Somewhere beneath Black Lake
:: Hermione! Thank Merlin, you're safe! :: Hermione heard her best friend exclaim in obvious relief within her mind, and she looked upwards and to her left of where she was swimming, the girl's enhanced vision now allowing her to see the rapidly approaching form of 'The Boy Who Lived' heading in her direction.
:: Everything's fine, Harry. I’m perfectly okay, :: the young woman tried to reassure her friend, only to interrupted in mid-explanation, as the dark-haired youth swam up and wrapped her in a desperately relieved hug.
:: I was really worried about you, because I wasn't at all sure exactly what those bastards might have done to you to make you cooperate with them, :: Harry mentally exclaimed, while at the same time not making any effort to release her from his arms.
:: Especially since that arsehole, Snape, is involved, :: Harry added, the frantic words almost tumbling over each other.
:: He *is* a Death Eater, after all, so I wouldn't have put it past him, to use something on you that would hurt you somehow, in addition to making you do what they said, just as a way to cause us more problems, :: Harry added as he released Hermione from his embrace, but kept a grasp on her as he held her for a moment longer at arm's-length, allowing him to inspect her for any potential injuries.
:: So, see anything you like? :: Hermione asked with a sly smirk, as she noticed that Harry’s self-appointed task was apparently taking a bit longer than was absolutely necessary – as he looked her over with much more interest than she could ever previously recall him doing.
Of course, the way that the water was making her relatively thin, and now mostly transparent, robes cling tightly to her body might have had something to do with piquing Harry’s interest, she decided.
Not that Hermione had any objections to him looking at her like that, mind you! It was just...unexpected. And quite acceptable.
Surprisingly, while he did blush a bit at her question, Harry managed to look Hermione straight in the eye as he told her, :: Quite a lot, actually. ::
:: But that's something we should discuss at another time, not now, :: Potter reluctantly pointed out as he finally released her. :: The other champions are going to be showing up around here soon enough, looking for their own hostages, so we should start heading back. ::
:: Yes, you’re right, :: Hermione agreed, equally reluctantly. :: We definitely don't want the other champions finding us here, like this. ::
:: But I'm not letting the other hostages stay down here, either, :: she informed Harry as she indicated the three still-unconscious forms floating a short distance behind them, a grim frown creasing her lovely features.
:: You and I can take care of ourselves, and we've proved that numerous times over the past three years, :: she noted, :: but the three of them are all still unconscious, so they're completely helpless. ::
:: I'm guessing the little girl, here, is Fleur's sister, since she looks a lot like her – and she can't be more than ten or eleven! :: Hermione pointed out, furious that they’d put the part-Veela, and therefore a fire elemental, underwater. :: And considering how that old arsehole has already bollixed things up with the First Task, I'm not about to leave *any* of them down here, and chance them getting hurt. ::
:: Oh, and then, once we're back on dry land, I'm going to rip that old bastard a new arsehole, :: she promised, a fierce look now lightning up her eyes. :: And McGonagall and Snape, too! ::
:: That old biddy dragged me out of the dorm to Dumbledore's office last night after curfew, and that greasy-haired ponce hit me with a stunner from behind, after I told the Headmaster that I wouldn't help them force you to participate in this Task, :: Hermione angrily informed Harry, and she was delighted to see a scowl instantly replace the smile which he had been wearing a moment earlier.
:: I'll rip that effin' bastard's bollocks off! :: Harry swore, as thoughts of vengeance immediately filled his minds after hearing Hermione's comment. :: And then I'll shove them right down his bloody throat, too! ::
:: You can't do that, Harry, :: Hermione cautioned him, reaching out and placing her hand on his arm, as though in an effort to calm him down.
:: Why not?! ::
:: Because *I'm* going to be the one who does that, :: the young woman then informed her fellow Atlantean with a knife-edged smile.
