Categories > Books > Harry Potter > When Vernon Didn't Miss

Better Late Than Never

by DrT 20 reviews

Plots fall apart after the second task.

Category: Harry Potter - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Drama - Characters: Barty Crouch Jr.,Dumbledore,Harry,Hermione - Warnings: [!!] [V] [?] - Published: 2008-05-04 - Updated: 2008-05-04 - 3174 words - Complete

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters, ideas, and situations created by JK Rowling and owned by her and her publishers. I own the original elements & characters. No money is being made by me, and no trademark or copyright infringement is intended.

Chapter XXIII

The day of the second task was chilly, overcaste, and windy. This matched Harry's mood, which was decidedly cranky.

Hermione had been invited to the Headmaster's office the night before, and had not returned, confirming to Harry that she had been taken hostage.

On the signal, the quartet waded into the cold water of the loch. Harry noted that Fleur and Cedric were going for the bubblehead charm, while Viktor was using a complicated partial transformation. Once underwater, however, Harry saw that Fleur and Cedirc were swimming off without any transfigurations. Similarly, Viktor's transfiguration partially into a shark stopped in his chest and shoulders. Harry finished transfiguring his hands and feet, took a look at his Hermione locator, and took off.

In less than a minute, Harry was far ahead of the other three. They were going deep, while Harry stuck with swimming nearer the surface. This got him above the weeds and anything lurking in the weeds (Remus had told them there were likely grindelows in the lake when he had been the defense teacher) and allowed him to move faster.

As Harry swam, his mind strayed to the other three. They were thinking like wizards -- going with the first, easiest, obvious thoughts. They used just enough magic to get the job done, and then went in the most obviously direct way to do it. Harry's transformations made him more maneuverable than Viktor, and faster as well as more maneuverable than Fleur and Cedric. All three would be going through the murky and often weed-choked lower lake, a shorter distance than Harry was traveling, but he didn't want to guess at the obstacles.

Out of his peripheral vision, Harry saw the second hand of his watch move -- he had bypassed Hermione, if not the village. He dove deeper, correcting his trajectory as he did so. As he approached, he saw four figures floating, yet securely anchored.

The merpeople looked surprised, and made no noise. Harry wondered if he was there faster than expected, or from an unexpected direction (or both). Not really caring, he cut Hermione loose.

Harry paused, wondering where the other three were. Then, Harry decided that he had been given enough assurances by his mentors and Dumbledore that Hermione would not be in any real danger (although the Headmaster hadn't said so until after he had threatened Dumbledore) that the other three hostages should be safe as well.

Harry nearly took Hermione to the surface, but then realized that she might wake up once she broke water. He took his bearings from the map and his watch, and then swam, hugging Hermione.

Harry saw both Viktor, who looked rather lost, and Cedric, who blinked at Harry in surprise. He thought a moment, and then went on in the direction Harry was coming from.

Once the water was shallow enough, Harry canceled all the charms on him, except the bubblehead charm. He took several deep breaths, and then canceled that as well, and then stood with Hermione in his arms.

Altogether, he had taken Harry thirty-six minutes -- most of it swimming back. As Hermione was taken from him and was being wrapped in blankets, he saw three men he didn't recognize bringing a sobbing Fleur ashore. Harry turned to Professor Moody, who was standing nearby and asked, "Does someone have to rescue her hostage?"

Moody blinked in surprise. "No, lad. Anyway, you've done your job. No, once the other two get back, those divers will be given any of the hostages not rescued."

"Good to know," Harry said, and concentrated on getting warm, hugging Hermione tightly.


With the second task completed, Harry knew he had three months before he would learn what the third task would be. He could therefore, in part, worry about his class work, and more importantly, try to help Hermione.

They, will some help from Luna, had come up with some interesting theories, which Hermione did not have enough experience to fully test. Most of the Brotherhood and those associated with the Brotherhood (such as some of the more scholarly vampires) were working hard to see if they could come up with some answers.

To everyone's surprise, they did.

