Unofficial Portkey Archive

Always and Forever by Lorelover

Always and Forever



Always and Forever


Disclaimer: Harry Potter, and all the characters associated there with belong to JK Rowling, and Scholastic. Also, any similarities to any other work is unintentional. I make no profit from this story. I wrote it, just for fun.


Chapter 21

The Maze



Luna had just sat down to breakfast when a large distinctive looking owl landed right in front of her. It carried a small package and a letter. Surprised, Luna looked around as if half expecting a prank, only to find all her friends descending on her. Harry and Hermione sat down together across from her, while Neville sat next to her. Then Ginny slipped in on her other side and they all waited silently, allowing Neville a chance to speak first.

"Happy birthday Luna," Neville finally said with just a hint of color in his cheeks.

"Happy fourteenth Luna," Hermione added, "this is from both of us." Harry nodded, while Hermione handed Luna a card and a small gift.

Just as the twins were joining them, Ginny went next and handed Luna a card, "Sorry, it's all we have for now, but mum says she'll have something special for you this summer." After settling in next to their sister, the twins chorused together, "Happy birthday neighbor."

Luna took all the cards and the gift from Harry and Hermione and placed them in front of her. "Thank you… all of you," she whispered. It was the first time since she had started Hogwarts that anyone other than her father had acknowledged her birthday. With a trembling hand, she reached out and took the package and letter from the owl. Glad to be relieved of its burden, it simply hooted once and promptly left. Looking at the letter, Luna recognized the writing, it was from Neville. She looked up at him surprised.

"That was the Longbottom family owl," Neville offered, "I wrote to my grandmother and asked her to pick up my gift and send it directly to you." Seeing the puzzled look on her face, Neville explained further, "I only found out when your birthday was a while back, and after I finally found the gift I wanted to get you, I didn't think I'd have enough time to get it here before today. So when it was ready I had gram pick it up and send it along."

Luna smiled in understanding, then slowly, and very carefully, began to open the small brightly wrapped box. Lifting the lid, she peered inside. A short moment later, her eyes grew wide, and she let out a tiny gasp as tears started to fall.

Neville had been at a loss as to what kind of gift to get Luna, so after Hermione had told him that her birthday was May sixth, she then recommended that he write her parents and ask them what they thought would be appropriate. That's when Neville had learned that her mother had died when she was only nine years old. Ginny had known, but never thought to mention it. She had just assumed Luna would have told him or anybody else, if she had wanted them to know. But Luna had never said a word. She had kept it to herself, not wanting any pity from anybody. After writing her father, he further learned that her mother had given her an old charm bracelet that had been hers when she was in school. Luna had worn it to Hogwarts in her first year, but within the first month, she had lost it. Her father said she had been devastated, and spent weeks looking for it. By Christmas, she had given up any hope of ever seeing it again.

Neville had spent most of his last Hogsmeade visit trying to find a replacement. Finally, at the last shop, after explaining what he was looking for, the shopkeeper had him wait while he went into the back room to check on something. A while later, he came back with a bracelet. It was old and dusty, but it looked like the one Luna's father had described, in fact, it looked exactly like it. Neville took it from the box and gently turned it over. There on the back was the inscription from Luna's mom, "To my little moon, love mum." Neville could hardly believe his luck. The shopkeeper explained that a Hogwarts student had brought it in a couple of years earlier, claiming that she really didn't like her mum and wanted to sell it. Thinking she might change her mind, the shopkeeper put the bracelet in the back room for safe keeping. He had forgotten all about until Neville came in looking for it. Neville told him of his suspicions, that it had been stolen. The shopkeeper agreed and offered to give it back free of charge, but only after he had reported it to the Auror's office, Neville quickly agreed.

Looking at Neville with all the wonderment of a small child that was so naturally Luna, all she could say was, "How… I thought I'd lost…" Then, after wrapping her arms around his neck, she gave him a kiss on the cheek, "Thank you Neville… Thank you so much."

Neville was so happy for her, he didn't even blush at her show of affection. "You're welcome Luna. I'm just glad you got it back." Then Neville shook his head, "And for the record, you didn't lose it Luna, someone stole it from you."

"Oh…" Was all she could say as she turned away. Luna seemed to shrink in on herself as she became quiet and turned her gaze down to the table. Her hands instinctively wrapped around the bracelet, as if someone might come along and steal it away again.

Hermione couldn't help but notice and wondered if Luna knew more than she was letting on. "Luna, do you know who it was?" Hermione asked, getting a little angry that anyone could be so mean.

Luna hesitated only a moment and then gave a small shrug and said simply, "Oh, well some of the girls in my house like to take my things and hide them. They think it's quite funny." She didn't look up, and her eyes never left the bracelet when she answered.

