Black Vengeance

Two Birds, One Stone

As Harry approached the entrance of the maze that was grown on the Quidditch Pitch, the predominant thought that passed through him was, it was soon going to be over. He had made some new friends this year.

He had finally been able to forgive his two oldest friends, but things never would be the same between them. The camaraderie they shared was forever gone now. He also hated to say this, but he had started to grow apart from the two of them, preferring instead to socialise with Neville, Susan and other friends he had made over the past year.

Upon hearing Bagman's voice, Harry focussed on his current surroundings. He had a tournament to win. Briefly he had an image of the cup in his hands while people around him cheered. Then the cannon went off, and he was running into the magical maze.

The man moved around the exterior of the maze as fast as he could, disabling as many traps he could find along the way. The fake eye he had obtained from the person he was now impersonating helped him along. However, it wasn't so easy since he was not used to the technology, having real eyes of his own. He could see potential uses of this type of equipment, however. The Dark Lord would definitely be interested in studying and replicating this.

Once he was done disabling what traps he could, he went back to scan for the other champions. It was a good thing that the Potter brat was skilled and so had a head start. It would make slowing the rest down easy.

The stuck up French half-breed was the easiest to deal with. All he had to do was reactivate one of the obstacles while she was right in the middle of it.

The Durmstrang boy was a bit harder since he was quite vigilant. However, a well-placed Imperius Curse at the right moment while he was distracted was enough. It would also kill two birds with one stone, leaving the Potter boy the only person in the maze.

He knew, however, that he could not incapacitate all three champions. With them all gone, Potter wouldn't have to touch the cup to win. So after having the Bulgarian stun the Hogwarts champion, he would have the Imperiused Durmstrang champion wander around in circles.

He stood outside the wall nonchalantly, watching with his magical eye as Amos Diggory's brat fell to a silent stunner. It would have been much sweeter to have him writhing under the Cruciatus, but he controlled himself. It would not do to gain attention. Not at this time.

Harry stood in front of the Triwizard Cup, panting. His journey through the maze hadn't been too tough, even if he had to deal with one of Hagrid's Skrewts (blasted thing was huge!) a sphinx, an acromantula and a myriad of other enchantments and spells.

Slowly, he limped towards the plinth. He had twisted his right ankle when dodging the acromantula when it had surprised him. In addition to that, he had a burn on his left shoulder thanks to the Skrewt. But on the whole, he wasn't feeling too bad. The task was quite easy compared to the previous two tasks!

Slowly, almost reverently, Harry's hand stretched out towards the cup. It hovered uncertainly for a long moment before his fingers closed around it.

Immediately, he felt a hook behind his navel and the next thing he knew, he was hurtling through a whirlwind of light and sound, his hand stuck on the cup's handle.

The Portkey (for he recognised it as a Portkey) slammed him onto the ground. Clutching his sprained ankle, Harry collapsed. He had only a millisecond to realise that he was in a graveyard when a flash of red light slammed into him.

Harry woke up with a start a few minutes later to find himself tied to a headstone, a gag in his mouth. He struggled against his bindings, only to find them too tight. Whoever had tied him had done a good job. He stopped when he saw a figure placing a huge stone cauldron filled with an unidentifiable potion in front of him.

'Hurry, Wormtail.'

Upon hearing the cold voice, Harry gave a start. The man was Peter Pettigrew! And he could remember that cold voice anywhere. It was Lord Voldemort. Just like in the dream that Harry had all those months ago last summer, the dark lord had a sort of body. Harry began struggling harder against his bindings. But it was no use. They were too tight.

Panic began to set in. Here he was, tied and helpless, unable to do anything while Wormtail and Voldemort did their … thing. Harry was certain that it was a ritual of sorts. And he had a good hunch as to what the purpose of the ritual was. Voldemort was going to be getting his body back.

Hearing his family's betrayer chant the first line confirmed his suspicions. Harry began to struggle harder.

