Disclaimers: I do not own Harry Potter. It belongs to J.K. Rowling. I make no money from this endeavor.
Also, I don't own "One way or Another", it is a single that was originally by the band, Blondie.
Nor do I own Full Metal Alchemist. Its creator is Hiromu Arakawa.
A/N: As always, my thanks goes out to those who are kind enough to review. Thank you.
Larger than usual chapter incoming. Do not expect more of this size anytime soon.
I am working on Chapter 19, and so in preparation for that, am putting out a call for Betas. The minimum I'm looking for is for someone to help me proof my work so I stop posting major errors. Any additional help is welcome though.
Chapter 17: All You Fear
Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore was more than a little upset this morning. He had spent a large chunk of the previous evening getting chewed out by his Deputy who had devolved from her usual precise meaning to curse at him in her Scottish brogue. Something last night had apparently reminded her of how badly the Dursleys had treated his wea... er... Mr. Potter, and so she had spent the period of time from after the end of the Ball until she went to bed, taking her ire out on him.
It was so very hard to be him sometimes.
Harry was going over the list of just what he had in his bag (he was calling it the Terrible Tote of Termination this week... and it was a name that would not be making it onto the final list) as he was picking at what was left of a breakfast so large that Ronald wouldn't have been able to eat all of it, when the sound of someone tapping a utensil against a glass rang through the Great Hall.
Looking up from his plate, and being shaken from his contemplation, Harry could only really think of one word as he saw Dumbledore standing in front of the student collective.
Taking one last tap at the glass in his hand, the Headmaster began, "It is my pleasure to announce that today, November the first, is the day that the first portion of the third task of the Tri-Wizard Tournament shall take place. At a quarter of twelve the champions are to report to the Entrance Hall, dressed in their standard school uniform. The student bodies of the three schools can start to seek seating whenever they wish.
"Morning classes shall be canceled today, but punishments for those skipping afternoon classes shall be doubled. Now may you all enjoy the meal and the task that is to come."
Harry picked half a dozen languages and started swearing up a storm under his breath. He was now most likely going to be mostly unarmed, but with the rather specific orders for dress for the task hinted that they would be required to give up their wands, the likelihood of being more helpless than he had been in a long time was extremely high, and he did not like it one bit.
He really needed to work on the next generation of 'housing' for his bag. The concept was amazingly simple, but getting it to work was causing him enough consternation that he would randomly cycle through hair colors when he was working on it at times.
He'd never be without high explosives (among many other things) ever again, so long as he had his own clothing.
And while all these thoughts were racing in his head, he was ruthlessly throttling the semi-rational fear that this task may very well involve Dementors in someway.
He had a feeling deep in his gut that today would be a long day.
As Harry waited in the Entrance Hall, leaning against one of the walls, he shored up his mental defenses, adding whatever he thought would be effective against Dementors. Even there were not any actually there, the preparations would likely help him to last longer against whatever despair invoking effect the Tournament was going to throw at him.
At least that was what he hoped.
Cedric had already shown up and was pacing back and forth, muttering darkly to himself. Harry could feel Fleur approaching from the Beauxbatons section of the castle and Viktor was approaching the doors from having taken a turn around the lake after breakfast.
Madam Maxime was sitting upon a sturdy chair, filing and buffing her nails with an actual metal nail file. Harry had stared at that for a moment, then shrugged it off, Hagrid had a fair amount of resistance to spells, and so it was likely that if the Beauxbatons Headmistress used those spells, they likely wouldn't work correctly. But thinking of that, he had come across more than a few charms in a pair of books he had read on personal grooming. Having read them after getting some control on his metamorphmagus abilities, he had planned a few pranks on Draco that centered around making him appear to more of a dandy than he usually was, but he had been scared off by the amount of charms that the Malfoy heir had on his person dedicated to maintaining his appearance.
Along with questioning Draco's sexual orientation, Harry was of the belief that the Malfoy family magics were actually highly refined and powerful grooming magics and potions. And since Sirius didn't want to pay to get the Malfoy grimoire stripped of its protective spells, having gained the book when he had pauperized the family in the summer of 'Ninety-two, Harry's hunch was going to go unconfirmed for quite sometime.
Five minutes later, with all four champions present, Madam Maxime rose from her chair, vanishing it with a negligent wave of her wand and said, "You all must hand your wands over to me."
Removing his holster from below his neck, Harry approached the Headmistress of the French school and offered it to her. She took the holstered wand, placing it in one of the pockets of her robe, and made a quick but complex set of motions with her own wand, before flicking it up and down. He shivered as he felt some sort of detection spell wash over his magical senses. She furrowed her brow a moment later and repeated whatever spell she cast.
She was now frowning as she asked, "I'm getting a positive that's denoting you are part magical being..."
Harry sighed and replied, "Could being metamorph get you the result you are getting?"
The large woman closed her eyes for a moment before nodding, "Yes, yes it most probably could. Go stand by the doors."
The process was repeated with both Cedric and Fleur seeming to pass, both without any hiccups like Harry. Viktor however...
"Mr. Krum, if you would hand over the hold-out wand you have tucked into your right boot and the magical dagger you have attached to the underside of your left forearm, you will be in compliance with the state of armament for this task."
Harry barely heard the Bulgarian muttering a number of unkind, and rather naughty, things under his breath as he disarmed himself to the satisfaction of the half-giantess. She scanned him one more time before motioning him to join the other three.
"Now you four shall precede me down to the stadium, and there you will then be given further instructions."
As they walked down to the stadium, Cedric saw his fellow champions twitch slightly a few times, and knew he was twitching slightly, but Harry looked like he was going to descend into a panic at the first loud noise.
Even without a wand, Cedric was not too keen on watching the Gryffindor go into fight-or-flight mode. He knew Harry was capable of quite a bit of wandless motive magic, and given how much trouble seemed to find the teen, Cedric was willing to be one of his first reactions would to smash a threat.
He would stay as far from Harry as he humanly could for the duration of this task.
As they entered the field of the stadium, they saw that a small glass building had been constructed in the middle of the pitch. About twelve feet long on a side on the ground and eight feet tall, the glass was a semi-opaque gray, and the entire structure was more than a little forbidding.
Madam Maxime spoke from behind them. "There are four rooms within the structure. Mr. Potter shall enter through the door that is on the side currently facing us. Mr. Diggory shall take the left, Ms. Delacour the right, and Mr. Krum's entrance is on the far side. The task will begin on the gong, and you are to remain in the structure for as long as you can, with the tasking ending either in half an hour after the gong, or when the last champion still remains. You must state something along the lines that you are conceding the task in order to exit the building. You will also be deemed to have lost the task if you lose consciousness. Now please proceed to your doors and enter."
As the Headmistress of Beauxbatons had been speaking, they had gotten close enough to the structure to see that runes were carved upon the surface of the glass in such numbers that there was barely a single contiguous square inch that did not have a rune on it.
The four champions did as directed and entered the small structure. The inside was dimly lit, though there was enough light to make out details about the space. Each cubicle in the structure was square in shape and the walls were almost entirely transparent, save for dark black and blood red runes running along the surface of the walls, though they were larger than those on the outside walls, and did not impede vision much. The inside of the exterior walls were completely smooth as compared to their outside surface, and were also completely opaque.
As Fleur and Cedric entered, Harry grinned and said, with a bit of forced cheer, "At least we can't see any Dementors."
Cedric rolled his eyes and replied, as Viktor entered his chamber, "Well if we can feel them and can't see them, that will probably make the 'despair' of the task worse than it would be if we could see them. And I am going to state, for the record, that I wish Krum and I could switch rooms. No offense Harry, but I want to be as far from you as I can be when you descend into panic."
Fleur glared at Cedric as Harry chuckled and spoke, "I don't blame you one bit Cedric. Hey you guys want to see a new trick I've been working on for about eight months?"
As a gong sounded in the distance, the other three champions made their consent known. Smiling grimly, though he felt the walls begin to give off magic similar to Dementors, Harry extended his right fore and middle curling his other fingers and thumb into his palm, and while point at the ceiling, firmly said, "Lumos orbis."
A small sphere of moderately bright white light flickered in and out of existence where Harry pointed, and he repeated the spell two more times before a a sphere of light as bright as a sixty watt light bulb was floating near the ceiling of his chamber.
Viktor clapped sarcastically and said, "Quite the parlor trick Harry... How much wandless magic do you know?"
