- Current Mood:Sad
- Current Music:the blues
But Professor McGonagall's voice drowned Fudge's.
"The moment that - that thing entered the room," she screamed, pointing at Fudge, trembling all over, "it swooped down on Crouch and - and -"
Harry felt a chill in his stomach as Professor McGonagall struggled to find words to describe what had happened.
"Please don’t." said Rudolph darkly.
He did not need her to finish her sentence. He knew what the dementor must have done. It had administered its fatal kiss to Barty Crouch. It had sucked his soul out through his mouth. He was worse than dead.
"By all accounts, he is no loss!" blustered Fudge. "It seems he has been responsible for several deaths'."
"But now you can’t prove it you imbecile!" said Madam Bones shortly.
"But he cannot now give testimony, Cornelius," said Dumbledore. He was staring hard at Fudge, as though seeing him plainly for the first time.
"I’ve seen just what kind of man he really was." said Dumbledore.
"He cannot give evidence about why he killed those people."
"Why he killed them? Well, that's no mystery, is it?" blustered Fudge. "He was a raving lunatic! From what Minerva and Severus have told me, he seems to have thought he was doing it all on You-Know-Who's instructions!"
"He was, you stupid fool! You can be under even the smallest amount of Veritserum and be the most crazed man alive, but you will always tell the truth." said McGonagall.
"Lord Voldemort was giving him instructions, Cornelius," Dumbledore said. "Those peoples deaths were mere by-products of a plan to restore Voldemort to full strength again. The plan succeeded. Voldemort has been restored to his body."
Fudge looked as though someone had just swung a heavy weight into his face.
"He’d benefit from it." said Tonks.
Dazed and blinking, he stared back at Dumbledore as if he couldn't quite believe what he had just heard. He began to sputter, still goggling at Dumbledore.
"You-Know-Who...returned? Preposterous. Come now, Dumbledore..."
"As Minerva and Severus have doubtless told you," said Dumbledore, "we heard Barty Crouch confess. Under the influence of Veritaserum, he told us how he was smuggled out of Azkaban, and how Voldemort - learning of his continued existence from Bertha Jorkins - went to free him from his father and used him to capture Harry. The plan worked, I tell you. Crouch has helped Voldemort to return."
"See here, Dumbledore," said Fudge, and Harry was astonished to see a slight smile dawning on his face,
"Idiot." said Chief Hawkeye.
"Now…we know the truth…can we skip over this part" said Fudge sheepishly.
"Not likely." said Chief Hawkeye, "I want to hear how far your stupidity falls."
"you - you can't seriously believe that You-Know-Who - back? Come now, come now...certainly, Crouch may have believed himself to be acting upon You-Know-Who's orders - but to take the word of a lunatic like that, Dumbledore..."
"When Harry touched the Triwizard Cup tonight, he was transported straight to Voldemort," said Dumbledore steadily. "He witnessed Lord Voldemort's rebirth. I will explain it all to you if you will step up to my office."
"I did not want him to disturb Harry." said Dumbledore.
Dumbledore glanced around at Harry and saw that he was awake, but shook his head and said, "I am afraid I cannot permit you to question Harry tonight."
Fudge's curious smile lingered. He too glanced at Harry, then looked back at Dumbledore, and said, "You are - er - prepared to take Harry's word on this, are you, Dumbledore?"
"How dare you! He’s done nothing to make you question him!" said Leroy angrily.
There was a moment's silence, which was broken by Sirius growling. His hackles were raised, and he was baring his teeth at Fudge.
"I wanted to rip him apart." said Sirius.
"Certainly, I believe Harry," said Dumbledore. His eyes were blazing now. "I heard Crouch's confession, and I heard Harry's account of what happened after he touched the Triwizard Cup; the two stories make sense, they explain everything that has happened since Bertha Jorkins disappeared last summer."
"Because he used his brain." said Bill.
Fudge still had that strange smile on his face.
"Yup." said Fred.
"He’s mental." said George.
Once again, he glanced at Harry before answering.
"You are prepared to believe that Lord Voldemort has returned, on the word of a lunatic murderer, and a boy who...well..."
Fudge shot Harry another look, and Harry suddenly understood.
"A boy who what?" said Rudolph crossing his legs and frowning up to the Minister. "The heir to the largest and most influential house in the world? Cross a Potter, and you’re just asking to be dismissed politically and socially."
"You've been reading Rita Skeeter, Mr. Fudge," he said quietly.
Ron, Hermione, Mrs. Weasley, and Bill all jumped. None of them had realized that Harry was awake.
Fudge reddened slightly, but a defiant and obstinate look came over his face.
"And if I have?" he said, looking at Dumbledore. "If I have discovered that you've been keeping certain facts about the boy very quiet? A Parselmouth, eh? And having funny turns all over the place -"
"Nothing wrong with talking to snakes to be honest, and having the funny turns… you lot should have arrested Tom Riddle before it came to him having that scar." said Leroy.
"I assume that you are referring to the pains Harry has been experiencing in his scar?" said Dumbledore coolly.
"You admit that he has been having these pains, then?" said Fudge quickly. "Headaches? Nightmares? Possibly - hallucinations?"
"No more than the delusions you’re suffering from." said Lionus.
"Listen to me, Cornelius," said Dumbledore, taking a step toward Fudge, and once again, he seemed to radiate that indefinable sense of power that Harry had felt after Dumbledore had Stunned young Crouch. "Harry is as sane as you or I. That scar upon his forehead has not addled his brains. I believe it hurts him when Lord Voldemort is close by, or feeling particularly murderous."
"So…that scar can come in handy." said Charlie.
"Though it’s a double edged sword, Harry feels pains whenever the Dark Lord broadcasts his feelings." said Dumbledore.
Fudge had taken half a step back from Dumbledore, but he looked no less stubborn.
"You'll forgive me, Dumbledore, but I've never heard of a curse scar acting as an alarm bell before...."
"Look, I saw Voldemort come back!" Harry shouted. He tried to get out of bed again, but Mrs. Weasley forced him back. "I saw the Death Eaters! I can give you their names! Lucius Malfoy -"
"He knows the bastard’s a Death Eater, but he doesn’t want to lose his grip on all that money." said Bill quietly.
Snape made a sudden movement, but as Harry looked at him, Snape's eyes flew back to Fudge.
"What the…?" asked Alicia.
"Malfoy was cleared!" said Fudge, visibly affronted. "A very old family - donations to excellent causes -"
"Yeah…great causes." said Fred.
"Get-Out-Of-Azkaban charity." said George.
"Felon fund" said Fred.
"Incarcerated assistance" said George.
Murderer’s Ministries." said Fred.
"Macnair!" Harry continued.
"Also cleared! Now working for the Ministry!"
"Cleared my foot." said Mr. Weasley.
"Avery - Nott - Crabbe - Goyle -"
"You are merely repeating the names of those who were acquitted of being Death Eaters thirteen years ago!" said Fudge angrily.
"And how would he know the names?" asked Charlie indignantly.
"You could have found those names in old reports of the trials!
"And where would you be able to read those? Those are only kept at the Ministry of Magic, and in my office!" said Madam Bones hotly.
For heavens sake, Dumbledore - the boy was full of some crackpot story at the end of last year too –
"Hey! You only had Snape’s word that he was confounded! And then you saw how unbalanced he was!" said Bill.
his tales are getting taller, and you're still swallowing them - the boy can talk to snakes. Dumbledore, and you still think he's trustworthy?"
"I find him more trustworthy than most people in here." said Chief Hawkeye sternly.
"You fool!" Professor McGonagall cried. "Cedric Diggory! Mr. Crouch! These deaths were not the random work of a lunatic!"
"I see no evidence to the contrary!" shouted Fudge, now matching her anger, his face purpling.
"Didn’t the walrus turn purple?" asked Fred.
"Yeah…and yet." said George.
"He had more brains than you." said the twins together.
"It seems to me that you are all determined to start a panic that will destabilize everything we have worked for these last thirteen years!"
"We aren’t trying to cause a panic, we’re trying to protect all that hard work!" said Ron.
Harry couldn't believe what he was hearing. He had always thought of Fudge as a kindly figure, a little blustering, a little pompous, but essentially good-natured.
Fudge turned pink.
But now a short, angry wizard stood before him, refusing, point-blank, to accept the prospect of disruption in his comfortable and ordered world - to believe that Voldemort could have risen.
"Voldemort has returned," Dumbledore repeated. "If you accept that fact straightaway. Fudge, and take the necessary measures, we may still be able to save the situation. The first and most essential step is to remove Azkaban from the control of the dementors -"
"Sound advice!" said Lionus nodding approvingly.
"Preposterous!" shouted Fudge again. "Remove the dementors? I'd be kicked out of office for suggesting it!
"You would have had the entire Rangers standing behind you in support." said Chief Hawkeye.
Half of us only feel safe in our beds at night because we know the dementors are standing guard at Azkaban!"
"You’re insane." said Remus.
"The rest of us sleep less soundly in our beds, Cornelius, knowing that you have put Lord Voldemort's most dangerous supporters in the care of creatures who will join him the instant he asks them!" said Dumbledore.
"A snap of his fingers and they’ll be at his beck and call." said Tempest.
"They will not remain loyal to you, Fudge! Voldemort can offer them much more scope for their powers and their pleasures than you can! With the dementors behind him, and his old supporters returned to him, you will be hard-pressed to stop him regaining the sort of power he had thirteen years ago!"
"And you didn’t listen to this warning?" said Nightstrike shaking his head.
Fudge was opening and closing his mouth as though no words could express his outrage.
"The second step you must take - and at once," Dumbledore pressed on, "is to send envoys to the giants."
"Whoa…you’d better have some heavy artillery going with them." said Nightestrike.
"Envoys to the giants?" Fudge shrieked, finding his tongue again. "What madness is this?"
"This madness, is called sense." said Dumbledore.
"Extend them the hand of friendship, now, before it is too late," said Dumbledore, "or Voldemort will persuade them, as he did before, that he alone among wizards will give them their rights and their freedom!"
"You - you cannot be serious!" Fudge gasped, shaking his head and retreating further from Dumbledore. "If the magical community got wind that I had approached the giants - people hate them, Dumbledore - end of my career -"
"You are a fool, learn from your past mistakes." said Lionus.
"You are blinded," said Dumbledore, his voice rising now, the aura of power around him palpable, his eyes blazing once more, "by the love of the office you hold, Cornelius! You place too much importance, and you always have done, on the so-called purity of blood!
"Damn." said Charlie. "Not really a side you want to see in a Minister."
Fudge paled. Whispers crept across the hall and before his eyes, he could see his newest citizens cast their support elsewhere.
You fail to recognize that it matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be! Your dementor has just destroyed the last remaining member of a pure-blood family as old as any - and see what that man chose to make of his life!
"And all because both the father and son sought power and acceptance." said Tempest.
I tell you now- take the steps I have suggested, and you will be remembered, in office or out, as one of the bravest and greatest Ministers of Magic we have ever known. Fail to act - and history will remember you as the man who stepped aside and allowed Voldemort a second chance to destroy the world we have tried to rebuild!"
"And he will be." said Lionus coldly.
"Insane," whispered Fudge, still backing away. "Mad..."
And then there was silence. Madam Pomfrey was standing frozen at the foot of Harry's bed, her hands over her mouth.
"I could hardly believe what I was hearing, and I used to like this man." said Madam Pomfrey.
Mrs.Weasley was still standing over Harry, her hand on his shoulder to prevent him from rising. Bill, Ron, and Hermione were staring at Fudge.
"If your determination to shut your eyes will carry you as far as this, Cornelius," said Dumbledore, "we have reached a parting of the ways. You must act as you see fit. And I - I shall act as I see fit."
"And anyone with sense will follow Dumbledore’s lead." said Mr. Weasley.
Dumbledore's voice carried no hint of a threat; it sounded like a mere statement, but Fudge bristled as though Dumbledore were advancing upon him with a wand.
"Now, see here, Dumbledore," he said, waving a threatening finger. "I've given you free rein, always.
"Because he knew better than you did." said Remus.
I've had a lot of respect for you. I might not have agreed with some of your decisions, but I've kept quiet. There aren't many who'd have let you hire werewolves, or keep Hagrid,
"Hagrid did nothing wrong!" shouted Ron and Hermione.
or decide what to teach your students without reference to the Ministry.
"Of course! Who better to know what the students should learn but the teachers?" said Mrs. Weasley.
"Well, except for Gilderoy." said Fred.
"And Quirrell." said George.
"And Umbridge." said Fred.
But if you're going to work against me -"
"The only one against whom I intend to work," said Dumbledore, "is Lord Voldemort. If you are against him, then we remain, Cornelius, on the same side."
It seemed Fudge could think of no answer to this.
"Of course not, he was hoping that you would come right out and say you were against the Ministry." said Bathilda Bagshot disapprovingly.
He rocked backward and forward on his small feet for a moment and spun his bowler hat in his hands. Finally, he said, with a hint of a plea in his voice, "He can't be back, Dumbledore, he just can't be..."
"He’s never lied to you, and he’s at least putting you on your guard." said Charlie.
Snape strode forward, past Dumbledore, pulling up the left sleeve of his robes as he went. He stuck out his forearm and showed it to Fudge, who recoiled.
"There," said Snape harshly. "There. The Dark Mark. It is not as clear as it was an hour or so ago, when it burned black, but you can still see it. Every Death Eater had the sign burned into him by the Dark Lord.
"Nice boss." said Dean with a sickened look.
It was a means of distinguishing one another, and his means of summoning us to him. When he touched the Mark of any Death Eater, we were to Disapparate, and Apparate, instantly, at his side. This Mark has been growing clearer all year. Karkaroff's too. Why do you think Karkaroff fled tonight?
"Cause he’s a ruddy coward." said Hagrid with a frown behind his bushy beard.
We both felt the Mark burn. We both knew he had returned. Karkaroff fears the Dark Lord's vengeance. He betrayed too many of his fellow Death Eaters to be sure of a welcome back into the fold."
Fudge stepped back from Snape too. He was shaking his head. He did not seem to have taken in a word Snape had said. He stared, apparently repelled by the ugly mark on Snape's arm, then looked up at Dumbledore and whispered, "I don't know what you and your staff are playing at, Dumbledore,
"They’re trying to warn you, you moronic fool!" said Firenze sharply. Tempest smiled fondly at her fellow centaur.
but I have heard enough. I have no more to add. I will be in touch with you tomorrow, Dumbledore, to discuss the running of this school.
"Such arrogance." said Madam Bones.
"You couldn’t keep up with your Department of Magical Education’s head, and you want to discuss education with Dumbledore?" said Rivers shortly.
I must return to the Ministry."
He had almost reached the door when he paused. He turned around, strode back down the dormitory, and stopped at Harry's bed.
"Your winnings," he said shortly, taking a large bag of gold out of his pocket and dropping it onto Harry's bedside table. "One thousand Galleons. There should have been a presentation ceremony, but under the circumstances..."
"You bastard." muttered Dr. Clark staring furiously up to the Minister.
"It..it was his…" said Fudge.
"You could have set the money safely aside, or deposited it into his account!" said Dr. Clark hotly. "He would hardly notice the difference in his account, and you didn’t need to bring up the conclusion of the task so soon!"
He crammed his bowler hat onto his head and walked out of the room, slamming the door behind him. The moment he had disappeared, Dumbledore turned to look at the group around Harry's bed.
"There is work to be done," he said. "Molly...am I right in thinking that I can count on you and Arthur?"
"Of course you can," said Mrs. Weasley. She was white to the lips, but she looked resolute. "We know what Fudge is. It's Arthur's fondness for Muggles that has held him back at the Ministry all these years. Fudge thinks he lacks proper wizarding pride."
"Bull, Dad has more pride and honor than most of them put together." said Ginny proudly.
"Then I need to send a message to Arthur," said Dumbledore. "All those that we can persuade of the truth must be notified immediately, and he is well placed to contact those at the Ministry who are not as shortsighted as Cornelius."
"And those who are loyal to the people as opposed to their own careers and bank accounts." said Kingsley.
"I'll go to Dad," said Bill, standing up. "I'll go now."
"Excellent," said Dumbledore. "Tell him what has happened. Tell him I will be in direct contact with him shortly. He will need to be discreet, however. If Fudge thinks I am interfering at the Ministry -"
"Leave it to me," said Bill.
"And you did admirably." said Dumbledore with a proud smile.
"You gotta do what you gotta do to protect your family." said Bill with a smile.
He clapped a hand on Harry's shoulder, kissed his mother on the cheek, pulled on his cloak, and strode quickly from the room.
"Minerva," said Dumbledore, turning to Professor McGonagall, "I want to see Hagrid in my office as soon as possible. Also - if she will consent to come - Madame Maxime."
Professor McGonagall nodded and left without a word.
"We know what he’s going to talk to him about that." said Ron.
"Poppy," Dumbledore said to Madam Pomfrey, "would you be very kind and go down to Professor Moody's office, where I think you will find a house-elf called Winky in considerable distress? Do what you can for her, and take her back to the kitchens. I think Dobby will look after her for us."
"Very - very well," said Madam Pomfrey, looking startled, and she too left.
"I didn’t want to leave Harry, not after what he had been through." said Madam Pomfrey.
Dumbledore made sure that the door was closed, and that Madam Pomfrey's footsteps had died away, before he spoke again.
"And now," he said, "it is time for two of our number to recognize each other for what they are. Sirius...if you could resume your usual form."
The great black dog looked up at Dumbledore, then, in an instant, turned back into a man.
Mrs. Weasley screamed and leapt back from the bed.
"Sirius Black!" she shrieked, pointing at him.
"Mum, shut up!" Ron yelled. "It's okay!"
"Took several years off my life." said Mrs. Weasley.
Snape had not yelled or jumped backward, but the look on his face was one of mingled fury and horror.
"Him!" he snarled, staring at Sirius, whose face showed equal dislike. "What is he doing here?"
"Protecting my godson." said Sirius with a smirk as he laid a hand on sleeping Harry’s shoulder.
"He is here at my invitation," said Dumbledore, looking between them, "as are you, Severus. I trust you both. It is time for you to lay aside your old differences and trust each other."
Tonks snorted in disbelief "Yeah, and You-Know-Who will start giving out flowers to complete strangers."
Harry thought Dumbledore was asking for a near miracle.
Several people snickered.
Sirius and Snape were eyeing each other with the utmost loathing.
"I will settle, in the short term," said Dumbledore, with a bite of impatience in his voice, "for a lack of open hostility. You will shake hands. You are on the same side now. Time is short, and unless the few of us who know the truth do not stand united, there is no hope for any us."
"What you should have said was ‘Get along, or you’re both grounded.’" mumbled Harry’s voice as he sat up.
"No, Harry, stay down and get some rest, sleep off that powder." said Sirius trying to push Harry back down into the cushions.
"Ugh…that stuff doesn’t agree with me." said Harry as he laid down in in the expanded bowl.
"Sorry lad, I thought it would cheer you up a bit." said Dr. Nicodemus walking over and feeling the boy’s forehead.
"It did make me feel better, for a while, but then I just kept thinking so hard…" said Harry thickly.
Sirius shushed Harry softly. "Don’t worry about anything, just rest."
Very slowly - but still glaring at each other as though each wished the other nothing but ill - Sirius and Snape moved toward each other and shook hands. They let go extremely quickly.
"Their hands only went up and down once." said Ron.
"That will do to be going on with," said Dumbledore, stepping between them once more. "Now I have work for each of you. Fudge's attitude, though not unexpected, changes everything. Sirius, I need you to set off at once. You are to alert Remus Lupin, Arabella Figg, Mundungus Fletcher - the old crowd.
"Wow, who are those two?" asked a first year.
"Members of the first Order of the Pheonix." said Dumbledore with a smile. "You’ll know about them soon enough I suspect."
Lie low at Lupin's for a while; I will contact you there."
"But -" said Harry.
He wanted Sirius to stay. He did not want to have to say goodbye again so quickly.
Sirius turned and stared at Harry, guilt stretching across his face.
"You'll see me very soon. Harry," said Sirius, turning to him. "I promise you. But I must do what I can, you understand, don't you?"
"Yeah," said Harry. "Yeah...of course I do."
"Oh Harry." said Sirius a tear running down his face. "I’m sorry."
"As am I." said Dumbledore softly.
Sirius grasped his hand briefly, nodded to Dumbledore, transformed again into the black dog, and ran the length of the room to the door, whose handle he turned with a paw. Then he was gone.
"Severus," said Dumbledore, turning to Snape, "you know what I must ask you to do. If you are ready...if you are prepared..."
"I am," said Snape.
He looked slightly paler than usual, and his cold, black eyes glittered strangely.
"Then good luck," said Dumbledore, and he watched, with a trace of apprehension on his face, as Snape swept wordlessly after Sirius.
"How come I get the feeling what he’s going to do is more dangerous than anything else we’ve heard?" said Seamus.
"He must have gone back to being a spy!" said an excited second year.
It was several minutes before Dumbledore spoke again.
"I must go downstairs," he said finally. "I must see the Diggory's. Harry - take the rest of your potion. I will see all of you later."
Harry slumped back against his pillows as Dumbledore disappeared. Hermione, Ron, and Mrs. Weasley were all looking at him. None of them spoke for a very long time.
"You've got to take the rest of your potion. Harry," Mrs. Weasley said at last. Her hand nudged the sack of gold on his bedside cabinet as she reached for the bottle and the goblet. "You have a good long sleep. Try and think about something else for a while...think about what you're going to buy with your winnings!"
"Not the best thing to think about." said Moody.
Mrs. Weasley looked sheepishly down.
"I don't want that gold," said Harry in an expressionless voice. "You have it. Anyone can have it. I shouldn't have won it. It should've been Cedric's."
The thing against which he had been fighting on and off ever since he had come out of the maze was threatening to overpower him. He could feel a burning, prickling feeling in the inner corners of his eyes. He blinked and stared up at the ceiling.
"Is there something wrong with his eyes?" asked a Hufflepuff first year.
"He’s trying not to cry." said Hannah in a hushed voice.
"It wasn't your fault. Harry," Mrs. Weasley whispered.
"I told him to take the cup with me," said Harry.
Now the burning feeling was in his throat too. He wished Ron would look away.
"It’s okay mate, do what you want." said Ron quietly.
Mrs. Weasley set the potion down on the bedside cabinet, bent down, and put her arms around Harry. He had no memory of ever being hugged like this, as though by a mother.
Mrs. McFinn looked at Harry in wonder.
"He had a rough day, he wasn’t thinking." said Dr. Clark in a soothing tone.
The full weight of everything he had seen that night seemed to fall in upon him as Mrs. Weasley held him to her. His mother's face, his father's voice, the sight of Cedric, dead on the ground all started spinning in his head until he could hardly bear it, until he was screwing up his face against the howl of misery fighting to get out of him.
A few girls were crying silently in the Great Hall and a few boys were pretending to wipe the sweat off their brows.
There was a loud slamming noise, and Mrs. Weasley and Harry broke apart. Hermione was standing by the window. She was holding something tight in her hand.
"Sorry," she whispered.
"Way to ruin the moment." said Draco with a smirk.
"Oh, I got the last laugh." said Hermione.
"Your potion, Harry," said Mrs. Weasley quickly, wiping her eyes on the back of her hand.
Harry drank it in one gulp. The effect was instantaneous. Heavy, irresistible waves of dreamless sleep broke over him; he fell back onto his pillows and thought no more.
"Don’t ever fall asleep like that. I thought you died." said Ron running his hand through his hair.
"He really did. Freaked everyone out." said Fred.
"Yeah, we ran and dragged Dumbledore back, even he freaked out a little on how Harry was laying there." said George.
"We’re in the final chapters…let’s finish this book and then call it a day." said Dumbledore kindly.
"Yeah, Harry could use the cooking time." said Sirius knowledgeably.
Harry smiled as he spooned his second bowl of ice cream into his mouth. Everyone stared at him as he smiled brightly and ate his food greedily.
"He’s cracked…" said Terry.
"Yeah, what the hell was that stuff the Ranger gave him?" asked Ernie.
"Whatever it was, I wonder if it would fry our brains?" said Terry.
"More?" asked Harry sitting up and holding out his bowl to Mrs. McFinn.
"Sweetie, you’ve had two bowls of ice cream already. Why not have something else?" said Mrs. McFinn ruffling Harry’s hair softly.
"Treacle?" asked Harry eagerly.
"Something a little healthier?" coaxed Mrs. McFinn.
Harry gave it some thought. "Sugar Free treacle?"
"He’s got you there." said Dr. Clark with a laugh. "Here Harry, have a vegetable."
Harry looked at the carrots closely and looked up at Dr. Clark. "That’s not treacle."
Sirius stuffed his knuckles in his mouth to stop himself from laughing out loud.
"It’s vegetable shaped treacle." said Neville helpfully, also trying hard not to laugh.
Harry stuck his tongue out. "I’m not stupid."
"You’re nuts, but not stupid." said George.
"Guess there is a difference." said Fred.
"Let’s polish off this book." said Lionus opening the book. "The Parting of the Ways."
"Should we give him something else to occupy his time?" asked McGonagall looking at Harry with a gentle smile. But Harry decided to crawl into the bowl and snuggle against the people inside.
Dumbledore stood up. He stared down at Barty Crouch for a moment with disgust on his face. Then he raised his wand once more and ropes flew out of it, ropes that twisted themselves around Barty Crouch, binding him tightly. He turned to Professor McGonagall.
