When would be the best point in time for an over-powered Harry to return to his past? Right before the First Task! In this chapter, the Second Task.
Ron, Neville, Ginny, and Luna walked Harry down to the lake for the Second Task. "Where's Hermione?" Ron asked.
"Professor Dumbledore asked for her last night," Ginny asked. "Is she alright?"
"She had better be," Harry growled. "Why don't you two go pump Percy and see if he knows anything about his boss. Crouch should be here."
"Right," Ginny said.
"Prat doesn't know anything but cauldron bottoms," Ron muttered, but did as Harry asked. Neville waved and followed Ginny.
"Is Hermione at the bottom of the lake, Harry?" Luna asked, worried.
"She is, but she should be in a magical sleep," Harry said.
Luna held on to Harry's arm. "Be careful. Something feels off."
"I agree, and I will," Harry answered. Luna kissed Harry's cheek and went to stand next to Justin. Harry went to stand next to the other champions. On the signal, all four striped down to their bathing costumes. Harry had been too nervous to notice the first time, and was disappointed to see that Fleur wasn't in a bikini.
After the announcements, the whistle sounded and three of the champions waded into the water about waist high, cast their spells, and went in deep. Harry waded in and pulled out the gillyweed he had decided to go ahead with. It took nearly a minute to work, and Harry again heard the catcalls from Malfoy and his diminished group of sycophants.
Finally though, Harry felt the gills coming, and he dove into the water.
This time, Harry stuck to the upper water, where he had good visibility. He knew where the hostages had been held. He stroked out and dove down. In less than five minutes from the whistle, Harry was approaching the native singing of the merpeople.
When Harry got to the place the hostages had been held, he saw that there were only six merpeople, who suddenly sang in English:
If you look for what was took,
Someplace else you'd best had look.
Bubbles flew out of Harry's mouth for a few seconds as he cursed out Dumbledore. Still, he had thought this might happen, and Luna's warning had taken the surprise out. He pulled out his wand and did an auror's location spell. His wand pointed him towards the furthermost, and deepest, end of the lake. Harry huffed as best he could underwater and took off as fast as he possible.
When Harry approached the singing merpeople, he was glad to see that all four hostages were still in their enchanted sleep. Despite everything he knew, Harry had to fight the urge to save all four. The fact that there were twice the number of merpeople than in the original time line, and looking even more hostile than they had that first time, worried him.
Harry wandlessly cast a spell so he could speak to the merpeople. "The others will be safely returned," he stated.
"You may only take yours," a chief said.
Harry scowled and drew Merlin's wand from the invisible sheath on his left thigh. He held it up and the emerald started to glow.
Two of the merpeople swam over close, their eyes bright. They examined the wand and then closed their eyes saying, "Show us that is the true wand. Show us you are the Heir."
Harry knew what they wanted, so he closed his eyes and concentrated. For the first time since he had returned, really for the first time ever, Harry channeled all his magical power.
An overpowering flash of red erupted from the wand. It ripped through the water as if it were a vacuum and up into the sky.
It wasn't the Dark Mark, it was the Red Dragon, Merlin's Mark, seen for the first time since Godric Gryffindor and the other three Founders, channeling all their power together, had managed to cast it for the founding of Hogwarts, over a thousand years before.
Harry put Merlin's wand away as the merpeople bowed to him. "I am the Heir of Merlin, and an Heir of all Four Founders," Harry said as he pulled his own wand out and used it to cut the rope anchoring Hermione.
"If the secret can be kept, we shall do so," the chieftainess stated. "And yes, the others will be safely returned."
"Thank you," Harry said. "I have been honored to have spoken with you, heirs to friends of Merlin. I hope to speak to you again." He made a suggestion as to how to deal with the Dragon Mark, ended the spell on his voice, and swam off with Hermione. A quarter of the way back, he saw Krum swimming past Cedric, both obviously attracted to the area by Harry's light display. To Harry's surprise, he saw Fleur less than a half a minute later. Obviously the Mark had frightened the grindylows off her.
