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Tabula Rasa by reptilia28

Format: Novella
Chapters: 8
Word Count: 16,566
Status: WIP

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild Language, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme, Contains Spoilers

Genres: Crossover, Humor, Action/Adventure
Characters: Harry, Hermione, OC
Pairings: Harry/Hermione

First Published: 11/08/2007
Last Chapter: 12/10/2008
Last Updated: 12/10/2008

Summary:



Thanks to Terapsin for the awesome banner!

During the battle of Hogwarts in seventh year, Harry gets killed...again. Harry then finds himself meeting Death, who is far from happy to see him. After learning that this is not the first time that this has happened, Harry is given one final chance to get it right. Now he goes with his memories intact to...somewhere in time.


Chapter 1: Waiting Room
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This fic joins Light's Hope, Death's Hunters, Daddy Dearest and Kiss Me Like This as challenges that I have decided to partake myself.

I don't own Harry Potter, just an OC's.
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Chapter 1 – Waiting Room

“NEXT!” a voice bellowed in Harry’ ears.

Harry groaned and opened his eyes to find himself in a strange environment. It seemed like he was in the waiting room of a hospital, but the walls were completely bare of decoration, and a single row of chairs stretched on in either direction as far as the eye could see.

“NEXT!” the disembodied voice shouted again. A couple of seconds after the word was spoken, the room seemed to slide to the left several feet. Harry closed his eyes and tried to remember what had happened, tuning out the periodical screaming and the feeling of inertia as the room shifted. Okay, he had been hit by a Killing Curse, and ended up at King’s Cross, with Dumbledore waiting for him. He spoke to Dumbledore, and found out that his scar was an accidental Horcrux, and had taken the brunt of the curse for him, so he could return to the living. Harry returned to life, and fought off the Death Eaters for several minutes before he felt something hit him in the back, and his world went dark. When he woke up, he found himself here.

“Oh crap, the bastard killed me again,” Harry groaned, cradling his head in his hands.

“Bad day?” a voice next to him asked. Harry looked up to see an old, pale man dressed in a hospital gown.

“You could say that,” Harry sighed, slumping in his seat. “It’s not every day when someone gets killed twice in under ten minutes,” he added glumly. Beside him, the old man chuckled lightly.

“No, I suppose it’s not,” he agreed. For a moment, they sat in silence, watching the blank wall slide slightly every few seconds. “This place wasn’t what I expected it to be,” he said conversationally.

“What did you expect it to be?” Harry asked curiously. He figured he might as well make conversation with the man since it looked like they would be there for a while.

“I’m not sure, really,” the old man said, shrugging. “I just thought it wouldn’t be so...boring,” he said, hesitating as he tried to find the right word to describe the seemingly endless room.

“Last time, I was at the train station that led to my school,” Harry said conversationally. “I’m starting to wonder if I had stepped onto the train, if I just would have gotten here a few minutes early. If Dumbledore had told me that this was my fate, I wouldn’t have been so eager to die,” he continued, grumbling bitterly.

“Why were you so eager to die?” the old man asked. “If you don’t mind my asking,” he added quickly.

“A madman killed my parents when I was a baby,” Harry said sadly, “and he’s spent the past six or seven years trying to kill me too. Looks like he finally succeeded. Now that I’m dead, though, I’m not sure how to take it.” Harry sighed and turned to his neighbor. “What about you? How’d you die...if you don’t mind my asking.” The old man shook his head and straightened up in his seat.

“Liver cancer,” he said simply. “Guess I drank a bit too much in my youth, and it finally caught up with me.”

“I’m sorry,” Harry said sadly, looking down at his feet.

“Don’t be; I’m not,” the old man said, shaking his head. “Near the end, things got really painful, so when the time came, I was actually relieved. I clung to life long enough to say goodbye to all my grandchildren, make peace with my Lord, and let go, and I never regretted it,” he mused with a small smile on his face. “By the way, I’m John,” he added, extending his hand to Harry.

“Harry,” he greeted, shaking John’s hand.

For what seemed like an eternity, they talked about each other’s lives. Harry spoke of his life at the Dursleys, and John spoke of his life growing up on a farm, and how he fought for England during World War II. He spoke of how he met the woman who would be his wife at a diner right before he left for war, and how he had proposed to her as soon as he returned. Soon, they no longer noticed the monotonous scream of “NEXT!” or the shifting of seats. However, eventually, John looked to his right side to see that there was only a blank wall. He looked forward to see a plain door in front of him.

“Well, this looks like my stop,” John said sadly as he stood up from his seat. “It’s been nice talking with you, Harry, and I hope I see you on the other side.” Tipping an imaginary hat, the old man walked to the door and opened it, stepping into the next room with his head held high. Harry watched sadly as his new friend disappeared, and barely noticed as the seat that John once occupied slid into the wall.

“NEXT!” the voice shouted several seconds later. Harry sighed as he stood up and walked into the next room, which he found was as bland as the first. The walls were completely bare of any paintings or ornaments, save a door similar to the one he just walked through on one of them. In fact, the only thing that kept the room from being completely bare was a wooden desk with a black computer sitting on top of it. Sitting at the desk was a man that seemed slightly older than Harry, with long, dark, unkempt hair and a scruffy beard. The man had his head propped up with one hand while clicking at something on his computer with the other hand. The man briefly shifted his gaze to Harry before straightening slightly.

“Please state your full name an—” he began, speaking in an American accent, but stopped as he took a double take at Harry. Then the man’s face adopted a resigned, almost bored expression. “Oh, it’s you again,” he said dully as he began to type on his computer. “You’re starting to become a permanent fixture here,” he muttered darkly as he continued typing rapidly. Several seconds later, a dull whirring emanated from within the desk, a plastic card stuck out from a slot on the desk, which the clerk plucked and handed to Harry. “Open the door with this,” the man explained, pointing to the door, which Harry noticed had an electronic slot above the doorknob. “Good luck man, you’re going to need it,” he said, saluting Harry.

Harry, unsure of how to respond, simply saluted feebly back at the clerk and slid the card into the slot in the door. When the light turned green, Harry turned the knob and opened the door, entering the new room. When he walked in and saw who was waiting for him, his jaw nearly dropped in shock.

“Mum?” he gasped.
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Chapter 2: Shouting Matches
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To make a pot of plot bunny stew, mix two quarts of chicken broth with five large carrots and five russet potatoes, all chopped. Cook until softened. Add meat of one plot bunny, and cook until meat is cooked through. Add various herbs and serve. For best results, laugh maniacally while cooking. Serves one.

I own any OC’s that pop up, as well as the challenge that this story originated from. Everything else belongs to J. K. Rowling.

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Chapter 2 – Shouting Matches

In the center of the room that Harry had entered, a woman with red hair and green eyes was sitting at her desk with a phone in her hand. While she seemed engrossed in a conversation, Harry’s outburst caught her attention, and she looked at Harry in shock.

“Brad, I’ve got a client here, I’ll call you back,” she said quickly before hanging up the phone. Turning back to Harry, her look of shock twisted into one of rage. “YOU!” she screamed, causing Harry to flinch slightly. “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING HERE?!” In the face of the woman’s wrath, Harry suddenly felt very small and timid.

“I thought you’d be happy to see me,” he replied meekly. Instead of placating the enraged woman, it only served to infuriate her more.

“HAPPY TO SEE YOU?! WHAT IS GOING THROUGH THAT SQUISHY BLOB YOU CALL A BRAIN THAT WOULD MAKE YOU THINK I’D BE HAPPY TO SEE YOU?!” she screamed at the top of her lungs, her bared teeth and wide eyes giving her a demented look. After inhaling deeply several times, the woman dropped into her seat and began sobbing softly into her hands. “I don’t freaking believe this,” she sniffled. “I’m a good worker; what did I do to deserve this?” Unsure how to calm the distressed woman, Harry quietly sat down in the chair standing in front of the desk.

“Don’t cry, Mum,” Harry said soothingly. However, her reaction was not what he was expecting.

“Stop calling me that!” she snapped, pounding her fists on the desk in anger. “I am not your mother, damn it, yet you go through this every time you come here!” While she pulled out a box of tissue out from a drawer in her desk and began blowing her nose, Harry looked down at the plastic name plate on the desk. Instead of reading “Lily Potter” or “Lily Evans”, it read “Mara J.” While the woman was continuing to clear her sinuses, Harry looked around and saw that unlike the previous two rooms, which were bare of any decoration, the walls in this room were covered from ceiling to floor with Star Wars posters, including those advertising movies with dates far into the future. A soft coughing brought Harry back to reality, and he turned to face the now much calmer woman.

“So,” Mara said shortly, clasping her hands together in front of her. “Care to explain how you got here this time?” When Harry opened his mouth to question her, she held up a hand to silence him. “Don’t bother answering; you don’t know what I’m talking about and I already know the answer.” Standing up and walking to a filing cabinet in one corner of her office, Mara slid open a drawer and pulled out a file before slamming it closed again.

“Harry James Potter, born July 31, 1980,” she read out of the folder. “Latest death logged, dead due to being struck by an Avada Kedavara curse at 2043 hours local time. Sixth premature death logged. Further premature demises will result in permanent demise of individual, as well as the termination of current Death’s employment and reassignment of his or her clients,” she continued mechanically before slamming the folder on her desk, making Harry jump slightly. “So, what do you have to say for yourself?” she asked as she sat back down, flashing an eerie smile.

“Wait, I died six times?” Harry asked incredulously.

“Oh yes, would you like to hear them?” Mara asked tightly. Without waiting for an answer, she opened the file and began reading aloud to him. “Age eleven, crushed by a mountain troll. Age twelve, died due to basilisk poisoning. Age thirteen, got your head smashed in from a hundred-meter freefall. Age fourteen, burned to death by a Hungarian Horntail. Fifth year, knocked into the veil at the Department of Mysteries from a stray curse. Sixth year, exsanguinated after being struck with a sectumsempra curse cast by one Severus Snape,” she continued, her voice steadily rising as her anger returned. “The only reason why you didn’t show up here ten minutes earlier was because this time, I left the Horcrux in your head intact to act as a buffer! Fat load of good that did,” she grumbled as she closed the file. For his part, Harry was shocked that he had died so many times, and in so many gruesome ways.

“Wait a minute, if I died all those times, why don’t I remember any of it?” Harry questioned Mara.