:: Actually, I'm going to curse all three of them, so that they'll regret this day for the rest of their lives – however long or short they might end up being, :: Hermione promised, and Harry smiled back at her with a mixture of glee and amused wonder as he reflected on just how vindictive he knew his friend could be, once she was well and truly brassed off at someone.
:: Y'know, :: Harry commented thoughtfully, as inspiration suddenly flared in his mind, :: I just had a thought on how we might be able to really put the boot to Dumbledore and his arse-licking minions. ::
:: Oh really? :: Hermione replied, her attention captured by the devilish grin now lurking on her friend's lips. :: And what thought might that be, pray tell? ::
:: Yes, really, :: Harry answered gleefully. :: And it's one I think you're gonna *love*. ::
:: But for it to work, we need to get rid of our glamours, :: the nigh-legendary Boy-Who-Lived said, as he gestured and the minor magics disguising them were banished, revealing their true appearance to anyone who might be looking.
Smiling admiringly at the now purple-eyed and reddish-golden-haired girl floating before him, who was smiling back with equal approval at his own now sea-green eyes and the several bluish-green streaks in his coal-black hair, Harry began outlining his idea.
:: First off, as soon as we get back to the surface, we should... ::
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
A few minutes following the previous scene
"Look! There's one of them back already!"
"Hey, look! Potter's back!"
"Look! Over there! Harry's back with Hermione!"
"And they've got a whole bunch of other people with them, too!"
The babble of the crowds who had apparently been waiting and watching impatiently for the return of any of the Tournament champions echoed in Harry's and Hermione's ears as they slowly swam to the base of the ladders hanging down into the lake, the three still unconscious figures of the other Champions' hostages trailing behind them
Eager hands helped lift the insensible bodies of Gabriele Delacour, Susan Bones and Cho Chang up onto the dock, and then they helped pull the two Fourth Years up, to where Madame Pomfrey was waiting with warm, dry blankets and mugs of invigoration and pepper-up potions.
Ignoring the countless comments and questions that various people were shouting to them, Harry protectively wrapped an arm around Hermione as he brusquely ordered Madam Pomfrey to stand aside, and two now-undisguised Atlanteans then began shoving their way through the gathered crowds blocking their path.
The Golden Duo (as the pair was now referred to, their former friendship with Ron Weasley having been irrevocably sundered following the ginger-haired idiot's unrelenting condemnations and insults regarding Harry's forced participation in the Tournament) subsequently made their way towards the area where Ludo Bagman, Barty Crouch, Sr., Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, Minister Cornelius Fudge, Madame Amelia Bones and various other Ministry and Tournament officials were all gathered.
"All right, Headmaster, I'm completed the Second Task and brought Hermione back, so whatever it was you did to us, you can undo it now, thank you!" Harry loudly declared as the pair of Atlanteans squeezed themselves between Madame Maxime and Professor Sinistra, to confront the twinkling-eyed manipulator, who was now staring at the two students with a look of surprised befuddlement at Harry's accusation.
"Whatever in the world are you talking about, Harry?" Dumbledore asked, an expression of actual astonishment on his face as he quickly took in the new and quite noticeable differences in the pair's normal appearances. "I’ve done nothing to you or Miss Granger."
Harry could hear a good number of the spectators now remarking on the obvious changes from both his and Hermione's typical looks, so he raised his voice, so as to be better heard, as he paraphrased his previous remark.
"Come on, Headmaster, *look* at us! Honestly, I don’t know what it was you did, or what you had Snape or Professor McGonagall do to us, Headmaster, and I don't know why you thought you needed to do it, either. But whatever it was, you need to undo it, now!" he declared loudly.
"I mean, Merlin’s beard! Look at us! *Something's* clearly been done to us!" the last scion of the Potter clan declared, waving his hand at himself and Hermione as she appeared to huddle under his arm, and making sure that everyone's eyes were drawn to them. "Once I got under the water, I discovered that I didn't need the gillyweed I'd brought with me to use, because I could breathe the water without any problems at all!