"Apart from my being able moving stuff and a barely satisfactory light spell that works one time out of three? Nothing," Harry replied while a shiver made its way up and down his spine. "Is it me or is it getting cold in here?"
Cedric, who was in the process of rubbing his arms, said, "What do you think?"
The four descended into silence.
Five minutes into the task, and a few of the champions were starting to show the strain. Cedric was doing push ups, while Fleur could not help herself from pacing back and forth in a rather precise line. Viktor was showing the least strain as he sat in the full lotus position and was apparently meditating.
She felt a little anxious, but Dementors did not effect Veela as badly as they did other sentient beings. Veela were at their core beings of primal emotions, and were more closely aligned with love, rather than lust as most of the global wizarding world thought. Though there were those that chose to embrace that lust, as it was a part of them, but it did lend them some strength, and by embracing it they could gain more strength from it. But she had always thought that it was a hollow way to live one's life.
She hazarded a glance over at Harry, who was currently prowling the room he was confined to like some sort of caged animal. The walls he frequently walked along were the two exterior ones, while he would occasionally cross the length of the room, from the far corner of one of the exterior walls to the other, he seemed to ignore the walls that separated him from his fellow champions.
As the floating point of light he had created flickered out, Fleur turned to Harry.
Seemingly aware of her gaze, he said, "No more lights from me. Taking most of my focus to keep my primary shields up. When those go down this, whatever it is., is going to flood through my mazes and labyrinths right through to my secondary shields," though he continued muttering to himself, she could not hear what he said.
Cedric had switched over to sit-ups as he tried to ignore how much Harry's little light had made things more bearable. He was glad that he had no traumatic memories for this to get a hold of, though he kept getting flashes from the previous two years, first with the terror surrounding the Chamber of Secrets and then the havoc and fear that came with the first breakout from Azkaban.
He glanced at Harry, wondering when the young Lion would snap. He also wondered if he would yell his concession or start attacking the walls of his cell.
Viktor sat calmly behind mental shields reinforced by the love he shared with his family and girlfriend, and the happiness that pervaded his life. He felt comfortable here, and was more than glad that he had learned the Patronus last year. Moreover, he was amazed that when he focused on the memories and emotions that drove the Guardian spell and directed the emotional energy to his shields that they protected him from the cold influence as well as his fully formed vulture Patronus would from the emotivores themselves. In fact he felt so calm and relaxed wrapped in his shields he...
The champions heard a voice announce, "Viktor Krum is out of the running at seven minutes, thirty-eight seconds, due to a loss of consciousness."
Bagman's announcement did not wake the sleeping Quidditch super-star.
Harry stopped in his prowling to glare at the napping Bulgarian. Here he was, cowering behind the walls of his central tower, and that... that...
"Did that bastard fall asleep?" Harry asked as a pair of seventh years of Durmstrang entered the cubicle and carried the sleeping seeker off. The look on his face promised that the elder of the Krum siblings would not live this down.
Fleur just stared in disbelief as a member of the competition took himself out of the running by doing so well at the task that he fell asleep. She shook her heard and turned back to the remained competitors.
Cedric allowed himself a light chuckle. Now if he could only outlast Harry and Fleur. He glanced at the French witch from where he was now doing jumping jacks, and saw that, after the now absent Viktor, she seemed to be the least frazzled of all of them.
He hoped that Harry would be the next to go, if only to cut into the commanding lead that The-Boy-Who-Lived had.
At the twelve minute mark, deep within Harry's mindscape, Fang looked around the council chamber. Bruce was curled up in the fetal position on the floor in front of his La-Z-Boy throne, sucking on his thumb. Morpheus was, for the most part, limply sprawled on his own throne, though he did on occasion twitch slightly. The central personality was sitting upon its own throne, though his knees were drawn up to his chest and had his arms wrapped around them, and was now rocking back and forth.
Fang had felt his higher thought processes slowly go offline as the other aspects and Harry-Prime sliped in the oblivion of unconsciousness.
The last thing the animalistic side of Harry Potter said was, "This will not end well..." shortly before control of their body fell into his hands just as he lost all capability of rational thought.
Fleur turned to Harry as she heard a rather angry growl come from the room where he was contained. Harry had stopped his prowling and was, from his posture, glaring at the wall in front of him. He was slouched slightly, and she wondered when he had discarded the robe that went over his uniform. The sleeves of his shirt had been folded back, and the flesh of his hands and forearms was... writhing.
Cedric watched in disbelief as Harry's hands transformed into wicked looking claws, though he was forced to clamp his hands over his ears as Harry started striking at the walls with his newly reformed hands. It was like nails being raked along a chalkboard.
A few minutes later, Harry had went back to prowling his enclosure, and Fleur caught a glimpse of his eyes. They looked almost exactly as they always did, though she just barely caught that the pupil was slit, like that of a cat or a dragon.
The reprieve didn't last long, as a moment after she got a look at his eyes, he started lashing out at the wall again with his claws, and the gouges were significantly deeper this time.
Cedric, having stopped his exercises at the fifteen minute mark, was now simply walking in circles, trying to stop from yelling out to end the task. He heard that horrible, but helpfully distracting, screeching stop, only to be replaced with a rhythmic pounding.
He stared at Harry, who was now pounding against the wall with his shoulder, seemingly trying to break down the wall using the part he had torn up with his claws as a weak point.
It was now minute eighteen, and he hoped Harry broke out before he passed out. He wanted to take second in a task so badly, he could almost taste it. But it was so very cold.
As minute twenty passed, Fleur could only watch in slight awe as a network of cracks had grown from where Harry was attempting to pound down the wall. Each time he struck it, the cracks grew longer and deeper, and she was certain the wall would...
With one last bash, the cracks started spreading at an amazing rate, and Harry jumped backwards as the wall, from the halfway point where the interior wall met it to the corner, shattered and fell to the ground. He was bounding out of his area of the structure moments later, followed by Bagman's announcement of, "Harry Potter takes third place of this portion of the task, having effected self release from the Chamber of Terror at twenty minutes, twenty-seven seconds!"
Fleur watched him run out of sight before turning her gaze to Cedric. Two silent minutes passed before the Badger slumped over, and the Head of the Department of Games and Sport called out, "And the first part of the third task is over! Fleur Delacour of Beauxbatons is the last champion standing with Cedric Diggory losing consciousness at twenty-two minutes, and thirty-five seconds!"
Harry wandered back into the school an hour after the task ended, more than a little displeased with himself. Oh, he wasn't angry about coming in third in the task, a little disappointed, but he was thankful he didn't come in dead last. You couldn't win every time.
What he was upset was the fact that he more or less went berserk in front of the students and staff of three schools, a number of members of the international press, and those who managed to buy tickets to the task.
From what Fang had told him, and it was fairly vague due to the animalistic aspect having lost all his capabilities of higher thought for the later duration of the task, he had morphed his hands in claws and started attempting to tear his way through the outside wall. When that had failed, Fang had shifted the composition of the claws to something closely resembling diamonds before renewing his assault on the offending partition. He had then proceeded to bash down the wall once he had created a weak point.
Impressive, yes. Embarrassing as hell however. As he stopped in the Entrance Hall and wondered where his wand was, someone tapped him on the shoulder from behind.
Turn on his heel he found that he was looking at the German Ministry official... Rikhardt... Rikard... Richter!
"Yes, Mister Richter?"
The man spoke with a mild German accent, "Mr. Potter, as you were, not present, for the wrap up following this afternoon's event, I've volunteered to inform you of both the results and what the champions are to be told of the second event of the task," he pulled a white wand holster from his robes and passed it to Harry, "along with returning this to you."
"Thank you," Harry said as he attached the holster back to its place on his back, just below the base of his neck.
"Each champion was rewarded with points according to how long they remained within the confines of the task area, with Miss Delacour being the only exception having won the event and receiving a full thirty points. Mr. Diggory came in second with twenty-two points, and you in third with twenty. Mr. Krum, having actually fallen asleep part way through the task, received seven points.
"In case you were wondering, the effect Dementors have on sentients was replicated by the rune arrays that were covering the structure the event took place in.
"The four champions are to report to the stadium at quarter after eight tomorrow evening. There will not be an audience for this event. There are no specifications on what a champion may, or may not, bring, so I suspect you will come armed for bear."
All Harry did to answer the man was grin rather malevolently.
