The Graveyard and the End
Right after dinner, Harry and Hermione, along with the rest of the school, made their way down to the Quidditch pitch. Twenty-foot hedges were crisscrossing the field. As they started for the stands, Mad-Eye Moody came up and put his hand on Harry's shoulder, causing Harry to flinch.
"Well, Mister Potter," the DADA teacher started. "Ready to watch your friend?"
"Yeah I guess," Harry replied as tried to get away from the ex-Auror. The smell of Firewhisky had been permeating the classroom lately and it was lingering around Moody now.
"He's not as good as you," Moody continued. "Better stay close. You might have to go save him."
"He'll be fine," Harry replied and finally managed to pull free before hurrying on with Hermione. If the two of them had looked back, they would have seen Professor Moody carefully holding a single black hair between his fingers.
'In case I need plan B,' the polyjuiced impostor thought as he took out a small glass vial and put the hair into it.
As Harry and Hermione found the best seats they could, they realized the stadium seats were only twenty feet high as well. So, standing they could actually see over the hedges but couldn't see anything going on in the maze.
Hermione quickly grasp the meaning of the hedges. "It's going to be a maze!" She exclaimed. "So if all they have to do is run through the hedges, then maybe Ron will be alright," At that moment, a sound they both recognized as a blast-ended skrewt propelling itself came from inside the maze, followed by a roar from some other unidentified creature. Hermione looked nervously at Harry. "Or maybe not."
"Is there anything we can do to help him?" Harry asked.
Hermione's bottom lip disappeared into her mouth and it was all Harry could do not to entice the lip back out with a few nibbles and kisses. A look of inspiration passed over her face and she dug into her bag. "I think I still have it with me," she muttered and, after a few seconds, she pulled out the ragged parchment Ron had signed all those months ago. She looked around to make sure no one was looking and, after canceling the previous overlapping jinx, she mutter a few words and waved her wand over the parchment.
"What did you do?" Harry asked.
"I set the spell up to switch the air to a place about twenty feet in front of him. It'll last the next two hours," Hermione explained. "I thought that if he comes across something that threatens him, he might be jealous of us being safe and, well…" She shrugged. "I can't think of anything else that might help him."
Harry wondered what would happen to a dementor if it had to cross into such a barrier. 'It might be an interesting experiment at some point in time,' Harry thought. With his school grades almost equaling his girlfriend's now, he found himself thinking theoretically on occasion, willing to explore new ideas. That willingness had caused many great hours between Harry and Hermione in the Room of Requirements.
"I hope this doesn't take long," Hermione said.
Harry agreed. His mind was quickly leaving the Triwizard Tournament and returning to the Room of Requirements. Hermione had earlier shown him page eighty-seven of the book and he still wasn't quite sure how that particular position was possible, but he was really interested in finding out.
Hermione was still looking out over the maze. "So once again, we wait for who knows how long and still not be able to see anything? Who in Merlin's name came up with these events?"
"Ministry, I do believe."
Hermione put her hand to her head. "I was thinking of going to work there when I graduated," She said with a sigh. "But if people like Percy Weasley and whoever the idiot was who thought up these events work there, I'll find employment elsewhere. I'd probably end up killing too many stupid people."
"Something similar for me. Moody thought I'd be a good Auror," Harry said, looking at his beautiful girlfriend. "But if he's supposed to be one of the better ones, then I don't think that's for me. I mean, I don't want to end up looking like him in thirty or forty years. Not something to put on a job recruitment poster, is it?"
Hermione laughed. "I agree."
The four champions followed Ludo Bagman down from the Great Hall. Fleur, Cedric and Krum were all walking together and, several paces behind, was Ron Weasley.
"So guys, party tonight?" Ron asked. "Veela, I had a house elf put some butterbeer on ice for us. Krum…" the rest ended as a silencing hex came from Fleur's wand. It didn't seem like Ron noticed as he continued to talk but said nothing. Cedric and Krum smiled at the Beauxbatons champion and mouthed a quick "Thanks!" Shortly, they were standing on the Quidditch field and in front of them was a large gap in the hedges. Obviously, they were at the entry to the maze.
As the day gave way to dusk, the first stars started to appear in the sky. The sounds of hundreds of feet filled the air as the students walked to the stands. Hagrid, Professor McGonagall and Professor Flitwick came walking into the stadium with Professor Moody limping quickly to catch up. They all approached Bagman and the champions. Each of them was 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?"
Cedric, Krum and Fleur nodded while Ron thought, 'Of course they need to know that.'
"Off you go, then!" Said Bagman jovially to the four patrollers. McGonagall looked at Ron and wondered if this would be the last time she would see him alive. She was unnerved by herself when she realized that she really didn't care. Then the four of them walked away in different directions to station themselves around the maze. One the professors were out of range, Bagman pointed his wand at his throat and muttered, "Sonorus." His magically magnified voice echoed into the stands as he started the commentary.
"Ladies and gentlemen, the third, er… well second… anyway, the final task of the Triwizard Tournament is about to begin! Let me remind you of the current standings! In first place is the Beauxbatons champion, Fleur Delacour after her - uh – impressive display against her dragon," The contingent of blue-robed Beauxbatons erupted in cheering, something that hadn't happened in the first event. Fleur turned and gave a warm smile and a wave to her schoolmates. 'It's nice to have friends,' she thought.
In his private seat, Cornelius Fudge thought of that first event and how much the Ministry had to pay for the death of the dragon. He thought about the bill for the decontamination of Black Lake, as well. The whole tournament was well over the budget allocated.
Ludo continued through the cheering. "In second place from here at Hogwarts, is Cedric D..."
"THAT'S MY SON!" Rang out from the stands and Cedric rolled his eyes at his father's comments.
"Er… in second place is Cedric Diggory," Bagman said quickly so as not to be interrupted again. All of the stands erupted in cheering with the yellow and black-robed students especially loud.
Ludo smiled as he gave a glance at the young man before continuing. "Followed closely behind Mister Diggory is the Durmstrang champion, Victor Krum!" The Durmstrang contingent erupted in cheering and stomping of their feet, but piercing every other noise was a load roar from a strange looking animal on a hat being worn by a blonde-haired girl with dreamy eyes. The roar was so loud, birds scattered from the Forbidden Forest. Krum knew his Luna was under that hat and he turned and smiled at his girlfriend.
Luna wasn't afraid for her boyfriend, nor was Cho for Cedric. They knew what the three older champions had planned.
After the roar reverberations had quieted down, Ludo was able to continue the introductions. "Currently in last place, but not out of the... er... well, he still has a chance is…" Ludo Bagman started patting down his pockets until he found a parchment which he read from, "Ronald Weasley, also from here at Hogwarts."
"THAT'S MY RONNIKINS!" The shrill voice of Molly Weasley pierced the air, but outside of a couple of cheers from the Creevey brothers and Bill, no other sounds were heard. Harry was very busy at the moment keeping Hermione's lips warmed, even if it was almost the end of June.