Harry reached shore about five minutes later. Now in six feet of water, he pulled out a thorn from the base of the gillyweed plant. Its sting would counteract the sap. Harry pricked the vein in his left elbow, and he quickly felt the gills retracting. He cradled Hermione in his arms and made his way to shore.
Just before Harry stepped on shore, Hermione opened her eyes and said, "I think I'll like waking up to those eyes."
"And I'll enjoy waking up to your smile," Harry answered. He looked at the clock. He had taken 42 minutes.
"Harry!" Dumbledore demanded, running over, "what did you do?"
"Do?" Harry asked innocently.
Dumbledore pointed back over the loch. Harry swung around, and saw that the Red Dragon of Merlin was still in the sky.
"What's that?" Harry asked.
"That . . . that's Merlin's Mark!" Hermione said.
Harry swung them back towards shore. "Excuse me, Headmaster, but we getting rather chilled. . . ."
"Out of the way!" Madam Pomfrey ordered. She quickly had the pair magically dried off, dosed with Pepper-Up, and once Harry put his clothes back on, they sat and drank hot chocolate and waited for the others.
"Do you know anything about that?" Percy demanded, as the Mark still hung in the sky.
"Merlin's Mark. . . ." Hermione started.
"I wasn't asking you, you were asleep," Percy snapped. "I know what that looks like, I want to know how it got there."
"I was approaching the hostages. . . ."
"Hostages?" Dumbledore asked, hurt.
"Whatever you want to call them," Harry said. "I touched a rock, and that shot out of it. I wasn't hurt, and had been facing away from it, so I just took Hermione and left."
"Let me talk to some of the merpeople," Dumbledore said, seeing that three were near the surface. Dumbledore came back with the announcement that the Treaty Rock, given to the merpeople by Merlin himself, had reacted to the presence of Harry and released Merlin's Mark, but that no one knew why. Still, the merpeople regarded it as a good omen.
Harry paid no attention, merely hugging Hermione close while she hugged him back. Viktor made to the shore next, but was obviously having difficulty getting his transfiguration reversed. Cedric therefore was able to pass him by. Cedric made it out at 54 minutes, Viktor less than a minute later. Fleur made it back just a few seconds before the time ran out.
This time, even Karkaroff had to award Harry full points. Cedric was awarded 45 points and after a conference called by Karkaroff, Viktor was awarded 43 points, while Fleur was awarded 35. Viktor still maintained a slight lead on Cedric for second place.
Dumbledore had demanded that Harry come to his office after dinner. Harry was coming with Hermione and Remus. On the way to meeting Remus, Harry and Hermione were stopped by a strangely nervous Luna. Harry obliged her by halting and looking at her, and she carefully looked at Harry and then looked up and down the corridor.
"No one is nearby," Harry assured her.
Luna did a full curtsey, and stayed down on one knee, her eyes lowered. "Am I the first?" she asked.
"You are," Harry said. He let go of Hermione's hand and helped Luna stand. "Please, if you are my friend, never do that again."
Luna looked thoughtful, and said, "I cannot promise you that, my. . . ."
"Please," Harry said, "just Harry. To you, I am forever Harry."
"Thank you," Luna said, a tear running down her face. She took Harry's hand and kissed it, and then kissed Hermione's cheek and left.
"Are you sure she's fully there?" Hermione asked after she left.
"Hermione, she knows I am the Heir of Merlin. She knows that even Gryffindor wasn't powerful enough to cast the Mark without help from the other Founders. She knows I have the power to defend the realm, when Voldemort returns."
"How do you know that?"
"Because she explained it to the two of us last time around," Harry answered. "She's a direct descendent of Sir Lancelot's magical daughter. Like many of us, she is much more than she seems."
"Sir Lancelot was real?" Hermione demanded.
