I own nothing.

Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum

-Chapter Thirty-Four

Without even a spoken word, Harry's armor encased him from jaw to toe in an instant. He pulled on his cloak and turned to face the other champions. "What?"

"I knew I should have sprung for the deluxe model," Cedric grumbled as he glanced down at his mail shirt.

"Up close, you actually look very dashing," Fleur complimented as she secured her much lighter colored cloak. "It's very classically heroic."

"And from afar?" Harry ventured.

"When I saw you from afar, I was much more interested in how you terrified a full-grown mother dragon."

"Oh." They were silent for a long moment.

"So?" Fleur began. Harry let out an annoyed sigh.

"Really? We're still really on that?" he demanded. "It's not a big deal. That Horntail's a very sensitive sweetheart who was terrified that someone was going to hurt her eggs and I made her scared. It's not my proudest moment." Silence reigned again for a moment.

"Your heart is in the right place" Fleur said, patting Harry's shoulder. "I don't know where your head is, but the heart is good."

"Wow," Cedric grunted. "Am I the only one who feels really bad now?"

"You are not," Viktor grumbled. Fleur nodded in agreement; her eyes somewhat downcast.

"Focus now. Pity later," Harry ordered. The others nodded their agreement and they began the march down to the desecrated quidditch pitch where they met Bagman.

"Incredible, isn't it?" the man exclaimed, gesturing to the massive hedge walls. They could practically hear the creak as Cedric's head slowly turned to stare at the man. "Incredible and very easy to clean up!" Bagman added. Cedric's head tilted to the side. "They'll be gone by daybreak and my boys will be here to begin estimates for that update I was talking about." In an instant, Cedric's expression was joyous.

"Fantastic!" he announced.

"Sophie was right," Fleur whispered. "He is the craziest one here. He can instill fear in an idiot."

"You're hanging out with Sophie?" Harry asked in horror. He was starting to gain a generalized fear of French blondes; a fear that was intensified by the thought of them colluding.

"I may have asked her for some training," Fleur admitted. Harry's eyes went wide. "Her partner refused on her behalf." Harry let out a breath that he hadn't realized he was holding. Victor had earned himself a few free drinks. Wait? What had Fleur been mumbling about a Victor after his fight with Sophie? Was that a K or a C?

"Oh," Harry mumbled. That made a lot more sense.

"He said that he would train me himself," Fleur added. Well, Victor had now earned himself a lifetime of free drinks. "However, Sophie did help him." Victor earned nothing.

"So, this is an emotional rollercoaster," Harry said.

"What?" Fleur asked. Harry ignored her and began pulling from his flask. "Is that a good idea?"

"Nope," Harry grunted. "Who wants a bad idea?"

"Me!" Bagman chirped immediately, seizing the container and taking a long pull.

"I am never coming back to the country," Fleur growled. "Harry, you will move to France."

"Why would I move to France?" Harry asked.

"Because it's not this country," Fleur stated.

"Hey, this country. . ." Harry trailed off as he tried to think of something. . .anything. "This country speaks English. . .mostly." Nobody knew what the scousers were on about.

"And you speak French," Fleur sniped as the flask made it to her hands and she took a pull.

"I do," Harry agreed. What did he know about France? They didn't have Skeeter. They didn't have Voldemort. They didn't have scotch. Wait. They absolutely did. They imported it. And they made cognac, which Harry had really started taking a liking too. Wasn't Monte Carlo French? Plenty of people there spoke French. He felt that Hermione would yell at him for thinking that. "I need to think about this one."

"Where's your national pride?" Cedric asked as he got the flask again and took a sip.

"I'll tell you if I find it," Harry stated.

"You mean, when?" Cedric pressed.

"I know what I said." Harry took a breath and glanced at the other champions. "Remember, nobody touches anything until we're all there, right?"

"What?" Bagman demanded.

"Agreed," Viktor replied. "We'll figure that out when we get there."

"What?" Bagman repeated.

"Less risk," Cedric agreed.

"Can I change my bet?" Bagman wondered.

"You made a bet on this nightmare?" Fleur demanded. "You saw the first tasks! Did you think this would end normally?"

"I may have bet on it," Bagman admitted. "Shit. Where are those goblins?"

(:ii:)

"What's the plan?" Amalie asked. Ron and Hermione glanced at each other as they took their seats in the stands.

"The plan is to wait for things to go wrong and attack!" Luna announced.

"Yup," Ron grunted. He caught Hermione's eye. She was on the proper side of the French witch. She nodded and covertly tapped her arm with her wand. Down in the arena they saw Harry's head perk up. He glanced in their direction and Ron nodded.

"He sees us!" Amalie announced as she shot to her feet and began waving.

"Yup," Ron grunted again, nodding to Hermione and Luna. This wasn't going to be pretty. This wasn't going to be nice. He just hoped Amalie would get over it and if not, he hoped she would blame it all on Harry.

