Disclaimer: See prologue.
Guide: "Speech", Thoughts, ~letters and other written things, "Parseltongue"
Beta: cuter-than-a-guinea-pig. All remaining errors are my own.
Warnings for this chapter: paedophile tendencies, life-threatening situations, side character-death
AN: And now the final part of chapter 21. You don't know how happy I am to finally have finished the Tri-wizard tournament.
-~-~- Verbuar -~-~-
-~-~- Chapter 21 – Part VI-~-~-
"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet; So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd, retain that dear perfection which he owes without that title."
Juliet in "Romeo and Juliet" by William Shakespeare
Who doesn't know the words from the famous balcony scene in one of the world's greatest tragic love stories? But does the same logic also apply to the name murderer? Is someone who killed someone else in self-defence still a murderer? Or is he himself just a victim of circumstance? And what about those who kill in the name of the 'greater good'? Are they heartless killers or protectors of everything that's right?
I do not have an answer for you. The only thing that I can tell you is that when you are in a situation where it is either your life or the life of the person who is partly responsible for your parents' death, you do not think about silly things like names and labels. You only act. And I had to act when I was forced to compete in the third task of the Tri-wizard Tournament.
Saturday, 1st April 1995
"Happy Birthday!" I yelled along with the rest of the assembled guests when Fred and George entered Sirius's rooms at Hogwarts. Today was their seventeenth birthday.
Over the last three months, the twins had become very close to my godfather during their Occlumency lessons. And more often than not, they'd sat in the back of Sirius's DADA classroom and used it as their workshop while my godfather gave me defences lessons on the weekends.
Their Occlumency shields were not perfect yet, but they had developed a whole assortment of different 'snacks' that made one ill until the counter snack was taken. They called them their 'Skiving Snackbox.' They planned to develop and perfect similar products and open their own joke shop one day. Their mother was completely against the idea and told them so every chance she got, but they always replied that they would be of age soon and could do what they wanted then. Never had they thought that they would be able to live their dream before they reached the age of twenty.
"Mine first," Sirius said as he stepped forward and handed each of them a green envelope.
The twins were lost for words when they read their letters. "It's too much," they finally said.
"No, it's the least I can do for the next generation of Marauders," Sirius replied.
"Our own joke shop," they said in unison, happiness radiating from them.
"But only if you finish your NEWTs next year," Sirius warned.
"Less than two years at Hogwarts," George began as he lay his arm around my godfather's left shoulder
"And the professor is coming through already," Fred finished the sentence, throwing his own arm around Sirus' right shoulder.
"Well, I'll never hear the end of your mother's complaints," Sirius said and the three of them laughed together.
The next present they received was a protection bracelet for each of them from Luna. The beads changed colours depending on which creature was closest to them at any moment. Aside from Luna, none of us had heard of Umgubular Slashkilters, Wrackspurts, or Crumple-Horned Snorkacks before, however in one year's time, the twins created a similar bracelet that changed colours depending on the wearers mood and it became a bestseller in their joke shop. I have not seen them without the original bracelets from Luna around their wrists since they got them on that day.
"Ours is a joined gift," Hermione said as I and Draco stepped forward with her.
"Penn and Teller?" Fred asked. "I never heard of them."
"They're Muggle magicians," Hermione explained. "We thought you would enjoy the show and maybe get some ideas for new joke products."
"The show starts at two, so we'll need to leave right after lunch," Draco said.
"Sneaking out of Hogwarts? What a perfect way to celebrate our birthday" Fred said. "Though I have to wonder why you two were made prefects," he added with a wink as he looked at Hermione and Draco in turn.
"Technically we're not sneaking out. We're using the Floo and have professor supervision," I replied.
"My parents, Remus and Severus will meet us there, so we'll have actual adults with us too," Draco teased Sirius. My godfather was even more excited than the twins for the Muggle magic show.
"We're adults too," Fred and George complained.
"Not where we're going. You need to be at least eighteen in the Muggle world to be called an adult," Draco corrected. The twins pouted.
Because we were a large group we were unable to get seats together. Naturally the twins got the first row of seats together with Sirius and Remus to keep the three of them in line. Luna, Draco, his parents and I were sitting a row behind them. Hermione and Severus were a bit farther back.
"So, Hermione, how was your first date with Severus?" George asked once we returned to Hogwarts, just back in time for dinner for our little trip not to be noticed.
Hermione sent a Stinging Hex his way in answer.
"Is he really such a bad kisser?" George continued to ask. Hermione's face turned red. "So you did kiss," he concluded from her reaction.
"We did not," Hermione denied.
"I believe you," I said, coming to her defence. "Severus is not the type to kiss out in public."
"Not helping," Hermione groaned as Fred and George began to throw ideas back and forth of what Hermione and Severus were up to during the private Occlumency and extra Potions lessons.
