riddikulus at the boggart, propel myself through the mist...
I made it through to this point faster than the last time. Now I stumble upon Fleur shortly after Viktor got to her, but I don't actually see Viktor himself nearby. I'd been hoping to catch him before he could hurt anyone, but this section of the maze was unfamiliar to me. I shoot up red sparks for someone to come and get her. Cedric should be somewhere around here too.
"What are you doing?" Cedric's voice demands.
"Crucio!" Viktor says.
"Stupefy!" I cast, and Viktor falls unconscious. "Cedric, you alright?"
"Yeah, I think so," Cedric says. "Thanks. Did you see Fleur?"
"I stumbled across her, too," I say. "I sent up sparks for her." I do so for Viktor as well. "Best make sure he isn't eaten by skrewts."
"I say he'd deserve it," Cedric says. "Let's get on with it."
We part ways. I run across the sphinx again, and patiently allow her to recite her riddle before replying, "Spider." She steps aside and lets me pass this time.
I head off past the sphinx. Unfortunately, whatever time I might have saved is for naught, as I promptly get lost again. Then, ahead, I spot the gleaming cup sitting on a pedestal ahead. Cedric is ahead of me, though. He's going to get there first. But his eyes are on the cup, and he doesn't notice something large about to attack him.
"Cedric, look out!" I call out.
Cedric turns in surprise, and stumbles, his wand flying out of his hand as a giant spider bears down upon him. An Acromantula, on top of everything else?
"Stupefy!" I cast, but the spider is unaffected. I throw a few more spells at it to no effect. I might get through with a Killing Curse, but I'm afraid I'd accidentally hit Cedric instead.
Cedric is injured, but my spells have caught the spider's attention. I frantically dodge out of the way, not wanting to die in this maze again when I'm so close to the goal. Cedric scrambles to grab his own wand.
"Stupefy!" we cast in unison. The doubled-up spell causes the spider to keel over.
"You alright there, Cedric?" I ask.
"Think so," Cedric says. "Doesn't look too bad. You?"
"I'm fine," I say. I'm standing within feet of the Triwizard Cup. I could reach out and grab it from where I stand.
"Go on, then," Cedric says. "Take it. You've won."
I shake my head. "That wouldn't be fair. We won it together."
Cedric chuckles softly. "You know, for all they say you're a vile dark wizard bent upon ruling the world with an iron fist as the next Dark Lord, you're certainly concerned about fairness and honor."
"Episkey," I say, pointing to Cedric's bleeding leg. "I wasn't in Gryffindor for no reason. But it seems like a lot of people aren't willing to listen." I sigh. "I wish things could have been different."
"Maybe they still can be," Cedric says. "I'll put in a good word for you. After you've won this tournament."
"Come on," I say. "Let's both grab it at the same time, and say to hell with this tournament. Let's show them that cooperation and teamwork are what's important, not ruthless infighting."
"That's very Hufflepuff of you," Cedric says. "Alright. Let's do it."
Cedric stumbles over toward me, and the two of us reach out and take hold of the cup at the same time. I feel a jerk behind my navel, like a portkey, and the two of us are swept away...
When we finally land, I have no idea where we are. Our surroundings are completely unfamiliar. We could be hundreds of miles away. We're in an old graveyard, and a house stands on a hill in the distance.
"Is this part of the task?" Cedric wonders.
I frown. "I have a bad feeling about this," I say quietly. "Wands out. Stand ready." I slip into Storm Army command mode automatically. Cedric doesn't argue, holding his wand out, alert for attack.
Someone's coming. I try to make out the figure in the darkness. Friend or foe? It wouldn't do to charge in, wands a-blazing, if we were supposed to be sent here for the victory party or something. Somehow, I doubt that, however.
Then I see that the figure is wearing a turban, and carrying a bundle of cloth. A baby?
An eerie voice says, "Kill the spare."
Another voice shrieks, "Avada Kedavra!"
A flash of green light jets toward us, and Cedric drops to the ground. I gape down at him, horrified. It all happened so quickly... and it was entirely my fault that he was here in the first place.
"CEDRIC!" I scream. My blood runs cold for a moment, then flashes to boiling rage in an instant. "FULGORIS!"
Lightning explodes all around me. Electricity rips through my body. I cast it in the general direction of Cedric's murderer. But I've overcharged it. I can't survive this. Crackling. Agony. Then it's over.
I wake. Shit. It's a trap. It's a trap. The whole bloody tournament is a trap. Oh, Cedric...
