The Parting of Ways
The Parting of Ways
Dumbledore stood up. He stared down at Crouch for a moment with disgust on his face. Then he raised his wand once more and ropes flew out of it, ropes that twisted themselves around Crouch, binding him tightly. He turned to Professor McGonagall.
'Minerva, could I ask you to stand guard here while I take Harry and Arabella upstairs?'
'Of course,' said Professor McGonagall. She looked slightly nauseous, as though she had just watched someone being sick. However, when she drew out her wand and pointed it at Crouch, her hand was quite steady.
'Severus' - Dumbledore turned to Snape - 'please tell Madam Pomfrey to come down here; we need to get Alastor Moody into the hospital wing. Then go down into the grounds, find Cornelius Fudge, and bring him up to this office. He will undoubtedly want to question Crouch himself. Tell him I will be in the hospital wing in half an hour's time if he needs me.'
Snape nodded silently and swept out of the room.
'Harry? Arabella?' Dumbledore said gently.
Harry got up and swayed again. Dumbledore gripped Arabella's good arm, helping her out into the dark corridor with Harry beside her.
'I want the two of you to come up to my office,' Dumbledore said quietly. 'Remus and Sirius are waiting for us there.'
Arabella and Harry nodded. Arabella didn't feel any pain in her ankle or her arm. She felt numb, and she was happy for the numbness. She didn't want to think about any of it. Crouch, confessing everything… Voldemort, torturing Harry, torturing her… Cedric… dead… Cedric, asking her to return his body back to his parents…
They reached the stone gargoyle. Dumbledore gave the password, it sprang aside, and they went up the moving spiral staircase to the oak door.
Dumbledore pushed it open. Remus and Sirius were standing there. Their faces were white, and in one swift moment, they crossed the room. Remus helped Arabella from Dumbledore. She hugged him close to her, taking in everything she could.
'Harry, Arabella – are you all right? I knew it – I knew something like this – what happened?' said Sirius in one big rush.
Remus and Sirius helped them both into chairs in front of the desk. Sirius stood between Arabella and Harry, while Remus held on to Arabella's hand tightly.
'What happened?' asked Remus, urgently.
Dumbledore began to tell them everything Crouch had said. Arabella was only half listening. She just wanted to be alone. Every bone in her was aching. She wanted nothing more than for everyone to disappear, leaving her alone, not feeling anything… that would be nice thought Arabella.
Dumbledore stopped talking. He sat down opposite Arabella and Harry, behind his desk. He was looking at the both of them. Arabella avoided his eyes, looking at her broken ankle. Dumbledore was going to question them. He was going to make them relive everything.
'I need to know what happened in the place the both of you were,' said Dumbledore. 'I need to know what happened after you touched the Portkey, Harry. And I need to know what happened after Barty Crouch kidnapped you, Arabella.'
'We can leave that till morning, can't we, Dumbledore?' said Sirius harshly. He put both his hands on Harry and Arabella's shoulders. 'Let them sleep. Let them rest.'
Arabella felt a rush of gratitude towards Sirius, but Dumbledore took no notice of Sirius's words. He leaned forward, and Arabella raised her head and looked him in the eyes. Harry did the same.
'If I thought I could help you both,' Dumbledore said gently, 'by putting you into an enchanted sleep and allowing you to postpone the moment when you would have to think about what has happened tonight, I would do it. But I know better. Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it. You have shown bravery beyond anything I could have expected out of the two you. I ask you to demonstrate your courage one more time. I ask you to tell us what happened.'
Harry took a deep breath and held on to Arabella's hand, and she gripped it just as tight, even though it was her broken arm. He told them everything. The potion that revived Voldemort; the Death Eaters Apparating around them; everything Voldemort said to them; Cedric's body, lying on the ground beside the cup.
When Harry told of Wormtail piercing his arm with the dagger, however, Sirius let out a vehement exclamation, and Remus gripped Arabella's hand so tight, her fingers started to turn blue, but it didn't bother her. Dumbledore stood up and walked around the desk and told Harry to stretch out his arm.
