The third task
*Hogwarts' quidditch pitch*April 3*
The year was drawing to a close, Easter was right down the corner, the Tri-wizard tournament was receiving more news coverage than ever, news on Krum, Harry, Fleur, Neville and Cedric were making the daily headlines, either as praise or as slander
All five of the champions had furthered their studies in their own fields; Harry could claim now that he had mastered the most basic forms of aura manipulation, Fleur had gotten her mastery in illusions, Cedric in charms, Neville had caught up to all of his class mates and excelled in defensive magic, he had also found plants that, when chewed, would give him a boost in magic or vitality, Krum had been accepted in the Professional Dueller's league.
Ludo Bagman was never seen unless it was to make an official statement about the tournament, half the school had made a bet against him, all of them had won and the ex-player had refused to pay any of the bets, so whenever he was seen in the school grounds he had a horde of students chasing him for their money.
Barty Crouch had not been seen by anyone since the night of the second task, some said that some up and coming had kidnapped him, others said that he had moved to some remote place to live with a mistress that did not want him away from home.
The first one was the most widely accepted one, though it did not mean that the newspapers were not having a field day.
This led to Bagman being the only one in charge of the tournament.
"Can anyone tell me what it is that is behind me?" the portly man asked.
"Oh, geez, what could it be? I bet it is a raceway, NO, no, it's a swimming pool, or hot tub, NO, it's a volcano" Harry's sarcasm was not lost on anyone, even on Bagman.
Krum smiled nastily, amused by the humiliation, "It's a maze"
"Ah, yes, for the third task you must get from the starting point here" (Nah, really, I thought we would have to go from the finish line) "to the centre of the maze where the tri-wizard cup awaits;" (Shouldn't it be penta-wizard by now) "the first one to get to the cup will win the tournament.
"Now, as it stands, Victor and Harry are in first place, therefore they will be the first to depart, Cedric will enter the maze after them two minute later, Neville three minutes after him and Fleur five minutes after Neville.
"What are our restrictions?" Harry asked
"Ah, yes, I was expecting that question from you and mister Krum," Bagman replied, "You can take anything that may help you navigate, but nothing that can help you move over obstacle, also, while you can take a pet into the maze, it cannot be a flying animal, as it would be like having someone in a broom relaying instructions to you.
"Also, Magical artefacts are forbidden with the exception of foci, so no scrying mirrors, enchanted necklaces, lucky jewellery or the like, so off you go now, and get ready for the last task of the tournament
*Great Hall*Dinner time*same day*
"Hay muerte en el aire" The teachers, more Snape and Flitwick than any other, were unable to keep their eyes fixed in one place, their lips were white, Moody was fingering his wand, his magical eye swiveling through the room, not stopping for a moment.
"Sentimos caos en nuestra habitación"
"I think it has to do with the flash of Green I saw from the greenhouse" Luna was playing with her food, the broccolis fighting against the corn.
"That doesn't give much information, but look around us, there is a lot more auror presence than there was at dawn," Harry was not a paranoid one, not since he escaped from his abusers, but the atmosphere was getting to him.
He was tense, his left hand was resting in the handle of his macahuitl, he was looking at everything through the corner of his eyes and he was ready to use an alchemic circle at a moment's notice.
Nahil and Nicte were no better, they were jumpy, and they looked ready to bolt at the first provocation.
"They won't tell us anything, but I heard that a body was brought to the hospital wing," a nameless Ravenclaw said.
"And that's why there aurors here, murder" Harry said.
Not one student could argue with that.
The following weeks were not at all peaceful, the aurors patrolled the grounds day and night, some of them never stepping more than a few feet away from the Black Forest.
Dumbledore was also seen more times than it was normal, speaking to the professors or the aurors, talking about who know what, though it seemed that some professors were approving of him doing such a thing.
Still, a relative peace allowed students to stress only about whether their bets were correct and about their upcoming exams.
*Headmaster's office*Hogwarts*April 20*
Headmaster Dumbledore was not a happy man; in fact, he had not been one since the death of his sister, Ariana. Joyful perhaps, but never happy, there was always pain in plain view inside his eyes if one knew where to look.
It had been near the end of the Second Great War, when he, his brother and Grindewald had had a very bad argument that descended into outright fighting. They had destroyed many houses during their hour-long duel; the collateral damage had left the Dumbledore coffer with only a few thousand galleons, only enough to afford food and shelter for three months.