Fortunately we soon reached the Great Hall and parted ways as we went to our respective house tables before the situation could get out of hand. I smiled brightly even as we all separated. Today certainly had been one of the best days since the whole mess of the Tri-wizarding Tournament had started. To top it off, I hadn't had a flashback to Dumbledore's molestation attempt in over a month. Life was looking up for me.
Wednesday, 31st May 1995
It was Professor McGonagall who told me that the next Tri-wizard Tournament meeting would be held at nine that evening on the Quidditch pitch. As soon as possible, I informed Sirius and Tom about it, who alerted the rest of my family and friends outside of Hogwarts. We all agreed that it would be better if at least one of them accompanied me to this sudden and unexpected meeting. Dumbledore could not be trusted.
When Sirius asked Dumbledore about the strange meeting place during dinner, he was surprised when the headmaster agreed to the suggestion that Sirius accompany me. While it lessened our suspicion, we were all still on alert. Thus, Tom followed behind me and Sirius underneath the Invisibility Cloak.
"A maze full of creatures, hexes and whatever other traps they can come up with," I reported when we joined everyone in Tom's rooms after the meeting.
"As the DADA professor, I should be the one to contribute the hexes," Sirius complained when he sat down on the sofa next to Remus.
"At least the creatures should be easy to handle," Tom said. "A false promise and a lot of firewhisky and Hagrid will tell us exactly what creatures he's hiden in the maze he's growing."
"Could he tell us how to re-shrink the maze?" I wondered out loud.
"No," Tom replied with a shake of his head. "He only knows how to make things bigger and more dangerous."
"It would be unwise to destroy the maze. Not only could the hexes badly interact with each other, but the creatures could gang up on you. No, while annoying, it is safer to keep the maze as a manner of separating the individual challenges to face them one at a time," Severus advised.
"I agree," Lucius, Remus, Hermione, and Tom said in unison.
"Even if we somehow figure out what is inside the maze, Harry still has to overcome them. What if it is another dragon?" Hermione asked worriedly.
"Unlikely," Draco interjected. "Though, I really do not want to know what else Hagrid will get his hands on," he said with a shudder. Sometimes the students wondered how Hagrid could have possibly become the Care of Magical Creatures teacher. He seemed to lack a certain air of responsibility towards student safety and general common sense.
"Is there a possibility for one of us to accompany Harry?" Sirius asked the group. "If the maze is as tall as Dumbledore promised, no one should be able to see what happens inside."
"We'll need to wait and see if he raises any wards," Tom replied.
"If I were him, I would include some obstacles that only one person can overcome. Like raising a wall of Black or Purple Fire and only providing enough of the Fire Protection and Ice Potion for one single person. If you do this at three places, you would force each champion to take different routes through the maze," Severus said.
"Then it is a good thing that you're not helping with the desig," Lucius said. "Though it would still be wise to brew these potions in advance, just in case we need them."
"But it won't stop Dumbledore from doing something similar," I replied. "He just needs to charm an object that you need to have on your person as a one-time key for a ward," I pointed out. The room fell silent after this, as everyone contemplated what else we could do.
"It's not perfected yet, but we are experimenting with a darkness powder," George spoke up after some moments.
"You throw it to the ground and everyone but you will see nothing but blackness for the next two minutes or so," Fred added.
"Perfect for a quick escape from creatures and the likes," Sirius finished. We all believed that the twins spent most of their supposed Occlumency lessons with Sirius talking about pranks instead of practising how to shield their minds. Especially now that they had the promise of their own joke shop.
"At least once we perfect it," Fred interjected.
"I may be able to help you with that," Severus offered. The twins gladly accepted, already sporting big grins.
"If we could come back to the problem at hand," Hermione said pointedly and with an eye roll.
"Sorry," the twins apologized far too happily.
"So, should we try to have someone else go in with Harry?" she asked. "And if yes, who and how?"
"How about using Polyjuice?" Luna suggested. "As long as Harry participates in the third task he should fulfil the terms of the Tri-Wizarding Tournament. It shouldn't matter that he's invisibly following behind whoever is polyjuiced as him."
"Have I already told you that I love you, Luna," I said, already deciding to do just that as I got up and hugged her. I missed the quick flash of jealousy that crossed Tom's eyes when he heard my heartfelt words.
"Do we have time to brew the potion?" Lucius asked.
My face fell down.
"It's not part of my stock," Severus said.
"Shit," Hermione cursed at the same time, muttering to herself of how she should have brewed it anyway when she'd come up with the Polyjuice Potion idea for the Yule ball.
"So someone or several someones will follow you instead. No big deal," Draco tried to lift the mood again, hating to see me down. I gave him a small smile in thanks.
"You cannot all not show up, it would be too suspicious," Fred pointed out.
