A touch of revenge plus the stress of the Second Task.
Annabelle Granger came downstairs into the kitchen to grab a cup of tea and a spot of breakfast. When she entered the kitchen, she was surprised to find John, Remus, and Sirius already there talking.
She walked over to where everyone sat around the center island and kissed her husband on the cheek before sitting down. “Good morning. What’s the meeting about?”
The three men shared a look with each other and seemed to come to an understanding.
Sirius spoke for the group after gathering his thoughts for a couple of seconds. “We were talking about the Dursleys.”
A scowl forming on Annabelle’s face made Sirius realize that she was as upset about the situation as they were. With a small smile he continued in a slightly amused tone “You didn’t think that we were just going to let them get away with what they did to Harry now, did you?”
“I was beginning to wonder.” Annabelle answered. “Why now?”
“Because revenge is a dish best served cold and Dursley had gotten comfortable in his new environment.” Sirius replied, his voice hard.
“I’m in. What do you have planned for them?” Annabelle said with conviction.
All three men had a slightly shifty look about them and they were fidgeting in their seats.
“What? Did you three think that I wouldn’t approve? The Dursleys are a bunch of child abusers. They may not have hit Harry that often but the emotional abuse and neglect was enough in my book.” Annabelle stated heatedly.
Child abuse had always bothered her and if she was in a position to help, she would. The fact that Harry was going to be their responsibility from now on made her want to see justice done even more.
“Oh. Cheers then. I was worried that you might be angry at us for going after them without telling you.” John said in relief.
Annabelle reached out and grasped hands with Sirius and Remus before speaking. “You’re all forgiven, unless you don’t tell me what you did and why Remus here looks like he was beaten up pretty badly.” Her gaze took in the black eye and split lip that he was sporting.
Three identical grins broke out on the men’s faces. This time John spoke up first. “Do you remember those legal papers that the Dursleys signed?” Seeing his wife’s nod yes, he continued.
“One of those forms was a power of attorney over them and their financial affairs. John finished with an evil grin.
“You didn’t? Oh my. You sly dog!” Annabelle said with a look of glee. “Did you leave them anything?”
“We did. I had the accountants set up a trust fund for Harry and Dudley. They cannot touch them until they are twenty-five. The majority of the proceeds from the sale of their house and belongings went to Harry with Dudley getting the rest. They didn’t have too much in the way of savings due to Dudley’s school tuition. They don’t have enough money to come back for a long while.”
“Okay. Now is someone going to tell me why Remus looks like he was beaten up?”
“That’s because I was.” Remus replied, speaking for the first time. Seeing Annabelle’s concerned look he continued before she could start asking a myriad of questions.
“Vernon actually attacked me when I showed up in Australia to tell him what was going on.” The look of smug satisfaction didn’t quite fit with the visible damage to his face.
“Well, I flew to Australia, Polyjuiced to look like Harry. Dobby got the hairs for the potion. Harry doesn’t know what we did yet.”
“Oh. Are you going to tell him?” she asked.
“Eventually, we want him to settle in first.” Sirius piped up from the other side of the table.
“Please continue then.” the eager tone of her voice was simple to pick up to the group.
“When I arrived I grabbed a taxi from the airport to the Grunnings office in Melbourne. I asked the receptionist to page my uncle, Vernon Dursley. Let’s just say that things went pear shaped fast from there.”
Remus said as before he began to retell the events that happened in Australia.
Vernon Dursley was having a very good day, a good month even. Petunia had called that morning to say that she had finally found the perfect house with a beautiful view overlooking the city.
He had also closed a deal that morning for a large order of drills that made up his entire monthly quota in one fell swoop.
‘Yes sir, life was definitely good. The weather was fantastic, business was booming, and they had found a house that was befitting of someone of their stature in upper class society.’ Vernon thought to himself.
He was just thinking about taking a nice extra long lunch to celebrate when the receptionist rang his desk. “Vernon Dursley speaking.” He answered in his slightly nasal tone.
“Mr. Dursley, you have a visitor up front.”
“Thank you Madeline. I’ll be right out.” Vernon answered importantly. He figured that it must be one of the dentists coming by to finally set up the contract for the large orders that John Granger had set up for him.
When Vernon entered the reception area he found the receptionist talking to a young man whose back was to him.
He was stepping forward to introduce himself when he heard a voice that stopped him in his tracks. A voice that he thought he would never have to hear again.