Zara, Asclepias and the First Acolyte briefed Hermione, along with Harry, Luna, and Harry's mentors, the weekend before the third task. Jason and Cobra were glad there would be at least some hope for Hermione revealed now, as that should help Harry's determination to win.

"Good news, I would hope?" Hermione asked.

"They'd hardly be making such a fuss otherwise," Luna replied.

"We found a way to break the Hera curse, and possibly a way to create a Horcrux for you," Zara answered. "They are connected."

Asclepias took up the explanation. "The reason why no one came up with this line of thought before was that it simply was not possible until recently. We would need to combine Muggle and magical techniques. While your womb was destroyed by the Curse, your ovaries are largely intact. You would have to undergo aMuggle procedure to harvest some of your eggs." Hermione merely nodded her understanding, while Luna looked surprised.

"Harry would have to fertilize them, and then the embryos would be implanted. Now, none of this is possible, magically speaking."

"I know about the Muggle procedure, at least in general terms,"Hermione pointed out.

Asclepias merely nodded. "Now, to break the Curse, Pansy Malfoy would have accept the embryo, bear the child, and return it to you."

"Can we make her swear to care for the fetus and give the child up?" Hermione asked.

"We can, but again, it all has to be freely done, and yes, it has to be the one who stabbed you with the Dagger."

"Tell her the rest," the First Acolyte said.

"Ah. To make the Horcrux, the first part of the procedure is the same, except the one carrying the child does not have to agree freely," Asclepias said carefully. "The child must be born naturally -- in Malfoy's case, we could deliver by caesarian if we have to. Anyway, at the moment where we would normally cut the umbilical cord, you would instead need to kill the mother, doing the ceremony while holding the child."

Hermione looked even more ill and disgusted at the idea than Luna.

"I am sorry, daughter," the First Acolyte said softly. Then he frowned and looked at Harry. "My son?"

"If Pansy or some other female Death Eater does something more, something that fairly earns her the death penalty. . . ?"

"No, Harry," Hermione said firmly. "It would not be right to use anyone as a baby machine."

"No one else voluntarily having the baby would break the curse?"Luna asked. "Without harming the . . . the. . . ."

"Birth mother," Hermione supplied, to which Luna nodded.

"Not fully, if it works," Asclepias said. "That is the least certain of the methods to work at all, perhaps a three out of five chance. It might extend Hermione's life for anywhere from two or three years to a decade or so."

"Could the ceremony be done more than once?" Luna asked.

The three Brothers looked at each other thoughtfully. Finally, the First Acolyte said, "We need to look into that more fully."

"At least I have some real hope," Hermione told them gratefully.


Draco Malfoy was severely disappointed. He wanted to be something more than just an observer. He was a Malfoy, scion of a great family, and one day, he was certain, he would once again be the heir of the family leadership.

He was still neither intelligent enough, nor cautious enough, to really hide his attitudes. He did not realize that there were other observers at Hogwarts, who would correct and amplify his observations. Barty Crouch was overseeing all the observers, and of course he was much closer than any of them realized.

In addition, many others were watching Hogwarts as well -- the Brothers, the Druids, Aurors from around the world. All had parcels of the truth, bits and pieces of the big picture. The problem was putting those pieces together.

Many of Harry's mentors within the Brotherhood were becoming more anxious as the weeks of Harry's fourth year rolled along. Scorpion had been loudly demanding that Agathon be closely questioned, and perhaps Salemin and even Khafra as well, since Harry's name had popped out of the Goblet of Fire. As the weeks passed, Jason had joined in with the demands. By the winter solstice, Cobra and Zara had been pressing, as had many of Harry's advocates away from Scotland. Tutmoses had stepped back and given the decision over to Osiris just before the second task.

Osiris was disappointed. He was not certain if Tutmoses had given up on his responsibilities because he was uncertain of going up against Khafra and his faction, or if it was because he knew that Osiris could use more force if needed.

Either way, Osiris was disappointed in Tutmoses' leadership.