That man I saw. It had to be Quirrell. The Dark Lord. Did he plan it this way all along? Was this why I was entered into the tournament? This hasn't just been a big conspiracy to try to get me killed. They wanted me alive. They went to a lot of trouble to bring me there alive.
Tampering with the tournament portkey? Couldn't they have come up with a more expedient way to do it? Especially since it was hardly a given that I would succeed. But wait, maybe that was why Viktor was attacking the other champions. Perhaps he was under the Imperius Curse, and they wanted the others out of the way to ensure that I would be the one to get the cup.
Crouch! I've known he was a Death Eater for months, and did nothing about it. Was this his plan all along? Was he the one to tamper with the portkey?
"Stormseeker?" Blaise's voice says. "You coming to dinner?"
"I'm coming," I say, getting out of bed and getting dressed, my thoughts on anything but dinner.
I'm hardly interested in eating, but I force myself to do so anyway. "I've a date with the Dark Lord tonight," I tell my friends quietly as we eat. "I don't know if I'll be coming back."
"What are you talking about?" Hermione asks.
"The tournament is rigged," I say. "The cup is a portkey to a graveyard somewhere... Quirrell was there."
"So back out!" Blaise says. "Tell someone! Don't walk right into the trap!"
"No," I say, shaking my head. "I'm going to kill him."
"Are you insane?" Draco says.
"I think that's a given," Theodore says.
"You'd walk into near-certain doom just for a chance to defeat You-Know-Who?" Neville says.
"I think you shuold just tell Dumbledore," Hermione says quietly.
"He killed Cedric," I say. "We both took the cup at the same time." I take a deep breath. "Kill the spare, he said. Fuck..."
"So you're going to kill him," Blaise says flatly.
"That's very Gryffindor," Draco says.
"I think you can do it, boss," Crabbe says quietly.
"I can get the drop on him," I say. "Avada Kedavra before he knows it, and it's all over. Nobody else has to die... No more lives ruined. No more orphans."
"I hate to put a damper on your enthusiasm, but killing one Dark Lord isn't going to magically solve all of the problems of the wizarding world," Blaise points out softly.
"I know," I say. "But it's a damned good start."
I finish up dinner and get ready for the third task again. How many times have I been through this maze so far today? Maybe, if all goes well, this will be the last time.
I head into the maze at the proper time. I know exactly which way to go now, and dart this way and that, heading straight for the cup, neutralizing any obstacles along the way. I spot Viktor before he even has a chance to encounter Fleur this time, and pre-emptively Stun him and send up sparks for him. I tell the sphinx the answer to her riddle before she even has a chance to say anything.
I reach the cup well ahead of the other competitors. I rush ahead and grab it, and the portkey yanks me away, far away, to that graveyard once more. My heart is pounding. I'm nervous, excited, and I want to kill. Never have I felt such a desire to kill before. This monster hurt so many people, destroyed so many families, ruined so many lives. It's time to end it all, right here, right now.
Quirrell is approaching. Wand in hand, I crouch down, alert and ready to fight.
"AVADA KEDAVRA!" I scream, putting all of my hate into the curse.
A flash of green light whooshes through the air. Quirrell quickly sidesteps the spell, which bypasses him, striking nothing. Damn it!
"Avada-" I repeat, but my wand is knocked from my hand, left dangling from the wrist chain.
Even as I fumble around trying to get my wand in hand again, I find myself slammed against a headstone and bound there with tight ropes. Quirrell checks the ropes to make sure they're secure, and removes my wand from its chain. I'm helpless and unarmed now. This was not how I'd intended this encounter to go at all.
"So, the Boy-Who-Lived is using Unforgivables freely now," Quirrell drawls in amusement. "But you're aiming them toward the wrong target. You seek to play dark against dark, do you?"
"Planning to sacrifice me at the hour of midnight on the summer solstice?" I ask.
"Not this time," Quirrell replies.
He brings forth a large cauldron and places it in front of the grave. The bundle that he placed on the ground nearby is squirming, and when I take a closer look at it, I see that it appears to contain some sort of inhuman baby. Reddish-black, with gleaming red eyes, an almost scaly appearance. The cauldron, meanwhile, is sparking and bubbling.
I should just end this now. Kill myself and deny him the victory. I don't want him to succeed at this. But somehow that strikes me as cowardly and dishonorable. And his victory here is not yet a foregone conclusion. For one thing, I'm not actually Harry Potter, and he may well have set this up to expect Harry Potter. I decide to sit back to wait and see what happens.