"Sirius would be missed," I said. "As will Severus, Tom and Lucius." Sometimes I really hated that Tom was Lord Slytherin and thus a very prominent figure in society.
"I could send Remus on a fake mission. He is perfect for helping you with the creatures," Tom offered.
"I can join you too," Bella interjected. As a Healer and powerful duellist she was the perfect backup.
"And I'll brew what I can in the meantime," Severus promised.
The plan was neither perfect nor foolproof, but it was the best we could come up with in under a month. And just knowing that I would not enter the maze alone was a huge comfort to me.
Sunday, 18th June 1995
"Well done, Harry," Tom praised after he unsuccessfully attacked my Occlumency shields for an hour straight.
In the last six months, Hermione and I had slipped up on occasion and our instructors had been granted front row seats to our romantic fantasies in which they starred. Not once did either of them comment on what they saw, but both Hermione and I came to the conclusion that neither of them leaving the room was a positive sign.
Hermione was particularly relieved to know that Tom and Severus reacted rather similar to the romantic thoughts they saw as I, unlike her, at least had the security that Tom was my fiancé and thus in the long run was not against a romantic relationship with me. Though, in my opinion, the fact that Severus taught Hermione how to brew his improved version of the Contraception Potion spoke for itself. And while Severus was old enough to be her father, I thought that they were perfect for each other and was happy for the two of them. Now Severus only needed to finally get over the little detail that Hermione was not of age yet.
But this was the enamoured teenager speaking. It was only when Hermione and I were older that we saw Severus' true intention. Being muggleborn deprived Hermione of some of the support and guidance the rest of us regularly received from our families. Severus was trying to fill that void, assure she got the same advantages the rest of us enjoyed. He was fond of her and as the years went on, that fondness only grew."
Luckily for me, Tom's own fondness seemed to be growing quicker. I did not care that it was partly due to wizarding Britain expecting us to marry once I finished Hogwarts, just as they were expecting me to win the Tri-wizard Tournament for Hogwarts. Which reminded me, "Do I need to wait until after the third task to get my well-done kiss?" I prompted.
"Of course not," Tom replied and to my annoyance simply kissed the top of my head.
"If you're trying to make yourself look ten years younger, you're succeeding," Tom commented.
"Now you look so angry that I should probably take my leave," Tom replied.
Now I was frustrated.
Tom laughed as he got up from the sofa. "Soon," he promised as he finally gave me the kiss I wanted. Still chaste but better than nothing.
"Soon is not soon enough," I complained.
"It has to be," was all Tom could say as he caressed my hair. We'd talked enough about this that there was no longer anything new to add. Fooling around with a boy my age would have been much less complicated and frustrating, but it was Tom who I loved even if it was frustrating to not be ready for everything he had to offer. But his experience was also part of what attracted me to him. At least Hermione will be of age in just a bit over a year, I thought. Knowing, that even with dutifully taking the Contraception Potions, Tom would not touch me the way I desired most before I was seventeen in two years.
Saturday, 24th June 1995
"Mhm," I hummed happily in the early morning hours on the day of the third and thankfully final task of the trice damned Tri-wizard Tournament as I snuggled into my human pillow.
"Good morning," Tom greeted me as he petted my dishevelled hair. The braid would need to be redone before I faced the eagerly waiting photographers that were probably swarming Hogwarts right about now.
"Morning," I greeted back.
"One more week and you can finally return home," Tom said.
"Mhm," I agreed, not wanting to leave my happy bubble just now.
"You can sleep in as long as you want then," Tom continued. "Now we need to get up so that we can smuggle in Bellatrix."
"But I have you with me now. I'll be sleeping all alone then," I replied.
Tom was silent for ten seconds, before he let out a sigh and replied, "Have I ever thrown you out of my bed?"
"No," I answered. But I had only slept in his bed as a small child or, as it happened recently, when I desperately needed the comfort and security he provided.
"So?" he questioned. With a groan I removed myself from atop his chest and slowly rolled out of the bed.
By the time I returned from the bathroom, Bellatrix was already in the living room.
"Come over here," Tom asked as he motioned for me to sit on the floor in front of the armchair he was occupying. "For a Foreas your braiding skill is terrible," he commented as he undid my braid.
"Not everyone can be like Draco and have a father to practice on from a young age," I replied as I enjoyed the warm feeling I always got when someone dear to me braided or brushed my hair.
Bellatrix and I shared a smirk over the image of either Severus or Tom with hair as long as Lucius and a mini me braiding the hair, adding some pink bows as decorations.
"You just lost your good-morning kiss," Tom told me in Parseltongue, vanishing the smirk right off my lips. "All done," he announced back in English.