"You know, you are a rather frightening young man Mr. Potter."
Harry proceeded to avoid everyone he could the rest of the day by literally locking himself within his workspace. He'd sent a pair of notes (again with the origami flight charms) to Professors Flitwick and McGonagall stating that it would be unlikely that he would be attending class tomorrow, but that he would take whatever punishment they would hand out.
McGonagall had sent him three assignments totaling four and a half feet of parchment, while Flitwick gave him instructions to a quartet of rather esoteric spells that he wanted Harry to learn in place of coming to class. From the descriptions of the spells, Harry figured that they would be very useful in a fight.
Leon resting on the far side of the room. The shadow wolf had approached his bonded companion after the end of the that afternoons event...
*Cub, I am going to be accompanying you on your next task.*
Harry simply stared at the large black wolf for a moment.
*I've felt a few of the things you are afraid that will come up during the task tomorrow, and I am not going to allow you to go about this alone. Hedwig is going to flame both of us out if things start getting out of hand...*
A trilling song was heard from the other side of the room, and Hedwig could be seen with her head stuck in an open drawer, trying to get her beak on the treats Harry kept there.
After the fifth boy in a single hour had asked her to the Yule Ball with a glazed look on his face (he was the second that particular hour to have a bit of drool hanging from the side of his mouth), she had stormed off in search of a certain member of the tri-school populace.
She was damn well going to be able to enjoy the next ball or there would be hell to pay!
She had finally heard that he had surfaced from having disappeared following the first part of the task yesterday. She found him out by the lake near a tree, practicing with a wooden sword that resembled a gladius.
He was wearing the same black coat, pants, and boots he had been from the first two tasks, but he had apparently switched out the simple t-shirt for a blood red shirt with a high collar.
She briefly wondered how many weapons Harry had on his person at this moment.
As she approached him, she flicked her wand several times, ensuring that there would be no interruptions, and no witnesses, to the coming conversation.
Harry glanced around as he felt a dozen privacy and notice-me-not charms go up in the area around him. He saw Fleur striding toward him. She had a kindly smile set on her face, but there was a gleam in her eyes that he couldn't quite identify, but Fang was screaming for him to make like a tree and leave. Leon was watching from where he was laying by the lake with wry amusement.
He started backing up, glancing from side to side in preparation to run like hell, when he completely forgot about the tree he was near. That is until he walked right into it. Fleur flicked her wand, and he found himself restrained by wooden vines that appeared out of the tree.
He whimpered as he thought, 'This isn't going to end well...'
"Now, Harry, in the past two days, I've been asked to the Yule Ball two dozen times by males that are adversely affected by even the smallest amount of Allure. All of them have had glazed eyes and were stuttering, and a full third of them had been drooling at some point before asking me, with a half of that third still having being in said process," the Veela said, in a firm but polite tone that still managed to raise the hairs on the back of Harry's neck in dread.
He briefly wondered if this was her being polite while she was upset, what the hell was she like when she was angry. After a moment of contemplation, he was fairly certain that he didn't want to know.
"Now, you are going to take me to this Ball, and quite possibly the next one. You are going to be a gentleman, and you are going to dance with me. It is going to be a most wonderful evening."
"My robes are a bluish-silver satin," She continued on, ignoring his attempted interruption, as she looked him over, "I would suggest you wear some dark blue dress robes, though dark green would not be objectionable either. A dark crimson would be best however, it would compliment what I am going to wear quite nicely. I don't think you would do well in bright colors however."
"And if you are a good enough partner for this Ball, you are going to take me to the Valentine's Day Ball and save me the trouble of having to deal with the male population of three schools. And if you are suitable company for that event, I may even allow you to take me out on a date afterwards..."
She narrowed her eyes at his third attempt to break into the conversation, and Harry had the sudden feeling that he had absolutely no say in anything Fleur was talking about. As she glared at him, Harry hung his head and muttered two words.
She smiled brightly and kissed Harry on the cheek, as she turned around to leave she said, "Magnificent, you will meet me in the Entrance Hall fifteen minutes before the Ball starts... I expect a corsage that suits my dress robes."
Harry watched, bemused, as Fleur walked off, before shaking his head. To no one in particular, he said, "Women are strange."
He then turned to Leon and growled out, "You could have helped me."
Harry heard a rumbling chuckle reverberate across the bond as Leon said, *But then I wouldn't have been able to see something so very amusing...*
As she barely stopped herself from skipping away from Harry in a most undignified manner, she started singing under her breath, "One way or another, I'm gonna find ya, I'm gonna getcha getcha..."
As Harry made his way into the stadium, flanked by Leon, a few minutes before the second half of the task was scheduled to start, he was patting down his coat and pants, running through a mental checklist of just what he had stored where on his person. Most of his worst fears involved violence, and he was more than prepared to turn whatever he was going to face into a fine paste.
As he found the other three champions already waiting, he recognized the man from the previous afternoon.
Nodding as Harry came closer, Mr. Richter said, "For those of you who do not know me, I am Niklas Richter, the Head of the German Department of Magic's International Relations Ministry. One by one, you will be led out onto the field. Perform to the best of your abilities in whatever situation you find yourself in. I wish you all good luck. Miss Delacour, if you would follow me please."
As Fleur walked away, all three of the remaining champions started pacing, each worrying about just what they would have to face. Leon just made himself comfortable, watching and waiting. After about ten minutes had passed, Harry asked, "So, who has an idea at what you are going to be up against? I know what Ivan has always been telling me what his brother's greatest fear is."
Viktor glared at the other famous teen and said, "And just what has my brother been telling you frightens me the most?"
Harry smirked, and replied, "Rabid fangirls."
Both of the Hogwarts students saw Viktor fail to suppress a shudder. "Ja. That would do it. What of you Potter?"
"Dark Lord Potter, Dark Lord Voldemort, or an eldritch abomination."
Cedric just looked at Harry for a moment with a strange look on his face before asking, "Dark Lord Potter?"
"Hey with what I am capable of, the thought of a me gone Dark is just terrifying. Now fess up, Ced, what scares you the most?"
Krum turned to the Hufflepuff and just stared at him with an eyebrow raised in disbelief.
"I kid you not, gentlemen. My mother took me to see a filming of Romero's classic Night of the Living Dead as a sixteenth birthday present, and I've been absolutely terrified of the thought of infectious Inferi ever since. If anyone ever comes up with that, it's game over, man, game over!"
As the three young men descended back into silence, and waited for whatever horror they would have to face.
It was a little over thirty minutes after this, with Cedric having been led away less than five minutes after they had talked about what it was they feared most, that Harry was called to follow Richter. Leon rose and walked at Harry's left as they went out onto the pitch.
Harry felt thirteen columns of magic arranged in a loose oval around the pitch, and they gave off a similar vibration to what he vaguely recognized as that belong to a boggart.
As he and the Tournament official stepped out onto the field, Harry saw that thirteen pillars placed around the field were the source of the magic. The pitch was also completely covered in a moderate mist, making it difficult to see more than five feet in front of him.
At the edge of the oval formed by the pillars, Richter stopped and said, in a far too eerie voice, "Good luck Mr. Potter, you'll need it..."
As he walked forward stepped between two of the pillars, he felt what seemed like a wave of dread wash over him. Shaking his head, he knew it was the magic the pillars were putting off, and it was trying to unnerve him. So, he muttered to himself as he drew his wand, "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here..."
He jerked to the side as he felt magic, horrid, deadly, magic fly at him. His eyes widened as he saw a bolt of lurid green energy pass through the space where his torso was a few moments ago.
*Leon, hide in the shadows, hit and run tactics, only when you are certain you can do damage.*
Harry advanced upon the magical signature that was firing upon him, dodging a pair more of killing curses. He swept his wand in an arc around him, muttering a wide area wind spell while pumping more magic than necessary into it, clearing the pitch of the troublesome fog. And standing in front of him was... Himself.
His doppelganger's skin was far paler than his own, somehow managing to be paler than the pure white robes he wore. They were the type he favored, open at the front, revealing a killing curse green shirt, black slacks, and basilisk hide boots identical to his own. His double's hair was as his hair used to be, short and all of it as black as ink, completely uncontrollable. The biggest difference between himself and the Dark Lord Potter however was his eyes. The sclera and irises of both eyes were pitch black, while the pupil was a vertical blood red slit.
Smiling sadistically, he said, "It is good to meet... me."