"Yes, well, let's get this started," Ludo said. "So... on my whistle, Miss Delacour. Three - two - one!" He gave a short blast on his whistle.
Fleur looked over at Cedric and Krum and winked. She walked to the edge of the entry and, with a wave of her wand; she conjured a chair and sat down and cross her legs.
Ludo Bagman looked confused. This wasn't how it was supposed to work. "Uh… young lady, you're supposed to go into the maze and, you know…er... find the cup."
"Oui, I know," Fleur said and looked away.
'She's scared! She's too scared to go in. I'll have to comfort her later after I win,' Ron thought. 'Just shows a girl should never have been selected as a champion.'
A minute passed with everyone in the stands and judges table staring at Fleur and she still had not left her chair. Bagman finally said, "Mister Diggory… it's your turn. Three-two-one!" And he gave another short blast on his whistle.
Repeating exactly what Fleur did, Cedric walked over to the entry of the maze and conjured a chair and sat down beside the Beauxbatons champion, who turned and smiled at him.
Crickets could be heard in the silence that surrounded the maze. An occasional noise came from the maze, but not a single student, judge or guest made a sound. Ludo was ready to pull his hair out of his head. He had a considerable bet on Cedric to get to the cup first.
"Uh... Mister Diggory?" Ludo nodded toward the opening. "The objective is to be the first to the cup."
"I know," Cedric replied, and then he turned and smiled at Fleur again and relaxed in his chair.
'Him, too? Well, he is a Hufflepuff, so what do you expect? Bunch of losers, they are,' Ron thought. 'He better keep his hands off my Veela while I'm in there!"
A couple of minutes later, Krum repeated the same thing. Soon, all three older participants were relaxing in front of the maze.
"Clitter Clitter!" The Crickets were getting to be exceptionally loud. Even Rita Skeeter's Quick-Quote Quill was confused and had started quoting the crickets.
'VICTOR KRUM is a coward? Never would have seen that coming,' Ron thought, but then he smiled. He could already feel the weight of a thousand galleons in his money pouch. Then a worried thought passed his mind. 'Will a thousand galleons even fit in my bag? If not, I guess I'll have to buy a new bag.' He thought of the looks of awe that Harry and Hermione, not to mention the whole school, would have on their faces when he emerged from the maze holding the Triwizard cup. He thought how jealous they would be of him as he hoisted the cup over his head right after shaking the Minister of Magic's hand. He started mentally going through all the things he would be buying starting the next day. 'A Firebolt, new clothes, season tickets to the Cannons…'
Ron was shaken from his thoughts by the magically enhanced voice of Ludo Bagman. "Well, it's time for our… uh… fourth champion to enter the maze!" He pulled out his parchment again and read it quickly. "Uh… Mister Weasley, if you will, please? Three-two-one!" He again blew on his whistle and waited to see if this champion was going to enter the maze.
Ron took off immediately. Passing the other three champions who smiled at him as he went by, he quickly disappeared into the maze. Fleur, Krum and Cedric looked at each other and continued to wait. The one thing Ron and the other champions had forgotten about was the silencing hex that Fleur had cast on him.
Ron ran down between the hedges for about fifty yard until there was a fork. 'I'll go right, because I'm always right,' Ron thought simply. He ran another thirty yards and turned a corner and stopped dead in his tracks. Silent screams erupted from his throat as he tried to cast hex after hex. Jabbing his wand at the horrible sight in front of him, he backed into a corner in terror.
The small garden spider that was a few feet in front of him was just standing in the path, minding its own business. It had no clue that the big thing that had just appeared was even alive, much less trying to kill it.
The other three champions finally stood from their chairs.
Fleur, Michelle, Cedric, Cho, Krum and Luna were all sitting around the large oak tree near Black Lake discussing the third task.
"Anyone know what kind of animals zis 'Argrid might put in ze maze?" Fleur asked.
"He has something called a blast-ended skrewt, which is a poisonous, stingered creature that propels itself by explosions from its backside," Cedric explained. "There are also rumors of acromantula."
"Madam Maxime zinks zere might be boggarts as well. She also 'eard about some dangerous plants inside ze 'edges."
"What about you, Victor?" Cedric asked. "Have you heard anything?"
Krum was deep in thought, but Luna's hand on his leg brought him around. He turned to the group and said, "This is going to be on a Quidditch pitch, yes?"
"Then vy fight these creatures? There is much simpler vay."
"What do you mean?"
"Vell, on a Quidditch pitch, vat do you normally do?"
"Fl…" Cedric started, and then his and Fleur's eyes widened.
"So we don't need to go through the maze, we just need to go over it," Cedric said. "Is there a rule against doing that?"
"Zat Ludo didn't mention any such rule. 'E basically said ze first person to touch ze cup, wins."
Cedric looked at Krum. "I'm sure you're going to get there the fastest. You're the best seeker in the world."
"Fleur vill. She vill have a head start by a couple of minutes," Krum answered.
Fleur looked at him. "Zen why mention eet? Ze cup could 'ave been yours. I wouldn't 'ave zought to use a broom?"
Victor looked at Luna and smiled. "I've learned this year that some things are more important than vinning."
Fleur thought about that answer and looked around at what she now called her friends and made the suggestion they were all beginning to consider. "Togezer. We all go togezer and touch ze trophy at ze same time."
"Are you sure?" Cedric asked. He would have expected something like this if he was competing against Harry Potter maybe, but here were representatives from two other schools.
"Zis is all about friendship and cooperation ees eet not?" Fleur asked. "Let's show ze world what eet means to cooperate."
The three champions all nodded to each other and all said, "Together."
"Vat about the fourth?" Krum asked, looking especially at Cedric.
"If it was still Harry Potter, I'd have him join us. Actually, I think if it was him, he would have suggested it to start with," Cedric said with a fond smile. "You know he even warned me about the dragons?" He looked at his other co-champions. "But I can't bring myself to offer the same invitation to Weasley. I swear he's thicker than a stone."
"Now Cedric," Luna said dreamily, "I happen to have a lot of stones who are my friends. You don't have to insult them like that."
Fleur and Krum both agreed with Cedric and Luna while Michelle giggled at their littlest friend's antics.
Fleur laughed a small laugh at the thought of the redheaded champion. "If eet wasn't for 'im zough, I doubt I would 'ave done so well against my dragon. Ze only reason I was a Veela was because 'e slapped my derrière."
Krum looked over at Luna as something suddenly clicked. "Your weasel you were hiding from?"
"Vell, I guess if it wasn't for him, I vouldn't have met Luna then."
"It was something he said that gave me the clue to solving the egg," Cedric chimed in. "Though, I admit I'm still hoping to have that obliviated from my mind some day soon."
"So should we let 'im join us?"
"NO!" Everyone in the group yelled at once.
"But," Cedric said with gleam in his eye. "We should give him his chance to go in the maze. It's only right."
"What if 'e zinks to use a broom?" Fleur asked.
The laughter that question brought on lasted a long, long time. The possibility of Ronald Weasley thinking.