Soon Sirius knocked on the door, followed by Remus who was hidden underneath the Invisibility Cloak. After quickly going over the plan for the day, it was time for me and Sirius to go down to the Great Hall for breakfast. The day could not be over sooner for me.
While we had expected Dumbledore to raise some wards during the past month, neither of us had even dreamed of Dumbledore asking or blackmailing the Gringotts' goblins to create a copy of their famous Thief's Downfall at the entrance of the maze. This certainly would prevent anyone that was not a champion from entering the maze unseen.
"So, it is a good thing that we weren't able to use the Polyjuice Potion," Severus commented. It was the only silver lining either of us could see, now that our plan was ruined.
"Fortunately, there are other ways to circumvent the spellwork," Tom said and winked with his eyes somewhere between Severus and I. Severus and I looked bewilderedly at him. "I may or may not have spent a month or two testing Gringotts' security system before I decided to not entrust them with certain things," he said non-specifically.
Before Severus and I could wonder what exactly Tom had decided to not store in Gringotts or if he knew how to break into the bank that had never been broken into, he took out his wand and cast some spells on me. "All done," he announced. "Now all the spells Severus and I cast on the clothes should hold."
"Someone is very envious," Sirius said when he joined us, pointing towards where Fleur and Madame Maxime where standing.
"It's not my problem that they don't recognise the wand movements," Tom replied.
"I cannot believe it," Lucius complained when he joined us with Draco and Narcissa and glared at the copy of the Thief's Downfall. "I hope none of Slytherin's heirlooms are in the possession of Hogwarts," he told Tom. "Less he…," Lucius said as he sent mental daggers at Dumbledore, "gets the brilliant idea to also flog them to the goblins. The sword of Gryffindor in exchange for this one-day enchantment? That's the limit!" he complained, furious.
"He did not!" Sirius cried out in outrage. He and McGonagall were soon engaged in a heated rant with each other about the headmaster's dealings
My friends began to trickle into our little huddle to wish me luck. With them and the amusing spectacle provided by Sirius and McGonagall's outrage, I almost forgot where I was and what was about to begin. But then, within what felt like seconds, Dumbledore approached Sirius to remind him of my imminent death if the task was not started on time and the little group of friends and family around me disappeared and I was headed towards the water fall. I barley had a moment to wipe the mist from the fall away from my eyes before the canon fired, it's boom dampened by the rush of water in front of me. I stepped forward with trepidation, still caught off guard by how quickly it had all begun and questioning if I had not just imagined the sounding canon. I passed through the falls. The water repelling charm held and there was no outcry from the crowd indicating that Bellatrix and Remus had been able to follow me undetected.
Immediately, the path forked. I went left.
I took a few more turns before Bellatrix and Remus, to my relief, removed the Invisibility Cloak Without the cloak we could travel faster and with their experience we quickly made our way through the maze without much trouble. A well aimed "Oblivate" removed Krum's memory of ever having seen Bellatrix and Remus with me.
It was only when we believed that the Tri-wizard Tournament was finally over that things went to hell in a hand basket, or a Goblet of Fire to be precise. Turning the Goblet into a portkey was as unexpected as flogging a priceless artefact.
If it had been a simple portkey out of the maze back to the entrance, I would have appreciated the gesture, somewhat. But it transported me into a small clearing in the middle of a forest. And there, two angry werewolf mates and a traitorous rat awaited me.
"Look who we have here," I heard a female voice say gleefully, as I tried my best to not empty my stomach on the forest floor. I hated portkeys.
"The little pup has finally arrived," another voice joined in. "If you only had brought the dog as well."
When I finally felt well enough to look up from my kneeling position on the ground, I immediately felt the need to throw up again. Standing before me was a fifty year old woman, wearing a torn t-shirt that clearly showed the gaping wound where her arm had been torn from her shoulder, bone visible among the heavily scared flesh. Her chestnut hair was so matted that even a dozen bottles of Sleekeazy's Hair Potion would not be able to tame the mess. While the second woman still had all of her appendages, her clothes, her grey hair and her yellow teeth did not fair her any better.
Before I could ask where I was or why I was there, or even register what the comment about the dog meant, I saw from the corner of my eyes a rat crawling out of the Goblet of Fire. Seconds later the rat transformed into a man, a man that look strangely familiar to me.
Peter Pettigrew! I suddenly realized. Ithad been ages since I'd seen a photo of him with the other Marauders.
"Dear Snuffles was not in the maze, his mate Remus though..." Pettigrew trailed off.
"That little traitor," the one-armed woman spat.
"Remus is NOT a traitor. If anyone is a traitor it is HIM," I angrily yelled and pointed at Pettigrew. It was only then that I noticed I still had my wand clutched in my hand, poised and ready to cast a spell.
"Now, now," the brunette woman replied, slowly walking towards me. "You should show some respect to your Uncle Peter," she chided me which made me even angrier than I already was. I did not hesitate to point the wand at her instead.