Vernon couldn’t help himself and thirteen years of frustration erupted. He reached out and spun his nephew around by the shoulder. “Boy! What are you doing here?” he demanded angrily.
“Hello uncle, nice to see you too. I came to drop off some paperwork for you and to see what our new house looks like. We are on a bit of a break at school right now and the headmaster said that I could come and visit, so here I am.” Harry finished in a pleasant tone. “How are Aunt Petunia and Dudley doing? I haven’t seen them since boarding school started.”
Vernon was turning a nasty shade of puce, as he stood transfixed, staring at his freakish nephew. He got the shock of his life when the boy stepped up and hugged him, hard, before he could push the freak away.
In a whisper so quiet that only Vernon could hear him, Harry said “I want you to know that the house, and your possessions, were sold and I got the profit from it. In addition, there will not be any large contracts from Mr. Granger’s friends. They signed up with your competition last week.” He pulled away from the hug slowly to give the appearance of really missing his loving uncle.
With an inarticulate scream of rage, Vernon backhanded his nephew in the face as hard as he could. The force of the blow was so great that it knocked Harry into the glass coffee table, shattering it and sending shards of glass everywhere.
Harry curled up into a ball and cried out “Please uncle, I’m sorry. I promise that I won’t do it again!” His cries went silent when a foot landed square in his chest, knocking the wind out of him.
The receptionist screamed which brought a number of people running into the room. Among the people that responded to the scream was the Managing Director for the Australian Branch of Grunnings.
Mr. Anderson took one look at what was going on and told his receptionist to call building security and the police. It took three people to pull Vernon off his beaten nephew before security arrived and took over. The boy on the floor couldn’t have been more than fifteen and he looked to be a right mess. “Call an ambulance!” he barked to Madeline.
“Son, can you hear me?” Mr. Anderson said kindly to the boy curled up into a ball on the floor.
The boy flinched at the closeness of the voice before slowly uncurling himself. Mr. Anderson gasped a bit when he saw the look of fear in the child’s eyes. “Don’t worry we won’t hurt you. Can you sit up? We need to get you out of the glass.”
They helped Harry up and seated him on the couch as gently as they could.
By the time the paramedics arrived, the police already had Vernon in a lorry on his way to the station. The additional charge of resisting arrest had been added to the assaulting a minor violation.
Harry received medical treatment on site for the worst of his injuries. Afterwards, he was transported to the hospital to have his wounds tended and evidence taken for the police report. The detective that interviewed him was very thorough and Remus was thankful for the very detailed letter from Harry and Hermione that spelled out everything that had happened to him since he was little. It allowed him to play his role as Harry to perfection.
By the time that the interview was over, the detective was assuring him that he would never have to see his relatives again and that they were going to do their best to ensure that his uncle has to spend some time in an Australian jail.
They kept him in the hospital overnight and Dobby had been a godsend. He had kept delivering Polyjuice Potion every hour to maintain the charade.
It was a full week later before the local law enforcement had gathered enough evidence to proceed with the trial. They video taped Harry’s deposition because he had to get back to school in England and he didn’t feel comfortable facing his uncle again.
Mr. Anderson had taken things a step further and fired Vernon Dursley and gave Petunia one week to vacate the corporate apartments. Without enough funds to purchase a house, Petunia had to start looking for a job and Dudley had to transfer to the local public school where he would learn quickly that he was no longer the biggest fish in the pond.
Remus finished the tale of his adventure as Harry and Annabelle enveloped him in a hug.
“That was a brave, but very stupid, thing that you did Remus. I don’t think anyone can thank you enough for what you have done for Harry.” Annabelle said with tears in her eyes.
John and Sirius both wore grim expressions as Remus filled in all of the little details of his ordeal. John had clapped Remus on the shoulder, to overcome with emotions to speak, in thanks.
Sirius understood a bit better than the Grangers did about why Remus was willing to go to the lengths that he did to ensure that Harry would never have to see the Dursleys again. He had felt like he had failed Harry as his godfather that fateful night and he was sure that Remus had similar feelings of remorse for not checking up on Harry when he was just a child.
The two best friends shared a look of understanding. They both knew that they would do anything to ensure Harry’s safety and happiness and that this was just one small thing to make up for thirteen long years of suffering.
