To, and through, the Final Task.
She-Who-Must-Be-Mentioned and her minions own the Potterverse.
I just rewrite parts for free in a neutral corner.
As February turned into March, Harry Potter was an upset warlock. So far, there had been five curses aimed at his back, two attempted poisonings, and once a rock nearly dropped on his head while he was navigating a set of moving stairs. Even ignoring the attempts at poisonings, and the fact that despite magic being used in the corridors was mostly ignored when there were no staff or prefects present, these were too many ‘accidents’ for even the most gullible mage to believe they were in fact accidental. In addition, while Harry’s not-so-mysterious enemy had both forced the house elves to poison Harry’s goblet at one meal and his plate at another, and ordered them not to disclose who he was, the elves had both warned Harry of the attempts (so he could ‘discover’ the poisons himself, giving the elves cover) and given him so many clues that even someone with the intelligence of the late Vinny Crabbe would have figured things out in a few seconds.
The question was, what could Harry do about it? Even though Snape was dead, Harry was still sworn not to kill Draco during the Tournament, although he could likely get away with crippling the idiot. Harry berated himself for not just doing so, but his ego just would not allow the possibility of anyone thinking that he had disabled the little ponce to eliminate him from the Tournament. Granted, Harry probably had enough evidence to get Draco expelled from Hogwarts, but that would not suspend him from the Tournament. If anything, that might just give him more time to plot.
Hermione was now more actively watching his back, and had recruited a few others to help. Draco would not get another easy shot at him. Still, the ‘Puree Prick’ was persistent. Harry sighed, and decided to sub-contract the problem with Draco, at least until he could kill him after the Tournament was over. He therefore called Fred and George into a meeting. The twins had been very subdued that year, as they planned out their joke shop, now that they had both the financial backing of Sirius and Harry and lots of ideas from Sirius and Remus. In fact, the actual company was scheduled to be created on April 1, the day the twins reached 17. It would be a full partnership – Sirius would put in 2,000 Galleons, while Harry put up 1,000, and each twin 500. Each twin would own 25.5% of the company, Sirius would own 25%, and Harry and Remus would each have 12%. Remus would be in charge of most manufacturing for a while, so that the Company would have a good stockpile of merchandise when its store opened (currently scheduled for June 30, 1996). Therefore, nearly all the twins’ pranks had been on (mostly) willing ‘test subjects’, primarily the younger Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs. Still, Harry thought it was worth consulting them.
The pair heard Harry out, and then George asked, “What exactly are you asking us to do?”
“As much as we’d love to really hurt the blond bastard, it could easily blow up in all our faces,” Fred reluctantly agreed.
“I want several things,” Harry retorted. “First, I need to know where he is at all times. I gave you the Map back so you could avoid the Filch and the prefects when you are conducting your ‘market research’. I talked with Remus, and he’ll need it for a day so he can make me some Malfoy detectors, so we can watch my back better.”
“He might have help,” George pointed out.
“I doubt it,” Harry replied. “I don’t think Goyle would help him these days, and I doubt if he would trust anyone else who’s left.”
“We’ll send Remus the Map by tonight,” Fred said.
“Second, I need Malfoy’s time taken up with something other than plotting against me. I was hoping you might be able to arrange for him to be kept on his toes. If you can’t, I’ll think of something else.”
“You told us you took an oath not to kill him. Why not just cripple him?” George asked, not quite seriously.
“Because I haven’t come up with a fool-proof way of it not being traced back to me,” Harry answered.
The twins looked at each other. They knew Harry had grown tougher, even harder, over the previous summer, but that answer still slightly surprised them. Fred then asked. “Does Dobby still work here?”
“Yes, although he also works for me part time. Dobby!”
Dobby popped into the room, bouncing up-and-down. “Yes, Harry!” Harry had, mostly, gotten the elf to calm down when called.
“Does he know about this?” George asked.
“Oh, yes,” Harry answered. “He knows all about it.”
Fred took out a small bottle from his left pocket. Harry saw the top was stoppered with an eye dropper. “Could you, or some other elf, put a drop of this into one of Malfoy’s ears tonight?”
“Despite what bad Malfoy tried to force elves to do, elves may not harm students under castle wards,” Dobby said. “They would have warned any student, but may not have revealed who had given order. Elves would not have had to punish selves, even if Harry had not ordered them not to.”
“One drop will interrupt his inner ear for two days, if it is treated, five days if it is not,” George said.
“Hogwarts tells Dobby youse is telling truth, but that does that mean?” Dobby asked.
“It means he’ll be so dizzy if he moves too much, especially with his eyes open, that he will fall or puke, if not both,” Fred replied.