"He was more than helpful to our cause," the second woman added.
Stay calm, I reminded myself before I asked, "And what, pray tell, is your cause?" to play for time. I had a fairly good idea that it had to do with either Greyback or Dumbledore.
"Revenge, of course!" the woman replied.
"Revenge for what?" I asked, playing dumb. "I've never met either of you before," I said as I took a step back.
"Revenge for what your scum of a father and mud of a godfather did to our pack!" she snarled, her inner werewolf coming to the surface. "What they did to MY MATE!" she screamed, spit flying towards me in anger.
I hated myself for what I said next, but given the situation I was in, it was the only thing I could think of that, at worst, distracted my three attackers momentarily, and at best, made them turn on each other. "If Pettigrew is so helpful, then why did he not bring Remus here? A mate for a mate. And he had the chance. Remus was standing just inches from me."
The one-armed woman growled but did not turn her attention away from me. The other woman did though. She stepped slowly, her stride long, towards Pettigrew, her eyes narrowed on his. Hopefully they'll keep each other busy, I thought, still faced with the threat right in front of me and with no idea as to how I could escape.
"There is a nice reward for your little head," the one-armed woman said, not caring what was happening behind her. I, on the other hand, listened closely to what Pettigrew was saying.
"Now, now," Pettigrew tried to pacify the angry werewolf, getting his own wand ready. "We all agreed to stick to the plan. And the plan is that you'll get your reward once Potter there is delivered to the designated place," he reminded her, pointing at me.
So they are just the henchman for whoever wants to kidnap me, I reasoned. But why was I not transported directly to wherever I was supposed to end up? I wondered, but had no time to think more about it as the one-armed woman in front of me reach out the arm she still had to grab me and I was forced to cast the first spell that came to my mind, the Stinging Hex, as a warning at her.
"Don't come any closer," I yelled, mentally preparing myself to cast a more damaging spell next.
She laughed. "Do you really believe that a little mosquito sting will keep me away from you?" she asked and lunged for me once more.
Thanks to Sirius' defence training, I was able to spin around and out of her reach. Seconds later I yelled, "Locomotor Mortis!" in the hope to incapacitate her long enough to cast a body bind.
But werewolf reflexes were fast and she sprang into the air seconds before my curse could make contact with her legs.
"Petrificus Totalus!" I heard Pettigrew yell behind me and immediately regretted that I now had my back to him and the other werewolf. I cursed that, so far, Sirius and I only practised how to defend myself against one attacker. While a quick look over my shoulder told me that he'd luckily aimed the spell at his own opponent and that for the moment the two were occupied with each other, it was all the distraction the werewolf in front of me needed to launch her own surprise attack at me.
The shield charm I instinctively raised barely prevented her from strangling my throat. As I staggered two steps back, I shuddered with disgust when I watched her pleasurably licking my blood from her dirty claws. Not wanting to repeat the mistake of taking my eyes away from her, I used my left hand to feel the damage to the area around my left collarbone as my right hand pointed my wand at her. To think that my father and Sirius fought against the whole pack, made me respect both of them even more.
But this is not a time to be side-tracked, I need to find a way out of this mess! Or at least find some help, I resolved.Struck by a sudden inspiration I cast two "Incendio" spells in quick succession. One at my attacker's shirt and the second one I aimed at the top of one of the surrounding trees. If I was right, then the reason why I had not been directly transported to the final destination because I was still on Hogwarts ground and that the portkey had only been able to transport me from one place to another inside the wards but not out of them. A fire in the Forbidden Forest should draw enough attention to get someone to come and investigate. Until then, I had to find a way to fend off my attackers.
But the one-armed werewolf surprised me once more, when she, instead of trying to quench the flames, rushed at me. Apparently, she did not care about burning to death as long as she could take me with her to the afterlife. With my wand still raised up high from setting fire to the treetop, and my left hand holding the wound at my collarbone, she easily tackled me to the ground. The goo from the Snargaluff that Bellatrix had cut down in the maze was still stuck to my clothes and acted like fuel when it came in contact with the burning shirt of my opponent.
"Alarte Ascendare!" I heard a new voice yell seconds before the burning werewolf was flung off of me. "Are you alright, boy?" the stranger asked, his back to me as he placed himself protectively between me and the even angrier werewolf, who finally had the sense to role on the ground to put out the flames.
"I think so," I replied. Luckily the protection charms Severus and Tom had cast on my clothes still held so that only my uncovered left hand was slightly burned from the short contact with the fire. My lungs hurt from the smoke I inhaled and my eyes stung but since the contact was short, the pain would soon go away. At least I hoped so.