"Minerva, could I ask you to stand guard here while I take Harry upstairs?"
"Oh yes, please, get him to bed or at least Madam Pomfrey." said Mrs. McFinn.
"Of course," said Professor McGonagall. She looked slightly nauseous, as though she had just watched someone being sick. However, when she drew out her wand and pointed it at Barty Crouch, her hand was quite steady.
"I was ready to hex him into oblivion." said Professor McGonagall curtly.
"Severus" - Dumbledore turned to Snape - "please tell Madam Pomfrey to come down here; we need to get Alastor Moody into the hospital wing. Then go down into the grounds, find Cornelius Fudge, and bring him up to this office. He will undoubtedly want to question Crouch himself.
"Unfortunately, that never happened." said Dumbledore firmly.
"I don’t want to know, do I?" asked Chief Hawkeye rubbing his eyes tiredly.
Tell him I will be in the hospital wing in half an hour's time if he needs me."
Snape nodded silently and swept out of the room.
"Harry?" Dumbledore said gently.
Harry got up and swayed again; the pain in his leg, which he had not noticed all the time he had been listening to Crouch, now returned in full measure.
Mrs. McFinn covered her mouth and looked over at Harry, who was still curled up and sleeping.
"Is he still out?" asked Ron.
"Yeah, he’s still sleeping." said Sirius. "I was hoping he’d stay awake a little longer. He was adorable."
"He could have forced himself to sleep, perhaps he knew exactly how silly he sounded." said Dr. Nicodemus thoughtfully.
He also realized that he was shaking. Dumbledore gripped his arm and helped him out into the dark corridor.
"I would have carried him if he had asked me." said Dumbledore. "He was easily light enough."
"I want you to come up to my office first. Harry," he said quietly as they headed up the passageway. "Sirius is waiting for us there."
"Bet he smiled from ear to ear." said Sirius ruffling his godson’s hair lovingly.
Dumbledore looked to the side and didn’t answer.
Harry nodded. A kind of numbness and a sense of complete unreality were upon him, but he did not care;
Sirius looked down at Harry in shock.
he was even glad of it. He didn't want to have to think about anything that had happened since he had first touched the Triwizard Cup. He didn't want to have to examine the memories, fresh and sharp as photographs, which kept flashing across his mind. Mad-Eye Moody, inside the trunk. Wormtail, slumped on the ground, cradling his stump of an arm. Voldemort, rising from the steaming cauldron. Cedric...dead...Cedric, asking to be returned to his parents....
Dumbledore looked down, a tear sliding down his crooked nose.
"Professor," Harry mumbled, "where are Mr. and Mrs. Diggory?"
The Hufflepuff students looked at the sleeping figure with guilt on their faces. They didn’t realize how tore up Potter was over Cedric’s death.
"They are with Professor Sprout," said Dumbledore. His voice, which had been so calm throughout the interrogation of Barty Crouch, shook very slightly for the first time. "She was Head of Cedric's house, and knew him best."
"Better than most students are anyway." said Professor Sprout.
They had reached the stone gargoyle. Dumbledore gave the password, it sprang aside, and he and Harry went up the moving spiral staircase to the oak door. Dumbledore pushed it open. Sirius was standing there. His face was white and gaunt as it had been when he had escaped Azkaban. In one swift moment, he had crossed the room.
"I was never so worried before in my life." said Sirius.
"Harry, are you all right? I knew it - I knew something like this - what happened?"
His hands shook as he helped Harry into a chair in front of the desk.
"He looked ready to collapse or faint." said Sirius.
"What happened?" he asked more urgently.
Dumbledore began to tell Sirius everything Barty Crouch had said. Harry was only half listening. So tired every bone in his body was aching, he wanted nothing more than to sit here, undisturbed, for hours and hours, until he fell asleep and didn't have to think or feel anymore.
Everyone shifted in their seat and looked at Harry uncomfortably. They figured he was a invincible hero, but to hear that he was human, that he suffered when others died around him, that he mourned so deeply… and thought nothing of his past troubles….they couldn’t help but feel petty.
There was a soft rush of wings. Fawkes the phoenix had left his perch, flown across the office, and landed on Harry's knee.
"'Lo, Fawkes," said Harry quietly. He stroked the phoenix's beautiful scarlet-and-gold plumage. Fawkes blinked peacefully up at him. There was something comforting about his warm weight.
"He used to lay his head against Harry’s chest when he was a baby, especially if he wouldn’t fall asleep or take his nap." said Dumbledore with a warm smile.
Dumbledore stopped talking. He sat down opposite Harry, behind his desk. He was looking at Harry, who avoided his eyes. Dumbledore was going to question him. He was going to make Harry relive everything.
"He’s been through enough." said Mrs. McFinn and Mrs. Weasley together.
"I need to know what happened after you touched the Portkey in the maze. Harry," said Dumbledore.
"We can leave that till morning, can't we, Dumbledore?" said Sirius harshly. He had put a hand on Harry's shoulder. "Let him have a sleep. Let him rest."
"Exactly! Hand him over!" said Madam Pomfrey.
Harry felt a rush of gratitude toward Sirius, but Dumbledore took no notice of Sirius's words. He leaned forward toward Harry. Very unwillingly, Harry raised his head and looked into those blue eyes.
"If I thought I could help you," Dumbledore said gently, "by putting you into an enchanted sleep and allowing you to postpone the moment when you would have to think about what has happened tonight, I would do it.
"I wonder how long he would have let Harry sleep." said Ron.
"Harry wanted to continue sleeping after the first day, but I had to have him take a few potions." said Madam Pomfrey softly.
But I know better.
"Says who?" muttered Remus darkly. He should have just borrowed the memory from Harry and allowed him to rest.
Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it. You have shown bravery beyond anything I could have expected of you. I ask you to demonstrate your courage one more time. I ask you to tell us what happened."
"He still reels when he thinks about it." said Hermione.
The phoenix let out one soft, quavering note. It shivered in the air, and Harry felt as though a drop of hot liquid had slipped down his throat into his stomach, warming him, and strengthening him.
Dumbledore looked over to Harry in shock.
"What is it?" asked Leroy.
"N-Nothing." said Dumbledore though he had a look of pride in his eyes.
He took a deep breath and began to tell them. As he spoke, visions of everything that had passed that night seemed to rise before his eyes; he saw the sparkling surface of the potion that had revived Voldemort; he saw the Death Eaters Apparating between the graves around them; he saw Cedric's body, lying on the ground beside the cup.
Mr. and Mrs. Diggory held onto each other tightly.
Once or twice, Sirius made a noise as though about to say something, his hand still tight on Harry's shoulder, but Dumbledore raised his hand to stop him, and Harry was glad of this, because it was easier to keep going now he had started.
"It always is." said Dumbledore softly.
It was even a relief; he felt almost as though something poisonous were being extracted from him. It was costing him every bit of determination he had to keep talking, yet he sensed that once he had finished, he would feel better.
Remus sent a fleeting look of apology to Dumbledore.
When Harry told of Wormtail piercing his arm with the dagger, however, Sirius let out a vehement exclamation
"I wanted to kill him." snarled Sirius.
and Dumbledore stood up so quickly that Harry started. Dumbledore walked around the desk and told Harry to stretch out his arm. Harry showed them both the place where his robes were torn and the cut beneath them.
"He said my blood would make him stronger than if he'd used someone else's," Harry told Dumbledore. "He said the protection my - my mother left in me - he'd have it too. And he was right - he could touch me without hurting himself, he touched my face."
Rudolph reached down and laid a hand on Harry’s shoulder.
For a fleeting instant, Harry thought he saw a gleam of something like triumph in Dumbledore's eyes. But next second. Harry was sure he had imagined it, for when Dumbledore had returned to his seat behind the desk, he looked as old and weary as Harry had ever seen him.
"Why did you look like that?" asked Hermione.
"That explanation, if it won’t be disclosed later, is for Harry’s ears only." said Dumbledore simply. "We had already spoken about it, but not in such precise detail."
"Very well," he said, sitting down again. "Voldemort has overcome that particular barrier. Harry, continue, please."
Harry went on; he explained how Voldemort had emerged from the cauldron, and told them all he could remember of Voldemort's speech to the Death Eaters. Then he told how Voldemort had untied him, returned his wand to him, and prepared to duel.
But when he reached the part where the golden beam of light had connected his and Voldemort's wands, he found his throat obstructed. He tried to keep talking, but the memories of what had come out of Voldemort's wand were flooding into his mind. He could see Cedric emerging, see the old man, Bertha Jorkins...his father...his mother...
Emmeline Vance blew her nose loudly.
He was glad when Sirius broke the silence.
"The wands connected?" he said, looking from Harry to Dumbledore. "Why?"
Harry looked up at Dumbledore again, on whose face there was an arrested look.
"Priori Incantatem," he muttered.
His eyes gazed into Harry's and it was almost as though an invisible beam of understanding shot between them.
"And the rest of the world is left in the dark." said Colin.
"The Reverse Spell effect?" said Sirius sharply.
"Exactly," said Dumbledore. "Harry's wand and Voldemort's wand share cores. Each of them contains a feather from the tail of the same phoenix. This phoenix, in fact," he added, and he pointed at the scarlet-and-gold bird, perching peacefully on Harry's knee.
"My wand's feather came from Fawkes?" Harry said, amazed.
"Oh my god." said Hannah.
"That’s…so cool." said Dennis.
"I wonder if I’ll ever meet the unicorn that my tail hair comes from?" asked a third year Ravenclaw.
"Or find the tree? That would be awesome!" said another Ravenclaw student earnestly.
"Yes," said Dumbledore. "Mr. Ollivander wrote to tell me you had bought the second wand, the moment you left his shop four years ago."
"So what happens when a wand meets its brother?" said Sirius.
"Something that happens perhaps once a century at the most." said Flitwick.
"They will not work properly against each other," said Dumbledore. "If, however, the owners of the wands force the wands to do battle...a very rare effect will take place. One of the wands will force the other to regurgitate spells it has performed - in reverse. The most recent first...and then those which preceded it...."
He looked interrogatively at Harry, and Harry nodded.
"Which means," said Dumbledore slowly, his eyes upon Harry's face, "that some form of Cedric must have reappeared."
Harry nodded again.
Mrs. Diggory sniffed loudly.
"Diggory came back to life?" said Sirius sharply.
"No spell can reawaken the dead," said Dumbledore heavily. "All that would have happened is a kind of reverse echo. A shadow of the living Cedric would have emerged from the wand...am I correct, Harry?"
"He spoke to me," Harry said. He was suddenly shaking again. "The...the ghost Cedric, or whatever he was, spoke."
"Poor Harry." said Katie.
"Poor Cedric." said Hannah.
"An echo," said Dumbledore, "which retained Cedric's appearance and character. I am guessing other such forms appeared...less recent victims of Voldemort's wand...."
"An old man," Harry said, his throat still constricted. "Bertha Jorkins. And..."
"Your parents?" said Dumbledore quietly.
"Yes," said Harry.
Sirius's grip on Harry's shoulder was now so tight it was painful.
Sirius flinched and rubbed Harry’s shoulder tenderly, trying to ease a pain long gone.
Harry groaned. "I’m still sleepy." he mumbled. "Go away."
"Sorry Cub, I didn’t mean to wake you." said Sirius quickly.
"The last murders the wand performed," said Dumbledore, nodding. "In reverse order. More would have appeared, of course, had you maintained the connection. Very well, Harry, these echoes, these shadows...what did they do?"
"They scared the living shit out of Voldemort." said Harry thickly as he sat up. Mrs. McFinn tapped the end of Harry's mouth for the naughty word he uttered.
"You want go back to sleep?" asked Sirius.
"No. But I wouldn’t say no to my own personal space here." said Harry as he shifted his shoulder from all the hands touching him.
Remus and Sirius blinked.
"Uh…sure, I can get you a chair." said Sirius trying to hide the hurt on his face. He summoned a large armchair and placed it between the sofa and the bowl. Harry settled himself into it and pressed his fingertips together.
"I think the time of his mental high is gone, this is him crashing." said Dr. Nicodemus shaking his head.
Harry described how the figures that had emerged from the wand had prowled the edges of the golden web, how Voldemort had seemed to fear them, how the shadow of Harry's mother had told him what to do, how Cedric's had made its final request.
At this point. Harry found he could not continue. He looked around at Sirius and saw that he had his face in his hands.
"I couldn’t believe you had to go through that." said Sirius his hands shaking.
"I’ve gone through the beatings my uncle dealt me, basilisk venom and dementors…and this is the part I fall apart on…I’m pathetic." said Harry with a groan.
The people in the Great Hall stared.
"So we had happy Potter…" said Blaise.
"Now we have the serious one." said Draco.
Harry suddenly became aware that Fawkes had left his knee. The phoenix had fluttered to the floor. It was resting its beautiful head against Harry's injured leg, and thick, pearly tears were falling from its eyes onto the wound left by the spider. The pain vanished. The skin mended. His leg was repaired.
"Bless his beautiful feathers." said Bathilda Bagshot with a sigh.
"I will say it again," said Dumbledore as the phoenix rose into the air and resettled itself upon the perch beside the door. "You have shown bravery beyond anything I could have expected of you tonight. Harry. You have shown bravery equal to those who died fighting Voldemort at the height of his powers.
Dumbledore smiled over to Harry, whose face held no real emotion.
You have shouldered a grown wizard's burden and found yourself equal to it - and you have now given us all we have a right to expect.
"I’m assuming you mean hope…you want me to be a symbol of hope?" said Harry with a smirk.
"Not at all, you gave us the truth…from you." said Dumbledore.
The smirk faded.
You will come with me to the hospital wing. I do not want you returning to the dormitory tonight. A Sleeping Potion, and some peace...Sirius, would you like to stay with him?"
Sirius nodded and stood up. He transformed back into the great black dog and walked with Harry and Dumbledore out of the office, accompanying them down a flight of stairs to the hospital wing.
"Where he should have been brought in the first place, I don’t care what you say Albus." said Madam Pomfrey.
When Dumbledore pushed open the door. Harry saw Mrs. Weasley, Bill, Ron, and Hermione grouped around a harassed-looking Madam Pomfrey. They appeared to be demanding to know where Harry was and what had happened to him.
"Sorry Poppy." said Mrs. Weasley.
All of them whipped around as Harry, Dumbledore, and the black dog entered, and Mrs. Weasley let out a kind of muffled scream.
"Harry! Oh Harry!"
She started to hurry toward him, but Dumbledore moved between them.
"He didn’t seem well enough to take a Molly hug at that point." said Dumbledore kindly.
"Molly," he said, holding up a hand, "please listen to me for a moment. Harry has been through a terrible ordeal tonight. He has just had to relive it for me. What he needs now is sleep, and peace, and quiet. If he would like you all to stay with him," he added, looking around at Ron, Hermione, and Bill too, "you may do so. But I do not want you questioning him until he is ready to answer, and certainly not this evening."
"Good, let him rest." said Leroy.
Mrs. Weasley nodded. She was very white. She rounded on Ron, Hermione, and Bill as though they were being noisy, and hissed, "Did you hear? He needs quiet!"
Mrs. Weasley blushed.
"Headmaster," said Madam Pomfrey, staring at the great black dog that was Sirius, "may I ask what - ?"
"This dog will be remaining with Harry for a while," said Dumbledore simply. "I assure you, he is extremely well trained. Harry –
"Yeah, he hasn’t wet on the floor in about thirteen years." said Remus with a laugh.
Sirius growled at his old friend.
I will wait while you get into bed."
"I didn’t want you out of my sight till you were safe in a Hospital Wing bed, where you would be the safest." said Dumbledore.
"Third year." said Harry plainly.
"I allowed you out." said Dumbledore with a smile. "Also, gave you the notion to go."
Harry felt an inexpressible sense of gratitude to Dumbledore for asking the others not to question him. It wasn't as though he didn't want them there; but the thought of explaining it all over again, the idea of reliving it one more time, was more than he could stand.
"Oh, Harry." said Mrs. Weasley dabbing her eyes.
"I will be back to see you as soon as I have met with Fudge, Harry," said Dumbledore. "I would like you to remain here tomorrow until I have spoken to the school." He left.
As Madam Pomfrey led Harry to a nearby bed, he caught sight of the real Moody lying motionless in a bed at the far end of the room. His wooden leg and magical eye were lying on the bedside table.
"Is he okay?" Harry asked.
"Worry about yourself." said Moody gruffly.
"He'll be fine," said Madam Pomfrey, giving Harry some pajamas and pulling screens around him. He took off his robes, pulled on the pajamas, and got into bed. Ron, Hermione, Bill, Mrs. Weasley, and the black dog came around the screen and settled themselves in chairs on either side of him. Ron and Hermione were looking at him almost cautiously, as though scared of him.
"I'm all right," he told them. "Just tired."
"If we were you, we’d have of been dead." said Ron.
Harry only focused on the floor.
Mrs. Weasley's eyes filled with tears as she smoothed his bed-covers unnecessarily.
Madam Pomfrey, who had bustled off to her office, returned holding a small bottle of some purple potion and a goblet.
"You'll need to drink all of this. Harry," she said. "It's a potion for dreamless sleep."
"God, I love that stuff." said Harry looking up into the sky. "It’s nice not having to deal with all the nightmares."
Harry took the goblet and drank a few mouthfuls. He felt himself becoming drowsy at once.
"Knowing you, I had a strong batch made." said Madam Pomfrey.
Everything around him became hazy; the lamps around the hospital wing seemed to be winking at him in a friendly way through the screen around his bed; his body felt as though it was sinking deeper into the warmth of the feather matress. Before he could finish the potion, before he could say another word, his exhaustion had carried him off to sleep.
"Oh, you poor sweet baby." said Mrs. McFinn.
They looked over at Harry, but they only saw Harry scribbling into his black notebook, a plain look on his face.
"He’s still in neutral mode…dang…he’s so tense." said Ron looking at his best friend.
Harry woke up, so warm, so very sleepy, that he didn't open his eyes, wanting to drop off again. The room was still dimly lit; he was sure it was still nighttime and had a feeling that he couldn't have been asleep very long.
"Half hour at the most, by the point we had guests." said Sirius.
Then he heard whispering around him.
"They'll wake him if they don't shut up!"
"What are they shouting about? Nothing else can have happened, can it?"
Harry opened his eyes blearily. Someone had removed his glasses. He could see the fuzzy outlines of Mrs. Weasley and Bill close by. Mrs. Weasley was on her feet.
"That's Fudge's voice," she whispered. "And that's Minerva McGonagall's, isn't it? But what are they arguing about?"
"About how foolish and how idiotic the Minister was." said McGonagall tartly.
Now Harry could hear them too: people shouting and running toward the hospital wing.
"Regrettable, but all the same, Minerva -" Cornelius Fudge was saying loudly.
"You should never have brought it inside the castle!" yelled Professor McGonagall. "When Dumbledore finds out -"
"Not another Dementor." said Rudolph shaking his head.
"You’re a foolish, stupid arse!" said Leroy.
Harry heard the hospital doors burst open. Unnoticed by any of the people around his bed, all of whom were staring at the door as Bill pulled back the screens, Harry sat up and put his glasses back on.
"You shouldn’t have heard all this." said Dumbledore.
"Well, I did, can’t go back on that now." said Harry without looking up. "Unless I did another memory charm on myself, and I’d rather avoid that."
Fudge came striding up the ward. Professors McGonagall and Snape were at his heels.
"Where's Dumbledore?" Fudge demanded of Mrs. Weasley.
"Look in his office, dumbass." said Dr. Clark with a snarl.
"He's not here," said Mrs. Weasley angrily. "This is a hospital wing. Minister, don't you think you'd do better to -"
But the door opened, and Dumbledore came sweeping up the ward.
"I didn’t want a repeat of the previous year." said Dumbledore.
"What has happened?" said Dumbledore sharply, looking from Fudge to Professor McGonagall. "Why are you disturbing these people? Minerva, I'm surprised at you - I asked you to stand guard over Barty Crouch -"
"And I was, till the Minister made sure he would never move on his own powers again." said McGonagall furiously.
"There is no need to stand guard over him anymore, Dumbledore!" she shrieked. "The Minister has seen to that!"
Harry had never seen Professor McGonagall lose control like this.
"She has since then." said Lee quietly.
Harry looked around to the sympathetic looks and groaned. "What is it now?"
"We were just remembering…" said Colin.
"NO!" shouted the adults.
"…when you were found injured by McGonagall." said Colin, then he covered his mouth in horror.
Harry looked at the adults curiously, but then Harry could feel a knife carving into the flesh into his back. He held back a yell, but the pain only continued to grow.
"AAARGH!" shouted Harry, he doubled over in pain and crashed onto the floor. "Idiot! I was so close!" snarled Harry as he writhed in pain. "So close…to forgetting!"
"STUPEFY" shouted Dumbledore and the spell struck Harry. Harry stopped cringing and laid limply on the floor.
"What the hell?" asked Sirius rushing over to the stunned figure of his godson. "How could you do that?"
"It’s better if he doesn’t remember, it would only cause him great pain. No one is to mention that incident again." said Dumbledore darkly to the students around the Hall. Sirius picked Harry’s form up off the ground and carried him back to the bowl. Remus enchanted the large bowl grow even larger and fill itself with cushions and blankets. Then they laid it down on the floor, giving it a real appearance of a giant bowl.
There were angry blotches of color in her cheeks, and a hands were balled into fists; she was trembling with fury.-
"When we told Mr. Fudge that we had caught the Death Eater responsible for tonight's events," said Snape, in a low voice; "he seemed to feel his personal safety was in question.
"Fool, you were fine." said Tempest angrily.
He insisted on summoning a dementor to accompany him into the castle. He brought it up to the office where Barty Crouch -"
"And you draw your own conclusions." said Nightstrike with a sigh.
"I told him you would not agree, Dumbledore!" McGonagall fumed. "I told him you would never allow dementors to set foot inside the castle, but -"
"My dear woman!" roared Fudge, who likewise looked angrier than Harry had ever seen him, "as Minister of Magic, it is my decision whether I wish to bring protection with me when interviewing a possibly dangerous -"
"Then bring a wizard, a witch…anyone else that wouldn’t cause harm to the students!" said Mrs. McFinn angrily.
Harry gave a groan and sat up slowly.
"You sure you want to wake up Cub?" asked Sirius.
"What’s happening?" asked Harry.
"Well, we started a new chapter, you just escaped from Voldemort." said Remus.
"Yeah, I can stay up now." said Harry.
He sat up and settled himself between Sirius and Rudolph.
Harry felt himself slam flat into the ground; his face was pressed into grass; the smell of it filled his nostrils. He had closed his eyes while the Portkey transported him, and he kept them closed now. He did not move. All the breath seemed to have been knocked out of him; his head was swimming so badly he felt as though the ground beneath him were swaying like the deck of a ship. To hold himself steady, he tightened his hold on the two things he was still clutching: the smooth, cold handle of the Triwizard Cup and Cedric's body.
"He looked like he died." said Neville softly.
He felt as though he would slide away into the blackness gathering at the edges of his brain if he let go of either of them.
Rudolph threw an arm around Harry’s shoulders.
Shock and exhaustion kept him on the ground, breathing in the smell of the grass, waiting...waiting for someone to do something...something to happen...and all the while, his scar burned dully on his forehead....
A torrent of sound deafened and confused him; there were voices everywhere, footsteps, screams....He remained where he was, his face screwed up against the noise, as though it were a nightmare that would pass....
"My heart nearly stopped when he wouldn’t respond." said Dumbledore softly.
Then a pair of hands seized him roughly and turned him over.
He opened his eyes.
He was looking up at the starry sky, and Albus Dumbledore was crouched over him.
"Why were you so rough?" asked Dr. Clark.
"Like I said, I thought he was gone." said Dumbledore.
The dark shadows of a crowd of people pressed in around them, pushing nearer; Harry felt the ground beneath his head reverberating with their footsteps.
He had come back to the edge of the maze. He could see the stands rising above him, the shapes of people moving in them, the stars above.
"Why were you noticing everything around you before talking?" asked Ernie.
Harry let go of the cup, but he clutched Cedric to him even more tightly. He raised his free hand and seized Dumbledore's wrist, while Dumbledore's face swam in and out of focus.
"He's back," Harry whispered. "He's back. Voldemort."
"My world just about stopped right there." said Dumbledore rubbing his tired eyes.
"What's going on? What's happened?"
The face of Cornelius Fudge appeared upside down over Harry; it looked white, appalled.
"My God - Diggory!" it whispered. "Dumbledore - he's dead!"
"Thank you Mr. Obvious." said Fred quietly.
The words were repeated, the shadowy figures pressing in on them gasped it to those around them...and then others shouted it - screeched it - into the night - "He's dead!" "He's dead!" "Cedric Diggory! Dead!"
Every time the word ‘dead’ came, Mrs. Diggory would flinch.
"Harry, let go of him," he heard Fudge's voice say, and he felt fingers trying to pry him from Cedric's limp body, but Harry wouldn't let him go.
Sirius threw his arm around Harry’s shoulder as well.
Then Dumbledore's face, which was still blurred and misted, came closer.
"Harry, you can't help him now. It's over. Let go."
"He wanted me to bring him back," Harry muttered - it seemed important to explain this. "He wanted me to bring him back to his parents...."
"Thank you…" said Mrs. Diggory softly. "Thank you so much."
"That's right. Harry...just let go now...."
