Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters, except for ones I created for the purposes of this story.

AN: Please note that this was just a fun piece to write. I've been wanting to try a one-shot for a while, and this is what I came up with.


What was that incantation again? "Imperius?" Harry asked aloud. He was writing his homework assignment, with Hermione. They were in an empty classroom, since Harry had grown tired of all the scowls and verbal abuse, after he was chosen for the Triwizard, without even entering. Things got better, after he'd finished the first task, but he'd not forgiven them.

"Imperio." Hermione answered automatically, as she continued her own homework. She was already at the killing curse.

"Right." Harry said, as he started writing it out. "Imperio." he said, as he wrote it out. "Probably the most forgivable of the unforgivables." he said with a snort. "I can't imagine it's a good feeling being forced to kill people, or to betray your friends and family. Still, it really should depend on what you were forced to do. Just one use on a fellow human being, and you go straight to Azkaban for life? I can imagine it being used for the good side. The darker families basically advertise that they are dark. One spell, and they would do the right thing, if they wanted to or not."

Hermione didn't answer, and he expected a tirade, so he looked up curiously. "Hermione?" he asked. She looked straight at him, with dull eyes, like he was saying something she was struggling to comprehend. "I'm only kidding." he defended. Still, blank eyes stared at him. "Hermione?" he asked again. This time, he realised something was wrong. He stood up, intent on walking around to her, to shake her out of whatever trance she'd entered, only to feel it. His hand was on the table, on his wand, and it was pointed at Hermione.

His face blanched. Had he cast the spell at her, without realising? Surely, an accidental firing of the spell wouldn't count, right? Also, was it really that easy? He panicked for a moment, glad there was nobody around. He went around to her and shook her, anyway. "Wake up." he said. "Um, I command you to wake up?" he tried.

"I am awake." she said, in a monotone voice, still staring ahead.

"Did I cast the imperius on you?" he asked.

"Yes." Hermione said.

"You know that was an accident, right?" he asked, hopefully.

"Yes." Hermione said, nodding.

"How do I fix this?" he asked. "What's the counter?" She said nothing. "How do we break the spell, Hermione?" he tried.

"The Imperious cannot be countered." Hermione said. "Only fought."

"Then fight it." Harry insisted. Having an idea, he added, "That's an order." he added.

Hermione seemed to try, her face showing a flicker of emotion. Then nothing.

"Well?" Harry asked.

"You have ordered me to fight the spell." Hermione said.

"Is there a problem with that?" Harry asked.

"If I fight it, under your order, I'm not fighting the order, but following it." Hermione said.

Her eyes were still unfocussed, her tone monosyllabic. "Can you at least act like yourself?" Harry asked.

Hermione's features finally cleared themselves, as she became more animated. "Damnit, Harry!" she said, like she was finally herself again. There was still a bit of vacancy, but she was acting more like herself. "You've caught me in a paradoxical conundrum! Now I can't break the spell if I fight it!" she said, angrily.

"Are you yourself, again?" Harry asked.

"I'm only allowed to act like myself, because you ordered it." Hermione said, a bit of anger still on her face. Then it seemed to fade, as her mind went over the implications, now that she was free to think for herself, as she normally would. "Wait. This could be a good thing." she said.

"How could this possibly be a good thing?" Harry asked.

"Don't you see?" Hermione said. Then she rolled her eyes. "Of course not, you've not finished the homework. Only one person can have another under this spell. As long as you've got me under it, I can't be influenced by another person, unless they are stronger, I suppose. And while your order for me to be myself stands, I should be able to refuse anything, even from you."

"Is that how it works?" Harry asked.

"I mean, it makes sense." Hermione said, as she considered it.

"In the wizarding world?" Harry asked, quirking a brow at her. He was still freaked out, but the conversation was helping.

"Good point." Hermione conceded. "Okay, let's try it."

"Try what?" Harry asked.

"Ask me to do something I normally wouldn't." Hermione said. "Just, nothing embarrassing, okay?"

"What? Like… show me your pants?" he asked.

Hermione's arms went down and up in an instant, showing him her blue and white striped panties. "Yes, like that." Hermione said, even as she blushed. Harry had looked away, since he was a good boy, but she walked in front of him, still trying to do as commanded. "Tell me to stop." she insisted, when Harry finally closed his eyes, to not invade her privacy.

"S…" he started, but a part of him, a tiny little darker part, which he'd never want to admit even existed, stopped him from saying it. "Wait. Why are you not being yourself?" he asked, even as he squinted his eyes and actually looked.

"Harry!" Hermione objected.

"I'm just saying-" Harry started, giving up all pretence, and opening his eyes, so that he could look. He was just a boy.

"Harry James Potter!" Hermione objected, even as her legs crossed in a vain attempt to hide her undies.

"Okay, stop." Harry said, quickly. Hermione instantly dropped her robes and glared at him. "Sorry." Harry mumbled.

"Why would you wait?" she asked dangerously, with narrowed eyes. Harry didn't say anything, or make eye-contact. "Harry?" she asked.

"I've never seen that, okay?" Harry said. "I mean, I didn't know I wanted to see it, but maybe I do. I'm just a boy, and you're a girl. A pretty girl." he added quickly.

"You think I'm pretty?" Hermione asked, her scowl turning into confusion. She'd never been pretty. She knew it.

"Well, yeah." Harry said, still not making eye-contact.

"Tell me the truth." Hermione insisted.

"I am." Harry said, finally looking at her. "I think you're very pretty."

Hermione couldn't stand the honesty in his gaze, and blushed, before a small smile appeared on her face. "Oh." she said, before taking her seat, with some relief at finally not parading her undies for the world to see. Deciding to drop that subject for the moment, she cleared her throat. "So, obviously there are some exceptions. We'll need to look into that. Maybe try a few experiments."

"What do you mean?" Harry asked, glad she seemed to be feeling better.

"Well, if you gave me an impossible order, that might break the spell, or you could ask me something that I don't want to do, so that I can resist it properly." Hermione said, without thinking.

"You wanted to show me your pants?" Harry asked, not understanding.

Hermione's blush went into overdrive. "I mean-" she started, but trailed off.

"Tell me the truth." Harry said, copying her words from earlier.

"I like you, Harry." Hermione said, instantly. Her blush redoubled. "That's not fair!" she complained. "You can order me to tell you the truth!"

"Then Imperius me." Harry said, simply. He was trying not to think of the admission, which he'd accidentally forced out of her.

"What?" Hermione asked, not actually going for her wand, as she didn't understand his reasoning. She shelved that bit away. She could resist, waiting for explanation.

"I did it to you." Harry said. "You're saying we can protect each other this way, right?"

"I mean. Yes." Hermione said. "But I don't even know if I can." she added. "The casters' will supersedes that of the recipient." She refused to say 'victim'. She was not a victim.

"I order you to exert your own will." Harry said, easily.

The last vacancy left Hermione's eyes, as the spell was instantly broken. "Oh." she said. "That's how you break the spell."

"You're free?" Harry asked, sighing a sigh of relief.

Hermione got up from her chair, walked to him and started attacking him with slaps to the head, while he blocked as best he could. "I can't believe you had me show you that, and tell you that!" she complained.

"I'm sorry." Harry said, as he kept his hands over his head. She wasn't holding back, either.

She finally relented, before huffing and going back to her seat, mumbling something like, "I wasn't even wearing something flattering." Harry knew better than to respond to that.

Harry stayed quiet for a bit, while Hermione hid her face in a book. Finally, the silence was too much. "Are we okay?" he asked.

"No." Hermione said, still hiding her face. "You embarrassed me, and made me say something I didn't even know." she admitted. "I mean. I know I like you, but I didn't know I liked you like that. Not really." There was more silence, before she finally dropped the book, so he could see her. She had unshed tears in her eyes, but she seemed to be fighting letting them fall. "I mean, I have been seeing boys differently lately, and you and Ronald are the ones closest to me. I just didn't know, you know?"

Harry didn't know, but he suspected he understood. He'd noticed that Hermione was a girl, which was more than could be said for Ron. He'd also noticed that he liked her smile, and he liked being around her, but he didn't know what that meant. Until now, at least. Seeing her flashing him, had had a very natural reaction for him, and he was suddenly very aware of his burgeoning hormones.

She'd pulled the robe up until he could see her belly-button, and his mind was still on that fact. He wondered what it might feel like, if he put his finger in that belly-button.

"Harry?" Hermione asked, noticing a far-off look in his eye. When he came back to himself, he blushed. "What were you thinking about?" she asked, dangerously.