There was a lone figure out on the snow-covered grounds, wrapped in a cloak to protect against the biting wind that blew in over the Great Lake. The ground around the figure was a muddy brown, slushy mess, as if the person had been pacing back and forth in worry.
Harry had taken his egg into the bath with him on Cedric’s advice and he did not like the clue one bit. He knew what he would miss the most and he was trying to figure out how to keep Hermione safe. There was no way he wanted her to be involved in the second task other than her helping him to prepare. To prevent her from being taken was the problem and he couldn't figure out how to stop it.
People died in this stupid tournament and he would be damned if he would let her be put in danger because of someone’s desire to see him dead. He was so wrapped up in his thoughts that he almost didn’t hear her come up behind him.
Hermione had been distracted all morning. She had been getting waves of emotions from their bond and as soon as her class had ended, she had gone off in search of Harry. It took her almost twenty minutes to find him and when she arrived, the telltale signs of his worry were readily apparent.
“Hey, are you okay?” she asked him softly as she came to stand next to him.
“Not at all.” He admitted scuffing the ground with the toe of his right boot. “I know what I have to do for the second task next month.”
Harry’s voice had a hint of desperation in it that pulled at Hermione’s heart. “What is it?” she whispered. She knew that it had to be bad if it was affecting him this way.
“They are going to take something important to me and put it in the Great Lake. If I can’t retrieve it in an hour its gone forever.” he said bitterly.
Hermione was stunned. ‘What kind of society would allow someone, or something, to be put in danger like that for a tournament’ she thought angrily. “You think that they are going to put me at the bottom of the lake don’t you?” her voice was low, full of worry, as she thought of all of the unpleasant things that could happen at the bottom of the lake.
He nodded yes to her question and pulled her into a hug filled with desperation and fear. “I won’t let them take you. They will have to go through me first.” he said with steel in his voice.
She could feel the propensity for violence radiating from Harry and it scared and thrilled her at the same time. She knew that he would do anything to protect her, as she would for him, but this was her first real experience with these feelings.
The prank was just mild revenge for people making her upset. This task could conceivably put her life in as much danger as his had been since his name came out of the Goblet of Fire.
“What can we do?” Hermione asked him softly while rubbing his back, her face buried in his shoulder. It was an odd time to realize it, but Harry had gotten taller during the term. Her head used to rest on his shoulder, now he was a good two inches taller based upon where her cheek came to rest naturally.
“I don’t know. I sent Hedwig off to Sirius and Remus this morning asking for advice.” Harry said while leaning his head down to rest upon the top of hers.
“Do you think we should talk to Professor McGonagall?” came her muffled reply from his shoulder.
Harry paused for a moment before answering. He wasn’t sure that he trusted his head of house fully. Yes, she had helped him a bit more this term. Professor McGonagall had been aware of the type of home that he was imprisoned in all of those years ago. Yet, she still had not checked up on him. He said simply, “I’m not sure that I trust her.”
Hermione knew why he felt this way. They had spent many evenings talking about his childhood. She correctly figured this was about the Professor’s role in not checking up on him as he grew up.
Making up her mind she said, “I know you don’t really trust her, for a very good reason, but do you think we should ask for her help anyway?”
“Perhaps; I just don’t know what she will do and that bothers me. This is your safety we are talking about.” Harry said in a concerned tone.
“I love you too much to see you hurt in some meaningless tournament.”
She was fighting back tears from his declaration and his emotions that she could feel roiling within him. “I know; and I love you too. We will do what you feel comfortable with, I trust you Harry.”
“Come on, we should head back to the castle. I have runes next and you have Arithmancy and I need to get my books.” Harry said, surprising Hermione that he had her schedule memorized.
The truth of the matter was that Harry had memorized her schedule and the most likely spots where trouble could occur in the halls. He had quietly watched everyone in the halls that she encountered, making a mental note whenever one of the people on his list came near her.
He knew it was only a matter of time before someone tried something. She was a target because she was dating him. He knew it would be worse if people knew the true extent of their relationship, one that he was still coming to grips with himself. Harry silently vowed to do his best to prevent anything from happening if he could, anything.
Later that evening they were sitting in the Gryffindor common room talking with Neville and Ginny about the second task.
“What do you guys know about breathing underwater?” Harry asked his friends.
Neville looked lost in thought while Ginny had an amused expression on her face. Not knowing why Ginny looked like she was relishing something Harry asked her “What’s that look for?”