"Things?" Neville all but growled, "like your shoes?" It wasn't unusual to see Luna walking around the cold castle barefoot. Neville had just assumed it was part of her sometimes odd behavior, but now he was having second thoughts.

Neville looked across to Harry and Hermione and was happy to see that they appeared to be as angry as he was. "I'm going to Flitwick, this is… It's outrageous!" Neville started to stand and so did Harry.

"Wait a minute," Fred said quickly, holding up a hand to stop them.

"What, why?" Asked Harry.

"Luna, do you know who's been doing this?" Fred asked softly, and after she nodded yes, he asked another question, "and can you prove it?" Luna slowly shook her head no.

"Then Flitwick won't be able to do much," George said, catching onto his brother's line of thought. Being the schools pranksters, they were well aware of what a professor could or couldn't do without proof.

Ginny was quietly building up the famous Weasley temper and after she turned to her brothers, she roared. "Then what is she supposed to do, let them get away with this?"

Unconcerned by her outburst, Fred smiled, "Not at all dear sister."

"Leave them to us," George finished, with a devil of a smile on his face.

"As of this moment, you are now our adopted little sister." Fred said as he nodded to his brother.

George nodded back, "And nobody messes with our family."

Liking the idea, Ginny calmed down immediately. She pulled Luna into a one-arm hug and smiled at her, "Hey sis."

Neville and Harry sat back down while Hermione smirked, "Oh I think I want in on this one."

Luna was crying again as she looked around at her friends, "Thank you, all of you… It's nice to have such good friends."

Harry looked around too and nodded, before adding softly to himself, "Yes, it is."


By the following Saturday, a week later; Harry felt that he was finally getting back in shape. He wasn't quite back in tip top condition, but almost. As he and Hermione approached the castle after their morning run, they noticed Dumbledore standing in the courtyard with Fleur sitting nearby, waiting for them. Harry shared a questioning look with Hermione, then looked over his shoulder at the two girls following them. Luna and Ginny were having a lively animated conversation, and hadn't noticed the Headmaster yet. Harry again looked at Hermione, who mouthed, "Neville." Harry smiled back. As their cool down walk came to an end at the courtyard, Dumbledore turned and spoke.

"Good morning Harry, ladies," Dumbledore said as he tipped his head towards them. "It looks like the start of a beautiful day. You know, I envy the fact that you get to spend so much time out of doors, enjoying the fresh air."

"Yes Sir," Harry said simply. He'd had quite enough of the outdoors lately.

Dumbledore was slightly surprised by Harry's short response, and it showed on his face with a slight rise of a brow. "Miss Granger, I wonder if you and your friends would mind if I spoke with Harry alone for a moment."

Hermione recognized the statement for what it was, he wasn't asking. She glanced at Harry, who gave her a subtle nod, then answered, "No, of course not Sir."

Dumbledore noticed the exchange and smiled, Minerva was right; they were growing closer. It also occurred to him, that he had obviously lost Miss Granger's allegiance; that now belonged to Harry. Hermione had only taken a couple of steps away when a thought occurred to him, and he changed his mind. "On second thought Miss Granger, would you be so kind as to join us? I think perhaps your keen insight may be beneficial."

Hermione nodded a quick goodbye to Luna and Ginny, then said, "Certainly, Professor," before returning to Harry's side.

Harry smiled, happy to have her with him. After another glance at Fleur, he turned back to Dumbledore and asked, "Sir, what's this about?"

"The last task Harry," Dumbledore answered tensely. Then after a look out towards the lake, he smiled, "I could use some fresh air myself." Dumbledore then looked at Harry and Hermione and chuckled, "And I'd wager, that the two of you would rather not be cooped up in a small office… at least until you have showered."

Hermione glanced down at herself, then scrunched up her nose and nodded.

Harry just laughed, "Probably for the best Sir."

After strolling around for a few minutes just enjoying the grounds, Harry was beginning to wonder if Dumbledore had forgotten what they were out here to discuss. One glance at Fleur and Hermione, and he knew they were thinking the same thing.

As if reading their minds Dumbledore finally started talking, "As beautiful a day it is, I am afraid we all have more important things to do, so…" Turning to Fleur he asked, "Can I assume that by now you are aware, that there was a chimera loose in the forest?"

Harry thought she might faint when she looked at him; the blood was leaving her face so fast. Yet, in that brief moment, Harry saw in her eyes a level of respect that she had until recently, only had for the other two champions.

Looking back at Dumbledore, Fleur answered, "Oui, My seester told me."

"And can you think of anyone who might have brought it here?"