Dumbledore bent down, and with extraordinary strength for a man so old and thin, raised Harry from the ground and set -him on his feet. Harry swayed. His head was pounding. His injured leg would no longer support his weight.
"He should have been left on the ground, he was in no shape to be standing." said Dr. Clark.
The crowd around them jostled, fighting to get closer, pressing darkly in on him - "What's happened?" "What's wrong with him?" "Diggory's dead!"
"He'll need to go to the hospital wing!" Fudge was saying loudly. "He's ill, he's injured –
"Who are you trying to say is ill?" asked Charlie darkly.
"P-Potter." said Fudge with a quivering voice.
Dumbledore, Diggory's parents, they're here, they're in the stands...."
"I’m glad you spoke to us, before the Minister…" said Mr. Diggory looking at Dumbledore.
"I'll take Harry, Dumbledore, I'll take him -"
"No, I would prefer-"
"Dumbledore, Amos Diggory's running...he's coming over....Don't you think you should tell him - before he sees - ?"
"Harry, stay here -"
"I shouldn’t have left you alone, I should have given you to Hagrid." said Dumbledore guiltily. "He would never have let you out of his sight."
Girls were screaming, sobbing hysterically....The scene flickered oddly before Harry's eyes....
"Its all right, son, I've got you...come on...hospital wing..."
"Dumbledore said stay," said Harry thickly,
"Even almost out of it, he still follows Dumbledore’s orders." sad Tonks.
the pounding in his scar making him feel as though he was about to throw up; his vision was blurring worse than ever.
"You need to lie down....Come on now...."
"You do need to lie down." said Dr. Clark.
Someone larger and stronger than he was half pulling, half carrying him through the frightened crowd. Harry heard people gasping, screaming, and shouting as the man supporting him pushed a path through them, taking him back to the castle.
"At least he won’t be trampled." said Mrs. McFinn.
"I still should have left him with Hagrid." said Dumbledore.
Across the lawn, past the lake and the Durmstrang ship, Harry heard nothing but the heavy breathing of the man helping him walk.
"What happened. Harry?" the man asked at last as he lifted Harry up the stone steps. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. It was Mad-Eye Moody.
"Wait a minute, isn’t he the imposter?" asked a first year.
"Yeah, he’s that Death Eater right?" asked another first year.
"Somebody save Harry!" shouted another first year.
"Cup was a Portkey," said Harry as they crossed the entrance hall. "Took me and Cedric to a graveyard...and Voldemort was there...Lord Voldemort..."
Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. Up the marble stairs...
"Somehow, you can just hear the foreboding." said Rivers.
"The Dark Lord was there? What happened then?"
"Killed Cedric...they killed Cedric...."
Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. Along the corridor...
"Made a potion...got his body back...."
"The Dark Lord got his body back? He's returned?"
"And the Death Eaters came...and then we dueled...."
"You dueled with the Dark Lord?"
"Got away...my wand...did something funny....I saw my mum and dad...they came out of his wand...."
"And you did admirably dear." said Bathilda.
"In here. Harry...in here, and sit down....You'll be all right now...drink this...."
Harry heard a key scrape in a lock and felt a cup being pushed into his hands.
"Drink it...you'll feel better...come on, now. Harry,
Sirius began to growl fiercely.
I need to know exactly what happened...."
Moody helped tip the stuff down Harry's throat; he coughed, a peppery taste burning his throat. Moody's office came into sharper focus, and so did Moody himself....He looked as white as Fudge had looked, and both eyes were fixed unblinkingly upon Harry's face.
"Voldemort's back, Harry? You're sure he's back? How did he do it?"
"He took stuff from his father's grave, and from Wormtail, and me," said Harry. His head felt clearer; his scar wasn't hurting so badly; he could now see Moody's face distinctly, even though the office was dark. He could still hear screaming and shouting from the distant Quidditch field.
"What did the Dark Lord take from you?" said Moody.
"Blood," said Harry, raising his arm. His sleeve was ripped where Wormtail's dagger had torn it.
Moody let out his breath in a long, low hiss.
Some of the students began to whimper and plead for someone else to show up in the room soon.
"And the Death Eaters? They returned?"
"Yes," said Harry. "Loads of them..."
"How did he treat them?" Moody asked quietly. "Did he forgive them?"
"He’s not giving a damn about his disguise anymore." said Ron.
"Yeah, Moody wouldn’t give a damn." said Tonks.
But Harry had suddenly remembered. He should have told Dumbledore, he should have said it straightaway -
"There's a Death Eater at Hogwarts! There's a Death Eater here - they put my name in the Goblet of Fire, they made sure I got through to the end -"
"He saved that little bit of info for the wrong person." said Bill.
Harry tried to get up, but Moody pushed him back down.
"I know who the Death Eater is," he said quietly.
"Karkaroff?" said Harry wildly. "Where is he? Have you got him? Is he locked up?"
"Poor Harry, he’s still in shock." said Parvati.
"Karkaroff?" said Moody with an odd laugh. "Karkaroff fled tonight, when he felt the Dark Mark burn upon his arm. He betrayed too many faithful supporters of the Dark Lord to wish to meet them...but I doubt he will get far. The Dark Lord has ways of tracking his enemies."
"That he does." said Dumbledore darkly.
"Karkaroff's gone? He ran away? But then - he didn't put my name in the goblet?"
"No," said Moody slowly. "No, he didn't. It was I who did that."
The Hall was silent.
"How can you lot be in shock, you knew it was coming." said Sirius.
"It’s still a little shocking to hear." said Colin.
Harry heard, but didn't believe.
"Believe it." said Moody.
"No, you didn't," he said. "You didn't do that...you can't have done..."
"I assure you I did," said Moody, and his magical eye swung around and fixed upon the door, and Harry knew he was making sure that there was no one outside it.
"You’re stunned beyond measure and yet you can still think about what is going on?" said Tempest in awe.
Firenze looked at the boy with sympathy in his eyes.
Dr. Nicodemus stood up and walked over to the boy and lifted his head up by his chin. "Need something to make you feel better?"
"What have you got?" asked Harry, his eyes dull.
"I’ve got a mood enhancer, it’ll make you feel better, not so depressed." said Dr. Nicodemus.
"Is it temporary?" asked Harry.
"It lasts as long as I want it, does that answer your question?" asked Dr. Nicodemus with a smirk.
"As long as you want it?" said Harry in confusion.
"I don’t rightly trust depressed people when they get as bad as you right now." said Dr. Nicodemus.
He summoned a teapot and a cup and saucer and poured the cup full of tea and sprinkled a sparkling powder into the cup. "There you go lad."
Harry took it and brought it to his lips, but then pulled away.
"What’s wrong?" asked Remus quickly.
"It’s Earl Grey." said Dr. Clark with a smirk. "He hates that kind."
Dr. Nicodemus smiled and rolled his eyes. He tapped the cup and the Earl Grey tea became Oolong tea. "Picky Picky."
Harry blushed and drained the cup. He took a deep breath and smiled softly.
"There you go." said Sirius with a smile.
At the same time, Moody drew out his wand and pointed it at Harry.
"He forgave them, then?" he said. "The Death Eaters who went free? The ones who escaped Azkaban?"
"What?" said Harry.
He was looking at the wand Moody was pointing at him. This was a bad joke, it had to be.
"Nope, even our first jokes weren’t this bad." said Fred.
"I asked you," said Moody quietly, "whether he forgave the scum who never even went to look for him. Those treacherous cowards who wouldn't even brave Azkaban for him.
"He talks pretty big, but even he didn’t want to go." said Ron.
The faithless, worthless bits of filth who were brave enough to cavort in masks at the Quidditch World Cup, but fled at the sight of the Dark Mark when I fired it into the sky."
"You fired...What are you talking about...?"
"I told you. Harry...I told you. If there's one thing I hate more than any other, it's a Death Eater who walked free. They turned their backs on my master when he needed them most. I expected him to punish them. I expected him to torture them. Tell me he hurt them, Harry...." Moody's face was suddenly lit with an insane smile. "Tell me he told them that I, I alone remained faithful...prepared to risk everything to deliver to him the one thing he wanted above all...you."
"Hearing those words coming out of Alastor’s mouth is a bit surreal." said Kingsley.
"You didn't...it - it can't be you...."
"Who put your name in the Goblet of Fire, under the name of a different school? I did. Who frightened off every person I thought might try to hurt you or prevent you from winning the tournament? I did.
"Saving him like a pig for the slaughter." said Snape looking at Dumbledore fiercely.
Dumbledore blinked and buried his face in his hands.
Who nudged Hagrid into showing you the dragons? I did. Who helped you see the only way you could beat the dragon? I did."
"He would have found a way on his own!" said Dennis loudly.
Moody's magical eye had now left the door. It was fixed upon Harry. His lopsided mouth leered more widely than ever.
"It hasn't been easy, Harry, guiding you through these tasks without arousing suspicion. I have had to use every ounce of cunning I possess, so that my hand would not be detectable in your success. Dumbledore would have been very suspicious if you had managed everything too easily.
"I would have thought a teacher was looking out for one of their students." said Dumbledore quietly.
As long as you got into that maze, preferably with a decent head start - then, I knew, I would have a chance of getting rid of the other champions and leaving your way clear. But I also had to contend with your stupidity.
"OI!" shouted quite a few people.
"He smarter than you are by far!" said George.
"Yeah, he didn’t get a stupid skull tattoo!" said Fred.
The second task...that was when I was most afraid we would fail. I was keeping watch on you, Potter. I knew you hadn't worked out the egg's clue, so I had to give you another hint -"
"Cedric gave him that hint!" said Mr. Diggory angrily.
"You didn't," Harry said hoarsely. "Cedric gave me the clue -"
"Who told Cedric to open it underwater? I did. I trusted that he would pass the information on to you. Decent people are so easy to manipulate, Potter.
The teachers growled the loudest at this statement.
I was sure Cedric would want to repay you for telling him about the dragons, and so he did. But even then, Potter, even then you seemed likely to fail. I was watching all the time...all those hours in the library. Didn't you realize that the book you needed was in your dormitory all along? I planted it there early on, I gave it to the Longbottom boy, don't you remember? Magical Water Plants of the Mediterranean. It would have told you all you needed to know about gillyweed.
"Yeah it did, and I didn’t even think to tell you about it." said Neville.
I expected you to ask everyone and anyone you could for help.
"You don’t know him very well do you?" snarled Sirius.
Longbottom would have told you in an instant. But you did not...you did not....You have a streak of pride and independence that might have ruined all.
"Independence my ass, I asked Ron and Hermione for help." said Harry with a smirk.
"So what could I do? Feed you information from another innocent source. You told me at the Yule Ball a house-elf called Dobby had given you a Christmas present. I called the elf to the staffroom to collect some robes for cleaning. I staged a loud conversation with Professor McGonagall about the hostages who had been taken, and whether Potter would think to use gillyweed. And your little elf friend ran straight to Snape's office and then hurried to find you..."
"See, it wasn’t me that took it." said Harry with a smile.
Snape stared at the youth, just what he could see in his mind, was neutral happiness….that powder must be something very powerful to instigate that feeling in Potter’s mind at this point. Then he noticed something creeping over his mind…causing it to accelerate, what was that?
Moody's wand was still pointing directly at Harry's heart. Over his shoulder, foggy shapes were moving in the Foe-Glass on the wall.
"Help’s on the way." said Moody with a smile.
"You were so long in that lake, Potter, I thought you had drowned. But luckily, Dumbledore took your idiocy for nobility, and marked you high for it. I breathed again.
"It wasn’t idiocy!" said Ginny hotly.
"You had an easier time of it than you should have in that maze tonight, of course," said Moody. "I was patrolling around it, able to see through the outer hedges, able to curse many obstacles out of your way.
"Knew it was going too easily." sad a seventh year.
I Stunned Fleur Delacour as she passed. I put the Imperius Curse on Krum, so that he would finish Diggory and leave your path to the cup clear."
"So he really didn’t know what he was doing!" said a first year Hufflepuff.
"Poor guy." said another third year.
Harry stared at Moody. He just didn't see how this could be....Dumbledore's friend, the famous Auror...the one who had caught so many Death Eaters...It made no sense...no sense at all....
"If you had known it was an imposter you wouldn’t have been confused." said Remus.
The foggy shapes in the Foe-Glass were sharpening, had become more distinct. Harry could see the outlines of three people over Moody's shoulder, moving closer and closer.
"So…Harry…you knew that help was coming?" asked Blaise.
Harry nodded. "But aside from that…" he shook his head.
But Moody wasn't watching them. His magical eye was upon Harry.
"The Dark Lord didn't manage to kill you. Potter, and he so wanted to," whispered Moody. "Imagine how he will reward me when he finds I have done it for him.
"He’ll rip you apart." said Harry crossing his legs and leaning back into the bowl. "He wants to play with me before I die, he won’t like playing with damaged goods." he added with a sneer.
Rudolph leaned a little ways away. "Whoa there cowboy, you’re not playing with him."
I gave you to him - the thing he needed above all to regenerate - and then I killed you for him. I will be honored beyond all other Death Eaters. I will be his dearest, his closest supporter...closer than a son...."
"Somehow, I don’t think of You-Know-Who to be a father figure." said Remus.
Moody's normal eye was bulging, the magical eye fixed upon Harry. The door was barred, and Harry knew he would never reach his own wand in time....
"The Dark Lord and I," said Moody, and he looked completely insane now, towering over Harry, leering down at him, "have much in common. Both of us, for instance, had very disappointing fathers...very disappointing indeed.
"Can’t quite argue with him there." said Flitwick. "Barty should have gone home once in a while."
Both of us suffered the indignity, Harry, of being named after those fathers. And both of us had the pleasure...the very great pleasure...of killing our fathers to ensure the continued rise of the Dark Order!"
"He killed him for pleasure, yours was just on order." said Dumbledore quietly.
"You're mad," Harry said - he couldn't stop himself- "you're mad!"
"Mad, am I?" said Moody, his voice rising uncontrollably. "We'll see! We'll see who's mad, now that the Dark Lord has returned, with me at his side! He is back, Harry Potter, you did not conquer him - and now - I conquer you!"
"Oh no you don’t!" said Sirius.
Moody raised his wand, he opened his mouth; Harry plunged his own hand into his robes –
"Wow, Harry isn’t going to go down without a fight!" said a few first and second years.
"Yeah, he’s going to fight!" said Dennis.
"Stupefy!" There was a blinding flash of red light, and with a great splintering and crashing, the door of Moody's office was blasted apart -
Moody was thrown backward onto the office floor. Harry, still staring at the place where Moody's face had been, saw Albus Dumbledore, Professor Snape, and Professor McGonagall looking back at him out of the Foe-Glass. He looked around and saw the three of them standing in the doorway, Dumbledore in front, his wand outstretched.
"I was never so relived before." said Harry with a smile towards the three of them.
"I was never so relieved to see you alright." said McGonagall with a faint smile.
At that moment, Harry fully understood for the first time why people said Dumbledore was the only wizard Voldemort had ever feared. The look upon Dumbledore's face as he stared down at the unconscious form of Mad-Eye Moody was more terrible than Harry could have ever imagined.
"Relief was gone." said Harry with a laugh.
"You’re laughing?" asked Sirius raising his brows.
"I think I’m buzzed." said Harry with a smile.
Remus blinked "Why do you say that?"
"Cause it’s getting a bit stronger." said Harry looking up at the ceiling.
"Oops." said Dr. Nicodemus. "I think I used too much…
"You seem to make a lot of mistakes with him." said Sirius firmly.
"Well, no matter, he’s in no danger…he might even enjoy it a bit." said Dr. Nicodemus.
"Do we want to know what it is?" asked Mrs. Weasley.
"Just a strong relaxant." said Dr. Nicodemus.
"I can’t feel my feet." said Harry leaning over and touching his toes.
"A very strong relaxant." said Lionus trying not to laugh.
There was no benign smile upon Dumbledore's face, no twinkle in the eyes behind the spectacles. There was cold fury in every line of the ancient face; a sense of power radiated from Dumbledore as though he were giving off burning heat.
"My word, you can sense that?" said Dumbledore looking over to the bowl and stared as Harry was examining his hand intently.
"Why do we have these lines on our hands." said Harry to Rudolph.
"Dear God…he’s gone." said Sirius trying not to snicker.
Remus shook his head. "It’s going to hurt when he comes down."
"I can stop it, but he’ll still have to sleep it off." said Dr. Nicodemus. "Though I think we should just ignore what he says for the most part."
"But remember it." said Lionus with a snicker. "For teasing reasons."
"Of course, why else do I enjoy giving it to you people?" said Dr. Nicodemus with a kind smile over to the boy who was still enjoying the miracles his hand was showing him.
"Thank goodness he doesn’t have his wand on him. But I think that kitchen knife he carries should be removed, for his own safety." said Dumbledore gently.
Sirius reached into Harry’s jacket pocket and made to take the knife in it’s leather sheath.
"You getting fresh?" asked Harry leaning away from him with a smile on his face.
"Oh Merlin, I wish I could record all this." said Sirius with a smile as he took the knife away.
He stepped into the office, placed a foot underneath Moody's unconscious body, and kicked him over onto his back, so that his face was visible.
"Well, that wasn’t very nice." said George.
Snape followed him, looking into the Foe-Glass, where his own face was still visible, glaring into the room. Professor McGonagall went straight to Harry.
"Come along, Potter," she whispered. The thin line of her mouth was twitching as though she was about to cry. "Come along...hospital wing..."
"Okay." said Harry standing.
"No…this already happened." said Leroy taking Harry’s sleeve.
"Sure, McGonagall just said to go….though you sound a little different." said Harry smiling wildly over to McGonagall. She looked at her colleagues with a surprised smile.
"At least he’s not depressed." said Rudolph with a laugh as he helped pull Harry down.
"No," said Dumbledore sharply.
"Dumbledore, he ought to - look at him - he's been through enough tonight -"
"He will stay, Minerva, because he needs to understand," said Dumbledore curtly.
"Understand what again?" asked Harry smiling over to Dumbledore.
Dumbledore looked at Harry, a smile crossing his face. "Nothing dear boy. Would you like something to eat?"
Harry thought, and then he smiled. "Sure!"
Dumbledore chuckled warmly and conjured a plate of biscuits and a jug of pumpkin juice.
"This is hilarious." said Ron smiling as he watched Harry grab at the snacks wildly.
Wormtail approached Harry, who scrambled to find his feet, to support his own weight before the ropes were untied. Wormtail raised his new silver hand, pulled out the wad of material gagging Harry, and then, with one swipe, cut through the bonds tying Harry to the gravestone.
"If I ever get my hands on him again..." muttered Sirius holding onto Harry.
There was a split second, perhaps, when Harry might have considered running for it,
"Forget considering it! Do it!" screamed Alicia.
but his injured leg shook under him as he stood on the overgrown grave, as the Death Eaters closed ranks, forming a tighter circle around him and Voldemort, so that the gaps where the missing Death Eaters should have stood were filled.
"They’re used to torturing people while they all stand in a circle." growled Moody.
Wormtail walked out of the circle to the place where Cedric's body lay and returned with Harry's wand, which he thrust roughly into Harry's hand without looking at him.
"Bet he couldn’t bear to look at the person who saved his ass while he sets them up for the kill." said Charlie darkly.
Then Wormtail resumed his place in the circle of watching Death Eaters.
"You have been taught how to duel. Harry Potter?" said Voldemort softly, his red eyes glinting through the darkness.
At these words Harry remembered, as though from a former life, the dueling club at Hogwarts he had attended briefly two years ago....
"Don’t say ‘former life.’" said Dr. Clark faintly.
All he had learned there was the Disarming Spell, "Expelliarmus"...and what use would it be to deprive Voldemort of his wand, even if he could, when he was surrounded by Death Eaters, outnumbered by at least thirty to one? He had never learned anything that could possibly fit him for this.
"I’d hope not." said Dr. Nicodemus and Kingsley.
"Children shouldn’t learn how to disarm a swarm of people." said Tempest.
"So…would you have saved him in the nick of time?" asked Hermione quietly.
"We were at Hogwarts, we were unaware of where he was." said Nightstrike. "He was on his own."
He knew he was facing the thing against which Moody had always warned...the unblockable Avada Kedavra curse - and Voldemort was right - his mother was not here to die for him this time....He was quite unprotected....
Leroy bent over and hugged his Great-Nephew.
Malfoy looked over to him and frowned, if that guy was a Malfoy, shouldn’t he be getting some of the attention too?
"We bow to each other. Harry," said Voldemort, bending a little, but keeping his snakelike face upturned to Harry. "Come, the niceties must be observed....Dumbledore would like you to show manners....
"Not to you, he can be as rude as he wishes." muttered Sprout.
Bow to death, Harry...."
"Damn him!" said Remus hotly.
"Calm down Moony, it doesn’t get any better." said Sirius.
The Death Eaters were laughing again. Voldemort's lipless mouth was smiling. Harry did not bow. He was not going to let Voldemort play with him before killing him...he was not going to give him that satisfaction....
"Good boy." said Moody.
"Show him he can’t have his way!" said a first year as others shouted similar supporting words.
"I said, bow," Voldemort said, raising his wand - and Harry felt his spine curve as though a huge, invisible hand were bending him ruthlessly forward, and the Death Eaters laughed harder than ever.
"That’s cheating!" said a first year Ravenclaw.
"Yeah he’d never bow to you!" said the student sitting next to her.
"Harry would have liked to hear all this." said Dumbledore brushing the hair out of his young’s charge. Then a sight caught his eye, Harry was facing away from the students and towards the insides of the bowl, and his thumb laying slightly in his mouth.
Dr. Clark saw the look on Dumbledore’s face and went behind the bowl to see what he was looking at.
"Holly…" said Dr. Clark.
Mrs. McFinn stood up and went behind the bowl as well. "Oh the poor thing…I haven’t seen him like this since we told him James was k-killed."
She pulled his thumb gently out of his mouth, leaned over and kissed his forehead. "This must have been really painful for him to endure."
Dumbledore nodded, tears coming down his face.
"Very good," said Voldemort softly, and as he raised his wand the pressure bearing down upon Harry lifted too. "And now you face me, like a man...straight-backed and proud, the way your father died....
"That bastard, mentioning his dad." snarled Fred.
"Hope Harry kicks his ass in the future." said George.
"And now - we duel."
Voldemort raised his wand, and before Harry could do anything to defend himself, before he could even move, he had been hit again by the Cruciatus Curse. The pain was so intense, so all-consuming, that he no longer knew where he was....White-hot knives were piercing every inch of his skin, his head was surely going to burst with pain, he was screaming more loudly than he'd ever screamed in his life –
Several people shrieked loudly and had to be held by their neighbors.
And then it stopped. Harry rolled over and scrambled to his feet; he was shaking as uncontrollably as Wormtail had done when his hand had been cut off; he staggered sideways into the wall of watching Death Eaters, and they pushed him away, back toward Voldemort.
"Sick, twisted pricks." said Sirius.
"A little break," said Voldemort, the slit-like nostrils dilating with excitement, "a little pause...That hurt, didn't it. Harry? You don't want me to do that again, do you?"
Dumbledore’s hands tensed on the back of the bowl chair.
Harry didn't answer. He was going to die like Cedric, those pitiless red eyes were telling him so...he was going to die, and there was nothing he could do about it...but he wasn't going to play along. He wasn't going to obey Voldemort...he wasn't going to beg....
"A few adults could learn a thing or two from him." said Madam Bones.
"I asked you whether you want me to do that again," said Voldemort softly. "Answer me! Imperio!"
And Harry felt, for the third time in his life, the sensation that his mind had been wiped of all thought....Ah, it was bliss, not to think, it was as though he were floating, dreaming...just answer no...say no...just answer no....
I will not, said a stronger voice, in the back of his head, I won't answer....
Just answer no....
I won't do it, I won't say it....
Just answer no....
Sirius wiped his eyes, he was so proud of his little cub.
And these words burst from Harry's mouth; they echoed through the graveyard, and the dream state was lifted as suddenly as though cold water had been thrown over him - back rushed the aches that the Cruciatus Curse had left all over his body - back rushed the realization of where he was, and what he was facing....
"That’s a harsh feeling." said Moody, "Blissfully oblivious to all around you, and then the pain hits you again."
"You won't?" said Voldemort quietly, and the Death Eaters were not laughing now. "You won't say no? Harry, obedience is a virtue I need to teach you before you die....Perhaps another little dose of pain?"
"Oh no." said Mrs. Weasley weakly.
Voldemort raised his wand, but this time Harry was ready; with the reflexes born of his Quidditch training, he flung himself sideways onto the ground; he rolled behind the marble headstone of Voldemort's father, and he heard it crack as the curse missed him.
Several students cheered loudly.
"We are not playing hide-and-seek, Harry," said Voldemort's soft, cold voice, drawing nearer, as the Death Eaters laughed. "You cannot hide from me. Does this mean you are tired of our duel? Does this mean that you would prefer me to finish it now, Harry? Come out, Harry...come out and play, then...it will be quick...it might even be painless...I would not know...I have never died...."
The cheering ended and was replaced with indignant shouts.
Harry crouched behind the headstone and knew the end had come. There was no hope...no help to be had. And as he heard Voldemort draw nearer still, he knew one thing only, and it was beyond fear or reason: He was not going to die crouching here like a child playing hide-and-seek; he was not going to die kneeling at Voldemort's feet...he was going to die upright like his father, and he was going to die trying to defend himself, even if no defense was possible....
"That’s what he wants! Don’t come out!" said Mr. Weasley fearfully.