"Good," the stranger replied grumpily. Before, I could get my hopes up that, with the arrival of the stranger, I was now relatively safe, the wizard opened his mouth. "Pettigrew!" he yelled. "Don't stand around, grab the boy and get him out of here. We cannot lose any more time!"
Can this even get any worse? I wondered as I pleadingly looked at the still burning treetop, willing it to be the lighthouse I need and to send real help to my side, not another opponent to overcome.
"I'm a bit preoccupied at the moment," Pettigrew replied. When I risked a look, I saw that he and the second werewolf were circling each other.
"Deprimo! Duro!" the stranger cast, creating a big hole between Pettigrew and the werewolf he was facing, while the second spell turned one of the werewolf's legs to stone. "Move!" he commanded before his attention was once more focused on the one-armed werewolf in front of us.
He's as ruthless as the werewolves, I thought. Then everything happened so fast I had barely time to blink before an angry snarl from the one-armed werewolf and a heavily Scottish curse from the stranger had been enough of a distraction for Pettigrew to cast the Disarming Charm at my back. I tried to hold on to my wand but was unsuccessful. Seconds later Pettigrew was dragging me at wand point out of the small clearing.
Wherever we were going, I did not want to reach the destination. Once there, I knew that it would be nearly impossible to escape. With a strong hold on my right arm, Pettigrew dragged me along with him. I tried to calm my racing heart, to think clearly. If I wanted to escape, being alone with Pettigrew gave me a much better chance than still being surrounded by the werewolves and the stranger even if they were partial distracted by their own feud. So for the moment, I decided to let him drag me away from the chaos behind us. It would be useless if I managed to get away from Pettigrew only to run into the arms of the stranger or the werewolves.
I only have one chance. And I could only hope that we still had a ways to travel before he would Apparate or portkey us away. The farther we got from the clearing, the darker our surroundings grew, and soon Pettigrew was forced to point his wand away from my throat in order to cast a Lumos charm to light our way through the ever thickening forest.
One problem solved, two more to overcome, I thought. Now I only needed to get my wand back and then make a quick escape. And soon! I added as Pettigrew began to walk significantly slower.
"It must be somewhere here," I heard him mumble to himself, which only seconded my previous thought that time was of the essence now.
I could feel how the hairs on my arms stood up with fear and how my muscles contracted with anxiety, ready to move at a moment's notice if there somehow should be an opening. And there it was, an Augurey cried in the distance before it swooped towards us and stole a simple glittering coin seconds after Pettigrew spotted it lying on the ground to our right.
"NO!" he yelled at the bird. "Give it back!" he shouted.
At first it looked like the Augurey understood him as the bird spun around and flew back towards us. But instead of landing on Pettigrew's outstretched arm, it landed in a tear-shaped nest in the middle of brambles.
Having no other choice to get his hands on what I suspected to be the portkey, Pettigrew dragged me with him towards the brambles. I did not question why he dicided to pick up the portkey in the middle of the Forbidden Forest instead of carrying it on his person. All that mattered to me now was that in his struggle to get his hands on the silver coin, he would be distracted enough for me to attempt ab escape. So, I readily allowed him to lead me to towards the Augurey.
When Pettigrew crouched down to get the coin from the bird, I saw my wand sticking out of one of the back pockets of his trousers. Not wanting to miss this final opportunity, I quickly grabbed my wand and pointed it at him, mindful to not touch him, less he activated the portkey.
"STAY AWAY!" I yelled loudly as I carefully walked backwards to increase the distance between him and I. My yelling had the added effect of scaring the Augurey, making the bird fly off with the coin before Pettigrew had the chance to get his hands on it. "Stupefy!" I yelled next.
Pettigrew, who was still using his own wand to maintain the Lumos to keep track of the fleeing Augurey, did not have enough time to counter my spell. Moments before my spell hit him we heard a 'Crack' coming from my left. A mere second later it was dark as my Stunner hit Pettigrew square in the chest, the light emitting from the tip of his wand vanishing.
Should I cast the Lumos spell? Or should I run? I wondered, not having been able to see who or what had just approached us.
"Hah!" The sound left my mouth as I inhaled in surprise, nearly having a heart attack. Could it be Sirius? I hoped and this time I finally was not disappointed.
There, in the light of his own Lumos stood Sirius, having changed back from his animagus form. "Sirius!" I said happily and ran into his arms, nearly crying out of sheer relief.
"Are you all right?" Sirius questioned me as he returned my hug with one arm.
"Nothing Bellatrix won't be able to heal," I replied as I buried my head in his shoulder.
"Good," Sirius said with a nod. "Now, let's see who was stupid enough to attack my godson." With that, he ifted his wand higher to find the person who fell victim to the Stunning Spell he heard me cast from a distance. "PETER!" he yelled in anger, letting go of me as he stalked over to his fallen ex-friend. "Petrificus Totalus! Enervate!" he cast in quick succession, wanting to get answers.