"Your belly-button." Harry said, honestly.

"Harry!" Hermione objected. Still, her tears stopped as she blushed again.

"Sorry." Harry said, trying for a casual shrug, but failing miserably.

"Keep your mind off my body, or I swear, I'll learn how to obliviate, and wipe your memories." Hermione threatened.

Harry shuddered as he thought of Lockhart. "I'll be good." he promised.

After the last bit of conversation, the raised emotions seemed to settle some, and Hermione finally went back to her homework, after reading over the Imperius again. She wanted to add some notes, now, but suspected that that would be a bad idea. Still, she made a mental note to consider what she had learned.

Also, Harry hadn't run away, when she admitted to liking him. He seemed to be the same Harry, even though now he seemed to have a couple of thoughts about her, that she would never admit she liked him having. It seemed her poor choice in underwear wasn't the thing that caught his attention. Was there such a thing as an attractive belly-button?

And so, the days moved on. It was only a few days later, the night before their next defence class, when Hermione purposefully put off finishing some homework. Ron, having stuffed himself for dinner, had gone to bed earlier, and Hermione had taken that moment to 'remember' the homework. Harry had considered going to wake Ron, but he'd likely just copy from Hermione in the morning, like he tended to do sometimes.

They were still in the common room, when it emptied. Hermione, who'd sped through the homework, slid her parchment across the table, so Harry could more easily copy. He'd been copying anyway, but he was trying to hide that he was doing it. He smiled a rueful smile at her, and nodded in thanks, as he started reading it more easily, so that he could use his own words and sentence order.

"Harry?" Hermione asked.

"Yeah." Harry said.

"Can we… try that spell again?" she asked.

"I think you've got the charms homework down, Hermione." Harry said easily. Seriously, she was probably a prodigy, with how quickly she got the spells they were learning down.

"No, I meant the one from the other day." Hermione said.

Harry's hand stopped, before he looked up at her. "What spell?" he asked, slowly.

"You know exactly what I mean." Hermione said. Harry made to object. "Listen, we've got class tomorrow, and Professor Moody said we'd be practicing resisting the spell. I don't like having him in my head, so I want to go protected, but before we do that, I need to know how this works, and test a few things."

"Hermione, I don't think that's a good idea." Harry said. "If we're caught, even with your permission, I could be expelled, or sent to prison. Even with a flimsy excuse, like doing the homework."

"I've thought about it." Hermione countered. "As long as we preface it as practice for class, and with a list of questions and commands prepared, it should be fine."

"Not if someone catches us." Harry insisted.

"The first command will be to be myself." Hermione said. "Nobody will know, because I'll act like myself, and we're not doing anything wrong, besides practice for class, anyway." Harry made to object again, but Hermione was prepared. "If we can master this, we can both be protected from one of the unforgivables for life." she said.

That had him stop. It was true that they'd inadvertently discovered a way to block one of the unforgivables, but it was illegal. Still, if nobody found out, who's to say it's illegal. With the Triwizard at Hogwarts, that Veela girl from Beauxbatons, and crazed witches and wizards after Crum, emotions were running a bit high. He understood her caution.

"Fine, but I want to be put under, too." Harry said. He'd heard a few stories about love potions being sold in Hogsmeade, and suspected the added protection of something like this would likely also be a good idea.

"Are you sure?" Hermione asked, suddenly not so certain. Having Harry cast it was one thing. Casting it herself, however…

"I trust you, Hermione." Harry said, simply.

"Um… Okay, then." she said, both touched and slightly afraid. The risk on this thing had just gone up. She hoped she was strong enough, to stop Moody from commanding Harry, but hopefully he wasn't using his full strength. Somehow, she doubted he'd be using full power on the students, but Harry…

Harry nodded and took out his wand.

"Wait." Hermione said, as she fished out a note she'd put together. "These are the commands I want you to give me." she said, handing it to him.

Harry took the paper and read the words. "Oh, that's clever." he said, nodding.

"Thank you." Hermione said, smiling. She'd had a couple of ideas, and suspected he'd approve.

"Imperio." Harry said, without waiting. He wanted these protections himself.

Hermione's eyes went blank, as she stood there.

"I order you to be yourself." he said.

Hermione's sigh of relief was audible, and she sent him an apologetic smile. She'd wondered if he would order her to do other things first. She'd hoped he wouldn't, but after he'd done it once before, she was justifiably anxious.

"I order you to exert your will, when you feel the need to free yourself from the spell." Harry's second command read. Hermione nodded. "I order you to not tell anyone, outside of us, that you are under a spell."

"Okay." Hermione said, about to reach for the paper.

"I order you to resist any other compulsions or emotions that are unnaturally applied to you." Harry continued. Hermione would have objected, but realised he was just adding a protection he wanted for himself. Nodding she took the paper from him.

Still, Harry had to be sure it worked. "Show me your pants." he commanded.

She looked at him for a moment, before she smirked, reached into a pocket and pulled out the very pair he'd seen before. "I'm not falling for that again." she said.

"Oh, that's smart." Harry said, considering if he should do the same.

"Imperio." Hermione said.

Pretty soon, he was under all the same orders as he'd put on her. "Show me your pants." she said, smirking. Turnaround was fair play, after all.

Harry smirked, lifted his robe and pointed to his trousers. "Nice try." he said.

"Show me your underwear." Hermione corrected.

Harry's hands instantly started working on loosening his belt.

"I'm sorry." Hermione said, shaking her head, even as she blushed. "You don't have to." She wasn't capable of following through with that one. So, it came as a shock when he still dropped his trousers and showed her his, slightly too big, boxers.

"It's only fair." Harry said, smiling at her through his own blush. "Sorry it's not something special. I don't really have a choice in the clothing department."

Hermione's eyes had still locked onto the garment, knowing that there was just a thin layer between her eyes and his downstairs. It had much the same reaction in her, as her situation had had on him. She blushed more furiously, until he pulled his shirt up, showing his own belly-button.

"Even?" Harry asked.

Hermione turned around, as she suddenly felt faint. Too much blood in her face and not in her brain.

"Even." she finally squeaked.

Harry smirked and fixed his clothes, before sitting back down, to continue the homework. "So, what now?" he asked.

Hermione had to take a moment to compose herself, before she could join him. "Now, we're each other's protectors."

"Or jailors." Harry said.

"Well, only kind of." Hermione said. "We're ourselves, so we've got autonomy, but we're also bound by commands. We'll need to be careful with phrasing for a bit. Maybe an order to only accept orders, when we say the word 'order'?"

"That makes sense." Harry said. "I order you to only consider orders that use the word 'order', an order." he said, easily.

Hermione giggled at the convoluted sentence, before repeating it. "There. That should cover us." she added.

"Show me your pants." Harry said, again. Hermione rolled her eyes and did nothing. "Cool." he said.

"There's still a chance for abuse." Hermione warned.

"Oh?" Harry asked, looking up.

"We'll have to test it." Hermione said. "My favourite colour, is green." she said. "Now, I order you to forget my favourite colour."

"But you just told me it's green." Harry said, realising what she was trying. It didn't seem like she could use the imperius to make him forget.

"How about… I order you to hate Ronald." Hermione tried.

"Never liked him to begin with." Harry said. It wasn't difficult to follow that order. Ron had been a right pillock, once he was chosen.

"Did that work?" she asked.

"I don't know." Harry admitted. She knew why he could accept that easily. "I order you to hate Ron."

Hermione's mind was suddenly filled with all the times he'd blatantly used her for her intelligence. Homework, and studies. All the times he was insensitive and hateful. Cruel and careless. "Never liked him to begin with." she said, easily, repeating Harry's words.

"So, did it work?" Harry asked back.

"I didn't hate him before, but I know I shouldn't like him, for how he treats me and others." Hermione said. "Still, it would probably be best if we reversed that one."

They did.

"Still." Harry said. "He's got a lot to make up for. He didn't believe me until that dragon almost killed me."

"To be frank, I don't know if I want to be friends with him anymore." Hermione said. Harry raised an eyebrow, in question. "He was your friend, and you were my friend. I only tolerated him because you were my first friend."

"He did stop that troll." Harry pointed out.

"Only after you dragged him along." Hermione pointed out. "Also, if all the homework he's copied off me didn't make up for some of that, I don't want to think about what would. He'd still be a first year if it wasn't for us pushing for him to study."

