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Chapter 34

Harry and Charlus were seated in the headmaster's office, with him mediating the meeting with Professor McGonagall and Director Bones. "We finished questioning Crouch last night," the director explained. "It's not good news, I'm afraid. Crouch was under the Imperius Curse for most of the school year and he was the one who put your name in the Goblet of Fire, Mr. Potter. Once we broke him from the Imperius Curse, Crouch gave a full confession. He broke his son out of Azkaban and had him under the Imperius himself for 10 years, until Peter Pettigrew showed up with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named possessing the body of a small child.

"Apparently this whole thing is a plot to kidnap and murder you, Mr. Potter. From what Crouch understands, the intention is to use your blood in a ritual to resurrect He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named to his full adult state with all of his powers intact. Crouch couldn't do anything to save you while under the Imperius, but his orders didn't preclude him trying to kill you, so he introduced the shark to the previous task with orders to kill all the champions. When he was arrested after Krum's injury, he lost control of his Imperius curse and the shark came after you under its own power. We suspect this is why you were able to chase off the shark, whereas it was more persistent in going after the other champions," the director concluded.

Harry really didn't know what to feel at that moment. Someone had just tried to kill him to stop someone else trying to kill him, and in the process had seriously injured the other champions while also destroying Krum's chance to play professional Quidditch for the rest of his life. But what if he flipped it? Would he have sacrificed his own life to prevent vulnerable rising again? …of course he would have. He had gone into battle already expecting that to be the outcome. Hadn't he gone down after the Stone in his first year expecting that Voldemort would be there, just on the hope that he could prevent the dark wizard from returning?

But one part of the story didn't make sense to Harry. "Wait, he broke his son out of Azkaban. Why was he in Azkaban?"

The director sighed. "Barty Crouch Junior was convicted of being a Death Eater and for torturing Aurors Frank and Alice Longbottom into a state of permanent insanity by way of the Cruciatus Curse. It was believed until now that he had died in Azkaban."

"So Voldemort is possessing a child," Charlus started, and didn't that thought make Harry sick. "He now has two of his people with him. Peter Pettigrew, a man who is only free because Crouch refused to give my nephew a trial, and Crouch's own son, a man who is only out of Azkaban because Crouch let him out. And Crouch's way to fix this was to try and end my line to stop some restoration ritual where my grandson is a key ingredient. Fuck dragging this bastard before the Wizengamot, Bones. Just let me in a room with him for five minutes." Grandfather said, sounding incredibly pissed off. Not the loud kind of pissed off either, but the quiet kind that left you with the impression he was trying to work out the most painful way to kill Crouch that would take up those entire five minutes.

Director Bones sighed. "You know I can't do that. But if it's any consolation, I don't think there is any way Crouch will be able to avoid the Kiss once this goes before the Wizengamot."

"Sod Crouch, do you know where Voldemort or either of his two helpers are? Can you catch them?" Harry asked.

"Unfortunately no. They were staying in Crouch's family home, but by the time Crouch had been freed from the Imperius Curse the three of them had left. Apparently they have started the ritual already, as it takes months to build up; not surprising considering the amount of magic it would take to build a new body. They need you for your part in the ritual on the same night as the third task. We don't know how they intended to kidnap you, but rest assured that we will do everything we can to keep you safe. You are going to have a twenty-four-hour-a-day Auror escort until We have either captured all three or the time for the ritual has passed." Director Bones tried to sound reassuring, but considering how much they didn't know it was hard to be reassured of anything.

The conversation went to deciding how Harry was going to be protected going forward. Because Harry being kidnapped would result in the return of Voldemort, the Auror department was putting a lot of effort into keeping him safe. Each week there would be three Aurors assigned to him: one with him, one sleeping, and one on recreation/stand by. Harry was also going to have to move out of the Gryffindor dorms and into a room that the Aurors could guard him without disturbing the other students. Apparently Hogwarts had rooms for professors with families tucked away somewhere, with multiple bedrooms for the Aurors as well as for him.