He couldn't even call out for help. Not that there was anyone likely to be around here. He stilled suddenly when he noticed a large snake circling him and the cauldron.

'Flesh — of the servant — w-willingly given — you will — revive — your master.'

Knowing what Pettigrew was about to do, Harry shut his eyes. But he could not block the scream that pierced the night, which went through Harry as though he had been stabbed with the dagger too. He heard something fall to the ground, heard Wormtail's anguished panting, then a sickening splash, as something was dropped into the cauldron. Harry couldn't stand to look … but the potion had turned a burning red; the light of it shone through Harry's closed eyelids. …

It was at this moment that he realised one crucial thing. Pettigrew had not been able to find his wands! They were still there, snug against his arms. Carefully, he flexed his right ankle, working through the pain. The weight of the knife on the appendage told him that the knife hadn't been removed either.

Hardly daring to believe his luck, he pressed his back against the tombstone. The pouch was still there. Not that he expected it to be taken. After all, the hide ensured that Wormtail would not find it.

But before he could act on that, he felt Wormtail's fetid breath on his face.

'B-blood of the enemyforcibly takenyou willresurrect your foe.'

Harry could do nothing to prevent it, he was tied too tightly. … Squinting down, struggling hopelessly at the ropes binding him, he saw the shining silver dagger shaking in Wormtail's remaining hand. He felt its point penetrate the crook of his right arm and blood seeping down the sleeve of his torn robes. Wormtail, still panting with pain, fumbled in his pocket for a glass vial and held it to Harry's cut, so that a dribble of blood fell into it.

Harry realised now that he had no time left. He had to be quick. Not paying attention to what Wormtail was doing, he desperately visualised his knife flying into his palm as he shouted the incantation for the summoning charm through his gag.

Miraculously, it worked. Harry felt the knife slapping against his palm. Grasping the penknife, he flicked open the blade. Desperately, he began sawing against the rope.

The ropes, being magically conjured put up fierce resistance, making Harry's job difficult. Looking around, he noticed that Wormtail was too out of it to see what he was doing. So he doubled his efforts, giving no thought to discretion. However, he was too late. The last of the sparks had vanished and thick steam started billowing from the Cauldron. With a thrill of terror, Harry could see a shape rising. He froze in fear.

A tall figure emerged from the cauldron. With pale skin, long spider-like fingers, a face without a nose and lips, and burning hate filled red eyes; Voldemort was a terrible sight to behold.

Unable to think, Harry just stood there, his eyes wide open in dread. He watched mutely as Wormtail robed the evil wizard.

Examining his hands and body, Voldemort withdrew a wand from a pocket. Looking at it in distaste, he sneered at Wormtail. 'So, you haven't been able to find my wand? I thought you said that it would be there with the boy…'

'M – Master, I am s – sorry. I – I swear I thought that Black had taken it and given it to Potter. H – He must have changed his mind and handed it over to the Ministry.'

Harry's eyes widened even further. He had Voldemort's wand in his possession? It explained why he felt a connexion to it. Now that he remembered what Ollivander had told him about his wand, it also explained why that wand worked so well with him. They were brother wands.

But those thoughts were driven from his mind when Voldemort started speaking. Harry listened to the first few words before he slowly started to saw away at the ropes binding him, ignoring the rest of what the Dark Lord had to say. After all, knowing that he was using a Bertha Jorkins' wand really wasn't going to help him. He could not work as fast as he wanted to as doing so would garner unwanted attention.

He was halfway there when the Death Eaters came. Harry was unable to help being distracted again as he listened to Voldemort identify each of the masked men and continue with his speech.

He was interrupted again when Voldemort turned his (and the other Death Eaters') attention to him. Stilling, he tuned into what the man was saying.

'His mother left upon him the traces of her sacrifice. … This is old magic, I should have remembered it. I was foolish to overlook it … but no matter. I can touch him now.'