Harry showed them the place where his robes were torn and the cut beneath them.
'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.'
Dumbledore returned to his seat behind the desk and asked them to continue.
This time, Arabella took over the story. She told them about what Crouch told her before everything happened; Voldemort emerging from the cauldron; Voldemort's speech to the Death Eater; Voldemort's request to Arabella, and how he never forgot Kassandra, and tortured her. Sirius and Remus opened their mouths to say something once or twice, but Dumbledore stopped them. She was grateful for that. It was easier to just keep on going. Harry just kept on gripping her hand. Then she told them about Voldemort untying Harry, returning his wand to him, and prepared to duel.
Then she told them about the golden light that connected Harry and Voldemort's wand. She told them about Cedric, emerging, the old man, Bertha Jorkins, Lily Potter, James Potter, and the mysterious man…
She was glad when Sirius broke the silence that followed.
'The wands connected?' he said, looking between her and Dumbledore. 'Why?'
'Priori Incantatem,' muttered Dumbledore.
'The Reverse Spell effect?' said Remus sharply.
'Exactly,' said Dumbledore. 'Harry's wand and Voldemorts wand share cores. Each of them contains a feather from the tail of the same phoenix. This phoenix, in fact,' he added, and he pointed at the scarlet-and-gold bird, beside his desk.
'My wand's feather came from Fawkes?' Harry said, amazed.
'Yes,' said Dumbledore. 'Mr. Ollivander wrote to tell me you had bought the second wand, the moment you left his shop four years ago.'
'So what happens when a wand meets its brother?' said Remus.
'They will not work properly against each other,' said Dumbledore. 'If, however, the owners of the wands force the wands to do battle…a very rare effect will take place. One of the wands will force the other to regurgitate spells it has performed - in reverse. The most recent first…and then those which preceded it…'
He looked interrogatively at Harry, and Harry nodded.
'Which means,' said Dumbledore slowly, his eyes upon Harry's face, 'that some form of Cedric must have reappeared.'
Harry nodded again.
'Diggory came back to life?' said Sirius sharply.
'No spell can reawaken the dead,' said Dumbledore heavily. 'All that would have happened is a kind of reverse echo. A shadow of the living Cedric would have emerged from the wand…am I correct?'
'He spoke to me,' said Arabella, shaking badly. 'Th – the ghost of Cedric spoke. He wanted me to bring his body back – back to his parents.'
'An echo,' said Dumbledore, 'which retained Cedric's appearance and character. I am guessing other such forms appeared…less recent victims of Voldemort's wand…'
'An old man,' said Arabella, a lump forming in her throat. 'Berth Jorkins, Lily and James Potter and another man…'
Harry didn't say anything except grip Arabella's hand tighter when she mentioned his parents.
'Isaak,' said Dumbledore quietly.
Arabella shrugged, not knowing who he was, and said, 'He said that it was good to see me again, and called me dear.'
Sirius's grip on Arabella's shoulder tightened, as well as Remus's grip on her other hand.
'The last murders the wand performed,' said Dumbledore, nodding. 'In reverse order. More would have appeared, of course, had you maintained the connection. Very well, these echoes, these shadows…what did they do?'
Harry described how the figure emerged from the wand, how Voldemort seemed to fear them, how the shadow of Harry's mother had told him what to do, how Cedric asked Arabella to bring his body back.
At this point Harry could not continue. Sirius and Remus had their face in their hands, trying not to show their weakened faces to them, trying to be strong in front of them.
'I will say it again,' said Dumbledore. 'You both have shown bravery beyond anything I could have expected of the two of you tonight. You have shown bravery equal to those who died fighting Voldemort at the height of his powers. You have shouldered a grown wizard's burden and found yourself equal to it - and you both have now given us all that we have a right to expect. The two of you will come with me to the hospital wing. I do not want you returning to the dormitory tonight. A Sleeping Potion, and some peace…Sirius, Remus, would you like to stay with them?'