Grandfather was going to be moved to those rooms as well. The Aurors didn't want to risk him being caught and used as bait to get Harry to slip his Aurors and risk far more than himself to save someone he cared about. And when Grandfather Charlus pointed out that Hermione was in the same position, as Harry would be even more likely to try and rescue her than him, her sleeping arrangements were changed as well.

-ϟϟϟ-

The family quarters had five rooms total, Harry saw after the meeting. One living room with comfortable furniture and a small kitchenette, three bedrooms, and a bathroom. Charlus was given the master bedroom, as some strange bylaws building the Hogwarts wards said that that was where a professor needed to sleep if the rooms were in use. The other two rooms were split by gender. Harry or Hermione would need to share with whichever auror was sleeping there that week, but they were both used to sharing with more people so it wasn't as if they couldn't handle it.

Professor McGonagall soon showed up with Hermione, who had obviously been told what was happening already as her trunk was following behind her like a lost puppy, Crookshanks was riding the trunk like it was his own personal palanquin. Once she saw Harry, Hermione pulled him into a hug and asked him if he was doing okay. Strangely, he could answer truthfully that he was. It wasn't like Voldemort trying to kill Harry was anything new and with Grandfather Charlus around now he had never had more confidence in the adults around him that they would sort it out before it got to the point where he was in danger.

Soon the director came back and introduced them to the three Aurors she had brought with her, Theodore Belmont, Finley Clockwork, and Claire Fenton. Auror Belmont pulled Harry and Hermione aside almost as soon as his boss had left and lectured them on being good protectees. Harry needed to remember that while keeping him safe was the key to this, they weren't just protecting him but also everyone that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named would target if he was able to resume his campaign of terror. They weren't to try and slip their protection at any time, and if they wanted a bit of private time for any reason he just needed to inform them and they would do anything they could to accommodate him without putting him at risk.

Auror Belmont specifically told them that nothing they did would be told to anyone by the Aurors unless they broke the law for a serious crime. No one was going to say anything about a prank or swiping a bag of your mate's sweets to help yourself to a few without asking. They even told the blushing teens that if the two of them started humping like rabbits the Aurors wouldn't breathe a word of it to the school or their guardians.

"Let me be one hundred percent clear here. Our job is to protect the two of you, because it's our job to protect him." He pointed at Harry. "And we can't do that if you two keep sneaking off. So if you two want to do anything your parents or your grandfather would disapprove of, all we as your body guards care about is if you are safe. So we will check out whatever room you two want to use to make sure it's secure, then we will wait outside. We aren't your parents, we really don't care."

Neither Harry or Hermione felt that they needed that little speech, especially as they weren't ready to try anything that would upset their guardians just yet. While there was plenty they did that they wouldn't want anyone in the same room as them during those times, nothing that needed to be kept particularly secret.

-ϟϟϟ-

After she had told the Potters what was going on, Amelia Bones made her way back to the Ministry. The Auror offices had their own separate Floo fire from the rest of the Ministry. Aurors and regular law enforcement often had to respond quickly, and it could be dangerous walking a prisoner through the Ministry atrium. But Bones was alone this time, and she wanted to see if one of her Ministry colleagues was in the building yet. To do that, she needed to check the sign-in records at the main lobby, so she Floo'ed directly into the lobby like everyone else.

A quick flash of her ID had the sign-in records for the day passed over to her, and she quickly found out that who she had needed was in. She thanked the welcome wizard as she handed him back the lists and made her way to the lifts. She had gone to see the Potters early, so a few Ministry workers were still arriving for their shifts and she joined a packed lift going down. It was particularly annoying that the lift needed to stop on every floor, even if no one wanted out or in, because it had to stop to see if there were any memos waiting to go down. After the first few stops, the lift was empty enough to breathe again, and by the time she got to her stop she was the only one in the lift at all.