When the three other champions rose from their seats, the stands erupted in cheers. Deep in the maze, Ron Weasley couldn't hear anything.
"Accio broom," Fleur yelled.
"Accio broom," Krum yelled.
"Accio broom," Cedric yelled.
Each of the champions had positioned their brooms near the Beauxbatons carriage. It didn't take long for three brooms to come screaming onto pitch and stop at each of their sides. Ten seconds later, the three champions were flying above the maze and could easily see the cup ahead of them. They also saw something that looked like a sphinx, an acromantula and several other very dangerous creatures. They quickly landed in the clearing next to the table with the cup. Each put their hand near the cup and Fleur and Krum nodded at Cedric.
"On three." Cedric said. "One… two… three!" All three hands touched the cup simultaneously and each felt the tug behind their navel as they were pulled away.
A second later, the three of them landed outside the maze next to a startled Bagman.
Ludo Bagman looked stunned. With his voice still magically magnified, he said, "We have our, uh... champion… I mean… champions! Uh… well… it looks we have a three way tie."
Silence. Crickets could be heard again. The Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, came storming over. "WHO thought up this ridiculous event? I thought they were going to be fighting creatures and monsters! Do you know how much paperwork I did to get that sphinx in here? How much the Ministry paid for all of this?" He screeched, waving his arms around. "And all they had to do was fly over the maze?" He looked at his watch, "Once they started, it took less than a minute."
"Well… you see…" Bagman started as he scratched his head, looking nervous. He was the one who had thought up the three events, but all the bludgers to his head had caused severe brain damage over the years. When he looked up, he saw the goblins he had placed the bet with start toward him. Bagman turned and ran.
Less than a month later, Ludo Bagman was working alongside Lucius Malfoy inside the tunnels below Greenland. His demise was much less pleasant than that of his coworker. A year later, the goblins were positioning a dragon to guard the high security vaults. On that particular day, Bagman was on dragon dung duty. Unfortunately, he started cleaning before the dragon was done emptying its bowels. Bagman found himself buried in a ton of dragon dung and, when the other workers tried to dig him out, the goblins prevented it. As they pointed out, the dragon dung was much more valuable than Bagman, and constant digging into it with the wrong equipment would reduce its value. It was a week later when his body was finally uncovered.
Lucius had been penalized an extra year of work for attempting the same fate for himself.
Hermione looked at Harry. "That was it? They just flew over the maze? Who was the bloody idiot who didn't think of that?"
Harry shrugged at her. "We already said it was an idiot who thought up this event." After a kiss to calm his girlfriend down, he added, "Now what about page eighty-seven, my stunning little bookworm?"
Hermione eyes widened as she grinned and nodded. The two of them quickly departed their seats and were about to leave the pitch when they heard a voice behind them. "POTTER!"
Harry stopped and saw Professor Moody stomping his way toward them. "I was coming to find you. I think your friend is in trouble, Potter. He's still in the maze and I thought I heard screams. Here, take this lantern and go see if you can find him. Unfortunately until he reaches the center or sends up red sparks, no instructor is allowed to help him."
Harry glanced at Hermione, and then back to Moody who was still trying to catch up to them. He quickly weighed going into a dangerous maze in search of a jealous idiot against going to the Come and Go Room to work on page eighty-seven with his girlfriend. The decision process took less time than Ron took to eat a biscuit. "As much as I'd like to," He yelled as he grabbed Hermione's hand. "I thought I heard screaming in the castle," Then in a quieter voice to his girlfriend, "or will be hearing it anyway," Harry tugged on Hermione as he spun toward the castle and started running leaving the bugus defense instructor stunned.
'What about his Saving People Syndrome? Especially his friend?' Moody asked himself as he continued to follow the two teens for a short time, yelling for them to come back and save their friend, but nothing slowed them down from their rather spirited charge to the castle. He lifted his wand with the intention of stunning Potter, but then he noticed a number of students were now close by. With a sigh he lowered his wand knowing he could not capture Potter without it being noticed.
'Well, there goes Plan A,' Crouch thought. 'Time for Plan B.' He stomped off back to the maze. Using his magical eye, he quickly found the ginger headed idi... champion. He was huddled in a corner of the maze, jabbing his wand at something. At first, Crouch couldn't figure out what the boy was fighting, wondering if he had been hit by one of the severe confusion traps or illusion spells, but then he saw the spider. Not the six foot acromantula spider, but a one inch garden type that could be found around most hedges. Crouch pulled out a flask of polyjuice potion and dropped Harry's hair into the liquid. The liquid bubbled and frothed and then turned a bright, clear gold. 'Damn, he is the golden boy, isn't he?' Crouch thought. 'Well, that will make it easier.' Then he remembered Potter's glasses. "Accio Potter's glasses."
Harry and Hermione were almost to the castle when, all of a sudden, Harry's glasses went zooming off of his face. Harry watched the glasses disappearing into a blurred distance. "Probably Fred and George having a laugh," Harry said. "Just get me to the Room of Requirement now and I'll get them from them later, or maybe you can conjure me some new ones." It took a little longer, but Hermione was finally able to lead him to the proper place.
The glasses landed in Crouch's hand as he limped to where Ron continued his silent battle with the garden spider. When the fourth champion saw the DADA Professor, he quickly ran behind him and pointed at the spider. Crouch walked the two steps and with a sweep of his foot, he knocked the spider off the path.
Crouch turned to the boy and all the headaches of the past came back almost instantly overwhelming his senses. He took a deep breath and regained his composure. Then, realizing how quiet it was in the maze, he thought, 'He probably doesn't know the task is over.' He looked again at Ron and started his on-the-spot spiel. "Mister Weasley, you still have a chance at this but the other champions are now in the maze."
Ron's eyes widened as Crouch continued, knowing exactly what would push the boy on. "They probably think you're taking care of all the challenges."
Ron nodded in agreement.
"What you need is an edge. You need the same luck as Harry Potter," Crouch continued. "I mean, he has all the luck and you have nothing, right?"
Ron's nodding continued. Actually, it hadn't stopped from when it began.
Crouch pulled out the flask of golden colored Polyjuice potion and showed it to Ron. "This will give you his luck. This will make you Harry Potter for an hour. Drink it and you'll definitely be going places."
Ron grabbed the flask and chugged the golden liquid in one gulp and a few seconds later, he looked like Harry Potter in slightly oversized robes. Crouch handed him the glasses and said, "Now take this lantern. It's charmed to guide you to the cup and protect you from any other creatures in the maze." Crouch tapped his wand to the lantern and muttered a couple of words, and then handed it to the fourth champion.
Ron grabbed the lantern and, as he turned toward the path Crouch was pointing at, a wand came up behind his head with barely a whisper following it. "Obliviate."
'Now he won't remember me giving him that or polyjuicing him.'
The dazed looking fourth champion dropped his wand as he stumbled slowly down the path. Thirty seconds later, the lantern glowed blue and he felt the pull behind his navel. Ron Weasley, Triwizard Champion (though currently polyjuiced as Harry Potter,) disappeared from the maze.