"Fine, she's descended from the Frankish-Breton warrior Sir Lancelot was modeled on," Harry said. "He was a Squib who married a witch and had three children, two of them magical. Neither son was the model of Galahad. Instead, they both returned to France. The wizard son founded a family which had two branches, both centered in Brittany, one Squib and the other magical. The Squib branch ended with Roland. The wizarding branch co-founded Beauxbatons in the eleventh century and died out in the direct line in the 1790s. Lancelot's non-magical son founded a branch that intermarried with the old Frankish nobility in north-central family and emerged as a noble family called Capet. The daughter. . . ."
"Wait, did you say 'Capet'? C A P E T? Harry. . . !"
Harry grinned, "Yes, I know, the royal family of France since Hugh Capet seized the throne just before the year 1000. 987 or something like that."
"And she's the one who drank the poison meant for you, who took you to Canada to recover, isn't she?"
"She is," Harry said. "She means more to me than anyone, except for you. And you two look at the world very differently, and are both very bright. When the two of you analyze anything, if you come up with the same answer, it's pretty sure to be the right one."
"I understand," Hermione said, knowing that she would always have first place in Harry's heart. "Come on, Professor Lupin will be here soon, and the Headmaster will be waiting for us."
Harry, Hermione, and Remus found the Headmaster looking out the window of his office which overlooked the lake. Merlin's Mark still glowed in the sky. "How long will it stay there?" Dumbledore asked.
"I have no idea," Harry answered. "I never cast it with all my power behind it before. The longest it lasted in the other time line was twelve hours."
"According to legend, Merlin once cast it so strongly that it only faded during the third night," Dumbledore said.
"Then we'll see how long this one lasts," Harry said.
"Did you have to cast it?" Dumbledore asked.
"Did you have to move where the hostages were being kept?" Harry asked.
Dumbledore shrugged. "I thought I should give the others a fighting chance. After all, it did not matter if you did well today."
"And I wanted an assurance from the merpeople that they would all be returned safely," Harry said.
"I gave you mine," Dumbledore reminded Harry.
"So you did," Harry answered. Dumbledore winced at that. "The merpeople wanted a sign of my power. I gave it to them. People who want to believe I am the Heir of Merlin will believe I am. People who don't wouldn't believe it if Merlin appeared and anointed me in the great hall. None of this will stop Voldemort. If anything, it will just make him want to disprove my powers all the more."
Harry turned to Hermione. "Now that the Second Task is over, I need you to wear this." He handed Hermione a jewelry box.
"This is special," Harry said.
Hermione opened it box and took out a red gold bracelet. There were seven charms on it -- a ruby dragon, a ruby griffin, a sapphire raven, an emerald snake, a yellow topaz badger, an aquamarine bear, and an opal ermine.
"Nothing can harm you while you wear that and are on Hogwarts' grounds," Harry said. "Neither can you be taken away by portkey or taken over by potion, the Imperius, or possession. Please, for my peace of mind if nothing else, don't take it off."
"I won't," Hermione said, holding out her left wrist so that Harry could place it there.
Harry put the bracelet on Hermione, kissed the inside of her wrist, and turned to Dumbledore. "I can only create a limited number of these charms. Nine, in fact." He turned back to Hermione. "I'd like to give the other two to Luna, to make certain she can't be portkeyed out or poisoned." He smiled. "I'd give one to Ron, but I don't think he'd accept jewelry from me."
"Not likely, at least not without an explanation that I don't know if he could handle without being jealous," Hermione agreed. She knew that Harry had only deferred to her in case she was jealous, which made her feel a bit ashamed. "Give the other ones to Luna."
"So," Remus said, "you're the Heir of Merlin?"
"And the Four Founders," Harry agreed. He repeated most of the same story he had already told Hermione.
"Even if I tell him everything, Sirius isn't going to be happy to be left out," Remus said.
"Maybe you can walk your doggie in Hogsmeade the next Hogsmeade weekend?" Harry suggested. "It's in two weeks."
"Remember, they do have a leash law," Hermione said with a giggle.