She stepped out and walked along the dark corridor and then down a set of stairs before she reached where she was heading: the Department of Mysteries. She banged on the door twice, then waited. Soon the door opened and a person with a hooded robe shrouding their face in darkness stood there. "Director Bones. What can the Department of Mysteries do for you today?" Even when they were speaking, the Director couldn't tell if it was a wizard, a witch, or even a goblin on stilts that was talking to her.

"I need to talk to Director Croaker. Immediately." She added the qualifier at the end, knowing that if she didn't an Unspeakable was just as likely to take a message and she'd be lucky to hear back from Croaker in a week when whatever project the Unspeakable was working on was over and they finally decided it was time to deliver the message. Honestly, some Unspeakables were just not all there. Or maybe it was just the one and she had been unlucky enough to run to the same one repeatedly.

Everything was blurry as she walked through the Department of Mysteries. It was a fairly simple idea that was surprisingly effective at stopping anyone from stealing D.O.M. secrets: hex the vision of whomever it was you were escorting through the research area. If they couldn't see anything to begin with, then they couldn't remember it later.

Soon she and the featureless Unspeakable stopped outside a big blurry box of colour that was a different colour to the rest of the walls. Her assumption that it was a door was confirmed a moment later when she heard the Unspeakable knocking on it. A voice called for them to enter, and just as Director Bones walked through the door the spell affecting her vision vanished, and she could see the inside of Director Croaker's office. The man she was here to see was looking at her with a curious expression before inviting her to sit.

"Director Bones, to what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?" He asked.

"Well Director," she replied, keeping it formal because she was here in her official capacity, "as I have no doubt you have heard, if not by any other means but because it's been the topic of gossip in the Ministry for days, my people arrested Bartemius Crouch a few days ago." She paused for a second here and the director of the Department of Mysteries nodded to say he had heard about it. "What you may not know is that I had him back for an interview last night."

At this point Director Croaker interrupted. "You know I can't do anything to make him talk, Amelia."

Bones smiled. "No need, he spilled everything as soon as he was in the interview chair." Croaker's eyes widened in surprise, obviously thinking Crouch wasn't the type to be cooperative. "To be fair, considering what he had to say I'm not surprised he told us everything. For all the man's faults, there were things he wouldn't ever compromise on. He was under the Imperius Curse, that's why he trapped Potter in the tournament and released a god damned shark into the lake. The problem is who exactly it was who put him under the Imperius."

"Who?" Asked Crocker.

Instead of answering, Director Bones held up a vial filled with silvery memories. "See for yourself." She then handed Crocker the vial.

Forty minutes later, Croaker pulled out of the memories in his pensive and looked like he was going to be sick. "He's still alive." It was a statement, not a question, as he collapsed back into his chair.

"How, though? And that's an official question from the head of the D.M.L.E. to the D.O.M. How is he alive, what do we need to do to change that, and what are the elements he needs for the rest of this ritual? Hopefully we can catch them before they can attempt to complete the ritual."

"I don't know. At least not yet. Give me some time and I will have my people see what they can discover. For now I recommend keeping the Potter boy as far away from You-Know-Who and his lickspittles as possible. I don't doubt that the element that the boy represents in the ritual can be substituted with another witch or wizard, but they wouldn't go through all this elaborate over-planning if he wasn't the one who would result in the best outcome. By which I mean best for them, worst for us," he clarified.

-ϟϟϟ-

Whilst Directors Bones and Croaker were having a productive meeting in the Department of Mysteries, Cornelius Fudge was having a far more confrontational meeting in his office with the Bulgarian Minister for Magic Oblansk. Oblansk was in a far less jovial and fun mood than the last time the two had met at the Quidditch world cup.

"I don't care about your sympathies, Fudge. One of my citizens, a national treasure to my people, has been seriously injured by the actions of your Head of International Cooperation. My people are calling for his head. Anything less than that and you're gonna have a lot of trouble from Bulgaria in the future."