Harry felt the cold tip of the long white finger touch him, and shivered. Voldemort looked at him and Harry could see a momentary look of disappointment across his face before the wizard stepped away.

It was then that he realised that his scar had not so much as given a twinge of pain. Now that he thought about it, his scar had not hurt him at all for the past year…

But that would have to wait for later. Harry renewed his efforts on his bindings. He was nearly there when Voldemort turned to him again and raised his wand.

His first dose of the Cruciatus curse slammed into his body, lighting every nerve of his body on fire. He screamed through his gag. His very bones were on fire; his eyes were rolling madly in his head; he wanted it to end … to black out … to die …

And then it was over. Hanging limply against his bindings, he felt the last of the rope slowly give way. As awareness returned to him, he could feel the fingers of his hand painfully gripping his knife.

'Now untie him, Wormtail, and give him back his wand.'

The rat faced man hesitated. 'I – I did not find it on him, master. I think it might have become lost in the graveyard.'

'Then,' Voldemort said slowly and dangerously as he turned to the snivelling coward. 'Find it, you fool!'

With a squeak, Pettigrew trotted off searching for a wand that wasn't there with Voldemort watching his every move like a predatory snake.

Seizing his chance, Harry cut through the last of the bindings. Looking at the circle around him, he saw an opening. The Death Eaters and their master were nicely distracted, and there was a big gap through which he could see the gleaming cup.

Not wasting much time, Harry burst from the tombstone towards the cup. His movement was so unexpected that the Death Eaters and Voldemort could only watch as he slipped past the gap between Avery and Macnair. The cup was his only hope of getting out of there quickly. He did not know how Portkeys worked, but he hoped with all his might that the thing worked to get him back to Hogwarts.

If it didn't … well, he would cross that bridge later.

Suddenly he felt something clamp down on his arm. Spinning around, he lashed out with his still extended knife. With a pig-like squeal, Wormtail let go of him, his real hand clutching his right eye where Harry had slashed him while the silver one had let go.

Just then, he spied saw a spell coming his way. Diving behind a tombstone, Harry drew his wand and snap-cast a blasting charm in the general direction that the curse had come from. Scrambling to his feet, he ran as fast as he could to the cup, his injuries momentarily forgotten.

Yelling told him that he had hit his target. But Harry did not look back. The last thing he heard before he was taken out of the place was another anger filled scream.

The imposter looked at the cup with his fake eye as Potter touched the cup. As soon as the boy vanished, he let a sinister grin that, funnily enough, did not look terribly out of place on the face of his disguise.

As soon as his Lord was done, he would send the body back with the cup, having made the necessary modifications on the corpse beforehand. Potter's death would be chalked up as another tragic loss to the Tournament. And while the world was mourning over Potter's death, his master would prepare for his takeover. He looked at his watch. The wards around Hogwarts were so strong that travel by Portkey would take longer than normal as the object would first transport the victorious champion to a place outside of the school and then, after a few minutes, in which the magic would recharge, transport the winner back outside the maze with a second touch. That gave them fifteen minutes to act before people started suspecting.

Harry felt himself slam flat into the ground; his face was pressed into grass; the smell of it filled his nostrils. He had closed his eyes while the Portkey transported him, and he kept them closed now. He did not move. All the breath seemed to have been knocked out of him; his head was swimming so badly he felt as though the ground beneath him were swaying like the deck of a ship. To hold himself steady, he tightened his hold on the cold handle of the Tri-wizard Cup. He felt as though he would slide away into the blackness gathering at the edges of his brain if he let go of it. Shock and exhaustion kept him on the ground, breathing in the smell of the grass, waiting … waiting for someone to do something … something to happen. …

A torrent of sound deafened and confused him; there were voices everywhere, footsteps, screams. … He remained where he was, his face screwed up against the noise, as though it were a nightmare that would pass. …

Then a pair of hands seized him roughly and turned him over.