“Company policy,” Mara said, leaning back in her chair. “Whenever someone is sent back, their memories of previous events are erased. Don’t really know why, but those are the rules.” Mara scoffed lightly as she crossed her arms in front of her. “None of this was supposed to happen,” she muttered quietly. “You were supposed to grow up, kill Riddle and go marry your soul mate, some Granger girl I think….” The last part of her rant caught Harry’s attention.

“Wait a minute, are you saying that my soul mate is Hermione?” Harry asked. “I thought my soul mate was supposed to be Ginny!” While Harry was still trying to absorb this latest shock, Mara shrugged and smiled knowingly.

“Sorry kid, that was the love potion talking,” she said smugly. “Not really sure where she got it, but the point is that girl’s nothing but trouble. Same goes for her brother Ronald, so I recommend that you cut off all ties with them as soon as possible,” she continued. Her latest comment snapped Harry out of his stupor.

“What? But Ron’s my best mate!” Harry exclaimed defensively.

“Best mate, eh?” Mara asked skeptically. “Tell me, would a real best friend turn his back on you when your name came out of the Goblet of Fire in fourth year? Would a real best friend have gone back home to a hot meal and soft bed when the fate of the world was at stake? Would a real best friend constantly be jealous of your fame and wealth, yet never consider just what you went through to get those luxuries?” Harry opened his mouth to answer, but stopped and closed his mouth when he realized that he didn’t have a good answer for her. “Thought so,” she quipped.

“Wait, if every time I died before my time, I was sent back, why wasn’t Sirius sent back, or Cedric, or Dumbledore or anyone?” Harry asked Mara.

“Must have been their time,” she said casually, shrugging.

“THEIR TIME?!” Harry exploded, standing up and knocking his chair over. “How the hell could it have been their time? Dumbledore I can understand, he was old and probably was near the end of his life anyway, but what about the others? Cedric was only seventeen years old!” he shouted angrily.

“I don’t know!” Mara yelled, standing up and glaring at the teenager before her. “I don’t write the rules, I just follow them. Besides, I don’t know why you’d care about that old crook, the way he manipulated you all these years,” she snarled, sitting back down. When she saw Harry’s look of shock and confusion, she chuckled to herself. “Oh, he wasn’t evil, far from it, but over the years, he began poking his nose into things that didn’t concern him. He did what he thought was best for you, but in reality was only harmful to you. You know, road to Hell and all that jazz. However, he really dropped the ball on a few things, like Sirius’ incarceration. How could the head of the Wizengamot not know that a person had been convicted and sentenced without a trial? Even if he thought that Sirius was guilty, he should have at least held a trial in the interests of justice.”

After finishing her latest rant, Mara sighed tiredly and ran her fingers through her hair. “I don’t even know why I’m telling you all this, since you won’t remem—” she continued, but interrupted by her phone ringing. “Hold on one minute,” she told Harry while picking up the phone. “Death and Resurrection, this is Mara,” she said professionally into the phone. While Harry couldn’t hear what was being said, whoever had called must have said something shocking, judging from Mara’s surprised face. “Yes sir, I understand sir, good day sir,” she said before hanging up the phone and turning to face Harry again. “Well, it looks like the big man likes you, because he just approved the use of a form that allows you to keep your memories,” she said as she pulled a sheet of paper and a pen out of a drawer. “Just sign your name on the dotted line,” she said, handing the items over to Harry, who complied with her instructions.

“Here you go,” Harry said as he signed the form and handed it back to Mara.

“Thank you,” she said, plucking the paper from his hand and placing it inside his folder. “Now remember, you’re on your last chance, so don’t screw up,” she hissed threateningly, reaching over her desk and grabbing the front of his robe. Gulping nervously, Harry kept silent and nodded obediently. “Great,” she said sweetly as she released him. “Have fun now,” she said as she waved slightly.

Harry’s vision was suddenly flooded by blinding light, and then suffocating darkness, and then his world faded back into view. Harry looked around to find himself in the Great Hall. The torches had been doused, and the only source of illumination in the room was the soft blue hue of the flame within the Goblet of Fire. Dumbledore seemed to be giving his closing speech about the Triwizard champions when the goblet flared a crimson red and spat out a scrap of parchment. Snatching the singed note from the air, Dumbledore unfolded it and read the name aloud.

“Harry Potter.”

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For those of you who don’t get the rather blatant Star Wars reference, Mara Jade is the wife of Luke Skywalker post-Return of the Jedi, and bears a striking similarity to Lily Potter in appearance. It was too good an opportunity to pass up, and I like the sound of the name.

Don’t forget to read and review!

Chapter 3: Small, Slow Steps
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I don't own Harry Potter.
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Chapter 3 - Small, Slow Steps

The students gathered in the Great Hall gasped as one as Dumbledore announced Harry's name. As the crowd began to murmur amongst itself, Harry sighed exasperatedly and stood up, following Dumbledore to the waiting room for the champions.

“Vhat is it?” Viktor Krum asked, standing up as Harry as well as the various Headmasters and Ministry representatives came into the room. “Do they need us back outside?”

“I still don't really believe this,” Ludo Bagman said, rubbing his hands together and shivering in barely contained delight, “but it seems that we have a first in Triwizard history: two champions!” he continued gleefully. The anger from the two foreign Headmasters was immediately evident.

“Zis iz an outrage!” Madame Maxine exclaimed in her thick French accent. “Zis boy cannot possibly compete; `e is far too young!”

“I agree,” Harry said, surprising everyone in the room. “Professor, may I please see that note?” he asked Dumbledore, holding out his hand. Frowning in confusion, the wizened man handed Harry the scrap of parchment. Harry then made a show of inspecting the note.

“Vhat is he doing?” Igor Karkaroff snapped testily.

“This isn't my handwriting,” Harry said finally, handing Dumbledore back the note. “I refuse to participate in a contest that I could very well die horribly in when I didn't even enter my own name in.”

“I'm afraid that it doesn't work that way,” Barty Crouch said. “The magical contract operates on the person's name, not their signature.”

“So you're saying that anyone with a quill and parchment could put my name into the Goblet, without my permission, and I can do nothing about it?” Harry asked, his eyes seemingly glowing as his anger surfaced. Crouch's silence had all but answered Harry's question. “Great,” he said sarcastically, “just fan-bloody-tastic. If you need me, I'll be in the Gryffindor Common Room,” he said as he walked out of the room, leaving the shocked adults behind him. Cedric Diggory recovered first and ran after Harry.

“Harry, wait!” Cedric yelled as he quickly caught up with his significantly shorter competitor. “For what it's worth, I believe you.” Harry smiled softly and nodded at the older Hufflepuff.

“Thanks, Cedric, that means a lot to me,” Harry said, before lightly patting him on the arm. “May the best man win,” he added before walking back to Gryffindor Tower. When he entered the Common Room, he found it completely empty except for Hermione reading a book, Crookshanks purring softly on her lap.

“What're you reading?” Harry asked, causing her to look up.

Hogwarts, A History,” Hermione said, setting the book down next to her. “I've been trying to find some loophole to get you out of this tournament, but I haven't found anything yet,” she continued sadly.

“Well, Crouch said that the contract works with the name, not the signature,” Harry said as he sat down next to her, “so it looks like I'm stuck.” For a moment, they sat in silence, only Crookshanks purrs and the fireplace crackling making any sound.

“You didn't seem particularly surprised when Professor Dumbledore called out your name,” Hermione said, breaking the silence, “why is that?” Harry sighed, running his hands through his messy hair.

“Can I tell you tomorrow? I don't really feel like explaining everything right now,” he said tiredly. He breathed a sigh of relief when Hermione nodded silently. “I take it Ron's not too pleased with me right now,” he said, more as a statement than a question.

“No, he's not,” Hermione confirmed. “He thinks that you somehow managed to trick the age line, and is upset that you didn't let him in on the secret.”

“Yeah, I figured that he would,” Harry said bitterly. “Might as well get it over with now; I'll see you tomorrow, Hermione,” he said, hugging Hermione goodnight before walking up to the boy's dormitory. As he had expected, when Harry walked into the fourth-year dormitory, Ron was sitting in his bed, glaring at him.

“So, how'd you do it?” Ron asked coldly. Harry raised his eyebrow at the red-haired teenager.

“If I said I didn't do it, would you believe me?” he questioned. Ron did not answer, but glared at Harry evilly. “Didn't think so,” Harry quipped as he changed into his pajamas and crawled into bed. Ron huffed angrily and slid the curtains surrounding his bed closed.

When Harry awoke early the next day, he saw that Ron's curtains were still drawn closed. Briefly thinking about what Mara had said to him about cutting off his ties with Ron and Ginny, Harry changed into his robes and walked down the stairs to the Common Room and found Hermione waiting for him.

“Can we go somewhere a little more private?” Harry asked, looking around cautiously. When Hermione nodded, Harry took her by the arm and led her down to the seventh floor and stopped in front of a blank section of wall. Releasing his hold on Hermione, Harry paced back and forth in front of the wall three times while thinking the words, I need someplace to talk to Hermione. When he heard Hermione gasp in surprise, Harry opened his eyes to see the dark, ornate door that led to the Room of Requirement. Harry held the door open for Hermione, then walked into the room itself.

In contrast to the rather excessive way that the enchanted room had fulfilled his previous requests, this room was rather plain. The walls were painted a dark blue, as well as the carpet and furniture. The room was furnished with a pair of large overstuffed chairs and sofas, as well as a large glass case containing a variety of beverages, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.

“Umm...want something to drink?” Harry asked awkwardly. Hermione shook herself out of her shocked stupor and looked at Harry.

“Just tea, thanks,” she muttered as she began gawking at the room in shock again.

“Want any sugar or anything with that?” Harry asked as the room produced a teacup for him.

“Just a bit of lemon, please,” Hermione said as she sat down in one of the chairs. “Wow, this is really comfortable. How'd you find this place, Harry?” Harry didn't answer immediately, but instead finished preparing Hermione's tea and grabbing a butterbeer for himself. 

“Hermione, if I told you something so incredibly strange, I couldn't possibly be sane, would you believe me?” Harry asked as he passed Hermione her tea.

“Of course, Harry,” Hermione said, frowning in concern. “Harry, what are you trying to say?” Harry fidgeted nervously as he sat down.