"I don't think he'd be a first year." Harry countered. "He may not say it all the time, but he is a pureblood, and besides that, if we weren't his friends, he'd have needed to study with whatever other friends he made." Hermione had to concede that point, and nodded. "He'd not be doing nearly as well, though." Harry added, and she smiled at him.

They sat in silence for a bit, and Harry continued reading and considering her homework, before using his own words to state similar things, adding little snippets he remembered from class that he thought were more apt for the answers. He was nowhere near as quick as Hermione, but he wasn't stupid.

"What about us?" Hermione finally asked.

"Us?" Harry asked, not breaking his stride.

"You know." Hermione said. "What I said."

Harry knew what she meant. It had been on his mind for a bit, now. Sure, he had had a thing for Cho, but her having said what she did, and the thoughts he'd been having about Hermione of late, had changed his priorities a bit. "You want to be a thing?" he asked, not looking up. He was not writing anymore, but he acted like he was re-reading some of what he'd written.

"Are you asking me to be your girlfriend?" Hermione asked, not knowing where she'd gotten the courage to ask him that without her voice squeaking.

"I am." Harry said. He wondered why it was so easy to say, all of a sudden. Was it the influence of the spell?

"Harry, what's happening?" she asked, having had similar thoughts.

"I'm thinking the spell is affecting us." Harry said. "I'm feeling way too calm about this."

"Professor Moody said that that was part of it." Hermione allowed.

"Is it bad, though?" Harry asked, considering it, as he sat upright, frowning. He was feeling way too calm.

"I don't know." Hermione said. "Should we break the spell?" she asked.

Harry considered it. "No." he finally said. "I want to see where this takes us. I've been a mess this year. Fleur was turning my head, and I've been feeling things I didn't want. Jealousy, anger… some other things I'd rather not discuss." he said, as he thought of Hermione's belly-button again. He still blushed at that. "Why can I still blush?" he asked, as his emotions came through fully at that thought.

"Maybe because it's me, who cast the spell?" Hermione asked. She'd definitely like to figure that one out, too. She wasn't complaining. Harry knew her, and she trusted him. If she could feel less around other people, she may even stop feeling jealous and angry and frustrated herself. "I'll try it, too. Let's see where this goes."

Harry nodded, and finally finished up his own assignment, before handing it to Hermione to read over.

"This is good work." Hermione said, smiling just for him. Then she frowned. "And that was much quicker than normal." she added.

"The perks just keep on coming." Harry said, as he stood up and stretched out. "Time for bed."

"Wait, shouldn't we reconsider this?" Hermione asked, looking at his homework again. The beginning part was less neat, and he'd shown signs of struggling with the content, but then, just after the spell, things just seemed to flow from him. Was the magic affecting their minds anyway? This could be very bad, or something people noticed. They could still be showing signs of being under a spell.

"I think I see what you mean." Harry said, from right next to her ear. He was reading his own homework over, and noting much the same things. "I'll need to rewrite that. Tomorrow, though. I'm knackered."

Hermione would have objected, but decided to let it go for now with one warning. "If people look at you funny, break the spell." she insisted. She didn't order it, because she knew people would always look at him funny.

"More than usual." Harry said, making her think he'd been having the same thoughts. "For now, I order you to kiss me goodnight."

Hermione didn't know what to do about that. She blushed, even as she gave in to the compulsion and closed the distance, having stood up immediately to do as commanded. Just before she could embrace him, he pulled back. "But only if you want to." he added.

"Shut up and kiss me." Hermione said, putting her arms around him and kissing him softly, on the lips. There was a spark, there. They both felt it. The kiss lingered and Harry's arms had enfolded her, too. His one hand moved around her side and his thumb went to her belly-button. Before he could feel anything, she pulled away and moved his hand away. "I don't know what it is with you and my belly-button." she said, even as she smiled.

"I don't either." Harry admitted. "I just want to touch it."

"Well, then. I'll have to make it a reward for something." Hermione decided. That should be incentive for her new boyfriend, even if it was something she considered weird. That thought suddenly had a much harder impact. She had a boyfriend. "Boyfriend." she said, a soft smile lighting up her face.

"Girlfriend." Harry said, smiling at her, as well, before closing the distance and kissing her again. She allowed it, because, in the moment, it just felt right. When she felt his hand going down her back to her rear, she decided she'd like some of that action, too, and when his hands enfolded her rear, so did hers, with his. She liked what she felt, and it seemed Harry was enjoying it, too, since he squeezed her rear, and she realised with shock, that she felt something hard pop up between their bodies.

"Is that?" she asked, her voice suddenly not as steady as she'd like.

"You know, that's not fair." Harry said, as he blushed, and moved away from her. "I have something you can see and feel reacting, when I'm feeling… things, but you don't."

Hermione was blushing, as she said, "I have something similar, but I don't think I'm ready to show you."

Harry suspected he knew what she was talking about, and his eyes involuntarily shot down to see if he could see her reaction, but her robes did not show a thing. "Unfair." Harry repeated.

Hermione seemed to consider it, before relenting. "Close your eyes." she said. It was not an order, but Harry complied.

He heard the movement of fabric, before her hand took his and moved it forward. Then he felt it. His hand was obviously on her chest, still over clothing, but there was definitely something warm and soft in his hand. He could feel something small, but firm, with a softness he longed to explore, and a peak of something beneath his palm. He moved his hand, squeezing softly. He did not expect the low moan from Hermione, just as it seemed she was embarrassed by it, as she quickly pushed his hand away. He did not open his eyes, as he flexed his hand, trying to memorise that feeling.

Still, it was a temptation. He wished to explore more, but he realised that this was still the beginning of something.

"If you try and order me for more of that, you can consider this over, before it's begun." Hermione said sternly, as she watched the emotions on his face.

Harry finally opened his eyes, a small smile on his face. "While I'll admit that it is tempting, I wouldn't do that to you, Hermione." he said, seriously.

"I'm not saying never." Hermione said, a small impish smile on her face. "Just… not yet." The idea of him ordering her to allow him to touch her, was having more of an effect on her, but she'd never admit it. This… thing that they were doing, was definitely awakening emotions in her she didn't even know she had. Also, she'd felt enough of him, to know she wanted to feel more. That's why she'd thought it was only fair to return the favour. They should be equals, considering their new partnership.

"Goodnight, my Hermione." Harry said, smiling after her.

"Goodnight… my Harry." Hermione said, as she started up the staircase. She got an impish smile on her lips, before turning around. "Harry?" she called softly, and he turned around to look at her. She smirked at him and lifted her robes. This time, she was wearing black undies, but she also lifted the robe high enough, so he could see her belly-button again. Then she dropped the robes and about-faced, a blush blossoming on her face again.

The ball had finally come, and Harry had obviously asked Hermione to be his date. They had partnered up for dance-lessons, and Hermione, not wanting him to embarrass himself, had insisted on more dance lessons. She'd even ordered him. This was a new development. Whenever they wanted to do something they considered a chore, they'd ask the other to just order them to do it, and they wouldn't resist the compulsion to instantly follow the order.

That had grown into a routine of sorts. Every day they would consider priorities, and would then 'encourage' the other to do as they should. Study time was Hermione's job. Harry drew her out to do more physical activities. Flying a broom had long been one of her weak points. Not anymore. These days, they could both be found enjoying a flight. Sometimes she'd be on his broom, while he rode a school broom, or one borrowed from a friend, and sometimes it was the other way around. Sharing a broom was apparently against school rules, but Harry had convinced her to break the rule one time. They didn't do it again, as the close proximity made them both very aware of why that rule existed.

Still, a bit of physical training, some jogging and even a bit of magical and mundane sparring, 'encouraged' of course, was starting to have an effect on their performance in most other parts of their lives. Healthy body, healthy mind, healthy spirit. That saying seemed to hold true. With routine and a schedule worked out, things were progressing for them.

When Harry had been asked to dance with a few extra ladies, and he'd shown them both skill and stamina, more ladies started looking in his direction. It was as Fleur decided to take him for a dance, her own partner looking good, but actually being good for nothing but drooling, that Harry decided he'd rather be a more attentive date, and went to join Hermione, where she was chatting with Victor.

"How are you enjoying the evening?" he asked, as he put an arm around Hermione.

"I'm sorry about disappearing on you." Hermione said. "Victor was telling me about Durmstrang and the countries he's played in."

"It's not a problem." Harry said easily. "The dance practice we did has been drawing a crowd. I had to decline a dance with Fleur, and she seemed… rather put out."

"I doubt many people ever deny her." Hermione said.