With a grim look on his face the real Harry twitched his left hand, activating a duelist's shield around his left hand and forming three small, mobile shields behind his back. "Sad to say I can't say the same."
"Your familiar abandon you? That's why I shattered the bonds before they even finished forming. Why should I offload some power when a myth says that it will only drive me insane? They'll all just abandon you in the end anyway..."
Harry felt Leon send a pulse of anger directed at the Dark Harry down the bond, and could tell that he was attempting to flank the young Dark Lord.
Harry cut himself off by starting to fling spells, cutters, bludgeoners, piercers, mixed with mildly debilitating hexes and curses. The dark reflection of himself started moving at a speed Harry could only match if he was willing to hurt himself, and dodged the vast majority of the spells, deflecting a few curses he could not outright dodge before counter attacking.
Using his left hand and the three shields to block what he couldn't dodge, he continued casting with his wand in his right hand, laying down enough spellfire to keep his darker self from going on a full offensive, though with the amount of return fire he was getting, he wasn't going to be able to get off any heavier shots without an opening.
Under a powerful invisibility charm, Filius Flitwick watched as one of his favorite students of the '91 cohort fought himself. He, like any good Ravenclaw, had been curious as to what the worst fears of each of the champions would be. Ms. Delacour's fear had been quite understandable for a being of her nature, and he did not begrudge her having to go first, and thus having kept her fear a secret from the other three champions.
Flitwick glanced over to where Fleur and Cedric were sitting, watching the Harrys in awe.
Mr. Diggory had been most afraid of a world filled with almost naught but Inferi, Inferi capable of turning the living into more walking dead. He quite understood such a fear, and was almost certain that he would have a few nightmares in the coming months featuring that scenario.
But what Harry, who was so like Lily at times, was most afraid of was apparently a fall. His own to be specific.
For fourteen year-olds, both of the Harrys were quite skilled.
Getting a feel for his opponent's patterns, Harry started slipping in wide area wandless banishers in an attempt to catch his dark side flat-footed. After about a minute of the increased pace and finding that his doppelganger was just as capable at dodging as he was, he summoned up a pair of illusions of himself, and put some distance between himself and the evil that was Dark Harry.
Muttering a spell under his breath while making a complex series of thirty wand motions, Harry raised the masking charms that were attached to his clothing, hiding his magic presence. Finishing the spell, he made a motion similar to casting with a fishing pole, lobbing what appeared to be a small dense orb of clouds into the air above the pitch.
He threw himself to the side as some kind of dark curse, he silently cursed the fact that Bella had wanted to wait until next summer to start him on identifying dark magics, sped toward him, he growled out a laugh as the orb detonated, filling the pitch not with the mist it had before, but a thick bank of fog.
He heard his double cry out in pain, and Leon reported, *Hamstrung the bastard in his left leg. Left some magic in it, so if he has your healing rate, it should be sufficiently slower.*
*Thanks Leon, stay out of sight until I draw all his attention again.* Harry replied as he ripped off his right glove, stuffing it in a pocket. He reached into a pocket on his right hip to pull something out.
The nascent Dark Lord Potter cursed as he tried to repair the damage that damn wolf did to his leg, but it was slow going. He was also muttering general finishing and canceling spells, and a few other counters, as he worked on his leg. He had already tried a few small wind spells just to see if the bank of fog could be shifted but it was a complete wash. Now that his goody-goody self had hidden his magical signature, hidden in fact far more effectively than his own was, he silently cursed at himself, this fog was more to his hindrance than the earlier mist had been a speed bump to his foe.
Growling in frustration, he roared out the spell effect destruction charm, "Annihilis Incantatum!"
As Harry heard himself rather stupidly shout out a spell that, while useful, has more than four dozen spells he knew of that have catastrophic fail-deadly components that activate when the S.E.D. Charm is attempted on them.
The Fog of War was just one of those forty-eight spells.
Finishing pulling the white glove onto his right hand, Harry drew up the neck of his shirt, which fit snugly over the lower half of his face, from just below his eyes and above his nose, tapering off to not cover his ears, and waited a fifteen count for the fog to clear.
This much Fog decomposing into hydrogen and oxygen would be a little hard on his lungs. Luckily the runes on the lining of that part of his shirt that was serving as a half face mask. He grinned as his evil self came into view, coughing up a lung.
"Who's the badass now, dumbass?"
Dark Lord Harry glared up at his original self as he attempted to raise his wand. Harry Potter, Lily's baby boy, however was quicker on the draw and raised his white gloved hand that had a runic circle that was glowing red on the back. He smirked as he snapped his fingers and the pitch was consumed in a burst of flames.
Flitwick watched in concern as his student seemingly prepared for a rather self-destructive combination of spells. He felt concern twitch in his gut as the entire Quidditch pitch went up in a massive fireball. He glanced over at the other champions, and saw a look of deep worry on Mr. Diggory's face and one of abject horror on Ms. Delacour's.
Glancing down at a set of mirrors placed at his feet, mirrors which showed the visuals of the Judges observation spells that he had, as he thought of how he had achieved it he smiled at his own skill in doing so, hacked into.
In one mirror, the Dark Harry had apparently countered some of the damage done by expelling a large amount of magic as the explosion manifested, but was still suffering from burns all over his body. His student had completely escaped harm by apparently raising a spherical shield the moment he had triggered his devastating attack. In the smoke Harry drew something from the small of his back and threw it at his foe, and from the speed it was moving it, had used his wandless magics to make the throw more dangerous.
Was whatever he threw crackling with electricity?
As Evil Harry was now coughing even worse from a combination of pain and the massive amount of smoke from the explosion his Light, which in his mind was no longer a derogatory term, having seen his better half blow both of them up, side had made, he felt something... dangerous being launched at him and lurched to his left, and barely avoided being bifurcated from crotch to crown by a gladius literally glowing with electricity.
Distracted as he was, he didn't notice as the shadow wolf materialized out of the darkness fostered by the smoke bank, and launch itself at him from behind.
As Leon savaged his prey, Harry launched himself forward at the fastest speed he could, whipping his wand back and forth three times as it sprouted a whip of sizzling green electricity. He'd replaced the fire portions of the flame with spell with the electrical sections from the strongest shock spells he could find.
He heard a yelled, "You damn wolf, get OFF me!" Followed by the sound of a wide area concussion spell. As he neared his enemy, who had his back to him, he whipped his wand forward, and the electrical whip wrapped itself around the Dark Potter's neck once... twice... three times, before he violently changed directions, garroting his foe with enough force to make him eligible for the Headless Hunt.
As he panted and watched the body dissolve into motes of light, he was only barely aware of the smoky haze being blown away. He was however forced back into awareness when he heard clapping from behind him.
He turned to face the source of it. There was a man with tousled black hair, dressed in formal looking black robes and a cloak. His features may have been handsome once upon a time, but they had been blurred until they more resembled a snake's than a human's and his eyes were red, with vertical slits for pupils.
"Congratulations on defeating yourself, young Potter. It is one of the hardest tasks any must face, but sadly, you have a harder one ahead of you. For now you must face me," the man said as he pulled a yew wand that was a little over thirteen inches long, and brandished it at The-Boy-Who-Lived.
:.: A Few Hours Before the Second Half of the Task. :.:
"Now, Master Tim, if you would please explain exactly what the Champions will be facing," Albus Dumbledore calmly spoke, "when you were contracted to prepare both events of this task, you said that you could design objects that would perform to our specifications, but the details of exactly what they would do would need to wait until just before they were used."
"Yes," Tim the Enchanter replied, "using what I outlined for the earlier event as an example, I made it so that the Dementor effect would slowly increase over the full time frame of the task. In this case, true terror comes from not knowing when the fear will end, so the thirteen columns will result in three separate scenarios. One where the champions will face the worst they fear about themselves, another where they will face their most terrible enemy, and the last will be a situation that is something out of their nightmares."
Madam Maxime cleared her throat and asked, "And just what order will these terrors occur?"
Scratching the back of his head sheepishly, though there was a dark gleam in his eyes, Tim said, "I can't rightly say, it all depends whether the champions are most afraid of themselves, their foe, or their fears. Though the system will try harder with each scenario to undermine the champions will to continue."
The French Ministry official asked, "I assume that it will gather what it needs to know from the minds of the champions?"