“Well, I'm not quite what I seem to be anymore,” Harry said cryptically. “Firstly, I'm from the future. Secondly, I'm...dead,” he said, hesitating as he mentioned his death. Hermione was sipping her tea when he spoke, and nearly choked on it when he said he was dead.

“What?” she sputtered, still coughing. Harry then launched into his story, about what had happened in the next three years, as well as how he had died, and the conversation he had with Mara. However, he carefully omitted the detail of Hermione being his soul mate. When he had finished, Hermione was simply sitting in her chair motionless, her now cold tea forgotten.

“Well,” she said finally, “that's certainly a strange story.” Wordlessly, she stood up from her chair and sat back down next to Harry. Without warning, Hermione suddenly pounced over and wrapped Harry in a hug. “I'll help you, Harry,” she whispered, tears trickling from her eyes, “anything you need, I'll help you get it. I'll always be there for you.” Unsure how to respond, Harry awkwardly pulled her into his arms, patting her on the back comfortingly.

“Thanks,” he whispered softly. For several minutes, they held each other tightly, until their arms got tired and they had to relinquish their holds on each other.

“So...how are you going to break things off with Ron?” Hermione asked as they both lounged in one of the fluffy sofas.

“I don't know,” Harry admitted as he took a gulp of butterbeer. “It would look suspicious if I just suddenly stopped talking to him for no reason after being best mates for three years. I don't know, I'll think of something.” Harry spared a moment to glance at his watch, and realized that they had been holed up in the Room of Requirement for almost two hours. “It's a good thing that today's a Saturday, or else people might miss us,” he said casually.

“Yeah,” Hermione said absently as she read a book that the room had conjured for her. “I just can't believe that I fell for Ron,” she muttered so low that Harry almost didn't hear her.

“Oh, who did you have your heart set on, then?” Harry asked teasingly.

“Just some boy,” Hermione said, shrugging indifferently, although Harry noticed that she seemed to falter slightly when he asked. “We better show ourselves to the world before people start thinking we're off snogging in some broom closet somewhere,” she said as she pulled herself out of the chair. Chuckling nervously, Harry pulled himself onto his feet and held the door open for Hermione.

“I've got something I need to do first; I'll catch up,” Harry said as Hermione began to walk away. Once she had left, Harry walked back into the room and contorted his face in concentration. I need someplace to hide something, Harry thought, and the room shifted into the large, cluttered room that Harry had hidden Snape's potion book in his sixth year. Grinning triumphantly, Harry requested a cloth sack and grabbed Ravenclaw's Diadem, quickly stuffing into the sack before the Horcrux could exert its influence on him. Pushing aside some random debris, Harry laid the sack into a corner of the room and shoved the junk back so that, while he could clearly see where it was, it would remain hidden to anyone else. Satisfied with his work, Harry walked out of the room and watched as the door melted back into the wall.

Harry casually walked back up to Gryffindor Tower and grabbed a quill and parchment, preparing to write a letter to Sirius.

Hey, Padfoot. Wherever you are, I hope things are better than they are here.

Someone got me into the Triwizard tournament...as a fourth champion. Apparently, there was some fine print that stated that the contract that runs the Goblet uses names instead of signatures, so I'm stuck. Lucky me.

Could you do me a favor? Could you call your old house elf and ask him to bring the silver locket that no one can open from your grim old place to you, in a thick cloth sack? I know that your opinion of your old place and your elf are rather low, but it's really important. I can't explain it in a letter, but it's really important. And please TRY to be nice to your elf; karma has that nasty habit of coming back to bite you in the ass if you're not careful. Thanks.

Harry

Satisfied, Harry stuffed it into an envelope and sealed it, leaving the front blank. Slipping it into his pocket, Harry walked up to the owlery, where Hedwig swooped in with a mouse in her beak.

“Hey, girl, want to deliver a letter for me?” Harry asked. Hedwig immediately dropped the mouse from her beak and hooted in affirmation. Harry grabbed a piece of string and tied the letter to Hedwig's leg. “It's for Sirius,” Harry whispered as he carried the snowy owl to the window, “so be careful.” Hooting haughtily, Hedwig swooped out of the window and into the gray sky, eventually disappearing completely. 

Harry sighed to himself. He had told Hermione about his resurrection; he had started collecting the Horcruxes; he had asked Sirius to get the second Horcrux, so what was left? Oh yeah, homework. He had three years of extra experience, so he figured that there was no excuse to get such low marks this time around. Well, he better head back to Gryffindor Tower; that homework wasn't going to do itself.
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I hope that you enjoyed that.

While I have my problems with the nagging bitch phase that Hermione was going through during the first third of Deathly Hallows, and hold nothing short of utter contempt for Kreacher, Hermione did have a point in saying that it was Sirius' own mistreatment of Kreacher that ultimately lead to his death.

Chapter 4: Coverage
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As usual, I don't own Harry Potter.
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Chapter 4 - Coverage

Over the next few days, the Hogwarts students had splintered predictably following the Triwizard champion announcements. The majority of the Gryffindor students were supporting Harry out of house pride, but there were some who did not, like Ron Weasley. The Hufflepuffs were unanimously against him, feeling that Harry had stolen their chance at glory, despite Cedric's repeated attempts to convince them otherwise. The Ravenclaws were fairly neutral on the subject, and the Slytherins banded together behind the Hufflepuffs out of spite towards Harry. However, having gone through these events before, the time-traveling wizard paid it little mind; even if he had not, then his newfound interest in his studies would have most likely softened the blow.

Much to Hermione's delight, Harry had decided to take an increased initiative in his studies, revising his previously done essays before beginning those that he had not yet started. While his revisions were nowhere near the length that Hermione's novella-length essays, Harry's works showed legitimate effort in his research, and would undoubtedly impress his teachers (except for Snape, who would probably sneer and give the paper a failing grade out of spite). However, at the moment Harry's mind was not on his studies.

Harry's mind was currently on the Horcruxes - particularly, the Resurrection Stone. Harry had no idea where it was, and he could not simply walk up to Dumbledore's office and ask him where the old Gaunt cottage was without raising suspicion. There was also the issue of Gryffindor's sword, unattainable for similar reasons. Harry also doubted that after two years of decomposing in the Chamber of Secrets, that there would still be any usable basilisk venom. And of course, there was the small issue of the Horcrux contained within his scar. Mara had not explicitly stated whether she had removed the Horcrux this time or not, and Harry did not wish to find out.

Ultimately, Harry decided that on the next Hogsmeade weekend, Harry would Apparate to Little Hangleton and dispose of the bones of Tom Riddle Senior, delaying Voldemort's resurrection. Harry also made a mental note to tactfully ask Sirius whether the Black library contained any books on Necromancy; it would help immensely to know about and appropriately counter any alternative methods of resurrection that Voldemort might resort to.

“Harry, are you okay?” Hermione asked as she laid her hand on his arm, concern in her voice. “You've been staring at the same page for the past ten minutes.”

“Yeah, I'm fine; I just got lost in my thoughts,” Harry said, shaking his head. “I need a break,” he added, standing up and closing his book. While he wandered the hallways of Hogwarts, Harry became lost in his thoughts again and bumped his shoulder into someone. “Sorry,” he muttered absently.

“That's okay; the nargles can grab your attention like that,” a dreamy voice said behind him, causing Harry to stop in his tracks. He spun around and saw a younger Luna Lovegood skipping away, humming tunelessly to herself. Suddenly gaining an idea, Harry sprinted to catch up with her.

“Excuse me, do you read the Quibbler?” Harry asked innocently as he walked with long strides in order to keep up with the skipping girl.

“Yes, I'm the daughter of the editor,” Luna said, grinning dreamily at a distant sight, “why do you ask?”

“I saw a copy for sale one day, and thought it looked interesting,” Harry lied, “but no one will tell me how much it costs to get a subscription.” Luna's absent grin grew into a genuine smile when she heard he was interested in her father's magazine.

“It's nine Sickles a year, are you interested?” she asked excitedly.

“Wow, that's cheap,” Harry muttered softly to himself. “Umm, sure, when do I pay?” Harry asked, genuinely clueless.

“Just give the payment to the delivery owl when it arrives next week,” Luna explained, “it's a one-time fee, you know.”

“Okay, thanks,” Harry said, waving goodbye as he walked away.

“Always a pleasure to help someone interested in finding the truth,” Luna said, skipping away merrily.

The next several days had passed by with little incident. Ron still refused to speak with him, but Harry paid it little mind. Even if he had not been advised to cut off his ties with the redheaded boy, Harry had more important things to worry about than his petty jealousy.

In Potions class, Snape was teaching the class about poisons and their antidotes, as well as making underhanded insinuations of poisoning Harry later, when a breathless first-year ran into the classroom.

“Harry Potter...needed...champions...ceremony...” the winded first-year panted. Snape wrinkled his nose in disgust at the display.

“Very well. Potter, leave your things and go do whatever they need you for,” the potions master said, waving Harry off.

“Umm, Professor, there'll be an interview there too,” the first-year added hesitantly, afraid of angering the greasy-haired man. Snape's features twisted into a scowl.

“Fine. Potter, take your things and get out of my class,” he snapped. Harry gathered his materials and followed the first-year to the room where the other champions were gathered, as well as Dumbledore, Rita Skeeter and Ollivander. After the wand inspections, Rita Skeeter had grabbed Harry and dragged him away to conduct her “interview,” but Harry cut her off before she could fire her first question.

“Before we conduct this interview, we need to get a few things clear,” Harry said firmly. “Firstly, lose the Quick-Notes Quill; if you're going to write anything down, write it yourself.” Skeeter sighed as she stowed away the bottle-green quill and drew a considerably plainer vulture-feather quill. “Secondly, be honest. I don't mind you embellishing things a bit, but don't put words in my mouth that I didn't say,” Harry continued. “Thirdly, don't devote the entire article about me; I want the other three champions to have at least as much coverage as me. Fourthly, keep your questions about the tournament; my personal life is just that: personal.”

“And if I don't?” Skeeter asked, the reporter deciding to push her luck.

“Well...” Harry trailed off, smiling grimly, “let's just say that your new boggart will be a flyswatter,” he finished vaguely. Skeeter chuckled nervously as she reaffirmed her grip on her quill.

“So Harry, how do you feel about being in the tournament?”