Sirius nodded and stood up, transforming into the great black dog. Remus helped Arabella up, but she couldn't walk properly as her ankle was now swollen very badly. He carried her in his arms, following Dumbledore and Harry out of the office with Sirius behind them to the hospital wing.
'Who's Isaak, Remus?' mumbled Arabella.
'Not now, Ara,' said Remus, looking quite miserable. 'I'll tell you later – We'll tell you later.'
'Promise?' mumbled Arabella, looking at Sirius behind them.
'Promise,' said Remus.
When Dumbledore pushed open the door Arabella saw Mrs Weasley, Bill, Ron, and Hermione grouped around a harassed-looking Madam Pomfrey. All of them whipped around as Dumbledore, Harry, Arabella, Remus and the black dog entered. Mrs Weasley let out a kind of muffled scream, and started to hurry towards them, but Dumbledore moved in between them.
'Molly,' he said, holding up a hand, 'please listen to me for a moment. Harry and Arabella have both been through a terrible ordeal tonight. They just had to relive them for me. What they need now is sleep, and peace and quiet. You all may stay with them, but I do not want you questioning them until they are ready to answer, and certainly not this evening.'
Mrs. Weasley nodded. She was very white. She rounded on Ron, Hermione, and Bill as though they were being noisy, and hissed, 'Did you hear? They need quiet!'
'Headmaster,' said Madam Pomfrey, staring at the great black dog that was Sirius, 'may I ask what -?'
'This dog will be remaining with them for a while,' said Dumbledore simply. 'I assure you, he is extremely well trained.'
Arabella felt a sense of gratitude to Dumbledore for asking the others not to question them, and for allowing Sirius to stay with them.
'I will be back to see you both as soon as I have met with Fudge,' said Dumbledore. 'I would like the two of you to remain here tomorrow until I have spoken to the school.' He left.
Madam Pomfrey led them both to two beds that were very close together at the end of the infirmary. She handed them some pyjamas and pulled screens around them. Mrs Weasley helped Arabella into them, and got into bed. Ron, Hermione, Bill, Mrs Weasley, Remus and the black dog sat around the two of them as Madam Pomfrey looked over Arabella's broken ankle and arm, put heavy bandages on them and left to her office.
Remus was sitting beside Arabella and his eyes were filled with tears. Sirius was licking her hand, as though trying to reassure her that everything was going to be alright. Mrs Weasley was busy fussing over Harry's bed covers, but looked as though she was about to burst into tears.
Madam Pomfrey returned holding three small bottles of potions and two goblets.
'You need to drink this, Arabella,' she said, holding out a little bottle of yellow liquid, 'it will help mend some of your bones. And then the two of you will need to drink up all of this' – holding up the two goblets –'it's a potion for dreamless sleep.'
Arabella gulped down the yellow liquid and took two mouthfuls from the goblet of the dreamless potion. At once, she felt herself becoming very drowsy. Before she could finish the potion, Remus grabbed the goblet and put it on the bed side table, gave her a kiss on her forehead and tucked her in.
'Who's Arry?' mumbled Arabella. The room was becoming very blurry around her, and her eyes were drooping.
'Go to sleep, Ara,' said Remus, running his hands through her hair to get out all the tangles.
'Goodnight, Moony,' mumbled Arabella. She closed her eyes, and let her exhaustion carry her off to sleep.
Arabella woke up, so very sleepy, but unable to sleep again because of the whispering going around her. She opened her eyes.
'They'll wake them if they don't shut up!'
'What are they shouting about? Nothing else can have happened, can it?'
She could see Mrs Weasley and Bill on their feets.
'That's Fudge's voice,' whispered Mrs Weasley. 'And that's Minerva McGonagall's, isn't it? But what are they arguing about?'
Arabella could hear it too; people shouting and running toward the hospital wing.
'Regrettable, but all the same, Minerva -' Cornelius Fudge was saying loudly.
