27. Maze

Life returned to normal – sort of. The third task was still a few months ahead and the others were in the past. Harry could finally pay some attention to his studies. Luckily, his soul bond helped him keep abreast with his studies in all subjects which Hermione was taking, and Sirius helped him catch up with Ancient Runes. This only left Divination, which he already treated as utmost rubbish, and Care for Magical Creatures, where Hagrid was just too happy to help him catch up.

He didn't neglect his training, though. "As you are already well trained in all magic that can be useful for the tournament as well as some which is more useful as defense against attacks, I decided it is time to work on your fitness," Sirius told him. "You are quite fit, really, thanks to training with Dan during vacations and with your friends at school, so we're going to concentrated on speed and agility, needed especially when dodging curses or when trying to surprise one's opponent."

As usual, Hermione joined him and so did Neville, Luna and the twins. Lavender still joined them occasionally and so did Ginny, although she was in much better shape due to her Quidditch training.

Yet, as the date of the final task was approaching, Harry felt his tension rise. He knew that the imposter and his plot had been revealed; he knew that Madam Bones would personally handle everything during that day; he knew that Sirius and his group of aurors were going to make sure nothing would go wrong; he knew Moody and Dumbledore would also keep their eyes open to anticipate any threat; still he couldn't help but feel a bit apprehensive. If any of these measures was breached, it was Harry who would pay the ultimate price. Not even Hermione could make him relax.

Unknown to him and to almost everybody else, the elite task-force was also getting ready to intercept the event planned at the cemetery in Little Hangelton and put an end to the threat called Voldemort. Also unknown to anybody else, Dumbledore had managed to find all the Horcruxes that Voldemort had prepared and destroyed them all. The only one remaining was Nagini – Voldemort's pet snake, and he had instructed Madam Bones that the snake should be killed along with its master. She didn't ask for explanations.

Harry thought that if all champions worked the maze together, the dangers would become much smaller. He tried getting them all to agree, but found Krum to oppose any such attempt. Krum would simply shrug and go away whenever he mentioned cooperation. Harry wasn't sure if it could work without him.

It was after they were shown the maze, when they were walking back to the school proper, when Krum held his arm to stop Harry. "Vee need to talk," he said in his heavy accent.

Harry was a bit alarmed and quite confused, but Krum started walking at the same direction as the others, just keeping a certain distance from the rest. "I can't be seen cooperating with you," Krum stated, "but count me in. I'll do what I can, but not before the task."

With that said, Viktor Krum enlarged his steps and moved away, leaving Harry with his thoughts.

The day of the third task started early for a few groups of aurors. One group took over the ministry's atrium, checking all people coming into the ministry for the dark mark. All those carrying it were promptly moved to some high-security holding cells. All those leaving were also checked. Those allowed out were oblivated of the checking process, so nobody would get to know about it.

Another group took control of the cemetery at Little Hangelton and its immediate vicinity. They just got into their predefined positions and made themselves invisible and undetectable, waiting for the action due in the evening.

Some more groups were sent to secure Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade and Hogwarts, with clear instructions to arrest anybody bearing the dark mark and look out for any suspicious activity.

None of the students or teachers at Hogwarts was even aware of any of these. The champions had been surprised by their visiting families. Dumbledore invited the Weasleys to act as Harry's family, as neither the Grangers nor the Dursleys could even see Hogwarts.

"I'm really glad to see you," Harry told his surrogate family and introduce them to the other champions. He noticed that Fleur found Bill interesting. Bill was certainly interested in her, like most other males, although he wasn't affected by her allure, as Harry noticed when all others started drooling. He wasn't sure what it meant, but he then heard Hermione in his mind, 'If Bill is not affected then he is the right person for her.' He was sure to ask for more explanations later.

The leisurely mood changed in the afternoon, as the time for the third task approached. Students and visitors started filling the stands while the champions were asked to change into their official robes and get ready.

The aurors at the cemetery were also getting ready, noticing a small bald man coming into the cemetery with a large cauldron, setting it down near the Riddle grave and making some more preparations. He then left, only to return with a dirty bundle of cloth which felt full of malice. The aurors knew who the man and the entity in the bundle were but it was too early to act.

The champions were ready, the judges were ready and the audience was more than ready. Harry went first into the maze. He only took a few steps in and then waited for the others. One by one they joined him. With their wands at ready they continued stepping into the maze in formation, with Harry and Fleur scanning forward while Cedric scanned the sides and Krum kept their backs covered. Harry was briefly reminded of a phalanx of Roman soldiers. He was sure this was from Hermione's memory, as he had not seen any film about that era.