Tom smiled and nodded, "Yup. But if there isn't enough, it will take what it can from whoever is in range, which I think is about five hundred yards, could be more."
:.: As Harry Walked into the Circle of Columns :.:
Tim glanced down as runes comprised of light and darkness flickered across the pane of crystal glass in his hand. He glanced over at the judges and said, "Face yourself."
The panel of judges was seated high up in the stands of the stadium, but they could easily get detailed views of the actions, no matter what on the field blocked their line of sight, through the large mirrors each had before them. These mirrors were designed to show a number of images, at most four, of what was happening down on the field.
As the fight between Harry and himself proceeded, the mirrors showed three different visuals, one of Harry, the second of his darker side, and the third jumped to random views of various shadows, and the reason for it became apparent as a fully grown Shadow Wolf wounded Dark Lord Potter.
The duel was of middling length, though surprisingly viscous, the dark Potter relying a number of rather ugly dark curses, every third one seeming to be a variant of the organ rotting curse, while the real one seemed to favor a mix of the three physical effect spells, while slipping in the schoolboy spells that while easily ended would debilitate his foe if they hit.
When Harry pulled off a gambit to end the fight, his combination of fog, fire, and electricity so close together awed a few of the judges, though he frightened all of them when he seemingly blew himself up.
As Tim looked down at the pane of glass in his hand as Dark Harry's body dissolved, and a foot thick ring of red energy appeared around the top third each of the rune carved pillars he spoke again, the object in his hand filled edge to edge with runes written in darkness, "Face your enemy."
The booth filled with gasps as a few present recognized the man who was on the field.
"I sincerely doubt my system will be able to accurately recreate a Dark Lord at full power... This will likely be a comparatively weak imitation of the bastard..."
Dumbledore was silently thankful that his plans had not led to the young man facing these challenges being like the version of himself he had just faced. That Harry in white robes had thrown around dangerous dark curses like they were disarming spells. That was no self-sacrificing hero of light,which he readily admitted he was currently out of, but a Dark Lord who could be just as bad as the one who preceded him, quite possibly worse.
Tom Riddle had just wanted to take control of the Wizarding World. Given how Harry had been treated his entire life, he likely would not have settled for anything less than turning the Earth into a dead husk in his rage, if he had gone dark.
But now, here Harry was, squaring off against an admittedly weak copy of the man who ruined his life. Albus wondered if Harry would give into his anger.
Igor Karkaroff wet himself as he saw the image of the master he betrayed appear down on the field. He was glad that it was only a simulation. In fact it was the only thing keeping him from running like hell to the hiding place he had prepared in the Alps.
If this young man actually managed to hurt the clone of the man he now feared so much, he may very well start scoring him fairly for this and the other four tasks.
Jean-Paul Delacour had been allowed by his Ministry to be the representative for this task. There were actually no rules for the judges panel about who could, and could not, sit on it, so long as they held an appropriate position. He had no clue what the task had been when he volunteered, but it now seemed like every other task was planned by a mad man. Dragons, then an obstacle course. These rune powered machines of madness, and he had already been tapped to officiate for the fourth task.
Diggory's attempt at the task had actually resulted in the field containing a small section of London that changed as Cedric attempted to escape from the city, all of his attempts at disapparating failing because they were on the grounds of Hogwarts.
For some bizarre reason, time within the circle of rune carved pillars was altered so that fifteen minutes passed for every ten with in it. So for one-hundred and fifty minutes he had run around downtown London, fleeing from zombies and using a large number of dangerous large scale fire spells, until he had eventually ended up boxed in by his own flames.
His daughter's worst fear had been seemingly far more simple, yet, if only to him, infinitely more painful than a zombie Apocalypse. She had been dropped into a world where she was all alone, and no could remember her moments after meeting her, even though every male in existence in her world seemed to be getting a triple dose of her Allure. She had lasted fifteen minutes before giving up.
But he had watched in some trepidation as Harry walked out on the field. He was somewhat fond of the young man, and didn't want to have to watch him get turned into a smear by a simulacrum of Dark Lord Voldemort, he doubted anyone present had wanted to see that. He was quite entranced by Harry's battle with himself, as violent as it was.
He had gotten better since he had seen the young man over the summer.
But he paled as he heard the enchanter say what Harry was facing next. The Death Eaters and their Master's lesser minions had made two raids over the Channel before the French had started watching their borders like a hawk, and they had still slipped over two more times to raise havoc but they started killing the teams on sight on that fourth attempt. They had later learned that it had been the least members of Voldemort's marked followers who had made the attempts on France and the dregs of his unmarked, and he merely wanted to know how the French would respond.
Now, this would either be worth watching, or he was going to want to Obliviate himself afterwards.
Olympe Maxime had never seen the Dark Lord Voldemort before, but when the words 'face your enemy' and the boy Harry Potter are combined together, that monster could be the only result. She had been surprised that his worst fear had been of himself, she had expected to have already seen him facing the Dark Lord. She had watched his little duel with himself with interest. She was a teacher not a fighter, and knew little more about magical combat than what she learned in school. She already knew that even though he had taken third in the first part of this task, he would likely be taking first in this part.
Niklas Richter had heard horror stories about Death Eaters from refugees who had fled from Britain during the unrest caused by Voldemort, but all of those stories had centered around the servants to the Dark Lord, and they fear they caused. So few people saw him that the fear the common people had of the demon that could control so many monsters was massive.
And here he was, watching a boy, one he had admitted frightened him and had more than vindicated that fear in the fight with his darker half, face off against the Dark Lord tales said he defeated when he was only fifteen months old.
He cursed the name of whoever thought up this task. School-children, whether of age or not, shouldn't have to face their worst fears like this.
Amelia Bones had been tasked to be the British Ministry judge for the third task. Crouch had been increasingly ill over the past few months, and someone, no one was quite sure who, though if she was a gambling woman, she would put good money on Sirius Black, had unmasked Bagman as owing large sums of money to large amounts of people. He had been given unpaid leave until he could answer the question of why he was putting Ministry/Gringotts relations in trouble by having a senior Ministry official get deep into debt with the Goblins.
She had been rightly horrified, and oddly enough upon looking at the other judges found that she had been joined by the politicians in this and not the educators, at what the task would comprise of. The fact that Harry Potter had gone, feral, for lack of a better word and escaped from the task area for the first event spoke volumes of how insane these two challenges were.
Now, she was seeing the Boy-Who-Lived face down a man that she had sincerely hoped was dead before the reappearance of what could have been his spirit back in '91.
She had encountered him once on the field toward the end of the war when she was a Senior Auror. He was already engaged in combat with Dumbledore when Aurors had arrived on the scene of an attack on the gates of Hogwarts, and the fight had lasted for five more minutes, the two Mages causing more damage than she would have ever believed possible.
This was going to get ugly.
Filius Flitwick had known that Harry could beat his dark reflection. If he was assuming correctly, the reflection would be as skilled as Harry, if only in different areas and concentrations, and from what he could gather from Harry's grades, he was mostly a generalist when it came to the official school subjects, leaning towards defense-oriented charms and spells with the knowledge coming from school leaning mostly toward focus creation. And his dueling style relied heavily on dodging and his shield focus but seemed to lack actual mobility.
He was obviously getting some, decent, tutoring at home, and had a good grounding in the basics, but if Tom was still extant, Filius wasn't sure you could call a disembodied spirit alive, like the appearance of his malignant spirit indicated before the Sorting Hat had ejected it from it Hogwarts as Minerva said had happened, then Lily's boy was going to need some heavy teaching in magical combat against an opponent vastly more experienced than him, and soon.
He was also glad that he had won the coin toss he had had with Minerva on who would sneak in to watch this task. As hard as it was to watch, he knew that Harry was going to need his help. It was an absolute pity that the young man wouldn't be able to get it until after the Tournament.
Cedric was still coming down from his own fight with fear when Harry came out onto the pitch, but from the attention he did pay, there was no way in hell that he was going to duel with the Gryffindor. And he cursed when Harry actually seemed to win the task... Only to be confronted by a very strange looking man who leveled his wand at the Boy-Who-Lived. But after remembering Harry list the three most possible things he would fear the most, Cedric Diggory paled to a color roughly resembling freshly fallen snow.
Fleur had been braced with a Cheering Charm after she had finished with the task, and now she had watched Harry fight a dark version of himself. It was more than a little off-putting to see the Mad Gryffindor who usually had a happy little smirk on his face flinging dark curses around. She wondered how close Harry had been to ending up like that if it was what he feared most.