'You should never have brought it inside the castle!' yelled Professor McGonagall. 'When Dumbledore finds out -'
Arabella heard the hospital door burst open. Bill pulled back the screen as Arabella and Harry sat up, unnoticed by any of the people around their beds.
Fudge came striding up the ward. Professors McGonagall and Snape were at his heels.
'Where's Dumbledore?' Fudge demanded of Mrs. Weasley.
'He's not here,' said Mrs. Weasley angrily. 'This is a hospital wing. Minister, don't you think you'd do better to -'
But the door opened, and Dumbledore came sweeping up the ward.
'What has happened?' said Dumbledore sharply, looking from Fudge to Professor McGonagall. 'Why are you disturbing these people? Minerva, I'm surprised at you - I asked you to stand guard over Barty Crouch -'
'There is no need to stand guard over him anymore, Dumbledore!' she shrieked. 'The Minister has seen to that!'
Arabella had never seen Professor McGonagall lose control like this. There were angry blotches of colour in her cheeks, and a hand balled into fists; she was trembling with fury –
'When we told Mr. Fudge that we had caught the Death Eater responsible for tonight's events,' said Snape, in a low voice. 'He insisted on summoning a dementor to accompany him into the castle. He brought it up to the office where Barty Crouch -'
'I told him you would not agree, Dumbledore!' McGonagall fumed. 'I told him you would never allow dementors to set foot inside the castle, but -'
'My dear woman!' roared Fudge, 'as Minister of Magic, it is my decision whether I wish to bring protection with me when interviewing a possibly dangerous -'
But Professor McGonagall's voice drowned Fudge's.
'The moment that - that thing entered the room,' she screamed, pointing at Fudge, trembling all over, 'it swooped down on Crouch and - and -'
Arabella felt a chill go through her spine as Professor McGonagall struggled to find the words to describe what had happened. There was no point in finishing her sentence. Everyone knew what the Dementor had done; it was something worse than death.
'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 Severus 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.'
Fudge looked as though someone had just swung a heavy weight into his face. Dazed and blinking, he stared back at Dumbledore as if he couldn't quite believe what he had just heard. He began to sputter, still goggling at Dumbledore.
'You-Know-Who…returned? Preposterous. Come now, Dumbledore…'
'As Minerva and Severus have doubtless told you,' said Dumbledore, 'we heard Barty Crouch confess. Under the influence of Veritaserum, he told us how he was smuggled out of Azkaban, and how Voldemort - learning of his continued existence from Bertha Jorkins - went to free him from his father and used him to capture Harry and Arabella. The plan worked, I tell you. Crouch has helped Voldemort to return.'
'See here, Dumbledore,' said Fudge, and Arabella was astonished to see a slight smile dawning on his face, 'you - you can't seriously believe that You-Know-Who's back? Come now, come now…certainly, Crouch may have believed himself to be acting upon You-Know-Who's orders - but to take the word of a lunatic like that, Dumbledore…'
'Barty Crouch kidnapped Arabella that morning and when Harry touched the Triwizard Cup tonight, he was transported straight to Voldemort,' said Dumbledore steadily. 'They witnessed Lord Voldemort's rebirth. I will explain it all to you if you will step up to my office.'
Dumbledore glanced around at Arabella and Harry, and saw that they were awake, but shook his head, and said, 'I am afraid I cannot permit you to question them tonight.'
Fudge's curious smile lingered. He too glanced at Arabella and Harry, then turned back at Dumbledore, and said, 'You are – er – prepared to take Harry and Black's word on this, are you, Dumbledore?'
There was a moment of silence that was broken by Sirius's growling. His hackles were raised and he was baring his teeth at Fudge.
'Certainly, I believe Harry and Arabella,' said Dumbledore. His eyes were blazing now. 'I heard Crouch's confession and I heard Harry and Arabella's account of what happened after he touched the cup and after she was kidnapped. The two stories make sense; they explain everything that had happened since Bertha Jorkins disappeared last summer.'
Fudge still had that strange smile on his face. Once again, he glanced at Arabella and Harry before answering.