Fudge was holding his bowler hat in his hands fiddling with the rim as he spoke. "Minister Oblansk, I understand, I truly do. You have my word justice will be done here. But you have to understand there is evidence that Crouch was under the Imperius Curse, and as much as I don't like the man personally he was the Head of the D.M.L.E. during our civil war with You-Know-Who. The man just has too much support for me to do anything but allow normal justice to take its course. If he is guilty, the Aurors will find out and he will be convicted. If he is a victim, then whoever it was that Imperiused him will have his head on the chopping block. Just like they do everywhere, investigations take time."

That seemed to mollify Oblansk a bit, but not nearly as much as Fudge had hoped. "Well, whenever you are done I expect the guilty party to be handed over to Bulgaria to deliver justice."

"Uh, well, that will unfortunately be up to the Wizengamot. I can't authorise that myself. I can and will advocate for it on behalf of your country though." Fudge was nervous and hoped this would be enough now. Bulgaria was one of Magical Britain's biggest suppliers of wheat. British wizards seemed to think they were above farming, something so basic and mundane as wheat was way more expensive than what the Bulgarian Magical farmers sold their crops for. Apparently Muggle wheat was so expensive because it took an entire year to grow a field full, whereas with magic it was possible to get six to eight crops in a growing season. If the Bulgarian wanted to, they could double the cost of wheat, and it would have a huge knock-on effect to Magical Britain's economy. The problem was Oblansk knew that as well.

Oblansk nodded. "Very well, I know that such things can only move at the speed of government and that's a speed that makes sloths look fast. I will wait and see what happens." Fudge let out a sigh of relief. But then Oblansk continued "Now, let's talk about compensation."

All the tension that had left Fudge when Oblansk had agreed to wait returned in an instant, and the British minister felt as if the tension had made a whole bunch of friends while it was gone and had invited them back for a party. "Com-compensation?" He stuttered out.

"Why of course," grinned Oblansk. "Your Head of International Cooperation has destroyed the career of a world class seeker, possibly the best in the world. The boy was signed to the Bulgarian national team for the next five years. His pay was negotiated at a million galleons a year, and he probably would have played until he was thirty. So he has lost out on thirteen million galleons, and my national team has lost the twenty thousand galleons it has invested in the boy's training. Someone has to compensate them for those losses."

Fudge was sweating now. "Thirteen million? The boy did sign up for the tournament of his own free will."

"Ah but the shark wasn't part of the tournament, was it? It was an extra that was added by an Imperiused judge. So it isn't covered under the tournament's waiver of liability," Oblansk insisted.

"You also can't guarantee that Krum would have played for thirteen years. You never know when a Quidditch player is going to take a bad bludger to the head and have to retire from the sport. Very few players last until they are thirty," Fudge countered. "And any compensation should come from the guilty party, not the Ministry."

The two ministers were negotiating now and would be for the next few hours.

-ϟϟϟ-

After settling into their new protective custody rooms, Harry and Hermione went to find Ron and inform him of what happened. The two teens got more than a few odd looks at being followed everywhere by an Auror, but it was no worse than it had been at other times for Harry and the trio by association. At least this time they weren't whispering behind their hands accusing Harry of being the Heir of Slytherin or some other ridiculous conspiracy.

Ron was just coming out of the Great Hall when they found him, as breakfast was just finishing. Luckily for the couple Ron thought ahead enough that, when his two friends missed breakfast, he made them each a breakfast sandwich. The sandwiches were very much to Ron's taste, fully stuffed with bacon, sausage, and egg. Not exactly to Harry or Hermione's taste, but the two teens were suddenly reminded of having not eaten since dinner last night and were too grateful to care.

The trio walked to class and, between taking bites of their on-the-go breakfast, Harry and Hermione filled Ron in on everything they had learned that morning. Ron listened, taking in every detail and then said, "You-Know-Who's plan doesn't make sense."

