THE THIRD TASK

When the day of the third task came around, the champions were called to spend the day with their families who had come to visit. While Petunia and Gareth had not come due to the anti-Muggle wards on the castle, Harry was delighted to see Severus, Sirius, Marsali and Remus, and was relieved that Severus had not brought Isobel and Lucas, even though Harry knew they would have pled desperately to come. However, they would be too much of a distraction when it came time for Severus and Sirius to come rushing to help him during his upcoming confrontation with Voldemort and Wormtail in the graveyard. Severus would not have the time to deal with his children, who would no doubt be upset at what was happening.

Harry had scouted out the maze the previous day but Hermione had been correct, and the obstacles had not yet been placed in the maze. However, he did manage to determine a route to the centre.

'I just hope I remember the route when I'm actually in the maze,' Harry thought nervously. 'Still, if worse comes to worst, I suppose I can always transform into Hawkeye and just fly through or over the maze.'

Unfortunately, when the nervous champions were gathered outside the maze waiting to begin, that idea was firmly squashed.

"It was brought to our attention by our youngest champion that the second task was somewhat uninteresting for the spectators to watch," announced Ludo Bagman. "Therefore, we're going to cast a spell on each champion, which will allow their progress through the maze to be displayed on the screen we've erected."

'Crap! Why didn't I keep my big mouth shut?' Harry groaned to himself. 'Still, even if I can't transform into Hawkeye, it ought to make it harder for Crouch Jr to cast the Imperius on Viktor, as it'll be obvious to everyone watching what has happened to him—I hope!'

Filius Flitwick came up to the champions and charmed each of them. The display screen then divided into four and the champions appeared in one quarter each. Harry looked towards the stands where his family was gathered and saw the shock on Severus and Hermione's faces. Clearly, they did not know what to make of this new development either.

'Well, Uncle Sev wasn't sure how to gather the troops to come to my assistance, other than just ordering Padfoot and Moony to come with him for no apparent reason, so if the charm still works at a distance, that'll solve that problem,' Harry thought philosophically, trying to make the best of the situation.

Up in the stands sitting next to Severus, Hermione was having similar thoughts. 'Well, at least no one will be able to deny what happens this time,' she thought grimly. 'If Harry doesn't manage to end Riddle in that graveyard tonight, Fudge won't be able to pretend Voldemort hasn't returned,' she concluded none too happily.

Hermione looked at Severus and saw him grimace at her in return. He was silently cursing himself for not checking the details of the task in advance with Minerva, in case of any changes from the last timeline. 'I have no idea if this is a good thing or a bad thing,' he thought blankly, before focusing intently on the screen when he heard Ludo's whistle and saw Harry run into the maze.

Harry lit up his wand with a Lumos and ran towards the first fork. Turning left, he hurried down the path, which was deserted. Turning right, Harry ran straight into his first obstacle: one-three headed dog that had not been seen since his first year. Fortunately, the Cerberus was tied up, albeit on a long chain and so could not chase after him, however, Harry could not proceed any further.

'Fluffy!' Harry thought. 'I need music.'

Harry did not know much about music, but he did his best. Thinking back to the previous timeline, Harry broke off some twigs from the hedge and transfigured them into a simple wooden flute. The sounds issuing from the flute were not good, and certainly were not very musical, but luckily even painfully bad music appeared to calm the dog. When the Cerberus lay down, placing its great heads on its giant paws, Harry cautiously inched past, still tooting on the flute. Once beyond the sleeping Cerberus, Harry threw away the flute and then raced away as fast as he could, knowing that all the champions were now in the maze.

As he reached another fork, Harry laid his wand flat in his hand and whispered "Point Me." Confirming his suspicions, Harry knew he had to go north west to reach the centre of the maze, but short of blasting through the hedges—not an unattractive idea, he thought—he could only turn left and then right again. As he turned left, a wall of flame sprang up behind him, preventing any retreat. To Harry's dismay, a second wall of flame shot up ahead of him. Harry tried a Flame-Freezing Charm, but this did not work.

'Of course it wouldn't be that simple,' he thought in resignation, trying an Aguamenti Water-Making Spell. To Harry's disgust, this did not work either. Finally, in desperation, Harry tried casting the Glacius Freezing charm and was relieved to see the flames turn to a wall of ice. Casting a Reductor curse, the wall of ice was blasted into pieces and Harry passed through.

Turning right, Harry immediately dived to the ground to avoid the projectiles now seemingly coming from nowhere in his direction. Cautiously backing up out of range, Harry considered what he could do. While the various missiles were all aimed at approximately chest height, they were coming to land on the ground when they did not hit anything and so he could not simply crawl along below them without being speared.

'If I can't go below, perhaps I can go above,' he considered.

Harry tried to levitate himself, but he did not seem to have as much control over the levitation as when doing it to someone or something else, and he doubted he would be able to sustain the levitation long enough to bypass this obstacle. With a sigh, he dropped back down to the ground and looked around helplessly for inspiration, since he did not want to place his trust in shield charms or conjured armour. Shaking his head, Harry decided to avoid that path altogether. With a philosophical shrug of his shoulders, Harry continued straight along the path he had been on before he had turned into the corridor with the flying projectiles, and took the next turning instead.

Harry raced around the corner and stopped abruptly before he could be trapped in the sticky, glutinous mess in front of him. Gingerly throwing some pebbles into it, Harry realised that it seemed to be a swamp with similar properties to quicksand. Thinking back over what he had learned about quicksand in Muggle primary school, Harry realised that he needed to make himself as light as possible and to disburse the weight as much as he could. Snapping yet more twigs from the hedge, Harry transformed them into a long, wide and thin plank of wood. Carefully levitating this over the swampy mess, Harry carefully dropped it gently into position on top of the swamp, creating a crude bridge. Casting a Feather-light charm first on the plank of wood and then upon himself, he rose up on his tiptoes and raced across the plank quickly and lightly. Feeling the plank beginning to sink before he reached the end, Harry took a flying leap off it and landed on all fours, safely beyond the boundary of the viscous swamp.

Picking himself up with a sigh of relief, Harry ran on and turned another corner, where he was greeted by the sight of a Hippogriff who he recognised.

'Buckbeak,' Harry thought in awe. The Care of Magical Creatures class had not yet been introduced to Hippogriffs, so Harry had not seen Buckbeak until now in this timeline.

Cautiously approaching the Hippogriff, Harry bowed respectfully and let out a breath of relief when after a tense couple of minutes, Buckbeak bowed back. Harry gave Buckbeak a gentle pat and then proceeded further along the path. Racing around yet another corner, Harry was faced with a Dementor. Feeling the chill of the Dementor and hearing its rattling breath, Harry had a moment's panic, thinking it was real, despite knowing this was where he had faced his Boggart last time.

'I'm just grateful my Boggart wasn't the sight of a dead Hermione at my feet. I don't know if I could have held myself together with that vision in front of me. I'll take a Dementor over that any day,' Harry thought grimly. On that thought the Boggart changed into just that and Harry yelled out "Riddikulus!" Such was his fury at the representation of his soul-mate in death that the Boggart exploded from the sheer force of the spell.

