Child of Innocence

Chapter 45

Chapter 45

Voldemort stepped from the cauldron with an unnerving grace. He more floated than walked towards Harry who strained against his bonds in vain. Lockhart whimpered in the background. "Master-"

With a lazy flick of the wand over his shoulder, Voldemort shot a stream of silvery substance which hit Lockhart with force, forming a hand on the stub of his wrist.

"Thank y-" Lockhart began, smiling in his gratefulness.

"So, Mr. Potter. I have been waiting long for this moment," Voldemort said in a low hiss, ignoring his servant. "Harry Potter. I have been waiting to touch you without burning up. And now I can."

To prove his point, Voldemort laid a finger on Harry's scar causing him to buckle from the pain.

"Yes, now all the love that protected you once runs in my veins. Love," Voldemort scoffed. "There is no love. There is only power. You are to weak to seek it."

Harry made a low noise in his throat, something almost like a growl.

"Have something to say?" Voldemort asked, waving away the spell that prevented Harry from speaking.

"You'll pay for Cedric," Harry snarled, sounding bolder than he felt.

Voldemort smiled a lazy smile. "How touching. Even though he was the one who brought you here, to me, you still seek to defend him. Weak," Voldemort repeated.

As Harry thought up a nice retort, Voldemort spun, stalking towards Lockhart. "You have served me well, Lockhart. Shall we call the others who have done so less faithfully?"

"Yes, My Lord," Lockhart said servilely.

Harry's heart beat fast at the sight of Lockhart's writhing Dark Mark. He gasped in pain as the Dark Lord pressed the tip of his wand to it. For a moment, Harry thought it hadn't worked. Then, there were several pops as figures apparated to the graveyard, dressed in hoods and masks, unidentifiable. When it seemed as if they were all present, another figure arrived, late. His face was obscured only by the hood of the cloak which hung low over his eyes. As his head turned to the side and took in Harry's position, tied to the gravestone and blood running down his arm. The figure took an unconscious step forward.

Harry's stomach dropped. He knew it was Severus.

The silence was loud as Voldemort paced in front of the line of his followers. "You have failed me. All of you. Crabbe, Goyle, Macnair, Avery, Nott." As he said each of their names, they bowed their heads in shame. Voldemort cocked his head. "Even you, Malfoy."

"I apologize, my Lord. I tried-"

"You hid," Voldemort accused. He stepped past Lucius and Lucius did nothing to draw his attention back. Harry wished he would have for now Voldemort had arrived at Severus. Harry wanted to cry out but bit his tongue. "But you, Snape. You. You have disappointed me most of all. You are a traitor beyond all they have done in their cowardice," he said with a snarl, sweeping a hand at the other Death Eaters.

Severus pushed back his hood and held his head high. "I am no longer yours."

Voldemort tilted his head, smiling cruelly. "Is that so? Then why did you come?"

Severus's gaze didn't waver but Voldemort knew the answer to his own question. He turned dramatically.

"Ah, so sweet. Come to save your son, have you?"

The other Death Eaters cackled.

"Sorry to disappoint," Voldemort said sarcastically, pointing his wand at Harry.

In a split second, Severus had stepped forward, wand pointed at Voldemort. In an equally short amount of time, the other Death Eaters had their wands pointed at Severus. In a second, he was disarmed. Voldemort seemed amused. "You think to fight me, Snape? Crucio."

Harry watched in horror as Severus fell to the ground, twisting in pain. A cry escaped his lips, "NO!"

Thankfully, Voldemort cut off the spell in favor of turning to Harry. "Adorable. He really has you fooled, doesn't he?"

"He had you fooled," Harry shot back defiant in light of Voldemort's attack on his guardian. "Come on, at least make it a fair fight. Give him his wand."

"Ah, but it isn't him I want to fight, not really. It's you," he said quietly, menacingly.

A chill ran up Harry's spine. He saw Severus struggle to his feet from the corner of his eye. "Fine then."

"Harry," Severus's rough voice said intensely.

"Or we could make it interesting, a father-son fight," he said with a deep sneer and relish. "Give them their wands. Lockhart, release the boy. This will just be more fun when I kill you both. One of you will have to watch, won't you? Who will it be, I wonder."

Obeying his master immediately, Lockhart released Harry, shoving his wand into his hand. Harry's heart sped up as he gained his footing on the soft moss. He stepped forward and Severus moved immediately to his side.

"You shouldn't have come," Harry whispered out of the corner of his mouth.

"Let's focus on how to get out," Severus suggested in a low hiss.

"The cup is a portkey, we have to get to it."

With a sharp nod, Severus located it with his eye. Together, they stood shoulder to shoulder and faced Voldemort.

"Surely you taught him how to duel, Snape. First, we bow," Voldemort said though it came out more as a command.

Harry and Severus stood straight.

"Bow," Voldemort growled, raising his wand to force them.

Rather than bow to his former master, Snape fired off a blasting curse that was easily countered. As they ran towards the cup, two Cruciatus curses came, one after another. Harry didn't even have time to dodge as he felt it hit him in the back, pain slicing through his body. It was unspeakable; as if he were being ripped apart cell from cell. It ended after only a moment and Harry sat up to see Severus shooting curse after curse at Voldemort, all of which he blocked. In a split second break in the barrage, a glowing thread whipped from Voldemort's wand, tearing Severus's from his fingers and throwing it off to the side. Voldemort ended the spell and prepared another, probably more vicious, attack.