She was worried when Harry proceeded to engulf the entire field in a massive fireball, though it was noticeably thicker around where Dark Lord Harry had been and thinner where Harry was. She couldn't see what was happening until the smoke blew away, and Harry was facing off with some man. She tried to think, who would Harry fear the most...
She then remembered that there were no photographs or paintings of the Dark Lord who had torn Britain apart more than a decade ago.
Harry took three deep breaths and then pulled on his magic, opening his connection to his core just short of where it would start to cause him pain and damage from having too much magic in his body. His eyes started to softly glow and then shine outright, his hair started moving in a non-existent wind, and for about fifteen seconds pieces emerald and gold light, the colors of his magical aura, would appear in the air around for a moment and then disappeared.
Having empowered himself as far as he felt safe, Harry decided he didn't want to annoy the double of the Dark Lord, and said evenly, "Hello, Tom."
What would have probably passed for a smirk crossed Voldemort's face and he replied, "At least you have some manners, young Potter. Now bow so we may duel. I may only be a simulacrum of myself, but I still do not like to be kept waiting."
As Harry sketched a minor bow he asked, "You know you're not real?"
Voldemort returned the bow and replied, "Of course I do, I'm not a fool. Now, this is going to be a lesson to you, so do try and keep up. It will be all the more enjoyable when the real me crushes you if you are at your most skilled."
The Dark Lord threw a quick trio of curses at Harry, who launched himself sideways, but didn't hit the ground again. Instead he hovered half a foot above it as seven shields of seven different hues sprang into existence in the air around him, each shaped like a rose petal and were about two feet wide and three and a half feet tall. The shields lazily circled around him.
Voldemort smirked once more. "Very good young Potter. Now this duel shall be accompanied by a lecture so do," he started punctuated his speech with lazily casting spells, starting with a bone breaker curse aimed at Harry's wand arm, which was intercepted by a pale red shield, "pay attention."
"Now, many duelists and other people who make a living in magical combat have any number of things that they believe are essential knowledge, but almost all of them agree that one set of information is universally ascribed with 'need-to-now' status. Now, what do you think that is, young Potter?"
Harry, having switched from his ground based style that, while fairly oriented toward dodging spells, kept him in a circle of space about five feet across, to his quasi-flight based style where he never stopped moving, was making sure to keep up an erratic enough pattern of movement around the stationary Voldemort, thought for a moment on that question. He had sent a few spells to test the man's defenses, but they were shielded without issue.
Taking a guess, he answered, "The Three Three-Fold Pillars of Magical Combat."
"Very good, young Potter, very good. But it is one thing to read what the Pillars and their aspects are, and another to experience them. The First Pillar is the Pillar of Force. It is the Pillar that espouses the virtues of strength in magical combat, and its first side is named, POWER. The ability to fight fire with fire..."
When Voldemort put emphasis on the third to last word, Harry snatched his wand from his hand in a flow of telekinetic force, began putting distance between himself and the Dark Lord, and reached behind him into one of the pouches of his bag to grab something. As he pulled a red rod seemingly made of ruby from the bag, Voldemort stressed the last word, and there was a flicker of purple light at the end of his wand. As a cylinder of ugly purple fire two feet in diameter sprang from the yew wand.
Harry jabbed his Blasting Rod forward, releasing his own massive torrent of flame. The two fire blasts met halfway between the warring wizards, and vied for supremacy for a moment before deciding to just detonate. Harry had thrown himself backwards as he sensed the magics of the two fires interfering with each other, and one of his shields, this one a dark blue, doubled in size in front him, protecting him from the concussion of the blast.
As Voldemort came back into sight as the smoke cleared, they started exchanging spells again.
"Most adequate, young Potter. Though I am not at my full strength, you managed to match my Arcadian Fire, even if it was with a secondary focus. The next side of the First Pillar is Speed. The speed of your casting, the speed of your movements, the speed of your thoughts, and the speed of your," he punctuated his comment by waiting until the last moment to deflect a jinx with his wand, "reactions."
The smirk Voldemort gave as he finished this segment of his lecture had Harry moving as fast as he possibly could, his body a half a foot from, and parallel to, the ground. If it wasn't for the fact that he did this sort of stuff for fun on a broom, some of the maneuvers he pulled once Voldemort unleashed a barrage of back-to-back spells would have made him lose his lunch. The stream of spells tapered off, and Harry pulled himself back into an upright position.
"A pass, acceptable as it barely is. You completely abandoned offense in order to ensure you did not take a hit. While there are occasions where that would be acceptable, the first thing I said was about the speed of your spell..."
Voldemort was forced to shield as a burst of half a dozen of the weakest piercing spell came his way in a tight grouping, followed closely by a chain of hexes and jinxes that were each about three-quarters of a second apart.
"Extra marks. From a low A, almost a P, to a high A, nearly an E. Now the Third, and Last, side of the Pillar of Force, your Spell Arsenal. The more spells you know the more you can do, even if a spell is just barely in your arsenal..."
The Dark Teacher started firing spells again, and each burst of spellfire was a different color, and Harry somehow knew, a different painful way to die. Harry ran through a chain of spells he was still in the middle of perfecting and decided to give it a shot.
He started firing off the spells that all fell under one family, the Elemental Curses. With four branches of strength each consisting of thirteen spells, it was going to be one of the larger parts of his quiver of spells. He unleashed all thirteen of the Lesser curses at Voldemort, interspersed with seven of the Minor curses, five of the Major ones, and punctuated with two of the Greater curses, the Flame Missile and the Shockbolt.
Voldemort countered the chain as the spells were in the air, meeting fire with water, ice missiles with flames, bolts of electricity with lightning rods conjured in midair, and negating bursts of wind with his own elemental wind curses.
"An O, young Potter. Most definitely an O. Casting seventeen of the fifty-two, let alone chaining them together, is no mean feat for a fourth year. You understand the First Pillar in its entirety, but here is how it should be done..."
Harry gathered himself as he saw a wave of Elemental death heading his way, all fifty-two of the Elemental curses, from Least to Greatest, barreling at him, his red shield intercepting the fastest four of the curses, shattering when Voldemort's Greater Shockbolt hit it. He scattered his remaining shields out of the way of the wall of attacks and disillusioned himself, waited until the last moment, and then he flung himself skyward, going over the spells that would have dropped him from the task. He shot up fifty feet into air the pulling a stick of dynamite from his bag, disillusioning it before lighting the fuse and banishing it at the Dark Lord.
Voldemort got caught in the blast.
He landed, if returning to a half foot hover can be called landing, canceling the disillusionment, to the sound of clapping behind him. His shields gathered back around him, and he took the chance to restore the destroyed shield.
"Good form, young Potter. Very sneaky. Now onward, to the Second Pillar, the Pillar of Finesse, the pillar where it is not brute strength that matters, but how you use what little strength you have. The first side of this Pillar is Skill. It is how aptly you can cast what spells you have, and the uses you can put them to. It is the ability to master the spells in your arsenal until they are second nature to you."
He started casting dark curses again, this time only sticking to half a dozen, each one placed so that Harry had to dodge by the skin of his teeth or just barely managed to shield. Harry began waving his wand in a circle unleashing an unending torrent of the weakest two piercing spells he knew at Voldemort, occasionally slipping a blasting curse in among the stream of weak magic.
He managed to shatter Voldemort's shield at one point, finally forcing him to move, which he did with unnatural quickness.
Smirking once more Voldemort continued to speak, "Very nice, young Potter, very nice. Now the next side you have demonstrated yourself to be very capable in. Mobility. The ability to position yourself properly on the battlefield," after which, he disappeared with a crack, Harry spun around, pulling something from his sleeve, orienting himself with a flare of magic, throwing the object he had just pulled at the magic, while moving sideways, dodging a Killing Curse that came from where the Dark Lord appeared behind him.
He scored another hit on the Dark Lord, this time drawing a thin line of blood as the shuriken he threw gained a glancing hit.
"Now you're probably wondering 'How did he apparate on Hogwarts grounds?'..."
Harry rolled his eyes and said, "Wasn't expecting it, should have been. Of course my 'nightmare' Voldemort would be capable of things like that."
Voldemort let out an evil little chuckle and said, "You take all the fun out of it. Any matter, the last side of the Pillar of Finesse is something which you do not yet have much of, though this battle is granting you vast quantities of. What is it?"