As he was about to walk through the golden mist he had encountered last time that would turn him upside down, Harry could hear screams from his fellow champions and realised that Krum had probably been placed under the Imperius Curse again by the false Moody, and forced into attacking Fleur and Cedric. With all the action being displayed on screens, Harry devoutly hoped Krum was not using the Cruciatus on his fellow champions. Harry was tempted to run to their help but knew he could not take the time to do so. He had to get to the cup first!

Realising that he was panicking, Harry stopped for a minute to catch his breath and consider his next action. Seeing one of Hagrid's Blast-Ended Skrewts heading towards him, Harry knew he needed to move. Suddenly, with a whoop, Harry reversed direction and ran back to Buckbeak. Freeing the Hippogriff from the chain holding him in place, Harry climbed on his back.

"Will you take me to the centre of the maze, please, Buckbeak?" Harry asked, leaning forward to pat the magnificent animal. In response, Buckbeak gave a small squawk and, taking a running jump, launched himself into the air, just skimming the tops of the hedges.

Buckbeak landed in the central clearing and Harry slid down from his back. "Thank you, Buckbeak," he said giving the Hippogriff a slap to its withers, so it would take off again. "Go and join your fellows in the forest, it'll be safer for you than staying here," Harry told him.

As Buckbeak took off, Harry could see the cup on its plinth ahead of him and ran forward, only to skid to a halt when an Acromantula stepped into his path. Not wanting to waste time and having absolutely no sympathy for the giant, lethal spiders, Harry took inspiration from one of the earlier obstacles and quickly conjured a spear, which he banished through the spider's eyes right to its brain, killing it instantly. Squeezing carefully around the now dead Acromantula, Harry raced onwards and grabbed the cup.

As expected, he was transported immediately to the graveyard in Little Hangleton. As soon as he landed, Harry immediately cast a shield around himself and dived to the ground, just as a stunning spell came flying over his head. Turning his dive into a roll, Harry vaulted to his feet and sent out his own stunning spell in the direction from which the one aimed at him had come. Despite knowing his blood was needed for the ritual to resurrect Voldemort, Harry could not bring himself to submit meekly to Wormtail and began duelling the loathsome rat. Jinx after jinx, hex after hex, curse after curse all went flying. Harry was already tired and was fast losing the energy to fight.

'I have to stop duelling Wormtail, or I won't have the strength to face Voldemort,' Harry thought in despair. That moment's distraction cost him, and Harry was felled by a Cruciatus Curse, which cut right through his shield. Only a physical barrier could block the Unforgivables, and Harry had not managed to dive behind a headstone in time.

'Come on, it's time for the cavalry,' Harry thought, as he screamed in agony. Without a pause, Pettigrew followed his Cruciatus with a Stunner, and Harry knew no more.

In the meantime, there was panic back at Hogwarts as the assembled audience watched the events in stunned horror. There was absolute silence while everyone observed Harry be transported to an unknown graveyard and then duel the small, rat-like man. The screaming began when Harry was overpowered by Peter and the hideous homunculus was placed in the giant cauldron. Above the screams of the audience, Sirius, who had run over to the box where the judges were sitting, could be heard yelling at Albus Dumbledore. Severus and Remus followed him, with Marsali following behind.

"You promised steps had been taken to protect the champions! Is this what you call keeping them safe? WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO MY GODSON?! WHERE IS HE?!" Sirius shouted in fury.

"Sirius, stop!" Severus cut through the yells. As Padfoot turned around in surprise to blast Severus for not caring about Harry, Severus continued. "Yelling at Dumbledore is wasting time. We need to get to Harry," he said. Taking his handkerchief out of his pocket, Severus calmly turned it into a portkey, much to Dumbledore's surprise.

"Only I can make a portkey which will transport through the wards, Mr Snape," said the Headmaster condescendingly.

"Oh, so you're admitting it was you who sent my godson off into an ambush, Albus?" Sirius asked belligerently, immediately pouncing on what the Headmaster had said. The blank look on Professor Dumbledore's face was almost comical, if only Sirius and Severus had the time to appreciate it.

"Actually, I can also make portkeys that will travel through the wards," said Severus, smirking at Dumbledore as he stared open-mouthed at the Potions Master in disbelief and shock. "Although, it was not me who hijacked my nephew. Sirius, Remus, let's go—Harry needs us. Hermione, you're staying here!" he added as the teenager came running up to them. "You'll distract Harry, and that could be dangerous for him," he added, seeing the girl about to argue.

"All right," she said with a sigh. "Hurry, please, Uncle Sev."

"Need some help?" asked Elphinstone laconically as he, Minerva and Filius Flitwick came racing up to them.

"Why not? Not you, though, Headmaster. We don't need your interference." He closed his eyes and communed with the castle. "Hogwarts, please do not let Albus Dumbledore leave the grounds," said Severus, adding silently, 'Hogwarts, please also prevent the fake Alastor Moody, who is really Barty Crouch Jr from escaping, and disable him so he can take no further action at this time.' If all went well in that graveyard, Severus did not want to give the imposter the opportunity either to escape or to take revenge upon Harry for again destroying his Master.

"You can't ask Hogwarts to do that, Mr Snape," said Albus smugly.

"Yes, I can," said Severus equally smugly, tuning into the wards, which he had avoided doing until now, and feeling the weight of them settle upon him in full. The events currently taking place were too important to permit Albus to interfere, even if it meant that Severus would now be declared the Headmaster, which responsibility he was not yet ready to accept. Ignoring the shocked and sputtering Headmaster, Severus held out the handkerchief. They all grasped onto it and Severus activated the portkey.

Severus had taken them to the edge of the cemetery, not wanting to interrupt the ritual which he knew needed to take place, and now he took charge. Signalling to everyone to be silent, he sent Remus and Sirius in one direction, and Minerva and Elphinstone in the other. "Elph, Minerva, your first priority is Wormtail. No, Sirius, not you. Elph and Minerva won't get so caught up in revenge that they forget why they're here. Filius and I will go after the snake and then, once the snake is dealt with, we'll all go after Voldemort—remember that in order for Voldemort to die properly this time, the snake has to be killed first. Sirius and Remus, your priority is to protect Harry."

"How do you know the snake has to be killed first?" asked Sirius suspiciously.

"It's one of those things I can't tell you about, Padfoot," Severus sighed.

"We'll take care of Wormtail," promised Minerva, thus reminding Sirius that this was no time for them to argue amongst themselves.

"One moment!" said Severus suddenly. "Filius, how wide-ranging is the viewing spell you cast on the champions?"

"It shows everything within a radius of approximately 200 yards or until it comes up against a sizeable barrier such as the hedges in the maze, whichever happens first," the Charms Master replied.

"Good," said Severus with satisfaction. "So everyone at Hogwarts will see whatever happens, and there will be no question of trying to hush it all up afterwards. Alright, let's get moving."