"How you do that?" Victor asked. "She is Veela. I could not resist, if she focussed on me."

"That's a bit of a secret." Harry smiled at the older boy. "How's the prep for the second task coming?" he asked.

"Good." Victor said, not giving anything away. "You?" he asked.

"I wasn't smart enough to figure the egg out." Harry admitted. "My lovely and brilliant girlfriend, on the other hand, had it figured out in a day."

Victor frowned at that. "You are meant to work on clues on your own." he objected.

"I never wanted to be in the tournament." Harry corrected. "I'm not as trained, nor as skilled as the rest of you. Hermione is my better half, in more ways than one. Without her, I'd stand no chance."

"It's not breaking the rules." Hermione said. "He's not allowed help from the staff, but if he wanted to, he could get the whole student body involved."

"Fat chance." Harry said. The school was still largely divided. Gryffindor seemed to have come around, though, but most of the other houses considered him a cheat.

"It's bad?" Victor asked. He'd heard about that. He'd seen the pins in support of Cedric, and had seen the way some people looked at Harry.

"I don't really care." Harry admitted. "They can cheer or jeer, as they see fit. The only person who matters in all this is this beautiful young lady." he said squeezing Hermione lightly to him.

"Flatterer." Hermione said, sending him a shy smile. "You're just hoping for a kiss before bed tonight." she said. Normally, she'd be too shy to say things like this in front of others, but they'd figured that out, pretty quickly. It seemed that, since they had cast the spells on each other, those outside the magic was just background to them. They still pursued their own passions, chatted and laughed with others, but nothing outside of each other really mattered to them anymore. It was both a perk and a drawback. The positives outweighed the negatives, though.

"Maybe." Harry admitted.

"You are a lucky man, Harry." Victor said. "This one is smart and beautiful. And strong. I've seen you training. It's not often you find a woman with all that."

"We only started training this year." Hermione said, not affected by the flattery in the least. Only when Harry said these things, would it even matter to her. She simply read his statements as observations of opinion, and let it go. "It was hard to start, but I'm getting into it. I needed to owl-order some sporting goods, though. My parents were shocked to say the least."

"She'd never been the active type." Harry said. "Liked to see me bumbling about on a broom on occasion, but she did that mostly to support and protect me."

"Protect?" Victor asked.

"First year, a professor spelled his broom and tried to kill him." Hermione said.

"What?" Victor asked.

"Don't worry. I killed him." Harry said easily.

"Killed?" Victor asked. He'd not heard about this. The Harry Potter had just admitted to murder.

"He was being possessed by Voldemort." Hermione said, nodding. "Technically, Harry didn't kill him, as much as defend himself, and the professor died in the aftermath."

"Why does nobody know?" Victor asked, shocked.

"Probably for the same reason you don't know about me killing a basilisk, stopping a girl being used to resurrect Voldemort and helping Sirius Black, my godfather, escape the kiss." Victor's face lost some colour at that. "He is innocent, by the way. The ministry screwed up, caught the wrong man, and sent him to Azkaban without a trial."

"Why are you telling me this?" Victor asked.

"For the same reason we've been telling anyone who asks." Hermione said. "Nobody will believe you, and we're not opposed to telling the truth."

"They've been hailing me as a hero one moment and calling me a liar and a cheat the other, since I came here." Harry agreed. "So, this year, after they pushed me too far, I've decided I don't care anymore. The next time a dark lord shows up, they can sort it out themselves. I've done it three times now, and I've still not been given a lick of respect."

"You vill abandon vizarding vorld?" Victor asked.

"I never said that." Harry said. "I just don't care enough to go looking." he added. "If someone brings the fight to me, I'll defend myself as I always have, and if they come after Hermione, I'll straight up kill them. Besides that, they're on their own. After school, I'm thinking we move to South America, or something. Hermione is brilliant enough to work anywhere. She's been trying to convince me to study curse-breaking. Exploring ancient labyrinths and finding lost treasures does sound like fun, though."

"It's for that incurable sense of adventure of yours." Hermione said. "We could make a great team. I bring the brains, you bring the power." She turned to Victor. "The ancient Incans had some interesting ideas about the origins of magic. I'd like to see some of that myself."

Victor looked between the two of them. There was something very off about these two. He didn't know what, but they seemed… too casual about things. Like the world couldn't touch them. They seemed to be the embodiment of the term, Power Couple. "You two are strange." he finally said.

Harry smirked. "Yes, we are." he said. Hermione just smiled and shook her head at him.

Victor soon extracted himself from the situation, to go speak to his own date.

When the party came to an end, they'd seen a couple of interesting things. Rita Skeeter was in a jar, Ron had realised Hermione was a girl, and somehow that pissed him off, and Fleur had stared daggers at Hermione, for Harry choosing Hermione over herself. But, like with most things these days, they couldn't care less. For them, the world had become a rosy place. There was the constant calm they found themselves in, and then the bit of work that seemed like trivial effort to them now.

The rest of the time, they just enjoyed each other's company, and chatted about whatever suited them. School work was easy, when you didn't stress, or procrastinate. Studying was a breeze, for that same reason. Their partnership was always at the forefront, and Harry had even started studying some of Hermione's extra subjects, because he just wanted to spend time with her. It even seemed like he had an aptitude for runes, which had encouraged Hermione to get him to enrol for the actual class. He was catching up quickly, too. With her help, of course.

As they walked back to the common room after the ball, Harry had a spark of an idea. He called for Dobby, who always seemed to be around, when he spoke of him, so he suspected he was still keeping an eye on him. Asking for a bit of privacy, had the little elf take them to a room neither of them had seen before. It was the Room of Requirement. When the door opened, there was a well-appointed bedroom, with a large hearth, and a comfortable-looking bed.

Hermione was still blushing at what she'd accidentally summoned. It seemed her mind had wandered again. She doubted she was ready to have Harry bed her, but a little kissing and maybe fooling around sounded like just the ticket. After the wonderful evening, with music and dancing and sparkling conversation, and discussions of the future, she felt ready to take things a step further.

The day of the Second task, found Harry frantically searching for Hermione. They'd discussed what the treasure might be, but he had a sinking suspicion he knew what they'd decided on taking. They'd kidnapped her. His normally calm emotions, had started rebelling, and he needed to soothe himself, or possibly break through the spell, something he did not want to do. Even now, she was with him, and she could only help him, if he kept his calm.

That's why, when the cannon went off early, Harry didn't hesitate to drop into the water, and cast the bubble-head charm. Long hours spent learning to perfect the summoning charm had paid off. He pointed his wand and summoned the far side of the lake. Since he couldn't move the lake's bank to him, the magic brought him to the other side, instead. The sheer pressure of the movement, propelled him through the water almost blindly, and he needed to stop the charm, just so he could see where he was.

He performed the action two more times, before he saw the mermaid village. He didn't care that he was covered in some weeds, nor the grindylow, happily chewing on his right calf, nor did he care that he'd lost his bathing suit. All he cared about, was the girl he saw in the distance, floating in the water, connected to a rope. He summoned for the rope, but it must have been charmed against that. He then summoned for whatever it was tethered to. That worked.

Harry was pulled to the base of a large rock, where the ropes seemed to be tied down to metallic hooks. Harry spared the merfolk with spears only one glance, as he pulled out a knife and cut the rope. He pulled Hermione down as he swam up and once he had her, he summoned the far side of the lake again. He didn't intend to go back to the pier, where hundreds of witches and wizards were waiting. Hermione would be able to transfigure him something with his wand, and they would take a jog, back to the Castle.

Hermione woke up the moment they exited the water, and she turned out to have her own wand, so she quickly, and with a blush, made him some new trunks, and a shirt. A couple of comfort charms for heat, and they made their way back to the castle, avoiding everyone's notice. Hermione had found and removed a tracking charm from the knife Harry had been gifted by Hagrid during Christmas, so not even Dumbledore was aware of where Harry was. Harry didn't know he'd tagged his swimming trunks.

It was only a couple of hours later, that someone returned to the Gryffindor common room. Their shock at finding Harry and Hermione calmly sitting by the fire, reading ahead for their classes, was very audible. Apparently, they'd found Harry's swimming trunks and detected his blood, near where the grindylow made their home, in the weeds. When they couldn't find him, it was feared that he'd died, and been eaten.

Harry took the news with calm detachment, nodded, and continued reading. Hermione just rolled her eyes and scooted in closer to him, reading her own book.

This was apparently not acceptable behaviour. Who knew?