"What do you mean?" Auror Belmont, who was following them, asked.

"Why put Harry in the tournament at all? All that has done is put him and everyone around him on guard. Maybe we assume that the reason to enter Harry in the tournament is because something about the tournament opens a hole in Hogwarts protections, creating a window to grab Harry. That makes sense, but what extra opportunity do you get by Harry being in the tournament rather than just letting him watch? If they had done nothing, during the final task Harry would be seated in the audience watching the match. No one watching out for him, no Aurors looking for kidnappers or plots, you get what I'm saying? All this has achieved is putting us all on edge and making Harry train like there is no tomorrow. Anyone who tries to kidnap Harry now is going to get a lightning bolt spell straight to the face, how is that an improvement over a blissfully ignorant Harry sitting in the stands?"

"That is a disturbingly good point," Hermione said.

"Tell me about it. If I get kidnapped now, I'm just gonna feel embarrassed that such an overcomplicated plan worked," joked Harry trying to bring a bit of levity to the serious topic.

"Harry, be serious!" Hermione rebuked him.

Belmont however said, "It could be for a number of reasons, perhaps something about the last task makes it easy to kidnap a champion. I will have my colleagues look into that, but there could be other reasons. For example, it's got to be embarrassing to be the Dark Lord beaten by a baby. It's possible that they want to make Harry look exceptionally powerful in the eyes of the public, so that when You-Know-Who kills him it's a statement of just how much more powerful he is by comparison. Or it could be some other factor that we can't see yet. Whatever happens, you have a good head on your shoulders, red. You should consider joining the Aurors once you're finished with school."

By this point they were all at their first class of the day, and the four of them filed into the classroom where Auror Belmont stood at the back to be out of the line of sight of all the students once they took their seats, minimising his disruption to the class.

At dinner that evening, Harry and Hermione were grilling Ron about the next round in his chess tournament. Ron had routed his first opponent last Sunday, a sixth year Ravenclaw, and the next round was this weekend. Ron was double-booked for the weekend, as Saturday he was playing chess and Sunday he was playing Quidditch for the Gryffindor vs Beauxbatons game.

Suddenly the whole dinner hall went silent. The three looked up to see what was happening, and everyone was already staring at the hall's main doors. Standing in the doorway like a deer caught in the headlights was Victor Krum, the left sleeve of his robes pinned up so it didn't flap around uselessly only emphasising the missing limb.

Harry wanted to do something to help, he knew he wasn't at fault but it was he who was the main target. He just didn't think there was anything he could do. What do you say to someone who lost an arm just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time? 'I'm so sorry, the shark that was sent to kill me bit off your arm' just didn't seem to cut it.

They watched as Krum looked around the hall at everyone staring at him, then he braced himself and went to sit with the other Durmstrang students. Most of the eyes in the hall, including Ron's, followed the Durmstrang champion's progress, but Harry's eyes were determinately staring at the bowl of beef bourguignon, a French twist on the beef stew that was a Hogwarts staple.

"I really should say something to him," Harry said out loud. "I mean it was because of me he was caught in the crossfire. I should at least apologise for that."

"I don't know mate, if it was me I think you would be the last person I would want to speak to me. You could just be making everything worse,," Ron advised.

"But Harry would definitely be making it worse if he ignored Krum," Hermione said as she buttered some crusty French baguette for herself.

"So damned if I do, damned if I don't," moaned Harry.

"You could always try a letter," Ron suggested.

"Does he even read English?" Harry countered. "He has all the respect for learning another language. It's not something I could do, but we don't know if he just learned to talk or if he learned reading as well."

"You're grasping at straws Harry. I get you're nervous, I would be too, but you have to do something. If he can't read English, then he probably has a friend who can help. You know what you need to do."

Harry let out a sigh. Hermione was right, he did know, he just needed to act like the Gryffindor he was and actually do it.

A/N

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