"You are entirely too calm," Quirrell says almost conversationally as he makes preparations.
"Would you prefer me to be freaking out and screaming in terror?" I reply. "If I've lost, I can at least lose gracefully."
"That's what I've come to expect of my student," Quirrell says with a small grin. "You are not stupid."
Quirrell places the strange baby into the cauldron, where it sinks beneath the potion.
"Bone of the father, unknowingly given, you will renew your son!" Quirrell says.
The grave beneath my feet opens up, and a thin stream of dust drifts up into the air and into the cauldron.
"Flesh of the servant... willingly given... you will revive your master," Quirrell says.
I can't help but stare as I watch Quirrell, trembling, cleanly slice off his own hand to drop into the cauldron. He's insane, although I can't help but feel a twinge of admiration toward his devotion.
"Blood of the enemy... forcefully taken... you will resurrect your foe!" Quirrell says.
The wrong enemy, I think. He stabs me in the arm, collects a bit of my blood in a vial, and pours it into the cauldron. The potion within instantly turns a brilliant silver color, letting off wild sparks in every direction. Quirrell drops to his knees, clutching his bleeding stump. I'm still bleeding, too, but at least he didn't cut off my hand.
Then, after a few minutes, the sparks die down and the light fades away. Something is emerging from the cauldron. Human-shaped, but covered in smooth, black scales, with a reptilian tail, snout, and wings.
"What... what is this?" hisses the draconian.
"You just resurrected yourself with dragon's blood," I say simply.
"How can that be?" Voldemort says. "This must be some sort of trick! Quirrell, what did you do?"
"That blood... came from his veins... master..." Quirrell murmurs.
"I don't see what you're complaining about," I say. "Dragons are awesome."
"Hmm," Voldemort says. "It's true that I feel quite powerful. But you... you are not Harry Potter. Who are you?"
"You don't say," I drawl. "I'm a decoy. My name is Lexen Chelseer. You will never find the real Harry Potter."
Voldemort glares at me with glowing blood red eyes. "No matter. I will search for him in due time. Now, however, I must deal with you. Lexen Chelseer. Let it not be said that I am not a generous lord. I will give you one last opportunity to swear yourself to me. Serve me, and I will spare your life."
I shake my head a little. "No. I won't do that."
"You deny me, even now?" Voldemort says. He raises a wand toward me. "Crucio!"
Agony rips through my body. The wound on my arm feels like nothing compared to the Cruciatus Curse. It's like molten lava in my veins, searing me from the inside out. Then, mercifully, it ends.
"Kill me," I whisper. "Just... kill me and get it over with already." The trouble with that curse is that it's nigh impossible to focus on my Time Magic with it going, so I can't even easily escape from it that way.
"Begging for death already, Chelseer?" Voldemort says. "I don't think so. Crucio!"
I desperately try to focus on my Time Magic, at least. Kill me, I think frantically through waves of burning agony. I want to die. Every nerve ablaze with pain. Make me older. Older! Much older! OLDER!
I wake, screaming. But there's no pain any longer. I pant softly. I did it. I got away from the torture.
"Stormseeker?" Blaise says in concern. "Are you alright?"
"Yeah," I say, getting up. "Yeah..."
"Why were you screaming?" Blaise asks.
"Cruciatus Curse," I reply as I get dressed.
"What happened?" Blaise wonders. "Did one of the other competitors use that against you?"
I shake my head. "I'll explain at dinner."
I finish getting dressed and head down to eat with my friends. How am I going to deal with this? It seems like the perfect opportunity to kill the Dark Lord, but how? I think I'm going to need help.
"The tournament is a trap," I explain to my friends quickly under our usual privacy spell. "The cup is a portkey to a graveyard where the Dark Lord is going to hold a resurrection ritual using my blood."
"Oh, Merlin," Hermione breathes.
"Help me out here, guys," I say. "There's got to be some way to take advantage of this to kill him! I'm not Harry Potter. My blood is actually dragon's blood. He doesn't resurrect as human, but as a dragon-man."
"That's weird," Draco says.
"Hmm," Blaise says thoughtfully. "You could try using something that harms dragons against him. It's too bad you don't have any of the legendary dragon-slaying weapons available, though. I don't even know where you might find one of them."
"Dragon-slaying weapons..." I murmur. "I'm sure I've run across one of those, actually. Where was it? It feels like ages ago... Frozen Viper, it was called. It froze me to death at the merest touch. Ah! Knockturn Alley! It was in Borgin and Burke's!"
"I wonder if it's still there," Neville says.