"Madame Bones?" Harry continued, turning and addressing the stern-looking woman with a monocle who was standing only a short distance away, " I don't have any idea what, exactly, Professor Dumbledore did to us, or what he might have had Professor Snape or Professor McGonagall do – but, like I said, it's patently obvious that *something's* been done to us!"
Gesturing to focus attention on Hermione's still dripping wet, and quite obviously reddish-golden tresses and her purple eyes, as well as his own hair, with its various bluish-green streaks and the now clearly different shade of his own eyes, Harry concealed a smile as Hermione joined him in laying the foundations for the wealth of trouble they intended to cause the scheming bastard who'd been controlling his life for the past twelve and a half years.
"As everyone can clearly see, Madame Bones," Hermione spoke up, her voice also enhanced by a low-power 'Sonorous' in order to ensure a maximum number of people heard their accusations, "both Harry and myself have been affected by some sort of magic.
"And as we discovered while Harry was rescuing me, we both are now able to function beneath the water without having to resort to using gillyweed, so it's plain that we've been subjected to some sort of spell or ritual which changed us into whatever these new forms might be," Hermione declared as she turned to throw a malevolent glance at Dumbledore, who was still standing in the same spot where they'd confronted him just a moment earlier, a stunned expression on his face as he stared at, and listened to, the students lodging complaints with the head of the Ministry's Magical Law Enforcement arm.
“Well, Headmaster?” Harry demanded, fixing his most accusing gaze upon Albus.
"Harry, my dear boy," Dumbledore said, as he shook himself out of the momentary stupor he'd been thrown into by the unexpected changes to both of the two teens and began approaching his intended weapon against Voldemort, "Please believe me, I have no idea of what it is you and Miss Granger are attempting to accuse me of doing.
"It's quite obvious that the two of you are upset and understandably distraught over whatever it was that has happened to, ah, change you both, my boy," Albus declared, noting the various mutterings and buzz of conversations, as well as the frowns and looks of disapproval, that had sprung up throughout the crowds immediately after hearing Harry's and Hermione's accusations.
"Therefore, I think that you and Miss Granger should accompany Poppy to the school's hospital wing, so that she can begin trying to figure out exactly what it is that's happened to you," Dumbledore then directed, striving to project an aura of affability, confidence and assurance to allay any rumors that might be working their way thought the crowds.
"NO!" Harry and Hermione both instantly, and quite loudly, shouted their objections to Dumbledore's proposal.
"We're not going anywhere with you, or any of your minions, so that you can try and cover up whatever it is you've done to us!!" Harry declared vehemently, allowing an expression of fear and loathing to appear on his face.
"Madame Bones!" Hermione straight away turned to appeal to the older witch, a similar look of panic and horror on her own face.
"You're not going to allow the Headmaster to force us to go back to the same place where he's obviously been conducting experiments on the students, are you?" the girl asked, a desperate, pleading expression on her lovely, waif-like features. "He's probably been having Professor Snape make whatever potions he needs in his laboratory for the experiments he's been doing, and now he's going to try and have him try to reverse whatever it is he's done to us!
"Oh Merlin!" Hermione then exclaimed, her eyes going wide as though she'd just had a sudden horrible realization.
"Since Susan was the one chosen to be Victor Krum's hostage, do you think that the Headmaster did the same type of experiments on her as he did on *us*?" Hermione ventured as she glanced over at Director's now-stirring niece, where she lay on the dock a short distance away.
Hermione successfully managed to conceal her triumphant smirk at the abrupt look of panic and horror that immediately took possession of Madame Bones' face when she heard Hermione's question.
That expression was then replaced, for the briefest instant, by one of rapidly growing rage, fury and abhorrence as the older woman glanced over at Dumbledore, before a professional mask of disinterest slammed down over her face and Amelia began snapping orders to several of the aurors who had been assigned crowd-control duties for the Tournament.