Before Voldemort could stick his snakelike face around the headstone. Harry stood up...he gripped his wand tightly in his hand, thrust it out in front of him, and threw himself around the headstone, facing Voldemort.
Voldemort was ready. As Harry shouted, "Expelliarmus!" Voldemort cried, "Avada Kedavra!"
"I don’t think a disarming spell is going to do much." said Rivers softly.
A jet of green light issued from Voldemort's wand just as a jet of red light blasted from Harry's - they met in midair - and suddenly Harry's wand was vibrating as though an electric charge were surging through it; his hand seized up around it; he couldn't have released it if he'd wanted to –
"What’s going on?" asked one of the Unspeakables.
"Like the chapter says, Priori Incatatem." said Speckerton.
and a narrow beam of light connected the two wands, neither red nor green, but bright, deep gold. Harry, following the beam with his astonished gaze, saw that Voldemort's long white fingers too were gripping a wand that was shaking and vibrating.
And then - nothing could have prepared Harry for this - he felt his feet lift from the ground. He and Voldemort were both being raised into the air, their wands still connected by that thread of shimmering golden light. They glided away from the tombstone of Voldemort's father and then came to rest on a patch of ground that was clear and free of graves....
"What the?" asked Bill.
"I think the magic can be a bit dramatic as well as the casters." said Charlie.
The Death Eaters were shouting; they were asking Voldemort for instructions; they were closing in, reforming the circle around Harry and Voldemort, the snake slithering at their heels, some of them drawing their wands -
The golden thread connecting Harry and Voldemort splintered; though the wands remained connected, a thousand more beams arced high over Harry and Voldemort, crisscrossing all around them, until they were enclosed in a golden, dome-shaped web, a cage of light, beyond which the Death Eaters circled like jackals, their cries strangely muffled now....
"The wands are keeping them out." said Dumbledore with a soft smile.
"Oh…my…" said Rudolph.
"Do nothing!" Voldemort shrieked to the Death Eaters, and Harry saw his red eyes wide with astonishment at what was happening, saw him fighting to break the thread of light still connecting his wand with Harry's; Harry held onto his wand more tightly, with both hands, and the golden thread remained unbroken. "Do nothing unless I command you!" Voldemort shouted to the Death Eaters.
"Good, keep the connection, if he wants to break it, you want to keep it." said Tonks.
And then an unearthly and beautiful sound filled the air....It was coming from every thread of the light-spun web vibrating around Harry and Voldemort. It was a sound Harry recognized, though he had heard it only once before in his life: phoenix song.
"Please tell me that means Fawkes is nearby." said Mrs. Weasley.
It was the sound of hope to Harry...the most beautiful and welcome thing he had ever heard in his life....He felt as though the song were inside him instead of just around him....It was the sound he connected with Dumbledore, and it was almost as though a friend were speaking in his ear....
Don't break the connection.
"So was that Fawkes?" asked Colin.
"In a way…yes." said Dumbledore with a smile.
"Not that again." said Charlie.
I know. Harry told the music, I know I mustn't...but no sooner had he thought it, than the thing became much harder to do. His wand began to vibrate more powerfully than ever...and now the beam between him and Voldemort changed too...it was as though large beads of light were sliding up and down the thread connecting the wands - Harry felt his wand give a shudder under his hand as the light beads began to slide slowly and steadily his way....The direction of the beams movement was now toward him, from Voldemort, and he felt his wand shudder angrily....
"What would happen if those beads touched his wand?" asked Fred.
"I don’t think we want that to happen." said George.
As the closest bead of light moved nearer to Harry's wand tip, the wood beneath his fingers grew so hot he feared it would burst into flame. The closer that bead moved, the harder Harry's wand vibrated; he was sure his wand would not survive contact with it; it felt as though it was about to shatter under his fingers –
The Professors began to gasp and look around at each other.
He concentrated every last particle of his mind upon forcing the bead back toward Voldemort, his ears full of phoenix song, his eyes furious, fixed...and slowly, very slowly, the beads quivered to a halt, and then, just as slowly, they began to move the other way...and it was Voldemort's wand that was vibrating extra-hard now...Voldemort who looked astonished, and almost fearful....
"He’s beating Voldemort!" shouted Ron, he gasped and threw a hand over his mouth.
"If only Harry were awake to hear that!" said Hermione with a small laugh.
One of the beads of light was quivering, inches from the tip of Voldemort's wand. Harry didn't understand why he was doing it, didn't know what it might achieve...but he now concentrated as he had never done in his life on forcing that bead of light right back into Voldemort's wand...and slowly...very slowly...it moved along the golden thread...it trembled for a moment...and then it connected....
"Here’s hoping it blows him to kingdom come." said Dean.
Fudge and Umbridge were silent, well, Umbridge was silenced against her will, but Fudge was floored.
At once, Voldemort's wand began to emit echoing screams of pain...then - Voldemort's red eyes widened with shock - a dense, smoky hand flew out of the tip of it and vanished...the ghost of the hand he had made Wormtail...
"What the hell?" said Remus.
"You’ll see, it gets’ worse." said Sirius with a pale face.
more shouts of pain...and then something much larger began to blossom from Voldemort's wand tip, a great, grayish something, that looked as though it were made of the solidest, densest smoke....It was a head...now a chest and arms...the torso of Cedric Diggory.
Mr. and Mrs. Diggory looked in shock.
If ever Harry might have released his wand from shock, it would have been then, but instinct kept him clutching his wand tightly, so that the thread of golden light remained unbroken, even though the thick gray ghost of Cedric Diggory (was it a ghost? it looked so solid) emerged in its entirety from the end of Voldemort's wand, as though it were squeezing itself out of a very narrow tunnel...and this shade of Cedric stood up, and looked up and down the golden thread of light, and spoke.
"Hold on. Harry," it said.
Cho’s lip began to quiver, as did Mrs. Diggory’s.
Its voice was distant and echoing. Harry looked at Voldemort...his wide red eyes were still shocked...he had no more expected this than Harry had...and, very dimly. Harry heard the frightened yells of the Death Eaters, prowling around the edges of the golden dome.
"They were probably thinking Harry was doing advanced magic or something." said Ernie.
"He was." said Dumbledore. "Though not consciously."
More screams of pain from the wand...and then something else emerged from its tip...the dense shadow of a second head, quickly followed by arms and torso...an old man Harry had seen only in a dream was now pushing himself out of the end of the wand just as Cedric had done...and his ghost, or his shadow, or whatever it was, fell next to Cedric's, and surveyed Harry and Voldemort, and the golden web, and the connected wands, with mild surprise, leaning on his walking stick....
"He was a real wizard, then?" the old man said, his eyes on Voldemort. "Killed me, that one did....You fight him, boy...."
"So…what’s happening is…Harry’s getting a cheering section?" asked Lee.
"Something more than just that." said Dumbledore.
But already, yet another head was emerging...and this head, gray as a smoky statue, was a woman's....Harry, both arms shaking now as he fought to keep his wand still, saw her drop to the ground and straighten up like the others, staring....
The shadow of Bertha Jorkins surveyed the battle before her with wide eyes.
"Don't let go, now!" she cried, and her voice echoed like Cedric's as though from very far away. "Don't let him get you, Harry - don't let go!"
"That’s kind of creepy, how are they there?" asked Dennis.
But Dumbledore said nothing.
She and the other two shadowy figures began to pace around the inner walls of the golden web, while the Death Eaters flitted around the outside of it...and Voldemort's dead victims whispered as they circled the duelers, whispered words of encouragement to Harry, and hissed words Harry couldn't hear to Voldemort.
Suddenly a sort of microphone appeared out of the end of the book and the side of the book became crosshatched like a speaker. Then words came out of it. A male and female’s voice came out and then the voice of Cedric.
You ambushed us, but he’s prepared for you…he will defeat you.
He’s twice the wizard you’ll never be.
He beat you before, he’ll beat you again. And this time…
He’ll beat you for good!
Then the microphone disappeared.
"Damn…" said Lionus holding the book away from him. "That’s new."
"You’re telling me." said Speckerton.
And now another head was emerging from the tip of Voldemort's wand...and Harry knew when he saw it who it would be...he knew, as though he had expected it from the moment when Cedric had appeared from the wand...knew, because the man appearing was the one he'd thought of more than any other tonight....
Sirius chewed his lip nervously and Remus placed a hand on his shoulder.
The smoky shadow of a tall man with untidy hair fell to the ground as Bertha had done, straightened up, and looked at him...and Harry, his arms shaking madly now, looked back into the ghostly face of his father.
"Your mother's coming..." he said quietly. "She wants to see you...it will be all right...hold on...."
Harry began to whimper.
"Shh…" said Dumbledore waving his wand over Harry, soon he stopped whimpering. "It’s almost over." he added softly as he patted Harry's head.
And she came...first her head, then her body...a young woman with long hair, the smoky, shadowy form of Lily Potter blossomed from the end of Voldemort's wand, fell to the ground,
Snape leaned slightly forward.
and straightened like her husband. She walked close to Harry, looking down at him, and she spoke in the same distant, echoing voice as the others, but quietly, so that Voldemort, his face now livid with fear as his victims prowled around him, could not hear....
"When the connection is broken, we will linger for only moments...but we will give you time...you must get to the Portkey, it will return you to Hogwarts...do you understand, Harry?"
"Yes," Harry gasped, fighting now to keep a hold on his wand, which was slipping and sliding beneath his fingers.
Leroy blew his nose loudly. "I miss them."
"I do too." said Rudolph.
"We all do." said Dumbledore quietly as he magicked a fresh handkerchief over to Bathilda.
"Harry..." whispered the figure of Cedric, "take my body back, will you? Take my body back to my parents,..."
Mrs. Diggory began to cry once again.
"I will," said Harry, his face screwed up with the effort of holding the wand.
"Do it now," whispered his father's voice, "be ready to run...do it now...."
"NOW!" Harry yelled; he didn't think he could have held on for another moment anyway - he pulled his wand upward with an almighty wrench, and the golden thread broke; the cage of light vanished, the phoenix song died - but the shadowy figures of Voldemort's victims did not disappear - they were closing in upon Voldemort, shielding Harry from his gaze –
Hermione held onto Ron tightly, as he was holding tightly to her.
And Harry ran as he had never run in his life, knocking two stunned Death Eaters aside as he passed; he zigzagged behind headstones, feeling their curses following him, hearing them hit the headstones - he was dodging curses and graves, pelting toward Cedric's body, no longer aware of the pain in his leg, his whole being concentrated on what he had to do –
Mr. Diggory looked over to sleeping form, a mixture of sympathy and appreciation on his face.
"Stun him!" he heard Voldemort scream.
"He wants to play with him a bit longer." said Bill coldly.
Ten feet from Cedric, Harry dived behind a marble angel to avoid the jets of red light and saw the tip of its wing shatter as the spells hit it. Gripping his wand more tightly, he dashed out from behind the angel -
"Impedimenta!" he bellowed, pointing his wand wildly over his shoulder at the Death Eaters running at him.
From a muffled yell, he thought he had stopped at least one of them, but there was no time to stop and look; he jumped over the cup and dived as he heard more wand blasts behind him; more jets of light flew over his head as he fell, stretching out his hand to grab Cedric's arm...
Angelina and Katie were holding each other, their eyes tightly shut.
"Stand aside! I will kill him! He is mine!" shrieked Voldemort. Harry's hand had closed on Cedric's wrist; one tombstone stood between him and Voldemort, but Cedric was too heavy to carry, and the cup was out of reach -
Voldemort's red eyes flamed in the darkness. Harry saw his mouth curl into a smile, saw him raise his wand.
"Get out of there!" said Blaise loudly.
"Accio!" Harry yelled, pointing his wand at the Triwizard Cup. It flew into the air and soared toward him. Harry caught it by the handle -
He heard Voldemort's scream of fury at the same moment that he felt the jerk behind his navel that meant the Portkey had worked - it was speeding him away in a whirl of wind and color, and Cedric along with him....They were going back.
"I think I just aged forty years." said Rudolph.
"I’ve got you beat, I aged fifty." said Remus.
"Moving on, let’s get this over with." said Lionus firmly. "Veritaserum"
"It’s almost done Harry, it’s almost done." said Dumbledore covering his eyes, his hands trembling on the youth's shoulder.
Voldemort looked away from Harry and began examining his own body. His hands were like large, pale spiders; his long white fingers caressed his own chest, his arms, his face; the red eyes, whose pupils were slits, like a cats, gleamed still more brightly through the darkness.
"That guy is starting to sound like a perv." said Katie with a quivering voice.
He held up his hands and flexed the fingers, his expression rapt and exultant. He took not the slightest notice of Wormtail, who lay twitching and bleeding on the ground, nor of the great snake, which had slithered back into sight and was circling Harry again, hissing.
Dr. Clark began to shake. "I still like snakes, just not that one."
Voldemort slipped one of those unnaturally long-fingered hands into a deep pocket and drew out a wand. He caressed it gently too; and then he raised it, and pointed it at Wormtail, who was lifted off the ground and thrown against the headstone where Harry was tied;
"Nice guy." said Fred quietly.
"Yeah a great person to work for." said George.
he fell to the foot of it and lay there, crumpled up and crying. Voldemort turned his scarlet eyes upon Harry, laughing a high, cold, mirthless laugh.
Wormtail's robes were shining with blood now; he had wrapped the stump of his arm in them.
"My Lord..." he choked, "my Lord...you promised...you did promise..."
"And Harry saved your ass you son of a…" said Sirius.
Rudolph clapped hands over Harry’s ears.
"I've heard the word." said Harry.
"Doesn't mean you have to hear it from him." said Rudolph.
"Hold out your arm," said Voldemort lazily.
"Oh Master...thank you, Master..."
He extended the bleeding stump, but Voldemort laughed again.
"The other arm, Wormtail."
Voldemort bent down and pulled out Wormtail's left arm; he forced the sleeve of Wormtail's robes up past his elbow, and Harry saw something upon the skin there, something like a vivid red tattoo - a skull with a snake protruding from its mouth - the image that had appeared in the sky at the Quidditch World Cup: the Dark Mark.
"They get that mark burned on them by the Dark Lord himself." said Moody darkly. "It was a spell he created. He seems to love to put them through a lot of pain."
Voldemort examined it carefully, ignoring Wormtail's uncontrollable weeping.
"It is back," he said softly, "they will all have noticed it...and now, we shall see...now we shall know..."
He pressed his long white forefinger to the brand on Wormtail's arm.
The scar on Harry's forehead seared with a sharp pain again, and Wormtail let out a fresh howl; Voldemort removed his fingers from Wormtail's mark, and Harry saw that it had turned jet black.
A look of cruel satisfaction on his face, Voldemort straightened up, threw back his head, and stared around at the dark graveyard.
"I hope he forgets about you." said Mrs. McFinn worriedly.
Harry only kept his head between his knees.
"Seriously cub, you can sit this chapter out." said Sirius kindly.
Harry didn’t move for a while, but he looked up, tears were falling from his eyes and face looked distraught.
"Okay." said Harry with a raspy voice.
Dumbledore waved his wand over Harry’s head. Harry’s eyes began droopy and he placed his head back on his knees.
"Let’s make him a bit more comfortable." said Leroy pulling Harry across their laps and covering him with a blanket.
"He lasted longer than I thought he would." said Chief Hawkeye with a small smile.
"How many will be brave enough to return when they feel it?" he whispered, his gleaming red eyes fixed upon the stars. "And how many will be foolish enough to stay away?"
He began to pace up and down before Harry and Wormtail, eyes sweeping the graveyard all the while. After a minute or so, he looked down at Harry again, a cruel smile twisting his snakelike face.
"Damn." said Mrs. McFinn quietly.
"You stand, Harry Potter, upon the remains of my late father," he hissed softly. "A Muggle and a fool...very like your dear mother.
The teacup in Snape’s hand shattered.
"Are you alright?" asked Draco looking at his godfather in confusion.
"I’m fine." said Snape as blood tricked down his fingers.
But they both had their uses, did they not? Your mother died to defend you as a child...and I killed my father, and see how useful he has proved himself, in death...."
Voldemort laughed again. Up and down he paced, looking all around him as he walked, and the snake continued to circle in the grass.
"You see that house upon the hillside, Potter? My father lived there. My mother, a witch who lived here in this village, fell in love with him. But he abandoned her when she told him what she was....He didn't like magic, my father...
"I can see how it would become a bit of a shock." said Dr. Clark.
"He left her and returned to his Muggle parents before I was even born. Potter, and she died giving birth to me, leaving me to be raised in a Muggle orphanage...but I vowed to find him...I revenged myself upon him, that fool who gave me his name...Tom Riddle...."
Still he paced, his red eyes darting from grave to grave.
"Listen to me, reliving family history..." he said quietly, "why, I am growing quite sentimental....But look, Harry! My true family returns...."
Bill scoffed, "Family? Yeah right."
The air was suddenly full of the swishing of cloaks. Between graves, behind the yew tree, in every shadowy space, wizards were Apparating. All of them were hooded and masked. And one by one they moved forward...slowly, cautiously, as though they could hardly believe their eyes Voldemort stood in silence, waiting for them. Then one of the Death Eaters fell to his knees, crawled toward Voldemort and kissed the hem of his black robes.
"Master...Master..." he murmured.
"Strange, never had anyone in my family do that." said Seamus.
Everyone was starting to get their voices back, the horrible truth was now out, and each student in the school were planning on writing to their folks and telling them all about the lies the Ministry and the paper was spewing.
Since the very beginning, they had been writing back to the families and telling them all about the exciting parts of Harry’s life, this one was going to be the bombshell.
The Death Eaters behind him did the same; each of them approaching Voldemort on his knees and kissing his robes, before backing away and standing up, forming a silent circle, which enclosed Tom Riddle's grave, Harry, Voldemort, and the sobbing and twitching heap that was Wormtail. Yet they left gaps in the circle, as though waiting for more people. Voldemort, however, did not seem to expect more. He looked around at the hooded faces, and though there was no wind rustling seemed to run around the circle, as though it had shivered.
"Welcome, Death Eaters," said Voldemort quietly. "Thirteen years...thirteen years since last we met. Yet you answer my call as though it were yesterday, we are still united under the Dark Mark, then! Or are we?"
He put back his terrible face and sniffed, his slit-like nostrils widening.
"I smell guilt," he said. "There is a stench of guilt upon the air."
"This won’t end well." said Remus.
A second shiver ran around the circle, as though each member of it longed, but did not dare to step back from him.
"I see you all, whole and healthy, with your powers intact - such prompt appearances! and I ask myself...why did this band of wizards never come to the aid of their master, to whom they swore eternal loyalty?"
"Cause they thought you were dead." said Charlie.
No one spoke. No one moved except Wormtail, who was upon the ground, still sobbing over his bleeding arm.
"And I answer myself," whispered Voldemort, "they must have believed me broken, they thought I was gone. They slipped back among my enemies, and they pleaded innocence, and ignorance, and bewitchment ....
"Well, you weren’t the bully on the playground anymore…they had nothing to gain by swearing allegiance to an apparent corpse." said Sirius.
"And then I ask myself, but how could they have believed I would not rise again? They, who knew the steps I took, long ago, to guard myself against mortal death?
No one noticed Dumbledore close his eyes and slowly nod his head.
They, who had seen proofs of the immensity of my power in the times when I was mightier than any wizard living?
"And I answer myself, perhaps they believed a still greater power could exist, one that could vanquish even Lord Voldemort...perhaps they now pay allegiance to another...perhaps that champion of commoners, of Mudbloods and Muggles, Albus Dumbledore?"
Snape looked at Dumbledore.
"I would not have taken any Death Eater lightly." said Dumbledore firmly.
At the mention of Dumbledore's name, the members of the circle stirred, and some muttered and shook their heads. Voldemort ignored them.
"It is a disappointment to me...I confess myself disappointed...."
One of the men suddenly flung himself forward, breaking the circle. Trembling from head to foot, he collapsed at Voldemort's feet.
"Master!" he shrieked, "Master, forgive me! Forgive us all!"
Voldemort began to laugh.
"Somehow, I don’t think he will." said Ernie.
He raised his wand.
The Death Eater on the ground writhed and shrieked; Harry was sure the sound must carry to the houses around....Let the police come, he thought desperately...anyone...anything...
"They’d be killed the moment they get too close." said Moody.
Voldemort raised his wand. The tortured Death Eater lay flat upon the ground, gasping.
"Get up, Avery," said Voldemort softly. "Stand up. You ask for forgiveness? I do not forgive. I do not forget. Thirteen long years...I want thirteen years' repayment before I forgive you. Wormtail here has paid some of his debt already, have you not, Wormtail?"
He looked down at Wormtail, who continued to sob.
"You returned to me, not out of loyalty, but out of fear of your old friends. You deserve this pain, Wormtail. You know that, don't you?"
"I’d say he’s paying for it on our side." said Remus darkly.
"Yes, Master," moaned Wormtail, "please. Master...please..."
"Yet you helped return me to my body," said Voldemort coolly, watching Wormtail sob on the ground. "Worthless and traitorous as you are, you helped me...and Lord Voldemort rewards his helpers...."
Voldemort raised his wand again and whirled it through the air. A streak of what looked like molten silver hung shining in the wand's wake. Momentarily shapeless, it writhed and then formed itself into a gleaming replica of a human hand, bright as moonlight, which soared downward and fixed itself upon Wormtail's bleeding wrist.
Sirius and Remus stared at the book.
"When and if we run into him again," said Sirius looking at Remus. "You don’t go near him."
Wormtail's sobbing stopped abruptly. His breathing harsh and ragged, he raised his head and stared in disbelief at the silver hand, now attached seamlessly to his arm, as though he were wearing a dazzling glove. He flexed the shining fingers, then, trembling, picked up a small twig on the ground and crushed it into powder.
"You seriously don’t go near him." said Sirius.
"My Lord," he whispered. "Master...it is beautiful...thank you...thank you...."
He scrambled forward on his knees and kissed the hem of Voldemort's robes.
"May your loyalty never waver again, Wormtail," said Voldemort.
"No, my Lord...never, my Lord..."
Wormtail stood up and took his place in the circle, staring at his powerful new hand, his face still shining with tears. Voldemort now approached the man on Wormtail's right.
"Lucius, my slippery friend," he whispered, halting before him. "I am told that you have not renounced the old ways, though to the world you present a respectable face. You are still ready to take the lead in a spot of Muggle-torture, I believe? Yet you never tried to find me, Lucius....Your exploits at the Quidditch World Cup were fun, I daresay...but might not your energies have been better directed toward finding and aiding your master?"
People sent sideways glances over to Draco, even shifted a little ways away from him.
"My Lord, I was constantly on the alert," came Lucius Malfoy's voice swiftly from beneath the hood. "Had there been any sign from you, any whisper of your whereabouts, I would have been at your side immediately, nothing could have prevented me -"
"And yet you ran from my Mark, when a faithful Death Eater sent it into the sky last summer?" said Voldemort lazily, and Mr. Malfoy stopped talking abruptly. "Yes, I know all about that, Lucius....You have disappointed me....I expect more faithful service in the future."
"Of course, my Lord, of course....You are merciful, thank you...."
"Wow, so far he’s the only one not to get hurt." said a third year Ravenclaw.
"Lucius must really be his favorite." said his friend.
Voldemort moved on, and stopped, staring at the space - large enough for two people - that separated Malfoy and the next man.
"The Lestranges should stand here," said Voldemort quietly. "But they are entombed in Azkaban.
"Where they belong." said Neville sharply.
They were faithful. They went to Azkaban rather than renounce me....When Azkaban is broken open, the Lestranges will be honored beyond their dreams. The dementors will join us...they are our natural allies...
"And you still want them around." said Tempest hotly, glaring at Fudge.
we will recall the banished giants...I shall have all my devoted servants returned to me, and an army of creatures whom all fear...."
He walked on. Some of the Death Eaters he passed in silence, but he paused before others and spoke to them.
"Macnair...destroying dangerous beasts for the Ministry of Magic now, Wormtail tells me? You shall have better victims than that soon, Macnair. Lord Voldemort will provide...."
"Thank you, Master...thank you," murmured Macnair.
"Would have thought that he’d be torturing him." said Leroy.
"Macnair was never completely proven to be a Death Eater." said Dumbledore. "Fudge dismissed the charges almost immediately."
"And here" - Voldemort moved on to the two largest hooded figures - "we have Crabbe...you will do better this time, will you not, Crabbe? And you, Goyle?"
They bowed clumsily, muttering dully.
"We will, Master...."
"Sound about as thick as their kids." said Dean.
"The same goes for you, Nott," said Voldemort quietly as he walked past a stooped figure in Mr. Goyles shadow.
"My Lord, I prostrate myself before you, I am your most faithful -"
"That will do," said Voldemort.
He had reached the largest gap of all, and he stood surveying it with his blank, red eyes, as though he could see people standing there.
"And here we have six missing Death Eaters...three dead in my service. One, too cowardly to return...he will pay.
"That would be Karkaroff." said Dumbledore thoughtfully.
One, who I believe has left me forever...he will be killed, of course...
Dumbledore looked over to Snape and he looked back.
and one, who remains my most faithful servant, and who has already reentered my service."
The Death Eaters stirred, and Harry saw their eyes dart sideways at one another through their masks.
"He is at Hogwarts, that faithful servant, and it was through his efforts that our young friend arrived here tonight....
Rudolph, Sirius and Remus began to snarl.