"Professor, Fleur wouldn't…" Harry started to protest. While Hermione flashed angry eyes at their Headmaster.

Fleur looked worried, but said nothing. She would wait and see where he was going with this before asking questions or saying anything.

Dumbledore smiled at their show of support for each other. "I'm happy to see that the Tournament has made you all friends and not enemies." Looking straight at Fleur, he when on, "I did not mean to accuse you of anything Miss Delacour."

Fleur relaxed somewhat, happy that she was not being blamed for the attack on Harry.

After a moment to let the sudden tension reside, Dumbledore continued, "As all of you know, the chimera in not native to the Dark Forest. So that begs the question… how did it get there?" Dumbledore paused to let the question sink in. "As soon as you four were safely back, the chimera was captured by Hagrid. Then, several ministry officials, including myself set out to investigate."

Turning to Harry, he continued, "Since you encountered it first, and the fact that you were the most likely to have an enemy who might want to… well cause you harm, I assumed it was put there to hunt you, Harry." Dumbledore sighed, "I am afraid I jumped to the wrong conclusion."

"What are you suggesting Sir?"

Dumbledore simply tipped his head down a little and peered over his glasses at Hermione, and waited.

"He's suggesting that it was meant for someone else," Hermione answered quietly, as she took hold of Harry's hand.

Dumbledore looked at Hermione and nodded, "Exactly right Miss Granger… care to tell us who?"

Hermione turned and stared at Fleur who was still quite pale, and had yet to say a word.

Following her gaze, Harry turned back to Hermione, "But why?"

Hermione shook her head, then looking at Dumbledore, "Professor?"

Dumbledore also shook his head, "Sadly I am not sure either, hence my earlier question to Miss Delacour." Dumbledore stared at the three of them for a few seconds, then went on to explain more. "We found out, that the chimera was Portkeyed into the northern part of the forest. Nowhere near you Harry; that was a bit puzzling. Then we found this…" Dumbledore reached into his robes and pulled out a powder-blue piece of fabric, and showed it to Fleur. "Do you recognize this Miss Delacour?"

Fleur stepped closer, "Oui, eet ees part of my uniform." She took it and examined it carefully. It was a piece of her uniform jacket, torn and dirty. "Where did you find eet?"

"We found this along with several other pieces of your jacket; all of which have your scent on them by the way… marking a trail. A trail, that I believe was mean to lead the chimera to you."

Fleur looked down at the jacket in her hands, "Mon Dieu." Fleur had never seen a chimera, but she knew of them, and the thought that one had been sent to attack her made her waver on her feet.

"Although we did not know it at the time, it was heading straight for you." Turning his attention back to Harry, he went on, "A chance encounter with a stay wolf changed everything. The chimera would naturally prefer chasing a real live animal over following the scent of one. The wolf lead the chimera a considerable ways south, before turning back to the north in an effort to lose the predator."

Hermione was already putting the pieces together and gave Harry's hand a squeeze before pulling it free and wrapping her arm around his waist.

"That is when; unfortunately for you Harry, that it crossed your path and the chimera again changed its mind about who to pursue."

After a glance at Hermione, Dumbledore said gently, "Harry, I am sure by now you have been sufficiently chastised for not using the Portkey, so I will not say anymore other than; do try and remember that the safeguards only work if you remember to use them."

Harry looked down and nodded, "Yes sir, I'll try to remember."

"Excellent," Dumbledore said with a smile, "I am quite sure you are unaware of how worried I was."

"With all due respect Sir," Hermione interrupted, "You didn't seem all that concerned about Harry at the time."

Dumbledore chuckled, "I was not worried about Harry. As I said, I believe Harry is quite resilient… It was you I was worried about. If it had gotten any worse…"

"I theenk you might ave been joining us een ze ospital Professor," Fleur said with a huge smile.

Hermione turned red, while Harry stood next to her with his arm around her.

Dumbledore was still smiling, "You have good friends Harry, who I might add, are very protective of you."

Harry looked at Hermione and while staring into her eyes said, "Yes sir, that I'm sure of." He glanced at her lips, but didn't kiss her; he was fairly sure Hermione would have been uncomfortable with that in front of their Headmaster.

Hermione's blush faded, and her smile grew. She knew what he had been thinking. She'd be sure to kiss him later and make it count for his patience.

"Well then, to summarize; A dark creature was released in the forest to hurt Miss Delacour… for reasons unknown. Also, something that you probably did not know; Professor Snape has discovered tampering with his potion supplies, and there is the question of the disappearance of Mr. Bagman."

"What kind of tampering Professor," asked Hermione?