He still had it coming for the original grilling they had received from Minerva.

Also, as their primary shit magnet, Harry deserved all non-lethal consequences for drawing all the trouble to them.

(:ii:)

"Remember, if you get in trouble, just shoot off red sparks and I'll come running," Hagrid stated, a massive hand resting on Harry's pauldron.

"And if you hear something coming through the hedges, you'd better duck," he countered, patting his oldest friend's hand. "I don't want to find out what a castle breaching charm might do to you."

"Ah, I'd be fine," Hagrid grunted. Harry wasn't sure about that, but he also wasn't unsure about that. He was sure of one thing.

"Let's not risk it."

"Harry's about to go, Hagrid," Bagman stated. "You really should start patrolling."

"Right," the giant man rumbled.

"Ready, Harry?" Bagman asked.

"Ready," Harry grunted as he buckled his helmet into place and pulled up his cloak's hood. "See you on the other side Hagrid."

"Be there," Hagrid ordered, "or I'll have to come find you." It was a shame the giant man couldn't see Harry's smile because that statement meant the world to him. Bagman glanced at his watch and blew a sharp burst from his whistle, causing Harry to set off into the maze at an easy jog. It was too bad the judges had shot down his attempt at a fly over. It was also too bad that Viktor and Fleur were somewhere in front of him.

Somewhere behind, a whistle blew and Harry knew that the potential collateral for any over powered spell had increased as Cedric entered the maze as well.

Harry drew to a halt as he came to a fork in the maze. He held his wand out and immediately hit the ground as he heard a shriek from somewhere beyond the hedge beside him. He knew that shriek. He knew that tone. He knew what was coming next.

True to form, a screeching, humanoid shape burst through the wall to his right, sailed over his head and flew through the hedge to his left.

Harry let out an annoyed sigh and climbed to his feet before turning to face the first, slowly shrinking, hole in the hedge.

"Really Fleur?"

"You should never sneak up on a fair maiden in the dark," the French witch stated as she peered through the hole.

"Oh, you're fair alright," Harry growled. Fairly nuts he meant.

"Care to come through?" Harry pondered that for a second. The French witch had set off before him and had hopefully made more progress. It was probably also safer to have an eye on her instead of letting her run roughshod. He stepped through a few seconds before the hedge healed itself.

"So, who was that?"

"A human, I think," Fleur replied. "I only saw him for a moment and he was in shadow." Harry grunted as he considered that. Most beasts weren't humanoid, but there were a few who could take humanoid shape. A boggart maybe?

"Do you fear being attacked by a man in the dark above all else?" he asked.

"I fear the self-destructive nature of the human condition," Fleur answered.

"Oh," Harry said blankly. "That's, hopefully, a bit more metaphorical than a boggart can pull off."

"Don't boggarts show that what you fear is fear itself?" Fleur asked.

"Well, in a less metaphorical and more literal sense of I fear a creature that causes me to relive my worst memories and tried to kill me a few times," Harry corrected.

"Don't dementors work for your government?" Fleur demanded.

"Yep."

"And they tried to kill you?" Fleur added.

"Once or twice," Harry admitted, "maybe more. They all kind of blur together."

"You really need to come to France," Fleur stated.

"Strongly considering it," Harry grunted. He glanced at the witch before holding his wand up. "Show me what I want." The wand spun in his palm and pointed to Fleur.

"Oh?" the French witch murmured. Harry rolled his eyes and pushed the witch out of the way. "Oh," she grumbled as the wand continued to point in the same direction.

"Clever," she commented. "I'll have to ask Hermione about that."

"It took a lot of fine tuning," Harry growled. "When we were testing it in a maze, it kept pointing me to the exit instead of the center."

"Should we hold hands to make sure we aren't separated?" Fleur asked, shooting him a grin.

"It's not a bad idea," Harry admitted. It would keep the trigger-happy looney from getting too far behind him.

"Quoi?" Fleur sputtered as her hands flailed about randomly, "but, you know. . .we probably shouldn't, but Amalie doesn't have to know. . .so I guess we can. . ." Harry frowned at the unusual display and pushed his visor up. Fleur didn't even seem to notice he was advancing until her back hit the hedge. Harry leaned forward and the witch's head tilted slightly.

"Well, I don't think you're bewitched," he stated as he stared into her eyes. Fleur stared back at him, wide eyed, for a moment before letting out a loud laugh. She planted a hand on his breastplate and pushed him back.

"How can anyone so scary be so innocent?" she demanded.

"What?" Harry asked in confusion.

"Never mind," Fleur replied as she held out her hand. Harry took a moment to close his face plate before grasping her hand. "Lead on. . .and also, don't tell Amalie about this. If she's anything like her sister, I don't want to deal with that."