Osiris was not immune to the pressures the others felt. Therefore, in early May, he finally summoned Agathon to him, even if this was something Osiris had only done once before in the millennia of the Brotherhood's existence.

The hedonistic brother was nervous, but did not really show it as he entered the great temple. When the magic directed him to his meeting place, however, he hesitated and nearly stumbled.

Agathon knew there was no going back now. He therefore walked into the great audience chamber -- where, thousands of years before, the mage then known as 'the Returned God of the Dead' had rendered judgement.

Agathon paused just inside the entrance. The chamber was long, with a row of heavy pillars on either side of the narrow walk. At the far end, the figure was on his throne, behind him, a nine foot disk of pure gold, polished to reflect the low light available.

Agathon walked, and as he came closer, he saw that Osiris was in full regalia -- he was wearing his blue leather crown, which was later adopted by the rulers of Egypt as something like a war crown. He was adorned in gold and cloth of gold, and was holding the flail and crook of power. On either side of the throne coiled two immense cobras, each now awakening and hissing at him.

Worse, Agathon saw his three horcruxes, which he had thought were well-hidden, their locations known only to him, were at Orisis'feet.

Agathon knelt before his lord. "Master," he said simply, and allowed his forehead to touch the floor.

Osiris made no movement. Agathon started to sweat heavily. His lord was furious. He would remain still until he was ready. His magic was filling the room. A prospective acolyte had used his magic to control and rape a servant girl. Osiris had remained still for three hours, until the prospect had tried to defend himself with lies.

Osiris had remained still as a statue, but his magic dissolved the man into sludge in less than ten seconds.

Agathon knew his life was also at risk, for the first time in nearly 2300 years. He had played what he only now knew was afoolish game. He had thought he had been playing for fun and for Merenre, Khafra, Salemin and perhaps even the First Acolyte --leaders of the Brothers who hated the mundane world and therefore who cared little what Agathon did there. He had only learned in the 1970s that Merenre united several of these factions -- and that he, Agathon, was by default now actually part of the most radical splinter group, controlled by Khafra and Salemin.

Worse, Agathon had thought he had been playing the game against Tutmoses and his small group of overly-sentimental Brothers. The inclusion of Jason, Scorpion, and above all Cobra in the admirers of the young Potter had been disturbing.

It was now clear that the protection their lord was not merely aformality.

His lord's voice sounded in his head. 'Look at your so-called Horcruxes.'

Agathon whimpered as one Horcrux, a foot-tall statue of the goddess Hebe carved from a huge chunk of amber, sizzled and melted away into nothing.

"Tell me everything you have done for Tom Riddle, including teaching him about our ceremonies, and everything you know of the plots revolving around Riddle and Harry Potter. Do not try and avoid what you know I want to know."

Agathon started to shake as the Eye of Osiris appeared behind him-- he could see it in the golden disk. He knew one lie, even one shading of the truth, would end in his death.


At the same time Agathon was confessing, Dumbledore was finishing explaining events to an old friend. "And there you have it, Gellert," he concluded, admittedly confused.

"Do you truly trust Snape?" Grindelwald asked.

"Of course," Dumbledore replied with dignity.

"Now, don't get into a pet," the former Dark Lord teased. "I take it you can trust the rest of your staff?"

"Of course," Dumbledore replied. "I cannot begin to express how comforting it is to have a Defense instructor I can totally rely on."

As Dumbledore mused and muttered about the rest of his staff, Grindelwald thought, 'Has the idiot gone soft in the head recently, or was I even more blind fifty years ago?' Seeing Dumbledore winding down, Grindelwald asked, "And the half-breed? Is she as docile as your pet Hagrid? And what of the other former Death Eater?"

"Madame Maxime is very trustworthy," Dumbledore said, almost heatedly. Then he paused. "I cannot believe Igor could have orchestrated Harry's conscription, but he may be involved."

"And the students?"

"I wish I could answer for them all," Dumbledore admitted. "Still, while they might be providing intelligence, they could have not been involved directly."

"Whatever the correct answer, I am certain you will soon discover it," Grindelwald said, assuring his conqueror.