'You are prepared to believe that Lord Voldemort had returned, on the word of a lunatic murdered, a girl that is related to Sirius Black, and a boy who… well…'
'You've been reading Rita Skeeter, Mr. Fudge,' said Harry quietly.
Ron, Hermione, Mrs. Weasley, Bill, Remus and Sirius all jumped. None of them had realized that Harry and Arabella were awake.
Fudge reddened slightly, but a defiant and obstinate look came over his face.
'And if I have?' he said, looking at Dumbledore. 'If I have discovered that you've been keeping certain facts about the boy very quiet? A Parselmouth, eh? And having funny turns all over the place -'
'I assume that you are referring to the pains Harry has been experiencing in his scar?' said Dumbledore coolly.
'You admit that he has been having these pains, then?' said Fudge quickly. 'Headaches? Nightmares? Possibly - hallucinations?'
'Listen to me, Cornelius,' said Dumbledore, taking a step toward Fudge. 'Harry is as sane as you or I. That scar upon his forehead has not addled his brains. I believe it hurts him when Lord Voldemort is close by, or feeling particularly murderous.'
Fudge had taken half a step back from Dumbledore, but he looked no less stubborn.
'You'll forgive me, Dumbledore, but I've never heard of a curse scar acting as an alarm bell before…'
'Look, we saw Voldemort come back!' Arabella shouted. She tried to get out of bed, but Remus forced her back. 'We saw the Death Eaters! We can give you their names! Lucius Malfoy -'
Snape made a sudden movement, but as Arabella looked at him, Snape's eyes flew back to Fudge.
'Malfoy was cleared!' said Fudge, visibly affronted. 'A very old family - donations to excellent causes -'
'Macnair!' said Arabella.
'Also cleared! Now working for the Ministry!'
'Avery – Nott – Crabbe – Goyle –'
'You are merely repeating the names of those who were acquitted of being Death Eater thirteen years ago!' said Fudge angrily. 'You could have found those names –'
'Once a Death Eater, always a Death Eater!' said Arabella, her face turning red.
' – in old reports of the trial!' said Fudge, raising his voice to drown out Arabella's. 'For heaven's sake, Dumbledore – the girl was full of some crackpot story at the end of last year too -'
'You fool!' Professor McGonagall cried. 'Cedric Diggory! Mr Crouch! These deaths were not the random work of a lunatic!'
'I see no evidence to the contrary!' shouted Fudge, now matching her anger, his face purpling. 'It seems to me that you are all determined to start a panic that will destabilize everything we have worked for these last thirteen years!'
Arabella couldn't believe what she was hearing. What an idiot! She thought He's going to be the death of us all!
'Voldemort has returned,' Dumbledore repeated. 'If you accept that fact straightaway Fudge, and take the necessary measures, we may still be able to save the situation. The first and most essential step is to remove Azkaban from the control of the dementors -'
'Preposterous!' shouted Fudge again. 'Remove the dementors? I'd be kicked out of office for suggesting it! Half of us only feel safe in our beds at night because we know the dementors are standing guard at Azkaban!'
'The rest of us sleep less soundly in our beds, Cornelius, knowing that you have put Lord Voldemort's most dangerous supporters in the care of creatures who will join him the instant he asks them!' said Dumbledore. 'They will not remain loyal to you, Fudge! Voldemort can offer them much more scope for their powers and their pleasures than you can! With the dementors behind him, and his old supporters returned to him, you will be hard-pressed to stop him regaining the sort of power he had thirteen years ago!'
Fudge was opening and closing his mouth as though no words could express his outrage.
'The second step you must take - and at once,' Dumbledore pressed on, 'is to send envoys to the giants.'
'Envoys to the giants?' Fudge shrieked, finding his tongue again. 'What madness is this?'
'Extend them the hand of friendship, now, before it is too late,' said Dumbledore, 'or Voldemort will persuade them, as he did before, that he alone among wizards will give them their rights and their freedom!'