"It seems several ingredients have gone missing in rather large quantities," Dumbledore peered over his glasses at the two of them and with a knowing smile added, "ingredients that the both of you are quite familiar with I might add." Holding up his hands to stop the inevitable protest, he went on, "He was of course convinced it was you, but later changed his mind."

"Hum, surprised he didn't at least dock us points."

"As I told him Harry; things are not always as they seem." Dumbledore sighed, "Which bring us back to the Tournament. Obviously, someone is trying to influence the outcome, and is not concerned with how they do it."

"Or who geets urt," Fleur added.

"Quite right Miss Delacour," Dumbledore said with a nod in her direction. "I want the three of you to be especially careful in the coming weeks. Let me know immediately if you see something unusual, or even remotely suspicious."

"Sir, we've talked about this before," Hermione started, "if you now think there is an unseen danger, why not stop the Tournament?"

"I did not mean to make you think I was not concerned before Miss Granger. However, like before, there is still little that can be done until more is known. If I, or anyone else for that matter, were to stop the Tournament without indisputable proof, it would put not only Harry's magic in jeopardy, but that of all the champions."

"So again we do nothing!" Hermione was getting worked up.

Dumbledore turn to her and said in a very serious tone, "Quite the contrary Miss Granger. Much has been done and still more will be. Not everything we are doing is visible to the public, or even to your keen eye." Dumbledore's features softened, "Miss Granger, I would never intentionally put a student's life in danger… not even Harry's."

Harry gave her a squeeze and she backed off. "Fine…I understand Professor."

After getting nods of understanding from the other two, Dumbledore's mood brighten. "Well, with that settled for the time being; I think it is time for breakfast… or for some, showers."


"If I may have your attention please," Dumbledore started after he approached the podium, "I am sure by now some of you have noticed the hedgerows being grown down by the Quidditch stadium." After seeing a few nods of acknowledgment he went on, "They are indeed for the next and last upcoming task. Once fully grown they will stand about twelve feet tall and will be nearly five feet thick. Their layout, will be that of a maze, one that our champions will have to navigate to the center… where the Triwizard Cup, their final goal, will await them."

Hermione sat up straighter as a chill ran down her back, her little feeling was back. Since this was the last task, whatever was going to happen would probably happen sometime during the task.

As Dumbledore surveyed the crowd, he seemed to pause on each champion momentarily as if to judge their readiness. "For this final task, each champion may choose a partner to accompany him. But they may only be one of the two people that were involved with him from the lake during the fourth task." Now speaking directly to the champions, he said in a more guarded voice, "In the maze, things will not always be as they appeared to be. You will not only be required to navigate the maze, but you will also have to deal with, whatever you encounter along the way." Dumbledore nodded gently as he went on, "The right partner could be of great help, choose wisely. If however, you choose to go alone you will be allowed to enter the maze with a slight time advantage over those who go with partners. Once in the maze, your partner may go as far with you as you want. However, you cannot force them to continue, they may leave at any time of their choosing. It will be completely up to the both of you as to how you proceed."

Dumbledore took a sip of water and then pressed on, "Until the champions decide whether or not they will pick a partner for this task, we will not know the order in which they will enter the maze.

As of this moment, the point totals are as follows; Harry Potter is in the lead with one hundred eighty-three points, Cedric Diggory is next with one hundred eighty points, followed by Viktor Krum with one hundred seventy-seven points, lastly but certainly not least is Fleur Delacour with one hundred seventy-six points. If a champion decides to go alone, he will have five points added to his total. The champion with the highest number of points will enter the maze first. The point difference will determine how long the next champion has to wait before they may enter the maze, with one point equaling one minute. As usual, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask either myself or your Head of House."

Dumbledore paused, and seemed to study the crowd of students gathered in the Great Hall. Then, almost as if reluctant to continue, he added, "The sixth and final task will begin at seven o'clock on Friday evening, June the twenty-third. Also, viewing stands will again be set up along with a means to see most of what is going on in the maze."

Dumbledore sighed, "I feel, I must warn you. This task is much more than simply navigating a simple maze." Then speaking directly to the champions again, Dumbledore's voice took on a tight serious tone, "You four will face many types of challenges in the maze… Consider all that you have faced before, as… preparation for what awaits you between the hedgerows." Dumbledore hesitated only a moment, and then stood straighter and gave a slight nod to the assembly before returning to his seat.

Hermione turned and stared at Harry expectantly, waiting for him to ask. Harry however, sat deadly still, and stared down at the table in front of him with unfocused eyes and didn't say a word. Hermione's brow drew tight, and her lips pressed thin. She knew what he was thinking, he was planning on going alone; he didn't want to put anyone else in danger, not even Ron. He was going to try and protect her by leaving her out of the task. Harry was going to try and be the quiet noble hero.