"Yes," said Voldemort, a grin curling his lipless mouth as the eyes of the circle flashed in Harry's direction. "Harry Potter has kindly joined us for my rebirthing party. One might go so far as to call him my guest of honor."
There was a silence. Then the Death Eater to the right of Wormtail stepped forward, and Lucius Malfoy's voice spoke from under the mask.
"Master, we crave to know...we beg you to tell us...how you have achieved this...this miracle...how you managed to return to us...."
"Is he trying to keep Harry alive as long as possible?" asked Angelina.
"No, he’s just trying to get in the Dark Lord’s good books." said Mr. Weasley.
"Ah, what a story it is, Lucius," said Voldemort. "And it begins - and ends - with my young friend here."
He walked lazily over to stand next to Harry, so that the eyes of the whole circle were upon the two of them. The snake continued to circle.
"You know, of course, that they have called this boy my downfall?" Voldemort said softly, his red eyes upon Harry, whose scar began to burn so fiercely that he almost screamed in agony.
Leroy ran his fingers through Harry’s hair.
"You all know that on the night I lost my powers and my body, I tried to kill him. His mother died in the attempt to save him - and unwittingly provided him with a protection I admit I had not foreseen....I could not touch the boy."
Voldemort raised one of his long white fingers and put it very close to Harry's cheek.
People raised their eyebrows.
"His mother left upon him the traces other sacrifice....This is old magic, I should have remembered it, I was foolish to overlook it...but no matter. I can touch him now."
Harry felt the cold tip of the long white finger touch him, and thought his head would burst with the pain. Voldemort laughed softly in his ear,
"It’s official, he’s a pervert." said Katie seriously.
then took the finger away and continued addressing the Death Eaters.
"I miscalculated, my friends, I admit it. My curse was deflected by the woman's foolish sacrifice, and it rebounded upon myself. Aaah...pain beyond pain, my friends; nothing could have prepared me for it. I was ripped from my body, I was less than spirit, less than the meanest ghost...but still, I was alive. What I was, even I do not know...I, who have gone further than anybody along the path that leads to immortality. You know my goal - to conquer death.
"He never will" said Dumbledore.
And now, I was tested, and it appeared that one or more of my experiments had worked...for I had not been killed, though the curse should have done it. Nevertheless, I was as powerless as the weakest creature alive, and without the means to help myself...for I had no body, and every spell that might have helped me required the use of a wand....
"I remember only forcing myself, sleeplessly, endlessly, second by second, to exist....I settled in a faraway place, in a forest, and I waited....Surely, one of my faithful Death Eaters would try and find me...one of them would come and perform the magic I could not, to restore me to a body..., but I waited in vain...."
"Cause they were happy you were gone." said Ron.
The shiver ran once more around the circle of listening Death Eaters. Voldemort let the silence spiral horribly before continuing.
"Only one power remained to me. I could possess the bodies of others. But I dared not go where other humans were plentiful, for I knew that the Aurors were still abroad and searching for me.
"I sometimes inhabited animals - snakes, of course, being my preference - but I was little better off inside them than as pure spirit, for their bodies were ill adapted to perform magic...and my possession of them shortened their lives; none of them lasted long....
"Poor things, they probably didn’t know what they were getting themselves into " said Luna.
"Then...four years ago...the means for my return seemed assured. A wizard - young, foolish, and gullible - wandered across my path in the forest I had made my home. Oh, he seemed the very chance I had been dreaming of...for he was a teacher at Dumbledore's school...
"Quirrell!" said a first year loudly.
he was easy to bend to my will...he brought me back to this country, and after a while, I took possession of his body, to supervise him closely as he carried out my orders. But my plan failed. I did not manage to steal the Sorcerer's Stone. I was not to be assured immortal life. I was thwarted...thwarted, once again, by Harry Potter...."
Silence once more; nothing was stirring, not even the leaves on the yew tree. The Death Eaters were quite motionless, the glittering eyes in their masks fixed upon Voldemort, and upon Harry.
"The servant died when I left his body, and I was left as weak as ever I had been," Voldemort continued. "I returned to my hiding place far away, and I will not pretend to you that I didn't then fear that I might never regain my powers....Yes, that was perhaps my darkest hour...I could not hope that I would be sent another wizard to possess...and I had given up hope, now, that any of my Death Eaters cared what had become of me...."
"I don’t rightly blame them for not caring what happened to you, you vile…" said Tonks.
One or two of the masked wizards in the circle moved uncomfortably, but Voldemort took no notice.
"And then, not even a year ago, when I had almost abandoned hope, it happened at last...a servant returned to me. Wormtail here, who had faked his own death to escape justice, was driven out of hiding by those he had once counted friends,
"He wasn’t driven out of hiding by his friends, it was the guilt and the threat of dying that did it." said Sirius with a cruel laugh.
and decided to return to his master. He sought me in the country where it had long been rumored I was hiding...helped, of course, by the rats he met along the way. Wormtail has a curious affinity with rats, do you not, Wormtail? His filthy little friends told him there was a place, deep in an Albanian forest, that they avoided, where small animals like themselves had met their deaths by a dark shadow that possessed them....
"So those poor snakes didn’t have much of a choice." said Dr. Clark shaking his head.
"But his journey back to me was not smooth, was it, Wormtail? For, hungry one night, on the edge of the very forest where he had hoped to find me, he foolishly stopped at an inn for some food...and who should he meet there, but one Bertha Jorkins, a witch from the Ministry of Magic.
"Well, she didn’t get lost, but she got kidnapped." said Mr. Diggory his voice was thick, he and his wife had were holding each other tightly. Deep down they didn’t want to believe that their son was killed by the Dark Lord, they wanted to think it was just an accident, but this brought things to light.
"Now see the way that fate favors Lord Voldemort. This might have been the end of Wormtail, and of my last hope for regeneration. But Wormtail - displaying a presence of mind I would never have expected from him - convinced Bertha Jorkins to accompany him on a nighttime stroll.
"She must have low standards." said Fred.
He overpowered her...
"I don’t want to know." said Sirius quickly.
he brought her to me. And Bertha Jorkins, who might have ruined all, proved instead to be a gift beyond my wildest dreams...for - with a little persuasion - she became a veritable mine of information.
"Not everyone can resist his kind of persuasion." said Moody.
"She told me that the Triwizard Tournament would be played at Hogwarts this year. She told me that she knew of a faithful Death Eater who would be only too willing to help me, if I could only contact him.
"How the hell could she know that?" asked Bill.
"She must have seen Crouch’s son on accident." said Flitwick.
She told me many things...but the means I used to break the Memory Charm upon her were powerful, and when I had extracted all useful information from her, her mind and body were both damaged beyond repair.
"Her body?" said Remus.
"I don’t want to think about that either." said Sirius.
She had now served her purpose. I could not possess her. I disposed of her."
Voldemort smiled his terrible smile, his red eyes blank and pitiless.
"Wormtail's body, of course, was ill adapted for possession, as all assumed him dead, and would attract far too much attention if noticed. However, he was the able-bodied servant I needed, and, poor wizard though he is, Wormtail was able to follow the instructions I gave him, which would return me to a rudimentary, weak body of my own, a body I would be able to inhabit while awaiting the essential ingredients for true rebirth...a spell or two of my own invention...
"He was still a very brilliant wizard, if only he had used his mind and magic for good purposes." said Dumbledore.
a little help from my dear Nagini," Voldemort's red eyes fell upon the continually circling snake, "a potion concocted from unicorn blood,
Many people flinched and looked mournful.
and the snake venom Nagini provided...I was soon returned to an almost human form, and strong enough to travel.
"There was no hope of stealing the Sorcerer's Stone anymore, for I knew that Dumbledore would have seen to it that it was destroyed. But I was willing to embrace mortal life again, before chasing immortality. I set my sights lower...I would settle for my old body back again, and my old strength.
"Which is close enough to immortality if you ask me." said Ron quietly.
"I knew that to achieve this - it is an old piece of Dark Magic, the potion that revived me tonight - I would need three powerful ingredients. Well, one of them was already at hand, was it not, Wormtail? Flesh given by a servant....
"My father's bone, naturally, meant that we would have to come here, where he was buried. But the blood of a foe...Wormtail would have had me use any wizard, would you not, Wormtail? Any wizard who had hated me...as so many of them still do. But I knew the one I must use, if I was to rise again, more powerful than I had been when I had fallen. I wanted Harry Potter’s blood. I wanted the blood of the one who had stripped me of power thirteen years ago...for the lingering protection his mother once gave him would then reside in my veins too....
"Wish that he turned into people jerky like Quirrell did." spat George.
"But how to get at Harry Potter? For he has been better protected than I think even he knows, protected in ways devised by Dumbledore long ago,
"And a few that even he wasn’t aware of." said Dr. Nicodemus.
when it fell to him to arrange the boy's future. Dumbledore invoked an ancient magic, to ensure the boy's protection as long as he is in his relations' care. Not even I can touch him there....
"And he won’t be able to hurt you with us near you." said Leroy brushing the hair out of Harry’s eyes.
Then, of course, there was the Quidditch World Cup....I thought his protection might be weaker there, away from his relations and Dumbledore, but I was not yet strong enough to attempt kidnap in the midst of a horde of Ministry wizards. And then, the boy would return to Hogwarts, where he is under the crooked nose of that Muggle-loving fool from morning until night. So how could I take him?
The people standing around the bowl and in the bowl reached in and placed a hand protectively on Harry.
"Why...by using Bertha Jorkins's information, of course. Use my one faithful Death Eater, stationed at Hogwarts, to ensure that the boy's name was entered into the Goblet of Fire.
Rudolph and Leroy bared their teeth angrily.
Use my Death Eater to ensure that the boy won the tournament - that he touched the Triwizard Cup first - the cup which my Death Eater had turned into a Portkey, which would bring him here, beyond the reach of Dumbledore's help and protection, and into my waiting arms.
And here he is...the boy you all believed had been my downfall...."
Voldemort moved slowly forward and turned to face Harry. He raised his wand.
"No!" screamed the people in the Great Hall.
It was pain beyond anything Harry had ever experienced; his very bones were on fire; his head was surely splitting along his scar; his eyes were rolling madly in his head; he wanted it to end...to black out...to die...
Sirius clutched at Harry tightly, as did everyone near them.
And then it was gone. He was hanging limply in the ropes binding him to the headstone of Voldemort's father, looking up into those bright red eyes through a kind of mist. The night was ringing with the sound of the Death Eaters' laughter.
"You see, I think, how foolish it was to suppose that this boy could ever have been stronger than me," said Voldemort. "But I want there to be no mistake in anybody's mind. Harry Potter escaped me by a lucky chance.
"It wasn’t luck." snarled Remus.
And I am now going to prove my power by killing him, here and now, in front of you all, when there is no Dumbledore to help him, and no mother to die for him. I will give him his chance. He will be allowed to fight, and you will be left in no doubt which of us is the stronger.
We already know Harry is!" shouted a first year loudly.
Just a little longer, Nagini," he whispered, and the snake glided away through the grass to where the Death Eaters stood watching.
"Now untie him, Wormtail, and give him back his wand."
Mrs. McFinn whimpered.
"Don’t bother switching hands, just get it over with." said Chief Hawkeye.
Lionus read out loud. "Priori Incatatem."
The next morning, a thought struck Mrs. McFinn and Dr. Clark and they went to Dumbledore to ask him on his feelings.
"Albus, I know we’ve had several parties lately, but, Friday evening, it’s the fifth." said Dr. Clark.
"Yes…" said Dumbledore looking up at the two of them over his cup of morning tea.
"Well, back home, the fifth is Bonfire Night. Friday evening, the kids could enjoy themselves with a large bonfire or something, fireworks, games, they could even make something if they wish." said Mrs. McFinn excitedly.
Dumbledore put his teacup down, and looked up at them with a bright twinkle in his eye. "Why not, I think they would enjoy it immensely. I’ll get the staff together to organize it, with your help of course."
"I'd love too!" said Mrs. McFinn excitedly.
Once they left Dr. Clark turned to Mrs. McFinn. "You didn't mention that it would help Harry get through this."
"He knew, and he agrees." said Mrs. McFinn somberly. "That's why he agreed so quickly."
When the students heard about the new party coming in two days, they were excited.
"I wonder what we’re going to have?" asked a seventh year girl.
Dumbledore walked up and bent down to speak in Mrs. McFinn's ear. "I’ll speak to the staff and we’ll see what we can organize, I think the distraction might do some of us good with this book and those to come." said Dumbledore quietly to Mrs. McFinn, sending a pointed look over to Harry who was sitting between Leroy and Rudolph today. Mrs. McFinn and Dr. Clark switched spots with them so they could offer all the comfort in the world to them. It also saved from Harry being torn apart.
"I’ll take up the reading." said Dr. Nicodemus. He cleared his throat and read aloud. "Flesh, Blood and Bone."
Harry felt his feet slam into the ground; his injured leg gave way, and he fell forward; his hand let go of the Triwizard Cup at last. He raised his head.
"Where are we?" he said.
"Shouldn’t you be back where the thing started?" asked Dr. Clark.
Cedric shook his head. He got up, pulled Harry to his feet, and they looked around.
They had left the Hogwarts grounds completely; they had obviously traveled miles - perhaps hundreds of miles - for even the mountains surrounding the castle were gone.
Mrs. Diggory and Mr. Diggory began to hold each other tightly.
They were standing instead in a dark and overgrown graveyard; the black outline of a small church was visible beyond a large yew tree to their right. A hill rose above them to their left. Harry could just make out the outline of a fine old house on the hillside.
"Hang on, you’re in Little Hangleton aren’t you?" said Leroy in shock. "You mentioned that town earlier, this has to be it's reentry."
Harry brought his knees up to chest and held them there.
"We got you." said Rudolph wrapping his arms around his nephew.
Cedric looked down at the Triwizard Cup and then up at Harry.
"Did anyone tell you the cup was a Portkey?" he asked.
"Nope," said Harry. He was looking around the graveyard. It was completely silent and slightly eerie. "Is this supposed to be part of the task?"
"I dunno," said Cedric. He sounded slightly nervous. "Wands out, d'you reckon?"
"You really had to think of that?" asked Moody quietly. He didn’t want to speak too loudly, even he had tact.
"Yeah," said Harry, glad that Cedric had made the suggestion rather than him.
They pulled out their wands. Harry kept looking around him. He had, yet again, the strange feeling that they were being watched.
"Someone's coming," he said suddenly.
Dumbledore looked up suddenly.
Squinting tensely through the darkness, they watched the figure drawing nearer, walking steadily toward them between the graves. Harry couldn't make out a face, but from the way it was walking and holding its arms, he could tell that it was carrying something. Whoever it was, he was short, and wearing a hooded cloak pulled up over his head to obscure his face. And - several paces nearer, the gap between them closing all the time –
"Get out of there!" said Tonks fearfully.
"I wish." said Harry thickly.
The ones closest to him wrapped their arms tighter around him.
Harry saw that the thing in the persons arms looked like a baby...or was it merely a bundle of robes?
Harry lowered his wand slightly and glanced sideways at Cedric. Cedric shot him a quizzical look. They both turned back to watch the approaching figure.
It stopped beside a towering marble headstone, only six feet from them. For a second. Harry and Cedric and the short figure simply looked at one another.
"Probably didn’t expect two people there." said Sirius darkly.
And then, without warning, Harry's scar exploded with pain. It was agony such as he had never felt in all his life; his wand slipped from his fingers as he put his hands over his face; his knees buckled; he was on the ground and he could see nothing at all; his head was about to split open.
Mr. and Mrs. Diggory turned and looked at Harry with bloodshot eyes.
From far away, above his head, he heard a high, cold voice say, "Kill the spare."
A swishing noise and a second voice, which screeched the words to the night: "Avada Kedavra!"
A blast of green light blazed through Harry's eyelids, and he heard something heavy fall to the ground beside him;
Mrs. Diggory and Mr. Diggory cringed and sobbed in each other’s arms.
"I should have been stronger, I should have gotten him out of there." said Harry.
"Harry…there was nothing you could do, you did everything possible." said Sirius rubbing the back of Harry’s neck as he stood behind him.
"Tom knew you would try and protect Cedric, he had to incapacitate you before he could make a move." said Dumbledore softly.
the pain in his scar reached such a pitch that he retched, and then it diminished; terrified of what he was about to see, he opened his stinging eyes.
Dumbledore went over and stood behind Harry, placing a hand on the boy’s shoulder.
Cedric was lying spread-eagled on the ground beside him. He was dead.
Professor Sprout wrapped her arms around the two parents of her old student.
For a second that contained an eternity, Harry stared into Cedric's face, at his open gray eyes, blank and expressionless as the windows of a deserted house, at his half-open mouth, which looked slightly surprised. And then, before Harry's mind had accepted what he was seeing, before he could feel anything but numb disbelief, he felt himself being pulled to his feet.
"Best step up the therapist." muttered Lionus to Dr. Nicodemus.
Dr. Nicodemus set the book down for a brief moment, took out a piece of paper, scribbled a quick note and set it on fire. The ashes, instead of falling to the ground, flew up and out of sight.
"Here’s hoping Glacier sends one that’s suitable." said Dr. Nicodemus.
"Yeah, the last thing the boy needs is Driller to use physical exertion to make him ‘feel better.’" said Lionus.
The short man in the cloak had put down his bundle, lit his wand, and was dragging Harry toward the marble headstone. Harry saw the name upon it flickering in the wandlight before he was forced around and slammed against it.
Several people began to hold each other out of fear…so…this meant…the Dark Lord was back…
The cloaked man was now conjuring tight cords around Harry, tying him from neck to ankles to the headstone.
Fudge was looking as if he were slapped.
Umbridge was returned to her normal form, but immediately was silenced by Nightstirke.
Harry could hear shallow, fast breathing from the depths of the hood; he struggled, and the man hit him - hit him with a hand that had a finger missing.
"Hit you? What do you mean, hit you?" asked Remus hotly.
"Harry was starting to fight back, so he punched Harry." said Sirius with a hand on Harry’s shoulder. Despite his extended family surrounding him, Harry still had his head between his knees.
"How do you know that?" asked Remus.
"Dumbledore told me what he saw in Harry's eyes." whispered Sirius. "And we saw the bruise."
And Harry realized who was under the hood. It was Wormtail.
"You!" he gasped.
But Wormtail, who had finished conjuring the ropes, did not reply; he was busy checking the tightness of the cords, his fingers trembling uncontrollably, fumbling over the knots. Once sure that Harry was bound so tightly to the headstone that he couldn't move an inch,
Mrs. McFinn was sobbing uncontrollably. This man was going to hurt her baby!
Wormtail drew a length of some black material from the inside of his cloak and stuffed it roughly into Harry's mouth;
Mrs. Diggory and Mr. Diggory pulled apart slightly to look at Dr. Nicodemus and then back to Harry.
then, without a word, he turned from Harry and hurried away. Harry couldn't make a sound, nor could he see where Wormtail had gone; he couldn't turn his head to see beyond the headstone; he could see only what was right in front of him.
Amongst the students, with the exception of a few Slytherins, there wasn’t a dry eye among them.
Cedric's body was lying some twenty feet away. Some way beyond him, glinting in the starlight, lay the Triwizard Cup. Harry's wand was on the ground at Cedric's feet. The bundle of robes that Harry had thought was a baby was close by, at the foot of the grave. It seemed to be stirring fretfully. Harry watched it, and his scar seared with pain again...and he suddenly knew that he didn't want to see what was in those robes...he didn't want that bundle opened....
Cho was being comforted by several of her friends.
Ginny was shivering so badly that Fred George had picked her up and cuddled with her. Ron and Hermione was crying quietly over on their sofa, the same thing went with Ron’s parents.
The teaching staff were white as sheets, and Hagrid’s hands were gripping the armrests of his chair tightly, threatening to smash them into toothpicks.
He could hear noises at his feet. He looked down and saw a gigantic snake slithering through the grass, circling the headstone where he was tied. Wormtail's fast, wheezy breathing was growing louder again. It sounded as though he was forcing something heavy across the ground. Then he came back within Harry's range of vision, and Harry saw him pushing a stone cauldron to the foot of the grave. It was full of what seemed to be water - Harry could hear it slopping around - and it was larger than any cauldron Harry had ever used; a great stone belly large enough for a full-grown man to sit in.
Harry flinched again in the arms of his family.
"Shh…it’s okay, it’ll be okay." said Leroy soothingly.
"Harry…do you want to sleep during this?" asked Dumbledore softly. He at first thought hearing it again would benefit Harry, help him put it behind him. But it was only causing the both of them heartache, he hated seeing him like this, but it was nothing compared to what Harry was feeling.
Harry shook his head. "No…I…wanna hear."
The thing inside the bundle of robes on the ground was stirring more persistently, as though it was trying to free itself. Now Wormtail was busying himself at the bottom of the cauldron with a wand. Suddenly there were crackling names beneath it. The large snake slithered away into the darkness.
The liquid in the cauldron seemed to heat very fast. The surface began not only to bubble, but to send out fiery sparks, as though it were on fire. Steam was thickening, blurring the outline of Wormtail tending the fire. The movements beneath the robes became more agitated. And Harry heard the high, cold voice again.
Dr. Nicodemus had to take a breath, this was getting a bit intense.
Chief Hawkeye looked sideways at the boy being cocooned by the arms of his family. This was too much for a boy to handle, he wouldn’t force his Rangers on the boy any longer. If the boy wanted to join he’d come to him, if not, no hard feelings, but he still wanted to stick around and hear what had and would transpire in his life.
The whole surface of the water was alight with sparks now. It might have been encrusted with diamonds.
"It is ready. Master."
"Now..." said the cold voice.
Wormtail pulled open the robes on the ground, revealing what was inside them, and Harry let out a yell that was strangled in the wad of material blocking his mouth.
"That doesn’t sound good." said Lee holding onto Katie’s hand.
It was as though Wormtail had flipped over a stone and revealed something ugly, slimy, and blind - but worse, a hundred times worse. The thing Wormtail had been carrying had the shape of a crouched human child, except that Harry had never seen anything less like a child. It was hairless and scaly-looking, a dark, raw, reddish black. Its arms and legs were thin and feeble, and its face - no child alive ever had a face like that - flat and snakelike, with gleaming red eyes.
McGonagall put a hand over her mouth in horror.
The thing seemed almost helpless; it raised its thin arms, put them around Wormtail's neck, and Wormtail lifted it. As he did so, his hood fell back, and Harry saw the look of revulsion on Wormtail's weak, pale face in the firelight as he carried the creature to the rim of the cauldron.
"I don’t blame him one bit." said Sirius.
For one moment, Harry saw the evil, flat face illuminated in the sparks dancing on the surface of the potion. And then Wormtail lowered the creature into the cauldron; there was a hiss, and it vanished below the surface; Harry heard its frail body hit the bottom with a soft thud.
"Please drown, please drown." said Ernie muttering to himself.
Let it drown, Harry thought, his scar burning almost past endurance, please...let it drown....
"You’re endurance shouldn’t be that high." said Lionus softly.
Wormtail was speaking. His voice shook; he seemed frightened beyond his wits. He raised his wand, closed his eyes, and spoke to the night.
"Bone of the father, unknowingly given, you will renew your son!"
Chief Hawkeye turned and stared at the book in Dr. Nicodemus’ hands.
The surface of the grave at Harry's feet cracked. Horrified, Harry watched as a fine trickle of dust rose into the air at Wormtail's command and fell softly into the cauldron. The diamond surface of the water broke and hissed; it sent sparks in all directions and turned a vivid, poisonous-looking blue.
"Blue blood." muttered Dr. Nicodemus darkly. "His whole family was venomous too."
And now Wormtail was whimpering. He pulled a long, thin, shining silver dagger from inside his cloak. His voice broke into petrified sobs.
"Flesh - of the servant - w-willingly given - you will - revive - your master."
He stretched his right hand out in front of him - the hand with the missing finger. He gripped the dagger very tightly in his left hand and swung it upward.
Harry realized what Wormtail was about to do a second before it happened - he closed his eyes as tightly as he could, but he could not block the scream that pierced the night, that went through Harry as though he had been stabbed with the dagger too.
Remus and Sirius both flinched.
"How could he toss in his cards with him, we never asked him to do that for us." said Remus with a pained look.
"He’s a treacherous idiot." whispered Sirius.
He heard something fall to the ground, heard Wormtail's anguished panting, then a sickening splash, as something was dropped into the cauldron. Harry couldn't stand to look...but the potion had turned a burning red; the light of it shone through Harry's closed eyelids....
Dr. Clark held his stomach.
Wormtail was gasping and moaning with agony. Not until Harry felt Wormtail's anguished breath on his face did he realize that Wormtail was right in front of him.
"B-blood of the enemy...forcibly taken...you will...resurrect your foe."
"NO!" shouted several people aloud.
Harry could do nothing to prevent it, he was tied too tightly....Squinting down, struggling hopelessly at the ropes binding him, he saw the shining silver dagger shaking in Wormtail's remaining hand. He felt its point penetrate the crook of his right arm and blood seeping down the sleeve of his torn robes. Wormtail, still panting with pain, rumbled in his pocket for a glass vial and held it to Harry's cut, so that a dribble of blood fell into it.
"He saved your life, you bastard!" said Charlie angrily to the book.
He staggered back to the cauldron with Harry's blood. He poured it inside. The liquid within turned, instantly, a blinding white. Wormtail, his job done, dropped to his knees beside the cauldron, then slumped sideways and lay on the ground, cradling the bleeding stump of his arm, gasping and sobbing.