'You - you cannot be serious!' Fudge gasped, shaking his head and retreating further from Dumbledore. 'If the magical community got wind that I had approached the giants- people hate them, Dumbledore- end of my career -'
'You are blinded,' said Dumbledore, his voice raising now, the aura of power around him intensed, his eyes blazing once more, 'by the love of the office you hold, Cornelius! You place too much importance, and you always have done, on the so-called purity of blood! You fail to recognize that it matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be! Your dementors have just destroyed the last remaining member of a pure-blood family as old as any - and see what that man chose to make of his life! I tell you now - take the steps I have suggested, and you will be remembered, in office or out, as one of the bravest and greatest Ministers of Magic we have ever known. Fail to act - and history will remember you as the man who stepped aside and allowed Voldemort a second chance to destroy the world we have tried to rebuild!'
'Insane,' whispered Fudge, still backing away. 'Mad…'
And there was silence. Madam Pomfrey was standing frozen at the foot of Harry' bed, her hands over her mouth. Remus was standing over Arabella, his hands on her shoulders to prevent her from rising. Mrs Weasley, Bill, Ron and Hermione were staring at Fudge.
'If your determination to shut your eyes will carry you as far as this, Cornelius,' said Dumbledore, 'we have reached a parting of the ways. You must act as you see fit. And I - I shall act as I see fit.'
Dumbledore's voice carried no hint of a threat; it sounded like a mere statement, but Fudge stiffened as though Dumbledore were advancing upon him with a wand.
'Now, see here, Dumbledore,' he said, waving a threatening finger. 'I've given you free rein, always. I've had a lot of respect for you. I might not have agreed with some of your decisions, but I've kept quiet. There aren't many who'd have let you hire werewolves, or keep Hagrid, or decide what to teach your students without reference to the Ministry. But if you're going to work against me -'
'The only one against whom I intend to work,' said Dumbledore, 'is Lord Voldemort. If you are against him, then we remain, Cornelius, on the same side.'
It seemed Fudge could think of no answer to this. He rocked backward and forward on his small feet for a moment and spun his bowler hat in his hands. Finally, he said, with a hint of a plea in his voice, 'He can't be back, Dumbledore, he just can't be…'
Snape strode forward, past Dumbledore, pulling up the left sleeve of his robes as he went. He stuck out his forearm and showed it to Fudge, who recoiled.
'There,' said Snape harshly. 'There. The Dark Mark. It is not as clear as it was an hour or so ago, when it burned black, but you can still see it. Every Death Eater had the sign burned into him by the Dark Lord. It was a means of distinguishing one another, and his means of summoning us to him. When he touched the Mark of any Death Eater, we were to Disapparate, and Apparate, instantly, at his side. This Mark has been growing clearer all year. Karkaroff's too. Why do you think Karkaroff fled tonight? We both felt the Mark burn. We both knew he had returned. Karkaroff fears the Dark Lord's vengeance. He betrayed too many of his fellow Death Eaters to be sure of a welcome back into the fold.'
Fudge stepped back from Snape too. He was shaking his head. He did not seem to have taken in a word Snape had said. He stared, apparently repelled by the mark on Snape's arm, then looked up at Dumbledore and whispered, 'I don't know what you and your staff are playing at, Dumbledore, but I have heard enough. I have no more to add. I will be in touch with you tomorrow, Dumbledore, to discuss the running of this school. I must return to the Ministry.'
He had almost reached the door when he paused. He turned around, strode back down the infirmary, and stopped at Harry's bed.
'Your winnings,' he said shortly, taking a large bag of gold out of his pocket and dropping it onto Harry's bedside table. 'One thousand Galleons. There should have been a presentation ceremony, but under the circumstances…'
He crammed his bowler hat onto his head and walked out of the room, slamming the door behind him. The moment he had disappeared, Dumbledore turned to look at the group around Harry and Arabella's bed.
'There is work to be done,' he said. 'Molly… am I right in thinking that I can count on you and Arthur?'