"You know I'm going with you Harry," Hermione said, trying to convey that there would be no argument. Although she didn't say it, she knew it was for her own benefit as much as it was for his.

Harry nodded slowly and turned to look at her. He half smiled; there was steel in her voice, and fire in her eyes. Harry knew there was no talking her out of it, but still he had to try. "Hermione, you said it yourself, `Students have died.'"

"And that's exactly why I'm going with you."

"Hermione, if something were to happen to you… I… I don't know…"

"Harry, don't you think I feel exactly the same way?"

"But I have to go, you don't," Harry argued.

"We, Harry. Remember? We are a team. I stood by you when your name came out of that blasted Cup, and I've stood by you since. I'll not be left behind now." Hermione could see it in his eyes. He was desperately pleading with her to let him go alone. "Please Harry… I can't… I just can't sit on the sidelines and watch anymore."

Harry could understand that, and if he was honest with himself, he knew he needed her. A selfish part of him also wanted her there with him. Seeing how determined, and how committed she was, he relented. All she wanted, was to help, to try and see him safely through this last task. Harry stared at his truly best friend through watery eyes and said in a thick voice, "Okay… Together then."

Hermione's face stayed serious as she nodded with relief. Then she pulled Harry into a gentle embrace and whispered, "Together."


Draco was in a rather foul mood as he sat down to breakfast. It was June fifth, just another ordinary day as far as most everyone at Hogwarts was concerned. However, today was special to Draco, today he turned fifteen, it was his birthday. Ordinarily he'd be happy about that. His parents, both of them, would send him a couple of nice gifts, and a long letter telling him how much they missed him.

Not this year. No, all he got was a card from his mother wishing him a happy birthday, his father hadn't even taken the time to sign it.

They were changing, especially his father. He was growing more distant, and… cold. He spent long periods of time away from home according to his mum, and he'd get extremely angry if she asked where he had been. After seeing her at Christmas, and by the way she had started wording her letters, he could tell; she was nervous about something… scared even. She was on edge all the time now.

Draco didn't know what it all meant, but he was smart enough to know something was up with his parents. Whether it was them growing apart, or money problems, politics, or something else, he didn't know, but something was definitely wrong. He wanted to write home and demand an explanation, but he wasn't stupid enough to expect an answer. Draco also knew there'd be a painful lesson to be learned from his father for such arrogance.

"Happy Birthday Draco," Pansy said as she dropped down next to him, "Here, I hope you like it."

Draco stared at the small gift she had handed him, the only gift he would most likely receive. She had remembered his birthday. Draco looked up and gave her a half smile, "Thank you," looking back down he added, "I'm sure I will."

Pansy smiled, then started making two plates of breakfast, one for herself and one for Draco. She knew he'd wait until later to open her gift, he'd do it in private.

A couple of seats down, Daphne watched with interest.


The days leading up to the final task seemed to fly by, and before Hermione knew it, June twenty-third had arrived.

Even though summer had come early to Hogwarts, Hermione shivered in the late evening air. The sixth task was about to begin. They had spent a lot of time discussing how they would proceed and what types of obstacles they might encounter along the way. Hermione however, could not help but feel that there was something more, something they didn't know about. Maybe something nobody knew about. At some point, she had expressed her fears to Professor McGonagall, and she in turn promise to double check everything. Later McGonagall had told her, that she still hadn't found anything out of the ordinary, but that she'd keep looking. In the end, she had said it was probably just last-minute nerves. Hermione wasn't convinced.

As it turned out, at the last minute, Viktor decided to go without a partner and so had moved up to second place. Harry and Hermione would enter the maze first, followed by Viktor one minute later. Then Cedric and his partner Cho, would follow two minutes after that, and finally Fleur with her little sister Gabrielle four minutes after Cedric.

At first Fleur had not wanted a partner, she didn't care for the way Roger acted around her, and she didn't want to put Gabrielle in harm's way. Gabrielle argued, that if things got too dangerous, she could always leave. She also reminded her that even though she was only a first year, just having an extra set of eyes and ears would be a great help. If Fleur was stubborn, then there weren't enough words to describe Gabrielle's unyielding determination. With her situation, not unlike Harry's, she finally gave in.

Harry hadn't said anything to Hermione, but somehow this task felt different. It might have been because Hermione was involved, but Harry really didn't think so.

It was almost seven o'clock. Harry looked at Hermione and ticked his head up a fraction of an inch silently asking one more time, `Are you sure?'

Hermione smiled and nodded once with one brow raised, `Yes, and stop asking.'

Harry smiled, `Okay.'