'Harry! Harry!'

He opened his eyes.

He was looking up at the starry sky, and Albus Dumbledore was crouched over him. The dark shadows of a crowd of people pressed in around them, pushing nearer; Harry felt the ground beneath his head reverberating with their footsteps.

He had come back to the edge of the maze. He could see the stands rising above him, the shapes of people moving in them, the stars above.

Harry let go of the cup, and seized Dumbledore's wrist, while Dumbledore's face swam in and out of focus.

'He's back,' Harry whispered. 'He's back. Voldemort.'

'What's going on? What's happened?'

The face of Cornelius Fudge appeared upside down over Harry, beaming.

'Congratulations on your win, Mr Potter!' the face said. 'And the youngest champion too!' The expression soon morphed into one of concern. 'You don't look too well, lad. Perhaps you should go to the hospital wing? In the meantime, I shall get your father.'

The crowd around him were all cheering, chanting his name. Nobody knew what had happened. Nobody knew that dark times were ahead. The thought made Harry's head swim.

Dumbledore bent down, and with extraordinary strength for a man so old and thin, raised Harry from the ground and set him on his feet. Harry swayed. His head was pounding. His injured ankle would no longer support his weight. The crowd around them jostled, fighting to get closer, pressing darkly in on him congratulating him on his win, slapping his back and reaching to grasp his hand.

'He'll need to go to the hospital wing!' Fudge was saying loudly, obviously still there. 'He's ill, he's injured — Dumbledore, the other judges want to speak to you. …'

'I'll take Harry, Dumbledore, I'll take him —'

'No, I would prefer —'

'Dumbledore, the judges are insisting on your presence to confirm the results. Also, Karkaroff has disappeared somewhere. And he couldn't have found a better time to do so. Something has messed with his champion. Krum is acting definitely off. I think you should have a look at him before accusations are made.'

'Harry, stay here —'

Girls were screaming, passionately chanting his name. … The scene flickered oddly before Harry's eyes. …

Seeing the old man leave the boy alone, the imposter looked around. Black was still fighting his way through the mob. He was the only one close. He wouldn't get another opportunity.

Harry let Professor Moody lead him away, numbly answering his questions in disjointed sentences. Dimly, he registered a second pair of footsteps joining them.

When he swallowed the Pepper-Up Potion and noticed his surroundings, he found himself not in the Hospital Wing but in the Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor's office.

Suddenly something caught his eye. Turning, he saw what could only be Alastor Moody's body lying there, missing his false leg and (if the sunken look of his eyelid was any indication) eye.

Confused, Harry looked back to find the other Moody standing over him with his wand pointed at him, a manic grin on his face. On Moody's right was Mr Crouch, the judge also had a wand pointed at him.

'What is –?'

'I put your name in the Goblet, Potter,' said the Moody standing over him, an odd grin on his face. 'It was I who delivered you to my master. Imagine how handsomely he will reward me when I end your life as well. The one person he wanted to kill above all others…'

'You – you, what?' Harry looked at the visage of Moody. Quickly he looked at Crouch, hoping the man would help.

'He cannot help you, Potter!' the fake Moody said. 'I have him under the Imperius.'

'It was hard, you know,' the imposter said softly. 'Getting you to that cup … I wasn't sure that it could be done. But then, you and that Blood Traitor Black were more than willing to win the thing. So I left it. And you played right into the Dark Lord's trap! Now, I believe it's time to die.'

As the imposter raised his wand, three things happened at the same time.

The real retired Auror and current teacher of Defence Against the Dark Arts, Alastor Moody, who had been taken by surprise in his office had long since woken. Staying still, he evaluated his surroundings, listening to what was being said.

His attacker had not found his wand. So Alastor slowly palmed it.

When he heard the man about to commit murder, he knew he had to act. He may not have his fancy fake eye, or a functional leg, but he was still Alastor Moody, dammit! And no filthy Death Eater was going to take him down.