As Crouch watched the carrot-topped idiot disappear, he breathed a sigh of relief. He now could at least say he was tricked by Dumbledore if his master found out the truth. Or at worst, Plan C was still an option with a hacksaw ready to go to reduce any magical traces. He turned to walk back out of the maze. On the other side of the hedge from where he was, a blast-ended skrewt was preparing to propel itself. The flames from the skrewt passed through the hedges and ignited the robes of the Death Eater DADA professor. Since Crouch had been adding Firewhisky to his polyjuice potion for months, every single cell in his body was saturated in the flammable liquid. The flames caught in the fumes of his breath and quickly ignited his entire body. The extremely hot flames burned everything to ash, including the magical eye and wooden leg. The real Mad-Eye Moody was never found. He died of thirst and starvation in his own trunk. Everyone presumed the crazy old Auror had wandered off somewhere and would return some day. His trunk and other magical detection devices were all stored away in a remote storage area in the castle in case he ever turned up to claim them.
Ron's feet slammed into the ground a few seconds after leaving the maze. Following his feet, his arse was the next part to hit and then his head. Ron stayed sprawled on the ground for several seconds but, finally, he climbed to his feet as he rubbed his arse. The blow to the head had been firm, but the lack of anything of importance there prevented any significant injury. Finally, he started to look around as he tried to figure out what had happened. The last thing he remembered was fighting a spider and now he was holding a lantern and had no wand and no clue. He suddenly wished he had his egg with him. It always brought him a sense of comfort.
The various tombstones that surrounded Ron gave him the clue that he was not at Hogwarts anymore. In fact, after only a few minutes of contemplation, he realized he was in a dark and overgrown graveyard. He even noticed the outline of a small church beyond a large tree to his right. To his left, a hill rose in the distance. As he studied his surroundings, a feeling of ill omen passed over him but Ron mistook it for hunger.
'I'll wait here. I'm sure someone will come and get me any time now,' he thought as he sat down and started patting his pockets, looking for something to eat. It never crossed his mind to wonder why he was wearing glasses. As he continued to search his pockets for the third time, Ron never heard the footsteps approach until a high-pitched, babyish voice said, "If it isn't Harry Potter at last. Welcome."
Ron turned around quickly and found himself staring at his old rat. Well, not actually the rat, but the person his rat turned into last year. 'Wormtail?' Ron screamed silently. Then he thought of what else was said. 'Harry?' And quickly looked around for his friend. But when he didn't see him, he turned back to the small man in front of him. That's when he noticed the infant in Wormtail's arms. Confusion rung in Ron's head. It rung even louder because of the echo effect that existed in the mostly empty space between his ears. 'When did Wormtail have a baby? Oh Merlin! It's the ugliest baby, too! Hate to think who the mother must have been.'
"Prepare him," the baby said in its high-pitched voice.
"Yes, Milord," Wormtail said to the evil looking baby thing. He sat the infant down and grabbed Ron and started pulling him away.
'Milord?' Ron thought as he found himself being dragged over to a marble headstone. Just as Ron was forced against the stone and cords conjured to hold him in place, he saw a name.
The name seemed familiar to Ron but he couldn't place it. But that wasn't surprising as Ron's mind and body were frozen in panic and confusion. 'WHAT? WHO? Where's the cup? The galleons? Why am I being tied up?' He mentally cried out. He opened his mouth and for the first time in a long time, sounds poured out as the silencing spell broke. He wanted to say something, anything, but only garbled nonsense poured out in his panic. When Wormtail had checked every knot, he pulled a length of material from his robes and shoved it into Ron's mouth, cutting off even the sounds Ron could make. As Ron tried to look around, he found he could only look directly ahead of him.
A rustling noise from near his feet caught Ron's attention and, after struggling, he was able to look down slightly and immediately wished he hadn't been able to. He saw a gigantic snake slithering through the grass, circling the headstone where he was tied. Right before passing out in fear, his last thoughts were, 'Why does Harry Potter always get the easy ones?'
When he came to, Wormtail was pointing his wand at him. Twenty feet behind Wormtail was a huge cauldron. It was big enough for someone to sit in. The first thoughts Ron had when he saw it were: 'It would be great to make stew in that size a cauldron!' The cauldron seemed to be filled with water and a fire was burning underneath it. 'Maybe that's what he's going to do. Could Wormtail be in charge of the feast?' Ron thought hopefully. The grumbling in his stomach concurred.
Wormtail picked the baby back up. "Harry Potter," the baby said.
Ron just stared at the black and red evil baby thingy who spoke almost perfect English, though with a hiss.
"Do you know who I am?" The baby asked as coldly as his high-pitched voice could muster.
'Someone keeping me from my stew!' Ron tried to yell in outrage, but it only came out as "mmmhhmmhmm" through the material in his mouth.
"It's been three years since you banished me from Quirrell. Remember now?"
'Quirrell? But… but... that was… AAAAARRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHH!" Ron froze in panic. His eyes were wider than when he looked upon a Christmas feast. He tried to shout "I'M RON WEASLEY, NOT HARRY POTTER!" But still only "MMMMMHHHHHMMMM" came out from the material in his mouth.
"Ah... I see you know now. Excellent. Keep struggling, it only makes my victory all the sweeter. You see, I'm going to use your blood to give me a new body."
'BLOOD?' Ron thought as he struggled even more.
A high-pitched cackled came from the evil infant. "And then I'm going to torture you as you've tortured me all of these years, and especially these last few weeks! Do you know the pain you've caused me while you were busy shagging that mudblood of yours? Yes, I know of her. I'll be torturing her in the future. A nice present for my most faithful servants. Did you really have to do her four or five times a night for the last month? I suffered night after night, writhing in agony every time you two enjoyed your little pleasures, but tonight you will suffer! You will suffer more than you can ever imagine."
Ron's eyes widened even more as, again, he tried to shout out that he wasn't Harry Potter, but the only thing that came out of his body was the urine pouring down his leg, though no one noticed.
The baby looked at Wormtail. "Is it ready?"
They both glanced at the cauldron where the liquid began not only to bubble, but to send out fiery sparks, as though it were on fire. The steam began to light up as the whole surface of the water was now alight with sparks. It might have been encrusted with diamonds.
"It is ready, Master."
Wormtail carried the hairless red-black Most Evil Baby thingy to the cauldron and lowered it in. If Ron hadn't been too terrified of what was going on, he would have heard it hit the bottom of the cauldron with a thud. As he imagined the torture he had in his future, the other thing Voldemort had said came back to him. 'Shagging that mudblood?' What that meant immediately jumped into his mind. 'Harry's been shagging Hermione? Four or five times a night? I'm tied to a bloody tombstone and Harry's shagging Hermione?' Ron tried to raise a hand as he struggled to free himself just as the jealousy overcame him. Wormtail noticed the movement and looked up to make sure the knots were still secure, but that was the last thing he remembered outside of an explosion.
