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 events leading up to the start of the Third Task.
The weeks flew past. The furor over Merlin's Mark died out, and Harry's plans, both those he had shared and those he kept private, were maturing nicely. Harry therefore enjoyed those two months. He played with the nifflers in Hagrid's class, led the Gryffindors out for flying obstacle courses during good weather, enjoyed the companionship of his friends, and mostly basked in Hermione's affection.
The changes in Harry puzzled Ron. The two were having more fun than ever, even if they really were spending far less time together. Since Ron was spending many hours outside of Gryffindor studying with Marietta, Ron didn't miss the time spent with Harry, but as much as he was glad to see Harry's happy attitude, it still confused him.
Harry therefore confided to Ron that Dumbledore had agreed that Harry probably wouldn't ever have to go back to the Dursleys' ever again. In reality, Harry had simply informed Dumbledore, but Dumbledore knew better than to force the issue. The explanation had satisfied Ron, and he was growing used to the new Harry.
Ginny was not so pleased with the new Harry, as that included 'attached Hermione' instead of the 'very attached Ginny' she still sometimes dreamed of. Still, she was able to hold back her jealousy of this for several reasons. First, Neville was proving a very companionable substitute. Second and third, Hermione was a good friend and also very dangerous when crossed. Ginny therefore had decided to take the long view and see how things developed, both for her and Neville as well as with Harry in general.
If Ginny and Ron were really jealous of anyone, it was Luna. She was often with Harry and Hermione in the library, and often just with Hermione. There were also many times when Harry and Hermione seemed to just disappear, but sometimes it was Harry, Hermione, and Luna. Harry had also seemed to make friends with Cedric.
Then there were Saturday nights. In late March, Harry announced that Professor Dumbledore had given permission that every Saturday night would be a dance night in the great Hall from 7:30-10:00. Informal clothes only, and the music was from the WNN or various types of recordings, Muggle and magical. Ron would have sworn that this had come as a surprise to Dumbledore. It certainly seemed to surprise the staff.
In the end, Professors Vector and Sprout, and Madam Hooch, did most of the chaperoning. The first three dances were unstructured, but the last nine all had themes (the Current Magical Hits, early rock, Current Muggle Hits, Waltz & Polka Night -- which had strangely enough been the biggest hit, Pick-a-Station -- where students drawn at random had to find a new dance on the radio (enhanced to receive at Hogwarts) or WWN in less than a minute, Disco Night, Swing Night, Magical Classics, and a second Waltz Night. Students found that once they learned the steps, it was rather nice holding their partner close doing the waltz and other old dances, and there was enough variation in tempo to make it interesting.
Only Hermione and Luna noticed how tense Harry was starting to become around the middle of May. Luna thought that it was likely because Harry was to learn what the Third Task would be on May 24. Hermione dismissed that thought at first, until she noticed the tension leave Harry after that date.
On the night of the 24th, Harry first met Cedric and then Fleur followed by Viktor. The four were more companionable than they had been the first time. Viktor was still escorting Mandy to the dances, but Harry wasn't sure if there was anything serious going on or not. Fleur had dated four different Seventh years, including one Durmstrang student.
Harry listened to Cedric complain about the hedges, and then to Bagman's explanation of the Third Task. On the way back to the castle, Harry merely said he was going to enjoy the night air. Fleur and Cedric merely nodded. Bagman shrugged. Since Harry was winning, he had not attempted to influence or help Harry at all this time. Viktor kept an eye on Harry until he was certain Harry wasn't going to double back and look at the growing maze.
Harry very much hoped that Mister Crouch had again managed to escape.
Harry searched through the fringes of the woods, and just as he was getting worried, he found Barty Crouch Senior. He looked even worse, Harry thought, than he had in the original time line. Then he had been talking to himself. This time, he was barely able to mutter.
Seeing the man's condition, Harry didn't even bother trying to talk to him. He just walked up and triggered the portkey he had prepared just for this.
Since Crouch had been murdered in the last time stream, Harry had no idea if he would recover. He knew Crouch had been kept under the Imperius and then had been stunned for long periods. Only now did Harry realize that neither accounted for how disoriented he had been in either time line. Harry had little doubt that as Crouch's value to Voldemort had dwindled, Voldemort had indulged in some torture and no doubt deep Legilimency, looking for both dirt on Ministry officials and other secrets.