"Severus!" Harry cried, lunging to his feet and tossing the wand at his guardian. He had a mental flashback to the Quidditch World Cup.

Catching the wand and firing a spell in one smooth motion, the line of yellow light met with the green spell flowing from Voldemort's wand. They connected and battled one another as if in a brutal game of tug-a-war. One that, if he lost, Harry knew would be fatal to Severus.

The two toned light vibrated with energy as each pushed towards the other. Just as it seemed that Severus was losing, he managed another burst of energy, forcing the green to retreat towards Voldemort. Harry could see the lines of concentration on his face and wished he could help. Looking around, he spotted Severus's wand and hurried over to scoop it up.

When he looked back, the green was winning. Voldemort was winning. With Severus's wand, Harry cried, "Expelliarmus!"

His spell joined the fray and all three beams of light shattered, exploding into the air. None of them worked as they were meant to, a fact for which Harry was sure that Severus was thankful. As Voldemort was temporarily shielded by a wall of light, Harry hurried over, grabbing Severus's arm and dragging him towards the cup.

"NO!" came the bellow from behind as Harry and Severus lunged for the cup. At the very last moment, Harry reached out and grabbed Cedric's hand where he lay a few feet to the side.

Harry heard a spell whistle through the air but by the time it hit, they were gone.

The noise as they arrived was deafening. The crowd cheered, music blared and people chanted. All Harry wanted was cold silence to figure out what had just happened, to mourn Cedric. He wanted away from everyone, everyone but Severus. It took several moments before the audience realized that Cedric wasn't moving and when the realization hit, a swarm of people came rushing down.

"He's back!" Harry cried, near hysterics. "Voldemort's back!"

Severus had gotten to his feet already and was speaking urgently to Dumbledore, sending a quick, pained glance at Harry. Harry sobbed freely as people fussed around him, obscuring his vision of his guardian. A hand touched his shoulder.

"Come on, let's get you out of here, somewhere private. Let go now," Professor Durus said, prying Harry's hand from Cedric's.

Harry went with him numbly for he it made sense to get out of there, to calm down in private. Professsor Durus helped Harry over the grounds, periodically looking back as if paranoid. He escorted Harry into the castle, leading him to his office. He closed the door and locked it with a click but Harry was too tired, physically and emotionally, to notice.

"What happened?" Durus asked, rather sharper than Harry expected.

"I'll just wait until Dumbledore gets here," Harry replied. "I don't think I can say it twice."

"But you say the Dark Lord is back? That he has returned?" Durus asked eagerly.

Harry shrunk back in his seat. "Yeah..."

"And his followers, you said, how did he treat them?"Harry was getting seriously concerned now. His Dark Arts professor had never had that gleam in his eye, had never acted like this. What, was Voldemort a study to him? "He- Wait, I didn't say-"

The door fell with a crash, causing Harry to jump and Durus to spin. He licked his lips nervously.

Dumbledore and Severus stood in the doorway, looking dangerous. Severus came charging in, still holding Harry's wand, and now shoving it in Durus's face. "Get away from him," he growled.

"I was just tryin-"

"He's an impostor. Polyjuice potion most likely," Severus said in a flat yet angry voice. "I saw it in his eyes as he led Harry away." Harry sat in stunned silence as Severus's dark eyes drilled into Durus's. "A little late for Occlumency," he scoffed.

Karkaroff came striding into the room with a shout, "Get your wand away from him! What the devil is going on?"

"He's an impostor," Dumbledore informed him, a steely anger in his eye. The old man looked rich with menacing power when angry. "Will you send for some Veritaserum so that we can figure out how he slipped past your guard, go to your students? To my students?"

"How do you know he is?" Karkaroff demanded.

Snape turned his head only. "The same way that I know you are teaching advanced Dark Arts to some of your students on the side."

Karkaroff paled and sent a furtive glance at Dumbledore. "I'll get that Veritaserum."

He turned to go, then paused, stopped by Severus's voice.

"He's returned, Karkaroff. Best keep that in mind."

After a moment, Karkaroff continued on his way, not turning or otherwise acknowledging the information. As Severus was tying the very unhappy Durus to a chair, the Minister of Magic walked in.

"Voldemort is back, Corneilius. He has returned," Dumbledore said immediately, in a tone that held no surprise.

"He hasn't," Fudge protested immediately. "He was killed."

Durus laughed suddenly, a high pitched unnatural laugh. "Of course he's come back. He's the Dark Lord. He's got more power than you can dream of." As he finished speaking, Durus's forehead began to bubble, to crawl. His hairline receded slightly and changed color. In another few moments, after a grotesque display, he morphed into a young man with a slightly crazed look to his eye. He licked his lips, eyes darting around nervously.

"Barty Cruch Jr.," Dumbledore said as if introducing the man. "I'd be interested to know how you got out of Azkaban, a place I helped put you in."

Crouch clamped his mouth shut and refused to speak until Karkaroff returned with the Veritaserum. Using a spell to force the potion down his throat, Crouch drank it. His eyes went dull and listless and his body went limp.

Dumbledore kneeled in front of him. "Tell us everything, beginning with how you escaped from Azkaban."

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