Dobby seemed to listen, and then said, “Hogwarts would normally say no to elf asking this, but approves for Harry.” He took the bottle and popped away.
“Does Hermione know you have a girl on the side?” Fred asked.
“Hogwarts is a girl, right?” George added.
“She does, and she is,” Harry answered. “Thanks, guys. That gives me a few days at least.”
“We’ll see if we can’t think of something to help out,” George said.
“It could be fun!” Fred agreed.
“Do I want to know why you had something like that in your pocket?” Harry asked, curious.
“One set of our ‘under-the-counter’ products will be what look like candy, but which actually make you look ill,” George answered.
“So students have a reason to get out of a class, if needs be,” Fred added.
“We just bottled this concentrated potion this morning. Three drops. . . .”
“. . . will be enough to spread over fifty pranks.”
Harry could only shake his head in amazement.
Once he recovered from a serious dizziness attack, Draco Malfoy quickly became one frustrated and confused wizard. First, no matter how hard he tried, he just could not find Harry Potter alone again. Most of the time he spent out of the Slytherin area, Malfoy found he was not alone. Groups of annoying, insignificant students (ie, anyone who did not follow his own beliefs) always seemed to have him in sight. Try as he might, he just could not seem to shake them off his trail easily. The few times he succeeded, Draco either could not find Potter, or wound up have those killing curse colored eyes staring right at him.
After three weeks of this, Draco came to the conclusion that the only way he might take Potter out was to walk right up to him at the start or end of a class and stab him. As that would prevent the most important part of his plan to fail (getting away with it), Draco did not consider this a good basis for a plan. Had the Dark Lord not been so completely dead, he might have tried this, using the ‘but I was under the Imperius’ excuse, but Draco didn’t dare try.
Worse than his failure to get Potter in his sights again, however, was the series of minor but prevalent mishaps which befell Draco outside of the class room. Minors hexes seemed to strike him every few minutes when he was in the corridors, and every morning he woke up with body parts modified. He quickly learned to check his feet before getting out of bed, as every morning, they were different sizes (from each other, as well as different than normal). His legs or arms were often mismatched as well. His hair could be any shade, other than its normal white-blond. His teeth were often sizes that would make Granger’s look acceptable, and for four days running his left ear lobe hung past his waist.
No, March, April, May, and early June were not good months for Draco.
What passed for the highlight of that period had been learning about the Third Task. Draco could only hope he could make the maze run fast enough to overcome the lead the other Champions would have going into the maze. At least Malfoy could convince himself that he had a good chance, especially since the International officials would take off any hexes he was under at the time.
To his surprise, while the numbers of students keeping an eye on Draco if anything increased, the week before the Third Task the pranks and other problems Draco had been encountering slacked off. To Draco, it was if he was coming out of a fog, and able to see the landscape around him clearly for the first time since early March, if not sooner.
He did not like what he saw.
The Wizengamot had bowed to the economic pressures on its members, and there would be an election for the first time in Britain’s history on the next winter’s solstice. The Wizengamot would increase in size from fifty to seventy members. The original arrangement would still hold – forty members from the Old Families, who would select their new members whenever one died or retired, and ten from the Ministry (the Minister and the five senior department heads, plus four senior members appointed by the Minister). But the new members would be elected for five year terms, with four up for election every year. In addition, it turned out that about 5 percent of the Ministry’s positions were already technically ‘unrestricted’ (i.e. determined by merit alone). This was now raised to 25 percent.
Reforms for Hogwarts and the regional schools would be announced in June, right after the O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s. Muggle Studies and History were the two courses most affected, and both would be radically updated over the next ten years. Courses in Muggle Culture for the magically-raised and Magical Culture for the Muggle-raised would also be mandated for Hogwarts (the regional schools had had such courses for decades). The magical ‘vocational’ courses offered to 16-18 year olds at the regional schools would not be offered at Hogwarts, but the Muggle ones, designed to help the magical gain employment or further their education at Muggle universities and technical schools, would be. Hogwarts, however, would remain the only British school to offer the full range of electives (Runes, Arithmancy, Muggle Studies, and Care, and in fact it remained the only British school to offer Divination), the regional schools offering Muggle Studies and one other elective.
Draco, and those with similar backgrounds, were appalled. Hermione and most of the other Muggleborn had been outraged that the reforms had not gone further. Harry was content, as they had actually gone further than he had anticipated, and he hoped that the reforms would continue to evolve over time. He pointed out to Hermione, who spread the idea, that if the reforms were too radical, there could either be a backlash or perhaps a cascade effect causing a truly bloody revolution (as in the French and Russian revolutions). As few of the anti-Purees of any kind, in or out of Hogwarts, wanted bloodshed unless the pro-Purebloods started something, let alone open warfare, as that idea spread the more extreme agitation, fortunately, quieted down.