If possible, her smile grew even wider before she answered. “Does this have to do with Hermione trying on that;” she turned to face Hermione and asked, “What did you call it again?”
“A bikini.” She answered her red haired friend, the blush creeping up her cheeks.
“Oh yes, did this have anything to do with Hermione trying on a bikini the other day in the girls loo?” Ginny asked as innocently as she could, her eyes wide to add to the look.
Harry was blushing almost as bad as Hermione by this point. Doing his best to reign in his mounting blush he replied, “Yes. She was teaching me how to swim for the second task. I have to go into the Great Lake to retrieve something.” he purposefully kept his answer vague. He did not want them to know that Hermione was probably what the judges would want to take from him.
Neville piped up “What’s a bikini?”
His question caused Hermione to go red again. “Trust me mate, you’ll love it when you see Ginny in one.” Harry answered cheekily causing Ginny’s face to match her hair.
“Harry!” Hermione squealed at his answer. “Would you like me to tell them about your reaction to the first time that you saw me in my bikini?” her voice was innocent, yet playful, and it sent a blush up Harry’s cheeks that rivaled Ginny’s hair.
Harry knew he wouldn’t be forgetting that moment anytime soon. It was a memory he had planned to use to power his next Patronus. “Nope.” he managed to squeak out, much to the amusement to the others.
Getting things back to the task Hermione said “Do either of you know anything other than the bubble head charm to allow Harry to breathe underwater for an hour or more?”
Neville looked as if a light bulb had gone off inside of his head. He quickly asked, “Does it have to be a spell?”
“The only thing we know is that Harry has to go into the lake to retrieve something.” Hermione said helpfully.
“There’s gillyweed.” Neville said simply. “It allows the person that consumes it to breathe underwater for a time depending upon how large a dose you take.”
“That’s brilliant Neville!” Hermione said happily, causing the boy to blush bright red at the praise.
“How much do you think I’ll need for an hour underwater?” Harry asked softly.
“One hour?” Neville clarified. Seeing Harry’s nod in the affirmative he speculated, “I think more than a handful but you should probably get some and test it first to be safe.”
“Thanks, Neville. I’ll do that.” Harry said with relief in his voice.
After Neville and Ginny had headed off to bed, Harry and Hermione were the only two left in the common room. “Dobby.” Harry called out softly.
There was a small pop and the excitable house elf appeared before the two teens. Pulled up above his knees were mismatched socks.” What can Dobby do for you?”
“Can you get me enough gillyweed to practice with before the second task? I want to make sure that I’m comfortable with using that stuff before the task.” Harry said to his tiny friend.
“Of course, sir. I will retrieve some for you immediately.” and with a pop the little elf was gone again.
Harry paused for a second before turning to Hermione and asking in a very confused tone of voice “Is it me or does Dobby sound different to you too?”
Hermione thought back to all of her recent encounters with their elves and realized that Harry was right. She had noticed something before but had put it out of her mind with all of the stresses of the tournament weighing on her. “Now that you mention it, I did notice something different about both of them a while back but I guess that it just slipped my mind.”
“Hmm, I think that I like it. They don’t sound like a couple of uneducated kids anymore. I’m glad but I wonder what brought about the change?” Harry asked.
“I don’t know. Why don’t you just ask him when he returns?” Hermione replied simply.
“I guess I will. I just hope that I don’t offend him or something.”
There was another pop and Dobby reappeared holding a very large jug of what appeared to be slimy balls of gillyweed. It looked disgusting and Harry was beginning to wonder if he would be able to chew the stuff.
“Thanks Dobby. Where did you get it?” Harry asked while pointing to the jar of gillyweed that Dobby had set on the table in front of them.
Dobby had a very sheepish grin on his face and he was shuffling his feet. He said with a tone that brooked no argument, “Perhaps it is better if you don’t know sir.” What Dobby wasn’t telling them was that he had taken all of Professor Snapes private stores of gillyweed and replaced it with sauerkraut since they looked very similar.
Harry gave Dobby a long look before deciding that it probably was for the best that he didn’t know. “Okay Dobby. Nevertheless, could you tell me why you and Winky sound so different now? We like the change, we are just curious.”
“Mistress Hermione’s parents have been giving us lessons in the evenings and we are giving them lessons on the magical world in return.” Dobby said happily.