When Dumbledore summoned them to his office, to get some answers, they both showed up. Harry had wanted to skip it. Apparently, since he was exempt from things like exams and detention, considering he had to take part in the tournament against his will, or he'd lose his magic, he'd decided that he could ignore the summons. Hermione, on the other hand, couldn't do that, and he'd not send her into that situation on her own.

"Why did you do that, Harry?" was about the sum of what Dumbledore had to ask.

"Why not?" Harry asked.

"You were meant to bring your hostage back to the pier." Dumbledore said.

"No." Harry said. "The riddle told me I have one hour to search for my treasure, or it would be lost. I could, for example, choose to lose the treasure, but you decided that a human life was worth the gamble. Then, once I found my treasure, the riddle never said I had to present it to the world. Did you even check on her?" he asked. If they thought he had died, what about her? Didn't they even check? That didn't make any sense. The other champions would have seen one was already gone, or should have, and the headmaster certainly knew the merfolk.

"We did check on Miss Granger." Dumbledore said. "Her life was never in danger."

"That's not what the riddle said." Harry said. "The riddle told me it would be lost, so it promised murder."

"Harry!" Dumbledore objected. "Do you really think I'd allow such a thing?"

"You allowed me to enter this tournament, knowing full well that I didn't enter it willingly." Harry said.

"The magical contract-" Dumbledore tried.

"Is bound to the cup." Hermione shocked him by saying. "You could have destroyed the cup. But it's worth more that Harry's life, to you."

"We don't know what breaking it would do to those who were chosen." Dumbledore said, reasonably, he thought.

"Even better." Harry said. "You used an artifact you don't fully understand to enforce the rules and force participation of an unwilling ineligible minor."

Dumbledor stared at him. "What's happened to you?" he asked, as he reached for his wand. Harry had changed. Harry saw the movement, and decided it was time to break the spell. They'd done it a few times, to ensure it wouldn't be noticeable.

He allowed the old man to raise his wand, but Hermione brought her own up and cast a shield.

"Miss Granger?" Dumbledore asked.

"We don't know what you are about to cast, or if you're being compelled to cast something we don't want." she said.

"I'm just casting a detection spell." Dumbledore assured her.

"Could we ask that Madam Pomphrey perform the spell?" she countered. "She is the one trained and qualified for such things."

"I agree." Harry said.

"I assure you that I know what I'm doing." Dumbledore said.

"Except, your actions of late have proven that to be a complete lie." Harry said, evenly.

"By the bylaws and charter of the school, Harry is allowed to choose who treats him for any possible ailment, be it magical or mundane." Hermione said. "It is also highly irregular for the headmaster to choose to do so behind closed doors with only two minors in attendance. Madam Pomphrey also has a healers' oath of secrecy, which protects Harry's privacy."

"Why are you pushing for this?" Dumbledore asked, almost pleaded. He was just trying to help the boy, who was obviously being manipulated somehow. He was starting to wonder if Miss Granger was either the cause, or perhaps the one to bring this change on. He'd have to step in, if that was the case.

He must have been looking at Hermione too long, because Harry pulled his wand and pointed it straight at Dumbledore's desk. "If you even think of casting a spell at her, I'm defending her using any means necessary. I may not be able to beat you in a magical duel, but I can sure as hell cast a bombarda maxima at your desk, or the floor, and cover her from the shrapnel."

"What?" Dumbledore asked. That was definitely not something the Harry he knew would do or say. The threat was ruthless, and while he could protect himself from something like that, he'd worry for the boy's safety. He likely knew this, by the look in his eye. Strangely that was actually more in character for him. He'd sacrifice himself for his friend. Still. "Why are you doing this, Harry? What's been going on with you?"

"I've found enlightenment." Harry said

"Please explain." Dumbledore asked, putting his wand down and scooting it forward, before sitting back, the wand now out of easy reach. Harry and Hermione lowered their wands and the shield dropped as Harry looked at Hermione, who shrugged.

"You tell him." Harry decided. His calm was gone. He couldn't handle the thoughts without getting emotional.

"You see, headmaster, when we realised that there was nobody in this whole world who wouldn't turn against him, we started looking into how to protect ourselves." Hermione started. "Harry has stopped Voldemort three times now. He can even remember his mother's dying scream and the words of the dark lord on the night he lost his parents. For all he's done, he's only received the wizarding world's scorn and hatred, when it suits them.

"It is the nature of celebrity, sure." she continued. "People love to see heroes only a little less than they love to see them fall. To humanise them. Still, you say you wish to protect him? The Supreme Mugwump. The Chief Warlock. You, who holds all the power, couldn't even arrange a trial for the only person who actually still cares for him."

"I cannot go against the ministry." Dumbledore said. "You are young. You do not understand the intricacies of diplomacy or politics."

"So, a single sentence from you, with all the Wizengamot present, couldn't bring into question the fact that Sirius Black, the last son of a Noble pureblood family, was never afforded a trial?" Hermione asked.

"It's not that simple." Dumbledore said.

"I tell you what." Harry interrupted. "I'll send an owl to the Daily Prophet, asking for an interview. In that meeting, we'll discuss everything from basilisks, to sentient diaries and the fact that Voldemort's spirit is still out there. When I mention some facts I can prove, either using memories, or veritaserum, which I will take gladly, people will start to wonder, if I'm actually telling the whole truth about everything."

"Simple really." Hermione said, nodding, and throwing the headmaster's words back in his teeth.

"You cannot do that." Dumbledore said. "There will be panic in the streets. People will be hurt."

"Well, if they don't know to prepare for his eventual return, more people will die." Harry said, easily. "I'm no seer, but even I can see the writing on the wall. He's come for me twice in the last three years. He's not going to stop until I'm dead, or he's completely back. Probably both."

Dumbledore had never seen this part of the young man. He was so casual about all this. "We cannot start a panic. The dark lord-"

"Can only come back, if people who know he's still out there, don't stop him." Harry said easily.

"Evil only flourishes, when good men do nothing." Hermione said.

"Anyway." Harry said. "Was there something else?" he asked. "I've got a letter to write."

"I can't let you do that." Dumbledore said.

"If you intend to wipe our memories, you should know that we've already taken copies of our memories and placed them in a secure location, with instructions to release them to certain people, should anything happen to us." Hermione stated, as she looked between Dumbledore and the wand on his table, daring him to take the wand, to test her resolve. Fortunately, they'd already planned that far, when they started their planned emancipation from the British wizarding world.

"You'd start another war." Dumbledore said.

"We don't want to start a war." Harry said, his temper rising. "We just want to see justice done. You are hiding behind convenient excuses, when you know full well that there are many options to help either me, or my godfather. You are hiding things. Things that would help. Things that might help people prepare."

Harry narrowed his eyes at the man. "That's why I'm planning on leaving the wizarding world in whatever hole it digs for itself. When he comes back, don't come asking for my help, because I've saved you for the last time."

He stepped behind Hermione and led her from the office, covering her back. Should anything happen, at least he knew she'd be okay.

Dumbledore sat there, not knowing what would happen, should he try and press his luck. Unfortunately, he knew that the world would turn against him, should everything those two young people knew, somehow get out. They'd planned for him, and they'd protected themselves from him, like he was some sort of dark lord.

On it's perch not far away, Fawkes started making a sound Dumbledore knew was laughter.

"I'm not the monster those two make me out to be." Dumbledore defended himself.

The bird stopped laughing and just stared at him.

"I'm trying to protect people." Dumbledore continued. "Sirius does not have the capacity, nor the maturity to keep Harry safe."

The bird still stared at him.

Dumbledore knew what the bird was thinking. Harry had a right to his godfather, and he did have the means to see to his release. If for nothing else, than to try and mend some fences, he'd better get started on that, or the boy's current attitude would remain the prevailing one. He could not afford to lose Harry. The world couldn't afford him to turn his back on them. At least with Sirius in harm's way, Harry would be more willing to fight for them.

Harry and Hermione had decided to retreat to the Room of Requirement. It was not uncommon for them to spend at least some time there, on a weekly basis. They'd enjoyed a swim, in a swimming pool, and other activities, from ice-skating, to watching a movie Hermione knew. The room's capabilities were astounding, and didn't seem to be set in stone. It could take from their imagination, and produce pretty much anything.

Knowing this, and following the bedroom situation, they had stuck to fairly simple, and more public dates. The people were all fabrications of the room, but it stopped them from going overboard, like that first night. They'd both been tempted, but had withheld from doing anything they might regret later.