With a speed that belied his age, he opened his eye and whipped his wand out to where he knew the threat was.

At the same time, perhaps it was the excitement of the moment that had led to the caster losing his concentration, or perhaps it was being in captivity for so long, but Bartemius Crouch felt the Imperius curse being lifted. Gaining awareness of his surroundings, he turned his wand to the enemy on his right. The man may have been his son, but he was a threat. Taking him out of Azkaban was a mistake. He should not have listened to his wife.

While all this was happening, Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall had finally reached Mad Eye Moody's office. The minute he had found out that Harry had been taken away by Moody, Dumbledore knew something was off.

They were followed by a worried and clearly agitated Sirius Black. He had overheard that idiot minister telling Dumbledore about Harry's whereabouts.

They had just reached the door to hear the last few sentences uttered within. Knowing that their window of opportunity was very small, Dumbledore acted.

Bartemius Crouch minor had barely uttered the first syllable of the Killing Curse when a bone breaking hex slammed into his wand arm from the side, sent there with deadly accuracy by Moody despite missing an eye. Simultaneously, a disarming charm crashed into his opposite side from his father at point blank range, sending him flying.

Bartemius Crouch major had only a moment to relish in the thought of throwing off the Imperius and disarming his son (possibly saving the Potter boy's life might get him some leeway from Black) when a spell crashed through the doorway. He landed in a heap right next to his son.

When Moody had raised his wand, Harry finally perceived that he was in danger. Acting reflexively, he had drawn his wand. That was when the flash of spell-fire had blinded him. Blinking the last of the spots away he took in his surroundings. To his left were the forms of Bartemius Crouch and the fake Moody while the real Moody was slowly sitting up. Ahead of him was the result of the spell he had thrown before the conflagration of spell-fire. He did not remember what it was, but it had left a nasty looking circle of melted stone in the wall. None of the spells he knew could do that. If it wasn't for the lightly smoking wand held in his hand, he wouldn't have believed it had come from him.

To his right, where the door was, were Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall and –

'Dad!' Harry breathed in relief when he saw Sirius.

'Harry!' Sirius replied, rushing into the room and hugging his son. Stepping back he looked searchingly at his son. 'Are you alright?' he asked as his eyes raked over Harry's body, looking for any other injuries.

'I'm fine,' Just then, his ankle throbbed, making him grimace. The rest of his nerves took that opportunity to make themselves heard.

Concerned, Sirius sat the boy back down. 'Where does it hurt?' he asked anxiously.

'Just twisted my ankle,' Harry replied. 'I think it's sprained. Anyway, what happened?' he asked, looking around once more.

'That scum snuck up on me!' Moody growled from his position on the floor. He waved off Dumbledore. 'Just ensure that both of them are down.'

Sirius turned around in astonishment. 'Surprised you?' he said incredulously. 'How did he manage that?'

'Well, you would be quite caught unawares too if you see a dead man appear, quite hale and hearty by the way, in your office, Black.' Moody replied testily.

'What do you mean?' Professor Dumbledore asked.

'Just wait till the Polyjuice Potion wears off,' Mad Eye said impatiently. 'You won't believe me anyway. Get some Veritaserum from Horace while you're at it. He has a whole vat of it down in the dungeons anyway. Foolish man,' he muttered under his breath. 'Brewing all those potions just to show off to a bunch of children and then leaving them for anyone to take them!'

Sirius sent off a Patronus towards Horace Slughorn.

Turning towards Harry, he said softly. 'Come on; let's get you to the Hospital Wing. You need rest.'

'Sirius, I must disagree.' Dumbledore said firmly. 'While bed rest would be a good idea, I think Harry needs to know who put him in this predicament in the first place. It will help in the long run.'

Sirius turned to argue with Dumbledore, but at the last moment, Harry caught his eye. 'Please,' he whispered. 'I want to know.'

Deflating, Sirius nodded his consent. 'Very well,' he said reluctantly.