Agathon, stripped of a Horcrux, slunk away after revealing all he knew. He would retire for several years to an island in the Caribbean, where Muggle slaves served their Magical masters from birth until an early death.

Osiris would deal next with the two leaders of the little conspiracy in turn, and then turn his power on their followers. Khafra the Proud broke quickly and easily. He was dismissed, all information wrung out of him. He also lost a Horcrux, and would spend the next two hundred years in the desert, meditating on his errors.

Osiris was a bit surprised that Salemin was the lynchpin, the prime mover in this. Where the others had convinced themselves despite of the evidence that he would go along with their radical plan, there here hints that Salemin -- a quiet, studious Brother who had been a member for close to 1900 years -- knew that things would not have been so simple. He was obvious plotting to do something to his lord.

Salemin, unlike the others, was not cowed by his lord in his glory. He didn't even bother to bow. He merely said, "I presume Khafra and the fool have told you all they knew?"

"They have." Salemin was finally shaken a bit when his three Horcruxes appeared.

"I see we have not been as independent, or as clever, as we had thought," Salemin managed to say.

"I revealed my secrets of continued life," Osiris stated. "I never have given away even a tenth of my magical knowledge."

Osiris stood, and the mere force of his fully revealed magic forced Salemin to knees. "You should know you could not kill me. Disclose what you were planning to do to me."

Salemin struggled to keep his secrets, but as the all-seeing Eye of Osiris appeared, he had to reveal his plan.

"So," Osiris hissed, "you believe I would have been trapped, until such time, if any, as you decided I might be freed. Perhaps. Ican see three ways I could have escaped, but I admit they would have taken years to achieve."

Salemin would not have believed that an hour before.

Now, he did.

"Do you really think, even if Merenre or another Brother had joined you, that any three of you would have been resistant to the temptations of power over the world better than I? No, over time, you would have schemed against each other. One would have fallen, and even if he had been replaced, sooner or later, there would have been two fighting for power, and then one. Power, continually exercised, corrupts."

"Are you?" Salemin managed to gasp.

"Perhaps," Osiris answered. "When this is over, I must retreat from the forefront again, to keep the world in balance."

"Are you going to kill me now?" Salemin demanded.

"No," Osiris answered. Still, Salemin winced as two of his Horcruxes dissolved. "I am going to place you in that magical stasis you planned for me, that living death." He smiled nastily.

"We shall see if you can find the three flaws in your plan that Isaw . . . and which two I will block. In a thousand years, we shall see if you are still sane. If you are, then we will talk again."

Only now did Salemin collapse in fear.


The next day, and then for two more, Osiris thought while Cobra, Tutmoses, and the First Acolyte, aided by a few others when necessary, dealt with the smaller fishes, who would be punished but who would not lose a Horcrux.

As he thought things out, Osiris came up with six plausible scenarios, the most likely one having Snape at the center. But doubting Dumbledore's faith in Snape highlighted the fact that there was in fact someone at Hogwarts whom everyone trusted, but who had really appeared almost from nowhere.

Mentally giving himself a swift kick, Osiris took himself to Hogwarts.


Barty Crouch Junior, polyjuiced as Moody, was stumping through the Hogwarts corridors. His stolen eye detected one of the faux Druids, the one called Jason, suddenly standing up ahead.

Crouch slowed, and the magic eye flipped to a rear view. The faux Druid who called himself Cobra was behind him. Crouch stumbled as the outline of a fiery eye burned into existence near his head.

"We have all been very foolish," a voice to Crouch's side said in exasperation. "It should have been obvious Voldemort would sneak someone in, either under a potion or someone who was aMetamorphmagus. And to think, we all saw you sipping the potion."

Crouch had tried to keep moving, to pull his wand. He could barely breath, let alone really react.


"My lord?"

"Follow the Eye. Rip every piece of information from this thing and then dispose of it if possible. Keep it in stasis if you need its blood or other parts." Osiris smiled so coldly that even Scorpion shivered. "Then take its place as Moody."
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