I start to get up from the table. I need that dagger. I hope it's still there. I hope it is.
"Where are you going?" Theodore asks.
"I need that dagger," I say. "I'm going to go get it. Right now. As quickly as possible. Someone needs to come with me, though. I can't touch it, myself."
"I'll go," Draco says, getting up to go along with me.
The two of us rush down into the Slytherin common room and over to the fireplace. "Knockturn Alley!" we say, tossing in a pinch of Floo powder.
I rush down the street to Borgin and Burke's, Draco close behind me. It's been a while since I've been in here, and nothing good has ever come of my visits, but maybe this time will be different.
Mr. Borgin looks up at us and says, "Ah, young customers? What can I do for you?"
"Do you still have Frozen Viper?" I ask.
"Huh?" Borgin says. "No, I'm afraid not-"
"Who bought it?" I demand.
"Will this be bribery or threats?" I say, glaring at him.
"I don't know where it is," Borgin says. "It was stolen."
I sigh. "Of course. Nothing can ever be easy. When was it stolen?"
"Around Easter, two years ago," Borgin replies.
I frown. "Draco, was that about the time of the argument?"
"Yeah... Yeah, I think it was," Draco replies.
"Mr. Borgin, did anyone else express an interest in it?" I ask.
"Lucius Malfoy inquired about it at one point," Borgin says. "But that was over four years ago. A few others have expressed interest, but no one else specifically asked for it by name."
"How did you ever get your hands on a legendary dragon-slaying weapon, anyway?" I ask.
Borgin shrugs. "An old witch sold it to me about ten years ago for far less than it was worth. She seemed happy to get a few galleons to be rid of it."
"I see," I say. I flip him a galleon. "Thanks for the information. Come on, Draco. Let's go see if we can find it."
We return to the Floo we came in at. "Malfoy Manor!"
The two of us arrive at Draco's ancestral home and look around. "Doesn't look like anyone's home," Draco says.
"Good," I say. "Let's check the secret room first." We head down to the basement and up to the wall that actually conceals the secret door. I tap it with my wand and make the proper movement, and say, "Sanctimonia Vincet Semper."
The door opens, and we step inside and look around. "Wow," Draco murmurs. "I've never actually been in here. There's so much stuff... I never realized this was all here!"
However, after a quick search of the place, I don't see anything resembling the icy dagger. "Doesn't look like it's here."
"Let's ask one of the house-elves," Draco says. "Dobby!"
Dobby obediently pops into existence next to us. "Yes, Young Master?"
"Do you know if there's a magic dragon-slaying dagger somewhere in this house?" Draco says. "It's called Frozen Viper."
I give him a quick description of it.
Dobby's eyes widen a little. "Yes, Dobby is seen it!"
"Where?" Draco asks.
"But maybe Dobby shouldn't tell," Dobby says uneasily. "Master is unhappy with Young Master. Young Master not supposed to be in the house!"
"Dobby," I say. "Have you had to punish yourself a lot recently? Shut your ears in the oven, and so forth?"
"Yes..." Dobby says dejectedly, looking at the floor.
"And I forbid you from punishing yourself," Draco says. "So don't you dare start now."
"Young Master always good to Dobby. Better than Dobby deserve. But Master... I will not speak ill of Master! He has been under much stress lately! Ever since the argument, he not been the same."
"The argument at Easter two years ago?" I ask.
"Yes," Dobby says.
"Look, Dobby," Draco says. "My father isn't himself. Someone messed with his mind around that Easter. He wouldn't want this. He would not have actually wanted any of this, I'm sure of it."
"Well..." Dobby says. "Master not tell Dobby not to tell you. Master not tell Dobby anything at all about magic knife. So Dobby tell you magic knife in Master's office desk upstairs."
"Thanks, Dobby," Draco says. "Treat yourself to a biscuit and take the rest of the day off. That's an order."
"But Master might punish-"
"And I already forbade you to punish yourself," Draco says. "So don't argue with me."
"Yes, Young Master," Draco says. "Thank you, Young Master." Dobby disappears.
Draco and I quickly climb back upstairs and make our way to Lucius' office. We're running short on time. The task will begin any minute now.
"In the desk," Draco says, trying it. "Locked... Alohomora!" A jolt of red electricity shoots out of the desk and strikes him.
"Draco!" I say. "Are you alright?"
"Yeah..." Draco says. "Yeah, I'm fine. Just a little stunned."
"We don't have time to try to break through these sorts of safeguards," I say. "Is there a key around here somewhere?"