Hermione knew that Harry was nervous and worried about her involvement and she smiled at his concern and thoughtfulness. But she wasn't exactly a helpless little girl, she could take care of herself pretty well. Later, when this was all over, she was sure they'd sit down and have a long talk about it. She loved the fact that Harry had a thing for helping and protecting people, but he needed to learn, that it was a two way street. He needed to learn to accept help in return.

Boom! The cannon blast resonated off the viewing stands. Harry took Hermione's hand and together they set off into the maze.

Harry set the pace at a slow run, Hermione easily following along just behind, covering their backsides. It seemed like just a short moment later when they heard the second cannon blast and knew Viktor was in the maze. Distracted by that thought, Harry nearly ran right into a Blast-Ended Skrewt as he rounded a corner. The beast reacted out of fear and let loose a large fireball right at him. Harry barely managed to dodge while pulling Hermione with him as she hastily brought up a shield.

"Harry, we need to slow down, especially near the corners." She said, slightly winded. Harry quickly agreed.

Once safely past the Skrewt, Harry stopped and turned to Hermione, "Sorry about that."

Grateful that Harry realized the danger of being in too big a rush, Hermione gave him a quick smile, "No worries, Harry." A few seconds later after using the point me spell, they were on their way again.

Even though it was late in the day, it should have been fairly light out, enough to easily navigate the maze. However that was not the case, and it was actually quite dark in the maze. The sky had clouded over, and the tops the hedgerows seemed to lean in towards each other, blocking out most of what was left of any sunlight. As Harry pushed on, the ground became slightly uneven and a shallow low-lying fog started to form. He had just stepped over a large root when a second later, he heard Hermione let out a muffled yelp, as she tripped and fell to the ground. Harry stopped and turned back, intent on helping her up. A moment later he heard her scream.


All around her, roots were growing out of the ground at an incredible rate, wrapping themselves around Hermione's arms and legs. She was helpless to defend herself. Harry tried blasting the roots, but it made no difference. Next he tried a cutting curse, still they kept growing, and now they were slowly trying to pull her into the hedgerow. Because it was Hermione, Harry started to panic. He didn't want to make a mistake or take any chances… he didn't know what to do next.

"Harry, they're coming from the hedge, start a fire at the base… Hurry!"

Harry wasted no time, "Incendio," he hollered. The spell quickly started a fire at the bottom of the hedge. It worked, the roots released Hermione, who quickly scrambled to her feet and ran to Harry.

Harry held her at arm's length and gave her a quick once over, "You all right?"

Hermione was a little shaken, but otherwise unhurt, she took a deep breath, and nodded once, "Yes, I'm fine." She could see the look in his eyes that clearly said, he was worrying about her again. "Really Harry, I'm fine."

Harry studied her a moment, then nodded back, "Okay"

Harry grabbed her hand, and reluctantly turned and started moving again, this time a fair bit more slowly.


For the next several minutes, things were uneventful. Then without warning, Harry lost all sense of direction as vertigo destroyed his sense of balance. For a moment, it felt like he was in a washing machine during the spin cycle, and then it just stopped. There was no left or right, and he couldn't tell up from down. There was no feeling, no sound… nothing. It was if he floating in a dark void, like underwater with no light, unable to see nether the bottom nor the surface. Then, as quickly as it had started, it was over and the maze came spinning back into focus.

Harry was down on his knees bent over slightly breathing deeply, his eyes screwed shut. Hermione was standing over him protectively, one hand on his shoulder, the other gripping her wand. "Feeling any better Harry?"

Harry took one more long shuddering breath and looked up, "Yeah… I think," he shook his head to clear the cobwebs, "that was so… Weird." He had walked into what appeared to be an ordinary fog, but as soon as he had entered it, his whole world literally turned upside down.

"I can only imagine what it must've felt like. It was obviously some kind of disorientation mist," Hermione offered.

"I'm just glad you knew the counter," Harry said as he slowly straighten up. He still felt a little wobbly, but the effect was quickly fading.

"Dumbledore said it should take us about an hour to find the cup," Hermione said while looking around, "it's been about that long, so we should be close."

Harry slowly started walking again, "Yeah, hopefully that's the last…" Harry never got a chance to finish his sentence as a loud scream interrupted him. He turned to Hermione, and a moment later they both heard the unmistakable sound of spell fire.

"This way!" Harry yelled, and started in the direction of the fight, with Hermione close behind. A very short time later, Harry and Hermione came upon a truly confusing scene. Viktor and Cedric were in a duel.

They didn't have much time to try to decipher what was happening, because a moment later, Viktor noticed them and started casting spells in their direction. They were hard and powerful. Dark spells, spells meant to hurt.