------

For the rest of the day, Harry had remained tight-lipped about the interview, simply saying to anyone that would ask to wait until the next day's Prophet. Even Hermione could not pry any information out of Harry.

“It's just some stuff about the tournament; wait until tomorrow's paper comes out,” Harry would say, frustrating his friend.

The next day, a delivery owl swooped in front of Hermione, a copy of the Daily Prophet clutched in its talons. Hermione paid the owl and unrolled the newspaper, reading the bold headline.

A GLIMPSE INTO THE MINDS OF CHAMPIONS

By Rita Skeeter

Below the headline, a photograph of the four champions posing for the camera. Hermione shifted her gaze to read the article body.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to interview the four champions for the 1994 Triwizard Tournament, currently taking place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The champions are international Quidditch celebrity Viktor Krum (18) of Durmstrang, Fleur Delacour (17) of Beauxbatons, Hufflepuff Cedric Diggory (17) of Hogwarts, and strangely, Harry Potter (14), also representing Hogwarts.

“This is a mistake; I shouldn't even be in this tournament,” Mister Potter said when asked about his entrance into the tournament. “Someone who wished me harm - which would be pretty much everyone who supports You-Know-Who - entered my name, and due to a stupid law concerning magical contracts, bound me to compete in this tournament.” 

When asked about the rather fractured opinions about him within his peers, Mister Potter merely shrugged. “They're entitled to their own opinions; what I think of them doesn't matter,” he explained. “Some of the opinions, especially the Hufflepuffs, are not entirely invalid, even if the circumstances are not what they think they are. I imagine that when I and the other champions start the tasks, I'll be too busy trying to survive to worry about what other people think of me.” 

Mister Potter affirmed that Cedric Diggory was the true Hogwarts Champion before politely ending the interview....

Hermione set down the paper and turned to Harry, who simply shrugged innocently.

“I told you it was just stuff about the tournament; I don't know what everybody got so worked up about,” he said as he sipped his pumpkin juice. Hermione sighed in exasperation and shook her head.

“I guess I was half expecting her to write you as a blubbering, attention-seeking prat and completely ignore the other champions,” Hermione said, looking back down at the paper.

“Gee, thanks for the vote of confidence,” Harry muttered sarcastically. “And I don't think that'll happen anytime soon; we've come to something of an agreement,” he continued cryptically.

“What sort of an agreement?” Hermione asked, partly in suspicion and partly in intrigue.

“I managed to find out a dirty little secret of hers,” Harry said vaguely. “She writes the truth, I don't tell people about it. A fair trade, I think.” Hermione sighed and began massaging her temples.

“My best friend is a bloody extortionist,” she muttered to herself, not caring that she had cursed.

“And yet you love me anyway,” Harry chuckled, patting Hermione on the shoulder. 
----

Chapter 5: Slight Differences
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I don't own Harry Potter.
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Chapter 5 - Slight Differences

Knowing beforehand what the Triwizard tasks would be, Harry concerned himself little with studying for the dragon that he faced…not that he was supposed to know that; Harry was still waiting for Hagrid to invite him to “discover” the dragons. Instead, Harry placed his efforts towards improving his studies. While the general idea for most things came to him easily, having done them hundreds of times before, such things like definitions, as well as the detailed explanations required for his essays still eluded him, and he quickly found himself residing in the library nearly as long as Hermione, which was driving a larger wedge between the rift that had already existed between him and Ron.

As Harry hit a block on his Transfiguration essay, his thoughts drifted to his former best friend. While initially reluctant to simply discard his friendship with the redhead like Mara had suggested, the more that her words about his jealousy made sense. Harry ultimately decided to give the redheaded boy a second chance, but he would no longer tolerate his jealousy, and he would also be wary around Ginny. The news about the love potion had hit him hard, even if he had not initially shown it.

“How are you doing on the essay, Harry?” Hermione asked as she dropped a stack of books onto the table before pulling out her quill and ink as well as a roll of parchment.

“Slowly,” Harry groaned, pushing aside his parchment and laying his head in his arms. “I think I've fried my brain; I can hardly concentrate on anything anymore.” Hermione sighed and reached over to grab his parchment.

“Might as well correct what you've already got down,” Hermione said as she analyzed the contents of Harry's incomplete essay, jotting down a few marks here and there. “I'm impressed, Harry, hardly any errors,” she said, obviously pleased with him. “Your handwriting could still use some work though.” Harry snorted and looked up at her.

“Four years of correcting my homework and you still can't read my handwriting?” he asked, mock glaring at her.

“I didn't say I couldn't read it,” Hermione scoffed back in response, handing back his essay, “I just said it needs work.” Rolling his eyes, Harry opened his book and began scribbling down his notes.

------

Harry breathed in the crisp autumn air as he and Hermione walked through Hogsmeade village. So far things had been going well. Several days before, Hagrid had taken Harry out into the forest under the cover of night to show him the “adorable” dragons. And just as before, Hagrid had neglected to mention that the show doubled as a date with the Beauxbatons Headmistress, Madame Maxine. The next day, Harry had discreetly sought out Cedric and warned him of the dragons. A couple of days later, the fake Moody had cursed Malfoy into a ferret like before, which had elicited a few chuckles out of Harry. Now, Harry was going to enjoy the last Hogsmeade weekend before the first task, and headed straight for the Three Broomsticks. Harry and Hermione sat down at the bar and drank a few butterbeers before Hermione had to use the lavatory. As Harry continued drinking the warm, soothing drink, he vaguely saw someone sit down next to him from the corner of his eye, but paid it no mind until he heard a familiar voice.

“I'll just have a bowl of chicken soup, and a glass of water,” the patron requested, and Madame Rosmerta nodded before walking away to take more orders. Harry turned his head to see Mara sitting next to him, grinning cheekily at him. “Surprise,” she said.

“Mara?” Harry asked in shock. “What are you doing here?”

“I'm ordering lunch,” Mara said nonchalantly. “What else are you supposed to do in a place like this?”

“But what are you doing here?” Harry repeated himself. “I thought you had clients to watch over, like myself.” Mara just shrugged indifferently.

“I've got someone else watching the rest of my clients, and I'm here with you right now. I trust you're not going to do something reckless in my presence now, are you?” she asked, raising an eyebrow threateningly. Gulping nervously, Harry shook his head slightly. “Good boy,” she said sweetly, thanking Madame Rosmerta as her soup arrived. “Besides, now that you know what's going to happen, my life has been much easier so far.” Mara blew on her soup, cooling it down before consuming several spoonfuls, followed by a gulp of water. “Now, I take it that you have a few questions for me?”

“Yeah, like is the last…” Harry paused as he realized he almost spoke of the Horcruxes in public. “Do I still have the…you-know-what in my head?” he asked, leaning closer and whispering softly.

“Yup,” Mara said, drinking more of her soup, “I figured that you'd need the extra shield.”

“But if it's still in me, how am I going to get it out?” Harry asked, slightly panicked. Smiling knowingly, she leaned in to him and he leaned towards her.

“Let me worry about that,” she whispered conspiratorially, before leaning back. “So, anything else?” she asked in a normal tone.

“Yeah, I don't have to do anything like try to keep Malfoy from turning dark or anything like that, do I?” Harry asked. Mara, who was taking a drink when he had asked, choked on her water, coughing loudly for several seconds.

“No,” Mara coughed after she had regained her composure. “I suppose you could try if you really wanted to, but I doubt that it'd help. I think that the best that you could do is get him into a position where he won't spend the rest of his life in Azkaban, but I don't think you'd get much further than that. Despite what Dumbledore thinks, some people simply don't change.” Mara gulped down the rest of her soup and threw a few coins onto the counter before standing up. “Well, Miss Granger should be returning from the loo soon and I need to get back to work, so I'll see you later, Harry,” she said as she patted Harry on the shoulder. “Take care of yourself. Try not to die for the next couple of minutes,” she added as she walked out of the pub and integrated herself into the crowds of Hogsmeade. True to her prediction, mere moments after she left, Hermione returned from the lavatory and reclaimed her seat by Harry's side.

“So, did anything exciting happen while I was gone?” she asked as she picked up her butterbeer bottle.

“Not really,” Harry said, shaking his head lightly, taking a gulp of his own butterbeer.

------

Soon, Harry stood in a tent alongside his fellow champions mere minutes before they were to face their respective dragons, and Harry felt the fear and anxiety that gripped him the first time returning. Soon, the Headmasters, along with Ludo Bagman and Crouch Senior walked into the tent, Crouch clutching a small purple satchel in his hands.

After the pre-game speech to the champions, Crouch opened the satchel and beckoned everyone to reach in and pull out their respective dragons. Cedric drew a Swedish Short-Snout bearing the number one. No surprise, Harry thought. Fleur reached her hand into the sack and carefully pulled out a Welsh Green bearing the number two. As the bag was passed to Harry, he reached in and pulled out his dragon, confident that he would pull out the Hungarian Horntail like last time. Therefore, he was unpleasantly shocked when he saw a scarlet, serpentine figurine of the Chinese Fireball hissing at him, a three hanging from its neck. Krum reached in and pulled out the final dragon, the Horntail Harry expected to have. Resigned to his fate, Harry sat down on a bench and awaited his turn.

As Cedric and Fleur clashed against their dragons, Harry was frantically trying to change his strategy. Simply summoning his Firebolt was no longer and option, since Chinese Fireballs were flightless. They were also smarter than the Hungarian Horntail; not significantly smarter, but smarter nonetheless. They were also fiercely protective of their treasures…and their eggs. All too soon, Harry's name was called, and the young man drew his wand and held back his fear, stepping out of the tent with his head high.

As Harry walked out of the side cavern protecting the champion's tent and into the main field, Harry scanned his surroundings nervously. He couldn't see the dragon, but there were enough large rocks scattered around that it could be laying low, waiting for him to appear. Harry carefully navigated the terrain, walking slowly and deliberately. Unfortunately, he was not deliberate enough, for he slipped and knocked over several pebbles. The ground rumbled ominously for several seconds before the giant dragon towered over him, growling ferociously. Both human and dragon stared at each other for several tense seconds before the dragon released a blazing fireball, Harry jumping out of the way just in time to avoid the flaming projectile, exploding against the rock like a mortar.