I used my wand to provide us some light for the imminent interrogation, allowing Sirius to use his wand as he saw fit. With bated breath I watched from a distance how Petigrew did not move, did not even make a sound of discomfort when the second spell hit him. I both desired and feared the answer of who was behind the attempted kidnapping.
"Don't play games with me, Peter!" Sirius yelled and recast the enervate charm before he kicked Peter in the side out of sheer frustration.
Still Pettigrew did not move. I was frozen in place. In that moment I felt as much as a statue as Petigrew.
Sirius now too realizing that something must be wrong, gave up the spell casting and instead too cast the Lumos to get a better look at Pettigrew's body. He checked the pulse the Muggle way. From the shake of his head it was clear that he did not feel anything.
I swallowed. Maybe he did not do it correctly, I prayed. He is not used to checking the pulse the Muggle way, I reasoned.
But when we both finally focused our attention on Pettigrews' neck, there were no more words necessary. Peter Pettigrew was dead. When he was hit by my Stunner, he fell to the ground and by mischance hit a stone that broke his neck.
I felt more than I actually saw Sirius looking at me. I killed someone. I killed Peter Pettigrew. I killed the traitor that got my parents killed. I killed. I took a life. My parent's death is avenged. I killed. I am a murderer. I am not better than Pettigrew or Greyback.My emotions were all over the place as I stood there in shock. While horror, self-hatred, disbelieve, fear and self-doubt overcame me, every once in a while, short moments of joy and relief peeked through, which only fuelled the rising flames of horror and self-hatred.
"Harry," Sirius said softly, as he gently put his hand on my shoulder like I was a scared kitten that would run away at the slightest provocation. "Why don't you look out for Remus and Bella. They should be here any minute," he said and gingerly turned me around so that I was not facing the body of my victim any longer.
My victim. The person I murdered. The innocent life I've taken.—No, not innocent, I corrected, shaking my head. He betrayed my parents and the Longbottoms to Greyback, which in the end led to their death. I killed someone who wanted to kidnap me to Merlin knows where. I heard the Augurey start to cry in the distance, as if the bird wanted to remind me that it was only thanks to it that Pettigrew had not succeeded.
I could hear Remus' voice in my head, 'The cry of an Augurey foretells death.'
"Rain is coming," the real Remus corrected.
What? I wondered, having been too lost in my own thoughts to notice his arrival.
And Bellatrix's arrival, I corrected, the air was forced from my lungs as she pressed me firmly to her chest.
"We were so worried when you just vanished and Sirius told us that he did not see you appear at the exit of the maze," Bellatrix said as she began to inspect me. "What happened?" she asked me gently and at the same time clearly worried for my well-being. Trust her as a Healer to notice my state of shock seconds after she started her health check.
"Peter happened," Sirius said, his voice filled with bitterness and hatred as he transferred the newcomers's attention from me to him.
"Is he?" Remus asked as he stepped closer to where Sirius was kneeling on the forest floor.
Sirius just nodded. He did not want to voice it out loud in case it would unhinge me even more. "It was an unfortunate accident." An uncomfortable pause. "What happened at your end?" he finally asked.
"We encountered Moody who was fighting with a werewolf. A second werewolf was already lying dead on the ground. We saw how Moody killed the second one, Greyback's mate. When we went in to arrest him, he held up a fight, but just as we were about to corner him, he committed suicide," Remus reported.
"So we won't get any answers out of anyone," Sirius concluded.
"It's hard to imagine Moody committing suicide to keep someone safe," Remus pointed out. In the distance, the Augurey cried once more. "Come, let us get out of here before it starts to rain cats and dogs. Rodolphus and Rabastan should also already be on their way back to the castle."
As Remus helped Sirius prepare Pettigrew's body for the transport to Hogwarts, Bellatrix tried to calm my state of shock. To distract me from the dead body that was following us through the Forbidden Forest, Bellatrix recounted what had been happening elsewhere. I let her speak. The details didn't interest me, but the drone of a familiar voice was something. "When you vanished, Remus contacted Sirius through the communication mirror. When you did not show up anywhere near the exit after several minutes had passed, we used the tracking spell on your clothes to find you," she said.
"The others wanted to come too, but Dumbledore was watching. We shouldn't have known anything was wrong. We couldn't risk any accusation of cheating and breaking the contract with the Goblet of Fire." 'Less I lose me life,' not needing to be said out loud.
We walked in silence towards the edge of the Forbidden Forest, where the two Lestrange brothers were already waiting for us, three cloth covered shapes hovering beside them. The two men both gave me a thin smile. "You'll need to present this," Rabastan informed me in a monotone voice as he pressed the un-enchanted Tri-wizard cup into my hands. It was clear that he was not happy about the current situation, but we all knew that as long as the Tri-wizard Tournament was not officially completed that my life was still at stake.
