The next day, the matter of settling the competition arose. Apparently, Fleur and I appearing before the judges together was a new thing for the Triwizard Tournament. In the end, they declared it a tie for first place, and we split the glory. And the thousand galleon prize.
The downside was, we still needed to find out what exactly had happened in the maze. None of us, even Fleur and I, knew.
Which was why I had been summoned to Headmaster's grand office, escorted my McGonagall. She gave the password, and the Gargoyle moved aside, letting us up the stairway. I was relieved for the fifth time that Hermione had volunteered to go with me, and that McGonagall had not objected.
"I brought him, Headmaster." She announced, striding ahead of us into the office. "We can begin." I looked around—there was Snape, Dumbledore, the three of us that had just arrived—and the two Americans, naturally. Percy nodded a terse greeting, and Annabeth walked over, speaking quietly to Hermione, the two seeming quite comfortable with each other. I wondered how it always seemed that girls became nearly best friends so quickly—but then again, they became enemies faster than blokes, too.
"Why isn't Fleur here, Professor?" I asked.
"Her Headmistresses did not wish to be involved, after receiving pressure from the ministry to not investigate the incident." Dumbledore said. "However—Fleur was kind enough to donate her memories to aid us."
"It is just a copy of our memories, right?" Percy asked, looking distrustfully at the Pensieve. "Magic like that is usually pretty risky, back home."
"It doesn't remove the memories from your head, if that's what you are asking." McGonagell remarked, looking at Percy the same way she looked at failing students. He shrugged.
"So if that's the traitor Wormtail, what is he holding?" Percy asked. The six of us were standing around the Riddle graveyard. Oddly, so was another Harry and Fleur, as we were in the memory, of course.
"That is the question…" Dumbledore mused.
"This is definitely the sort of place to bring a spirit back to the living world." Annabeth mused.
"Hopefully you aren't talking from experience." Hermione commented. Annabeth shrugged, not replying.
"The fact that it is the Riddle graveyard must hold quite a bit of significance." Professor McGonnagal said, reading the inscriptions on the statue, again. "They could have been taken anywhere. Why did the Portkey lead here? Either for the symbolism of murdering 'the boy who lived' at the Riddle graveyard, or…"
"No." Hermione shook her head. "He… Voldemort hates his father. He wouldn't take a hated enemy there."
"There are a variety of spells that could use a bone or body part from a dead father." Dumbledore mused.
"Indeed." Snape said, looking at the Triwizard Cup. "Strange that the portkey led back to the tournament."
"The little thing has to be Voldemort." Percy said abruptly, pacing around the frozen Wormtail, staring at the bundle. Neither Fleur nor myself had seen it closely, so the memory was blurred there. "Somehow. Unless someone gave birth to baby Satan. What else explains it?"
McGonnagel and Snape had… interesting expressions at Percy's comment, while Hermione looked half amused/half grossed out.
"Tell me, Jackson, have you had many dealings with dark magic?" Snape asked curtly. Apparently his comment had frustrated the slight non-hatred Snape had displayed for the Americans earlier.
"Too many." Percy sighed. "And every time it gets worse."
"Like what?" Hermione asked.
"The Labyrinth, for one. I had to kill the arena master, Antaeus. That was horrible." Percy shook his head. I was surprised. I wasn't sure what he was referring to, but I understood the part about having to kill someone. Oddly, Snape's face did not betray any puzzlement in the least.
"I don't think this memory will tell us much more than we know." Dumbledore said, not sounding very disturbed at anything he had seen or heard.
You know those idle days when school is out and you suddenly have almost nothing to do? While classes were in you kept wishing for some free time, but when it happens, you don't know what to do with it.
It still happens even when someone tried to murder you. I was at least a bit glad that Fleur wasn't killed. Or me.
And unlike previous summers, I had something to look forward to, for once. I wasn't going back to the Dursley's. I was going to the Granger's this year—and hopefully next year I'd be spending my summer at the Black residence, once Sirius didn't have to keep running.
Both of agreed it might be best to not inform Professor McGonagal or Dumbledore about this little arrangement.
And Ron was still bitter at me. I wasn't quite sure how to fix it, or if it was really important. After studying what Fleur and I remembered in the Pensieve, the three professors had agreed that the small creature Wormtail had been holding had indeed been Voldemort… and they seemed of the opinion that if he was somehow brought back into a normal body, fixing that body wouldn't be too difficult for him. Percy and Annabeth had been even more worried, acting fairly confident that Voldemort would be 'back in the game' within a few months.
"Almost ready, Harry?" Hermione was suddenly in the doorway of the boy's dorm. "There's not much time left." I put a few more items in my trunk, glancing around the room, at Hermione.
"Everytime I leave, it feels like I'm leaving home." I commented, a little mournfully. "And next year… who knows what will happen."
"Doesn't really matter." Hermione remarked, smiling. I raised an eyebrow.
"No?" I asked. She shook her head.
"Somehow, we always manage to come through. Always." She said, looking more positive than I felt.
We bid our farewells to the professors. Hagrid, as usual, gave us an emotional goodbye and almost crushed us in a hug. McGonnagel was kind enough in her stern way, and Dumbledore was… Dumbledore. That's why everyone—aside from the Slytherins, but they don't count—loved him. We made our way down to the Hogwarts Express, through Hogsmeade. We found an empty compartment, and settled in for the hours it would take to get back to London. Crookshanks jumped up on a seat and settled down. I wondered if Fred and George would be joining us, or Ron…
"You had a lucky escape in the maze, Potter." We turned to see Malfoy standing outside our compartment, Crabbe and Goyle in their usual minion pose. "But he's back, and no French girls will be around to save you! First it'll be mudbloods like you, Granger, and then—"
He was cut off mid sentence as both of us drew our wands and fired curses at the same time. Malfoy flew backwards and bounced off the wall while at the same time turning as stiff as a board. Crabbe and Goyle moved surprisingly fast, ducking out of sight. I saw a fast shape move, and sounds of punches and a few shouts.