"Reducto!" Draco casts at the desk, to no effect. "Damn it, too many protections."
I put my wand to the drawer and speak the Malfoy family motto again. This time it opens with a click. "Ah, that wasn't too hard," I say. Inside the drawer, there are a number of parchments I don't really care about that probably contain some sort of sensitive information Lucius doesn't want anyone else to see. But more importantly, tucked off to one side in a sheathe, lies Frozen Viper.
Draco carefully picks it up and wraps it up in a cloth. "Will you be able to handle it like this?"
"I should be," I say. I touch it experimentally. It feels ice cold even through the cloth, but at least it isn't lethal this way. I slip it into my bag of holding.
We head out downstairs back toward the Floo. I freeze at the top of the stairs. Voices. Lucius and Narcissa are home. Shit.
"Stormseeker," Draco whispers. "I'll distract them. You get to the Floo and get out of here."
"No time to argue," Draco says, rushing down the stairs.
I pull my invisibility cloak out of my bag and drape it over me quickly, and follow after him.
"You," Lucius snaps. "Didn't I tell you not to come back here?"
"You can't keep me out of my own home, Father," Draco says, pointing his wand at Lucius.
"You dare pull a wand on your own father?" Lucius says. "And you call yourself my son?"
"I've chosen my path," Draco says. "I choose to follow the Stormseeker!" He throws out a few spells that aren't particularly harmful, but are certainly flashy and distracting.
I take that as my cue, and rush over to the fireplace. I toss a pinch of powder in and say, "Hogwarts, Slytherin common room!" I dive in, just as Lucius pelts a spell in my direction.
I stumble out of the fireplace at the far end, pain in my leg. He managed to hit me with a lucky shot. I fall over, cloak slipping off of me.
"Stormseeker!" Neville says. "Are you alright?"
"I got it," I say, pulling off my cloak and stuffing it in my bag. "Hit with a curse... Don't think it's bad."
"The third task has already begun," Blaise says.
"Episkey," Neville says, and some of the pain in my leg fades.
"Let's go," I say.
We rush out toward the Quidditch pitch. The other champions have already all entered the maze. "Potter!" Ludo Bagman says. "You're late!"
"Then I'll just take that as a penalty," I say, heading into the maze.
I'm limping a little, and I need to hurry. I know which way I'm going. I avoid or bypass each obstacle I run across. I hear Fleur's screams in the distance, and come upon Viktor torturing Cedric.
"Stupefy!" I cast, and Viktor falls unconscious. "You okay, Cedric?"
"Thanks," Cedric says. "I was wondering if you were going to show up."
"I had something I needed to do first," I say. "Cedric, we need to talk. It's urgent."
"More urgent than us completing this task?" Cedric says, raising an eyebrow.
"The task doesn't matter," I say. "It's a trap. The cup in the middle is a portkey to the Dark Lord's resurrection ceremony."
"What?" Cedric says, looking at me wide-eyed. "How can that be? Nobody could tamper with the tournament like that..."
"I've learned in my life that things which people proclaim to be 'impossible' often show up to surprise them," I say dryly. "Look, Cedric... I'm a time traveler. I've just repeated this day... well, several times now. This was how I was able to compete the other tasks so easily. Because I went through them several times until I knew exactly what I was doing."
Cedric stares at me. "This is all a little hard to take in. But alright, let's say I believe you. What are we supposed to do, then?"
"I need your help," I say. I pull out the wrapped dagger from my bag and pass it over to him. "This is a dragon-slaying dagger. I have dragon's blood in my veins. The Dark Lord is going to use my blood to resurrect himself. When he does that, I need you to stab him with it. If you don't believe me, you can use it on me and go claim the cup for yourself." I sigh.
Cedric unwraps the dagger and takes it out, peering at it. "I don't think you have any reason to lie about this, especially with such an incredible, elaborate story. If all you wanted was the cup, you could have left me to Krum." He glares over at Viktor's unconscious body. "But how am I supposed to sneak up on You-Know-Who?"
I pull the invisibility cloak out of my bag and pass that over to him as well. "That's an invisibility cloak. Put it on before we grab the cup. Wait until the resurrection ceremony is completed and he's distracted."
"Alright," Cedric says, nodding. "Let's do this, then. Lead the way."
We make our way through the maze. When we come up to the sphinx, I say, "Spider." She looks at me oddly and steps aside with a feline shrug.
"I'll believe this time travel business..." Cedric says, blinking.
"There's an Acromantula near the cup," I say. "We need to stun it in unison."