"Just so. And the example of experience being a deciding factor in magical combat is you are pushing yourself as far as you feel you safely can, and I am barely breaking a sweat. And if you combine them all together."
Voldemort disapparated again, and Harry pointed his wand skyward, while moving in a zig-zag, muttering under his breath. As Voldemort reapparated, Harry yelled out while adjusting his eyelids to blind him, "Solaris Novis!"
A massive burst of light, brighter than the sun, appeared ten feet in the air, blinding everyone watching. Voldemort continued to apparate around wildly, firing magic at where he thought Harry was, which Harry used his mage sense to dodge, moving around wildly, spells coming at him from everywhere.
"Excellent, young Potter. You deducted what I was about to do, and countered with enough cunning to make me think that the trim on your school robes should be green instead of red... "
Harry interrupted him to say, "The hat and I decided against putting me in Slytherin, the body count would have been far too high."
The two combatants started slowly exchanging spells again, with Harry once again being mobile while Voldemort stood still, as the Dark Lord continued to lecture, "Interesting. Now, back on topic, we move forwards to the final Pillar, the Pillar of Enhancement. A Pillar you have showed the use of in spades. The first side, Tools, is shown in that lovely ruby rod you used earlier, that explosive you used following my conclusion of the first Pillar, and the throwing star you cut me with. The second side, Special Abilities, has been shown in the wandless telekinesis you use, the mage sense I suspect you have, and the metamorph abilities you demonstrated in the first event of this Task. The final side of this Pillar is Cunning. The ability to out-think your enemy on a moments notice, to make him do what you want him to do or counter him at a moments notice in a way he would never suspect. You did just that with your Nova Light spell, with which you made what should have been the ultimate display of finesse into a blind man shooting at ghosts.
"But all three Pillars must be tied together. And there is a foundation to all Combat, whether Muggle, Magical, or Mental, and the Foundation of All Combat is Tactics, the ability to strategize and plan to overcome an enemy and achieve your objectives!"
Just as Voldemort finished his explanation and coiled himself to finish this farce of a duel, a black blade, crackling with electricity erupted from the shoulder of his wand arm. As he stared for a moment, uncomprehending as to where the blade came from when Harry was in front of him, something sharp and metal hit him in the chest just barely missing his heart.
Tossing his wand to his good hand, he raised it, seeing Harry point a thick rod made of polished amber and iron at him. It crackled with electricity, and then Harry jabbed it forward, yelling, "Fulminaris!"
As the bolt of lightning began to rip its way from the rod, the shadow of Voldemort lazily conjured another lightning rod. The bolt struck the lightning rod, traveled a short ways down it before jumping back into the air, and then continued going forward, impacting around the heart of the simulated Dark Lord, instantly dissolving him into countless motes of light.
Harry dropped back to the ground, and instantly fell to his knees, his shields dissolving, starting to feel the mental fatigue and physical exhaustion from running on an adrenalin high. He called back a small piece of metal that was laying on the ground right where Voldemort was, and the sword he had pulled into the man's shoulder, the same one he had thrown right before he had killed his double.
He looked down at the length of metal, the sharp half of a railroad spike, and muttered, "You're getting made into a good luck charm," turning his attention to the amber rod, which had the head end of the railroad spike just past the grip, he noticed that there were cracks running along the length of the rod, "Thank god for thaumaturgy..."
Now that it was in sight, the sword, which which seemed to be composed of obsidian with veins of copper running through the weapon, was identical to a Roman Pompeii gladius. He slipped the weapon in the flexible (and smaller than it should be) sheath that ran along his lower spine.
Still gathering himself, he felt the ground beginning to shake and he cursed. It wasn't over yet. Thankfully, he still had some fight left in him. And he tried to think what sort of form the horror that was going to rear its ugly head would take...
He grinned. No matter what he thought of, one thing kept popping into his head. It would be an absolute horror to fight, considering the type of combat magic he tended to rely on, but by Merlin if he pulled this off right, he would at least fight this thing with a smile on his face.
He let his wand get taken from his hand by his telekinesis again as an object dropped from each of his sleeves.
Flitwick sat back and watched, wondering when this was going to end. The middle third of the pillars had gained a green circle of light to go with the first red one. He was surprised that the doppelganger of Voldemort had turned this into a lesson, but it saved him from having to teach that very same lesson to Harry. By any objective measure of a fourteen year-old, Harry had a firm grasp of the Three-Fold Pillars, and implemented them on a level that was fairly surprising. By any sane measure for anyone, his use of the Third Pillar was exemplary.
'Though he uses different tricks, and far more tools, he may just be on close to the level that I fought at when I was his age...'
He watched as Harry almost literally dragged himself back to his feet, a staff enlarging in one hand and a gleaming sword seemingly made out of one hunk of silver in the other. As he settled himself into a standing position, he saw Harry leaning heavily on the staff. He watched bemused as Harry's clothing shifted to a bulky set of simple gray robes, a gray pointed hat with a bit of a crumpled tip and a wide brim, and he seemed to grow a gray bushy beard.
The part-goblin started giggling.
The ground fifty yards from Harry fractured, and then exploded outwards. He set his feet, and raised his staff, channeling a shield through it. The few fragments of rock that would have hit him bounced harmlessly off the silver dome of magic.
*Stay out of this Leon, this foe is beyond you.*
*If this thing is so bad, why aren't you quitting?*
*Because, I want to at least try...*
As a demonic head, seemingly made of stone, flame, and shadow, with cruelly curved horns showed itself, Harry slammed the butt of his staff into the ground. The face was broad and ugly, looking completely inhuman. It dragged its body out of the ground, and though it had a tail, its fingers were clawed, had two wings that were made entirely out of shadow and fire, and its feet more resembled a bird's talons, it was humanoid in shape, save its proportions would have made any bodybuilder jealous. It stood a good ten meters tall, and Harry was really worried about just how he would damage this bastard.
'Gandalf was one of the Maiar and he died felling a Balrog... Thankfully however this is being simulated would probably explode if it completely recreated a Balrog.
There were those watching who knew they were practically seeing a scene unfold from a story, a gray wizard facing off against a demon. And then they heard a voice ring out.
"You cannot pass. I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udun. Go back to the Shadow! You cannot pass."
Harry barrel rolled through the air seven feet to his left half a moment after he finished his little speech, his costume dissolving, and the Balrog's massive fiery sword slamming into the ground where he was moments before, tearing a massive trench.
"Okay, note to self, do not get hit with the big ass sword if at all possible."
He sprang forward, disappearing as the flame demon's whip tore half a dozen smaller gouges in the ground where the last Potter had been. From where he was to where he now stood as far as he could get from the monster as possible, were two long sections of destroyed ground, one angling him around the Balrog that was thirty feet long, with a gap of clear ground where he turned and got back up to speed before the second led to right where he was standing.
"God I love the Ghost Step, if only I could shorten my stride to something less than ten yards," he saw the demon glaring at him, "Most days, I hate being me."
He had shrunk his staff down to a foot and a half long before stuffing it into his pack where he could easily grab it, and stored the sword back where he got it from. Metal discs started dropping from his sleeves into his hands, and he was throwing them at his distant foe faster than they could get out of whatever storage he had them in. As the thrown projectiles hit their target they exploded, the Balrog being obscured from view ten seconds after the first exploding disc hit it.
A minute of constant thrown destruction later, Harry was panting slightly from all his exertions so far. He was now massively aware of the fact that running laps around a Quidditch Pitch was an entirely different monster, and he meant it in every sense of the word, than being in a protracted fight.
"I highly doubt that brought that tosser down," he muttered.
His opinion was answered by a massive roar and a single beating of the beast's wings as it clear the smoke. It then started lumbering towards him.
'Thank Merlin that he is as slow as treacle on a December morning... Mmm... Treacle...'
Shaking his head, he dropped to one knee, pulling a brown paper lunch bag from his sack. Opening it, he deposited one of the items from the bag into a pocket on the left breast of his coat, dumping the rest of the contents, a pile of what looked like pitch black clay and three long, thick silver needles onto the ground.
Using his telekinesis, he quickly reshaped the clay into a narrow triangular wedge, sticking the three needles completely into the hunk of clay. A silver rune carved cylinder with rounded ends dropped from his left sleeve, and he brought the base of the triangle of clay to one of the ends of the silver cylinder.