Meanwhile, most of the surviving Deatheaters and those with similar outlooks had realized that now was not the time to use violence. In fact, many had come to believe that they had fair shots at winning most of the newly opened seats. After all, they had convinced themselves, they were the natural leaders, and therefore the sheep of Britain would vote for them. The new representatives, after all, would not represent regions. On the winter’s solstice, each British mage would vote for four candidates, and the top twenty candidates would simply win. (There would be twenty, as all the representatives would be elected to staggered terms. The top four would have five year terms, the next four would have four year terms, etc.) While none of those who were thinking of running were naive enough to believe they and their allies would win all the seats, they did believe they should capture at least ten, from mere name recognition as well as their ancestry.
Back at Hogwarts, all four champions were training, three (Harry, Viktor, and Fleur) were even training hard. Draco was spending more time planning on how to use his victory to create a political career than he was in actual training, but even he spent almost an hour a day (most days, anyways) training and practicing.
Finally, however, the O.W.L./N.E.W.T. examiners left and the other students had finished their exams. The new standards were announced for future classes. The Third Task was ready to go.
As Harry entered the maze, he tapped his glasses, fully enabling a powerful version of mage sight. His preferred strategy was based on the idea that while magic had been used to grow the maze, the shrubs were not actually magical. Of course, there was still the possibility that the shrubs were enchanted.
The mage sight allowed Harry to determine that while parts of the hedges were indeed enchanted, and reminded him that while there was devil’s snare and a few other magical plants mixed in, over half of the shrubs were now magically inert. Harry had three and a half minutes before the final canon shot would signal Malfoy’s entrance into the maze, which also signal the magical sensors the International had set up to turn on. Those would tell the crowd watching what each champion was doing, and Harry wanted to take full advantage of that time.
A muttered spell directed at himself, an old Celtic ‘ghost’ spell, both turned Harry invisible and allowed him to move through any non-magical barrier. Harry had snuck out one evening and verified that the area the Cup would be placed was the same as before, and this allowed him to take a more-or-less direct route to the Cup without having to know the plan of the maze.
This time around, Harry had asked the International referee what would happen when the Cup was touched. She told him that doing so would signal fireworks, thus alerting the other contestants the contest was over, and portkey the winner back to the starting point. She also swore that she had in fact verified that the portkey had been correctly made.
While Harry could not go in a precise direct line to the Cup, he had only had to make minor course corrections as he jogged some two hundred and forty meters to the Cup. Harry therefore got to the Cup just over two minutes after he had entered the Maze, having avoided the magical plants and having encountered none of the magical animals or other traps.
Harry glanced at his watch and frowned. A wave of his wand verified that the Cup was a two-way portkey, but this time, it had already been used once. Harry hoped that was from the referee using the portkey to get to the center of the Maze to plant the Cup.
Harry got into a defensive stance, took a deep breath, and grabbed the Cup.
The hooked/travel sensation took almost no time before Harry was slammed down to the ground, but years of practice enabled him to land on his feet. Harry raised the Cup a little with his left hand (since it was in fact fairly heavy) and glanced at Malfoy.
“Still here, hey, Draco?” Harry asked. Anything else said but anyone was then obscured as the crowd went wild and the fireworks shot off.
The party went on long into the night but not in Gryffindor Tower. That was because Harry asked that any party actually be given in the great hall. He made certain that all the students, including the visitors, were invited. Even most of the Slytherins came, although not Draco.
Harry was seen drinking a lot of the non-spiked punch (granted, the punch had to be replaced often, as the Weasley twins were not the only ones spiking it), and therefore he had to take many restroom breaks. A number of people left after 11:00, which was when the staff forced the First and Second years to go to bed.
Ron Weasley left around 11:30. He knew there was a distance that had grown between himself and Harry, but he had never really felt how large that distance had become until that night. He realized that his brothers and even Neville were more friendly with Harry than he now was. For once, he did not blame Harry, or Hermione, or the universe, but realized that he had not even tried to stay close to Harry that year. He had waited, and waited, and waited for Harry, or Harry and Hermione, to come to him. Instead, they had passed him by as Ron sulked.
It was a self-pitying Ron who went to sleep, but at least he was only blaming himself for once.
No one had seen Malfoy since shortly after the Third Task was finished. After this final embarrassment, few were surprised when he was found the next morning, hanging from the ceiling of the potions classroom.
No one thought it anything but suicide.
Or at least, if anyone did, they said nothing.