Harry hastily cast a disillusionment charm on himself before mentally berating himself for not considering the possibility of getting a different dragon, then tried to sneak past it. However, the Fireball turned towards his direction and blasted another projectile at Harry, who had to dodge it again. This course of action repeated itself for several minutes until Harry realized that the Chinese Fireball must sense the body heat of its prey like a snake. Cursing himself for not learning the spell for the bluebell flames that Hermione was so fond of using, Harry hastily turned a few stones into torches before lighting them and throwing them away from his position, the heat and movement distracting the dragon.

Taking his chance, Harry canceled the disillusionment charm and made a mad dash for the egg cluster, snatching the golden egg in mid-run and sprinting into the secondary cavern leading to the victory tent just as the dragon realized what was happening, and Harry managed to barely dodge one final mortar-like fireball from his adversary before slowing down to a jog as he entered the victor's tent, holding the egg up triumphantly.

After several minutes of getting cleaned up and being given a clean bill of health by Madame Pomfrey, Harry was escorted by Hermione up to the spectator's stand to await his scores. Ludo Bagman raised his wand and fired a ribbon from its tip, shaping itself into a ten. Crouch fired his wand and gave Harry a nine. Dumbledore gave Harry a ten. Madame Maxine surprisingly gave Harry a ten as well. Karkaroff raised his wand and gave Harry a four, eliciting groans and cries of protest from most of the crowd, not that Harry was surprised.

Later, during the victory party in Gryffindor Tower, Harry was approached by Ron, who was looking at his shoes nervously.

“Look Harry, I know I've been a bit of a prat lately…” the taller boy started before trailing off awkwardly.

“A bit,” Harry agreed.

“…But I just want to say that I'm sorry, and hope that we can be best mates again,” Ron continued, holding out his hand. Harry looked down at the offered hand, but did not take it.

“Ron, what you did hurt me very badly. I would think that being my best mate, you would have believed me when I said I didn't put my name in the Goblet of Fire.” Harry felt a twinge of guilt at the shameful look on Ron's face, but pressed on. “I'll tell you what, I'll forgive you this time, but pull a stunt like that again, and I may not be so accommodating. I would hate for our friendship to be thrown away over jealousy.” Harry waited for Ron to absorb this information before the redhead nodded. Smiling, Harry shook his hand. “It's good to have you back,” he said.

“So Harry, open the egg!” a random Gryffindor that Harry didn't know shouted. Suddenly, Harry's smile left his face as he looked down at the egg in his arms. Sighing heavily, he placed his hand on the clasp on the top. Mentally bracing himself, Harry twisted the clasp, opening the egg and filling the room with the cries of pain from his classmates mingling with the piercing shriek of Mermish song.
----

No, this is not me having a change of heart regarding Ron; this is me making what I feel is a more realistic story (well, as far as realism goes in this fic). Ron may be forgiven, but he's on thin ice; this is essentially his last chance.

Don't forget to read and review!

Chapter 6: Prelude to the Yule Ball
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I don’t own Harry Potter. I don’t own Mara either.

--

Chapter 6 – Prelude to the Yule Ball

It had been almost two weeks since Harry had retrieved the golden egg from the dragon. Of course, Harry already knew the next clue, but because it would not be in his best interests to reveal that he was from the future, he feigned ignorance as to how to approach the artifact. He made some halfhearted attempts to muffle the skull-rattling screech that emanated from it to make it look like he was trying to figure it out, but his mind drifted elsewhere.

Harry had eventually remembered that, even though it had been two years since it had been slain, the basilisk carcass deep within the Chamber of Secrets still had fresh venom. He then proceeded to mentally and almost physically kick himself for forgetting that important detail.

Harry changed his mind about going to dispose of the senior Riddle’s bones on the Hogsmeade weekend; people would probably wonder where he had went, as well as the rather conspicuous sight of a teenager desecrating a grave. He instead decided to sneak to the edge of the school wards under cover of night and Apparate from there. He would still look strange digging up a grave, but at least he had the cover of night to his favor.

Hedwig had managed to smuggle her precious cargo of the Slytherin horcrux into Hogwarts, so late one night, Harry donned his invisibility cloak and snuck to the girl’s bathroom, both horcruxes in his pocket and the Marauder’s Map in one hand. In the other, he held a hank of rope that he had borrowed from Hagrid “for a special project.” The gentle half-giant had handed Harry the rope without question.

Hissing the password into the sinks, they slid out of the way, revealing the opening into the sewers. Harry tied one end of the rope onto one sink and pushed the rest of it over the edge. Sighing in preparation, Harry breathed deeply and jumped into the hole, the mountain of rodent bones somewhat cushioning his fall. Brushing himself off, Harry wandered through the sewers until he found the blockade of rocks where the cave-in had occurred two years before. He drew his wand and carefully blasted away the rocks until he had created an opening without collapsing the entire tunnel.

A pathway made, Harry continued towards the Chamber of Secrets, opening the second doorway. His footsteps echoed against the polished stone floor, and he had to cover his face with his robes as he approached the decomposing carcass of the fearsome basilisk. Harry pulled the horcruxes out of his pockets and placed them on the floor. He drew his wand and cast a summoning charm, a large fang flying towards him. Harry quickly cancelled the charm before the deadly fang ran him through, and it clattered harmlessly on the floor, a droplet of corrosive venom pooling at its tip. Donning his dragonhide gloves, he carefully picked up the fang and quickly stabbed both horcruxes, destroying the artifacts, as well as the soul fragments contained within. Tossing aside the fang, Harry began to walk back to the opening in the bathroom and, after applying a mild sticking charm to the soles of his shoes, used the rope to climb out of the sewer. After he exited, he untied the rope, closed the sinks and cast a cleaning charm on himself to rid himself of the stench of sewage and rotting flesh. After sneaking back to the Gryffindor Common Room, Harry stripped himself down and plopped into bed, one thought on his mind:

I’m so glad tomorrow’s Saturday.

--

While Harry’s friendship with Ron had been temporarily mended, there was a definite air of tension between the so-called “Golden Trio.” Harry almost never played chess with him anymore, and did not play Quidditch unless necessary, instead spending most of his time studying. While the redhead had not voiced his thoughts yet, his seething glares at Harry and Hermione all but confirmed his low opinions about Harry’s change. For his part, Harry simply shrugged it off; dying and coming back to life made him realize, among other things, that while chess and Quidditch were fun, they did not define his life, something that Ron did not yet seem to grasp.

On the other hand, his friendship with Hermione was growing closer than ever. Their increased study time together had allowed them to talk more than they had before. Slowly, Harry began learning little insignificant tidbits of Hermione’s life that he had no idea of in his past life. Things like her favorite color was periwinkle blue or that she had an uncle in France, which was why she often went there during her summer holidays. These little facts made Harry realize just how little he knew about his best friend.

However, not everything was well in the library. Harry saw that the Durmstrang champion, Viktor Krum was constantly lingering behind bookshelves, trying to look inconspicuous but failing. Harry vaguely wondered how long Krum had hovered like a stalker until he asked Hermione to the Yule Ball last time. Harry mentally shrugged it off and returned to his work.

That night, Harry initiated his plan to dispose of the Riddle bones. Transfiguring a stick into a shovel, he once again donned his invisibility cloak and snuck down to the edge of the anti-apparation wards, before disappearing with a crack. He reappeared in front of a familiar gravestone depicting the Angel of Death. Shaking away the memories of what had happened there before, Harry set to work unearthing the graves of Riddle senior.

Several long and dirty hours later, Harry had managed to uncover the casket containing his prize. He pried open the lid to see the pale corpse of Voldemort’s father.

“I’m really sorry about this sir,” Harry whispered to the corpse. Closing his eyes, Harry transfigured the corpse into a small rag doll. Taking the doll and closing the casket, Harry climbed out of the grave and banished the mound of dirt back where it belonged, Disapparating before the aurors found out about his actions. Once he returned to Hogwarts, Harry quickly cleaned himself up with a spell and hid the doll inside his trunk before collapsing into his bed. The next day, when no one was watching, Harry discreetly threw the doll into the fire, where it withered into ashes.

--

A few weeks later, the Yule Ball was announced and as before, the girls became excited while the boys groaned loudly. For his part, Harry was not particularly concerned about it; he was already planning to ask Hermione to the dance. While he still found the part about Hermione being his soul mate a bit amazing, at least this way they would have a decent time together. So later that day, after classes, Harry approached his best friend.

“Umm, Hermione?” he asked nervously.

“Yes, Harry?” she asked, turning to him. Harry continued to shuffle around nervously.

“I was wondering if…” Harry trailed off hesitantly; three years and a resurrection later, and asking a girl to a ball was still as difficult as ever, especially since it was Hermione he was asking this time, “…if you would like to go to the Yule Ball with me?” Hermione seemed surprised by his question, as she did not immediately reply.

“Umm…sure, I guess,” she said, shocked. “Honestly, I’m a bit surprised you asked me, Harry,” she admitted, embarrassed.

“Well…” Harry trailed off, running his hand through his hair nervously, “I figured that since we’re friends, it’d probably be more fun if we went with each other, instead of going with a stranger. And besides…” Harry paused again as he lowered his head, blushing, “…I don’t know how to dance.” Hermione could not help but laugh at his embarrassed demeanor.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be laughing,” she said, regaining control of herself. “But really Harry,” she said before briefly pausing and checking to make sure that no one was eavesdropping before continuing in a whisper, “you had to dance the last time, right?” Harry shrugged lightly.

“It was three years ago, and I followed,” he said simply. Hermione sighed and nodded her head.

“Alright, I know a couple of simple dance moves that I could teach you,” she relented. Harry sighed in relief and pulled her into a hug.

“Thanks, Hermione, you’re a lifesaver,” Harry said, patting her on the back.

“And don’t you forget it,” she teased.

--

A few of my readers have expressed interest in knowing the details of life at the Department of Death and Resurrection. Others have noted that my more recent chapters haven’t been quite as funny as they used to be. I intend to amend both of these by releasing a series of omakes detailing life at the DDR. Enjoy.

--

OMAKE: Orientation Meeting

“Okay, boys and girls,” a tall, gruff man barked militarily to an assembly of men and women of various ages, from elderly folks to people barely out of their teens. “You’re here because it was your time to kick the bucket and move on to the next plane. Some of you youngsters may not like it, but them’s the breaks. When you got here, you thought that it’d be all sunshine and roses, and sitting on clouds humming for the rest of eternity, well guess what! You’re all wrong! You’ve gotta work! You’ve got to help to maintain order across the mortal and immortal plains, or else all hell’s gonna break loose, and you don’t want that.