Harry and Hermione joined with Cedric in trying to subdue the powerful Bulgarian. Hermione noticed Cho lying on the ground not far from Cedric, and hoped she was just unconscious. Viktor fought without fear, like he had nothing to lose. Harry also noticed, he seemed to concentrate on Cedric and now Hermione, almost ignoring him. One thing for sure, this was a totally different Viktor from the one he had dueled only a few months before.

Hermione noticed the pattern also. Being Hermione, she quickly used that information to their advantage. She moved closer to Cedric, so they could keep Viktor's attention more focused on them and allow Harry the opportunity to get in behind him. Hermione let Cedric do most of the attacking while she provided defensive covering shields. It worked for a minute or two until Viktor caught on. He fired several high-powered spells at Hermione breaking her shields just like he'd done to Harry, and a second later scored a hit. Hermione was blasted backwards.

Having been on the receiving end of Viktor's powerful spell work, Harry watched horrified as Hermione flew through the air, and for the first time, he realized how Hermione must have felt seeing that exact same thing happen to him. Harry felt his rage take control, he was going to end this. He needed to, he needed to get to Hermione.

Harry's wand lit up brightly as he screamed a series of spells at Viktor. Viktor tried to defend, but Harry's attack had been just as vicious and powerful as his own, and with Cedric also on the attack, it was only a few seconds later when Viktor fell unconscious.

Cedric ran forward and quickly confiscated Viktor's wand and then tied him up, "Incarcerous," he said, to prevent any more trouble, just in case he woke up. Meanwhile, Harry had rushed to Hermione and was cradling her head in his lap. She didn't look like she had been hurt quite as bad as he had, but until she woke Harry wasn't going anywhere. Harry looked over and noticed Cedric was now tending to Cho.

"Harry?" Hermione asked weakly.

Harry looked back down, "Hermione, you… Are you hurt badly?"

Hermione seemed to do an internal check and then answered, "I don't think anything is broken," then with a grimace she added, "although I'm really sore, help me sit up please."

This was what Harry had been worried about, although he never expected her to get attacked by another champion. Harry carefully moved his hands under her arms and gently helped her to sit up, "Still okay?"

Hermione rubbed her head, "Yeah, just banged up a little. I think I got lucky." Then after a glance toward Cedric and Cho, she asked, "How are they?"

"Don't know yet." Harry answered, still worried about her.

Hermione went to stand, "Let's check."

Again Harry was using two hands as he helped Hermione stand up. He helped her move slowly over to the other couple and then eased her down so she could sit next to Cho. "How is she?" Hermione asked.

Cedric shook his head, "Don't really know for sure, we need Pomfrey." Then after a glance at Viktor, he went on, "Did you see how he was acting?"

Nodding her head, Hermione answered immediately, "Yes, and his eyes. I'm sure he was under the Imperius Curse."

Harry raised a brow, that would explain a lot. Viktor had always been very much the quiet gentleman to both him and Hermione, he hated to think Viktor was a dark wizard. "So, someone was using him?"

"Yes, but who… and why?" Hermione said.

"To attack us, why? If he was under the Imperius, what purpose would attacking Cho and I serve?" Cedric asked.

"Not just you and Cho," answered Hermione, "all of us, all of us except for Harry."

"Like the last task with Fleur," Harry mused.

A soft moan from Cho caught everyone's attention. "Send up red sparks, we'll wait for help," Harry said.

"No, you will all be disqualified. You two go on, I'll stay here with them and send for help just as soon as you've gone," Hermione countered. She didn't like the idea of Harry going on alone, but she knew she was in no condition to help from this point on. Seeing the look on his face, she smiled at his concern, "You have to go Harry, you can't quit willingly… Remember, the rules."

Cedric nodded, "She's right Harry."

"As soon as we've gone," Harry said sternly.

Hermione nodded once, "Be careful," and then looking at both Harry and Cedric in turn she added, "and good luck."

Harry smiled and then turned to Cedric, "Ready?"

"Yeah," Cedric said easily. He gave both Harry and Hermione a nod, then turned and headed off into the maze.

Harry gave Hermione a gentle hug and a quick kiss, and then after one last long look, he too turned, and disappeared back into the maze.


The delay with Viktor had cost him time, and in his rush to make some of it up, Harry had ran straight into the biggest acromantula he'd ever seen. He could now only hope that Hagrid wouldn't be too mad at him for killing it. At the time, there just didn't seem to be any other option. Harry looked down at his left leg. The giant spider had managed to claw him just above the knee. The gash was about three inches long and Merlin, did it hurt. Harry figured it must be fairly deep as well, considering how badly it was bleeding.