Just then, the pretender's features began to change. Moody's fake leg and eye popped out as they were replaced with the imposter's real ones. Grizzled grey hair turned blond, and the numerous scars smoothened out, leaving a much younger face.

When the man's true identity was revealed, Sirius was suddenly very glad that he had stayed.

Bartemius Crouch minor was soon dosed with Veritaserum by a very surprised Slughorn who also clearly recognised the man.

The following interrogation was very interesting. It turned out that Bartemius Crouch major had, at the insistence of his wife, smuggled his Death Eater son out of Azkaban and subsequently hidden him from view, keeping him under the Imperius and an invisibility cloak. The only person who had found out about this was one Bertha Jorkins. Crouch major had erased the woman's memory.

However, Wormtail, after he had escaped, had chanced upon the woman when he was out in search of Voldemort. Not giving her any opportunity to raise an alarm, he immediately subdued her and took her with him.

Voldemort had been able to find out a lot from Bertha Jorkins: Including the location of one of his most trusted followers. Sirius knew that the man had been one of those that had tortured Frank and Alice Longbottom, two celebrated Aurors into insanity.

And so, the dark lord had come for Crouch Minor, who by that time, had started to gain a resistance to the Imperius curse. It was quite chilling to know that Crouch Major had taken his son with him to the match regardless. The curse had worn off briefly during the match, and the Death Eater had used the moment of clarity to steal a wand from his own father sitting next to him in the stands. He had used that wand to send up the Dark Mark.

By the time Voldemort came along, Crouch was all alone in the house with his son. It was more than easy to overpower the older man.

The newly liberated Death Eater was quite eager to serve his master. Originally, the plan had been to impersonate Alastor Moody, who, Crouch Minor had heard, was to be the new Defence Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts.

But a survey of the former Auror's home had made that proposition too risky, causing a change in plans. Instead of Alastor, Crouch Minor impersonated his own father using Polyjuice potion, keeping the older man alternatively in an enchanted sleep or the Imperius.

That explained a lot to Sirius about Crouch's sudden desire to talk to him as well as his rather generous marking of his son.

On the day of the final task, Crouch Minor had revived his father, placed the man under the Imperius, and then ambushed Alastor Moody. With his father under the Imperius acting as the judge and himself as Moody, it was easier to set up the trap that lead Harry to Voldemort's clutches.

Even though Sirius kept a calm exterior façade, he was internally conflicted. On one hand, Harry had been kidnapped and forced to fend for his life. On the other hand, this was pure white Mithril! If Barty Crouch thought he had come out of a major ordeal with being held captive and placed under the Imperius, once he sees what Sirius has in store for him, he would consider that to be a walk in the park! After he was done with the man, the Crouch family would be utterly ruined. Sirius decided to focus on the good right now. Harry was safe, and he was going to bury Barty Crouch.

Harry watched the whole thing in shock. The events of the night had been quite stressful for him. Not only was his ankle throbbing, but his entire body was aching due to the effects of the Cruciatus Curse. He could also feel the place where Wormtail had cut him. But that was nothing compared to the fact that he had come close to death twice.

Professor Dumbledore wanted to take him to his office so he could ask Harry about what had happened that night. But Sirius put his foot down. Something Harry was grateful for. He did not feel like talking about the kidnapping.

However, Dumbledore was not to be easily swayed. And the next thing Harry knew, the two men were facing each other with him in the middle.

'If I may, gentlemen,' Professor McGonagall finally spoke up, interrupting the staring match between the two men. 'I believe a compromise can be worked out. How about this; Potter here goes to the Hospital Wing where Poppy takes care of any injuries that need immediate attention. Once Mr Potter is satisfactorily patched up for the moment, he can then tell you his story. Once that is done, we leave the boy in peace to rest and heal.'

With a great deal of reluctance, both Professor Dumbledore and Sirius agreed.