Sneering as he realised that Wormtail had erected no wards, Severus silently and wandlessly activated the wards that he himself had put in place as soon as Pettigrew had escaped from Azkaban at the beginning of the previous summer. Severus had left the wards quiescent until now, so that Voldemort would not notice them. In addition to anti-apparition and anti-portkey wards, Severus had also put in place a newly created ward to prevent anyone with a Dark Mark entering the graveyard; if they obeyed the summons from their Master, they would be bounced off this ward straight back from whence they came. Severus had spent several years researching this with Hermione's assistance, but they had not been able to test this ward until now.

'Hopefully, that ward will work,' Severus thought grimly. 'If ever there were to be a time when we would need good luck, then this is the time. Perhaps I should have brewed Felix Felicis for us all to take, if only I could have explained why I just happened to have that particular potion handy.'

As Severus and Filius crept forward, Severus heard Harry's voice.

"You're too late, Voldemort. Your Horcruxes have all been destroyed. The diary, the locket, the ring, the diadem, the cup and even the one you didn't know about, the one in my scar. The only Horcrux left is Nagini and she won't be around for much longer, I promise you that."

"You will die, Potter!" snarled Voldemort furiously. "I was going to duel you but you don't deserve that honour. I'm just going to kill you instead. Avada Kedavra!"

Severus had drilled Harry remorselessly, trying to break him of the habit of relying too heavily on Expelliarmus, which had been something of Harry's signature spell in the previous timeline.

.o.O.o.

"Miss Weasley's Bat Bogey hex may be a work of art when used in a non-life-threatening situation, but Chiroptera Mucosa has far too many syllables to be practical in a real fight. Expelliarmus is nearly as bad in that respect," Severus sniffed in disdain.

"You do know it was you who taught me Expelliarmus, don't you?" Harry grinned at his uncle, his green eyes twinkling in amusement.

Severus' lips curved in a smile. "I'm glad to know I managed to teach you something back then! Expelliarmus is a useful spell, Harry, but don't become too reliant on any one, single spell. It's better to have a range of spells in your arsenal; it makes you less predictable," he warned and Harry nodded in agreement.

"In this instance you don't want to take any chances, so use spells with as few syllables as possible. All you need to do is tie up Voldemort's wand in the Priori Incatatem. You don't want to risk him finishing his spell before you can vocalise yours," Severus had instructed his nephew firmly.

.o.O.o.

Harry had taken the lesson to heart and as soon as the first syllable of the Killing Curse left Voldemort's lips, Harry immediately cast "Duro!" which was both short and therefore quick to pronounce, and also an effective offensive spell.

As before, the two wands started vibrating and a golden beam of light connected them. Unlike Voldemort, however, Harry was prepared for this. When they were both covered in a golden, dome-shaped cage of light, Harry concentrated on the beads of light rolling up and down the thread of light connecting the wands. Fisting his second wand with his other hand, Harry sent an extra surge of magic into the connection between his wand and Voldemort's, forcing the beads back towards the Dark Lord. Voldemort, already disconcerted by what was happening with the wands and by the sound of phoenix song, which Harry recognised as coming from both Serafina and Fawkes, began to look nervous and uneasy as his wand vibrated violently. With grim satisfaction, Harry saw that a bead of light had finally connected with Voldemort's wand, and waited, knowing what would happen next.

Voldemort's wand screamed in pain, and then shadows came ghosting out of it. Not Cedric this time, thankfully, but Wormtail's hand, Frank Bryce, Dolores Umbridge instead of Bertha Jorkins, Lily and James Potter, and others, all prowling around the disconcerted—and even fearful—newly resurrected Dark Lord.

Outside the dome, the others were concentrating on their targets. With great satisfaction, Minerva and Elphinstone had brought down Wormtail. As an Auror, Sirius was equipped with magic suppressing handcuffs, which he always had with him, on duty or not; he had handed these over to Elphinstone, who immediately clamped them onto Pettigrew, thus preventing the traitor from transforming into his rat form and running away. In the meantime, Filius and Severus had brought down Nagini; Filius had used a Bombarda, turning the snake into a bloody mush. Just to be certain that the piece of the Dark Lord's soul which had been residing in Nagini would also be destroyed, Severus sent a short burst of Fiendfyre at the snake.

With an inhuman scream, the now familiar black substance oozed out of Nagini and was quickly banished by Severus before it could seep into and taint the ground. Nevertheless, Severus determined to bring Petunia, Iris and Pomona here later to cleanse the area with their earth magicks.

'They should bring Holly with them, too. It'll be good training for her,' Severus thought absently at the back of his mind, as he remained focused on the current fight.

"What was that?" asked Filius as they all tried not to gag at the smell of charred snake.

"Not now!" barked Severus. "Concentrate!"

While Elphinstone stood guard over Wormtail, the others gathered around Voldemort.

"When I shout out Now! everyone aim at Voldemort," Severus instructed.

"Harry, it's time! Now!" Severus shouted, not even knowing if the boy could hear him through the cage of light, but hoping that he could. Harry immediately let his holly wand drop, breaking the connection between his wand and Voldemort's. Diving to the ground, Harry simultaneously brought up his second wand in his other hand, joining the others who had already begun sending a volley of spells at the unprepared Dark Lord as soon as the cage fell. All of them casting potentially deadly slashing, piercing, cutting and blasting spells, since none of them wanted to give Voldemort a chance.

Within moments, the Dark Lord's body was in a similar condition to that of Nagini. Harry and Severus had both used the Sectumsempra cutting curse created by Severus in the last timeline and this had resulted in the beheading of Voldemort, while the other spells had blown his new body apart. For a moment, the people gathered in the graveyard in Little Hangleton stood in silence, trying to take in what had happened.

"He's dead, right? Really dead this time? Do we know whose spell killed him?" asked Harry shakily.

"It could have been any of the spells," said Filius philosophically as he examined the remains of Voldemort's body. "Or all of them," he shrugged.

"Oh, good," said Harry weakly. Then he could not help himself, and he fell to his knees and vomited.

Severus dropped down beside his nephew. "It's all right, Harry," he said calmly and handed the boy a stomach soothing potion. 'It's a good thing that we can't attribute the Dark Lord's death to one particular person. That should alleviate the guilt and, hopefully, prevent anyone feeling like a murderer,' he reflected.

Minerva gave Harry a glass of water she had conjured and seeing the anguish in the green eyes looking at her, put her arms around the teen, who was shaking as the adrenaline and stress left his body.

"It's over. It's really over," Harry whispered quietly as he leaned into his honorary aunt's comforting embrace.

With Harry being taken care of by Minerva and Severus, Sirius' Auror training took over and he now took charge of the situation. "All right, Remus, Elph and I will stay here with Pettigrew and that," he said disdainfully, indicating the remains of Voldemort. "Sev and Min, you take Harry back to Hogwarts and I'll get a team of Aurors here. Professor Flitwick, perhaps you wouldn't mind staying as well for added security, just until the Aurors arrive."

"Of course," agreed Filius.

Sirius sent off a Patronus to Amelia Bones, the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and then touched his wand to his Auror badge. "It's a homing beacon," he explained. "So they'll know where to come."

Severus took down his wards, as they were no longer needed. Any Death Eaters who had been at the final task of the Triwizard Tournament and had witnessed what had occurred in the graveyard were probably already running for their lives, and besides, the Aurors needed to be able to apparate in.