The clay was quickly covered in something that remotely resembled mercury, before the liquid metal solidified into a spearhead. He ran a hand along the collar of his robes, activating the heat protection spells layered into the leather and his other items of clothing. The Balrog had closed half the distance between the two of them and was gaining speed.
The silver weapon sprouted a five foot long haft, which Harry took in both hands before launching himself at the demon, getting to his top speed in a matter of two and a half seconds. He moved laterally out of the way of a strike from the Balrog's whip, before launching himself in the air at the creature's chest. Jamming the spear into a collection of cracks created by his earlier barrage of explosives, putting more power behind the strike using his telekinesis, he gave his weapon a twist, separating the head from the weapon. He launched himself off of his enemy, only to be swatted from the air with the flat of the Balrog's sword from a backhand swing.
He used his abilities to make sure he didn't hit the ground too hard, though he did end up on the other end of the pitch, rolling on the ground. Dizzy, he pulled himself shakily to his feet, wincing several times as he realigned the ribs that were damaged by the hit. His armor took most of it, but it still did quite a bit of damage.
He chuckled darkly as he leaned on the silver haft of his spear, pulling what looked like a black Zippo from his left breast pocket. Flipping it open, he quietly said, "Boom," before triggering a rune array in it.
There was an earsplitting roar of pain from the Balrog as a section of its chest exploded outwards.
Tim the Enchanter could not have asked for a better field test of his design than the workout Harry Potter was putting it through right now. His first fear had tested the Dark Mirror features perfectly, his second had stressed the arrays to create as strong a magic user as possible, and his third and final terror was now seeing just how much raw power his creation could handle.
"Oh, I was right. Getting hit with the sword was a really bad thing..."
Harry quickly ran through his armory, trying to figure out just what he would throw at this beast next. Most of his heavy-duty destruction relied heavily on fire, and it was only the explosive discs and that plastique he had just used were the only heavy explosives that he had that didn't rely on incendiary damage.
He made a mental not to get off the 'kill it with fire' kick he seemed to be on.
When it came down to it, he had three more stunts that he could pull off, one of which he was loath to do, just for the simple reason that he didn't want to take another hit from that sword. So that left one spell that had a fifty-fifty chance of either working or blowing up in his face, and would either put him dangerously close to, or outright in, magical exhaustion either way, though either way, the results would be some spectacular destruction, and an act that would probably cause even more wanton destruction that would put his first current plan of action to shame.
His hand slipped to his bag, and he pulled and enlarged his staff.
The smoke around the Balrog cleared, and it was now sporting a crater halfway through its chest.
Harry took a deep breath, and started channeling his power through the staff, aligning it with the spell he was about to perform. The runes carved into the dark wood of the latest attempt at perfecting his staff design started to glow a frigid light blue as it pulled in ambient magic to empower whatever spell was about to be cast, even as Harry started to feel his hand tingle and then burn as the focus forcibly drew more magic from him.
He started softly chanting, his eyes half closed in concentration.
"Let the mists rise and roil
"And hear the winds howl in night,"
The Balrog was angry, and it roared out its rage, assaulting the ear drums of everyone present. Only a few of the judges noticed as the air stirred around the demon.
"The frigid storm rushes ever onward
"Winter's bite wounds deeper each time,"
The swirling of the air became more apparent as the cold mist started billowing up from the ground, being drawn skyward by the quickening currents of wind around the Balrog. It roared again, and flared it flames. Harry's voice was quickly gaining volume.
"The night sky and the cold stars stare down
"From the tundra the white wolves howl for their lost,"
Chunks of ice began to form as the vortex of wind and mist grew colder and tightened around the beast. Harry's right hand was in a death grip on his staff, which now had wisps of smoke coming from it, and his left hand was pulled into a painful looking claw shape, pointed at the magic he is doing.
"For the wicked have dared to sow chaos into the four winds,"
The whirlwind of ice and freezing winds closed even further onto the Balrog, battling directly with its flames, as the freezing mist thickened, hiding it from view. There were blades of ice the size of large tree branches being tossed around by the winds. Harry swayed slightly on his feet at the effort of maintaining the spell, and wisps of smoke were now rising from his right hand.
"So now the evil shall have to reap the whirlwind's destruction!"
The fire demon could be seen flaring its flames through the haze of ice and mist, but to little effect. Harry started bleeding from his nose, ears, and eyes at the strain of completing the spell.
Seven massive spears of ice formed and launched themselves into the maelstrom of frozen destruction, as Harry dropped down to his knees. He looked at his right hand, which had already started healing from the damage done by the staff drawing so much of his magic. He was thankful that he had learned to disengage the pain receptors in any of his limbs, or otherwise he would likely be feeling what it was like to have the skin and muscle on his hand cooked by magic.
Breathing in through his nose, he muttered, "And as a note, cooked me does not smell all that good..."
He was vaguely aware that he was in the middle of something important, and that it had something to do with the enemy that he just used some of his heaviest artillery on. The specifics were eluding him at the moment, so he shook his head and shoved it aside, he'd deal with it when there wasn't a threat present.
Looking up as the mists of the Chanted Spell dispersed, his first foray into that particular field of nearly abandoned battle magics, he saw that the fires of the Balrog had gone out, and it was wounded, swaying drunkenly from side to side. Massive tears in its rocky body could be seen.
It also looked to be in an absolute fury. Groaning as he felt the magic restore his hand enough to pry his fingers from the staff, though he was still loosely holding it in that hand. He reached into his bag with his left hand and pulled out a pair of topaz spikes, each a quarter of an inch across and seven inches long.
The spikes were telekinetically driven into each of the ends of the staff, and Harry gestured with his mostly unresponsive right hand, holding the staff, which was now crackling with electricity similar to the faux-lightning bolt he had used in the Second Task, like a javelin.
He smiled darkly. This was one of his weapons of last resort, and this damned demon was going down. Hard.
Flitwick blinked once, and then twice, as his Goblin-given magical senses registered just what it was Mr. Potter was planning. He launched himself, mirror showing Harry in hand, at where the two other champions were sitting, charming a piece of chalk to draw a circle around them, desperately muttering under his breath.
Any magic designed to stop an effect from crossing a certain physical point is defined by the number of syllables it has. Anything shorter than ten is defined as a shield, anything longer than the same number is a barrier. Wards were a whole different subject matter.
Reaching the twenty-first, and last, syllable of the Prismus Barrier, Flitwick bit into his thumb as he crossed the chalked circle he had drawn. He touched his bleeding thumb to the drawn line, a pulsating wall of prismatic light rose up around the two seventeen year-olds and the Charms Master.
Albus blanched as his charmed glasses translated the magics coursing through Harry's staff into the visible spectrum. He activated the prepared protection wards surround the judge's box, and those surrounding the pitch.
A wall of opaque gray magic rose around the six judges and one enchanter.
Harry grimaced as he felt the magic reach a crescendo, and launched the staff, which now looked like a trapped lightning bolt, at the Balrog, before spinning away and crouching down.
Flitwick stared down into the charmed mirror, Ms. Delacour and Mr. Diggory looking over his shoulder, as the ring on Harry's left hand glowed like a star fallen to earth before he was obscured by the thirteen layers of the Bunker Shield Charm far more quickly than should have been possible, raising themselves around him in a golden coruscating shell of protective magics of a different, but comparable, kind to the barrier he had just raised.
In the Great Hall, where dinner was being served a little later than usual, everything and everyone was jarred as a massive explosion shook the castle.
A/N2: And the rewrite is nearing its end. Next chapter is as yet untitled, but it is finished and is the end of the revision. The first brand new chapter is started, but it is what originally drove me into a complete wall, and so it going to take some work.
Wish me luck, please.
This is what used to be chapters 42 and 43 of The Sorting Hat's Stand.
As of 8 PM, 28 November, 2012 these were the statistics of those chapters of the story. (Word and Character Counts are by Open Office Writer and do not include chapter titles, book headings, or author's notes, each section break however is four characters: [br].)
Word Count: 7,012 | Character Count: 38,458 | Hits: 28,432 | Reviews: 106
Word Count: 7,551 | Character Count: 41,519 | Hits: 37,231 | Reviews: 205
Word Count: 14,563 | Character Count: 79,977 | Hits: 65,663 | Reviews: 311
New Total Word Count: 14,931 | New Total Character Count: 82,154