“Oh. That’s great Dobby!” Hermione said enthusiastically. “Would you say hello to them for me when you see them next please?”
“It would be my pleasure, Miss.” Dobby said with a slight bow before he popped away to return to whatever task he had been performing before they called him.
Sirius and Remus were just about to sit down for a late night snack when Hedwig arrived in the kitchen of number twelve.
“Hello Hedwig.” Remus called out to the bird while extending his arm for her to land on. Once she had settled he untied the letter attached to her leg and carried her over to the perch in the corner that they kept stocked with owl treats and fresh water.
Remus quickly read the letter and handed it over to Sirius. When he had finished reading it too Remus said, “I think that we should go visit Annabelle and John so we can discuss this with them as it involves Hermione too.”
“I’ll call them to make sure they aren’t busy.” Sirius said as he headed over to make a quick floo call.
A few seconds later he came back into the kitchen and said “Let’s go; they were just having tea and said it was a good time to visit.”
They took turns using the floo to get to the Grangers. After everyone had settled down at the kitchen table with their tea Remus handed the letter over and waited for the Grangers to read it.
“NO!” Annabelle shouted. “There is no way that I am allowing my daughter to be a part of this tournament. It’s bad enough that they are making Harry participate but to force him to rescue Hermione from the lake is insane!” she finished furiously.
“Calm down love. Is there anything that we can do?” John asked Remus and Sirius while patting Annabelle’s back.
“You could send a letter stating that to the Headmaster.” Remus said after a few moments thought. “I’m not sure what good it will do though. He has a long history of doing what he wants regardless of other’s wishes.”
“Do we have any legal standing to prevent this from happening?” Annabelle asked in a hopeful tone.
Remus’ face darkened at this question before he answered. “I’m afraid not. Muggles, non-magical people, have no rights in the magical world. In fact, up until a couple of years ago it was even worse. Arthur Weasley was finally able to get a Muggle protection act enforced. That basically prevented magical people from interfering in the day to day lives of non magical people.”
The Grangers were both looking a bit outraged and upset at the same time. “How can they do that? Our daughter is a witch and I’m sure that there are plenty of others in our situation too.” Annabelle said heatedly.
This time Sirius spoke up. “Well, in many ways our society is still very Victorian and many of our laws date from that era too. Wizards and Witches live longer, on average just over 120 years, so our laws are slower to change. If I’m not mistaken, Harry got a warning for underage magic use two years ago from a law that was laid down in the 1870’s.”
“I’m not sure that I like what I’m hearing about the magical world.” John said in resignation. “Are all magical communities like this or are some more modern in their views and laws?”
Remus answered this question because for the last decade Sirius had been incarcerated.” Some countries are better, similar to how some countries are more modern than others are. The North American Ministry for Magic is one of the most forward thinking because of how young their magical government is in comparison to the ones in Europe. However, they have some similar issues because of magical life spans. The biggest difference is the size of their country. The United States and Canada are enormous and can hide quite a few magical communities with no one being any wiser.”
“Do you think that we should consider moving out of the country and taking the kids with us?” Annabelle asked.
“Part of me wants you to do just that while another part wants you to stay here for selfish reasons.” Remus said while Sirius nodded in agreement.
“Would the kids get as good of a magical education outside of Britain? I’ve only ever heard Hermione talking about the other two major European schools. Surely the North Americans have something equivalent?” John asked the two wizards.
“Well, the other European schools are probably out. Harry is well known there too. I haven’t been back in the magical world long enough to put together any thoughts on what the schools are like in the Americas.” Sirius replied.
Remus piped up with his opinion on the matter “I’ve been to the Salem Magical Academy while traveling in the United States. It’s about on par with Beauxbatons in terms of its facilities but its classes are about the same. The classes there are as good as Hogwarts in some areas, worse in some, and better in others.”
“Is it that hard to transfer to another magical school? It’s very easy in the non magical world but there are significantly more schools to choose from.” John said curiously.
“I’m not sure. I don’t know of anyone that has ever transferred before. I do know that some families choose to home school their children and others go into quasi apprenticeships instead of traditional schooling.” Remus said, drawing on his experience as an educator.
“I know that my family used to hire tutors for some children but most of us either went to Hogwarts or Durmstrang.” Sirius said helpfully.