'Of course you can,' said Mrs Weasley. 'We know what Fudge is. It's Arthur's fondness for Muggles that has held him back at the Ministry all these years. Fudge thinks he lacks proper wizarding pride.'
'Then I need to send a message to Arthur,' said Dumbledore. 'All those that we can persuade of the truth must be notified immediately, and he is well placed to contact those at the Ministry who are not as shortsighted as Cornelius.'
'I'll go to Dad,' said Bill, standing up. 'I'll go now.'
'Excellent,' said Dumbledore. 'Tell him what has happened. Tell him I will be in direct contact with him shortly. He will need to be discreet, however. If Fudge thinks I am interfering at the Ministry -'
'Leave it to me,' said Bill.
He clapped a hand on Harry's shoulder, squeezed Arabella's arm, kissed his mother on the cheek, pulled on his cloak, and strode quickly from the room.
'Minerva,' said Dumbledore, turning to Professor McGonagall, 'I want to see Hagrid in my office as soon as possible. Also – if she will consent to come – Madame Maxime.'
Professor McGonagall nodded and left without a word.
'Poppy,' Dumbledore said to Madam Pomfrey, 'would you be very kind and go down to Professor Moody's office, where I think you will find a house-elf called Winky in considerable distress? Do what you can for her, and take her back to the kitchens. I think Dobby will look after her for us.'
'Very – very well,' said Madam Pomfrey, looking startled, and she too left.
Dumbledore made sure that the door was closed, and that Madam Pomfrey's footsteps had died away, before he spoke again.
'And now,' he said, 'it is time for three of our number to recognize each other for what they are. Sirius… if you could resume your usual form.'
The great black dog looked up at Dumbledore, then, in an instant, turned into a man.
Mrs Weasley screamed and leapt back from Harry's bed.
'Sirius Black!' she shrieked, pointing at him.
'Mum, shut up!' Ron yelled. 'It's okay!'
Snape had not yelled or jumped backward, but the look on his face was one of mingled fury and horror.
'Him!' he snarled, staring at Sirius, whose face showed equal dislike. 'What is he doing here?'
'He's with me,' said Remus, standing beside Sirius.
'They are both here at my invitation,' said Dumbledore, looking between the three of them, 'as are you, Severus. I trust the three of you. It is time to lay aside your old differences and trust each other.'
Arabella snorted. Dumbledore was asking for a miracle. Sirius and Snape were eying each other with the utmost loathing. Remus looked at the two of them with an amused expression. It seemed like they were both thinking the same thing.
'I will settle, in the short term,' said Dumbledore, with some impatience in his voice, 'for a lack of open hostility. You will shake hands. You are all on the same side now. Time is short, and unless the few of us who know the truth do not stand united, there is no hope for any of us.'
Very slowly – but still glaring at each other – Sirius and Severus moved toward each other and shook hands. They let go extremely quickly. Remus and Snape shook hands too, which lasted a little bit longer.
'That will do to be going on with,' said Dumbledore. 'Now I have work for each of you. Fudge's attitude, though not unexpected, changes everything. Sirius, Remus, I need the both of you to set off at once. You are to alert Arabella Figg and Mundungus Fletcher – the old crowd. Lie low at headquarters for a while after this; I will contact you there.'
'You're leaving?' said Arabella, standing up very quickly, and regretting it immediately as she put an immense amount of pressure on her broken ankle. Remus managed to catch her in time before she fell.
'You will see us soon,' he said, hugging her. 'I'll be at the train station, I promise you.'
'But –' said Harry, looking at Sirius.
'We'll see each other very soon,' said Sirius, looking at Harry and Arabella. 'I promise you. But we must do what we can, you understand, don't you?'
'Yeah,' said Harry. 'Yeah… of course I do.'
Sirius grasped Harry's hand briefly before hugging Arabella. She felt as though she could cry in his arms. There were safe, comforting, she didn't want him to let go anytime soon.
'We'll see each other soon?' mumbled Arabella.
'Soon,' said Sirius, holding her out in arm's length. 'I promise.'