Harry left Crouch in a cleaned-up Chamber of Secrets. He now had two dozen cast-off elves working for him, not counting Dobby. They would take turns substituting for Winky, who was taking care of her former Master. Harry had set down strict rules for Winky's behavior, and she had accepted them, determined to be loyal to her new Mistress.
It took Crouch three weeks before he was both coherent enough and strong enough to really talk. Harry had a long talk with the older man, and had to reveal some things he would have preferred keeping secret and had to promise to reveal more. Crouch, having endured months of abuse, drove a hard bargain, but had quickly decided his only hope of escaping this ordeal with at least some credit meant dealing with this apparently fourteen year old who could prove he was the Heir to Merlin and seemed to actually be from the future.
Albus Dumbledore came into his office the Sunday before the Third Task and was surprised to find Harry there. "Harry! Why are you here? And why do you look so tired?" Harry was slouched back in a soft chair, his feet on two strongboxes.
Harry smiled wanly. "I am tired. I've been awake for most of the last thirty-six hours."
"May I ask why?"
"You may, and I'll even answer, but not right away," Harry said, sitting up straight. He slowly got to his feet and handed Dumbledore some envelopes, and then sat down heavily. "One is a list of people I'd like you to invite to the Third Task. The thick one is a summery of what Hermione and I hope to do after we leave Hogwarts. The thick one that's sealed is for Fudge. That one, and these two boxes, cannot be opened before their time. The time on the envelope is 11:59 next Sunday morning. The one on the boxes is 12:01, the Thirty-first of July, 1998. I suggest you hide one, which one doesn't matter. Give the other to Fudge along with the envelope after I leave Hogwarts next Saturday night."
"Probably," Harry said. "I'll certainly be spending much of the summer in an unplottable location in Wales."
"You're that certain of how things will go next Saturday?"
Harry smiled tiredly and pulled out a primitive-looking time turner. "Since it's my past, yes. Don't interfere until I give you a wand just before I go into the maze. Follow the instructions. Now, if you don't mind, I need to go help my slightly younger self alter Snape's Dark Mark."
Harry nodded. "Consider this in part a present to you. You still believe in him, even though I told you what he did in the original time line."
"Then on your head be his future sins, not mine." Harry left.
Dumbledore was anxious for his Potions Master, but was not surprised when he did not come to lunch. Dumbledore instead spent the day reading over Harry's plans and hopes for the wizarding world, or at least for wizarding Britain. They were broad, liberal, and yet couched in such terms as the Wizengamot would have to accept most of them sooner or later. He recognized Hermione and Remus' researching skills and their and Harry's sense of justness. There was no doubt, however, that the vision was nearly all Harry's.
When Snape did not show up for dinner, Dumbledore made his way to Snape's chambers, where he found a note, magically sealed and addressed to him. It simply read: /All is well, but he needs his rest. H&H/.
Needless to say, Severus Snape was very uncommunicative about his experience when he appeared the next morning.
"Are you nervous about this maze tonight, Harry?" Ron asked as Harry dressed after his morning shower the day of the Final Task.
"A bit," Harry admitted, although the nerves were not caused by the exact reasons Ron would have expected. Seeing the others were already gone to breakfast, Harry turned to Ron. He stuck out his hand.
"What's that for?" Ron asked, confused as he shook Harry's hand.
"You've been a great friend, Ron," Harry said.
"You're starting to worry me," Ron admitted.
"Ron, my life has never been a very good one. Meeting you was one of the best things that ever happened to me," Harry said ignoring what Ron had actually said.
"Right, now you're really scaring me," Ron said.
"Ron, for some reason, I think that today my life changes. Good or bad, thanks for everything."
Ron looked at his friend, who had grown from about 5 foot 1 at the World Cup to just short of a more respectable 5 foot 6. "Good luck," Ron said. And the two went down for breakfast, picking up Hermione on the way.
Hermione's eyes went wide when saw the two people that Professor Dumbledore and Remus Lupin were talking to at the entrance of the great hall. "Mum? Dad?"
"Hi, Pumpkin," Mr. Granger said, making Hermione roll her eyes.
"The champions will have their families with them today," Dumbledore explained. "Harry asked Mister Lupin to attend, and thoughtfully asked if I could make arrangements for your parents to come."
"Your parents didn't come close to exaggerating," Mrs. Granger told Ron, her eyes darting around the grand entrance hall.