“Now, you poor saps decided that you wanted to join the Department of Death and Resurrection. Well guess what, this ain’t going to be a picnic either. First, you’re gonna go through an internship! You’re going to tend to the Reapers, man the reception area, and deal with confused and irate people who’ve just snuffed it, just like you. Then once you become a Reaper yourself, you’re going to be saddled with half a million or so souls that you have to watch at all times, to make sure that they get from start to finish at their appointed times. Now, do you have any questions?” the man growled, leering at the group before him. At the back, a thin young man raised his hand.

“I have a question,” he said sheepishly.

“Well, out with it, man!” the first man snapped.

“Well…do we get any benefits for this?” the second man asked. The first man stared at him blankly for several moments before letting out a deep belly laugh.

“‘Benefits?!’” the man guffawed. “Newsflash, kid: You’re dead; you don’t need benefits.”

--

Not the best piece in the world, I know, but I’ll try to get better.

Any suggestions for future omakes will be appreciated. Reviews are equally appreciated.

Chapter 7: The Yule Ball
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I don’t own Harry Potter. Nor am I able to dance.

And more amusement for us ahead at Ron’s expense.

Chapter 7 – The Yule Ball

Somewhere beyond the mortal realm of existence, a man no more than eighteen years of age dressed completely in black was sitting at a small fold-out table, fussing with a stack of folders piled higher than his head. As an intern for the Department of Death and Resurrection, he assumed a variety of duties, depending on which job needed to be done at the time. Today, he was one of several interns training to become Reapers by covering for Mara Jade, one of the prettier, but more bi-polar Reapers.

Then again, bi-polarity seems to be common amongst the Reapers, he observed. Maybe it was a personality requisite.

At the moment, he was looking through the file for one Harry James Potter, which Mara had had stamped the word TOP PRIORITY in bold red letters that covered almost the whole front cover of the folder. Right now, it showed that he was currently attempting to dance with, according to the file, his soul mate; the young man got some slight amusement watching Harry stepping on the girl’s toes.

“At least he’s not doing anything dangerous,” the intern muttered to himself as he grabbed another file and skimmed through it. “Although if Mara’s rants are any indication, he might trip and give himself a lethal concussion or something stupid like that.” As a frequent attendant to the entry desk for newly deceased souls, this particular intern was familiar with the messy-haired, bespectacled wizard that caused his Reaper so much grief.

“At least he doesn’t go looking for trouble,” he muttered again, “not like that annoying silver-haired kid with the freaky arm. Zero? Nero? Something like that. I was almost out of time before I got that stupid sword fixed…” he continued to mutter darkly as he continued checking more files, always keeping an attentive eye on the Potter file.

“Sorry,” Harry apologized as he stepped on Hermione’s foot for the fifth time that day.

“That’s okay,” Hermione winced, silently thankful that she was wearing thick shoes, or else her toes might have broken by now. “I thought you did this already,” she pointed out as she sat down and removed her shoe, massaging her sore foot.

“I was following that time,” Harry said as he sat down, “and I didn’t exactly have time to practice after that.” He frowned as he suddenly realized something. “Say, how do you know how to dance?” Hermione shot an exasperated glance at him, and he nodded. “Oh wait, I forgot: you know everything.”

“Not everything,” she corrected, slipping her shoe back on, “but almost everything.” She stood up and pulled Harry up to her, assuming their respective positions for a simple waltz. “Now, it’s really quite simple; it’s all about unison. When I step forward, you step back. When I sidestep, you follow. Now, let’s try again. Your left foot first.” She slowly moved her foot forward, and he pulled his back, a little too quickly, causing them to stumble. They both laughed as they righted themselves and tried again. Hermione stepped forward, and Harry stepped back, this time without incident. “Very good, Harry,” Hermione congratulated, “now the other foot.” They moved their other feet to meet their first. “Now, step to the side.” They both took a step to the side and straightened up.

They kept repeating those three steps to improve their rhythm and timing, although Harry kept looking down at their feet to make sure that he did not lose track.

“I know that you’re still learning, Harry,” Hermione said, “but I suggest that you don’t do that at the Yule Ball; people might get the wrong idea.” Harry quickly realized what she meant and averted his eyes to steadily stare at an imaginary object just over Hermione’s shoulder, mumbling an apology. Hermione laughed and stepped back. “It’s okay, Harry. You’re a teenager; it’s perfectly natural.” They both decided that they had practiced enough for the day, and left their separate ways. Since it was a Saturday, there was nothing particularly pressing for Harry, so he decided to take a walk around the grounds.

“Harry, wait up!” a voice yelled behind him. Harry turned around to see a panting Cedric jog up to him.

“Cedric, what’s wrong?” Harry asked with a confused expression, although in reality he knew exactly what this was about.

“No, nothing’s wrong,” Cedric waved away as he tried to catch his breath. “I just wanted to tell you something. I never thanked you for telling me about the dragon, so I thought I’d return the favor. I assume that you’re still working on the egg?” Harry simply gave an affirmative shrug; he already knew what it said, of course, but it would do no good for Cedric to know that. “Well, next time you take a bath, take the egg with you; mull things over in the hot water.” Harry muttered his thanks as Cedric walked off to his own destination. As soon as Cedric rounded the corner, Harry continued his walk, unaware of the disillusioned audience that they had.

As he watched the exchange between the two Hogwarts champions, the Death Eater spy Barty Crouch Jr., currently disguised as the insane ex-auror Mad-Eye Moody and further covered with a disillusionment charm, resisted the urge to blow his cover by laughing maniacally. Things were falling into plan perfectly, and by year’s end, his master would be well on his way to taking over magical Britain.

His attempt to trick the Goblet of Fire to spit out the Potter brat’s name in as the sole participant for a fictional fourth school worked out perfectly. While Potter’s defiance was an unexpected variable, it proved for naught, as no one of any consequence seemed to believe his claims of innocence. Not that it would have mattered anyway, with the way magical oaths work….

Potter had managed to get past the dragon without much incident, but seemed to be having problems figuring out the next task, so he instructed the Diggory boy to give him a little nudge in the right direction; a little tit for tat. Hufflepuffs were so easy to manipulate.

Now, all Crouch could do was hope that Potter would manage to avoid being killed or grievously injured before the third task; after that, he would sabotage the other champions and guarantee Potter’s victory.

He only hoped that the sniveling rat on the other end would complete his part of the plan without any complications.

Several days later, Harry and Hermione were sitting alone in the Common Room. Hermione was curled up in a chair, reading Hogwarts: A History, while Harry stretched out on a couch, dozing off while trying to read a book on dueling tactics, when the portrait swung open to reveal a pale Ron being held up by several classmates.

“Let me guess, he tried to ask Fleur Delacour?” Harry asked, looking up from his book. Ron merely nodded his head slightly in affirmation. “And I take it she said no?” Ron shook his head again, this time negatively. “Is that a ‘no, she said yes’ or ‘no, she said no?’” Harry pressed.

“She said no,” Ron finally managed to choke out. Harry sighed and returned to his book.

“I won’t say ‘I told you so’, because I didn’t, but I definitely saw it coming,” Harry deadpanned. Ron finally snapped out of his shocked stupor and turned towards his unsympathetic friend.

“Why didn’t you say something, then?!” the redhead demanded.

“Would you have believed me if I had said anything?” Harry retorted in an apathetic tone. Ron lowered his head as he realized that Harry had a point. However, a moment later, he perked up as realization dawned on his face and pointed at Hermione.

“Wait a minute, you’re a girl, right?” he asked her.

“Stunning observation, Ron,” Hermione said dryly, “it only took you four years to figure that out.” Ron seemed oblivious to her sarcasm as he continued on.

“No, I mean, you could go to the ball with me,” the redhead said excitedly. Hermione pretended to consider it for a moment.

“I could…” she said, causing Ron’s hopes to rise, “…if I didn’t already have a date,” and subsequently shatter.

“W-what?!” Ron sputtered incredulously. “How could you have a date? Not even Harry has a date!”

“Leave me out of this,” Harry grumbled softly, although everyone could hear him. The other students present had the wisdom to vacate the premises before yet another legendary argument erupted between the two.

“I have a date because someone asked me to go, and I accepted,” Hermione said sharply, closing her book, “and I frankly don’t see why it’s any concern of yours; you don’t own me, Ronald,” she continued through clenched teeth. Without another word, she grabbed her books and stomped up the stairs, leaving a cowed Ron and a grinning Harry.

“Smooth one, Ron,” Harry drawled.

“Shut up, Harry,” Ron snapped.

Every day until the night of the Yule Ball, Ron was speculating to Harry about whom Hermione’s date was, and Harry was growing tired of it. Ron had managed to obtain a date from Padma Patil, although Harry had a feeling that her acceptance was more out of pity than anything else.

“So, who do you think Hermione’s going with?” Ron asked once again.

“Ron, it’s none of our business who Hermione goes with,” Harry sighed, falling into his role in a tired routine.

“Hey, maybe she won’t be coming at all tonight; she’s not exactly the social type,” Ron continued ignoring Harry. Thankfully, he decided to change the subject. “It’s a shame that you didn’t manage to find a date, though. Who would’ve thought that Harry Potter couldn’t snag a girl?” he asked, laughing at Harry’s expense.

“Actually, I did manage to find a date,” Harry responded, taking Ron off-guard.

“What?” he asked, shocked. “Who? When? How?” he sputtered.

“It’s a surprise,” Harry said simply, grinning conspiratorially. As if on cue, Hermione came into view and descended the stairs, dressed in a periwinkle blue dress and her hair in an elegant bun. Harry extended a hand, which Hermione took before Harry kissed her knuckle elegantly. “You are looking absolutely marvelous tonight, dear lady,” he said in an aristocratic voice, silently enjoying the dumbfounded look that was plastered on Ron’s face.

“As do you, good sir,” Hermione replied, echoing his regal tone. “If you could be so kind as to please escort me to the ball?”

“With pleasure, my lady,” Harry said as he began to lead Hermione to the main dance hall when Ron’s enraged voice stopped them.