"Whatever you say," Harry agreed. Hermione had taught him that it was usually just easier to agree with crazy people.

(:ii:)

With Hermione's tracking charm, the maze ended almost as abruptly as it had begun. "Hey," Viktor offered.

"Hey," Harry returned as he pushed up his visor. "Hermione taught you too?"

"Maybe," the Bulgarian admitted, not even bothering to ask what he could have been taught.

"Well, congratulations."

"Thank you," Viktor replied. "The cup is a portkey." His eyes rose from the cup and an eyebrow rose as he caught sight of them. "Oh? I thought we were in a death maze, not on a date."

"Cute," Harry growled as he released Fleur's hand. He glanced at the French witch and she stared at him in confusion for a few seconds before finally releasing his hand and taking a quick step to the side. "We didn't want to get separated after we met up."

"And how did you meet up?" Viktor asked.

"I don't think that's really relevant," Fleur answered.

"You know how we agreed not to fire off any magic that could penetrate the maze unless there was an emergency?" Harry asked. "Fleur made an emergency."

"I was attacked!" Fleur insisted.

"Oh," Viktor grunted. "I hope the stands in that direction are still in one piece." They were interrupted as Cedric came sprinting into the clearing, a massive scuttling monstrosity behind him.

"Dudders!" Harry howled, his wand snapping up but hesitating since Cedric was in the line of fire. The beast froze. In an instance, with speed belying its size and disabilities, Dudders pivoted one hundred and eighty degrees. "Oh. . .you fuck!" Harry tackled Cedric to the ground and the burst of flame flew over them. Harry shot to his feet and glared at the rapidly shrinking ember in the night sky. "Dudders! You can't run from me forever!"

"What the absolute fuck was that?" Cedric wheezed.

"That was my blast ended screwt," Harry growled.

"What's a blast ended screwt?" Fleur asked.

"Giant monster things that we were raising for class," Harry said simply.

"You raised that thing?" Viktor demanded.

"There's more of them?" Cedric whimpered.

"Yes, I raised him with Ron and Hermione. No, there are no more. Dudders killed the rest and ate them."

"I hit it with everything I had," Cedric managed as he brought his breathing under control.

"Yeah, he's a stubborn one," Harry agreed, still staring in to the sky.

"And he's scared of you?" Fleur asked.

"He'll attack if he gets a chance, but if things don't seem to be working out for him, he'll run," Harry explained. "He's worryingly smart. He learned how to fly before the second task because of an accident and now he does it regularly."

"Then why doesn't he just fly away?" Fleur pressed.

"He wants to kill me."

"Why?"

"Because I've been trying to kill him since we met because I knew he'd try to kill me eventually," Harry said simply.

"So, he wants to kill you because you've been trying to kill him because you knew he would try to kill you at some point," Cedric surmised. Harry nodded. "Don't you have enough problems without making more?"

"What do you mean?"

"Nothing," Cedric grumbled. He glanced around the clearing and his eyes fell on the cup. "So, what's the deal?"

"The cup is a portkey," Viktor explained. "Anyone know how to figure out the destination?"

"I do," Harry stated.

"A way that doesn't involve using it?" Viktor ventured.

"So, what are we doing?" Cedric asked. "I mean, do we shoot up sparks and hand this over to the professors?"

"Nope," Harry grunted, eyeing the cup. Cedric looked back and forth between the younger student and the portkey for a minute.

"No," he said forcefully.

"Yep," Harry said.

"You know who is on the other side of that thing."

"Yes, he is."

"Voldemort!" Cedric snapped.

"You already said that," Harry pointed out in confusion.

"The most deranged and powerful monster in living memory. You are walking into an ambush!"

"Two ways of dealing with an ambush, Cedric. You know this."

"You are not going alone," Viktor stated. "Hermione would kill me if you got hurt."

"I won't be alone," Harry said with a smile.

"This is what gets Hufflepuffs in trouble every time," Cedric grumbled. "Why do we always pledge our loyalty to the loonies?"

"What?" Harry asked. "Oh! No. You three are staying here."

"You think I'm going to let you just wander off into a dangerous situation?" Fleur demanded.

"Well. . .yeah. I have a plan."

"Fuck your plan!" Cedric snapped. He pointed his wand upwards and winced as Harry almost dislocated his shoulder while pulling his arm down.

"I am going there with a team of experienced wizards and witches," the Gryffindor champion stated. "You don't have to worry about a thing."

"Then you won't mind us coming along," Cedric said reasonably.

"You're trying to change the plan. You never chance the plan," Harry hissed. "You're not coming."

"Then you're not going," Viktor replied. "You can't take all of us Harry."

"Yes, yes I can," Harry said with worrying certainty.