Ariana had decided that it was not worth that the three men that influenced her life would probably end up in jail or half-dead and decided to interfere, throwing herself into the fray, only succeeding in getting herself hit by a curse thrown by one of the three fighter, who had been using apparition to avoid being hit.
No one knew who had thrown the curse, but it had made the two brothers band up together against Grindewald, defeating him in less than ten minutes later.
After that, Abeforth had taken Ariana's body with him as he apparated away from his brother, going as far as disowning the Dumbledore name in his attempts of getting as distance from Albus as possible, but it had not been as easy as Abeforth would have liked, as not ten years later Albus had been appointed as head of the Transfiguration Department of Hogwarts, back when it housed nearly a two hundred students per year.
This would not have been so bad, had Abeforth not built the Hog's Head in Hogsmade, not half a mile away from the school.
It had gotten worse in the fifties, when he, Albus, had taken young Thomas Riddle under his wing in an attempt to make the young lad see that while there were some dark places on Earth, there also were many places in the light that could be easily reached when enough effort was put into reaching them.
It had been for nothing, as the young Riddle had discovered the truth abouthis parentage when he was starting his third year, and started to promote himself as the sole heir of the Gaunt fortune, which made him several powerful friends with powerful parents.
Two years after discovering the truth Thomas had opened the Chamber of Secrets, though Albus had never been able to prove it until Neville Longbottom had brought a knocked out Ginny with diary clutched in his hand, but by then the damage had already been done.
Riddle had made many attempts at making himself powerful, but by his fifth year, he had earned the scorn of Professor Slughorn, the only one that had actually liked the Ravenclaw muggleborn named Myrtle, then 13. Slughorn had used his considerable influence to make Riddle's career to a standstill, and the fifteen year old had not been able to find a proper job outside of his work as a clerk in the Knocturn Alley shop, Burgin and Burke's.
Then ten years after Riddle graduated the terrorism started and Albus had lost many friends, let so many people down, sent many others to their deaths, and nothing he could do would make Voldemort's, formerly Riddle, reign of terror stop.
He was a hundred odd years old man, he was tired, oh so tired, but there were things to do, a war was coming again, and unless either Potter or Longbottom managed to stop it in its tracks before it even started, many others would die.
This was why Albus had been wandering the castle and the grounds, he was recruiting Aurors for the newly reformed Order of the Phoenix, slowly easing them into the idea that maybe the rumor that Crouch had been murdered by the next Dark Lord was right and that they needed a quick response team if they wanted the casualties from another possible war to stay low.
The magical population of Britain had taken a major blow during the Blood War; it could not take another hit like that.
Half the aurors had not been very receptive, but the other half were ready to take the fight to the enemy should it be required, chief amongst them was Auror Nymphadora Tonks, a charismatic witch that managed to get through the office phase of her career and into the field very fast.
Albus had also heard things, well, went through some minds of some shady aurors that refused anything but cordial interaction, things about how the werewolves were getting more active by the month, more daring in their hunts for cattle during the full moons.
The vampires courts were also moving, though they were moving away from the country, some of the covens had taken residence deep in Germany and Eastern Europe, others were leaving to America or Africa, but all the three covens that had lived in the United Kingdom had left barely any trace and the others that lived in the Queen's jurisdiction had left any soil that the British could lay claim to.
He was lucky that most vampires in this day and age relied in blood plasma for their diet, instead of kidnapping and forcing people to be cattle.
There was that covenant in Russia, but the Courts called them the black sheep. And the odd rogue vampire.
The dark was moving, it was time that the light moved too, so the upcoming war would not be an uphill battle.
*Day of the third task*
The five champion were sitting in a bench that had been provided by Bagman, staring at the huge hedges that now dominated the quidditch pitch and then some.
Each champion was doing their own thing: Harry was talking to Itzmin and Kaan, who would be with him during the task; Fleur was reading trough a charms book; Neville was checking several different pouches, presumably full of different herbs, Krum was holding a very large piece of parchment and a pen, he told other champions that if they met he would give them a copy of what he mapped out; and Cedric was whispering to himself.
"LADIES AND GENTLEMEN FROM ALL OVER, IT IS FINALLY TIME FOR THE TRI-WIZARD TOURNAMENT (I still say it should be Penta-Wizard) TO END, AND IT SHALL BE DONE WITH A MAZE
"PROFESSOR ALASTOR MOODY WENT INTO THE CENTER OF THE MAZE THIS MORNING AND POSSITIONED THE CUP IN THE VERY CENTER OF THE MAZE, THE FIRST CHAMPION TO GET TO IT WILL BE NAMED THE ULTIMATE CHAMPION.