“Do you think that we can hire some tutors this summer and see if the children would prefer that to regular schooling?” Annabelle asked everyone.
“I think that we could teach them a few things ourselves.” Remus said while flicking his thumb indicating that Sirius would help teach.
With the beginnings of a plan in place, the adults spent the rest of the evening discussing various differences in the two worlds.
Hermione had received the letter from her parents to the Headmaster stating that she was not to be involved in the second task. She had made a copy and given it to Professor McGonagall to deliver for her. The look on her professor’s face was one of pity and understanding and it did nothing to bolster her spirits.
Now that they knew what the second task entailed it seemed that time seemed to speed up. The weeks flew by and now the task was upon them.
Harry had become extremely tense over the last couple of days. He was constantly looking over their shoulders to make sure that the teachers wouldn’t corner Hermione and sprite her away. He did not believe that Professor Dumbledore would honor the note sent by Hermione’s parents.
It was during a break in between classes when someone finally pushed Harry too far. Malfoy and his goons were being their usual idiotic selves, picking on people in the halls. Harry had been on his way to meet Hermione after class when the trio had turned their bullying attention towards her.
“Well, look what we have here.” Draco drawled as he stepped in front of Hermione, preventing her from reaching the steps down to the Great Hall.
“Go away Malfoy.” Hermione said scathingly to the blond haired boy.
“Now that isn’t any way to talk to your betters you filthy little Mudblood. Perhaps we should teach you some proper manners.” Draco said with a sneer.
The three of them were all facing Hermione and not paying attention to their surroundings. If they were, they might have noticed Harry Potter stalking up behind them, fury etched on his youthful face.
Harry had his wand in his hand, when Malfoy took a step towards Hermione he reacted much the same way as when Ron accosted her. He had stepped to the side of the hallway to prevent him from accidentally hitting Hermione.
His first spell banished Malfoy into the wall at such a high rate of speed that there was a sickening crunching sound when he hit, knocking him unconscious in the process.
Before Crabbe could turn around Harry had hit him with a stunner to the back, causing him to fall face down. The crack of Crabbe’s nose and jaw breaking when he hit the floor was audible from ten feet away.
Goyles' first, and only, mistake was enough to ensure him a stay in the hospital wing with his friends. He had stepped towards Crabbe when he fell rather than turning towards their attacker.
Harry did not hesitate; his third spell of the encounter was another banishing charm. Its power, coupled with Goyle having his back to him, sent the large boy flying face first into the alcove to the side of the hall. He crashed into the suit of armor with such force that it blew apart, sending pieces of metal all over the hall while burying him beneath the chest plate.
The entire encounter had lasted less than fifteen seconds and it left the three Slytherin students bloody and broken on the floor. Not a single spell had been uttered aloud the entire time.
Stepping over Crabbe’s fallen body, Harry said to Hermione, “Are you okay?”
Hermione was breathing heavily. She had felt the cold determination of Harry’s emotions come through their bond right before he attacked. She had not seen, or heard, him come up behind Malfoy and his two goons. “I’m fine, thanks to you. Perhaps we should get going before someone comes along and finds you here.” Hermione answered with a slight tremble in her voice.
She was a bit shocked at how violently Harry had reacted but at the same time, it made her feel safe. He had promised that he would do anything he could to protect her. Hermione knew that she could probably handle any one of her attackers in a one on one situation. Three against one was definitely more than she would have been able to tackle.
For his part, Harry was extremely glad that Hermione wasn’t hurt. He felt that it was long past due for Malfoy and his cronies to learn that bigotry and attacking people would no longer be tolerated.
Dumbledore, and the majority of the Wizarding world, did not seem to want to make sure that there were consequences for acting a certain way. ‘Why keep tolerating behavior that would land most people in serious trouble without issuing some type of punishment?’ Harry pondered.
Turning the other cheek only went so far. If you gave people enough chances, they were just going to think that they were allowed to behave a certain way and walk all over you.
Harry was done turning the other cheek. Malfoy and his thugs were just the first to feel the consequences for their actions but he was sure that they wouldn’t be the last.
There was no one in the hallway to witness the confrontation, person, or portrait, and for that, Harry was thankful. He did not want to have to deal with the reactions from anyone that would have seen what had happened right now.
The young couple walked hand in hand down to the Great Hall to eat their lunch and to be seen by the teachers and other students. They wanted to be in a very public place when the three morons were discovered.