"The cup will bring you back in through the Hogwarts wards," he said, pointing towards the Triwizard Cup and Filius nodded in understanding.

Mentally thanking the Charms Professor for not asking awkward questions, such as how it was possible for him to create such a portkey, Severus took tight hold of Harry and Minerva and apparated them to Hogwarts, landing in the open area beside the entrance to the maze, where a flustered Albus Dumbledore, Olympe Maxime, Igor Karkaroff, Ludo Bagman, and other members of the Hogwarts staff were all gathered around the fake Moody, who had collapsed into a huddle on the ground. It seemed that Hogwarts had simply rendered the man unconscious and unable to be revived until Severus requested it.

"I don't understand it… there's nothing wrong with him but I can't bring him round," Poppy was muttering as she and Marsali scanned Barty Jr, and Hermione raced over to latch tightly onto Harry.

"Was that… was that…" Cornelius Fudge stuttered, as soon as the party returned to Hogwarts.

"Voldemort," Minerva confirmed grimly and people began to scream again.

Severus cast a Sonorus on the entire area they were standing in, wanting to be sure that the entire conversation was heard by all present. "Silence!" he yelled, with all the authority of Professor Severus Snape in his voice. "Yes, it was Voldemort, but he is now dead and will not be coming back. All of the anchors which held him to this plane of existence have been destroyed."

"I'm afraid that's not possible," said Dumbledore, his eyes sliding to Harry.

"Oh, but it is," said Severus triumphantly. "I removed the Dark magic that you chose to leave in Harry's scar. You'll notice if you look that Harry's scar is almost completely faded away. You'll also notice the absence of any Dark magic if you care to scan for it."

Harry lifted his fringe to show that his scar was indeed almost gone. With a huff, Dumbledore scanned for Dark magic but was unable to accept the result, so emotionally invested was he in the path which he had determined. Opening his mouth to protest further, the Headmaster was interrupted by the appearance of the four House ghosts.

"Albus Dumbledore," intoned the Grey Lady formally. "You have been judged guilty by Hogwarts of deliberately and willingly ignoring and neglecting the safety and well-being of the students in your care. Hogwarts is no longer prepared to accept this."

"This is your last warning," continued the Bloody Baron. "You will henceforth cease your machinations or Hogwarts itself will oust you."

For some years now, Albus Dumbledore had been aware of things happening in the castle that did not make sense. Moreover, the ghosts, portraits and elves who would all normally assist with identifying and tracking down the source of these mysterious incidents had been singularly unhelpful. This had now culminated in Severus Snape doing things which only the Headmaster of Hogwarts should have been able to do, plus the wards leaving him only a short time ago, and the Hogwarts House ghosts publicly rebuking him. This could not be allowed to continue and the Headmaster desperately tried to regain some control of the situation.

"My actions have all been for the greater good," he declared pompously.

"Like when you placed Hermione Graynge, a minor under the protection of myself and my husband, unconscious at the bottom of the Black Lake, without first obtaining our permission?" asked Marsali icily.

Sirius had been incandescent with rage when he had learned about that and Severus had had to put him into a Body Bind to stop him from charging up to the school to hex the old man. But then, the only reason Severus had not hexed Dumbledore himself was because—unlike Sirius—he had expected this to happen and, thanks to his future knowledge, he knew that the second task had not yet been the right time to oust the Headmaster; the tournament and the events in the graveyard had to play out first. Instead, Severus had pointed out to Padfoot that getting arrested for assault would not help and had once more steered him towards Rita Skeeter, who had gleefully excoriated Dumbledore in the Daily Prophet.

Dumbledore ignored Marsali and carried on speaking. "Harry Potter carried a piece of Voldemort's soul in him for many years and has now participated in killing him. I'm afraid this proves that Mr Potter has gone Dark and must be stopped. Mr Ollivander can give further evidence to that fact."

Ollivander stepped forward guiltily. He knew why Dumbledore had summoned him and further knew that Severus would be furious if he spoke up, as would Sirius even though he was not currently present, but with both Dumbledore and the Minister for Magic urging him to speak, he had no choice but to do as bid.

"Err, ahem," he cleared his throat nervously. "Mr Potter's wand had a phoenix feather core. The phoenix in question has only given one other feather, and that was used in V… Voldemort's wand. Mr Potter and Voldemort have brother wands."

"Silence!" yelled Severus again, when people started screaming. "Cease that infernal racket at once!"

Smirkingwhen everyone fell silent at his command, Severus addressed the crowd. "You idiotic, simple-minded, imbecilic, dunderheaded sheep! Someone makes an announcement and you all automatically believe it without any proof? Without querying its veracity? Are you all incapable of independent, original thought? Yes, Harry had a wand with a brother core to that of Voldemort. That core was supplied," he began shouting about the noise of the crowd, determined to be heard, "by Albus Dumbledore's phoenix! Are you going to claim that a phoenix has gone Dark? Or that Albus Dumbledore is Dark because his phoenix supplied the core for Voldemort's wand?"

That silenced the crowd. There was none there that day, other than perhaps Severus, Harry, Hermione and Minerva, who would call Albus Dumbledore Dark. That was against everything Wizarding Britain believed in. Even Sirius, no matter how angry he was with the old man, would not go that far.

"Besides," added Severus smugly. "That was only the wand supplied by Mr Ollivander here. Harry actually has a second wand, of rowan wood and phoenix feather—with this feather donated especially to Harry by my phoenix, unlike the feathers used in the wands supplied by Mr Ollivander, which were not donated with anyone specific in mind."

"At this point, Mr Ollivander, perhaps you would like to enlighten these good people as to the properties of a rowan wand?" asked Minerva smoothly.

Ollivander started in surprise, not being aware that Harry Potter had a second wand. "Err, rowan wood is known for its disassociation with the Dark Arts. Indeed, it has become synonymous with pure-hearted wizards. I cannot recall a single instance of a wizard with a rowan wand becoming evil or turning to the Dark Arts."

"Perhaps you would like to confirm that my second wand is rowan wood, Mr Ollivander?" asked Harry, doing his best to imitate Hermione's artful innocence. "So everyone will know we're not making unsubstantiated claims."

Severus smothered a grin at this dig at the Headmaster and nodded in agreement. Harry handed over his second wand to Mr Ollivander who began to examine it. "Yes, yes… rowan wood and phoenix feather. A custom wand made by Madame Honorine Shingleton, I do believe. A fine piece of work, I must admit."

"Yes, sir," said Harry with a smile as he accepted his wand back from the elderly wandmaker.

That stilled the murmurs that had been rippling through the crowd. Even though Severus had just condemned the gathered crowd for their sheep-like tendencies, he was well aware that even other wandmakers around the world acknowledged that Garrick Ollivander's knowledge of wandlore was unsurpassed, and so he allowed to pass without remark the fact that no one present challenged the wandmaker regarding Harry's second wand.

Despite this, Dumbledore simply could not let it rest. He could not let go of his obsessions that easily. They had been part of him for far too long. "No, this isn't right. This isn't how things were supposed to end. It's not what I planned."