"Okay. Fine, but you can't take all of us without hurting someone very badly," Cedric pointed out. The younger man glared at him and Cedric knew he had hit a nerve. "So, we're coming along with you and your team of experienced wizards and witches, or you're going to have to really hurt us." Harry's face went through a myriad of emotions.

"I would not like to be really hurt tonight," Fleur commented.

"Fine," the younger champion finally gritted out as he moved to stand next to Viktor. "When we get there, all of you get down. Understand?" The other three champions made various sounds of agreement. Harry nodded and tapped his left shoulder with the tip of his wand. "On three." The hands of the other three champions slammed onto the cup at the same time as Harry's.

"We're not that dumb, Harry," Cedric said with a smirk.

"No," Harry agreed, "you're much dumber." That's when the portkey kicked in.

-End

(:ii:)

-Author's drunken ramblings. Guys! Guys! I did the thing! I did it! After missing an update, I cliff hangered you! I also wrote a rather short chapter!

I love being an asshole. This is so much fun. Too much fun, some may argue. The some probably being you guys. Oh. . .what the fuck is wrong with me?

At least I technically updated this a week early. We cool?

So, finally back to work. Two months of nothing sounds good, but holy shit can it drive you up the wall. At least this time, it's not the dead of winter. My recovery time on my first hip was mostly January and February and I was starting to lose my shit. Not going to lie. There were going to be claw marks from me climbing the walls if I hadn't gone back to work when I did.

This time, the sun was out, I was out grilling, I was driving much sooner because I stopped the meds earlier and I bought myself a new project gun to fiddle with. Much better recovery, but I still needed to get out. I love my family, but God damn, do I need a break from them sometimes. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and tall fences make good neighbors and all that.

Also, the videogame I was waiting on announced that its DLC would be out in summer. Turns out, it's getting released August 31st. Not technically wrong, but dick move Maneater. Dick move.

Yes, I spot the hypocrisy. Thank you.

Speaking of hypocrisy, has anyone noticed anti-vaxxers waving around "my body, my choice," signs? Considering who makes up a lot of the anti-vaxxer crowd, do you think they get it? Seriously. They're waving around signs with pro-choice slogans on them. They can't. . .not get it, right? I mean, nobody is that oblivious, right? Oh . . .right. They're standing in the way of ending a global pandemic because they're scared of needles. Never mind. Carry on. My opinion of Americans really can't get much lower. I mean, if modern Americans were in charge back in the day, small pox and polio would still be killing and crippling millions of people a year.

I mean, we have diseases that we decimated now making comebacks. How the fuck are Americans getting Measles? Fucking Mumps? The Marine Corps vaccinated me against that shit seven times and I turned out. . .fine? Look the Corps did worse things to me. And no, you are really not supposed to get the MMR vaccine like that and I don't know why they did it.

And peoples are complaining about the "academic elite" telling them to do things. You know why the "academic elite" is telling you what to do? It's because they're smarter than you and no, your "common sense" doesn't mean a fucking thing. It isn't common, it isn't sense and it sure as shit ain't common sense. Well, other than needles make ouchie.

Real common sense says, you listen to the mother fucker whose whole job revolves around what is happening.

I wouldn't trust a cook to pilot a plane. I wouldn't trust a banker to make my food. I wouldn't trust an Airman to teach people how to shoot.

And before anybody gets really stupid, yes, they are smarter than me. The only difference is that I admit it and I listen to them.

I swear to God, the next person to show me an "explosive revelation!" on fucking ticktock is going to get an ass chewing unheard of for civilians.

I am sick of people quoting dip shit entertainers (who are obviously not meant to be taken seriously according to their lawyers) and random thirty fucking second videos as gospel on fucking science.

You want me to even pay the slightest attention to your "science" it better come from a scientist in the relevant field. Looking at you botanist who totally knew enough about particle physics to sue CERN.

Fucking ticktock. I feel stupid even saying that. Grown ass men using a tween's app to stick it to those nerdy eggheads who think a few doctorates make them smart.

This is why everyone at my job avoids Jimbo and he has to try to hunt us down. I honestly don't think he notices that we all have something to do every time he pops up with his phone in his hand.

So, after a few chapters of niceties, yeah. . .we back to this shit mother fuckers.

Strap the fuck in. This road might get bumpy.

Love you. Fuck you. Take care of yourselves and each other.

-Uncle Jack

P.S. I have a banana clip! No, seriously. I found a company that makes banana painted magazines and I taped a paperclip to it. Oh, the guys at the range are about to hate me all over again.

I will make them admit that shooting is fun if it's the last thing I do! They will stop insulting new shooters out of fear of humiliation!

Remember, when all else fails and you activate some "victim's" martyrdom complex, the only next step is public humiliation until they're too scared to say anything stupid.

Oh. . .did the Marine Corps really fuck me up or was this how I would have ended up anyways?