It was about ten minutes later when a fifth year Slytherin prefect came running into the Great Hall to speak with Professor Snape.
“Excuse me sir, Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle are in the hospital wing. The girl told her Head of House, "No one knows what happened but they are in pretty bad shape.”
Without saying a word, Severus Snape got up from the head table and strode out of the Great Hall towards the hospital wing. He was sure that Potter was involved in this somehow and he sent a glare at the boy on his way out.
They spent the rest of their day wandering around the grounds and talking about non-tournament related things to keep Harry’s mind off the upcoming task.
They went to bed that evening a bit worried about what the morning would bring.
Harry awoke sometime around six in the morning but he couldn’t figure out why. Something wasn’t right; he just couldn’t put his finger on what was bothering him. Not being able to feel Hermione’s emotions, he guessed that she was still asleep. They had stayed up rather late talking the night before.
He decided to wait in the common room for her to get up so they could go down for a light breakfast before the second task began.
After about thirty minutes, Ginny came down from the girls dormitories.
“Good morning Harry. Are you waiting for Hermione to come down?” Ginny asked him as she took the seat across from him.
“I don’t think that she is up yet. We were up late talking but I wanted to go to breakfast with her. You don’t have to wait for us. We will meet you down there.” Harry replied.
“Are you sure?” seeing his nod, Ginny decided to go ahead and go down to the Great Hall for breakfast before Ron showed up and ate everything in sight.
Harry watched Ginny head out the portrait hole and head down for breakfast. Realizing that he was still tired he decided to lie down on the couch to wait for Hermione to wake up.
The next thing Harry knew was that Dobby was roughly shaking him. “Master Harry must hurry down to the Great Lake. The task is about to begin and you must rescue Mistress Hermione!” Dobby said while wringing his hands.
“What! I’ve been here all morning and Hermione never came down. What happened?” Harry said while sprinting up to his dormitory to retrieve his swim trunks and gillyweed.
He was furious. ‘How did Dumbledore get Hermione to participate in the task?’ He dressed quickly and realized that he was going to miss the start of the task if he did not get down there fast. Seeing no other option, Harry threw open the window in the room and hopped onto his Firebolt, pushing it to its maximum so he would get to the lake in time.
The crowd was getting antsy for the second task to begin. The problem was that the fourth champion had not arrived yet.
Just as Dumbledore was about to announce the start of the task he noticed a spec in the sky getting larger fast. It was Harry Potter making his way down to the lake on his broom. Distress and anger were clearly visible on his face by the time he was close enough for Dumbledore to see it clearly.
Trying to avoid a nasty confrontation before the task began, Dumbledore announced, “Let the task begin. Champions you have one hour to retrieve what you will miss most from the bottom of the lake.”
The other three champions dove into the water immediately. Cedric and Fleur used the Bubble Head Charm and Krum did a partial transfiguration, turning his upper body into that of a shark.
Tossing his broom to Neville, Harry pulled out some gillyweed and stepped over to the edge of the platform. He shot a murderous glance at Dumbledore and said, “This isn’t over. If anything happens to her while she is down there you won’t like the consequences.” stuffing a large chunk of gillyweed into his mouth he dove into the water.
Rita Skeeter was absolutely beside herself in glee. Harry Potter had just threatened Albus Dumbledore in front of dozens of witnesses! She began to put together the beginnings of her front-page story in her head as she waited with everyone else for the champions to complete the task.
Harry felt the familiar sensation of gills forming on his neck and his hands and feet turning into flippers once he had swallowed the gillyweed. Diving deeper, he swam out towards the center of the lake to where he knew that they would be keeping the hostages.
He skirted around the grindylows and dove deeper, following the ridgeline down towards the singing he recognized from his egg. He didn’t know how long he had been in the water searching for the merpeople’s village because his watch had broken when he forgot to cast the water proofing charm on it in his haste to get to Hermione in time.
The lake was huge and it was not easy to find the village. If Harry could have screamed, he would have. He knew that he was running out of time and the clue was very clear that he would loose her if he did not rescue her within an hour.
Just as he crested a rise on the bottom of the lake, he noticed that the plant life cleared out and he could see a village below him. In the center of the village were four posts but they were empty. In a panic, Harry swam up to them and began looking for any sign of Hermione.