The main purpose they used the room for, was to break and re-apply the spell. Hermione was worried that staying in a form of magical mind-control was probably not doing them any favours, emotionally. They'd already become unnaturally bonded with one another, in a very short amount of time. She wanted to be sure of her feelings, and decided that the moment they had privacy, especially in the room, they'd break the spell for however long they could, so that they could give themselves a break.

Forcing oneself to constantly work, and study, with no release from the constraints they'd forced upon themselves, might end up causing more issues for them.

The idea of a pensieve, was something she'd read about. The room had been more than capable of producing one for them, though, and their plans had grown from there. They'd shared some memories with one another, mostly for Hermione's benefit. She'd not been there at the end of two of his adventures, and had wanted to see what had really happened.

As for the memories they'd stored away, Gringotts had been more than willing to hold on to them, with an agreement in place and a strict form of security they had agreed on. For a price, of course.

Life from there went on. Harry did homework, even though he was technically exempt. Hermione had insisted, in fact. Just because he could skip studying, didn't mean he didn't take value from the lessons. He didn't want to be behind the rest of the class the next year either.

So, for the next week, things calmed down. Harry received average points for his performance in the second task. He may have been there first, but refusing to show up was apparently what dragged his points down. Hermione had convinced him to tell the story of how he'd lost his swimming trunks, and lied a little by saying he was too embarrassed to show up, afterward. This had a lot of their schoolmates laugh and mock playfully. Hermione had blushed, when she admitted to having made him replacements. A few girls wanted more details, but she'd ignored those requests. By this point, everyone knew they were together, so the girls just thought she was being possessive, and more rumours started spreading between the girls that Harry was… gifted.

But such was the rumour mill in Hogwarts, and frankly, they expected nothing less. They'd not be surprised if someone started a rumour of what they did when they disappeared, but they would meet that rumour with the same amount of disinterest they did with most others. Frankly, their non-reactions were actually helping break those rumours. Surely, if they were true, the couple would react differently. Denial and anger, for example. But for them to not even care, those rumours must be false.

The pair went back to studying, and true to her nature, Hermione convinced Harry to do a little more prep than was necessary. He'd not change her for the world, though, and his understanding of their school material was already much better, than before they had started their current actions. He'd even started catching up with her in the subjects he'd started only that year. The calm disconnect Harry felt, had done wonders for his concentration. Hermione had noted a similar change in her own studies, and her already impressive memory turned near photographic.

Harry was still the better caster, with more power than she had. His almost innate ability to learn new spells, would have frustrated her, if she didn't actually encourage him to absorb more and more information, to increase his capabilities, and with their minds so focussed on the task, he'd actually finished his sixth-year charms and transfiguration practical exercises, having been able to skip much of the theory, thanks to his knack. He even had a specialized Transfiguration, which he and Hermione had spent a lot of time on, perfecting it.

When the time came for the third task, Hermione had even had enough time to develop a few charms of her own for him. Things he'd find dead useful. With a little help from his cloak, and a few midnight jaunts into the restricted section, of course.

It turned out that Harry would be the second to set out into the maze, after Cedric. He didn't really care about winning, but he did want to prove to himself that his efforts over the last year had been worth it. Hermione hadn't pushed for him to win, as much as for him to get through it safely, and he might just surprise her, by doing both, but he'd still be careful.

He went into the maze, with Moody pointing out a direction for him. Neither Harry nor Hermione could make sense of that. He'd been trying to blatantly help Harry, but their experience with previous Defence professors had formed a pattern, and they didn't trust him. It was why they'd started on the plan in the first place, after all. Besides Lupin, who was actually a family friend, and trusted, they didn't like the way the other two had meant him harm. Then again, that year had been the exception for Voldemort, too. Except for the whole Pettigrew incident.

Either way, the moment Harry was out of sight, he turned and followed a different path, using one of Hermione's new spells to figure out the direction he needed to go. He'd come across a few spell-effects, which he'd been able to bypass, by simply cutting through the hedge maze, and taking a different route.

Who knew a Lumos could be overpowered and focussed into a beam that could actually cut? He didn't. Hermione didn't either, but she'd figured it out. Simple, but deadly, was how she'd put it. She'd been unable to do it, since she lacked the power, but he'd been more than capable, and the hedge maze was not spelled to resist that kind of thing, since it had probably never been done before.

Hermione still experimented with that and had him try a few different things, so that she could make sure he didn't hurt himself, or an innocent bystander. That was the last thing they needed. If he hurt an innocent, it would likely be all over the front page of the Daily Prophet, by the next day.

So, he'd simply cast a detection spell, to confirm nobody was behind the hedge, and unleashed his second speciality spell, the laser cutter. He had something similar with water, and a combination of fire and air, but the last one worked best in close proximity. It did little more than what Hermione called a blowtorch. A very powerful blowtorch, to be sure, but it didn't have a lot of distance. Still, they'd been able to cut through steel with it, in a very short amount of time, faster even than the laser, but it still had that distance problem, and a laser worked best for the bushes he had merrily cut through.

It took him a while to bypass nearly everything. He happily cut an acromantula in half using the water variant of one of his new favourite cutting spells. Once again, the creature may be magic resistant, but by the time the water hit it, it was just fast-moving water. Fast enough, in fact, to cut through flesh in a split second. The spider didn't stand a chance, when the intense beam of water hit it. Well, he could have gone for the eyes, but Harry couldn't do that. Blinding a creature could be considered a worse torture than actually killing it.

The flobberworm, strangely, looked at Harry, and as if detecting it would die, it turned away and acted like it hadn't seen him.

Not too long after that, Harry came upon Fleur. She was struggling through some effect that was apparently blinding her. He smirked, cast a jelly-legs jinx, and moved on before she even knew she had company. That should make her take a bit longer.

It turned out that that was the worst of it. Harry soon saw the cup and ran to it. Before touching it, he stood there considering it. Hermione's command to be careful and be wary of traps, had him hesitate, just long enough to spot Cedric running towards him, followed closely by the hedge closing in on him. Harry banished him back into the hedge. Surely it wouldn't kill him? This was a school tournament, after all.

Then he considered the cup. This was the wizarding world. Many things didn't always make sense. Unfortunately, he didn't know all the spells he'd need to actually detect something wrong with the cup. He spent a good minute just staring at it, when he had an idea. He'd hide the cup, and go looking for a victim. No, that wasn't his style. He ended up transfiguring a stone into a Pitbull.

Harry had heard that Cedric had done a decent job with the dragon, doing that, so he'd practiced the skill. Being able to create a creature that would do exactly what you wanted, was a definite smart move for the true Hogwarts Champion. There were innumerable uses for such a thing, and he'd read somewhere that the Pitbull Terrier was the most dangerous domesticated dog you could own. Sure, he could have made a wolf, but having a Pitbull was more socially acceptable. You couldn't walk down the road with a wolf. You could with a Pitbull, though.

That didn't stop him from Transfiguring the dog from a large stone. The dog was almost as big as Fluffy had been. He wouldn't want to stand up to the thing, and honestly, if it had been the first challenge instead of the dragon, Harry may have just shit his pants. Especially since he made them mean. Loyal to him and Hermione, of course, but if anyone tried something, the dog would latch on and rip.

The dog he'd just created didn't even wait for an order, having been created with a mission. It latched onto the cup, and disappeared. It was meant to pick it up and put it down, but apparently, he'd never had a chance.

Then nothing.

"What now?" he asked of nobody. There was no answer. Huh.

See, that's why Hermione told him to be careful. The cup had just disappeared, and there wasn't any indication of where. The cup didn't even come back.

Oh well. So much for the tournament. Harry turned back, cut a new hole, on the far side of the hedge, exited and made the trek back to the front.

It took a few minutes, but when he strolled around the corner, Hermione was the first to him.

"What happened?" she asked.

"The cup was a dud." Harry said. "Socks picked it up and vanished."

"You used Socks?" Hermione asked. She contemplated that for a moment, before nodding. "Good idea."

"Potter!" Moody spat, as he reached them, having noticed Harry when he was halfway back, but he couldn't act on it, since he was still under cover. "What happened?" he asked, almost angrily.

"The cup disappeared." Harry said.

"Disappeared?" Moody asked. Shit. If he'd messed up the mission, the master was going to kill him. "What do you mean?"

"I'd like to know that, too." Dumbledore said, as he strolled up to them.

"I transfigured a dog and had it touch the cup." Harry said easily. "It disappeared."