The cauldron was simmering, sending its diamond sparks in all directions, so blindingly bright that it turned all else to velvety blackness. Nothing happened....
"S-See…he’s not back." said Fudge hopefully.
"I’m not done yet." said Dr. Nicodemus darkly.
Let it have drowned. Harry thought, let it have gone wrong...
And then, suddenly, the sparks emanating from the cauldron were extinguished. A surge of white steam billowed thickly from the cauldron instead, obliterating everything in front of Harry, so that he couldn't see Wormtail or Cedric or anything but vapor hanging in the air....It's gone wrong, he thought...it's drowned ...please...please let it be dead....
But then, through the mist in front of him, he saw, with an icy surge of terror, the dark outline of a man, tall and skeletally thin, rising slowly from inside the cauldron.
Fudge’s eyes opened wide in terror.
"Robe me," said the high, cold voice from behind the steam, and Wormtail, sobbing and moaning, still cradling his mutilated arm, scrambled to pick up the black robes from the ground, got to his feet, reached up, and pulled them one-handed over his master's head.
The thin man stepped out of the cauldron, staring at Harry...and Harry stared back into the face that had haunted his nightmares for three years. Whiter than a skull, with wide, livid scarlet eyes and a nose that was flat as a snakes with slits for nostrils...
Lord Voldemort had risen again.
Silence ensued them all, Umbridge was the only one moving. She was trying hard to remove her gag, finally she removed it, though she yelped in pain.
"He’s NOT back!" screeched Umbridge.
"Delores…these books are incapable of lying." said Fudge slowly. "He…he is back."
"Of course he isn’t!" said Umbridge but her gag and binds returned.
"That’s enough of that." said Lionus shortly. He then took the book from the Ranger Doctor. "Let’s get this book over with. The Death Eaters."
Draco looked down.
Harry rubbed his hand down his face slowly. He wasn't looking forward to this, he just wanted it all to end so he wouldn't be dreading the Diggorys hearing about it first hand. He made to stand up and go downstairs and relieve some of his stress when Bill cried out.
"Here we go again!"
Harry looked over and saw a giant scroll unfurling itself and begin to glow brightly.
"Awesome it's a good one!" said Charlie.
The light covered the entire Great Hall and everyone disappeared from sight.
They found themselves in a richly colored bedroom, that Mrs. McFinn immediately recognized as her own and marveled at her past self brushing her hair in front of her vanity mirror.
"James, when are you going to go and get your suit?" said Mrs. McFinn of the past brushing her hair.
The Watchers turned to see who she was talking to, tears came to Dr. Clark, Mrs. McFinn’s and Harry’s eyes as they saw the man sitting in bed reading a book by the light of the bedside lamp.
"J-James." said Mrs. McFinn taking the handkerchief that Dumbledore gave her in her shaking hands.
"Well...uh..." said James. "Soon."
Mrs. McFinn hiccuped a laugh. "He always was a procrastinator."
"How about tomorrow?" said Holly said with a smile. "That way we can get a little suit for Harry, and pick up Sam's from the cleaners, his had some cocktail stains on it."
"This is before the first Garden Party we took Harry to!" said Mrs. McFinn excitedly.
"Good! They were asking about this moment." said Dr. Clark.
"Sure. That sounds like fun." said James with a smirk, "Taking a poor little innocent little kid out to look for an outfit that's going to choke his throat. That won't scar him for life."
"It was traumatizing alright." said Harry with a laugh.
"oh stop it, you were adorable." said Mrs. McFinn.
"Suits aren't like that." said Holly putting her hands on her hips. "They look handsome and dashing."
"Says the woman who's never worn one." said James laughing.
"God, he sounds just like our James." said Sirius with a smile.
"Well, if he doesn't like a suit, we can get a different outfit." said Holly as she climbed into their king size bed, her husband put the book down on his nightstand and turned the lamp off.
"I think we’d better leave." said Bill quickly.
"Think we'd better plan on him wearing something else. It's a garden party, little boys and dirt get along WAY too well." said James. "And I don't think we can ask them to use their washing machine."
The scene zoomed ahead. They were now standing outside the Dursley’s house and watched as Officer McFinn and Mrs. McFinn come walking up the way.
"Good, I don’t’ think these kids know about the birds and the bees yet." said Tonks with a giggle.
Officer McFinn rapped on the door smartly, and waited. Within a moment, Vernon answered the door.
"Well, what do you want?" said Vernon sourly.
"Nothing more than to beat the bloody hell out of you." snarled Sirius.
"I'm here to take Harry out. We need to get him a formal outfit." said Officer McFinn.
"What on earth for?" said Petunia, who came out when she heard the word 'formal'.
"Quit being nosy." said Angelina.
"We're going to the Queen's Garden Party in a month," said Mrs. McFinn, who was standing beside her husband, took Harry's hand as he hurried out. "and Harry'll need a nice outfit."
"The Queen's?" said Petunia, she looked ready to faint.
"That's right." said Officer McFinn.
"How did you get invited?" said Vernon angrily.
"Being on the police force helped." said Officer McFinn with a smile. "As well as serving our country."
Vernon flushed. "How do you know I didn't serve the Queen?"
Officer McFinn looked him up and down. "I severely doubt it. Guys go to seed, but not this bad."
"Burn!" shouted the twins together loudly.
"Come on Harry, lets go get your outfit all picked up." said Mrs. McFinn.
The scene shifted once more and they found themselves in a tailor’s shop, suits and jackets all over the place.
Mrs. McFinn of the past walked straight over to an elderly man with a long cloth tape measure, who was straightening out a pair of slacks on a counter.
"Oh, I miss Mr. Griffon, he still sends me Christmas cards every year." said Mrs. McFinn happily.
"Ah! Miss Holly!" said the old man coming out from behind the counter and giving her a kiss on each cheek. "You get prettier everyday."
"Oh, stop." said Mrs. McFinn with a blush. "We came to get James' suit altered, Mr. Griffon."
"Alright, James, you know the drill." said the man with a smile to James.
"James was his favorite customer, they loved picking on each other." said Mrs. McFinn with a giggle.
"Yeah, yeah. put the monkey suit on." said James grumbling slightly. He took the suit into a changing room and closed the door behind him.
"Also, I need a nice little formal outfit for Harry." said Mrs. McFinn pushing Harry forward slightly.
"Hello there little chap!" said Mr. Griffon kindly as Harry looked up shyly.
"Hello." said Harry quietly.
"Harry, you are just too adorable!" cooed a few seventh year girls.
"He needs an outfit for the Queen's Garden Party. Something wash-and-wear though please." said Mrs. McFinn with a smile. "Just in case he gets into mischief."
"Of course, let's see, I think something green...to go with your eyes." said Mr. Griffon walking towards a small rack of children's clothes.
He took several different outfits off the racks and placed them gently on the counter, soon Officer McFinn came out. As he straightened his tie, the girls began to squeal loudly.
"He’s so handsome!" said a few girls.
"Yes he was." said Mrs. McFinn with a watery smile.
Dr. Clark hugged Mrs. McFinn supportively.
"James, you really need to wear that suit more often." said Mrs. McFinn walking over and kissing her husband. "You look absolutely dashing."
"Well, it doesn't look like you gained weight." said Mr. Griffon walking around James quickly.
"No, I had an easy time getting into this thing, this year." said Officer McFinn. "Not like two years ago."
"Hmm...that means you lost weight then. That's good, stand on here, and I get the alterations done." said the man taking a large pincushion out of a drawer.
The scene shifted once more and this time they found themselves back in the McFinn household.
The Dr. Clark of the past was helping Harry with his little green bow tie.
"I don't like bow ties." said Harry with a frown.
"Oh! But you look so cute!" said Alica and Katie together.
"I don't either, but it's a formal affair." said Dr. Clark as he finished with the bow. "And it's for the Queen, you want to look nice for her, don't you?"
"Yes sir." said Harry.
Officer McFinn came out adjusting his own tie. "How's it going?"
"Harry's all set. How about Holly?" asked Dr. Clark.
"I'm all done." said Mrs. McFinn coming out in a simple blue dress, with a white flower in her hair. She was busy trying to put on a locket around her neck.
"You look absolutely lovely." said Dumbledore with a smile.
"James, could you help me?" she said.
"Sure thing," he reached over and quickly clasped the necklace around her neck. "You look stunning by the way."
"You're sweet." she said with a smile and reached up to kiss her husband. "Are we all set?"
"I think so." said Dr. Clark standing up.
"Yes, ma'am." said Harry with a smile.
"Okay, Harry, you mind your manners alright?" said Officer McFinn.
"Yes sir." said Harry with a bright smile.
The scene shifted again, this time they were in a large garden.
"All this zooming around is making me ill again." said Neville.
The Watchers looked over and saw the McFinn’s Dr. Clark and Harry coming up with a small group of police officers walking with them.
"We were afraid you weren't going to make it this year." said one of them clapping Officer McFinn on the back.
"You know I make it every year." said Officer McFinn with a smirk.
"Yeah, but you always say you don't want to come." said the other with a smirk.
"You never try and get out of it..." said Mrs. McFinn.
"Well....it's a just..." said Officer McFinn.
"I know..." said Mrs. McFinn giving her husband a kiss.
"He always went to the parties for me." said Mrs. McFinn wiping her eyes.
"Harry! Where are you going?" asked Dr. Clark. But Harry was heading at a dead run towards the flower gardens.
"Harry! You shouldn’t run away like that! Anything could have happened to you!" said Mrs. Weasley.
"In the Queen’s presence? No one would have dared." said Harry with a smile.
"Don't worry about him." said one of the men with a laugh. "There's more security here then at the Louve."
"He must have seen some tiger lilies." said Mrs. McFinn.
"They were always your favorite." said the older Mrs. McFinn, then she looked over and she and her past self looked over and said the same thing.
"Oh, sweet lord." said the Mrs. McFinn of the past clutching her husband's arm and the present Mrs. McFinn clutching Dr. Clark’s.
"What's wrong?" said Dr. Clark.
"It's my mother." said Holly. "Quick, lets go..."
"Yes, can’t we skip this part?" asked the older Mrs. McFinn.
"Holly! Dear Heart!" said Mrs. McFinn's mother sweeping over to her daughter once she caught sight of her and engulfed her into a large hug and kissed her on both of her cheeks.
She looked just like Mrs. McFinn, only her brownish hair was turning a sort of gray and her demenor had a sort of snobbery about it. Her clothes were down with the obviously the finest material and she had no problem showing them off to people who might not be able to afford them.
"Sweetie! I was starting to worry you'd never show up!" said her mother pompously.
"I didn't tell you I was..." said Holly quickly.
"Well, honestly, dear, where else would a Lindor be except the Queen's garden party?" she said with a fake laugh.
"God, she reminds me of Umbridge." said Ron.
"I was thinking of Aunt Muriel." said Charlie.
"Now I know why Holly doesn't talk to her mother all that often." said Sam to James in a whisper.
"Just wait, it gets worse." said James whispering back.
"Come over here dear. I want to introduce you to someone, he's third cousin to the Prince of Wales." said her mother simperingly. "You two would make a charming couple."
"Doesn’t she realize you’re happily married?" asked Sirius.
"No, she never has." said Mrs. McFinn shaking her head.
"Mother, I've told you, I'm married." said Holly with a slight growl.
"Don't growl like that dear, it's unbecoming." said her mother absently. "Hello, Charles, this is my daughter, Holly."
"Hello, Miss Lindor. You're more beautiful than your mother described." said the man bowing low.
He was a tall man, with salt and pepper hair, a straight nose, and wore a tailored made suit.
"Well, he’s not a bad looker." said Angelina.
"But you’re married." said Parvati.
"Uh...Good day." said Holly uncertainly. "I apologize for whatever my mother said, but I'm happily married, and he's right over there" she pointed over to where James and Sam were.
"But your mother..." said the man with confused look.
"Yes, but the marriage just isn't right, she's not happy." said her mother trying to save face.
"I am very happy mother." said Holly shortly. "I just said I was."
"How can you dear? That man cannot give you all the things you need!" laughed her mother.
"He gives me love. That is more than enough for me." said Holly getting more and more irritated.
"I really hate to tell her, but I love it when she defends me." said James quietly to Sam.
Mrs. McFinn blushed.
"I don't blame you." said Sam.
They felt themselves being forced a little ways away, until they were hovering around Harry who was smelling the different tiger lilies and stroking the petals softly. "These are so pretty." he said quietly.
"Harry, you are way too precious." cooed Hermione.
"Argh, not you too!" said Harry.
"Hello there, dear." said a kind voice from behind him.
They turned and saw the Queen herself standing behind them.
"Holy crap!" said Ron in shock.
"I’ve never been this close to royalty before." said Colin with an excited whisper.
"H-hello, y-your M-M-Magjesty." said Harry stammering.
"Are you enjoying yourself?" said the Queen kindly.
"Yes ma'am. You're flowers are so pretty." said Harry humbly.
"Yes, they are." said the Queen with a smile. "I am quite fond of them."
"Miss Holly would love one." said Harry. "She has a bunch in her front garden."
"Would you like to give her one?" she said with a smile.
"Harry! You drive me nuts!" said Lee.
"Oh, yes!" gushed Harry. "Are you sure I can?"
"Ah, but you're so cute, I can forgive you!" said Lee pretending to pat younger Harry's head.
"Shoot me." said Harry rolling his eyes.
"Brentson? Please give this boy the best pair of tiger lilies we have." said the Queen to one of the passing gardeners.
"Please, your Majesty." said Harry shyly. "I can just have one. I don't want to take two, they belong here."
"As you wish, dear boy." said the Queen with a smile. "Just one then Brentson."
The gardener handed him a single lily and they smiled as they watched Harry run swiftly away.
"Such a dear little thing." said Queen with a smile.
Suddenly they heard a horrifying scream.
"What the hell is that?’ said Tonks quickly.
"My lady!" said the gardener.
"Come along, I have a feeling, I know what it is about. If Astoria is here, then we might have a bit more excitement, than normal. " said the Queen with a rueful smile.
She walked regally over to where she could hear a woman's voice shrieking out for the security.
"How dare you! You defiled the royal gardens!" said the woman shrieking loudly.
"Who does she think she is?" asked George.
"She thinks she’s royalty." said Mrs. McFinn rolling her eyes.
"I gave him that flower." said the Queen, walking behind Harry. The woman stopped screaming instantly. "He asked if he could have one for his Miss Holly."
"I pressed that lily into a book, I'll keep it forever." said Mrs. McFinn with a watery smile.
Mrs. McFinn blushed heavily and nervously took the lily. Her mother was utterly speechless.
"You have a very well behaved child here." said the Queen graciously. "He was raised well."
"That's up for debate." said Officer McFinn grumbling quietly.
"Why do you say that, Mr. McFinn?" asked the Queen. James looked shocked that she knew his name.
"W-well, your Majesty, he grew up in less than loving circumstances." said Officer McFinn stuttering slightly.
"Should I get involved?" said the Queen with a commanding look.
"Please no ma'am." said Harry quickly.
The adults beside him looked down at him in surprise, except for Astoria Lindor, who was still gaping at the Queen.
"Why do you say that dear?" said Mrs. McFinn.
"Uncle Vernon, he....." said Harry quietly. "Don't want anyone else to get in trouble."
"Dear, what if I say that I cannot get into trouble?" said the Queen kindly.
Harry looked down uncertainly.
"Well, if...." said Harry quietly.
"I'll look into it." said the Queen majestically. "And we will see what transpires."
"Yes ma'am." said Harry quietly.
The rest of the garden party went as smoothly as ever after that. Mrs. McFinn wore the lily in her hair for the rest of the day, and did her best to avoid her mother. Strangely, the Queen took a shine to Harry and didn't allow him too far away from her.
"She must have been really fond of you." said Hermione in awe.
"Look at all the people your meeting." said Percy excitedly.
"Harry, this is the Prime Minister." said the Queen gently.
"Hello sir." said Harry meekly.
"Hello, young man." said the man gently "I've never seen you take to a child like this." he added to the Queen.
"This one is special...I have a feeling..." said the Queen to herself.
Officer McFinn, Mrs. McFinn and Dr. Clark, were looking at shock over to Harry and the Queen.
"All of a sudden, I remembering the Track races and when I said the thing about the royal ball." said Holly quietly.
"Yeah, that's been beating through my brain too." said Sam.
"Maybe, with her help, we'll get Harry!" said Holly excitedly.
"I hope so too." said James. "But I can't help but be skeptical."
The light came back and deposited them back in the Great Hall.
"Man, that was sort of a zippy Scroll." said Charlie.
"Yeah, but at least it was a good one." said Bill. "I’ll handle whatever they send me, as long as it’s a good one."
"So, not even the Queen could get you out?" said Sirius.
"No, not too sure why, I think Uncle Vernon might have bribed him somehow." said Harry softly.
"Well, dinner is here, should we tuck in and then go to bed?" asked Dumbledore with a kind smile.
"I’d rather just go to bed, the sooner I go to bed, the sooner I get up and the sooner this book gets over with." said Harry.
Snape rolled his eyes, walked over and handed him a phial. "Drink this." said Snape.
"Thanks sir." said Harry politely and downed the contents in one gulp.
"Severus, could you escort Harry up to the suite he’s staying in. I’d be most grateful." said Dumbledore innocently.
"Make the mutt take him." said Snape.
"I can make it on my own." said Harry.
"Nonsense Harry." said Dumbledore putting a silencing and freezing charm on Sirius. "Severus, please go up with Harry."
"I refuse." said Snape boredly.
"I’ll knock two weeks off that seminar." said Dumbledore.
"Come along Potter." said Snape quickly, leading Harry by the hand, out of the room.
When they got to the room, Harry began to take his shirt off. "I’m going to put the balm on and then go to bed sir, you can go back down."
"I appreciate it, babysitting a fifth…." said Snape with a snap in his voice, but then his voice tapered off when he saw the state of the Gryffindor student’s back.
The cuts were healing, but very very slowly, they were still so deep, and small blood stains were trickling down his back. The Potion’s Master stared in shock at the boy.
"Sirius can put the salve on my back when he gets here." said Harry
"I can put the salve on, Potter, I’m not that busy." said Snape, trying to maintain his public appearance but failing horribly.
Harry looked at his Potions teacher with a searching expression. "Well, alright."
A half hour later, Sirius and the rest of them came up and walked in the door. They saw Snape sitting beside the fireplace reading one of Dr. Clark’s book on the magical world.
"Severus, I didn’t expect to see you still here." said Remus.
"I didn’t have anything else to do. Dr. Clark, I wrote down a list of books sent from the library, hopefully you’ll find those…interesting." said Snape standing up and striding towards the door.
"Would you like to stay awhile?" asked Mrs. McFinn.
"Thank you, no. Potter’s asleep, the balm’s been administered to his front and back, I’m going to bed.’ said Snape, and he left, saying nothing further.
"He’d better not have done anything to my cub." said Sirius with a growl.
"He wouldn’t dare, and he’s not like that." said Remus. But Sirius went in to check his godson out anyway.
"I’m so glad he listens." said Remus rolling his eyes.
Harry, Bill, and Mrs. Weasley whiled away the afternoon with a long walk around the castle, and then returned to the Great Hall for the evening feast. Ludo Bagman and Cornelius Fudge had joined the staff table now. Bagman looked quite cheerful, but Cornelius Fudge, who was sitting next to Madame Maxime, looked stern and was not talking.
"Of course not, the prejudice twit." said Hermione darkly.
Madame Maxime was concentrating on her plate, and Harry thought her eyes looked red. Hagrid kept glancing along the table at her,
"Ooh, they had another fight." said Lavender sadly.
There were more courses than usual, but Harry, who was starting to feel really nervous now, didn't eat much.
"I was hoping you’d take the extended opportunity to eat a bit more." said Dumbledore quietly.
Harry wasn’t listening, "Last meal, this was Cedric’s last meal…at least he was with his family."
As the enchanted ceiling overhead began to fade from blue to a dusky purple, Dumbledore rose to his feet at the staff table, and silence fell.
"Ladies and gentlemen, in five minutes' time, I will be asking you to make your way down to the Quidditch field for the third and final task of the Triwizard Tournament. Will the champions please follow Mr. Bagman down to the stadium now."
"Can’t Harry just hide under his bed until this all blows over?" said Tonks.
Harry got up. The Gryffindors all along the table were applauding him; the Weasleys and Hermione all wished him good luck, and he headed off out of the Great Hall with Cedric, Fleur, and Viktor.
"Feeling all right. Harry?" Bagman asked as they went down the stone steps onto the grounds. "Confident?"
"I'm okay," said Harry. It was sort of true; he was nervous, but he kept running over all the hexes and spells he had been practicing in his mind as they walked, and the knowledge that he could remember them all made him feel better.
Sirius pulled Harry over to him, holding him tightly to his side.
They walked onto the Quidditch field, which was now completely unrecognizable. A twenty-foot-high hedge ran all the way around the edge of it. There was a gap right in front of them: the entrance to the vast maze. The passage beyond it looked dark and creepy.
"Must have looked terrifying to the other three, if Harry only thought it was creepy." said Seamus.
Five minutes later, the stands had begun to fill; the air was full of excited voices and the rumbling of feet as the hundreds of students filed into their seats. The sky was a deep, clear blue now, and the first stars were starting to appear. Hagrid, Professor Moody, Professor McGonagall, and Professor Flitwick came walking into the stadium and approached Bagman and the champions. They were wearing large, red, luminous stars on their hats, all except Hagrid, who had his on the back of his moleskin vest.
"We are going to be patrolling the outside of the maze," said Professor McGonagall to the champions. "If you get into difficulty, and wish to be rescued, send red sparks into the air, and one of us will come and get you, do you understand?"
"Give up the moment you set foot inside." said Dr. Clark eagerly.
"I don’t know if that would have been a good idea." said Harry softly.
The champions nodded.
"Off you go, then!" said Bagman brightly to the four patrollers.
"Good luck. Harry," Hagrid whispered, and the four of them walked away in different directions, to station themselves around the maze. Bagman now pointed his wand at his throat, muttered, "Sonorus," and his magically magnified voice echoed into the stands.
"Ladies and gentlemen, the third and final task of the Triwizard Tournament is about to begin! Let me remind you how the points currently stand! Tied in first place, with eighty-five points each - Mr. Cedric Diggory and Mr. Harry Potter, both of Hogwarts School!" The cheers and applause sent birds from the Forbidden Forest fluttering into the darkening sky. "In second place, with eighty points - Mr. Viktor Krum, of Durmstrang Institute!" More applause. "And in third place - Miss Fleur Delacour, of Beauxbatons Academy!"
Harry could just make out Mrs. Weasley, Bill, Ron, and Hermione applauding Fleur politely, halfway up the stands. He waved up at them, and they waved back, beaming at him.
"All the while praying." said Mrs. Weasley.
"So...on my whistle, Harry and Cedric!" said Bagman. "Three - two - one -"
He gave a short blast on his whistle, and Harry and Cedric hurried forward into the maze.
The towering hedges cast black shadows across the path, and, whether because they were so tall and thick or because they had been enchanted, the sound of the surrounding crowd was silenced the moment they entered the maze. Harry felt almost as though he were underwater again. He pulled out his wand, muttered, "Lumos," and heard Cedric do the same just behind him.
After about fifty yards, they reached a fork. They looked at each other.
"See you," Harry said, and he took the left one, while Cedric took the right.
"Should have knocked him out and sent him back." said Harry.
"Harry…" said Remus with a sympathetic look.
Harry heard Bagman's whistle for the second time. Krum had entered the maze. Harry sped up. His chosen path seemed completely deserted. He turned right, and hurried on, holding his wand high over his head, trying to see as far ahead as possible. Still, there was nothing in sight.
Bagman's whistle blew in the distance for the third time. All of the champions were now inside.
Harry kept looking behind him. The old feeling that he was being watched was upon him.
"The fake Moody was watching him." said Professor Sprout in a whisper.
The maze was growing darker with every passing minute as the sky overhead deepened to navy. He reached a second fork.
"Point Me," he whispered to his wand, holding it flat in his palm.
The wand spun around once and pointed toward his right, into solid hedge. That way was north, and he knew that he needed to go northwest for the center of the maze. The best he could do was to take the left fork and go right again as soon as possible.
"Sound reasoning." said a seventh year Ravenclaw student.
The path ahead was empty too, and when Harry reached a right turn and took it, he again found his way unblocked. Harry didn't know why, but the lack of obstacles was unnerving him. Surely he should have met something by now? It felt as though the maze were luring him into a false sense of security.
"That’s right be on your guard." said Moody. "CONSTANT VIGILANCE!"
"What on earth?" shrieked Mrs. McFinn putting a hand to her breast.
"He does that a lot." said Sirius with a smile.
Then he heard movement right behind him. He held out his wand, ready to attack, but its beam fell only upon Cedric, who had just hurried out of a path on the right-hand side. Cedric looked severely shaken. The sleeve of his robe was smoking.
"Hagrid's Blast-Ended Skrewts!" he hissed. "They're enormous - I only just got away!"
"There’s nothing else you can do against those." said Ron.
He shook his head and dived out of sight, along another path. Keen to put plenty of distance between himself and the skrewts, Harry hurried off again. Then, as he turned a corner, he saw...a dementor gliding toward him. Twelve feet tall, its face hidden by its hood, its rotting, scabbed hands outstretched, it advanced, sensing its way blindly toward him. Harry could hear its rattling breath; he felt clammy coldness stealing over him, but knew what he had to do....