Arabella nodded, but wanted to scream to him and Remus to stay with her in the hospital wing. She didn't want to say goodbye to them so quickly.
'Who's Isaak?' asked Arabella to Sirius and Remus.
'Not now,' said Remus, as he, Dumbledore and Sirius looked uncomfortable. 'When we see each other, we'll tell you about him and Arry. I promise.'
Sirius squeezed her shoulders lightly, nodded to Dumbledore, transformed again into the black dog. Remus and Sirius walked the length of the room, turned the handle, and they were gone.
'Severus,' said Dumbledore, turning to Snape, 'you know what I must ask you to do. If you are ready… if you are prepared…'
'I am,' said Snape.
'Then good luck,' said Dumbledore, and they watched Snape swept wordlessly towards the door.
It was several minutes before Dumbledore spoke again.
'I must go downstairs,' he said finally. 'I must see the Diggorys. Harry, Arabella – take the rest of your potion. I will see all of you later.'
Arabella watched as Dumbledore disappeared out the door. Hermione, Ron, and Mrs Weasley were all looking at Arabella and Harry. None of them spoke for a very long time.
'You have to take the rest of your potion Harry,' Mrs Weasley said at last. 'You have a good long sleep. Try and think about something else for a while… think about what you're going to buy with your winnings!'
'I don't want that gold,' said Harry in an expressionless voice. 'You have it. Anyone can have it. I shouldn't have won it. It should've been Cedric's.'
'It wasn't your fault, Harry,' Mrs Weasley whispered.
'I told him to take the cup with me,' said Harry.
Mrs Weasley bent down and put her arms around Harry. Harry relaxed into the hug, but a loud slamming noise interrupted them, and Mrs Weasley and Harry broke apart. Hermione was standing by the window. She was holding something tight in her hand.
'Sorry,' she whispered.
'Your potion, Harry,' said Mrs Weasley quickly, wiping her eyes on the back of her hand.
Harry drank it in one gulp. He fell back onto his pillow and immediately fell asleep.
'Arabella, dear,' said Mrs Weasley, approaching Arabella cautiously. 'You have to lie down. You're adding more pressure to your broken ankle.'
Arabella was still standing up, looking at the door where Remus and Sirius left. She hoped that if she stared long enough, they would come back, they would say that they would stay with them and never leave, but that wasn't going to happen. She could only wish…
'What?' said Arabella, turning towards Mrs Weasley.
'Your ankle, dear,' said Mrs Weasley. 'You're adding more pressure to it. You must lie down, drink your potion and get some sleep.'
Arabella shook her head, trying to blink away her tears, and said, 'No, I'm not sleepy, I can't sleep, I don't want to sleep. I want Moony, I want Padfoot.'
Mrs Weasley wrapped her arms around Arabella, who now openly wept into Mrs Weasley's shoulders. She was mumbling nonsense into Mrs Weasley's shoulder, saying how she was an idiot for not realizing someone was impersonating Mad-Eye, how stupid of her to follow him, how she didn't convince Cedric and Harry to go back to Hogwarts and get Dumbledore…
Mrs Weasley didn't understand what she was saying, but rubbing her back in a comforting way, and kept saying that everything was going to be alright. It was nice, to be hugged like this, by a mother. She loved Andy and her hugs, but this hug was different. It made her fell as though the weight of everything that happened was lifted off her shoulders. She longed for hugs like this.
'Your potion, Arabella,' mumbled Mrs Weasley, leading Arabella back to her bed and handing her the goblet.
'You'll stay here?' asked Arabella, wiping the tears from her face with the back of her hand.
'Of course, I will,' said Mrs Weasley, giving her a warm smile. 'I'll be here when you get up.'
Arabella nodded as Ron as Hermione also nodded behind Mrs Weasley. She drank the potion in one gulp, fell back into her pillows and embraced the silence.
Thank you for reading! Just to clarify, I did not spell Isaak wrong. There are two ways in spelling the names. Isaac, the Anglicized form and Isaak, the Greek form, according to the website I'm using.