“I can’t believe you two!” the angry redhead shouted, stopping everybody in their tracks. Harry sighed; he had hoped that this would not happen, but was thankful that at least it happened in the hallway instead of the dance hall. “I can’t believe that you two would go behind my back like this!” Harry took deep, calming breaths while Hermione rounded on Ron, rage burning in her eyes.

“We don’t need your permission to go together, Ronald Weasley; the world doesn’t revolve around you!” she yelled back. Ron ignored her and turned to Harry.

“It’s so bloody unfair!” Ron spat at Harry. “You get everything: Money, fame, a new broomstick! You could’ve had any girl you wanted, if you just grew some balls, but the one thing I could have that was just mine, and you stole her from me!” Harry opened his mouth to respond when Hermione erupted in fury.

“So that’s all I am to you? A bloody prize to be won?!” she raged. “Well guess what, Weasley, you can go to hell for all I care, because I refuse to be friends or even associated with such a shallow, petty, immature prat!” She stomped over to Ron and slapped him so hard that his entire body was spinning, a bold red hand mark on his cheek. Satisfied with her work, Hermione spun around and marched forward, grabbing Harry’s arm and roughly dragging him into the dance hall. As they entered, Harry thought he heard crack, followed by what sounded like Padma’s voice yelling obscenities at someone.

It turned out that they were the of the champions to arrive; Cedric had brought Cho Chang; Fleur Delacour was with a seventh-year Hufflepuff that seemed to be struggling not to drool all over his date, and Viktor Krum was with what seemed to be one of his fan girls, the way that she was giggling and fawning over him. With all the champions present, Professor Flitwick began to conduct the orchestra, beginning with a slow waltz. Harry and Hermione took their respective positions and began to dance alongside the other champions, the other couples gradually joining in. While Harry and Hermione were far from the best dancers in the room, they were also not the worse; many of the other fourth-years were having difficulties, and Fleur was struggling with her dance partner, who was so entranced that he kept stumbling.

After the opening song, Professor Dumbledore welcomed the magical rock band The Weird Sisters. Harry danced through a couple of their upbeat songs, but had to stop to catch his breath. After a few more songs, Harry wandered off to escape the crowds.

As Harry left the vicinity of the ball, Harry heard Hagrid talk to Madame Maxine – none too subtly – about his giant heritage, and questioning his companion about it. Harry knew that this meant that Rita Skeeter was around somewhere, listening in. Harry scanned the area, and saw a small beetle perched on the ear of a stone deer. Harry pulled out a rolled up newspaper that he had brought specifically for this occasion and swung at the beetle, narrowly missing it before it flew off into the darkness. Shoving the newspaper back into his pocket, Harry decided that it was time to return to the ball.

Near the edge of the lake on the Hogwarts grounds, a small beetle buzzed around before morphing into a woman, who immediately sat down on a large stone, gasping heavily and clutching her heart. As she recovered from the attempt on her life (unknown to her, Harry intentionally missed her), only one thought ran through her mind.

Perhaps it would not be a good idea to print that exposé on Rubeus Hagrid after all.

OMAKE: Lunch Break Meeting

“Hey, guys,” Mara sighed as she flopped into a chair, clutching onto a folder like her life depended on it. Not that it did since she was already dead, but metaphors do not care about such technicalities. Also sitting at the table was a tall, thin man in a business suit, a teenaged girl who was wearing oversized glasses and wizard’s robes that seemed a few sizes too large for her body, and a skeleton of a rat holding a scythe and wearing a hooded cloak.

“Hey,” the man, Maximillion Caldwell (Max to his friends) greeted.

“Hi, Mara,” the girl, Wilhelmina (Mina) said cheerfully.

SQUEAK, the skeletal rodent…squeaked. SQUEAK?

“Like you wouldn’t believe,” Mara sighed as she opened her folder. “I just managed to keep my problem child from getting his sorry ass from being char-broiled…again,” she grumbled, with the others nodding in understanding. Every Reaper had a particular client that caused them undue grief, colloquially know as their “problem child”, regardless of said client’s actual age. “And since he doesn’t have any memory of his past lives, I have to keep watch over him every single freaking second!” She took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. “So,” she said chipperly, “how have things been on your end?” The other occupants of the table shrugged neutrally.

“I just had a discussion with my own problem child concerning the details of our contract,” Max said vaguely.

“I got a warning that I could get into trouble if I interfere with my PC any more,” Mina said casually, although there was an obvious hint of nervousness in her voice.

SQUEAK, the Grim Squeaker squeaked. The other three Reapers all groaned in disgust at the rodent’s statement, gaining the attention of the other Reapers in the room.

“We did not need to know that!” Max exclaimed loudly. Any further comments were cut off when a large set of doors opened, revealing several interns pushing carts laden with food. A young, scruffy man dressed in black walked over to the table where Mara, Max, Mina and the Grim Squeaker were seated. When he saw the humans’ slightly pale complexions, he frowned in confusion.

“What’d I—” the intern began, before he was interrupted by the three human Reapers.

“Don’t ask.”

--

To avoid spoilers, I put my additional disclaimers down here. I also don’t own Devil May Cry, Discworld, or the characters Max and Mina. Max and Mina are owned by fellow authors and challenge takers Artemis Day (a.k.a., blackcat05) and kittydemon18 (a.k.a., strawberry nerd), and are used with their permission. Thanks a bunch, ladies!

As always, don’t forget to review!

Chapter 8: A Watery Task
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I don't own Harry Potter. In other news, I just saw Twilight the other night; I thought it was pretty good.

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Chapter 8 - A Watery Task

“I still don't like this, Albus,” McGonnagal said nervously. “What if something goes wrong down there?”

“I assure you, Minerva, nothing will go wrong,” Dumbledore said placatingly. “My stasis charms will hold and the Mermish have promised me that they will return any participants who have not been claimed.”

“Fine, then what about the one hour limit?” McGonnagal pressed, “The lake is almost two hundred fifty meters deep, Albus, and the champions have absolutely no idea of its layout! Combine that with all the monsters that lurk in it, and how can you possibly expect them to find their objectives and return in under one hour?” she hissed, her eyes narrowing in anger.

“The one hour limit is simply to motivate them, Minerva,” Dumbledore said, raising his hands to calm her. “I have no intention of letting anyone drown during this task.” McGonnagal sighed tiredly and stared at her superior and mentor.

“Very well, Albus, I will concede for now,” she said. “But if anything goes wrong down there, I will hold you personally responsible.” She took a deep, calming breath and looked back at the elderly man before her. “So, who are we bringing in for our champions?” she asked.

“Well, I believe Mister Diggory's friend Miss Chang will be suitable,” Dumbledore said. “As for Harry, normally I would use Mister Weasley. However, since the two seem to have had a falling out of sorts, I suppose I will have to use Miss Granger.”

“Very well then,” McGonnagal said, “I will arrange for them to prepare for the task tomorrow night.”

“Thank you, Minerva,” Dumbledore said, “I appreciate it.” While McGonnagal put on a small smile, she could not help but worry that something would inevitably go wrong.

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“I just know something's going to go wrong,” Mara muttered to herself as she nervously paced in her Star Wars memorabilia-laden office. “The Second Task is about to start, and no matter what I do, he'll find some way to get around it.” Suddenly, an alarm rang on her person, indicating that one of her charges was in danger. Sighing in frustration, she brought herself to see a Caucasian woman with long, plaited brown hair, a tank top and brown shorts reaching forward to grab a golden idol. Rolling her eyes in exasperation, Mara sought out the mechanism for the trap that would inevitably be set off and altered its timing.

As soon as the woman grabbed the idol, she ran off, narrowly avoiding the barrage of poisoned arrows that fired as she ran down the hallway. Mara, being not of this world, simply stood with her arms crossed in annoyance while the projectiles passed harmlessly through her.

“Damn it, you've been doing this for over ten years!” the redhead shouted out towards the fleeing brunette. “Why don't you retire, get married, start a family, anything but this!” Of course, the woman Mara was addressing did not respond, so she returned to her office to brood. As soon as her backside touched the cushion of her seat, an alarm alerting her of yet another charge in imminent danger rang. “I should have taken that job in the Department of Destiny,” she grumbled as she sat back up.

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“So, have you figured out what you're going to do for the Second Task?” Hermione asked as she and Harry sat in the library, doing their Charms homework.

“I don't really want to deal with the Gillyweed again, so I guess I'll just use a bubble-head charm,” Harry said casually as he corrected an error in his essay.

“Harry, that's a fifth-year charm,” Hermione reminded him, “don't you think that'll make people a bit suspicious?”

“Not really,” Harry said as he added another line. “They'll probably just think I did some reading ahead. Besides, don't you already know it?” he asked her, his eyebrow rising in interest.

“I do, but that's beside the point,” she said. “The point is, you're not me, and your increased study habits might raise some people's interest. I'm just worried that you'll be found out by someone you don't want to.”

“Hermione, I'll be fine—” Harry began, but was loudly interrupted.

“Granger!” Moody barked, startling the two teenagers. “McGonnagal wants to see you in her office immediately,” he continued.

“But sir, I still have work to do,” Hermione informed her teacher.

“It can wait,” Moody countered gruffly. “Now go.” Sighing, Hermione gathered up her books and papers before turning to Harry.

“I'll see you later, Harry,” she said before leaving for McGonnagal's office. Once Hermione left, Moody turned to Harry.

“So, did you figure out what you're going to do for the Second Task, Potter?” Moody asked.

“Yes, sir,” Harry said casually.

“Ahh, so you talked to Longbottom then, good,” Moody muttered softly; however, Harry heard him.

“Neville, sir?” Harry asked, feigning innocence. “Why would I talk to Neville?”

“Nothing,” Moody covered quickly, “just the ramblings of an old man. Carry on then, Mister Potter,” he said before stomping off leaving Harry alone in the library. As Harry put the finishing touches on his homework, Harry silently wondered how he would deal with the impostor when the time came.

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“Professor McGonnagal, you wanted to see me?” Hermione asked as she entered her Transfiguration teacher's office, where she saw said professor, as well as Dumbledore waiting for her. “Professor Dumbledore, what are you doing here?”

“An interesting question, Miss Granger,” Dumbledore said sagely. “You have been elected to be a participant in this next task. However, the final preparations require my presence,” he continued.

“Does this have to do with what Harry will miss the most, Professor?” Hermione asked, already anticipating the answer.