Harry grimaced as he tore open his pant leg a bit to get a better look. After cleaning it with a jet of water from his wand, he closed the wound the best he could with the only healing spell he knew. Satisfied he'd stopped the bleeding, Harry took a moment to catch his breath.

Harry had only just started moving again, when just ahead of him, he heard a blood-curdling scream. "Now what?" He asked out loud, even though he was alone. `This maze is really beginning to get old,' He thought. The scream had come from up ahead, and after only running a short distance, he came to an intersection. To the right was a long row, and at the far end there was an opening. Harry could just make out the Cup sitting on a table, shining brightly as if there were spot lights on it. To the left, Harry found the source of the panicked screaming.

Fleur was on the ground being dragged into the base of the hedgerow just as Hermione had been earlier. Gabrielle was holding onto her for dear life, and trying to pull her free. She was quickly losing the battle. It was an easy decision, Harry turned left, the Cup could wait. Harry thought to use the incendiary spell again, but decided against it, Fleur was too close to the hedge, she would surely get burnt. Dropping to his knees, he grabbed hold of her and tried to help Gabrielle pull her free, but even together they were losing ground. Harry scrambled over to her legs and desperately started pulling at the roots, ripping them off as fast as he could. However, at the rate it was going, Fleur would be pulled under long before he had her free.

"Harry, get back!" Cedric yelled.

Harry looked up to find Cedric only a few feet away, wand at the ready. Jumping up, Harry moved to stand by Gabrielle. Cedric fired a spell that Harry had never heard of, but it worked. The hedgerow roots quickly retreated back into the ground, releasing Fleur.

Harry helped both Gabrielle and Fleur to stand, then they all moved back a ways to catch their breath.

The way Gabrielle was hugging her sister, it didn't look as though she was going to let go anytime soon. Fleur looked down at her while rubbing her back and smiled, "C'est correat petit un… c'est correat. (It's okay little one… It's okay.)" Then looking up, she said to Harry and Cedric, "Zank you."

Cedric smiled, "You're welcome." Then speaking to everyone he said, "Perhaps we should stick together."

Harry sighed, "We do seem to keep bumping into each other. Why not?"

Fleur glanced down at her little sister again, "Qui, why not?"

Harry didn't care about getting to the Cup first, or even winning. He just wanted to get through the task and get back to Hermione. He wanted to make sure she was alright. By staying together, they would definitely be safer and they'd probably finish the task a little sooner too. Harry figured, they'd work out what to do at the Cup, once they got there.


Hermione had watched as Madam Pomfrey examined both Cho and Viktor before sending them off to the infirmary. While she waited for her own exam, she told Dumbledore the details of the encounter. After conferring with Professor Snape and Madam Pomfrey, he confided in her, that her suspicions were correct, Viktor had been acting under the effects of the Imperius Curse.

"Professor, what I don't understand is, why was he ignoring Harry, you'd think…" Hermione gasped, "he wanted Harry to get to the Cup, he wanted Harry to win. That's why… He was actually helping Harry." Hermione chewed her bottom lip for a second, "It was probably the same person who Portkeyed the chimera into the forest."

Dumbledore watched as McGonagall's favorite student pieced it all together. `Yes, she is most impressive,' he thought. "Miss Granger, it is at times like this, that I find I do not give you enough credit." Dumbledore nodded with a sigh, "I believe we have enough proof now, and until we find out exactly what is going on here, I think we should stop the task." Turning, he hurried away, no doubt to talk with the other organizers.

Relieved at first, until Hermione remembered, the others were still out there. Looking up at the viewing board, she noticed all of them were together now, and standing right next to the Cup. Hermione's little feeling came rushing back… `The Cup!'


The maze offered no further resistance, so Harry and the rest made it to the Cup in just a few minutes. Now, the four of them stood around the Cup in a semi-circle only a couple of feet away from it. Back at Hogwarts, the Cup had looked so… spectacular. Now, out here, it had lost its appeal. Its sparkle had faded into insignificance.

"Doesn't seem so important anymore, does it?" Asked Cedric.

"No, it does not," Fleur agreed.

"You know, you two are the real champions, I should stay back…"

Both Cedric and Fleur turned exasperated eyes on Harry. It was Fleur who spoke what they were both thinking. "Arry, you ave proven to me more zan once, that you ezz not a little boy. Don't start acting like one now, yes?"

"She's right Harry, we should do this together," Cedric said

Harry saw that they'd meant it, "Fine, together than," he said a little sheepishly.

As one, Harry, Cedric, Fleur, and Gabrielle, reached for the cup.


Back at the base of the viewing stands by the entrance to the maze, Hermione watched as three champions and a young girl, vanished in a whirl of color. "No!" She cried, but it was too late to stop them.


AN: Pardon my French.



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