"Hold your fire!" Percy called, then stepped around the corner. He was grinning at the frozen Malfoy. Hermione and I moved closer, and could see Crabbe and Goyle, both unconscious from well-placed blows. "Nice to see you two finally standing up for yourselves. And here I was thinking English were wimps."
"Maybe Americans are just violent." I laughed.
"You two catching a ride to London?" Hermione observed.
"Yeah, than back to the States." Percy nodded. Crookshanks stalked up to the two and looked at them closely.
"Seaweed brain, the bodies." Annabeth hissed, looking around the corridor.
"Right." He tried a promising closet. "Locked."
"Oh, simple." Hermione said. She pointed her wand, "Alohomora." The door clicked, and Percy opened it easily. They stuffed the three Slytherins inside while Hermione and I stood watch, blocking anyone from seeing.
No, not dodgy at all.
"So…" Hermione said slowly, glancing around the compartment.
"He seemed confident Voldemort has returned." Percy remarked. "Big surprise there."
"His father was a death eater." I explained.
"Things are probably going to get rough within the next few years." Annabeth said abruptly. "So get ready for it. Luck favors the prepared."
"Assuming that was Voldemort in the graveyard, he might already have figured out a way to get a normal body." Percy said. "You Brits have a lot of work ahead of you."
"He's probably not going to be strong enough to try to wage a civil war, so history suggests he'll try to go for a coup." Annabeth was speaking quickly, intensely. "He'll be trying to infiltrate as many men as he can in your government here, before striking. Once he's got enough people working for him in government, he'll probably have the leaders killed, then seize power. It's happened a lot, and Voldemort seems fairly Machiavellian."
"Machia-what?" I asked.
"Machiavelli was the father of political science, Harry." Hermione said. "He was an Italian tactician who wrote about overthrowing governments, establishing regimes, stuff like that. About five hundred years ago." Annabeth nodded.
"Neither Dumbledore nor the leadership in our camp really thinks your government will be able to stop it." Percy said. "No offense. So it's important that you prepare."
"Wait, why are you telling us this?" I asked. "Are you going to send help if this happens, or you guys know something Dumbledore doesn't?"
"We're telling you this because you need to be ready if it happens." Annabeth said. "My mother is a military tactician. Planning ahead is the most important thing of all, as long as you have the will to act."
"So what do you suggest we do?" Hermione asked.
"Overall… prepare. Basically ask yourselves—what would you do if your government turned on you? Could you hide, survive long enough to fight back? You know more about magic than us, so you'll know better than us what to do. But what to be ready for is simple. Voldemort will either focus his men on terrorism and strategic strikes against your government, or he will go the simple factions route—he'll throw his power behind some group already here, strengthen it, and use it to take control of the government, with violence." Annabeth stopped for a breath and leaned back, worry on her face. Those two looked concerned.
"You're not basing this on what that Italian wrote, right?" I asked gingerly.
"Rules of war and people still stand." Percy shrugged. "Like, you know about the Iraqi War from a few years ago, and our President Bush, right? How it was popular at first, then became incredibly unpopular, looked like a half-failure? Because of the cost, and body count?" Hermione and I both nodded. I knew enough about muggle doings to know about it.
"Machiavelli instructed to never occupy nations simply with standing armies." Percy said. "He said it would cost too much, and it would drag the violence on so long that your own nation, and the nation you were occupying, would hate you. He said that when you must use violent force, do it all at once. And use colonies when occupying a nation."
"Okay." Hermione nodded. "So, we need to be ready. We need to know how to fight, we need friends who will fight with us, we need to know how to run if we have to, and we need places we can run too, in between fights."
"Basically." Annabeth said.
"That concludes our doomsday warning." Percy said jokingly giving a half-salute. "Boy, don't you feel better?"
"No." I said gloomily. "Can't people from your camp find Voldemort, with Dumbledore?"
"We have our own problems stateside." Annabeth sighed. "But that doesn't mean you can't do something."
"So, what did you think of Hogwarts?" Hermione said brightly. We all laughed.
"A bit more Middle-Ages compared to what we're used to, but quite an experience." Annabeth smiled. "And it was a pleasure to meet you both."
We bid some more farewells once we got to London and exited. Thankfully, the Grangers had sent a letter to the Dursley's for me, telling them no need to arrive at the station. (I didn't want to risk what the Dursley's might do to an unlucky messenger owl.)
"There's my parents." Hermione said brightly, grabbing my hand. "I can't wait to get home. You'll love it."
And oddly enough… I did.
Okay, so not to provide a huge let-down to anyone who read this story before, but unless I want to try rivaling Rowling, I think this is where this story ends... or at least leaves off. Not that it couldn't pick up at some later point in the original story. Leave a review if you like, and if you think it would be good to pick this story up again at a later part of the plot (such as, dealing with Umbridge, or figuring out horcruxes, or on the run from the death-eater ruled Ministry of Magic) do say so in your review. Oh, and if you think this story could resume somewhere—add if you think Percy and Annabeth should come back. Thanks!