We come upon the giant spider. "Stupefy!" we cast simultaneously. The Acromantula falls unconscious.
Cedric looks over toward the cup. "Can't we just avoid this whole resurrection ceremony altogether?" he asks. "Shoot up sparks and tell someone what's going on?"
"I'm hoping to kill the Dark Lord once and for all here," I say. "It's dangerous, especially to me, but if we can stop him here and now..."
Cedric looks at me in admiration. "They shouldn't have expelled you. I hope they change their minds, once we come back from this."
"I hope we come back from this," I say quietly. "Alright, are you ready for this? Remember, don't strike until he's alive and distracted, no matter what is happening to me."
Cedric gives a terse nod. "Understood." He pulls the invisibility cloak on around him and vanishes. "Let's do this," says his voice from thin air.
"Grab the cup on the count of three," I say. "One... two... three!"
I take a hold of the portkey, and feel myself wrenched away, tumbling through space, to land in the graveyard again. I reach out to feel for Cedric to make sure he's there.
"I'm here," Cedric whispers.
"Alright," I murmur. "Stand aside and be ready." I pull out my wand and peer about.
Quirrell is approaching. My heart is pounding. Nervous, excited, afraid, thrilling with anticipation. I feign confusion and surprise as Quirrell conjures ropes around me, tying me to the headstone, and relieves me of my wand.
"So nice of you to join us, Potter," Quirrell says, bringing over the cauldron.
"I do so hate to disappoint," I say dryly.
Quirrell continues with the ritual again. Bone of the father, flesh of the servant, blood of the enemy... The cauldron flares to life, giving off radiant sparks in every direction. Quirrell slumps to the ground clutching his wrist, falling over onto his side.
Lord Voldemort emerges from the cauldron, in full black draconian glory once more. "What is this?" he demands in alarm. "Did you somehow sabotage the ritual in some way, Potter?"
"That was because you used my blood," I say. "I am of the Dragon's Blood! And you will regret fucking with me, you monster. I will have my revenge upon you!"
"Will you, now?" Voldemort says. He pulls out a wand and points it at me. "Crucio!"
Pain rips through me for an agonizing second, but my screams are interrupted by a draconic screech. Voldemort is shrieking now as deadly ice rapidly covers his body and consumes him. With Cedric still invisible, it looks as though he's just spontaneously solidifying into ice. The black draconian goes rigid, and falls over to the ground like a statue.
"Reducto," says Cedric's voice, and the frozen remains of Voldemort shatter into a million icy shards. "Are you alright, Harry?" He pulls off the cloak and waves his wand. The ropes binding me fall away.
"Cedric, you're a real hero," I say, beaming at him.
"Nah," Cedric says. "All I did was exactly what you told me to do."
"You're a true Hufflepuff, is what you are," I say.
"Accio Harry's wand," Cedric murmurs, and my wand flies into his hand. "Here you go. Let's get out of here, shall we? We can talk all about it later."
As we head back toward the portkey, I can't shake the nagging feeling that I've forgotten something important.
"Avada-" says a voice from behind me.
I spin around in alarm, like the world is moving in slow motion.
"Kedavra!" screams Quirrell.
A flash of green light. And the world is no more.
I wake with a gasp, thinking that I'm going to have to do it all again. But then I realize, I'm not in the Slytherin dorm any longer. I'm smaller, younger, and in my room at the School of Thought in Torn Elkandu.
I lay in bed, staring at the ceiling for several minutes as it all sinks in. That was the first time I've actually been hit with Avada Kedavra. It seems that, just as the basilisk's gaze sends me back to the first day that I died, so does the Killing Curse.
Still, I can't regret that end. I hope that Cedric made it out alright. I hope Lucius wasn't foolish enough to actually hurt his only son and heir. But we defeated the Dark Lord. It's over. It might not be 'happily ever after', but it was still a happy ending.
In a way, I think I'm more relieved than anything else. Toward the end there, especially after having been expelled from Hogwarts, I found myself more and more frequently wishing that I could just go back to the beginning and do it all over again. And now I'm free, in a sense. I'm free of that timeline, now, and I know one more thing that can force a full reset. A thing that's a lot easier to come by than a basilisk.
I give a broad grin as I climb out of bed and get dressed. The whole multiverse is open to me. I want to go and explore.
A/N: And that concludes Borrowed Destiny. Thanks for reading!
Lexen's adventures continue directly in "Stormseeker: Legacy of the Shapers", and will return to the Harry Potter universe in "Stormseeker: Unwanted Destiny".