"What he planned?" Marsali murmured quietly in Severus' ear. Unfortunately, she had forgotten the area-wide Sonorus.

"Yes!" Albus snapped, having heard Marsali's muttered comment. "I had a vision! I, Albus Dumbledore, Order of Merlin First Class, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, Supreme Mugwump of the ICW, I determined the path we must follow and this is not it!"

In amongst the silence that fell after Dumbledore's rather bizarre and self-aggrandising statement, Filius Flitwick, Elphinstone Urquart and Remus Lupin returned to the school, using the portkey in the Triwizard cup. They were accompanied by Amelia Bones and two Aurors, Sirius and Kingsley Shacklebolt. As soon as they landed, they all aimed their wands at Alastor Moody and, despite his state of collapse, blasted him with stunners, much to everyone's surprise.

"Now, really, Amelia. This is unacceptable!" snapped Dumbledore.

"It's also none of your business, Albus, given that you didn't notice that the Alastor Moody who has been in your school since September is an imposter."

"Don't you think you're being paranoid, Amelia?" scoffed Dumbledore.

"We have corroboration from Pettigrew," commented Amelia as she watched her Aurors place handcuffs on the stunned Professor.

"And you trust his word? The man is a liar and a traitor," said Dumbledore in a superior tone of voice, as though his word should close the matter altogether.

"We questioned him under Veritaserum, Albus," replied Amelia wearily. She did not want to have to contend with Dumbledore but had no choice if she was to capture the imposter.

Once the fake Moody had been securely bound, Severus silently asked Hogwarts to revive him. No sooner than Hogwarts had brought him out of this stasis into which he had been placed, did the Polyjuice he had consumed earlier wear off and, to the accompaniment of gasps and screams, he transformed back into Barty Crouch Jr. Kingsley grimly dosed the Death Eater with Veritaserum and the questioning began.

"What's your name?" asked Amelia.

"Bartemius Crouch Junior," he replied.

"You supposedly died in Azkaban. How did you escape?"

"My mother was dying and was permitted to pay me a visit before her death. She had made my father promise to get me out of Azkaban. Mother and I swapped places using Polyjuice. It was she who died in Azkaban while under Polyjuice, not me."

"Where have you been since that time?"

"I wanted to rejoin my Master but my father wouldn't let me. With the help of our family's house elf, my father kept me imprisoned at home under the Imperius Curse. I was never able to break free, even though I tried."

"How did you come to be masquerading as Alastor Moody?"

"After Pettigrew escaped from Azkaban, he made his way to Albania, where my Master's spirit was residing. Along the way, Pettigrew captured a Ministry worker who was holidaying there, Dolores Umbridge. When my Master questioned her, he discovered she knew what my father had done and was blackmailing him. They killed Umbridge and then came to free me. My Master had a task for me."

"And what was that task?"

"To masquerade as Alastor Moody."

"To what purpose?"

"My Master wanted to use Potter in his resurrection ritual. It was my job to make sure Potter's name came out the Goblet of Fire, and then to make sure Potter was the one to lift the trophy at the end."

"What was the purpose of entering Harry Potter into the Tournament?"

"It was so that when the cup was turned into a portkey to bring the winner back to the starting point, I could adapt the portkey to take him to my Master. Only the Headmaster can make portkeys that will work within or go through Hogwarts' wards. Once the portkey had been created, I could then do whatever I wanted to it."

Seeing that the Aurors were about to give Barty the antidote to the Veritaserum, Harry quickly asked a question. "Where is your father now?"

"I killed him and transfigured his body into a bone, which I buried."

"How much help did you give Harry in the Tournament?" asked Hermione. The two teens still had their arms tightly around each other and it was obvious to all that they would not be letting go any time soon.

The various adults looked surprised at such a seemingly trivial question, but under the compulsion of the Veritaserum, Barty was already replying.

"Almost none. I tried to give him hints about the first two tasks, but he wouldn't let me. He insisted that as a member of staff, I couldn't help him and he was receiving sufficient help from his uncles. In the third task, I was supposed to clear the way for him but couldn't do much once the champions were all charmed to show on the display screen. Everyone would have seen what I was doing and the task might have been halted before Potter could lift the trophy."

"You couldn't do much, but you did something—what did you do to help Harry?" Hermione pressed.

"I put Krum under the Imperius Curse to attack Delacour and Diggory, to keep them all out of Potter's way. That was the only thing I managed to do. It didn't make much difference, though, since Potter was already so far ahead of the others. He won as soon as he decided to fly that Hippogriff to the centre of the maze. The other champions wouldn't have stood a chance, even if I hadn't interfered."

With that, Barty's fate was sealed. He had admitted to his guilt in escaping Azkaban, murdering his father, putting Viktor Krum under the Imperius Curse, and facilitating the return of Voldemort. All that was needed now was to decide if he would be given the Dementor's Kiss or sent through the Veil of Death.

"Is You-Know-Who really dead this time?" asked Cornelius Fudge fearfully. "Can you guarantee he won't be coming back?"

"I'm sorry, Cornelius, but I'm afraid…" began Dumbledore.

"Yes!" interrupted Severus sharply. "I guarantee it. Voldemort made soul anchors. I won't explain what these are, as they are the Darkest, most foul magic imaginable, but he could not be killed until they had all been destroyed. I became aware of them thanks to Regulus Black. Voldemort made a mistake—he thought they would make him immortal and didn't take into account the fact that they could in fact be destroyed. Apparently Voldemort entrusted some of his anchors to various of his followers. Regulus was entrusted with one and tried unsuccessfully to destroy it, dying in the attempt. After Voldemort was destroyed the first time, I spent the next several years tracking them down and destroying them, as Elphinstone Urquart and Minerva McGonagall can confirm, since they were aware of my attempts and even assisted me.

"There were a total of six anchors: a diary; Slytherin's locket; a ring which belonged to the Gaunt family; Helga Hufflepuff's cup which Voldemort stole from its previous owner, Hepzibah Smith, when he murdered her and framed her house elf for the crime; Rowena Ravenclaw's diadem—he tricked her daughter, the Grey Lady, into revealing the location where she had hidden it; and Voldemort's snake. All the anchors were destroyed with Fiendfyre, and I am willing to offer my memories to prove that. Once the anchors were all destroyed, it was then possible to kill Voldemort." Severus deliberately refrained from mentioning the Horcrux in Harry's scar. He did not want people to fear Harry and he wanted to know how Dumbledore would react.

"How do we know there aren't any more of these things?" asked Amelia.

"Apparently, Voldemort was obsessed with the magical properties of the number seven. He therefore planned to create seven separate pieces of soul. Six anchors and the piece remaining within him. I questioned Horace Slughorn, who had been Voldemort's Head of House when he was at school. Voldemort, or Tom Riddle as he was known then, asked Slughorn about soul anchors and implied that it would be best to have seven pieces of soul because that is the most magically powerful number. Slughorn sat on that knowledge until I went asking."

"But there is another one," said Dumbledore smugly. "There is one lodged in Harry's scar."

"And just how do you know this?" asked Severus immediately.

"I sensed it there when I took Harry to his aunt's house after his parents' death."