"I suppose I should ask you your intentions towards my daughter," Mr. Granger said teasingly to Harry.
"Daddy!" Hermione protested.
"Dan!" Emma Granger scolded.
Harry merely smiled and took Hermione's hand in his. "We intend to be as serious as is appropriate for people our age," he said simply. "I'm sure you'd say all teens think their love is true love. We'll see. Would you two, and you Remus, care to join us for breakfast? Then Hermione and I can show you around."
The adults had eaten, but joined the teens for some juice. "Do you always just eat eggs and meat for breakfast?" Dan Granger asked Harry.
"No, sir," Harry said. "I figure I might need the protein and fats. I'll do a more balanced lunch and then carb-load at dinner."
Dan beamed, while Remus and Ron tried to figure out what they were saying. Hermione had two more exams that morning, but skipped off to them happily, knowing her parents were nearby. Harry escorted them into the small room off the great hall and introduced Remus and the Grangers to the Diggorys and the Delacours. Amos Diggory did not looked overly-pleased by having to shake Remus' hand, but he did it without actually grimacing. The Delacours commended Harry on his French grammar, although not his pronunciation. The Grangers were also as technically fluent as Harry. Remus, whose grandparents had immigrated to Britain during World War II, spoke French with a Norman accent.
No one spoke Bulgarian nor did Viktor's parents speak English, but Viktor's father spoke French, while his mother and Remus both spoke Italian. Therefore, they all got along. In the end, the group toured Hogwarts together. Harry arranged with Dobby to bring a picnic lunch out by the lake, where Hermione joined them.
Dinner would be late that night, as the Third Task did not start until dusk, and dusk was very late in Scotland just after the summer solstice. Therefore, the group stayed together until 6:00, which is when the champions went to get dressed for the final task of the tournament. Harry and Hermione went off hand-in-hand.
"They do look sweet together, don't they?" Emma almost cooed.
"No father thinks his fifteen year old daughter looks sweet with any boy," Dan grumbled. Emma gave him an elbow. "They do look sweet on each other, though, don't they?"
"I do have a bad feeling about tonight, though," Emma said.
"Let's just hope no one gets hurt," Dan said. He looked around the grounds as they approached the castle. "It's pretty, in a fairy tale kind of way, but sometimes we forget how bloody those fairy tales were."
While Bagman and Fudge were making the announcements which told the crowd what the Third Task was et cetera, Harry turned to Remus and Dumbledore and said softly, "It might interest you to know that that isn't Alastor Moody. Moody was kidnapped by two Death Eaters before he ever arrived at Hogwarts. They got the drop on him in part because he was shocked to see two men he thought were dead."
"Peter and who else?" Remus asked.
"That man, Barty Crouch Junior. He's on polyjuice, and it's been over forty minutes since his last dose. It's in that flask he's always nipping at."
"I saw him at his flask just a few moments ago," Dumbledore protested.
"I switched flasks on him when I first showed up," Harry said. "He's drinking plain polyjuice, no bits of anyone added. The real Moody was rescued about two hours ago. He'll be pumped up on stimulants when he gets here. Get the fake Moody under the stands over there as soon as I enter the maze, and get Fudge there, too. Snape should be bringing Karkaroff. At that point, you'll be joined by the real Moody and a high ministry official who was also kidnapped, and mind-raped, by Voldemort and Pettigrew."
"Who might that be?" Dumbledore asked.
"Mister Crouch," Harry answered. "He knows a chunk of the truth, and he knows the story he has to tell if he has any chance of not being sent to Azkaban for freeing his son. I should be back in less than two hours after I enter the maze. I'll be taken to Voldemort because the cup is a portkey, and it will actually appear just about here. Voldemort wanted to send my dead body back to scare all of you, you see."
"Good luck," Remus said, seeing that it was time to start.
"Indeed," Dumbledore said.
"Keep track of the others' times if they reach where the cup was," Harry said. "Whoever comes in first after me should be declared the winner."
"We shall," Dumbledore said.
"Oh, and here," Harry handed Dumbledore a wand. "I also switched wands with 'Professor' Moody. He'll have quite a surprise if he draws the one in his pocket."
And with that, Harry went off to await the actual start.
Since the maze was set in the Quidditch Pitch, and that was on the Hogwarts grounds, Harry was easily able to tap into Hogwarts itself for quick guidance. As soon as he was out of sight of the entrance, he changed into his Animagus shape, a Kodiak bear, and loped quickly through the maze.