The rumbles started deep inside of Ron as he imagine his two ex-friends in bed together and the next second, with an explosive force that actually managed to singe the hairs on his own buttocks and enough force to crack the tombstone behind him: "PPPPPPWWWWWTTTTTTTPPPPP PPPPP WWWWTTTTPPPP TTTPPPPPPWWWWTTTTPPPPPP PPPPPPWWWWWTTTTTTTPPPPP PPPPPWWWWTTTTPPPPPP TTTPPPPPPWWWWTTTTPPPPPP PPPPPPWWWWWTTTTTTTPPPPP PPPPPWWWWTTTTPPPP TTTPPPPPPWWWWTTTTPPPPPP PPPPPPWWWWWTTTTTTTTTPPPPP PPPPPWWWWTTTTPPPP TTTPPPPPPWWWWTTTTPPPPPP PPPPPPWWWWWTTTTTTTPPPPP PPPPPWWWWTTTTPPPP TTTPPPPPPWWWWTTTTTTPPPPPP PPPPPWWWWTTTTPPPP TTTPPPPPPWWWWTTTTPPPPPP PPPPPWWWWTTTTPPPP TTTPPPPPPWWWWTTTTPPPPPP PPPPPWWWWTTTTPPPP TTTPPPPPPWWWWTTTTPPPPPP!"
The cauldron just happened to be twenty feet in front of Ron, and the volume of gas that was dispersed into that area immediately connected with the flames under the cauldron. The resulting explosion superheated the liquid in the giant iron pot which immediately steamed the infant thingy that lay at the bottom to death. It also threw Peter Pettigrew several hundred feet, leaving him unconscious and smoking, but alive. The tombstone Ron was attached to uprooted and it and Ron were also thrown some distance. Between the fear, the explosion, and him hitting his head when he hit the ground, Ron lapsed into unconsciousness. The large cauldron rolled over on its side, flattening Nagini and dumping the infant lobster thingy out onto the ground.
The extremely large amount of magical energy contained in the contents of the cauldron were released in the explosion. That amount of energy being released registered quickly in Auror Headquarters. Since it was a known muggle location, several Aurors were dispatched to investigate. Two of those sent were Kingsley Shacklebolt and the newest Auror, Nymphadora Tonks, fresh out of Auror training.
Right before the explosion occurred, some of the deadly gas dissolved into the bubbling liquid in the cauldron. As the liquid super-heated, it fused the smell into the very soul of Voldemort as it steamed the infant to death. The piece of Voldemort's soul that had been in the body reached out to the horcruxes to preserve its connection to the physical world.
In a bank vault on the lowest level of Gringotts, a screaming black vapor poured out of a small golden cup with a badger on it, and the smell that accompanied the vapor quickly filled the chamber. Sixty years in the future, when Bellatrix Lestrange was finally released from Azkaban, her first stop was Gringotts to fill her money bags from her vault. As she opened the door and walked into the vault, the smell that had lingered for sixty years overcame her weakened state. Since she hadn't had time to cast the counter curse to the Germino and Flagrante curses when she stumbled into a pile of her treasure and collapsed, the treasure multiplied and burned until nothing was left but a badly burned corpse.
The goblin who had accompanied her quickly shut the vault to prevent the smell from escaping. Looking around to make sure no one else was watching, he walked away quickly. Having the wealthy but insane witch die while he was accompanying her wouldn't look good on his record, nor would the loss of so much gold.
At number twelve Grimmauld Place, a locket burst open, screaming as a black vapor poured out of it. As the screams died down, the smell that had accompanied the vapor out of the piece of jewelry quickly filled the Ancient and Noble house of Black until the whole residence smelled of rotten corpses. A small house elf rushed into the room where the locket was located and, upon seeing the quest his master had given him many years in the past was completed, his mind cleared and he picked up the locket and placed it around his neck. Then he went in search of the last of the Blacks. Anything was better than sticking around with a smell that he could actually feel on his skin.
In a shack near the graveyard, a ring hidden under the floorboard suddenly spewed forth a screaming black cloud along with the smell of a thousand rotting corpses. Unfortunately for a certain Headmaster, the compulsion and withering curse that also were on the ring were not affected. A little more than a year in the future, Albus Dumbledore still discovered the ring as he searched for the Hallow he desperately wanted. He still placed the ring on his finger and the curse started withering his arm away.
The Room of Requirement had two horcruxes at this moment. In a vast storage area, a thousand year old diadem emitted a black cloud that screamed in anguish as the large cavernous room filled with an obnoxious smell. A couple of weeks later, Professor Trelawney stumbled into the room carrying twenty empty bottles of cooking sherry. She lapsed into unconsciousness as the smell overcame her. House elves found her a couple of days later, but the smell had permanently imbibed itself into her very skin by then.
The perfume smell in her classroom had to be increased by several factors to cover the smell. Divination quickly became a subject no one volunteered to take. After four straight years of no one taking Divination, she was let go. Several months later, she failed to predict the cauldron she had bought from Mundungus Fletcher was made out of cheap materials. When she tried to brew a simple potion in it, it exploded, killing her instantly.
The last horcrux was embedded in the scar and soul of Harry James Potter. At the time the living part of Voldemort's soul tried to make a connection to its last horcrux, said person was lying on his back while the love of his life was sitting on top of him displaying a more physical aspect of their love. His scar immediately burned more deeply than it ever had before. Harry could feel the consciousness of Voldemort trying to push its way into his mind.
'You're my last horcrux, Harry Potter, and I will have your body as well!' Harry heard in his head. He had no idea what a horcrux was, but he knew the voice very well. "Her…mione," Harry gasped through the pain as he struggled against the possession. "It…its Vol…Voldemort. He's trying to poss…possess me. I… I can feel him trying to fill me with… with… hate."
Hermione instantly stopped her motions as she stared at her boyfriend. She could already see his eyes had turned a pinkish color and his face was contorted as he mentally took on Voldemort. "What can I do..." She started, but then remembered Harry's words. 'Filling him with HATE? I'll help him fight it with love,' she thought determinedly. She immediately started her motions again, moving faster and faster as she laid down on her boyfriend's chest. Between kisses, she said, "Fight it, Harry. I love you and you promised to always love me!" Tears ran down Hermione's face as she watched her love in pain, fighting for his soul. "You can't love me, you can't make love to me, if you're filled with hate." She could see the determination of her boyfriend as he fought. "Think of our future Harry," She said as she continued showing him as much love as she could. "You promised me WE would have children, WE would have a family! REMEMBER!"
'Family,' Harry thought and a blurry golden light seemed to appear deep in his mind. As Harry concentrated on the love he had for Hermione and of the family they would have, the light grew stronger.
'It's no use Potter, you will be mine,' Voldemort said, but the voice was now weaker.
'Family' Harry again thought and the light grew stronger and brighter. The light started pulsing Had anyone really paid attention, it would have been noticed that the pulses of light did seem to coincide with certain movement of Hermione's hips. Relentlessly the golden pushed upon the darkness until finally, it crushed it into nothingness.