“Indeed it is, Miss Granger,” Dumbledore said, producing a potion vial from his pocket. “First, I need you to drink this potion,” he continued, holding the bottle out to Hermione. “It will put you into a deep sleep; when you awaken, you will be on the lake dock, your champion having rescued you.” Hermione hesitated at the offered potion, but eventually took it and swallowed its contents, grimacing at the potion's bitter taste. Immediately, she felt her eyelids growing heavy, and McGonnagal conjured a cot for Hermione to lay down on as she closed her eyes and her breaths drifted into a slow, steady rhythm. Dumbledore drew a portkey created from a chocolate frog card of himself and laid it down on Hermione's unconscious form, transporting her to the chamber where the other participants would be held until the task the next morning.

“Well, that was the last of them,” Dumbledore said before turning to his deputy headmistress. “Goodnight, Minerva,” he bid the woman before taking the Floo back to his office, leaving McGonnagal alone.

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The next morning, as Harry roused from his sleep, he slowly realized that he never saw Hermione after she left the night before, and the implications of it. Well, if she's what Viktor Krum misses the most again, I'm going to have a serious discussion with a few people, he thought grimly as he rolled out of his bed and into his clothes. He remained silent as he ate his breakfast and walked out to the lake along with the other three Triwizard champions, and idly stood on the edge of the dock while listening to Dumbledore's speech. When the cannon fired, all four champions dived into the icy water as one; Harry, Cedric Diggory and Fleur Delacour immediately cast bubble-head charms on themselves, while Krum transfigured his head into that of a great white shark, complete with gills. While the other three champions went their separate ways, Harry made an immediate course for where the hostages were.

When Harry arrived where the captives were held, Harry saw Hermione, fifth-year Ravenclaw Cho Chang, Gabrielle Delacour and the bubbly-headed girl that Krum danced with at the Yule Ball, all tethered by their ankles with lengths of seaweed. After briefly pondering whether they had simply used Krum's date as “what he would miss the most” simply because he had no friends or family to take the mantle, Harry freed Hermione and began swimming up to the surface. Thankfully, as he had not tried to go against the rules of the game, Harry received no resistance from the Mermen guarding the limp figures.

However, when Harry had almost reached the surface, he was suddenly yanked downwards by his ankle. He looked down to see an octopus-like grindylow grabbing onto his foot and pulling him down, more of the vile creatures swarming below. After sending Hermione up to the surface via a levitation charm, Harry began to fight off the grindylows, but they attacked with unusual ferocity. One of them swiped at the bubble surrounding Harry's mouth, bursting it and filling his lungs with water. Panicking, Harry silently unleashed the first spell he could think of, which happened to be a stunning hex. The spell chased off the grindylows, but not before they had done their damage: several bites and scratches were leaking blood, Harry's lungs burned from the fluid inside of them, and his mind was going fuzzy over the oxygen deprivation. But, as his world grew dark, one word sprung to his mind at the last moment: Ascendio!

------

When Hermione's unconscious form broke the surface, Dumbledore immediately summoned her over onto the dock and revived her, where she began coughing and sputtering before having a heavy towel wrapped around her.

“Where's Harry?” she asked, shivering in the cold. Everyone began scanning the surface of the water nervously when Harry did not appear. After a long, tense minute, Harry's figure flew out from the water and landed roughly on the dock. Madam Pomfrey rushed over to him and scanned his vital signs.

“He has water in his lungs,” she said. “Miss Granger, hold his chest up,” she ordered, Hermione quickly obeying. Madam Pomfrey pointed her wand at Harry's chest and uttered, “tersio aquis!” Harry immediately coughed up the water in his lungs, and continued to cough and retch loudly for over a minute.

“I'm fine, I'm fine,” he finally managed to rasp out. “I just need to catch my breath.” As he lay on his back, gasping, Hermione had procured another heavy towel to wrap her friend and savior in. “So, how'd I do?” he asked weakly.

“Well, Mister Potter, you arrived first at a time of thirty-two minutes and twelve seconds, almost a new record,” Dumbledore said. Harry raised an eyebrow at him.

“Almost?” he repeated.

“Yes,” Dumbledore confirmed, a slight smirk growing on his face. “I'm afraid that if you had broken the surface with Miss Granger, you would have broken it.”

“Damn,” Harry muttered in mock disappointment, Hermione to slap him on the shoulder for his profanity. “Ow.”

They waited patiently for the other champions to return. Cedric arrived first with Cho Chang in tow, just before the hour mark. Viktor Krum appeared next, at ten minutes after the hour. At fifteen minutes after the hour, Fleur Delacour returned, surprisingly with her sister at her side; apparently, Harry's encounter with the grindylows had paved the way for Fleur to reach her target unhindered. As the champions and their companions tried to warm and dry themselves, the judges convened to discuss the scoring. Finally, Dumbledore turned to address the masses.

“As Mister Potter was the first to complete his task by a considerable margin, he shall be awarded full points, and is currently in first place position,” he announced, eliciting thundering cheers from the Gryffindors assembled. “Now, may I suggest we return to the warm hospitality of Hogwarts castle?” The masses rose and steadily began to work their way back to their respective dwellings, now that the spectacle was over.

“Well, two down, one to go,” Harry muttered to himself as he wrapped the towel tighter around him. “Cedric's not dying this time.”

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OMAKE: Dealing with Vernon Dursley

When Vernon Dursley opened his eyes, he was immediately consumed with confusion. One minute, he was ranting to his secretary for making his tea too hot, and the next, he was crammed in a moving seat sandwiched between two strangers. The air was rhythmically punctuated by a female voice yelling, “NEXT!”

“What the ruddy hell is this place?!” he yelled.

“How should I know?” the woman next to him snapped in an American accent. “One minute, I'm on the water, enjoying the view, and the next, POW! A giant ray jumps up and smacks me in the face.” Dursley struggled out of his seat and stomped towards where the seats seemed to be going, muttering about “bloody Yanks” and about how they “should be put in their place” until he reached a plain wooden door. Rudely knocking the person about to enter out of the way, Dursley flung the door open to find a nearly empty room, its only furnishing being the computer desk in the middle, and the pretty young blonde girl sitting behind it.

“Hello,” she greeted cheerfully. “Could you please state your full name?” When Dursley answered, he did not give his name, but with a long-winded rant laden with profanities. If one were to take the questions “Where am I?” “What am I doing here?” and “Who are you?” and pad them with virtually every swear word in the English language, then you would have a fair idea of what Vernon Dursley has just said. By the time he was done, the intern was close to bursting into tears.

“Umm, excuse me for one moment,” she said, her voice cracking emotionally. She picked up the phone and dialed several numbers before waiting for the line to connect.

“Yeah?” a male voice on the other end asked.

“Umm, hey, could you help me out at the registration desk?” the female intern asked, trying to keep her voice even. “I've run into a little snag.” The male voice gave an irritated sigh before agreeing and hanging up. As soon as she placed the phone back in its cradle, the second door opened to reveal a dark-haired Caucasian male wearing black clothing.

“What's the problem again?” he asked, leaning on the desk.

“Well, this man,” the female intern said, pointing at Dursley, “won't give me his name, and I don't know what to do.” The senior intern looked at the obese man before him, who was turning puce in the face and looked as if he were about to have a heart attack. Ironically, that was what got him into this situation in the first place.

“Okay sir, the pretty girl asked you for your name,” the male intern said, crossing his arms, “so why didn't you answer her?” This seemed to have set off Dursley's short fuse, which launched him into another profanity-laden rant. This time, the girl broke down and began sobbing into her hands. The male intern, however, was used to such outbursts, and simply waited out the storm, a neutral expression on his face. “Are you done yet?” he asked when Dursley seemed to run out of steam. “Good. Now, I'm going to ask you again, what is your full name?” When Dursley puffed up his chest to begin yelling again, the intern raised his hand. “Sir, we can do this the easy way or the hard way.” Dursley ignored him and began yelling, although it was not as loud as the previous two rants. Sighing in disappointment, the senior intern turned to the junior, who had since stopped crying, although her eyes were still red and puffy. “Dial extension two-three-three and ask say it's a class U situation in the processing room,” he said. The girl nodded and followed his instructions.

“What does class U stand for?” she asked the man next to her while they waited.

“Uncooperative,” he answered simply. Just then, two large, muscled men in white suits arrived, one carrying a metal briefcase. “Thanks guys, could you hold him for a minute, please?” Silently nodding, one of the men punched Dursley in the abdomen, silencing him before they both held him back by the arms. The male intern opened the briefcase to reveal a strange contraption: It was two suction cups connected to hoses that led to a laptop computer. He attached the cups to each side of Dursley's head and activated the device. The grossly obese man shuddered and babbled incoherently as information was forcibly extracted from his brain. The laptop made strange whirring noises until Dursley stopped convulsing and a name popped up on the screen with a cheerful chime: Vernon Reginald Dursley. The female intern typed the name in, and produced an entry card. After removing the suction cups from Dursley's head, the male intern fed the card into the second door and turned the handle.

“You guys ready?” he asked the two burly men restraining Dursley. When the both nodded, the intern flung open the door, and the two men threw Dursley into the other room, landing with a loud thud. “He's all yours!” the intern said to the reaper in the other room before closing the door. “Thanks for the help guys.”

“Thanks,” the female intern said softly. While normally not a shy person, being in the company of two people who looked like they could easily break you in half tended to intimidate most people.

“No problem,” one of the muscle-bound men said as his companion wrapped up the device and closed the briefcase. “Just doing our jobs.”

“And a good job you do,” the male intern said, patting him on the shoulder. “See you later.” After the two men left, the male intern turned to the junior sitting before him. “Don't worry, sit at this desk long enough, and you'll be able to handle anyone.”

“Thanks,” she said, sniffling. “It's just…I don't handle being yelled at very well.”

“You're young, you'll get used to it,” he said. “Oh, and if you happen to get a kid named Harry James Potter, give me a call. I already processed him six times; I want to make it a full set.”

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Just how I imagine Vernon Dursley would react to being at the Department of Death and Resurrection, and their response to him.

Does anyone besides me find the fact that in canon, Hermione is what Krum “would miss the most” after one night out a little bit disturbing?

A cookie if you can find the next franchise to cameo in this universe.

Don't forget to review!

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