Harry limped to the Hospital Wing, supported by his father with Professor Dumbledore following. Mad Eye Moody had initially wanted to stay behind and guard the Death Eater, but after Professor McGonagall had the prisoner trussed up to the old Auror’s satisfaction, he reattached his leg, inserted his magical eye into his eye socket and accompanied the three of them to the Hospital Wing. Slughorn, meanwhile, had gone to fetch the Minister.

Once he was safely in bed, his ankle healed and the cut on his arm sealed. Harry took a deep breath and began to tell them. As he spoke, visions of everything that had passed that night seemed to rise before his eyes; he saw the sparkling surface of the potion that had revived Voldemort; he saw the Death Eaters Apparating between the graves around them.

Once or twice, Sirius made a noise as though about to say something, his hand tight on Harry's shoulder, but Dumbledore raised his hand to stop him, and Harry was glad of this, because it was easier to keep going now he had started. It was even a relief; he felt almost as though something poisonous were being extracted from him. It was costing him every bit of determination he had to keep talking, yet he sensed that once he had finished, he would feel better.

When Harry told of Wormtail piercing his arm with the dagger, however, Sirius let out a vehement exclamation and Dumbledore stood up so quickly that Harry started.

'He said my blood would make him stronger than if he'd used someone else's,' Harry told Dumbledore. 'He said the protection my — my mother left in me — he'd have it too. And he was right — he could touch me without hurting himself, he touched my face.'

For a fleeting instant, Harry thought he saw a gleam of something like triumph in Dumbledore's eyes. But next second, Harry was sure he had imagined it, for when Dumbledore had returned to his seat at the foot of his bed, he looked old and weary.

'It seems that Tom has overcome that one obstacle.' Dumbledore said wearily. 'Please, continue.'

And so Harry spoke about how he had managed to escape thanks to Wormtail's incompetence while Voldemort was busy grandstanding.

'Do you remember what he had said?' Dumbledore asked, leaning forward and looking at Harry intently.

'No, not really,' Harry replied. 'I was too busy cutting those ropes.'

Perhaps it was Harry's tired imagination, but he thought he saw fleeting disappointment cross Dumbledore's aged face.

'Very well,' the headmaster said tiredly. 'Thank you for telling me this, Harry. You have shown immense courage well beyond your years today. I think it is about time you rest.'

As soon as he brought the privacy wards down, Madam Pomfrey, who had been hovering around in the background came forward briskly and handed Harry a goblet of sleeping potion. With Sirius' help, Harry had drunk said potion and the next thing he knew, he was slipping off into a deep sleep.

Once Harry was asleep, Sirius turned to Mad Eye Moody. Instantly, he knew something was wrong. The old Auror was slumped over in his chair.

'Madam Pomfrey!' he shouted, getting the matron's attention.

The woman turned around. Seeing Sirius indicating to the slumped over figure, she hurried forward, waving her wand.

'Oh dear,' she said. 'Alastor is dead.'

'What? How?' Sirius said incredulously.

'Poison,' the matron said grimly. 'It was slow acting. The poison was administered about four hours ago. There was nothing that could be done for him. Alastor was a dead man walking ever since then.'

Sadness overcame Sirius at the death of his friend and steadfast ally.

Collecting himself, Sirius took a seat next to his sleeping son. A few minutes later, he was joined by the Molly Weasley, Ron, Hermione, Bill, Neville and Susan.

'Sirius,' Molly Weasley said. 'We just spoke to Dumbledore … how is he?'

'He's sleeping,' Sirius replied softly, staring at Harry. 'Physically, he's fine. Emotionally … I don't know.' He paused for a long moment. 'He was tortured by Voldemort. The Cruciatus was cast on him… .' He stopped, closing his eyes, unable to speak anymore. He could only imagine what his son must have gone through. Facing certain death at the hands of a madman… .

He nearly lost Harry. Again.

The thought caused bile to rise up his throat, burning away any and all optimistic thoughts he had.