Harry's eyes flew open as his body started convulsing. If Hermione hadn't been so very concerned for her boyfriend, she would have enjoyed his convulsions. As it was, she saw the redness in Harry's eyes fade as they returned to their brilliant green. Then, she saw his scar split wide open and a black vapor and ooze pour out of it followed by a smell that was overpowering but somewhat familiar. As Harry lapsed into unconsciousness, Hermione quickly grabbed for her wand (the wooden one, not the one attached to her boyfriend) and took care of the smell. She then collapsed next to Harry and held him for several minutes. When she had recovered enough to walk, she got dressed and, after putting Harry's robes on him, she levitated her unconscious lover toward the hospital wing. Tears of fear, tears of hope and tears of love all poured down her cheeks as she walked beside him.
Looking down upon the world, the Goddess of Fate's eyes flew open wide when she realized what had happened. She turned her gaze upon those around her as she muttered. "Whoops!"
"WHOOPS! What do you mean, 'Whoops'?" A very angry older god asked the smaller Fate. "All of the heavens have been working to put Harry Potter where he is because you predicted he was the one to kill Voldemort! We allowed his mother and father to die and for him to be abused all because of your prediction! We allowed him to be manipulated by the senile old puke because of what you predicted!"
Fate shrunk into herself a little. "Well... uh... how was I supposed to know it was polyjuice potion?" She pointed to her scrying pool. "It only shows pictures. I clearly saw Harry Potter do some kind of magic that totally destroyed Voldemort and his horcruxes."
"Yet now we have an idiot who farted responsible!" The elder god who had many names like 'Zeus', 'Jupiter' and 'The One True God' looked around and quickly made up his mind. "Damage control people. We'll be the laughing stock of the multi-universes if this gets out." All of the lesser gods quickly came into play. Coincidences were forced, questions put in people's minds and others removed. All major disasters were put on hold as the gods worked through the crisis.
Fate tried a little recovery. "Well, it was that final battle that killed Voldemort… so really, it was Harry in the end, along with his lover." She saw the elder god still wasn't very happy. "And it was love… really was love that killed him. It might not have happened as I saw it, but it still happened."
The elder god sighed as he turned and walked away, shaking his mighty head. 'Some eternities are just not worth getting up for,' he thought.
Back in the graveyard, the Aurors appeared and immediately fell to the ground retching. "Merlin!" Tonks cried through gasping breaths of air. "What is that bloody smell?"
"Don't know," Came an equally gasping but much deeper voice of Shacklebolt. "Bubbleheads on immediately, though. This stuff might be deadly!" Once the protective bubbles of air were in place, he motioned for everyone to spread out and start searching for clues to what had caused the magical disturbance. Shacklebolt saw a smoking something several hundred feet away and walked over to investigate. What he found was an unconscious Peter Pettigrew. He immediately recognized a man who was supposed to be dead for over thirteen years. Knowing something was wrong; he put magic suppression cuffs on the man and levitated him back to the graveyard.
Tonks had also seen a smoking heap about fifty feet away and quickly found the unconscious body of Harry Potter still tied to some kind of tombstone. She immediately indicated they needed to drop the bubbleheads to talk, after clearing the air, of course. "I've got Harry Potter over here."
"What? Potter? HERE?"
The third Auror of the group was older. He had fought in the previous war and was poking around the cauldron and found the flat-faced, red-eyed, snake-looking infant. Looking around and seeing the other two without bubbleheads he dropped his own and shouted "Guys, I think this is You-Know-Who!"
"You-Know... well, you know, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named."
The older Auror noticed a wand lying beside the cauldron. "This is definitely You-Know-Who's wand!" he yelled.
"You-Kn…" The Auror slapped his head in frustration before yelling. "Bad guy's wand!"
"Tonks, go get Dumbledore out here," Shacklebolt said. "We need answers and hopefully he has them. We've got Harry Potter, a man who is supposed to be dead for the last thirteen years and the possible body… er... something of Voldemort."
"Do... do you think Potter killed him again?" Tonks asked, looking at the unconscious boy with raven colored hair and the infamous lightning bolt scar.
"Well, this thing is definitely dead," Shacklebolt said looking at the infant thingy. "If this is him, then yes, it looks like it happened again. But this time, we have a body."
It took a few minutes of refusing lemon drops, and a few questions about hair care and the color of her socks, but Tonks was finally able to convince the ancient headmaster of the need for his services before the trophy was handed out. Fudge, hearing something serious was happening, joined them in the trip back to the graveyard.
Dumbledore, seeing the name on the tombstone confirmed the evil infant thingy was in fact Voldemort, and then he looked at the body of Harry Potter. "Poor soul. He never had a chance for a life," he said miserably.
"Uh… sir… He's not dead," Shacklebolt mentioned, eying the headmaster peculiarly.
"Of course he is," Dumbledore replied. 'They just don't know the prophecy.'
"No, he's not. He's still breathing."
"Well, I'm sure it's just a matter of time, then," Dumbledore replied. He offered a small bag to the large Auror. "Lemon drop?"
Shacklebolt immediately turned to Tonks. "Take Potter to St. Mungo's… wait… Hogwarts' medical wing might be best. I think Pomfrey knows Mister Potter's medical history best."
"Please let me know when he finally dies," Dumbledore called after her as she took Ron, who appeared to be Harry, and apparated outside of Hogwarts. She quickly rushed the boy to the hospital wing after a quick disillusionment to keep prying eyes from catching wind of things.
"Order of Merlin first class, obviously," Fudge said to Dumbledore.
"Yes, definitely," Dumbledore replied. "I guess once he dies you can give it to his girlfriend. They have been extremely close. Lemon drop?" He casually offered the Minister the small bag.
Madam Pomfrey was near the Quidditch field where she had set up a medical tent expecting injuries from the champions, and one in particular. Both glad her service weren't needed, and frustrated at the stupidity of the event itself, she was busy packing up all the potions and other medical instruments she thought she was going to need. When Tonks couldn't find her in the medical wing, she placed Ron (still looking like Harry) in one of the beds. As she looked kindly at the young hero, she gently removed his glasses and placed them on the table that was between his and another bed. After another warm gaze at the raven-haired young man the world owed so much to, she left to find Madam Pomfrey.
Shortly after Tonks left the hospital wing, the Polyjuice potion wore off, leaving Ron lying in the bed. A few moments later, Hermione entered, levitating Harry into the hospital. When she couldn't find Madam Pomfrey either, she carefully put the love of her life in a bed. As she turned to go find the school nurse, she noticed who occupied the joining bed. 'Wonder what happened to him?' Briefly crossed her mind, but Harry was much more important.
Tonks was the first to find Pomfrey and, soon, she was telling her about finding the young man in the graveyard and finding the dead body of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named nearby as they rushed back to the medical wing. When she got to the young man's side, she noticed the scar was ripped open and some kind of black ooze was pouring out of it. Several potions later, and Harry was fully recovered. He even found his glasses lying on the table next to his bed. That was how Hermione found him. She had searched the grounds for the nurse and, unable to find her, had returned to the hospital wing only to find she had returned in Hermione's absence and healed her boyfriend.