"NOW, HARRY POTTER AND VICTOR KRUM, TO YOUR STARTING POINTS, YOU WILL SET OFF AS SOON AS THE CANNON FIRES"
The wolf that always accompanied Harry leapt from its spot on the boy's lap and the two positioned themselves at the door that had a strange (to the Europeans) face on it, while Krum moved to the door that had a dragon on it.
"READY?" The cannon sounded and the two ran into the maze, the doors shutting behind them, leaving them with nothing but the sunlight and the silence as company.
"Kaan, stay above my clothing, I want you ready to attack the things Hagrid bred, Itzmin, think you can smell dead ends?" Harry had slowed down at the first intersection, taking a left and walking from then on.
A race in a maze was about speed as it was about luck and memory; Krum had the advantage in the memory department, as he could use the map to avoid walking in circles, but he also had to split his attention between the maze and the map, so he probably would not react as fast as he normally would.
Harry's first magical obstacle appeared after ten minutes of backtracking because ways into another portion of the maze closed off as soon as Harry approached them.
This was a small pond, but there was a small island right in the middle, with a hollow tree stump standing there, not one thing to break the silence.
"Kaan, shock the stump, we'll make a run to the other side" A weak thunderbolt flew from Kaan's mouth, making a small creature jump from the stump and drop to the floor, unconscious; bowtruckle.
The last cannon broke the silence once again, signifying that Fleur had finally entered the maze, so now it was a race between the invisible towards a goal that nobody knew where it was.
Point me was a nifty spell in a place like this, and Harry was sure that the other four were using it as much as he was, though the version they were all using was a more complicated version of the base spell, one designed to find a lost object rather than the true north.
However, it only worked on stationary objects, it did not work on objects that were moving constantly, so if you used it on a stolen object you would have to wait some time for the thief to stop moving, and if the object was sold then it would no longer work on it, as magic considered it a change of ownership, and therefore no longer traceable.
Red sparks flew to the air, thirty minutes later, just after Harry finished dealing with a nasty tentacula that wanted to eat him.
Perfect for him and the others, less competition to deal with.
This was the worst setting for a claustrophobic, the walls, even for Harry, seemingly drew together as time passed, making the corridors narrower, less manoeuvrable.
It could be that or that they were actually getting thinner the closer he got to the centre of the maze, to make space for even more dead ends.
Harry ducked under Itzmin, the wolf biting and chewing a doxy that drew too close to Harry and was about to bite him.
Another explosion of sparks above him, some smoke not a few meters away from it.
Was it getting warmer now?
"Mierda" Harry ducked under a fireball the size of his head, for in front of him was a horde of fire crabs, strange name, considering that they looked more like turtles.
This would be a more challenging obstacle than what he had fought so far, since they almost never travelled alone, sometimes, like the ones he was fighting now, they grew to the height of a human, and they got together in as much as ten.
Wand in hand, as close combat would be useless against things as armoured as the fire crabs, Harry started casting confringos all around, throwing up dust clouds that covered the clearing they were in, and probably injuring at least one of the crabs.
Then he ran across, followed by his familiars, entered the corridor on the other side and turned right just as another fireball hit the hedges.
And just his luck.
Two hours had passed already, and he was finally in the final sprint towards the cup.
And so, Harry Potter ran towards the triwizard cup.
Halfway there another corridor fused with his and he was suddenly racing against Victor Krum.
Then Longbottom appeared from the other side of the cup and started running too.
Kaan grabbed a hold of Itzmin, lifting the wolf and flying right next to Harry.
All of them touched the cup at the same time, and then, not a sound from the maze, only the creepy silence remained.
Right, I know that I have not updated, but I got a 100 steam dollars for Christmas and I've been playing the 7 games I got (Skyrim, Deus Ex, Company of Heroes 2, Far Cry 3, Republic Commando, both Knights of the old Republic) so that's why.
Also, school started again, and since I'm at risk of losing my scholarship I upped my studying time.
However, there are only three more episodes in this story (Graveyard, Aftermath, Epilogue[ten years later]), and I thought that since I've introduced them already, why not make a Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel later on, but that is going to rest on you fans, and it will probably wait a long while to be posted