Gently, he carded his hands through his son's hair as feelings of worry, terror and anger that he had buried ever since he had found out about the kidnapping attempt and subsequent attempt at murder surfaced.

Molly seemed to understand that he needed time to himself, because she stepped back. Whipping around, she admonished everyone present to be quiet, even though that action was unnecessary.

Several minutes later of just sitting around silently, they were interrupted again by a commotion that was coming from out of the hospital wing.

Sirius, who was half asleep, immediately raised his head, returning to full awareness as the Minister for Magic came inside followed by Professor McGonagall who, uncharacteristically for her, was visibly enraged.

In the heated debate that followed (Dumbledore had joined in) Sirius found out that Bartemius Crouch Minor had been Kissed by a dementor Fudge had brought along with him.

'By all accounts, he is no loss!' blustered Fudge. 'It seems he has been responsible for several deaths!'

'But he cannot now give testimony, Cornelius,' said Dumbledore. He was staring hard at Fudge, as though seeing him plainly for the first time. 'He cannot give evidence about why he killed those people.'

'Why he killed them? Well, that's no mystery, is it?' blustered Fudge. 'He was a raving lunatic! From what Minerva and Horace have told me, he seems to have thought he was doing it all on You-Know-Who's instructions!'

'Lord Voldemort was giving him instructions, Cornelius,' Dumbledore said. 'Those people's deaths were mere by-products of a plan to restore Voldemort to full strength again. The plan succeeded. Voldemort has been restored to his body.'

Sitting back, Sirius watched silently and thoughtfully as Dumbledore tried to convince Fudge about the return of Lord Voldemort. Fudge was proving to be quite adamant that Voldemort was not back. He had apparently believed that the dark lord was dead.

Soon enough, Harry's name was dragged into the conversation.

'See here, Dumbledore, the boy obviously has been through a lot, what with Pettigrew and Crouch kidnapping him. Naturally he would think that You-Know-Who is back! They must have made him believe it! You cannot honestly believe a traumatised child.'

'If you wish to speak to, or about my son, Minister,' Sirius said smoothly, interrupting the conversation that was quite frankly, an argument. 'I suggest speaking to me first. After all, I am the boy's adoptive father and his legal guardian. Harry is still a minor, after all. Or did you forget the old laws?'

'L – Lord Black,' Fudge said with a smile plastered on his face sweat breaking out on his face as he was reminded that he nearly had insulted the heir of an ancient noble house in front of his father. 'I did not notice you sitting there.'

'I imagine not,' Sirius said dryly. 'The three of you were quite busy right there.'

'Minister, if we are to continue this conversation, might I ask that we do so some other time and somewhere else? After all, this is hardly the place to be having such a spirited discussion.' Sirius said, fluidly getting to his feet before Fudge could even utter a syllable in response. 'This is, after all, a place of healing. It is hardly proper to expose the occupants of this room to such … passion.'

'I – yes, of course,' Fudge replied. Turning to Dumbledore, he said. 'We shall discuss this tomorrow morning. Until then, good day.'

Turning back to Sirius, the minister fixed a smile on his face as he said in much happier tones. 'Lord Black, the presentation ceremony shall be taking place tomorrow at eleven. I hope your son will be recovered by then.'

'He shall,' Sirius said with a smile. 'All he needs is a bit of rest and relaxation. Once the ceremony is done, and school is over, he will get plenty of that.'

'That is excellent, my lord.' Fudge replied. 'I hear France is a lovely place at this time of the year. Well, anyway, I shall be leaving now. Give my regards to Harry.'

'Sure thing, Minister,' Sirius said affably. 'Might I accompany you outside?'

Getting a nod of assent from Fudge, Sirius strode forwards and opening the door, ushered the Minister out. Closing the door, he followed the portly man, a plan forming in his mind. If he played it right, both Dumbledore and Voldemort will be going down.

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