"Earneston! Dunning! Bronson! Addleson! Secure all of the students who were being held under the lake for the Second Task. Then take them, along with Miss Granger and Mister Potter to St. Mungo's for a complete examination, immediately," she directed.
"And when the other champions return, take *them* into custody for medical examinations too," Madam Bones ordered. "Have the healers check for any indications of spells, potions or rituals on all of the students, and tell them that this is to take precedence over anything else they might be doing, aside from immediately life-threatening injuries on anyone else coming to the Emergency Room.
"Any questions?" the Director asked, the fierce, blazing light evident in her eyes the only indication that this wasn't your usual run-of-the-mill auror operation.
A chorus of "No, Ma'am," was the only response, before all four aurors immediately spun on their heels and began implementing her directives.
"Now, Amelia, this isn’t necessary – I'm certain this is all just some minor misunderstanding –" Dumbledore was just beginning to say when the Bones' Family Matriarch turned her full attention on him.
"Shut up, you old fool!" Amelia snapped at him, the expression on her face one which had, in the past, made hardened criminals wet themselves when it had been unleashed upon them.
"This isn't something that you're going to be able to use your connections to cover up and hide, *Albus* – not this time!" the clearly furious woman almost literally snarled at Dumbledore, either unaware or uncaring that the 'Sonorous' spell Crouch had cast on the platform earlier was broadcasting every word said, thereby focusing the complete attention of the gathered crowds on them.
"I'm going to make sure that my investigators find out every single bloody thing that's been happening here at this school of yours, since the beginning of the school year," Amelia informed the irritated – and somewhat apprehensive – older wizard, "because I've been hearing some *very* disturbing rumors about various goings-on here over the past few years.
"And, based on what I've seen here today, I've got quite a number of questions regarding the way you've been running things here, too," Madam Bones added, her statement and general demeanor causing the Headmaster to pale even more.
"Excuse me for just a moment, please," Hermione politely said to the auror who was attempting to guide her and Harry to the apparation point they'd established.
Slipping out from under Harry's arm, the young woman took a quick half-dozen quick steps towards where the Hogwarts staff members were gathered.
"Professor Snape?" Hermione called out as she moved forward, drawing the Potions professor's attention away from his observation of the discussion currently taking place between Minister Bones and Dumbledore.
Seeing her assailant of the previous night look in her direction and scowl, Hermione gave Snape one of her most pleasant smiles as she continued moving towards him, not breaking stride in the slightest as she coolly walked up – and kicked him squarely in the balls.
The 'greasy-haired git,' as she now thought of him, instantly doubled over, his eyes bulging out like a pair of tennis balls, as he futilely clutched at his now most likely permanently-damaged testicles, and Snape limply dropped down onto the platform's deck like a puppet whose strings had been cut.
"Miss Granger! What do you think you’re –" McGonagall was just beginning to say, as her eyes, wide with shock, shifted from Snape's weakly writhing form to the clearly furious young witch approaching her. Then, before the older witch could get out of the way, Hermione's fist abruptly connected with the point of her chin and Minerva, too, instantly dropped to the deck, unconscious.
"That's for stunning me and using me as Harry's hostage even after I refused to take part in any of this, so that he'd be forced to participate in this dog's breakfast of a Tournament!" the irate fourth year student shouted at both of Dumbledore's minions, her words clearly audible to everyone within hearing distance. That group most certainly included the various Ministry and Tournament officials, who all turned to stare at Albus, their eyes wide with shock and outrage even as the beleaguered Headmaster tried to think of some way to put a positive spin on this latest damaging accusation.
Hermione then turned around and headed back to her widely grinning fellow Atlantean without hindrance, a wide corridor having quickly formed as anyone standing between the two students seemed to apparate out of the teen witch's path.
"Good job," Harry congratulated her, opening the blanket given him earlier and allowing Hermione to reclaim her place under his arm, as a wary auror then very cautiously offered the pair a salt shaker, and an instant later, both teens were portkeyed away to St. Mungo's emergency room.