"And you just left it there? You didn't do anything about Dark magic that you detected in a defenceless baby?" asked Severus incredulously.

"Harry needs to die. He must sacrifice himself for the good of the wizarding world," said Dumbledore pompously.

"Nonsense!" snapped Severus. "I admit there was some Dark magic residue in Harry's scar, but it's gone. I removed it myself."

"Enough!" shouted the Grey Lady angrily. "When Harry Potter returned to school this year, he had been completely cleansed of the taint in his scar. Hogwarts herself has confirmed that. Albus Dumbledore, you were given one last chance and you have failed. You are still putting your own personal desires ahead of the health and well-being of the students. Hogwarts has decided: Albus Dumbledore, you are no longer Headmaster of this school. You must leave today."

"My Lady," interrupted Severus diffidently, and the Grey Lady turned a piercing eye on him. "I realise that I'm not a Healer but it does seem as though there's something wrong with Mr Dumbledore. He appears to be obsessive, delusional even… perhaps Madam Pomfrey, Healer Black and the Mind Healers at St Mungo's ought to examine Mr Dumbledore's mental state?"

The Grey Lady was silent for a moment, and then the Fat Friar spoke solemnly. "Hogwarts agrees to this."

At that, Marsali and Poppy bustled up. Pulling out their wands, the two witches began to cast some preliminary diagnostics. When the former Headmaster tried to shrug them off, Minerva simply stunned Dumbledore. With a grateful nod, the two medicals floated him off to the Hospital Wing for a more in-depth examination, with Kingsley Shacklebolt in tow, just in case Poppy and Marsali would need any help keeping the former Headmaster subdued.

"What about announcing the Triwizard winner?" asked Eileen, looking at Harry pointedly.

"But Barty Crouch Jr helped Mr Potter in the final task, so I don't think it fair he be announced the winner," said Cornelius Fudge smugly.

"Actually," said Hermione triumphantly, "Mr Crouch confirmed that he wanted to help Harry, but that he was unable to do much, and the little he did do would have made no difference to the outcome."

"That's true," agreed Minerva, her eyes twinkling.

"But Mr Potter only won because he cheated by using the Hippogriff to fly to the centre of the maze!" Fudge retorted.

"We weren't told we couldn't do that," Harry promptly pointed out. "I call it making good use of the materials available to me."

"Harry's right," Elphinstone commented, as everyone else tried, not very successfully, to conceal their chuckles. "He wasn't told he couldn't fly on the Hippogriff to the centre of the maze. I say he won fair and square."

There came a murmur of agreement from the assembled staff, even Madame Maxime, the Headmistress of Beauxbatons; Igor Karkaroff was busy trying not to be seen in case anyone inconveniently remembered he was a Marked Death Eater. The Minister looked peeved at the thought of having to hand over the prize money. Severus, who despised Cornelius Fudge, suspected that with the announcement that Barty Crouch Jr had paved the way for Harry to win, the Minister had been hoping he might be able to pocket the money himself.

"Besides," drawled Severus in amusement. "The Triwizard Tournament has a long history of cheating—not that Harry cheated. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, the only thing that counts is which champion gets their hands on the cup first, and not how they manage to do so." This was something Severus had researched in the last timeline and he put the knowledge to good use now.

The disgruntled Minister looked around and seeing he had no support, had no choice but to declare Harry the winner and hand over his winnings, which he did with notable ill-grace.

"I didn't want to win, you know," said Harry quietly to Hermione once the area-wide Sonorus charm had been cancelled.

"I know, but for the sake of your reputation, I wanted confirmation that you're the rightful winner. You didn't experience the kind of trouble this time over your name coming out the goblet as you did last time, but that doesn't mean no one believed you cheated your way into the Tournament. There were bound to have been some who thought you did, no matter what you did to try and prove your innocence. And even though that's now been cleared up, you don't need those people to think you won by a cheat too."

"Thank you," said Harry, giving her a quick kiss.

The staff began shepherding the students back to their common rooms, and ushering as many guests as possible off the grounds. Remus escorted Harry and Hermione, since she refused to let go of her soul-mate, to the Hospital Wing so that Harry could be checked over after his ordeal, while Severus and Sirius met with Amelia, the Heads of House and Elphinstone, as the Head of the DMLE wanted to interview them all about Albus Dumbledore.

"I believe your claim that Voldemort is now dead," Amelia mentioned after her interviews were complete, having been supplemented by viewing memories in the Headmaster's Pensieve. "The evidence is compelling. We now need to round up the Death Eaters who previously escaped prosecution under the Imperius Defence. We were forbidden from asking Pettigrew last time if the Imperius Defence was genuine, but we took the opportunity to do so earlier, before the Minister had a chance to intervene. Pettigrew confirmed—as did the Carrows after the World Cup Final—that the Dark Mark would only settle upon those who genuinely wanted it. According to Pettigrew, the process of becoming Marked would kill anyone who didn't truly want the Mark. Pettigrew says that's what happened to Dolores Umbridge in Albania. He claims that Voldemort thought she was suitable Death Eater material, but the Marking killed her."

Severus was not aware that the process of taking the Dark Mark would kill anyone who did not want it unequivocally, but he was certainly not surprised that the Dark Lord would want to give Dolores Umbridge the Mark. Voldemort would have seen enough in her mind to know that she agreed in many ways with his ideology. However, Umbridge was also a coward who would not have had the stomach for what being a Death Eater involved. Sympathising with the Dark Lord's ideals and actually taking the Mark were two very different things, so the fact that being branded with the Dark Mark had killed the objectionable woman certainly did not shock Severus.

With that, the weary gathering parted company until the next day. Severus, Sirius, Minerva and Eileen all headed to the Hospital Wing to check on Harry, but he was out like a light.

"I gave him a Dreamless Sleep potion," said Poppy, coming to meet them.

"What about Dumbledore?" asked Minerva, looking around for him.

"When he came to, he started raving. Marsali took him to St Mungo's for an in-depth mental health assessment," she said, nodding at Severus in gratitude for suggesting it.

Severus took a chair and sat down next to Remus, who was beside Harry's bed. Hermione was curled up next to Harry, as not even Poppy had managed to get the girl to let go of him. Sirius looked torn between staying with Harry and heading back to work with Amelia.

"Did Regulus really tell you about these soul anchors?" asked Sirius hesitantly.

"Not exactly. He dropped hints that made me do some research after he died, and that was where my research led me."

"Why didn't you ever say anything?" asked Sirius brokenly. "My brother turned against Voldemort. I wish I'd known sooner. I might have been able to help him, maybe even save him."

"I'm sorry, Siri, but I didn't know enough in time to save him. And if I'd told you, you would have insisted on using that information to clear his name and it wasn't the time for it to become public. There were things that needed to happen before the truth could come out. In the meantime, you needed to carry on behaving as though Regulus had still been a good little Death Eater, and you'd never have been able to fake that."

"No, probably not. I'd have been unable to resist rubbing Reg's change of heart in my mother's face and she'd have given it away to the wrong people," Sirius admitted reluctantly.

"You can tell the world now, though," said Severus encouragingly, and Sirius' face lit up.