Activity was also starting at the cemetery, as the bald man started a fire under the cauldron and opened the Riddle grave. A large snake was watching over him. A loud hiss came from the bundle and then the snake departed. As it approached one of the disillusioned aurors, the snake seemed to taste the air, probably sensing a foreign scent. A silent stunner followed by a petrifying curse took care of the snake for the time being, without attracting any attention.

The champions encountered no real hazards in the maze. The blast-end-skrewt, despite its impressive armor, couldn't stand four simultaneous stunners, neither could the Acrumantula spider stand four cutting hexes, separating its head from its body. As they approached the golden cup, Harry asked them all to be extremely cautious. Each champion tried his best to sense any dark magic on the cup. They found nothing.

"Keep your wands ready, just in case. We should now all touch the cup simultaneously with our free hands. It's probably a portkey, but I'm not sure where it will land us," Harry instructed.

Despite being the youngest, nobody disputed his orders. They formed a circle around the cup, wands at ready and their free hands just short of touching the cup. "We touch the cup at the count of three. One... Two... Three!"

The cup activated, sweeping them off their feet and deposited the four in front of the Judges' stands.

Another gold cup deposited a polyjuiced auror, looking like Harry, near the site of the cauldron. The bald man lifted his wand, but could only murmur a single syllable before he encountered six stunners, falling on the ground in a heap. The being in the bundle noticed the danger and tried crawling away. It was intercepted with a multitude of cutting and blasting hexes and disintegrated in a blast of putrid flesh and black smoke. Another cutting hex put an end to the snake, releasing another puff of black smoke. The remains of both beings were collected into large plastic bags, the kind used by police for storing cadavers, while the bald man was cuffed with anti-animagus magic suppressing cuffs before being awakened, force fed some Veritaserum and questioned.

The minister looked unhappy that he needed to give the prize to all four champions. This was not in line with the speech he had his secretary prepare for the occasion and he was unable to improvise as needed. Yet he gave them the bag of money to divide among the four of them. As soon as he finished, a portkey brought the chief auror. He saluted and then reported: "We've just captured Peter Pettigrew and got rid of the being known as Voldemort. Its remains have just been passed through the veil of death."

Parting Words

It was a very festive farewell feast at Hogwarts. Everybody was excited to go home, as usual, but most were even more excited by the news: Voldemort was finally defeated and all his marked followers had been arrested, to be interrogated under Veritaserum. This included Snape and Karakof, whose foreign citizenship was not enough to protect him. Dumbledore was unhappy about Snape's arrest and hoped that the service he had done as a spy would be considered more than enough to compensate for whatever he had done as a Death Eater. Dumbledore was going to testify in court and hope for the best.

Some students were suspiciously missing, mainly from the Slytherin house, but also a few from other houses. Rumor was that one or both of their parents had been arrested as Death Eaters, yet nobody seemed to mind that Draco Malfoy and his croons didn't attend the feast. Harry had a distinct impression that even most Slytherins could hardly tolerate that git.

As soon as all students, resident and guests, were seated, Dumbledore rose to speak. "I'm very happy to conclude this year, which has been full of surprises. Let's first thank our guests from Beauxbatons and from Drumnstag, whose presence made this year quite special to start with."

All Hogwarts students clapped their hands noisily until Dumbledore raised his hand to stop them.

"We had the Tri-Wizard tournament this year, in which we had a surprise – a fourth champion. Despite everything, this proved to be quite beneficial, helping the champions as well as their school mates become closer, making them friends of each other by the end of the year. This has also been the first such tournament in which all participants finished unharmed and the first in which all champions shared the first prize."

Some polite applause was heard.

"Let's hope that the friendships started this year will continue and flourish for the benefit of all. And now – tuck in!"

Food appeared on the tables and the feast began.

The foreign schools parted the next morning and then the students boarded the carriages which took them to the train station.

The following years were simply peaceful.

Dumbledore resigned his positions after the Potters graduated. He lived two more decades, writing his memoirs before going on the next great adventure.

The Potters finished Hogwarts with outstanding grades and then turned to politics. Using the enormous wealth they had along with their substantial political powers, they brought magical Britain into the 21st century, modernized Hogwarts and helped give all magical creatures equal rights.

Hermione gave Harry four children – two boys and two girls, making him a proud and happy father who enjoyed and cherished his family, something he had missed during childhood.

Well, every story has to end. I've chosen to end it here, as there seemed to be very little drama to write about, once Voldemort was gone. The bond assured their love to each other and school without threats is just school. Yet life is a neverending story, as each generations brings forth the next and each has its own drama, be it small scale or larger.

I have some more stories in different stages. Some will come soon; others may take some time or may not even make it. I hope you've all enjoyed this story. See you at some of my other stories.

And as usual - Please Review!