"What the hell is a Dementor doing there?" asked Remus.
"Cedric didn’t know how to make a Patronus!" said Mrs. Diggory.
"Don’t worry, it wouldn’t have bothered him." said Harry.
He summoned the happiest thought he could, concentrated with all his might on the thought of getting out of the maze and celebrating with Ron and Hermione, raised his wand, and cried, "Expecto Patronum!"
"That’s cheating, it hasn’t happened yet." said Fred.
"Whatever works." said Harry with a shrug.
A silver stag erupted from the end of Harry's wand and galloped toward the dementor, which fell back and tripped over the hem of its robes....Harry had never seen a dementor stumble.
"Boggart." said Sirius and Remus together.
"Hang on!" he shouted, advancing in the wake of his silver Patronus, "You're a boggart! Riddikulus!"
There was a loud crack, and the shape-shifter exploded in a wisp of smoke. The silver stag faded from sight. Harry wished it could have stayed, he could have used some company...
"Took me a little while in order to keep it around, if only for a short time." said Harry.
but he moved on, quickly and quietly as possible, listening hard, his wand held high once more.
Left...right...left again...Twice he found himself facing dead ends. He did the Four-Point Spell again and found that he was going too far east. He turned back, took a right turn, and saw an odd golden mist floating ahead of him.
"Take care…" said Charlie looking slightly worried.
Harry approached it cautiously, pointing the wand's beam at it. This looked like some kind of enchantment. He wondered whether he might be able to blast it out of the way.
"Reducio!" he said.
The spell shot straight through the mist, leaving it intact. He supposed he should have known better; the Reductor Curse was for solid objects. What would happen if he walked through the mist? Was it worth chancing it, or should he double back?
He was still hesitating when a scream shattered the silence.
"Fleur?" Harry yelled.
There was silence. He stared all around him. What had happened to her? Her scream seemed to have come from somewhere ahead. He took a deep breath and ran through the enchanted mist.
"Wasn’t the whole point of this trying to beat the others, not help the others?’ asked Zacharias.
"I can see you living your life as a cantankerous old coot who’s never had a steady girlfriend, but Harry’s a gentleman." said Katie sticking her nose up in the air. "If a lady calls out for help, he goes and helps."
The world turned upside down. Harry was hanging from the ground, with his hair on end, his glasses dangling off his nose, threatening to fall into the bottomless sky.
"What the….?" said Ron.
"Don’t ask, I still have no idea." said Harry.
He clutched them to the end of his nose and hung there, terrified. It felt as though his feet were glued to the grass, which had now become the ceiling. Below him the dark, star-spangled heavens stretched endlessly. He felt as though if he tried to move one of his feet, he would fall away from the earth completely.
Think, he told himself, as all the blood rushed to his head, think...
But not one of the spells he had practiced had been designed to combat a sudden reversal of ground and sky. Did he dare move his foot? He could hear the blood pounding in his ears. He had two choices - try and move, or send up red sparks, and get rescued and disqualified from the task.
"I will admit, it was one of my spells." said Dumbledore with a smile. "It was supposed to deter those who give up too easily. And fly into a panic."
"Did the other champions go through it?" asked Dennis.
"Weaving the spell takes two hours of intense concentration, I only set up one golden mist." said Dumbledore kindly.
He shut his eyes, so he wouldn't be able to see the view of endless space below him, and pulled his right foot as hard as he could away from the grassy ceiling.
Immediately, the world righted itself. Harry fell forward onto his knees onto the wonderfully solid ground. He felt temporarily limp with shock.
"Thank goodness I didn’t see that, I would thought you died." said Sirius worriedly.
He took a deep, steadying breath, then got up again and hurried forward, looking back over his shoulder as he ran away from the golden mist, which twinkled innocently at him in the moonlight.
He paused at a junction of two paths and looked around for some sign of Fleur. He was sure it had been she who had screamed. What had she met? Was she all right? There was no sign of red sparks - did that mean she had got herself out of trouble, or was she in such trouble that she couldn't reach her wand? Harry took the right fork with a feeling of increasing unease...but at the same time, he couldn't help thinking. One champion down...
"The odds still aren’t in your favor." said Sirius. "You’ve still got two older wizards against you."
The cup was somewhere close by, and it sounded as though Fleur was no longer in the running. He'd got this far, hadn't he? What if he actually managed to win? Fleetingly, and for the first time since he'd found himself champion, he saw again that image of himself, raising the Triwizard Cup in front of the rest of the school....
"Pipe dream." said Harry softly.
He met nothing for ten minutes, but kept running into dead ends. Twice he took the same wrong turning.
"Way to go." said George.
Finally, he found a new route and started to jog along it, his wandlight waving, making his shadow flicker and distort on the hedge walls. Then he rounded another corner and found himself facing a Blast-Ended Skrewt.
"Ooh…wrong turn." said Bill cringing.
Cedric was right - it was enormous. Ten feet long, it looked more like a giant scorpion than anything. Its long sting was curled over its back. Its thick armor glinted in the light from Harry's wand, which he pointed at it.
The spell hit the skrewt's armor and rebounded; Harry ducked just in time, but could smell burning hair; it had singed the top of his head. The skrewt issued a blast of fire from its end and flew forward toward him.
"Run for it!" shouted Dennis.
"Impedimenta!" Harry yelled. The spell hit the skrewt's armor again and ricocheted off; Harry staggered back a few paces and fell over. "IMPEDIMENTA!"
The skrewt was inches from him when it froze - he had managed to hit it on its fleshy, shell-less underside.
"I can just feel the gray hairs creeping up out of my scalp." said Sirius.
"Wish I could feel the black coming back." said Harry tugging his locks.
Panting, Harry pushed himself away from it and ran, hard, in the opposite direction - the Impediment Curse was not permanent; the skrewt would be regaining the use of its legs at any moment.
He took a left path and hit a dead end, a right, and hit another; forcing himself to stop, heart hammering, he performed the Four-Point Spell again, backtracked, and chose a path that would take him northwest.
He had been hurrying along the new path for a few minutes, when he heard something in the path running parallel to his own that made him stop dead.
"What are you doing?" yelled Cedric's voice. "What the hell d'you think you're doing?"
Mrs. Diggory leaned forward, did someone attack her son before You-Know-Who did?
And then Harry heard Krum's voice.
The air was suddenly full of Cedric's yells. Horrified, Harry began sprinting up his path, trying to find a way into Cedric's. When none appeared, he tried the Reductor Curse again. It wasn't very effective, but it burned a small hole in the hedge through which Harry forced his leg, kicking at the thick brambles and branches until they broke and made an opening; he struggled through it, tearing his robes, and looking to his right, saw Cedric jerking and twitching on the ground, Krum standing over him.
Harry pulled himself up and pointed his wand at Krum just as Krum looked up. Krum turned and began to run.
"What the hell is he playing at?" asked Ron hotly.
Hermione looked horrified.
"He was Imperiused. He didn’t realize what he was doing." said Harry.
"Stupefy!" Harry yelled.
The spell hit Krum in the back; he stopped dead in his tracks, fell forward, and lay motionless, facedown in the grass. Harry-dashed over to Cedric, who had stopped twitching and was lying there panting, his hands over his face.
"Are you all right?" Harry said roughly, grabbing Cedric's arm.
"Yeah," panted Cedric. "Yeah...I don't believe it...he crept up behind me....I heard him, I turned around, and he had his wand on me...."
Cedric got up. He was still shaking. He and Harry looked down at Krum.
"I can't believe this...I thought he was all right," Harry said, staring at Krum.
"Didn’t realize what had happened till later." said Harry.
"So did I," said Cedric.
"Did you hear Fleur scream earlier?" said Harry.
"Yeah," said Cedric. "You don't think Krum got her too?"
"I don't know," said Harry slowly.
"Should we leave him here?" Cedric muttered.
"No," said Harry. "I reckon we should send up red sparks. Someone'll come and collect him...otherwise he'll probably be eaten by a skrewt."
"He'd deserve it," Cedric muttered,
Mr. and Mrs. Diggory stared.
but all the same, he raised his wand and shot a shower of red sparks into the air, which hovered high above Krum, marking the spot where he lay.
Harry and Cedric stood there in the darkness for a moment, looking around them. Then Cedric said, "Well...I s'pose we'd better go on...."
"What?" said Harry. "Oh...yeah...right..."
It was an odd moment. He and Cedric had been briefly united against Krum - now the fact that they were opponents came back to Harry. The two of them proceeded up the dark path without speaking, then Harry turned left, and Cedric right. Cedric's footsteps soon died away.
Harry moved on, continuing to use the Four-Point Spell, making sure he was moving in the right direction. It was between him and Cedric now. His desire to reach the cup first was now burning stronger than ever, but he could hardly believe what he'd just seen Krum do. The use of an Unforgivable Curse on a fellow human being meant a life term in Azkaban, that was what Moody had told them. Krum surely couldn't have wanted the Triwizard Cup that badly....Harry sped up.
"If this tournament meant that people became that desperate to win it, better finish the damn thing off now." said Harry.
Every so often he hit more dead ends, but the increasing darkness made him feel sure he was getting near the heart of the maze. Then, as he strode down a long, straight path, he saw movement once again, and his beam of wandlight hit an extraordinary creature, one which he had only seen in picture form, in his Monster Book of Monsters.
It was a sphinx.
"Lucky." said Charlie.
"Do you guys have sphinxes?" asked an eager Hufflepuff first year to Chief Hawkeye.
"She protect the vaults of gold and jewels we have." said Chief Hawkeye.
"Why do you have so much?" asked the first year.
"Payroll." said Lionus.
"How much is your payroll?" asked the first year.
"You really don't want to know." said Chief Hawkeye.
"What’s her name?" asked Charlie.
"Gypsy." said Tempest. "And don't expect her to show up here, she never leaves her post."
It had the body of an over-large lion: great clawed paws and a long yellowish tail ending in a brown tuft. Its head, however, was that of a woman. She turned her long, almond-shaped eyes upon Harry as he approached. He raised his wand, hesitating. She was not crouching as if to spring, but pacing from side to side of the path, blocking his progress. Then she spoke, in a deep, hoarse voice.
"You are very near your goal. The quickest way is past me."
"So...so will you move, please?" said Harry, knowing what the answer was going to be.
"Doesn’t hurt to ask, maybe she’ll take pity on you and let you in." said Hannah.
"No," she said, continuing to pace. "Not unless you can answer my riddle. Answer on your first guess - I let you pass. Answer wrongly - I attack. Remain silent - I will let you walk away from me unscathed."
"So…either know the answer completely, or just keep quiet." said Leroy.
Harry's stomach slipped several notches. It was Hermione who was good at this sort of thing, not him.
"It takes me a while, Hermione can get it in less than a half hour." said Harry.
He weighed his chances. If the riddle was too hard, he could keep silent, get away from the sphinx unharmed, and try and find an alternative route to the center.
"Okay," he said. "Can I hear the riddle?"
The sphinx sat down upon her hind legs, in the very middle of the path, and recited:
"First think of the person who lives in disguise,
Who deals in secrets and tells naught but lies.
Next, tell me what's always the last thing to mend,
The middle of middle and end of the end?
And finally give me the sound often heard
During the search for a hard-to-find word.
Now string them together, and answer me this,
Which creature would you be unwilling to kiss?"
Harry gaped at her.
"Let’s see, there’s….Fluffy." said Fred.
"The Basilisk." said George.
"Peeves." said Dr. Clark with a laugh.
"Dementor." said Sirius giving Harry a squeeze.
"You-Know-Who." said Ginny sticking her tongue out.
"Percy." said Ron with a snigger.
"And Umbridge." finished Remus.
"No fair…that’s the obvious answer!" said the twins together.
"Could I have it again...more slowly?" he asked tentatively. She blinked at him, smiled, and repeated the poem. "All the clues add up to a creature I wouldn't want to kiss?" Harry asked.
She merely smiled her mysterious smile. Harry took that for a "yes." Harry cast his mind around. There were plenty of animals he wouldn't want to kiss; his immediate thought was a Blast-Ended Skrewt,
"Didn’t think of that one." said Fred.
but something told him that wasn't the answer. He'd have to try and work out the clues....
"A person in disguise," Harry muttered, staring at her, "who lies...er...that'd be a - an impostor. No, that's not my guess!
"She raised her paw." said Harry.
A - a spy? I'll come back to that...could you give me the next clue again, please?"
She repeated the next lines of the poem.
"'The last thing to mend,'" Harry repeated. "Er...no idea...'middle of middle'...could I have the last bit again?"
"It’s the letter ‘D’." said Dr. Nicodemus, he had worked out the riddle after hearing it the first time.
She gave him the last four lines.
"'The sound often heard during the search for a hard-to-find word,'" said Harry. "Er...that'd be...er...hang on - 'er'! Er's a sound!"
The sphinx smiled at him.
"She’s nicer than what Gypsy is." muttered Nightstrike.
"That is Gypsy." said Chief Hawkeye.
"Say what?" asked Nightstrike, Tempest looked over in shock.
"The Ministry needed a sphinx, and as opposed to losing a bunch of lives for a stupid game, best let one that isn’t bloodthirsty take care of the job." said Chief Hawkeye.
"Well, then she must have really like the kid." said Nightstrike.
"Spy...er...spy...er..." said Harry, pacing up and down. "A creature I wouldn't want to kiss...a spider!"
"Don’t blame you." said Ron sticking his tongue out.
The sphinx smiled more broadly. She got up, stretched her front legs, and then moved aside for him to pass.
"Thanks!" said Harry, and, amazed at his own brilliance, he dashed forward.
He had to be close now, he had to be....His wand was telling him he was bang on course; as long as he didn't meet anything too horrible, he might have a chance....
Harry broke into a run. He had a choice of paths up ahead. "Point Me!" he whispered again to his wand, and it spun around and pointed him to the right-hand one. He dashed up this one and saw light ahead.
The Triwizard Cup was gleaming on a plinth a hundred yards away.
"Finally, this is all over." said Mrs. McFinn with a huge sigh of relief.
Suddenly a dark figure hurtled out onto the path in front of him.
Cedric was going to get there first. Cedric was sprinting as fast as he could toward the cup, and Harry knew he would never catch up, Cedric was much taller, had much longer legs –
"Hang on! You’re faster than him!" said George.
"You were going…to lose on purpose…?’ said Fred.
Harry shuffled his feet.
Then Harry saw something immense over a hedge to his left, moving quickly along a path that intersected with his own; it was moving so fast Cedric was about to run into it, and Cedric, his eyes on the cup, had not seen it –
"That’s why that particular challenge is there, never let your guard down." said Dumbledore.
"Cedric!" Harry bellowed. "On your left!"
Cedric looked around just in time to hurl himself past the thing and avoid colliding with it, but in his haste, he tripped. Harry saw Cedric's wand fly out of his hand as a gigantic spider stepped into the path and began to bear down upon Cedric.
Hermione looked at Ron, who was drinking a large cup of pumpkin juice.
"What?" asked Ron.
"It’s a spider…" said Hermione.
"Huh…so it is." said Ron.
"That tranquilizer seems to be working fine." said Dr. Nicodemus with a smirk.
"Stupefy!" Harry yelled; the spell hit the spider's gigantic, hairy black body, but for all the good it did, he might as well have thrown a stone at it; the spider jerked, scuttled around, and ran at Harry instead.
"Stupefy! Impedimenta! Stupefy!"
But it was no use - the spider was either so large, or so magical, that the spells were doing no more than aggravating it. Harry had one horrifying glimpse of eight shining black eyes and razor-sharp pincers before it was upon him.
Sirius yelped and brought his knees up, hugging Harry tightly.
"You alright?" asked Sirius.
"No more than you." said Harry.
He was lifted into the air in its front legs; struggling madly, he tried to kick it; his leg connected with the pincers and next moment he was in excruciating pain.
Soon everyone nearby was gripping Harry tightly.
He could hear Cedric yelling "Stupefy!" too, but his spell had no more effect than Harry's - Harry raised his wand as the spider opened its pincers once more and shouted "Expelliarmus!"
It worked - the Disarming Spell made the spider drop him, but that meant that Harry fell twelve feet onto his already injured leg, which crumpled beneath him. Without pausing to think, he aimed high at the spider's underbelly, as he had done with the skrewt, and shouted "Stupefy!''just as Cedric yelled the same thing.
"You don’t even allow time to be in pain? You’re crazy." said Ernie.
The two spells combined did what one alone had not: The spider keeled over sideways, flattening a nearby hedge, and strewing the path with a tangle of hairy legs.
"Harry!" he heard Cedric shouting. "You all right? Did it fall on you?"
"No," Harry called back, panting. He looked down at his leg. It was bleeding freely. He could see some sort of thick, gluey secretion from the spider's pincers on his torn robes.
"That’s venom…" whimpered Sirius.
"Thank Merlin it was slow acting." said Dumbledore placing a hand on his chest.
He tried to get up, but his leg was shaking badly and did not want to support his weight. He leaned against the hedge, gasping for breath, and looked around.
Cedric was standing feet from the Triwizard Cup, which was gleaming behind him.
"Take it, then," Harry panted to Cedric. "Go on, take it. You're there."
Mrs. Diggory’s hand flew to her mouth. So he wasn’t just speaking through remorse, he had offered Cedric the chance to win.
But Cedric didn't move. He merely stood there, looking at Harry. Then he turned to stare at the cup. Harry saw the longing expression on his face in its golden light. Cedric looked around at Harry again, who was now holding onto the hedge to support himself. Cedric took a deep breath.
"You take it. You should win. That's twice you've saved my neck in here."
"I can’t exactly get over there." said Fred.
"That's not how it's supposed to work," Harry said. He felt angry; his leg was very painful, he was aching all over from trying to throw off the spider, and after all his efforts, Cedric had beaten him to it, just as he'd beaten Harry to ask Cho to the ball. "The one who reaches the cup first gets the points. That's you. I'm telling you, I'm not going to win any races on this leg."
Cedric took a few paces nearer to the Stunned spider, away from the cup, shaking his head.
"No," he said.
"Stop being noble," said Harry irritably. "Just take it, then we can get out of here."
"Yeah, come on!" said Dr. Clark, not knowing what was going to happen next.
Cedric watched Harry steadying himself, holding tight to the hedge.
"You told me about the dragons," Cedric said. "I would've gone down in the first task if you hadn't told me what was coming."
"I had help on that too," Harry snapped, trying to mop up his bloody leg with his robes. "You helped me with the egg - we're square."
"I had help on the egg in the first place," said Cedric.
"I forgot he said that." said Harry.
"We're still square," said Harry, testing his leg gingerly; it shook violently as he put weight on it; he had sprained his ankle when the spider had dropped him.
"You should've got more points on the second task," said Cedric mulishly. "You stayed behind to get all the hostages. I should've done that."
"Will you two knock it off! One of you take it!" said Nightstrike.
"I was the only one who was thick enough to take that song seriously!" said Harry bitterly. "Just take the cup!"
"No," said Cedric.
He stepped over the spider's tangled legs to join Harry, who stared at him. Cedric was serious. He was walking away from the sort of glory Hufflepuff House hadn't had in centuries.
The entire house of Hufflepuff, young and old stared at Harry in silence.
"Go on," Cedric said. He looked as though this was costing him every ounce of resolution he had, but his face was set, his arms were folded, he seemed decided.
Harry looked from Cedric to the cup. For one shining moment, he saw himself emerging from the maze, holding it. He saw himself holding the Triwizard Cup aloft, heard the roar of the crowd, saw Cho's face shining with admiration, more clearly than he had ever seen it before...and then the picture faded, and he found himself staring at Cedric's shadowy, stubborn face.
"Both of us," Harry said.
Mr. Diggory gasped and he bit his lip.
"We'll take it at the same time. It's still a Hogwarts victory. We'll tie for it."
Cedric stared at Harry. He unfolded his arms.
"You - you sure?"
"Yeah," said Harry. "Yeah...we've helped each other out, haven't we? We both got here. Let's just take it together."
For a moment, Cedric looked as though he couldn't believe his ears; then his face split in a grin.
"Probably couldn’t believe that you would do that." said Percy softly.
"You're on," he said. "Come here."
He grabbed Harry's arm below the shoulder and helped Harry limp toward the plinth where the cup stood. When they had reached it, they both held a hand out over one of the cup's gleaming handles.
"On three, right?" said Harry. "One - two - three -"
He and Cedric both grasped a handle.
Instantly, Harry felt a jerk somewhere behind his navel.
"A…what were they? A Portkey?" said Mrs. McFinn.
His feet had left the ground. He could not unclench the hand holding the Triwizard Cup; it was pulling him onward in a howl of wind and swirling color, Cedric at his side.
Mrs. Diggory and her husband looked sorrowfully down at the floor.
"Let’s end for the night, I don’t’ think anyone will be able to sleep tonight if we continue." said Dumbledore.
Harry went outside and walked to the tree that he, Ron and Hermione had graced with their presence time and time again. He reached up, grabbed a lower limb and pulled himself up into the tree. He sat carefully on the upper, stronger branches and looked out onto the grounds.
"These books are getting to be a bit much…wish we never started these damn things…" said Harry.
"If they hadn’t brought the books here, then you wouldn’t have the people you do have surrounding you." said a calm voice beneath him.
Harry looked down and saw Tempest and Firenze, looking up at him from the ground.
"You don’t need to hold back with your words or thoughts either child." said Tempest, with a slight smile.
"It’s pretty much my default setting, but…getting Dr. Clark and Mrs. McFinn back and Sirius’ freedom, doesn’t quite make up for all the grief thrown at me." said Harry looking out onto the grounds with a slight frown. "And reliving some of this is sort of hard to do."
"It is only by hearing of the past do we learn to not make the same mistakes in the future." said Firenze.
"Yeah, but why does it have to be mine?" said Harry.
"To be honest boy, no one else’s is worth reading." said Tempest with a whinnying laugh.
Harry looked out onto the grounds as the sun began to set.
"You will survive this Harry Potter, the stars have not fortold any mortal peril for you as of late." said Firenze with a smile.
Harry sighed. "Then why do I keep getting this feeling that something bad is about to happen?’
"Perhaps it is because the book is coming to where your greatest enemy and greatest sorrow is coming to light." said Firenze. "That is the origin of your dread."
"Yeah, that could be it." said Harry leaping out of the tree. "I’m going back inside, thanks…for…"
"Think nothing of it, I felt that you and brooding would not be the best thing." said Tempest with a gentle smile. "And that is coming from someone who has not known you all that long."
They watched the white haired young man go back inside, lost once again in his own thoughts.
"To think, before this happened, I thought nothing of others." said Tempest.
"Do you regret coming here? Regret seeing life through another’s eyes?" said Firenze softly.
"There are times that I do wish that I was not changed, but…I would have missed out on so much, so I will endure the changes, and see where fate has decided to take me." said Tempest slowly taking Firenze’s hand.
It was a little while till Dumbledore and Neville came back into the Great Hall, Neville’s eyes were red rimmed and still leaking tears, Dumbledore’s eyes were also moist and there seemed to have been a wet stain on the man’s cloak. It was obvious that Neville had been crying on the man’s shoulder.
"Let’s take care of another chapter, then perhaps some dinner." said Dumbledore his voice a little hoarse.
"I hope I haven’t missed anything." said Chief Hawkeye coming back, with Rita Skeeter in tow.
"Did you have to bring her?" groaned Harry.
"It was either she sits here, or she starts spewing everything to the world through the paper." said Chief Hawkeye.
"All the luck to her in that aspect." said Leroy viciously.
"Fine, she can stay." said Harry. "As long as she keeps quiet." muttered Harry.
"Oh, she’s already been silenced." said Chief Hawkeye, pointing to an empty seat to where Rita hurriedly ran to. "She won’t be able to speak, even if she wants to."
He took his seat, and looked over to the book. "Where are we at?"
Harry read the title. "The Third Task. I don’t want to read this one."
"I’ll take it." said Bill.
"Dumbledore reckons You-Know-Who's getting stronger again as well?" Ron whispered.
Everything Harry had seen in the Pensieve, nearly everything Dumbledore had told and shown him afterward, he had now shared with Ron and Hermione - and, of course, with Sirius, to whom Harry had sent an owl the moment he had left Dumbledore's office.
"I didn’t share the thing I wasn’t supposed to." said Harry.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione sat up late in the common room once again that night, talking it all over until Harry's mind was reeling, until he understood what Dumbledore had meant about a head becoming so full of thoughts that it would have been a relief to siphon them off.
"I’ve got enough in there, let other people carry some of it." said Harry.
Ron stared into the common room fire. Harry thought he saw Ron shiver slightly, even though the evening was warm.
"And he trusts Snape?" Ron said. "He really trusts Snape, even though he knows he was a Death Eater?"
"Yes," said Harry.
"That sounds kind of final." said George.
"Like he’s trusting Dumbledore to trust Snape." said Fred.
"Nah!" said Fred and George together.
Hermione had not spoken for ten minutes. She was sitting with her forehead in her hands, staring at her knees. Harry thought she too looked as though she could have done with a Pensieve.
"Rita Skeeter," she muttered finally.
"What’s she got to do with anything?" asked Sirius.
"Aside from she deserves to be in that prison of yours." said Dr. Clark darkly.
"How can you be worrying about her now?" said Ron, in utter disbelief.