Molly finally found her son in the hospital wing as well. Nobody knew how he got there. Nothing Madam Pomfrey tried would bring him around until four days later. Pomfrey assured the Weasley Matriarch and the rest of the Weasley clan that she could find no permanent harm in the young man except a very unusual and horrible smell and the discovery that he had urinated on himself. She promised she would keep trying to awaken the young man and let them know when she was successful. While he was unconscious, the school year ended with final testing and the contract he had signed many months earlier expired.
Wormtail bargained for a lifetime in Azkaban instead of the dementor's kiss by fully confessing. He admitted that he had betrayed the Potters and Sirius was innocent, he admitted he was trying to bring Voldemort back and he told the tale of the graveyard, even supplying the memories of it. Everyone saw what appeared to be Harry Potter performing the most amazing wandless magic that caused the entire area to explode in flames. The Daily Prophet ran articles proclaiming the end of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named at the hands of Harry Potter for good. They even had pictures of the Evil Villain baby body. Wormtail himself was put in the cell next to Bellatrix shortly after Draco Malfoy had left to live at the Burrow. She still had no clothes on and he was forced to see her every day like that for the next sixty years. He was quite sure he got the worst end of the bargain and begged to be kissed. Though every time he cried out to the guards that he wanted to be kissed, Bellatrix offered her own lips.
Shortly after the event, Harry described his own battle for his soul with Dumbledore. Leaving out the parts of having sex at the time, he described Voldemort's saying he was the last Horcrux and how he fought for his soul and won.
'The last Horcrux?' Dumbledore thought. 'So sad Harry will now die.' He turned to his student. "Well, when you're dead, Harry, I'll make sure the world knows of your great sacrifice," he said serenely.
"Yes. There was a prophecy concerning you," Dumbledore replied in his grandfatherly tone as he plucked another lemon drop from the candy dish.
"And what did the prophecy say?"
"Oh, you're much too young to know that, Harry. I just want you to have a normal life."
"But... but... you're saying it's already done, right?" Harry asked, bewildered by the new information.
"Then why can't I know what it said?" Harry asked.
"Because you're much too young to know, and I just want you to have a normal life," Dumbledore repeated as he lifted the candy dish and offered it to Harry, "Lemon drop?"
"Uh, no sir," Harry replied, beginning to wonder about the sanity of the person he was speaking to.
"That's too bad. They're quite delicious. Now we have to discuss you going back to your relative this summer. I'm sure it will only be a short time since you'll be dead soon enough."
"But I heard Wormtail confessed and Sirius is free," Harry said. "He'll want me to come live with him."
"Yes, but you're safer with your aunt. That is until you die."
"But Voldemort's dead."
"There are all kinds of dangers, Harry. Just this morning, I tripped on a step and opened a cut on my knee," Dumbledore started to lift his robes to show the knee in question.
Harry gave one last look at the Headmaster and bolted from his office.
Harry and Hermione of course denied the whole story of Harry being anywhere near a graveyard, but when they were unwilling to say what they had been doing at that time, or provide memories, everyone proclaimed it was Potter's usual unselfishness and self-sacrifice. Rita Skeeter ran her article of being saved from acromantulas by Harry at Christmas time. Since Harry never told her how many he actually had to kill to save her, she presumed it was at least four of them and wrote the story as such. She interviewed Daphne Greengrass and Tracey Davis who both swore that they had seen Harry Potter perform wandless magic before. That lead to even more credence to what happened in the graveyard. Story after story piled up in the Prophet. The more Harry denied the events ever occurred, the more praise was heaped upon him for his nobleness.
Then Ron Weasley woke up.
Ron immediately started proclaiming how You-know-Who had imprisoned him in a graveyard and started a rambling of fighting the Dark Lord with a sword until he lopped his head off. When people started laughing at him because Pettigrew had produced memories of exactly what happened, Ron started to tell the truth. But since Ron couldn't tell anyone how he got to the graveyard and how he came to look like Harry Potter, people laughed at his story. When he was able to give exact descriptions of what had happened, people presumed he had read the Daily Prophet articles describing the scene, but enough doubt was entered into the public's mind for Cornelius Fudge to open a public interview of Ron Weasley to put the issue to rest. With Harry and Hermione constantly denying Harry had anything to do with it and with them both denying all interviews, it was something Fudge felt was necessary.
In the largest courtroom at the Ministry, every seat was packed as Ronald Weasley took the chair and waited for the questioning so he could prove his claim. Fudge looked down at the redhaired young man and opened with the first question. "Mister Weasley, you claim you were the one who killed You-Know-Who on June Twenty-Fourth. Can you tell the courtroom exactly how you killed him?"
"Uh… I... I farted and he blew up," Ron answered honestly. The interview and investigation ended at that moment as the entire courtroom exploded in laughter. Harry and Hermione had attended the interview in hopes of supporting their old friend, but as the laughter continued minute after minute, Ron Weasley snapped. He charged at his old friends with fists raised, causing Harry to respond with a stunning spell before he could hurt Hermione. More articles appeared about the young man defending his lady and the legend grew larger and the ridicule of the youngest male Weasley continued.
Ron was found to be insane and put in confinement at St. Mungo's.
"We'd like to see Ronald Weasley," Hermione said a couple of weeks after Ron's hospitalization.
"If you'll just sign…." The nurse on duty started and then stopped as she saw the scar on Harry's forehead. "Wait a minute please." She disappeared down a hallway. A short time later, the nurse reappeared followed by doctor.
"I understand you wish to see Ronald Weasley?" The doctor asked.
"Yes, is something wrong?"
"I…I don't think it would benefit his eventual recovery for you to see him," The doctor explained.
"What? Why not?"
"Maybe it would be best if I showed them," The nurse said.
The doctor nodded. "Maybe so. Just remember that we're doing all that we can…but I feel it will take time."
"When Mister Weasley was admitted, he was placed in a standard room for observation," The nurse said in a quiet voice as she led Harry and Hermione down a hallway. Sounds ranging from violent argument to gentle crying could be heard from the various rooms as the passed them. "There was a bottle of ink and a quill in the room," The nurse continued.
"Yes…so?" Hermione asked.
They stopped in front of a door at the very end of the hallway.
"This is Mister Weasley's room," The nurse said as she pulled out her wand. "You'll be able to see him, but he won't be able to see you. I think you'll understand…" She tapped the wall next to the door and the wall became transparent.
"Oh…." Hermione gasped as she saw their old friend.
Ron was sitting at on the floor in the corner of his room rocking back and forth muttering. It became readily apparent what the nurse had meant about the quill and ink. It seemed that Ron had emptied the bottle on ink into his hair, turning it completely black. He had also used the quill to carve a lightning bolt on forehead.
"What's he saying?" Harry asked.
The nurse glanced at the Boy-Who-Lived for a couple of seconds before nodding. She made another gesture with her wand and sounds came from the room.