His heart was hammering in his chest as he frantically searched for her. He was about to head to another area of the village and begin searching when he caught sight of a black cloak floating limply near the doorway to one of the huts.
Putting on a burst of speed, he swam over to the entrance to the hut and blasted the door off its hinges. The sight that greeted him would stay with him until his dying day. Hermione was lying on the earthen floor of the hut, eyes closed, and she looked deathly pale in the low light at the bottom of the lake.
Two very large mermen stopped Harry at spear point as he rushed towards her. “You are too late the hour has come and gone, return to the surface human!” the merman on the right said in a harsh tone.
The merman on the left had been backing away slowly from the angry wizard in front of him. He could feel the power beginning to radiate from the wizard and it made him fear for his life. Trying to get his comrade’s attention he called out “Let him take the girl with him. There is no harm in letting them go.”
“NO! She stays here. The elder said that she would come by later to retrieve her.” The first guard spoke heatedly.
Harry had trouble following the conversation but he understood the gist of it. The guard that was backing away seemed to want to let him take Hermione with him. The other one was intent upon keeping her down here until the elder showed up or something.
His chance for escape came when the angry guard turned his attention away for a moment to retort.
It was over before the guard knew what had happened. One second of inattention would cost him his life.
Harry’s silent Severing Curse struck the merman across the torso, separating his body into two parts that floated in the now red stained water. The shock was still plainly clear on his face.
The guard that had been backing away from the moment the angry wizard blasted the door open realized that said wizard was now pointing his wand at him and the tip was glowing faintly. Not wanting to meet the same fate as his foolish partner, the guard dropped his spear and raised his hands while continuing to back as far away as possible.
Harry slowly swam over to Hermione, never taking his eyes off the remaining guard, and began to pull her out of the tiny hut. He paused to take another dose of gillyweed when he was clear of the village. Then swam as if the hounds of hell were on his tail.
He headed for the shallows, dragging Hermione’s limp body behind him. Worry still burned in his chest because he was outside of the one-hour time limit. The water was getting lighter now and he knew that he was getting closer to the platform where help awaited.
When he reached the edge of the platform, he gratefully hoisted Hermione up into the waiting arms of Remus Lupin. Harry had to wait for another five minutes for his gills to recede before he could safely get out of the water.
Once Harry was on dry land, he pushed aside a couple of people to get to where Hermione was being tended to by Madam Poppy Pomfrey. Relief flooded through him when he heard her voice.
“Where is Harry?” Hermione asked; the desperation was easily detectable in her plea.
Stepping into the medical area he said, “I’m right here love.” as he pulled her into a hug. The enormity of what he had just done hit him now that he was holding her safe in his arms again and he began to shake.
“Oh Harry!” she cried into his shoulder as he held her close. “I don’t know how I ended up in the lake. I went to bed last night and the next thing I know I’m in Remus’ arms and you are still in the water!” she cried out as she sobbed harder.
Remus Lupin had watched the entire exchange between Harry and Hermione. He knew that the two teens were definitely in love and that they had tried their hardest to prevent Hermione from ending up at the bottom of the lake. He wanted answers to her questions as well and he was in a position to get some of them answered. Making up his mind, he strode from the tent after patting them on the shoulder and went to find Professor McGonagall.
“Hello Minerva.” Remus said coldly as he stepped up to his former co-worker.
Slightly taken aback by the tone in his voice she replied, “Hello Remus. What can I do for you?”
“You can tell me how Hermione Granger ended up at the bottom of the lake against her parents wishes.” his voice was just as cold as the water in the lake.
“The judges deemed her to be the thing that Mr. Potter would miss the most so she was taken from her dormitory while she was sleeping and placed into an enchanted sleep before being put down there.” Minerva replied in a matter of fact tone.
“Why didn’t you stop Albus from taking Ms. Granger per her parent’s request?” Remus snapped.
“You know that muggles don’t have any say in our world Remus. The headmaster acts in loco parentis for all muggle born students during the school year.” McGonagall replied testily.
“And that is enough for you to go against the express written instructions of her parents, and I’m sure her own wishes!” Remus fumed. “This isn’t over. I am very disappointed in you Minerva and that is nothing compared to what Harry is going to feel.” Fearing that he would say something that he would regret in his anger, he spun around and left the teachers area.
Neither adult noticed the small water beetle that was perched on Remus’ jacket as it flew off towards Hogsmeade.