"That doesn't make sense." Dumbledore said. "It was meant to appear at the entrance to the maze." Why did these things keep on happening?

"Portkey." Hermione said, nodding. Only the headmaster could make those in Hogwarts. "Good thing Harry didn't trust it, then." she added, just a little smugly, as she smirked at the headmaster.

"It was meant to be safe." Dumbledore said. "Someone must have added a different location." he said thoughtfully. "Maybe it was a prank?" he offered. Not even he believed it. No prankster currently in attendance could do such a thing. It had to have been someone from outside, but the school was on high alert, with so many influential people attending.

"Nice try." Harry said. "Knowing my luck, it was just another attempt to attack me. There's at least one of those a year, in this school."

He'd said it on purpose, because a few reporters had joined them. His words had the desired effect of having all who heard it, start to write furiously.

Dumbledore noted that, too. "Ah, er. It's probably best if I spoke to you about this in private." he said, as he made to block Harry from view.

"Let me." Moody said, as he moved in and took Harry's arm. "I'll take him inside and find out what exactly happened."

Dumbledore was grateful that his old friend was there. He'd understand. He nodded at the retired auror, who started steering Harry away from the reporters, even though they were right in front of the entire assembly of watching spectators.

Harry didn't like where this was going. He'd avoided being alone with the man, since Hermione convinced him that there was likely something wrong with the him. He yanked his arm from the man's grip, and said, "I'd prefer you leave me with Professor McGonagall." he said. "As my head of house, and someone I trust, I have the right to ask for her."

"Come now, boy." Moody said, reaching for his arm again, but Hermione pulled Harry away in time for him to miss.

That was about the time that something interesting happened. A huge dog appeared twenty feet from them, holding the cup.

"Socks!" Harry exclaimed happily, as he took the opportunity to go to his dog, with Hermione trying to hide her smile, as she was dragged along, arm-in-arm with him.

The appearance of the dog, with the cup had not gone unnoticed, but the crowd didn't know how to react. The band didn't start up, as it should at the appearance of the cup, and a few people noted that there seemed to be blood on it, as the dog let it fall to the ground.

"What happened, Socks?" Harry asked, as he stopped next to the dog. He'd seen the blood. He hoped it wasn't human.

"Harry, maybe it's not a good idea to be near that thing?" Dumbledore said, as he followed, but when the dog's head came up over Harry and growled at him, he took a step back and took out his wand.

"What are you talking about?" Harry asked.

"Socks is Harry's favourite Transfiguration." Hermione said. She looked back up at the dog. "And he's such a good boy!" she added, as she reached up. The dog lowered its head, so that she could scratch it behind the ear.

"What happened, Socks?" Harry asked again, when he noted a few deep gashes in the dog's head. The dog just whined pitifully, as it looked down. "Did you eat something bad again?" Harry asked, sternly. The dog refused to make eye-contact. "Spit it up." he commanded.

The dog just whined a bit more, before it lay down on the ground and started heaving. There was a sound of something coming up, quite a disgusting sound, really, and the next moment, a human body, missing both arms and one leg, was expelled onto the ground. Well, technically the arms and leg were there, but they weren't attached to the body. The crowd screamed. The reporters, on the other hand, started snapping pictures, gleeful looks on their faces. Harry Potter had just killed a man.

Harry lost some colour. Would that be considered his fault?

"Harry!" Hermione exclaimed. "It's Pettigrew!"

Harry looked closer, and sure enough, it was him. "Huh." was all Harry said. Then he started feeling better. It's not like they could send him to Azkaban for killing someone that they already declared dead, right?

That was about the time the dog heaved again. A small bundle, covered in… whatever was inside a transfigured dog's stomach, rolled onto the ground. The fact that it looked like a bundle of cloth, wasn't what made Harry take a step back. It was the instant burn in his head, as his scar reacted.

"What is it?" Hermione asked.

"It's Voldemort." Harry said, not breaking his eyes from the bundle.

Moody, or rather, Barty Crouch Jr, never having expected this turn of events, didn't know what to do, but he pulled himself together, and quickly went to the bundle. "It's a baby." he said, while trying to hide what it looked like.

Unfortunately for him, the 'baby' wasn't dead, and it decided at that moment to wake up and scream. "Worm!"

"Master, be quiet!" Barty whispered urgently, as his magical eye rolled around, looking at all the people, staring in horror at him.

"Barty?!" the tiny shrill voice asked. "Why are you here?! You're meant to be at that damn school-"

"Master, please?!" Barty begged, still trying to cover his master's face, and to hide him from everyone.

Unfortunately, that was the moment his inattention cost him his mobility, as Hermione, not one to let such an opportunity pass her by, locked the man in one of her first offensive spells. A full body-bind. Then she stunned the cussing bundle, for good measure.

He straightened up, dropping the bundle, and fell over backwards, after a dramatic pause.

"Miss Granger!" Dumbledore protested, as he lurched forward, to try and catch the bundle. He succeeded, but in doing so, he came face to face with the 'baby'. Suffice it to say, the horribly disfigured creature shocked even him enough to withdraw his hands, dropping the creature again.

"Like I said." Harry said, as the old man scooted back from the abomination he'd just touched. "That's Voldemort." he pointed out, while Hermione stunned the screaming creature.

The bundle had rolled and unfurled in doing so. There was an almost communal gag at the appearance, but Socks licked his lips, as he came to stand behind Harry and Hermione, before sitting down, and letting his head come down between them. He was basically asking if he could have his snack back, as he sent a fairly successful pair of puppy-eyes at them and whined again.

"Bad dog." Hermione chided. "You shouldn't eat such disgusting things." the dog whined again. "Don't make me fetch the newspaper again." she threatened.

The dog instantly looked chided and hung it's head in defeat.

"We'll get you something better to eat, later." Harry promised. "For now. Socks, guard." he added, pointing at the fallen ex-auror.

Socks, the Pitbull, instantly changed its bearing, becoming a guard-dog. He stepped forward, placed a massive paw on Moody's chest, and growled, when Dumbledore made to aim a wand at him, stalling the action.

"Yeah, I wouldn't point a wand at him." Harry warned. "He's been trained to snap them."

"Snap?" Dumbledore asked, slightly mortified. Normally, he'd just take a few steps back and cast anyway, but with how large the dog was, he didn't know how fast it could be. The fact that Harry said it was trained, likely just part of the way he made him, meant that he likely knew how to dodge and probably a few other nasty tricks. The familiarity of having a name, probably also meant that a lot of time had been spent on perfecting this transfiguration.

If he was honest with himself, he was impressed. He was a transfiguration Professor, after all. This was easily a masterwork of transfiguration, clearly above seventh-year level. He remembered that James was quite skilled at the art, himself, and while Lily was better at charms, she wasn't considered a witch to be feared for nothing. If Harry had some of their talents, like it seemed he did, this could likely be the power the dark lord knows not.

Still, calling the beast Socks, was just a bit too whimsical for him.

He'd been listening, too. It seemed that Harry may have… accidentally, defeated the dark lord… again.

He was still considering the repercussions of all the revelations, that he was not ready for when Moody, started shaking, even through the body bind, and started reverting into someone that wasn't Moody.

"Polyjuice." Hermione said easily. "I told you he was off." she added, looking smugly at Harry.

"I didn't argue." Harry said, holding his hands up.

"Could you call off… Socks?" Dumbledore asked.

"You're taking responsibility?" Harry asked.

"No." Hermione interrupted. "They are." she said, indicating with her chin toward a group of Aurors who were, predictably, standing just out of reach of the dog. They'd seen Dumbledore's reaction to the threat to his wand. No wizard would want to risk a well-matched wand, and none of them knew what to expect from the beast. They didn't know how it was made, either. Some transfigurations could be made to be resistant to outside sources of magic.

They were right to be worried. Harry hadn't made this a simple one, either. Underneath the skin exterior, was what he'd called the real monster. He remembered seeing a movie, about robots with human skin, who were sent from the future to kill people. Magic was a wonderful thing, in that it could incorporate all kinds of nasty and wonderful modifications. When threatened, the dog's eyes could glow, in a way that had given Harry a nightmare, once upon a time. He knew why the Dursleys had allowed him to watch that movie. A young kid's imagination could wreak havoc on him, when locked in a dark cupboard.

He'd tried for an amorphic liquid metal construct, once or twice, but it simply took too much magic, when used on this scale. He'd been able to do small things, though.

"Socks, heel." Harry said, and the dog instantly obeyed, taking a step back and coming back to guard Harry and Hermione.