"I'm Harry Potter…I'm Harry Potter…I killed You-Know-Who…I'm Harry…" The words faded when the nurse gestured again.
"He's been saying that ever since he...well since he's been here," the nurse said.
"Well, let us know if anything changes or if we can help," Hermione said as the nurse led them away.
In another show of unity, the three Triwizard champions donated the winnings they had split to St. Mungo's to help in the care of Ron.
One of the most intriguing side effects of the death of Voldemort was his marked followers. The Dark Mark connected the follower to their master via Voldemort's soul magic. The smell that had joined into his soul immediately before his death was sent over the connections to that mark. Each marked Death Eater might have been able to hide his tattoo under their robes, but the smell that followed them everywhere they went made sure everyone knew who they were. No additional charges could be brought against them, but they became social outcasts when no one would invite them into their homes. Even their owls refused to return after a while. Wives divorced their Death Eater husbands and the courts were merciless in giving all the properties to them. Most of those wives followed Narcissa Black's example and started enjoying the more pleasant aspects of life.
Severus Snape was one of those marked men. Because of the smell he carried with him for the rest of his life, he was forced to give up his classroom. He opened a small apothecary shop that specialized in extremely difficult potions. The orders were filled by mail owl as the Potions Master had been fortunate to stumble upon an owl that had lost its sense of smell. No one ever saw him again, they just knew he existed. He died eighty-nine years of complete solitude later.
June twenty-fourth was proclaimed Harry Potter day and celebrated throughout the magical world.
All charges were dropped against Sirius Black and since he never was formally charged or convicted, his record was completely clean. He was reinstated at full rank and seniority in the Aurors. He received his full back pay, including all the overtime computed as if he was working twenty-four hours a day for the last thirteen years. He even got a bonus for showing a weakness in the defenses of Azkaban prison. Once the deed to Malfoy Manor was filed at the Ministry of Magic, he had the name officially changed to Marauders Mansion. Remus Lupin took up residence there as well. Kreacher found the last Black after several days of searching and joined the household.
Sirius blocked Dumbledore's efforts to send Harry back to the Dursleys and in enforcing the Potter's will, he took up guardianship. The Dursleys were extremely happy with the freak being gone. They never made the connection to Harry departing and the horrible streak of luck they encountered over the next couple of years that finally left them bankrupt and Vernon out of a job. It was a classroom demonstration of exactly how magic can be used without it being known. Something the Marauders were very adept at.
Dumbledore continued to patiently wait for Harry to die as he knew it would happen any day. He eventually found the ring Hallow buried in the floor of the old shack and his arm had started to wither, since Severus Snape was no longer in the castle he had no one to help him. The withering curse spread throughout his body and he slumped over his desk dead a short time later. His body was a mere husk of completely dried up, black skin. He wasn't found for two weeks.
Neville and Ginny stayed together and eventually married. They remained close friends with the Potters. Ginny got over her crush on Harry when she found out what true love really was.
Harry and Hermione spent the summer together. Whether at Marauders Mansion, the Grangers' residence or during the trip through Europe, they were always together. On their return to school the next year, they were both made Prefects which gave them many more opportunities to work their way through Harry's favorite book. When that book was found by Mrs. Granger in Hermione's book bag the summer after their fifth year, a long discussion took place between Mrs. Granger, Harry and Hermione. Fortunately, she decided to spare Harry's life and not tell Mr. Granger until the following summer. By that time, enough hints had been dropped to allow Richard Granger to accept the situation without actually killing the young man, but another dental exam was administered.
When Dumbledore was unable to secure a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, the Ministry stepped in and provided two Aurors for the job. Hogwarts was never the same once Sirius Black and Nymphadora Tonks spent two years teaching there as co-professors. Tonks also took over as Slytherin's Head of House. With her ability to morph into anyone, the subtle plans that were developed in the common room of the snake house were quickly defused and Slytherin was guided back into a respectable part of Hogwarts. When Sirius wanted to leave teaching behind and return to field Auror work, Harry decided to use his fame for the Greater Good and made a plea to the public to allow Remus Lupin to return to Hogwarts to take up the reins of DADA instructor once again. Those ex-students who remembered his brilliant lessons joined in and Remus was once again Professor Lupin. Tonks stayed on as co-instructor. The two of them finally fell for each other and married just a year later. With the curse of the DADA broken, they spent many years teaching together and raising their two children in the halls of Hogwarts.
During their seventh year, Harry and Hermione were made Head Boy and Girl by Headmistress McGonagall. A unique opportunity opened up for them that year. A French book collector heard of Harry's parselmouth abilities and offered him a substantial amount of money to help translate several parseltongue books into a readable language. Harry and Hermione worked on the project together. As the word spread, offers from all over the world poured in for help from collectors and libraries to do similar translations. When they left Hogwarts after their seventh year, they spent the next six years responding to those offers. They traveled the world and visited all the renowned magical libraries. Of course one of the conditions always put down in any contract they took was for Hermione to have unlimited access to the entire library they were working at. With Harry being the only parselmouth remaining in the world, he commanded huge amounts of galleons for his work and no condition he put forth was rejected. Two other conditions were also always required, one was that if the work was deemed for dark purposes only, Harry and Hermione would not complete the translation and the last was the two of them were to always be left alone in the library at least for one hour away from everyone else. No one knew that two of their three children were conceived during those times. All in all they made love in forty-seven different libraries around the world.
Harry proposed to Hermione just a couple of months after leaving Hogwarts. Instead of being on a knee as he asked the question, he did it while Hermione was descending a library book ladder at the Magical Library of Paris, the City of Love. He thought it was the perfect way and place to propose to his Mione. She agreed and, of course, said yes. The two of them married less than a year later and were surprised and shocked when Sirius handed them the deed to Marauders Mansion. He told them that it was the only reason he bought it in the first place. Harry insisted that Sirius take some of the land and build his own house, which he did.
Sirius settled down several years afterwards with a lovely muggleborn witch. He told everyone that would listen that he only picked her because he knew how much it would upset his mother. Of course, anyone who saw the two together knew she had Sirius Black wrapped around her little finger, and so did the little girl they had two years later.
When Fleur left Hogwarts following the Triwizard Tournament, she had friends for the first time in her life. She, Michelle and two other girls spent several weeks touring Germany. When the summer was over, she requested and was allowed to take an eighth year at Beauxbatons. Madam Maxime recognized the change that had occurred in the young lady and knew she needed time to come to terms to what it meant to her life.
It was during that year she noticed a shy seventh year who occasionally glanced at her. When she asked her new friends about him, she found out the boy's name was Pierre and he liked Fleur but was too shy to approach her. She broke the ice between the two of them and developed a friendship which became more. Two years later, the confident Pierre proposed to Fleur and, as she looked at him, she remembered the much older red haired man from the Triwizard Tournament. 'Pierre might not have an earring or wear dragon hide boots,' she thought, 'but he has something the other man can never have. He has my heart.' With tears of happiness in her eyes, she answered yes to the man who loved her for who she was and not lusted for what she was.