"I'm not worrying about her," Hermione said to her knees. "I'm just thinking...remember what she said to me in the Three Broomsticks? 'I know things about Ludo Bagman that would make your hair curl. ' This is what she meant, isn't it?
"That news didn’t exactly curl my hair, must be the nonsense she normally spits out." said Hermione smugly.
Rita glared over to the bushy haired girl.
She reported his trial, she knew he'd passed information to the Death Eaters. And Winky too, remember...'Ludo Bagman's a bad wizard.' Mr. Crouch would have been furious he got off, he would have talked about it at home."
"Still can’t believe that Crouch complained that much about him, and yet seemed fine with him in public." said Dean.
"Bagman is a popular guy in and outside the Ministry, he’d have to watch what he said about him." said Mr. Weasley with a slight smile.
"Yeah, but Bagman didn't pass information on purpose, did he?"
"And Fudge reckons Madame Maxime attacked Crouch?" Ron said, turning back to Harry.
"Yeah," said Harry, "but he's only saying that because Crouch disappeared near the Beauxbatons carriage."
"He probably still would have said it if they were standing on the other side of Europe." said Terry with a roll of his eyes.
Fudge glared hard at the floor.
"We never thought of her, did we?" said Ron slowly. "Mind you, she's definitely got giant blood, and she doesn't want to admit it-"
"Of course she doesn't," said Hermione sharply, looking up. "Look what happened to Hagrid when Rita found out about his mother. Look at Fudge, jumping to conclusions about her, just because she's part giant. Who needs that sort of prejudice? I'd probably say I had big bones if I knew that's what I'd get for telling the truth."
"Hmph, I would stand proud and tall." said Tempest with a frown. "There is no pride in denying your heritage."
"Emphasis on the tall part." muttered Nightstrike, Fred and George together.
Tempest fingered her circle blade menacingly.
Hermione looked at her watch. "We haven't done any practicing!" she said, looking shocked.
"We were talking!" said Ron.
"We were going to do the Impediment Curse! We'll have to really get down to it tomorrow! Come on. Harry, you need to get some sleep."
"Wait, do you want me to sleep or practice the charm, cause I can’t do both." said Harry with a smile.
Harry and Ron went slowly upstairs to their dormitory. As Harry pulled on his pajamas, he looked over at Neville's bed. True to his word to Dumbledore, he had not told Ron and Hermione about Neville's parents. As Harry took off his glasses and climbed into his four-poster, he imagined how it must feel to have parents still living but unable to recognize you.
Neville eyes looked down, but he smiled when Luna hugged him warmly.
He often got sympathy from strangers for being an orphan, but as he listened to Neville's snores, he thought that Neville deserved it more than he did.
Neville looked over to Harry in shock.
"For crying out loud, will you hold onto something!" said Sirius covering his eyes with his hand. "Quit giving it to other people!"
Lying in the darkness, Harry felt a rush of anger and hate toward the people who had tortured Mr. and Mrs. Longbottom....
Remus smiled over to Harry, reached behind him and rubbed the back of his neck.
He remembered the jeers of the crowd as Crouch's son and his companions had been dragged from the court by the dementors....He understood how they had felt....Then he remembered the milk-white face of the screaming boy and realized with a jolt that he had died a year later....
"He deserved it." said Neville hotly, "He hurt my mom and dad."
It was Voldemort, Harry thought, staring up at the canopy of his bed in the darkness, it all came back to Voldemort....He was the one who had torn these families apart, who had ruined all these lives....
People across the hall all nodded.
Ron and Hermione were supposed to be studying for their exams, which would finish on the day of the third task, but they were putting most of their efforts into helping Harry prepare.
"I pretty much didn’t care about my grades." said Ron with a shrug. "I wanted to make sure my best mate survived this damned thing."
"Don't worry about it," Hermione said shortly when Harry pointed this out to them and said he didn't mind practicing on his own for a while, "at least we'll get top marks in Defense Against the Dark Arts. We'd never have found out about all these hexes in class."
"Yeah, but not practicing Transfiguration, Charms, Potions and Herbology is going to hurt you later." said Charlie.
"Good training for when we're all Aurors," said Ron excitedly, attempting the Impediment Curse on a wasp that had buzzed into the room and making it stop dead in midair.
"Very impressive." said Chief Hawkeye.
The mood in the castle as they entered June became excited and tense again. Everyone was looking forward to the third task, which would take place a week before the end of term. Harry was practicing hexes at every available moment. He felt more confident about this task than either of the others.
"Only because you knew what exactly was going to happen." said Mrs. McFinn. Looking at Harry’s face she added. "Well, apparently almost everything."
Difficult and dangerous though it would undoubtedly be, Moody was right: Harry had managed to find his way past monstrous creatures and enchanted barriers before now, and this time he had some notice, some chance to prepare himself for what lay ahead.
"I’d want to see Harry go all out!" said a first year excitedly, completely forgetting what laid ahead.
"Do you go all out?" asked her friend.
"No." said Harry simply. "But maybe I should have." he added with a somber look.
Tired of walking in on Harry, Hermione, and Ron all over the school. Professor McGonagall
Sirius began to laugh out loud.
"For Christ’s sake, get your mind out of the gutter!" said Remus.
had given them permission to use the empty Transfiguration classroom at lunchtimes. Harry had soon mastered the Impediment Curse, a spell to slow down and obstruct attackers;
"Mastered?" asked Hermione.
"He don’t need a wand in order to use it." said Ron with a shrug.
the Reductor Curse, which would enable him to blast solid objects out of his way; and the Four-Point Spell, a useful discovery of Hermione's that would make his wand point due north, therefore enabling him to check whether he was going in the right direction within the maze.
"Very impressive, Miss Granger." said Professor Flitwick brightly.
He was still having trouble with the Shield Charm, though. This was supposed to cast a temporary, invisible wall around himself that deflected minor curses; Hermione managed to shatter it with a well-placed Jelly-Legs Jinx, and Harry wobbled around the room for ten minutes afterward before she had looked up the counter-jinx.
"Why not know the counter-jinx before you cast it on a friend?" asked Tonks.
Hermione blushed heavier and gave a guilty smile.
"You still having problems with that spell?" asked Remus.
"Not anymore." said Harry.
"You're still doing really well, though," Hermione said encouragingly, looking down her list and crossing off those spells they had already learned. "Some of these are bound to come in handy."
"Come and look at this," said Ron, who was standing by the window. He was staring down onto the grounds. "What's Malfoy doing?"
Harry and Hermione went to see. Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle were standing in the shadow of a tree below. Crabbe and Goyle seemed to be keeping a lookout; both were smirking. Malfoy was holding his hand up to his mouth and speaking into it.
"What the frick?" asked a seventh year Ravenclaw.
Chief Hawkeye sent Rita a dirty look.
"He looks like he's using a walkie-talkie," said Harry curiously.
"He can't be," said Hermione, "I've told you, those sorts of things don't work around Hogwarts.
"Didn’t say he was, just said that what it looks like." said Harry.
Come on, Harry," she added briskly, turning away from the window and moving back into the middle of the room, "let's try that Shield Charm again."
Sirius was sending daily owls now. Like Hermione, he seemed to want to concentrate on getting Harry through the last task before they concerned themselves with anything else. He reminded Harry in every letter that whatever might be going on outside the walls of Hogwarts was not Harry's responsibility, nor was it within his power to influence it.’
"And did that stop me from worrying about you? Not even one little bit." said Harry looking over to Sirius. "You can keep telling me till you’re blue in the face."
If Voldemort is really getting stronger again, he wrote, my priority is to ensure your safety. He cannot hope to lay hands on you while you are under Dumbledore's protection, but all the same, take no risks: Concentrate on getting through that maze safely, and then we can turn our attention to other matters.
"See! I was trying to reassure him!" said Sirius.
"Save it for someone who’ll buy it." said Harry. "I don’t lead a reassuring life."
Harry's nerves mounted as June the twenty-fourth drew closer, but they were not as bad as those he had felt before the first and second tasks. For one thing, he was confident that, this time, he had done everything in his power to prepare for the task. For another, this was the final hurdle, and however well or badly he did, the tournament would at last be over, which would be an enormous relief.
"For you and everyone on the staff." said McGonagall.
Breakfast was a very noisy affair at the Gryffindor table on the morning of the third task. The post owls appeared, bringing Harry a good-luck card from Sirius. It was only a piece of parchment, folded over and bearing a muddy paw print on its front, but Harry appreciated it all the same.
"Still have it somewhere, I need to frame that thing of these days." said Harry.
A screech owl arrived for Hermione, carrying her morning copy of the Daily Prophet as usual. She unfolded the paper, glanced at the front page, and spat out a mouthful of pumpkin juice all over it.
"Hope that isn’t the usual part." said Leroy.
"What?" said Harry and Ron together, staring at her. "Nothing," said Hermione quickly, trying to shove the paper out of sight, but Ron grabbed it. He stared at the headline and said, "No way. Not today. That old cow."
"What?" said Harry. "Rita Skeeter again?"
Rita glared fiercely at the girl.
"Hey you earned it." said Lionus.
"No," said Ron, and just like Hermione, he attempted to push the paper out of sight.
"It's about me, isn't it?" said Harry.
"No," said Ron, in an entirely unconvincing tone. But before Harry could demand to see the paper. Draco Malfoy shouted across the Great Hall from the Slytherin table.
"Hey, Potter! Potter! How's your head? You feeling all right? Sure you're not going to go berserk on us?"
"What on earth is he talking about?" asked Mrs. McFinn.
Malfoy was holding a copy of the Daily Prophet too. Slytherins up and down the table were sniggering, twisting in their seats to see Harry's reaction.
"Let me see it," Harry said to Ron. "Give it here."
Very reluctantly, Ron handed over the newspaper. Harry turned it over and found himself staring at his own picture, beneath the banner headline:
"DISTURBED AND DANGEROUS"
The Rangers and Dr. Clark and Mrs. McFinn turned and stared at Rita.
The boy who defeated He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is unstable and possibly dangerous, writes Rita Skeeter, Special Correspondent. Alarming evidence has recently come to light about Harry Potter's strange behavior, which casts doubts upon his suitability to compete in a demanding competition like the Triwizard Tournament, or even to attend Hogwarts School.
"WHAT?" shouted Dr. Clark and Mrs. McFinn angrily.
"There is nothing wrong with my Harry!" screamed Mrs. McFinn.
Potter, the Daily Prophet can exclusively reveal, regularly collapses at school,
"ONE TIME! IT WAS JUST THE ONE TIME!" shouted Ron angrily to the silenced witch.
and is often heard to complain of pain in the scar on his forehead (relic of the curse with which You-Know-Who attempted to kill him).
"It’s not often at all!" said a first year.
"Yeah!" said another first year.
On Monday last, midway through a Divination lesson, your Daily Prophet reporter witnessed Potter storming from the class, claiming that his scar was hurting too badly to continue studying.
"He said HEADACHE!" said Dean shortly.
Everyone was getting angrier and angrier with each passing sentence.
It is possible, say top experts at St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, that Potters brain was affected by the attack inflicted upon him by You-Know-Who, and that his insistence that the scar is still hurting is an expression of his deep-seated confusion.
"I asked at St. Mungos, they only asked Healer Gibbons, he’s always known to be a quack." said Madam Pomfrey with a disdainful look over to Rita Skeeter. "You can never believe anything he says."
Rita only rolled her eyes.
"He might even be pretending," said one specialist. "This could be a plea for attention."
"HE DOESN’T WANT IT!" shouted Fred.
"GET IT THROUGH YOUR THICK SKULLS!" said George.
The Daily Prophet, however, has unearthed worrying facts about Harry Potter that Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts, has carefully concealed from the wizarding public.
"Potter can speak Parseltongue," reveals Draco Malfoy, a Hogwarts fourth year.
"For the love of….what sort of honest answer can you get from a rival?" said Rudolph.
Rita made a muffled sound, but nothing discernible was coming out.
"I believe she’s trying to say, ‘the most honest one.’." said Dumbledore darkly.
"Are you some kind of idiot?" said Rudolph angrily.
"There were a lot of attacks on students a couple of years ago, and most people thought Potter was behind them after they saw him lose his temper at a dueling club and set a snake on another boy.
"Forgot to mention it was you that conjured up that snake and brought the threat to the club, didn’t you?" snarled Charlie.
It was all hushed up, though. But he's made friends with werewolves and giants too. We think he'd do anything for a bit of power."
"I’m going to whack out." said Bill. "I’m going to…"
Parseltongue, the ability to converse with snakes, has long been considered a Dark Art. Indeed, the most famous Parselmouth of our times is none other than You-Know-Who himself.
"So what if Harry’s the first wizard on the good side that had the ability?" said Colin shortly.
"He wasn’t." said Dumbledore. "There have been several good wizards with that ability, they didn't proclaim it to the rest of the world."
A member of the Dark Force Defense League, who wished to remain unnamed, stated that he would regard any wizard who could speak Parseltongue "as worthy of investigation. Personally, I would be highly suspicious of anybody who could converse with snakes, as serpents are often used in the worst kinds of Dark Magic, and are historically associated with evildoers."
"Dawlish." said Kingsley, Moody, Tonks and Madam Bones together.
Similarly, "anyone who seeks out the company of such vicious creatures as werewolves and giants would appear to have a fondness for violence."
The Rangers raised their brows at this.
"I’ll show them violence." said Lionus.
Albus Dumbledore should surely consider whether a boy such as this should be allowed to compete in the Triwizard Tournament.
He didn’t want to take part in it in the first place!" said Mrs. Weasley angrily.
Some fear that Potter might resort to the Dark Arts in his desperation to win the tournament, the third task of which takes place this evening.
"Gone off me a bit, hasn't she?" said Harry lightly, folding up the paper.
"Leroy! I’m begging you!" said Rudolph clasping his hands together. "I’ll do or get whatever you want, just fire her!"
Leroy sent a look over to Rita, but she only made the visable sign she was laughing.
"She’s saying…or thinking…that she was already fired from the Daily Prophet, this was her last ditch effort to get back on top." said Dumbledore.
"Well, that’ll never happen, not only do I own Daily Prophet, Witch Weekly, and most of the stock in the Quibbler, I control the publishing works too, she’ll never print anything." said Leroy. "My mother’s family was and still is big in the news and literature fields."
That wiped the laughter right off of Rita's face.
Over at the Slytherin table, Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle were laughing at him, tapping their heads with their fingers, pulling grotesquely mad faces, and waggling their tongues like snakes.
"You all are idiots." said Tonks with a growl.
"How did she know your scar hurt in Divination?" Ron said. "There's no way she was there, there's no way she could've heard -"
"The window was open," said Harry. "I opened it to breathe."
"You were at the top of North Tower!" Hermione said. "Your voice couldn't have carried all the way down to the grounds!"
"Well, you're the one who's supposed to be researching magical methods of bugging!" said Harry. "You tell me how she did it!"
"I was not in the mood for bouncing around theories." said Harry.
"I've been trying!" said Hermione. "But I...but..."
An odd, dreamy expression suddenly came over Hermione's face. She slowly raised a hand and ran her fingers through her hair.
"Are you all right?" said Ron, frowning at her.
"Yes," said Hermione breathlessly. She ran her fingers through her hair again, and then held her hand up to her mouth, as though speaking into an invisible walkie-talkie. Harry and Ron stared at each other.
"We thought she finally snapped." said Ron.
"I've had an idea," Hermione said, gazing into space. "I think I know...because then no one would be able to see...even Moody...and she'd have been able to get onto the window ledge...but she's not allowed...she's definitely not allowed...I think we've got her! Just give me two seconds in the library - just to make sure!"
"Mind sharing with the class?" asked George.
"Or at least with Ron and Harry?" said Fred.
With that, Hermione seized her school bag and dashed out of the Great Hall.
"Oi!" Ron called after her. "We've got our History of Magic exam in ten minutes! Blimey," he said, turning back to Harry, "she must really hate that Skeeter woman to risk missing the start of an exam.
"You’re right, she has snapped." said Remus looking at Hermione in awe.
What're you going to do in Binns's class - read again?"
Exempt from the end-of-term tests as a Triwizard champion, Harry had been sitting in the back of every exam class so far, looking up fresh hexes for the third task.
"Good plan." said Dr. Nicodemus.
"S'pose so," Harry said to Ron; but just then. Professor McGonagall came walking alongside the Gryffindor table toward him.
"Potter, the champions are congregating in the chamber off the Hall after breakfast," she said.
"But the task's not till tonight!" said Harry, accidentally spilling scrambled eggs down his front, afraid he had mistaken the time.
"Scared the magic out of me." said Harry. "I was prepared, but I needed a little more time than that!"
"I'm aware of that, Potter," she said. "The champions' families are invited to watch the final task, you know. This is simply a chance for you to greet them."
She moved away. Harry gaped after her.
"She doesn't expect the Dursleys to turn up, does she?" he asked Ron blankly.
"I would have been shocked, and then I would have shocked them." said McGonagall flicking her wand causing a small lighting crackle to appear at the end of it.
"Would you have let me watch?" asked Harry eagerly.
"I would have sold tickets." said McGonagall with a rare smile.
"Dunno," said Ron. "Harry, I'd better hurry, I'm going to be late for Binns. See you later."
Harry finished his breakfast in the emptying Great Hall. He saw Fleur Delacour get up from the Ravenclaw table and join Cedric as he crossed to the side chamber and entered. Krum slouched off to join them shortly afterward. Harry stayed where he was. He really didn't want to go into the chamber.
"Why not?" asked Blaise.
He had no family –
Several people cringed.
"I could have had my mom and dad meet you." said Lee.
"Yeah, my folks would have cheered you on!" said Alicia.
"Ours too!" said Angelina and Katie together.
no family who would turn up to see him risk his life, anyway. But just as he was getting up, thinking that he might as well go up to the library and do a spot more hex research, the door of the side chamber opened, and Cedric stuck his head out.
"Harry, come on, they're waiting for you!"
"Who is waiting for you?" asked Dr. Clark.
Utterly perplexed. Harry got up. The Dursleys couldn't possibly be here, could they? He walked across the Hall and opened the door into the chamber.
"And if they were, I don’t want them here." said Harry.
Cedric and his parents were just inside the door. Viktor Krum was over in a corner, conversing with his dark-haired mother and father in rapid Bulgarian. He had inherited his fathers hooked nose. On the other side of the room, Fleur was jabbering away in French to her mother. Fleur's little sister, Gabrielle, was holding her mother's hand. She waved at Harry, who waved back, grinning.
"Why were you grinning?" asked Dennis.
"I really have no idea." said Harry.
Then he saw Mrs. Weasley and Bill standing in front of the fireplace, beaming at him.
"Surprise!" Mrs. Weasley said excitedly as he smiled broadly and walked over to them. "Thought we'd come and watch you. Harry!" She bent down and kissed him on the cheek.
"Hear that? Bent down." said Ron with a smirk.
"Wipe that smile off your face, before I rip it off you and beat you with it." said Harry.
"And someone said you didn’t have violent tendencies." said Percy with a laugh.
"This is different, this is Ron and his short jokes." said Harry.
"You all right?" said Bill, grinning at Harry and shaking his hand. "Charlie wanted to come, but he couldn't get time off. He said you were incredible against the Horntail."
"And you were." said Charlie with a smile.
Fleur Delacour, Harry noticed, was eyeing Bill with great interest over her mother's shoulder. Harry could tell she had no objection whatsoever to long hair or earrings with fangs on them.
"And so it begins." said Ginny with a giggle.
"This is really nice of you," Harry muttered to Mrs. Weasley. "I thought for a moment - the Dursleys -"
"Hmm," said Mrs. Weasley, pursing her lips. She had always refrained from criticizing the Dursleys in front of Harry, but her eyes flashed every time they were mentioned.
"Well of course! Do any of you blame me?" asked Mrs. Weasley.
"Not one bit, Molly." said Mr. Weasley quickly.
"It's great being back here," said Bill, looking around the chamber (Violet, the Fat Lady's friend, winked at him from her frame).
"She always loved me." said Bill with a smile.
"Haven't seen this place for five years. Is that picture of the mad knight still around? Sir Cadogan?"
"Oh yeah," said Harry, who had met Sir Cadogan the previous year.
"Wishin’ I had missed out on that." said Harry.
"And the Fat Lady?" said Bill.
"She was here in my time," said Mrs. Weasley. "She gave me such a telling off one night when I got back to the dormitory at four in the morning -"
"What were you doing out of your dormitory at four in the morning?" said Bill, surveying his mother with amazement.
"Then how the heck do you have any room for telling us off for staying up all night?" asked Fred.
"Because I’m your mother." said Mrs. Weasly sternly.
"Yeah, that’ll do it." said George.
Mrs. Weasley grinned, her eyes twinkling.
"Your father and I had been for a nighttime stroll," she said. "He got caught by Apollyon Pringle - he was the caretaker in those days - your father's still got the marks."
"He was retired in our first year, we were the first trouble makers Filch had to deal with." said Sirius proudly.
"Filch was Pringle’s deputy, so he’s been around here a long time." said Remus. "Strange though, Filch never took on a deputy."
"Well, he’s not the easiest person to work with…so no shock there." said Sirius.
"Fancy giving us a tour, Harry?" said Bill.
"You went to school here!" said Tonks.
"Still want to hear it from his point of view!" said Bill.
"Yeah, okay," said Harry, and they made their way back toward the door into the Great Hall. As they passed Amos Diggory, he looked around.
"There you are, are you?" he said, looking Harry up and down.
"Uh…hi?" said George.
"Bet you're not feeling quite as full of yourself now Cedric's caught you up on points, are you?"
"What?" said Harry.
"Didn’t you ever wonder why he had no clue what you were talking about?" asked Charlie to Amos Diggory.
Mr. Diggory looked uncomfortable.
"Ignore him," said Cedric in a low voice to Harry, frowning after his father.
Mr. Diggory cringed even further into his chair.
"He's been angry ever since Rita Skeeter's article about the Triwizard Tournament - you know, when she made out you were the only Hogwarts champion."
"Didn't bother to correct her, though, did he?" said Amos Diggory, loudly enough for Harry to hear as he started to walk out of the door with Mrs. Weasley and Bill.
"She wouldn’t have listened to me if I had managed to corner her and tell her off." said Harry softly.
"Don’t let him get to you." said Sirius soothingly, sending Mr. Diggory a furious look.
"Still,...you'll show him, Ced. Beaten him once before, haven't you?"
"Rita Skeeter goes out of her way to cause trouble, Amos!" Mrs. Weasley said angrily. "I would have thought you'd know that, working at the Ministry!"
"Funny that’s what I told you when you were ranting about something that year." said Mr. Weasley with a smile, "Though I didn’t know you acted on it."
Mr. Diggory looked as though he was going to say something angry, but his wife laid a hand on his arm, and he merely shrugged and turned away.
Harry had a very enjoyable morning walking over the sunny grounds with Bill and Mrs. Weasley, showing them the Beauxbatons carriage and the Durmstrang ship. Mrs. Weasley was intrigued by the Whomping Willow, which had been planted after she had left school, and reminisced at length about the gamekeeper before Hagrid, a man called Ogg.
"The grounds never looked so lovely." said Mrs. Weasley with a smile. "As they do now."
"How's Percy?" Harry asked as they walked around the greenhouses.
"Not good," said Bill.
"He's very upset," said Mrs. Weasley, lowering her voice and glancing around. "The Ministry wants to keep Mr. Crouch's disappearance quiet, but Percy's been hauled in for questioning about the instructions Mr. Crouch has been sending in. They seem to think there's a chance they weren't genuinely written by him. Percy's been under a lot of strain.
"And yet…" said Harry looking pointedly over to Fudge.
Fudge shifted uneasily.
They're not letting him fill in for Mr. Crouch as the fifth judge tonight. Cornelius Fudge is going to be doing it."
"Can’t see him being objective." said Sirius smugly.
They returned to the castle for lunch.
"Mum - Bill!" said Ron, looking stunned, as he joined the Gryffindor table. "What're you doing here?"
"Come to watch Harry in the last task!" said Mrs. Weasley brightly. "I must say, it makes a lovely change, not having to cook. How was your exam?"
"It was a History of Magic exam, it didn’t go well." said Ron.
"Oh...okay," said Ron. "Couldn't remember all the goblin rebels' names, so I invented a few. It's all right," he said, helping himself to a Cornish pasty, while Mrs. Weasley looked stern, "they're all called stuff like Bodrod the Bearded and Urg the Unclean; it wasn't hard."
"Can’t say I never did that." said Mr. Weasley with a smile.
Fred, George, and Ginny came to sit next to them too, and Harry was having such a good time he felt almost as though he were back at the Burrow; he had forgotten to worry about that evening's task, and not until Hermione turned up,
"Killjoy." said Fred with a teasing smile.
halfway through lunch, did he remember that she had had a brainwave about Rita Skeeter.
"Are you going to tell us -?"
Hermione shook her head warningly and glanced at Mrs. Weasley.
"Hello, Hermione," said Mrs. Weasley, much more stiffly than usual.
"I’m sorry Hermione." said Mrs. Weasley once again.
"It’s alright." said Hermione with a warm smile.
"Hello," said Hermione, her smile faltering at the cold expression on Mrs. Weasley's face.
Harry looked between them, then said, "Mrs. Weasley, you didn't believe that rubbish Rita Skeeter wrote in Witch Weekly, did you? Because Hermione's not my girlfriend."
"Oh!" said Mrs. Weasley "No - of course I didn't!"
But she became considerably warmer toward Hermione after that.
"Yeah she did." said muttered Seamus.