"Sirius, go," said Severus softly, as Sirius glanced over at Harry again, looking torn. "Harry will understand. He would far rather you help round up all the former Death Eaters for questioning than sit here with him. He wants this to be over."

With a nod Sirius left. Severus and Remus then sent Minerva and Eileen to bed. "You have a school to run tomorrow. Not only will you have to deal with the fall-out of Dumbledore being ousted, but you will also have to deal with children whose fathers are now under arrest," Severus pointed out. "You need to sleep."

Sirius left and Severus settled down with Remus to watch over Harry and Hermione. Inevitably, they both eventually fell asleep and Severus started dreaming of other events that had taken place in the graveyard in Little Hangleton that night.

.o.O.o.

Unseen by anyone in the graveyard at the time, not even Severus or Harry, Susan Sto-Helit had been waiting with anticipation. When the combination of spells killed Voldemort, she slashed down eagerly with her scythe. Death's scythe is one of the two sharpest objects in existence—the other being Death's sword, used for royalty—and it is capable of slicing air, shadows and even time. Most importantly, it is designed to sever souls from their mortal shells¹.

Susan sliced through the blue thread connecting Voldemort's final soul piece to the bloody pulp that was all that remained of the physical body he had briefly inhabited. "TOM MARVOLO RIDDLE AKA LORD VOLDEMORT AKA THE DARK LORD AKA HE-WHO-MUST-NOT-BE-NAMED AKA YOU-KNOW-WHO?" she asked in her voice that sounded like coffin lids slamming shut.

"How dare you use that disgusting Muggle name?" he cried in anger. "Avada Kedavra!"

Susan waited patiently for Voldemort to realise that this would have no effect. "MAGIC DOESN'T WORK HERE," she informed him triumphantly, still in her Death persona, as he stood gaping at her. "YOU'RE DEAD. IT'S TIME FOR YOU TO MOVE ON TO THE AFTERLIFE."

"Who are you?" he asked furiously.

"DON'T YOU RECOGNISE ME? I'M THE GRIM REAPER," she responded, brandishing her scythe as proof.

"You?! You're a woman! And you're not even a witch!" he said contemptuously.

"NO, I'M NOT A WITCH. WOMAN OR NOT, I'M SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT. AND NOW IT'S TIME FOR YOU TO MOVE ON TO YOUR FINAL REWARD OR PUNISHMENT."

Horror began to dawn over the shade of Tom Riddle. "If you send me back I'll give you great power," he began to beg desperately. "Great riches, respect. You'll stand by my side and together we'll conquer the world."

Briefly, Susan considered his request to send him back—just not as Voldemort reincarnated but as a Flobberworm or even perhaps as a potato². 'No,' she decided. 'Better to remove all traces of him from the earth. Who knows what might happen to anyone who ate him.'

Voldemort, who while Susan deliberated had been trying in vain to fling spell after spell at everyone he could see, including Susan herself, finally gave up and with a roar, launched himself at Susan's throat. She waited calmly while he picked himself up off the ground, having fallen straight through her.

"YOU HAVE NO SUBSTANCE. YOU'RE DEAD," she said implacably. It always took some longer than others to accept reality.

Tiring of this, Susan snapped her fingers and a fiery pit opened up beneath Voldemort. What the Afterlife consisted of varied according to each person's belief. While the adult Voldemort had not believed in anything other than power, the young Tom Riddle had been brought up in his orphanage on stories of Hell aand Damnation waiting for the wicked. He had, of course, contemptuously rejected all he had been taught about religion upon learning that he was a wizard, but some remnant of those teachings remained buried deep within him, hence part of his desire to achieve immortality and escape his just fate. A blue nimbus flared around the unsubstantial shade, and the shade was drawn deeply down into the pit, screaming in anger and fear. With a satisfied nod, Susan snapped her fingers again and the pit closed up. Susan stalked away without looking back and the sleeping Severus smiled in satisfaction at this confirmation that the Dark Lord was indeed no more.

.o.O.o.

The next day, the Board of Governors appointed Minerva as Headmistress; as soon as they had left, she summoned Severus to the Headmaster's office.

"Hogwarts hasn't accepted me as Headmistress, you know," she said conversationally to the man sitting opposite her.

"She wants me to become Head," agreed Severus unhappily.

"And you don't want to?" asked Minerva calmly.

Severus grimaced. "My former incumbency as Headmaster was not a good experience for anyone. The things I had to do, had to allow..." he broke off in distress.

"But you tried to prevent as much as you could."

"Not enough!" Severus cried in anguish.

"Hogwarts has forgiven you."

"But I haven't forgiven myself!"

"Isn't it time you did? Things are very different this time around, after all."

"That's easier said than done," replied Severus bitterly. "Besides, there are other factors to take into consideration."

"Such as?"

"Cara for one. As a squib, it wouldn't be easy for her to live in such a magic-rich environment. I know Argus Filch manages it, but not without a great deal of bitterness and resentment, and the contempt of the pupils. Cara has a place in the Muggle world but she doesn't have one here, and as Headmaster I would have to live in the castle. I don't want my wife feeling inferior because she doesn't have magic."

"That's certainly one consideration," Minerva agreed. "What are the others?"

"The shop," Severus replied promptly. "I know Mum feels guilty over having all but abandoned it, but as long as it's in my hands she can live with the decision. For us both to reject it, though—and Mum would still be needed here, even if I were to become Headmaster—well, Antimony Brewyer deserves better than for us to reject the legacy he gifted us." Isabel was already showing signs of being exceptionally gifted at potions, and Severus was hoping she would want to work in the family business when she was older, looking forward to the day when he would be able to work with one, or even both, of his children. Lucas was also extraordinarily good at potions but did not have quite the flair of his sister. In the meantime, Eileen was already considering likely candidates to replace her as Potions Professor at Hogwarts when she retired from teaching—although none of the apprentices Severus had mentored over the years were of the calibre of their Master, who was truly exceptional, any of them would be more than capable of doing a good job as Potions Professor to school children.

Minerva nodded. "Are there any other reasons?"

"Two more. One is you. I trust you to be the Headmistress that Hogwarts needs, and you deserve the opportunity to be such."

Minerva smiled. "And the last reason?" she asked warmly.

"I can't explain that I'm reliving my life and that I'm a former Professor, Head of House and Headmaster of Hogwarts. How do I justify Hogwarts choosing me of all people, the owner of an apothecary shop, to be the next Headmaster? You and I may know the real reason, but no one else will understand."

"Well then, I think you'd better have a chat with Hogwarts, my lad," said Minerva briskly.

Severus closed his eyes and began to commune with the castle. Minerva sipped her tea and sat patiently waiting as she watched the man who she regarded as... perhaps not a son since Eileen was alive and well, but a most favoured nephew, she decided.

Severus opened his eyes and smiled. Minerva felt the weight of the wards settle upon her and raised an eyebrow, silently asking for more information.

"Hogwarts and I have reached a compromise. The wards are now primarily within your control, and although I can also access them should I choose to tune in, I can't do anything in defiance of you unless Hogwarts feels you're deliberately putting the children in danger, which I know you would never do. Hogwarts accepts that you are to be trusted as Headmistress and will wait to see who your proposed successor is when the time comes, before trying to place me in that position. In the meantime, I'll become more involved with the school by filling one of the places on the Board that are now empty since so many Governors are… unavailable."