"Um, Mister Potter?" a voice asked from a bit away. It was Minister Fudge. "Can you explain what's happening, here?" he asked. Normally, he'd not be caught dead near this situation, but with all the press, and names like Voldemort being bandied about, he couldn't not take the opportunity. If there was glory to be had, he'd be part of it.

"Peter Pettigrew," Harry said, pointing at the body, "was not dead. He was my parent's secret keeper. Sirius Black was thrown in Azkaban without a trial."

"Harry-" Dumbledore tried to interject.

"Dumbledore knows Sirius is innocent, and has been covering it up." Harry continued.

"Harry!" Dumbledore objected. "I simply don't-"

"Do damage control after, Professor." Harry said. "I'm done waiting for you to do the right thing." He turned back to the Minister, and pointed at the bundle. "I don't know the full story, but that thing is Voldemort."

There was the usual scream of fear, at the mention of the name. "He's tried to kill me three, now likely four times." Harry continued. "Dumbledore knows about that, too."

"Cornelius, I-" Dumbledore tried again. The dog growled dangerously, and took a step towards him.

"Shut up, Dumbledore!" Fudge snapped. The boy was giving him everything he needed to ensure his position of power. Harry knew what he was thinking. Hermione and he'd discussed staying in his good graces, to keep public opinion mostly positive, despite what they thought of the actual man. The wizarding world basically functioned on word-of-mouth. The person who spoke the loudest, was usually believed.

"Anyway." Harry continued. "I suggest you keep that… thing, alive." he said pointing at the bundle again. "Voldemort turns into a kind of wraith or spirit when you destroy his body, and can be brought back to life, apparently. Keep it alive, and he can't escape."

"I suggest you get the department of mysteries on how he stays alive." Hermione suggested. "They might be able to figure it out and then finally destroy him, while he's weakened. Also, since so many of his death eaters escaped true punishment, I suggest that he's kept in a secret location. Nobody can know where it is. Even you. If someone thinks you know, they'll torture you to get that location."

Fudge paled. He didn't know who the girl was, but could see that she was an intelligent one. No doubt that's why Potter kept her around. Smart kid. He did the same. He had smarter people than him run the actual ministry, while he enjoyed the benefits.

"Lastly, since you've got Pettigrew's body, you know he didn't die back then." Harry said. "I suggest you get the actual details of what happened back then from Dumbledore, since he knows it all. And Sirius Black's kiss on sight order gets revoked, immediately. If anyone so much as sneezes at him, I'm leaving the country and not helping you out, the next time a dark lord shows up. Deal?" he said.

"Um." Fudge said, showing his intelligence.

"I can leave tomorrow, if you'd prefer?" Harry offered. "I'm sure Beauxbatons or Durmstrang wouldn't mind me in their schools." he added, looking over at the other two heads, who'd predictably come closer to hear the whole story.

Madame Maxime was inspecting his dog, in what could only be considered wonder. She looked like she wanted to pet him. She heard his statement, though, and smiled, nodding vigorously. Karkaroff, on the other hand, wasn't looking at the dog. He was looking at the bundle with a look of both fear and anger. He looked up at Harry at the question, and nodded firmly. If the boy wanted a proper education, Durmstrang could make him great… greater.

"Let's not be hasty." Fudge finally said, having spotted their reactions. He couldn't let this gold-mine of publicity leave. "Consider the order revoked, effective immediately. I will personally see to it that justice is done." he looked at the body, then. "However, I think you will need to be taken in for questioning. Your… dog, did just kill a man."

"A death eater, and it was self-defence." Harry said instantly. "Socks, down." he said up at the protective dog. Socks lay down instantly. Harry pointed at the cuts on his head. "He's been trained to react aggressively, when people attack him, myself, or Hermione. He's a guard dog, after all. He was doing his duty defending me."

"But you weren't there." Fudge pointed out.

"Then I can't know for sure what happened." Harry said. "For all we know, someone else killed Pettigrew, and Socks just brought him in, the only way he knew how."

"In his stomach?" Fudge asked, not really swallowing that one, pun intended.

"Meat is meat." Harry said, shrugging. "Either way, he stopped a Death Eater, and the Dark Lord. I think he gets a steak for that one."

The dog's large tail started wagging, at the mention of steak, a Pavlovian response made him instantly drool. Harry had done a really good job on him. He acted like a real dog. For all intents and purposes, Socks was alive, when Harry made him.

Harry walked closer to the minister, and bent close, so only he could hear. "Look, he's a transfiguration. Mine. For all intents and purposes, I was the one that killed a Death Eater, and stopped the Dark Lord… again. You can either vilify me, or ride the publicity of a dog hero all the way into the next election year. Your choice." he whispered. "You know, I could also loan him to the Auror department?" he added.

Those were the golden words. Fudge's face grew into a smile. "Well then, I believe Socks, has just become a national treasure." he said back, winking.

"Okay, then." Harry said, smiling back, just as the other Champions were escorted out of the maze. "I'll come in for questioning, but I believe we have a Tournament to wrap up."

"Right." Cornelius said, suddenly realising he still had a bit more time to stand in the spotlight.

Of course, things went a little different than planned. Fudge ensured the bundle was in safe hands, before he started milking the opportunity for all it was worth. He relayed some of what he had learned, mentioned Socks, at least four times, and then finally awarded the champion. Harry, obviously.

Cedric had even smirked at Harry. Apparently, he'd have done the same thing, in Harry's shoes, banishing him into the hedge. Well, not if it was actually a life and death situation, but still. He didn't seem bothered by the loss. He'd lost against the boy-who-lived, after all. He was still shocked at the revelations that he'd missed, as the professors helped get him out of the maze.

Victor had been found wandering the maze. He tried to attack the professors, when they came for him, and he was found to have been placed under the Imperius. When 'Moody' was knocked out, he'd gained control again. Neither Harry, nor Hermione had ever thought of that. It was an active effect. The caster's will needed to be present. Duh. Their situation was different, though. They never fought it, because it was an easy exit for them, and they found it too useful, to remain under the influence. They didn't even consider that they might have become immune to it. Hermione wasn't conscious, while she was at the bottom of the lake, obviously. It seemed they had just started a habit, and created some programmed responses for themselves. Hermione would figure that one out, later.

That night, Harry was overrun with questions in the common room. When asked about the dog, he simply said it was his dog. When asked where he kept him, Harry smirked and said he was around. That led people to think the dog was capable of disillusionment, and Harry didn't discourage that rumour. Fear was a good motivator.

When the school year ended, Harry and Hermione passed with flying colours, at the head of the year. Harry did a little better in some subjects, but only for his practical tests, since he didn't sit for the exams. Hermione was the overall leader. By the time they left, they'd received open invitations to transfer to both the other schools. They'd even remembered to invite Hermione.

Madam Maxime had added a personal note that she wanted to see Socks again, and that he would be more than taken care of at her school. She'd not even mind if he joined Harry and Hermione in class. That was actually a tempting offer, and Harry held off on responding, to consider it. The dog really was only a bit of very complicated magic, but Harry had really put a lot of love and effort into him. He was the same dog, whether he was in his normal size, or huge as he had been for the tournament. To Harry, he was a living thing, and as with much in magic, that made all the difference.

Dumbledore, obviously, tried to call him in for another meeting, but Harry ignored the request. It wasn't like the old man would expel him. If he threatened to separate Hermione from him, which he was almost certain would likely happen, he'd simply leave the country. He didn't need Hogwarts. He only needed Hermione.

Hermione, brilliant as ever, had even told her parents about things as they happened, so that Dumbledore couldn't make a house-call and drop things on them, to force their hands. Manipulative old bastard that he was.

As for Voldemort? He was taken to the department of mysteries. For all of ten minutes. One of the upper-level unspeakables had cast detection spells, and realised what he had done. After that, the homunculus, which was the baby body containing Voldemort's spirit, was tossed through the Veil of Death. All the Horcruxes, being connected to the original, as he was forced on, to whatever came after death, were pulled from their containers, and followed their creator, since they couldn't exist without him. Harry didn't even feel him go. He just sighed in relief as he felt something in his head become lighter.

Harry and Hermione spent the next year at Durmstrang, and their last one in Beauxbatons, and graduated with honours. They never saw Hogwarts again, but Snape was once seen being chased by a large dog through the forbidden forest, never to be seen again, shortly after Harry and Hermione graduated. Similarly, they, along with a now free Sirius, were never seen again, either.

The end