Remus smiled. "I like it. We know some places where we can talk."
"Good." Harry turned back to the Headmaster. "Was there anything else?"
"You're not going to tell me anything more about what is going on around us, are you?"
"No, sir," Harry said. "No student should be in danger. Cedric died last time because he was too close to me when I was whisked away by a portkey and got caught up. That won't happen again. Don't interfere unless you see a student in danger."
"Is there anyone else in danger?" Dumbledore asked.
"One, if you don't count Voldemort or his Death Eaters," Harry said. "I hope to rescue him when the time comes. That person and another are currently under duress, but aren't being tortured or otherwise harmed as far as I know. If something changes, I think they can be rescued before the crises that came last time, but then Voldemort might not be destroyed this June."
"What do we do with the Heir of Merlin when all this is over?" Dumbledore asked.
"I can't step in and try to run things as a super-minister," Harry said. "I have no desire in being more powerful than that, either. You tried to sit back and run things behind the scenes. Voldemort proved that doesn't work well, either. I'll need to go away after I leave Hogwarts. I'm still hoping to arrange things so I can stay here until the end of my Seventh year, and reveal all then."
"And what are your chances of pulling that off?" Remus asked.
"Until today, I thought about ninety percent," Harry said. "Now maybe fifty."
Draco Malfoy glared at the Dragon Mark, Merlin's Mark. Was it possible that Potter -- POTTER, of all people! -- could have been favored by an artifact of Merlin's? There were still a few artifacts of his around, after all, but people had learned it best not to touch one. If you were lucky, you would be knocked on your arse.
One over-confident wanna-be Dark Lord had seized a drinking cup of Merlin's on display and had been dissolved into a puddle of ashy goo.
Draco looked up again. The Dragon Mark was a bit smaller than the Dark Mark conjured that past summer. But the Dark Mark looked like oily heavy smoke.
This looked like a real dragon, except it glowed softly. Draco could see the people from the Ministry on their broomsticks quite clearly as they tried to examine it. He smiled a little when one got too close -- that seemed to drain all the magic from the broom and the witch fell into the lake.
People would be saying Scarhead was the Heir of Merlin no doubt.
Draco believed that Potter could no more be the Heir of Merlin than he could be the Heir of Slytherin.
Luna was pleased with her red gold bracelet, with the sapphire raven and ruby dragon. At her suggestion, Harry magically fused the clasps of the two bracelets. Only Harry could remove them. She cried joyfully when Harry told her that she would always be his Second Councillor.
"I shall follow you always, and if I may never call you 'my lord', 'Master', or any other title, I know I may always call you my first real friend," Luna said.
"I hope you will call me your second," Hermione told Luna. Harry and Hermione then hugged her and dried her tears.
To the shock of Albus Dumbledore, and to the elation of Luna and Hermione, Harry's Dragon Mark also lasted into the third night.
The next Friday, Snape again held Harry after class. "Did you cast that Mark, Potter?" Snape demanded.
"Yes," Harry said. "And yes, it's Merlin's Mark. I am the Heir of Merlin."
"There is great debate amongst the students," Snape said. "Even some of the Slytherins believe that you might be the Heir to Merlin, but I do not believe a majority of any House believe that. Most are, however, saying that it is a sign that you are the Chosen One."
"Good," Harry said. "I hope to keep them guessing, until I leave school."
"And then let the Wizengamot and Ministry know what I think of the current set-up, what I'd liked changed, and that I'm off and won't be back unless they screw up and allow another Dark Lord to emerge."
"They won't enact your reforms," Snape said.
"They will the first time they get scared, if not before," Harry retorted.
"I concede your point." Snape made a face, and then said through gritted teeth, "Then I consent . . . no, I ask you to modify my Dark Mark."
"We'll do it the weekend before the Third Task," Harry said.
"Did you and Miss Granger read those pamphlets?" Snape asked.
"We did," Harry agreed. "They're giving us a lot to think about."