Amelia Bones had not wasted time in rounding up all those who had previously escaped imprisonment by claiming they had received their Dark Marks under the Imperius Curse, and this time Cornelius Fudge was not able to intervene on their behalf. Amelia had indeed traced the movement of gold, as Sirius and Severus had suggested after Fudge had insisted that the Carrows be released from custody without trial after the riot at the World Cup; she had been waiting for the right moment to confront Fudge with her findings, and the Minister was now under investigation along with the Death Eaters.

"It's not common for a Governor to be appointed Headmaster but it's certainly not unknown," Minerva observed.

Severus nodded. "Once my appointment as Governor has been confirmed—we'll need to get Sirius or Augusta as existing members of the Board to propose my election as a Governor—I'd like to become involved in the pastoral side of the school—and my former self is rolling around in his metaphorical grave at the very thought of it! Under Albus' leadership, there wasn't sufficient care given to the children's health and well-being. Bullying was routinely ignored and children who came from less than desirable home backgrounds had no one to turn to for help."

Severus took a deep breath before continuing. "I've been through that myself. In the last timeline, I spent years being bullied at school and abused by my father at home. I know the depths to which the Marked Death Eaters sank, the depravities of which they were capable and how that bled over into their treatment of their families. We're also going to have a fair number of children whose fathers had the Dark Mark and will now be undergoing trial, despite previously claiming that they were under the Imperius. We now have evidence that was not the case. The chances are most of the Marked Death Eaters will be heading to Azkaban, their family vaults will no doubt be heavily fined, and the children's circumstances will be significantly reduced. I'm not a trained counsellor but I've lived through what those children are and will be experiencing—and don't forget the fact that I spent nearly twenty years as Head of House. I feel I'll be in a good position to help the children and would like to set up a programme of counsellors or mentors to whom the children can turn for help and advice."

The new Head of Hogwarts considered all that Severus had said and, with a sigh, she nodded. "Your proposal will need to be planned out in detail and I expect to be kept fully informed of progress once the programme has been implemented, but with those conditions in mind, I agree."

Severus smiled in relief. "Deal," he said.

"You do realise that if this goes well, it'll put you in prime position to be appointed the next Headmaster, don't you? By the time I retire or die in office, your mother, Filius and Pomona will probably either be retired themselves or too old for the Board to Governors to consider appointing them as Head. The position will almost certainly go to someone younger, and you'll be a very likely candidate once you involve yourself in the school in this manner."

"I know," said Severus with a sigh. "Who will replace you as Head of Gryffindor?"

"I plan to get in a team of curse-breakers to remove the curse on the Defence position, if such a curse truly exists..."

"It does, Voldemort boasted of it more than once," Severus interjected.

"...and if it hasn't faded with his death," she continued, ignoring the interruption. "Perhaps then, one of the Prewett twins, or maybe even Sirius, might be willing to take on the position on a more permanent basis. I could appoint them as Head of House."

"That makes sense. What about the Transfiguration position?"

"If I can't find anyone suitable, then I'll probably need to train an apprentice. Being a Gryffindor isn't a requirement for the position of Transfiguration Professor," Minerva smirked.

"Didn't one of the Prewetts marry Aleria Elwood?" Severus mused, thinking of the Ravenclaw who had been a prefect when he was in first year. "She was very talented at Transfiguration, if I remember correctly. She always managed to explain things well when she was tutoring the younger students and was very conscientious in her duties as prefect, so she would probably make a good teacher, if she's interested."

"Yes, she was," said Minerva, looking interested. "If she would like to undertake a Mastery with a view to teaching afterwards, perhaps it'll make the Defence position more appealing to her husband. That's a good idea, Severus."

"I take it Alastor Moody isn't interested in returning to teach Defence," Severus observed wryly. The former Auror had been found doped to the eyeballs with potions to keep him restrained and docile, inside the multi-dimensional trunk Barty Crouch Jr had brought with him to Hogwarts. He had been released from captivity and had been treated by Poppy Pomfrey until he was well enough to return home. Before the former Auror departed form Hogwarts, Elphinstone Urquart had a stern word with him.

"Do you know that Crouch Jr was using your magical eye to look through people's clothing, Alastor?" Elphinstone asked conversationally. "He was violating children. I hope you don't use the eye for such purposes?"

"Of course not! I'm not a pervert!" Alastor burst out in horrified tones.

"So you can control what you see with the eye?" Elphinstone clarified.

"Yes. I never use it on full intensity unless there's a need." The grizzled Auror blushed, something an astonished Elphinstone would have sworn was impossible. "There were a couple of times when I was using full intensity and someone crossed my line of vision, but I looked away immediately!" he said desperately.

Elphinstone sighed. "I know that you use your eye to assist the Auror Office when they need to scout out locations before making a raid," he said carefully, "but I strongly suggest you get a regular false eye to use the rest of the time and only use your magical eye when you're assisting the Aurors."

"Are you going to report me to Amelia because of what the magical eye is capable of seeing?" asked Alastor bluntly.

"Not if you get a regular false eye for everyday use," Elphinstone replied firmly.

Alastor listened and took heed of the warning. He asked Minerva for more information when she stopped by the infirmary, and understood from her outrage that were he to continue wearing his magical eye, the staff at Hogwarts would indeed report him to the DMLE. Knowing that Amelia Bones would frown upon even his inadvertent and brief glimpses through one or two people's clothes, he accepted the compromise proposed by Elphinstone and invested in a regular false eye, without any magical capabilities other than cushioning and sticking charms, perhaps reconciled to the loss of his magical eye's abilities by the knowledge that the eye had not helped him avoid capture by Barty Crouch Jr.

As for the Transfiguration position, once Minerva investigated, she discovered that Aleria Elwood had married very soon after finishing school and had since been working part-time at Flourish & Blotts bookshop doing administrative work, such as book-keeping, ordering stock and putting together book catalogues. Now that her children were in school and did not need her day-to-day attention, the younger woman was delighted to take up Minerva's offer, as this was of far greater interest to her than her current position. As a result—and much to the disgust of their children, Thomas and Tamsin, who were not too happy about their parents joining the staff while they were still students—Gideon and Aleria Prewett moved into the castle, Gideon as the full-time, permanent Defence teacher, the curse having been identified and neutralised, and Aleria as the Transfiguration apprentice and, later, teacher.

.o.O.o.

¹ mediawiki/Death's_Scythe

² The Truth by Terry Pratchett. (The evil character, Mr Pin, is reincarnated as a potato, which is then chopped up for chips and fried—emphasis given in the book on the word fried, thus implying this is Discworld's method of sending Mr Pin to the electric chair.)

A/N 1: Thanks to COotD for allowing me to use the idea of making it possible for everyone to watch the champions during the last task, which I shamelessly borrowed from Came Out of the Darkness, a wonderful redo story, which I hope will be continued one day.

A/N 2: Voldemort may be dead but the story isn't finished yet! There's still a couple more chapters to come.