Barty Crouch Junior watched as Potter entered the maze first and took the first turn he needed to get to the cup. At that point, he was distracted by Dumbledore. "Alastor, I have just received a message that Barty Crouch arrived at the castle. He is being brought to the area under the stands. I need you to meet with him and guard him while I get Minister Fudge."
"Right," the fake Moody answered. He had wondered what had happened to his father since Pettigrew had allowed the old man to escape. Voldemort had tortured Wormtail and had nearly cut him into pieces for his snake to feed on. It was only the fact that the fake Moody couldn't be two places at once tonight which had prevented Voldemort from killing the rat.
Once under the stands, he found not his father but the werewolf, wand in hand, and the Minister. Young Barty dodged behind Dumbledore and pulled his wand, which promptly turned into a rubber chicken. He was still looking at the 'Weasley special' when Remus stunned him.
"What is going on!" Fudge demanded.
"A very dangerous plot, Cornelius," a fresh voice said.
"Barty! And. . . ." Following Barty Crouch Senior, wearing his 'spare' leg and an eye patch, was a very disheveled and worn Mad-eye Moody.
"What I have to say will sound almost unbelievable," Mr. Crouch said. He held out his hand to Dumbledore, who handed Crouch the wand Harry had given him. "I swear on my magic it is true, and that tonight, if Minister Fudge agrees to my conditions, I will retire from the Ministry of Magic at midnight."
Fudge's eyes went wide. He knew that while Dumbledore could likely take his job anytime he wanted, Crouch really wanted the job, and still had powerful friends on the Wizengamot. "What conditions?" Fudge frowned when he heard them, but agreed, "If any of this nonsense proves true," he concluded.
"It will all prove true, and more," Crouch said, just as Snape brought Karkaroff in at wand point. "I was held prisoner since last September by You-Know, oh bother, by . . ." he shuddered, "Voldemort and Peter Pettigrew."
"Pettigrew is dead and You-Know-Who is gone!"
"Pettigrew is alive, and Voldemort is back, although currently in a mutilated form," Crouch assured Fudge.
"Although I did not believe it then, that is the story Potter and his friends told last year," Snape said.
"I know you won't believe a werewolf, but there are truth serums that do affect us," Remus said. "For now, I swear on my magic that Peter Pettigrew is alive and was the one who betrayed the Potters, not Sirius Black."
"I wouldn't have believed it either," Moody snarled, "but it was Pettigrew and that one who kidnapped me."
"And who is that?" Fudge demanded.
"In a moment," Crouch said. "Then you'll also see why I have to retire tonight and why I wanted assurances of non-persecution for myself. Voldemort is only partially back. He's in a body that can do little. He needs to recreate his body, and he intends to do it tonight. That one made the Triwizard Cup into a portkey. When Potter touches it, he'll be sent to Voldemort."
"What! We must stop him!"
"No," Dumbledore said firmly. "The ceremony Voldemort must use requires three things to be added to a vile potion at the last minute: a bone from his father, the willing sacrifice of flesh from a servant. . . ."
"Pettigrew," Crouch stated.
"And the blood taken unwillingly from an enemy."
"Harry," Remus pointed out.
"Harry knows this," Dumbledore said. "He was chosen by Prophecy to be the one to fight Voldemort to the death of one of them. If Harry willingly shares his blood, Voldemort will be poisoned in his new body, and this time, when he dies he should really be dead."
Fudge blinked at that. "Really?"
"Really," Dumbledore said, lying through his teeth. "Harry wants to be free of the Prophecy and have his revenge on Voldemort. He wants to be free of his rather nasty Muggle relatives, and would like to live with his godfather, if he had also manage to capture Pettigrew. However, if anyone interferes, it might delay the ceremony, or other blood might be used, which would bring Voldemort back, and we do not want that."
"No, we certainly don't," Fudge agreed. "But do you have any proof, other than your beliefs, that any of this is true? Show me someone who's supposed to be dead but isn't!"
Mister Crouch sighed. "There's someone right there." The polyjuice had worn off. Moody growled and retrieved his eye, plopping into a beaker of a solution to clean it.
"He looks familiar," Fudge said.
"But. . . ." Karkaroff said. He looked at Crouch, who nodded.
"Yes," Crouch said, "that is my son. Let me confess to what I did."