"I'll be right next to you," Bellatrix said as she put on the Invisibility Cloak and gently guided me towards the Quidditch Pitch. "Once you present it to the judges, we can all go home. Our Lord can finally come down from the stands and sweep you away to Slytherin Manor, where you'll be safe," she stressed the last word.
In a trance I allowed her to guide me to the Quidditch Pitch and held up the Tri-wizard cup high in the air with her invisible arm supporting mine as the crowd around us broke into cheers of joy. Their shouts and applause were muffled to my ears, their smiles blurred by my glazed eyes. After what felt like hours, but only must have been mere seconds, Tom's arms wound around me and with a silent pop he Apparated us through Hogwarts's wards, never in his life had he been more grateful that he could do so as a founder's heir. When we landed on his soft bed, I finally broke down and cried.
Friday, 30th June 1995
With the help of my family and friends, I was able to come to terms with what happened in the Forbidden Forest and accepted that Pettigrew's death, while caused by my Stunning Spell, was not my fault. It was in the early afternoon on the day when my Hogwarts's friends were supposed to arrive from school, that Tom sat down with me in the living room for a privet talk. Severus had taken me out of school early with the excuse that I, as a Tri-wizard champion, did not need to sit any exams in the final week of term so my presence at Hogwarts would be unnecessary.
"Harry, do you remember when I told you some days ago that I tested the security of Gringotts'?" Tom asked me.
"Yes," I answered.
"I did it because I was considering making a Horcurx and I would need a safe place to keep it," he continued.
I looked at him unknowingly. "What's a Horcurx?"
"A Horcrux is an object that contains part of your soul," he explained.
"But how can you cut off a part of your soul?" I asked.
Tom then told me about his travels in Africa, where in the middle of nowhere he had an unfortunate encounter with a magician where he was put in a place where it was either his life or the attacker's. In that moment he had no other choice but to kill the other person in self-defence. "It was not an act that could be made undone," he finished his tale. "And while it does not justify the action, I believed, and still believe, that using this death for a good cause would be the least I could do to respect the taken life.
"I had not been Lord Slytherin for long at this point and the state Magical Britain was in due to my uncle's rule was appalling. It needed strength and stability. I needed the time to put it back together. A decade at least. But my encounter with the African magician showed me that my own life could be taken with a mere two words and a bit of wand waving. And then I remembered the Horcrux. An object that would ensure that I would not leave this earth before my time had come. And all I needed was a split piece of my soul. A splitting that had occurred when I was forced to take the magician's life.
"And in the end, it was a life for a life," Tom said as he petted Nagini. "While I had not found any source that told of a living Horcrux, I was sure that it could work. And even more, with the Horcrux in her, Nagini would be able to live far longer than the average snake. Without the Horcrux that prolongs her life, Nagini would not be here today," Tom said, before he fell silent to give me some time to procress everything he had said.
"Will you live forever?" I asked after a moment.
"No," Tom replied. "I can still die. The Horcrux inside Nagini can be removed through a ritual or by killing her. Though, for the ritual to be successful, I would need to feel remorse for the murder and I certainly won't allow anyone to kill Nagini."
"Does anyone else know that Nagini is your Horcrux?"
"No. Though some people may suspect that I have done something as I have not aged since the day I created the Horcurx."
"Maybe you just age very slowly," I suggested. A pause. "You'll teach me how to create a Horcurx?" I asked, looking at Nagijan.
"I am considering it," Tom said.
"But?" I prompted.
Tom sighed. "But while I think with everything that happened we all would sleep more easily knowing that you have a Horcrux to keep you alive, I doubt that you want to remain fourteen years old for the rest of your life," he finished.
"Then we wait until I am older," I said.
"That is not possible. Not without you having to split your soul again," Tom stated. "The split piece of soul will merge back together with the main soul after five weeks."
"So we only have four weeks left to make a decision," I said, the weight of staying in my current teenage body forever weighting heavily on my mind.
"Yes," Tom replied.
Tom did everything in his power to protect me from Dumbledore and his perverted friends in the Ministry, but it seems like regardless of what Tom did, Dumbledore would always find a way to reach me once more. Life for me certainly had been less dangerous when Dumbledore had known about the prophesy. While he'd known that I could assure Tom's reign, he'd also known that I could as easily destroy Tom. But blissfully unaware as he was in this life, he only saw me as someone who would make Tom even more powerful. And if he couldn't have me, Tom couldn't have me either.
AN: Happy New year! And a big thank you to my beta as I wouldn't have been able to get through the writers-block I had with the Pettigrew & werewolves scene at the end!
Next: The next chapter includes Professor Dolores Umbridge.